The Rye

Seinfeld - The Rye

When our youngest was a newborn, I spent many hours cradling her refluxy little form and half-watching Seinfeld DVD boxsets. I’m positive that many new parents can relate to the lost hours slumped in front of the TV during those first few shattering, exhaustion addled weeks – comforting, undemanding and, crucially, familiar programmes have become fondly entwined with the memories of each of our children during this stage. For us, Seinfeld fitted the bill perfectly and the frequent food references served as reminders to feed ourselves as well as our tiny new creation: the big salad, thirst-inducing pretzels, chocolate babka and, of course, the infamous rye loaf that almost pushed a desperate George Costanza over the edge, nudged us blearily towards the kitchen in search of sustenance.

Okay this isn’t a marble rye, the bread so beloved by the Costanza family, but it is pretty delicious all the same. Chewy, robust and filling – this is one versatile loaf. My recipe mixes rye, spelt and a touch of white flour to produce an open textured crumb that’s very different to the dark, dense, albeit delicious, ‘corky’ breads you may be accustomed to.

The flavours in this particular loaf – fennel and black treacle – marry beautifully with a summery slather of cool, creamy cheese, a crisp apple and maybe a little smoked ham, but also perfectly partner a hearty bowl of soup during chilly weather. Alternatively, how about some sharp, crystalline cheddar with a spoonful of tamarind chutney? Or – as part of a smörgåsbord – thinly sliced alongside boiled eggs, pickled beetroot and dill-infused gravlax? You can also ring the changes and add caraway seeds, orange zest – or herbs if you’re wandering down a savoury path. However, this makes incredible buttered toast and is phenomenal with a tart jam for breakfast, in which case omit the herbs for a more neutral taste.

As well as lending a distinct flavour, the syrupy, burnt toffee scent of the treacle pervades the entire house as this bakes: imagine the IMG_7078heavenly aroma of freshly baked bread enhanced by a deeply intense caramel note. Truly one of the great pleasures of baking. This amenable dough can be popped into a loaf tin, but I prefer a more freeform approach – this produces a pretty artisanal oval from which you can cut long, elegant slices. On the other hand, you could make excellent rolls; very good for picnics – sufficiently robust to withstand travel, yet light enough to leave ample stomach space for further alfresco fare.

I may balk at mugging little old ladies à la Jerry Seinfeld, but, in the words of the inimitable Estelle Costanza, I would certainly takes buses to get that rye…

Ingredients

200g rye flour

200g spelt flour

100g strong white (bread) flour

1 sachet fast acting dried yeast

1 tablespoon black treacle

1 teaspoon salt

390ml warm water

Method

Combine the flours, salt and yeast. Add the treacle and gradually pour in the warm water as you may not need all of it. Knead for 5-10 minutes – or use a freestanding mixer and a dough hook. This will be rough and shaggy, rather than the smoothly elastic doughs you may be more accustomed to. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm spot, such as an airing cupboard of sunny windowsill, for around an hour or until doubled in size.

Knock back (punch the centre of the dough – it will collapse), knead briefly and shape. Leave to prove for a second time for approximately 30-40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7

Bake the loaf for 10 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 190C/375/Gas Mark 5. Bake for a further 30 minutes or until it sounds hollow when you tap the underside.

Remove from oven and leave to cool. As with all breads, if you try and slice the loaf whilst it is still hot, the crumb will compact and the texture will be doughy.

IMG_7089

Advertisements

Olive Oil Yoghurt Cake

Image

Gâteau au yaourt, or rather more prosaically, yoghurt cake, is a beloved French classic and it’s not hard to see why. With its pillowy softness and barely-there sweetness, it makes the perfect goûter – after school snack – and provides the ideal foil for all manner of glazes, compotes or sauces should your fancy be tickled by such embellishments. Indeed, the recipe is so effortless that it’s apparently the first cake that les enfants Français learn to bake – under the watchful eye of a benevolent grandmother, of course – no wonder that it is affectionately termed le gâteau de mamie.

On Sunday, we were running late so plans to visit the seaside were shelved (we live a long, long way from the beach) and, instead, we plumped for an afternoon spent walking with our two dogs. Following several hours of tramping through mossy woods and haring around the labyrinth (an eerie little warren of twisted bowers, thickly carpeted with violet blooms and withered leaves – an unanticipated delight), we returned home tired and hungry. Providentially, I had half a (large) pot of yoghurt leftover from the previous evening’s marinade so put it to good use here. I don’t know if you’ve ever tasted a Japanese Cotton Soft Cheesecake, but the level of sweetness is not dissimilar – although this yoghurt cake has a much drier, firmer crumb and a definite crust. Labouring under the notion that I’d baked a homemade equivalent of a pre-packaged British angel cake, the Biggest Boy queried the absence of pink, yellow and white layers. I can see why he wondered; the flavour is somewhat comparable, although it is less sugary and doesn’t include that cloying, synthetic buttercream that the striped slabs of shop bought angel cake always seem to have.

Not being French and, as such, sadly lacking a Grand-Mère, I’ve cobbled together a nice, albeit inauthentic, version of this charming cake. If any of my French readers would like to share their own (recipe – not grandmother!), I would certainly like to try it. Not being terribly fond of vegetable oil, I opted for olive, though you could use either. I’ve also stumbled across a recipe that utilises melted butter, so there’s another option. However, from what I can gather, butter is not traditional at all and would alter the cake’s pale interior as well as the taste, I imagine. You can play around with the flavours: chocolate, lemon or orange would all work beautifully. Nevertheless, there’s something especially lovely about the snowy-white purity of the plain version.

Ingredients

230g caster sugar

2 eggs

125ml olive oil

125ml natural yoghurt

300g self-raising flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Splash of milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4

Oil a 20cm cake tin (I use a silicon mould for easy removal) and very lightly dust with flour.

Whist together the sugar and eggs until thick and creamy. Still whisking, carefully add the olive oil. Add the yoghurt and vanilla and stir the flour in gently. If the mixture looks a little thick you can add a drop of milk to thin slightly.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for around 50 minutes. It tends to brown quite quickly so you may need to cover with foil part way through the cooking time. This cake is deceptive and will probably appear cooked long before the centre is no longer liquid. To test, poke a skewer into the middle – if it hisses and comes out wet, pop the cake back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes at least.

Once baked, cool for 5-10 minutes in the tin before unmoulding.

Perfect with a cold glass of milk for the children and a pot of jasmine tea for grownups.

Image

In the beginning…there were brownies

image

Hellooo…writing this feels somewhat akin to shouting into the ether – only to hear my own, mocking echo reverberating around my ears. Notwithstanding factors such as having a miniscule readership and being about half a decade too late, I have, after years, many years, of saying I’m going to start a blog finally taken the plunge.

Feeling slightly daunted, I will mainly be writing about the food I prepare for Mr Jolly Good Egg and the Hatchlings. I’ll be including both the successes and the failures and highlighting suspected reasons for the particularly outstanding flops (i.e. my own folly – or an inherent flaw in the recipe), plus suggestions for improvements and tweaks.

And now for the brownies, because they’re always welcome, right?

This is my go-to brownie recipe; undemanding and handy for when you only have a few basic ingredients in the cupboard, but still fancy something warm and chocolately in a hurry. It’s also effortlessly adaptable – you can, and I frequently do, add chopped walnuts, mini marshmallows, swirl peanut butter into the mix – the list goes on. You can also omit the coffee, but I rather love the smoky depth it lends to what is, essentially, an uber simple, basic brownie batter.

Ingredients

150g butter

250g caster sugar

150g brown sugar (dark or light depending on preference – or what you happen to have)

2 eggs

50g cocoa powder

250g plain flour

2 scant teaspoons baking powder

1 heaped teaspoon instant coffee dissolved in a splash of hot water (or, even better, the equivalent of freshly brewed coffee)

150-200g chopped chocolate

Method

Preheat the oven to 180c/gas mark 4/350F

Grease and line the tin with baking parchment – or use one of those teflon sheets. Don’t omit this step or your brownies will, frustratingly, be stuck in the pan.

In a saucepan, gradually heat the butter and the sugars until dissolved – add the coffee. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the eggs and mix in the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Add the chopped chocolate; stir briskly and pour batter into the awaiting tin. Bake for around 40 minutes (I say around 40 mins because it’ll vary quite a bit depending upon your own oven’s idiosyncrasies, etc. What you’re looking for is a crispy, crackly top that’s moist and fudgy beneath. Test by inserting a cocktail stick, skewer, etc into the brownie – you want to see slightly damp batter clinging to your implement of choice. Don’t take it out of the oven whilst it’s still a chocolate puddle, but do bear in mind that it will continue to cook as it cools).

Particularly nice eaten whilst it still has the lingering memory of the oven’s warmth, but they’re still lovely when cool.

This recipe also halves perfectly if your family is less gannet-like than mine.