You will not find me extolling the virtues of homemade bread, mostly because whenever I try my hand at a bread project, it usually ends in a product that’s good, yes, but not quite as good as something I’ve tasted at a bakery elsewhere. As a result, I prefer to side with the experts for certain things rather than fuss about for weeks in the kitchen. That said, I do enjoy slapping on a dough every now and then, but I would be lying if I told you that I see myself doing this on a regular. Relaxing as it may be, I’m just the anxious sorts who’d fuss around the bread as it proofs, then proofs again, then bakes. And so, my preferred confections and bakes are usually devoid of any complicated activating or gluten strand development.
Since we’re talking gluten, a new addition to my kitchen last month was a packet of 00 flour sent over by the lovely people from Olive Tree Trading. Italian 00 Flour for those who don’t know refers to flour that’s super-finely milled, like cornflour. Single 0 grading would be coarser like semolina, whereas “00” is milled more finely. While a strong bread flour from a company like Bob’s Red Mill will have a higher gluten content, tipo 00 has a gluten content of 12.5% which is a teensy bit higher than our all-purpose flour. Since “00” falls somewhere between a flour you’d use to make bread and something you’d use to make cake, it’s a great substitute in recipes that would require you to use all-purpose for a bread product such as pizza for example. Pizza made with “00” is far superior than the one made with all-purpose. The low-protein flour allows for just enough rise so that the centre of the pizza dough is flatter while the rim balloons up and turns slightly crunchy.
When dealing with pasta, “00”’s protein content is a bit on the higher end of the spectrum of flours that pasta is generally made with— semolina, all-purpose or 00— in ascending gluten strengths. The finely milled flour allows for a silkier noodle, while a semolina flour helps the sauce cling better to a rougher pasta. Again, I’m not the kinds to invest in a pasta machine for home use, and perfectly happy using dry sticks that come out of a packet, but if you’re going to make pasta regularly, which is to say at least four to five times a month, go ahead and invest in the roller (I suggest the Imperia brand, available on Amazon, as opposed to something like the Kent noodle-maker).
I used the “00” flour to make both, a lovely olive oil cake that’s rich from the addition of paneer, as well as some traditional English scones, made differently using ghee instead of lard or margarine.
Malai Paneer, Lemon and Olive Oil Cake
Yield 1 bundt cake
This Rachel Roddy-inspired bake uses a combination of bitter, fruity olive oil with rich whipped malai paneer and citrus to turn out a cake that will merrily stand under a glass dome for days. It’s so versatile that you can swap out the citrus as well as the 00 flour, though I highly recommend using it for that soft, springy crumb. Not too sweet, it accommodates a milky glaze of more citrus, and I finish with a few specks of thyme.
Italian “00” Flour 250g (I used Olea Europaea’s Farina di Grano Tenero “00”, available on Olive Tree Trading’s website)
Baking Powder 2 tsp
Malai Paneer 250g
Extra virgin olive oil 200ml
Lemons 2 zested, or two Malta oranges
Lemon Thyme Glaze
Icing sugar 1 cup
Lemon juice 3 tbsp
Lemon zest 1/2 tsp
Dried Thyme 1/8 tsp
Fresh thyme for sprinkling over
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Grease and flour a round bundt cake pan thoroughly, tapping out the excess flour from the tin and set it aside.
Sift the flour, sugar and baking powder.
Use a blender to blitz the malai paneer till it is the consistency of thick cream cheese. Using an electric hand blender, blitz together the malai paneer with the oil, then adding the eggs one after the other incorporating the eggs well between additions. Add all the wet ingredients to the dry sifted ingredient bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until just smooth.
Scrape the mixture into the bundt pan, evening the top. Tap the cake mix on a surface before transferring it to the oven and letting it bake for 25-30 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test. Let the cake cool in its pan for twenty minutes before turning it out and letting it cool completely.
When cool, stir together the ingredients for the lemon thyme glaze minus the fresh thyme and pour gently over the top of the cake letting it fall on all sides and finish with a sprinkle of fresh thyme.
For the scones,
Traditional Cheddar Scones
Yield 12 scones
Using “00” flour to make scones produces a much much lighter scone than if you were working with all-purpose. Here is a basic scone recipe that I have added cheddar and ghee to, because that’s just a personal preference. Once you have the technique down, you can pop a batch of these in the oven faster than you can make a batch of emergency brownies. Slice each scone open and use as a heartier sandwich option. Smash avocados on scones instead of regular toast, or make traditional eggs Benedict with hollandaise sauce if you are up to a bit of a challenge.
Italian “00” Flour 500g (I used Olea Europaea’s Farina di Grano Tenero “00”, available on Olive Tree Trading’s website)
Salt 1 tsp
Soda bi-carb 2 tsp
Cream of tartar 4 1/2 tsp
Butter 50g, cold
Ghee 25g, cold
Cheddar 75g (Use mature cheddar here for real cheese flavour. None of the processed stuff)
Egg 1 large, for egg wash (for a vegetarian variation, use a milk/cream wash)
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees celsius.
Sift together the flour, salt, soda and cream of tartar. Use your hands to rub in the cold butter and the ghee into the dry ingredients until the mixture feels like coarse sand in your hands. Add the milk all at once with the cheddar and mix one or two times exactly, not too much.
Then tip it out onto a floured surface and knead just enough to form a dough. Roll out to 1-inch thickness, or between 2.5-2.7 cm and use a cookie cutter to cut out the scones. You’ll get about 12 from this and may have to re-roll to get the final two. Arrange on a lightly greased baking tray and keep close to each other. Brush the tops with egg wash or a vegetarian variation and transfer to the oven to bake for 10 minutes or until the scones have beautifully risen and are golden on top. Eat freshly baked by slicing into two and sandwiching with toppings of your choice.