Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Something for Everyone.

I have come across a recipe for 'an exceptionally light and spongy Italian bread' which may not be too far from the one we are seeking, but you do need to use fresh yeast when making this, for it will not be nearly as light if using the dried or easy-blend yeasts. Fresh yeast is available from a baker's or a supermarket with an in-store bakery). As well as the bread there is also a recipe for crumpets (sometimes called pikelets - depending upon the region), which I often used to make and very successfully.

Pugliese Bread:
1 1/2lb (700g) strong white flour
1 tsp salt
half an ounce (15g) fresh yeast
1 tblsp sugar
3/4 pint (450ml) warm water
2 fl.oz (50ml) extra virgin olive oil
coarse sea or rock salt, optional
Sift flour and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Mix the fresh yeast with the sugar and 2 tblsp warm water to form a smooth paste. Pour this, the remaining water, and the oil into the flour*. Stretch and punch the dough and knead for at least 10 minutes, this can either be done by hand or using a mixer with a dough hook. The longer the dough is needed the better the texture as it only has the one rising. Although the dough at first seems very sticky, it gradually becomes silkier and smoother as it is kneaded.
Shape dough into a ball, put onto a greased baking sheet, cover with a large bowl and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour and a half until doubled in bulk. When risen, make slashes in the top of the dough, and sprinkle with salt (if using). Bake in a very hot oven for 12 minutes at 230C/450F/gas 8 then reduce heat to 190C/374F/gas5 and bake for a further 25-35 minutes.
* At this point 8 oz (225g) pitted and chopped black or green olives could be added.
Note: Reduce the proving time by doubling the amount of fresh yeast to 1 oz/25g and add a 25g vitamin C tablet (ascorbic acid) to the water. Once made as above, leave to prove just the one time for 45 minutes after placing dough on the baking sheet.

To make crumpets you should use special metal rings, often called egg poaching rings. If these cannot be obtained, make your own rings by stapling together strips of card 1" x 12" to form circles about 3 1/2" in diameter. Cover these tightly with double thickness foil, smoothing the inside to remove creases. You will need 3 or 4 (or more) depending upon how many your frying pan will hold. You could use scone cutters, but these are too deep and you would need to push through the crumpets after turning.
Crumpets/Pikelets: makes 12
12 oz (350g) strong white flour
pinch of salt
1 x 7g sachet easy-blend dried yeast
10 fl.oz (280ml) warm milk
2 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
6 fl.oz (175mil) cold water
Sieve the flour and the salt into a large bowl and stir in the dried yeast. Stir the sugar into the milk and beat this into the flour until smooth. Cover bowl with a clean cloth and leave for about an hour or until doubled in bulk, then mix together the bicarb and water and beat this into the dough.
Butter the crumpet rings and place onto the base of a (preferably) non-stick frying pan and when hot spoon into each enough batter to come halfway up (allowing room to rise). Cook over a low heat for 3 - 4 minutes until the batter looks set and bubbles have appeared on the top. Using a fish slice, turn the rings over and cook for a further 2 - 3 minutes. Remove from the rings, place on a cake airer and cover with a cloth to keep warm (or butter and eat immediately). Meanwhile re-grease each ring after use and continue cooking until all the batter has been used up.
The surplus crumpets can be left to cool and can be stored in an airtight container for several days, to be toasted just before serving.

This next recipe can be eaten as a hot pudding with custard or cream, or eaten cold with a dollop of creme fraiche at tea-time. The orginal recipe was made with rhubarb, my version uses canned pears.
Soured Cream Pear Squares: makes 15 squares
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
4 oz (100g) chopped mixed nuts
1 tsp ground cinnamon
9 oz (250g) dark muscovado sugar
1 large egg
8 oz (225g) plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of sugar
pinch of salt
2 x 142ml cartons creme fraiche
1 can pear quarters, drained and chopped
Melt 1/2 oz (15g) of the butter and stir this into the sugar, nuts and cinnamon. Set to one side.
Cream the rest of the butter with the sugar and the egg. When creamy stir in the flour and bicarb (best sifted together), the salt and the creme fraiche. When well blended, stir in the pears.
Pour the mixture into a greased and lined large Swiss roll tin (13" x 9" x 2"/33 x 23 x 5cm) and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20-25 minutes until firm. Serve immediately if for a pudding, or leave to get cold and cut into squares to serve as and when. Will keep for 4 - 5 days in an airtight tin.