Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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. 



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.

2014-08-09 09.16.34

Dan Lepard’s White maize and wheat loaf

2014-07-30 07.22.44

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.


2014-07-27 13.11.40

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!


Dan Lepard’s sweet potato cinnamon buns


I wanted very much to like this, but something was not right here. I’ve wanted to make these for the longest time. Adding some potato for a tender loaf is something I’ve done before, so I was quite sure this would work. But the dough turned out dry and the grated sweet potato bits stayed intact .

When the recipe calls for the addition of potato, I’ve always popped them into the oven while something is baking, then adding the puree into the dough. This is what I had intended to do but plain forgot to pop the sweet potato in arrghh. Could it be why?? the sweet potato not ‘dissolving’ into the dough and thus not contributing moisture?? I have seen other recipes calling for spuds to be grated in, but perhaps not quite a large qty and significant portion of the total ingredients??

Anyway, bench notes should I want to attempt these again:
– puree not grate the sweet potato
– I skipped the pecan but added 1tsp of extra cinnamon. Could do with a bit more (I love cinnamon).
– cover early enough, not just when it’s browning. The buns were slightly burnt in spots on both the bottom and top.

A pity about these buns because it’s not every day that I make cinnamon buns, and I was so looking forward to these. Meanwhile there are so many other recipes to try! So many and no time/occasion sigh…

Basic sourdough loaf & baking with water kefir

I wanted to
1. test a new T80 (semi-wholewheat) flour sourced from a local miller.
2. test out my last ‘findings’ that substituting water kefir for water makes for a very slightly sweeter and moist crumb.Until I try creating a starter from the kefir itself, using kefir helps me to use up the kefir.
My basic sourdough
350g T80 flour
50g Whole rye flour
150g Levain 100%
300g Water
6g Salt

I prepared two loaves side by side, one with water kefir, the other with water. I felt that the water loaf came together more easily and was stronger. Also the kefir dough had a slightly ‘gassy’ smell after mixing, and throughout the proofing. This is the first time I’ve encountered this, and could have something to do with the fact that the water kefir was rather fermented. (I fed it only ONCE after more than a week in the fridge.) Baked on the day instead.

Baked under the same conditions, the kefir loaf (on top) had a thinner crust and was almost similar in taste, but just that little bit softer in the crumb department. Bob, whom I annoyed by asking repeatedly, are you sure? very, very sure?? do they taste alike to you? are you just saying this because I told you?? shook his head at such inanity.

Fig and Anise (and kefir) Sourdough

This was for a friend from the south of France. I figured he would like anise (although that was a bit of a gamble, since anise is something you either like or hate). Turns out he was fine with anise but couldn’t take figs on account of his kidney stones (who knew figs are high in oxalic acid?!?) I love anise-flavoured breads, actually anise-flavoured anything, and Farine MC’s fig and anise wholewheat loaf has been on my list for the longest time. But I did not have cracked wheat grains, so I turned to another source: Phil’s recipe on TFL, figuring it must work like a charm, and adapted it to what I had on hand.

Fig and Aniseed Sourdough (adapted from PiP’s blog on TFL)
25g            Starter
50g            T65 flour
29g            Water
A pinch of salt

I left to ferment at room temp overnight, but made sure that my starter and water were fridge cold, to slow things down a bit. Nonetheless, by early morning, my leaven was raring to go.

Final dough
81.5g           Levain
410g            T65 flour
50g             Whole rye flour
[original recipe calls for 393g bread flour and 70g spelt]
140g            Dried figs [original recipe: 188g]
7g             Aniseed, toasted
356g            Water [hold back 25g to add if necessary]
9g             Salt

Phil does a very long autolyse, then adds the levain etc.
I use my usual method of an hour-long-or-so autolyse with flour, water and levain. I took advantage of the fact that the mixer was out to use it, instead of mixing and kneading by hand.
I folded in the figs and aniseed during the first fold. A couple more folds, then a rather short first proof before shaping.
My second proof was also shorter than usual (running late!!) and that accounted for the massive oven spring.

* I used less figs than called for because I simply couldn’t squeeze them in any more! These very moist dried figs (not the very dried ones you can buy lined up in a flat box) are like dates; they simply disappear into the dough! Next time I’ll chop them up into slightly smaller pieces and add the full amount called for.
* The quantity of aniseed is spot on—present but not overwhelming.

Barely was the bread baked that I had to whisk it out of the house. It rode on a trivet in the car. Which is a good thing otherwise I might have burnt my arms carrying it.


The travelling bread on a trivet enjoying the view.


Unceremoniously plonked next to the bonsai.


Last time poor bread was seen intact.

Wish I had a crumb shot of the loaf but I think I would have gotten weird looks from our friend. It was so amazingly tender and cake-like and open. Like a “gateau,” exclaimed the recipient. We made short work of this bread that, embarrassingly, was supposed to last him for a few days. I’m really wondering if it isn’t the effect of the water kefir because the last sweet potato hazelnut loaf also had a beautifully soft and moist crumb. Experiments are in order.

Wonderful bread with just the right amount of aniseed flavor. We also paired it with goat’s cheese, and two days later, I had it dipped in olive oil. The combination of mellowed anise flavor and a very good olive oil was a revelation.


Small loaf carved out of the big batard, for tasting purposes.


Sweet potato hazelnut sourdough



Hadn’t intended to make this at all, but I had some leftover sweet potato, and recalling how delicious the roast potato bread from Hamelman was (must make again…), I found and adapted TX Farmer’s sweet potato walnut recipe on TFL. I substituted hazelnuts for walnuts and omitted the maple syrup. Also went out on a limb and threw in some excess water kefir. Yes, summer’s nigh, temperatures are up, and time to bring out the poor water kefir from hibernation!!! The critters fizzled like they had been given a new lease of life, and before I knew it, I had more water kefir on my hands then I could use up. I had no idea about the water/sugar content of the sweet potato (which varies anyway), and from the last experiment, I was afraid it would proof too fast, but it turned out all right.

Very delicious bread. You can taste the sweet potato even after baking (unlike the potato bread, which smells irresistibly potato-ish while baking but doesn’t taste so) and the hazelnuts… It was as if I were tasting hazelnuts anew.

Sweet potato hazelnut sourdough (Adapted from TXFarmer’s recipe)
230g            T65 flour
70g             T80 flour (semi-wholewheat)
105g            sweet potato purée (from roasted sweet potato)
105g            Leaven, 100% hydration
155g            Water kefir
77g             Hazelnuts

Autolyse with flour, leaven and water. (I added the puree after autolyse, but will add it the next time at autolyse stage; once the gluten forms, it’s harder to incorporate the puree).
Add salt and knead somewhat.
A couple of stretch and folds over the next few hours, adding the hazelnuts after the first fold.
Shape and either refrigerate straight away—or if you’re like me—after letting it sit out another hour or so on the counter.
Bake the next morning to gorgeous smells. And be chuffed that you still had decent oven spring despite the wet dough and lack of shaping skills and overall negligence, and wonder why sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but you won’t push it.
The bread gods must occasionally look away  while I blunder along.

Sweet potato hazelnut

Sweet potato hazelnut