Bath Buns for a gamekeeper

Hagrid poured them tea and offered them a plate of Bath buns but they knew better than to accept; they had had too much experience with Hagrid’s cooking. (Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban, ch.14)

Hagrid, the half giant gamekeeper of Hogwarts, does not enjoy a reputation of a good cook but his treacle fudge is going to be very handy for Harry Potter in this same novel.   

But what about those buns? They are named after the town of Bath in the southwest of England and it is one of the places beloved by Jane Austen that placed many central episodes of her novels there (think about Persuasion or Northanger Abbey).

There is a large debate on the origins of those buns, they are either attributed to Sally Lunn a French Huguenot refugees during the period that bring the recipe with her, or to the physician William Oliver. I had a look to my personal bible, when we are speaking about English food, that is Lady Carlotte Campbell Bury, The Lady’s Own Cookery Book, were there are two different versions for the buns, one, it doesn’t resemble to a bun at all, rather a biscuit. The second one is the one that I present here, a bit adapted to modern taste.

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Ingredients

For the dough:

250 g. milk

10g. dried yeast

650g. white flour

3 tbs of sugar

½ teaspoon of salt

280 gr. butter

50 gr. sultanas or cranberry

For the finishing:

4 tbs sugar

2tbs water

3 tbs of sugar pearls

Directions

Warm the milk with the butter, until the butter is completely melted.

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the milk and butter, then bring together into a dough. Knead until is elastic.

Put the dough in a warm place for 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out on to a floured surface add the sultana or the cranberries and work them in. 

Take small pieces of the dough a prepare the round buns.

Allow the buns to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown

Make a syrup by mixing the sugar and the water in a pot and bring it to boil. Brush the syrup over the buns as soon as they came out of the oven. Sprinkle sugar pearls on the top.

Serve with jam and whipped cream.

Finally, I don’t know if I am a good cook but, Hagrid, sorry, I am better than you!

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Elven Bread 2

Ok, I confess it, I have a thing for bake with yeast, any kind of yeast, dry, fresh, wild, sourdough… So when  a friend of mine presented me those pretty rolls I couldn’t avoid to think: “that is, that is exactly what an elven bread should look like“. Those rolls are absolutely superior in savor and shape to any other bread I have seen or taste before. So I took the recipe and I made some adjustament that suit my taste better, and here it is the prettiest bread roll I have ever done…

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Ingredients

For the dough:

20 gr. of active dry yeast

800 gr. of strong flour

2 cups of full-fat milk

1 cup of oil

3 tbs of sugar

1 tea spoonful of sea salt

1 egg yolk and two whites

For the wash:

100 gr of room temperature butter

1 egg yolk

For the glaze:

1 egg

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Directions

Prepare the sponge:

  • Sprinkle yeast and sugar into 100ml of warm milk in the  bowl of a stand mixer and stir to dissolve (if you have a kneading machine you will save a lot of work).
  • Set it  to rise in a warm place for about one hour.

Prepare the dough:

  • Mix the  flour with salt and add it with the remaining milk to the sponge.
  • Attach the dough hook to the mixer and knead it until you have a smooth and elastic dough (about 20 minutes at medium speed)
  • Work it a bit on a floured surface, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise another hour (but it depends on room temperature, less if it is a hot summer day).
  • Knock back and divide the dough in eight small ball of 150 gr each Let it rise for another hour.
  • Prepare the wash, with the whip mix together the egg yolk and the butter until creamy
  • Knock back the first ball and roll with a pin until 3 mm high, spread the wash uniformly and cover with another rolled dough like in the photos. When you have 4 layer, cut the dough in eight triangles and roll it as in the photo (you will get the shape of a leave). Let it rise for another half an hour.

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  • Make an egg glaze by lightly beating the egg
  • Brush the top of the loaf with the glaze. Bake it in a preheated oven at 200°C for 2* minutes until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped underneath. If you have a steam oven like me, then just use the bread program.

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The butter add an incredible flavor and it is a treat also eaten without any filling

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The texture is amazing but the taste is even better!

Milk Bread Rolls for Beth

 

A few days ago I received a very encouraging letters from Trix Wilkins, I went to her blog  and I discovered that she wrote a novel,  The Courtship of Jo March: a variation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women , that of course I am dying to read,  meanwhile to thanks Trix of her kind words, I prepared milk bread rolls, soft and fluffy, the kind of bread that Beth, Jo March’s fragile little sister, would have like to have with her tea. Those bread rolls are not the Japanese bread rolls that are very fashionable on food blogs on those days. They are actually small bread rolls that are used in Italy, but I would dare to say in the all Mediterranean area, to prepare savoury or sweet snacks as the taste is pretty neutral.

Milk Bread Rolls for Beth
Hear how they look like, I made 12 of 60 gr each

Ingredients:

  • 400 gr flour
  • 200 gr milk
  • 50 gr butter
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp of honey
  • 10 gr dry yeast
  • 5 gr salt
  • 1 egg for the wash

Milk Bread Rolls for Beth
Still warm…

Instructions

  1. Warm the milk (35 C.) and combine in the bowl of a stand mixer with the honey, yeast and a tsp of flour. After about 10 minutes, add the rest of the ingredients, attach the dough hook and run the mixer, starting on low to wet the dry ingredients.
  2. Turn speed to medium and run the mixer for 15 minutes. The dough is ready when it came together and gather in the centre of the bowl attaching itself to the hook.
  3. Divide the dough in small pieces of 60-70 gr each, set them in an oven pan covered with baking paper, cover with plastic wrap and set the pan in a warm place for about 90 minutes until more than doubled
  4. Roll each portion into a log and flat it gently and roll it (like the snail shell). Place each piece of dough inside the oven pan, giving some space between each roll. Cover the roll with plastic wrap and let rise again until double in size, about an hour or so.
  5. Preheat oven to 180 C’. Make the egg wash by lightly beating the egg. Brush the surface of the rolls with the egg wash without letting the fluid drip to the sides
  6. Bake in 180 C’ oven for 20-25 minutes or until rolls are deeply golden on top.
  7. Serve them with warm or cold with savoury or sweet fillings

Milk Bread Rolls for Beth
Ready for a savory snack with Italian Prosciutto

Milk Bread Rolls for Beth
And for a spring snack with pink lemonade and orange jelly

 

Crescia, Easter bread

I already have the opportunity to talk about Giacomo Leopardi, the great Italian poet. I love his poems, but also his romantic, short life. If you get curious about his life, there is an award winning film, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/sep/01/il-giovane-favoloso-review-giacomo-leopardi-venice-film-festival, that I strongly suggest you to watch.

Giacomo didn’t want to live in his native Recanati, and moved in different cities in Italy, but he missed his home town.  On the 17th  March, 1826, he wrote to his sister Paolina:

Salutami il curato e don Vincenzo, e dà loro a mio nome la buona Pasqua, che io passerò senza uovi tosti, senza crescia, senza un segno di solennità”. (Give my regards to the pastor and don Vincenzo, wish them Happy Easter for me.  A Easter that I will spend without uovi tosti, without crescia, and any celebration at all).

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From this excerpt it is clear that Giacomo couldn’t cook, otherwise he could have done what I did, ask his granma her recipe (yes, I have a grandmother alive and yes, she is 99 at the moment and finally yes, she can still share recipes– all thanks to the Mediterranean diet, I suppose).

So I prepared a big Crescia and I shared with friends coming from that area of Italy.

What can I say, I am a poetic, homesick, Italian expat 😂

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INGREDIENTS

  • 500 gr. flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 250 gr. Grated pecorino romano (it a sheep cheese, usually can be found in big supermarket)
  • 150 gr. grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano
  • 10 gr. Dehydrated yeast
  • 100 gr. Gruyere cheese (diced)
  • 250 gr. milk
  • 50 gr. of lard (I used butter, as lard is not easy available here)
  • 50 gr. of olive oil
  • salt

Directions

  1. Oil one large soufflé mould, and using a strip of parchment paper, line the top of the dish adding an additional 5 cm. of height.
  2. Add the yeast to the warm milk in the bowl of the stand mixer and mix, and let sit until bubbly.
  3. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then add the olive oil, the butter, salt, and grated cheese.
  4. Add it to the yeast mixture and stir it with the dough hook, then add the flour, little by little. Stir it until you get a very smooth dough (it may take 20- 40 minutes at medium speed).
  5. Let the dough sit until doubled,
  6. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead by hand, folding in the diced cheese as you work the dough.
  7. Place the dough in the mould and let it sit until more than doubled (my grandmother suggests that it is read when, gently touched, the dough trembles like jelly)
  8. Bake it at 180’ C. for about 45 minutes (I used the bread program in my oven – with 100% humidity for the first 5 minutes and then decrease at about 30% humidity).
  9. Remove the cake from the mould and let it cool completely, serve it as a snack or at breakfast with cured meat and boiled eggs.

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English Muffin 2 (The Jane Austen Challenge)

As I anticipated in my previous post, I wasn’t very happy with the results of my muffins. So I tried to prepare following the instructions of Lady Charlotte Campbell Bury:

Mix flour in a pan, with warm new milk and water, yeast and salt, according to your judgment. Beat it up well with a wooden spoon till it is a stiff batter; then set it near the fire to rise, which will be in about an hour. It must then be well beaten down, and put to rise again, and, when very light, made into muffins, and baked in flat round irons made for the purpose. The iron must be made hot, and kept so with coals under it. Take out the batter with a spoon, and drop it on a little flour sprinkled lightly on a table. Then lay them on a trencher with a little flour; turn the trencher round to shape them, assisting with your hand if they need it. Then bake them; when one side is done, turn them with a muffin knife, and bake the other.”

Not an easy recipe to follow! She gave no hint of how much should be the proportions and “to your judgement” doesn’t seems quite a straightforward indication to me. Some clues were given by the fact that the batter should be soft enough to be worked with a wooden spoon. So this time I prepared a very wet batter, using 350 gr. of strong flour, 140 gr. of water and 140 gr. of milk and a table spoon of yeast. The procedure was nearly the same as suggested by Lady Carlotte:

1. I mixed the batter, I let it rise for a couple of hours than I mixed again and I dropped in 8 different cans, lightly sprayed with oil. To make an experiment I dropped some batter on a floured surface and I let it rise for another hour.

2.  I heated the oven at 200 C. only on the bottom and I put the cans directly in the           bottom of the oven for ten minutes, then I turn them upside for another ten minutes.

For the other experiment I sprinkled a lot of flour and rolled oat on an electric griddle and I gently put the raised batter. I let them cook 5-6 minutes each side.

I got two very different results:

The muffins I cooked in the oven were very light and fluffy:

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Don’t forget to split it up with a fork:

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Then I grilled it and this is the final result:

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And this the result for the ones cooked on the griddle. A bit rustic maybe, but the taste was even better than those cooked in the oven.

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English Muffin 1 (The Jane Austen Challenge)

I have decided to challenge myself until the summer, I will prepare food from Jane Austen’s table. I got ready, I have good companions, I found London Art of Cookery by John Farley in an edition of 1811 and the Lady’s own cookery book, by Lady Charlotte Campbell Bury published in 1844, but Lady Charlotte was born in 1775, the same year of Jane Austen so I think that the recipes she describes are similar to the food Jane was eating every day (yes because Lady Charlotte specify that her book is “adapted to the use of persons living in the highest style, as well as those of moderate fortune”.

I decided that first of all I need to learn how to make good muffins for a nice cup of tea.

Muffins were served in Lizzy’s Untie Phillips’s home:

With such rivals for the notice of the fair, as Mr. Wickham and the officers, Mr. Collins seemed likely to sink into insignificance; to the young ladies he certainly was nothing; but he had still at intervals a kind listener in Mrs. Philips, and was, by her watchfulness, most abundantly supplied with coffee and muffin.”

And in Hartfield, with too much generously, according Emma’s father:

No, my dear,” said her father instantly; “that I am sure you are not. There is nobody half so attentive and civil as you are. If any thing, you are too attentive. The muffin last night—if it had been handed round once, I think it would have been enough.”

First I tried the recipe I found in Farley’s book, the original was saying “a pint and half of good ale yeast… Two gallons of water just milk-warm but not so hot as to scald the yeast, and two ounces of salt… and with a bushel of Hertfordshire white flour mix”.

The first challenge is that I don’t have ale yeast, and to tell the true, I am not so passionate on the idea of preparing it myself, so I went for dried yeast (1 tablespoon) and I sparkled it in about 50 ml of warm sugared water. I left it to rest until bubbling. I did the math, two gallons of water and a bushel of flour is enough muffins for an army, not for a family of four. Proportions are 1 to 5 so I prepared a dough with 5 cups of flour and 1 cup of milk-warm water (35 C.) and the yeast. A tablespoon of salt was added in the flour. The dough was very dry and hard so I let the mixer go at low speed until it was softened, it takes a very long time. I let the dough sit in a warm place until doubled in size, I knocked back and rolled it about ½ cm thin on a floured surface, then with a round biscuit cutter I cut the muffins and I let them  sit in a warm place until doubled. Instead of a griddle I used an oven pan, I put it in the lower place in the oven, heat it and the I placed my muffins.  I turned the muffins after about 7 minutes to grill the other surface.

I didn’t like the result. They are eatable, like bread, but they are not fluffy at all. The dough was too dry. Maybe with a griddle I would have get a better result.

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Tomorrow I am going to try Lady Charlotte recipe… I think I would get a “lady-like” result.

So don’t pop in my place for tea today, I invite you tomorrow, hoping for a better result, but in any case I have plenty of butter and homemade jam and jelly.

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