Parma Ham, Mozzarella and Basil Brioche Couronne

The Yeasty Beasty

The Yeasty Beasty

I’m just going to put it out there, this butter enriched Brioche Couronne contains roughly 3,429 calories. That’s around 7 Big Macs. Its for the big dogs…and its totally worth it.

Its another one of Paul Hollywood’s masterpieces but he’s really outdone himself here. Containing a whole block of butter, 3.5 balls of mozzarella, 10 slices of parma ham, a large handful of fresh basil and good sprinkling of Parmesan this is by far and away the most ambitious and delicious bread I have set out to make on my Pollan-esque ongoing quest for the perfect sourdough loaf.

Typically a sweet bread, the Couronne here (literally ‘crown’ in French) has been adapted with oozing cheese to offset the buttery, flaky bread. I have to say I didn’t quite nail the aesthetics (as displayed more elegantly by a fellow blogger here) but the flavours were spectacular.

Because there was so much egg, butter and full-fat milk in the dough from the get-go, it made it very difficult to handle and shape. In fact, Hollywood recommends using a food mixer with a dough-hook attached but, despite my increasingly whimsical and frequent visits to Dentons Catering in Clapham North, I am still to acquire one of these bad boys. So I set about it by hand, gently canoodling the pieces of room temperature unsalted butter into the sticky dough yellow cube by yellow cube.

Then once it was mixed, popped it in for a first proofing into a greased cake tin into the airing cupboard. It emerged doubled in sized (going smoothly so far) and then I dumped it out onto the surface for the serious business of rolling it out and decorating with ham, cheese and basil. A holy enough trinity to transform even the humblest dough.

Pre-proof 1

Pre-proof number 2

This is when it started to go a little pear (or more specifically doughnut) shaped as I tried to elegantly roll, split and then tie the two stuffed dough-sausages into a crown shape. It was supposed to overlap like two pieces of rope but instead I just lost patience and mashed it together. Still, apparently doughnuts are the new cupcakes so I’m bang on trend with this monstrosity.

The couronne/doughnut was left to proof again (as per above pic) and then came out for a quick egg wash and generous coating of Parmesan (as per below pic). Needless to say, I was getting pretty excited at this point. Even timing my walk upstairs to the airing cupboard so I could garner praise from my housemates and visiting brother, feigning nonchalant. “Oh, what this old thing?”

Pre-oven

Pre-oven

Into the oven for 25 mins and the BOOM, the money shots:

Money Shot One: Cheeky Kitchen Wedge

Money Shot One: Cheeky Kitchen Wedge

Money Shot Two: Snack-on-way-to-Wandsworth-Road-Rail

Money Shot Two: Snack-on-way-to-Wandsworth-Road-Rail

I forlornly binned the last mouthful of this fine companion this evening as it was getting a little dry and my waistline was getting a little stretched. Fat-Bastard Special mention should go to my brother though who, on Saturday’s birthday visit, stumbled back to my house at 7 a.m on Sunday morning to demolish over half of the remaining loaf. I make that 3.5 Big Macs. Not bad.

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SushiSamba (review)

Rating: 9.6 / 10
Average meal per head: £70 – £80
Where: Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London. EC2N 4AY. (also NY/Miami/Chicago/Las Vegas)
Websitehttp://sushisamba.com/

One-line review: Unbelievably good Japanese/Brazilian/Peruvian mash-up food with stunning views, great bar and friendly staff to boot.
Top Dish: CHURRASCO RIO GRANDE (ribeye, chorizo, wagyu picanh served on hot stones with five dipping sauces)
Gripes: Just the price. Come prepared to (quite happily) lighten your wallet.

Review

I was certainly not anticipating my first review on The Whimsical Onion to be of such a flamboyantly swanky establishment but imagine, if you will, the emasculating yelp of excitement I let out when I realised where we had arrived for my belated and surprise birthday evening out. Nestled amid the omnipresent reflective glass and bustling drabness, the neon sign blazed across the City like first light into Dracula’s tomb. “SUSHISAMBA!” it cried. If only the disgruntled sushi chef (who to be fair I paparazzid upon entry) shared its welcoming embrace:

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From start to finish I have to say the whole evening was beyond excellent. Before you hit the main restaurant, there’s a three tier bar serving up awesome Asian/South American fusion cocktails (around £10.50 a pop) and a Sushi kiosk (pictured above) if you don’t fancy coming in for a full blown meal. Needless to say, the drinks and the views are more than enough reason to come by themselves. We took a Tonka Bean Old Fashioned and a Shiso Fine out onto the terrace for a cheeky aperitif.

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2013-05-22 21.28.39And from there we were whisked into the very cool dining-room, where people were munching away to a decidedly funky Bossa Nova backdrop. If you want the best views, best to ask to be booked at the back.

As I’ve already alluded to in the summary above, the food was superb. The menu is a little confusing to start with, divided up into subsections such as ‘Samba Rolls’, ‘Robata’ and ‘Raw’, but our waiter (lovely chap) was more than happy to help out while we munched on some spicy Padron Peppers. We went for three small plates and one large to share at his sagely recommendation. What followed was a taste-sensation:

Wagyu Gyoza

Wagyu Gyoza

Mixto Seviche

Mixto Seviche

Samba Roll London

Samba Roll London

But, and apologies if this has become rather a slide-show of decadence, nothing could prepare us for the main event. The Churrasco Rio Grande: chorizo sausage served on top of wagyu and rib eye steak on a bed of hot stones with five dipping sauces. A veggie’s nightmare, a carnivore’s wet dream.

Churrasco Rio Grande

Churrasco Rio Grande

Linda McCartney can fork off

Linda McCartney can fork off

I can’t remember ever having a slice of beef as tender as the wagyu component of this dish, melt in your mouth doesn’t even cover it. Plus, its not just the tender aspect that makes this dish a winner. The wagyu is offset by its meatier and slightly tougher partner in crime, the rib eye. Plus plus, I’m a massive sucker for anything that includes black beans on the side. A truly spectacular affair and I’m salivating right now more than the collective of Pavlov’s dogs just thinking about it. We were both pretty stuffed at this point but the desserts provided a welcome palate cleanse.

Chocolate Banana Cake & Apple Tiradito

Chocolate Banana Cake & Apple Tiradito

Apparently the same people own the Duck and Waffle which inhabits the floor above and is open 24/7. You can go there to watch the sunrise for breakfast, a feat I imagine is more easily achieved during the shorter winter hours. But still, definitely topping our next hit list for a special occasion. Now just need to rustle one up. Could ridding our cupboard of the moths count? Probably should.

Oh and did I mention the views? They’re not half-bad either.

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