Saturday 24 April 2010

Bread not even a mother could love.

I woke up early this morning very excited to try the new recipe I'd been formulating. You see, the French bakery-café downtown (I've mentioned it before) does an artisan walnut fougasse. It looks wonderful. I end up staring every time I'm in there. Of course it's not gluten-free, though - so it was time to make my own. 

I mixed up the dough. A little wetter than I'm used to, I thought to myself, but I'll just work in some more flour and it will be better. More and more flour later, it was still somewhat too sticky and wet. I gave up and shaped it, deciding I'd see what would happen. Maybe it would work anyway, I thought.

I shaped it into a flat oval and cut the characteristic almond-shaped slits through it. It rose nicely. Putting aside my apprehension about its stickiness, I slid it into the oven. Shortly thereafter, delicious smells began to drift from my kitchen. But when I went to take it out...well. 

This is what fougasse is supposed to look like:


(These photos are from BBC Good Food, Wild Yeast Blog, and, respectively.)

's what mine looked like:

It was cracked, and lumpy, and the nice holes I'd cut were now undetectable from it swelling back together. I cringed and waited for it to cool. But when I tore off a piece, I discovered that it was good. Really good.


So now I have this very tasty dough that apparently produces very ugly bread. I'm going to reduce the liquid, among other things, and keep working on it until it looks as good as it tastes. I'll share the recipe as soon as I fix it, of course.

Have you ever baked something delicious but ugly? Or maybe you've had an utter disaster in the kitchen? I feel like there's a lot more to go wrong with gluten-free dough. (Once I had bread overflow from the pan, and end up all over the bottom of the oven!) What's your worst baking bungle?

Saturday 10 April 2010

Chelsea Buns with Ginger-Apricot Jam

Last weekend I promised the recipe for hot cross bun dough, once I perfected it. Well...two attempts later, I still wasn't satisfied. I planned to try again this morning, making simple currant buns as it is no longer Easter. However, considering how many people are averse to raisiny things in bread (my Love included, who kindly samples everything that I bake to see if it compares to the gluten-y version), I thought I would do something different.

These are Chelsea Buns, another British sweet, and there are many variations for the filling. Some do indeed have dried or candied fruit rolled up in them, and many are topped with slivers of blanched almonds. I didn't want mine to be too fussy, though, so they are simply spread with a sweet filling and brushed with sugar glaze.

If you wish to make hot cross buns, make the flour blend below and follow the additional instructions I have added to that post. The blend still isn't perfect - the crumb is too close in my opinion - but these buns are certainly good enough to post. This is probably a recipe base I will keep coming back to and adjusting slightly.

By the way - I have just discovered that baking by weight is So. Much. Easier.
No more need to rinse measuring cups between each flour, or worry about the inconsistent measurements that starches are prone to when the air is humid. If you don't already have a food scale, I absolutely recommend getting one - even a very inexpensive one (like mine) can work well.

P.S. - This recipe is long, but it is very easy to do.

Chelsea Buns

Dry ingredients:

60 g tapioca starch
60 g potato starch
25 g Expandex modified tapioca starch
25 g arrowroot starch
20 g sorghum flour
15 g soy flour
10 g chestnut flour
10 g sweet rice flour

1/4 tsp pectin
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp guar gum
1/4 tsp dough enhancer
1/2 tsp sea salt
55 g sugar

Wet ingredients:

25 mL warm water
2 T canola oil
1 free-range egg, lightly beaten
75 mL warm organic milk

3 tsp dry yeast


Turn the oven to 200 C. Blend together all dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and allow to foam for 5 minutes. Then mix the wet ingredients into the dry and knead with a flexible spatula until smooth. Lay out a piece of clingfilm and brush it lightly with canola oil. With moist fingers, pat the dough out onto the clingfilm until it is thin.

Spread the dough with the following mixture:

A few teaspoons apricot jam and marmalade
25 g (about 1 T) organic salted butter, melted
2-3 tsp sugar syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger

Starting from one end, roll up the dough so you have a long cylinder. Now use a sharp, wetted knife to slice the roll into nine buns. Place them on a greased baking tray about 2 cm apart - not touching, but close enough that they will touch once they raise. Allow them to raise for about 30 minutes in a warm place (I like to set them on top of the oven). Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sugar glaze. Combine 2 tsp sugar, 3 tsp water, and a few drops lemon juice in a small microwave-safe dish. Heat on high for 30 seconds or so - you want it to boil thoroughly.

Brush the buns with the glaze immediately after you remove them from the oven, gently pull them apart, and transfer them to a cooling rack. Enjoy whilst still warm!

Saturday 3 April 2010

Hot Cross Buns: An English Easter Treat

And even more quintessential when enjoyed with a hot cup of tea. These buns are lightly spiced, filled with currants and orange zest, and glazed with sugar syrup to make them sweet and shiny.

And they are pretty, too! They didn't turn out tasting entirely right, so I haven't posted the recipe yet. I've been adapting the recipe based on this one, which is made with wheat. I will share my version after I make a few more adjustments to the flour blend. (Plus, that means I get to bake some more!) I will tell you, though, that this dough is very easy to work with - I was able to shape it into buns using my hands, without it sticking to everything. And you can see in the picture that they did not spread out or flatten as they baked. As you've probably noticed, that is not always easy for a gluten-free dough...I'm excited by the potential that has for a good flour blend!

Happy Easter, and hopefully I will have the recipe for you tomorrow.

To make, follow the dough recipe and baking instructions for my Chelsea Buns, with the following additions:
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
2 tsp fresh orange zest
30 g currants

Mix the wet ingredients in with the dry, blend well, and use wet fingers to form the dough into nine buns. Place on a greased baking tray and cut crosses in the top of each bun. Cover loosely with clingfilm and allow to rise.

For the crosses:
Mix 2 T sweet rice flour with about as much water, so it is the consistency of royal icing. Spoon this mixture into a food bag.

Once the buns have risen (about 20-30 minutes), snip a corner off the bag and pipe the paste into the crosses. Bake 20 minutes; brush with sugar glaze (instructions here) immediately after removing from the oven. Transfer to a cooling rack. Enjoy whilst still warm!