Beer Bacon Jam

When my desk-mate Lucy told me about some bacon jam she bought from a butcher on her holidays, I was like Peter Kay when his dad first heard about garlic bread.  Garlic?  Bread?  Garlic Bread?

I was the same…  Bacon? Jam? Bacon Jam?

The stuff she bought was made from loads of bacon, sugar, vinegar and bourbon.  I was salivating at my computer at the idea of it, and then I thought, why not replace the bourbon with beer and make beer bacon jam?  I was well chuffed with myself at the idea of inventing a new product.

As I’d never eaten bacon jam, I added this to my Ocado order and started researching…

But a quick trawl around the interwebs revealed that I was not the first to have thought of making bacon jam with beer, the awesome Beeroness (my favourite beer blogger) had already been there and done that.  So I based my recipe on hers, with a bit of tweaking to the method, an anglisization of the measurements and a change in the amount of beer.  If you are a cups measurement type, here’s a link to original recipe at The Beeroness – warning, her site is extremely addictive.  I am a huge fan and I want to make every single thing on her blog…

I chose one of the brewery’s latest concoctions, Chicha Pale, which is made with Peruvian purple corn.

My thinking was as follows.  Corn?  Bacon? Corn and Bacon – yes!  Because I know for sure that this combination works, as it’s the foundation of Dick Powell’s corn chowder…

Here’s how I made it.  IT IS AMAZING.

Chicha Beer Bacon Jam

340 grams bacon (I used smoked streaky bacon)

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

1/2 large white onion, chopped

1 bottle (330ml) Chicha Pale

60 ml apple cider vinegar

120 ml balsamic vinegar

150 gram dark brown sugar

Roughly chop the bacon and cook it in the biggest frying pan you have, I did mine in two batches.

When the bacon is cooked, and is beginning to get crispy, use a slotted spoon to fish it all out and put it into a big casserole dish or saucepan that has a lid.

If you have a lot of bacon grease, remove some from the frying pan, leaving about a tablespoon (I had about that from my bacon so left it all in).

Cook the onions in the bacon dripping for about 3 minutes until softened.  Add the crushed garlic and cook for around 30 seconds.

Add the bottle of beer and both vinegars, scraping your pan to gather up any super crispy bits of bacon.

Add the brown sugar and bacon, reduce the heat to a simmer.

Place lid on your pan at an angle so that some steam can escape and cook the bacon mixture until it has reduced to a thick and syrupy consistency.  The Beeroness cooked hers for around 45 minutes, but as I’d added a bit more beer, mine took about another 20 minutes to get to the right sort of consistency.  I cooked it until there was hardly any liquid left.

Bung the whole lot in a food processor and blend until an even consistency.  The Beeroness adds an extra 1/4 cup of beer at this stage, but I didn’t (basically, I FORGOT) and my bacon jam was a nice spreading consistency.

I had LOTS of this on toast and it was addictively good.

This made 1 x 150 ml jar and 5 little B&B jars – I think they hold about 35 ml.  I will attempt to remember to work out for sure how many ml of jam this recipe makes and come back and record it.  But you’d get two or three smallish jam jars worth.

The lucky recipients of some bacon jam are:

1 – Mr and Mrs Prohibition Wines in Muswell Hill

2 – Ruth and Megan at Cha Cha Cha Vintage in Muswell Hill – Megan took this picture of me with a matching lampshade when I popped in to drop off the bacon jam…

3 – Lucy my desk-mate, as she introduced me to the concept

4 – My nephew Lee at the Hammerton Brewery for providing the delightful Chicha that went into this condiment

5 – the big jar stays with me!

Pentonville Trub-Thumper Bread

Since I did the Bread Angels course wayyyyyy back in September I have been baking bread like a crazy person.  I’m now baking once a month to sell at the brewery open days, taking around 20 loaves and lots of jars of home-made beer mustard.  You can check the Hammerton Brewery blog to see when the open days are – always the last weekend of the month – except December when the date can vary because of the festive season…  I’m not there in March (on holiday) but I’ll be back in April with a vengeance!

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I’ve been so busy with Silver Screen Suppers and my forthcoming Columbo cookbook, I thought about binning this blog, as there never seems to be time to update it.  But I’ve decided to keep it going, if nothing else, as a repository (good word) for recipes.  I’m a terrible note scribbler and my flat is full of a million bits of paper with sums and scribbled facts about how I have modified and tweaked recipes….

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I always think I’ll write them up neatly in a nice notebook but I never do…  They then disappear under a mountain of other bits and pieces of paper and I can never find them when I need them.  So, I shall try and pop back here now and then to record how I made stuff, so I can refer back.

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And, in the meantime, if any of the recipes suit you, dear reader whoever you are,  wherever you are, be my guest in using them as you wish!

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I recently spent an amazing day at Panary with Paul Merry,  learning a LOT about bread, and about how to make bread with beer barm in particular – right up my street.  Mr Rathbone was kind enough to trot up to the brewery to get me some, neither of us knowing really what to ask for.  He returned with TRUB.  Which is similar to barm, but comes from the bottom of the fermentation tanks rather than the top.

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Some brewers call this stuff trub, my nephew just refers to it as spent yeast, so this might be what to ask for if you get friendly with a local brewery.

Adventures in bread-making with spent yeast from the brewery began!

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My first bread made using TRUB was such a lovely loaf!  Well two loaves in fact.

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I was AMAZED that no other raising agent was used in the making of this bread and it turned out brilliantly.  It was a very sturdy bread.  The boyfriend proclaimed it to be one of his favourites so far (and he is the main recipient of all my many experiments, so this is saying something!)  Here’s  how I made it…

I mixed 250g fresh trub with 150g plain flour, covered the bowl with a shower cap and left it on my counter overnight.

Next day I mixed the above with 680g plain flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons honey and 2 tablespoons of olive oil (lovely olive oil sent to me by my chum Greg of Recipes for Rebels, all the way from Greece).  I added water to make a soft dough (I’m going to make this again to tweak the recipe and will measure the water next time).  I covered the bowl and left to rise for 3 hours.  I then did a “stretch and fold” for a few minutes and divided the dough into two.  I made each into a boule and placed into floured bannetons.  The dough was an unusual texture – a bit like play-doh so I wasn’t holding out much hope…

IMG_3396I left these to rise in my earring cupboard (I love predictive text – that should read “proofing cupboard” rather than earring cupboard!) for about 2 hours.

I then baked the loaves in my huge Le Creuset casserole dish.  The dough was too big to go in the usual casserole dishes I use.  I can get two of these in my oven at a time, but had to do these bigger loaves one at a time, giving my oven and the dish time to heat back up in between.

I baked using my usual timeframe of 220 degrees C for 20 minutes, 205 for 10,  then 12 with the lid off at the same temperature.  Result?  Amazing bread.  Mr R’s first comment when he had a slice,  toasted: “That’s a wholesome bread”.  He followed that up by saying “It’s very bready bread”.  Indeed it is.  I was SO CHUFFED that the trub made such a lovely loaf, no other raising agent required – amazing.

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Becoming a Bread Angel

I spent a fabulous two days with Bread Angel Juli Farkas a couple of weeks ago and learned SO MUCH about baking bread.  As I am planning to sell beer bread at the Hammerton Brewery once a month, I thought I should get my act together and take the Setting Up a Micro-Bakery Course.  It was utterly brilliant.

Before I met Juli, we exchanged some emails about how much bread baking experience I had, and what I wanted to get from the course.  When Juli heard that I was planning on making bread with beer she was on the case STAT, rummaging around in her bread books for recipes.  So the first thing we did when I got to her lovely welcoming kitchen was to make a beer barm from a bottle of Hammerton’s Life on Mars to a Dan Lepard recipe…

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If only I had Smellovision installed on my blog, this smelled DIVINE.  We were excited to see how the bread made with this turned out, and it was SO GOOD.  I’m fiddling around with the recipe, but the Loaf on Mars (geddit?) made to this method will definitely be on the menu for the brewery.  Here are a few loaves I made last week…

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My slashing pattern for the Loaf on Mars is a zigzag…

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ha ha!  Every time I bake it now, I will have some Bowie on the stereo…

At Juli’s house over two days we drank a lot of tea, ate stacks of her delicious bread, and made A LOT OF LOAVES…

Here are a few photos from the weekend…

I was very pleased with my plaiting!
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Loved Juli’s bread book with all her formulas…
This photo will probably only make sense to sourdough nuts like me...
This photo will probably only make sense to sourdough nuts like me…
That bread's got my name on it!
That bread’s got my name on it!
Apricot and hazelnut bread
Apricot and hazelnut bread
Just a few of the loaves I made over the weekend...
Just a few of the loaves I made over the weekend…
Juli and me
Juli and me

I am so pleased to have met Juli and spent two days at her lovely home gossiping about bread, making bread and eating bread.  What a weekend!  She has kindly invited me back this Wednesday for some “shape and slash” training.  Can’t wait…

There’s a sweet post on the Virtuous Bread site welcoming me to the Bread Angels fold and I am loving being part of this community so much.  If you want to learn about making bread or are thinking of setting up a micro-bakery,  I cannot recommend Juli’s courses highly enough.  If you would like to know more about the Bread Angels movement, click here…

The motto of the Bread Angels is “Bake Well.  Do Good.”  I love it.

Like the Brownie Guides would say, I promise that I will do my best…

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N7 Sourdough

I loved #SourdoughSeptember and I made another two sourdough loaves to the Bojon Gourmet recipe, this time with N7. I wanted to see if the beer flavour was more pronounced, and just to practice, practice, practice sourdough techniques.

Biggest lessons learned:

1 – don’t think you can make two loaves of sourdough bread before work, and still get in on time.

2 – don’t walk away from the oven without checking you haven’t knocked the temperature dial a bit.

3 – always pay full attention to the recipe.

4 – don’t put a cup of water on your carefully written out testing notes…

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So the jottings that follow cover what I did a bit differently to last time. I did some time shifting basically, beginning the process at 5.30pm with a sourdough starter that I took out of the fridge to warm up a bit at 1pm.  Here’s a link to the original recipe that I’m basing the N1 / N7 Sourdough on, with lots of fiddling around…

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Rather than using my stand mixer, I decided to try the Magimix. It did not go well. In fact I thought I had broken it (luckily not). Too much dough for the Magimix. It took me one hour to get to the proofing stage.

I put the dough in a large bowl with cling film over the top out in my fire escape overnight. There’s never any room in my fridge (it’s tiny), so I treat my fire escape like a larder…

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Next morning at 6 I brought the dough into the kitchen to warm up a bit (would have left it for longer if I’d had time). It had risen very well, and looked good. I shaped it into two boules and popped in my airing cupboard inside a blown up bin bag as per Boujon Gourmet’s recommendation.

The first loaf went into the oven at 8am (I’d put the oven on around 7.10am with my Le Creuset casserole dish inside to heat up.

This time I just used cornmeal on the bottom of the dish – I didn’t bother with the baking parchment, it didn’t seem to affect the bottom of the loaf.

I must have knocked the temperature dial at some point, as when I checked at 20 minutes, it had been cooking at around 235 degrees, and I can’t read in my notes what I did next because of the cup of water!  I think that I turned it down to about 205 and looked for another 10 minutes.  Whatever I did, the loaf looked fine.

I turned the oven back up to 225, which is where it should have been (it took around 5 minutes to get back up to temperature).  Cooked for 20 minutes, and then another 10, forgetting to turn the temperature down – doh!  The loaf was a little bit burned on the bottom but not too bad.

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Both loaves tasted great.  I didn’t feel as though the N7 loaves tasted more beery than the N1 loaves.  In fact, I preferred the taste of the N1 loaves.  For some reason, the rye flavour was more pronounced…

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#SourdoughSeptember was brilliant and there is a loaf in the oven right now, made to Dan Lepard’s recipe using a beer barm.  I have used Hammerton’s Life on Mars so am thinking of this loaf as a Barmy Bowie Bread…

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Ghostly Blueberry and Buttermilk Cake

This turned out a bit strangely… I think it was probably because I didn’t have enough plain flour so used 1.5 cups plain flour and half a cup of self raising.  The cake looked perfect after 50 minutes (recipe stated about 55), so I took it out and turned it out of the loaf tin.  Some runny mixture dribbled out of the crack in the top. Disaster!  I bunged it back in the oven for 10 minutes with foil over the top and hoped for the best…

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I used this recipe from the Beeroness and blame my oven, and the flour, for it not turning out as nice as it looks in her picture…  I just adore her blog, so many delicious looking things to try.  Sooooo inspirational.  Here’s her lovely photo of her version…

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Pauline, the birthday girl at work, loved her cake and there were lots of compliments for it.  Vero said: “you can taste the beer, in a good way!”, Obi loved it and said that it would be great with some custard, I agreed.

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The cake was lovely, and my blueberries didn’t all sink to the bottom which pleased me…  The main alteration I made to the Beeroness’s recipe was to rinse the blueberries and then mix them in with the flour.  I’m sure I’ve done this before with fruit in a recipe – I think that doing this somehow makes them more “sticky” so that they don’t all sink straight to the bottom with their dry shiny skins offering them easy slippage down, down, down…

I have a feeling that Geist Weiss is about to become a collector’s item so I’m glad I swiped a few bottles from the brewery tap room on Friday night.  It’s my favourite beer for CAKES.

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Beer Bread Round Up

I’ve been experimenting!  Getting through my stocks of Hammerton beer at an alarming rate, and filling my flat with bread.  I’ve found a new use for my chicken brick too – I now use it as a bread bin.

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So even if I only ever cook one thing in it (Anthony Andrews’ Spiced Yoghurt Chicken Cooked in a Brick) its “cost per wear” is going down…

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So here’s a round up of the bread made, and the lessons learned…

Beer Sourdough

I tried this beer sourdough recipe by 12 Tomatoes.  At first I was worried by the dough.  It was very, well, CRAGGY is the only word I can think of to describe it…

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But I persevered and followed the recipe to the letter.  It produced two nice looking loaves, one of which I gave to Mr Rathbone Senior for his birthday.

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The bread was much more SOLID than the N1 Sourdough and I think I am going to try and perfect that recipe for selling at the brewery.

Lessons learned from this one:

1 – people REALLY like being given a loaf of homemade bread for their birthday

2 – even if a dough does’t look promising, it MIGHT make a decent loaf.  Have faith!

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Islington Beer Bread

Decided to do a second test run on Carole Fahy’s recipe and it was a complete fail.  This is because I heated the beer up too much and killed the yeast, I think.  The dough didn’t rise as it should, so bearing in mind the “have faith” comment above, I decided to just leave it in my airing cupboard while I was away at Mr Rathbone’s place overnight to see what happened.  When I came back the dough had risen almost to the top of the bowl.  I kneaded it and gave it a second rise but on baking, it came out like two thin bricks.  I was so ashamed of it, I didn’t even take photos.  Must get a thermometer!  Ikea here I come…

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French Bread with Geisst Weiss

I had some French bread flour knocking around and decided to have a go at beering it up.  I cooked one of the loaves in my chicken brick – cost per wear is now going down even faster…  The recipe was from this great book:

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The resulting bread was good, had a really nice flavour, but wasn’t like the French bread we all know and love.

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The one on the left was baked in the chicken brick, the one on the right just freeform on a baking tray.

I plan to give the first bread recipe I ever tried – Vincent Price’s French style House Bread – another go with some Geisst Weiss.  Somehow this beer seems the right pairing for a French bread, even though it’s got a German name…

Richard Bertinet’s Ale and Yeast Poolish Bread

Despite the general house rule of “no more cookbooks” there seems to be a little corner of my kitchen that is now full of smuggled in, bread related tomes.  I treated myself to Crust:

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as Battenberg Belle went on a break making course with Richard Bertinet and she LOVES HIM.  I remembered her showing me his very odd kneading technique when I went round one day and she showed me how to make brioche buns.  I had a go at his recipe for bread made with an ale & yeast polish using his slap and fold method.

Result was a really, really nice bread.  Great texture, lovely refined taste and good crumb.  But, I’m not sure it actually looked PHOR enough to sell at the brewery…

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This was SO GOOD toasted with cheese on top and some N1 Hot mustard.  Arrrrrrggggg!

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I am making bread a couple of times a week at the moment, and went on an incredible TWO DAY BAKING COURSE with the wonderful Bread Angel Juli Farkas.  Will write it all up when there is a moment between mixing, kneading, proofing, baking and eating…

If you would like any of the above recipes, just email me via the Silver Screen Suppers Contact page and I’ll send them over.

N1 Sourdough

Oh my goodness.  Sourdough.  It’s a bit like one of those dreams you have, where you are suddenly back at school taking an exam paper about pythagorus theory.  There is too much maths going on for my liking.  Anyhow, I had a go at making a beer sourdough with Hammerton’s N1.  For the most part I think it was successful, but it did involve quite a lot of fretting, getting cross with my boyfriend watching me trying to knead it, and endless crouching down to look in the oven while it was cooking.

There are a GAZILLION blog posts about how to make sourdough out there.  I’m only writing this so I can come back to it if I need to.  However, if you want to give this 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000th version of how to make sourdough bread a go, be my guest!

Behold the mighty sourdough I made!
Behold the mighty sourdough I made!

My main source for recipe action was this post about beer rye sourdough by The Bojon Gourmet – I adapted it to the vagaries of my nutty oven, my Britishness about grams rather than ounces, and just generally my BRAND NEWNESS at making sourdough.  This is not as easy as everyone seems to make it online.  I was VERY glad that I had earmarked a whole Bank Holiday Monday to try this, as there was no way I was going anywhere outside my front door once I had started it.  The process began at 8.15 am and the second loaf of 2 was out of the oven at 9.45pm so that’s almost 13 and a half hours.  But I did make two different beer mustards during that time, so it’s not as bad as it sounds…

Baron H Mustard fermenting...
Baron H Mustard fermenting…

All I will say is this.  I WILL CONQUER SOURDOUGH.  I think the basic fact is, you have to keep trying different techniques, different cooking times, different cooking methods etc. until you find the perfect combination.  Here’s what I did this time.  I will probably have another go at this, and tweak it…

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“Hobbsie” – my sourdough starter from Hobbs House Bakery

I refreshed my starter (with 75g flour and 75g water) a few days before I was planning to make this bread.  It just bubbled away happily in the fridge until I was ready.

Here are my metric measurements for The Bojon Gourmet’s recipe….

226g sourdough starter

1 bottle Hammerton’s N1 Pale Ale plus 10ml water to make up to 340ml

1 tablespoon honey

141g rye flour

340g strong white bread flour

2 and half teaspoons sea salt

I might have a go in the future at making the grams less daft in their “141g” specific-ness.  But for now, sourdough is one of those things where measurements are important, so I’ll leave the literal translations as they are.

I combined the ingredients in the bowl of my stand mixer in the order listed.  I attached the dough hook and set it off on the first speed until all the flour was incorporated.  I covered the bowl with cling film and left to rest for 20 minutes.

I mixed the dough on the second speed for 10 minutes.  The Bojon Gourmet recipe said the following: “mix the dough on medium-low for 10 minutes adding more bread flour 1 tablespoon at a time within the first five minutes until the dough comes away from the bowl.”  As a newbie to sourdough, this made me a bit anxious.  I had no idea what I was doing here, and added 10 tablespoons, one at a time, worrying constantly whether my dough was coming away from the bowl or not.  Too many?  Not enough?  Who knows.  But my dough was very, very, very sticky so I’m guessing not enough.

I scraped out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and kneaded for a few minutes, shouting at my boyfriend every few minutes, “sprinkle more flour for me, sprinkle more flour!” as my hands were too sticky to get into the flour packet.  I reckon I probably added another 2 tablespoons of flour, just to get that dough off my hands, and to get the mass of dough into a workable form.

I oiled a big bowl and rolled the dough around in it, then covered it with cling film.  The Bojon Gourmet said to leave it to rise for 3-4 hours, but I fully understand (after excessive googling) that sourdough is mental.  It all depends on the liveliness of your starter, the ambient temperature, the amount of booze you’ve drunk the night before and how old you are in earth years.  Mine took HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS to rise.  I was only happy with putting it in the oven at 8pm.  Which let’s face it, is almost 12 hours after I started the process.  10 and a bit hours to rise basically.  Hmmmm…

Once I decided that I couldn’t possibly wait any longer I watched a YouTube video about how to make a boule and went for it.  I dusted the bannetons that Battenberg Belle had loaned me, with a mixture of rice flour and bread flour (I read that this was best, online somewhere), bunged the boules in and put them in a bin liner.

IMG_0290Yeah.  I actually knelt on the floor and blew up a bin liner as if it were a balloon.

I decided that in front of my shoe cupboard was the warmest place in my flat.  Is it?  I have no idea.  I need to get a thermometer.

I made a schoolgirl error when making the boules and didn’t put the seam on top, but in the end this wasn’t a problem, because when I decided they were ready (I think after about 2 hours and 20 minutes) I turned them out onto my hand, and then turned them over and plopped them into my red hot casserole dish.

This is where I diverted from The Bojon Gourmet recipe as I wanted to cook my sourdough in my big old Le Creuset that my ma gave me.

I am very tired now after spending all day and night trying to make sourdough, so let’s just say this.  The first one was overcooked.  The second one looked very good.

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So here’s the deets for the second one.

The casserole dish was super hot after being in the oven for AGES as it heated up.  For the second loaf I did this:

1 – sprinkled a layer of cornmeal on the bottom of the dish (I read this on the internet somewhere)

2 – plonked the dough on some baking parchment and put it on top of the cornmeal ( I read this on the internet somewhere)

3 – baked the loaf with the lid on for 20 minutes at 225 degrees.  Oh, by the way I read on the internet somewhere that high temperatures can melt the plastic lid thingamabob on a Le Crueset so I took it off, using a knife and bunged a bit of foil in the resulting hole to stop the steam escaping.  What a nut-job.

4 – Turned the oven down to just above the number 2 of the 200 on my oven dial for 10 minutes (sorry if this is a bit vague – I’m guessing 205 degrees?)

5 – Took the lid off and cooked for 12 more minutes.

This resulted in a loaf I liked the look of – hurrah!

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P.S. Next day I had a slice in the morning with that delicious swanky butter that has bits of sea salt in it.  DIVINE.  The bread was so tasty and moist and really one of the nicest bits of bread I have ever eaten.  Quite a result!

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Over the next few days I mostly had this toasted, I also sliced up part of the loaf and froze it so that I can have a bit of N1 Rye Sourdough whenever I fancy.  The bread is still fine and it is now Friday. So it is true what they say about sourdough bread being good for 5 days or so.

I want to experiment with keeping it in a paper bag for the first couple of days and then inside a plastic bag, still inside the paper bag.  As this is what the author of this recipe suggested.

I really enjoyed making sourdough, and it is #sourdoughseptember so here’s to many more loaves of it!

Bank Holiday Monday Breadfest!  There’s also a plain sourdough made with N1 in this photo which I’ll blog about later…

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Islington Beer Bread

I’m a bit obsessed with baking bread at the moment, as I might be going to sell some at the brewery open day in October.  So I am reading about bread, watching YouTube videos about bread, talking to people about bread, and eating a lot of bread!  All in the name of research of course.

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I was really, really pleased with how this batch of two loaves turned out.  I made them to Carole Fahy’s recipe and I’m going to write down exactly how I did it, so that I can replicate this…

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For future reference, I need to bear in mind that it was super, super hot in London last night.  So my kitchen was in the perfect frame of mind to puff up the dough during the proofing stage…

Here’s Carole’s recipe, with my notes in brackets.

1/2-3/4 oz fresh yeast (I used 21 grams fresh yeast.  I left it out of the fridge for a few hours)

1/2 teaspoon sugar

2 lbs plain flour (I used Dove Mills Strong White Bread Flour – 907g)

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 pint water

1/2 pint brown ale (I used Hammerton’s Islington Steam Lager)

Cream the yeast with the sugar (I did this in a small saucepan) and add to the water and beer (I added these into into the saucepan).  Sift flour and salt into warm mixing bowl (I’d had mine in the oven for 10 minutes or so after I’d used the grill to make some toast); make a well in the centre.

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Warm liquid and yeast and pour in (I just heated the liquid up for a couple of minutes on a pretty hot hob, stirring all the time), drawing enough flour into the liquid to form a thick batter.

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This is before I started mixing in the flour – nice and bubbly already…

Sprinkle the top with flour (I just used a handful), cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for about 1/4 hour in a warm place.  Work remaining flour in by hand to form dough and knead well on a floured surface (I didn’t use any flour, I kneaded it for about 6 minutes until the dough was smooth and glossy, not sticky any more).

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Lightly grease a large warm bowl (make sure it is large enough to leave the dough plenty of rising room) and place dough in it, turning a couple of times to grease whole surface.  Make a light cross cut in top,

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cover with a damp cloth and leave for about 1 and 1/2 hours in a warm place until double its size.

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Knead dough lightly again on a floured surface (I missed this bit of the recipe, and didn’t knead again) and cut in half.  Heat oven to 425 degrees F, 220 degrees C gas mark 7.  Shape loaves.  Grease 2 loaf tins and put dough into them,

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cover with a cloth and leave to prove for another 1/4 hour.  Bake for 25 minutes, then lower heat to 400 degrees F, 200 degrees C gas mark 6, for a further 10-15 minutes baking, when loaves should be slightly shrunk from the sides of the tins and well-browned.  Tip out onto a rack to cool.

Behold the splendour of my loaf!

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Here are some timings.  I started baking at 6.30pm.  It took 1/2 an hour to get to the first tea towel rest.  The second rise probably only took about an hour as my kitchen was very hot.  So I got the loaves in the oven a little earlier.  The loaves were out of the oven at 9.45pm so altogether a 3 and 1/4 hour process.  But there was very little hands on working time.  Most of that time I was having my dinner and washing-up!

The loaves were looking very brown after the first 25 minutes and I was worried about burning them, so when I turned the oven down, I set it to about 190 degrees for fear of burnage.  They were a lovely colour when they came out though, perfect.  I have a regular oven, but if you have a fan oven, you may want to have your oven temperatures lower.

I used butter to grease the bowl and the baking tins, but if I make these to sell, I’ll use sunflower oil so they are OK for vegans.

The loaf I baked in my silicon loaf tin (?) wasn’t quite as nice to look at as the one baked in the metal tin.  But I think it was also something to do with how I shaped the loaves.  Need to do some more research on that.  It looked less home-made somehow…  Here’s the silicon version of the bread sliced.  I wonder if a second kneading would have distributed the bubbles more thoroughly?

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I live in a block of flats, on the fourth floor and there is no lift.  There’s a beautiful communal garden which I never use, basically because I am too lazy to walk down the stairs and back up again.  But I decided to make a ceremony of trying my bread, so I toasted two pieces, put butter and peanut butter on them and went downstairs with gherkins, black pepper, a thermos of coffee and a mug.  I was VERY pleased with myself.  The bread was absolutely delicious.  A highly recommended recipe!

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N1 Brownies

I can’t help thinking of the Brownie Guides when I look at the recipe title N1 Brownies, it would be a very fine Brownie pack indeed!

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They are called N1 Brownies as I have made them with N1 beer.

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I’ve actually made a few different batches of these.  The first lot, I made with the Hammerton Oyster Stout.  They were really, really delicious but I can’t help thinking that some people wouldn’t like the idea of anything Oyster-y in their cake.  I put some raspberries and pecans on the top of that batch – pretty eh?

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The second batch I made with N7 and they were gorgeous too.  This batch was made with 250g Green & Blacks 70% chocolate.  Sooooo rich and delicious.  This really is a top recipe for brownies…

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Today, purely and simply because my stock of N7 is all gorn, I used N1.  I’m taking these to the brewery tonight as it is the monthly open weekend.  Come and find me and you can have one!  I didn’t have any macadamia nuts, so I used pecans.  But this time I DID put the white chocolate chips in.  SUGAR RUSH!

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So here is the brilliant recipe from the much loved COOKING WITH BEER book by Paul Mercurio – I still cannot mention his name without thinking of the classic line in Strictly Ballroom: “Show me, your pasodable”

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I’ve modified the recipe a teeny tiny bit, but kudos goes to Paul for the original recipe for the best brownies ever.

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You’ll need a stand mixer or a hand held electric beater for this, or you will really get an arm ache…

125g unsalted butter

150g milk chocolate (this time around I used Green & Black’s cooking chocolate)

100g dark chocolate (ditto)

3 eggs (I used large “Happy Eggs”)

100g dark brown sugar

60ml N1 pale ale

125g plain (all purpose) flour

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Green & Black’s)

70g chopped macadamia nuts (I used pecans this time around)

90g white chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 F / Gas 4 (if you have a fan oven you might want to lower the temperature a little – maybe to 160?).  Line a 4cm deep, 20 cm square tin with baking paper (my tin is non-stick so I don’t grease it first, but  you might want to.  I use a 12″ x 8″ oblong tin = 20 cm x 31 cm so my brownies come out thinner than Paul’s).

Put the butter and all the chopped chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water to melt everything.  (I use the top part of a porringer – I burned the bottom bit years ago and threw it away – in a saucepan of water, if you have a double boiler, go for it!)  When everything melted, remove from heat and set aside to cool while you beat the eggs.  I usually tip out the hot water from the saucepan, fill it up with cold water and pop the saucepan of hot chocolate back into the cold water to help it to cool.  I guess you have to be careful not to get any water into the chocolate and butter mix though.

Using electric beaters or your stand mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy, 10-15 minutes (this seemed like a long time to me, but I think this is why the brownies are such a nice texture, so I just switch on the stand mixture and get on with something else for 15 minutes).  Add the beer and mix again.  Add the melted chocolate and mix thoroughly.  Sift the combined flour and cocoa powder into the bowl and fold them through until well combined.  Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, spreading it around evenly.  Bake until set, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack before turning out.  Cut into squares to serve.

Makes 8-16 pieces, depending on who big you cut them.

I actually cut mine into 24 pieces.  This is rich, rich, rich stuff!

In my oven, at this setting

20 minutes is about right, so I’d advise checking your brownies at around 15 minutes, and if the mixture looks a bit wobbly in the middle, pop it back in for a few minutes more.  I’m sure nobody would mind a very fudge-y middle one though!

OOOOOOH THESE ARE GOOD.  I just had one for breakfast…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ziggy Stardust Cake

I’ve called this Ziggy Stardust Cake because I used Hammerton’s Life on Mars and man, oh man, was it good? Yes! It was the best fruit cake I have ever tasted. I am not exaggerating. Mr Rathbone said the same.

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Plus, it won first prize in the fruit cake category at the Muswell Hill and District Horticultural Society Spring Show.  I was so proud!

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It is the best. And it lasts forever.* I am going to tweak the cooking time now that I understand how my oven works.  I baked my cake at 150 degrees rather than 160 for an hour and 15 minutes – so a lower temperature and 15 minutes shorter than the recipe suggested.  I’m finally getting to know the oven.  We are almost on speaking terms now…

Also, next time I’m going to replace the figs with something else, as I’m not mad on the gritty texture of figs.  The mixture looked very pretty as I was making it…  It’s rich enough to be a Christmas Cake for sure.

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This recipe is adapted from the Trappist fruit cake recipe in Paul Mercurio’s Cooking With Beer cookbook.

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I highly recommend this brilliant book, as Paul puts it: “If there’s liquid in a recipe, it might as well be beer”. There are lots more recipes in this book I want to try, and I’ll be posting about his divine chocolate brownie recipe soon…

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Who would have thought someone who does such a beautiful pasodoble could be such a genius cook too?

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Ziggy Stardust Cake

125g unsalted butter, chopped

185g dark brown sugar

375g mixed dried fruit

100g dried cranberries

50g dried figs, chopped small

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

60ml sherry

250ml Hammerton’s Life on Mars

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

100g macadamia nuts, chopped

150g plain (all-purpose) flour

150g self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 160 C (325 F / Gas mark 2-3).  Grease a 22 cm (8.5 inch) cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper, letting the paper extend about 1 inch higher than the rim of the tin.

Place butter, sugar, dried fruits, spices, bicarbonate of soda, sherry and beer in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Stir to combine, bring to boil.  Remove from heat and stir again to ensure that the butter and sugar are melted.  Pour mixture into a large bowl and allow to cool.  Once mixture is lukewarm, add the eggs and nuts and mix through.

Put all the flower in a bowl, and stir to combine.  Fold the flour through the fruit until well incorporated.  Spoon the batter into the cake tin and bake for 1 and 1/2 hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from the oven, carefully remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

  • Paul notes that you should allow the cake to fully cool before you cut it.  He also says that the cake will keep for a week, mine was still good after a week, plus I popped a chunk in the freezer as it was a HEFTY cake.  I’ll report back about how it freezes.  Yum, yum.

Thank you Paul Mercurio for your lovely cake recipe, and thank you David Bowie for the music.  Next time I make this, I’m going to listen to the whole The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album while I am baking…

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