Saturday, 23 January 2016

Soft Pretzels - Probaby the best Pretzels in the World!

Warm Soft Pretzels and Cold Beer - does it get any better without gravy?

For 1 dozen 6-inch Pretzels 
  • 1 tbsp or 1x7g package of fast action yeast (or equivalent)
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I used soft brown this time)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp softened butter, softened margarine lard or shortening - pick your clogger
  • 250g of warm (40 - 45 degC) water
  • 450g cups plain or bread flour
  • Coarse Salt or sea salt to sprinkle on Pretzels before baking
  • 2 tbsp baking soda mixed in 2 pints of water in a non-aluminum saucepan.
  • 1 large slotted spoon to "go fishing" for them pretzels.
Preheat oven to 250 degC

Put yeast, sugar, salt, butter/marg, water and 165g of the flour into a medium mixing bowl and pour in the water.  Stir until it's all smooth and leave somewhere warm until yeast starts to bubble.

At this point add the rest of the flour, stir till it is mixed in. When mixture is too stiff to stir with a spoon, begin kneading.

Knead dough till it's smooth.  Place back into cleaned out mixing bowl, sprayed with water and then spray the dough a bit.

Cover with cling film and place somewhere warm then allow dough to rise to about double its volume.  While dough is rising, bring water and baking soda to boil.

When dough is risen enough, punch down, knead for a minute or so, then divide into 12 equal pieces and roll into either 6-inch sticks with your hands, to about 1/2 inch in diameter, or 12-15-inch long rolls to make into the pretzel shape.  I like to make them taper away from a thicker middle to thinner ends to get the classic pretzel shape (below).

To make the classic 'Pretzel' shape follow, start with this shape.
and then fold the top half back towards you like this and push the ends down (or brush lightly with water to seal)

Allow sticks or pretzels to sit for about 1-2 mins. Place them into boiling water-baking soda mixture one or two at a time.

Let the pretzels boil for 1 minute 10 seconds, then flip them over with the slotted spoon and boil on the other side for 1 minute and 10 seconds.

This boiling step gives them a firm skin and adds some flavour. Not boiling long enough leaves them too soft and allows them to rise too much. Boiling too long makes them tough.

Fish them out of the water, let them drip dry a bit and place them on a lightly greased or non-stick baking tray.  When all the pretzels or sticks are done, sprinkle the coarse salt on them.  (I've made 6 pretzels like that and 6 sticks with a vinegar/salt/mustard glaze as shown below, with the RH 3 having fresh ground black pepper added for a wee kick.  1tbsp white wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp of sea salt and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard)

Bake for 12-15 minutes or till sticks or pretzels are golden brown.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Old Salty - from Corned Beef to Pastrami to a Reuben, from scratch.

This is an ongoing post, being created 'live' as we go.  If it appears unfinished at this time, that's because the beef is still in my fridge corning away quite happily.

Not to be confused with tinned 'Bully Beef' or the sliced stuff you buy from supermarket (ahem) Deli counters, proper Corned Beef is a different beast altogether.  More often referred to as Salt Beef in this county, it is an almost forgotten delicacy and a dying art, probably because it needs so much aforethought and a bit of preparation and looking after.  It's not exactly a fast or convenient food, but all you really need to do is think, 'In a couple of weeks, I REALLY want to be eating some good Corned Beef'.  Once you've tasted the results of the simple process of making Corned Beef, I guarantee you that if you love good food, then you will be making this regularly.  Then, once you've mastered Corned Beef, Pastrami is only one small step away.  Imagine making your own Pastrami and NEVER having to put up with that pale, tasteless imitation that you can buy pre-packed and sliced from supermarket shelves.

Basically, Corned Beef is a beef joint, usually Brisket, that has been, well, 'corned' (The clue is in the name).  Corning is simply a process of curing something in brine - probably coming from the coarse salt 'corns' that were used at one time to salt the beef as ordinary table salt was too fine for the job.  These days, it's more common to cure the beef joint in a brine solution.  The basic brine solution is the important thing and then then you can add some other spicey bits to personalise it and add more flavours.

WARNING - Prepare for this part now. You WILL need a food grade plastic tub with tight fitting lid, big enough to hold a large beef brisket and the brine.  Minimum 5 litres depending on how big you want your beef joint to be.

Remember, this is a long time curing process and at ALL STAGES ensure the utmost hygiene is observed.  Any bacteria that get onto the tub or meat will be dying to spoil your party and waste all your beef, never mind 2 weeks or more of waiting.

The basic brine is:
  • 2 litres of water.
  • 240g of table salt. (Cheap salt is good, but make sure it has no additives)
That's all you really need to get going, but if you're like me you will want to boost it up a bit and add some more flavour layers.  You can add a couple of tablespoons of shop-bought pickling spics, but I tend just to make my own version with whatever is at hand, like the following.
  • 1tbsp of coriander seeds
  • 1tsp of cumin seeds
  • 1tbsp of black peppercorns
  • 1tsp of mustard seeds
  • 1tsp of cloves
  • A couple of bay leaves
  • A pile of peeled, raw garlic cloves.
  • You can also use sugar. Sometime I do, sometimes I don't.
Another thing that you can add for a more authentic Corned Beef is a 1/2 tsp of Saltpetre (Potassium Nitrate) for every 2 litres of water.  However, I advise caution with this and suggest that you search the internet and make up your own mind on this.  Personally I use it as it helps to keep the solution sterile AND it keeps the cooked meats a nice 'pink' colour.  It has little if any affect on taste.  If you don't use it, the only thing you will see is that the cooked meats are a more 'grey' colour inside instead of the traditional pink of Corned Beef and Pastrami.

I put all the seeds (not the garlic cloves) into a small ceramic dish and then zap them in the microwave (uncovered) for 30 seconds or until you hear them sizzle a little, but you can dry fry them for the same effect.
Ignore all those recipes that call for 'Sea Salt', that's an expensive waste of money as it's all getting dissolved into solution anyway.  If you need more or less brine, it's simple to work out as the basic brine recipe is 12% salt to water. So for every litre of water you need 120g of salt.  (a litre of water weights 1kg or 1000g so multiply 1000 by 0.12 and hey presto)

Bring the water to the boil and then add the salt.  Stir to dissolve it and then remove from the heat, cover and leave to go cold.

In the meantime, prepare your beef.  You've probably bought your beef from your local butcher or supermarket and it's most likely rolled and tied.  Well untie it and unroll it and you're good to go.

Brine ready to go and a couple of untied, unrolled briskets.

In the photo above, there's a couple of unrolled briskets with a nice thin layer of fat still on them.  They are about 2kg each, perfect size for corning and making one into a Corned Beef and one into a Pastrami.

For 2 briskets above, I'll be using 2 tubs and 2 quantities (2 litres each) of brine solution.  Pour the COLD brine into your clean (sterilised) plastic container and add in any pickling spice and the garlic cloves that you want to use.  Put the beef into the solution and make sure it is completely covered and stays covered.  If you need to, put a sterilised (boiled) plate on top to hold the beef under.  Any exposed beef will go bad and spoil the whole thing.  Put the lid on and put the container into your fridge on the bottom shelf, right at the back and leave it there for 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the thickness of the beef.  The briskets above will be getting a fortnight of rest.  Every day I like to give the tub a little shake to agitate the brine and the spices and make sure all the meat is getting a good brining.  It's a good idea to check every day to make sure the beef is fully covered as well.

See you all in a fortnight.  The beef will be getting cooked on March 2nd and eaten March 3rd.  Salivating already.

12 days have now passed but not a day has gone passed without dreaming of pastrami.  So, now it's time to take the slabs of potential heaven out the brine, rinse and then let soak in fresh water for 24 hours.  This is not totally necessary if you' remaking just corned beef as you can just cooked it in spiced, unsalted water.  I've decided to make 2 Pastramis so I want to soak it before rubbing and smoking.

Rinse and then soak in clean, fresh water for 24hrs to remove a lot of the salt.
In the meantime, start to think about your Pastrami dry rub(s).  Here's the 2 that I'll be using, this time. (These make a lot, probably enough to cover 5 or 6 briskets (but it will keep), so if you need less then adjust down.  Grind the rubs together in a food processor.

Rub 1
Rub 1 - with fresh garlic.
1 cup coriander seed
½ cup black peppercorn
½ cup black or yellow mustard seeds (or you could just use a couple of tbsp of mustard powder)
¼ cup Spanish paprika
½ cup brown sugar
6 cloves garlic (or more to taste)

Rub 2 - Sichuan pepper (left) and black mustard
Rub 2 - with Sichuan pepper for umami.
½ cup coriander seed
½ cup black peppercorns
½ cup black mustard seeds (the Indian kind)
¼ cup Spanish paprika
¼ cup Sichuan peppercorns
1 cup of brown sugar
½ cup garlic powder.

Rub 2 is my own new creation getting tried out for a first time, today.  We'll see how it goes.

Put it all into a tight sealing tub and put away in the cupboard (not the fridge)

See y'all in 24hrs.......

Drained and Dried off

Now take the beef out, drain it and pat dry with kitchen roll.  For 'scale' that's a full size chef's knife next to the Beef.  The fat on top needs to be left on and make sure this is on top when smoking as it will help keep the meat moist.

Superb grain.  Note the colour has stayed pink due to the Saltpetre.

Notice the grain of the meat.  Keep this in mind when it comes to the finished article as you want to be cutting ACROSS the grain when serving.  The meat keeps it's lovely pink colour through the brining process - and through the cooking process - due to the saltpetre.

Cover your meats with the dry rubs and rub in well, all over and keep rubbing until they are all coated and the seeds are pushed well into the meat and fat.

Rubbed and ready to smoke.  Rub 1 on the left and my new creation, rub 2 on the right.
And, into the smoker they go for 4 hours of smoking with another 4 to 6 hours (or maybe more) of continued cooking (in the smoker but with smoke turned off)

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The birth and growing up of a Panuozzo

This is simply a photo journal of the evolution of a Panuozzo from dough to plate.  Click on the first photo to open a bigger photo and a slide show viewer (click on the thumbnails below the main photo that opens)

Well risen pizza dough
Turn out onto well floured surface

Stretch out and shape into a 'Ciabatta' style

Pre heat your pizza stone to HOT!!

Slide your breads onto the stone.

After a few minutes, breads will start to puff up and brown.

When almost done, remove to worksurface

Split open and add pizza sauce

Add more pizza type toppings of your choice

Close over and slide back onto stone and bake until everything is hot and melted

When steaming hot, melted and cripsy - remove, cool
a bit then devour with a large glass of wine or 3

DOH!! Cream Cheese Pastry - Pastry for men...

This is a pastry for men who like it a bit more flaky but don't want to phaff about with light, fluffy, tender, shortcrust pastry that needs treating with girly gloves.  Don't use a rolling pin to roll it out, use an empty whisky bottle and smoke a cigar at the same time.

This makes enough pastry for a 10" pie, bottom and top.  If you only want a pastry case bottom, then adjust the numbers.You will need:
  • 115g of unsalted butter at room temp
  • 115g of cream cheese at room temp
  • 60ml of double cream
  • 180g of plain flour + a wee bit more for rolling pastry out
  • 1/2 tsp of salt

 Put on some really loud, hardcore rock music and make sure your wall mounted Playboy Calendar is opened at Miss August and start making the pastry.

1.  Process the butter, cream cheese, and cream in a food processor, electric mixer, or by hand to thoroughly combine.

2.  Add the flour and salt. Process until just combined and the dough holds together in a ball. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Divide into 2 equal lumps. Flatten slightly into disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out, longer is better. If the dough is chilled overnight, take it out 15 minutes before rolling out.

3.  Rub flour all over a rolling pin (or whisky bottle) in a manly fashion while looking at Miss August adoringly and winking.  Place one of the dough disks on a well-floured surface. Applying some pressure with the rolling pin, roll gently from the centre of the dough to the top and bottom edges. Rotate the disk and roll to the top and bottom edges again. Add more flour to the work surface and rolling pin, turn the dough over, and continue to roll the dough from the centre out to the edges. Turn over and roll again, rotating the disk to ensure even rolling until the dough is about 12 inches in diameter, thin but not transparent.  Repeat with the other other dough disk.

Use pastry as required and give Miss August one more manly wink before hiding her back in the drawer before you wife comes in.


Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Pizza, Pizza, Panuozzo...???

Probably the most inspiring sandwich you'll ever make.  You cook the bread and the sandwich almost at the same time - could bread GET any fresher?  One of the best things about this sandwich is that it's hot so everything you put into it all comes together in one juicy, tasty, steaming, melting pile of deliciousness on a plate.  Best of all, it's simple. Once you've mastered the pizza dough, then making this is even easier than pulling a pizza base.

Make a Pizza Dough with 58% to 60% hydration.  i.e. 500g of flour to  290g to 300g of water.  500g of flour is enough to make 2 x 12inch breads.

Divide the dough into 2, put into tubs and leave to rest in the fridge overnight or up to 2 days.  Continue to follow the Pizza Dough instructions up to the point of doubling in size.  You will need to judge how cold or warm your kitchen is to figure out how long to leave them rising.  They need to rise SLOWLY so you want them somewhere less than room temperature for 6 to 10 hours.

Remember, they are starting out well chilled so it will take a couple of hours just for the yeasts to realise it's time they starting gorging themselves.  Be patient.

When your dough is good to go, put your pizza stone in the oven (preferably fan assisted) and fire it up to it's hottest and then when it reaches it's hottest, give it another 15 minutes to get the stone saturated with heat.  Or do what I do in good weather - fire up the wood fired oven and do it right :-)

Slide the dough onto the stone and let it cook until you see it puffing up and starting to go golden.  IT should take about 4 to 6 minutes depending on how hot your oven is.  It'll only take about 2 minutes in a WFO.  You need to get it out when it's only about 90% done.

Take it out and carefully (its full of scalding steam remember) cut it open along 3 sides and fold it open like a hot book.  Spread some pizza sauce on the open face of the bottom half, top with sauteed onions, ham, salami, cheese - basically anything you'd put on a pizza or a big sandwich - and then fold it closed.  Slide it back into the oven and continue cooking until the stuffing starts to sizzle and the cheese melts right through.  I sometimes like to cook mine until the dough start to blacken at the edges but I refrained for these photos.  Well cooked and crispy is just my preference.

Remove from the oven and put onto a plate or chopping board and allow to cool slightly.  The Panuozzo will be so hot inside that you will burn the skin of your mouth and I'm not insured so you can't sue me like you would McDonald's.  Ciao and Gustare.

PS - 'Panuozzo' is the Neapolitan for this pizza bread.  You might also see it called Panino di Gragnano or Pizza e Panuozzo.  Whatever it's called, I think it's a bit like a fresh made Ciabatta but only way better than anything you buy in a supermarket.  I'm still 'tinkering' with the recipe and the cooking method so I may post some more photos below later.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

If you want grain, sew da bread. Sorry, SODA BREAD.

Quick, easy and hearty.  Soda bread, made slightly heartier for that winter lunchtime snack.  'Traditional' (yawn) recipes either use wholemeal or plain flour, but I had some other flours lying about so I decided to chunk up the dough a bit.
Soda Bread cooling on a wire rack.

I used:  (FYI - I nicked the basic recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and manned it up)
  • 100g of Spelt Flour
  • 100g of Granary Flour
  • 250g of Strong White Flour
  • 2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 300ml of cultured buttermilk (Sound weird?  You can buy this in most supermarkets.  In Sainsbury's it's near the cream and yoghurt section.  If you can't find it, use a live natural yoghurt instead.)
  • 50ml of milk

Preheat oven to 200degC (fan 180).  You need the oven to be hot before the dough is ready as you want the dough straight in the oven as soon as it is mixed and the bicarb is still working away strongly.

Mix the flours (use any combination you want) with the salt and bicarbonate in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle.  Pour the buttermilk into the well and then use the milk to rinse out the tub and add that to the bowl as well.  No point in wasting all the butterymilk goodness.

Using a spoon, stir the buttermilk and gradually work your way out into the four so that the flour starts to mix into the milk.  Keep doing this until it is mostly incorporated and then get one of your hands messy.  Clean the spoon off with one hand and then use that hand to finish mixing the dough until it is well mixed up.  If you need to add a little flour do it now and do it quickly.  You want a dough that is still slightly sticky without being wet.

Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and continue to kneed until well mixed, but do not over kneed this. A minute is more than enough for kneeding, less is better.  You are not looking for a smooth, elastic dough like for yeast bread.

Shape the dough into a rough round and put onto a floured baking sheet or like me, on a baking sheet covered with a silicone sheet that has been well floured.  (I use silicone sheets a lot).  Dust generously with flour and then with a long, sharp serrated knife, cut a cross in the dough to a depth of about half to 2/3 deep.

Put it right in the oven and cook for 40mins or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped. underneath.  If it still sounds 'heavy' give it another 5 minutes.

When done, take it out and leave to cool slightly on a wire rack for a crunchy crust.  Eat while still warm with butter and jam or like me, with salted butter and strong cheese.  When it goes cold simply toast it and add even more butter.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Blondies. I'd call them 'Dumb Brownies but that's not PC.

Blondies - the lighter, less chocolatey version of Brownies, but even better with a cuppa good coffee.  VERY easy to make and hardly any washing up.  My kinda cake.

You will need:
  • 115g of butter
  • 100g of packed soft brown sugar (packed means straight from the bag, not loosened up)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 225g of plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsps of baking powder
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 150g to 180g of good, dark chocolate chunks or broken squares.
  • 75g of sliced almonds
  • Handful of chopped walnuts or pistachios or...

How to make:
1.  Pre heat oven to 180degC (fan 160) and prepare (grease with butter and line the bottom) a baking pan about 10" square. 
2 - In a pot big enough to hold about 6 pints of water, melt the butter over a low heat until just melted.  Do not overheat the butter - you're about to add raw eggs and you don't want them to scramble.
3  - Add the sugar and eggs (take them out the shell first smarty)
4 - Stir through and then beat until well blended.
5 - Stir in the next 4 ingredients and then fold in the chocolate chunks and almonds.
6 - Spread mixture into prepared tin and evenly distribute.  Sprinkle with the nuts.
7 - Bake in centre of oven for 30 minutes or until the old toothpick comes out clean.
8 - Cool on wire rack and then cut into 16 squares (if using a 10 x 10 inch tin).
9 - Make a good cup of coffee and use to wash down 2 or 3 Blondies when cool enough to eat, but not cold.

Remove from tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

While cooling, make a good cuppa coffee and then cut into squares and eat a few while still warm.