I’ve moved house! You can see three train lines from my window. Here they are:
The first is obvious, the second is the dark railway bridge just below the tree-line, and the third is directly beneath that and invisible until a train goes by. I am very happy here, sandwiched just between Greenwich and Lewisham. Not everything is perfect (there are mice, taps gush, the oven is bad), but everything feels right.
Ah, yes, the oven. Turns out, the temperature gauge doesn’t tell you how hot it is, and it leaks heat at the top. It’s a sad come-down from the powerful oven I was used to before that went very nice and hot. I have bought a ceramic tile to use as a bread stone and will see how that does. It didn’t matter for this loaf, because it likes things rather moderate.
This is a Romanian Easter bread, recipe here. It’s a sweet bread plaited around the outside, and then baked cheesecake filling in the middle. Delicious. I’ve had it on my list for a while, but I always supposed it would be fiddly. In fact, it felt rather easy. You make a sweet dough. While it’s rising, mix up the filling (just cream cheese, egg, sugar and vanilla extract). Plait, dollop the filling in the middle, bake.
Oven temperature is the tricky thing because the cheesecake likes it cool, and the sweet bread likes it moderately hot. I baked it at the bread-friendly temperature, because I have no idea what temperature my oven is anyway and tend to err on the side of high. The subtle approach is to bake at 5 mins high, then turn it right down. That way you avoid the cracked cheesecake top mine so elegantly demonstrates.
I haven’t been blogging much, but I have been baking. Out of the oven last week came a plaited wreath of chocolate and vanilla sweetbread. (I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of that because I was already late for a party.) On here, I’ve added a resources page, which is very much a work in progress and I’m sure contains some things I will look back and laugh at after a few more months of baking.
Loaf 21 is a Romanian loaf called țară pâine from here. Polenta is a staple dish in Romania, so it’s no surprise that this mixes in a cup of yellow cornmeal. The internet is pretty quiet about everyday Romanian bread apart from some legendary and mysterious loaves from Pecica, which are baked over wood fires. So I am more ignorant about this than I’d like to be. There are a couple of sweetbreads I’d like to try – cozonac and Easter bread – but I’ve learned my lesson about not making sweetbreads except when there’s a hearty number of people around to eat it (Hungarian kalacs took forever to get through).
This bread tastes like a simple white, with softness from the butter and a touch of that interesting texture you get by adding corn flour: a little gritty and grainy, almost squeaky.
Next up was this Danish rye beauty from Bread & Companatico. I must have mentioned this blog before: the writer, Barbara, is an Italian living in Scandinavia. She shares my obsession with authentic regional recipes, and brings a superior knowledge to it. So I’m always hunting for treasures on there, and discovered one in the shape of this old-fashioned Danish Rugbrød.
This is a good hearty rye recipe, with a soaker of chopped rye and a sourdough leaven. It also has a whole dark malty beer inside it (the recipe makes three loaves), and a spoonful of barley malt syrup. This gives it some interesting depths to the flavour and softens the tang of the rye, which in any case is not too strong.
The recipe gives the slightly odd instruction to leave the loaves in the fridge for 20 hours after they’ve had 4 hours or so to rise. I chickened out of this step, I’m afraid. I was too worried that my loaves were already fully risen and my temperamental fridge would do goodness-knows-what to them. I’ve also read that you’re not meant to retard rye dough. Can anyone shed light on this strange step?
If you do make the recipe on Barbara’s blog, beware that you don’t make too much. I have ended up with four times the amount of bread shown above! A good job rye lasts forever.