Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Building starts this week

This week sees the start of building the new oven.

The bakery has been dismantled and packed up. Tins, baskets, scales, bowls, brushes and linen all put into storage for the next six weeks. Even the oven must go into storage. We hope it will be in use before long for demonstration events.

The building materials are arriving - the standard brick and block type stuff yesterday and the specialist fire resistant and heat proof things today.

The moment the delivery crane loomed over the back wall, threatening to put down a load of block on my perennial fruit and vegetable garden was an interesting one, but it was landed safely on the path between the plants and the washing line.

Over the next six weeks this unpromising looking space will be transformed into a fuel and space-efficient wood fired oven.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Cardamom Love

There's been quite a bit of enthusiasm for cardamom amongst Bread Clubbers after the success of the Christmas Julekage, so I thought I'd share one of my favourite savoury recipes using cardamom.

Cardamom (Elletaria cardamomum) originated in India, but has been used in Europe and the Middle East for centuries - for flavouring coffee in Egypt, in sweet baking in Scandinavia, Germany and Eastern Europe. In India it's used for sweet dishes, but also in curry mixes such as garam masala. I love to use it with rice, it gives a wonderful gentle spicy aroma that seems to sit well with many Indian or Middle Eastern recipes. The seed contains volatile oils, so it's particularly worthwhile buying pods of cardamom and grinding the seeds yourself. (To get the seeds out of the pods I just squash to pod under the bottom of their jar until the pod cracks, and it's then easy to get at the seeds).

Here's my recipe for Cardamom Rice


1 tablespoon each of oil and butter
1 smallish onion, chopped finely
3 cardamom pods
About a tablespoon of spice seeds, according to what the rice is to accompany, I often use cumin, fennel, fenugreek and mustard if I'm making curry.
500g brown rice
1 litre of water or chicken stock (or a mixture or the two)
1 teaspoon of salt.

Heat the oil and butter in a heavy saucepan. I find the best thing for the job is an earthenware pan with a lid, which can go on the hob, but something like a Le Creuset would work OK too.

Put in the chopped onion and sweat over a gentle heat until the onion is translucent.

While the onion is cooking, rinse the rice under running water.

Add the spices to the onions, stir for a few minutes, then add the rice and turn the heat up to medium. Keep stirring to coat the rice grains in the oil and butter.

Pour in the stock and/or water and bring to the boil. The boil it fairly hard for 10 minutes.

Put the lid on the pan and turn down the heat as low as it will go. Use a heat diffuser, if you have one. Now just let it cook very gently for about an hour and a half. Don't take the lid off or stir it (unless you think it's going to burn on the bottom, in which case, add a little more boiling water).

Turn off the heat and, without taking the lid off, let it sit for 20 minutes or so more. Finally, take off the lid and give the rice a fluff with a fork. The grains should be nice and soft and puffed up, and not a bit tough, as brown rice can sometimes be.

Great with chickpea curry, green veg and yoghurt.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

happy happy

Isn't it cool how you can stop thinking about something for a while, but the brain just carries on chewing it over without bothering you about it? I noticed this when I was an undergraduate; essays would come out better if, having done a pile of reading, I played the violin for a week before I started writing.

Before Christmas I was trying to tie down a load of different things in the bakery, and never quite got them all working at once. Over Christmas, it was really good to take a step back, see the bigger picture, and concentrate on drinking and stuffing my face. Today, back in the bakery, it seemed as though all those things had just shaken down and fallen into place. Seven oven loads were mixed, folded, scaled, moulded, proved and baked, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, straight through, without a hitch. Every one ready when it was time to go into the oven, not a watt of electricity wasted. Mixer cleaned, tubs rinsed, tins wiped, leaven made and flour weighed out for tomorrow. Home for supper and putting the girls to bed. Another time I'll write about why I think everything worked so well; this evening I just wanted to note that I am a very happy baker today.

Monday, 3 January 2011

The Christmas Loaf

This year we made a variation on the traditional Scandinavian Christmas loaf, the Julekage. Julekage's traditional features are dried fruit and cardamom spicing. Because we love it, we added a swirl of marzipan in the middle of the loaf. Topped with a good dredge of icing sugar, the result was was attractive and delicious. Here's a picture of the small sized loaf - the large had a much more dramatic swirl of marzipan.

We made our own marzipan to go in the loaf. It's easy to do, and has the great advantage that it tastes of almonds, rather than invert sugar syrup.

The cardamom spicing made this a great loaf to go with a cup of coffee. Happy New Year!