Christmas Macaron Masterclass- 7th December!

I just realised that it has been over a month since Fabricio and I did our first macaron class at the Faircake kitchen in Greenwich and I completely forgot to blog about it. I hadn’t even edited any of the photos! Well, anyway, here are a few snapshots and my thoughts on the class. As you can see, the kitchen is absolutely beautiful and so well-equipped. This being the first time teaching here, it was a bit of a rush to find where everything was stored and to be set up on time, but thankfully luck was on our side, as per usual at the weekend the tube lines were delayed and so we had a few extra minutes to prepare. We had 11 lovely students join us for the class and they learned how to make lemon, salted caramel and pistachio macarons. Here’s the first lot of macarons coming out of the oven. I breathed a sigh of relief at this stage because, well, macarons are finicky little things which often decide to fail at the most inopportune times!And of course everyone went away with a box of macarons and the recipes. We have another macaron class coming up soon at Faircake and there are still some places left.

Class: Macarons with a Hint of Christmas
Date & Time: Friday 7th December 6-8pm
Venue: 16 Highbridge Wharf, Greenwich, London, SE10 9PS
Price: £75

We will be teaching 3 different Christmas inspired flavours as well as showing you some ideas for decorating your macaron shells (see below). If you are interested do book a place as this class only comes round once a year and there’s not much time left to snap up the last few places! Click here to book!

Brioche and The River Cottage Bread Handbook

I recently met Daniel Stevens, the author of the River Cottage Bread Handbook who gave me a few good bread making tips and also encouraged me to buy his book (no bias there for sure! haha).

I did go and buy the book in the end and it turned out to be a wonderful read. An incredibly informative book with mouthwatering photos and anecdotes which made me smile. Dan has a certain way with words and a knack for describing certain indescribable things about the bread making process. For example writing on when the dough is proved enough:

It is hard to describe the perfect moment in words. The best I can say is that a really well-shaped, tightly moulded, perfectly risen loaf has a certain look and feel about it, as if it is just bursting to be baked.

I wasn’t planning to make brioche until much later in my bread-making adventure, but then the Bread Handbook informed me that “contrary to popular belief, as bread goes, brioche is pretty straightforward”. And who doesn’t love brioche. It’s light, bready, rich, sweet… and if that wasn’t enough it has a soft, golden brown crust.

I made the most deliciously indulgent brioche sandwich for lunch that day and then had it toasted with butter for breakfast the next morning. I’m pretty sure I can feel my waistline expanding with every slice of bread…. :s 

Apologies, it seems my blog was hacked :(

I suspect that some of you may have seen a post on this blog entitled “Im excited! Sweet, my opinion is worth MONEY!! LOVE IT!”. My sincere apologies. Firstly for the flagrant disregard of the need for an apostrophe in “I’m” (Her Majesty would be horrified!), secondly for the use of the word “sweet”, which on this blog would only ever be used to describe dessert and thirdly for the horrendous overuse of capital letters. Kids, don’t capitalise entire words in cyberworld, it’s rude.

And whilst I’m pretty sure that many of you do “Have Internet On Your PC, Laptop or Phone” and would find earning $250 per day fairly useful, I very much doubt that you can do that by “filling out surveys and giving your opinion on today’s most popular products” as the cheeky so-and-so who decided to hack my account is claiming.

So if you saw that post, please accept my heartfelt apologies. I shall endeavour to make up for the intrusion with promises of upcoming posts including macarons for movember, brioche and sachertorte. :) see you soon!

Struggling with baguettes

Baguettes are one of those iconic French symbols. They conjure up idyllic scenes of the French countryside and a moustachioed man wearing a striped shirt and a beret with onions in one hand and a baguette in the other.

Nothing can beat a warm, freshly baked baguette but sadly these things only seem to exist on the Continent. In my local Sainsbury’s we have to settle for bake off baguettes which say they’re artisan, but actually are just a typical industrial loaf disguised by a deceptively rustic looking crust.

I long to be able to make beautiful baguettes, but as with the ciabatta it took 3 attempts to produce something which could acceptably be called a baguette. The first batch, we shan’t dwell on for very long, as they were so hideous I couldn’t even bring myself to photograph. My fatal mistake was using cling film to cover my lovingly shaped loaves for the final proving. As any bread baker out there can probably imagine the cling film got stuck to the dough and in the process of trying to remove it my poor baguettes were completely mangled and misshapen. I baked them anyway and whilst they tasted pretty good they looked a bit like giant, mutant breadsticks.

I’m not one to give up easily so I tried again.  The recipe which I have used for all 3 batches is from Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s book, How to Make Bread. Baguette dough is a fairly wet dough, not as wet as ciabatta, but still more challenging to work with than your regular bread dough.

Batch 2

Meet Batch 2. This time I lightly dusted the baguettes in flour and covered them with a tea towel. The upside is that it didn’t stick, but the downside is that the dough dried out slightly. I have since learned that this is the result of having a dry tea towel on top of the dough and also leaving it too long to prove. It caused a thin crust to form on the outside of the dough, meaning that when in the oven there was no “oven spring” (the initial rapid rising of the dough as the heat of the oven gives the yeast more oomph to work). Because of this, Batch 2 had quite a tight texture and (as you can see from the photo) the slashes down the length of the baguette which are supposed to help increase the rise from the oven spring, are completely closed and kind of look like tears in the surface of the bread. Those slashes should be smooth and should begin to open up pretty much immediately, even before the bread is in the oven.

Batch 3

So, onto Batch 3. Third time lucky right? This time I covered the dough with a damp tea towel, something which quite a few recipes do, and for some reason I had never tried. But it worked a treat. After about an hour of proving the dough was risen, and still oh-so-soft and moist. I slashed the loaves and sure enough the cuts began to slowly open up. I only wish I had slashed them a bit deeper. I’ve read that when slashing loaves it pays to be confident and just cut away… I was a bit hesitant and nervous, but next time I think I’ll have the confidence to just go for it :)These are the finished baguettes. The texture is much better, but I think towards the bottom it gets a bit dense. I believe this can be rectified by a liiiitle bit longer proving, and perhaps slightly longer in the oven. You can probably also see a crack along the side of the bread. I believe this is from where I didn’t seal the seam of the bread properly, and so as the dough expanded in the oven it kind of ripped a tear in the side of the loaf.

Overall I’m fairly happy with the outcome, but being a perfectionist, there is always something that can be improved. Baguettes will be revisited again at some point in the future.