Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Loading the Wood Fired Oven

Its the best ever feeling when your lovingly prepared loaves are soft, puffy and perfectly risen, and you carefully load them onto a peel so as not to disturb their delicate aerated structure and then slide them to the depths of the wood fired oven for their final leg. 

Tom (head baker) gave me full reign on loading and unloading today and it was really nerveracking but extremely exciting at the same time. The thought of messing up and flicking the loaf in the wrong place means your loaf is stuck and you risk losing space to load the other precious loaves waiting to be baked. There is no time to mess about, once the loaves are proven they are ready to go and so you need to get them in as quick as possible with a gentle flow that ensures each loaf is placed in the right position. 
Thankfully, all went well this morning. But you can see the concentration on my face as I started loading the first Ciabatta at 2.30am and rotated unloading and loading until the last Croissants went in at 7am. By 8am the bakery was full of the warm, heady aromas of freshly baked breads and pastries. The dairy delivery man popped in at 6.30am and said he could smell the current buns wafting as he came up the street!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Chocolate truffles with brandy

It doesn't get any better than this...whatever time of day ! I made chocolate truffles and couldn't help but lick the spoon, the bowl, the pan, the table.....
I was asked to make at least 38 truffles for the afternoon coffees and so at the mention of chocolate I sprung into action and dived for my iphone, searching 'truffles' to find the sweet goddess, Delia and her home-made truffle recipe. With a few tweaks due to my pantry stock i came up with these yummy morsels. I will come clean and say that I did find it a massive challenge, not that it was 4am when i was making these, but more the fact that once cooled these babies were not playing ball. I mean I tried to roll them in my hands but they turned to schmuck within milliseconds. Quick thinking, a change of design - square is classier than round right? I scored them into squares without touching them with my inherently warm hands - Im finding pastry tricky too!

Square Chocolate Truffles
150g dark chocolate (75% cocoa)
150ml double cream
25g unsalted butter
2 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp creme fraiche (or greek yoghurt)
1 tbsp cocoa powder to dust (only if you can master balls!)
1. Grind chocolate in your whizzy food mixer until granular (like sugar)
2. Place cream, butter and brandy in a saucepan and bring to simmering point.
3. With the motor on your mixer, pour the milk mixture through the funnel into your granular chocolate below and watch it blend into a smooth, shiny mixture.
4. Add creme fraiche or your yoghurt and blend for a further few seconds more.
5. Transfer your chocolate liquid mix to a pre lined tray and allow to cool before placing in the refrigerator overnight.
6. Score with a sharp knife into squares and then finish by melting some white chocolate and piping over the top. Voila!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Traditional Bread Pudding

To be honest, this was a bit make shift in order to use up some left over fruit buns and white crusty loaves. But i was super impressed with the results. A tad 'christmassy' but extremely yummy and just what you need to cheer you up during the current cold spell. A drop of custard would have been nice!
These volumes made two tin trays (approx 30 x 40cm) and (approx 20 x 30)
240g soft dark brown sugar
460g butter
1140ml milk
900g cubed fruit buns/white crusty left overs
940g raisins
200g cranberries (use whatever dried fruit you have)
4 oranges rind + juice
12 eggs
240g chopped almonds
8 tsp cinnamon (you can grate 2 tsp nutmeg in too)
2 tsp all spice
4 tbsp treacle
1. Soak bread in warmed milk for at least 20 mins
2. Add orange rind and juice to bread mixture and mash
3. Beat in the eggs
4. Add other ingredients (bar butter) and mix.
5. Then beat in the butter (melted)
Your mixture will be of pouring consistency. Pour into your pre-prepared tray lined with baking paper. Bake at 180 for about 1hr-1hr30. It is a pudding style so will be spongy and moist once baked.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A birthday surprise!

It’s not my birthday, but it was a complete surprise! A last minute order of two birthday cakes from the restaurant was graciously handed to me with free reign to make whatever I like for the two separate birthday girls, age six and ten years old.
I have three Princess nieces and they all love pink. So it was to be a simple victoria sponge with butter cream and strawberry jam filling, a naturally coloured strawberry frosting and finally some poached chocolate decorations from Tom, the baker.
Victoria Sponge
400g butter softened (salted)
400g caster sugar
400g self-raising flour
8 eggs
For the simple sponge:
1)      Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
2)      Add the eggs slowly. If any curdling occurs you can add a little of the flour . At this point, you can add vanilla extract if you like, but I think there is enough in the icing.
3)      Add the flour and combine.
4)      Spread into your 2 x 8inch cake tins (pre-covered in greaseproof paper) and bake on 200 for about 40-45 minutes. Now, here’s the thing I used a professional range cooker to bake, so non-fan assisted, no window and an intense heat up from the bottom. It took 50 minutes, although I could have probably got away with taking it out at 45, but still, longer than the sponges take in my Miele domestic oven (180 for 35mins).
For the filling:
1)      Cream 250g icing sugar, 250g butter (good quality) and the inside of a vanilla pod together until whipped almost like cream (takes a little while – I used a Kitchen Aid)
2)      Quality strawberry jam (sifting out any lumpy bits)
3)      Spread jam onto the cooled sponge. Then spread over your creamed butter icing.
For the topping:
You can take the same creamed icing mixture as the filling and then using the strawberry jam (pressed through a sieve) you can create a fresh strawberry colour and flavour to the finish.  Dress with fresh strawberries and chocolate drops or sticks…or quite frankly, whatever you can get your hands on!

Dove Cote of Bruton in Somerset

Heralded by Brutonians as the village ‘must-see’. I ventured to the top of the hill to see the National Trust's heritage landmark, Dove Cote. Sitting extremely proud on the hilltop overlooking the tiny (believed to be Britain’s smallest) and very pretty village of Bruton.
Certainly iconic, but somehow mysterious and to be honest a little awkward. Derelict but occupied with homes of 200 pigeon holes accommodating several doves, wood pigeons, black crows and other feathered species. 

Dating back to the 16th century and originally planned to be built alongside the Abbey by Bruton Priory, but for some unknown reason, this changed due to Henry V111 ditching the plans. So the lonely building of Dove Cote became an obvious watch tower instead. And no doubt would have made a perfect vantage point to watch over the hunters in the deer parks below.

An American style baked lemon cheesecake

Having spent most of my childhood growing up in the states, I have always been most familiar with the simple, sweet, biscuit-based baked cheesecake. But the original New Yorker cheesecake can often tend to be a little sickly sweet. So this recipe is a combination of others, but produces a lighter desert because I don’t use butter (other than in the biscuit base) or cream in the mixture. Of course, you can always serve with a big dollop if you like!
For the biscuit base:
250g digestive biscuits
110g melted better
For the mixture:
850g soft cheese (550g ricotta, 300g full fat cream cheese)
175g caster sugar
4 lemon zests (when grating keep it fine) + Juice of 1 lemon
2 eggs plus 2 yolks
4 tbsp plain flour

1)      Crush together your digestive biscuits and melted butter and press into your tin and chill for at least 4 hours.
2)      Cream together the soft cheese. Then combine together the other ingredients and whisk together so creamy and light.
3)      Pour into your pre-prepared biscuit based tin and bake on Gas Mark 4/180 for 35-40 mins.
4)      I also wrapped the bottom of the tin in 2 layers of tinfoil and sunk into a 2-3mm bath of water to create steam during baking.
5)      Turn off the oven heat when you still have a little wobble in the mix.
6)      Best served after chilling overnight and topped with finely grated lemon zest and fresh raspberries. This picture shows the one I made for V day. It was topped with crème fraiche as suggested by bbcgoodfood’s luscious lemon baked cheesecake recipe. However, on sampling a few slices, my boyfriend advises he prefers it simply served, without all the crème fraiche topping – on this occasion I think I agree!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

A Valentine's Day Chocolate Cake

Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting & raspberries
The perfect excuse for a rich dark chocolate cake! The best chocolate cake I ever made was actually from Nigella’s ‘Feast’, it was a traditional chocolate cake made with sour cream and it turned out really moist. I didn’t have all these ingredients so I am making a simple recipe from James Martin’s 'Desserts'. I used more butter version so it would keep moist for longer.
For the cake:
175g butter softened
175g caster sugar
160g Self-raising flour
25g cocoa powder
½ tsp vanilla extract
3 med eggs
1 tsp baking powder
  1. Whisk the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until light & fluffy
  2.  Add eggs – one at a time (this stops it curdling)
  3. Sieve in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and fold until combined
  4. Gas mark 4 (180◦) – I baked for 60 mins because I could only find one cake tin and so I made a deeper cake. But if you have two tins then you only need to bake for around 35mins.
  5. Remove and cool for a few minutes before turning onto a wire rack

For the frosting (approx measures as I usually go by eye with lots of tasting along the way...)

I like to use cream cheese as it keeps it lighter but still gives you that creamy, chocolatey finish.
250g cream cheese
150g icing sugar (sifted)
3 tbsp cocoa powder (sifted)
50g dark chocolate
50g butter

Melt the butter and the chocolate first. Then add the icing sugar and coco powder. Lastly blend in the cream cheese (kept at room temperature) so that the mixture is creamy & smooth. Keep in fridge to cool for a bit before spreading onto your cooled cake. Top with raspberries and icing sugar and serve with a big chocolate kiss X

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Baking by night (10.30pm - 8.30am)

Freshly baked for 9am opening
At The Chapel bakery
Like artisanal elves, Tom (baker extraordinaire) and myself (the apprentice) baked all night to produce a delicious array of baked goods for The Chapel's bakery. Weighing, mixing, scaling, moulding, shaping, laminating, cake making, pastry rolling, loading, unloading, refreshing...and so it went on into the early hours. What an amazing experience! There is not a moment to spare - to be honest that suits me as the last thing you want at that time of the morning is to be clock watching!
Round the clock kitchens
An orchestrated bake by night
& chef by day
Pain au chocolat
Spelt croissants
Ciabatta waiting to load
loading the floor-to-ceiling
wood fired oven

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

A place At the Chapel

I am fortunate to have gained a place as an apprentice baker at At The Chapel in Bruton, Somerset working with head baker Tom. I arrived in Bruton late last night and am staying with Abi and James who are kindly putting me up in their home, the Railway Cottage, just five minutes walk away from where I will be working for the next 4 weeks.  This place is stunning! Owners Ahmed and Cathy have turned their former home into a wonderful place to dine. This morning I enjoyed a delicious almond and marzipan pastry whilst the sun flooded though the chapel windows. 
The chapel has a sympathetically designed minimalist feel to it, the space is vast and the lines are clean. Their menu reflects the same simplicity with a good choice of locally sourced products, natural and seasonally selected.
I spent this morning taking in the medieval sights of Bruton in the early spring sunshine and now I must get some sleep before my shift starts tonight !
12th Century St Mary Church
in the Saxon town of Bruton

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Oven bottom baked breads with Wayne Caddy (British Baking Team)

If you bake directly onto hot stone it gives the bread a real boost of immense heat and creates a beautiful rustic base - great for cottage/crown loaves and bloomers. These are our school deck ovens, but you can achieve the same effect in a domestic oven using a pizza stone. Best not to buy them too cheap as they do crack. For the Rolls Royce of pizza stones this Miele one is excellent and well worth the investment plus you get a wooden peel too: 
For our cottage loaves and bloomers, we used strong flour with a protein content of 13-14%. Manitoba canandian red wheat is best as it gives good volume, dough stability and has better keeping qualities. Depending on where you are in the country, Shipton Mill do a great canadian strong flour:
Wayne Caddy
 (British National
Baking Team)
Pre-ferment with beer & honey
You start by making your overnight pre-ferment or 'sponge'. Then leave for around 12 hours in an ambient temperature. It looks fantastic and active when you come back to it - all stringy & sloppy. Before combining to the dough mix, you can add some beer (we used Springhead beer from the local brewery nr Newark) and honey. Beer was always traditionally added to cottage loaves and when mixed with the honey it gives a mild malty flavour as well as acting as a humectant by retaining moisture and softening the dough.
Make up pre-ferment (overnight):
Strong white flour 5600g
Water 3360g
Yeast (fresh block) 38g
Combine pre-ferment to your dough mix:
Pre-ferment (sponge) 8998g (total)
Strong white flour 1400g
Yeast 14g
Salt 140g (2%)
Malt flour 14g
Butter (for a creamy flavour) 210g
Lard (adds flakiness/ brittleness) 70g (total fat 4%)
Beer 595g
Honey 140g

You can scale this recipe down. 
1) Mix by hand or using mixer with spiral attachment (4 mins slow and 2 mins fast)
2) Dough temperature target should be around 25 degrees (mine was 23)
3) Bulk ferment for 60 mins at room temp
4) Divide and shape as required (we made cottage loaves and bloomers)
5) Proof 45-60 mins 
6) Slash & Bake at 250degrees with steam

Big thanks to Wayne Caddy, the essential baker and team member on the British National Team at Coupe Louis Lesaffre World Baking Cup: Whilst, Netherlands, Poland and Sweden won the European selection rounds last week, England still have a chance as they were recognised for their 'amazing performance' alongside Slovakia. As 'challengers' we still have a chance to get through - Good luck team !

Wayne - A star performer !

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The official photos are out !

As promised, I couldn't resist sharing my momentous photos with you of the day Prince Charles and Camilla visited The School of Artisan Food on the Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire.

A brilliant day and much welcomed publicity for the school in order to encourage more students to learn the precious skills and craftsmanship that so many of our generations have lost over the years. 

I am very proud to be amongst the first students on the Diploma course that will no doubt grow successfully each year to become the country's centre of training excellence for Artisan producers.

How to mould a cottage loaf ?