Archive | May, 2012

Sourdough and Sourdough starter

10 May

Our local supermarket has a great sourdough that I’m quite happy to continue purchasing each week, however being on a baking quest, I decided to try my own.

A nice idea, but not so simple as I first thought.  This isn’t a baking recipe whereby you buy the ingredients, prep and bake all within the same day.  We’re talking nearly two weeks!  But, each day it’s a 5 minute job and now that I’ve started, I can have fresh sourdough every day!  Bonus.

When researching on how to make sourdough, there were a variety of methods available and there were some very strict rules, but I didn’t use many of the purist methods and it still worked really well.

So first things first and that’s the sourdough starter:

All you need is a good-sized jar and the following:

1/2 cup strong white flour
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons plain natural yoghurt
 
more flour and warm water each day
 

On the first day, I mixed the flour, warm water and yoghurt in the jar and stirred with a wooden spoon.  I then sealed the lid and left it on the kitchen bench.  The next day, I stirred in another 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup of warm water.  On day 3 onwards, I poured out half of the starter and continued to add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup of warm water.

The mixture will really bubble and have a distinctive smell.  Apparently if it really stinks, you need to pour it all out and start again.

After about a week, I began to actually make the sponge and then sourdough loaf and it took 3 days, but again, each day was really simple and only took a few minutes.

Sponge:
100 ml starter
250 gr strong white flour
300 ml warm water
 
Loaf:
300 gr strong white flour
1 tablespoon oil
10 gr salt
 

First off, you need to make the sponge.  In a large bowl, mix the starter, flour and water and mix with a wooden spoon.  Cover with cling film and keep in a refrigerator for 24 hours.

Next day, mix in the loaf ingredients, flour, oil and salt to the sponge and knead for about 10 minutes on a floured surface, until nice and smooth.  This dough is really wet and sometimes sticks to your fingers but it’s quite soft.

Afterwards, add this dough to an oiled bowl, covered with oiled cling film and let it rise for quite a few hours.  Sourdough takes a long time to rise and I let it raise for about 6 hours.   It would work well, if it was left overnight and then cooked in the morning.

Next day, knead this again briefly, mould into an oval shape and place on a floured tray.  Leave this for one hour.  Preheat oven to 250 C / 480 F.

Sprinkle the dough with flour and slash the top with 3 cuts.  Spray the oven with water and bake the sourdough for 15 minutes.  Reduce the oven to 220 C / 420 F, spray the insides of the oven with water again and cook for a further 25 minutes.  Cool on a cooling rack and enjoy!

How to make Macarons

3 May

Colourful, French macarons.  It’s one of those treats that look oh so amazingly good but way too difficult to make.  I came to this conclusion long before I even attempted them (as I do with baking) so with a friend, I signed up to a macaroon making course.

Thankfully, we had an uber friendly teacher who had the most amazing patience and thought that everything looked wonderful and we were unbelievable fast-learning students; even though you knew that your green macaron colour you had created looked similar to a toxic waste dump then pistachio, which is what you were going for.

Nevertheless, the box of goodies that we left with at the end of the day looked something special and we did feel quite proud of ourselves.  A day later, I was also quite proud of how many I was able to consume in one day without getting sick – quite an accomplishment…

I thought I would share the chocolate macaron recipe as these were my favourite.

180 gr ground almonds
20 gr cocoa powder
200 gr icing / confectioners sugar
80 gr egg whites (you can buy whites in a carton in good supermarkets, which are much easier to measure)
 
For the Meringue:
200 gr caster / fine sugar
75 ml water
80 gr egg whites
 
For the Ganache:
180 gr dark chocolate, chopped
90 gr double cream
Mint essence, optional

Preheat oven to 150 C / 300 F and line oven trays with parchment paper.

For the macaron shells, mix together the almonds, icing sugar, cocoa until well mixed in a large bowl.  Fold in the unbeaten egg whites.  Fold quite gently as you don’t want the mixture to go runny, as thick as possible.  Put this aside.

In a small pan, cook the water and sugar for the meringue without stirring.  At the same time, in an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until full of white bubbles but no peaks.  When the syrup on the stove reaches 110 C / 230 F, turn the mixer with the egg whites on it s highest speed.  Take the syrup off the stove as soon as it reaches 114 C / 237 F and add it very slowly to the egg whites while the mixer is on.  Continue mixing for a further 5 minutes until completely cooled.  This step is obviously a lot easier with a stand alone mixer, however if you don’t have one of these this step may be easier with two people.

Very gently, fold 1/3 of the meringue into the almond paste.  Once fully combined, fold in gently the remaining meringue.

Fill a piping bag with a 1A nozzle and pipe out round mounds onto parchment paper.  Try to make each macaron a similar shape.  Tap the tray on the bench lightly so the macaron shells are smooth.  Let the macarons set at room temperature for 30 minutes or until the tops are set.

Bake in the preheated oven for 14 minutes.  Immediately slide the paper off the oven tray onto a cool bench top.  This helps the macarons release off the paper.  Cool.

Meanwhile, make the ganache by heating the cream to just below boiling point in a saucepan.  Immediately pour this hot cream over the small pieces of chocolate.  While stirring the chocolate should melt.  Leave this to cool as well.

Fill a piping bag with a smaller nozzle and the cooled ganache.  Pipe a good amount on one macaron and then with a similar size make a “sandwich”.  These can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.  They also taste better the next day.  Enjoy!