Baguettes

Baguettes

Wotchers!

Behold the best baguettes I have ever made! Aren’t they pretty!?

Having enjoyed the luxury of freshly-baked bread whilst on holiday, I decided to see if I could capture all that crunchy goodness myself. I’ve had a few attempts over the years, but nothing has been particularly successful, the main fault usually being the consistency of the dough: it’s either to tight and bakes heavy, or it’s too lithe and bakes flat.

So I turned to the internet and found a genuine Frenchman who not only explained the legal requirements of the composition, i.e. since 1993 the “baguette de tradition française” must be made from wheat flour, water, yeast or levain or both, and common salt. It may contain up to 2% broad bean flour, up to 0.5% soya flour, and up to 0.3% wheat malt flour, but he also had a video demonstrating his method, which is what produced the fab loaves at the top of this post.

Caveat: The method is simple and straightforward if you have a mixer with a dough hook and an oven that will get really hot. If you don’t have both, then this is not the post for you.

Don’t be tempted to tweak the recipe – I have been there and done that already, so I’ve saved you time. Don’t get lazy with the measuring of the ingredients, or try and rush the rising time. Just follow the instructions as they are written and all will be well.

You will also need a large container to store your dough in the fridge for the required time, with enough room for it to expand – I have a 5 litre plastic box with a lid that just squeezes onto a shelf.

If you’d like to watch the video, you can find it here.

Aside from translating from French, I have not changed this recipe at all.

Baguette Crumb

Baguettes

The method for this dough does not require much effort, only time. Be sure to allow each stage its full allotment of resting time. One batch of this dough is just enough for five standard baguettes, although I have been making just four, and adding the remaining dough to the next batch of baguette dough, as a levain.

Stage 1 – autolyse

1kg strong white flour
650ml water

  • Put the flour and water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix on slow for 4 minutes.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Stage 2 – mixing the dough
20g salt
8g fresh yeast, or 1 sachet fast-action yeast
70ml water

  • Add the salt and yeast and mix for 8 minutes on slow.
  • Add the water and mix for 3 minutes on fast. The dough will now weigh almost 1.8kg, so unless your machine is heavy-duty, you might want to hold it steady for this part. At the end of the mixing the dough will be soft, elastic and very shiny.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and allow to rest for 1 hour.
  • Deflate the dough – I use a few turns of the dough hook.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  • Transfer the dough to a box, cover and store in the fridge for a minimum of 6 and up to 48 hrs.

Stage 3 – dividing the dough

I recommend watching the video above to see how to handle the dough – it’s a controlled ‘tip’ and gentle initial shaping of the dough.

  • After a minimum of 6 hours, tip out the cold dough and divide into standard baguette pieces of 350g. You can just bake a single baguette at a time and store the rest of the dough until needed. You could divide the whole batch, and then keep the loosely shaped pieces of dough in your covered box until required. Sprinkle the dough being stored with flour to help prevent  crust from forming.
  • Gently draw the dough pieces into a soft cylinder and allow to relax for 15-30 minutes.

Stage 4 – shaping the dough

  • Even though the loaves above look OK, my shaping skills still needs refining. Nevertheless, they improved greatly after watching these two videos which can show you far better than I could explain: Video 1, Video 2.
  • Sprinkle a baking sheet with semolina and lay your shaped baguette(s) on it.
  • Sprinkle the top of the baguettes with flour to help prevent them from drying out, cover with a clean cloth and allow to rise for at least 1 hour. Now that the warm weather has disappeared, and depending on the temperature of your kitchen, you might want to allow it a little longer to rise.
  • Put a baking tray in the bottom of your oven and pre-heat it to 300°C, 280°C Fan. No, that it’s a typo. You need a roaring hot oven to bake these. If you don’t think your oven can get that hot then just crank it up as high as it will go.
  • Have ready a jug of warm-hot water.
  • When your baguette is risen, just before putting it into the oven, slash the top four times to allow the dough to expand neatly as it bakes.
  • Put the dough into the oven, pour the water into the hot baking tray underneath, and bake for 20 minutes. NB Even though my oven DOES go up to 280°C Fan, the bottom of the baguettes sound ‘heavy’ when tapped after 20 minutes, so even at this temperature I still need an extra five minutes (for a total of 25) to get that nice, hollow, well-baked sound.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

 


Khachapuri

Wotchers!

Bread and cheese is a classic pairing. With these two ingredients, you know you’re in for something tasty, and khachapuri, the cheese-stuffed Georgian breads, are a fine example of the very best dough-based snacking/carbohydrate comas that these ingredients can offer.

That said, there’s also a great deal more to khachapuri than just bread and cheese, and after years of gathering both recipes and information, I’d like to present a modest collection of just ten of the wonderful variety of dishes available under the khachapuri umbrella.

Khachapuri Dough

Whilst the regional differences of this dish can be quite startling, for the most part a great number of them can begin with one batch of dough. Whilst I have tried several over the years, this one is my favourite for the delicious softness and pillowy-lightness of the end result. To a certain extent, it is rather vague, as the flour quantity might well vary, depending on the moisture content of the other ingredients. For best results, allow the dough to mature in the fridge for 2-3 days, but you can also use it after only one night if you’re impatient

1 litre plain, fat-free yogurt
50g butter
40g fresh yeast
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tbs sugar
1tsp salt

Strong white flour to mix

  • Put the first six ingredients into a large bowl and mix to combine.
  • Gradually sprinkle in the flour until the whole comes together into a soft dough.
  • Knead thoroughly, until the dough is smooth.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic film and a clean cloth and allow to rise for 1 hour.
  • Tip out the risen dough and knock back.
  • Transfer to a suitable container, cover and chill in the fridge for up to 3 days, or until required.

 

Cheese filling

As previously mentioned, a great number of regional khachapuri can be formed from the one dough. A number also feature a mixture of local soft Imeruli and Sulguni cheeses. If you have no access to these cheeses, you can make your own mixture from those you do have to hand. A popular pairing that provides both the tang and melting qualities of the original is equal proportions of crumbled feta and grated/diced mozzarella. My own preference is for equal quantities of feta and Taleggio or Reblochon. The quantities required are, of course, dependant on the size and quantity of khachapuri you are making, but a generous 100-200g of cheese per 100g of dough is a very workable guideline.

Imeretian/Imeruli

From the central Georgian region of Imereti, the Imeruli khachapuri is a circular loaf with a cheese filling, and is the most common form of khachapuri.

For 1 Imeruli khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
100-200g grated cheese mixture
a little beaten egg (optional)
20g cube butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the cheese mixture into the middle of the dough. You can use a little beaten egg to bind it together if liked.
  • Fold the edges towards the middle and gather them together, pinching them closed. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • When the dough is sealed around the filling, turn the dough over so that the seal is underneath.
  • Using the hands, gently press the dough out to a circle of about 20cm, taking care not to rip or tear the dough.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Cut into wedges and serve.

Mingrelian/Megruli:

As above but with an additional 50g of cheese sprinkled on top before baking.

Adjarian/Acharuli/Adjaruli:

In the south-west corner of Georgia, Adjaria lies on the coast of the Black Sea and has close geographical and cultural ties with Turkey. The Adjarian khachapuri is boat-shaped, and filled with cheese. Towards the end of cooking, an egg is cracked onto the bubbling cheese and the loaf returned to the oven until the egg white is cooked and the yolk warmed but runny. A  pat of butter is added just before serving.

For 1 Adjaruli khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
100-200g grated cheese mixture
1 large egg
20g cube of butter
additional butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and roll out to a rectangle 30cm x 15cm.
  • To form the sides of the boat, starting at one end, roll the dough towards the middle. Repeat for the other side, so that the dough then resembles a scroll.
  • For each end, cross one end over the other and pinch the edges together firmly.
  • When both ends have been pinched together, hold the dough at each end and push towards each other gently: this will force the rolls apart and thus form the boat shape.
  • Add the cheese into the boat and transfer to a lined baking sheet.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and stir the cheese filling. If liked, you can use the tines of a fork to scoop out any underdone dough from underneath the thick sides before cracking the egg onto the hot filling.
  • Return the khachapuri to the oven until the egg is cooked to your liking.
  • Glaze the edges of the pie with butter, add the cube of butter and serve.
  • You can tear off pieces of the edge to dip into the middle.

 

Ossetian/Osuri:

Ossetia straddles the border between Georgia and Russia, with Northern Ossetia under Russian control, and South Ossetia lying within Georgia’s borders. The Osuri khachapuri is circular, with a filling of potato and cheese.

For 1 Osuri khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
100g mashed potatoes
25g butter
125g grated cheese mixture
salt and pepper to taste
20g cube of butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Mash the potatoes while hot and stir in the butter. Mix in the cheese and set aside.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the cheese and potato mixture into the middle of the dough.
  • Fold the edges towards the middle and gather them together, pinching them closed. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • When the dough is sealed around the filling, turn the dough over so that the seal is underneath.
  • Using the hands, gently press the dough out to a circle of about 20cm, taking care not to rip or tear the dough.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Cut into wedges and serve.

 

Kartopiliani:

These pies contain no cheese, being filled instead with a savoury mixture of mashed potato, fresh dill and onion.

For 1 kartopiliani khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
150g mashed potatoes
1tbs butter
chopped fresh dill to taste (optional)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2tbs cooking oil
salt and pepper to taste
20g cube of butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Mash the potatoes while hot and stir in the butter. Mix in the dill, if using, and set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions until browned. Add onions to the potato mixture and stir to combine.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the potato mixture into the middle of the dough.
  • Fold the edges of the dough towards the middle and gather them together, pinching them closed. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • When the dough is sealed around the filling, turn the dough over so that the seal is underneath.
  • Using the hands, gently press the dough out to a circle of about 20cm, taking care not to rip or tear the dough.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Cut into wedges and serve.

Gurian/Guruli khachapuri:

Guria is a province in the west of Georgia, on the shores of the Black Sea. To the south is Adjaria, and Imereti lies to the north. The Gurian khachapuri also rejoices in the name of Christmas Pie and, unusually, is crescent-shaped. Baked as part of the celebrations during the midwinter feast, they are filled with cheese and hard-boiled eggs, the shape supposedly resembling the crescent moon or a hunter’s billhook.

For 1 Gurian khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
100-200g grated cheese mixture
a little beaten egg (optional)
1 hard-boiled egg
20g cube butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the cheese mixture onto one half of the dough. You can use a little beaten egg to bind it together if liked.
  • Cut the boiled egg in half lengthways and lay, cut side down, on top of the cheese.
  • Fold the edge of the dough over the filling and pinch the edges together. Mould the filled dough into a more crescent shape if liked. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Serve warm.

 

Ossetian

These circular breads are popular in South Ossetia. If you can’t get any beetroot leaves, you can substitute with Swiss Chard, kale, or spinach.

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
The leaves from 4-5 beetroot
100g cheese mixture
salt and pepper to taste
20g cube of butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Bring a pan of water to the boil and drop in the beetroot leaves.
  • Allow the leaves to simmer for 3 minutes, then drain.
  • Repeat the blanching, then drop the drained leaves into a bowl of cold water to refresh.
  • When cooled, dry the leaves on kitchen paper and cut away the fibrous stalks. Chop the leaves finely before mixing them with the cheese.
  • Season to taste.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the cheese mixture into the middle of the dough.
  • Fold the edges of the dough towards the middle and gather them together, pinching them closed. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • When the dough is sealed around the filling, turn the dough over so that the seal is underneath.
  • Using the hands, gently press the dough out to a circle of about 20cm, taking care not to rip or tear the dough.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Cut in

Lobiani Khachapuri:

Lobio is Georgian for kidney bean and lobiani is a seasoned, savoury paste makes a very popular khachapuri filling. Obviously, home-cooked beans will taste the best, but if you’re only making one khachapuri, then you can use ready-cooked, tinned beans. The recipe for cooking your own lobio is given below, and includes bacon, but this version is vegetarian.

For 1 Lobiani khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
1 x 400g tin of kidney beans
1tbs butter
chopped fresh savory to taste (optional)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2tbs cooking oil
salt and pepper to taste
20g cube of butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Tip the beans into a pan and slowly bring them to a simmer to warm them though.
  • Drain the beans and mash thoroughly with the butter and savoury.
  • Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions until browned. Add onions to the bean mixture and stir to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the bean mixture into the middle of the dough.
  • Fold the edges of the dough towards the middle and gather them together, pinching them closed. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • When the dough is sealed around the filling, turn the dough over so that the seal is underneath.
  • Using the hands, gently press the dough out to a circle of about 20cm, taking care not to rip or tear the dough.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Cut into wedges and serve.

 

Rachuli khachapuri:

Similar to Lobiani, but with the addition of meat in both the cooking of the beans, and the filling itself. The method is the same as above, so the recipe here is for cooking and flavouring the beans yourself. This makes a generous quantity, but the mixture can be frozen if it is not being used all at once.

For the seasoned bean filling:

500g dried kidney beans
250g smoked gammon or bacon
4 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic
50g unsalted butter

  • Soak the beans overnight.
  • Drain, add the beans, meat, bay leaves and garlic to a pan and add enough cold water to cover.
  • Bring the pan to a boil for 15 minutes. This is important in order to destroy the toxin present in the dried beans.
  • Cover and simmer until the beans are thoroughly cooked through. This will vary according to the age of the beans: about an hour for relatively fresh beans, longer for older.
  • When the beans are tender, drain and discard the cooking water, garlic and bay leaves.
  • Set the meat aside and mash the hot beans with the butter.
  • Chop the meat into fine dice and stir into the bean paste.
  • Season and proceed as above.

Penovani khachapuri:

The Penovani khachapuri is the easiest, simplest and speediest of all the regional variations. Together with the cheese mix of your choice, all that is required is some puff pastry and a little egg.

1 square of puff pastry
100-200g cheese mixture
beaten egg to bind and for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
  • Lay the square of puff pastry on a floured surface.
  • Pile the cheese mixture into the middle. You can use a little beaten egg to bind if liked.
  • Fold the corners of the pastry towards the middle and pinch the edges together to seal, envelope-style.
  • Brush with beaten egg to glaze, then bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size, until the pastry is puffed and golden and the filling melted.
  • Serve at once.

Drowned Fruit Tart

Drowned Fruit Tart

Wotchers!

Back in January 2015, I introduce you all to Drowned Doughnuts, a wonderfully light and flavoursome dough that had the unusual method of being proved in water (hence the ‘drowned’). At the time I mentioned that I would be returning to the dough at some point, for use in another recipe, and so here we are.

Yes,  I know it’s been two years, but I’m rather bad (or should I say, very good) at getting distracted.

ANYHOO…

Drowned fruit tart is deliciously adaptable to whatever fruit you have to hand – the usual filling is stewed apples, but I happened to have some beautifully coral-coloured, stewed Warden pears in the freezer, so went with those. The quantity can be dictated either by what you have to hand or by the shape of your tin for, as can be seen in the picture, any excess dough can be made into the aforementioned doughnuts. With a small addendum to the original recipe.

Anecdote Deviation: I like to think that I know a bit about a few bits of baking, here and there, and can usually deduce how something has been put together, and frequently the general method. There’s a pub nearby that we like to eat at, and their bread game is ON POINT! The pizzas are hand thrown and baked to order, and each table is brought a basket of freshly-baked rolls as an appetiser. Nice! My daughter is obsessed with these rolls, and secretly so was I, although I played it cool.

These rolls are the softest, most pillowy balls of fresh-baked dough I have ever eaten. And, frustratingly, I couldn’t work out how this was achieved. My understanding of the best way of achieving soft rolls has been tweaked over the years as I have picked up snippets of information here and there, and until recently consisted of: mix dough with half milk, half water, brush baked rolls with milk when they come out of the oven and allow to cool in a clean cloth, thereby trapping the steam and softening the crust. Even crisp mixed-with-water-only rolls will soften after such treatment. What was nagging at me was the fact that the pub rolls were obviously baked to order and brought to the table hot from the oven and yet they were so soft, so tender – I couldn’t work out how it was done.

Each visit would be followed by experimentation of one or two batches only to get the thumbs down from my daughter, so on a recent visit I decided to be BRAZEN and when the server approached the table with the (now legendary) basket of hot rolls and the question “Can I get you anything to start?” I looked him straight in the eye and said “The recipe for these rolls, please!” I know. Shameless – but I was desperate!

Bless his heart, he was back 10 minutes later with a hand-written recipe from the chef. Eagerly I scanned the recipe for the magic touch. Did he add cream? Maybe the rolls contained lard, or margarine. Oooh! Oooh! Could it be milk powder!? No. The one thing that differed from a perfectly ordinary bread dough recipe, the magical touch that set these rolls apart from all other efforts was – the rolls were brushed with melted butter before baking.

I must confess to being more than a little skeptical – I was familiar with the technique of brushing hot loaves with butter AFTER baking, sure (popular in Russia, Ukraine, etc) – it makes loaves beautifully glossy and burnished – but before? Nevertheless I was prepared to give it a go and brushed over melted-but-cooled butter on the batch I whipped up the very next day. And they were perfect. I couldn’t get over how perfect they were, how pillowy, billowy soft. My daughter was overjoyed.

Which is why, when making the leftover dough in this recipe into balls (as opposed to cutting them out originally), I brushed them with melted butter before baking. They turned out fantastically soft (*points at photo* See! SEE how lovely they look!) and, tossed in caster sugar, hot from the oven, about as close to a guilt-free doughnut as you can get.

All of which leads me ramblingly to this point: you’re never too old a dog to learn a new trick.

ANYHOO….

The tart. The extra little touch for this tart, aside from using sweet, vanilla-scented dough in place of pastry, is the treatment after it emerges from the oven. You spoon – or in my case pipe (fewer stray splodges) – sweetened sour cream/creme fraiche between the dough strands, directly onto the fruit filling and allow it to cool. The cream slowly thickens to a cheesecake-like texture which goes fantastically well with the sharp, fruit filling and the sweet dough. I also brushed the edges of the tart with melted butter, to keep them soft. I used clarified butter, for a more even colour (milk solids might bake as darker spots).

And finally, you don’t HAVE to let the dough rise in water, it will still rise just fine in a bowl.

Drowned Fruit Tart

1 batch of Drowned Doughnuts dough, after the first rise
500g-1kg stewed fruit – cooled
300ml sour cream/low fat creme fraiche
50g-100g sugar to taste
clarified butter, melted and cooled
caster sugar (for the doughnuts)

  • Grease and line a baking tin with parchment paper. Make sure it is deep enough to contain a decent layer of fruit filling. I used 500g of pears for the tart in the photo – on reflection, 1kg would have been even better.
  • Roll out the risen dough to a thickness of 1-1.5cm. It will obviously rise during proving and baking, so you don’t want to start too thick and then end up with something less-than dainty emerging from the oven.
  • Line the tin with the dough and allow any excess dough to drape over the sides.
  • Spread in your fruit filling evenly.
  • Trim the excess dough and re-roll the trimmings to make lattice strips. I opted for thin strips, twisted into ‘barley-sugar’ shapes.
  • Lay the strips diagonally across the tart to form a diamond lattice. Dampen the edges of the dough and fold them down and over the ends of the lattice strips to keep them in place. Crimp the edges of the tart neatly.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Brush the edges of the tart and the lattice strips with melted, cooled butter. Allow to prove while the oven heats up.
  • Bake until risen and golden. Depending on the size of your tart, this will be between 25-40 minutes.
  • While the tart is baking, divide any remaining dough into 30g pieces and roll into balls. Set onto a lined baking sheet to prove.
  • Mix sugar into the cream/creme fraiche to taste. I usually under-sweeten with just 50-60g of sugar. Spoon into a piping bag if liked.
  • When the tart is baked, remove from the oven and fill the lattice spaces with the sweetened cream. Set aside to cool for 3-4 hours. Serve at room temperature.
  • For the doughnuts: When risen, brush with cooled, melted butter and bake for around 15 minutes. Whilst hot, toss in caster sugar and set onto a wire rack to cool – or consume immediately, your call.

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!


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.

18th Century English French Bread

18th Century French Bread
Wotchers!

Bread is a curious topic to go a-hunting in the recipe archives because there are relatively so few recipes. Considering how central it was for such a large part of the population, the proportion of recorded recipes is surprisingly low.

The reason for this might be similar to that often cited as being behind Marco Polo’s failure to mention paper money in his account of travels in China: familiarity. It is a theory that Polo was so familiar with its usage after his many years in the country, and since his memoirs were written so long after his return, he completely forgot the surprise and wonder that the concept paper money would have for his readers. Perhaps the ability to make bread was so fundamental, so ingrained, few thought to write down the recipes since it was a skill everyone possessed.

It was also, however, a specialised craft, requiring both skill and equipment to produce on a large-scale, not to mention the unsociable hours and back-breaking work mixing huge quantities of dough without machinery. As such, as hard, manual labour, it was firmly in the province of the labouring classes, however skilled.

The more well-to-do, whose recipes have survived in household manuscript books, seem to have been partial to French bread, and it has been interesting to note the numbers of recipes for French bread consistently exceeding those for anything English. A large proportion of them are variations on this recipe, using egg whites as part of the liquid component.

French Bread

French Bread recipe dating from 1703, MS7788 in the Wellcome Library

I chose this 1703 recipe because of its simplicity – other recipes use whole eggs/butter/milk/cream, and I wanted to see whether the egg-whites had a noticeable effect on the flavour and texture of the loaf without any other distractions. The answer is yes – it is certainly different to a bread made without egg-whites. There’s no way to tell whether this is a genuine approximation of the French bread of the time, but I suspect that it wouldn’t have been too far removed from the sourdough bread enjoying a resurgence today.

Traditional sourdough, baked in a wood-fired oven, is a wonderful thing – insanely crusty with a great ‘chew’. It’s not to everyone’s tastes, though – which is where this loaf might gain favour. After baking, the crisp crust softens as it cools, making it easy to slice without the dangers of crust fragments ricocheting off at alarming speeds that comes with cutting a traditional sourdough. The crumb is open and springy with enough of a chew to make it very satisfying. From the photo above, it would appear that the centre of the loaf actually has a more open texture than the edges. It can be relished spread with just a little butter – and how long is it since you can say you honestly enjoyed a slice of white bread and butter?

I’ve obviously scaled this recipe down from the original and have made just one change: salt. True to my own code of conduct when working with old recipes, I did bake it ‘as written’ in the first instance, and while it had the great crust and texture described above, the flavour was lacking. Finally, I find it amusing to note that 300 years after it was jotted down, this recipe still takes just 30 minutes to bake.

18th Century English French Bread

450g strong white bread flour
1 sachet fast-action yeast
1tsp salt
50ml egg-white whisked with 300ml warm water
Additional warm water (maybe)

  • Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl.
  • Whisk together the eggwhites and the warm water and add to the dry ingredients.
  • Mix thoroughly, adding more water if required (unlikely), to form a rather soft dough.
  • Knead for 10 minutes.
  • Cover lightly with plastic and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour. If your kitchen is on the cool side, you can turn the oven to 160°C, 140°C Fan for 2 minutes, then switch it off and put in your dough to prove.
  • Tip out the risen dough and pat gently to deflate.
  • Shape the dough into a smooth ball and transfer to a greased 1kg loaf tin. The dough should half-fill the tin. If you’d prefer a taller loaf, use a smaller or longer shape.
  • Set aside to rise for 30 minutes. On cold days I put the loaf into the small top oven while the main oven below warms up.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, turning the loaf around after 20 minutes to help colour it evenly.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
  • Slice when cold.

Sheets and Blankets

Sheets And Blankets Loaf
Wotchers!

We’re back on the yeast this week, but to mitigate your groans of “Not AGAIN!?”, it’s an unusual and wonderfully quirky recipe.

I’ve adapted it from a description found in John White’s “A Treatise on the Art of Baking” from 1828, free copy available here.

It is made from a mixture of both wheat and rye doughs, but instead of the more usual marbling, the doughs are laid on top of one another in layers, so that when the loaf is cut, the contrast between the two doughs is quite striking.  This striped effect gives the loaf it’s name of Sheets and Blankets, as it resembles a stack of folded bed-linen.

As a loaf, it was already fading from popularity in 1828, as people moved away from the dark rye breads and the fashion moved towards whiter loaves, but not only is it pretty to look at, it is also delicious to eat.

The rye layers are both darkened and slightly sweetened by the addition of a little treacle and delicately flavoured with caraway seeds. Neither is overpowering, and the addition of the white dough layers does much to lighten the crumb. Whilst sturdy, and having a fabulous crust, it is nowhere near as heavy or as dense as an all-rye loaf.

The challenge with this recipe is the proving times of the different flours. Rye is much slower and so reluctant to respond to the yeast, it requires a staggered start, and only when your rye dough is starting it’s main proofing should you start making your wheat dough. I used wholewheat flour as the starter for the rye, otherwise the proving time would have been a much more lengthy process.

I chose to bake this loaf in a tin to accentuate the layers, but you can leave it free-form on a baking sheet if liked. It’d probably be closer to how it was originally baked.

You can also bake this using brown bread flour instead of the white, for a sturdier loaf and a more subtle contrast between the layers. Stoneground wholemeal flour is do-able, but just that bit too heavy on the chew, in my opinion.

Sheets and Blankets

You need to start the rye dough at least 1 hour before your wheat dough. You can use your regular white dough recipe, or follow the method below.

For the rye sponge
100g brown bread flour
15g fresh yeast – crumbled
25g treacle – warmed
180ml warm water

150g rye flour
1tsp caraway seeds
1tsp salt

For the wheat sponge
100g strong white flour
15g fresh yeast – crumbled
200ml warm water

150g strong white flour
1tsp salt

  • Whisk together the ingredients for the rye sponge, making sure to get plenty of air into the batter.
  • Mix the other ingredients together and sprinkle onto the yeast mixture.
  • Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside to prove for 1 hour.
  • After 1 hour, the sponge will have broken through the dry flour on top, and bubbles should be visible.
  • Mix everything together into a soft dough and knead for 10 minutes. You may need to add a little extra warm water if it’s looking a bit dry.
  • Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside to rise.
  • Whisk together the ingredients for the wheat flour sponge.
  • Sprinkle the rest of the flour and the salt onto the yeast mixture.
  • Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside to prove. This will probably take less time than for the rye flour.
  • After 30-40 minutes, the sponge will have broken through the dry flour on top, and bubbles should be visible.
  • Mix everything together into a soft dough and knead for 10 minutes.
  • Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside to rise.
  • The two doughs should be fully proved at around the same time. Since the wheat dough is going to be more lively, you can deflate it and set it to rise again if the rye dough still needs some time.
  • When both doughs are risen you can shape them into your loaf.
  • Tip out each of the doughs and deflate.
  • Cut off 1/3 of the rye dough and set aside. Divide the remainder into 3 even pieces.
  • Cut 3 x 100g pieces of the white dough. You will have excess dough, so shape it into rolls or put it in the fridge to use later.
  • Shape the six pieces of dough into similar shapes, and stack them alternately one on top of the other, starting with a piece of the rye dough on the bottom.
  • Take the remaining rye dough and roll out thinly. The original recipe recommended having the final layer of the loaf of rye dough, and I chose to roll the remaining dough really thinly and wrapped the whole loaf in a thin layer of rye. This was extremely tricky. Since the bottom layer of the loaf is rye, a much easier approach would be to drape the rolled-out dough over the loaf and either join it to the bottom layer by pinching together, or tuck the edges underneath. I then transferred the loaf to the tin, but if you’re baking the loaf freeform, you can leave it on a baking sheet as is.
  • Sprinkle the top of the loaf with rye flour to prevent it from drying out and set aside to rise for about 1 hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan.
  • There’s not much oven-rise, so no urgent need to slash the top of the loaf, but it shows a nice contrast of the white dough beneath the rye if you like.
  • Bake for between 50 minutes and 1 hour, until the base sounds hollow when tapped.
  • Set aside to cool on a wire rack.
  • Do not slice until completely cold.