Easy Spicy Focaccia with Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Paul Hollywood’s focaccia recipe is a winner.

Focaccia bread make the best sandwiches. They’re so springy and full of lovely pockets of air just begging to soak up all of the flavours. Imagine filling these fluffy Italian breads with roasted veggies and pesto OR grilled meats or salami and cheese, like mozarella and provolone. The possibilities! If sandwiches aren’t your thing, they’re just as good for dipping in olive oil and balsamic vinegar OR eaten with a big, hearty bowl of soup.

Now, this focaccia that I made…it’s quite spicy. My whole body broke into sweats while eating it.  If you can’t take the heat replace the scotch bonnet peppers with something milder! OR not.

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Scotch Bonnet Focaccia 

From Paul Hollywood’s Focaccia recipe  on BBC Food 

Ingredients

Bread
500g/1lb 2oz/3-4 cups of strong white bread flour
2 tsp salt
2 sachets dried easy blend yeast OR 30 g of fresh yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
400ml/14fl oz/1 1/2 – 2 cups of cold water

Topping
olive oil, for drizzling
fine sea salt
1 scotch bonnet pepper, julienned and seeds removed

Preparation

Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and 300ml/10½fl oz of the water into a large bowl. (If using fresh yeast dissolve the yeast in water first.) Gently stir with your hand or a wooden spoon to form a dough then knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes, gradually adding the remaining water.

Rub some oil on your hands and stretch the dough in the bowl by tucking the sides into the centre. Turn the bowl 80 degrees and repeat the process for about five minutes.

Tip the dough onto an oiled work surface and continue kneading for five more minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Line a deep baking dish (I used a 9 x 9-inch tray) with baking paper. Tip the dough out of the bowl and flatten it a bit, careful not to pop the air bubbles. Sprinkle the peppers on top then leave to proof for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Dimple the top of the dough with your fingers, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with fine sea salt then bake in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes. You’ll know it’s done by tapping the bottom of the bread and hear a hollow sound. Once cooked, drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve hot or warm.

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Bon appetit!

Easy Homemade English Muffins

Making English muffins from scratch is much easier than you think. You don’t even need an oven. There are plenty of recipes out there that look promising (each with different dough consistency, method, fermentation time, etc…), including one I’ve bookmarked in my favourite bread making book (Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley), but today I present a relatively fast and simple recipe adapted from beautiful French blogger extraordinaire,  Mimi Thorisson.

These muffins can be made within an hour and half. (That’s a good thing to know, especially on days when you wake up craving a certain breakfast sandwich from a certain fast food chain.)

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Because the rise time is so short, the muffins won’t have time to develop much flavour. (Longer rise time = more flavour.) Buttermilk, which adds a bit of a tang, will help give it some depth. But don’t worry if you don’t have any, water works just fine.

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Another great thing about this recipe is that you won’t need those English muffins molds. The dough is firm and can be rolled and cut (or shaped by hand), then pan fried. The muffins will puff up once they hit the pan. If you prefer thinner muffins, lightly press them down. (Also, if your muffins look misshapen and weird, like mine on the first try, that’s totally fine!)

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Once baked, cut the muffins open and toast. (In our hungry rush to eat, we didn’t even think of toasting the muffins! Shame. Just imagine the photo of the muffin above all brown and toasted.)

Homemade English Muffins

  • Servings: 10-16 English Muffins
  • Time: 1.5 to 2 hours
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Recipe adapted from Mimi Thorisson’s Eggs Benedict post.

Ingredients

300 g  (1 1/4 cup) of lukewarm water or buttermilk
560 g (3 1/2 to 4 cups) of all-purpose flour
10 g of fresh yeast / 1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of salt
2 eggs whites, beaten to soft peaks
1/2 cup of coarse cornmeal

Preparation

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, pour the lukewarm water and/or buttermilk and mix in the yeast. Add in the dry ingredients followed by the egg whites. Mix well until smooth. (If it doesn’t seem like the dough will combine, use your hands to pinch them together.) Once the dough starts to stick together, transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until elastic and silky. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover with a clean cloth. (To prevent the dough from drying, I sometimes rub a bit of oil over the dough.) Let rise 1 hour in a warm place.

Once risen, roll out the dough and cut out into rounds using a cookie cutter or a glass. Dip the dough in cornmeal and let rest for another 30 minutes.

While the dough is proofing, heat a slightly oiled frying pan or skillet until hot. Reduce to medium high and fry each muffins on the pan for 4 minutes on each side. If it seems like the English Muffins are burning, reduce the temperature.

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A minor set back, but it’s nothing the home baker can’t overcome. The croissant journey continues.

These are my airiest batch of croissants yet, but they’re also the ones with the least layers. So, I can’t help but feel a twinge of disappointment as I write this post. I sort of knew it wouldn’t turn out well early on, because I could feel nubs of butter all over–the butter block shattered before I even started laminating the dough and I just couldn’t fix it in the end.

Well… The quest for the best homemade croissant continues on. Despite not looking right, they were fluffy and light as a cloud, and in the end, taste and texture matter more than looks. Right? Right?

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Changes from previous batch:

  • I used three different types of flour for the dough: bread flour for the poolish and a 50% pastry flour and 50% all-purpose flour  mix for the croissant dough.
  • Longer proofing time (2 hours).
  • Followed Bakers Journal’s suggestion to leave some space when shaping the croissant for better oven spring.

I’m not sure which of the three changes resulted in the significantly more “open” crumb of the croissants. The dough was easier to handle, but it definitely felt a little bit too soft, softer than my butter block even; I suspect the difference in consistency is what caused my butter to shatter so badly in the first place. I’ll probably decrease the amount of pastry flour next time.

If you have any tips for better croissant making, I’m all ears!

Read about attempt 1, 2, and 3.

Candied Orange and Cardamom Bread

A light, airy loaf using spice-infused milk, candied orange peels and ground cardamom. It will make the perfect winter toast to brighten up any cold mornings or afternoons.

This is a multi-step recipe and it’s kind of a long process on account of the candied orange peels–not as long as making croissants–but in the end you’ll have a fluffy, sweet loaf with pockets of zesty orange and the warm and fragrant scent of cardamom wafting across your kitchen. Who doesn’t want that?

Do note that this recipe produces a very sticky dough. That shouldn’t be a problem if you’re using a standmixer, but if kneading by hand, invest in a dough scraper to make picking up the dough easier. The biggest challenge will be the temptation to add more flour. Just don’t do it! As you knead, the flour will eventually absorb the water and the gluten structure will develop, leading to a more manageable dough. If the stickiness really does get to you, just flour your hands in-between handling the dough.

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Continue reading “Candied Orange and Cardamom Bread”

Braided Loaf

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I’ve made three milk breads since the new year. I was hoping to post a recipe soon, but I just haven’t had the chance to sit down to properly type it all out. But soon. Very soon.

(As you can see, my braiding skill isn’t quite there.)

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In which the heroine nears her destination:
buttery mouthfeel croissants with the sought after flaky, shattering layers.

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A few small, but highly effective  changes from #1 and #2:

  • Using European-style butter. Butter with higher fat content, i.e. European butter, made a huge difference both in taste and the look of the croissants. (The higher fat content means they have less water and more likely to remain solid for longer–crucial when laminating dough.)
  • Buying a marble pastry board. Aside from being very Instagram-worthy, marble offered a great non-stick surface when kneading and rolling out dough and it kept the dough cooler than usual.

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I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of laminating dough. My butter block shattered a bit, but not as much…? The next area of improvement is the crumb. I’m still getting very heavy, dense croissants. This article from Baker’s Journal suggests using a “weakened” flour to help with the airiness.

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Notes for next time:

  • I used the standmixer to mix the dough and then hand kneaded it to avoid over-developing the gluten. It is more work, but the dough was easier to roll out this time and didn’t snap back as much.
  • Do not put an egg wash on the exposed layers as it will glue them down, as you can see in lots of the shots above

Here’s to more future butter bombs!

 

 

Roberta’s Pizza Dough and a Fifteen Minutes Pizza Sauce

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that the most hated ingredients can be made appealing to the pickiest of eaters on top of a pizza. That, my friends, is one of life’s greatest mysteries. For example? I spent the first twenty-two years of my life avoiding cheese, but would somehow magically eat pizza. The first time I accepted eggplants into my life was through an incredible spicy eggplant pizza (from Toronto’s own Pizzeria Libretto). My uncle, whose face twisted as he ate kale one night, had no issue eating about half of the kale pizza I made the next day. I suspect that one day I will probably have goat cheese or blue cheese on pizza and my life will be irrevocably changed for the better (or so they tell me).

Roberta's Pizza Dough and a Fifteen Minutes Pizza Sauce

  • Servings: Two 12-inch pizzas
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Roberta’s Pizza Dough
slightly adapted*
makes two pizzas, original recipe via New York Times

306 grams all-purpose flour
200 grams lukewarm tap water
8 grams salt
4 grams of olive oil
16 grams of baker’s yeast

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.

In a smaller mixing bowl, stir the water, yeast and olive oil, making sure that the yeast has dissolved completely. Pour the mixture into the flour. Knead with your hands until well combined, about 3 minutes, and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

After the dough has rested, knead it for about 3 more minutes. Cut into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a tight ball. Place on a floured surface and cover with a dampened cloth. Let dough rise for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature or 8 to 24 hours in the fridge. (If you refrigerate the dough, remove it 30 to 25 minutes before you shape it make pizza.)

To make pizza, place each ball on a heavily floured surface and use your fingers to stretch it, then your hands to shape it into rounds or squares. Top with your favourite ingredients and bake for about 10 minutes.

*The NYT recipe recommends using half and half of 00 Flour/pizza flour (153 grams) and All-Purpose (153 grams) and they use active dry yeast (2 grams).

15-Minutes Pizza Sauce
makes enough for one pizza

1 1/2 cups of crushed tomatoes and tomato juice
4 tablespoon of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly diced
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried parsley

In small sauce pan, sautee the garlic for one hot second over medium heat. Stir in the tomatoes, salt, sugar, basil and parsley and bring to a simmer. Turn down the heat and let the sauce reduce for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Hokkaido Milk Bread

I’ve been on a bread making kick lately. I can and do make other things, I swear, but I rarely get the chance to take photos. So for now, here’s one of my favourite loaf thus far. It will probably be the fluffiest bread you’ll ever make. That’s because the Hokkaido Milk Bread is a Japanese style of bread that uses “tangzhong,” a roux made of flour and milk/water that is added to the dough to trap in moisture. (It’s a common method used in Chinese bakeries as well.) Once baked, the result is a soft, springy loaf that looks as cute as it is delicious.

Since I got the recipe online and made no major modifications, I’ll just link to the original post. 🙂 The one I used comes from Yi Reservation, it has detailed notes (yesss!) and step by step photos (double yes).

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Most recipes recommend kneading the dough with a breadmaker or a standmixer, but it’s possible to do it by hand as on Two Red Bowls/Food52.

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Something which everyone seems to love doing after making this milk bread is to tear it apart. It’s really satisfying. And really delicious.

Happy Baking!

Brioche with bergamot essence

My mom used to make brioche in the late evening for the next morning’s breakfast. But no matter how hard we tried, we never could wait that long. Within minutes of touching the cooling rack, the brioche would be sliced, most probably buttered (yup), and in between mouthfuls of buttery, buttery bread were our usual non-promises to stop snacking at midnight. It’s just that freshly baked brioche is really, really hard to resist, what with the glossy mahogany crust, the fragrant crumbs, and when made at home, the faint scent of butter wafting across the kitchen — incredible.

While this particular brioche bread — a family recipe! — is light and airy, it’s also sturdy. It can be used for toast (slathered with nutella and chopped almonds, of course), for sandwiches (if you omit the bergamot), or in any baking that requires stale bread; I have a recipe for an upgraded French toast coming in a few days!

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Mom’s recipe was originally meant for the breadmaker, but I’ve made it twice using a loaf and a muffin pan. (I used the Tartine Bakery and Bouchon Bakery books as references.) Depending on how keen you are, the process of making brioche can take up a day or two, because the dough needs to be refrigerated overnight or for a few hours. It seems like a huge hassle, BUT it’s worth the effort. I prefer making it over two days…less stressful.

Continue reading “Brioche with bergamot essence”