16 December 2008

Christmas Baking

Last Sunday was once again time for the traditional Christmas baking with the nieces. I made one quantity of gingerbread dough on Saturday morning.

This year we used the old cutters for the house, rather than attempting the complicated contraption we did last year. Lou and her sister were very good and rolled the dough nicely and evenly.


I tried to explain the difference between sucrose and glucose while we were waiting for it to caramelise in order to glue the bits together, but I don't think I managed to do that very well.

They also decorated it by themselves and did a good job of that too, though I think quite a lot of the icing was eaten right out of the tube, rather than used on the gingerbread house. It's not quite complete yet, Lundulph's Mum will finish it off and the girls will dust with icing sugar. I'm waiting for photos.


I made a backgammon board. Lou's sister got quite into it when I taught them earlier this year and I thought it would be a fun thing to make. Certainly it won't collapse, even if it gets damp.


This took most of the day, but I think we all enjoyed ourselves. There was about a third of the dough left and we froze it for later.

Pigeon Stock

Remember the bits to be saved from the whole pigeons?

I put them in my big pressure cooker, along with

1 large onion cut in chunks
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
5 sprigs of lemon thyme
10 juniper berries
1 dl olive oil
salt & pepper
3 l water

I brought everything to the boil (not under pressure) and left it to simmer for a couple of hours while we had our Christmas dinner. Then I let it cool down overnight, strained and froze in half litre measues.

I've never made stock before, so it'll be interesting to see. I do use stock fairly regularly.

13 December 2008

Bird of 2008


Note the fairly small print - may contain shot. I found one while chopping them up and Lundulph found several during our dinner, possibly ate a few too. I bought 4 birds that were quite a bit smaller than I expected, comparing to the ones hanging around in our garden.

The recipe I decided to go for, after a fairly short research session was this one. Breast of wood pigeon with sweet potato rösti, buttered Savoy cabbage and red wine sauce. Quite a mouthful. It seemed fairly simple to do though and I didn't want to end up tired after a whole day's cooking.

I increased the amounts to what I thought would be 4 portions:


1 large sweet potato
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

1 small Savoy cabbage
3 l water
40 g butter
10 sage leaves

4 pigeon breasts
3 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
5 dl red wine
3 bay leaves
5 sprigs lemon thyme
10 juniper berries
salt and pepper

  1. If whole pigeons are used, wash and cut off the legs, wings and back and save for later. Pat the breasts dry with kitchen tissue.

  2. Peel and grate the sweet potato. Then place in a couple of layers of cheese cloth and squeeze out as much excess liquid. Do about a handful at a time, it's easier and gets more liquid out. Then mix with the olive oil, salt and pepper.

  3. Trim the outer leaves of the Savoy cabbage and wash. Cut in four and remove the stalks and shred it. Bring the water and salt to boil and put the shredded cabbage in and boil for 6-8 minutes, then drain.

  4. Place the sweet potato into an oven and hob proof pan and place on the hob on medium heat and fry for 6-8 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more olive oil, if it seems too dry. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6 (200 degrees C). Move the pan to the middle of the oven and continue to bake for another 15 minutes.

  5. Heat up the oil and brown the pigeon breasts, then put in a pan and continue baking in the oven.

  6. Add a bit more oil into the pan where the pigeons were browned, press in the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes, then add the remainder of the sauce ingredients and simmer to reduce to half the volume, then strain.

  7. Just before serving, heat up the butter. Then add the sage and fry for about a minute until they start to wilt, then add the cabbage and stir well.


Now, I've had Rösti in Germany many years ago. It was made of regular potatoes, but I couldn't work out how it all stuck together - just grated potatoes. Same with the sweet potatoes, I couldn't get them to stick together and form a cake, so I gave up and stirred around, it had actually started to burn by the time I did this. Still it wasn't ruined, but turned out quite nice.

The pigeons were interesting to chop up - the original recipe called for breast thinly sliced and should I try this recipe again, I'll definitely try to fillet off the breasts. I ended up over-doing them and they tasted mostly like liver with a bit more texture than actual liver. I should have baked them at lower temperature as well and I probably kept them too long for browning as well.

The cabbage was nice, could have done with a bit more salt. The red wine sauce was very nice indeed. I think pigeon needs another chance, and less baking at lower temperature might give better results.

But I now have a new obsession - work out how to make proper rösti.

For dessert I made mille-feuille, also known as Napoleonbakelse in Sweden. Sadly I forgot to prepare the puff pastry and bought ready rolled one.

I used one packet of puff pastry - 375 g and made the créme mousseline.

Place the rolled out puff pastry on a baking sheet (line with parchment if necessary), prick with a fork, then place in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7, 220 degrees C, place a second baking sheet on top of the puff pastry and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes. Then remove the top sheet, turn down the heat to gas mark 3, 170 degrees and bake for further 5 minutes. The second baking sheet prevents the puff pastry from rising high. Once done, take out and leave to cool.

The cream I made turned out very runny, I should probably have put it in the fridge to make it stiffer.

Trim the edges of the puff pastry if necessary, then cut up in strips, about 5 x 10 cm size. Select the flattest nicest looking ones for the top layer.

Dust a plate with cocoa powder, place one puff pasty peace on top, spread some cream (or pipe), place a second puff pastry piece, then another layer of cream and finish with the nice piece of puff pastry.

Dust with icing sugar. Each layer of cream should be at least 1 cm thick.


Because the cream was so runny, everything squirted out and was mis-shapen. Generally in cafés, only one layer is proper créme mousseline, and the second layer is just whipped cream. This is always an annoyance with my Mum, it should be créme mousseline.

Also, if the pastry keeps its shape once you start eating it, there's something dodgy with it - probably gelatine or something similar. The créme should just be squeezed out between the layers and go all messy on the plate. Which is why I generally don't buy these pastries in cafés, I can't eat them in a dignified way.

8 December 2008

Chocolate Panettone

When I spotted the Chocolate Panettone in Origami Baskets the other week, I had to rejoice - another "cheaty" recipe not involving sourdough and a solution to the problem of not being able to find proper panettone moulds in the shops. Two in one!

And so, I set out to get all ingredients - including the brown wrapping paper!

I followed the amounts on the Wild Yeast Blog as much as I could, but I think I need new scales - the ones I have are getting more and more random. They started off by flicking between all sorts of numbers if the microwave happened to be on at the same time. Actually microwaves do leak loads of nasty waves. But now the scales have started flicking also when the radio is on, or the dish washer/washing machine which are both at the far side of the room. So who knows how accurate I managed to measure things up. The only thing I changed was that I used fresh yeast, now that I know it's readily available from the supermarket, it's just too tempting to use. For the starter dough, I used 12 g and for the final dough 6 g.

As the dough was spinning around in the kneading machine with me beaming over it as long strings formed in the dough, I kept thinking this is gonna be great. Actually most of the dough seemed to be stuck to the walls of the mixer bowl.

While the dough, divided into three balls was resting, I made the baskets. After 30 minutes, the balls had swollen quite a lot and seemed a lot bigger than the ones on Susan's post. I should have made a fourth basket and divided the dough in four. I put the skewers in, at which point Lundulph came in to see what I was up to and gave them a suspicious look.

So, I put the dough into the baskets, then into the oven with a flat Pyrex dish at the bottom of the oven and I kept pouring steaming hot water every now and then into it. And here's where I went wrong. Despite Susan saying explicitly to what stage the dough should be allowed to rise, I went for the 3 h wait and so they went well over the top, by the time I got round to glazing and baking.


Anyway, I preheated the oven on gas mark 4 and reduced to 3, which is 170 degrees C, slightly lower than the recommended 350 degrees F. 20 minutes later all three looked like they'd barely noticed it getting warm in the oven. I gave them another 30 minutes, still no difference. I moved the rack to the middle and raised to gas mark 5 and I baked them for another 20 odd minutes.

I had also not worked out the hanging contraption, so very quickly I put two chairs back to back and placed our mop and a curtain pole over them and fixed them in with some blutack. Susan is right, the panettones are barely out of the oven and they start sinking in. Besides because of the over-proofing, they didn't really rise much beyond the proofing height.

This took most of the day and I left them to cool overnight.

From above:


From below:


Yes, they went messy once I brushed the glaze on. That was a tasty glaze, I had quite a lot left over.

Then the result - perfect panettone texture - very light. Sadly also extremely dry and crumbly, that's the over-baking, along with the burnt crust - it had caramelised.

But this is definitely a keeper recipe, I just need to work out the oven bit.