Cachapas

Cachapas are a Venezuelan corn flatbread, which are often stuffed with slow cooked meat or cheese. We first encountered them, not in Venezuela, but in a pop-up food stall in Camden Market, London. Since trying them, several years ago, we have been trying to perfect a recipe that does these delicious yellow flatbreads justice. The recipe here is a combination of a few recipes from the internet and a lot of experimentation, with the final recipe perfected (at least we think so) by my wife late last year.

Egg and polenta - just two of the ingredients that we experimented with

Egg and polenta – just two of the ingredients that we experimented with

Instead of the slow cooked meat or stringy, mozzarella-like cheese we tend to go for a filling of cottage cheese and a peppery tomato sauce, finished off with coriander, lime and avocado. The result is very similar to those first cachapas we ate in London, albeit slightly thicker and more suited to eating from a plate than rolled up in a piece of greaseproof paper. Over the course of our experiments we have tried plain flour, corn flour, polenta, fresh corn, tinned corn, and just about every variation on the quantities of liquids. This is what we came up with:

Cachapas with tomato and pepper sauce serves 2

Sauce

  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, chopped
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 jarred roasted red peppers
  • 2 tbs hot water
  • pinch of paprika
  • salt and pepper

Cachapas

  • 400g tin corn, drained, or 2 fresh corn cobs
  • 3 heaped tbs plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup polenta
  • 1/2 egg, beaten
  • 2tbs cottage cheese
  • small knob of butter and 1/2 tbs olive oil, for frying
  • avocado, sliced, to serve
  • coriander leaves, to serve
  • lime wedges, to serve
  1. Combine all of the cachapas ingredients except the oil and butter in a blender and process until smooth.
  2. For the sauce, cook the onion, garlic and chilli in olive oil over a medium heat until softened.
  3. Add the tomato paste, peppers, paprika and water. Stir and season. Cook for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan. Pour out the cachapas mix and spread evenly with a spatula.
  5. Cook cachapas mix for 5 minutes, then spread cottage cheese over the top. Place under a grill on high. Grill for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from grill, divide in half and serve with sauce, avocado, coriander leaves and lime wedges.
Cachapas with tomato and pepper sauce

Cachapas with tomato and pepper sauce

Not Cross Buns

As Easter is one of those times of year when it is OK to bake bread filled with butter, sugar, fruit, and more butter, I decided to have a go at some hot cross buns. I’ve made them before, with varying degrees of success, so this time I decided to change up the recipe and use spelt flour. This in no way compensates for the amount of butter, so I won’t pretend that they are a ‘healthy’ option, but spelt does have a different flavour to regular wheat.

Unfortunately, a number of things went wrong. The buns did not rise as much as I would have hoped, resulting in fairly dense buns. I have had this problem in the past and can think of a few reasons why it might happen. For example, some of the additions to the dough, such as sugar and fat, can actually inhibit the yeast. Add to that the fact that spelt naturally tends to result in a denser loaf, and I should have probably have factored the dense-issue in before hand.

The second problem is more aesthetic. I used white spelt for the crosses and wholemeal for the buns, which looked fine until it went into the oven. The white spelt coloured almost as much as the brown, and the crosses disappeared. These not cross buns tasted fine - the butter, fruit, and sugar made sure of that – but I’ll have another crack before posting a recipe.

The crosses disappeared into the dough, making them slightly less Eastery than I would have liked

The crosses disappeared into the dough, making them slightly less Eastery than I would have liked

Bag end sourdough

I have mentioned the state of my pantry before, a couple of times in fact… I have a bad habit of buying a lot of different kinds of flour, grain, and other bread related ingredients and then using all but the scant end of a bag, which proceeds directly to the back of the shelf. Following on from the previous bread, which was an attempt to use up a half bag of buckwheat flour, I decided to make a “throw-everything-at-it” loaf to clear even more space. This time, I managed to clean out an assorted seven bags and jars, leaving my shelves sparkling; for a week or so at least.

This unglamorous sounding bread contains a grain soaker of bulgur wheat, rolled spelt grain and wholemeal oats. The combination could be replaced with any number of whole grains and ingredients, including rice, quinoa, amaranth, or whatever else is lying around. It all tastes good. The overnight soak is important for many of these ingredients to begin enzyme activity, increase flavour and, in some cases, remove saponins. It also allows for the grains to be used in the loaf without pre-cooking, which adds both to the nutritional content and the texture.

sourdough

The colour comes from the spelt, and texture from the additions of bulgur wheat and whole grains

The bulk of the loaf comes from a combination of spelt flour and barley bran. Again, this could be replaced in equal amounts by any combination of flours, but bear in mind that the gluten content of flours is different, as is the way in which they absorb liquids, so you may need to adjust the water content until the texture feels right. I made three small loaves – two in loaf tins and one boule – but these quantities could also be used to make two larger loaves.

Bag End Sourdough makes 3 small or 2 large loaves

  • 200g assorted whole grains (I used 50g bulgur wheat, 100g rolled spelt and 50g oats)
  • 200g water
  • 400g rye starter at 150% hydration
  • 500g water
  • 800g assorted flour (I used 100g barley bran and about 350g each of wholemeal and white spelt flour)
  • 20g salt
  1. The night before baking, combine the grains and 200g water. Refresh the starter at the same time. Leave overnight.
  2. In the morning, combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Autolyse for 30 minutes.
  3. Knead for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and is able to stretch without tearing.
  4. Bulk ferment for 4-5 hours, until the dough has almost doubled in size.
  5. Divide and shape the dough. Divide into two or three portions, shape each into a rough ball and rest for five minutes. Shape into the final desired loaf.
  6. Rest for 1-2 hours, until visibly risen.
  7. Preheat oven to max. If using, place a Dutch oven on the middle shelf.
  8. If baking n a Dutch oven, bake at 240˚C with the lid on for 30 minutes, then 230˚C for 15 minutes with the lid off.
  9. If baking loaves, bake at 220˚C for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 180˚C and bake for a further 30 minutes.
  10. Cool on a wire rack.

 

Two small loaves shaped from the same dough and baked in 600g loaf tins

Two small loaves shaped from the same dough and baked in 600g loaf tins

boule

The crust on the boule is noticeably different to that of the loaves due to the different baking technique used

 

I have submitted this post to http://www.wildyeastblog.com/ ; let’s hope that it gets a few people interested!