Monthly Archives: September 2014

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

2014-09-07 16.20.41

 2014-09-07 16.11.09

 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

2014-09-06 09.14.58

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

2014-08-16 16.58.17


2014-08-17 11.40.22


2014-08-19 14.35.24

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.