Batbout

Batbout
Wotchers!

This week I’ve got for you a wonderfully soft and pillowy – literally! – flatbread from Morocco called Batbout (also mkhamer or toghrift or matlou’). Unlike the Middle Eastern, oven-baked pita, batbout is baked on a griddle or in a heavy-bottomed pan on the top of the stove.

It is made from a mixture of strong wheat flour and semolina which makes the outsides wonderfully chewy and the inside soft and fluffy. And, stored in an airtight container, they stay soft for days, with a pocket that opens up beautifully even when cold.

If, like me, you’ve ever wrestled to open the pocket of a pita, where no amount of toasting and cajoling will work, you’ll find these little puff breads a real delight. Not only do they puff up gloriously during the cooking, they frequently stay puffed, even when cold. The two on the left of the picture were baked 2 days before I took the photo.

Cooking them is a real pleasure, just to see the way they inflate. It’s a “real moment of creation” thing, as the dough appears to be doing not very much at all in the pan, then all of a sudden it is as if they take a deep breath and fill up before your eyes. Here is a video showing this magic.

The secret is in the cooking, and after a few trials I am pretty sure I’ve managed to work out how to achieve maximum puff every time.

Batbout

200g strong white flour
200g semolina
½ tsp salt
20g fresh yeast or 1 sachet fast-action yeast
warm water to mix

  • Mix the flours and the salt in a bowl.
  • Crumble in the yeast, or if you prefer, mix it with a little water and add to the flours.
  • Add enough water to mae a soft dough (around 300ml), although the actual quantity will depend on how the semolina absorbs the liquid.
  • Knead for 10 minutes until smooth, then cover and set aside for 1 hour to rise.
  • Tip out the dough and pat gently to deflate.
  • Divide the dough into portions according to the side of flatbread you want – around 75-100g for sandwich size is good, larger for tearing and sharing.
  • Roll each piece of dough into a smooth ball. You can use semolina to roll them out, but I prefer them without.
  • Use a rolling pin to roll them into a flat circle of around 10cm diameter, then set them onto a floured cloth. Cover lightly and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  • Heat a heavy-bottomed pan on medium-high heat.
  • Cook your batbout one at a time until you’re confident with the timings.
  • Place one of the discs of dough into the pan for about a minute, then turn carefully. You want to dry out the surface of the dough, but not colour it. You should start to see bubbles forming on the surface of the uncooked side to show when it is ready.
  • Cook the other side for a similar amount of time, so that the dough is dried but not coloured.
  • Flip the bread back onto the first side, and cook until it starts to colour, then turn it over.
  • This is where the magic happens. As the underside cooks, there is no ‘stretch’ left in the lightly cooked outsides of the bread, so the only way it can expand is by inflating. Usually this will start at one side and then move across to the other side, inflating as it cooks. I just love this part. Here is another video.
  • If it doesn’t puff up, continue to cook each side lightly to dry out the surfaces a little more.
  • Once the bread is puffed and lightly browned on both sides, set it on a wire rack to cool.

In case you missed it:

This week on DejaFood.uk: The earliest recipe for Sally Lun buns!


Namelaka

Namelaka cream

Wotchers!

I’d like to introduce you to a rather fabulous multi-purpose ingredient, developed and created in the L’Ecole du Grand Chocolate Valrhona test kitchens: Namelaka. It was actually developed several years ago, but seems not to have caused much of a ripple since then, with the exception of in Italy, where it appears to be very popular.

It’s name (pronounced namma-lakka) comes from the Japanese for creamy/smooth and it is a fabulous cross between a ganache and a crème pâtissière. It has the smoothness of a pastry cream, but the richness of a ganache and can boast a whole host of uses.

Milk chocolate praline namelaka

As you can see from the photo, it holds its shape beautifully when piped, which makes it perfect for tart and pastry fillings and decoration. It is especially fine in filling choux pastry items such as eclairs, profiteroles, cream puffs and croquembouche. You can use it to decorate the tops of cakes or to sandwich them together, both large and small, and it can also be served as a dessert itself, in small, ladylike portions, with some granola or crushed biscuits adding texture.

One of the great aspects of namelaka is the possibility of adding additional flavours to complement the finished cream by infusing the milk before use. What you use is limited ony by your imagination: the zest of any of the numerous citrus fruits, instant coffee granules, freeze-fried fruit powders, teas, freshly ground spices, tonka bean, praline… the list goes on. The only downside of namelaka cream is the need to make it a full day before required, as it needs time to chill thoroughly before use.

White Chocolate Namelaka

For serving in its most light and delicate form, I recommend just a single leaf of gelatine and using whipping cream. An almost mousse-like consistency can be achieved by using 2 leaves of gelatine and double cream, and then whisking it briefly after chilling overnight.

White Chocolate Namelaka Cream

170g white chocolate
1 sheet of leaf gelatine/2 sheets
100ml whole milk
5ml liquid glucose
200ml whipping cream/double cream

  • Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl over simmering water.
  • Put the sheet of gelatine in cold water to bloom.
  • Heat the milk and glucose in a pan until almost boiling.
  • Add the bloomed gelatine to the milk and stir to dissolve.
  • Pour 1/3 of the hot milk mixture onto the melted chocolate and stir to incorporate.
  • Add the remaining milk and repeat.
  • Add the whipping cream and mix thoroughly.
  • Briefly use an immersion blender to ensure mixture is thoroughly amalgamated.
  • Cover with cling film and chill for 24 hours before using.
  • If using 2 sheets of gelatine and double cream, whisk briefly after chilling before use. Or not. As you like.

For milk chocolate praline: add 75g praline paste when melting the milk chocolate

For flavouring with citrus: Use the zest of 1 fruit in the milk and allow to infuse for 15 minutes once heated. Strain out the zest and reheat before mixing.

For flavouring with Tonka bean: ½ a bean grated on a microplane is plenty. Infuse as above.

For spices: Use whole spices for preference (easer to fish out) and infuse as for the citrus zest.

 

In case you missed it:

This week on DejaFood.uk: Robert May’s Chicken Pie


Christmas Bake Off Biscuits

Christmas Wreath Biscuits

Wotchers!

In response to a couple of requests, I decided to publish the two biscuit recipes from the Christmas Bake Off. Obviously, no cameras were allowed on set, and regular listeners will know of my current lack-of-oven status preventing me from baking a set at home, so my husband kindly grabbed a couple of screen shots of them from the program – and, of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a picture with my name on screen and the BBC logo in the corner 😀

I won’t go into all the ‘guidelines’ for these bakes, because they were many and restrictive, and also they concerned baking a particular irritation of mine, namely ‘stuff that looks like something else, usually not food-like’. I also firmly resisted suggestions to make things ‘sparkly’ and shunned all forms of edible glitter because, to my mind, if you need to label something ‘edible’, it probably shouldn’t be.

ANYHOO…

I settled on these recipes because they tasted great, were simple to prepare and decorate in a time limit, and looked attractive in a completely edible way.

Don’t wait until Christmas to give them a try, they’re delicious!

In a Mary Berry/Paul Hollywood double-handshake kinda way *resists urge to post screenshot of THAT too*. 😉

Christmas Wreath Biscuits

Makes at least 12

I must apologise for the silly ‘½ a large egg’ ingredient – if you have no pastry to glaze to use it up, make a teeny-tiny omelette or a double batch of biscuits!

115g unsalted butter – softened
100g caster sugar
zest of 2 oranges
½ a large egg – whisked
150g plain flour
50g cornflour
200g white chocolate couverture
2g Mycryo powdered cocoa butter
candied cranberries
slivered pistachios*
dried barberries*

  • Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add orange zest and egg, and mix thoroughly.
  • Add flours and mix to combine.
  • Tip out of the bowl, knead smooth and roll out to 8mm thick.
  • Cut out into 5cm rings.
  • Freeze for 15 minutes.
  • Place on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 200°C/180°C Fan for 6-8 minutes.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
  • To decorate:
    • Melt the white chocolate over hot water. Allow to cool to 33°C.
    • Stir in the Mycryo until melted. This is a fast way of tempering chocolate. For a softer ‘bite’, skip this step.
    • Pipe the white chocolate to cover, or carefully dip, the biscuits.
    • Press half a candied cranberry onto the bottom of the biscuit, then scatter over slivered pistachios and barberres.
    • Set aside to cool.
    • Thread thin ribbon through the middle to hang.

 

xmaspuddings

Pecan Praline Christmas Pudding Biscuits

Makes at least 12

70g toasted pecans – chopped
112g unsalted butter
65g light muscovado sugar
60g praline paste
½ tsp vanilla extract
1tbs dark rum
pinch of salt
125g plain flour
35g feuilletine
200g white chocolate couverture
2g Mycryo powdered cocoa butter
50g milk chocolate chips
candied angelica
dried barberries

  • Beat butter and sugar until well blended.
  • Add vanilla, praline paste and rum and mix thoroughly.
  • Combine flour and salt and add to the butter and sugar mixture until it’s just beginning to blend.
  • Add pecans and feuilletine and mix.
  • Roll out to a thickness of 5-8mm. Scatter with chocolate chips and press lightly into the dough.
  • Cut out with 5cm plain round cutter.
  • Poke a hole in each biscuit for the ribbon. A bubble tea straw is ideal.
  • Freeze for 15 minutes.
  • Place on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 170°C/150°C Fan for 8-10 minutes.
  • Cool on the tin for 10 minutes then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • To decorate:
    • Melt the white chocolate over hot water. Allow to cool to 33°C.
    • Stir in the Mycryo until melted. This is a fast way of tempering chocolate. For a softer ‘bite’, skip this step.
    • Drizzle over the top half of the biscuits to resemble cream. Make sure the hole doesn’t become blocked.
    • Decorate with angelica holly leaves and barberries.
    • Set aside for the chocolate to firm up.
    • When set, thread ribbon through the hole and hang.

 

* Available online from Sally at the fabulous Persepolis, 28-30 Peckham High Street, http://foratasteofpersia.co.uk/


My Christmas Cakey Bakey

My Christmas Cakey Bakey Showstopper

Wotchers!

Happy 2017!

I’ve had several requests for the recipe for my showstopper from the Christmas Bake Off episode shown on Christmas Day.

Whilst I could just copy/paste from the document I submitted to the production company, it would make this post enormous and you’d be scrolling for days. In addition, it would take a full four hours of constant making/baking and multitasking in order to replicate the cake in its entirety. I suggest cherry-picking your favourite and having something a lot less stressful in a pleasingly short amount of time.

Instead, I’ll reveal the full extent of my CREATIVITY and CUNNING by pointing out – that the majority of the showstopper can be assembled from recipes already on the blog. Much in the same way as <insert trademarked brand of interlocking toy bricks here>, I took bits from here and there and used them to create the various components of the finished recipe.

The reasons were numerous:

  • requirements of the brief (numerous)
  • limited planning time (3 weeks)
  • strictness of guidelines (extreme)
  • decoration exclusions (numerous)
  • time limit (4 hours)

But mostly to demonstrate that it is possible to rearrange favourite recipes that you already know how to make into something new and exciting and delicious. So I made a whole bunch of things and then put them together into one cake.

Below is the running order of things I had to make and where I got the original idea.

My Christmas Cakey-Bakey Make Order

  • Chocolate Joconde – used a double quantity of this recipe, but with 80g cocoa and no flour, making it both really chocolate-y and gluten-free
  • Spice Joconde – a double quantity of the same joconde recipe, but with 225g dark muscovado sugar instead of the icing sugar and just 70g plain flour plus 2tsp each of ginger, allspice, mixed spice.
  • Spekulaas crumb – made using this recipe not formed into biscuits. Bake the crumb for 8-10 minutes until crisp.
  • Lemon curd & Seville Orange curd – 2 batches using the Honey Curd recipe, the lemon batch made with lemon-blossom honey, orange batch made with orange-blossom honey and the zest and juice of 2 Seville oranges.
  • Vanilla Cream x 2 & Spekulaas cream – using the cream filling from this recipe, scaling up each batch by multiplying the recipe by 1.5 (so 300ml of creams, etc) and swapping the extract for 2 vanilla beans. For the spekulaas cream I omitted the vanilla/sugar and added 300g of spekulaas biscuit crumbs.
  • Fill cakes, cover with cling film & chill until required. So few words describing such a major part of the process! OK, here we go:
    • For the chocolate cake
      • Cut three evenly-sized pieces from the two joconde sponges.
      • Place one piece on a board and spread with a thin layer of vanilla cream. This will both keep the sponge moist and prevent the curd from soaking into the cake.
      • Spread a second piece of sponge with a thin layer of vanilla cream.
      • Put the rest of the vanilla cream into a piping bag fitted with a plain 1 or 2cm tip and pipe dots of cream around the outside edge of the cake both to give a neat appearance and to prevent the curd from leaking out.
      • Pour half the Seville orange honey curd onto the middle of the cake and spread evenly.
      • To prevent the next layer from ‘sagging’ in the middle, pipe a line of vanilla cream from left to right and from top to bottom, dividing the layer into quarters.
      • Add the next layer of sponge using the piece of cake spread with vanilla cream. Repeat the piping around the edge and spread the remaining curd.
      • Lay the remaining piece of cake on top and press gently.
      • Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge (although I used the freezer due to the time limit) until required.
    • For the spice cake
      • As above, using the spice joconde cake, vanilla cream and lemon honey curd.
    • For the spekulaas cake
      • I’ve had a lot of enquiries asking for the recipe for the spekulaas cake. But here’s the thing. I didn’t make a spekulaas cake. I used 2 layers of chocolate joconde and 2 layers of spice cake, sandwiched with spekulaas crumb cream and crunchy Lotus Biscoff spread. The flavours go well together individually (chocolate/spekulaas/Biscoff, spice cake/spekulaas/Biscoff) as well as all together (chocolate/spice cake/spekulaas/Biscoff). So you could use any of these combinations to make your own version.
      • Spread one piece of cake with the spekulaas cream and as with the other tiers, pipe dots of the cream around the edges.
      • Zap some of the Biscoff spread briefly in the microwave, until it softens enough to pour, and use as per the fruit curd in the other tiers. Use as little or as much as you like.
      • Repeat the layering as required.

Decorations

My decoration requests were vetoed so many times, I ended up opting for a variation of something I’d seen on-line. I used strips of lace of different patterns – one was even of Christmas puddings! – and laid them over the top of the cakes, then dusted liberally with icing sugar. Due to the long interval between the end of the challenge and the judging, the icing sugar was starting to dissolve, as you can see on the photo. If you leave this until just before serving, your decoration will be crisp and clear and will wow your guests.

I’ll keep the details of the other decorations (chocolate Christmas trees & chocolate choux Christmas puddings) for another time, because there’s more than enough here to keep you out of mischief for the moment.

Have fun! 😀


Something Old, Something New

Wotchers!

Since my oven/kitchen woes won’t be resolved for a couple more months, and the headlong rush towards the festive season draws my attention in other directions, I thought I’d reveal a little project I’ve been working on for a while, to keep you all out of mischief for the next few weeks.

Most of you will know of my great enthusiasm for old recipes, many of which are listed amongst these pages. However they are scattered about and not always easy to find.

I decided I needed a site devoted solely to British food and have been working for the past few months to collate and transfer across all the British recipes from this blog to a new site.

In addition, I have included a lot of new recipes that had to be cut from my new book (out in May next year), mostly from the fish, game and pudding chapters.

Time To Cook – Online will remain very much a jumble of interests as different recipes from all over the world grab my attention. Deja Food will become, I hope, a showcase of the best of British food from the last 700 years.

I hope you will enjoy both.

Click the image to visit the new site.

df-header

In addition, don’t forget to tune in to  BBC1 on Christmas Day, at 4.45pm for the Great British Bake Off Christmas Special starring me and three more Bake Off favourites!

A second GBBO Special, with four more favourite bakers, will go out on Boxing Day night.

Happy Holidays!

MAB 😀


Staffordshire Oatcakes

Staffordshire Oatcakes with Cheese and Bacon
Wotchers!

Staffordshire Oatcakes are, quite possibly, the best regional speciality you’ve never heard of.

In fact, that is much more of a generalisation than you may realise, because they’re specifically regional to North Staffordshire, centering on the region around Stoke-on-Trent.

It’s historic origins are mixed, with some anecdotes suggesting they originated from soldiers returning from India and trying to reproduce the chapatis they had eaten, with local produce. A more likely scenario, is as one of the various traditional ‘bakestone’ items found in workers cottages all over the country. With wheat being a valuable commodity, most people used flour from cheaper oats and barley, and with a cooking time of mere minutes, they are surprisingly sustaining.

They can be eaten hot from the pan, but as with other griddle bakes such as muffins, crumpets and pikelets, they can be made in batches, and then toasted as required, making, if anything, an even speedier snack.

Oatcake shops used to be small and plentiful, with sales being made through open windows. Alas, the last of this kind of  shop, the Hole In The Wall in Stoke-on-Trent, closed down due to re-development of the area in 2012. Commercial producers are still churning out batches in 6s and 12s, and they are even stocked by some of the large supermarket chains, but they taste best when home-made. Obvs.

Before we get to the recipe, a word or two about ingredients…

  • These oatcakes are made mostly of oats, in the form of oat flour. If you want to hunt out some oat flour, then have at it, but I’ve found, through trial and error, that whizzing some steel-rolled oats in a spice grinder is both easier and cheaper. You could probably use a blender as well, as they too have the off-set blades necessary to chop the oats into a suitable fineness. Whatever is easiest being the main order of the day.
  • You can use instant yeast, but I must admit, the batter made with fresh yeast always tastes better to me.
  • I’ve read a lot of recipes and watched many a documentary clip on Staffordshire Oatcakes and I’m going to confess up front that this recipe might be viewed poorly by oatcake devotees. It makes a batter that is rather thicker than the traditional, which results in a thicker oatcake. In my defence, it makes for a more durable oatcake which I can then turn easily in the pan without it breaking, and it ‘laces’ beautifully, with the surface becoming dappled with the characteristic pockmarks and holes seen also on pikelets and crumpets. The thickness also allows for a wonderful contrast when toasted between the crisp outsides and the fluffy insides. If all this is a heresy to you, feel free to dilute the batter down to your liking after the 1-hour rise.
  • If you have a decent non-stick pan, you can cook these fat-free.

Staffordshire Oatcakes

280g oat flour – ground from steel-rolled oats
110g stoneground wholemeal bread flour
110g strong white bread flour
1tsp granulated sugar
1tsp table salt
20g fresh yeast, crumbled or 1 sachet fast-action yeast
450ml whole milk – warmed
450ml warm water

  • Put everything into a large bowl and whisk together with a balloon whisk. Alternatively, use a stick blender.
  • Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise.
  • Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. If your pan is in need of a little help, use a sparing layer of fat (bacon fat or lard) to help prevent your oatcakes from sticking.
  • Gently stir your oatcake batter. The yeast and rising time will have turned it into a liquid with the consistency of frothy double cream.
  • Put 1 ladle/cup of batter into the middle of your pan and tilt the pan around until the batter has spread fully. Don’t be tempted to use the back of your ladle/cup to spread the batter out, as it’s very easy to spread it too thin and either make holes in the middle, or edges so thin they begin to burn before the middle is cooked.
  • The moisture in the batter will soon evaporate, leaving a lacy surface of holes and craters where bubbles from the batter burst.
  • Allow the oatcake to cook until there is no moisture visible on the surface – about 2 minutes.
  • Using a spatula or slice, loosen the edges and then the undersides of the oatcake until it is freely sliding around in the pan.
  • Flip the oatcake over and cook for another 2 minutes or until the surface is starting to brown (see photo).
  • When done, slide out of the pan onto a wire rack to cool.
  • Continue until all the batter is used up. This will make a batch of about 10 sturdy oatcakes.

As the oatcakes cool, they will soften and take on the appearance of a floppy pancake. Wrap in plastic and store in the fridge until required.

Oatcakes for Breakfast/Brunch/Snack/Whenever

You can put whatever you like in your oatcakes, but a filling of bacon and cheese is not only traditional but forms one of those rare, simple ingredient combinations that border the sublime.

You will need:

oatcakes
back bacon rashers – 2-3 per oatcake
grated vintage cheddar cheese

Sauce – brown or red (optional)

  • Grill your bacon or cook in a pan until beginning to caramelise. Set aside and keep warm.
  • Take your oatcake and put into a hot, dry pan – ideally the one you originally cooked it in. An oatcake has two very different sides, the pockmarked ‘front’ and the smooth, brown ‘back’. Put the ‘back’ of the oatcake into the pan first.
  • Allow the oatcake to heat through for 1.5-2 minutes.
  • Flip the oatcake.
  • Sprinkle the cheese over the hot ‘back’ (which is now uppermost) of the oatcake. It will melt as the other side toasts.
  • When the underside of the oatcake is warmed through and crisp, lay 2-3 rashers of bacon on top of the melted cheese on one half of the oatcake and fold the other half of the oatcake over (as in the photo).
  • Slide onto a plate and enjoy with sauce, if liked.
  • Repeat as often as necessary.

 


Stuffed Muffins

Stuffed Muffins
Wotchers!

Here’s an idea I came up with for a no-mess breakfast sandwich, snack on the go – or brunch whilst lolling around on a Sunday.

Stuffed muffins!

Stuffins!

Soft, pillowy muffin dough is folded around a filling of your choice, and cooked on the griddle (or in my case, a heavy-duty frying pan) for just 7 minutes each side. No more worrying that your filling is going to slide out from between your muffin layers, or spill down your front. Best of all, no greasy fingers!

I opted for a mixture of well-seasoned caramelised onions, chestnut mushrooms softened in butter and a feisty cheddar. It’s a combination that I’ve only recently discovered, having been rather ambivalent about mushrooms for many years, but now I’m slightly obsessed with it. The earthiness of the mushrooms, the richness of the onions and the sharp tang of cheese is seriously delicious. Chestnut mushrooms have a rich mushroomy-y flavour without the black of portobello mushrooms.

You can obviously customise the filling to your own tastes. I would heartily recommend a cheese of some sort – to bind everything together in a delicious, gooey bundle.

Stuffed Muffins

Makes 10

1 batch of fresh yeast muffin dough, after the first rise
6 onions, peeled and diced small
250g chestnut mushrooms – sliced thinly
60g unsalted butter
30ml vegetable oil
pepper and salt
100g cheese of choice

cornflour to sprinkle

  • Melt 30g of butter in a heavy pan over a medium heat.
  • Add the mushrooms, sprinkle with a little salt and cook until the mushrooms are softened and most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool.
  • Melt the remaining butter and the oil in the pan and add the onions.
  • Sprinkle with a little salt and stir over a medium low heat until softened and starting to brown. Season with pepper.
  • Drain the excess oil from the onions by placing a sieve over a bowl and pouring the onions into the sieve. Leave to drain and cool.
  • Cut the cheese into small (5mm) dice.
  • Mix together the cheese, onions and mushrooms in equal quantities by volume. Use a cup. Any cup. You’ll have onions and mushrooms to spare. Keep the remainder in the fridge in plastic boxes to brighten up sandwiches and snacks.
  • Tip out your risen muffin dough and divide into 100g pieces.
  • For each piece of dough, fold the edges in towards the middle, then turn over so that the folds are underneath and the top is smooth. Cup your hand over the dough and roll it in small circles, shaping the dough into a smooth ball.
  • When all the dough has been shaped, for each piece of dough, roll out gently to a diameter of about 10cm.
    • Add 2tbs of filling to one half of the dough. Dampen the edge of the dough with a little water, then fold the dough over the filling.
    • Pinch the edges together neatly to form a tight seal.
    • Sprinkle the worktop with cornflour and set the shaped and filled dough aside to rise.
    • By the time you’ve finished filling and shaping all of the dough, the first ones will be ready to cook.
  • To cook the stuffins:
    • Heat a heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat until thoroughly hot.
    • Turn the heat down to low and add in 2 or 3 of the stuffins turning them upside down as you do so. By cooking the slightly dried top first, the stuffins will retain a more muffin-y shape.
    • Cover and cook for 7 minutes.
    • Gently turn the stuffins over and cook, uncovered, for another 7 minutes.
    • Cool on a wire rack.
  • Serve warm.
  • To reheat, zap in the microwave for 15-20 seconds, then toast each side for 1 minute in a dry pan.