Monday, 21 March 2016

Russian Blini

This is not strictly a bread recipe, but I was so pleased with the result, I decided to write it down for the future. 
Last weekend we hosted a Russian-themed party, and what a better way to start a party than with a plate of blini and caviar! 
Whenever we have a Russian party - which is once in a blue moon – I get caviar from Caspian Caviar guys – great quality and really speedy delivery. If you are strapped for time, you can get blini from them as well, but they will never be as good as the ones you make yourself. 

Russian Blini 
Makes 30-35 

100 g plain flour 
70 g spelt wholemeal flour (mine is from Shipton Mill
250 ml warm milk 
¼ tsp sugar 
¼ tsp salt 
1 tsp dry yeast 
2 eggs, separated 

Serve with: 
Crème fraise 
Caviar (black or red) or smoked salmon or cooked prawns 
Chive (for decoration) 

Now, traditional blini use buckwheat flour, but I didn’t have any in the house – who does? So I had to improvise a bit. Spelt flour is my favourite flour at the moment – it has a rich and nutty flavour, adds just a hint of colour, and still gives that really light texture. 

Sieve flours in a medium size bowl, add yeast and sugar to one side and salt to the opposite side of the bowl. Obviously it will all gets mixed up in batter, but never ever add salt directly to yeast – it will kill it! Warm up milk, separate egg yolks from egg whites - add milk and yolks to the batter, set egg whites aside, you will need them later. 

Whisk everything together and leave covered in a warm place for about an hour and a half. You won’t see much happening in the batter, possibly a couple of small bubbles on the surface – that’s exactly how it should look. 

Whisk the egg whites in soft peaks and gently fold them into the batter – make sure that there are no white lumps, but try to keep as much air in the batter as possible. 

Heat up non-stick pan (you can add a drop of butter to the pan just to make sure it doesn't stick) on a medium heat. Spoon small amount to batter into the pan, you are aiming for small circles, around 5 cm in diameter. You can fry a few of them in one go – they only need 30-40 second on each side. Cook until blini turn light golden colour, flip and cook for a bit longer. 

Cool blini for about 5-10 minutes before serving. They are very versatile – I like mine cold with crème fraise and black caviar (and a vodka shot :), whether my kids like them warm, spread with some Nutella :)

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Pale Ale Sourdough

Happy St Patrick’s Day troops! This year I started preparing for it early : green top bought – check, a massive collection of whiskeys at home – check, make a beer bread – check! 

In reality, I was just looking for new flavours to add to my bread, and found a bottle of pale ale left over from a Viking party last summer – that a story for another day. 
I like my beers, but I am more of a larger girl, I’d drink Guinness too, but only in Ireland – it just doesn’t taste the same anywhere else. Ale is not a drink I would ever choose, so using it in bread made perfect sense! 

Pale Ale Sourdough 
220 ml pale ale 
100 ml water 
160g white sourdough starter (100% hydration) 
1 Tbsp barley malt extract 
400g white bread flour 
100g wholemeal four 
1.5 tsp salt 

I used pale ale, but you can use any beer you may have in the house, as long as its not dark beer. 
Pour beer and water in a mixer bowl, measure out starter. I am using my KitchenAid mixer for mixing my bread, but this bread could also be mixed my hand – do whatever you are comfortable with. 
Add barley malt extract – you can buy it in health shops – or use runny honey instead. 
Add flours – I use Shipton Mill strong white and Shipton Mill wholemeal flours. 

Mix on the lowest speed (KitchenAid speed 1) for 6 minutes, until the dough comes away from the sides. Leave covered to autolise for 20 minutes. 
Add salt and mix on slow-medium speed (KitchedAid speed 2) for another 2 minutes. 

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and do two stretch and folds over the next hour – after 30 minutes and after 60 minutes. 
Leave the dough covered to prove at room temperature (my house it at 21C) for 4 hours. 

Shape the dough into a loaf – I did an oblong shape – and place it into a generously floured bread basket or banneton, seam side up. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour, cover and leave to prove in a cool room (around 19C) overnight, or for at least 8 hours. 

I am loving my baking cloche – a wonderful present from Ranty Man, and bake all my breads in it. 
Preheat the cloche in the oven for about 20 minutes at 220C (fan). 
Take cloche cover off and flip the loaf gently into the cloche (take care not to knock out all the air out of the loaf), do a nice deep slash, put the cover back on and place the cloche back in the oven. 

Bake for 30 minutes, take the cover off and bake for further 5-10 minutes, depending how dark do you like your crust. 

I am yet to try the bread, but it is looking pretty good!

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Apple and Cranberry Jelly

A few weeks back I had a great pleasure of enjoying Vivien Lloyd, Jam Mistress herself, hospitality. We were planning a family trip to Bath and Vivien kindly invited us over to stay with her, and as an additional bonus, she gave me a class in jelly making – I couldn't believe my luck! 
Even though it is my post, I must point out that Vivien did all the work, I just took a lot of pictures, distracted her with my chatter and polished off the finished product :) 

I must say, I am not very friendly with jellies – the whole jelly making, straining and ensuring the right consistency and clarity seems a bit too complicated for me. Plus, I am not quite sure what I’d use jelly for if I did make it. 
Well, I am happy to report that after Vivien’s class I am a jelly-convert. I still need to find more uses for it, but I am definitely more confident making jellies, plus I can’t believe how simple and HOW FAST you can make them – fruit to jelly in TWO hours, yes, really! So here it goes … 

Apple and Cranberry Jelly 
makes 5 x 225g jars 
1 kg cooking apples – big green bramley are the best 
1kg cranberries 
1.4 l water 
675 g granulated cane sugar 
1 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional, only if you want a zingy jelly, can go up to 4 tsp if you are feeling brave)

Wash apples and chop them roughly – peel, core and all – and place them in a large pan with cranberries and water. A good tip from Vivien – stock up on cranberries when they are in season and freeze them, use them straight from the freezer when making jelly. 
Add chilli flakes now, if using. 
Bring to boil and simmer for 25 minutes, until the fruit is looking all mushy and cranberries gave their colour to water – it will be lovely pale pink colour. 
Use a potato masher, mash all the fruit in the pan to get as much juice out of apples and cranberries. Pout the fruit out into a jelly bag over a large bowl - with plenty of room for the juice to drip without touching the bag. Leave to drip for at least an hour or overnight if it fits your timetable better. 
Do not, and I mean DO NOT squeeze the fruit once its in the jelly bag, do not be tempted to get more liquid out. If you do that, your jelly will be cloudy and all the jelly-gods will curse you! :) 
Note; If you don’t have a jelly bag, use chinois strainer (who has those, right? I do), or make a large bag out of jam muslin (very fine muslin) and hang it over a bowl. But to be honest, you can get a jelly bag for about 2-3 quid from Tesco or Lakeland or the like, so you should just get one of those. 

With the juice straining, warm up your sugar in a pre-heated oven (120C non-fan) for at least 15 minutes. This would help your sugar to dissolve faster and will give you a faster set too. Start sterilizing your jars and lids now too – boil them for 10 minutes and oven-dry for 15 minutes. Over-dry at 120C, same as the sugar, you can do it at the same time if your oven is big enough and you have multiple racks. 

Measure out 900 ml of the strained juice and place it back in the pan (clean), heat up the juice and add warmed sugar – stir the sugars in until all of the crystals have dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved you will see a dramatic change in the colour of the jelly – it will go from pale pink to really rich jewel colour, very bright ruby red. 
With heat on high, bring the juice and sugar to a rolling boil, where you see a mass of bubbles all over the surface, and the bubbles will rise quite high up. Boil for about 4 minutes as which point, providing that the jelly-gods have been smiling at you, your jelly should reach a setting point. You can measure the setting point by using a jam thermometer – 104.5C (220F) is jelly setting point, or using Vivien’s “flake test”, which is dead easy and totally fool proof: 
- Using a large metal spoon, scoop up a spoon-full of jelly, shake it side to side for 2 seconds and poor the jelly back in the pan 
- Hold the spoon turned over above the pan and watch jelly drips sliding off the spoon 
- As soon as the drips start “holding” a bit, and become thicker, you have reached a setting point. Apologies, but the best way to describe it is watch the drips become snot-like :) 
Take the jelly off the heat and leave to cool for about 5 minutes. While its cooling carefully remove any scum off the surface to bet the best clarity in your jelly. 

Pour the jelly into sterilized jars all the way to the very top. Use a teaspoon to remove any bubbles or any addition scum that has risen to the surface. Its really worth doing it, as it will give your jelly a crystal clear quality that will make everyone jealous. 
Seal the jars with sterilized lids and leave to cool and set – it wouldn't take long, you can probably eat it after an hour or so. 
As for the ways you can use it – so far I’ve had it with cheese and crackers, in turkey and brie sandwich and jelly and icecream dessert – possibilities are endless!