Welsh Rarebit

Ok so this isn’t a recipe for bread – in fact it’s barely a recipe at all; it’s basically a glorified cheese on toast… but still… Welsh rarebit is one of those comfort foods thats great for a Sunday night dinner.

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Fresh out of the grill – the mixture soaks through the bread and browns on top

Being from Stoke, I find it hard to get past Staffordshire oatcakes as the best vehicle for melted cheese but, I have to admit, this comes a close second. When the mixture is made, it seems as though the resulting liquid will be far too runny to do anything other than leak all over the baking tray and make a mess. But once the bread absorbs the liquid and as soon as it is placed under the grill, it begins to develop a dark, bubbly crust. It also uses more of that dark ale from the previous post, and is a fantastic excuse for using some thick slices of the dark ale sourdough.

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Essential ingredients – a good beer and a hot mustard

Welsh Rarebit – serves 2

  • 100g grated mature cheddar cheese
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 25g butter
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1tbsp of beer (optional)
  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  1. Preheat grill to high.
  2. Combine the milk and cheese in a pan over a medium heat and stir until melted. Stir in the butter, and then the remaining ingredients. Remove from the heat.
  3. Place the four thick slices of sourdough onto a baking tray. Slowly pour over the cheese mixture, allowing it to soak into the bread. Don’t worry if some leaks out.
  4. Place under the grill for 4-5 minutes, until the top has browned.
  5. Serve immediately.
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Staffordshire oatcakes

Few things can make me homesick like the memory of an oatcake… These have nothing to do with the Scottish biscuits (except the oats): Staffordshire oatcakes are thin, savoury pancakes, cooked on a hot plate and filled with a variety of healthy, low fat ingredients like bacon, cheese, and sausage.
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I’ve tried to make them a few times since moving to Australia, and each attempt has left me frustrated, and missing even the slightly dodgy mass produced versions you can pick up in a Co-op or Tesco Extra. I’ve found that the hardest part is actually cooking them- you need to be quick to get them thin enough, and the heat has to be exactly right. Finally though, I think I’ve cracked it. This is basically the recipe from The River Cottage Bread Book, with a few tweaks to the method and a touch more liquid.

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Assume that things might go slightly wrong: the batter will be too thin, then too thick. The pan will be too hot, and then too cold. The first couple will end up wrecked, and you will get frustrated. But persevere. They’re worth it.

Staffordshire Oatcakes makes 10

225g wholemeal flour
225g fine oatmeal
5g yeast
10g salt
500ml warm water
500ml warm milk
Extra water
Oil, for cooking
Cheese and bacon, to serve.

1. Combine all of the ingredients except the extra water and oil. Whisk well. As the original recipe states, at this stage it will be very runny, but don’t worry.
2. Rest for an hour an a half in a warm spot, until the batter is very bubbly.
3. Heat a large, heavy pan over a medium high heat. Put a drop of oil in the pan and use some kitchen paper to spread it around.
4. Add about half a cup of water to the batter if it has thickened too much- it should be about pancake batter consistency.
5. Working quickly, put a ladle full of batter into the pan. Use a silicon spatula to spread it around until it is about 2-3mm thick. Cook for 2 minutes, flip, and cook for a further minute.
6. Remove and keep warm under a tea towel whilst you repeat. Any left over batter can be frozen.
7. To serve, cover with grated cheese and bacon and place under a hot grill until the cheese melts. Cover in ketchup.

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Ciabatta with whey and a simple cheese

This recipe is a great way of using up the whey produced as a byproduct of making cheese or yoghurt. They whey adds extra protein to the bread and a rich, creamy colour. It also makes the dough chewier, but this is offset by the inclusion of fat in the form of extra virgin olive oil.

As mentioned in a previous post, ‘ciabatta’ refers to the “slipper” shape of the bread, but this dough can be used to make an outstanding loaf in any shape you choose, including in a loaf tin. The hydration is “high” at 75%, but, for a ciabatta relatively low. It can easily be increased by adding more water (or whey) into the final mix. The higher the hydration, the bigger the holes in the loaf and the more irregular the crumb. I baked this loaf to slice and use as burger buns, so the ‘lower’ 75% hydration provides a perfect texture.

The finished ciabatta: rough and ready to eat.
The finished ciabatta: rough and ready to eat.

The ciabatta uses a “poolish“, which is a pre-ferment using a large quantity of the water and flour from the dough mixed with a small amount of yeast. This is allowed to bubble up and the refrigerated overnight, and gives a more complex flavour to the final loaf.

The cheese recipe following is a very simple method of making an Indian “paneer”. It does not require any fancy equipment or any special ingredients: just milk and acid. The lemon juice in the recipe can be replaced with an equal amount of white vinegar if desired.

Milk plus lemon - an extremely simple fresh cheese
Milk plus lemon – an extremely simple fresh cheese

Paneer

  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice, strained
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  1. Heat the milk in a large pan until boiling (be careful – it will easily froth over the pan and burn to both the bottom of the pan and the top of the oven.)
  2. Reduce the temperature and stir in the lemon juice. Shake the pan gently to encourage large curds to form.
  3. Place a colander over a pan to catch the whey. Line the colander with cheesecloth or muslin (a tea towel or even a double layer of kitchen paper will work). Drain the separated milk into the cheesecloth. Tie the cheesecloth into a bag and place a plate with something heavy on top.
  4. Leave for 3-4 hours or overnight. Remove from the cheesecloth.
  5. Refrigerate immediately, or knead 1/4 tsp salt into the cheese and then refrigerate. I press the cheese into a small rectangular tupperware and then turn out onto cling film.
  6. Reserve the whey for use in bread making (or a hundred other uses that a quick internet search will give you).
Adding an acid to milk produces a very simple cheese.
Adding an acid to milk produces a very simple cheese.
The finished cheese - pressed into a tupperware and then stored in the fridge.
The finished cheese – pressed into a tupperware and then stored in the fridge.

Ciabatta with whey makes 2 large ciabatta

Poolish

  • 360g strong white flour
  • 360g water
  • 1g yeast

Dough

  • All of the poolish
  • 215g whey, warmed (in the microwave or a pan) to about 35˚C
  • 400g strong white flour
  • 13g salt
  • 5g yeast
  • 40g extra virgin olive oil
  1. The night before baking, mix the poolish and allow to ferment at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight.
  2. Remove the poolish from the fridge an hour before mixing. Warm the whey.
  3. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Stretch/fold knead for 5 minutes in the bowl.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a very well floured surface and shape into a rough rectangle. Allow the dough to rest for a couple of minutes. Pull the right hand side of the dough out and fold it back on itself, then repeat with the left (a “letter fold”).
  5. Rest the dough for 30 minutes, then repeat the letter fold. Bulk ferment for 2 hours.
  6. Divide the dough. Flour a piece of linen (or a tea towel) well with white flour or rice flour. Fold the towel so that it is raised in the middle (see photos) and place half of the dough on each side of the towel. Letter fold the dough again. Proof for 45 min – 1 hour.
  7. Preheat the oven to 230˚C. Flour a baking tray and flour your hands thoroughly. Gently lift the dough onto  baking tray one loaf at a time. If you have a large baking tray, place both onto the tray with a gap of a couple of inches between.
  8. Bake at 230˚C for 20 minutes, rotating half way through if necessary.
  9. Cool on a wire rack before serving.
The "letter fold" stretch and fold technique adds structure to the loaf and also makes the traditional "slipper" shape for the ciabatta
The “letter fold” stretch and fold technique adds structure to the loaf and also makes the traditional “slipper” shape for the ciabatta
The towel is rucked up in the middle and at the edges to support the slack dough.
The towel is rucked up in the middle and at the edges to support the slack dough.
The dough is given one final shape - being careful not to knock the air out - before baking on a sheet dusted with semolina.
The dough is given one final shape – being careful not to knock the air out – before baking on a sheet dusted with semolina.