Bourbon on the (not-so-real) rocks

I was very excited to have found these acrylic ice cubes on Amazon for less than $35 per cube which is what a professional photographer had said I should expect to pay (maybe there are bigger ones) but for what I wanted these were just perfect I tipped them out of the bag added some water for effect and flashed them with my new flash (more on that soon) how real do they look!!

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So I set about making a photo of a Bourbon cocktail called an Old Fashioned which is traditionally; Bourbon, sugar, bitters, a splash of water and finished with orange and cherry.

It was a fairly complex setup which all but completely filled the living room and took hours to set up so if anyone is so inclined to try the same I will go in to more detail on how it’s done just let me know. Anyway here is the result.
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And having gone to such effort with all the setup I took the opportunity to shoot today’s bread and the new addition to the family, he is newly stitched and as yet without a name, any suggestions?

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Home baked bread

At the end of the day this is what it’s all about right?

Over recent weeks and not that I am one to obsess about such things (yeah right!) but I have trawled through almost every resource on the subject of sourdough bread on the web like: bread/baking/cooking blogs, ingredients manufacturers, bakers etc etc and have narrowed things down to some very basic sourdough principles:

  • a smelly healthy starter
  • a very simple recipe
  • choosing your hydration (what?)
  • the right flour(s)
  • Allow plenty of time

I have had failures but also a lot of successes and here below are some pictures of  (the better) bread recently baked in our kitchen. The recipe I have settled on as a “norm” if there is such a thing in sourdough is from the excellent blog THE CLEVER CARROT which in my opinion is a great place for anyone who wants to start with this type of bread. Actually the last picture of bloomers has got yeast in it (tut-tut I hear you sourdough purists say!)

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The Good, The not too Bad and the Ugly

So this is how it turned out.

The Good. The Sourdough starter did everything it was supposed to after 7 days of feeding and encouragement, the rhubarb with various amounts of rye, wholemeal and strong white flour had worked it’s evil magic and it was bubbly, smelly and very active. This is how it looked after 7 days. Happy.

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The not too Bad.

The dough making process was tricky, it was extremey sloppy and difficult to handle, I used the bread maker to mix the dough (as I often do, poor thing it hasn’t actually produced and baked a loaf for years)

The prove was in two parts, once overnight in the fridge then into it’s basket and another prove for supposedly 8-10 hours. After 5 hours it looked ready so I prepared to turn it out on to the pizza stone which had pre-heated in the oven. It had stuck a bit on one side of the basket so as I lifted the basket off it pulled a bit on one side (like a sort of bread ear). It looked really soft and was spreading, I tried to slash it as instructed but to little avail. I shut the oven door and it baked.

Here it is after 40 minutes in the oven.

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Nice and crusty, good smell, very tasty and not looking too bad overall if a little flat. Here is how it looked inside. As I said not too bad for a first attempt.

Still happy.

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The Ugly.

I made another one yesterday/today and it was disappointing, I made the dough a little less slack but even so, when it proved in the basket it stuck all round the edge so was virtually impossible to turn out and when it did it collapsed. When it came out of the oven it reminded me of a school geography lesson about hills during/after the ice age. Less happy.untitled-0007-2

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The starter has now been carefully stored away in the fridge for another day.

Anyone who wants the recipe let me know.

More Focaccia and milky chicken

That was a busy couple of days, some quick bread-making with this Fennel Focaccia that was just perfect with this chicken braised in milk with lemon, sage and cinnamon, you more or less throw it all in a pot (after browning the chicken) and 90 mins in the oven does the rest. It’s not my recipe but here’s a link to it elsewhere, it’s pretty good.

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Then it was off to judge a local photographic competition held here in our community and next was the start of another journey down the sourdough road which last time, I’m sorry to say didn’t go that well, you can read about that here. This time I am following the advice of the brilliant Justin Gellatly of Breadahead in Borough Market. (His book; Bread Cake Doughnut Pudding is well worth having on your bookshelf)

It starts with rhubarb, strong white bread flour, wholemeal rye flour and water. The fermentation of the natural yeast will take a week, Justin says in his book that he is using the same starter from 14 years ago made with rhubarb from his garden, this is how mine looks on day 2.

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So confident am I that this will work, that I went out yesterday and bought one of these, a bamboo proving basket (for 12 quid!) ready for next week’s first sourdough loaf.

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Let’s see.

Strawberries and cream

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_NCH4442-2Well it’s a big part of the summer pretty much everywhere I guess, I’ve certainly had fantastic strawberries from Romania to The Netherlands plus a few places in between like Denmark and Sweden and most certainly France. Strawberries and cream are one of the natural partnerships in the food world you know like; lamb and mint, asparagus and hollandaise, bacon and tomato ketchup (?) Pancakes, sugar and lemon etc etc…

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These photos I _NCH4434-2took in a banquet room in a hotel for a summer promotion and I wanted to recreate the look of being outside on the grass (think Wimbledon) on a sunny day. The setup was simple with some artificial grass and a large net-curtain with a couple of flashes to simulate some sunshine.

What are your favourite food partnerships?

hit me in the comments section and I will see what I can create for you in pictures.

French bread

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Let’s face it we all miss that bread when we get home from a visit to France right? there is something about the taste, the smell, the golden, splintery crust and then there’s the way you get a pretty piece of fancy thin paper wrapped around the middle to carry it home with. So after spending a couple of weeks over there, on our return I decided to make some.

In the picture above there are two items which are definitely needed, at least in my mind to get close to the original: Salt and a good linen kitchen cloth. The salt is dissolved in water to make a brine and brushed on the loaf before it goes in the oven, the cloth is dusted with flour and used to proove the loaf before baking, you make a kind of support for the bread. (A photo of that next time I make it) so here is the recipe.

For 1 loaf, you need:

  • 285g strong white flour
  • 55g plain white flour
  • 7g salt
  • 7g instant yeast
  • 1/2 tspn salt dissolved in 70ml water

Mix the flours with the salt and weigh 215g of that mix in to a seperate bowl, add the yeast and 215ml cold water, make a very soft dough more like a batter, just mix until it’s reasonably smooth a minute or two with a wooden spoon is enough. Cover with plastic and leave for about 4 hours, it will first rise and then collapse and that’s ok.

Then add the rest of the flour and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Back in the bowl, cover with plastic and leave to double in size.

Turn out on to a floured work surface and push the air out and form into a long baton according to the size of your oven, if you have a seam, make sure it’s underneath, take your linen cloth and dust with flour, place your loaf in side and gather up the cloth on both sides to keep the loaf in shape.

When it’s risen, roll it gently out of the cloth and on to a baking sheet, line it with paper if you like. With a sharp knife or razor blade score the top and then brush the loaf with the salt water mix and bake* at 230 C for 20 minutes and then reduce heat to 200 c and bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. It’s pretty close to the real thing! (Adding your own pretty paper is optional!)

*A tray of water in the oven helps create steam which helps to get a better crust.

Cured salmon and rye

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What a mad colour beetroot is! I used it to cure some salmon with horseradish, dill and citrus but to go with it I made this rye bread which was the star of the show, it’s got such an honesty about it, proves slowly and then gets baked and just sits there waiting for butter. Apparently it can last in the same condition for up to a week. Something for sure we will never know!

you need:

  • 200g strong white flour
  • 340gr rye flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 7g instant yeast
  • 140ml milk
  • 140ml buttermilk
  • 1 tblspn black treacle
  • 1 tblspn malt extract

Make a dough with all the ingredients and knead it for at least 10 minutes, it’s sticky but don’t worry. Leave to double in size for 2 hours or more then knock back and work for a minute or two.

Shape in to a loaf and leave to double in size again covered with plastic or a damp cloth. When ready, bake at 200 C for 35 – 45 minutes and leave to cool completely on a wire rack, you can cut it quite thinly and it’s super tasty. I have made it with more and less rye flour, the more rye you use the heavier and more dense, so if you prefer it lighter add less rye and more white flour.