27 June 2010
A couple of weeks ago, I got the opportunity to visit Borough Market in London. And I took the opportunity to also visit the English branch of Poilâne and get a loaf of their famous bread for comparison with the one we got in France. I found the shop easily enough, but on first look, it seemed closed. I tried the door and surprisingly it was open, so I walked in, but no one was there. A minute or two later, a lady came out from the back and seemed very startled at finding me there. I asked for a loaf, paid for it and went on to the barbecue at a friend's place. This was a Saturday. Early the next day, the first thing I did was slice up the loaf. I did weigh it first and it was 200 g lighter than the one from Paris. OK, so variations happen. But as I was cutting it became obvious that this bread was a bit stale - there was no crunch left in the crust, it felt more chewy/sinewy sort of. Now the Parisian bread was fine for several days, so at the very least the loaf I got was baked on Wednesday. At least, probably earlier. So I was rather disappointed. But I froze it and having it toasted takes away the staleness and it was very good. I'd hoped to also taste the freshness of it when I got it in the first place. But this might have been a fluke, I've only been there once, not enough for statistics.
Anyway, there is still some of this loaf in the freezer, along with a loaf of my own sourdough bread, so I'm up to two weeks of feeding my starter, but not really needing to bake. I also refuse to throw any of it away, so I decided to have a go at the Bulgarian version of doughnuts - mekitzi. We get these from the local bakeries when we go to Bulgaria and we always get them when we visit my parents. They are greasy as all doughnuts are and so we've not really felt we need to do them at home and thus I've never made them before.
I have my Mum's recipe somewhere, I keep stumbling across it now and then and forget where I put it. She makes a massive amount and half of it is made into mekitzi and the other half she makes into regular bread, as it is just plain white yeasted dough after all.
But I needed to use up some of my starter, so as with pizza dough of late, I take out some of the starter and keep adding flour until I get a decent consistency.
This time I fed the starter a little bit in advance, I had 275 g starter which I fed 100 g strong white flour and 100 g water. After 5 hours, I made my dough and the starter was unusually runny and smelt a bit differently from normal. Not sure what was going on there.
I took 200 g of starter and added 200 g of strong white flour. This was too much for it and I had to add 50 g of water, to soften it up. I mixed it for about 5 minutes, then left it for a 30 minute autolyse. I then made the poor decision to knead by hand, in one of the hottest days of the year. True it was at 10 pm, but it was still 25 degrees in the kitchen and kneading for 20 minutes does make you break into a sweat. So the dough went back into the bowl and the bowl went into the fridge to rise overnight. I did add some salt at the beginning of the kneading, perhaps a teaspoon or so.
This morning I took it out from the fridge and let it warm up for about 20 minutes. I then took it out onto the work surface, dusted a little flour on it and rolled out to about 0.5 cm thickness. The dough was still sticky and happily stuck to the work surface. I cut it with one of my cooking rings into largish circles. Of course this results in lots of spare dough between each circle and I ended up scraping off all the circles and setting aside in order to re-roll the leftover dough and cutting more circles. My Mum has rationalised this process by rolling out once and cutting diamond shapes with a knife and the edge bits end up with funny shapes.
Either way, once the shapes were ready, I heated up oil in a large, deep, non-stick pan. Large in order to fit more in and deep in order to protect the cooker from splatter. Non-stick is not essential, but most of my pans are non-stick. I used grapeseed oil to a depth of about 2 cm, so not completely deep fried as such.
The dough resulted in 12 circles, which fried very quickly, so it's important to have them all ready before heating up the oil, or they'll end up burnt. In fact, my parents have worked out a team routine for making them, it's quite amusing to watch. I over-cooked the first four, mainly because I got transfixed watching them swell up like balls. A tip is once they've expanded, flip over, then pierce a hole in them and press down. Also, I think my Mum stretches them out just before putting in the pan. That might help getting them cooked more evenly.
Once done, I placed them on a rack to make sure they didn't sit in oil.
By the time I'd made tea and coffee and Lundulph was out of bed, the mekitzi had gone cold, but were still wonderfully crunchy and tasted "like the real thing" we get at my Mum's.
Traditionally bakeries just sprinkle icing sugar, but I prefer with jam or maple syrup. Of the jam selection we had today, the best one by far was the runny blackberry jam. Lundulph devoured five in a quick succession, I managed two, the remaining five are now in the fridge and I'll have them for breakfast in the next couple of days. They do freeze very well and can be reheated in the microwave. Although they won't have the crunch like fresh ones do.
Before writing this post I also looked up recipes in my book on Bulgarian cuisine. There are several variations on them, some with yeast, some with baking soda, some with yoghurt or milk instead of water.
At the end though, I still have too much starter in the jar, so I've decided to try and modify my recipe for cinnamon buns to see if I can make sourdough version of them.