Malt Loaf — In Development (post #1)

This is a work-in-progress at the early stages. Tips, suggestions, replication challenges welcome!

Malt loaf is something you probably either love or hate.  If you’ve spent much time in the UK, you’ve probably encountered it and had the chance to become addicted or horrified.  It’s a sticky, chewy, dark dense bread with dried fruit (usually raisins) in it, served sliced with butter or margarine.

I’m attempting to replicate the Soreen Maltloaf.  We get it from the UK when we can, and fill the freezer, but there’s no US distributor that sells to stores, so our supply is limited. And it’s a sad day when we realize we’ve eaten the last one from the freezer.

My first try with this bread was a quickbread recipe, despite the Soreen version being a yeast bread. Ok. Lived, learned.  Here are some notes from that first attempt.

1. Select fruit.  I went with dried mission figs and dried cherries, about 150g, to make something similar to Soreen’s Lincolnshire Plum (which has no plums in it).

2. Make a pot of tea!! No, seriously!  I made about 75mL of very strong Rington’s black tea. This is to mix with the malt syrup to make it easier to mix, but I soaked the dried fruit in it first.

3.  Mix tea into 200g malt extract, and mix with 175g self-rising flour (1 c. self-rising = 1 c. AP + 1 1/4 t. baking powder + 1/8 t. salt), 1 egg, 1/2 t. mixed spice (I used a pumpkin pie spice blend), and the fruit.

4. Spray a 2# loaf tin with oil, pour batter in, and bake 75 – 90 minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before slicing (if you can stand it).

Outcome: It was tasty, but it wasn’t maltloaf.  Next time, I think I’ll try this recipe, which uses a combination of whole wheat and white flour, both malt extract and black treacle, and YEAST. And comes from the UK Flour Advisory Bureau, apparently.

Kale Chips

Still buried under CSA shares of kale?

Versions of this recipe/application appear in various places. This is the version that looks most appealing to me, though I’ll admit I haven’t tried it yet. Not for lack of kale, though, or even lack of interest… it just keeps slipping my mind!  Maybe now that I’ve put it here, I’ll remember.

3 or 4 large kale leaves, with stem removed and cut into 2″ pieces
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
A few pinches of kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together vinegar, oil, and salt, and toss with kale leaves. Place in a single layer on sheet and place into oven. Bake 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through until crispy. When kale gets brown, it gets very bitter- – so pull them out before then!

French Fries (beta)

[Note: I’m starting a new category called “needs improvement” and I’m serious about it. Use the comments or contact me directly with suggestions. I’ll be updating these as I discover improvements. If you have one of those recipes that “seems like a good idea” but never seems to work right, send it along and we’ll see what we can do…]

Peter was frying chicken last night (he insists on deep frying but that’s another story) so I made french fries. I’ve done them before with mild success. My best outcome was with sweet potatoes. I’ll keep at this and post updates as I perfect the technique.

The basic technique is generally agreed: cut high-starch potatoes, soak in cold water, dry well, fry in low oil, drain, fry again in high oil, salt and enjoy.

First: high-starch potatoes are generally russets or bakers. This is what I used.

I cut them on our v-slicer/mandoline, using the 1/4″ julienne blade.

This is a departure from how I’ve done fries in the past – by hand with a nice big knife. I don’t think it was an improvement for fries – they were too small for my liking. Using these “fries” for hash browns, fritattas or tortas could be wonderful.

Second: soaking the cut fries. This helps reduce the amount of starch on the surface of the fry so that it doesn’t form a crust during frying. This means the steam can escape from the inside of the fry, making the interior light and fluffy. Allegedly.

Dry them really, really well, or you’ll be sorry.

Next, heat the oil to about 320F. We use peanut oil since it has a nice high smoke point (never heat an oil above its smoke point – it’s dangerous and will break down the oil and make it nasty). We tend to overshoot on the lower temperatures since our fryer has such slow recovery, and dumping a whole potato in makes the temperature drop really fast.

(Our 327F dropped to just under 300F when I dropped in the fries.)

Once the fries are floppy and soggy and generally horrible looking, pull them out and drain them.

These should be more spread out, but I only have so much counter space (and remember, someone in my kitchen is also making fried chicken at the same time).

Heat the oil to 365F or 370F and put the fries back in. These tiny little 1/4″ fries cooked fast – two or three minutes for each step.

The finished product:

What I learned:

  • 1/4″ fries are too small for this application. My hand-cut 3/8-1/2″ fries worked better.
  • Two-step frying really does seem to make a difference. The inside of the fries are pretty fluffy – even at this small size.

Other things to try:

  • Some other starchy roots
  • Much larger fries – planks?
  • Try grapeseed oil for a higher temperature final fry
  • Try a more flavorful oil using these small fries at lower temperatures – walnut? olive?
  • High-temperature bake in lieu of final fry
  • Use these tiny fries in a torta or gratin for different texture than the usual slices