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Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

I recently bought chocolate hot cross buns from the Daylesford Organic café on Pimlico Road. They were nice, but for my taste not chocolatey enough, so I thought I’d give it a go and make a version myself.

I based the recipe on Ciril Hitz’s basic sweet dough, but halved the amount of yeast, added a tablespoon of rye sourdough starter, and used a mix of stoneground spelt and strong white flour (about 80:20) . I also added 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 60g chopped milk chocolate (I would have preferred dark chocolate and more of it, but this is all I had at home), a teaspoon each of ground all spice, cinnamon and cardamom, and rum soaked sultanas. After a two hour rise on the counter, I left the dough in the fridge overnight, then shaped the buns and let them rise for another two hours. After baking I mixed icing sugar with a little bit of lemon juice and piped on the crosses.

I’m happy with the result –  light and fragrant buns, although next time I will increase the amount of chocolate and cocoa powder.

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I’m a convert!

Today, inspired by my mum’s description of the pasta she ate at an Italian cookery demonstration, I decided to try out the recipe for dinner. This was going to be my second attempt at making pasta from scratch. Last year I tried  my hand at making tagliatelle, but as I was too lazy to get out my unused and rather dusty pasta machine, I rolled out the dough with a rolling pin as thin as my patience would let me, and then cut the dough into strips with a knife. The result were very rustic tagliatelle, which I hadn’t felt like recreating since.

But today I did get out the pasta machine, and lo and behold, I managed to make beautifully thin and even – and very tasty –  tagliatelle. So now I’m a convert to the pasta machine and homemade pasta! Will I still buy pasta? Yup. But for weekends or special occasions I will definitely blow the dust off the pasta machine again.

The recipe – serves 2 hungry people:

250g Italian 00 flour
6 egg yolks
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients together and knead to form a soft and uniform dough. If you don’t have Italian 00 flour to hand and instead use e.g. stoneground plain flour like I did, you will most likely need to add a lot more liquid. I added quite a bit more olive oil, water, and a whole egg. Put the dough in an airtight container, or wrap in cling film, and leave in the fridge for an hour. Roll out the dough into thin sheets (thinness depends on personal preference) and cut into strips, or triangles, or whatever shape pleases you. Boil in salted water for 2-3 minutes, or until al dente.

You’ll be left with 6 egg whites, which you could use to make a huge batch of macarons, or maybe relax after the meal with an egg white facial mask.

Homemade pasta with wild garlic, spring onions and cherry tomatoes:

Homemade pasta

Wild Garlic Focaccia

Yesterday at Pimlico Farmers Market I bought a bunch of wild garlic from one of the vegetable stalls. First time I’d ever seen it on offer there. And the first time that I’ve ever come across fresh wild garlic, apart from longingly gazing at illustrations of it in cookbooks. So today, already a little panicky that it might wilt in the fridge before I get to do anything with it, I decided to use some of it in a focaccia. A no-knead focaccia, to be precise.

  • 250g strong white flour
  • 5g salt
  • 4g fresh yeast*
  • 185g water
  • chopped wild garlic – amount depends how much you like the taste of wild garlic. I like it a lot, and used about 1/3 of the bunch. Next time I wont forget to weigh it…

* Use half the amount if using dried active yeast, and a third of the amount if using instant/quick yeast.

Chopped fresh wild garlic

 

 

 

 

 

Mix all the ingredients a bowl until it comes together in a rough dough.

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Just mixed dough

 

 

 

 

 

Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

Pinch a piece of dough, stretch and fold it over into the middle of the dough. Repeat, working yourself around the dough until you end up at the beginning. Cover the bowl and let rest for another 15 minutes.

Repeat the folding of the dough.

At this point, B and I decided to go for a walk in Battersea Park, since it was far too sunny to stay in doors all day (besides, I really felt like eating a soft ice cream, once upon a time – in the good old days of my childhood – called a 99 flake. I dimly remember it also costing 99p back then, whereas now it costs an arm and a leg, or £2.20). So I put the dough into the fridge, and when I came back home  two hours later (and one soft ice cream heavier), I did another round of stretch and fold. By this time the dough had developed an elastic and smooth texture. Well, as smooth as it can get with all the wild garlic pieces.

Dough - 2nd stretch and fold

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then put it back into the fridge for another hour or so.

(If you don’t have a park near you to go for a walk in, repeat the stretch and fold 4 times every 15 minutes. Leave to rise for an hour on the counter or refrigerate for several hours until shaping or putting in a tin.)

Preheat the oven to 230˚C (top and bottom heat).

Grease a small roasting tin (20x25cm) and gently squish the dough flat and into the corners of the tin. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for ca. 45-60 minutes. Dimple the dough with your fingers, sprinkle olive oil and sea salt on top, and bake for ca. 20-25 minutes.

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Let cool on a wire rack – if you are patient enough. I wasn’t. Best eaten on the same day.

Focaccia cut

Chocolate Macarons

My aunt gave me a silicon macarons baking mat for my birthday. Et voilà, my first chocolate macarons with a prune and chocolate filling.

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Not perfect looking, but very scrumptious. Recipe by David Lebovitz.

Kvasovka

So, I think it must be time for another bread soup recipe: the Sourdough Soup! This is a Czech recipe and I found it in this book:

 

I made the soup last autumn, when the first really cold days set in, and that’s the kind of weather this kind of soup is perfect for. Not really suitable for spring, definitely not for summer, but I just checked the weather forecast and hurray, hurray, it’s going to rain tomorrow! Phew, I thought I’d have to wait another six months before I could tell you about this.

Kvasovka (“Kvas” means sourdough)

1l water

1 large onion, diced

1 tbsp caraway seeds

3-4 tsp salt

1/4 l rye sourdough (starter)

1/8 l cream or milk

2 eggs, whisked

Bring the water to a boil, add the salt, and then the onion and caraway seeds. These should boil for about 10 minutes, then whisk in the sourdough. Let the soup cook for another 5-10 minutes on low heat, stirring continously. Then whisk in the cream or milk and the eggs. Best enjoyed with boiled or baked potatoes.

Bread Soup

Before I started making my own bread, I occasionally bought bread from artisan bakeries such as Poîlane, Pain Quotidienne, and Paul. But due to my usually low budget, this was always more as a treat, or when I was feeling extravagant.Ursi eating cardboard Of course good bread shouldn’t be a luxury, nor be an extravagant buy. Mostly though, I bought bread from the local supermarket, which, even though baked in the store, just isn’t that nice and always reminded me of cardboard (and as you can see, I have cardboard eating experience).

Unsurprisingly, I did not eat very much bread and often would be left with half a loaf gone stale that would turn totally dry and brittle within a couple of days. I did not want to throw those leftovers away, so I took frequent walks to Battersea Park and fed them to the birds. But if it is good bread, no one need fear of ending up with fat ducks, as there are countless ways to make it into a great meal, and using it in soups is one such way.

Bavarian Bread Soup

Where I come from in Bavaria people make a very simple, but very tasty, bread soup. It used to be a poor man’s meal, but these days it can be found on the menu of high-end restaurants. First, fry some sliced onions in butter or oil until lightly browned. Cut some stale bread into little pieces and place into a bowl. Any type of bread is fine, although sourdough bread is especially good for this. Add the onions and some chopped fresh herbs of your choice (e.g. parsley, dill, coriander, chives), and cover with boiling hot broth (I’m vegetarian, so I use vegetable broth; “traditionally” meat broth is used, or even just plain old water), and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mahlzeit!

 

Hello World!

This is my first ever blog entry. It’s terribly exciting. In fact, I’m “giddy as a schoolboy” as Dr. Elsa Schneider said. So, yes, I’m very giddy. With excitement and a good dose of trepidation; it’s a potent combination. For my first post I thought I’d say a bit more about what I do and how the LBB came about:

I am orginally from Germany and have lived in London for many years with my partner Birger. Whilst writing a PhD thesis, I started baking bread and cakes. Lots of bread and cakes! I thought that if I am procrastinating, I might as well do something I like and which I can eat afterwards. In the process I discovered that I really, really enjoy baking, it’s something I can do all day long. I also discovered that baking bread must be one of the most gratifying things to do – at least for me. The idea of having a small baking business began to form, and as if by divine intervention, I came across the Bread Angels course offered by Virtuous Bread. I duely enrolled, honed my bread baking skills and learned about the business side of selling bread. Fast forward a couple of months, and voilà, the Little Bear Bakery is open for business. Hello Galaxy!