Sunday, 29 July 2012

Summer Break

A long weekend, visiting the Anderton Boat Lift, marvelling at the engineering which made possible our transfer in a 'lift' from the river 15 metres up to a canal.

We stayed at Lytham St Annes, our hotel was on the sea front and each evening, we went for long walks exploring the coastal path and shore lake.

Then a  train ride, a cruise on Lake Windermere where we were enchanted by some of the beautiful houses and gardens leading down to the lake.

Another train ride, and a ride along the canal at Skipton.  We loved the area around Skipton and the town itself, so will be returning there under our own steam...

Scottish Holiday

A few weeks back, when we were having loads of rain in central Britain, we went on holiday to Scotland...visited Eigg, Rhum and Skye, stayed at Mallaig, travelled sunshine, visiting Oban, going up the Cairgorm Mountain Railway.  Saw lots of dolphins and whales, birds, and wild flowers,

 mountains and lochs....but oh the midges....just hope these little plants get as many as then can.

On our one free day, we took the train to Fort William, with wonderful views from the train.  We looked round the Museum there, walked along the Main Shopping Road before getting the train back to Mallaig.

A large Parma Ham on the Bone

Yesterday I picked up my phone messages, and there was one from MC asking if I would like some Parma Ham, with something to the effect they were going to the shops.....I thought maybe there was a special offer on locally and my friend was offering to fetch me some. 

Later that day it turned out that yes some ham was on its way to me, a gift, well its with me for a few days and I can cut off as much as I would like....It started off at MCs daughter's, spent a couple of days at MC, and now it is with me.  Many thanks for sharing this great treat with us.....

I got up early this morning and researched the best way to cut and keep the ham at its best, how to keep its surface moist with a film of olive oil and sharpened the long bladed knife ready to cut some succulent thin slices for lunch.

The ham tastes wonderful...sliced thinly, eaten with and assortment of chutneys; pineapple and pear and walnut chutney is specially good, oven baked tomatoes, roasted peppers, tomato focaccia, salad and red wine. I can see why Italians love Mostarda di Fruta with their ham. The Spanish too have an air dried cured ham, I've seen the black pigs grazing under oak trees.

Butter Buns

After having been inspired to bake a treat from my childhood, I started to wonder if I could recreate the doughy confection well beloved of many Cirencester Residents.  When I first met Mr S he often mentioned these buns to me, trying to describe them to me. 

A year into working at a Company in Cirencester, it was a colleague's birthday, and we were invited to partake in the customary cake fest...instead on the usual bags of doughnuts etc, there were two large baker's trays, arranged with a variety of cakes...nestled to one side were half a dozen of very plain looking rolls heavily dusted with icing sugar.  They looked like nothing I had seen before so I eschewed the usual vanilla slices, chocolate eclairs, cream puffs, etc., and  placed one of these buns on my plate and walked calmly back to the office, stopping off to collect a cup of coffee.

I shut the door, and sat looking at my bun.    The dough was only just sweet, not tasting of anything spicy,  with a fold of dough with something to keep the dough separate with the walls of the fold soft and sweet, and below a sticky sweet bottom.  With sufficient icing sugar on top that you need to develop a special eating technique: breathing in before you take your first bite, then putting the cake down slowly.   One bite in and I knew that this must be the butter bun of Cirencester, now made only by Whiddetts. I savoured it slowly with eyes closed. 

When I got home that evening, I had words with Mr S...why oh why had he waited so long to introduce me to the Butter Bun.  Its a bun that in my opinion does not travel well...the icing gets knocked off, the buttery sticky bottom leaks away, and it is at its best bought straight from the shop, that is if there are any left when you get to the front of the queue, and eaten within minutes of buying it!  Five years ago they cost about 80p each, but the good people of Cirecencester thought they were worth every penny, and if you see them in the window, still on their baking paper, and you think you will do a spot of shopping or sightseeing before you buy your buns, think again, they sell out very quickly!!

I have looked high and low for a recipe but no luck.  Yesterday I made my first butter buns, and Mr S who would have me believe that he was almost been weaned on them, pronounced them perfect!!

Sweet Dough:

500g strong white flour
50g butter
50g sugar
1 large egg
250ml milk
15g fresh yeast or 7g fast acting dried yeast
1.5tsp fine sea salt

75g melted butter but cooled, soft enough to brush on thinkly to the dough
about 75g caster sugar for sprinkling
I also sprinkle on a little powdered mace these days, probably this is not authentic.

I used goats milk, and butter, but it would work equally well with cows milk and butter.

Warm the milk and dissolve the sugar, when lukewarm, add the yeast.
Sift the flour into a large bowl, rub in the butter, then add the milk mixture, the beaten egg, and the salt.  Knead the dough for 10 minutes, then put it in a large oiled bowl to rise for around 1.5 hrs.

Knock back in the bowl, place on an oiled surface, allow to rest for about five minutes then roll into an oblong, about 20cm wide.  I used only half of the dough for the butter buns, with the other half I made some chelsea buns.

Spread  with room temperature butter leaving a 2 cm edge on each of the long sides.   You don't want the butter so thick that too much will just ooze out in the oven.  You want the flavour, and the butter will make a lamination and give bed for the sugar to sit on.    

There is a little oozing of butter and sugar which sets on the bottom of the buns as they cool on the baking parchment.  You can either spread very soft butter just as you would with on a piece of bread, or melt the butter, allow it to cool to a soft consistency, then bush on with a pastry brush.  Then bush some more on, then sprinkle generously with granulated sugar.  

Cut along the middle, then cut each half into slices, which are rolled up from the centre to the clear edge.  You will need some more butter to brush on the buns as soon as they come out of the oven, so keep any left overs for this.

Transfer them gently well spaced to rise on the parchment lined baking sheet, with the seam underneath, such that they will just touch when they have risen.  It will take between 45 minutes and maybe over a hour before they are ready to go in the oven. Pre heat the oven to Gas Mark 5 -6, about ten minutes before they are due to be baked.

After they are baked for about 15 minutes at Gas Mark 5-6 and are golden, remove from the oven and brush with melted butter immediately.  Allow to cool on the tray placed on a cooling rack.  Normally bakes are not cooled on the tray, but cooling on the baking tray allows the butter and sugar which has run out to set on the bottom of the bun.  It will be quite pale underneath, but the buns should be cooked on top, this are the quintessential characteristics of butter buns from Cirencester.

After about 15 minutes, sift to cover with a generous coat of icing sugar.  They are ready to eat when slightly warm, and any other time the same day. These are buns to make and share the same day.  MC received some.

I thought Mr S would be sad but he knows that they must be savoured the same day....You can freeze them, but omit the icing sugar, thaw then warm gently, brush with melted butter, then sift over the icing sugar again.

With my sweet dough, this is what I made....chelsea buns are in the freezer for another day.

I've just been asked how much butter and sugar to sprinkle before rolling up.  It depends how many buns you are making, ie what proportion of the dough you are using, but I've adjusted my notes above, and hope you enjoy making these  

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Macatia Coco - Sweet Coconut Rolls

One of my Mauritius childhood memories is that of listening out for the call of the 'marchant de macatia coco'.  Even as a small child I was drawn to things yeasty.  In the heat of the afternoon, soon after the rains had stopped, we would hear his bicycle bell alternating with his call.  It came over all clear, as we are talking here of the time when the bicycle was king, before the drone of moped or other motorised vehicle.  If there was no home baked goodie available I would beg the few cents needed, and run out to greet our peddler.  He would open his box, and the smell of warm yeasty buns could not be resisted.  The buns were not really very sweet except for the little blob of sweetened coconut in the middle.  They went really well with the Vanilla Tea the maids used to brew up in the afternoon for themselves.  So often I would get a couple to share in secret with Simone or Marie.  Mum preferred Bois Cheri or some other standard brew.  Now that I think about it, this is one of the indulgences I was granted when I was at home just with my father, when the rest of family went travelling to England.  Its amazing how much sweeter food is these days, I realise that even over the last few years food has been getting sweeter, more sugary and  sticker.

I had been thinking about these buns for some time, and I was immediately drawn to 'Sweet Coconut Rolls' in The Great British Bake Off: How to Bake

The rolls are not quite like the ones I used to have, maybe even better...I enjoyed using the technique of spreading the filling over the rolled dough, then cutting to the middle, and rolling it round.  I shall try this out with other fillings.

Finally making a dimple. 

Then baking...I took some round for MC, a Mauritian Friend equally keen on baking, who found it delicious. 

I froze some, and reheated for sister arriving from afar, who also rated this highly.  This is the first of many batches....  I had one of mine, sliced, buttered and topped with pawpaw and vanilla jam, really decadent, real treat.

David Austin Roses

Last week the Gardening Club had an outing to David Austin Roses.  We were still in the middle of the very wet season thanks to the Jet Stream's position, I had a nasty cold, and home was a big pull...sounds sad, yes it was, but I was really pleased that I went despite all this.  I even forgot my camera.......

We had a wonderful tour and heard all about the development of the wonderful shrub roses by David Austin and his family.  In addition to the roses I particularly liked the sculptures by Mrs Pat Austin, placed around the 'rooms'.  After our cream team, with pretty crockery, I returned to the gardens, then went looking for a little souvenir...

I bought two potted rose trees, and fertiliser and special planting magic granules...all the way back, I was wondering how to get the roses home as I had cycled to the pick up point in Kenilworth.  I had already discussed this with a friend and had as first plan: walking the plants round to her house, for collection later by car.

I had already salvaged the plants from the luggage compartment of the coach, and put them on seats, held tightly with seat belts, and realised that even carrying them 300 metres or so would be awkard.  The second option would be to phone home, with an eta so that the car would be there ready to take the plants home.  However, I still thought of another way, and that is how the rose trees arrived back home, each one in one of my cycle panniers!!!!!  Only possible because I restricted myself to two plants, but I was not thinking of that at the time. 

I bought a lovely small flowered climber: Super Excelsa to go over the arch near the shed..and Constance, I loved  the small round green bud, the long bud, and then the rose.  The colour is a warm and mellow apricot.  To me there is not much scent, but recently I have found the scent of some roses too overpowering some days, so this means than I shall be able to have them in the house even when I am going through my very sensitive days....

I think the plant has recently been re potted, so I have temporarily placed it in the gazebo, and am giving a little water twice a day in this heat. 

My new RHS The Garden Magazine arrived today, and under 'climbers to treasure', Open Arms is mentioned twice.  I agree with the height, growing to just above head height, with nice arching stems, and flowering all season long.  I have bound the stems loosely together about 60cm from the ground and allowed the stems to arch outwards.    I bought this rose about four years ago, and it is doing very well.  The flowers are loved by the bees and insects, and I bought this with Hubby in mind, who much prefers plants which look close to wild species with small blooms.  I don't spray, use the finger method to crush any green fly, and welcome all tits etc who love to look through the rose trees.  Open Arms does get a little black spot here, and when I dead head, I pick off the leaves and that seems to keep the plant healthy.

There is just one more rose tree which I would like to try to cram into the garden and that is the old Mutabilis Rose.  One more reason to visit nurseries!!  Although this is not the best time of the year to plant roses, I am now of the opinion, that you need to see the rose exactly.  A bare root  bought a couple of years ago: Ice Berg is nothing of the sort, and I ought to have known just from the thorns.  In previous gardens, I have always had an Iceberg Rose, and it has been almost thornless.