Friday, 31 October 2014

Spoooooky Spanish Persimon #spanishpersimon

Tis the end of October...

The witches and the bats and the vampires are about......

If you are orange  BE VERY AFRAID...

you WILL be put in a cauldron and BOILED!!!


One cold, wet and stormy night

(alright, one unseasonably warm afternoon...)

a box arrived...... it was filled with the sound of groaning... and fluttering... and seeping from the edges came orange light...

The lid creaked open and a round shiny parcel rolled out onto the floor...

The groaning was getting LOUDER.. the fluttering beat against the sides of the parcel. There were THINGS inside, that needed to be released....

Would they be boiled?

Would they escape?

Would they be cut up and made into breakfast????

(Answers to above quiz...(a.  No.  (b. No. (c. Oh yes!!! )

(with deep apologies for the appallingly bad prose and grateful thanks to Spanish Persimon for the gorgeous golden globes and to Red Communications for arranging the delivery :)

Saturday, 13 September 2014

the best of A Greedy Piglet: More White Bread tips

More of my stream of consciousness tips... you will find that they do vary a bit from post to post... they are all valid at different times :) take what you like and leave the rest...


Do you remember I started making white bread? that my husband approved of, and would actually eat in preference to the thick sliced white bread he used to insist I bought? (2014 edit:  he has gone back to preferring sliced bread... :(  )

I've been playing further and have a couple more ideas for you that have been very successful.

Make a flying sponge

A flying sponge is a fast method of making a pre-ferment or poolish. It takes part of the flour and liquid and pre-ferments that with the yeast. Some methods call for just a little bit of the yeast and a long (often overnight) rise, others take a faster route and mix with all the yeast from the recipe. This adds a lot of flavour to the bread without a lengthy rise, and suits my schedule much better.

Basically, you take 50% of the total flour called for in the recipe, and add an equal amount of liquid and all the yeast from the recipe. So for this milk bread, I use 250g bread flour plus 250g milk at blood heat and 1 tsp on instant yeast. NO SALT. Mix to a shaggy dough, no need to knead, and leave for 2 hours until puffy and risen.

Then add the rest of the flour (250g OO flour for this loaf), the rest of the liquid (another 150g warm milk) the salt (1.25 tsp) mix, knead and continue as your recipe. I find that the rising times are much reduced, without sacrificing any flavour.

Add DRY milk powder

I tried with fresh full cream milk, scalding this and allowing it to cool to blood heat, but to be honest, I kept forgetting to buy full cream milk (I don't use it normally) so went back to using skim milk. Either fresh skim milk, scalded and cooled, or more easily, the boiling water and milk powder I used in the original recipe. Then I discovered that I could make it even easier by mixing the fine powdered economy milk powder into the flour, and just using water. Which is easily got from the kettle and the tap. Simples!

Use yoghurt instead of milk if you have run out of milk or milk powder

I had not been shopping, I only had a little bit of milk powder, and very little liquid milk, but I did have some Greek yoghurt in the fridge. I used the milk powder for the sponge, and used 100g yoghurt with 100ml water to the main bulk mix. The dough is slightly stickier, and easier to knead in a machine than by hand, and the crust softens when it cools.But that isn't always a bad thing, and the flavour is lovely.

Knead by machine if you have one.

I admit I have resisted buying a stand mixer for a long time, due to the expense to be honest. But I succumbed and bought myself a Kenwood Titanium as my Christmas and Birthday present this year, and I am so very pleased with the results. I have been kneading on a low setting (1) for 10 minutes and the dough is excellent. I would always use Dan's quick knead method if I didn't have the machine around, but to be honest, I am getting such good lift and tension in the dough, I can only recommend you to use if you have one.

Allow it to rise properly

I have started allowing my bulk proof to really swell up, to nearly 3 times the original volume. It definitely helps having somewhere warm to put it, draughts are no friend to bread dough. I treat the dough quite gently when I turn it out of the bowl, but after deflating it gently, it needs to be

Shaped tightly

Make sure that you maintain a distinction between the sides of your dough. One side will form a good skin with tight shaping, and you need to keep this on the same side, folding and shaping the dough to tighten this skin to make the bread rise properly. Have a look in Jeffrey Hamelman for really good shaping instructions.

Don't use a silicone sheet to put your bread on

When I baked the bloomer, I thought putting the bread on a silicone sheet would help it not stick, but I didn't realise that it would stop it from browning and cooking properly underneath. The heat of the metal seems necessary, and the finish on the bottom of the tin loaf was much better. I took the loaf off the silicon, turned it upside down and finished it off that way to give it a crust underneath. Sadly, this made the top flat!

I hope these tips help, do let me know, and let me know any tips you have too please. I'm still learning, I need all the help I can get!

The best of A Greedy Piglet: Even Lighter White Bread!

This is certainly one to try again soon, easy to forget that mashed potato is used to improve white bread in many cultures, this one uses potato flour but I might try with mashed potato flakes and see what that does.


Trying new flours and slightly different methods to see how they will affect the softness of the milky white bread, this is the softest yet, and possibly as soft as I want to get. The crust is very thin light and soft, so would make excellent rolls.

Basic recipe is the same as the Milky Loaf here.. but I used 250g Strong flour, 200g 00 flour, and 50g potato flour (farine or fecule). Liquid was 350ml of finger hot water with 4 HEAPED tbs of milk powder and 60g butter.

Mixing was slightly different in that I folded rather than kneaded. So autolysed for 50 mins (cos I forgot it again..) then 2 lots of folding at 20 min intervals. Tightly shaped into ovals, and put side by side on a baking tray for 40 mins. Baked for 20 mins at Mk 7, reducing to 20 mins at Mk4.

The extra milk powder and butter together with the small amount of potato flour make a tight soft crumb ideal for sandwiches. It has a high level of natural sugars, so toasts quickly. A bread that is easy to eat for small children I would think.

The best of A Greedy Piglet: my top tips with a Milky White and a Milky Brown

 First of the tip sheets I wrote a couple of years ago,  still valid. Lovely loaves I made back then! Nicer than the ones I am making now I think.... I need to read my own tips again!


I am loving making bread again. I had forgotten how satisfying it is to have a freshly baked loaf sitting on top of its tin cooling down.

I have also been searching for several years for a loaf that Bob would enjoy, and I have found it. Hurray!!

It makes brilliant Poppy Seed rolls as well:

The White Milk Loaf, almost as per Dan Lepard's Milk Bread recipe in The Handmade Loaf. I use skimmed milk powder, as I don't always have fresh milk enough in the fridge, more butter than he does, and the liquid is hotter. But I do use his brilliant method. And I have tried this out as well with a mix of flours to get a light soft brown loaf.

I really recommend getting Dan's book, there are some amazing recipes.
And whilst you are waiting for your copy to arrive from Amazon, here are my top tips for making brilliant bread.

Tip one, make sure the flour and yeast is thoroughly soaked in the liquid before you start to knead. You will do this by roughly mixing it together into a shaggy mass. The easiest thing by far for this is a Danish dough whisk, which you can get at Bakery Bits . Get the smaller one for household quantities, it is easier to use.

Tip two, if you don't already use it discover Quick yeast -- Dove Farm is my favourite, easily available in the supermarket and in a little tetrapack box not a sachet, so easier to use how much you need. I keep my opened pack in an airtight plastic box. You add it to the flour, not the liquid and it is foolproof. (Well, I add rapidly, I have never had a failure with it, in years of breadmaking.) If you have time, use less yeast and more rising time, if you are short of time, add more yeast but expect the bread to stale a bit quicker.

Tip three, don't be scared of salt. Sea salt is the optimum you will read, but I find the crystals hard to dissolve, and I don't want shards of salt in my bread. So I just use ordinary table salt (the cheapest kind, which has no additives). Make sure you use enough. Bread with no salt is disgusting. ( Don't ask the Italians about this though, as they love their saltless bread, but then they eat it with salty salami and proscuitto)

Tip four, forget about heavy kneading. Kneading is designed to strengthen the gluten and it does, but time is what really helps the gluten. So you are only kneading for 10 seconds (or to a fastish count of 20, which is what I do.) Then you will rest for about 20 minutes, and 10 second knead again. Do this another time, and then let the bread rest and prove for about half an hour. Then shape it and let it rise again for about an hour (if it is warm) or an hour and a half (if the weather is a bit chillier).

Tip five, shape properly. For a tin loaf, you want a good tight skin on the outside of the bread, and the inside to be full of evenly distributed small bubbles. For a looser bread like focaccia or ciabatta you are aiming at lots of large light bubbles. You will find lots of good information on shaping bread on the internet, I love The Fresh Loaf forum, and Dan's own forum for really good links to resources and amazingly knowledgeable people happy to share their knowledge with us.

Tip six, wash all your stuff in cold water. Honestly, you will thank me for this tip more than any other. Hot water cooks the flour. And use your dough scraper in the cold water to clean your bowl. The curve of your dough scraper ( you do have a dough scraper, yes? I cut mine out of icecream cartons btw..) fits the curve of the bowl to quickly remove all the doughy bits. You can then tip the water away with all the sticky bits in it and either wash the bowl in hot water as usual or stick it in the dishwasher.

I'd be delighted to hear your tips to add to mine, please comment and let me know what you think makes the best bread?
Milky Bread

Recipe Type: Bread
Author: based on a Dan Lepard recipe
Excellent crusty Farmhouse type white loaf
  • 350g Strong Bread Flour
  • 150g tipo 00 Italian Flour , or any soft plain wheat flour.
  • 100 ml boiling water
  • 200 ml room temperature water
  • 200g Strong White Bread Flour
  • 150g Strong Wholemeal Flour
  • 100g tipo 00 Italian Flour, or any soft plain wheat flour
  • 50g Potato flour (not essential but makes a lovely soft loaf, if you don't have it add another 50g Wholemeal flour)
  • 120 ml boiling water
  • 230 ml room temperature water
  • 1tsp fine salt
  • 1.25 tsp instant yeast
  • 4 tablespoons milk powder (I use skimmed milk powder, but any will do)
  • 50g unsalted butter, chopped
  1. Put the flours, salt and yeast in a large bowl. In a jug mix the two waters, and check the temperature. You want it warm blood temperature, or roughly 35 degrees Centigrade.
  2. Add the milk powder and the butter to the water and whisk in. Add the liquid to the flours and mix until a shaggy dough is formed.
  3. Rest for 10-20 mins.
  4. Knead lightly 10 secs/20 times. Return to a clean, lightly oiled bowl , turn over so the top is oily, and cover with a plastic bag. Repeat short kneads 3 times.
  5. Rest for 30 mins.
  6. Shape firmly as required and put into a greased 2lb loaftin, or make rolls (I made 12 from this mix)and put onto a baking tray about an inch apart so that they will kiss when baked.
  7. Rise covered in oiled plastic (the one from the rises will be oily enough) for an hour to an hour and a half depending on the temperature in the room, until the bread is nearly as high as you want it to be but not soft and floppy.
  8. Glaze with milk or egg, scatter with flour or poppy seeds, and bake in a hot oven Gas Mark 7 for 15 mins, then reduce the heat to Gas Mark 4 and continue to bake for 25 mins for bread or 10 mins for rolls.
  9. Check that the bread comes away from the tin easily, and is good and brown and crusty on the underside, and cool thoroughly on a rack before cutting and eating.

The Best of A Greedy Piglet: Giardinera - the Very Best Pickles!

It is that time of year again, and I need to make more pickles for the autumn and maybe for Christmas... although these are so good that I will make a lot more than last year. 

One thing I did find last year was that for two of us the 1 litre Kilner jars I used were too big, and the pickles got soft in the fridge before they were eaten up.  This year I will be making in much smaller jars. I still haven't found any commercially made pickles here in the UK as good as these. If you give them a go, do please let me know. I love feedback on my favourite recipes.


I have a husband who is half Italian, and whenever we went to Italy, we would always pick up jars of pickled vegetables, slightly sweet, in an oily vinegar. He loves them, but similar types bought over here have always been too sharp and vinegary for his taste. For years I have promised to try making them, and never got around to it.. but this year, for Christmas I made some. Oh they are good!

I used a mix of vegetables that included cauliflower, turnip, celery, red and yellow peppers, courgette and carrot. Here they are cut up nicely in their little bowls waiting to go in order into their vinegar bath:

I find it easier to keep them all separate so that I can add them to the vinegar bath in the right order - the carrot, turnip and celery first, cook for a couple of minutes, then the cauliflower, one minute more and lastly, I added the red and yellow peppers and the courgettes off the heat. I like the vegetables rather on the crunchy side, if you prefer them a little softer then cook a little longer. The vinegar bath should be kept on a simmer rather than a full rolling boil as you don't want to reduce it too much.

Importantly, don't cool the vegetables in the hot vinegar, as they will continue to cook. Take them out with a slotted spoon and fill into sterilised Kilner jars, adding a bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary to each jar. When the vinegar is cooled right down to no more than lukewarm, then give it a stir and fill the jars covering the vegetables completely then seal. If you don't have enough seasoned vinegar, top up each jar with plain wine or spirit vinegar. I keep them just on the shelf until they are opened, when I prefer to keep the jar in the fridge.

To fill 3 medium Kilner jars

250g each of carrots, turnips, red/yellow peppers, courgettes, celery, cauliflower cut into bite sized slices/pieces
500 ml white wine or cider vinegar
500 ml spirit vinegar (white or distilled vinegar in the US I believe)
100 ml olive oil
80g sugar
40g salt (I just use the cheapest salt as it is dissolved, try for one with no additives)
One bay leaf and one sprig of rosemary per jar
Three medium or four smaller Kilner jars, sterilised.
  • Combine the vinegars, oil, salt and sugar in a large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • Add the vegetables starting with the carrots, celery and turnips. Cook 2 minutes. Add cauliflower and cook one minute more.
  • Remove from heat and add peppers and courgettes off the heat. Allow to sit off the heat for two minutes. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and fill into kilner jars, making sure there is a good mix of different vegetables in each jar.
  • Allow the vinegar to cool to room temperature and then fill into the jars, completely covering the vegetables (if there is not quite enough vinegar to cover top up with more plain vinegar, either wine or spirit, whichever is to hand). Seal and keep for up to three months. Keep in the fridge once opened.
Eat with cold meats and cheese... or just nick bits straight out of the jar!

Back to basics... A nice white English style bread, Simple.

I have been making sourdough bread all the time recently, but I suddenly have a yearning for a simple milky white bread again.

It doesn't keep as well as sourdough, so needs to be made more often, but that isn't really a bad thing. The hydration (proportion of liquid to the flour) is less with these very English breads, and that makes for a tighter crumb. A crumb that is suited more to English sandwiches and toast than open, airy sourdough, which is much better for scooping and dipping olive-oily mixes.

The basic bread is pretty much the same, the only difference between these two is in the liquids.

First off, I made some poppy seed rolls. Perfect for cheese and tomato rolls, and for bacon with tomato ketchup for breakfast.

These lasted around two days in the bread bin, but they aren't long keepers, so I wouldn't want to keep them any longer, although they freeze well.

So next up, proper English loaves made in small loaf tins (these are mini loaves, I used a quarter of the dough for each of these, and the other half in a 1lb tin for a little bit bigger slice),

And here is a close up of the crumb of the loaves

There is room in our baking lexicon for all kinds of bread. Don't let us forget this kind of bread by only making "artisan" style bread.  Raise the flag (the old style Union Flag, even if Scotland leave the Union) for English bread!

Buttermilk / Whey Bread


150g bread flour
150g water
1 tsp instant yeast

Mix this together roughly and leave to get bubbly and well risen for 2-4 hours depending on your schedule

Main dough:

350g Bread flour (I use an equal mix of Canadian extra strong and bread flour or 00 pasta flour)
160g liquid : 
for rolls I used water with 1 tbs buttermilk powder (or use half fresh buttermilk, half water)
for loaves I used whey from straining home made full cream milk yoghurt, or you could use half fresh yoghurt and half water
All of the yeast sponge above
Additional quarter tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
half tsp malt powder (optional)
1 tablesp milk powder (optional, but makes for a lovely flavour)
rolls:  1 tablespoon oil (I used cold pressed rapeseed oil, but any oil is fine)

Mix the sponge and liquids first of all and then add the flour, salt, yeast, malt and milk powder (if using) and mix roughly to a soft dough, either by machine or by hand.  Let it rest for half an hour and then knead in your favourite way (lots of tips on kneading in my earlier post on the old Greedy Piglet site on white bread and more tips here , both of which I will move here shortly).  Allow to rise for approximately 2 hours until at least doubled in size.  Deflate gently by patting flat on the worktop, and then divide either into 12 rolls or shape to fit one 2lb loaf tin, 2 x 1 lb loaf tins or 4 mini loaf tins, or a mixture of these shapes.   Start the oven heating now to Gas Mark 7 425/220 degrees.

Shaping rolls:
Cut the dough into chunks (I work to about 12 for this amount of dough, cutting in half then half again then half again) and roll into rough rounds. Leave for about 10 mins and then shape by patting flat, turning the corners to the middle a couple of times, turn so the seams are underneath and then rolling with a cupped hand on the (unfloured) worktop.  Pop onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg wash (1 egg in a bowl with a pinch of salt and a splash of water). Cover very lightly with cling film and allow to proof for half an hour then egg wash again and sprinkle with poppy seeds - sesame seeds are also nice, maybe with a couple of nigella seeds too for a Turkish flavour.  Bake for around 15 mins until golden brown.

Shaping bread. 

Divide the dough into the sizes your tins dictate. Flatten gently and then shape by folding corners to middle then turning top third down and then bottom third up to make an oblong. Flatten gently again and fold top down to bottom, sealing the bottom edge firmly with the base of your hand. Drop into the greased loaf tin and cover with cling film or a clean shower cap and allow to proof for around an hour or until the bread is just peeking over the top of the tin. Slash down the middle if you like, or not if you don't like, dust with flour, and bake for around 45 mins.

Cool both shapes on a rack out of the tins until thoroughly cool.

Or until just about warm enough for the butter not to melt too much. Yummy.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Stuffed.......or Stuffed Up? part two...

During the day of the Great British Bake Off Bread Week yesterday, young Danny @foodurchin called for his Twitter and Beamly friends to join him in baking something to scoff during the programme.  I didn't have a huge amount of time, it was a work day after all, but I decided it was a good time to revisit a stuffed bread. Sorry.. what did I say there? .. I DIDN'T HAVE A HUGE AMOUNT OF TIME. We are back to rushing a bread that shouldn't be rushed again. Sigh

I don't learn do I?

Sweet this time I thought. I hadn't watched yet don't forget, so hadn't seen Jordan's debacle with his sweet stuffed bread. Probably just as well. It should have put me off.

I have Nutella (well, Sainsbury's own brand version, which is fine by me) and some hazelnuts.   I don't bother to double check the recipe on line. My dough is fine. I know how to make this. I do. 

No I don't. I stuffed it up.

This is my stuffed-up chocolate bread.

This should look like this... (the link explains how the shaping is done as well. Though the dough is a simpler one than mine)


I rushed it. You can see it. That 2nd picture is a thing of beauty whilst mine is totally ugly.

The dough was too soft. It was sticky and slithery and I made a right pigs ear of it.  I didn't roll it properly, I didn't twist it properly, and I overbaked it too. But let me tell you for nothing, it tastes lovely. And that is what is important isn't it? No, sorry, you won't find style over substance in my kitchen.

Here you are, it is based on my demi-brioche dough cobbled together from various different recipes. This is MY version - yours may vary... for instance,  you may actually bake it nicely :)

Semi brioche dough is semi as it is only half as rich and half as sweet as true brioche dough, so it is much easier to use for something like this. It would work just as well with a savoury filling such as the pesto and cheese one here:

150g bread flour
150g water
1 tsp instant yeast

Mix this together to make a rough dough, and put to one side for 4-5 hours. You can even make it in the evening and leave it at room temperature overnight, in which case, you probably only need half a teaspoon of yeast.

Main dough.

200g strong bread flour
150g OO flour or plain flour if you don't have OO
4 level tablespoons milk powder + 1 tablespoon of buttermilk powder (you can omit this if you don't have it)
2 whole eggs broken into a measuring jug, level made up to 200ml with warm water and mixed together
1 tablespoon Total Classic Greek yoghurt
1.5 tsp salt
75 g unsalted butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons runny honey

4-6  tablespoons Nutella at soft room temperature
2-3 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts
I egg mixed with a little water and salt

In a stand mixer* (*I really do recommend a stand mixer for this, you can use a Slap and Fold method of mixing and kneading but it is very messy) put all the ingredients minus the butter and honey, along with the preferment you made earlier. Knead at a low speed for around 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and you can pull it out easily without it tearing.

Start the mixer again and add the honey and the butter in chunks. Allow the butter and honey to fully incorporate and knead for a further 5 minutes.  Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, fold the dough onto itself to form a plump ball and cover with cling film or a clean shower cap.

Either allow the dough to rise at room temperature for around 2 to 3 hours (until very light and fluffy) or move it to the fridge to prove slowly overnight.  If you prove at room temperature, chill the dough for at least 20 minutes before trying to roll it out (I didn't have time for this, hence the almighty mess...)

After chilling, cut the dough into four equal sections, and form each into a round. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Roll and stretch each section into a round about 20 cm across.  Spread one with Nutella and sprinkle with the hazelnuts Put another round on top.  Repeat until all four rounds are used up, but don't spread any Nutella onto the top round. 

Move to a parchment covered baking tray. Chill if possible for another 10 minutes before cutting and twisting (I can't ever do this as I don't have room in the fridge). (Follow the cutting and twisting instructions in the nice photo above, or here are even better pictures . You will see that I didn't double check the twisting instructions. Or the rolling out instructions either as I only made two rounds. Oh. You will do better I am sure.)

(edit:  I'm being told that the instructions are toooooo complicated! Well, I've found it on You Tube for you..

I hope this will help a bit....)

Brush with egg wash, and leave to prove again for around 45 minutes to an hour at room temperature. Put the oven on at Gas mark 6 or electric equivalent for the last 30 minutes. 

Bake the loaf for around 20 minutes (keep an eye on it, brioche burns easily) and then move to a rack to cool.

Even with one layer it still twists beautifully, and perhaps has thicker brioche layers this way, which suits me as I like the brioche as much as the Nutella. 

The crumb on this is lovely and light.

It reheats well for breakfast by the way. I broke it into pieces, and gave these 10 minutes at Gas mk 3 just to warm the filling.

p.s. If you have some dough left over, you can make simple round buns with it, and toast them for breakfast with butter fried tomatoes. Simple pleasures...

Stuffed....part one

Stuffed bread.... did you watch The Great British Bake Off last night, with their fancy stuffed breads? And almost no time to make them in, which made me so annoyed.   If there is one thing I have learnt from my various bread making experiments it is that even quick bread needs time.

So let's start with the bread I made for the Essex Food and Drink Festival. Yes, the one I was bragging about all over my Facebook and Twitter pages, the one I won with.

I almost didn't enter the competition on Sunday . I got home tired and hot on Saturday, and really couldn't face baking again. But I didn't sleep well (it was a very hot night that night) and I woke at 4.30. Oh well, why not. Let's give it a go.

So I had from just before 5 until 9 when I wanted to leave. 4 hours - exactly the same amount of time as the Bake Off competitors had.  How did I do it? I sacrificed flavour in the bread for flavour in the additions.

I made the bread using tips from Dan Lepard in Short and Sweet. I added 3 TIMES as much yeast as I would usually. I added yoghurt and vinegar to compensate for the loss of depth of flavour due to the shortened proof times caused by the extra yeast. And I baked dark so that the bread wouldn't collapse due to the fast, hot proof.  And I only just got it made and cooled in time. It was still warm when I wrapped it to take to the Festival, and that took a little over three hours for cooking and an hour for cooling.

The bread dough itself had NO flavour in it, but truthfully it didn't matter. The bread was to be a tear and share Cheese loaf for the competition, and so the dough was spread with pesto and grated Jarlsberg and Cheddar cheeses, then rolled up before being cut and twisted. So any loss of flavour in the dough won't really be noticed, as the main flavour is from the additions.

But if I did it again? I would use a poolish. I would chill the dough more to make it easier to handle (let me tell you it was a horrendous job rolling and shaping the still slightly warm frothy dough. Much easier to make this with a slow proof in the fridge ) and I would probably use my new love, my semi-brioche dough.

But if you would like to bake with the kids, three to four hours is probably as much as you could hope to keep them in one place ... (though they can nip outside for a quick game of footie whilst the dough is proving and the loaf is cooking)

so here you are, give it a go and let me know what you think:
500g white bread flour
300g milk (either scald milk to boiling point then let it cool to no more than 32 degrees, or use warm water and milk powder.)
50g melted and cooled unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cider or white wine vinegar
1 heaped tablespoon Total Classic Greek yoghurt
1.5 tsps salt
1 heaped teaspoon dried mixed herbs (I used Italian herb blend)
4 teaspoons instant yeast 

half a jar of pesto
2-3 handfuls of grated cheese - I used Jarlsberg and cheddar but use any cheese you have around.
One egg beaten with a little salt and water.

  • Mix all the ingredients together to make a rough dough. Cover and leave in the bowl for 10 minutes.  
  • Either knead in a stand mixer for around 6 minutes or knead by hand ( in which case I suggest Dan Lepard's short kneads every 10 minutes 3 times in the first half hour of proving rather than a full 10 minute knead, but the choice is yours) 
  • Remove from the bowl and fold the dough onto itself a couple of times to make a smooth ball. Oil the bowl slightly and replace  the dough into the bowl turning it over in the oil so that the smooth side is uppermost. 
  • Cover with cling film or a clean shower cap and allow to bulk proof for around an hour until very light and puffy. 
  • Pop it in the fridge for about 20 minutes to firm up slightly and relax.  If you have more time, leave it in the fridge for an hour or two, it will make rolling it out a LOT easier.
  • Remove the dough from the fridge and turn onto a lightly floured work surface. Put the oven on now (gas mark 7 or electric equivalent)  so it will be very hot by the time the dough proves for the 2nd time. 
  • Shape lightly into a square and roll out into a rectangle about 30 x 40 cm. If the dough fights you when you roll it just let it sit for a moment and rest and then roll out, the resting relaxes the gluten and makes it easier. 
  • Spread with the pesto and about 2 thirds of the cheese. 
  • Roll up from the longer end into a fat sausage and curve round into a ring. Put it onto a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  
  • Using a sharp knife, cut slots into the outer sides of the ring, making sure not to cut right through to the middle. Turn each slice over on its side to show the filling. 
  • Brush over with egg wash (break an egg into a cup, add a little water and salt and beat to mix all together). 
  • Leave the ring at room temperature to roughly double in size, about half an hour to 45 minutes.
  • Brush again with egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake for around 40 -45 minutes until firm and golden brown. Lift the bread slightly from the parchment and have a peek underneath, it should be a good golden brown underneath as well as on top. 
  • Remove from the baking sheet using two fish slices, and cool on a rack. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Pitta. The flatbread that isn't really flat

I adore baking bread, but sometimes it takes a little too long. And sometimes it is a little too crusty. Too much like .... bread.

Or maybe I want to wrap something up. Something like a kebab. Or some meatballs. That is when (assuming I am not making fajitas and need flour tortillas...) I turn to pitta (or pitte or pita or pide, depending on which part of the Greek/Turkish/Middle East you come from).

I reckon on needing roughly an hour and a half front to back for these. An hour for the rising, and half an hour for rolling and cooking them.  No fancy equipment needed, a fairly sturdy baking sheet (or a pizza stone is great if you have one, though I don't) a second baking sheet to act as a peel, and, if like me, you want a bit of char round the edges, you will need a gas hob or a barbecue.

This recipe will make around 8 tea plate sized pitta bread.


150g strong bread flour
150g 00 or plain white flour
200g warm water
1.5 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tablesp olive oil

Flour for dusting the worksurface

First up, into a large bowl, 150g strong bread flour and 150g softer 00 or plain flour. 

Add a teaspoon and a half of instant yeast to one side of the bowl, and a scant flat teaspoon of salt to the other side. Using a spatula or a dough whisk if you have one, mix in 200g (yes grams not ml, I prefer to weigh my water) of warm water (about blood heat, put your finger in it should feel neither hot nor cold) and a tablespoon of olive oil, and mix to a rough dough.

Cover the bowl and leave for 10 mins. After 10 mins the flour will be nicely evenly hydrated, and you can give the dough a short 10-20 second knead. Just tip it onto an oiled worksurface, and with oiled hands fold it onto itself (as if you were folding up a towel to go in the airing cupboard :) until it starts to fight back. Pop it back in the bowl, give it another 10 mins, and then repeat the folding. Then cover it and leave in a warm place. for another 40 mins. Now is the time to turn the oven on, and put the baking sheet into the oven on a shelf near the top of the oven, allowing space above for the bread to puff up.  You want it as hot as you can get it so really crank it up. 

After 40 mins, your dough should be nice and puffy.

Carefully tip out the dough and split it into 8 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball, and space them out on the worktop.  Cover with a slightly damp teatowel.

Working from the ones you rolled first, making two at a time, on a nicely floury worktop or board, roll them into ovals or rounds. Don't allow the dough to fold over on itself when you are rolling or you will get a dense bit that won't puff up.   Have a 2nd baking sheet, upside down, nicely floured, to one side. and as you roll out the balls, put them onto the upturned sheet. You want it upside down as you are going to use it like a bakers peel to transfer the pitte onto the very hot baking sheet in the oven.  (If you haven't done this before, it really is very easy, but you might fancy trying first as a cold run. Maybe with a couple of bits of sliced bread to do the flicking.. )

Open the oven door, pull the oven shelf out a bit, and quickly, with a sharp forward and back movement, put the pitte onto the hot baking sheet and close the oven.  Bake the pitte for around 3 minutes, they don't want to go brown they will be too hard. They SHOULD inflate like a little football, but often they don't and are none the worse for that.  If the oven hasn't got quite to full heat or your oven bakes cool then they may not puff.

Whilst the first two are cooking get the next two rolled and onto your upturned baking sheet. Make sure you flour it again so they don't stick when you flick them into the oven.

Remove the cooked pitte and put the next two in. Either wrap them straight away in a large cotton serviette or a teatowel to keep them soft, or pop them onto a hot bbq or an open gas flame for a few seconds each side to get a little char on them and then wrap them up.

Keep going until they are all cooked and wrapped up.

They will keep for the next day when you can pop them back in the oven briefly (wrapped in foil) to refresh them or you can freeze and defrost them in the oven for a couple of minutes.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Cherry ripe, cherry ripe...the Picotas are here!

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to Picota cherries for the first time. I had seen them in the shops but had been put off by their stemlessness, thinking they would be soft and pappy.  But Picota sent me a sample, and from then on I was hooked.

They aren't soft and pappy, they are crisp, slightly crunchy, sweet and oh so juicy. They aren't in season for very long, coming into the shops in the UK from the end of June for about a month. I didn't realise why they were stemless until I read the Picota information site which says:

"When a Picota is harvested by hand, there is a simple test to see if it has reached optimum ripeness. The cherry will naturally come away from the stalk when it is ripe, which is why the Picotas are sold without a stalk and only ever harvested at exactly the right time. "

Isn't that clever?

They are in the supermarkets now, and are cheaper than other imported cherries which makes them even lovelier.  I got a 250g punnet from Sainsbury's for £1, against £8 for stemmed black cherries (I forgot to check where they were from, but they weren't English). I'll be making some lovely desserts with them, together with raspberries from the garden, 

But today, to start off, they went into breakfast with homegrown raspberries, flat peaches, strawberries, blueberries, Jazz apples and a big fat dollop of my favourite Total Greek yoghurt (lots of excellent filling protein in there). I made a fresh fruit sauce with some of the raspberries, blueberries and strawberries to drizzle over the top (simply heat with some lemon juice and sugar to taste, blitz and run through a strainer to get the raspberry pips out - it will keep in the fridge for several days)

If you don't have time for this for breakfast, it is an amazing dessert too. 

Saturday, 10 May 2014

A Late Easter Colomba and a couple of Colombine

UPDATE 30/5/14:  so sorry if anyone has tried this recipe and wondered why on earth it was called a sweet enriched bread, since it had NO SUGAR in it.... I managed somehow to forget it entirely when writing up the recipe. It was only when I used this post today for quantities when I made a Colomba to take for a tea party with Katherine at Mustard Seed , that I realised it was without the sugar.  The recipe has been changed below now, but if you have already tried it I am really sorry...

I was really lucky to win a Colomba kit from Bakery Bits, with the special cases for the Italian speciality bread Colomba.  I have been wanting to make this for a while, it is like a Panettone but with an almond and egg white icing on top, with orange zest, fiori di sicilia essence and candied orange peel inside. And yes I KNOW it is an Easter bread.... I am late!!

Each of these amazing Italian breads has literally dozens of different methods, so I decided to use my own favourite sweet bread mixture, and add the flavourings to it.  This is a very simple dough to make if you have a stand mixer, and those are the instructions I have given below.. Although it can be made by hand, it is hard work and takes a fair amount of time. You can see the hand kneading method in the videos I added into the gibassier post here.

I made it first of all for the fabulous Thane Prince Cook Book Club at the end of April (gosh that long ago already.....) but I used all of the mixture in one case. Too much of a good thing, it flowed all over the sides and looked awful. Look....

But it cut into light fluffy pieces, and everyone devoured it with much relish and lip and finger licking. Look at the lightness of this crumb.

When I made it the 2nd time, I decided to halve the quantity and use half in a colomba case, and half in two medium panettone cases, this worked fine.

The bread mixture is made over two days, which adds a lot of flavour to the bread even without the extra flavourings I add in, the preferment helps the bread to stay moist and fresh, it is at its best in the first 2-3 days, but it will keep up to a week.

Day one: 
The preferment. 

200g whole milk
200g strong bread flour
1 tsp instant yeast - osmotolerant like SAF Gold if you have it

 Scald the milk, then allow it to cool to blood temperature (circa 35 C) - don't use it too hot or it will kill the yeast, better to have forgotten it and let it get too cool than use it too hot. When it is cool, mix with the flour and the yeast, cover with cling film and allow to ferment overnight or for around 8 hours minimum ( I have left it up to 24 hours and it is still good, though the flavour is more pronounced). It should puff up and then fall, so that it has lots of pock marks on the surface.

Day two:
The main dough.

The entire preferment above
100g whole milk (scalded and cooled to around 35 degrees C)
2 large eggs (around 120g weight of whole egg without shells)
1 tsp fiori di sicilia or any other orange essence (use a really good one)

150g Strong Bread flour
150g Romanian 000 flour if you can get it, or 00 Italian flour if not.
90g caster sugar
7g  Saf gold yeast
7g  salt

100g cold butter sliced into chunks

3-4 tablespoons chopped candied orange peel
Zest of one orange

Almond icing:
2 egg whites
75g caster sugar
75g ground almonds

Flaked almonds
Pearl sugar

2 x Colomba cases, Or one and a couple of medium panetonne cases

Mix the milk , eggs and all the preferment together, and then add the essence and mix again. Add the flours, sugar, salt and yeast and mix to a loose dough (you can use the beater if you like, I just use the dough hook as it will be used next. Less washing up...) . Rest in the machine for around 10 minutes so that the flour is thoroughly saturated.

Mix on low to medium power with the dough hook for around 10 minutes until mixture starts to clear the bottom of the bowl. This is a very wet mixture so don't be surprised if it looks more like a batter at the beginning.  Persevere and you will see the gluten strands start to form and the entire dough will get more structured.  Add the butter a little at a time mixing until it is all absorbed, continue to mix for another 5 minutes until it is smooth, coming away from the base of the mixer and will stretch into a "windowpane" - stretch a bit of the dough away from the hook and it should form a thin sheet without breaking.  Add the zest and the finely chopped candied peel and mix for just a couple of minutes to incorporate them into the dough.

Cover the dough (I leave it in the food mixer bowl, taking the dough hook out) with cling film and leave for a couple of hours until it is at least tripled in size.

Turn the dough out very gently, and cut it in half, one half for each colomba or for one colomba and two smaller cakes.  For each colomba, cut about one third from one piece, and split this into two pieces, put these into the mould in the spaces for the wings. Gently stretch the other piece and drop into the central area, gently prodding it into the head and tail sections.  Cover and allow to recover until it is nearly to the top of the mould, roughly 45 mins.   If you are making just one colomba then cut the other half into two and drop into the panettone cases, forming a colomba with the first half of the dough.  (Turn the oven on now to Gas mark 7, 220 C 425 F ( it needs to be well pre-heated) and put a baking tray into the oven to heat up.

In the meantime, mix the egg whites, sugar and ground almonds together to make a very loose paste. When the dough is ready then LIGHTLY spread the mixture over each colomba using a spatula (keep it near the outside edges rather than the middle, it is heavier than the dough and may make it have a dent in the middle.)  Sprinkle with pearl sugar and flaked almonds.

Gently move the moulds (it will feel very very wobbly) onto the heated baking tray, and bake for around 35-40 minutes, turning the oven down to Mk 5 190 C 375 F after 25 minutes so it doesn't burn.  It needs to be well baked, or it will be doughy in the middle. If you have a probe thermometer (and I really do recommend one for baking enriched dough) the inside temperature of the cake should be at least 190 F when it is cooked.

Move to a cooling rack and let it completely cool before cutting.

This dough is wonderful, and can be used for all sorts of different cakes just by changing the flavourings. I'll be putting some other suggestions on shortly.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Best of A Greedy Piglet : Sparrowgrass and Blender Hollandaise

I was reminded of this post from May 2012 today, with a Twitter request for easy fast hollandaise sauce.  If you have a stick blender this is far and away the best and easiest way to make it.  And (despite the fact I haven't had any yet) English asparagus is in full flood at the moment. So boil your sparrows and dip your grass.... 

I am not particularly precious about only eating English produce, although I will when I can. But I eat my fair share of Fairtrade bananas and extra fine green beans. However, there are some things that I prefer to only eat when they are in season in England. Strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, gooseberries, purple sprouting broccoli and the King of the English Spring, green asparagus.

Not the thick white spears so beloved of the Italians and Spanish, but the tastier (in my opinion) green ones we get in this country from April (when the weather is fine, it was really late this year, we had such awful cold, wet weather) through to about the end of May. Asparagus comes in many different sizes, from the Extra Choice thick fat spears found in the very best emporia, to the fat bunches of medium thick down to sprue (the very skinny ones) you can find at farm shops in the country and farmers markets here in London.

I like asparagus cold as well. It works well chopped in a salad, in which case I cut the tips off, and slice the stems into inch long segments. Blanch the stems for about a minute, then add the tips for just a few seconds. Strain and straight into cold water. Then drained they can be added to all sorts of salads, rice, pasta, or just a green salad.

I had a real treat this year at La Hogue Farm Shop, during their excellent Garden & Lifestyle Show. I had bought myself some medium sized green asparagus , and came across Chris as I was leaving with my groaning carrier bags. He nipped outside, and came back brandishing a bunch of the most enormous purple spears I have ever seen. Not for the faint hearted these, or for teeny little mouths.

Look, you can see the difference between my green ones and these purple beauties.

The tips were perfect, and HUGE!

These definitely had to be kept as simple as possible. Into a pot of boiling water for barely 2 minutes, and drained to be eaten with a pot of lemon-ny hollandaise sauce. Which I had always thought was tricky.

Aha! Not now I have a stick blender (Christmas present from the Beloved, most happy choice. I was contemplating getting a Bamix, although he didn't know, but the John Lewis one I have is a good solid little workhorse. I recommend.)

I had seen Carl Legge talking about making mayonnaise with his stick blender, and thought hollandaise was probably similar. A quick request on Twitter, and I was assured it was easy peasy. And a quick wander onto the net showed me how to do it in detail.

I used one egg yolk, a pinch of salt, the juice of half a lemon rather than the vinegar, and half a pack (125g) of unsalted butter. I think it took about a minute start to finish, including heating the butter. Amazing!

Plenty of sauce left over, I decided to try some of the green spears griddled instead of blanched.

I know it is fashionable but to be honest, I found the oiliness distracting. It really is better in my view as simple as possible.

With lots of hollandaise of course...

Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Best of A Greedy Piglet - The Queen's Jubilee Pannacotta

I have been invited to the London Produce Show and Conference in June, and will be so pleased to meet up with Westlands Wow! and chat about their amazing produce. Talking about them on Twitter yesterday with Carol Ford from Growing Direct reminded me of this rather lovely dessert I made in June of 2012.  English strawberries will be in the shops soon, so it is time to make this again I think.

I have been really delighted to have been sent a HUGE box of Heritage Tomatoes and Inspired micro vegetables and edible flowers from Westlands Wow, to see what a home cook can come up with in a domestic kitchen rather than a professional environment.

The micro leaves and flowerheads are really unusual, you might be able to grow some of these, and you will possibly be able to forage them if you know what you are looking for, but you are very unlikely to find more than one or two of these in even the best supermarkets.

These are the lovely micro leaves and flowers that you find incorporated into meals in the most modern of Michelin starred restaurants. They add colour, texture and lively bursts of flavour. But they are delicate in the extreme, and need a rapid turnover. My fridge picked this week to throw a tantrum, and I am sorry that I lost some of the more delicate - I managed to save the baby watercress, and most of the radish flowers, but the popcorn shoots didn't make the next day.

Fortunately, I had used some immediately, so was able to savour them at their best. The flower heads had seemed the most fragile (although in fact the borage and viola are quite robust and last well when the fridge is working..) so I decided to try them out first of all.

I started off with a special Jubilee dessert as I had family coming. I had some elderflowers syrup left over from last years making, and as the elderflowers are just coming to their peak in the lane at the back of the house, this needed using up before I make the new batch.

Elderflower Pannacotta with Strawberries and Borage and Viola Flowers.

  • 200g Whipping Cream
  • 400g Milk (any milk that you usually use..)
  • 3 sheets of gelatine
  • 4 tablespoons elderflower syrup (commercial is fine, I used my home made)
  • 3-4 drops top quality orange extract (I used Sainsbury's Valencian Extract) (optional)
  • 4 strawberries
  • Borage and Viola flowers
Soak the gelatine in water until fully soft. In the meantime, scald the milk.

Drop the squeezed out gelatine into the hot milk, and stir until fully dissolved (will only take a moment or two).

Add the cream , the elderflower syrup and the orange essence if you have it.

Stir gently until mixed together, trying to avoid any froth. Taste and add a little more elderflower syrup if you feel it needs to be sweeter.

Strain into small cups or glasses, cover lightly with cling foil and put in the fridge for at least 3 hours until set.

The best of A Greedy Piglet: The Dark Side.... Sourdough Scalded Rye Bread

This post was first published on A Greedy Piglet back in August of last year, the weather was very hot, and it made sourdough breads very difficult to control.  I now have a very lively new starter, so I think it is time to try this again. The recipe is interesting, but I think I might play around with it again. Watch this space...

I am very fond of rye bread. Both light rye, as you get in delis in NY and in French boulangeries, and also the darker Eastern European style of rye bread, deep in flavour with malt and caraway.

I discovered a rather excellent bakery in Westfield at Stratford, Karaway. They produce breads from Russia and it's surrounding countries, and one that I tried and liked very much was a Lithuanian Scalded Rye.

I saw that Paul Hollywood went to visit them during his recent Bread series, and it gave some tantalising glimpses into how they made it.Now, could I make something like that? I haven't made sourdough bread for some time, though I had intended to a while back and so had some rye leaven sitting in the fridge. Time to work it up and get experimenting.

Now one thing that you must know about me is that I am useless at following a recipe to a letter. I am actually much happier with the kind of old fashioned recipe that says "add enough flour to make a soft dough.." or "mix until done.." You have to experience the feel of the dough and work to that feeling, not rely on quantities. I am very content with variables.

So I kicked off by estimating rough quantities based on an overall formula of 350 grams of water to 500 grams of flour.

I fed my rye starter up over a couple of days to end up with 200g of 100% hydration wholegrain rye leaven. In the morning of the bake, I mixed this with 100g of cold water, and 100g of Sharpham Park's Bakers Blend (a very nice blend of wholewheat and white spelt, that I found in Waitrose. I like it very much so I do hope they don't run out of it....) and left this sponge sitting at room temperature for 4 hours to start fermenting.

I wanted to use a scald, as that is supposed to help the rye starches to gelatinise and so make a sweeter and lighter bread. So how about 100g of rye flour (I am using Dove Farm Rye, as this is the only easily obtainable Rye around here) and 100g boiling water? oh no! far too stiff, so another 50g of boiling water went in. Plus a tablespoon of caraway seeds - I wanted them in the soaker so they wouldn't be hard and nasty in my teeth. Much nicer porridge, so leave that for 4 hours alongside the sponge.

I shall need some malt. So 1 tsp each of dark and nutbrown malt powder from The Flour Bin (kindly sent to me as samples) mixed with a little boiling water and a tablespoon of honey. (Next time, maybe a little more malt to see how it affects the flavour. This amount I can't taste, but it might be helping with the overall flavour anyway). Mix it up and pop on one side.

After the four hours were up, I put the sponge and the scalded rye flour (broken into chunks) in the Kenwood, and mixed them together. I added the malt, 1 and a half teaspoons of salt, and a further 250g of White Bread Flour ( Marriage's Finest Strong White) . Mixed it (I can't say kneaded it, it was more like mixing polenta to be honest...) using the bread hook for 4 minutes, then left it for 2 hours, folded twice, left another 2 hours, shaped and popped it into the fridge to rise overnight.

In the morning it was risen but also it had spread out. I should have used a banneton but I only have a round one, and I wanted a more torpedo shaped loaf. So I folded it to tighten it up a bit, and popped it onto a baking sheet covered in cornmeal.

I left it to relax for half an hour, whilst I cranked the oven heat up as far as it would go, and then added a pan of boiling water and the bread. Baked for 25 mins at full heat, then lowered the heat to Gas mk 5 375/190 for another 20 mins until the base was thoroughly cooked through. Out onto a rack and then LEAVE THE ROOM until it is quite cold. Actually, it probably could have done with leaving to the next day, but I am impatient!

It isn't at all pretty. It suffered from not being proofed properly and so not being shaped properly. It could have done with a smoother tighter skin on it, and possibly with a glaze of starch of some kind. But cut, it has a lovely texture, lighter than you would think. And very delicious.

Do have a go. I am no expert, and this is such an experiment. Let me know how you get on, so we can compare notes...

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Rumours of my blogging death are unsubstantiated...

Did you think I had died and been roasted, with apples in my mouth, over fruit wood, to feed many hungry school children?

No! It is but a rumour! I have simply been in a writer's freeze for months.

Not just here, but also on my Tumblr site, and my lovely novel-in-writing  which was zooming away happily until, all of a sudden, the chill came on like Mr Freeze, and I moved into a state of hibernation.

But here I am, the sun is shining, the blossom is starting to break, and Spring is here.

I am searching for the copyright holder for this image of pussy willow.If you hold the copyright, please let me know so that I can acknowledge you.

Surely I must thaw out now?

note: I am trying to find the owner of the copyright to this image; if you own this image please let me know so that I can properly acknowledge you.

Monday, 10 March 2014

The best of A Greedy Piglet - Eco Marmalade the Update...

Originally posted  June 2011 and mentioned in the Eco Marmalade post:

We had grapefruit for breakfast the other day, and I felt the need to make more marmalade. Now today I am also making Apple Crumble Pie and some lovely Apple Compote from the fabulous first book by Signe Johansen, Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking ...: Scandilicious (yes, yes, later....) , so I have a pile of apple peels and cores sitting on the worktop.

And I remembered a comment from The Marmalady on the original Eco Marmalade post that suggested using apple debris to add pectin to the brew.

She said: "I have seen similar recipes called “compost marmalade” — think Eco-marmalade sounds a lot more appetising.
To up the pectin content, add some apple peel/cores/pips to your muslin bag"

Now I often remember little snippets of stuff. But I don't always remember where it came from, so I was pleased that I DID remember this time. Now I also remember reading somewhere that pressure cooking doesn't do pectin very much good (might have been Marguerite Patten..) (UPDATE 10/3/2014: I've pressure cooked fruit for loads of marmalade since, and can't say that I have found much problem) so I decided that whilst I was pressure cooking the rind, I would simmer the apple peels in around half a litre of water (peels and cores of 5 Bramleys btw..) and strain that to add to the citrus rinds before adding the sugar. Which I did, and along with using half jam sugar, and half ordinary preserving sugar, meant that the boiling was kept to a minimum which I prefer (I think that the orange flavour is at its nicest when it isn't overcooked, and I think the peel hardens too when it is boiled a lot). (UPDATE 10/3/2014: I have made this with ordinary granulated sugar when I didn't have any preserving sugar and it is fine.. just needs boiling for longer than you think it should...)

So there you are! Oranges and apples.. and an orchard of marmalade :)

The best of A Greedy Piglet - Frugal Eating #1- Eco Marmalade

This post was first published in December 2010, and this is also a recipe I am asked for all the time.  It is useful to remember during the year when Seville oranges are out of season, but you have run out of marmalade.  Lemons and Limes can also be used - keep the shells in the freezer after using the juice. 

I have been asked several times now when I am going to get my act together and give some instruction for my famed Eco Marmalade. Well, take your seats, ladies and gentlemen, for here you are..

Eco marmalade, you say. What is an eco? Is it like an orange? Can I buy it in Sainbury’s? Oh very funny...... Well yes you can. Because it’s eco if it ECOnomically uses the leftover rind of whatever citrus fruit you have segmented for your breakfast. Get it?

It came to me when preparing grapefruit and oranges for breakfast, segmenting the fruit and piling the peel into the compost colander for recycling. What a waste of a good thing. How could I use up this peel? I don’t like candied peel much (UPDATE 10/3/2014: err... actually, if it is home made, yes I do!) , so that wasn’t going to work. I pondered, and continued to make breakfast. Toast and marmalade… hold on.. what was that?

Marmalade. The lightbulb moment. I salvaged the rinds of the two red grapefruit and the two oranges from the bowl , together with the membranes from the centre and decided to experiment.

A carton of breakfast juice for the liquid part would add the fruit that was missing from the pulp that we had already eaten.

So working basically with the same method I use for my Seville Orange marmalade, I finely shredded the peel. As it had been sliced downwards in thick fingers, it was so easy to shred widthways, making fine shreds. I put this in a bowl added the membranes (and any odd pips, though red grapefruit don’t have many) tied in a piece of muslin, just covered it all with water, and left to soak overnight.

Day 2 I boiled it all gently until the peel was nice and soft – about 2 hours or so, you want the peel VERY soft. Recently, I have been using a pressure cooker, nice soft peel in about half an hour, so very eco for fuel saving too. Let it all cool down a bit, fish out the muslin bag and squeeze it firmly (to get what pectin you can, there isn’t a huge amount). Add a cup or two of orange juice (until you think it is sufficiently fruity) and then weigh the contents.

(UPDATE: 18/6/2011:
I took note of Marmalady's comment about apple rinds to make additional pectin.. see the update here... )

I had been really delighted to have been sent some sugar from Tate and Lyle to try out, to publicise their changeover to Fairtrade sugar in all their retail packs. One pack was Jam sugar - I always use preserving sugar but usually the one without pectin, this one had added pectin, so knowing that my pectin levels were a bit on the low side, it was useful and timely. It is amazing to look at, not really like you expect preserving sugar to look like at all, sort of golden and sandy looking.

I took the equivalent weight of the peel/water/juice and warmed it up in the oven (this helps it to dissolve more easily). Tipped it in and warmed the mix until the sugar melted completely. A rolling boil, a test for set, hot jars, done.

Nice elegant breakfast. And good for glazing gammon, and in marmalade cake. So far so good...

Aren’t I clever I thought… and then just recently, I found in my copy of Marguerite Patten’s "We'll Eat Again"
that using up rind like this was standard during the war.

Which just goes to show there is nothing new in this world. But doesn’t make the marmalade any less delicious. Eco. Brill.

Note: Thank you to Tate & Lyle for the jam sugar

The best of A Greedy Piglet - 3 Day Seville Orange Marmalade

The marmalade season is nearly at an end now, but nevertheless it is always useful to have this amazing recipe under your belt in readiness for next year. 

First published on A Greedy Piglet in April 2010 it has served me in such good stead.  I have used MaMade oranges out of season (the ones in the big tin) and found them perfectly serviceable, or sometimes I will use sweet oranges and extra lemons.  But there is NOTHING like the warm, orangey fug of marmalade simmering on the stove.  

Marmalade is such a quintessentially English thing, and this winter I seem to have found a lot of blog posts talking about making it in different ways. So when I found a net of Seville oranges at Sainsbury’s going cheap, I decided it was well past time for me to have a go.

My mother has made jams and marmalades ever since I can remember, but I never have. I have a distinct taste memory of being allowed to eat the froth skimmed from the top of the jam as a little child. I don’t think I liked marmalade then, but strawberry sits in my memory bank, near the top, easy to reach. The foamy set scum was like a sweet strawberry flavoured meringue. Delicious.

I think that marmalade is an adult thing. I was reading the other day about how your taste changes when you hit 50, so that bitter things you didn’t like as a child, lose their bitterness for you. Perhaps this is why marmalade is something that you grow to like as you get older, starting with the sweeter orange shred and ending up with a Dark Old English that would strip paint?

I wanted something about half way. Bitter enough that it was truly marmalade, but fresh and light, with fine peel. The thick peel in Tawny and Old English marmalade doesn’t do it for me, but I wanted something with some sour bite.

David Lebowitz was talking on Twitter about his forays into marmalade this year. He ended up with callouses and half a nail on one fingernail (awwww) I thought to myself.. that seems like hard work. But he did mention that he squeezed the juice and added later.

My mum I remembered, used to boil the oranges whole first and then chop them later. But the getting out of the pips was a terrible messy thing, and I remember her swearing and complaining about the stickiness. I might be a messy cook, but I like to keep my hands clean so that was probably not right. (UPDATE:  I found a way round the stickiness.... quarter the oranges after pressure cooking them, and scoop the middle mush into a bowl,  pips and all. Add a cup or two of water, and swish around and leave it to one side whilst you slice up the now soft and easily cut rind. Then pour the resulting mix into a sieve. Push the pulp through the sieve, leaving the membranes and pips behind.  Add the pulp to the bowl with the rind, add the water and refrigerate overnight.)

There had to be a middle way.

Also what about quantities? Delia Smith in her Cookery Course says that she found it much easier to make small quantities as it cooked so much more quickly and came to a really fast set. And there are only two of us, so I don't want to drown in marmalade.

I scoured my recipe books. Most of the recipes seemed fairly standard, but in Jane Grigson's Fruit Book
I found a very interesting variation, a Seville Orange marmalade made over 3 days. And I liked the look of the marmalade in my Time Life Good Cook Preserving book. So I thought I would blend the two and add in bits from my various foraging for tips on the internet.

Now I am not a good person at following a recipe. At best, I find that I use it as a guideline to quantities and methods, a broad view of what an item should be. At worst I follow about one word in twenty. I suppose I settled for one word in five. Multiplied by two recipes. So perhaps one word in ten on aggregate. And this is what I eventually came up with.

Day 1 , the cutting up of the oranges

I had a bag of Seville oranges I had found in the cheaps section in Sainsbury's. Too much for one go I thought. So half that bag. Jane Grigson's recipe called for half a lemon, so yes, that too. I halved them and squeezed the juice out, keeping the pips separate in a little bowl.

Now to cut them up.

Remembering David's ouch noises about poor thumbs, I wanted to keep the cutting as simple as possible. I didn't want the peel to slip and slide either. I wanted nice fine peel. One of the recipes suggested cutting away the ends of the orange (the thickest part of the pith) and discarding. That done, I was left with circular pieces, which I could cut into quarters and flatten onto the cutting board. Much easier than trying to cut them as a rounded orange. Also, it helps that I quite like the pithy bit on a slice of marmalade peel, cooked well it has a lovely sharp toothsome quality I wanted to keep. So no scraping of the insides, they were cut up with all their pithy innards intact. Any larger pieces of membrane I pulled away, but basically that all went in too. All the shreds went into a glass bowl. The pips and membranes were encased in a little muslin bag and added to the glass bowl as well.

Water to soak next. Time Life suggested 1500 ml, (too much it felt to me) Jane Grigson 500 ml (not enough, it didn't cover the peel) so like Goldilocks I settled on the middle way and topped the water until it just covered the peel, about 700 ml in the end.

That's it for day one. All covered and into the fridge.

Day 2 - the cooking of the peel.

Easy day this. The contents of the glass bowl go into a largish pan, and brought to a simmer. Then simmer for at least an hour until a piece of peel will squash easily onto the side, or you bite it and it is slightly softer than you want it to end up (it will firm up a bit when you boil it with the sugar). Take it off the heat let it cool down, back into the bowl and back into the fridge.

Day 3 - the marmalade proper.

The recipes all vary as to the amount of sugar to use. Some seem to want to use twice the weight of the original fruit in sugar, some much less. The original weight of my fruit didn't match up to the recipes in any event, I wasn't going to be faffy and start cutting bits off my oranges to make them fit the weights needed. I certainly couldn't see Mrs Bridges doing that in Upstairs Downstairs, so I wasn't going to do it either...

But the proportion is the thing. Most preserves need roughly the same weight of sugar as the fruit/water. so I ditched volume and weighed the peel with the water and the orange juice that I saved on day 1, and that I added back in now. That was the weight of the sugar I needed.

I decided to use preserving sugar, no pectin, that wasn't going to be needed with citrus fruit especially with the long 2 day soak, but the large crystals are supposed to give a clearer preserve. I weighed the right amount, and set it to heat in the oven for 5 minutes to help it to melt quickly. Meanwhile I put the orange peel mix back in the saucepan and warmed it slowly . By the time it was quite warm but not simmering the sugar was warm, so the sugar went in and I made sure it was really well melted before allowing the mix to start to bubble (this prevents the marmalade from being gritty with undissolved sugar crystals, and helps to prevent it from crystallising later).

Then bring to a rolling boil, and start to time your boil. I started to test after 15 minutes, took about 25 for this first batch before I was confident it was wrinkly enough, but I think it would have fine after the 15 as it did stiffen up quite a bit when it cooled down. In all the books and recipes they go on about scum and adding bits of butter, and not skimming and so on. Well, maybe it was the preserving sugar but I didn't have any scum at all.

A tip here: the books do not mention stirring the mix. I was worried that it would crystallise if I mixed it too much as it was boiling so I left it alone. But a rolling boil for 15 minutes meant that the bottom of the mix caramelised a bit and was dramatically hotter than the rest of the mix. So when I stirred it at the end to mix the peel in, it erupted like molten lava. I stepped back pretty sharply and no harm was done, but it was salutary. DO give it a stir during the boiling to distribute the heat , not all the time, just now and again. And don't mistake a rolling boil for a vicious fast boil. When I made this the 2nd time, a slower fast simmer was fine, and made for a brighter lighter marmalade.

In the meantime, I heated up my clean jars in the oven and boiled the lids in a pan of water, then let the marmalade sit for about 5 mins, gave it a good stir and ladled into the jars, sealing them down whilst hot to create a vacuum under the lids.

And very good it is too. Even my mum likes it better than hers!