On a glorious mid winter sunny day, I decided it’s been too long since we had wood fired pizzas from Big Bill my clay oven.
We had Anna over and enjoyed a nice long catchup in the sun. Apart from pizzas, I also quickly grilled a few mackerels found at the fish mongers that morning. Diego my puss in boots happily finished off the special treats of mackerels heads, after having his littles paws smacked over the pizzas.
Even though it was a sunny day, the temperature was low, and it had been hard to keep the oven as hot as usual. So after we finished the pizzas, I got a fire going from the embers again. It burned down after 45 minutes or so, during which time I flattened and dimples the focaccia dough into two trays. I wanted fat, fluffy focaccia this time, so each tray took 1Kg of dough. One had olives studded all over, the other is simply topped with thyme and rock salt.
After I swept the embers out of the oven, I shut the door to let the oven “soak”, so as to let the temperature even out inside. Then the focacce were baked for just 15 minutes with the door slightly ajar because the oven was over 250C at this stage.
After the focacce, I loaded Big Bill with two loafs of light rye and seeds sourdough (front), two chocolate brioche (mid), and a cheesy potato and parsnip slice (in red tin). The temperature was around 220C when I loaded the oven, and I let them bake for 45 minutes.
These chocolate brioche requires a special mention. They are PROBABLY THE BEST BRIOCHE EVER! (Oh, speaking like a proud mother…) Seriously, they are AMAZING because they were made with cacao butter instead of dairy butter. I didn’t put any eggs into the dough, because I really wanted the cacao butter’s flavour to fully shine. And it sure did!
After the brioche dough had risen, I rolled it out and smeared it with a thin layer of molten chocolate, then rolled up into a log and twisted from the middle (see here). I let it fully rise again before baking, and it was so airy and decadent indeed! The whole loaf has this intoxicating chocolate smell, and it was really hard to concentrate when I had a loaf in the car going to the Kiwi Parents’ for dinner.
After all the bread came out of Big Bill, The oven temperature had dropped significantly to around 160C, due to the short firing time. This temperature is just perfect for slow cooking. I stuffed Big Bill with two pots of pork ribs coated with seasoned crushed glutinous rice (粉蒸肉) (pictured above). Along with the pork, there was also a leg of lamb covered in a spice paste over a medley of vegetables.
The lamb was baked in a lidded pot, and all that juice came out of the lamb itself. I did not add any water to it prior to baking. The juice was this beautiful red colour because of the beetroots I baked with the lamb. Along with beetroots, there were also pumpkins, swedes, and parsnips. The spice paste was made by processing an onion, a handful of almonds, yogurt, and plenty of spices.
I took the meat out of Big Bill practically 24 hours after they went into the oven. (Of course they didn’t need to be in there for that long, but it doesn’t hurt to just leave them in until we came home from work the second day.) The middle of the pots were still hot enough to serve straight away without more heating. Kiwi Bird and I had a bit of each for dinner, plus some salads (lamb on the right, ribs on the left).
I reheated the left over lamb and blended the spice paste into the broth. It ended up being this wonderful creamy affair, which I shall serve with couscous for another dinner.