Tuesday, 24 May 2011

I can’t believe it’s Gluten-free!

There is a market out there for gluten-free products, but is it being served ? In my opinion, wheat intolerant or coeliac disease sufferers have every right to enjoy freshly baked breads, cakes and pastries.  According to Coeliac UK, 1 in 100 people suffer from the disease, which can cause great discomfort and quite a list of more serious symptoms. So why are freshly baked gluten free products so hard to find? I am not sure I know the answer to this, I could hazard a guess that gluten-free is seen as an area of baking that is too niche to cater for, expensive to produce due to the variety of alternative flours needed and perhaps there is not the inclination to create a variety of gluten free products because it is an unknown area.

Why should coeliac sufferers miss out on all the yummy goods most of us can access without any painful side effects? This week’s baking with Emmanuel Hadjiandreou (his book is out soon!) proved that we could offer some tasty gluten-free alternatives, and dare I say it, our chief tasters couldn’t even tell the difference!

Just to clarify, true gluten-free means NO wheat flour, NO rye flour and NO spelt flour. For the baked goods below we used; Plain gluten-free flour from Doves Farm, Buckwheat Flour, Potato flour, Maize flour, Rice flour and Chickpea flour (aka Gram flour). All these flours are related to wheat flour as sub-species in some form but they do not contain gluten (large protein molecules) that exist in wheat flour. Gluten provides the elasticity in the dough and supports the crumb structure so you get a chewy, aerated and well risen loaf.  In gluten-free bread this is substituted with other carbohydrates or starches that develop long chains to link the structure together eg. Xanthum gum, which is a type of starch produced by fermentation and improves the texture when combined with gluten-free flour. 
For info; Khoresan (aka Kamut) DOES contain gluten so not suitable for Coeliac sufferers.

When baking gluten free products, the important things to consider are:
1)      Ingredients (balancing the flavours of the gluten-free flours that you use)
2)      When mixing your dough for bread making, you are looking for a much wetter, almost batter like consistency.
3)      Be creative. Enrich your doughs to improve flavour with seeds, fruit and spices.
4)      Trial your gluten free products with coeliac sufferers. Ask them what they think and how you might improve them.
Fruit spiced, seeded & buckwheat
Mini tarts filled with real jams & mini bakewell tarts.

Seeded sourdough (overnight long fermentation)
Pear & ginger frangipane tart (with ground chestnut)
Chewy chocolate chip cookies 
Deluxe chocolate cookies with dark chocolate &coffee
topped with hazelnut, cherry & almonds
 (with thanks to Russell)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Derbyshire Food & Drink Festival

Thank you to all the visitors that stopped to chat and enjoy the tasters we were making. Several folk asked for the recipe for the Roomali Indian flat bread with cool corriander filling. So here it is...enjoy!
Roomali Flat Bread 
Translated Roomali means "handkerchief". We were introduced to this recipe during last week's baking class with British baker Wayne Caddy from Essential Baker http://www.bakeryconsultants.com/ who enjoyed this food so much during his travels to India. He showed us a variety of tweaks to the traditional flat bread recipe that could be found wrapping a variety of hot and cold fillings on the streets of Mumbai. Below is the recipe we prepared at the show. It was a big hit with visitors as they jostled four deep to grab a mini wrap of warm Indian yumminess with cool fragrant filling.

Plain Roomlai flat bread
Plain flour 500g
Atta Flour 500g
Salt 20g
Water 550g (+/-)
Ground Black Pepper 1g
Ghee 20g
1 egg
1) Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix using a Kitchen Aid for 8-10 mins. You can also mix by hand but ensure that the dough has completely come together. If you are getting tired, you can always leave covered in the bowl, let it rest and come back to it in ten minutes or so for another knead.
2) Once fully mixed, leave the dough to rest for 2 hrs in a covered bowl. 
3) Then scale the dough into 80g portions by rolling into round balls and placing on tray lined with baking paper.
4) Cover the tray with cling film (lightly dust the balls with flour do they don't stick).
5) Rest for 2 hrs (important so that the dough relaxes and doesn't shrink back on you when you are rolling out)
6) At this stage you can store them in the fridge for up to 48 hrs or you can bake off.

7) Roll out very thin 12inch rounds, dusting with flour as you go.
8) The pan needs to be really hot for a rapid bake (just a touch of oil needed for the first one) and you will see bubbles appear as it cooks on each side. You can either use a pan OR you can use an upturned wok if you have gas. This was really effective.
9) Fold over the sides so you form little Roomali pouches. Fill and serve warm.

For a cool, fragrant filling we mixed together cottage cheese, spring onion, lemon juice, paprika, corriander, cumin, black pepper and salt to taste. Added chilli for hot&spicy. When we ran out of cottage cheese we used creme fraiche. Both went down a treat.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Dottie about Stottie cake

Celebrating a regional favourite from the North East of England, the stottie cake (more of a bread really), is the perfect canvas for sandwich fillers (hot or cold) or mopping up a hearty stew. This stottie was a first for me and definitely one to write home about - way aye man! Thanks to our great British baker, Wayne Caddy for sharing this with us.
Stottie recipe:
Strong white flour 1000g
Fresh yeast 30g
Salt 20g
Lard 40g
Water 550g (+/-)
Milk Powder (or replace the water with milk) 20g
Sponge 380g
Sponge recipe (make overnight):
Strong white flour 1000g
Fresh yeast 3g
Water 550g

1) Mix the sponge the day before and ferment for 18-24 hrs at ambient temperature.
2) Mix the stottie dough by hand until well developed, soft and silky (like a babies bottom:) or you can use a mixer for 6-8 mins
3) Keep covered and ferment for 1hr
4) Scale dough pieces at 400g and round. Then cover and rest for at least 15mins.
5) Roll out the dough to form a round disc of around 20cm in diameter and approx 1/2cm thick. Place on a baking tray and prove for 40-60 mins.
6) Just before baking stick your thumb in the centre of the disc to dock and stop movement/rise whilst baking.
7) Bake for 10 mins if on a tray at 230 degrees or 8 mins if direct on the stone. Turn the stottis over about 2/3rds of the way through baking.
Serve as sliced wedges

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Strawberry Tarts Forever

The French need no introduction in this department. In my opinion, they have it oh so right in every way. What can be better than picking up a little something sweet to lift you out of the daily grind. Something that tastes amazing and is not extortionately priced because it IS amazing and leaves you feeling a little naughty but not sickly, because if persuaded you could probably have another. 

Why can we not readily pick this up from a Boulangerie/Patisserie on every high street? (Mary Portas take note). After all it was just a biscuity base of short crust pastry, some cool strawberry chantilly cream, topped with sweet fresh strawberries neatly boxed and politely delivered with a 'Merci' from the smartly dressed lady serving. Altogether a heavenly combination of perfectness that made me very happy as I skipped out the door and indulged without a calorific care in the world.
Back home now! It saddens me that there are 1500 Greggs outlets in the UK (I can't believe I am mentioning this name on the same page as a French patisserie!) and a further 80 store openings due this year. Wouldn't our high streets look a lot prettier with some independent bakeries? Surely the beautiful handmade pastries and breads on offer beat a greasy sausage roll meal deal served by a spotty teenage kid! Non?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Mons Fromager-Affineur

Dressed in hairnets, snoods, jackets and blue shoe covers, we entered the caves and were immediately hit with the most pungent smell of ammonia that worked right through our olfactory passages and ever so slightly causing a sting to the eye.
These were the caves of Mons fromager-affineur, where they mature the cheeses made with raw milks from artisanal cheese makers from across the region (a bit like Neal’s Yard Dairy in this respect).

The maturing process allows development of the cheese flavour, texture and aroma. Not being a cheese expert, I didn’t realise that the same type of cheese can taste so different depending on the time and process in which it has been matured. These caves are particularly special because of the atmospheric conditions and humidity levels to promote rind mould growth.  It was around 8 degrees in the cellars with a high level of moisture generated by the humidifiers.
Deeper into the tunnel, we passed shelves of different varieties of cheeses all indicating their specific provincial markings. Like breathing gremlin creatures there were some with furry grey and black mould balls and some with washed rinds.

Once we arrived at the end of the tunnels, we entered a warmer and less ammonic (?!) environment and enjoyed some cheese and perfectly matched wine to taste. 
Our first was the region’s most famous Comte cheese made with unpasteurised cows milk, contributed to by several small farmers across the Franche-Comte region of Eastern France. Each Comte wheel requires 400litres of milk to produce and is then matured for a minimum of 6 months and up to 18 months for the Reserve de la Collonge. We tasted the latter paired with a 2005 Marc du Jura desert wine with Chardonnay – Savagnin grape. The mature Comte had fruity, apricot notes and was more crumbly than the younger comte (the younger Comte tastes similar to an Emmenthal). Having never tasted Comte before, this is now on my favourite list of cheeses.
The second cheese we tried was a Lavort from the Auvergne region, just west of Lyon. This one was made with raw sheeps milk. The interior was ivory in colour, dotted with eyes and the rind was a brownish/grey. It had an earthy flavour with sheep smells and a slight sweetness to it. This was paired with a red 2002 Chateau St. Martin de Grave from the Coteaux du Languedoc appellation.
We ended our wine and cheese tasting session around 11.30am (!) and then left the caves for the warm sunshine, boarded our minibus and headed back to the Gite. Having spent the last hour nibbling our way through a large wedge of Comte, Lavort, a basket of bread and supping through four bottles of wine, in true Brit style, we went in search for more...

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Grand Gateaux St Honore

The glorious, sensational taste of sweet whipped custard cream, dark bitter chocolate, salty short puff pastry, topped with puffed cream filled choux, dipped in hot caramel and wrapped in spun sugar is one I couldn't possibly describe. 

Today we pulled out all the stops. A fine line between grandiose and ostentatious, we created a display that would have been perfectly placed in a top class French patisserie and strangely at the same time a 1970s sweet trolley revival.

Extremely proud of our creations, (that spawned taller and sweeter as the afternoon went on), we were left stumped as to how on earth we were going to get these marvels home on our bikes !

Russell's magnificent twirls
Laura's sensational fascinator
(a la Princess Beatrice)
David marvels at the wonders of
spun sugar
Lisa, always the hostess with
the mostess x
Simona skillfully spins a three tone
Vicky's touch of class
My 4pm snack break
Our elegant swan made with 
blue cheese roux and quite delicious
All in all, a thoroughly calorific day had by all.