Friday, 30 November 2012

Silverwood Bakeware

I guess that I am not at all unusual when it comes to getting new items.  There is first the research, with previous experience coming in, then the search for the item one has set ones sights on.  Then when the new item is acquired a comparison with what one already has.  Sometimes at first I am not altogether happy, but gradually with time and trials this feeling changes to acceptance, then realisation that the change is definitely for the better.

Many years ago I acquired my first piece of Silverwood Bakeware, a baking tray, which has proved the best I have ever had, so when I came to face the fact that the non stick bread tins I had were just not working, the non stick was coming off when the tins were only a few months old, and adhering to the bread, I knew I had to find a replacement.  Since then I've wondered whether using olive oil on my work surface, which stays on the outside of the loaf, caused the breakdown of the non stick surface.  This brand is my first port of call, Silverwood Bakeware will never rust, is well made, is made in England, and works very well.

The first set of loaves was disappointing, the shape of the tin was different to my previous ones, and when I came to measure the volume, they were also very different even though they purported both to be a 1 lb, 450g loaf pan, the label on the Silverwood tin states that it is the weight of dough prior to baking.  I have made sure that with my new pans I use ground nut oil to condition and use prior to adding the dough.

Maybe 500g of improved dough with all the additives that are added to commercial loaves would give the rise above the tin.  I have found that 600g weight of my uncooked dough gives the rise I like, together with a little more rise in the oven above the tin, to give a good shaped golden crust.  I've filled the tin with water and it takes 1200g to the level where it starts to curve out.  So my for type of dough, I'll use half of the weight of water.   

Here I made two 600g loaves and a free form loaf.  The slice is much larger of course, with one being sufficient for my breakfast....


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

BBC Good Food Show

What a great day, thanks to Penny who kindly gave me her ticket...she had a more prestigious appointment at the House of Lords.

I'll write more about my day later perhaps...but here is a little taster.  After viewing and tasting round numerous stalls, I sat down at the Great British Bake Off Stage, chatted with a couple of lovely ladies.  We got close up with some of the stars of the show.

Mary-Anne Boermans was a great lady to talk to, so knowledgeable and was happy for me take her picture.

I spotted my favourite Sea Salt Company had their stall, .

and my stash of salt has been increased.  The lady serving me was very friendly and asked me what I was using so much salt for, I said bread making, and she looked at me suprised, I replied: only the best!  Actually I do also use Maldon Sea Salt too.

One of my favourite flour producers was also there, and their new packaging sets off their speciality flours beautifully.  The bag of Einkorn flour which I bought only added to the great weight in my bag, and I look forward to trying this out.

There were stalls for the sweet toothed too, though I resisted...

I bought some of my favourite extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil, in various flavours.  In the summer I had tasted and bought a bottle of their dill flavoured oil which is just heavenly on salads which include sea foods or chicken.

There is so much going on during the day, and my main target was the British Food and Farming Awards, where I got to cheer on those people who work so hard to bring quality food to our mouths.  Right on the other side judging of what looked like several thousand cheeses was taking place for the World Cheese Awards....

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Marsala soaked raisin and mace Loaf

Usually Friday is bun day....when I decide which buns to bake, and hopefully get some ready to eat for when Mr S comes home...  but this week I was making buttons, so Saturday with its wind and rain became baking day instead.  There were no buns left in the freezer from previous weeks, and just half a granary loaf between us and breadlessness.
I was reading a blog which detailed a raisin loaf, and which also mentioned The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard.  I've had this book for ages, but somehow have not bonded with it, but non the less decided to get it out and have a bash. 
I've followed Dan's technique, but have 'tampered' with the ingredients, and the results are worth it.  We could not resist a slice with a glass of milk for supper on Saturday.....what with baking this and the plain white loaf as a special request from Mr S, I had not got round to making dessert...

I had already soaked 200g raisins in a good slosh of Marsala wine, which was going to be baked in a cake....The loaf turned out really well, light and tasting just mildly sweet, and only in need of a light thin slice of butter with coffee for breakfast this morning.

300g strong white flour
75 g stone ground wholemeal rye flour
25g stone ground wholemeal strong flour
1/2 tsp ground mace or cinnamon
1tsp sea salt crystals, pounded
150g of my sourdough
175g water
50g olive oil
10g dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
25g my grapefruit and lemon marmalade
200g of the Marsala soaked raisins

Put the yeast to froth in a jug with the warm water, and 1 tsp sugar.  When frothy, whisk in the olive oil, and the marmalade.

Weight up and mix all the other dried goods, then into the centre pour the yeast concoction, and the sourdough. 

Stir with fingers till it comes together.  Leave for ten minutes, then come back, knead on an oiled bench for 10 seconds, return to oiled bowl, and seal under clingfilm pulled taught across the bowl like a drum.  Go and do something, then come back and repeat again, then leave for ten minutes and then do the same thing again but adding in the soaked raisins which takes a little longer.  Leave at room temperature about 2 hours. 

Knock back gently and form this into two free form loaves, one of mine was destined for the freezer for another week.

When well risen it will be ready to bake at No 6 Gas for 30 to 40 minutes, but  spray with water before putting the loaves in the oven, and swap round if on separate trays on different shelves after 25 minutes. 

This loaf has no dairy, no eggs and very little fat yet it tastes rich and delicious.  Next time I may go up to 50g marmalade as coming across those tender little pieces of peel much softer and tastier than candied peel added a great texture and taste.   Its even given me the idea of next time I make marmalade making a special jar full of peel for baking with, leaving another more or less as a jelly.

Baking Buttons

During the Summer several artists' galleries were open, and I visited a number of them in Kenilworth.  I was impressed by the variety and skill of the artists, and planned to go to some workshops.  I've been to a felting workshop, and then last week I went on a button making workshop.

Above the beading shop in Kenilworth I visited 'Gallery 25' in the summer, and there met Helen Clues.  I love buttons and a couple of weeks ago signed on to a Friday workshop. 

I was introduced to Fimo, and some of the techniques.....I loved it, what a range of colours to choose from, and under patient guidance, I found I was enjoying just watching what came from different twists and turns.

During the morning of  mixing, twisting, and rolling I devised or rather the  patterns emerged, and I made little ou and ah noises and loved the black and white mix looking like marble

With tools and cutters, I have a nice range of buttons to bake...for The Great Kenilworth Button Bakeoff......

Sally Clues was also at the class and I enjoyed listening to her chatter, and to spend the morning with a girl who knows where she is going

....taking after her charming Grand Father, who is musical, she is going to study music and wants to be a top musician.  Sally I meant to say that I was sitting as close as I was to you, to another great musician at the start of his career:  Jamie Cullum, when he was singing at an intimate venue seating about 12 couples on a Valentine Nights Dinner at The Papillon Restaurant in Swindon.  He was just starting off and still at College.  His singing made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and I went to chat to him and said that he would go far...

There are lots more techniques, and here is a little taste of buttons made by Helen.  The studio is light and airy, comfortable and warm, and there was a lovely selection of music playing in the background, with lots of pretty artifacts around to inspire.

When I got back home, I played with my left overs, and had a go and made more buttons including some toggles....

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Hot crust Pastry

We are in a tidying mind frame....this also means checking out the recordings.  We had viewed or cancelled most items on the hard drive but there still is a folder with 54 programmes which are just mine.  Usually I do not watch TV until well into the evening, but to check out these programmes, I decided the best time was whilst doing the ironing.  I now have no backlog of ironing! 

I found a programme from the 2011 series of the British Bake Off, where Paul demonstrated hot water crust pastry for small pork pies with quails egg.  I had been thinking about tackling hot water crust pastry for some time.  In the end I amalgamated two recipes, I had no quails eggs, but I did have a fillet of pork and some apricots.....I had a pan which I had bought a few years ago to try the large muffins.  I felt the muffins were too large and too sweet for every day eating, and the tins apart from being used to make some brioches, before my sister bought me some mini brioche moulds, had been hidden under loads of other tins in the cupboard.

The pastry is so easy to make and roll out.....but try what may I had only sufficient to make four of the giant muffin sized pies.  I had used the quantities given on the programme.  For my six pies I will need to use:

300 g Plain Flour, 60g strong flour, 75 g butter, 90g lard, and 150 ml water.  4500g of meat, 120 g bacon, and a large onion.

I found a size plate just the right size for the liner, and the lid of a stainless steel pot right for the cover.  I used the large end of a small piping nozzle to make the hole.....the first time my pipping set had been used!

In his How to Bake Book, Paul Hollywood, does not mention about putting in the empty cases and tops into the fridge for half an hour, which he does on the programme.  I used the fridge cooling, as my pastry was a little too soft without that. 

I flavoured the bacon, onion and pork fillet mixture with salt, pepper, and whole white mustard seeds, with some added chopped parsley and grated lemon rind,I filled the bottom half with the mixture, then put in four apricots and finished with another layer of meat.  My warm fingers needed to go round a couple of times when crimping, as at first the pastry was a little too brittle to form the nice shape. 

Each hollow in the tray has a 190ml capacity.  The finished cooked and gelatin filled pie weighs 280g when cold.

I do not usually buy stock cubes, and when I read the contents in Waitrose, I decided to use some my own stock:  100ml with a sheet of gelatin, for the four, so next time for 6, 150ml stock with 1 1/2 sheets.

Mr S was a little disappointed that these were not on the menu.  I explained about filling up the pies with stock, and waiting for it all to set when he came home from work, but as we did more tidying I checked that the pies were cold, and put one in the coolest part of the fridge.  So we shared one for supper after a bowl of leek and chicken soup.....why have I waited so long to start making our hot water crust pies?  I think this size pie is a little too large for one, for right for two.  The rest will be in the freezer ready for weekend lunches.

I wish that the capacity of tins in volume was readily available when buying tins, and also given in recipes .  I recently bought some Silverwood Bead Baking tins, as 500g and 1 Kg, and the 500g one is slightly larger capacity than my old 900g/ 2lb cake tin.  So if I used these for cake recipes, the mixture would not give the right shape at all.

Melting Moments

Another recipe from Mary Berry's Baking Bible, and made late Sunday ready for yesterday when a group of knitting friends were coming round.  I decided biscuits were easier to eat if touching yarn, books etc.

With the butter weighed out and at room temperature for an hour, it still was not soft enough.  The recipe says measure the butter, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla extract and flour into a mixing bowl and beat together to form a soft dough.  I could see the kitchen covered in flour and bits if I used my hand held mixer, and I did not think the wooden spoon would made an imprint in a month of  Sundays.  I remembered Paul Hollywood getting in there with his hands on one demonstration and Mary giving him the sly look, so divested of rings and watch, hands and nails scrubbed, I went in there, mixed the butter and sugar a little with my hands, then the other ingredients and it was a dream.  Best of all no noise on a nice quiet Sunday evening.

I used half the quantity: 4oz butter, 3 oz golden caster sugar, 1 egg yolk, some vanilla bean paste, 5 oz of self raising flour, and 1 oz porridge oats for rolling, and some cherries for the top.  I still got 21 biscuits.  They are delicious biscuits, melt in the mouth, with the flavour of the butter coming through nicely. 

I watched the biscuits carefully whilst washing up, and then allowed them to cool on the baking sheets till they were firmed up, then transferred them to the rack to finish cooling. 

When Mr S made me some Viennese whirls last year, he kept checking them in the oven for crispness and nearly burnt them, those too are soft even when they are cooked, then firm up as they cool.

Kenilworth cycle path to Warwick University

One Sunday, a couple of weeks ago,  it was sunny, Mr S had replaced his mouse eaten handlebar grips, so we ventured out and cycled along the new path linking Kenilworth to Warwick Uni.  Very well built in concrete along part, with loads of cattle grids.  For the first few I gingerly pushed my bike across walking along the very edge. Then I became brave enough, so long as I kept my nerve and the handle bars steady,  I would make it.  I braced myself and make all the cattle grids from then on...... 

There are wonderful views along the length, and we stopped at the sculpture to admire the rolling farmland.

As we arrived on the University campus, a small clump of trees attracted my attention: Rowan Trees with pink berries, and a very blue sky.

We sat on one of the benches by the Lake, and had hot drinks from our flask, watching the ducks, moorhens, and the Heron fishing, right in front of us.

In patches the path was already heavily caked with mud and other things which cattle leave behind, so when we got back, out came the bucket and brushes and I gave my bike a really good wash....first one since the bike was new nearly 18 months ago!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Fresh off the Knitting Needles

Running along other interests such as baking, another of my home based activities is knitting.....I normally write up my knitting on Ravelry, which for any knitter using the Internet, its a huge resource.  I was thinking of my lovely Aunty Doreen who reads my blog when I realised that she would love to see this little cardigan.

During a visit to a newly opened Wool Warehouse  nearby in Leamington, I used my very rarely used mobile phone to check on whether my little grand daughter wanted a new cardigan, and with the request for a red one please, proceeded to get a pattern and some red double knitting yarn.

Putting into practice what I had picked up in an article which explained that more yarn is used on the purl row which for some can lead to an uneven fabric, really gave a near perfect finish.  Some knitters use pins of a smaller size on the purl row, and the article explained that one can throw the yarn in a different way, but I just tightened my tension a little, and it has really improved the overall fabric.

I had not been to one of our local haberdashery shops since it had relocated, to a position a little further down the shopping street, so decided to make a visit but could not find the right buttons, though it has just occurred to me that there are two other shops in our little I shall try those in future first.  The little metal buttons I got from Textile Garden do really finish off the cardigan beautifully, and I hope the little fingers can cope, so maybe as Red is a favourite colour, I need to get a stash of nice buttons in ready for the next red cardigan.

A couple of weeks later, with pretty buttons, here is the new cardi complete:

Its been posted off, and I hope it is there for the weekend.

Shrewsbury Biscuits

Another recipe from Mary Berry's Baking Bible.  This recipe caught my eye, and since it does not seem long since we were in Shrewsbury, I thought I would give it a try. 

I got my baking sheets out, lined them with baking parchment, and got my cutters and tape measure out of the cupboard.  I took the one which measured 6cm.......

With the butter and sugar creamed, egg yolk, lemon rind, flour and butter, the last thing to add were the currants.

Mary says roll out the dough to a thickness of I did not use my ruler for this, but its pretty handy that a currant is about this size, so I just let the feel of the currants guide me....then I got cutting.  The biscuits looked a little on the small size, so out the tape measure came again, the size depends on which end one measures the cutter, I had been measuring the smooth size, the cutting edge was narrower, so some biscuits were cut with the larger cutter.

The next instruction is to lightly beat the egg white, with which the biscuits are to be brushed after they have been baking for 8 to 10 minutes.  I wondered just how frothy the egg white had to be.  Some biscuits got the froth and some did not, so there was a variation.  Either way is nice.  The ones with the froth have a certain sparkle about them.

After a further 5 to 8 minutes, a little longer than Mary suggested, which I reckon was because my biscuits got a little cold, as I was a little ponderous with the egg white and sugar sprinkle bit, voila, fresh biscuits.

They were lovely fresh, and after three days, Mr S reckoned they were a little like Garibaldi biscuits, still tasty but not crunchy. 

When we were little in Mauritius, we were friendly with a family a couple of roads away.  The mother was English, the father Indo Mauritian, and they had a very smart male cook who also dressed up as the Butler to serve dinner.  They had two little girls about our ages, and I do remember that we had home made Garibaldi biscuits there, made by their cook.  It was only when I came to England that I understood that people normally bought Garibaldi biscuits ready made.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Bath Buns

The first time I visited  the Pump Rooms in Bath, after a tour of the Roman Remains, and Georgian Baths, I stopped in the tea rooms as there was a band playing.  Tea and Bath Buns were ordered.  We had a pleasant view of the large room, and were enjoying chatting, then for a few minutes pure silence on my part.....I was savouring the delicious softness and flavour in the Bath Bun.  After that if we had any visitors or family staying, and wanted a ride out, we would go to Bath, and whilst our friends toured the Baths, we would have a first sitting of tea and buns and newspapers, and later a second helping with our friends.    Its quite a few years since our last visit as we now live too far away.

Bath Buns come in various sizes, looks and flavours.....ones in the shops do not look like the ones in Bath or ones in Bakeries...those are rounded and smooth, whilst the ones in the shops and some recipe books are raggedy. They usually have an egg wash and crushed sugar on the top.  I must have subconsciously had a yearning for a Bath bun, as I had only recently ordered some nibbed sugar.

The recipe I chose for my first batch of Bath Buns was From the Women's Institute Bread Book by Liz Herbert.  As I read through the ingredients I knew I had everything, so Friday Buns just had to be these.  The main flavourings were sour cherries, roughly chopped, raisins and mace.  It starts with a batter, then all other ingredients are added and the whole lot given a good 'beating' with a wooden spoon.  The dough is too slack to knead, and I have no dough hook.  Lovely for toning the upper arms.

The recipe says to place seven large spoonfuls spread well time I shall place eight spoonfuls well apart, as they came out really quite a bit larger than I wanted, and seven divided by 2 leaves an odd one out!  When they were baked they looked half raggedy and nicely round at the same time.

What the recipe does not describe is the wonderful smell given off by these buns, Mr S knew he was in for a treat when he walked in from work.  Mace is the spice and the flavour I could taste in those buns at the Pump Rooms, it filled the house with rich and warm smells, and quite dispelled the damp and gloom outside.  There is nothing quite like drawing the curtains on a Friday evening, and sitting down to a nice cup of tea and freshly  baked bun as a start to the weekend.

I froze four of the buns, which were defrosted and warmed a couple of days later, tasting just as if they had been newly baked. 

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Plaiting the Dough

With every episode of the Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry Masterclasses in the can, watched at least once, and referring to various Baking Books, including Paul's How to Bake, and the New Showstoppers, I really thought it was time to try a plaited loaf.  Mr S fancied a white loaf and with my enriched white dough which includes milk, egg and butter, but no sugar, I thought I would make a plait.

Looking at Paul's eight stranded Loaf, I felt it was a little too wide, and not high enough as I needed the loaf to make sandwiches.  I had plaited the eight plait so many times in my head, that when it came to thinking about plaiting with four plaits, I just could not think how to do it.  I checked my baking books, and found that Linda Collister's Bread from Ciabatta to Rye gave the best and easiest explanation.  BUT I just could not visualise it, so during the proving of the dough, I practised:

Of course I used Paul's tips about the rolling, and bursting of any potential bubbles.

Across the baking sheet, the loaf is ready for the second rise, and with egg wash just before going into the oven, 35 minutes later, voila.....

Friday, 2 November 2012

Arundel Holiday

Arundel Castle was just a few minutes walk from our holiday home, and also in view from our garden.  During the second week of our stay, we spent the whole day visiting the Castle and Grounds.

A walk along the battlements to towers, gave great views, and the rooms of the Castle were full of wonderful paintings, furniture, tapestries, carpets and all manner of objects. 

The gardens were magnificent.  We had spied some of handsome wooden buildings above the walls in the town during our first week, but nothing had prepared us for their scale and detail.  The plantings were  also to scale, with treats and surprises everywhere.

In one of the big grottoes, we found a fountain playing, and perched on top of the water was a crown spinning

Outside there were water features to rival this, and equal to any I have seen

One of the temples was adorned with the Deer Antlers

The Kitchen Garden was full of espaliered fruit trees, flowers grown for the Castle, vegetables, and in the green house, we found a wide collection of colourful chillies.

One really needs more than one day to appreciate and enjoy all that this Castle has to offer to the tourist.  Its dining room offered us great temptations too!

Batsford Arboretum

One foggy Sunday morning we decided to go Batsford Arboretum, as we drove the fog began to lift and gave us a view of the countryside in super three D.  The various folds in the landscape became clear.  By the time we got to our destination the day was really pleasant, and the cool weather had brought out the autumn colours.....

After lunch, we followed the paths around the arboretum.  The Acers were showing their best fiery colours.  In a small patch we found some beautiful blue crocusses.

I fear that most of our bulbs in the garden are being dug up by bold grey squirrels.  They are causing so much damage this autumn.  Maybe we have a lot more of them around, and I think there also a lot less nuts and other food for them.

By the Japenese Rest House, where we sat a while watching the leaves fall from a tall Tree of Heaven, we came across a Buddha,

and a Chinese Lion

along the footpath taking us to Batsford Church, we caught a clear view of Batsford House and the countryside beyond.