Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Brioche

“Back to normal” after summer has been anything but normal. I knew that September was going to be a tough month at work. Maybe tough is not exactly the word, maybe, just overloaded would be enough. Right now I am in the middle of one of those periods when it seems that everyone agrees to ask you everything for yesterday. One of those times in which working over the weekend, and working in the evenings simply becomes normal. Even I expected this beforehand, the feeling of being just overwhelmed with it all is a bit too much at the minute. I am not complaining at all. I am loving the job itself. I enjoy it so much that I do not mind these crazy spikes occasionally. The worst part of it is the lack of time to cook and plan a little more, especially during the weekend. I'm accumulating so much desire to bake that all I want is just to have a little time to bake, and bake and bake a bit more -just to enjoy calmly proving doughs, the smell of vanilla, cinnamon, seeing how the dough rests and grows and grows back in the oven and the house gests filled with a delicious scent.
Since I started cooking, baking and particularly proving doughs have been the kind of things which have given me more satisfaction. I love it, love it, love it every time. It still magical to me the process by which, from a few simple ingredients you can get a truly wonderful brioche like this today. As I am having so little time lately I shortcut by leaving the dough to rise overnight in the fridge, so that in the morning I just have to form the final bun and let them raise another bit to get to the final result.
I guess there is a bit of an influence from the "Great British Bake Off" in this late baking fever of mine.  Every Wednesday from the last 7 weeks we (because my husband has also got fond of it) follow the adventures of a group of amateur bakers. I really do not need that much push to be willing to switch on the oven and try new things. To be honest, watching every Wednesday that bunch of obsessive bakers locked in a tent in the middle of nowhere, making three recipes per program, well, it has its charms, and it makes my Saturdays arrive loaded with an imperious necessity to try one or two things, at least.

I have never been a fan of making great cakes. I’d better think of cookies, muffins, individual versions of any baking treat. Those have all the advantages of a good session of baking, and (almost) none of the disadvantages. First, they bake much faster than the larger versions. The simple idea of ​​having in your hands a brioche fresh from the oven as soon as the whole house begins to get fill with an unmistakable smell is totally irresistible. But also, these individual versions make it much easier to avoid eating more than necessary; they can be frozen on their own, you will always have the right size portions and no one argues for having the largest piece. So as far as during working weekdays I have to go full speed and I can hardly do anything exciting in the kitchen, as soon as  the weekend comes I am happy doing these small beauties. The downside is that I have already had a couple of weekends in which I left the dough resting at night to get up and start baking.  

I say downside because these legendary Saturday breakfast will for sure stay in the memory of the whole family, but there is no way of keeping one single bun to take a photo of them for the blog. Well, sometimes my kids will let me use the phone and maybe I am able to share a bit of what is going on via twitter (). But right now life is finding its own way over blogging and other hobbies. Now I will allow myself plenty of time to enjoy my gigantic weekend sweet breakfast as all we -as a family- want to do is just sharing a lazy laugh and tell all that nonsense that during weekdays we simply cannot tell. We love those mornings around the kitchen table, with the happy perspective of two full days ahead, whole brand new to enjoy being together. I do not know about you, but I guess I am getting too old, and I am increasingly aware that time goes by so quickly that I do not want to miss these moments. I am very conscious that before I realize I will have two teenagers in front of me, worried about other things, anxious about other things. Sooner than later it all will be completely different. Now my girls are old enough not to need me every minute, but young enough so that our home is still their little kingdom. And I find myself in a very sweet moment. I am  happy enough to see every morning in their faces those confident smiles with which they face the world. I am lucky enough to realize that the rush, the work, the obligations, all of that make sense when the whole house is illuminated with their laughing voices. So allow me to keep a little of that just for me, as I cannot afford to miss it;  and apologies if I cannot share those recipes as often over the weekends.


Meanwhile, I am posting today a recipe for one of the best brioches I've ever tasted. I prepared it in the evening, left the dough in the refrigerator and then shaped and baked it in the morning. If you have the time, you can do everything at once, just let the dough double in volume on the first leavening, which will depend on the temperature and humidity of the place where you leave it to rest, and then you can follow the rest of the recipe as it appears here.
Bon Appetite!







Brioche

Ingredients

100 ml of warm milk 

1 sachet of bread dried yeast (7 grams)
2 medium eggs
70 grams of sugar
60 grams of butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (5 ml)
3 grams of salt
175 grams of strong bread flour
175 grams of plain flour  
1 egg beaten to paint the brioche prior to put it in the oven

Preparation


If you use the bread maker, put the ingredients into it in the order they appear in the list. Use the 15 minutes kneading program, and put the dough in a bowl, painted with a few drops of oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight. Alternatively, you can knead the ingredients, better with a food processor or electric mixer, until the mixture acquires consistency. Put the dough into the fridge, or leave it at room temperature until the dough has doubled in volume (which depends on the temperature and humidity of the room where you are, so it could be anything from 45 minutes to 2 hours).

Once the dough has doubled in size, knead it slightly on a lightly floured surface. Do not overwork the dough; you only need to remove the excess of air. Divide it into six large portions and six more small ones. Make a long cylinder with one of the large pieces, and close, like a donut. Put it inside a brioche mold or in an individual ramekin fluted, slightly painted with oil or butter. Top with one of the small balls and press lightly so the dough does not fall during baking. Repeat until you have finish all the molds. Leave them rest between one and two hours, until doubled in volume again. Preheat oven to 180 degrees, and paint with the beaten egg without exerting pressure on the dough. Put in the oven for about 16 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.



Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Tuna, crab and cheese mousse


There are days –weeks, even- when things run so fast, all at the same time, that you simply feel overwhelmed. Lately, for the past few weeks, I've been trapped in this accelerated spiral that seems to lead nowhere, never stopping. Yes, I know it will stop, eventually. And it will leave me with that feeling of a hangover without alcohol, disrupted, exhausted and empty, as if my head where made of cork. I know there will be some time for some rest… or at least, that is what I have to remind myself, when I feel like I need days made of 48 hours!
I tend to eat the first junk food I have at hand when I feel like this. So, as I know myself all too well, I have learnt to try to avoid that. It does not mean that I will always manage to do so, but I try.
Today’s recipe -this cheese mousse- is great for that. It also has tuna and crabmeat,  and it gives a fantastic result. The idea came from adapting a classic tasty cold mousse. I have used light cream cheese and fat-free milk instead of cream and eggs, so that it is really, really light, but the result in terms of taste is very good. I did it in individual ramekins, but you may also be prepared in a larger mold, and serve it as a paté, to spread with bread. You could also put less agar-agar, and let it in the form of a dipping to go with crudités. Or you might try to add some red pepper for enhanced flavor and color, or, basically, include any changes you feel like trying, as it is really versatile.
Enjoy!
Tuna, crab and cheese mousse
Ingredients (for 6 individual molds)

160 grams of tuna in spring water
10 crabmeat sticks
250 ml of skimmed milk
300 g of nonfat cream cheese
4 anchovies
3 grams of agar-agar (or equivalent quantity of gelatin)
Pepper
Salt

Preparation
Mix flaked tuna with chopped crabmeat and chopped anchovies. Blend well. Put in a saucepan the milk, cheese, salt, pepper and agar-agar. Heat and stir to dissolve it, without allowing it to boil until it is completely mixed. Add the crushed mixture of tuna, crab sticks and anchovies, mix well and remove from heat. Pour into molds to use, slightly pre-oiled (better with a spray or use a pair of oil droplets and spread with a brush) and cool to room temperature. Once cooled, put into to the fridge for at least 4 hours, until ready to serve. To serve, garnish with minced crabmeat and tuna.





Tuna, crab and cheese mousse
Ingredients (for 6 individual molds)

160 grams of tuna in spring water
10 crabmeat sticks
250 ml of skimmed milk
300 g of nonfat cream cheese
4 anchovies
3 grams of agar-agar (or equivalent quantity of gelatin)
Pepper
Salt

Preparation
Mix flaked tuna with chopped crabmeat and chopped anchovies. Blend well. Put in a saucepan the milk, cheese, salt, pepper and agar-agar. Heat and stir to dissolve it, without allowing it to boil until it is completely mixed. Add the crushed mixture of tuna, crab sticks and anchovies, mix well and remove from heat. Pour into molds to use, slightly pre-oiled (better with a spray or use a pair of oil droplets and spread with a brush) and cool to room temperature. Once cooled, put into to the fridge for at least 4 hours, until ready to serve. To serve, garnish with minced crabmeat and tuna.