Thursday, May 14, 2015

What you've made there is bread

The words of Mr Paul Hollywood ring in my ears as I write this post, as he said to a Great British Bake Off Contestant in 'Bagel Week' - 'what you've made there is bread'.

In the second edition of the Great Portuguese Bake Off, my friend and I decided to have a go at Bagels.   We took a recipe from Dan Lepard,  but I do have to say Mr Lepard is a little short on the descriptions of how and what your dough should look like to make it a good recipe.

So, half blind from the lack of descriptive text we started the test.  Old school vs New school.  I used traditional strong white flour, slow acting yeast and a lot of hand kneading and my friend used, ready to bake bread mix and a Kenwood and substituted the tablespoon of vinegar for bicarb of soda.


It started well, things often do.   Our dough looked similar.  Nice and firm although my friends was a bit sticky following the Kenwood.   We left them to rise.  Mine doubled in size in an hour or so, but my friends were a little sorry for themselves so they got put in the sun to help them along.

It came to the boiling of the bagel dough.  It turns out, this is quite important, as it stops your bagel becoming bread by stopping any rising in the oven,  Mr Lepard does not explain that, instead he says to boil your bagel for 30 to 60 seconds....which is quite a big difference in dough world. 

I was thrilled, mine looked shiny, risen and started to fluff up in the oven as they went golden brown.


 My friend had a different experience, following the sunshine the dough had risen well, but as soon as you stick a finger in to make the bagel hole the dough seemed to shrink.  Boiling them gave them too much brown colour (from the sugar in the boiling water) and in the oven the outside cooked too quickly making them very brown and underdone inside.

Despite the lovely looking display, the bagels were not quite bagels.  Mine had not been boiled long or hard enough so rose in the oven making a bread like bagel, nice but without the chew needed for bagels.  My friend's bagels went brown on the inside (white flour was used), they had a stronger malty quality and had almost 'shrunk' in the oven.

The shrinking was the over proving in the sunshine, the brown insides is anyone's guess....we don't know what caused this at all - the bread mix/the bicarb or the second  hand boiling water boiling to hard to give too much colour throughout.....I have not been able to find a reason for this online.

I suppose it does not really matter, sitting outside in the afternoon sun with a bagel smothered in cream cheese and a chilled glass or two (or five) of white wine, it seemed less important to have a perfect bagel but more important to have a good friend and a fun day of bake off!

Next time - Eclairs!!

Watch the GBB bagel episode here.

Mr Lepard has updated his recipe from his book and a new version is online

Friday, May 1, 2015

The long wiat

Waiting for a doctor in Portugal is a bit of a pain.  Whether it's a scan, a check up, an examination or something else, the Portuguese wait for hours.

I'm not saying that the health service is bad in Portugal as the health care you receive as a foreigner here is excellent.  It's the 'service' element that needs some attention.

Portugal's health service has a real problem, especially in our central location.  A very aging population combined with a serious amount of chronic diseases, cuts in funding, doctors moving overseas to earn more money, all go to add up to a system which from the outside view is in crisis. 

As an EU Citizen living in Portugal, you are entitled, automatically, to the same care a Portuguese person would get.  This includes a family doctor, emergency service and hospital care should the worst happen.  

However, a visit to the doctor means at least a 3 hour wait in my experience and a visit to a health care service as an outpatient in the hospital is a whole lesson in patience.    

Our health service runs a 'triage' clinic for people who don't have an appointment booked (an appointment is booked 3 weeks in advance).   You turn up a the health center before 9am to find a waiting room already full of old people.   You have to find the nurse, she asks what's wrong, takes your blood pressure and weighs you, then tells you to sit down.   You wait.

You wait.

Finally the receptionist, whose job it is to hate people and computers, comes and tells you to pay.  This means you're in, you pay your five Euro and you sit back down.   If the receptionist is feeling friendly or you ask with the nicest smile you have in your repertoire then you can find out 'roughly' what time you'll get seen.  
You go for a coffee

You come back

You wait

You wait

Then you get in.  

The doctors are always nice, they don't rush you.  They give you a bit of a Portuguese lesson and thank god, often they speak perfect English.   You never know how awful it is to try to describe pain in another language. 

It's much the same when you have an appointment at a clinic.  You turn up on time, but this time is just a 'rough guide' often 50 people have the same appointment time as you.   At a clinic you need to watch for the 'ticket system'  some waiting rooms operate on a 'take a ticket and wait your turn' system, some don't.  Failure to notice the hidden ticket machine can lead to a very long wait indeed.  Other clinics just make you queue. 

Queuing is something the Portuguese and the English have in common - we do good queuing! 

The moral of this story is to take a good book - You're going to be waiting a long time!