Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Jim Lahey’s No Knead Baguette (Stecca)

This is from Jaden Hair's blog Steamy Kitchen and the original recipe, I believe, is from here. Christmas is just around the corner, I have no money to squander on shopping and I already have ginger cake, caramel cookies, Ourson Guimauve (chocolate covered marshmallow bears), a box of Crema Catalana and some French pralines lying around. Since everyone else is busy with Christmas preparations and their families, I have nothing better to do than bake or watch reruns of 'Wallander' in Swedish with English subtitles - so what am I going to do?

Bake something savoury!

This was pretty interesting because it was like making a fake sourdough starter and when I woke-up in the morning my sticky ball of dough had swelled up pretty high, had completely lost its shape and I saw a horizon of bubbly exquisitely soft dough sitting inside my plastic bowl. I guess I should have taken a photo of this, but I didn't want my yeast to catch a cold because it's pretty cold indoors in Spain in the winter and so I went right ahead and folded it three times as Jaden instructed and put the dough (which firmed-up nicely) into a clean oiled plastic container for its second rise. I used a spatula instead of wet hands though. It's a technique Ronny uses when making his sourdough bread, which has a much sticker and softer dough than the kind I make.

Did I mention it's been raining pretty heavily here?

Costa del Sol does not have the infrastructure for heavy rain, so when it does rain, it's wise to avoid going outdoors to avoid the floods. Let's not even mention all those careless drivers who do not have rain tires who skid around on the wet streets. Some of these cars used to have tires that could handle the rain, but they're in bad need of getting new tires and they haven't done this because the economy isn't good and the Mediterranean Carpe Diem culture does not entail spending your money on 'safety' first, because it's not really a fun way to spend your money.

To add insult to injury it's Christmas season, so you see - money gets spent on presents and feasting rather than on new tires and it's pretty damn dangerous going outside in the rain here.

Anyway being a glutton I threw caution to the wind and hiked to Torremolinos to buy supplies and took the taxi back as my backpack was laden with kilos of food. It was worthwhile though because I managed to find some pretty nice green olives* at the grocer.

I wasn't too keen on oiling my oven paper, so I dusted it with corn flour instead. After all, the dough was already swimming in extra virgin olive oil during its second rise. Thing is, the oil that I painted the sides of the plastic bowl seems to have drizzled down to create a pool on my dough. Next time I'm going to be careful about using as little oil as possible when 'oiling the sides of the bowl'.

Everything went as Jaden said. The dough was soft and stretchy and I laid them out and embedded them with the goodies and sprinkled them with 'Sal en Escamas' (salt flakes) then...I realized my oven's highest setting was 250C when the recipe called for 260C (500F). Oh well. Next time I buy an oven, I guess I'll just have to buy a better one.

Anyhow they went in and I set the timer on for 15 minutes first to see how they were doing and baked them for a total of 30 minutes. We had these for brunch with some Brie cheese and they were delicious!

I delivered two of the loaves to our neighbor when they were still fresh out of the oven and said 'Feliz Navidad' to them and was rewarded with the lovely smiles on their faces.

*Green olives with pits in them. They come in these plastic containers with yellow handles and I have only ever seen them sold in olive producing countries like Spain. I prefer these to the canned or bottled varieties which you can get in any part of the world these days. I of course removed the pits before I embedded them into my Stecca.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Quiche with Broccoli, Goat's Cheese, Mushrooms & Chorizos

We are really having a wet winter - and I'm not complaining because my memory isn't that selective and I do remember what it was like to have been in a drought for 5 years. The constant fear of running out of water wasn't very nice at all, so I welcome the rain.

Anyhow I made this really easy quiche with frozen puff pastry I bought from Carrefour. I got the recipe from my friend Pierre who is in La Reunion as we speak, scuba diving in the deep blue tropical seas away from all the damp and cold.

Although I mentioned 'a recipe' - there isn't really one. He just gave me very vague instructions like: 5 eggs, goat's cheese, chorizos (isn't that what you get in Spain?), bell peppers (or some other vegetable) cream and/or milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg, thyme and follow the instructions on the box of the frozen puff pastry.

Anyway I did a little research on how to make quiche as I had never made one before - just to get a feel for it. It seems some people like to bake the crust for 10 minutes and take it out and put the ingredients in and then bake it, and other people just go right ahead and put the ingredients inside and bake it for 20 minutes or more.

Quiche with Broccoli, Goat's Cheese, Mushrooms & Chorizos


1 Sheet of Frozen Puff Pastry (or make it from scratch if you wish)

5 eggs

1/2 Cup Heavy Cream

5 Mushrooms (sliced)

1 Cup Broccoli (par boiled & chopped)

Emmental Cheese (grated and enough to line the bottom of the quiche)

90 g Goat's Cheese (cut into bite sized pieces)

1/8 Onion (thinly sliced)

Iberico Chorizos (sliced and diced - as many as you think is right)

Salt, Black Pepper, Chili Pepper*, Nutmeg, thyme

*Do not put too much of this. It's meant to be a hidden flavor and should not come out to the fore!

Step 1: Preheat oven to 200C (or whatever the instructions tell you to do). Butter your pan and line it with the puff pastry dough. Trim off edges.

Step 2: Line the bottom of the puff pastry with a layer of emmental cheese.

Step 3: Put the goat's cheese, mushrooms, chorizos, broccoli in there.

Step 4: Beat the 5 eggs and mix in cream and/or milk, nutmeg, salt, pepper, chili powder - and pour this mixture into the quiche. Put the thin slices of onion on top.

Step 5: Bake the quiche for 20 minutes at 200C, then lower the heat to 165-170C and continue to bake for 25 minutes or until firm. VoilĂ !

Note: My apologies for the bad lighting and out of focus photo, but you get the idea!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lemon Squares

It's really close to Christmas and I don't have any money to squander this year. I've had to get new blinds installed in my other apartment and paid 90 euros for this, and I had to get a new faucet for my kitchen sink and this cost me 159 euros. I also bought some Christmas presents to send to my family and Ronny's and sent them off and this ended up totaling to over 300 euros (including postage). No wonder I'm short on cash.

Anyhow I've been trying to keep up the holiday cheer by baking lots of things, i.e. cinnamon rolls, brioche, honey cake, saffron sweet buns, etc...and today I made some lemon squares. It's amazing how none of this costs much when you make it all from scratch.

This is a far cry from my life back in Tokyo when I was still working in advertising (and didn't bake or cook at all), but I have to say I kind of like this lifestyle. I like having the time to surf the Internet for recipes, go shopping and bake all these nice things. It's also nice to have a partner to share them with.

Anyhow the lemon squares were quite nice. The recipe is here.

I'm going to post the conversions here in grams, because I have just remembered that I went absolutely crazy trying to figure out what the various conversions were from milliliters to either cups or grams.

The metric measurements are a work in progress. I'm not sure how I managed to make these properly the first time, but they did not turn out quite right with the measurements below. I will experiment a bit more and revise this until I get it right.


120g AP Flour
40g Confectioner's Sugar
1/4 Tsp Salt (I really don't feel it's necessary to measure these small quantities in grams because unless your scale is accurate, you'll get the wrong amount anyway)
125g Butter (Even though the correct conversion seems to be 113g it does not work. I think I used 125g butter the first time and I'd add more butter if the crust doesn't seem to come together properly. The second time I added 1 Tbsp ice cold water and this did not seem to work as well, and I had to put the lemon squares back into the oven for another 10 minutes because the crust came out soggy.)


4 Large Eggs
200g Granulated Sugar
30 g AP Flour
170 Milliliters Lemon Juice
1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Salt

Note: I baked mine for exactly 40 minutes at 160C after baking the crust at 175C for 20 minutes the first time. The second time with these metric measurements, I had to put it back in the oven after baking it for 40 minutes, for an additional 20 minutes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lussekatter (Swedish Saffron & Cardamom Sweet Buns)

Lussekatter are slightly sweet, incredibly soft and fluffy buns spiked with saffron and cardamom. They normally have raisins in them (or are at least decorated with one or two) and are glazed. I was going to glaze mine, but as you can see I forgot!

These are normally baked and consumed on December 13 (St. Lucia Day) which coincides with the darkest days of winter in Scandinavia. The saffron is supposed to symbolize fire (light) to help ward away evil (darkness).

For the recipe, please go to Lucullian Delights. Ilva hails from Sweden and I would consider her recipe to be very authentic. The only thing I deviated from was the amount of yeast I used. As I've mentioned before, don't be too fussy about the original amount of yeast you use. I used 5.5 x 2 = 11 g of dried yeast versus Ilva's 25 g of fresh yeast and it turned out fine.

Unless you are a baking fanatic, remember that yeast is bacteria and when you feed it, it propagates. A slightly lower dose or higher dose of yeast may only mean that it may take slightly longer or shorter for your dough to rise.

My reward for slaving in the kitchen making these? When Ronny came back from the gym and these were baking he said: It smells like my mother's house! Before he went to the gym, he did help me do the last stretch in kneading the dough, by the way - he's like my Kitchen Aid.

Note:  I am going to copy the recipe here as I've noticed now (December 15, 2014) that bloggers keep changing their URLs and it gives me a brain hemorrhage to have to look for the new page.  So here it is.  I hope Ilva doesn't mind.


11 g  Dried Yeast (5.5g x 2)
200g Butter
500 ml/2 1/2 Cups Milk
1g Saffron Powder
200 ml Sugar
1 Tsp Ground Cardamom
1/2 Tsp Salt
500 ml Flour/6.5 Cups Flour  (approximately)
1 Egg

Step 1:  Put yeast in a bowl with a little warm milk and let it activate.

Step 2:  Add the sugar, caramom and saffron.

Step 3:  Melt the butter in a pan, add the milk (not the one with the yeast in it).  It should not be so hot that your finger burns.

Step 4:  Pour this on the yeast and stir well.

Step 5: Add most of the flour and salt and knead well.

Step 6:  Let it rise for 1 hour.

Step 7:  Lay dough out on  a table dusted with flour and knead it until smooth.

Step 8:  Divide dough into balls slighter smaller than your fist and make 'serpents'.

Step 9:  Put the Lussekatter on baking sheets with parchment paper and let them rise for about 40 minutes.

Step 10:  Whisk the egg and glaze the buns

Step 11:  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 225C/440F for 10 minutes.

Step 12:  Leave them on a rack to cool.

*This recipe is from Lucullian Delights but certain elements have been eliminated.  For the original recipe please go here.