Friday, 11 July 2008

Cooking class 1: Tuna & onion quiche bread

My dear friend and food blogging mentor Malaka over at Aloha Mahalo has been attending cooking classes at ABC Cooking Studio in Shibuya, Tokyo for some time, and asked me along to a complimentary lesson to check it out. Being totally self-taught (although admittedly having lived with a professional cook for many years), I was keen to see what a school could offer me that I couldn't learn myself from a book (of which you know I have one or two).

So it was off to Shibuya after work one night to make these very yummy bread quiches.

The cooking school was divided into 3 studios, one for each course they offer (bread, cooking and cakes), I suppose. The baking studio had several large benches, a row of kitchen sinks (the Japanese kitchen sink, which is large enough to bath a 1 year old in, is a wonder to behold!), several dough risers (if that's the word) and a bank of maybe 15 ovens. Although it was after work, it was still light out, all the better to enjoy the view out the huge wall of windows. Windows are so often NOT a feature of Japanese kitchens that it is a dream of mine to one day have one in my own (sad, isn't it?!).

The teacher was also very bright and cheery, and had lots of words of praise and encouragement (probably not necessary in my case, but surely welcomed by kitchen neophytes and brides in training (g)). Those of you that know me, know I'm not one for a lot of palaver in the kitchen (probably why I'm a breadmaker kind of baker, rather than a do-it-by-hand type), but our instructor had just the right words for both my slap-dash style, and Malaka's more careful work.

The day's recipe was very simple, and we were given an illustration-rich recipe card that was very easy to understand. So far so good. I did, however, miss the chopping and measuring that usually goes with cooking. The teachers had everything ready-measured for handing to us to add at just the right moment, so you also missed out on the adrenaline rush from getting everything ready and added in good time.

Anyway, the day's recipe might have been simple, but it was delicious, and I did learn some things that I probably wouldn't have from a book. For instance that sugar and yeast are buddies, so put them close together in you bowl, but keep the egg separate till the very last second. And when making dough balls, cut and don't pull the dough, or you'll loose all the air inside. Ditto not overworking the dough. And for the same reason, always put the cut face (pinched together into what our teacher called an oshiri, or, ahem, "nether region"!) face down when waiting for it to rise.

Throughout the lesson there was plenty of talk about food (what else!), and much washing and drying of dishes at the end of each step. I guess this is necessary if the studio is full, but as it was not so busy the day we were there, I thought it a bit unnecessary to dry the dishes almost before they hit the draining board. But that's just me. I'll be taking my rubber gloves with me next time, as my poor hands didn't cope well with the constant immersion in water, and a quick squirt of alcohol before the start of each step. Still, it's good to know the school takes food hygiene very seriously (other than drying the dishes with a dish towel (g)).

So how to make these darling little breads? Here's my rendition of the recipe in words rather than pictures.

Tuna and onion quiche bread

Makes 6 breads around 10 cm in diameter

For the dough
50 g white bread flour
10 g plain white flour
2/3 tsp dry yeast
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 an egg, beaten; at room temperature
40-50 ml water, warmed to 42-43 degrees C

50 g white bread flour
10 g plain white flour
1/3 tsp salt
30 g butter; at room temperature

For the tuna and onion filling
160 g tinned tuna, drained
15 g onion, very finely chopped

For the egg filling
75 g egg, beaten
30 ml fresh cream
pinch of salt (optional; I felt it really didn't need it)
pinch of pepper
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese

To garnish
Dried parsley

1. Measure dough ingredients (1) (except the water) into a mixing bowl and (2) into a small bowl. Add water to bowl (1) and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until very smooth.

2. Add bowl (2) ingredients to bowl (1) and fold in. Turn out onto clean work surface and kneed with the heel of your hand until there are no lumps. Kneading forms gluten in the dough, making it elastic. Form into a ball, with the joint face down, and return to the mixing bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to rise in a 40 degree C oven for 25-35 minutes. (Many Japanese ovens have handy a dough function for this.)

3. Meanwhile, mix the tuna and onion filling and egg filling ingredients in 2 small bowls.

4. Use the finger test to check the dough has risen sufficiently. Insert a finger up to the first knuckle, and if the indentation remains, the dough is ready. Punch the excess gas out of the dough and use a blunt knife to form 6 equal portions. Do not pull the dough apart with your hands as this will let all the gas out. Take each portion one by one in the palm of your less dominant hand and gently form into a ball using 3 large circular motions around the edge of the dough. Place the 6 balls seam side down on an oven tray, cover with a damp towel and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

5. After resting the dough, place each ball seam side up and spread out into circles around 12 cm in diameter. Fit into foil cases, leaving a little (say 2 mm) of the dough hanging over the edge. Prick all over with a fork. Divide tuna and onion filling equally between the 6 dough-lined cases. Cover with cling film and a damp tea towel, and place in 40 degree C oven again to rise for a further 20-25 min. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C if gas, or 200 degrees C if electric.

6. Brush rim of dough with lightly beaten egg and divide the egg filling equally between the quiches. Bake in oven for 9-13 minutes if gas, or 11-15 minutes if electric.

7. When egg filling is cooked, remove from oven to cooling rack and sprinkle with dried parsley.


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