Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Happy Movember

Hi guys. This is just a quick post to let you all know about Movember: the month of the mustache  The aim of Movember is to raise awareness of men's health, particularly prostrate and testicular cancer.

It's a little bit daunting for me because I've not had a clean shave for over 2 years... plus mustaches look silly on me.

But, here's my first picture...

Not a bad start.

Please support this cause by donating at or by growing a mustache.

Keep an eye out for Movember updates.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Chocolate and Cinnamon Brioche

On Monday, me and Billy went away for a couple of days to Bournemouth. Our hotel was right next to the sea. Well, I say that but what I really mean is that it was on top of a cliff which meant we had to hike up a steep slope to get back to it from the beach (over 24 hours later and my calves are still not seeing the funny side of this). 

As you can see from the photos, October wasn't the best month to have a seaside break but, you know what? at least we had each other (...and it didn't rain... and the hotel was nice... and the food).

So, some good old fashioned comfort baking was needed upon our return, and I've been trying to perfect this recipe, a twist on the Hairy Bikers' recipe, for a few weeks now. As I write this, the warming aroma of cinnamon and chocolate is filling the air. And it's very much a welcomed aroma. Outside the autumnal season has arrived: cold, windy, and semi-golden leaved. 

1 1/2tsp fast action yeast
1tsp caster sugar
125ml lukewarm whole milk
500g plain flour
1tsp salt
4tbsp caster sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
4 medium eggs, beaten
175g unsalted butter, melted
5tbsp dark chocolate, finely grated

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the milk and allow to stand for 10 minutes whilst it froths.

Note: Be careful not to have the milk too hot or too cold. Too hot and it will kill the yeast; too cold and the yeast will not activate. When you dip you finger in the milk you should not be able to feel it either it way i.e. it is at body temperature. 

Using a kitchen machine, slowly mix the sifted flour, salt, sugar and cinnamon and add the yeast mixture and eggs. Continue to mix for 5 minutes.

The next stage is going to take some patience and faith. Turn the speed of the kitchen machine up a little and, very gradually, add the melted butter one tablespoon at a time, ensuring that each is incorporated into the dough before adding the next. This will take some time (about 10 minutes) and the dough will become very wet. However, when done, the dough shouldn't be sticky but with have a gloss to it. Place a damp tea towel or some oiled cling film over the bowl and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, until it has doubled in size.

Next, re-knead the dough with the kitchen machine for 1 minute and turn it out on to a well floured work surface. You will need to roll the dough out to make a large rectangle that is about half an inch thick. Sprinkle the chocolate over the top.

Then, roll the dough up like a swiss roll and cut into eight even rings. Place them into an 8 inch round greased tin, with one in the centre and seven encircling it.

Note: when placing the "ends" of the dough have them facing downwards. 

Place a clean, damp tea towel over the top and allow to prove in a warm place for 45 minutes. And, whilst it's doing so, preheat the oven to 180°C.

Once the dough has proved, bake it in the oven for 30 minutes. After which, turn it out on to a wire rack and allow to cool... or eat immediately (being careful, of course).

Friday, 19 October 2012

Black Treacle Bread and Chocolate Brioche... So Far

The past few weeks have involved a bit of experimenting in the kitchen. All of which I hope to share with you soon. 

It's mostly revolved around two main things: 1) should I make brioche with plain flour or strong white flour? and 2) trying to smoke chillies. Never of these has been an absolute success so far, but they're not far off. (If anyone has any tips on making a smoker out of a bread tin, and tell me where I'm going wrong, that'd be a great help). 

I've also just pulled a black treacle loaf out of the oven. It's sitting patiently on the wire rack, waiting for me to inspect it's acceptability as an edible object. Given that I don't actually like black treacle, it's got a lot to prove. 

Recently, I've discovered a website, Curious Cook, written by non other than the father of molecular gastronomy and the mastermind of food science, Harold McGee. I spent a very happy 10 minutes reading, geekily, about caramelisation and how sugar doesn't actually melt. 

It's just occurred to me that Mr McGee might have something to say on the use of flour in brioches and smoking foods. I'll have to remember that for later. 

On Monday, my and Billy are going for out first little holiday of the year. All the way to far flung... Bournemouth. I got a good deal on a moneysaving app and, to be honest, it's good just to get away with him for a couple of days. So, if any of you know of any food highlights in the area, let me know. 

Got a new jumper today.

Pizza. Obviously one of the first things I cook in my new oven.

Must get dinner on soon. Ham risotto tonight.