Scandi Pear & Cardamom Cakes

Confession: I don’t really like pears. Often hard and grainy; quickly soft and mushy, they do little for me. This recipe is a direct result of receiving yet more pears in our weekly organic delivery and desperately trying to find new ways to ‘use them up’. Necessity is the mother of invention – Fika will never be the same again.

Ingredients:

  • 5 pears
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • Lemon juice
  • 250g self raising flour
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan).
  2. Grease some small baking tins with butter or line a muffin tray with paper cases.
  3. Pop the butter into a pan and melt it over a low heat. Leave to cool slightly.
  4. Peel and core the pears, then dice them into 5mm cubes. Squeeze the lemon over the pears to stop them oxidising and turning brown.
  5. Beat the eggs and then mix all of the ingredients together to form batter
  6. Fill the tins or cases and bake for around 20 minutes until golden. If you’re making a larger cake it will need a little longer to bake through. 
  7. Cool on a wire rack. 

Scandi styled cakes

These little pear cakes pair perfectly with a perky coffee – they have quite the cardamom kick if you’re using good quality fresh spice.  

Pears. I look forward to the next delivery… 

Lockdown Sourdough

The staff of life. Bread connects every human, transcending continents, countries, creeds and clans. The COVID-19 outbreak appears to have encouraged a resurgence in home baking (and a run on flour amongst other basic staples). There are many different types of bread, but I’m obsessed with classic sourdough bread – the old way of baking using a living wild yeast starter, before dried yeasts were invented and mass production led us astray.

I’ll try to summarise everything you’ll need to know about creating a starter, looking after it and baking sourdough bread – please do reach out to me via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or email if you have any questions or queries.

To start, you’ll need a starter (!)

Making your very own unique starter from scratch is really straight forward and it’s something you can be really proud of – everything you need to know is right here: https://foodfitforfelix.com/2018/02/21/sourdough-starter/

I’ve been handing out cuts of my sourdough starter, Däve, to anyone who’s local enough to collect him from the wall outside.

What to do if you’re gifted a live starter?

First of all, you’ll probably want to find him/her a new home (and think of a name for your new lockdown companion!).  A 600ml jar with a lid is ideal for looking after your starter as it provides enough space for it to grow if you’re keeping it around 100g.

Next you’ll want to feed/refresh it. If you’ve only been given a small amount, you might want to bulk it up in size, but generally you’ll halve the starter (discarding or baking with half) and feeding the other half with a 50/50 mix of flour and water.

Bread flour can be tricky to get hold of at the moment, and you’ll need enough to keep your starter alive, so here’s some tips for:

Reducing flour consumption

  • Refrigeration: Popping it into the fridge in a sealed container will slow down the fermentation process so you can get away with feeding it once every couple of weeks (although you’ll need to refresh it a few times to get it back up to strength before you can bake with it again)
  • Freezing: believe it or not, you can freeze a portion of your starter in a ziplock bag and keep it in suspended animation – defrosting and feeding at some point in the future.
  • Dehydration: spread a little starter out on a piece of greaseproof paper (very thinly) and leave it on a rack to try out completely – you’ll be able to store your precious culture in a jam jar and rehydrate it when you can get hold of flour again.
  • Keep your starter small!

The bake

My preferred process for baking sourdough can be found here: https://foodfitforfelix.com/2018/12/18/sourdough-2-0/ although I’ve more recently been baking my loaves for a total of 50 minutes rather than an hour, and I no longer use semolina as it becomes a little hard after baking. I’ve also decided that I prefer the flavour from wholegrain or malted flour rather than white rye; the choice of flour is yours (as long as it’s strong flour) – you’ll no doubt want to start experimenting with different kinds of flour once you’ve perfected your baking process.

Don’t overlook freezing – just slice your freshly baked bread, wrap it up and freeze it. You can toast slices directly from the freezer.

Leftover bread?

Unlike wine, this does actually happen in our house. Sourdough bread lasts much longer than processed bread. If you have some leftover which has started to go stale (but not mouldy) then you can make a panzanella salad (google it), croutons for soup or perhaps the gold dust that is pangrattato – https://foodfitforfelix.com/2019/01/13/pangrattato/

If you can (and ensuring social distancing rules are respected), share! Starters, flours, fresh bread, tips, ideas, bannetons, recipes, hope and joy.

sourdough bread

Cardamom Buns

As much as I’ve tried to avoid baking sweet things, I do love the reaction I get when I share these treats with friends and family. The festive season has been the ideal time to test, tweak and perfect the recipe, although it’s a frightfully early start if you want to get them on the table in time for breakfast.

Ingredients: (makes 12)

Buns:

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 200ml milk
  • 5g salt
  • 7g sachet dried yeast (Easy Bake or Quick Yeast)*
  • 250g plain flour
  • 250g strong bread flour
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 eggs

Filling:

  • 100g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground cardamom

Coating:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Method:

  1. Start the buns by melting the butter in a pan with the milk and the salt. Allow it to cool a little.
  2. Mix the flour, yeast, cardamom and sugar in a bowl and incorporate the eggs and the melted butter and milk.
  3. Knead the dough for 5 minutes until smooth. A dough scraper will help as it will be quite wet and sticky at first.
  4. Leave the dough covered in a warm place to proof for 1 hour or until doubled in size. proving dough
  5. For the filling, mix the softened butter with the sugar, cardamom and cinnamon until combined.
  6. Roll out the dough out into a square about 35 x 35cm.
  7. Spread the filling over evenly and then roll the dough up.
  8. Slice it up into 12 pieces and place them onto a baking tray or into muffin cases. You can use a fine piece of string/cotton/wire to loop around slice the dough instead of a knife – this will prevent the dough getting squashed out of shape. Cardamom bun 2nd proof
  9. Cover and leave the dough to proof for a further 30-45 minutes.
  10. Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan or 200°C conventional) and mix together the remaining caster sugar and cinnamon.
  11. Brush with beaten egg, dust with plenty of the sugar mix and bake for 12-15 minutes.

cardamom buns

cardamom rolls

*If you’re using ‘easy bake’ or ‘quick yeast’, you can add it straight to the flour mix, otherwise, you’ll need to activate the yeast by first mixing it with a splash of warm water and a sprinkle of sugar. It will be ready to go as soon as it starts to bubble.

Sourdough 2.0

Sourdough is all about time. As time has passed since my last post about sourdough, I’ve patiently and diligently continued on my quest to make fantastic sourdough. I’ll reiterate that regular practice, keen observation and confident intuition are what truly makes great bread.

Däve is all grown up, well, fourteen months old at the time of writing, and I’m feeling far more proficient in my yeast husbandry. Interestingly, this craft feels quite like parenting in the sense of becoming more and more unconsciously competent as time goes by; I’ve almost stopped thinking about the details and just get on with it. 

Lots of great questions have been coming my way recently so I think it’s the perfect time to take stock and get my latest methodology down for posterity.  

For my best sourdough loaf, I currently do the following (based on my equipment and environment): 

  1. Make sure the starter is on top form and recently fed and watered – if it’s been chilling out in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process then give it a 50/50 organic flour and water feeding, a good mix to aerate it and at least a day at room temperature. TOP TIP: You’ll know that it’s good to go if a spoonful of the starter floats in water. 
  2. Before going to bed, mix 80g of the starter with 80g of organic white bread flour and 80g water. This is your sponge. Cover it with a cloth or a shower cap (it’s your yeast-farming duty to liberate them from hotel rooms at every opportunity). 
  3. The following morning, start the autolyse process by mixing 50g organic white rye flour and 450g organic white bread flour into your sponge with 300g tepid water. Leave it (covered with a shower cap) for an hour or so. This will allow the flour to fully absorb the water, start the fermentation process, and ultimately make it much easier to knead. 
  4. Add 15g salt dissolved in a splash of water (about 10g) and knead your dough for 10 minutes until it’s beautifully smooth and elastic. There’s some real technique to be developed in kneading and shaping your dough, especially when it’s wet, but it isn’t hard to get the hang of it and if you’re like me, you’ll eventually find it more therapeutic than stressful.
  5. We now venture into bulk fermentation. Leave your dough covered for an hour and then lovingly ‘stretch and fold’ with wet hands a few times to incorporate a touch more water and increase hydration à la ‘eau de bassinage’.  This technique will help to develop the gluten further and improve the crumb. Repeat this each hour and then after four hours, shape the dough. To help it keep its shape, you want to stretch the gluten to wrap around itself tightly. I do this by drawing the dough towards myself (google/youtube it). 
  6. Pop your dough into a well dusted banneton (wicker bread proving basket). I use rice flour for this as it’s anhydrous and prevents the dough sticking. Sprinkle some semolina over the top and cover it with your trusty shower cap. 
  7. Put your dough to bed in the top of your fridge and leave it until the following morning. This is the retarded method – it will slow the fermentation down, leading to a more digestible loaf. 
  8. Pop a large cast iron pot into your oven and turn it up as high as it will go. After 30 minutes everything should be stinking hot. 
  9. Take your dough from the fridge and carefully turn it out onto a piece of greaseproof paper. 
  10. Score your dough with a lame or a razor blade in confident, even strokes. This will not only make your bread look good, but it will also help it expand in the oven. 
  11. Being both quick and unbelievably careful in the process, remove your cast iron pot from the oven and lower your dough into it, give it a tiny spritz of water, pop the lid back on and then slip it back into the oven.  
  12. After 10 minutes, turn the temperature down to about 210° and bake it for a further 50 minutes. 
  13. Remove your bread and leave it to cool on a wire rack.  

I’ve recently started doubling up on my ingredients to make two loaves at the same time – especially worthwhile given that sourdough bread keeps in perfect condition for such a long time. 

Good luck, godspeed and look out for future updates on my preferred method here and on instagram @foodfitforfelix  

perfect sourdough

#YeastFarmer

Tarta de Santiago

The cake of Saint James – a medieval masterpiece that pairs perfectly with a mid-morning cortado coffee.

Its exact origins and specific recipe are long gone in the winds of time, but the celebration of the patron saint of Spain continues, especially on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage and in the Galician capital Santiago de Compostela.

I’m not a huge fan of cakes or even baking them, but this simple gluten-free almond recipe has me hooked. It feels a touch more, grown-up.  I’ve spent a while experimenting and have finally settled on this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • zest of 1 unwaxed orange
  • zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • icing sugar to dust

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 160°C (140°C fan)
  2. Grease and line an 8 or 9-inch springform baking tin.
  3. Separate the egg yolks and whites.
  4. Whisk the yolks with the golden caster sugar until pale and fluffy.
  5. Mix in the almonds, zest and extract.
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  7. Gently combine the two mixtures and fill your baking tin.
  8. Bake for about 40-45 minutes.
  9. Rest the cake in its tin for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

cooling down the tarta de santiago10. When completely cool, dust the top of the cake using icing sugar and a stencil of the cross of Saint James.

youngling dusting the tarta de santiago

Serve with a little crème fraîche if you like. I certainly do.