If you haven’t worked it out already I’m a bit of a baker at heart. I love bread and cakes, biscuits and tarts, and in the last few weeks I have been on a baking spree – which I should probably stop fairly soon in aid of trying to eat a bit healthier. Whilst I said before it’s not about deprivation, it’s also not about pre-mature cardiac arrest!
However I thought I would share a few baking/flour based cooking treats from the last few weeks.
Oddly enough they all seem to be inspired by different places so from my small kitchen in north London I am taking you on a mini globetrotting tour in the form of baked goods.
So the first is definitely one of the patient foods which takes a good 2-3 days to make! (When I said patient I meant patient :))
It is of course the French classic… Le croissant.
I now have a new respect for the croissant after making my first batch – firstly because of the dedication and time needed to create this wonderful breakfast treat, and secondly because of the blankets of butter! (When you see the recipe you will understand…)
Makes approximately 20 croissants. The dough can be frozen.
17 ½ oz (500g) flour
½ oz (14g) active dry yeast
3 1⁄8 oz (90g) sugar
½ oz (14g) salt
10 ¹⁄8 fl oz (300mL) warm milk
12 oz (340g) butter, room temperature
1 egg, beaten with 2 Tbsp water
some extra flour
- Mix flour with salt, sugar and yeast make a well and add the milk. Mix until everything is combined and forms a soft dough
- Knead the dough for a few minutes until smooth
- Cover it with the towel and let it rise until it doubles in size. This should take 1½ to 2 hours.
- While dough is rising, leave the butter out to soften slightly and flatten into a rectangle about 20×25 cms then leave to chill in fridge (I wrapped mine in some cling film so I didn’t get covered in butter)
- Once the dough has doubled in size sprinkle it with a little bit of flour. Punch out the air with your knuckles and place it onto a floured work surface.
- Dust the dough with flour and roll it out into a large rectangle that is big enough to wrap around the sheet of chilled butter in thirds (about 25 x 60 cms)
- Unwrap the chilled butter and place it onto the upper part of dough. Fold the dough around the butter in thirds to enclose it completely.
- Rotate the rectangle of dough (if necessary) so that you can hold a roller parallel to the open edges. Roll it into another long rectangle, as done earlier. (Don’t worry if you can feel a few lumps of butter mine had some and they came out pretty well so I don’t think it matters!)
- Fold the dough into thirds. This completes the first turn. Now wrap it in plastic wrap and place it into the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- Unwrap the dough and place it onto the work surface. Dust it with a sprinkling of flour and roll it into another long rectangle, as done earlier. Fold and wrap, exactly as before. This now completes the second turn. Place it back into the fridge for another 30 minutes.
- Remove, roll and fold for the third and final turn. Make sure that the dough is well wrapped before placing into the fridge once more to chill overnight. ( the slow process of layer butter almost feels like crafting a great work of art – although you still have no idea how it’s going to turn out)
- Once chilled, cut the unwrapped dough in half on a floured surface. You can freeze one half of the dough for use another time, or repeat the following steps with it to make more croissants.
- Dust the dough with some flour and roll one half of the dough into a rectangle. Continue to roll until the dough is roughly less than a 1/5 inch (5 mm) thick.
- Cut the dough into triangle shapes ( Triangles should be long and thin)
- Take the bottom of the triangle at its widest part and, using your hands, tightly roll it up into a croissant shape.
- Place the croissants onto a pre-lined baking tray.
- Cover them with a tea towel and leave to double in size. Set the oven to 375ºF (190ºC/gas mark 5).
- Once the croissants have risen gently brush them all over with the egg wash.
- Place them into the centre of the oven. Bake them for about 15 minutes.(you would be amazed at the amount of butter that melts out of them! –As a safety warning be prepared for hot butter!)
- Wait until they are a deep golden brown then remove them from the oven. Your croissants are now ready to serve!
So after 2 days of rolling and folding I slipped out of bed at 7.30am on a Sunday morning after a 2pm bed time the night before and rolled out my final croissants, so they would be ready for my sleeping troup when they arose.
Saying that seems rather self congratulatory but despite being tired I felt real satisfaction finishing them off and had a lovely realisation that I was truly enjoying what I was doing… cooking was absolute bliss, sometimes I wonder if there is a better feeling in the world. A once preoccupied mind can drift into a state of transient enlightenment, offering a Zen-like connection to a lovingly crafted meal. (Wow …excuse me whilst I drag myself back from the precipice of pretentiousness :))
So from France we travel to the States for some sourdough.
This was all about creating a quick bread loaf for the week. It works and is great but I wont lie it’s not the classic white – it can be made in about 35mins and therefore it doesn’t feel quite as nice. Nonetheless it’s still great bread and depending on your taste you may even prefer it. It seems to work especially well with savoury food – the sort of thing you want to have smoked salmon or eat with thickly cut saucisson and some cheese… but that will have to wait (for me at
least, you lot can go crazy!).
For now the Simple Sourdough From Scratch
8oz wholemeal flour
8oz plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
12fl oz butter milk – or warm milk with tablespoon of lemon ( I
personally could not find butter milk- but if you do let me know where)
- Preheat the oven to 220oC. Put a baking tray in to heat up.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the flours, sea salt, sugar and bicarbonate of soda together with your fingers
- Pour in the buttermilk ( alternatively heat the milk in a saucepan with a tbsp of lemon juice and then pour in). Working quickly combine the buttermilk with the dry ingredients and shape into a round loaf about 4cms thick
- Put the loaf on a baking tray and bake for about 25 mins, take out and leave to cool for 5mins then tuck in ( I kept on checking on my loaf and it definitely rose – despite me opening the oven door a few too many times. It will never rise like a loaf of bread with yeast, but it does form a lovely round loaf)
As I said I don’t think it will ever be my favourite but it was still lovely and who can argue with 35mins!
Finally we head south of the border for the best find of the week – The Tortilla
I’m so excited about this one – it can revolutionise lunches and dinners for me, offering a fairly quick fix for carb cravings.
Last night I really fancied some fajitas so tortillas became a necessary challenge. It was a slightly different mix of ingredients that creates this wonderfully elastic dough – a superb base for some exciting lunch wraps!
This was a recipe from America so everything is in cups but I used one cup and it worked fine.
2 cups of plain flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vegetable oil
¾ cup lukewarm milk
- Mix together the flour and baking powder in a bowl
- Mix salt, vegetable oil and milk together and whisk, add this to the dry ingredients to form a dough
- Knead the dough until smooth, then leave to rest for 15mins
- Separate the dough into about 6 balls, then leave to rest for another 15-20mins
- Press down and roll out till about 2mm thick ( this was an epic battle between me, the rolling pin and the elasticity of the dough- it takes awhile but you do eventually get there its definitely worth it) ( at points you do feel like you are getting nowhere but with a little perseverance you get great tortillas)
- Warm up a frying pan then place rolled out dough and heat for 2 mins on each side
As I say this was a real find. They were soft, warm, doughy and very comforting, I cant wait to rustle these up and cram them full with all sorts of exciting things to spice up the monotony of the working lunch! And if I happen to make one or two surplus, the incredible Toy Story 3 has taught me a simple flour tortilla can be a source of great amusement (poor Mr Potato Head….) 🙂
So that’s it. Simple really. 3 very different time scales, 3 very different types of baked good spanning 3 continents, and 3 new recipes to experiment with. And that’s what I’m finding with each stage of this adventure – the more you experiment with food and recipes, the more limitless possibilities and unique flavours open up.
Until next time mes amis, friends, y amigos – au revoir, goodbye, and adios!