Lard bread, second time round

Lard bread

Lard bread

When I was in Italy, I had thinly sliced lard on toast pressed upon me…at 8 in the morning. Waving aside my protests that I don’t usually have savories first thing in the morning, much less lard, the lard maestro looked me in the eye. “It’ll go down on its own, you’ll see.” I dutifully ingested. He was right of course. The lard, from pedigree pigs, studded with rosemary and coarse salt, was not in any way greasy or porky. It was just nutty and delicious. So he made his sale and I entertained notions of regaling guests with lardo aperitifs…except the people seem around us seem to have gone on funny restrictive diets overnight. I can imagine how they would recoil with horror (“meat! fat!! gluten!!!” Is she trying to poison us!?!?”). So it’s lard bread again. The irony of using this beautiful expensive slab of lard in something that, from what I’ve read, was a poor man’s bread meant to stretch the slaughtered pig to the max, is not lost on me.

Lard bread (recipe adapted from here) (Makes one big ring loaf)
170g      Leaven, 100%
480g      T80 [bread flour in original]
255g      Water
144g      Lard diced very finely [226g cold rendered lard in original]
11g        Salt
2 tsp     Ground pepper [4 TBS in original]
Salami [283–340g cracklings in original]

Original recipe calls for mixing water with leaven, then rubbing lard into flour before combining all.
The first time I made this, I melted the lard and incorporated it after working the flour, leaven and water to some gluten development (and chickened out from adding all the lard at the sight of the very slippery, oily dough).
This time I played with the idea of mixing the dough, then almost laminating in very finely diced or even semi-flattened lard, like croissant dough—mind you, this is someone who has NEVER even tried her hand at laminated dough! But after an accident whereby i sent flour flying all over the kitchen, I tossed the idea of laminating anything and crossly diced the lard and threw it in with the rest.
The dough was rearing to go because my leaven was very active, but after all that lard and salami, it almost came to a halt. It was a very hard dough to judge; it hardly rose at all.
1st proof of a couple of hours, then it was popped into the fridge overnight.
The next morning, I shaped it into a ring and the second proof was about two hours, before baking with steam. Again it had hardly risen but thankfully it was not dense, as I had feared, nor greasy and disgusting. In fact, the crumb was amazingly tender—actually should I be amazed, what with all that lard… Needless to say, the kitchen smelt like bacon without the icky factor and it was near impossible to stop eating.

Bench notes to myself:
* Perhaps I should finally try it the right way the next time, with the right type of lard to be smeared in. If using hard lard again, definitely, definitely dice it as tiny as possible, so it melts into the crumb and not show up as white nubs, which much as one might like lard, is not the most appealing texture to bite into… And maybe give the pseudo-lamination idea a shot??
* I used good lard that came with some rosemary and coarse salt, and there was a difference between this and the first loaf with ordinary lard.
* I found 2 tsp of pepper quite enough for the taste of pepper to be quite sufficient. I don’t know how the original poster managed to incorporate 4 TBS! But I had also used assertive salami with a bite to it, so I would say adapt to ingredients! Aim for a lightly pepper-speckled dough? But incorporating some coarsely ground pepper would be a good idea too.
* I wanted to finish up the salami and didn’t measure the qty but don’t stint on it!
* A bit of herbs like rosemary was quite nice, but there shouldn’t be too many competing flavors.
* Even at room temp, this was irresistible but when warm out of the heaven with the crackly crust contrasting with the tender crumb… i chuckled at my newly ‘abstinent’ friends not only reaching out for it, but even spreading butter on it!

A most lardy tender crumb

A most lardy tender crumb


Tarte briochée

Tarte briochée

Tarte briochée

Make this. At least once, if not regularly. Your house will smell heavenly and your household—if not too curmudgeonly in the morning—might look to you with some gratitude. It’s good for breakfast, tea and even cold straight from the fridge. Days after. I can attest to that.

Used the last of summer fruits (not quite enough alas) but last week, we had red currants and blackberries, which I dropped in whole, as I like the contrast of sour. Watch out though for squirting when you bite into it.

Use your usual brioche recipe (mine is below). For the filling, I use whatever I have at hand: cream, ricotta, or better still, fresh raw-milk cream from the fromager in the market. Drop in one or two eggs (if too watery, use more yolks than whole eggs). Sprinkle some sugar. Lemon zest. Plop in the fruits, the more the better.

Brioche (Makes 1 very big tarte briochée)
250g          Flour
3g              Instant yeast
6g              Salt
25g           Sugar
25g           Milk
2              Large eggs (save the tiniest bit for egg washing the sides)
125g         Butter (I used slightly less this time, about 110g)

I mix everything then work in the butter bit by bit. Slow and long mixing till gluten is well developed. One-two hours outside, a fold, then into the fridge.
The next morning, roll out the dough. I also bounce it about my knuckles to thin out the middle. I use a lid or plate (lightly greased) to weigh down the middle. Proof till puffy.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius. I like to bake it on the stone as the heat helps to ‘set’ the bottom fast.
Fill the middle. The middle needs to be sufficiently thin as the brioche will puff up in the oven and if  too thick, might remain uncooked. But don’t spring a leak! Egg wash the sides.
Glide as gently as possible into the oven. There is a scary moment when the quivering pond lurches to the side and threatens to spill but all is well.
Bake for some 30 mins. Watch out for browning and I had to tent with foil halfway through. I always have moments of doubt about its doneness—crust getting too hard! cream’s drying out, but is the middle cooked through?? I err on the cooked side.

Hours later, when you’ve forgotten you made this, the lingering sweet butteriness in the air (faint, not full-on like a tart or pie or cake) will remind you.

A birthday tea surprise

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 But I did manage to make this for a friend’s birthday. We popped up with homemade stuff in a crate from the supermarket which we tried to disguise with ivy and hydrangeas from the garden. And since I’ve never met someone who adores meringues to this extent, that was obligatory too. We actually managed to pull off the surprise! And it was worth seeing her look of annoyance at the insistent doorbell turn to utter surprise.

I used this recipe for the chestnut flour madeleines but substituted almond meal for hazelnut. And discover that kefir—or buttermilk, I suppose—makes scones that remain tender even the next day.



Rye/wheat sourdough with rye berries

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Rye/wheat sourdough with rye berries

My bag of rye berries stared back at me with a sneer.
Knew you wouldn’t get round to it.
I stand admonished.

I had bought it with every intention to make a vollkornbrot or some German-style bread for Bob’s German colleague expatriated here who missed his hearty rye breads. I commiserated. I had learnt early on that even when boulangeries sell ‘rye’ or ‘Nordic’ bread, they are rarely wholly rye and most unsatisfying. To be fair, I couldn’t find rye groats, rye flakes and the usual paraphernalia but I got distracted, as usual. Sorry Franck, I hope I’ll be able to make it up with dampfnudeln!

I adapted this recipe from Angie’s Recipes: Taste of Home blog. Angie, by the way, makes the most amazing stuff, combining ingredients you wouldn’t think of combining, and she’s a genius in all manner of cooking. You’re guaranteed a surprise if you pop by her blog.

Rye/wheat sourdough with rye berries (makes 1 loaf)
Soaked rye berries
100g       Rye berries
   2g        Salt
100g       Cold water

I had used rye berries once, and even after cooking them for the longest time, they remained very hard in the bread. So this time, I followed some tips on the Internet and partially broke some of them up in the blender. I wasn’t sure if I should have used hot/cold water (I usually soak grains in hot water) but stuck to cold in case they should sprout?? I refrigerated the soaked berries though, because temperatures are still warmish. Of course by the next day, all the water had been absorbed.

88g      T80 flour (semi-wholewheat flour)
 1g        Instant yeast
 2g        Salt
60g       Water

Mix and leave at room temp for an hour or so. Refrigerate 15-24 hrs before use.

Final dough
113g      Leaven, 100% (mine was fed T80 flour)
All of the rye berries
All of the starter
100g     Wholewheat flour
 90g      Bread flour [ I used 190g of T80]
 63g      Light rye flour [I used dark rye flour]
  2g       Instant yeast
  6g       Salt
155g     Water
200g     Dried fruits 
200g     Nuts and grains [I just threw in a handful of dried berries and almonds]

Mix everything except dried fruits and nuts and grains. I did this by hand and was quite surprised by how easily the dough came together. Add dried fruits and nuts and grains. I just threw in some leftover berries and almonds because i wanted to taste the bread on its own without add-ins. 
Proof for 30–60 mins.
Shape into a log and place into bread tin. The dough is wet but very workable, i.e., not of the pouring consistency that rye breads can take on.
Proof for an hour – watch this bread! Because of the qty of yeast, I was shocked by how quickly it had risen.
Bake with steam at 230 celsius for 10 min, then 190 celsius for 40-50 mins. Watch it as it can brown easily.

I found this a tasty, good, ‘quick’ bread (compared to the usual rye breads), with the rye berries giving it a very pleasant chew. However, it was somewhat lacking in taste and depth, even with the amount of leaven and starter. It did improve the following days though and makes great sandwich bread. 
* cut down or omit yeast for a slow rise??
* Definitely add grains the next time, but I would skip the dried fruits as I don’t like them in rye breads.


That NYT plum torte

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NYT plum torte


 Finally made that NYT plum torte that’s made its rounds. It’s just a simple cake but gained fame from its longevity in the NYT food column. You can easily find the recipe on the Internet, but I first came across it on Smitten Kitchen here. I used less cinnamon and reduced the butter by almost half – so it became more of a quatre-quart or pound cake. 



Leaner Turmeric Hazelnuts Sourdough

Turmeric hazelnut sourdough

Turmeric hazelnut sourdough

Another attempt at the turmeric hazelnut sourdough, but this time a leaner one than the previous one which was really a sort of pain viennois (an enriched bread with milk and some butter but lighter than a brioche) with the spice addition.

Turmeric hazelnut sourdough
330g            T65 flour (bread flour)
230g            Water
100g            Leaven 100% hydration
 1-2g            Instant yeast
    7g            Salt
   4g             Turmeric powder
  70g            Hazelnuts, toasted

Autolyse 1hr with flour, water and turmeric.
Add leaven, yeast, salt. I used the mixer and started gently then increased the speed until the dough more or less cleared the bowl. I added the hazelnuts by hand.
Proofed 1hr before popping it into the fridge.
Shaped cold from fridge, then proofed for another hour or so before baking.
* I think I under-proofed so the next time I will either keep it out a longer time before popping it into the fridge or proof a longer time before baking.

Was quite pleased with this one. The quantity of turmeric was just right – enough to come through subtly without being overpowering (or overwhelming for the leaven!) and hazelnuts, always delicious. Makes great bread for sandwiches too. Maybe the next time, I could add just that tiniest pinch of extra turmeric, just to push the envelope…

Delicious hazelnuts ended up garlanding and not embedded in bread!

Delicious hazelnuts ended up garlanding and not embedded in bread!



Thierry Delabre’s T80 meule

T80 meule

T80 meule

Thierry Delabre is a funny French chap I discovered I don’t know how, but he’s on my Facebook page and I look at his culinary adventures with wonder. Since he discovered bread-making some time ago, it’s taken over his life in a big way. He’s kitted out his kitchen with all sorts of shiny new tools, orders flours by the bags and even delivers breads by post to friends! He’s a talented pastry chef and cook too, a real Epicurean gourmet, and has even gone on to make cooking videos. A generous soul whose love of food and life (aren’t the two mutually indispensable) just jumps off the page. I don’t know how to link to his FB but here’s the Envie de bien manger website for which he makes cooking videos. Looking at him, you’d think he’s been making food shows forever for a living ;))

Not long ago, he posted about a T80 (that’s semi-wholewheat flour) meule he made and what caught my eye was the quantity of leaven in it. I’m always drawn to breads made with more leaven not just for taste reasons but also because I get to use more of the fed leaven. The big bag of locally milled T80 from Moulin des Moissons fell nicely into place. (I would love to visit them one day.)

The first time I made this bread, I used water kefir in place of water (yes, tsk tsk, I know, I should have kept to the recipe, at least the first time round). It was a very wet dough and I mangled the shaping. But the taste…oh goodness…even Bob sat up. I’ve mentioned how it seems to me that water kefir can impart a softness and lightness to breads. The crumb was almost cake-like, and it seemed to bring out all the qualities of the wheat. It was just incredibly tasty bread that I was eating out of hand. 

I recently made it again but this time with water and a very different method from my usual. Although it was very good indeed, it was not as mind-blowing as the last one. Further experiments are due.

I don’t think Thierry will mind my sharing his formula with you, so here goes:
T80 Meule
1 kg              T80
700g             Water
500g             Leaven
  23g             Salt
    2g             Fresh yeast

Thierry’s method:
Autolyse with water and T80 for 30 mins-1 hr max. He refrigerates dough during the autolyse.
Add the rest of the ingredients, mix on 1st speed for 8 mins.
Trickle in 30-50g of cold water during another 2 mins of mixing (bassinage).
1st proof for 3 hours, with a very gentle folding every hour (i.e. two folds), taking care not to degas.
Divide and shape roughly and place in bannetons.
2nd proof: 16 hours in fridge (4-6 degrees celsius).
Bake cold from fridge.

At that time, I didn’t have Thierry’s method and I wasn’t even aware he adds a bit of yeast. So due to the emergency situation in the kitchen brought about by the detection of a rodent (YIKES!!), I ended up
– autolysing water, flour and leaven for almost 2hrs
-mixing everything minus fresh yeast till dough cleared bowl (I only added 20g of extra water)
– a couple of folds for an hr
– cold first proof in fridge for 21 hours
– divided and shaped direct from fridge
-baked after one hour at room temp

The dough had puffed up nicely in the fridge but was slightly lacking in strength, although not as much as I would have thought. The advantage of this method was that I could use my barely used couche, instead of bannetons, since the dough doesn’t sit out long enough for it to flop and lose all semblance of form. Also it was much easier to shape the cold dough i.e. less flour used.

Bench note to myself:
– try Thierry’s method
– try long cold proof again??? But this time with folds in between?? Would that work??
– try with water kefir again!

‘Pastry cream’ & berries rolls

'Pastry cream' & berries rolls

‘Pastry cream’ & berries rolls

Don’t these look festive? Somehow they remind me of Christmas. These rolls came about because rodent on the premises (don’t get me started…) has led to an inventory of the food supplies, uncovering the tub of custard powder we bought on holiday. Yes, when we were holidaying in Bob’s home, we actually looked for Bird’s Custard out of nostalgia ;))) Shockingly we were unable to find any—how could this be possible!!?!—and had to settle for some Moris or Moirs brand, which to my mind, is inferior. If my memory serves me right, Bird’s has more of a vanilla (all fake of course) taste and isn’t this scary yellow bordering on orange. Mind you, this is from someone who eats Bird’s custard once every five years or so. Bob makes it when absolutely desperate for dessert and nostalgic for some comfort food. 
Anyway, I must be the only person who can fail with custard powder. It didn’t thicken in spite of all that powder—i suspect I was impatient and heated it up too quickly—and I had to try to salvage it the next day with even more powder. Why would anyone eat this stuff, I wonder. Except we still have almost an entire tub to go through! I’ll add some vanilla in the milk the next time, and I wonder if one can actually add some powder to an actual creme anglaise – i know, the irony of it. But the lack of egg in the custard is really sadly obvious.

I had wanted to make it with fresh raspberries but laziness got the better of me and I used these dried berries we had bought from Italy. We had set out for a walk in the mountains but chanced upon a little market at the foot of the mountain. A lady was selling unusual and gorgeous dried fruits – huge cherries, raspberries, strawberries, kumquat, kiwi, etc. They were amazingly plump, barely sugared, and actually looked and tasted of the original fruit. If I could, I would have bought everything in sight. (And I still regret not buying that olive oil chopping board, sigh). So while they might look like those garish, plastic ‘fruitcake’ mix, they are anything but. It’s funny how some dried fruit in a Ziploc bag can evoke memories, but throwing those berries in made me sad. I remember the forest, the high sun and dappled paths.

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Dan Lepard’s White maize and wheat loaf

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I’ve long wanted to make this bread. Actually this phrase can be applied to most breads/cakes I make. They sit on the ‘to-make’ list forever, waiting ever so patiently, only to be passed over by new ‘enthusiasms’ (new word from the wonderful Celia’s funny post). They are sometimes seized upon in a sudden frenzy, only to be placed back on the shelf. In this constant flux of contingencies and fancies, a few actually get made. This one, for example,  materialized when i noticed the expiry date on my bag of maize flour from Italy.

White maize and wheat loaf
230g             leaven
325g             whey (I used a mixture of fromage frais, kefir and water)
300g             Italian ’00’ flour (I used a mixture of ‘0’ and T65)
100g             strong wholewheat flour
100g             white maize flour (mine was a faint yellow)
1.5 tsp          salt

After having worked with very wet doughs, this one felt uncomfortably easy to work with (yes, the irony of it). I was worried it would be a dry tight crumb, but it turned out quite nice. I want to experiment with more maize breads, upping the quantity of maize flour and adding stuff like Espelette chili and chorizo.


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summer – where you can get away with practically no cooking


Apricot lavender galette

An impromptu visit by some friends for tea and I scrambled to make the fruit galette I itch to make come summer. Luckily there were some not-that-sweet apricots that could be parlayed into a tart. And summer means I can just cross the backyard—barefoot (!! No socks!! for once!)—to pick any herb I fancy.

Galette pastry with some cornmeal
170g            mixture of T55 and T65 flour
30g             Rough cornmeal
100g            Butter
1                  Large egg
1 TBS          Sugar
pinch of salt

I had some leftover cornmeal which I just wanted to finish so I threw it in: it added an appreciable crunch. Perhaps because of the cornmeal, to my surprise, I found I didn’t need to add any water at all. The dough came together very easily and held up well. I didn’t have at the time to chill the dough after rolling it out and filling it, but highly recommended. Note to self: don’t forget a bit of cornstarch (and sugar if necessary) for the fruit!