Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Olive and Bacon Fougasse

Although it is almost close to two months since I last wrote a post on bread-making, I had actually been baking bread on a regular basis. I keep going back to the usual recipes that I am familiar with. The ever tasty and soft Hokkaido Milky loaf, the very versatile Milk loaf, and the savoury Bacon and Cheese loafare some of the few regulars on our breakfast table.


After taking a short hiatus from baking, I thought I should get out of my comfort zone to try something new. I have been keeping this fougasse recipe since I borrowed this book from the library. I have seen this pretty bread from several cookbooks, but as it is a French bread, most of the recipes I came across require it to be made with a starter. I was happy to be able to find a recipe that uses a straight dough method.


Fougasse, originated from Provence, is a type of flat bread filled with olives, bacon, onion or herbs, not very different from the Italian Focaccia. It can also be made like a calzone, with fillings stuff inside the pockets made by folding over the dough. For the flat bread version, it is often shaped and slashed to resemble a leaf or the tree of life.


Base on the cookbook, the same dough recipe can be used for making focaccia or pizza. Since we have only 1A2C at home, I halved the original recipe and also added some dried mixed herbs to give it more flavour. I followed the instructions to roll out the dough into 5mm thickness. As a result, the fougasse turn out to be very thin and crispy. I was expecting something much thicker :(


I do not know how fougasse should taste like since this is the first time I have ever tasted it. Although I like the flavourful savoury taste, I would prefer a thicker bread instead of a crunchy texture, it was almost like eating some bread sticks! Well, at least I was compensated with the lovely and distinctive aroma emitting from the black olives and bacon when the bread was baking in the oven.

To enjoy the bread, I served it with cream of mushroom soup. Upon cooling, the bread hardened and it was so crispy that my kids broke it into pieces and drop them into their soup, just like croutons ^_^"'

I have posted the recipe here for those who are intersted to give a try. However, I would remind myself not to roll the dough too thin the next I were to make them again.


Olive and Bacon Fougasse

Ingredients

150g bread flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried mixed herbs (optional)
90 ml water
1 tablespoon olive oil

5 black olives, coarsely chopped
2 strips of bacon, cut into small strips


Method
  1. Stir bread flour, instant yeast, salt and dried mixed herbs(if using) in a mixing bowl.
  2. Make a well in the centre and add in olive oil and water. Mix the ingredients with hand and slowly form into a dough.
  3. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead until the dough no longer sticks to your hand, becomes smooth and elastic. This should take about 20 mins. (Note: the dough is a little on the dry side.)
  4. Add black olives and bacon strips, knead till the ingredients are well mixed for about 5 mins. (Note: due to the moisture in the olives and bacon, the dough will become slightly sticky and wet. Dust lightly with some flour and continue to knead and the dough will become smooth and elastic again.)
  5. Place dough in a lightly greased (with olive oil) mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap and let proof in room temperature (around 28 ~ 30 degC) for about one hour, or until double in bulk.
  6. Remove the dough from the bowl and give a few light kneading to press out the gas in the dough. Divide dough into two equal portions. Smooth into rounds, cover with a damp cloth or cling wrap and let them rest for 10 ~ 15 mins.
  7. On a lightly floured work surface, flatten each dough into a round disc, roll the dough from the centre to the edges to form a tear-drop shape, with thickness of 5mm (1/4"). (Note: for thicker bread, roll out to at least 10mm (1/2") thick). Place dough on a baking tray, well greased or lined with parchment paper.
  8. For each dough, with a pastry scrapper or a knife, make two vertical slits in the centre (or just 1 long slit, as desired). Make three slanted slits on both sides of the vertical slits. Gently pull the slits apart to shape the dough to resemble a leaf.
  9. Cover with damp cloth or cling wrap and leave doughs to proof for the second time for about 20 ~ 30mins. Brush dough lightly with some olive oil and sprinkle sparingly with some sea salt (optional).
  10. Bake in pre-heated oven at 220 deg C for 18 ~ 20 mins or until golden brown.

    Recipe source:adapted from 爱上做面包, 德永久美子

Friday, 25 September 2009

When I am not baking...

I will play with jumping clay ;)

Last Christmas, my kids received a box of Jumping Clay. It is a type of polymer clay which is very light compared to other clay products. It is also very clean, smooth and doesn't give a sticky, greasy feel. The colours are very vibrant and you can create different colours simply by mixing a few basic colours. It will 'jump' if you throw it on the floor and will not fall apart.

We had fun making several cute stuff with the clay. Here are some of my past projects.


Since jumping clay is more expensive than plasticine, I used only very small amount to make these tiny stuff...the biggest is only about an inch in height. Totoro is the most challenging figurine I had made so far.


I have been baking so many batches of those Horlicks Doggie Cookies that I could make this with great ease. I bought a set of sub-materials from the jumping clay series...it came with key chains, magnets and hand phone straps. The good thing with this clay is, you do not even need glue to stick magnets onto it. Just place the magnet onto your artwork when you are done and it will stick on to it.

I am not creative in any sense, I am not able to create anything from my imagination, or out of no where. I could only replicate! So, besides these, I have also made replicas of Mamegoma, Domokun, and even made a 3D model of 'Mr Nincompoop'...the action hero from this comic series "Mission Possible" created by my tween ^_^"

I am back to baking and I hope I will be able to post something related to food soon.

(For more information on jumping clay, visit this site. For local readers, you can get the full range of jumping clay, tools and accessories from the Popular bookstore branch at Bras Bersah Complex.)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Back to Blogging

I have finally forced myself to sit in front of the computer to update this long neglected blog.

It is really unusual for me not to post anything for more than 3 weeks. Yet, I am glad to know that I am able to live without blogging for so such a long time. It gets to show that I am no longer so attached to it. Although I still make it a point to answer any questions posted by my readers, I no longer feel 'obliged' to update it on a regular basis. If not for a good friend, who took the time to SMS me to ask whether anything is fine, I would probably prolong writing this post indefinitely.

I have not been baking for the past few weeks as I had gone for a trip to Beijing during the recent one week school holiday. Although it was a last minute arrangement, I managed to cover most of the places as planned.

Once out of the airport building, I took a look at the gloomy, foggy sky, it didn't give a very good impression, especially since it was the very first time I have set foot in China. After taking a deep breath of the cool night air, I was immediately greeted with this busy scene of a non-stop flow of taxis coming in to pick up passengers. I was glad that I was not the one tasked to speak to the driver...with his strong accent, I really couldn't make up the content of his speech. I rode the next 15 minutes of journey with a stomach full of butterflies. We were very quiet during the entire journey, partly because I was tired from the flight, and all I could do was to hold on firmly to my younger child. It was only the next morning that he joked about the taxi ride...he made this funny comment that the driver's driving skill was equivalent to his...ie his skill at playing Burnout Legends, a PSP game which allows gamers to drive vehicles with blistering speed and intensity so as to deliver the fastest, adrenaline-inducing driving experience. The driver of our second taxi ride didn't disappoint him either. He zipped through the street 7am in the morning with a breeze...it didn't help to lighten the stone in my heart when we saw a terrible road accident along the way, and as if that was not enough, at that moment, the news from the radio was about the court hearing of a drunk taxi driver who got his passengers killed in an accident. Although Beijing's streets are awash with thousands of taxi which can be found at every single corner of the city, whenever possible, I chose to take the subway and buses to get around the city. Even the low cab fares fails to attract me.


On our first morning in Beijing, we went to WangFuJing (王府井), one of the city's most famous shopping streets. I didn't plan to go shopping though, we were there just so to get a calling card for my mobile phone. While waiting for the store to open, we walked over to the night market. Since it was early in the morning, only a few stores were opened. Yet, I got to see the famous snacks sold at this snack street.


I have heard about deep fried scorpions, but I was really taken aback when I noticed that they were still alive and kicking on those skewers! The hawker will only fry them upon your order.


video
Click on to the "Play" button if you want to find out how those scorpions got themselves hooked to the skewers.


Besides seahorses (extreme left on the above photo), scorpions and insects, there were also star fish. Of course we didn't try any of these...but I told myself I would probably give the deep fried star fish a go on our next visit to the city ;)


The following day, we went to the Great Wall. Instead of the popular section at Badaling, we went to another section at 慕田峪 (Mutianyu).


The scenery was magnificent and best of all it was not crowded. While we were standing at the lower section of the wall, we thought we would be able to climb all the way up to the top where the words "忠于毛主席" (loyalty to Chairman Mao). It turned up that we could only make it half-way up as the rest of the section further up is off-limits. The last section was fairly steep (the almost vertical long flight of steps on the right hand side of the above photo).


After the initial 20 to 30 steps, I had to stop every 10 steps just to catch my breath. As it was a continuous flight of steps with no 'breaks' or landings in between, I could only lean against the wall to rest. From the tiny figure of me in the photo, you could imagine how far I was lagging behind ;')

I was almost on all fours when we climbed up the last few steps to get to the last tower. It was well worth the effort as the view up there was awesome. We took our time to enjoy the tranquility before making our way down. After the hike, my younger son and I both developed a temporary phobia of staircase, we didn't recover until it was almost time go home!


The rest of the week was spent sightseeing at the must-see places in Beijing, Tiananmen, Imperial Palace...


Temple of Heaven...


waiting for the subway to get to...


the Olympic Green....


to visit the the unique Bird Nest...


and to take a picture of the Water Cube...


and finally to the zoo...to see the symbol of China...the giant panda!


The pandas were so adorable that I couldn't help but kept snapping away...


two is just right, and


video
here comes a third one...


and now, three is a crowd!


A panda taking a cat nap high up on a tree. We were wondering how did it make its way up the tree trunk?!


This is my boys favourite bear...a panda taking a siesta under the shade...its huge paw comes in handy as an eye shade...


and hundreds of 'pandas' at the entrance gate?!

It was a good time of the year to visit Beijing, I really enjoyed the nice cool weather. While my elder child spent most of the trip with his other schoolmates on an exchange programme, his brother and I spent many special moments together exploring the city. We learned how to get from one place to another by the forever crowded buses and subways...studying the signage at the bus-stops and finding the right exit to get out of the underground. We also picked up the trick to cross a busy street...if you just follow law and adhere strictly to the traffic rules, you will never ever be able to get across the street! It was a hilarious experience...having to hurry along the streets and yet hear my child making loud remarks that even the traffic wardens were also not following the rules.

I must thank my child for being such a good travel companion. There were no complains from him even when we had to cross the same road twice just to get to the right bus-stop...the long walk from Tiananmen square to Wangfujing...strolling the vast compound of the Temple of Heavens and being squashed in the crowded subway. Sitting under a tree at the park with just a slice of Lim Chee Guan bak kwa sandwiched between two slices of plain bread, was a gourmet lunch to him. During those long walks, he entertained me with his innocent and yet funny comments, remarks on just about anything under the sun. The only thing bad about him was that he refused to let me do any shopping at any of the malls, the only exceptions were the local bookstores. We came back with just a handful of souvenirs but tonnes of photos and fond memories.

Sorry for the super long post, I promise to delivery shorter-and-sweeter ones in future posts, and I think I am almost ready to be back to my usual baking routine.