The Gingerbread Challenge continued- My First House.

Gingerbread house - final

A quick update on “Operation Gingerbread Church”. My aim this week was to build something with windows and roof tiles. So I brought out the graph paper and designed a simple house with boiled sweet coloured panes and chocolate button roof tiles.

Gingerbread house - windowThe worst bit was trying to track down boiled sweets which appear to have all but disappeared from my local supermarkets but thankfully I found a pack which are now hidden behind my baking supplies to prevent LSH scoffing the rest. The final aim is to use a mix of colours to create a stained glass effect which I can then light (somehow….) from inside.

I managed to get some small cutters from a local cake decorating shop which I used to cut out three windows. These were filled with ground boiled sweets and baked. And thankfully they worked – I was a little worried they wouldn’t come away from the parchment but they came away cleanly.

Gingerbread house - roof

The roof tiles are chocolate buttons which have been cut in half and held in place with royal icing. The remains were melted and used to create the ridge. I attempted to dye the icing brown but there was some white icing at the bottom of the bag. Looking at it I think that the bits that were white worked better giving a snow effect. Next time I may try a chocolate flavour biscuit base with white icing and quartered giant buttons to give overlapping fan tiles. That’s the plan anyway…

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An American Interlude

pancake 1

I feel I ought to start this blog with an apology to UK readers – as is usually the case, when I leave the country the weather improves but now I’m back and it’s raining heavily and all I can hear is the water pouring down the drain pipe. The delights of the British summer! All this rain is not helping my post holiday blues.

Whilst the holiday itself is fast becoming a memory, we still have the hundreds of photos to go through and sort. So this blog is something of a sneak peak but with a distinctly baked good flavour (despite LSH’s view that I should be posting lots of photos of elk etc. I have explained that my blog is not called “The Monday Elk”…).

One of the things that I love about going abroad is the different food experiences. I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets as much of a thrill from scouring the shelves of a local supermarket as from the local tourist attractions. I invariably end up coming back with some dubious food substances carefully wrapped to avoid spillages in my suitcase. This time around it was a bottle of slightly luminous prickly pear cactus syrup that, thankfully, made its way back intact.

pancakes

Being the US, I made it my mission to munch my way through an unseemly number of pancakes in our various stops. The one at the top of the blog is from the small cafe at the Signature Hotel in Las Vegas – possibly the neatest pancake of my trip and my first experience of the choice of bread that seems to come with your average American breakfast. I was surprised (and delighted) to get a choice of 4 different breads for toast no matter what type of restaurant/ cafe/ hotel we were dining in – white, wholemeal, rye and sourdough. I can safely say that I’ve never been offered sourdough as an option in the UK, which I suspect is down to the fact that it’s not as much a part of our food culture as in the US. These pancakes are from the Grand Canyon and from left to right you have buttermilk, buckwheat and blue corn which were eaten with a choice of prickly pear and maple syrup. I loved the buttermilk one and its a shame it’s so hard to get where I live (our closest supermarket looks at you in horror if you ask for lamb mince so my chances of getting buttermilk are pretty much nil!). I’ve heard you can make it with milk and lemon juice so I’m going to have to give that a go. IF you’ve made your own buttermilk do let me know what its like via the comments.

I’d never come across blue corn flour before (I thought it may be something to do with blueberries but it is flour made from the blue corn in the region). We found it again at Monument Valley used in the Navajo breads we ate there. We had Navajo Nachos in both the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley.

Navajo nachos - grand canyon style

This is the Grand Canyon version – like a thicker style of tortilla topped with a mix of lettuce, tomatoes, refried beans and beef.

And this is the Monument Valley version.

Navajo nachos - navajo style

Much more like a fried puri done in the style of a Yorkshire Pudding before being filled with the same mixture. One of my favourite Indian dishes is prawn on puri and I’m tempted to have a go at presenting it in this fashion.

We also had the fried and tortilla style blue corn bread with a couple of different types of Navajo chilli. The one below is pork with a type of corn. I loved the tortilla but thought that the fried version was just a bit too greasy for my tastes.

Pork and corn chilli with breads

We also had squaw bread in Page which tasted a bit like a version of maltloaf to me (I’m currently researching recipes).

It was interesting to find that, despite the fact that we’re exposed to so much American culture here in the UK, there’s still so much that’s new about food. I have brought back a couple of bread recipe books so expect to see some more US influenced breads over the coming months. It would be interesting to here your thoughts – Am I the only one that happily meanders through foreign supermarkets? Is food one of the highlights of your holiday? And what is squaw bread?

Finally a couple of pictures just to keep LSH happy – here are the Elk of the Grand Canyon… Happy Baking!

Elk 1Elk 2

What I see from my back door – a challenge.

Back Garden 1

Another gardening post (don’t panic – bread will be back soon!). Cecilia at The Kitchen Garden has posted a challenge for people to send in the view from their back door. So this is mine caught on a (fleetingly) sunny moment.

The main photo is of my climbing rose called Gertrude Jeykll. We bought it when we first moved here from Harlow Carr Gardens in Harrogate. It’s covered in tight buds and in a few weeks should be awash with fragrant pink blooms. Please try and ignore the weed infested pots – they will have flowery things in them soon!

Back Garden 2

This is the Bramley apple again. With a small Acer in a pot in the patio. This used to be at the front door but it was so windy at the front that the poor thing was constantly losing its leaves. So we’ve rescued it and it looks a lot happier back here.

Back Garden 3

Finally my Victoria plum tree. Alas it’s had no blooms this year at all. Maybe I’ll have a plum glut next year. Here’s hoping…

 

That Monday Feeling….

White Tin Bread

White Tin Loaf

It’s Bank Holiday Monday afternoon and LSH has headed out for his twice yearly trip to support the local football team (it’s a “must win match” evidently…)

So it’s time for my usual Monday baking session – a white tin loaf for our daily sandwiches. But this time the dough is being surly and unhelpful ( it’s clearly not keen on this cold weather either). Extra water is needed to get it soft enough to knead and even then I just can’t get it to soft and silky consistency I’m looking for. I resort to a version of Dan Lepard’s technique – a short burst of vigorous kneading followed by a 10 minute rest. After a couple of goes it was finally showing enough signs of gluten development to be left to double in size.

But even then it was sluggish. Clearly “that Monday feeling” affects bread as well as people! It needed warmth and time so for once I put it into the airing cupboard for its rise. I was sorely tempted to try to fit in there with it given our weather this Easter.

It took a little longer than normal to rise and then prove and I was not optimistic of what the finished loaf would look like. Once in the oven it baked for about 40 mins and I took it out of its tin for the last 10 minutes to give the sides a bit of a crust. And this was the result. A nice dense crumb with crispy golden crust. Ideal for LSH’s sandwiches the next day.

And the football? Also a win. Not a bad Monday all round.

Carrot, Sesame Seed and Sumac Rolls

I’m a keen follower of Dan Lepard’s recipes in the Guardian. Recently he wrote an interesting piece on vitamin C and the question of whether it should be added to bread. Putting aside the wider thorny issue of using additives in home baking, his recipes using orange juice and carrots looked interesting and I was keen to see what effect they had on the finished bread.

I didn’t have any olives so I just missed them out. I also used white spelt and white sesame seeds which resulted in a much lighter looking bread.

Carrot, Sesame and Sumac Rolls

Carrot, Sesame and Sumac Rolls

It’s been a while since I made rolls and I was pretty pleased with how these turned out. I added a tray of boiling water to the bottom of the oven when baking them and they needed a few minutes longer than the recipe said to get the crust I was looking for.

Next time I think I’d increase the amount of sumac (I couldn’t really taste the citrus flavours that Dan Lepard said it would produce). Definitely one I’d make again.

Kamut Bread

Kamut Bread

My First Kamut Bread

I have had some kamut (also known as khorason) flour in the cupboard for a while. Its a grain that was supposedly originally grown in ancient Egypt and has a lovely yellow tone to it so on novelty ground alone I was keen to give it a go.

Another of my Christmas presents was Richard Bertinet’s “Crust” book which focuses more on sourdough and preferments. I made a smaller amount as didn’t fancy being left with 5 loaves if I didn’t like it- so my scaled down version made 2.

The final loaf was a lovely golden colour with a firm crumb, ideal for sandwiches (so ideal that LSH used it for his pack up during the week).

It needed cooking for longer as it felt far to soft when it came out of the oven. So I cooked it until the internal temp of the loaves was 200F.