Just a little Christmas dinner, sort of thing…

 Here we see some interesting sausage-meat stuffing balls. They are made of sausage-meat, onion, garlic, fresh thyme and Greek oregano. The rest of the space in the dish was filled with balls of Paxo sage and onion stuffing, but that’s not as interesting.

Roast potatoes had been cooking in the tasty duck fat for 15 minutes before I added the parsnips. At the time, I thought this wouldn’t be enough parsnips. This is a common error with Christmas dinner.

Suddenly, I had carved lumps off the turkey crown, put the trimmings and vegetables on the table, and we were pretty much ready to eat our dinner!

We let the Youngling pour the Champagne, which he did very well. No wastage, no half empty glasses.

This was my dinner, before I added even more…

Turkey, Cameron’s delights, sage and onion stuffing, sausage-meat stuffing, roast potato, roast parsnip, carrot, peas, green beans, Brussels sprouts, and gravy. 

Of course, we have explained to the Youngling that Brussels sprouts are delicious, but he continues to believe his uncle’s remark that they can never be eaten. Here is the token sprout we always put on his plate, so he can discover for himself how lovely they are, when his uncle’s evil influence wears off.

Strange Oven Spring

Here’s a strange little adventure I had today, with an ordinary white loaf. 

I proved it in my nice new proving basket, turned it out, and scored it with a serrated knife. Now, as far as I could tell, and I was careful about this, all the cuts went to the same depth.

Here’s a shot, just after it went into the oven. The loaf looks jolly nicely shaped and even. The baking stone should have been evenly hot, but maybe it had not been heating up for long enough, and was hotter at the back of the oven. Quite early on, there was an obvious bulge at the back of the loaf. Yes, Deirdre, I do know the glass oven door could do with a clean.

Still, the loaf was rising nicely…

And, when I took it out of the oven, it was very obvious that the “oven spring” had not occurred evenly. One of the cuts has taken up almost all of the stretching that the loaf has done. I ask you all to theorise as to why it is like that.

  • Uneven depth of scoring cuts?
  • Unevenly heated stone?
  • Shaping stresses in the loaf not evenly distributed?
  • Fan oven hotter at the back side of the loaf?
  • Act of God?
  • Something to do with the curvature of space?

Rambling in the Kitchen

After one of my ancient bread tins pulled a loaf in half, I bit the bullet, and bought two new ones. They’re a bit smaller than the old ones, and have a non-stick coating. The instructions that came with them say they shouldn’t be used at any higher temperature than 230°C, which is annoying, as quite a few recipes suggest that 240°C is the temperature to use. I don’t know how accurate the oven settings are, in any case, so I will ignore the warning. I’ll let you know if the coating falls off.

I was considering whether to cook something complex for our Christmas dinner, but decided to take the easy route this year, and chose a turkey crown. That will do for a couple of days, at least! We have had a commercial three bird roast in the past, and I was quite disappointed with it, because it had an awful lot of stuffing compared with the amount of actual bird meat, and was impossible to slice neatly. I do intend to do another three bird roast, some day, but I will try to use a minimal amount of stuffing, and use mostly sausage-meat, maybe with some chestnuts.

These chicken wings were cooked in our air fryer, and were very pleasant, but having to put the basket in the dishwasher to remove the burnt spices and remaining chicken fat was a bit annoying. You don’t get that problem when you do chips in them. Still, at least quite a lot of the fat didn’t get eaten, so that’s good.

 As threatened recently, I made a few pastrami on rye sandwiches. It’s supposed to be a classic combination, and they do go together very well. The price of the pastrami in the shop, at £3 for 110g, is ridiculous, though. It’s brisket, for goodness’ sake. I will most definitely make my own, some time. When I do, you’ll see it on here…

Purely Rye Sourdough – Grand Finale

The result is worth it.

It tastes good, as well as looking good. I think I need to scale the recipe up to make a bigger loaf, though, as it’s going quite quickly. Meanwhile, I am thinking of things to do with the exploded white loaf…

Purely Rye Sourdough – Part 3

Hubris, or something like that.

Have you ever had one of those days where everything conspires against you? The loaf in the foreground, that I was going to bake while the rye sourdough in the background took its time to rise, was looking so good. It was a lovely, bouncy dough, and was rising nicely, as you can see. 

Meanwhile, the rye sourdough has possibly risen by an imperceptible amount. It wasn’t totally inactive, though, as it was able to cast some sort of dreadful curse upon the pretty young loaf in the foreground. 

I clearly didn’t score the top of the loaf sufficiently deeply, or perhaps the cuts somehow managed to close themselves. 

Then, I forgot to throw a cup of water on the bottom of the oven, so that the steam would allow the top of the loaf to stretch, before setting in a nice curved shape. So, the top set flat, and the continuing expansion of the inside eventually cracked one end of the loaf, and the inside attempted to escape that way, resulting in the bizarre shape you see here. 

That was bad enough. I had also forgotten that the loaf tin had been washed, and I neglected to grease it with oil or butter. The loaf stuck itself very firmly to the tin. Sometimes you can cut round them, but with this one, the bottom had stuck like glue, and it split.

Remember, when somebody sets themselves up to write about how to make bread, or do some other clever thing, they may not be as clever, or helpful, as they intend to be.

Maybe I should have quietly thrown this abomination in the bin, started another one, and made myself look good? Well, at least I am being truthful, and there are lessons to learn. Checking the tin to see if it needs greasing, scoring the top of the loaf properly, throwing water into the oven to create steam…

Today, we have learned, or relearned these things. The hard way.

Meanwhile, the sourdough is sitting sniggering. It’s not going near the oven until I am sure it’s completely ready. If it ever is. We can but hope.

Purely Rye Sourdough – Part 2

Day 2

Well, after a night resting in the fridge, the rye sourdough wasn’t looking as if it felt like co-operating. Using lots of flour, and quite a lot of care, I shaped it, and put it in the tin.

James Morton says “This is not like any other bread dough, and doesn’t take kindly to being shaped, so respect it and it will respect you back.”

I don’t know about that. It was reasonably bubbly when it came out of the bowl, but even though I handled it very carefully, it sat in the tin looking very resentful. I now have to rest it at room temperature for four to six hours, until it has doubled in size. From the sullen looks it gave me, I think it could easily take eight hours, or even more.

That presents a problem, as there is currently hardly any bread in the house, apart from a corner of the massive miche I made a few days ago. It has been hard work, eating my way through that, even though the crust fortunately became softer, and no longer threatens to break my teeth. [Pro tip: bullet-proof bread can be tamed by putting it in a plastic bag in the fridge, just the way you are supposed not to.]

I decided to go back to my bread baking roots, and make a white loaf, using the recipe I used for many years, before I read “Brilliant Bread”.

Using a pound and a half of very strong white flour [roughly 680g], a sachet of dried yeast, and a pint of water [about 590g] I made a lovely stretchy dough, that I will be able to cook while I’m waiting for the rye sourdough to stop sulking. I’ve rested it for half an hour, since this picture was taken, and will now knead and shape it, and put it in my other tin. Part 3 will be along fairly soon…

Purely Rye Sourdough – Part 1

Day One

I’ve decided to make a loaf of 100% rye sourdough bread. I love the flavour of rye when it’s part of a loaf, and besides, I think “pastrami on rye” sounds like a fine thing to eat. I’ll try it with supermarket pastrami first, and make my own pastrami later…

The recipe is from James Morton’s splendid book, “Brilliant Bread”, which I have been using with enthusiasm, and varying degrees of success, since it came out. It starts with 400g of rye flour. I’m using Dove’s Farm stoneground organic rye, which I bought in Tesco. If you can’t find that make, find something suitably similar. The plastic bowl I use looks tatty, I admit. I realised the other day that I’ve been using it for over 35 years. I probably ought to get a new one. Also in the bowl, but difficult to see, are 10g of salt. I’m a bit surprised by the amount of salt in James’s recipes, as he’s a doctor, and I thought salt was one of the things that gives me high blood pressure. Normally, I halve the amount of salt in his recipes, but for this one, I’m trying to reduce the number of things that can go wrong!

The next ingredients are 200g of rye sourdough starter, which you can see waiting in the jar, in the first picture, 40g of runny honey, and 300g of water. I’m using Greek honey, and Welsh water. Rye has very little gluten in it, which is why making bread from it is such a challenge. As a result, this dough has to be kneaded a lot, if the gluten is to develop properly. I used my little hand mixer for a full fifteen minutes, and followed that with a couple of minutes of stretching the dough with a scraper.

It looks reasonable, I think, but it’s visibly different from the stretchy dough that would result with wheat flour. At this point in the recipe, there are two choices. I can rest the dough for six hours at room temperature, and then continue with the bake, which looks as if it needs at least another six or seven hours, or I can rest it for three hours and then put it in the fridge overnight. The fridge wins.