Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Irish Soda Bread & Tarragon And Roasted Red Pepper Roulade

I went in for an extra college day and joined a chef who needed to tick off his bread "units" for our Level 2 Diploma in Hospitality. I haven't done much bread, and thought I could do with the extra practice.

We made two types, but unfortunately I haven't got any photos from the day because I didn't have a camera with me, and he dropped his phone in the soup which meant the pictures he was supposed to email me never arrived. Shame, because they turned out well. But I'll be making them again when we get to do our bread units for the course, so I'll post the pictures then.

The first was Irish soda bread, which is great for people who can't eat yeast because being a so-called 'quick bread' it doesn't use any. Instead the leavening agent is sodium bicarbonate (aka bicarbonate of soda or baking soda). This reacts with the acid in the buttermilk to produce bubbles of carbon dioxide as yeast does. 

Buttermilk costs a fair bit in the shops now, for some reason, despite the low price of milk. But there is a much cheaper way of making it - and for this we used an old Cornish recipe the tutor had been taught by his grandmother. For every cup (250ml) of milk, add one tablespoon of freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Leave it for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, and it will thicken slightly, giving a runny yoghurt consistency.

We also made our own self-raising wholemeal flour because we'd run out - to make this add 2 teaspoons of baking powder to every 150g of plain flour.

Irish soda bread
(Makes two cobs)

340g self-raising wholemeal flour
340g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
580ml buttermilk

Put the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and mix together. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk. Mix quickly to form a soft dough. The dough should be a little stiff - and not wet and sticky. Rectify this by either adding a drop more buttermilk to ease it up, or if it is too wet, a little more flour.

You shouldn't handle soda dough more than necessary - just bring it together, shape, cut and cook. As artisan baker Bill King points out, "kneading kills sodas". (By the way, I recommend reading Bill's blog about his time on the Ballymaloe cooking course. Very useful stuff.)

Break the dough into two equal round balls. Flatten each one and using a knife cross the top of each. Put them on a lightly-greased baking tray and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 35 minutes. You can test whether they're done by knocking on the bottom - they should sound hollow.

Tarragon and roasted red pepper roulade

The second bread we made was a roulade-style loaf flavoured with chopped fresh tarragon and roasted red peppers. For the latter, we roasted the peppers in a hot oven for 20 minutes. Then removed them and put them in a plastic bag for 20 minutes to make them easier to peel. Once peeled, we finely diced them.

The base was the enriched bread dough recipe below. Once we had rested the bread for 30 minutes so that it had doubled in size, we split it into two, and moulded each on a lightly-floured board into a rectangular shape, about 30cm long and 20cm wide. 

We then scattered chopped tarragon and diced red peppers over them, and rolled them up into a roulade sausage shape. We brushed them with egg wash (whole egg rather than egg yolk), then put them on baking trays and let them rise for another 30 minutes before baking at 200C for 15 minutes.

Enriched Bread Dough

Dry ingredients:
1kg strong flour (sieved)
100g milk powder
10g salt
25g butter 

Wet ingredients:
568ml warm water - temperature should be between 31C and 35C.
50g fresh yeast
Pinch of caster sugar

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, rubbing in the butter between your palms to form fine breadcrumbs. Then in a separate vessel stir the water, yeast and sugar together. This separation is critical because if you just chucked them all in together, the salt would kill the yeast. 

Once the yeast is dissolved, let it stand for a couple of minutes. Then pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients to form a dough. Knead for 10 minutes on a lightly-floured board until smooth - the best way to do this is using the base of your palms (but not for kneading pastry as this is the warmest part of the hand). Form into a ball, and put back in the mixing bowl. Cover the top with clingfilm and leave for 30 minutes.

At this stage, we made the roulade loaves. Alternatively, to make bread rolls instead, measure the dough into 85g pieces and mould into flattened balls. Place them on a lightly-greased baking tray, brush them gently with egg wash and leave them to prove for 30 minutes.

Bake in an oven at 200C for 12 to 15 minutes. For wholemeal rolls, use 500g of strong flour and 500g of wholemeal, together with an extra 100ml of warm water.

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