Thursday, April 25, 2013

We Should Cocoa Challenge: Honey

This month's We Should Cocoa challenge is to combine the magic of honey with wonderful chocolate. I had found a few recipes where there was a token amount of honey in an otherwise chocolate centred recipe but I really felt the honey should be centre stage for this challenge. So after much flicking of cook book pages and fruitless googling I  finally came across a recipe that not only had a generous measure of honey but very conveniently used up some of my cupboard lurkers as well. So  here is a boozy honey, fig, and chocolate cake. 

For this recipe I was able to bring out a very satisfying number of ingredients from the back of the cupboards. The bargain bucket of honey, rather old dried figs, some ancient sweet red vermouth, spelt flour, spices, dark chocolate buttons and some butter and an egg.

The cake is based on a recipe from Leon, Baking and Puddings by Claire Ptak and Henry Dimbleby.

The original recipe does not have any chocolate in but I love chocolate with both figs and red wine so a handful of chocolate buttons seemed an appropriate deviation.

My silicone pan was not quite large enough so this resulted in a rather messy looking finish but this is how to it went:

375g of chopped dried figs were soaked in 350 ml of red vermouth for a couple of hours. This soaking step is not part of the original recipe but my figs were quite old and much drier than when I bought them, so it seemed a good idea.

The fig and wine mixture was then brought to a boil with 1.5 tsps cinnamon and 0.25tsp ground clove.

The pan is removed from the heat and allowed to cool for ten minutes before adding 125g butter and 250g honey, stirring well to melt and incorporate all together.

Then after another cooling period of 10 minutes you stir in one beaten egg.

In a separate bowl weigh out 200g spelt flour with 1.5tsp baking powder and 1tsp baking soda.

Pour the fig mixture over this and stir to combine adding a handful of chocolate buttons with the last few stirrings.

Pour into a 20cm square lined tin or silicone pan, sprinkle with a few more chocolate buttons and bake at 160C for about 45mins or until firm to touch in the centre.

Now you should allow the cake to cool in the tin but I was too impatient and you can probably see the chocolate is still melted in this photo but it was cake o'clock, no time to wait.

So this is my submission for the April We Should Cocoa challenge run by Choclette and Chele


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A New Personal Best with thanks to 'Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast, by Ken Forkish

This loaf is I believe my best home baked loaf of bread yet; and I have been making a mess in the kitchen for quite some years, believing that one day I will discover the alchemy of good bread.
Well I just took a very proud step in that direction with the help of a new book by Ken Forkish, titled Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast; The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza. The book recently won the Baking section of the IACP 2013 awards and based on my first loaf I would have given it the award too.

There are a lot of explanations at the beginning of the book and quite a bit of the background to how Ken Forkish took a complete career change to become an artisan baker. For the first time in memory I read the full introductions and notes before I started baking. A number of the techniques were not new to me now, but they would have seemed quite alternative several years ago.

The dough is kept very hydrated with a typical flour to water ration of 10:7.2. The dough is treated to a number of folds/turns during the bulk proving stage and the fermentation times are long with formulas that use minimal amounts of yeast. Time is treated as an ingredient whereby slow fermentation results in significantly greater flavour development.

The part where I found myself on totally fresh ground was in the baking. The book has you shaping boules of dough which are proved and then baked inside a dutch oven/cast iron pan with the lid on. 

With this first recipe I had been a bit impatient and shaped some of the dough into small rolls to get a small batch of dough baked off earlier. The rolls were fine in terms of flavour and were ok in texture but nothing remarkable. It was when I baked the boule things really took off.  All this magic, however, is taking place inside the pot, completely out of sight, so it was not until I dared take the lid off the pot that I knew the loaf had transformed itself as it baked. The rise, or oven spring, to give it a baker's term was way better than any bake I had managed in this oven before. As the loaf finished baking with the lid now removed from the pot, the colour of the crust turned a very healthy golden colour.

On cutting the loaf I was delighted to see a beautiful thin but crisp crust had developed, and the flavour was really very good. All this from the most simple recipe in the book, the Saturday loaf, which can be started in the morning and ready and on the table for your evening meal the same day.

Here is a picture of this loaf as shown in the book from which you can see I did not get the very open texture to the crumb and my crust was a much lighter colour, but not a bad comparison for a first go.
I am planning on giving this loaf another try in a few days and certainly want to repeat it before I move on to some of the more traditional recipes that use an overnight fermentation. I am also trying to build up a sourdough starter so I can eventually work my way through the whole book.
All the recipes in the book are for quite basic loaves, as the title suggest fundamentally just flour, water, salt, yeast. The pizza recipes also look very appealing and there is a section on working through the development of your own recipes.I wonder how much I would want to deviate mind as despite my love of fancy cakes I have always liked my bread to be simple, but perfect, so this book is just right for me.
A loaf of bread, some good butter and a glass of wine and I am very happy.