The children are spring cleaning
In all honesty, SniffSnorters, I am feeling particularly peeved. Not angry, mind you. Peeved in that over-privileged First World citizen way, where I lament about how English butter unwraps the wrong way and how in order to buy caster sugar in Chichester, I would have to walk to Waitrose at the other end of the city because the nearest, and the only resemblance of a grocery shop we have – Marks & Spencer’s- did not have any today. Not that their caster sugar is anything to rave about. It’s organic and fairtrade and golden. But it’s also coarse and more like Demerara sugar.
All this peevedness when children in parts of the world have no clean water to drink.
So I’ll forgive the miscreant who gatecrashed the 7th Wonder’s first birthday party only to thank me for letting him know that it was her birthday. This coming from a man who has chosen to be estranged from his own pre-teen daughter for several years now. While I’m at it, I’ll also let it slide that he somehow thinks that he has something major to contribute to my children’s home educating – promising to come by to do major projects with them only to then disappear for months on end.
Maybe it just didn’t help that my morning routine nowadays involve Zak Cool (our 8 year old) sitting at the end of my bed, verbally reeling off a list of all the Lego figurines he’s spotted on the Internet. Note to self: must teach sproglet the concept if turn taking in conversational skills and also the fact that listing stuff doesn’t maketh a conversation. That, and the fact he has decided to forgo a birthday cake so that extra monies could be directed into his Lego buying birthday fund.
And maybe it is because I went out last night. Slumming it with the natives occasionally brings out the intolerant me. Slaveboy and I went to check out the local talent during Open Mic Night at The Vestry. We did the quirky thing of having pots of tea and I do love being the sound engineer’s wife. When the place is heaving, I get the privilege of hanging out in the mixing desk area, managing to avoid looking like a middle aged woman trying to revive her youth by hanging out with the cool kids. I also get to sneer at any pretty young thing who thinks it is ok to squeeze in infront me with full knowledge that big burly, long haired men have got my back in such instances.
And I still bemoan that stall at today’s Farmers Market where Slaveboy bought the pauper millionaire’s shortbread and porridgy flapjack from. The shortbread was greasy, compacted flour with no resemblance of caramel or chocolate. The flapjack tasted like someone had just dried cooked porridge and rehydrated it skimmed milk. Unloved food like these just makes me rage. I know it probably comes across as petty but serve these to our Continental neighbours, they’d probably get them sent off to Trading Standards to check if you are indeed deceiving the public by trying to pass these off as food stuff. Whereas, here in Chichester, this is a fortnightly regular and everyone just accepts it.
Since when did it become uncool to care that the food we are sold are of good quality? English baking has suffered from such a dwindling reputation. Go into any bakery locally in Chichester, you will hardly find well made English flour confections. English baking has been usurped by sub-standard pretend Continental bakes – part baked croissants not made with butter and pasty and anaemic looking pastries. Where are the exceptionally made Victoria sponges? The apple turnovers made with English apples, not overfilled with aerated cream? Decent bread (not bread and butter) puddings?
In my recent Twitter conversations (if you can call the constraints of 140 characters a conversation), I’ve been heartened by Dan Lepard’s passion in reviving English baking. I’ve confessed to having never had a decent Chelsea bun – in fact until recently, I often mistook Belgian buns for Chelsea buns and for this, I really really must apologise.
So my first offering is a Friday morning experiment. I have made lardy cakes twice before where I have substituted lard with butter instead as we don’t eat lard. Slaveboy has often wondered what would happen if you turned a lardy cake recipe into rolls instead. This recipe does involve yeast but please don’t let this put you off. It can also get quite messy so just embrace your inner child and revel in it.
Sugar, butter, mixed fruits & peel mixture
650g strong plain flour
7g instant yeast
1tsp caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
400ml warm water
250g butter, softened
200g mixed fruit
50g mixed peel
200g caster sugar
-Soften the butter and mix into it the 200g caster sugar, mixed peel and mixed fruit. Divide mixture into 3.
-In your mixer, add the flour, tsp of sugar, salt and yeast. Mix well.
-Gradually add the warm water and use the dough hook attachment to knead well.
-After 5 minutes, turn the dough on a floured surface and knead by hand for a few minutes.
-Roll dough out so that it is three times as long as it is wide.
-Spread on portion of the butter sugar mixture on two 2/3rd of the dough.
-Take the 1/3rd part of the dough which hasn’t got the buttery mixture and fold it over. Fold the remaining 1/3rd over this.
-Pinch the edges with the tip of your fingers and push the dough out so it becomes flatter and bigger again. Take some care not to squeeze out too much of the buttery sugar mixture.
-Now take the 2nd portion of the buttery sugar mixture and spread it the same way as before. Fold the dough over as before and yes, it will be a bit trickier.
-Push the dough out again and spread the final portion of the buttery sugar mixture.
-Using the palm of your hand, gather the long edge of the dough and encourage it to fold it, using your fingers to tuck the edge in.
-Roll it as tightly as possible and pinch the edge to seal it. Make sure the seam faces down.
-Smooth the surface of the dough roll and divide it into 9 with a share knife.
-Place the slices into a baking tray lined with baking parchment.
-Cover the slices with a damp clean tea towel. Leave to prove for 1/2hr.
-Preheat oven to 170C.
-Bake for 30minutes.
-When baked, leave to cool in tray for 10 minutes to allow the rolls to soak up the remaining liquid hot butter.
-Place another sheet of baking parchment on top of the rolls, cover with a baking sheet and invert the tray.
-Sprinkle quite liberally with sugar.
My verdict: These were very nice rolls, buttery, sweet and sticky. I felt that it pales somewhat in comparison to the Lardy cakes I have made but if you accept that these are a completely different species to the Lardy cakes, then you would be exceptionally happy with them. I would have liked for the sugar to go a little bit caramelised around the rolls but I’m not certain how I can do that without drying out the rolls. Maybe baking it at a higher heat but for a shorter period of time.
So, expect in the months to come, me revisiting this recipe and digging out old fashioned English recipes from my old Dairy Cookbook book. Have you a particular English baked flour confection which is your favourite that you don’t seem to find in shops anymore? Let me know about them. Maybe we could form an online English Bake Renaissance baking ring.