Showing posts with label Show all posts
Showing posts with label Show all posts

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Cinnamon Girl

One of my favourite things about cooking is spices - I love the way that a relatively simple addition can lift or ground a dish, and as I cook more and more I simultaneously despair over the amount of space they take up in my relatively small pantry, and love the fact that I can generally have a rummage in there and come up with something that will take what I'm cooking from the realms of ordinary and into something a bit more special.

As far as specific herbs and spices go, there are some I am just obsessed with. Some pop in and out of favour depending on the seasons (basil, I'm looking at you), others have a fixed place in my repertoire becuase of what they pair with - roast chicken and thyme, rhubarb and ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon in my baking exploits. Then of course there are those that pop in and out of favour, coriander is a prime example of this - a few years ago I was buying huge bunches from the world veg section of the supermarket and adding it to everything, whereas now I couldn't tell you the last time I added it to something. Similarly I went through a phase of adding smoked paprika to everything and anything in sight but haven't touched it recently (actually I've just checked, it's no longer resident in the pantry and I have a vague recollection of donating it to my little sister when I moved house).

Anyway, cinnamon seems to rise above those spices which fall in and out of my favour and find itself added to most things; parkin, stewed fruit, a stick added to chilli, and if Starbucks would care to reinstate their cinnamon latte I would be a happy (albeit eternally broke, and hyper caffeinated) woman, until then i just add it to the milk for my instant coffee.

One of the things I have wanted to do with my leaven for a long time, is make cinnamon buns. I loved the ones that I saw in New York, and they do seeem to be a very American breakfast dish. For the sake of my teeth and waistline I had to leave them uniced as I don't think I could face glace icing at 6am. I looked through all my recipe books and found them wanting and although I had an idea of what I needed to do, I wanted some guidance.

I worked my leaven as usual up until where you divide the dough in two. At this point, I continued with one half as usual and then worked the other half into the cinnamon buns. Having spent a long time googling, I based what I did from this point on Paula Deen's recipe as that also used a starter as the base. Find the recipe here on the Food Network's website (how I wish I got that channel on my freeview - actually, maybe not, as I would run the risk of becoming a hermit!)

After the initial prove, I tipped the dough onto my oiled worktop (which I'm starting to get the hang of now) and using the heel of my hand flattened out until it was a fairly even rectangle - about a foot wide and probably double that long. The filling from the recipe was supposed to be as follows:

2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, plus more if needed
1/2 cup ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup raisins

Now as I made that 250g of butter, and 325g of sugar I sort of proportioned it down to about 100g of butter and 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar. I softened the butter and spread it over the dough, and then covered that with the brown sugar (next time I might beat the butter, sugar and cinnamon together and spread that over the dough)and cinnamon. I then sprinkled on sultanas that I had soaked in tea.

The next part was tricky as I rolled the dough up into a long sausage, and then cut this into rounds which I then placed in a cake tin that I had previously buttered. This all then was left on the side to prove for another half an hour or so, and then baked in the oven with the other loaf of bread.

What came out was amazing! When hot, the rolls were so tasty, and would make an amazing pudding (I'm working on it, fear not). But next morning, they were great with a strong cup of tea as an interesting sugar hit that certainly kept me going till lunchtime. The cinnamon, whilst a very strong flavour was amazing, and they smelled as wonderful as they tasted. All these people who rave about porrige made with water being oh so filling, have clearly never known the wonder that is a breakfast of a cinnamon bun. As always with leaven based breads they don't last long, but you can warm these through in the microwave or oven to refresh them.

Whilst admittedly not something to eat every day of every week - for a treat these are amazing and the smell while they bake is enough to make me happy by itself.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Bread of leaven

Well good news folks, the laptop is back and *touches wood* almost as a good as new, I have lost nearly all my photos though, so for the first time in my life I'm thankful for Facebook et al... Anyway, as promised, I'd tell you what I've been up to while internet-less.

I stocked up the freezer, with portions of Lentil Ragu and Lifechanging soup. I tackled bread from the leaven my friend Matt had given me. Mabel, the leaven, lives happily in my fridge and is fed on Thursdays - and on the weekends she turns into 2 loaves of lovely malted bread, but more on this later. I should also mention some disastrous fairy cakes (seriously, I've been making them since I was about 7!) which went utterly wrong - the Guides still ate them though, although perhaps that's more reflective on my wonderful, gannety Guides.

I also made a chocolate and banana loaf cake last week - Nigella's banana bread recipe, but with 25g of cocoa and 100g of chocolate chips added. As I found the banana bread to be a little dry last time, I upped to 4 bananas and much preferred the consistency. Can you believe I'm improving on Nigella? Me either!

Right, anyway enough waffling - onto the Bread of Leaven (I thought of it on the way back from our Harvest Festival and I'm secretly very proud!) thanks for this must go to Matt, and as it's Matt's leaven and their recipe. The only things you need apart from the leaven are a big kilner jar, and a fridge.

So, if like me, you want to make bread on a Sunday...

On Thursday feed your leaven with 100g of room temperature water and 100g of strong white bread flour. Give it a stir (it looks like wallpaper paste and doesn't smell all that great, but that's all good) and pop it back in the fridge.

On Saturday morning when you get up scrape all of the leaven from the kilner jar into a big mixing bowl and cover it with clingfilm. Leave it alone in the kitchen until Sunday. Clean your kilner jar out at this point (I dishwash it so it's sterile but I'm fussy)

On Sunday hop around excitedly in pink sheep pyjamas and tell the cats that you're going to make bread today. Just me? Oh well...

Now I should say this is where I diverge from instructions, I've done 2 rounds of bread now, and haven't had enough leaven at any point for his weights to work so I'm halving everything.

Weigh out 250g of leaven from your bowl into another mixing bowl (if you have the scales that you can put a bowl on and zero the weight, this really helps.) Put the rest of your leaven back in your (now clean) kilner jar and pop back in the fridge.

Add 275g of room temperature water, 300g of strong white flour, and 200g of malted flour - I like Dove's farm Organic flour as I live in London and the likelihood of finding any local flour is miniscule - but if you can then try it! and 1 1/4 tsp salt (the flaky type like Maldon).

Add your dry ingredients to your wet leaven and mix - eventually getting in there with your (clean) hands. Once it's all mixed in, cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes.

Now this is the bit that's a bit labour intensive and annoying, because you only have 10 minutes between each lot of kneading, I tried watching Twilight in 10 minute chunks but that's just annoying, as was trying to read The Time Traveller's Wife (in case you're interested - amazing book - I cried like a baby). Apparently this situation is what Heat magazine was designed for, basically don't try and multi-task or you'll just be halfway through ironing a blouse and end up stuck between two tasks, twirling as you try and work out what to do next. Just me again? Oh.

So after the ten minutes dust your worktop with flour (another change here, you're supposed to oil your worktop, but that doesn't help me at all) and tip the dough out onto it. Using the heel of your hand knead the dough around in a circle by pushing it away from you and then bringing your hand back. Do this for 10 seconds (I know, I was surprised too). Put it back in the bowl and leave for 10 minutes. Do this whole process another 2 times - so 3 in total - resigning yourself that listening to Elaine Page on Sunday is a productive use of your time.

After you've done the kneading section 3 times, leave your dough for half an hour, knead in the same way again and then leave for an hour.

Now, tip your dough onto your scales and weigh it, and either using a sharp knife or a baker's friend split it into two pieces - don't tear it though. Then you pat each into a fairly tight round, pulling the sides out and tucking them over so the dough is stretched out and folded in on itself. Then you fold your dough, over and over on it's self. I do both of these for about 2 tracks of a cd (it was Next to Normal this Sunday just gone which provided nice opportunities for belting, whilst folding).

Then, and this is the odd bit, you pop your dough into either a loaf tin, or leave it free as a round, cover it with cling film or a clean plastic bag and leave it for another three hours. Yes, 3 hours.

After about 2 and a half hours I turn the oven on as hot as it will go, and then at 3 hours turn it down to 225. As I don't have a water sprayer I flick water over the loaves (apparently it helps the crust form, and flicking is almost a technical term) and then put them in the oven. After 15 minutes I turn the oven down to 180 and leave them be for another 45 minutes.

Then you're done. Turn your bread out onto a wire rack to cool - and apparently you must leave it till it's cool as it'll cause horrid indigestion otherwise. I haven't tested this as indigestion and I do not mix.

The bread is lovely for breakfast, or lunch with soup - the flour I'm using gives a chewy, nutty taste which goes gorgeously with emmenthal cheese and the sweetness of lifechanging soup. After a couple of days it also makes amazing toast with butter and honey. Oddly, you need less of it to feel full than of shop bought bread, but eating less doesn't feel like I'm denying myself. However I'm not making any weightloss claims or anything, just that it makes you fuller quicker.

Anyway, if you want some leaven and live close by I'm more than happy to share, I don't know how it would fare in the post though. Oh and pictures... hang on, I'll just see how much is left!


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