Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Making Focaccia Genovese at Home

Focaccia always seems so expensive in the shops so I always try and make it at home. I have a quick focaccia recipe, inspired by Lorraine Pascal, which always goes down well. However, my favourite is a traditional focaccia genovese. This needs overnight proving but the result is worthwhile.

This classic focaccia is made wth soft wheat flour,  mixed long and well, with yeast, oil, water and salt.

It is left to rise and then stretched out by hand onto baking sheets, greased with an emulsion of oil. The focaccia is cooked in the one for about 20 minutes at medium-high heat.

I used 00 type flour which is finally milled and had a protein rating of 14%. The only 00 flour I could find locally was labelled as '00 grade pasta' flour although I feel this is a marketing label as most people tend to buy 00 flour for making pasta. I've also used Canadian Manitoba flour and to be honest I was hard pressed to notice any great difference.

This focaccia uses a biga which is left over night and for at least 16 hours. The biga is there to assist fermentation and helps add flavour. I've also used a little dried yeast although a better flavour would develop if no yeast was used and the fermentation was over a longer period. The Biga should have tiny champagne type bubbles when it is ready to be used.

This recipe makes 2 large focaccia.  Halve the measurements to make one focaccia.

640g 00 flour
640g water (16-22c)
0.25g dried yeast

960g 00 flour
512g water (16-22C)
5g dried yeast
96g Olive oil
32g Salt

Make the biga in a large rectangular tray by mixing the ingredients and leave covered for at least 16 hours in a warm place (between 16-22C). The biga should show clear signs of fermentation with champagne type bubbles clearly visible.

Mix half of the dough water to the biga and incorporate with your hands. Add this mixture to a large stand mixer bowl and start on slow speed (If using ingredients above then divide into two as the volume will be too large for a normal domestic mixer). Add rest of ingredients apart from the olive oil. As everything comes together add rest of the water. Add the Oilve oil during the last minute of mixing. The mixed dough should be stretchy and easily handled.

Tip the dough onto an oiled rectangular tray and rest for one and a half hours.

Fold the dough in on itself (East-West-North-South) and invert.

Sieve flour on top of dough and on workbench.  Invert dough onto bench and sieve flour on top of dough.

Push dough out into rectangle. Cut into two pieces (about 1.8kg each).

Shape by folding the two sides into the centre and press down. Fold furthest side to nearest side and press down. Invert dough. It should now be a slipper shape as per Ciabatta.

Oil parchment lined baking tray and your hands.

Pick up the dough and place onto oiled tray. Cover with oil and gently rub all over top.  Spread out dough gently with hands and leave for 30 minutes.

Spread out dough into rectangle on tray with hands. Use finger docking technique (press fingers gently into dough t create dimples) and let rest for 30 minutes.

Add toppings at this stage. I used crushed tomatoes and sea salt on one side. The other side was sliced red onion, grated parmesan cheese and rosemary.

Heat oven to 200C and bake for about 20 minutes until the toppings have started to brown.

This focaccia is wonderful out of the oven but is also great cold.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

How to make Bagels at Home

Beigel Bake - this is where I started my love affair with Bagels!  I have to thank an old girlfriend for taking me there in London's Brick Lane.  This is a shop once found never forgotten. On a late Saturday night you could buy a Sunday paper and go home with a lovely warm salt beef bagel and tea. You would find all manner of people queuing for their bagels and bread at this 24 hour shop. I used to drive over to this shop from Crouch End in the evening and return with a few dozen of their freshly baked Jewish style bagels.

London is no longer my home and I have to satisfy my desire with Costco and their 12 bagels for £2.99. Not as much fun as Brick Lane but they do a passable Jewish bagel and thats the important thing. Their plain is my favourite although Sesame seed is a close second!

However, I wanted to be able to bake at home as I do for sourdough, ciabatta and focaccia. There are numerous recipes but the one I've settled on is based on one from Chocolate and Zucchini which itself is based on Peter Reinhart.

These recipes use a sponge and a dough and require an overnight prove to develop flavour. This is great for me s it spreads the workload over two days. These ingredients will make 8 medium bagels.

180g flour
1/4 tsp dried yeast
220g water
140g Levian

240g white flour
6g salt
1/4 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp malt powder

Combine sponge ingredients and let stand for two hours.

Add Sponge and all dough ingredients to a stand mixer bowl. Stir to combine.

Run the mixer for about 8 mins at a medium speed.

The dough should be smooth and pliable but not dry.

Move contents to a bowl, cover with cling film and let stand for one hour.

Put into fridge overnight.

Remove the dough from the fridge and leave for one hour to get to room temperature.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces (approximately 100g each).

Shape each portion into balls and make hole in middle of each, Slightly flatten with palm of hand to a recognisable 'bagel' shape.

Rest on oiled parchment for 15 minutes. Heat oven to 260C.

Add 1 Tbs baking soda to a large pan of boiling water. Cook each bagel for one minute each side (I do two or three bagels at a time).

Rest boiled bagels on separate oiled parchment.

At this point you can dip the bagels in any seeds if you are coating them (e.g., poppy or sesame).

Place bagels on baking sheet and cook in oven for 5 minutes. Turn oven down to 230C and bake for another 5 minutes.

Cool for 30 minutes and then they are ready to eat.

The crumb structure should be similar to sourdough bread with a chewy texture.

There are plenty of bagel recipes out there such as this Jewish oneanother New York style one,  a summary of different ones,  and finally one from the fabulous FreshLoaf site.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Spelt and Rye Cookies

These delicious cookies are easy to cook and taste as good as they look. The flavour from the berries and the Muscovado really shines through.

You basically mix everything together, portion and bake. Its that easy! 

The mixture is quite wet so I would always recommend placing in the fridge for 30 minutes before separating into portions for baking.
  • 120g of butter (soft)
  • 80g golden caster sugar
  • 70g muscovado sugar
  • 60g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 80g rye flour
  • 85g oats (I used Kelkin gluten free)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1/4 tsp Baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 40g goji berries
  • 60g blueberries
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugars until pale and soft. 

Beat in the vanilla extract and eggs. 

Combine with the sieved flours, cocoa and raising agents. 

Add the oats, goji berries and blueberries. 

Mix and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll level tablespoons of the mixture into balls, place onto prepared trays leaving space for spreading during baking. Press down ever so slightly with back of the spoon. 

Bake for about 13 minutes, cool on the trays for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Socca Two Ways

No, this is not a football article. It is my first attempt at using the Chickpea flour.

Socca is a chickpea based unleavened flatbread from the South of France. It features in many different cusines (Farinata in Italy; karantita in Algeria; fainĂ¡ in Argentina and Urguray) and can be grilled, fried or baked.

The basis of this flatbread is chickpea flour. It is also known as Gram Flout or Besan. It's gluten free and higher in protein than other flours (22% against typically 13-16%).

I have always wanted to use chickpea flour but the online prices put me off. I am not gluten intorrelent so I had no great drivers pushing me down that route.  However, the increased popularity of gluten free flours and UK immigration over the last 10 years has improved the availability of specialist produce. In fact my local Asda stock it. At £1.97 for 2kg (April 2015) it seems a fabulous price compared to £4 to £5 for 1kg on Amazon.

For my first attempt at using chickpea flout I decided Socca would be simple enough. There are many variations of this popular dish. Most Socca recipes I have seen seem to have ratios of 1:2 for chickpea flour to water although there are variations upto 1:4 although these tend to be baked.

Basic Socca recipe:

  • 130g chickpea flour, sifted (reduces lumps forming in batter)
  • 260g water
  • 2 tb olive oil
  • half tsp salt
  • Optional: Any spices or herbs (dried or fresh) you have at hand. I used dried cumin.

Sift the chickpea flour into a bowl and add the water, oil and salt. Whisk and leave for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, too allow the mixture to start fermenting. This gives a light, airy texture to the dish.

Preheat a frying pan under the grill (about 4 to 6 inches). Add a coating of olive oil and pour in the mixture.

Grill for 6-8 minutes until golden crust on top (It is just as easy to bake (220C for 10-12mins) or cook on the stove although you will have to flip the socca in this case).

Remove from pan and slice. It is best eaten warm.

This is really great with rosemary and olives. I finely chopped the rosemary and added to the chickpea mixture. I sliced olives and added to the frying pan before pouring the mixture on top and grilling.

Some recipes for Socca can be found at thekitchn and nourisedkitchen.

Yotam Ottolanghi has one with yeast published by the Guardian.

Mark Hix has a great Farinta recipe published by the Telegraph.

There's a good Algerian Karantita recipe at Halalhomecooking.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Roasted Tomato Quinoa Pilau

Quinoa is very fashionable at the moment with increased availability meaning cheaper prices in the shops.  Bloggers such as DelicouslyElla have long encouraged its use but it is no longer any problem finding great recipes.

Supermarkets are still tentative in its supply and do not seem ready to stock in the same way as rice or pasta. Typically, my local Waitrose provide it as a ready meal in a mix.

I currently buy my Quiona from Costco (£11.49 for 1.81kg) or Unicorn (£7.49 for 1kg).

This is my favourite recipe for quinoa at the moment.

  • 250g cherry tomatoes; roasted
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 1 white onion; thinly sliced
  • 3 sticks of celery; sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves; finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds; ground
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds; ground
  • 100f basmati rice
  • 140g quinoa
  • 500g veg stock; or water
  • 50g pine nuts; toasted

First roast the tomatoes. Slice in half, place on parchment, sprinkle with olive oil and season. Roast at 160C for 15 minutes. Set aside.

Toast the pine nuts on a dry frying pan until they turn a gentle brown colour. Set aside.

You should rinse the quinoa and rice prior to use although the Costco quinoa is pre-washed. 

In a saucepan with a lid add the quinoa and rice with the stock.  Cover and simmer over a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Switch off heat and leave the lid on for a further 10 minutes. Do not lift the lid as this will stop the pilau being soft and fluffy. The combination of quinoa and basmati is fantastic. I cannot recommend it enough.

In a large plan, heat the olive oil and add onion, celery, and garlic. Soften for 5 minutes and add cumin and coriander. Cook for a further few minutes.

Combine all of the ingredients and stir through. This dish works well with steamed white fish or marinated chicken such as souvalki.

This tastes fantastic cold.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Celeriac and Caramelised Apple Soup

Now in years gone by the mere mention of the word Celery would put me in a cold sweat. My arch nemesis and number one of hated foods, it seemed to crop up all over the place whenever I least expected it. Many a salad was sent back because it made an unwanted appearance. Italian restaurants, in particular, seemed to make it their one objective in life to slip microchipped celery into their salads requiring many many minutes of careful extraction before I was prepared to try a mouthful. But yes, there was always one micro-morsal that I would miss, filling my mouth with its unwanted flavour.

Now time has moved on and fashion changes quickly in the food world. Celery does not seem to be used in salads anymore unless you are unlucky enough to stumble upon a restaurant still stuck in the 80s (and yes they still exist in the UK especially some Pubs !).  OK, I stumble from Pubs frequently enough but thats another story......

My tastes have gradually changed. A revelation to me was how fantastic celery is when you juice it. I actually use it in my morning juices every day! Cooked celery, ha ha, is now just another ingredient. However, as a raw item on my plate I still would rather pass.

My old hatred of the celery caused me, until recently, to give a wide berth to its related cousin Celeriac. Over the last few years this root vegetable seems to have become popular with Celebrity Chiefs. In fact Nigel Slater gave 12 pages to it in his splendid book Tender.

I took the plunge a few weeks ago and had Celeriac and Apple soup at the wonderful Topstack Cafe. It was served with a walnut pesto topping and a savory scone. It was wonderful and got me thinking perhaps I can knock one up. Well on a wet Bank Holiday weekend here we are!!

  • 50g butter
  • 1 celeriac (peeled / cubed)
  • 2 medium potatoes (peeled / cubed)
  • 1 leek (sliced)
  • 1 medium white onion (peeled / chopped)
  • 1 Garlic Clove (sliced)
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock (I used Carrot and Parsnip juice)
  • 2 eating apples (peeled / quartered - I used Braeburn)

Caramelise apples in 25g butter for 5 minutes. Reserve. This process provides a great background sweetness to the soup. Alternatively, miss out this step and slice the apples thinly adding towards the end of the simmering for a more delicate taste.

Gently sweat the rest of the ingredients in 25g butter for 10 minutes. Season as required.

Add the stock and bring to boil, them simmer for 20 minutes. Add the reserved apples after 10 minutes.

Blend and let cool for freezing. Perhaps reheat a portion for serving if hungry.

The soup might seem a bit thick after blending. I added some filtered water and reblended.

I would always recommend a topping with this soup to cut across the creamy sweetness. I used crushed walnuts drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.  Other toppings you could consider are Walnut and Pesto, roasted hazelnuts and parsley or fried sage, or even an orange and lime flavoured cream!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Chocolate Biscotti

I enjoy reading the fantastic food related blog of David Lebovitz. His mixture of recipes, travelogue and reviews of Paris eateries and delis is always entertaining. This chocolate biscotti recipe is based on on of his recipes.

I have been making these for several months now with a few tweaks along the way too suit my tastes. These are perfect with coffee and keep for upto 4 weeks in an air tight container. I keep mine in the kitchen with the crackers and biscuits.

I may be a bit 'OCD' but I always like to get all the ingredients out on the kitchen table prior to starting. Many a bake has been delayed for a quick trip to the shops for something I thought I had but..... well I'm sure you've been there as well!!

  • 240g flour
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3 free range large eggs
  • 180g sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 120g almonds; blanched, roasted and coarsely chopped
  • 120g dark cooking chocolate (80g 56% and 40g 70%)

The amount of 70% dark chocolate you use depends upon how bitter you want the biscotti to taste. I find using about a third of 70% gives a more complex flavour without the bitter taste. I use Green and Blacks for the 70% and LIDL Fin Carre for 52%.

Blanch almonds by adding boiling water for one minute. Rinse in cold water and skins come off very easily.

Roast almonds at 180C for 8-10 minutes.

Coarsely chop the almonds and chocolate. I put the chocolate in fridge prior to use as it is easier to use.

In a small bowl sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

In a larger bowl beat the 3 eggs, sugar, and extracts. Add dry mixture from smaller bowl and mix with spatula or similar. As the mix comes together add the chopped almonds and chocolate. The final mix should be on the dry side although this is dependant upon size of eggs.

Divide mixture into 2 and shape into logs.  Place on parchment lined baking tray. Gently flatten tops of logs.

Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove from oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes.

Move logs onto cutting board and use serrated knife to diagonally cut 1/2 inch wide slices.

You should get between 30-37 slices.

Put slices on baking tray and return to oven for 20-30 minutes. Turn the biscotti over half way through so each side is baked.  I tend to use 24 minutes for a slightly soft texture and 26 for more of a crunch.

Remove from tray to cooling rack.

Always great with espresso or coffee of your choice. Enjoy!