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The snack of kings – fresh made bread and butter

6 Feb

Fresh made bread and butterI was working at home today and feeling a little peckish and a little unwell (paradox eh?) but the house was not blessed with snacking opportunities.

I was about to eat the table when I remembered that I had baked a lovely crusty loaf the day before and it was sitting on the worktop waiting to be scoffed.

Delicious seedy bread with a thick smear of butter (olive spread to be precise)  – can there be anything nicer in this world?

I’ve always loved bread, but it’s something I’ve never taken the time to bake in large quantities. This effort was a bit of cheat. – Allinson Seed & Grain White Bread Flour. I mixed it in the breadmaker, let the dough rise once, removed and kneaded it, then let it rise again over the woodburner for an hour.

Leaving aside the fact that it could have had a little more salt, it was a near-perfect loaf (not that I’m taking the credit).

I’m resolving to bake more because the next time I want a snack, I know what I’ll be craving.

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(Probably) the best pizza dough in the world

5 Feb

Home made pizzaMrs G made the assertion the other day that home-made pizza is massively superior to the shop-bought version and probably better than anything you would find in a restaurant.

I’m not 100% sure that I agree with her, but I am of the opinion that one of the ingredients is best when it comes from your kitchen and that’s the dough.

At this point I should own up to the fact that I don’t hand knead my pizza dough from scratch, but I do make it in my breadmaker. It’s one of the simplest doughs there is – flour, water, olive oil, salt, sugar and yeast. 90 minutes of grinding, stirring and rising later and it’s ready.

Can there be a better sensation in this world that taken a freshly-risen dough and molding it into shape? It’s a velvet cushion for your fingers – like all the best stress relieving toys in the world, all rolled into one.

And the taste and texture once baked is fantastic. The crusts on the pizza rise quickly into delicious peaks – crusty on the outside, soft and smooth on the inside. I never find anything like it from the supermarket where the crusts are flat and unexciting, or even from the restaurant where the dough is tossed so thinly as to make it almost non-existent.

Strangely, the closest thing to it commercially is from Pizza Hut (Deep Pan of course) where the dough is actually thick enough to have some presence.

If you don’t like pizza then can I suggest to you that you make pizza dough in the breadmaker anyway and turn it into rolls? It’s actually superior to most of the recipes you get for rolls anyway.

Dough recipe

Makes enough for 2 large pizzas

450g strong white bread flour (although plain works brilliantly as well)
275ml water
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
1 packet of quick rising yeast (for breadmakers)

Run it through the dough setting on your breadmaker – mine takes 90 minutes

The magic of the leftover taste fairies

23 Jan

Chow meinI’d like to tell you a fairy tale, a story of magic and wonder. Are you sitting comfortably readers? Yes? Good, then I’ll begin….

Once upon a time there was a man – let’s call him Mr L.Z. Gastronome – who made a chicken chow mein. It wasn’t a particularly special chow mein. It had chicken (obviously), peppers, carrots and was made all ‘chow meiny’ with a jar of Ken Hom’s Chow Mein stir in sauce.

The man had made it for the family as a Sunday meal and the fact it was Chinese New Year was alas, a mere coincidence.

“Did you like it?” asked Mr Gastronome to his wife as they poked the food around the plate together, not particularly convinced himself that it would set the culinary world alight. Mrs Gastronome looked slightly non-committal and said that she did.

“Would you like to take the leftovers to work for your lunch tomorrow?” asked Mr Gastronome, possibly pushing his luck based on the dubious enthusiasm of the reply to his previous question.

“Not really no,” said his better half, expressing an admirable, yet brutal, honesty. “You have it.”

The man pursed his lips, reached for the tupperware and retrieved a goodly amount of chow mein from the frying pan. He sealed it, placed it in the fridge and promptly forgot about the whole business. Safe to say, he did not go to bed dreaming of the delicious chow mein feast he was to enjoy the next day.

In the morning the man, despite his best efforts to forget the chinese lunch lurking in the fridge, claimed his vitals and headed into work. The clocks chimed noon and he unenthusiastically engaged the services of the office microwave to superheat the chow mein and hopefully kill off the imminent threat of food poisoning.

But something magical had happened. Something truly wonderous and without explanation.

The chow mein was delicious. The noodles were perfect, the peppers juicy, the chicken was tasty and flavoured-packed. It tasted rather like it had just been delivered from the local chinese takeaway, which quite frankly based on where it had started the night before, was nothing short of miraculous.

The taste fairies had visited and not for the first time, through the medium of tupperware, an overnight stay in the fridge, and 2 minutes at 900 Watts, had turned a meal that previously was uninspired and slightly tasteless, into something to be savoured, enjoyed and missed when it was all gone.

The man pondered on this miracle, but as it was now 1230 and there was an imminent meeting promptly forgot all about it. The second miracle of the leftover taste fairies had occurred. You never remember they visited.

The End.

[Engaging reality]

I would love to know the science behind the leftover taste fairies. Why is it that so many meals benefit from 24 hours in the fridge encased in plastic? Indian, Chinese, chilli, even lasagne. What could we do during the cooking process to make them as good the first time around? Is it actually just the thrill of having something other than a sandwich from the office canteen and in reality it tastes worse than before?

Perhaps there is no science. Perhaps when you yank the fridge door open quickly, hoping to catch the light switching on, the leftover taste fairies scatter behind the apple juice. You know how they say you can tell if there’s an elephant in your fridge?

Footprints in the butter.