Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Syrup BADbas

Recently I thought it would be fun to have a go at making the some traditional babas. Despite my inexperience I created what I thought was a really rather lovely set of cakes that were soft, syrupy and oh so satisfying. However after explaining my process and displaying my results to another I was met with nothing short of complete consternation. Apparently what I had made were not worthy of the baba name, not sophisticated enough to be considered in the same company and despite their total deliciousness, nothing short of a total failure. So please don't make the same mistake as I and call these babas, for they are not. They are badbas, sweetly scrumptious badbas and all the better for it!

Prep time: 30 Mins
Baking time: Around 15 Mins
100ml Warm Milk
10g Fresh Yeast
3tbsp Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
325g Plain Flour
A pinch of Salt
135g Unsalted Butter (Cubed and Softened)

For the syrup
500ml Cold Water
250g Caster Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Paste

To the kitchen, if you dare! Pour the milk into a large mixing bowl, add the yeast, followed by the caster sugar then mix to dissolve. Beat in the eggs, then add a little of the flour, along with the salt. Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon to combine, then continue to add the flour, mixing all the time until you are left with a thick, sticky batter. Keep mixing for a further five minutes, which will be quite an upper body workout (unless you have an electric mixer of course!), then scatter over the butter. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place (such as an airing cupboard) for an hour.

Remove the bowl from your warm place (ooh err), and grease around a dozen good sized dariole moulds. By now the butter will be very soft indeed so mix it into your thick, proven batter. Again this will be a little tough on your guns, but stick with it for a further five minutes. Spoon your batter into your prepared moulds, about a two thirds of the way up of each, cover lightly (or place in a sealed container) and return to your warm place (?!) for a further 30 minutes. Halfway through this time preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Uncover your dariole moulds and bake in the centre of the oven for around 15 minutes. At the same time you can prepare the simple syrup, which I have left booze free although you by no means have to! Add the water, sugar and vanilla paste to a large saucepan and place on a medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Turn down slightly to an excitable simmer, then leave for around ten minutes, until reduced and (surprise surprise) lightly syrupy. Remove from the heat and set to one side for a short time until hot, but not boiling hot.

When the badbas have risen, are golden brown and soft to the touch remove them from the oven. Holding with a tea towel run a flat bladed knife around the inside of each mould, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack. Take each badba and submerge in the syrup, turning after ten seconds to ensure they are covered completely. Return to the wire rack and leave for a few minutes to cool and continue soaking. I like my badbas warm with cold cream or ice cream and a drizzle of the leftover syrup, but I'll the leave the serving to you!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Potato and Caraway Loaf

It really does boggle my mind when people refer to bread as nothing more than an everyday staple, for you see when you bake it yourself, nothing could be further from the truth. Creating a home baked loaf is therapy from start to finish, a completely artisan process with so many subtle nuances of flavour and texture that the process really shouldn't be as straightforward as it is. I love love love baking bread and it is by far one of my very favourite things to bake. I can only recommend you have a go for yourself...

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus some proving time)
Baking time: 45 Mins
350ml Tepid Water
20g Fresh Yeast
Big Pinch of Sugar
410g Wholemeal Flour (Plus a little extra to dust)
100g Strong White Bread Flour
200g Potato (Baked, mashed and cooled)
Big pinch of Salt
1tbsp of Caraway Seeds (Plus a pinch)

Time to bake! Pour the water into a large mixing bowl, crumble in the fresh yeast and add the sugar. Mix to blend the yeast, then add both flours, potato and salt. Grind the 1tbsp of caraway seeds, add to the other ingredients and mix to loosely combine. Tip out onto a floured surface and bring the mixture together to a dough. Knead the dough, pulling one end from the other, folding back on itself, turning by a quarter and repeating. The dough will start quite sticky but will come together as your work it. You can dust the surface as you go but try not to add too much or the dough will be too firm and dry. After around 8-10 minutes of kneading the dough should be relatively smooth and elastic, so at this stage dust all over with flour. Place in a large clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for 75-85 minutes, until doubled in size.

When the dough has risen tip out onto a clean, floured surface. Give it a brief knead, treating the dough like a clock face and folding each hour into the centre to knock the air out. Shape into a loaf and place on a floured baking sheet. Cover with another large bowl, tub or container (I use a large upturned plastic cake container), and leave at room temperature for another 30 minutes to rise. At the same time preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.

Uncover the risen dough, dust with a little more wholemeal flour and sprinkle with a few caraway seeds. You can also slash once with a razor or sharp knife to give a nice finish to the crust, but it's not essential. Place the dough in the centre of the oven and bake for around 45 minutes, until a deep dark brown and firm when you tap on the bottom. When you are happy the bread is baked remove from the oven and transfer to a chopping board. If you like a soft crust you can cover with a clean tea towel for 10-15 minutes, but if you like your bread crusty your work is complete. Huzzah!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Pear and Black Cherry Crumble Pie


Prep time: 30 Mins
Baking time: 60 Mins
For the pastry
90g Cold Unsalted Butter (Cut into little cubes)
175g Plain Flour
1tbsp Caster Sugar
1 Egg Yolk
Around 2tsp Cold Water

For the filling
265g Black Cherries in Kirsch (Drained and liquid retained)
3 Large Ripe Dessert Pears
75g Golden Caster Sugar
4tbsp Liquid from Cherries
1tbsp Corn Flour

For the crumble
50g Cold Unsalted Butter (Cut into little cubes)
50g Golden Caster Sugar
100g Plain Flour

Righty ho, let us begin. In a large mixing bowl rub the butter into the flour, until no lumps remain. Add the egg yolk, caster sugar and water, then mix through with a flat bladed knife. Get your hands in there and bring together to a smooth dough. You can add a little more water if the mixture is too dry but be very careful, as a firm yet tender touch should be all you need. Take a deep 20cm metal pie dish, then on a lightly floured surface roll out the pastry to a disc, big enough to fit into the tin with about 1cm hanging over the edge. Carefully slide the pastry into the prepared tin (no need to grease), gently pressing in to line. Make sure there are no cracks and place in a cool area whilst you prepare the filling.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. In a fresh bowl add the black cherries. Peel, core and roughly chop the pears, then mix into the cherries along with the caster sugar, corn flour and liquid drained from the cherries. Have a taste of the cherry liquid before adding the sugar, as if it's very syrupy you may want to err on the side of caution and add a little less sugar.

Now for the crumble. I actually use the empty pastry bowl for this, to save on washing up. Add the butter, caster sugar and plain flour, then rub together with your hands until sandy.

Take your pie tin that is now lined with pastry, then spoon or tip in the filling. Take handfuls of the crumble mixture and generously scatter over the top, covering it completely. Fold the edge of the pastry in a little with your fingers, which will stop it drooping and falling off during baking, then bake in the centre of the oven (that's right, no blind baking required) for around 60 minutes, until nice and golden on top. When you are happy the pie is baked remove from the oven and leave for 10 minutes to cool slightly. With a sharp knife trim any excess pastry from the edge, then you are ready to serve. Corrrrrr what a lovely big pie this is!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Little Cookies

As much as I enjoy baking endless batches of colossal cakes and cookies, now and again it's nice to have just a little mouthful to nibble on with a cup of leaf tea, particularly following periods of considerable indulgence (which I admit are frequent). These cookies are easy peasy and dinky enough to bake in one batch, but no less delicious as a result. They are crisp and biscuity yet just yielding in texture, with fragrant vanilla and bittersweet dark chocolate chips. Of course, if you want to try different variations of your own then have at it!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 12 Mins
55g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
80g Caster Sugar
1 Egg Yolk
1/2tsp Baking Powder
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract
75g Plain Flour
100g Dark Chocolate Chips

Let us bake once more. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper (the largest you have). In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg yolk. Add the baking powder and vanilla extract, then sift in the plain flour and mix to a sticky dough. Fold through the dark chocolate chips (or whatever you decide to throw in) and that's the dough done.

Take a small handful of the dough and roll into a ball, about the size of a small walnut. Place on the tray and repeat for the rest of the dough, evenly spacing each ball apart as they will spread during baking. If your tray isn't big enough then you can split over two trays or even two batches. Place the tray in the centre of the oven and bake for around 12 minutes, until the cookies have spread, are a light golden brown and just darkening at the edges. When you are happy they are baked remove from the oven and carefully slide the paper off of the tray onto a wire rack. Leave to cool for 30 minutes, then lift each cookie from the paper and return to the wire rack to cool completely. Booooooooooooooom you're all done!