that perfect, plain bread

23 Jan

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The term ‘plain’ doesn’t quite do justice to this particular bread; it’s plain in the sense that there are no currants, no fancy leaves carefully planted on the top. But my relationship with this bread was like an illicit love affair-I was perfectly aware it would do more harm than good to continue scoffing this bread with a layer of salted butter almost as a thick as the slice of bread. However, I could not be kept away from the softness of its middle that enveloped my tastes and the crispy crust that I bit into. I slightly adapted a recipe from Paul Hollywood and haven’t stopped making this again and again since my first try. So I behold to you, a perfectly easy and quick-to-make (and eat) piece of heaven that I’m sure no one else would be able to resist. This recipe will be great to make for a weekend morning when you don’t have much time on your hands because most evenings are set away for drinking rather than eating-or something to impress your guests.

500 g of strong white bread flour

40g of soft butter

12g of fast action, dried yeast

2tsp of salt

300ml of lukewarm water (more or less, you’ll find out later)

1. Put the flour and butter into a large mixing bowl, rubbing the butter into the flour to create soft breadcrumbs. After, add the yeast to one side of the bowl and salt to another-mix all the ingredients together.

2. Start pouring the water into the mixture; start off with about half whilst mixing it together. After doing so decide if you need anymore or not because you’re aiming to get a dough that’s soft and well-combined rather than one that sticks to your fingers during kneading.

3. Spread some oil over a surface and on this knead your dough until it gets smooth and doesn’t stick to your fingers at all. Place this into an oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel-let it prove until it reaches double in size, or about an hour. What works particularly well for me is to get a cup of water and bring it to around boiling in a microwave (or 2/3 minutes), leave the water in there with the dough. Wait an hour or so and it should have doubled in size.

4. Once it has, bring the dough out of the bowl and knock the air out it, knead it a little more and round it into a loaf shape. Now put it onto an oiled baking tray to prove for an hour more.

5. Once it has, cover the top of the dough with a little flour and make a couple of shallow cuts on top; now place it into an over heated to 220 degrees Celsius for half an hour. A good tip is to put a tray of water in the bottom of the oven which helps the bread to develop the perfect crust.

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Pull, Brew, Melt (a coffee, tea and chocolate fair)

29 Sep

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Pull, Brew, Melt are a small festival dedicated to the three best life-sustainers that have kept me going throughout my teenage years. I visited them in Waddesdon Manor, a perfect venue that is still a Rothschild property but has been given over to the National Trust for them to take care of it. Admittedly, I expected the convention to be bigger and certainly more busy considering that these three products certainly don’t have a small audience. But as time went on, I grew to like the fact that it wasn’t as bustling with crowds as I first imagined it would be. Instead, I had the opportunity to spend 10 to 15 minutes at each stall conversing with the people working there, from coffee to tattoo sleeves and Batman. There were also more tasters left for me to steal. 

One of my favourite stalls had to be the one selling vintage tea cups and tablecloths as well as other tea-related objects of interest. I did in the end buy one of course after much debate as to which one and whether to get a tea pot or milk jug or sugar jug as well. The whole concept of something vintage is delightful, that you’re strolling along a market and you find something so profoundly beautiful that you can’t walk past-and the fact that there’s only one makes it even more exciting. Apart from all the chocolate tasters that I stuffed myself with (perhaps the flavourless, dry burger beforehand wasn’t such a great idea) I deeply enjoyed dragging myself along all the tea stalls to try iced Moroccan mint tea (perfect would-be for a summer day) and blossoming jasmine tea pearls. I ended up buying a Lapsang Souchong which I’ll dedicate another post to. 

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the day especially with such an amazing view of fields and a towering manor house, when you step outside the fair. Recommending the company goes without saying but it’s not at all possible for me to wait till next year for another day (or weekend if I’m lucky) to savour the taste of quality, slightly-elitist delights again. London chocolate festival, prepare for the hungry girl with an appetite for taking billions of pictures of what makes me happy. Food. 

 

Chocolate Chip Cake

24 Sep

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This cake came about because of a friend’s birthday which I wasn’t able to celebrate with her at the time as I was on holiday in the beyond ridiculously hot Croatia. So, I decided to make her something seeing as I am beyond useless at choosing and buying presents or gifts. The recipe I originally used was one for a Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake from a blog run by the ‘girl who ate everything’. A girl after my own heart evidently! It didn’t turn out as a giant cookie as I made a few adjustments, but it certainly did not turn out any worse. This is hardly sweet at all, I usually prefer not to use too much sugar and the dark chocolate did not add much in the way of sweetness either (you can of course add more). So it would be perfect teamed up with a warm caffeinated drink, coffee preferably, or for an extra kick of chocolate enjoy a hot chocolate with it. Personally, I like my hot chocolate with cookie dough ice cream, marshmallows and toblerone-something which is becoming part of my daily, staple diet.

Ingredients

3/4 cup of unsalted sugar
3/4 cup of sugar, I used white
1 large egg
2 tsps vanilla extract
1.5 tsp baking soda
2 cups of plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of dark chocolate chunks

1. Cream the butter and sugar togethor, whether with a whisk or a mixer, until light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla and egg.
2. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients (don’t add the chocolate just yet) and then mix this with the butter and sugar mixture.
3. Finally you can add the chocolate which you just combine roughly with everything else.
4. I used an 8 inch, round tin but of course you can use something else but switch the time in the oven a bit. Set the oven to 180 degrees, and cook it for 15 minutes (longer if the oven is not preheated)

SW London (Taylor St Baristas). Espresso.

29 Aug

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After hours turning into days of trawling through the internet, trying to find a worthwhile caffeine taste I thought I stumbled onto something quite extraordinary. The reviews had been more than just pleasant but seemed to be bordering on the almost obsessional. It was told to be part of the new wave of caffeine lovers, not there just for the momentary shot but for a more lasting flavour and an experience to go with. A movement led by small independent cafés supporting the local community by way of freshly sourced food and the such. An indie kids dream, a yummy mummy’s haven to discuss, evaluate and swap babysitters like Pokemon cards. It’s a cosy little café located in Richmond with easy access to the railway station which is half a minutes walk away. Certainly a bonus is the long table lined up against the window providing the perfect view to people watch on busy weekdays, but this time I was confined to a small couch whose only bonus was accessibility to an electrical socket. 

I ordered an espresso, a black shot, as per my usual preference and was pleased to find that I was held back to wait a few moments while they prepared by request. It was made using Guatemalan beans from a small-ish company called Union which pride themselves on their hand-roasting ethos. The coffee was very rich to say the least, with a taste that lingered in your mouth long after that first sip. Or I would go so far to say it stuck to the palate and refused to budge despite gentle coercion from sips of water and chocolate. It was a bitter taste, more bitter than I have had before and so in all honesty it would not be something I would order again. In other respects, it had fruity notes with a slight taste of something peachy. For an espresso like this I would have an equally heavy dessert such as a scone that will of course be painted over with a thick layer of fresh, clotted cream and a large dollop of strawberry jam.

Pizza Friday no.2

30 Jun

This pizza recipe is originally meant to be used in the Morphy Richards bread maker which my mum absolutely adores-I on the other hand, am not quite so enthusiastic. Usually the pizza, when baking it in the oven, turns out quite elasticy and with hardly any worthwhile crust. However, this time I did not actually bake it in the oven and the result was beautiful. The problem with conventional ovens is that they simply do not get hot enough so I decided to cook the pizza dough on the hob on an iron crepe pan first , and when I added the toppings I cooked it again under the grill. Even if the dough is not to your tasting, the cooking method is one that you will certainly keep.

Pizza Recipe:

1 cup of water
1 tbsp of melted butter
2 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp of salt
2 3/4 cups of strong white bread flour
1 tsp of fast action yeast

1. Put all the ingredients into a bowl, in the order that they appear in the list.
2. Mix it all well and then knead until it is smooth and elastic, this is absolutely essential so knead for as long as it takes.
3. After you’ve done that, place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Place in a warm area for an hour or until doubled in size.

4. When you are ready to use it, separate it into 6 pieces or however many depending on the size of your iron crepe pan. Heat a bit of olive oil until hot when you hover your hand over the pan, and cook the dough until the bottom has browned slightly.
5. When you’ve done that, place your toppings on the pizza and spread some olive oil on the crust. Cook again under the grill until the cheese has melted nicely and the crust has browned.
6. Repeat with all the pizzas, keeping the hob and grill on to keep the heat up!

Coffee Review no.3

11 Apr

I want to come out and say it right away, and if you do not like it you do not have to carry on reading. This is a Starbucks coffee. That’s it, for a hell of a long time I have been avoiding Starbucks like the plague, refusing to touch an emblem featuring a weird mermaid with a ten foot pole. But I was in a slightly desperate position; I wanted somewhere to relax near to where I was staying in Paris-but the prices most cafés were charging for an espresso were extortionate. Then I saw the Starbucks placed innocently along the rue, it was busy but no so much that we were packed like sardines when trying to order something. I tried it once with a pastry I bought nearby, and then I came back for a second one and a third. I still shudder, knowing that I actually quite like the coffee in this so-familiar-that-it-become-a-bit-tacky café. Mind you, I only ever have the espresso-I have yet to build up the courage to try a ‘frapuccino’ (whatever that may be).

Onto the coffee which is if course most important, I do apologise for going on a bit earlier. The exact coffee I tried was the tribute blend which is multi origin. The beans used were from Papa New Guinea, Columbia, Sumatra and Ethiopia. This blend came with quite a strong taste, and was delightfully full-bodied which is not what i expected from Starbucks. There are tastes of a mixture of spices which gave a nice contrast ro the strength of the coffee. Acidity wise, I would say around medium as it was not too bad but it could be better. I could imagine teaming this up with a fruit cake, in particular one that has dried or non dried cherries. But it can be just as well enjoyed with that thought provoking book you have always wanted to read, and a few hours to spare.

Paris. Macaron.

7 Apr

I had to do it, no matter the literal cost to ny bank account. But buying one was not bad at all when considering that there were people who were actually spending 80 euros in one go. So Ladurée it was. I never tried a macaron before, so thought that for my first time I should go somewhere famed for it’s sugary delights. The wait however, did not add to its splendour; but at least standing in a queue for thirty five minutes was not too bad as I was able to admire the rest of the treats on offer.

I chose a single macaron to try as I had no clue if I would like it and the prices were quite steep for a box of a few miniature ones. The one that I chose was lemon flavoured, although I should have known better that with any flavour usually so sour, one is liable to add more than is needed of sugar. Although, perhaps I am being unfair because that is what macarons are essentially made up of-sugar. The ‘shell’ was delightfully delicate with no cracks visible, and with a wonderful vacuum of air inside. Once you bite into the macaron your tooth nerves are not given a heart attack thankfully and the puffiness of the shell contrasts nicely with the rich, lemony filling. In the amount that it was, a couple inches and a half in diameter, it was surprisingly delicious-certainly better than I expected. But I cannot help but feel that this is a dessert that my little sister would go crazy about on behalf of all the energy she would receive from it. And I tend not to trust her food preferences.