Autumn Transitional Food and Winding-Down the Garden
Sedrick-the-sourdough-start went to work this week and produced some excellent bread. My starter is now a couple of years old, and was blended with some San Francisco starter in March that gave it a lovely depth of flavour. Sedrick was originally quite tart, very lively, and often blew the sides out of sourdough loaves. The addition of the San Francisco blend has mellowed the flavour and calmed Sedrick down a bit, although it still gives a good oven-rise and an excellent flavour.
Good sausages from the butcher at the farmer’s market, a golden hued onion, and a burst of sudden colour in the trees calls for the reintroduction of heartier food. Comfort food. Comfort as we slip into another layer of clothing to ward off the chilly mornings. And my favourite recipe for bangers and onion gravy is Nigel Slater’s “non-recipe”. No ingredient list, just eloquent writing about this process of creating a good plate of food. Food that Peder eats without hardly spilling a word until he’s finished, and then he says, “Well, that was good.” He’s a man of few words. But good taste.
And speaking of Peder, he put up another two jars (massively huge jars) of pickles from his Danish asker plants. I suspect that’s the last of the cucumbers that those plant will produce. They’re taking on white powder mildew now, a sure sign that the plants are stressed and declaring their job done.
The garden is turning autumn-ish. The flowers are still with us, but many are holding on to their petals like dying lovers. Every gust of wind sends a few more toward freedom. It’s seed collecting time in the garden, and I love that almost as much as I love deadheading spent flowers.
As you can see, we are still working our way through a good supply of tomatoes. The larger ones are finished but the cherry and plum tomatoes are still ripening. The yellow plum tomatoes disappointed; too meaty, no juice, prone to insect attack more than usual. I’ll not suggest those next year.
I’m looking forward to heartier meals now that autumn is here. Do you have favourite autumn meals you rely on at this transitional time of the year? Salad just don’t seem right anymore. I’d love to hear your suggestions!
This is not my recipe, so I’ll not take any credit for it. It is however one of the best that I’ve stumbled over, so I thought you’d like to know about it. It’s called Ultimate Scones, and it’s at the BBC Good Food website. And here’s the way they look when you’ve baked them!
I baked scones for International Scones Week. That’s not to say that I baked them during International Scones Week. Last week was manic; the scones had to wait for me to breathe. Sunday morning was calm enough for the occasion, so here’s my contribution to Celia’s annual event. Photos of the participants’ scones are at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial
Stevia is the sweetener rather than sugar, buttermilk with a splash of milk to slacken its thickness is the liquid, self-rising flour, salt, and cold cubed butter rubbed into the flour. I mixed the dough with a table knife, patted it to a 3cm floured flat disk, and then used the largest cutter I could find. If you’re going to eat a scone, I reckon you should eat a scone … not a dainty petit four with a drop of jam.
It wasn’t planned, losing a few pounds. We suffered a bit with a tummy bug, and then it took about a week before either of us really felt an urge to eat winterish food. But when it happened, when we finally regained our appetite, we were like two starving bears leaving hibernation for the arrival of spring. And gosh, did we ever dig in.
I made a big Yorkshire Pudding from an adapted recipe of James Martin’s (his mum’s recipe, he says). The original recipe makes enough to stuff the population of a small village. There’s only two of us in this house, so it was time for maths. But for the longest time, the maths didn’t add up, and the recipe wasn’t my favourite. And then I watched him make it on telly one weekend, and discovered something he did that wasn’t in the original recipe. He opened the oven door halfway through the cooking time to release built-up steam. As soon as I did that, the recipe worked perfectly. I’ve since noticed that he’s updated the recipe on the BBC Food website to reflect that nifty trick.
That afternoon, I made a casserole with tinned/drained white beans and browned Cumberland sausage links in a spicy sauce of chopped tomatoes (1 tin), 1 chopped onion, 3 cloves garlic, pinch of salt, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, and a ridiculous amount of pepper because we love black pepper. I added a splash of my husband’s beer to the pot while his back was turned, then gave the whole thing a gentle stir, and popped it in the oven at a low temperature to slowly simmer for about 40 minutes. First 20-minutes with the lid on, and then remove the lid for the duration so the sausages brown to a deep crusty golden colour in the oven.
It was just what two hungry bears needed.
Ingredients (for 8 servings/for 2 servings)
225g/47g plain flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 large/2 large free-range eggs
600ml/120ml whole or semi-skimmed milk
50g/10g beef dripping or lard
Place the flour into a bowl and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Lightly beat the eggs and add them with the milk to the bowl. Whisk to make a smooth batter, although some lumps might remain. Cover and place in the fridge to chill for at least one hour. Overnight is best.
Place the pudding pan in the oven, and then preheat to 220C. When the oven is at temperature and the pan is hot, add the dripping or lard to your Yorkshire tins, and place the tin in the oven for 10-minutes until very hot.
Remove the tin from the oven, and carefully pour the batter into the tin(s), filling it 2/3 full. Place the tins in the oven and cook for 20-minutes. After 20-minutes, open the oven door to allow steam to escape, and turn the temperature down to 190C. Continue to cook until the puddings are golden-brown and crisp.
After the kitchen renovation, and long months without any refrigeration or power, I was certain that Sedrick-the-Sourdough-Starter was gummy history. I couldn’t interest him in anything; nothing brought a rise out of the boy. I couldn’t stand the idea of chucking him out though, so I stuck a bit of him in a Ziploc bag and stuck the bag into the freezer … where I promptly forgot it. Several months later, I started a new starter, rediscovered Sedrick freezin’ his boots off in freezer, thawed him out … gave him a good pep talk, and tossed him into the new starter. Gaazooks. Sedrick immediately came to life, and within 2 hours the glass bowl was nearly overflowing. It’s true; it’s hard to keep a good boy down. Sedrick lives. And we made a delicious loaf of sourdough white.
a bag of bread flour
an organic apple (I have apple trees)
a large clear-ish plastic or glass bowl with a lid (or use cling film)
tepid water from the tap (kitchen faucet)
a scale for weighing the flour and water
Grate a small organic apple, but don’t go near the core. No need to peel the apple. Set the grated apple aside.
Now in a large plastic or glass bowl, stir together 250g bread flour and 250g tepid water until all of the lumps are gone. Stir in the grated apple. Cover with cling film, and set in a room-temperature location in the kitchen where you can look inside the bowl from time to time. By day 2 or 3, you should see a few small bubbles breaking the surface. Fermentation has started. It LIVES!
Chuck out all but 100g of the soupy starter, and “refresh” its food supply with a new measure of 100g bread flour and 100g tepid water. Stir. Cover again. Say nightie-night. You have a living creature in that bowl now, so we teach good manners by example. We say ‘good morning’ and good night’ and ‘wake up your lazy so-and-so; you’re going to miss the school bus’. Stuff like that.
Day 5: Did your starter climb up the bowl a bit? Can you see a new high tideline on the inside of the bowl? I use a clear plastic bowl so I can mark the ‘refresh’ level with a pen, and then compare where the new tideline is to see how awake the starter is. By now, mine was trying to run off in the middle of the night for some iffy rendezvous. Refresh your starter by chucking out all but 50g of old gooey-wiggly-batter-like starter, and stirring in new food: 100g bread flour and 100g water.
Day 6: Refresh your starter (toss out all but 50g to which you’ll add 100g bread flour and 100g water. That’s a total starter weight of 250g). Wait for 6-10 hours, and if the starter grows up the side of the bowl at least double its original height, your starter is ready for use. If it doesn’t, feed it again, and see if it has more oomph the next day. If your kitchen is cold, you’ll need to be patient.
If you’re going to bake bread the following day: Give your starter a stir, and then add 100g bread flour and 100g tepid water. You should now have roughly 450g starter ready to use the next morning. The starter will feed on the fresh bread flour overnight. BUT … Don’t use ALL of your starter. Measure out 50g in the morning, feed it, and store it away – then you use the remaining 400g.
If you’re NOT going to bake bread for a few days, store your 250g of starter in the fridge, feeding it once a week as described above (chuck out all but 50g starter to which you add 100g bread flour and 100g tepid water). Some of your starter can also be frozen as a back-up should your little jewel pop its clogs. Been there; done that.
Out on the internet there are plenty of methods and recipes and percentages for making a sourdough starter. You can use grapes or apples. I’ve known people who use pineapple. This just happens to be the easiest “recipe” for me to remember because the hydration percentages are 100g weight for each, and I just retained 50g of the old starter which always gets fed 100g of bread flour and 100g tepid water. I use tap water, by the way. It works fine. No need (imo) to buy bottled water for this, although many bakers do. Thames Water works brilliantly for me. I pay for the darned stuff; might as well use it is my thinking.
So next step. Let’s make sourdough bread!
400g newly-refreshed sourdough starter at room temperature
175g strong flour/white bread flour
25g softened butter
50g tepid water
8 g table salt
7g instant yeast
(if you want certainty of a good rise, add 7g instant yeast for a hybrid loaf, although I don’t think you’ll need the yeast as your starter should easily carry the weight of this amount of flour and water)
Pour your starter into a large bowl, add the flour bit by bit stirring it into the starter, slowly add the water, stirring until a soft dough forms and all the flour is picked up from the bottom of the bowl. You may not need all of the water. If you’re using a stand mixer, throw in the first 3 ingredients, mix well, add the water if needed to form a soft ball of dough (tacky is okay but not super-sticky at this stage – I’m not good at handling very wet dough).
Allow the dough to rest for 5-minutes, and then mix in the salt very, very well. I spread the dough out on a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle on the salt, and knead it into the dough. Let rest.
Now knead the dough for 5-10 minutes by hand until it’s soft and silky. Or use your stand mixer, and knead with a dough hook for 5-minutes at low speed. Do a windowpane test after 5-minutes. If the dough ‘breaks’ before the windowpane is visible, knead a bit longer.
Lightly oil a large glass or plastic bowl, shape your dough into a ball, and set in it the bowl to rise. It took my boy Sedrick about 3-1/2 hours to rise the dough enough for my liking.
Gently remove the dough from the bowl, lightly press into a rectangular shape, and then fold each short end into the middle of the length, and then roll the two folds into one log-shape. Press the seam at the bottom closed (tightly), and press the ends closed and tuck (slightly) under. Allow to rise on a baking sheet or in a tin, covered by a towel or inside a large plastic bag until doubled in size (about an hour in a warm room).
Preheat the oven to 220c. Place an empty roasting tray on the bottom rack of the oven to warm. When the oven is hot, put your loaf of bread in, and immediately close the door. 2-3 minutes later, open the oven door and very quickly pour hot water into the roasting tray to create steam. Quick! Close the oven door so you don’t let too much heat or steam escape. That steam will allow your bread crust to expand so you’ll get a good rise. Bake at 220c for 30-35 minutes until it sounds hollow when you rap the bottom of the loaf.
The resurrection of Sedrick-the-Sourdough-Starter. He is producing splendid, lofty, highly flavoured bread. I’m so proud of the little guy!!
In My Kitchen is another loaf of Danish-style dark sourdough rye bread for Peder’s Danish sandwiches. It’s a huge batch of dough that weighs nearly a kilo, takes about 3 hours to rise, and 90-minutes to bake. But it’s delicious and moist, and freezes extremely well.
In My Kitchen is a glass of cranberry gelée that I make by boiling fresh cranberries with port wine, and pushing the whole squidgy mass through a sieve.
In My Kitchen is comfort food. Winter-warming food. Toad-in-the-hole!
In My Kitchen there’s always time for a cup of coffee and a fresh baked sourdough bun.
I’m hoping to also bake up a storm for Christmas, so I might be adding to this month’s post in the weeks to come. To join in the fun of sharing what’s in your kitchen this morning, pop over to Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for details.
My new AEG oven has a mind of its own. It’s like a character in a fairy tale; happily not a Grimm one. I played with Sedrick-the-Sour-Dough-Starter the other day, and baked bread. Three times, actually. My bread prefers conventional oven heat, not the fan.
So I experimented with several “True Fan” settings and temperatures, and the best result was conventional heat radiating from both the top and bottom of the oven.
This temperature was a tiny bit too hot, and ….
… this temperature was just a shade too cool, but ….
… this one was just right, and we ate it all up!!
Do you use conventional or the fan setting on your oven when baking bread?