Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Tomato and Herbes de Provence Fougasse

I learnt to make this at my wonderful baking and patisserie courses in Paris on the 6th and 8th of August. I think this is some of the best bread I have EVER eaten, so I tried to reproduce it last night for a bunch of friends I had round. It turned out really well, and the only change that I would make would be to add in more herbs.

Unfortunately the pictures are only from my courses as I completely forgot to take any pictures yesterday when I was baking. They looked, oh I don't know, almost the same.

You need:

500g / 18oz cold water from the tap
30g / 1 oz fresh yeast, or 2 (7g) bags of dry yeast (No Fleischman, yes SAF, Red Star, Francine)
60g / 2oz extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp tomato purée (or to taste)
2 tbsp dried herbes de provence
800g / 28 oz all-purpose flour
30g / 1 oz salt

Whisk together the salt and flour.
In a separate bowl (use a stand-up mixer for this if you have one) combine the water and yeast at a low-speed with the oil, herbs, tomato purée, and 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Ensure the flour is well absorbed into this mixture before gradually incorporating the rest of the flour and salt mixture. Once well combined, switch to the dough hook and continue mixing for approximately 5 minutes. The dough should be sticky and elastic.

Line a large baking tray (preferably with sides about 1-inch high) with a parchment paper, then brush olive oil over the paper. Scrape the dough onto the paper, oil your hands really well then spread the dough to fit the tray. Don't worry if it doesn't fit perfectly! Cover loosely with cling film and leave in a warm spot for 45 minutes to an hour to rise. When doubled in volume and spongy, press cherry tomato halves into the dough, sprinkle with more herbs or black pepper, and bake for 20 minutes (or until golden) at 225C / 430F. If you find that it starts browning too fast, lower the oven temperature to 200C / 400F

Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting up and serving.

Now to go devour some of the remains of my own fougasse. See you later!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Key Lime Pie

Sadly, despite having family in Florida and having been there multiple times when I was little, I am still yet to try an authentic key lime pie. The version made with 'Persian limes' - the ones you find very easily in supermarkets - is awesome, but undoubtedly just not the same as one made with the slightly more tart key limes that are really only found throughout Florida keys.

Apparently it's traditionally a 'no-bake' pie as the egg yolks and condensed milk combo mean the filling sets pretty well by itself, but the old 'health and safety' has since kicked in and seen to the end of that.

Both times I've done this, I've used the Hummingbird recipe, and the pie has turned out really well. This was another friend's birthday present, a special request as she so thoroughly enjoyed the one I made for a Spanish lesson.

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F
Grease a 23-cm pie dish

For the crust:
Pound 500g digestive biscuits to form fine crumbs.
Slowly pour 200g melted unsalted butter into the processor while the motor is still running. Once well combined, press this mixture into the base and up the sides of the pie dish, using your hands or a spoon to squash it all together. Personally, I find this to be far too much crust for the size of the pie dish, but of course you can adjust accordingly to whatever dish you use, how much crust you like etc etc.

Bake the crust for 20 minutes, or until deep golden and firm. Leave to cool completely.

Meanwhile prepare your deliciously tangy yet smooth filling.

8 egg yolks
2x 397 tins condensed milk
zest and juice of five limes (DO NOT use bottled lime juice, you want as much freshness in there as possible)
extra zest for decoration

Whisk all of the above together with a balloon whisk until the mixture becomes very thick. Pour into the cold pie crust and bake for 20-30 minutes. Easy peasy lemon (or should I say lime?) squeezy.

After cooling for at least one hour, or overnight for those of you blessed with copious amounts of patience, either slather the pie with froths of double cream that have been whipped to soft peaks, and sprinkle over the remaining lime zest to decorate, OR go down the less traditional route and top with meringue.

To do this, first turn the oven down to 150C/300F - I'm going on the basis that you don't have the patience of a saint here...

6 egg whites
330g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cream of tartar (my addition, it helps the meringue go lovely and crispy on the outside but chewy on the inside)

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks start to form, then slowly whisk in the sugar, two tablespoons at a time. Somewhere along the line drop in the cream of tartar too. 

As a side note, always make sure you put the sugar in at the sides of the bowl as the egg whites are whisking. If you simply dump it on top of the egg whites, you'll only squash out the air, leading to pancakes of meringues. Finally, whisk in the vanilla extract, and keep going until beautifully shiny stiffly upright peaks have formed.

Spoon this mixture on top of the pie, being sure to cover the filling completely. Create peaks and swirls as you like in the meringue, be as elaborate as you like! Just don't play around with it too much otherwise, again, you'll squish the air out. 

Bake in the oven for approx 20 minutes, or until the meringue is 'golden brown and crisp to the touch,' so says the recipe book. 

Cool completely before serving.

This is so good. Try it.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


How I have missed this blog. The past six weeks have been the most amazing of my lifetime, a month's interrailing with friends culminating in about twelve days of 'me time' in Paris. 'Me time' including baking classes there of course.

Baguette, brioche (yum!), fougasse, madaleines, orange mousse / ice cream, chocolate mousse, creme brulee and finally those pesky macarons. 

Hungry yet?

I'm now back in Slovakia working at the awesome Ginger Monkey hostel in the Tatras mountains, and will soon be posting pictures of the 'Hershey's Perfectly Chocolatey Chocolate Cake' that I made yesterday. It went down a treat, and I'm hoping that there is still a tiny bit left for me for later.

More soon, promise!