Get Busy Living – F**k-it Bread

Alright, look. You’re here, I’m here, we all know what’s up. Life’s taken some¬†turns since last I wrote and we don’t have time to go into all that here, but right now, Spring 2020, for reasons that won’t need too much explaining, you might be sitting on a bunch of flour and yeast you panic-bought. You might be realising that bread is harder work than you thought, and that sourdough starters are unforgiving housepets.

(Title music by Goldfish, ft. Emily Bruce. I think we’re all feeling the need.)

Making bread is like making anything else, you can spend hours slaving over it and get every detail right, but sometimes you just want bread. The sense that it is something that takes hours and hard work to make your own is something that supermarkets do very well from, and I’m not here to make the argument against shop-bought bread – I practically live off bagels – but there are ways of making bread that are perfect for the idle bon vivant like m’self, and also useful if you have loads of flour and yeast but feel like this sourdough lark might be a bit much.

A loaf of fresh bread, part-sliced, and a jar of honey

Quick, easy, and slathered with butter and honey, one of life’s rare pleasures.

 

I’ve talked before about King Arthur Flour and made several of their recipes for this blog. This one is lifted wholesale – their No-Knead Crusty White Bread recipe, which does exactly what it promises. You mix up the dough, no kneading, stick in in the fridge for a minimum of 12 hours, and then pull a chunk out whenever you need bread – it takes about two hours from fridge to baked, and about two minutes of work from you. The dough will last about 7 days, by the end of which it’ll be pretty close to sourdough and also loose and liquid enough to make a serviceable flatbread or ‘foccacia’.

I’ve found that the proportions work with just about any bread flour or mix, and since I make the dough in a big plastic container, it’s called ‘fuck-it bucket bread’, as in, minimal effort, maximum reward – chuck it all in the bucket, mix it up, and that’s about it.

A picture of some shaped dough on a parchment-lined baking tray, next to a plastic bucket of dough.

L-R – Dough, Bucket.

Ingredients:

  • 900g bread flour (I’m using a malted mix for the loaf in these pictures)
  • 1tbsp salt
  • 1.5 tbsp (14g) instant dry yeast
  • 600ml lukewarm water

 

Method:

Did you read the bit above?

Bread dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet. with flour lightly dusted on top.

Post-2h next to the water heater. Probably could have stood a bit less.

Alright, a bit more decorously:

  1. Put flour in a big bowl or bucket – mix in the salt, well, then the yeast, also well. Stir in the water, it’ll seem like way too much. It isn’t.
  2. Mix until all dry flour is gone, then cover the bowl or bucket and let rise for 2 hours at room temperature. Put it in the fridge for at least 12 hours and up to 7 days. (You don’t really have to let it rise first but it helps the flavour a bit).
  3. When you want bread, flour your hands, scoop out 1/4 to 1/3rd of the dough and shape into a round or a log. Place on floured parchment on a baking tray and let rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours – it’ll get wider and flatter, not much taller. Shape accordingly. (This rise you do need to do).
  4. Preheat your oven to 220, and stick another metal baking tray in the bottom if you’ve got one.
  5. Slash the top of your bread with a sharp knife once – You’ve seen GBBO, you know what I mean – then put the bread in the oven. Splash half a glass of water on to the oven bottom or second tray to make steam – this’ll give it a good crust.
  6. Bake for 25-35 minutes until it looks done and the bottom sounds hollow when you knock it.
  7. Let it cool.
  8. That’s it.

    The crust will be hard when it comes out and will soften to a crispy, crackly texture after cooling a little while. You can paint a little melted butter or milk onto the crust when it comes out of the oven for a shiny, picturesque look.

 

 

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Feel It Still – Lime Squares

Look, no-one can be original all the time. And basically, I haven’t made enough alterations to the basic recipe from King Arthur Flour to really justify claiming this as one of my own – if you were to go to that link, increase the quantities by half, read ‘lime’ for every ‘lemon’ and chuck a bit of extra rind in when nobody’s looking, you’d achieve much the same effect.

But that doesn’t stop anybody else on the internet, so here goes. These lime squares are tangy, chewy, crispy, utterly delightful. And pretty easy. I didn’t manage to get the foam/bubbles in the topping to subside, so the top of mine isn’t as picture-perfect as it should be, but who cares? They’re damn good.

(Title music today from Portugal The Man, unknown to me but this is a tune and a half. Made all the more enjoyable by the fact that it beat bloody Despacito to a Grammy.)

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Despite my total inability to remove it from the pan in one piece, a lime square.

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 42g icing/confectioner’s sugar
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 170g butter, diced

Filling:

  • 6 eggs plus two yolks. Yup.
  • 330g granulated sugar
  • 30g icing/confectioner’s sugar
  • 45g plain flour
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • juice of 6 large limes, plus rind of 2 (about 150ml of lime juice)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. To make the crust, mix the flour, salt, sugar and lime zest in a large bowl. Add the diced butter and work it into a pasty, crumbly dough. Depending on how close to room temperature your butter is, it might resemble paste more than crumble.
  2. Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with greaseproof paper, if you want to get the squares all out in one piece. Otherwise just go ahead and smear the pastry dough into a smoothish, even layer on the bottom of the ungreased dish.
  3. Bake at 180c for 30 minutes, until crisp and lightly browned.
  4. Meanwhile, make the filling. In a similar large bowl, beat the eggs and yolks with both kinds of sugar, until smooth.

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    Action shot

  5. Add the flour, salt, lime juice and rind. Mix well and let it rest for 15 minutes, until the foamyness on top has subsided. Or not, if you’re me.
  6. When you retrieve the base from the oven, drop the temperature down to 160c and let the base rest for 5 minutes. Then pour the topping over and back into the oven it goes, for 25 minutes or until fairly dry and firm on top.

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    The opaque top is due to foam not settling during the whisking stage.

  7. Cool for about an hour before digging in, if you can wait that long. Dust with more icing sugar before serving.

If you can bear to let them cool properly, they’ll be chewy and crispy, citrussy and rich. Very good stuff.

Have a bonus picture, because I like the colours, of my lunch:

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Bonus picture of lunch – Omelette aux Fines Herbes et un Shitload of Emmental, salad and bread and butter. Doesn’t get much better.

 

Stay Tuned – Triangle Kimbap

Title music this time from the magnificent Glasgow-based Pete Ferguson, aka Wuh Oh. His nifty little tune is the title music from another recent obsession of mine, Basics with Babish. Andrew Rea is a New York chap making food from movies, so obviously I’m here for that, but he also started a series teaching basic cooking, which is fantastic for novices and also pretty handy for journeymen like me – there is a long-delayed post in the works about the spatchcocked, dry-brined roast chicken which has been a near-weekly staple for us here and is ably demonstrated in this Basics video.

Wow, that’s a lot of links in one paragraph. Anyway, here’s a couple more. Triangle Kimbap, or Samgak-gimbap (Korean g’s are pronounced somewhere between a G and a K, as are Korean K’s. Simple, eh?) is a convenience store staple, and one of the things I miss most about Korea – in fact, the first thing I bought when we went for a quick visit over Christmas last year was a 7-11 chamchimayo (tuna mayonnaise) kimbap in Incheon Airport. Salty, fishy, bland glory.

trianglekimbap711

Photo Credit: The Green-Walled Tower

They are pretty similar to Japanese Onigiri, with the exception of being completely wrapped in nori/seaweed, which is a good move in my opinion. If you’re not a seaweed convert, try and find these small snack-packs of ‘seasoned laver’ in your local Asian supermarket – they are a bit strange to get used to, but the perfect thing for when you have a salt craving and don’t want to ingest everything that comes in the average packet of crisps.

The convenience store versions are packed in an intricate cellophane affair that keeps the seaweed crispy and usually requires a third hand to open successfully, but since we’re making these fresh, no such muckaboutery is required.

Ingredients [makes 4]:

dav

For maximum authenticity, I am using Korean tuna (which is generally pretty decent) and Korean mayonnaise (which is utter garbage but it’s the only one I could find)

  • 2 flat nori seaweed sheets
  • sesame oil
  • 2 cups sushi rice, cooked and left to cool slightly
  • 1 can tuna
  • 1tsp salt
  • (optional) 1tsp cayenne pepper, 1tsp celery seed
  • 2tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2tbsp sesame seeds

Method:

  1. Drain and season tuna, mix with mayonnaise. You probably didn’t need this instruction.

    dav

    Celery seed, cayenne and salt are my go-to tuna salad spices

  2. Combine sesame seeds with cooked rice. Wet your hands with cool water.
  3. Form a rough ball shape in the palm of your hand, then use your thumb to make a well in the center
  4. Pile in some tuna mix – not too much, this is more a rice ball than a tuna ball.
  5. Another scoop of rice on top, form the whole thing into an approximate triangle shape.
  6. Mix a few drops of sesame oil with warm water. Cut the nori sheets in half lengthways and brush quickly with water and oil.
  7. Place a riceangle on a nori sheet, point towards the top, then wrap the sheet around it. Tuck the ends in if you want, but you’re pretty much going to nom this right away so don’t bother unless you’re going for presentation shots.
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    Sure, that’s a triangle.

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    Obviously I am noted for the quality of my present wrapping at Christmas, too.

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    Seaweed doesn’t like being cut with a knife, but here’s that all-important cross-section.

     

    This is actually a pretty quick and easy snack, and you can make the rice balls ahead if you need – wrap them in cling-film and keep them in the fridge for maximum 48 hours. The seaweed will start to go soft at the mere suspicion of moisture, so keep it dry until you’re ready to eat.

 

El Pueblo Unido – Tortilla de verduras

One of the occasional fringe benefits of teaching is that you get to orchestrate the first exposure a lot of kids have to other cultures. In the case of teaching abroad, that can often mean cultures that the students have no frame of reference for at all. Mexican food has not made it to Vietnam, apart from a few expat-centric outlets in Hanoi and HCMC, but most of my students could probably, after a few minutes of head-scratching, come up with ‘taco’ as an exemplar of Mexican culture.

(Title music today from the same playlist as last entry’s Tamarindo, but considerably easier to find in a standalone version )

Spanish culture, on the other hand, is almost entirely unknown here, and in the sense that they have greater things to concern them, fair enough. However, when A’s culture club was doing a lesson on Mexico, I thought it would be a good opportunity to combine that with some Spanish cooking in a form that would hopefully be acceptable to a handful of ethnocentric first- and second-graders – plus, one of the great benefits of tortilla is that it is very often made with only store-cupboard ingredients.

The classic version is of course tortilla de patatas, containing a very peasanty/puritan filling of potatoes and, if you’re feeling daring, onion and nothing else at all, how very dare you for even thinking of it. That’s all very well, but I had a fridge full of veggies and an ever-pressing need to find ways to use them, so behold:

dav

One day I’ll take a course on food photography or something.

This tortilla ended up being cut into squares and offered to the kids mentioned above, who rejected it almost universally – but since their idea of a good culinary time is a carton of Milo, I invite you to make this yourself and draw your own conclusions. I am not, as is often believed, an elderly Spanish grandmother, and therefore make no claims to authenticity.

Tortilla de Verduras (serves 6, probably)

Ingredients:

  • 10 (yes, 10) eggs
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled
  • 1 large red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups/500g assorted vegetables – I used red and yellow peppers, mushrooms, green onions and roasted corn
  • A large handful of leaf coriander/cilantro
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

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Method:

  • Heat a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat. Quarter the potatoes lengthwise and slice them thinly, then add to the pan with the olive oil, tossing to coat them.
  • After five minutes of gentle sizzling and tossing (the potatoes), thinly slice the onions and mince the garlic. Chuck them in the pan, toss to combine everything and reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow to soften for ten minutes.

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  • Meanwhile, prepare your other vegetables in whatever way pleases you, – I aimed to get everything chopped roughly the same size. When the onions and potatoes are softening and golden, add the other vegetables and saut√© for another ten-fifteen minutes.

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  • Finely chop the cilantro and toss everything together once more. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with milk and seasonings. You could add a pinch of chilli powder here if you feel iconoclastic.
  • Turn the heat up, add another splash of oil and then the eggs. Very quickly stir the eggs through the vegetables to distribute everything, then leave them alone to form a nice bottom crust. After a few minutes, there should be a circle of cooked egg on the outside, so try loosening the edges with a spatula.
  • After 6 to 8 minutes of total cooking time, the tortilla will be ready for turning. If you have an oven or grill, simply heat it up and stick the whole pan under it. Test for doneness by shaking the pan gently – the middle of the tortilla will wobble if it’s still undercooked.
  • Otherwise you’ve got some fun coming up: loosen the tortilla from the pan, slide it onto a plate, put another plate upside down over the top and, uttering a small prayer to any gods that may be listening, flip the whole lot over. Then slide the tortilla back into the pan and cook for another couple of minutes.

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Allow to cool completely and slice into thick pieces. Serve with very cold white wine.

 

Tamarindo – Wings

 

An unexpected cold snap has us reaching for more familiar autumnal foods this week. Cold for Vietnam, however, means temperatures below 20c and rethinking the flip flops when you go out, so I don’t want to be slaving over a pan of oil to deep fry these chicken wings.

(title music today can be found on this excellent compilation)

Instead I’m going to use the oven, which takes longer and produces a slightly different texture – but most importantly, it’s outside and I don’t have to pay much attention to it. I have a fear to conquer when it comes to deep fat frying, so I’ve included our regular frying recipe alongside two recipes for oven-baked wings.

As always, if there is a way to rethink a traditional recipe, Kenji has the knowing of it, and his method should ensure perfectly crispy wings from the oven. However, I don’t have that kind of time today, so these wings will simply be marinated, entrayed and baked.

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You can either leave the wings whole or separate them into three parts (as above) – to do this, grasp the middle part of the wing and bend the drumstick away from its socket until there is a visible gap between them. Cut through this with a heavy knife or poultry shears. Snip off the wing tip and either marinade and roast it (they make good nibbly bits) or save them for stock.

Five Spice Wings:

Per 6 wings –

2 teaspoons each Soy sauce, Fish sauce, Sesame oil, honey
1 teaspoon each cayenne pepper, five spice powder

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Marinade ingredients for the five-spice wings

Whisk the marinade ingredients together. Place the wings in a large ziploc bag and pour the marinade over. Leave for at least an hour and up to 24 hours.

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Bagged up and ready to go

Line a baking sheet with foil and preheat the oven to 230C. Place the marinated wings on a rack on the baking sheet and roast, turning once, for 35-40 minutes. Keep an eye on them, as the spices may turn the skin black, and the wings will be a little bitter.

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Italian Wings:

Per 6 wings –

3-4 teaspoons good Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon each dried oregano, thyme and salt
1 large pinch red pepper flakes or dried chili
1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp lemon juice
(Optional: 3 teaspoons grated parmesan)

As before, mix up the marinade and place it in a ziploc bag with the wings. These need to marinate for at least four or five hours. Roast as above, for 40-45 minutes. These should have a good golden crisp crust and be juicy and tangy.

For our basic fried wings, otherwise known as Chinese Restaurant Chicken Wings, the marinade ingredient is simply Thai fish sauce (Squid brand or similar), a few teaspoons per 6 wings, marinated for up to 12 hours. Deep fry the wings for 6-10 minutes and drain on oil paper. They should be dark golden brown and very crispy.