Easter Sunday loaves

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Easter weekend in Rome: we went to Tivoli, east of Rome for Easter lunch for friends and a walk in Villa Gregoriana. It’s a park in a ravine, with paths, waterfalls, and grottos. About an hour and a half to walk down and up, it was lovely and green. On Good Friday we’d headed to Marconi to get me a new espresso machine for Accra, which I brought back safely in my suitcase and have now used for excellent cappuccini. It is getting easier to get OK Ghanaian coffee in Accra, which helps  (though I mix it 50/50 with my Italian Lavazza).

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From our local Garbatella supermarket: How about a piglet head?  (We resisted.)

As usual I took advantage of the lower temperature  in Rome to bake bread without collapsing in a sweaty heap. Accra is really hot and humid this week, which slows life down. It’s too expensive to run A/C all the time, so we have fans strategically placed around the apartment and try to manage, saving A/C for the bedrooms at night. So a few days of lower temperatures in Rome where it was comfortable to cook were very appreciated. Plus seeing friends, having the first Aperol Spritz in a sunny piazza, going for walks in spring sunshine – all very nice.

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No-knead Easter Sunday bread  (this made 5 small loaves)

1200 grammes white what flour (here, 00)
350 grammes wholewheat flour
175 grammes quick-cooking oatmeal
125 grammes sunflower seeds
25 g fresh yeast (or 12 grammes dry yeast)
3 tsp sal
1.35 litre lukewarm water

Dissolve the fresh yeast in the water, then add everything else. I was using up what we  had of seeds and oatmeal but the ratios seemed OK. Mix everything well, fold and fold with a strong spatula. Cover bowl (I use a plastic shower cap) and leave it to double for a few hours at room temperature. I folded it again, then divided dough between five small parchment-lined bread tins. With bigger tins this might make 3 large loaves. Leave to double again, with a kitchen towel covering the tins. Heat oven to 220C and slash the tops with scissors right before loaves go in, so edges do not crack. Bake for 45 minutes or so, depending on your oven. For these, I tool the loaves out of the tins the last ten minutes to crisp up the base  a bit, as the dough is quite wet and it can otherwise end up a bit pale. (Lesson learned.) Cool on rack before slicing.

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Crumbly helkornbrød in Accra

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The Ghana cedi exchange rate to the US dollar has been going up and down this month, and prices are increasing. Since October, drinking water has gone up from 8 cedi for a 19.5 litre Voltic container to 10 cedis, 25% more. It’s only about 2 dollars delivered, affordable for us, but noticeable. At least the pineapples are still cheap (1.99 cedi is about 40 cents) and very good. Ghana pineapple is amazing, very sweet.

It is a quiet Sunday here, warm as usual, maybe 31C but only 70% humidity so quite manageable. I have baked bread and am waiting for the loaves to cool enough to slice, to be enjoyed with some of the French cheese I brought back. My husband is here, which is lovely, but my pantry challenge continues: what can I cook from the cupboard? We had cassoulet for dinner last night, from a tin but with white beans, Toulouse sausages and duck: just delicious. The Guardian has a whole store cupboard special this weekend,  presumably for pre-Brexit, and some of those look very tempting.

This is baked with fresh yeast, since my dry yeast has given up the ghost, and is quite a wet dough. My flour is also getting old, but this baked well enough. I only made two small loaves, so I can bake again later in the week and enjoy fresh bread again.

Crumbly Accra helkornbrød (with cracked wheat)

125 gr cracked wheat (about 200 ml)
250 ml water

500 ml cold water
12.5 gr fresh yeast (or 6-7 grammes dry yeast)
1 heaping tsp sugar
1 tbs sunflower oil
125 gr medium coarse rye flour
500 gr white wheat flour  (see notes: more recommended)
1 tsp salt

Boil water and cracked wheat for 4-5 minutes on medium heat. Leave to cool until lukewarm.

In your baking bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add boiled cracked wheat, no draining (the water should be absorbed in cracked wheat). Add oil, sugar, salt, and flours. Stir well. This is a wet dough, too wet to knead. Cover and let rest until it doubles (a couple hours here), then fold again. Line two medium bread tins with baking parchment, and pour dough in. Cover and let rest until it doubles (half an hour here). Bake 50-60 minutes at 200C. Cool on rack before slicing.

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Notes: This was a very moist dough, so though I had planned to bake it 45 minutes, it needed another 10-15 minutes for the sides and base to crisp up. These were very crumbly loaves, as you see below, sliced while still warm but mainly due to dough: next time I’ll add more flour, maybe 150 grammes more? Good flavour though, and better structure next time.

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Use it up banana bread with chocolate biscotti filling

Accra traffic

Flagstaff House through traffic yesterday: this is the presidential palace in Accra, renamed last year to Jubilee House. February is still a pantry challenge month for me, but I must confess, I am getting very bored of pasta variations and mystery soups from the freezer. Tonight we are watching Bohemian Rhapsody as Oscar countdown, so time for some cake. After defrosting the chest freezer yesterday, I had some frozen bananas, some cream cheese, and some damp chocolate biscotti. Those had I put in the freezer to save them from the ants, but they had become rather damp, though still edible. Hmmmm, maybe a banana cream pie with biscotti base? No, cream is really expensive in Accra, so banana bread it was. Cream cheese survives freezing but was also not improved, so I dolloped that in as well. The crème fraîche was well over best before date, but tasted fine.

I even did a freezer inventory while defrosting: lots of chicken, lots of parmesan and grana  padano, several bags of icy sliced leeks, some pesto and even some crumpets and muffins from Christmas. And Tuscan pâté from last July! This is a shared freezer between three of us, so we corralled each items into different bags, which should help navigate the frozen depths better.

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We are following the elections in Nigeria and Senegal this weekend. Ghana has elections late next year, and things are already heating up. NDC is the main opposition party, NPP is currently in power. Elections were  relatively peaceful in 2016, we hope that continues.

It is also still mango season! There is a lady with a fruit stand near our office, normally she makes fruit salad but I get a special mango-only order. Do I want a five, seven or eight cedi mango? (1 USD=5.27 cedi, from 3.8 cedi to the dollar when we arrived.) It is a small luxury, getting my takeway mango these weeks while mangoes are still good.

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Use it up banana bread with chocolate biscotti filling

60 gr butter softened
85 gr white sugar
2 medium eggs
240 g mashed bananas  (about 4 small ones), peeled
200 ml crème fraîche  (or 1/2 cup sour cream)
1 cup  plain white wheat flour
1/2 cup wholewheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Filling:
120 gr chocolate biscotti, crumbled
100 gr cream cheese

Cream butter with sugar. Add eggs and whisk, then add mashed bananas and sour cream. Add dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, vanilla sugar and salt.

Pour half the batter in a loaf pan (buttered, with parchment paper in base). Crumble the chocolate biscotti over the batter, then spoon over the cream cheese. Finally, pour over the rest of the batter and smooth it out in loaf pan. Bake in the middle of the oven at 200C for 50 minutes. Test with a wooden cake test stick or chopstick that the cake is baked through (no raw batter if you poke through it). Cool for 15-20 minutes (well, it is 33C here, your kitchen is probably cooler), then turn the loaf out onto a cooking rack. Enjoy with the movie of your choice!

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Note: we have very sweet bananas here, so you might need more sugar.

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