Monday, 18 October 2010

Bread and Breakfast

Week 5 they tell us is the hardest for most students. The pace quickens, techniques should be ingrained and the exams loom next week. Awkward as ever I had my best day in the Kitchen. Only two dishes to cook, one with a pastry so difficult to handle that it takes two hours in the fridge to get to a rollable state, and the other a Piperonata that takes some prep and then a long slow cook.

First the pastry and today for the first time we did not have to hand cream butter sugar and eggs before adding the flour slowly, we were allowed to use machinery!! Within minutes the Magimix was creaming butter and sugar, eggs were being added followed by flour and 10 minutes later the pastry was ready for chilling. Now even with a machine I had severe doubts. Pastry has been my enemy since the start of the course and a look at the golden, stick pile in the bowl suggested that today was like any other day. With a spatula and a great degree of trepidation I eased it between two sheets of clingfilm,and put it in the fridge with a label on. Usually this is so that war does not break out as everyone tries to steal the product of the best pastry maker. In my case it is so that everyone can snigger accurately at the poor pile in the fridge.
Oh well, on to the Piperonata.

(note plastic covered recipe sheet)

Onions sliced, garlic crushed, peppers diced and tomatoes peeled they went into a Le Creuset casserole on a very low heat to sweat down and meld into a glorious vegetable melange that can be used as a side dish, a vegetable or the basis of a good sauce or stock, not to mention a vegetarian pizza topping. The secret here is long slow cooking over a very low heat.

The first time that I ever cooked at Ballymaloe was about 10 years or so ago and I stood in Kitchen 2 at the blue station cooking Piperonata. The gas jet that I needed would not work properly, it fired up like a jet engine or just would not work at all, so much for long slow cooking, even a heat diffuser produced a temperature at which garlic burnt. Today I stood in Kitchen 2 at the blue station cooking Piperonata and the bloody gas jet still did not work!!

My ever helpful teacher Annette saved the day by placing double diffusers on another jet and, when I laughingly told her about my first ever experience of Ballymaloe went off to ring the engineer to get it sorted by tomorrow.

So two down or works in progress and I still had one and a half hours before the pastry could be looked at.

White yeast bread immediately sprung to mind. Flour, yeast salt, sugar, butter later I embarked on approximately 30 minutes of kneading to achieve the correct consistency to yeast. Curse you Gluten! I thought before remembering that non-gluten flours take even longer at which stage the long chain molecule became a demi god in my culinary pantheon. Kneading over the dough went off for a little sojourn in the warming cabinet before emerging to be knocked back, shaped and (like the South ) rise again.

Stunningly the pastry emerged from the chiller with greater structural integrity than I could hope for, or believed possible. Rapidly rolled into a flan tin, given the mandatory Ballymaloe flange, filled with coarse cut Bramleys and a little sugar, studded with cloves, it was covered egg washed, decorated and returned to the chiller.

Unfortunately both the bread and pie were now destined to cook concurrently and for periods which would entail lunch time. Of course I was allowed to shoot off for lunch provided that I returned to check on progress and present my dishes for scrutiny. The Piperonata is nice but did not really deserve a photo on its own so here it is shown with the rest of lunch.

On my return the pie was ready, and although cut fresh from the oven - which weakens the pastry - it still looked and more importantly tasted good.

By now I had to dash off to Demo which today was about all aspects of breakfast, cooked, vegetarian, healthy, boring, juices and smoothies, breads, toasts, buns, muffins, fish etc. We will be cooking breakfast for lunch tomorrow and there is a prize in each kitchen for the best breakfast. Apparently I am not allowed to send for a takeaway Frankie and Benny New England Breakfast, so I will just have to compete.

Oh yes, just before I had to dash off we opened the oven to reveal the breads. On which happy point I will leave you.


  1. Nice bread. Will have F&B brekkie when you come home x

  2. Looks delicious even better than the soda bread. When you home?