Sunday, 30 May 2010

Semi-wholewheat Sourdough No-knead Bread

No-knead recipes are now everywhere and is quickly becoming the most popular bread baking method around. I first heard about it through NY-Time's food journalist, Mark Bittman, where he showed the simplicity of this method stating that even a 4-year-old could make a better bread than your typical baker. That was quite a statement. (Un)fortunately, I'm not 4 years old but I had to try it for myself anyway. First time was a success. I then saw my food guru, Chef John Mitzewich, from do a Italian ciabatta with the same recipe, and later pizza dough. The road was open to experimentation...

The key to this bread is making a dough which isn't too dry or too wet in a flour/water ration of aproximately 2:1 with a very small amount of yeast and a teaspoon and a half of salt. For any good bread you need to deelope the gluten in the dough, which is basically two proteins which makes the flour elastic. This elasticity alows the dough to expand around the tiny bubbles made by the yeast fermenting. As a result the bread will rise and become more chewy and not be flat and crumbly. In traditional bread baking, gluten is developed by kneading the bread for about 10 minutes. Larger amounts of yeast is also needed to speed up the rising process.

In this no-knead method, however, the the mount of leavening is reduced and the kneading step is skipped, hence the name. A small amount of leavening agent is used which creates a slower rising, up to 18 hours. This in turn, not only helps developing the gluten by itself, it also makes the bread more flavoursome. I'd sofar only used yeast, but since I made my sourdough starter I've been experimenting with this. Here's the recipe I came up with:
120g wholewheat flour
340g bread flour
1.5 tsp salt
330 ml purified water
aprx. 60 ml sourdough starter
Alternative recipe - Ingredients 4-year-old method:
4 cups flour
2 cupswater
1.5 tsp salt
1/4 tsp yeast

Start by mixing the dry ingredients, flour and salt.

Whisk out the bubbles of your sourdough starter and measure out about 60 ml. Dissolve in the water. Add it to the flour.

Mix it together until you have a ball of dough. It shouldn't be too sticky, but likewise not to dry. This is where a bit of practice will help. Now you are done. Leave it covered at room temperature. Originally, they say you need 18 hours but I've found that it depends a lot the temperature. The last I made I left only 10 hours, as we're starting to get warmer nights now here in Spain.

When it's risen to a bit over double and starting to look wet on top, it's about ready. The dough is now very sticky and elastic as you will see when you pour it out on a well-floured table.

Spread more flour on top and on your fingers. Punch the dough a bit and stretch it and fold it over itself. Shape it into a ball. Place in a well floured proofing bowl and leave it covered with a tea towel for 1-2 hours.

Heat up your oven to 230º. The original recipe now call for using a dutch oven (cast iron stewing pot) which should be place in the oven so it's smoking hot. I'd just like to say I've made bread with out it which turned out fine as long as you remember to add a bowl of water into the oven to increase the humidity. Anyway, when the oven is hot, quickly transfer the bread to the pot. Score it on top with a sharp knife. Put a lid on and bake for 30 minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes or when the internal temperature of the bread hits 93ºC (yes, you can use and oven thermometre for bread making as well).

Here's the final bread. The last crucial step is not to cut into the bread for the first 30 minutes. At this time the bread is still baking. What you can do to make this time g faster is put your ear close to the bread and enjoy the small crackling noises it makes when cooling down.

Monday, 24 May 2010


It’s wild, it’s fungi... its’ sourdough. Ok, so you want to bake bread, but you haven’t got any yeast. On the other hand you’ve got 4 or 5 days to spend. Why not try and make your own sourdough starter. Sourdough is a wild yeast culture, where instead of using industrial yeast, you take advantage of the wild yeast flying around in the air and in the flour. I’ve been trying a couple of times to get a soughdough starter going, but haven’t really been successful sofar. Everytime it started bubbling a bit and then just went flat and died. Yeast is a living organism which needs the right amount of care and attention plus good conditions for living. If it’s too hot they die, if there isn’t enough stuff to feed on the stop reproducing, and (which I think is why I didn’t have much success previously), you your tap water has chlorine in it it might also kill the little germs. So, yes, you will be growing your own small bacteria, which is why it’s so fun, and if you’re further interested in the science behind it I recommend looking it up on wikipedia. The method which finally brought me a good healthy sourdough starter was one posted on Breadtopia, a great page for the homebaker in you. And should you have any doubts about how to do it, look up his much more elaborate video guide on how to make this starter.
3 1/2 + 2 + 5 1/4 tbsp + 120ml wholewheat flour (apparently recently milled flour is not as good as older flour)
60 + 30 ml unsweetened pineapple juice
3 tbsp + 60 ml purified water (i.e. bottled water)
On day one, start by mixing 3 1/2 tbsp wholewheat flour with 60 ml. pineaple juice. I used some from a can, just make sure there is no sugar added.

Then you have to leave it for 48 hours at room temperature, mixing it well 2 to 3 times a day. This will mix in the yeast forming on the surface.

W ater will gather on top, which is perfectly normal. Just mix it in.

After 48 hours, add 2 tbsp of whole wheat flour and 2 tbsp of pineapple juice. Set it aside for another day or two.

You should start to see small bubles forming on the surface. This is the fermentation going on. It should also start to smell a bit of yeast or beer. It's all good. If there is no fermentation after 2 days, and/or if it starts smelling strange or grows any kind of mold, discard it and start again.

Provided all is well, feed it 5 1/4 tbsp of wholewheat flour and 3 tbsp of purified water (I used spring water from a bottle). Mix it in and leave another 24 hours at room temperature, stirring 2 to 3 times.

It should now have risen a bit and gone frothy or bubbly, this means your sourdough is almost ready. Notice how the starter is now thick with bubbles.

In a larger container mix 120ml of wholewheat flour with 60 to 80 ml of purified water. Add your sourdugh starter to this. Stir well and leave it another 24 hours before you start using it.

If all has gone right, you now have an active, living yeast organism. Put the mixture in the fridge until you're going to use it. This will slow down the process of fermentation. Take it out of the fridge 24 hours before using it to re-animate it. It's also recommendable to feed it 1 or two days before use by adding equal amounts of water and flour. This will strenghten the culture. If you are not using it, keep it in the fridge but pour away half and add a fresh mixture of flour and water once a week or every two weeks. But reportedly, it will even last up to month even if neglected completely. Good luck.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Mother-in-law's Lemon Sponge Cake

This recipe has been handed down through my girlfriend's family for generations and is a one tasty sponge cake with a hint of lemon and olive oil. What I particularly like about it is the simplicity of measuring everything. You start out with a cup of yoghurt and then the same cup is the measuring cup for everything else. I guess you can also substitute the olive oil for neutral oil, and/or the lemon for vanilla, cocoa powder etc.
1 cup of youghurt
1 cup olive oil, mild in flavour
2.5 cup sugar
2.5 cup flour
3 eggs
1 sachet bakingpowder (16g)
Peel of one lemon, finely shredded or chopped

Here's the end result, so you know what to look forward to.

Mix all the ingredients by using the yoghurt cup as measure.

Add the flour, sugar, eggs, lemon (I tried with lime, which wasn't as good) and baking powder.

Blend the ingredients together until you have a smooth dough.

Wipe a springform pan with a bit of olive oil, then dust it with flour. Pour the dough into the form and bake at very high heat for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature and bake for another 10-20 minutes. Check if it's done by inserting a toothpick in the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean it is done.

Let the cake rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting into it. It will deflate a little. Enjoy

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Strawberry Jam Session

Although the temperatures aren't exactly springlike this year, my local market is now starting to overflow with big, fat, juicy strawberries. If you have ever bought a strawberry during winter you know how disappointing they are to eat, how bland and indifferent an experience it is to bite into an importet berry. Strawberries need to be sun ripened, picked, packed and shipped to your store in a rush, which is quite hard when they come from the other side of the globe. So now, in this all too short window when sweet berries are abundant, it's time to try ad capture some of these spring delights and store them for more dreary winter nights. And what better way of preserving than by making jam.
Ingredients (5 jars):
1 kg strawberrries, not too over ripe
1 kg sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp butter

Clean and cut the berries in half (cuarter the really big ones) and mix with half the sugar. Leave it overnight for the juices to run out.
On the day of making the jam, start by bringing a large pot to boil and completely submerge your jam glasses. Boil the only the glasses for 20 minutes. Then turn off the heat and add the lids and let it all sit for nother 10 minutes. Take out and let them dry. If you are recycling like me, make sure the lids are not bent or damaged in any way or they wn't stay tight. Also, place a small plate in your freezer. I'll explain while later.

Meanwhile in a lage pot with a thick base, mix the strawberries with the other half of the sugar. Add the lemon juice.

Bring it to a boil. Make sure you have plenty of space for the jam to rise. It will more than double. Just to be warned. Let it simmer at mid low temperature while strirring now and then. Skim off the foam after about 20 minutes. You want to let it boil slowly until it reaches its setting point. This might take up to an hour. How do you know when it's set? Read on...

First of all, while it's boiling, cut a small disc of waxed paper by folding it around the same point and then placing it with the point in the centre of the lid. Cut a bit further in than the rim of the lid.
When the jam has set, you want to stir in a teasoon of butter.

How do you know the jam is setting? This is where the plate in the freezer comes in. Take it out a drop a bit of jam on it. Leave it to cool off for a minute. Turn the plate and see if it's still runny. If it's thickening up, you're almost ready to go. Turn of the heat and let it sit in the pot for 10 minutes to firm up a bit. This way the pieces of strawberry won't sink to the bottom when you put it into jars.

Final part is getting the jam into the still warm jars. If the jars have cooled off too much, the sudden change of temperature might crack the glasses. Fill the jars and place the disc of waxpaper on top to minimize the jams exposue to air. Microbes and fungus need air. Seal up and let the jars cool down. When fully cooled the jar lids should have been sucked in a created a vacuum. If you hear a clicking sound when pressing the lids, use this jar first as it's not airtight.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Rape me! Monkfish with safron and thyme

One of the less charming fish swimming around the oceans is probably the monksfish. But as ugly as it might be, it's a real delicacy on when it's served up on a the plate. It's meat is very soft and tasty. If you haven't tried it, I recommend keeping an eye out for it next time you're at the fishmonger. As to get the head as well as it makes a splendid soup. In Spanish the fish is knownas "rape" (ra-pai), hence the cryptic title of this post. I cooked a nive safran and thyme sauce in which I then poached the fish.
1 tail of a large monkfish
2 carrots
1 stalk of celery
1 small onion
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
Pinch of safran
Pinch of curry powder
1/2 l. quality fish stock (click here to se how to make your own)
Salt and white pepper
1 portion of mashed potatoes

Here's the cute, little fish smiling at you.

Clean and chop the vegetables finely.

Fry them in some olive oil until they are soft. Add the dried thyme.

Add salt and some more dried thyme to the monkfish. Mine was cut in chunks, but you can also fry the tail whole and cut it out later.

Fry it lightly for about a minute on each side in a bit o olive oil. Let it rest on the warm pan.

When the veggis and thyme has fried for a couple of minutes, add the curry powder and safran.

Add the fish stock (or fumet as it's also know as).

Pour in the juices accumulated from frying the fish.

Let it reduce to about half, then blend it slightly with a stick blender. You just want to thicken the sauce, so it's not necessary to blend it finely. In fact, you want it a bit chunky.

Place the fish into the sauce, turn off the heat and let it rest in the sauce for about 5 minutes.

Serve with mashed potatoes and sprinkle some parsley on top.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Fab Lamb Korma

After Chicken Tikka Masala, the Korma has to be my second favourite Indian dish. I've tried out many different recipes and think I've finally cracked it. I started out with Mr Ramsay's Lamb Korma fromhis Indian cook book I've mentioned in an earlier post. But I found it a little on the dry side, so I made a few adjustments. Here's hat you need:
Ingredients (4 people)
500g Lamb cut into cubes
1 red chili
1 whole dried cayenne, crushed
75g Almonds, lightly toasted
75g Cashew nuts, lightly toasted
3 cloves of garlic
3 cm of fresh Ginger root
150 ml water
Ghee (clarified butter) or oil frying
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
1 bay leaf
2 tsp ground coriander
2 cardamom pods, pinched
2 onions, finely chopped
100 ml natural yoghurt (preferably greek, as thick youghurt tends to curdle less)
pinch of safran soaked in 1 tbsp of hot water
1 tsp tumeric
1 tbsp sugar
1 can of coconut milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Start by toasting the nuts and blend them into a fine paste along with the ginger, garlic, chili, cayenne and water.

Season the lamb and brown it on all sides for a couple of minutes in the ghee or oil. Remove and reserve for later.

Wipe away some of the excess fat, but don't clean the pan. Fry the cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf and ground coriander for a minute until it starts getting fragrant.

Add the chopped onion. Fry at mid-heat until they turn soft and lightly brown around the edges.

Meanwhile add the yoghurt and the safron to the almond paste.

When the onions are ready, add the almond paste. Fry it for about 5 minutes before adding the lamb from before along with any accumulated juices. Add a bit of extra water if too dry. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn't catch. It's still quite dry at this moment, so don't leave it too long unattended.
Prepare the rice (Fry a bit of cumin seeds, some cardamom pods and a whole star anise, add 1dl of basmati rice per person, fry the rice for 3 minutes while stirring. Add 1.5 dl water per person, bring to a boil and cookat low heat for 15 minutes under lid. Turn off heat and leave covered for 10 minutes).

After 30 minutes of cooking the lambs in the amond sauce, add the cream of the coconut milk, i.e. remove the more solid/thick part of the coconut milk with a spoon. Provided you haven't shaken the can of coconut milk it should separate into a thicker part on top and a more watery part at the bottom. At least the brand I'm buying does. Save the watery part for adding later if still too thick.

Add a tsp of tumeric. Let the dish cook for another 15 minutes.

Just before serving, add the lemon juice and about a tsp of salt or to taste.

Serve with aromatic basmati rice. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did.