Tuesday 24 April 2012

Bread machine as dough maker

I've mentioned in this blog and in comments on other blogs about using our Panic-sonic Breadmaker as a dough producer. It means that Pauline and I can have decent, "tartine"able bread without the hole up the middle [or the massive holes in our local boulangerie loaves!]

Given the recent weather, it also means that we can make bread when it isn't worth driving into town.

Two days ago, for the first time in about three years I made Tomato and Olive Focaccia... loosly based round the recipe in the machine's handbook.

Resting in my square cake tin... makes pavés
NOTE: With the Panasonic you put the dry in first, followed by the liquid... the opposite way round to most breadmakers!!

Ingredients [in order after the 1.5 teaspoons of yeast - about half a 7gm packet]:

300gms of LIDLs Ciabatta loaf mix [this has yeast and salt in it... so cut back on the salt!]
150gms of Strong White [or Pain Maison] flour
180mls of passata [I used homemade Black Krim passata]
70mls of water
Tablespoon [15mls] of Olive Oil

To be added halfway through: [at around the 25 minute mark... set a timer.]
50gms dried Cherry tomatoes... roughly chopped.
20gms dried Sweet Peppers... as for tomatoes
30gms chopped Green olives
20gms chopped Black olives - the Kalamata ones are best

For the Panasonic use the 45min Pizza dough setting... it works perfectly.
Just before the buzzer goes, put the oven on at 30C if you can... if not find a warm space [cardboard box upside-down at the back of the refridgerator works.] We use the microwave combi oven to bake in and the main oven to prove in.
Take dough out of the machine, rescue that damn paddle, and knock dough back a little.
Form loaf to shape, or put into mould. This is a slightly moister mix than normal so it will not hold a shape... push holes in it with your fingers.... be brutal, they mend!! The holes that is!]
It takes about 45 minutes to double in size... get oven going at 240C at about 40 minutes proving time [having checked that the rise is going OK.]
When oven is up to temperature put the loaf in and immediately CANCEL** the oven temperature setting. Re-set the oven to 200C and let bread bake for about 40 to 45 mins... knock it out of mould, if using one, at about 35 to 40 mins and put it back in for the last five minutes... this gives a nicer crust on the bottom.

End crust off for tasting!

A close up of the cut face with the pepper, tomato and olives showing.
If you want larger bits than this add them later... or even fold in when knocking back.
 Allow to cool and serve with cheese, cold meats, soups, etc.

And here's one I made earlier...

This is a 300gm Pain de Campagne, 100 gm Spelt [epeautre] and 50gm Rye [seigle] loaf with 50gms added grains.
Two tablespoons of Vigean's Fruitee & Noix oil and 250ml of water completed the mix.
Same Pizza dough setting, 70 mins proving and 50 mins baking.

**This emulates a traditional bread oven apparently.... it certainly gives a better loaf I think.

Monday 23 April 2012

Coffee and walnut cake for the birthday boy

Tim has been agitating for a coffee and walnut cake for some time, so as the day after tomorrow is his birthday, I gave in.

Looks like a cake...
As it happens, Jean had given us The Hairy Bikers Best-loved Recipes (subtitled "Mums know best") just last week, and there was a delicious-looking version in there. I have at least four versions of the basic Victoria Sponge Sandwich recipe, almost exactly the same - equal quantities of butter (or Stork), caster sugar and self-raising flour, some eggs and "Camp" coffee essence. I used to make the Stork version as a teenager, until my dad commandeered the Stork recipe book I was given by a demonstration team at a school cookery class. I was always slightly disappointed by the result, because it came out rather like a large round biscuit. Four ounces / two eggs to a pair of 7" (18cm) sandwich tins is just not quite enough. The Hairy Bikers give eight ounces / four eggs to a pair of 8" (20cm) tins. Their recipe also called for additional baking powder. The end result was satisfyingly substantial! Thanks again Jean!

Since we have been here, a roll of Lakeland "Magic" non-stick liner has been languishing alongside the baking parchment, on the slightly spurious grounds that it was too expensive to use. As we didn't have enough baking parchment for two 20cm circles, I used this instead. You don't need to grease the tin, in fact it's better not to. It is reputed to last five years regular use - after peeling it off the cake, you just wash it in mild detergent, and dry it (have you ever tried to dry a non-stick disk? If you get too vigorous, it shoots across the kitchen).

Camp coffee and chicory essence, according to Wikipedia, so it must be true,  is a Scottish food product, which began production in 1876 by Paterson & Sons Ltd. in a plant on Charlotte St, Glasgow.

On the original label, the Indian gentleman is a Sepoy servant, standing beside the Scottish soldier and handing him his coffee. Since 2006, the two men are social equals, sitting side by side enjoying their coffee. I suspect in India at least until independence in 1947 the relative status could have gone either way ...
Camp is sometimes available on the "British foods" shelves of our local supermarkets, but we couldn't find any, though Super U had a basic chicory essence. I substituted a mixture of this and instant coffee (Nescafé Gold Blend) to the equivalent volume, but it wasn't enough and I'll use more of both next time.

Here's the recipe, as it isn't on their official web site.
For the cake:
65g walnut halves
225g softened butter, cubed, plus a little more to grease the baking tins
225g caster sugar
4 medium eggs (or 2 duck eggs)
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp Camp coffee and chicory essence

For the icing:
150g softened butter, cubed
300g icing sugar, sifted
4 tsp Camp coffee and chicory essence

For self raising flour, I used plain flour and an additional 2 teaspoons baking powder.
For 2 tablespoons of Camp, I dissolved 3 heaped teaspoons of instant coffee with 30ml water and a dash of chicory essence. For the 4 teaspoons, I used 20ml of water, 2 heaped teaspoons of instant coffee and omitted the chicory. Next time I'll double the coffee - and prepare it in advance with hot water so it dissolves.

Preheat the oven to 190C / gas mark 5. Butter the bases of two 20cm sandwich tins and line with circles of baking parchment.

Put the walnut halves in a food processor or blender and blitz them into fairly fine crumbs, but don't worry if there are a few large pieces remaining. Tip the walnuts into a bowl.

Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and coffee essence into a food processor and blend on the pulse setting until well combined and creamy (quite a stiff mixture, probably due to using duck eggs). You may need to push the mixture down with a rubber spatula. Take the blade out, add the blitzed walnuts and mix by hand until just combined. "If you don't have a food processor, finely chop the walnuts, tip all the ingredients into a big bowl and beat like hell!" None of this creaming butter and sugar, adding eggs one at a time and folding in flour business.

Spoon the mixture evenly into the lined tins. You can smooth it off, but I found the mixture was pretty much self levelling once it went into the oven. Bake on the same shelf in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes or until the sponge is just beginning to draw away from the sides of the tins.

Remove the tins from the oven and leave to cool for about 5 minutes. Run a spatula around the edge of the cakes and turn them out onto a wire rack. Peel off the baking parchment and leave to cool completely.

To make the icing, put the butter in a food processor or mixing bowl, then add the icing sugar and coffee essence.  Blend until smooth and creamy. Taste and add more coffee essence if desired. (Tim does not recommend the food processor method, and I didn't fancy it either.)

Place one of the sponges on a plate or cake rack and spread with half the icing. Add the second sponge and spread the rest of the icing on the top.  Use the back of a spoon, a rubber spatula or a fork to make interesting swirly patterns (Tim's the expert at this, so I left that to him). Decorate with the walnut halves. Leave to stand in a cool place for at least an hour before serving to allow the icing to become a little firmer.

Serves 12.
Tastes like a cake!

Sunday 22 April 2012

Bean sprouts...

At last we've found some fresh beansprouts in the shops... this is quite important for me as I am an impulse cook.
Sprouting your own beans is a think ahead, time consuming problem.... although easy to do with the right equipment.

These are Germes de Haricots Mungo... AB certified.... they must have had a supply of *Bio-water!

The shop bought Mung Beans

Mung beans unwrapped

It says on the packet that they are commonly called Germes de soja... very strange as soya beans are  much larger and rounder....and pale brown... than Mung beans.

Mung beans [with a Euro and five Soya beans for comparison.]
The mung beans shown above are now about five years old.... and therefore will possibly have a poor germination rate...
but I spotted a sprouter for 4€ in Gamm Vert recently.... I am tempted as all sorts of seeds can be sprouted and are good in salads.... and are... allegedly... good for you.

If you don't want to go to the expense of a 'sprouter', an old fashioned **sweet jar, an elastic band, a bin bag and a bit of muslin will do.
Start this in the evening...
Put a good English handful of Mung Beans into the 'sprouter' and put in enough water to cover them, plus half as much again.
Put muslin in place on the top and hold it there with the 'laccy' band. That's the real fun bit... you usually need three hands... or a willing helper.
Put jar into bin bag and fold the top of the bag over.
Place in a warm place overnight... over the back of the fridge is a good place if it isn't built in... the heat rising from the works is excellent for this [good for homemade wine, too.]
Next morning, drain the beans through the muslin, then rinse the beans well [a couple of times].... and then drain [but not thoroughly] and return them to the warm place. If using the back of the fridge process, move the jar forward from the vents from now on... so that it gets the warmth... but not too much.
In the evening, repeat the process.
Next morning, repeat the process.
In the evening, repeat the process.
Next morning, repeat the process. The beans should be sprouting by the previous evening... or at this point.
Carry on for another day, or perhaps two, until you have nice fat sprouts of a good length... the amount of water left by rinsing and a non-thorough draining should be adequate for good sprouts.
ON NO ACCOUNT LEAVE THEM IN STANDING WATER... they can go bad very quickly!
The best way to remove the sprouts is to rinse them out into a sieve... this gives them a good final rinse and gets the last ones out of the jar without hassle!

** Since starting this entry, I have invested in one of the sprouters from Gamm Vert... it works very well...
so we had bean sprouts twice in quick succession!
If you do decide to buy one of these, just a tip... keep it in a dark place [as with the bin-bag for the other method] not as the instructions say... on the window sill!
The sprouts began to green up! But there was almost 100% success from what I now think is about twelve year old mung bean seed!!

Tuesday 10 April 2012

In the best possible taste

One hundred years ago today, the luxury liner Titanic sank in the north Atlantic on her maiden voyage with the loss of 1517 lives. In the finest tradition of British good taste and French tat, the Franco-Anglais Temps L sales brochure brings you a range of Titanic souvenirs. You can find a link to the Temps L website here - select a flag to choose your country.

Something for everyone?

 Probably the most titillating of these souvenirs, on page 3 of the UK catalogue, is an icecube tray at £9.95 which turns out icebergs and steamships in solid ice. The illustration is particularly tasteful, with handy labels pointing out the berg and the ship immersed in some sort of blue cocktail, and leaving nothing to the imagination.
Is that really on sale?

Oh, no!
The French Temps L catalogue replaces this item with a DVD boxed set of documentaries from the Discovery channel. Dull, but plus sympa!

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Stemster - or Prospère?

Sunday 1st April and La Nouvelle Republique reported a new competitor for the famous potato variety Charlotte, named Prospère, from France Plants. This is described as "High yielding even in dry weather, as good mashed as fried and keeping in storage from 6 to 8 months, pink skinned and of excellent flavour". The "curious gardener" can try it this spring.

France Plants publicity photo of Prospère - not a particularly good specimen!
Well, many French gardeners have been trying it for some while, myself included, because the bags are labelled Prospère (Stemster). We first spotted and photographed them at Descartes market a couple of weeks ago, at €4.70 for a 1.5 kilo bag.

Prospère (Stemster) in Descartes market, 11th March 2012
We have grown Stemster for two years, on the recommendation of allotmenting friends, and it's everything it's cracked up to be in our opinion - except that it's not French, but Scottish, and it's not a new variety, but over 25 years old.

According to Alan Romans' The Potato Book, Stemster was developed by Dr Jack Dunnett in Caithness (the lowlands beyond the Highlands) in 1986, and named after a hill and loch not far from the little east-coast port of Lybster, where Tim used to have a house. You can - or could - order Scottish-grown Stemster in bags of 10, 20 or 60 seed from Alan Romans here.

These look rather fine, don't they?
We can certainly vouch for the drought tolerance of Stemster from our experience last year, and France Plants's own press release (which you can see here) says it is even grown in North Africa! The press release doesn't mention Stemster by name, but it carries a photo of the same bags. You can buy France Plants seed potatoes in the big supermarkets, in local garden centres and markets, in Bricos, on line - everywhere. They come in 1.5 kilo and 3 kilo bags, clayettes (boxes) and big sacks for the market gardener.

France Plants go on at length about the old-fashioned flavour, which is interesting in view of the blandness of so many modern varieties. Classic French dishes such as gratinée dauphinoise swamp any flavour the potato might actually have with other ingredients - stock, onions, leeks, garlic for instance. From the press release I gather that France Plants have spotted a new market for foodstuffs with an "authentic taste". Very canny, and they have a winner. Equally canny is the name, which means "Prosperous", and has an old fashioned ring to it.

My big concern is that Alan Romans won't be able to export Stemster to me in France any more, because Prospère is a registered trademark - une exclusivité France Plants. I know how many rows of potatoes I want, and 10 plants per row is just fine. Therefore I like the ability to buy a set number of seed from Alan - French seed potatoes tend to be smaller than British ones, so even 1.5 kilos is quite a lot.

The one thing Stemster isn't, is a competitor for Charlotte - a potato more unlike Charlotte than Stemster would be impossible to find in France. If I was only permitted to grow one variety, I think it would be Stemster. As it is, this year we are only growing Red Duke of York (early), Charlotte (salad), Stemster (all-rounder), Remarka (baker) and Pink Fir Apple (unique - corne de gatte  in France) plus a couple of heritage varieties. And one hint from NR - it is traditional in France to plant potatoes at the flowering of the lilac - still a couple of weeks away, judging from our lilac trees. That's a less moveable feast than the British tradition of planting your spuds on Good Friday!