26 Jun 2012

Honey, would you like homemade bread for breakfast?

I can eat hydrogenated fat and E-numbers in the shape Nutella, burgers or cheap peanut butter every day without blinking, but when I recently learned about all the horrible additives and chemicals most supermarket breads are full of (which are the most widely available bread you can find in the UK), I felt betrayed.
I grew up being told that bread is a healthy food, and that “if you are hungry, eat an apple or a piece of bread”. And suddenly, that was not the case anymore. Yuck!
After making this life-changing discovery, I concluded that learning how to make bread was not only a fun theme of baking class I could take, but that it would also prove super useful in this country.
So this is how I ended in Maria’s amazing baking lab on a 5 hour bread making class. 

Maria and her baking apprentices of the day

 Even if we are probably the same age, Maria is the kind of person I dream of becoming when I grow up. She is beautiful, she is cool and she bakes all day, sharing her passion for good food and good bread, and she does that for a living.
I didn’t know I could learn so much in such a short space of time. We tried several bread recipes, we made rolls, flat breads, small buns and loafs…I came back home with a week worth of professional quality bread that I had made all by myself.
Maria taught us of course how to knead bread dough like a pro - and with specific techniques, depending of the kind of dough you are working with - but the recipe I’m sharing with you today is the one I nicknamed The Amazing Bread for Lazy People. (I nickname everything that I really like, from my friends to my clothes).
A 3 minute work giving you such amazing results, I think it does well deserve its nickname.
Prescription: prepare your dough before going out on Saturday night. Wake up on Sunday morning and with 10min preparation you will have warm fresh bread for breakfast!

The Overnight Rye Bread,
aka The Amazing Bread for Lazy people
150g dark rye bread flour
200g strong white flour
4g dried yeast
4g honey
5g salt
290g water
50g natural yoghurt

Make the bread:
1/ In a big bowl, mix the flour, yeast, salt. Add the water and yoghurt and mix with a spoon until well combined. (It will rise a lot, so you want a bowl that is a least twice as big as its content)

2/ Cover the bowl with a plastic lid and put in the fridge overnight
3/ Next day, preheat the oven at 200°C. When the oven is hot, place a baking tray containing approx. half a glass of water at the bottom of the oven
4/ Take the dough out of the fridge. Don’t deflate the dough. On a baking tray, scoop balls of dough (worth a heaped tablespoon) wide apart with a wet spoon. Try to touch the dough a little as possible not to deflate it and break the bubbles formed during the night.

Maria shows us how to make our buns without deflating the dough
 5/ Bake for about 20min and enjoy your buns hot!

"This is how we do it", easy peasy!

If you want to have a wonderful time, learn how to make bread and lots of amazing other things : http://www.bakewithmaria.com/

22 Jun 2012

Interlude in Cherryland

I was lucky enough to go last week to the Apt région in Provence during the harvest of Biggareau cherries, cherries specifically grown in the Luberon valley to make the finest French glacé cherries. 
I brought some wonderful memories back as well as some pictures and videos I wanted to share with you.

I am amazed every time I go to Provence: this region is not only the homeland of delicious fruits and vegs grown in beautiful landscapes, but also to the most picturesque villages and to the nicest people!

Walking in a Bigarreau cherry orchard, it's like walking in a candy shop.

Gordes, one of the most beautiful villages in France

Lavender field near Apt

From the orchard to the glacé cherry pot, everything is done locally here. As soon as the cherries are picked, they are brought to the nearby factories to be candied

I might not be the reddest cherry, but don't get confused, I am very much as tasteful as the cherries that you usually eat!
 Last but not least, this is video of how bigarreau cherries are mecanically harvested. Isn't it one of the coolest things you ever seen!? I just love it!

16 Jun 2012

My sweet 30

2012 is a big year. Lots to celebrate.

First, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I love leaving in a kingdom (seriously, isn’t it über cool to be able to say “I live in a Kingdooom”?) and having a Queen (Yes, I’ve decided she is my Queen too). So all the celebrations, exhibitions, TV shows about Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee are on my To Do List this year. And I am seriously loving it!

Then, the London 2012 Olympic Games. I am amongst the lucky ones who won tickets to go and see the Games. I am going to watch the Opening Ceremony concert in Hyde park, Beach Volleyball (at the Houseguard parade turned into a beach for the occasion), Boxing, Paralympic swimming (at the amazing new olympic swimming center)…
When some of us think about how awfully busy London will be during the Games  (which is true by the way), I, on the other hand, can’t wait to take part to the so-called “Greatest Show on Earth” and take the whole atmosphere - and athletes’ sweat - in!

Last but not least, I turned 30 a few weeks ago. I’ve never had a big thing for birthdays celebrations, but 30….well, it’s a special age. It was also a perfect reason to bake lots of cakes for my family and friends. And when I say lots…it’s actually a nice way to put the fact that I got totally carried away by the baking devil.

I hope you have a sweet tooth, because you’re about to take a bite of My Sweet 30!  

Cinnamon and demerara sugar biscuits

Bastogne biscuits are these delicious cinnamon and demerara sugar biscuits created by the famous (in France at least) Lu brand. As they belong to my favourite childhood treats, I got hysterical when a friend found their recipe.

Made with cookie-scrapcooking-cutters that I got for my birthday, they look super cute as well as tasting like heaven. And if you feel like taking a ride on the evil side of the tracks, you can even spread nutella on top of them before dipping them in a cup of tea.
This, my dear, is food orgasm garanteed.

300 g flour
250 g demerara sugar
100 g unsalted butter
3 tsp ground cinnamon (I like adding a good pinch of ground ginger too)
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 pinch of salt

Make the Bastognes
1/ Preheat the oven at 180°C.
2/ Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon (and ginger if used).
3/ Melt the butter in the microwave. Add it to the flour mixture. Mix well.
4/ Add the egg and mix well. If the dough is too dry, you can add milk, a teaspoon at a time.
5/ Make a ball with the dough, kneading briefly with your hands to make it soft.
6/ Flour a work surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 5mm if you like crunchy biscuits, or up to 1cm if you like them softer. Cut them with cookie cutters of your favourite shapes and spread them on a lightly floured baking sheet (or silicone mat).
7/ Bake for approx. 20 min until golden
8/ Transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool completely. Store them up to 2 to 3 weeks in a metal biscuit tin.

If you want to bake yourself all your favourite branded biscuits, visit this amazing website: http://www.lasupersuperette.com/. It’s a pure gem!