An improvised salad dressing, or a lunch-time hack

Salad bowl with yogur dressing

I brought a salad to the office on Friday, which is not unusual. But I was in a rush in the morning and didn’t prepare the little container with the dressing (olive oil, vinegar, salt).

As I started cycling towards the office, I expected / hoped / vaguely remembered that the office kitchen had some bottles of these.

Imagine my sheer horror when, hours later, I turn up at the kitchen and… nope. There was nothing of that. There was sugar, marmite, sriracha (hot sauce), salt, pepper, other random things… but absolutely no olive oil or vinegar.

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The quest for the perfect fogassa d’Ontinyent

Four bowls with ingredients for a fogassa, before mixing

As I said in my Fogassa d’Ontinyent post, I have been trying to locate the “proper” recipe for this for a few years already.

I think I started searching for a recipe in 2018, as November approached and I desperately wanted to eat a fogassa but could not visit Spain for multiple reasons. And I thought: Well, it is “only” a sweet bun, so it can’t be that hard to find a recipe for it, right?

Well, turns out that it can!

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Ras el hanout

A pot with home-made ras el hanout spice mix, and a label on the lid that says "ras el hanout"

I was deep into preparing the aubergine shawarma; all the aubergines were cut, salted and resting while they released their liquids; the onions were just in the pan… and then I realised we did not have any of that mysterious “ras el hanout” spice mix. I did not even know how it looked like!

Not being one to panic (as we have a decently stocked spice selection in the kitchen), but also not being one with her hands on a device connected to the internet, I requested help from Devvers, who was in front of a computer:

Can you tell me which spices go into ras el hanout?

After a brief search, of course the bbc food website emerged to the top with this seemingly never-ending list of ingredients:

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My technique for baking bread with steam

One of the first pieces of advice that I was given when I started proudly posting my absurdly exploded breads was that “you need steam”, and I had not a clue of how to make it happen.

You might have also heard about “adding steam” if you’ve been trying to take your home baking to the next level, to obtain a more “professional” finish: deeper colour, sophisticated blisters, and a shiny appearance that screams: EAT ME! I AM TASTY!

But if you’re like me, you’ll be also wondering: WHY? How does that work? 🤨🤔

I was frustrated for the longest time because I did not understand how any of this worked, and the methods proposed did not seem to have any effect at all. It took a while for things to “click” in my brain and make sense. This is my attempt to share what I’ve learned!

In this post, I’ll explain…

  • how steam helps to make better breads
  • how to create steam in a domestic oven
  • why you should feel very free to entirely ignore this for now
  • another method to create steam, with a casserole
  • and how the bakers of old achieved this too, but without resorting to graphs and talk of SCIENCE

Hopefully you’ll get something useful out of this!

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