Back to retarded proving with sourdough

Like so much of my sourdough bread making, this reminder of how delicious a long prove can be, came about by accident. I’d started that day’s bread and had to go out for the day so I had to stick it in the fridge and pick up where I’d left off the day after.

Although the resulting bread was over-proved (see pic) the taste was sensational. You can tell when the bread is over proved because it has that ‘false ceiling’ look (I don’t know if that’s an accurate description but it is what I call it..), where the bread has risen up and can’t sustain its own, early, promise.

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Super delicious but over proved sourdough

I’ve been baking sourdough for over a decade now and, as Dan Lepard so brilliantly put to me one day, sometimes we let success hinder progress. I know my shaping could do with (more) work, but I’ve grown lazy. And because I can make bread, now, I haven’t experimented much. And whilst my sourdough tastes good, a longer prove really improves the flavour.

I don’t do it very scientifically. Sometimes I start the bread with starter/water/flour/salt and leave it, unmixed, for a few hours. Sometimes I’ll take it to the first one hour rise phase and then put it in the fridge overnight and carry on the next day. Sometimes I start it, mix it up roughly and leave it til the next morning (in the fridge) – but if you rest if for a long time and the dough isn’t totally smooth, make sure it’s well covered, otherwise, as per point 2 below, you can get hard bits.

There are no hard and fast rules, but a few things to remember:

  1. You need a good starter to do prolonged proving, so one that’s been refreshed in the last twelve hours.
  2. Don’t leave it at the first (unmixed) stage for too long as hard lumps will form that will be hard to eliminate. Ask me how I know.

But other than that, just experiment. What can go wrong? Put it in and out of the fridge over a couple of days, see what happens. When I’ve finally shaped it, I leave it at room temperature for a few hours before putting it (back) in the fridge for its final rest. I tend to try to always cook it from fridge cold as it’s easier to handle and slash.

The mixture I’ve used recently has been 425g white bread flour with 75g rye. I had previously shied away from prolonged proving with white flour but it seems to be okay. If you need more information about sourdough do a search for sourdough in the search bar or select it in the drop down category menu on the right hand side of this page. If you’re new to it here is a step by step guide I did some years ago.

And if you’re totally new to it and fancy a try, do what I did many years ago: buy Dan Lepard’s excellent The Handmade Loaf. In terms of bread-making it changed my life.

Bad mood pasta

This is actually a John Whaite recipe that was published in BBC Good Food October and we adapted it for the four of us (and also changed some of the ingredients and cooking times). It’s from Whaite’s new book A Flash in the Pan.

It’s proper title – its kennel name – is walnut, feta and mint pesto with sweet potato and wholemeal pasta. But I was in the worse mood (for no discernible reason) when I selected this for dinner and in the end was in too much of a funk to make it, so my partner very kindly stepped in.

I had reservations…because…potato and pasta is not a combo I’d usually go for. And the calories per serving, which I’m not a slave to but do glance at, look like a typo (I dare not repeat them here but it’s a hefty amount). But what can I tell you. This dish has instantly gone into my top ten pasta dishes and that’s not easy to do.

Don’t be scared by the wholemeal pasta. I used Rummo Organic Wholemeal Fusilli which I get from the excellent Sous Chef and it was delicious and just added something to it without it being obvious. I think the use of wholemeal pasta elevates this dish to something else.

Anyway, here is the recipe for four:

For the pasta:

400g dried fusilli

Two sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into little dice

For the pesto

120g walnuts

Two handfuls of mint leaves

100g feta, plus a bit extra if you want to crumble on top

200-300ml of extra virgin olive oil

First make the pesto, heat a heavy frying pan and when hot add the walnuts and stir around for about 3-5 minutes. Don’t burn them.

Fill a pan with boiling water (or boil in the pan..), and then when boiling drop in the sweet potato and cook until tender (8-10 mins), fish out and reserve, covered, to keep them warm.

Then add the pasta (in the same water if possible, add more water if you need to but make sure it’s on a rolling boil before you add the pasta), bit of salt and cook for the time on the packet (which always lies but it’s a good starting point). Ours was eight and a half minutes.

Meanwhile put the toasted walnuts, the mint, the feta and the oil in a food processor and some black pepper (Whaite says to add salt here – a teaspoon for the recipe above – but personally we found that too salty so would leave it out). Pulse until coarse.

When pasta is cooked, drain but reserve the cooking water – about a cup full, add that slowly to the pesto until you have a looser mixture – you may need less. Reintroduce the pasta to the pan (off the heat), stir through the pesto, scatter atop the sweet potato and serve in a big dish with scattered, crumbled, feta.

Sit in front of the TV or the fire, kick your shoes off and try not to eat five portions all to yourself.

 

Little sous vide cheesecakes

I am no stranger to gadgets. My dad used to say “un’altro gadget” (another gadget) but, although I made mistakes early on, everything I buy I pretty much use and enjoy: it earns its place and keep in our kitchen.

For instance, some years ago, I looked at sous vide cooking but, back then, the domestic sous vide machines were pretty big and I just knew that the space they took up, I’d rather  put an ice cream maker in, given my heritage.

But a few weeks ago, we had friends Natalie and Micah round for lunch and Micah mentioned they had a sous vide and how things had changed; that they were now little bigger than stick blenders and you stuck them in a pan that you already had. And how they cooked the most amazing meat [and fish and other things].

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The Joule sous vide, with plug for size comparison

So I looked and I bought.

Although the Anova is pretty popular (Martha Stewart’s chef uses one), it didn’t work that well for me – I couldn’t get it to work with the app and I am such a technophile that this mattered to me. (It doesn’t have to work with an app, you can just use the machine.) So I returned it bought a Joule instead which ONLY works via an app, which may annoy you but I love it. The app has all sorts of pre-set timings and temperatures and it’s soo easy. The Joule is also more powerful than the Anova (all but the Anova Pro which is much more expensive).

If you are thinking, WTF is she on about, then you can read  all about sous vide here. But it is, essentially, cooking food at a very precise temperature in a water bath.

I cooked a chicken breast in it and it was amazing, so moist and let’s not even get started on the steaks it cooks. It doesn’t brown but you can finish meat off in a frying pan for a final sear. The beauty of sous vide, other than it cooks to perfection, is that you can prep food and leave it, which really suits the way I cook.

But, cheesecakes.

You can also use sous vide to cook little cheese cakes and chocolate puddings. You can adapt this one below by adding fruit compote at the end or a biscuit base. We made them with Oreo cookies (use the double filled ones, one per portion – so if using the recipe below you would use six – blitzed in a blender and distributed amongst the jars and pressed down, then you put the cheesecake batter on top – you can use any extra crumbs to put on top of the cheesecakes just before you eat them) but you could use digestive biscuits with a bit of melted butter to bring them all together if you fancy a more traditional cheesecake base.

You need six 135ml mason-style jars. I use these ones.  They are perfect for these mini desserts and many others you can make sous vide. You can also use Weck jars (use the seal and the clips and I guess, regular jam jars but I haven’t yet.

Sorry about the Amazon link for the jars but Lakeland will start selling them come the autumn.

Ingredients for six people

(Six double fill Oreos if using)

225g cream cheese

110g of caster sugar

110g creme fraiche

Three eggs

Grated zest of a lemon (I always use organic when I use the zest of citrus fruits)

Method

You can do this in a food processor but it’s not difficult to mix it up by hand. Mix together the cream cheese and the caster sugar, then add the creme fraiche, the lemon zest and the three eggs one at a time. Make sure everything is really well combined.

If you are using a biscuit base you will already have pressed it in the jars.

Distribute evenly amongst the six jars up to the ‘thread’, seal until they are finger tip tight (ie you can unscrew using just your finger tips), set your sous vide to 80C and 90 mins, and when up to temperature, submerge the jars (I use a jar tong, be careful of your fingers).

When done take out, cool then refrigerate for a couple of hours.

I know this recipe isn’t relevant to those of you without a sous vide but you know…if you like kit I’ve given you lots of reasons to buy some.

Chocolate cookies and ice-cream milk shake

We go through stages in our house, so we have summers of iced coffee, milk shake mix ins and now our current favourite is this shake. It’s not healthy but if you calculate it into your daily ‘treats’ it really isn’t so bad. Plus we have super healthy green smoothies almost every morning (and I frequently have one instead of lunch with the addition of protein powder). I also use it as a vehicle to get kefir into my children – don’t add too much but it can carry a couple of tablespoons a head.

I’m not really an Oreo fan as I’m not a shop-bought biscuits kinda gal, but here, whizzed to helpless crumbs with good vanilla ice cream and thick, creamy milk, something magical happens and you get a malty, chocolate milk shake that’s simple but full of depth. Don’t think about it too much.

You do need a blender for this. And just up the proportions according to how many you need to make for:

Per person:

2-3 Oreo cookies, flavour of your choice. Or any other chocolate cookie

125ml milk (we use raw for added goodness)

65g good vanilla ice cream (we use Green and Black’s)

You just put everything into a blender and blend for 30 seconds.

Olive oil flatbreads

These are so useful to make in a batch and then freeze. To defrost simply leave at room temperature for a bit or microwave for 10 seconds and eat immediately.

I love the meditative nature of making these. I make them on a large, flat skillet pan, prepping the ones still to cook by first rolling them into balls, then squashing into discs and finally rolling them out. I do this in stages – a mini production line – so the gluten has time to relax in between. I can’t get these super thin, but then I don’t really want to. They are really soft and tasty.

I keep them warm in my warming drawer whilst making the whole batch, but a very low oven serves exactly the same purpose.

I make eight out of this recipe, you could make more if you made them smaller as individual (as opposed to ‘tearing’) dipping breads.

 

7g of dried (fast action) yeast

600g strong white bread flour

100ml of extra virgin olive oil (doesn’t have to be super expensive)

350ml of water

half a teaspoon to half a tablespoon of sea salt

(depending on taste. If you’re going to serve these with super-salted food then you don’t have to put too much salt in. The first time make them with the lower amount and see how you go.)

These couldn’t be easier. You mix the 7g of yeast with the 600g strong white bread flour, and mix in the 100ml of olive oil and 350ml of water and, finally, the salt.  Mix to a rough dough just using a fork, and then rest in the bowl for ten minutes whilst you wash your hands and put everything away.

When the ten minutes is up, turn the dough out onto an oiled surface and give it gentle knead for ten seconds, then cover it with a bowl and rest again for ten minutes. Repeat twice more. By this stage you should have a smooth dough, with no bits.

If you plan to make these the same day, oil a bowl, place the dough in it, cover and leave until doubled in size. How long this will take depends on your kitchen. I tend to use a bowl that the original, unproved, dough comes up half way on, that way, I know that when it’s at the surface it’s doubled in size. If you plan to make these later put in a cold place in the fridge (by that I mean, as close to the bottom as possible) for the final prove, you could leave it overnight but I wouldn’t leave it for more than about 12 hours.

When ready to go, take the dough out, lightly knead and divide into eight/how ever many pieces you want to make. Roll into a ball by placing the dough on the flat palm of one hand and cupping the other hand over the top and making circular movements, or whatever works for you.

Then flatten each ball into a disc. Put a dry, large frying pan on a high heat and when you are ready to go roll out as best you can to about 18-20cm – if you’ve divided the dough into eight, obviously smaller if you’re making more than that.

As I said in the intro, you can get into a production line with them, prepping each before it goes on. I get it so that as I put one on to cook, I roll the other one out in preparation so it has time to relax a bit. If you can get them perfectly circular great – I never can.

When ready to cook you slap them into the pan and cook for about 5 mins – if you’re like me you’ll turn them often as I’m a bit of a flipper. You can see they’re done as they brown and go ‘dry’ – no more moist bits. If you need to turn the heat down for the second side do so, but turn up again for the new flat bread going on as it’s the dough hitting the hot skillet heat which causes the bubbles to form, which then blister and blacken.

 

Oat milk for smoothies

I wrote about making almond milk some years ago, and whilst I love almond milk, it’s expensive. We drink a lot of smoothies in our house, and I usually add some sort of non-dairy milk to them. Not because I don’t have dairy – I do, and how! – but I just prefer nut/oak milks in my smoothies; so, in an attempt to make something cheaper,  and to avoid shop-bought ‘mylks’ I tried making my own oat milk. Plenty of people do and it’s so simple I urge you to give it a try.

The basics is one part oat flakes to four parts water, and then, depending on taste and how much you make you can add some vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, or a date for a bit of sweetness. If you use one cup as the measurement, I use a teaspoon of vanilla extract, one date, half a teaspoon of salt. So you can increase or decrease those measurements to suit the quantity you make. But, increasingly I make it using just oats and water. I make it about 1L at a time (I make mine quite thick and then dilute with water at point of making) so it’s pretty fresh. It keeps for a few days in the fridge. It might need a shake/stir before using.

Take your one part of oats (say one cup, in fact I use my 1/3rd cup measurement as that is what works for my bottle), add four parts water, blend for 30-60seconds depending on your blender. You can strain it in through a fine cloth (I do) or in fact just use as is. I don’t find there’s much left behind in the cloth but I do have a ‘super blender’, which basically turns oats to dust.

I felt so disproportionately pleased with myself for saving money making this, I went out and bought a fancy bottle to put it in, thereby completely wiping out this week’s savings.  But I think the presentation is important…

 

Oat, raisin and nut cookies

In the US sitcom, Friends, there’s an episode where Phoebe talks about how she makes the best oat raisin cookies.

I saw this particular episode a few weeks ago (we are watching the whole series again, introducing it to my youngest) and ever since, I craved a good oat and raisin cookie. So much so that when I went to a school open day and they were offering those ubiquitous giant cookies, even though I know they are nearly always crap, I searched out the one that looked like an oat raisin one. Sure enough, it wasn’t very good.

I am so suggestible that I still really craved a really good oaty, raisin cookie, then I remembered that, almost as a footnote, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall had a suggestion for such a biscuit, at the bottom of his chocolate chip cookies as in ‘if you want an oat raisin cookie, do this to the recipe instead of adding chocolate chips’. I had a half memory that I’d made them once and they were much better than you think they’re going to be.

Oat and raisin cookies don’t exactly make you reach inside the biscuit tin. It’s the sort of biscuit that would always be last to be picked for the team. And yet, these are now my new favourites and I think I could give Phoebe a run for her money.

I’ve adapted them from the original by decreasing the sugar and I use half and half plain/wholemeal flour.

You need: 125g soft butter, 50g caster sugar, 50g soft brown sugar, a tablespoon of honey, one egg, 75g plain flour, 75g wholemeal plain flour, half a teaspoon of baking powder, half a teaspoon of cinnamon, 50g rolled oat flakes (big is best), 75g of chopped nuts – hazelnuts, almonds, pecans or walnuts or a mix of them, 100g of raisins.

Oven to 190C.

Cream the 125g of soft butter with the 50g of caster sugar and the 50g of brown sugar and the one tablespoon of honey. Now mix in the one egg. Now add the 75g of plain flour and 75g of wholemeal plain flour, the half a teaspoon of cinnamon and the half a teaspoon of baking powder. Then add the 50g of oats, then add 75g of nuts and the 100g of raisins. Mix til everything is incorporated.

The dough will be sticky, I roll up tablespoons of dough and flatten slightly on a tray. They don’t spread so much but still, leave a bit of a gap on a baking parchment lined tray.

Bake for 8 ins. They will be quite soft when they first come out but they harden up to a wonderful buttery crispness. I like to pretend they are healthier than other biscuits.