Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bread and jam

I haven't yet made many of the jam recipes in the Edmonds book, or the chutneys and relishes. I'll have to make them more often if I don't want to end up with a big list of chutneys and jams to make when I near the end of this challenge!

With this in mind, I turned to the jams and jellies chapter yesterday. Having noted that kiwifruit are quite cheap at the moment, I decided to make some kiwifruit jam (p226). On my way home from work, I stopped at Pak N Save for 500g kiwifruit - enough to make a half-recipe. I had to pick through the kiwifruit to find firm ones - most of those on offer were very ripe (ironically, whenever I want to buy kiwifruit for eating, they only have firm underripe ones).

I got home and began the jam: peel and chop kiwifruit, place in pot with orange juice and water, then boil until soft. I suspect I should have spent a few more minutes at this stage - the kiwifruit seemed quite soft, but later on, I found there were still a number of quite firm chunks in the mixture, which I ended up squashing against the side of the pot.

The next step is to add the sugar, and boil until setting point is reached. I pottered around, sterilizing jars and doing dishes, occasionally stirring the jam mixture and checking if it was ready to set. I should perhaps have been paying more attention, because eventually, while I was preoccupied with scrubbing a particularly stubborn dish, The jam at the bottom of the pot started to burn slightly.

When the smell of scorching reached my nostrils, I ran to the stove and took the pot off the heat immediately. Stirring the jam to stop the scorching merely spread the bunt parts through the rest of the jam. I was pretty convinced that the jam was ruined, but decided to plug on with it anyway. It had certainly reached setting point, so I poured the mixture into a couple of sterilised jars and hoped for the best.

This morning, I decided to attempt a bread to eat with my jam. Apple bread (p22) is the first recipe in the Edmonds book, and one I have had my eye on for months. I was really interested to try a bread recipe that doesn't doesn't have any yeast in it, thus eliminating any messing about with kneading and waiting for dough to rise.

Apple bread is made by simply mixing grated apple and milk into a mixture of flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. The resulting dough is then baked in a  loaf tin. Sounds enticingly easy, doesn't it? And for once, it was almost as easy as it sounds. I was more successful in grating my hand than my apple, but it still didn't take very long to get the 1/2 cup of apple required. I left the skin on, thinking that flakes of red apple skin would make an interestng texture to the bread.

The only issue arose when I went to add the milk: you're supposed to add "enough milk to make a firm, smooth dough". The recipe states 1-1 1/2 cups, approximately, so I started with 1 cup and found it was more than enough. I added a little more flour, but didn't want to alter the proprtions of the recpe too much, so the dough was still quite sticky when I smoothed it into the loaf tin and put it in the oven.

It wasn't until I was writing the above that I had a sudden suspicion as to the cause of the problem. With horror, I remembered selecting my half-cup measure to scoop out the 3 cups of flour, since it's easier to manoevure in my flour bin than the full cup. That would have been fine, if I'd remembered to put in 6 scoops. But I didn't - I'd only put 3. No wonder 1 cup of milk was too much, since I'd only put in half the flour!

Determined not to be outdone by a loaf of bread, I immediately mixed up another dough, this time remembering to put in the full amout of flour. The difference was immedately apparent when I put the milk in. The dough mixed to precisely the "soft, firm dough" described in the recipe, though I had to do some slight kneading to get all the flour to mix in. Since kneading wasn't specipified in the recipe, I hoped it hadn't made the dough too tough from overworking it.

Meanwhile, I'd let the first loaf bake for around 45 mintes, then taken it out. It seemed well enough cooked, if oddly shaped and slightly stunted. I put it aside for later comparison with the correctly made loaf, rinsed out the loaf tin, placed the new dough in and put it in the oven.

One hour later, my loaf of apple bread was ready. Compared to the first attempt, it looked pretty impressive. I'm glad I twigged to my error and had another go: if the first loaf was the only result I had, I might have written apple loaf off as a bad recipe.

I was eager to taste my apple bread, so I cut some slices almost immediately, spreading them with kiwifruit jam. Since the bread was still hot, it was slightly doughy inside its very crusty shell, but I think this will improve once it's cooled down. It was slightly odd to eat bread - especially homemade - without the underlying flavour and smell of yeast. It was, in fact, a bit tasteless. But that's not a problem if you put something tasty on it, right?

And did my jam fit this description? Well, the burnt flavour was not readily apparent; it's perfectly edible, though I still think it would be better if I hadn't overcooked it.  It has set so solidly it's a bit difficult to spread, but on the whole, it's not too bad. If you're thinking about making some yourself, just keep a closer eye on it than I did and you'll be fine!

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