Tenderstem

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I have been working with Tenderstem® recently to create some recipes under their ‘date night’ theme.  This really appealed to me as I love the idea of giving vegetables a starring role by building a dish around them.  Tenderstem is a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale and although at its best in the Spring, is available in the UK all year round.  In the States, it is more commonly known as Broccolini and is not to be mistaken with Broccoli rabe, which is in the turnip family. 

Incredibly, a 100g portion gives you your entire daily requirement of vitamin C as well but Tenderstem is also packed full of vitamin A, calcium, folate and iron.  It is an incredibly versatile ingredient as it can be steamed,  boiled and stir fried of course, but I particularly love it roasted or grilled.  You can even eat it raw in salads or as a crudité.  I’ve put together an elegant date night dish for Tenderstem® with polenta and chorizo crumbs (for when you want to impress your date) and a more relaxed pizza for when you’ve been together a bit longer and just fancy a slobbing out in front of the telly.  Finally I’ve wrapped them in prosciutto with a hollandaise-style dip, which would make a lovely starter – or even brunch the next day. 

Smoky Three Cheese Polenta with Sautéed Tenderstem, Chorizo Crumbs and Parsley
Serves 4

You will need:
300g tenderstem
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
50g chorizo, finely chopped or blitzed in a food processor
40g fresh breadcrumbs
200g instant polenta  
50g smoked cheese, grated
30g grated mozzarella
30g parmesan, grated
1 tsp chipotle paste, optional
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
small bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped.

Method:

1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Add the tenderstem and simmer until just cooked through, with a little bite, about 5-7 minutes.  Drain and run under cold water to stop the broccoli cooking and set the colour and texture.

2. Heat 1/2 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan and add the chorizo.  Fry until golden then remove to drain on kitchen paper, keeping the fragrant oil in the pan.  Add the breadcrumbs and fry in the oil until crispy – about 3 minutes.  Combine with the cooked chorizo.  

3. Fill a large saucepan with 1 litre of cold water and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a simmer then slowly pour in the polenta.  Lower the heat immediately and stir continuously until cooked, about 5-7 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat and add all of the cheese, stirring until completely dissolved.  If you’d like extra smoky flavour, add up to 1 tsp of chipotle paste.  

5. In a large frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil and add the tenderstem and garlic slices.  Sauté until heated through and the garlic is crispy.

6. To serve, reheat the polenta and divide between four plates.  Top with the tenderstem and sprinkle with chorizo crumbs and chopped parsley.  

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Wholemeal pizza ‘bianca’ with Tenderstem and red pepper sauce (romesco)
Makes 2 large pizzas

You will need:
For the pizza:
300g wholemeal flour or wholegrain spelt flour
30g grated parmesan
1x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
1 tsp salt
200ml water
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100ml double cream
25g grated parmesan
50g grated mozzarella  
1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked and roughly chopped  
220g tenderstem
2 large handfuls rocket

For the red pepper sauce:
2 red peppers
1 clove garlic
1 red chilli, deseeded
50g blanched almonds
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Method:

 1. Being by making the pizza dough.  Combine the wholemeal or wholegrain flour, grated parmesan, yeast and 1 tsp salt in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre.  Mix together the warm water and oil and pour almost all of it into the bowl, mixing with your hands as you go.  Add as much of the rest of the water as you need for form a sticky dough.  Tip onto a floured work surface and knead for a few minutes, so it comes together and feels elastic.  Cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes in a warmish place.  

2. Meanwhile, make the red pepper sauce.  Grill the peppers in the oven or, if you are feeling confident, over a gas hob until charred.  Leave until cool enough to handle, then remove the skin, seeds and any remaining stalk.  Blitz the peppers in a food processor along with the garlic, chilli, almonds and vinegar.  With the motor running, gradually add the olive oil until you have a dressing-like sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.

3. Place the tenderstem in a large pan of salted boiling water.  Cook until just tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Refresh under cold water, drain thoroughly and set aside.

4. Preheat the oven to 200 C.  Divide the dough into two and roll out on a floured work surface into two rounds, about the thickness of a pound coin.  Place each round on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper and leave for a further 15 minutes until beginning to poof up.  

5. Combine the cream and cheeses with a little seasoning.  Spread over the pizzas and sprinkle over the rosemary.  Top with the tenderstem and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and the veg is starting to crisp up.  Top with the rocket and drizzle with the red pepper sauce just before serving.

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Tenderstem Dippers wrapped in Prosciutto with Lemony Hollandaise
Serves 4

You will need:
220g Tenderstem
80g prosciutto slices, halved lengthways
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
100g hollandaise sauce
zest and juice of 1 lemon
small bunch chives, chopped

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200C.  Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Add the tenderstem and simmer until just cooked with a little bite, about 5-7 minutes. Drain thoroughly.

2. Wrap each broccoli stem in a piece of prosciutto and place on an oven tray.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic oil and bake for about 15 minutes, until the prosciutto has started to crisp up.

3. Meanwhile, mix the hollandaise with the lemon zest, chives and a squeeze of juice. Serve with the tenderstem broccoli, letting your guests dip the stems into the sauce.    

The Magnificent Meyer Lemon

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It seems so very fitting that this is the time of year when citrus fruit is at its best. These last few weeks the temperature has been sticking firmly around the freezing mark.  Is it only me or was it warmer last winter? I cycled everywhere last January and February! This year my bike hasn’t seen daylight for weeks. So these zesty bursts of brightness feel pretty essential. I always look forward to enjoying clementines and tangerines at their sweetest in January and lately I’ve been stock piling blood oranges- greedily peeling each newly bough batch to see if their ruby shade has intensified with the passing weeks.

This year, I found a real, unexpected treat on a routine trip to Tesco, of all places, where I stumbled upon a pack of MEYER LEMONS. I can’t tell you how excited this made me.  I’ve never seen them in this country but remember them fondly from my New York days.  For those of you unfamiliar with the fruit, imagine if a lemon and a mandarine had a lovechild.  Basically, it has all the zesty freshness of a lemon minus that bitter edge. Less sour, more sweet. Plus you can eat the skin and rind, like a giant yellow kumquat. They are hugely popular in the States, where Wikipedia tells me they were introduced over a hundred years ago. Which begs the question- what took the rest of us so long??!

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Anyway, I hope they are on their way to becoming a regular supermarket feature over here as well.  Although they did actually sit for days in my fruit bowl before I finally decided what to do with them- too much choice!  Like garden-variety lemons, these Meyer cousins actually work well in both savoury and sweet dishes, so I mixed and matched. Here are the results.

First up, the ultimate lazy weekend brunch pancakes.  These could also be made in miniature as little blini style nibbles, topped with a little creme fraich and dill.  They are very light and fluffy, almost soufflé-like, which makes them a bit less robust for cooking and flipping, but definitely worth the extra care once they’ve hit your plate.  

Buckwheat Buttermilk Pancakes with Mayer Lemon and Dill
served with smoked salmon and creme fraiche
Serves 4

You will need:

100g buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
2 egg whites, 1 whole egg
140ml (half pot) buttermilk
1 tbsp maple syrup
about 1.5 tbsp chopped chives
zest and juice of 1 meyer lemon
olive or coconut oil

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Method:

1. Place flour and bicarb in a large bowl with a pinch of salt.  Whisk in the buttermilk, whole egg and maple syrup then add the chives, lemon juice and zest, beat well. 

2.  In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until thick, frothy and just holding their shape in soft peaks.  Carefully fold into the pancake batter. 

3.  Heat a good glug of oil in your best non stick pan and add a ladelful of pancake batter.  These might be a bit tricker to flip than your average pancake- a palette knife will help. 

4.  Serve straight away or keep warm in a low temperature oven while you crack on with the remaining batter.  Try the pancakes with smoked salmon and a dollop of creme fraiche.  For a sweeter version, omit the chives and add another tbsp of maple syrup and serve with berries.

In doing my Meyer Lemon recipe research, trying to sift through the overwhelming possibilities, I stumbled upon quite a few pizza recipes topped with whole slices of the fruit.  While this intrigued me, I’m not sure I would want them to feature quite so prominently on my dinner plate.  However, it did get me thinking about how they might work as a topping for other bread-based products, something sharable like focaccia.  My take on this is based on my go-to recipe for bread of this kind- the Schiacciata from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’ which is totally failsafe and has all of the light airiness that you’d want from an Italian flatbread. 

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Meyer Lemon and thyme Focaccia
Makes 1 large focaccia loaf

You will need:

350g strong white flour
150g Italian 00 flour
2 tbsp sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
20g fresh yeast
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
small bunch thyme, some leaves picked
2 meyer lemons, thinly sliced

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Method:

1. Place flours and salt in a large bowl.  Mix the yeast with 1 tbsp of blood temperature water in a small bowl or jug.  Measure out 300ml of blood temperature water, adding the yeast mixture along with 2 tbsp of the olive oil. 

2. Make a well in the flour and add the liquid ingredients, mixing until it begins to form a dough.  Tip onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes until you have an elastic dough.  You can of course use a stand mixer if you prefer.  Form the dough into a ball and place in a clean, lightly oiled bowl.  Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for about an hour.

3.  Meanwhile, place thyme stems in a small bowl, cover with cold water and set aside.  Oil a large rectangular baking sheet generously. Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F/gas mark 6. 

4. Tip out the dough and knead briefly before stretching and punching out to cover the baking sheet.  Cover and leave to rise for a further 30-40 minutes.  Towards the end of the rising time, drain the thyme and shake off any excess water.  Once the dough has puffed up, arrange the lemon slices and thyme sprigs over it and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.  Sprinkle with a little sea salt.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and hollow sounding when the base of the bread is tapped. The lemon may caramelise a little, cover with some foil if it starts to turn very brown.  Allow to cool on a wire rack before sprinkling with a few extra thyme leaves and tearing into. 

I suppose all these meyer lemons have reminded me of other foodstuffs that I miss about my time in the big apple.  In particular the Eastern European and Jewish heritage which lends so much to the baking culture that is taken for granted there- the most amazing bagels, of course, but also wonderful cakes like the babka.  This twisty loaf cake is usually made with chocolate and cinnamon, but can of course be filled with anything you like.  It is made from a yeasted dough and in that respect reminds me a lot of some of the braided loaf versions of cinnamon and cardamom buns we have in Sweden. 

 This recipe is not for the faint-hearted.  Adding the butter by hand is a nightmare as the dough and the fat will not seem like they want to mix together at all, rather just slip and slide around each other.  Trust me, they will come together with a little patience.  It is also essential that the butter is at room temperature.  Of course, if you have a stand mixer this will save you the agony, but as I do not as yet own one (my little Bow kitchen has no space for such luxuries), this is the way that I roll. 

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Meyer Lemon, Cardamom and Pistachio Babka
Makes 1 babka

You will need:

For the dough:

250g plain flour
50g golden caster sugar
15g fresh yeast
1 egg, beaten
zest and juice of half a meyer lemon
75g unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the filling:
50g green pistachios
25g golden caster sugar
60g butter
2 tsp cardamom
zest and juice of 2 meyer lemons

 Method:

1. To make the dough, combine the flour and sugar with a pinch of salt in a large bowl.  In a small jug, measure out 75ml of water and dissolve the yeast into it.  Add the egg, lemon juice and zest and beat well.  Make a well in the flour and add the liquid ingredients, mixing until just combined.  

2.  Tip out the dough onto a well floured work surface and knead to come together.  Continue kneading by hand for about 10 minutes, until elastic.  You can test this by pressing a finger lightly into the surface of the dough, pulled slightly taunt.  It should slowly spring back.  At this stage, you can start adding your butter, a tsp or so at a time, kneading and folding until it starts to dissolve into the dough before adding the next teaspoonfull.  This will take time and be very messy and greasy.  There’s no way around it, but it will work with patience.  Put the radio on.

3.  Place the now quite greasy dough into a medium sized bowl.  Lightly grease a bit of cling film and cover the bowl, placing in the fridge to rise slowly overnight. 

4.  To make the filling, simply blitz the pistachios and caster sugar until the nuts have broken up to a fine powder.  Add the butter, cardamom, lemon zest and juice and blitz for form a smooth paste.  Refrigerate until the next day.

5.  Generously oil a 900g/1lb loaf tin and line the base with rectangle of parchment and remove the filling from the fridge to soften slightly.  Tip the dough out onto a well floured work surface.  Roll into a thin rectangle, about the size of an A4 piece of paper.  Spread with the filling then roll into a sausage-like shape.  Trim the ends to remove any messy edges then, using a large sharp knife, divide the roll in half lengthways.  Lay each half next to each other vertically.  Pinch the top ends together before gently twisting the two halves of dough around eachother by lifting each side over the next.  When you get to the bottom, pinch these ends together as well. 

6.  Carefully lift into your prepared loaf tin- it might be a bit to short for your babka, in which case simply curve it in to form a snake-like shape.  Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for about 1.5-2 hours in a cool spot. 

7. Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F/gas mark 6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a skewer inserted to the cake comes out clean.  If it starts to brown a bit too much, just cover with foil and continue to bake.  Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes before turning out to a wire rack.  For extra sweetness and as I often do with cinnamon buns, I brushed my loaf with a light sugar syrup while it was still warm.  Slice to serve with a cup of tea or coffee. 

Danish Rye

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                                                                                                                                   Nyhavn

I haven’t been to Copenhagen since I was quite young and my memories of the city are a bit hazy.  I think at the time I was most excited about seeing the mermaid statue- Disney to blame there, I’m afraid.   But it is fair to say that it was a much busier, livelier city than I remembered or expected.  Perhaps because I’m used to the relative peace and quiet of Stockholm, despite being a bigger city- at least in terms of population (or so Google tells me).   It seems like (and the Stockholmer in me can’t quite believe I’m saying this) somewhere with a bit more going on.  

While this buzz felt really exciting, I left feeling that it’s a city that has gained an international reputation (not least when it comes to food) perhaps before it was quite ready for it.  For example, there is so much to do and see, but everything shuts so early.  We found the service in general, with only a handful of exceptions, rather brusque and bordering on rude. But more than that, it seems to be a city very much in flux as the many building projects and developments hinted at- roads, offices, flats and bridges, growth spurts everywhere like teens in the summer holidays.  I’d love to go back in a few years and see what kind of a city it becomes. 

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                                                                                                     Looking across the water towards Noma

The food though, oh the food.  There is no shortage of exceptional places to eat and drink.  And yes, we did manage to get a booking at Noma for lunch as a once-in-a-lifetime, just-married treat.  And yes, it was incredible (with wonderful service, incidentally).  And yes, I took some snaps.  And no, I won’t be blogging about it.  Partly because it has been done, partly because I covered it at the time on Instagram, but also because no photos or description I could provide would do it justice.  It was entirely out of this world, mind-boggling and unlike anything else I’ve eaten and experienced.

Other foodie highlights include Granola on the lovely Værnedamsvej in Frederiksberg.  Nestled between little design shops, florists and bars, Granola seemed the perfect place to watch Cophenhagen style hunters go oby over, well, granola.  They also do fluffy pancakes, traditional hearty porridge (served with cranberries, cinnamon and butter) and eggs any way you’d like.

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                                                                                                                               Værnedamsvej florist

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                                                                                                              Cophenhagen courtyard

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                                                                                                                              Café Laundromat

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                                                                                                              BioMio in the old Bosch warehouse in Kødbyen

We were entirely spoilt for choice for where to go out on Copenhagen’s light summer evenings.  The one thing I would say is that it is a shame everywhere closes so early, particularly when the days are so long.  The streets were absolutely deserted by 11pm and forget about getting any food whatsoever post about 9pm, which didn’t suit our lazy honeymoon mindset at all.  We were caught out quite a few times, settling into a funky bar, ordering drinks and before we knew it (but just as our appetites started to wake up), they had stopped doing food.  Get with it Copenhagen!

Some fave areas included Nørrebro, where we found the Laundromat Café on Elmegade (yes, an actual laundromat as well as a café and bar, although no machines whirling when we were there).  The meatpacking district of Kødbyen (literally ‘Meat village’) would definitely be top of my list were I to return to Copenhagen anytime soon- most of the old slaughterhouses have been turned into restaurants, bars, cafés, delis and art galleries and the whole area makes for a lively place to spend an evening, wandering between place to place.  Some of the area’s original history still endures, turn a corner and you may well come face to face with a butcher’s shop window. 

Other highlights include Dyrehaven bar for its selection of beer and nibbles and the wonderful Torvehallerne market which overflowed with pristine fruit and veg, incredible fish and seafood and the most beautiful, almost architectural open sandwiches (which inspired my recipe, see below).  The cafés there will also do you a damn fine breakfast.   

I should probably but in a disclaimer at this point to note that you shouldn’t just go to Denmark or Copenhagen for the food.  It is a gorgeous city to walk or cycle around and of course you can’t move for design- the Designmuseum and Statens Museum for Kunst as well as the quieter Danish Architecture Centre.  But you can also see plenty of contemporary design for free at Hay House, George Jensen, Illums Bolighus and the Royal Copenhagen Flagship store to name but a few.  Not to mention a few recognisable landmarks that are worth seeing in person- we were delighted to be staying to close to the actual Borgen

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                                                                   The imposing entrance to Fiskebaren in the old ‘beef and pork hall’ in Kødbyen

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                                                                                               One of the remaining butchers in Kødbyen

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                                                                                                  Inside Dyrehaven bar on Sdr. Boulevard

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                                              Oils and other potions in Torvehallerne

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                                                                                                           Fruit and veg at Torvehallerne

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                                                                                     Fish and seafood at Torvehallerne- just look at those eels!

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                                                                                                                A selection of open sarnies at Torvehallerne

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                                                                                 Breakfast in Torvehallerne

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                                                                                                                                   Post breakfast

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                                                               Some ubiquitous Scandi design

One of the inescapable staples of Danish food culture is the dark, treacle-y seed filled roggebrød.  Dense rye bread, filled with hearty goodness and available at practically every meal time.

For me, this was what I was most keen to perfect from our trip so that I could enjoy it back at home in London.  I thought it was important to develop a simpler recipe that didn’t use traditional sourdough, as it would be easier to throw to together, although, I accept, finding rye seeds and flakes isn’t exactly something that you can do at your local Tesco Metro- I would go online for this and stock up.  I promise it’s worth it.  I’ve used treacle too, for depth of flavour.  The photographs are, once again, by the fantastic Faith Mason

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 Danish Rye Bread

Makes 1 loaf

You will need:

120g rye flakes
50g rye seeds/grain
80g sunflower seeds
20g linseeds
12g sea salt
30g fresh yeast
50g treacle
250g rye flour, plus a little extra
100g strong bread flour

Method:

1.  The night before you wish to make the loaf, soak the rye flakes, grain and all of the seeds in 200ml of water and leave overnight.

2.  The next day, mix the treacle and 100ml water (at blood temperature) together in a small bowl.  Crumble in the yeast and stir to combine.  Place the flours in a large bowl along with 12g of salt.  Add the yeasty mixture along with the seeds and grains.  Mix until you have a very sticky dough.  Turn this out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes.  It will be a very tricky dough to work with- sticky and dense, but that’s to be expected.  Hang in there.

3.  Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave  in a warmish place (an airing cupboard is perfect) for at least one hour, until the dough has visibly risen.  Tip out of the bowl and knead briefly, only for a few seconds, before shaping.  I baked my loaf in a lightly greased 900g/2lb loaf tin.  Leave, covered in a clean tea towel, for a further 45 minutes, until the dough has risen to fill out the tin.

4.  Preheat the oven to 230 C.  Sprinkle the bread with a little extra rye flour then place the tin in the middle of the oven.  Immediately turn the heat down to 180C.  You can also put a baking tray with hot water in the bottom of the oven, to create steam.  Bake for 40 minutes, until the loaf is dark and sounds hollow when tapped on its base.  Turn out of its tin and leave to cool completely before slicing. 

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Healthy Hot Cross Buns

Alright, so the title of this post is a little misleading.  I’m not entirely sure it would be possible to make healthy hot cross buns, as there is no way of getting around it- they are a treat.  But you can make them a bit healthIER.  I’ve tried to lighten them up a little with the addition of spelt flour, oats, agave and grated apple for sweetness and oil instead of butter for richness.  There’s still plenty of spice there and if you pop them in the toaster, you’ve got a perfect Easter breakfast.  This was originally a recipe I created for Women’s Health Magazine.  You can see it and other healthy treats here.  Make a large batch then freeze the rest for later.

Lighter Hot Cross Buns
Makes 16 buns

You will need:

500ml skimmed milk or dairy-free alternative
4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
4 cloves
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 2 oranges
300g spelt flour
300g strong white bread flour, plus about 100g extra for kneading and the crosses
1 tsp salt
100g oats
1 x 7g sachet fast action yeast
50ml sunflower oil
3 tbsp agave nectar
1 large egg, beaten
1 apple, coarsely grated
2 tsp cinnamon
60g currants
2 tbsp apricot or fig jam, ideally a no added sugar brand

Method:

1. Bring the milk to boil with the cardamom pods, cloves, lemon zest and zest of 1 orange. Set to one side and allow to cool to blood temperature.  Meanwhile, sift the flours and salt into a large mixing bowl. Tip in the oats, yeast, oil, agave and beaten egg. Once the milk has cooled, remove the cloves and cardamom and pour into the bowl.  

2. Mix together until the ingredients are well incorporated. Then tip the dough onto a generously floured work surface and knead for a good 10 minutes, either by hand or using the dough attachment of a table top mixer. It will seem like a very wet dough, but keep working it, slapping it onto the work surface to develop the gluten. It will eventually come together to form a sticky, but elastic dough. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to prove in warmish place for about 1 hour, until risen.

3.     Tip the dough out onto a floured work surface and flatten slightly. Mix together the apple, cinnamon, currants and remaining orange zest and sprinkle over the dough. Knead briefly to distribute all the ingredients. Divide the dough into 16 even pieces and roll into smooth balls. Arrange the buns on 2 lightly oiled baking sheets in rows of 4, about 1 cm apart. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for a further hour.

4. Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200/gas mark 7. In a small bowl mix together 30g of flour with 2 ½- 3 tbsp water, adding the water gradually until you have a thick paste. Scrape into a small sandwich bag. Once the buns have risen and puffed up, cut off the tip of one corner of the sandwich bag and use to pipe crosses over the buns. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, swapping shelves halfway through. Meanwhile, heat the jam with 2 tbsp of water in a small pan until the jam has melted and is syrupy. Sieve into a small bowl and use to brush over the buns as soon as they come out of the oven. Transfer the buns to a wire rack and allow to cool before tucking in.

Wild Yeast

While I was at Leiths, there was a  great talk by Hilary Cacchio who is an expert on all things wild yeast related.  Having always wanted to get into making sourdough, it was a fantastic introduction and way into this enormous subject, not least as I was able to buy some of her 16 year old starter, originally made from organic American grapes.  

There is something a bit magical about yeast culture.  And I mean magical in the wizard, slightly mad-scientist way.  I can completely understand why people become a bit sourdough obsessed- it is incredibly satisfying making bread with a yeast you have to maintain and keep happy.  And all you’ve used is flour, water and a little salt!

The main difference, really, compared to making breads with commercial yeast is time.  Firstly in terms of maintaining and feeding the yeast- a commitment in itself.  Secondly, in the time it takes to make the bread.  Whereas with standard yeast a dough will take about an hour or so to rise in a warmish place, with sourdough the slower, the better.  Six hours or so in a cool place?  Perfect-if not a bit on the quick side. 

Having said that, I’ve been surprised both at how easy it is to keep the yeast going and how little effort it actually takes to make bread itself.  The culture is surprisingly resilient, so although there has been the odd occasion when I’ve missed out on a feed, it doesn’t seem to have harmed the yeast too much.  And although it does take a long time to make the bread itself, a lot of that time involves minimal effort from you.  You can just leave it and crack on with other things. 

If you haven’t got your own culture, there is a wealth of information on the Internet- get researching.  You could try this as a way to start you off.  I’m dying to give it a go, but feel I’ve still got so much to learn just in terms of how to maintain and bake with sourdough, that it’s enough for now.  I’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime, here’s some pictures and a recipe from Hilary‘s fantastic class.  

Feeding the starter- organic flour is best
Room temperature water and a bit of a stir
  
Plenty of bubbles
Combining the frisky starter with flour, salt and water to make a dough

At the start and end of the kneading process

Before and after it has been left to rise
Discs of dough ready for rolling into cigar-shapes
Baguettes, shaped and proving (L) and slashed and ready for the oven (R)

Just add butter and jam
The recipe below is the one I’ve had the most success with.  I’ve been making baguettes, but you can also use it for pitas, calzones and simple white loafs.   The recipe makes 3 medium sized baguettes, but, as you can see from the pics above, I often multiply the recipe by 1.5 or 2 to make more. I also find the bread freezes well. 

Hilary Cacchio’s Simple Wild Yeast Dough (Summer)
You will need:
250g very frisky sour dough culture
180g water at room temperature
450g strong plain flour (ideally organic)
10g Malden sea salt
Method:
1.  Put the frisky culture into a large bowl and stir in the water.  Mix in the flour and salt until it is fully incorporated.
2.  Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 2 minutes.  Cover with the bowl and leave to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. 

3. Knead for for 20-30 seconds or until the dough begins to resist.  Cover with a damp, clean cloth and leave to stand for 10 minutes.

4.  Again, knead for 20 seconds, cover and leave for 10 minutes.

5.  Repeat the process a further three times, finally leaving the dough for 15-20 minutes and check the gluten development.  

6.  Return to a clan bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave to ferment until doubled in volume.  Ideally somewhere relatively cool (10-15 C).  This will take some time.

7.  You can now either shape the dough or leave in a lightly oiled plastic bag (unsealed) in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Shaping a Baguette

8.  Divide the dough into 3 balls, flatten each firmly with the palm of your hand to create a disc and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

9.  Roll each disc into a thick cigar shape and then roll and stretch to a baguette shape.  Place on a well-floured baguette cloth or tin to prove until doubled in size.

10.  Slash the baguettes and bake in preheated oven at 225C, until deep golden, hollow sounding when tapped on the base and it feels light for its size. Leave to cool before tucking in, or slather with butter while still a bit warm.