#Recipe – Baguettes

Apparently “to make a good French stick, with its distinctive open texture, you need a very lively dough that’s just slightly soft, rather than firm.  A bit of steam at the start of baking will help give the baguettes the traditional glossy, razor-sharp crust.” Oh and from start to finish, including proving time, you need about 7 hours! So in my humble opinion pop down to your local bakery, it’s a lot less hassle!

What you need:

300g strong white bread flour
200g plain white flour
1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
1 tsp salt
approx. 300ml lukewarm water
1/2 tsp salt, dissolved in 4 tbsp. cold water, for brushing

What you do:

  • Mix together both flours in a large bowl, then tip about half into another smaller bowl and set one aside.
  • Stir 1/2 teaspoon salt of the yeast into the flour in the large bowl, then work in the lukewarm water, using your hand, to make a smooth thick batter.
  • Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave on the side for 3-4 hours until the surface of the batter is covered with tiny bubbles.
  • Uncover the bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water into the batter.
  • Mix the rest of the yeast and salt into the flour in the second bowl.  Gradually work this mixture into the batter using your hand to make a slightly soft but not sticky dough.
  • Lightly dust hands and worktop and knead the dough for approx. 10 minutes until it feels smooth and stretchy.  Put the dough back in the bowl, cover again with clingfilm and leave to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.
  • Dust hands and worktop again and turn out dough – don’t punch down to deflate it.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut in half – in my experience, this was nigh on impossible as the dough just stuck to the knife.
  • Shape each piece into a rough ball, try not to handle too much, then cover loosely with a clean dry tea towel or clingfilm and leave for 15 minutes.
  • Move one piece of dough to the side.  Dust your rolling pin with flour and roll out the dough to a rectangle about 25 x 30cm. 
  • Roll up the rectangle fairly tightly from the long side, like a Swiss roll.  Tuck in the ends and pinch the seam together firmly.  The roll back and forth with your hands to make a sausage-shaped loaf approx. 40cm long with tapering ends.
  • Flour a large tray with flour, and lay the loaves on the tray.  Cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for approx. 45 minutes.
  • While the loaves are rising heat your oven to 230°c.  Put your baking sheet into the oven to heat up, and place an empty roasting tin on the bottom of the oven.
  • When the loaves are ready for baking, quickly remove the baking sheet from the oven and slide the loaves onto it.  Brush them with the salty water then make several slashes along the loaves with a sharp knife – again not easy.  Put the baking sheet back into the oven.
  • Pour a jug of cold water into the roasting tin to create plenty of steam, quickly shut the oven door and bake for approx. 20 minutes until golden brown and crisp.  Cool on a wire rack.

Results

This recipe is best eaten on the same day and I think without the salt water wash.

Since starting Weight Watchers one of the biggest things I miss eating is proper bread.  I’ve taken to buying the Weight Watchers branded bread which is perfectly ok but at the end of the day it is calorie and portion controlled – it’s not freshly baked thick bread! Slicing this baguette into 10 slices gives a Weight Watchers Smart Point value of 3SP per slice!  Bearing in mind I have an allowance of 30 per day – this type of bread is a diet killer!

Until next time…Happy Baking!

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Mary’s Religieuses

also known as miniature nuns is a technical challenge from the Great British Bake Off Everyday recipe book.  I baked these last weekend for a family tea.

This was the first time I’ve ever made choux pastry and this went rather well.  Quite often, my baking lacks something in presentation, but usually makes up for it in taste, however this time I was sure it was going to be the opposite as I had issues with the crème patisserie in that it was so lumpy I had to sieve it!!

I also think the recipe advises you to use too much chocolate, after decorating the Religieuses there was half a cereal sized bowl left over and they had been generously covered.

What you need:

You will need 1 large baking sheet, or 2 medium ones, lined with baking paper

For the choux pastry
60g unsalted butter, cubedIMG_2162
150ml water
75g plain flour
2 medium eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

For the crème patissiere filling
500ml full-fat milk
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
6 medium egg yolks, at room temperature
75g caster sugar
20g cornflour
25g plain flour

For the chocolate ganache
150ml double cream
200g dark chocolate (about 36% cocoa solids), broken into pieces

For the collar
150ml double cream, well chilled

What you do:

Prep – heat your oven to 220°c.  Draw eight 5cm circles and eight 2.5cm circles on the paper lining the baking sheet

Make the choux pastry – put the butter and water into a heavy pan and heat over a medium heat until the butter has completely melted, then bring the mixture to the boil, taking care not to burn the butter. Remove from the heat and tip in the flour.   *note, at this point it looks like slop and you’ll think it’s all gone wrong…just keep stirring and then it just happens!

Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a soft ball. Set the pan back on low heat and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, to dry out the dough.

From this >> to this!

From this >> to this!

Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition, to make a smooth, shiny paste.

Spoon the choux dough into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain tube. Pipe discs inside the drawn circles on the baking sheet. Dip your finger in water and gently smooth the top of each disc. Place in the heated oven and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 190°c and bake for a further 10-15 minutes until a good golden brown.

For once, my piping went rather well 🙂

choux buns

Remove the buns from the oven and pierce each one to allow the steam to escape. Return the choux buns to the oven and bake for 4-5 minutes so they dry out. Transfer the buns to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Make the crème patissiere. Pour the milk into a heavy-based medium pan. Using the tip of a small knife, scrape out the vanilla seeds from the split pod and add to the milk. Slowly bring to the boil, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside. Put the egg yolks and sugar into a heatproof mixing bowl and whisk together until pale, then add the cornflour and flour and whisk in. Continue to whisk as you pour on the hot milk in a thin steady stream. Pour the mixture back into the pan. Set over medium heat and bring to the boil, whisking constantly.

*I don’t know what happened here but my custard was horribly lumpy and I had to sieve it to make it usable

What you don't want!

What you don’t want!

Cook for 1 minute until smooth and thick. Pour into a bowl and cover the surface of the crème patissiere with clingfilm (this prevents a skin from forming). Leave to cool, then chill

Make the chocolate ganache by bringing the cream to the boil in a small pan, then remove from the heat. Add the pieces of chocolate and stir until melted and the mixture is smooth and shiny. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool, then cover and chill until the ganache has a thick coating consistency.

Assemble the religieuses by spooning the crème patissiere into a piping bag fitted with a long thin tube ( or use a jam or icing syringe) and fill the choux buns through the ‘steam hole’ made earlier.  It’s a good idea if the custard is quite thick otherwise it’ll just run out the holes when you fix together later…mine went everywhere!

This is a really messy bit >> dip the tops of the filled buns into the chocolate ganache to coat them halfway up the sides. Set a small bun on top of each large bun.

choux buns

Whip the cream until it will stand in peaks. Spoon into the clean piping bag fitted with a star tube. Pipe a line of cream around the join where the two buns meet to form a white collar. Serve as soon as possible after assembling.

choux buns

Despite my previous worries, these actually were rather delicious and the family loved them.  In all honesty, they’re a faff and I’m not entirely convinced that spending 2-3 hours doing this for 9 buns was really worthwhile when you can pick up a pack of 12 profiteroles in Sainsbury’s* for a quid!

*other supermarkets are available 😉

Mary's Religieuses

Until next time…Happy Baking!

Apple & Oat Muffins

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Here’s another recipe I’ve been meaning to try from my Great British Bake Off Everyday recipe book.  It’s a simple, quickish recipe with tasty results!

What you need:

For the toppingIMG_2013

50g porridge oats
50g Demerara or caster sugar
50g plain flour
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the muffin base

250g plain flour
25g porridge oats
175g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
Grated zest of 1 medium lemon
150g unsalted butter, diced
2 medium eggs, at room temperature
100ml milk, at room temperature
1 large eating apple, cored & cut into small pieces

What you do:

You’ll need 1 muffin tray lined with paper cases

> Heat your oven to 190°c

> Make the crumble topping first by putting the oats, sugar and flour in mixing bowl. Cut the butter into pieces and rub into the mixture to make rough crumbs.  Put aside till later.

Apple & Oat Muffins

> Make the muffin base by putting the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest (I used some lemon juice as I forgot to buy a lemon) into a mixing bowl and mix with wooden spoon.

> Gently melt the butter in a pan or microwave and leave to cool.

> Beat the eggs and milk in a small bowl. Then add this and the melted butter to the muffin mixture and stir gently until combined. It doesn’t need to be beaten.

Apple & Oat Muffins

> Spoon the mixture into the paper cases. Then top with the chopped apple and gently press the apple into the mixture. The apple should remain visible.  It might look like you have lots of apple left over, but do use it all, because the apple sort of evaporates into the muffin mixture when baked.

> Cover the apple with the crumble mix.

> Bake for approx 30-35 minutes until golden and just firm when pressed.

Apple & Oat Muffins

Cool on a wire tray before serving.

Apple and Oat Muffins

Until next time…Happy Baking! 🙂

Pecan Blondies

I love pastries and bakes with pecans and have been meaning to try this recipe for ages. This one is from the Great British Bake Off Everyday book.  I have to try my bakes on a specific audience, usually my work colleagues, because my immediate family testers are too fussy so they were the guinea pigs this week 🙂

What you need:IMG_1992

175g white chocolate (about 25% cocoa solids)
115g unsalted butter, diced
100g caster sugar
2 medium free range eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
125g plain flour
150g pecans

What you do:

> Heat your oven to 180°c and prepare a 20cm brownie or shallow baking tin by greasing and lining.

> Put the chocolate and butter into a large heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water to melt gently.

> When the chocolate has almost melted, remove from the heat and stir until smooth.

> Stir in the sugar (it may look curdled, don’t worry).  Leave to cool until barely warm.

> Whilst cooling, put the eggs and vanilla in a bowl and beat with a fork.

> Add to the chocolate mix and stir well with a wooden spoon to make a glossy mixture.

Pecan Blondies

> Sift in the flour and baking powder and stir in.

> Add 100g of the pecans and mix well; confession – I only bought 1 x 100g pecan bag because they were quite expensive. So I used 3/4 of the bag and broke them up into small pieces. This was more than sufficient.

> Pour the mixture into the tin, spread evenly and then scatter the remaining pecans on the top.

> Bake for approx 20-25 minutes. Check it’s done by skewering halfway between the middle and the edge of the tin as the centre will still be slightly soft.

Pecan Blondies

> Leave to cool on a wire rack. When cold, remove from the tin and cut into squares. I managed to get 16 with these ingredients even though the recipe reckons it made 36!!

These blondies were really delicious and very moist. The pecans were quite strong flavoured and I couldn’t really taste the white chocolate; I guess that’s why using a chocolate with a high cocoa percentage is a good idea rather than the cheapest.

Pecan Blondies

Until next time….Happy Baking!

Apple Cake

I’ve been meaning to bake this pie ever since I got the Great British Bake Off Everyday recipe book and last weekend I made it for Mother’s Day lunch. There are a lot of steps to this recipe but it is worth the effort.

What you need:

For the pastryIMG_1963
300g plain flour
Pinch of salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp caster sugar
200g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
Grated zest of 1 small lemon
1 medium free range egg yolk
4 tbsp milk

For the filling
50g unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp caster sugar, + extra for sprinkling
Grated zest of 1 small lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
850g dessert apples (about 8)

1 x 26cm pie plate or deep ovenproof plate

What you do:

> Make the pastry first by putting the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar into a bowl of a food processor. Pulse to mix.

> Add the pieces of butter and then run the machine to make bread crumbs.

> Add the lemon zest.

> Mix the egg yolk with the milk and then gradually add to the pastry mix. Mix till it forms a dough.

> Turn out the dough, flatten, wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.

Apple Cake

I used the dough hook on my freestanding mixer to make the pastry and it turned out brilliantly. Was the first time I’ve ever made pastry like that….so much easier and quicker!

> Now to make the apple filling; put the soft butter, sugar and lemon zest and juice in a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until soft and creamy (quite hard work this!) It’s fine if it looks a little curdled, mine did. Set aside. Then, peel, core and thinly slice the apples.

Apple Cake

> Heat the oven to 190°c and put a baking sheet in the oven to warm.

> Lightly dust your work surface with flour. The recipe says cut off 1/3 of the pastry to use for the base of the pie but I had a good chunk left over at the end so I would suggest to use half.

> Roll out your pastry and then use the rolling pin to place in the pie dish. Leave the overhanging pastry for now.

> Arrange your apples in layers in the pastry case and dabs of the lemony butter between layers. Brush the rim with water.

> Roll out the remaining pastry to make the pie lid and place on top of the apples. Press down the edges to seal. Trim off any extra pastry with a sharp knife. Then scallop the edges (this was the hardest bit of the process, trying to interpret the recipe’s instruction without any photos, basically I made small cuts around the edges and then pinched them. I’ve no idea if that was right but it looked ok!).

Cut a small slit / steam hole in the pie top.

Apple Cake

> Use any remaining pastry offcuts to make pastry decorations: apples, leaves or whatever takes your fancy. Lightly brush with water to stick them on. Brush the pie with water and sprinkle with sugar.

Apple Cake

> Put the pie plate on the warmed baking tray, place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the pastry starts to turn brown. After the 20 mins turn the oven down to 180°c and bake for a further 20-25 minutes.

Best served warm with custard, in my opinion, but I suppose you could have ice cream or cream 😉

This does have a very lemony flavour so if that’s not your thing you could easily leave it out.

Apple Cake

Until next time…Happy Baking!