Last weekend, after seeing the fifth flat of the week (too small and too far out) we decided to bunk our responsibilities and play flat hunting hooky. Between the long commute and trawling around horror show after horror show I had forgotten why I wanted to move to London in the first place. It was 11am on a Saturday, and Dan made it his mission to remind me why it will be all be worth it in the end.
We jumped a tube to Notting Hill, and after a brief perusal of the antiques market on Portobello Road, we strolled along in the bright sunshine window shopping in all the beautiful boutiques. For lunch we stopped off at When Mac Met Cheese, which I would highly recommend seeking out before the popup closes at the end of the month. The food was excellent but the real star of the show was the ‘deep fried oreos’. I expected, from the name, for them to be dipped in a simple savoury batter of flour and egg, instead the were coated in a generous layer of doughnut batter. The doughnut tasted like every ‘dinky doughnut’ stand smells, at every carnival I have ever been to. The heat of the oil, melted the oreo to create a rich, dark, intense filling. Each was coated in a generous dusting of icing which flew over the table as we greedily dug in. The only way to end such a feast was with a leisurely wander around Hyde Park, dodging fleets of ‘Boris bikes’ as the coasted past us.
You should never judge a book by it’s cover (which is why we will persist to find our dream flat even when it feels impossible), but as soon as I saw it’s bright yellow cover and black line illustration in Waterstones I knew New York Cult Recipes was coming home with me. Upon opening it I was greeted with a beautiful collection of photographs and illustrations of New York, alongside the gorgeous photographs of both food and cafes.
In my attempt to move away from buying loafs of bread and instead making my own (which is less labour intensive than you might think) I was immediately drawn to the six strand plaited Challah. After repeatedly scoffing at the attempts of past GBBO contestants I was certain that it would be easy. How wrong I was. It took me about half an hour to work out from the illustration what I was meant to be doing (I’ve found a video which I included in the recipe which seems a lot easier to follow).
I was well worth the labour of love. The addition of egg and sugar to the dough makes the resulting bread far richer than a standard loaf. Each slice has a delicate golden hue and a sweetness which I have only experienced in American bread, English bread is far more savoury. Not knowing how to serve it I turned to a Canadian friend who recommended lashing of berry jam, which when served with a steaming mug of tea turned into a decadent afternoon snack. A few days later when the bread was slightly stale, I dragged myself out of bed at 6am, quickly dunked each side in a beaten egg, and we feasted on the best french toast I have ever eaten, before running for the next train to the city.
575g plain flour
11/2 tsp dried yeast
55g caster sugar
2 tsp fine salt
145ml lukewarm water
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp egg white
1 tsp caster sugar
- In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients, I like to do this with a fork.
- In a jug mix together the wet ingredients.
- Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and gradually pour the wet ingredients into the well, stirring with a fork as you do it bringing in more and more of the dry ingredients with each whisk. Continue until you have a dough.
- Either attach a dough hook to you mixer and run at a medium level for 10 minutes, or knead by hand on a floured surface for 15-20 minutes, until you have a smooth elastic dough.
- Leave to rise in a warm place, in a well greased bowl and cover the top of the bowl with cling film. Leave to rise until doubled in size, which should be about 1 ½ hours.
- Divide the dough into 6 equal portions and roll into approximately 30cm long sausages.
- Lay in a row, and pinch together all the ends. Rather than ineptly trying to explain how to create a six strand plait I found this youtube video. The instructions on how to plait start are from 2:00-3:40 minutes.
- Line and lightly flour a baking tray, then gently lie the loaf on it. Dust the loaf lightly with a little flour and loosely cover with clingfilm.
- Leave to rise for an hour at room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 180C. In bowl mix together the yolk and sugar to create a glaze. Using a pastry brush carefully cover the loaf with the glaze, making sure you get an even coverage in all the dents.
- Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool before slicing.