If you are looking for a quick and simple festive appetiser that will wow your guests, then look no further than this Goat’s Cheese, Pear, Honey and Thyme Tartine. It gets back to basics with a delicious sourdough loaf using a recipe from Le Pain Quotidien Belgian Bakery.
One of the greatest flavour combinations there is, and one that always reminds me of the festive season, is goat’s cheese and honey. The subtle flavour from the goat’s cheese is brought to life by the honey and it’s a favourite appetiser at this time of year.
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Goat’s cheese is probably one of the best cheeses. Probably. I’m not willing to fully commit to that decision when there is still so much cheese out there to discover. But I adore it, which made it particularly hard when I had to give it up during pregnancy. But believe me, I am more than making up for it now.
We have just started to plan out our Christmas menu. As foodies, a Christmas menu is a serious decision and not one to be taken lightly. The main course is a given, but the starter and dessert is open for discussion every year. We have been guilty of not giving too much thought to the starter and serving the classic, but maybe a bit boring, prawn cocktail. It always goes down well, but this year we wanted something a little more exciting.
Soup makes a good starter, but it’s a bit too filling for a day full of food. A salad? Not overly festive and there will be enough salads eaten in the new year. But this goat’s cheese, pear, honey and thyme tartine does exactly what a starter should – it fills a space in your belly, but leaves you hungry for more. It’s light, flavourful and so easy to prepare. That leaves you plenty of time to perfect those roast potatoes, which are the most important part of the whole day in my opinion.
Although the goat’s cheese and honey are the main flavours of this appetiser, the bread is what holds it together. It is therefore an important part to get right. That is why we made our own sourdough bread using a traditional Belgian recipe from Le Pain Quotidien. Disclaimer, the actual process of making the bread itself is not a quick one, and it will need to be done several days before you want to make this. But, it is so worth it and real bread shouldn’t be a quick process.
I have mentioned before that my Nan is from Belgium and we visited a lot when I was little. Along with chocolates and waffles, the other fond food memory I have is of fresh bread from the local bakery. No other bread since then has compared, until now. What makes this Belgian bread so good? The back to basics approach to their loafs, which don’t have any unnecessary ingredients in them.
We are joining Le Pain Quotidien in their mission to encourage people to ‘go back in time’ with bread and revert to traditional ways of baking. There has been a decline in bread sales over the past few years, as bread is portrayed as being ‘bad’. However, bread can definitely be part of a healthy diet if you go back to basics and eat traditionally made bread. We are all for using real ingredients, and as few ingredients as possible in our food – simplicity is best.
Head to the Le Pain Quotidien website to find your nearest bakery to try some bread for yourself. You can also enter their giveaway to win free bread for a year. Head over to their Instagram page to find out more.
Le Pain Quotidien bread is traditionally made with only 4 ingredients. 80% of bread now sold in supermarkets is made via an unnaturally fast bread making process and full of additives. “Most commercial bread these days is designed to stay soft for as long as possible – which is not really natural for bread. The demand for ‘ever-lasting’ cheap bread has meant a shift away from traditional ingredients towards additives, extra processing and poorer quality flour,”
Le Pain Quotidien use just 4 ingredients in their hand-kneaded sourdough loaves. We have followed that same method to make the loaf that is the base for these Goat’s Cheese, Pear, Honey and Thyme Tartine and you can taste the quality of the bread from the first bite.
- 75 g Whole rye flour
- 75 g All purpose (plain) flour
- 100 ml Water
- 250 g Culture
- 250 g All purpose (plain) flour
- 150 ml Water
- 295 g Culture
- 490 g Strong whole wheat or white bread flour
- 320 ml Water
- 10 g salt
- 250 g Stoneground whole wheat flour
- 175 ml filtered or spring water
- 70 g Sourdough Starter
- 6 g Fine sea salt
- 2 slices Sourdough bread
- 125 g Goat's cheese, sliced (about 5mm thick)
- 2 Pairs, sliced horizontally
- 2 sprigs Thyme (leaves only)
- Sea salt and Black pepper
- 1 tbsp Runny honey
Start by developing the culture. Mix the flours and water until thoroughly combined, then cover and let stand for 24 hours at room temperature. The mixture should rise and small bubbles will appear. It is now a culture.
Combine the ingredients, then cover and let stand at room temperature for 12 hours. Repeat every morning and evening, using 250g of the previous feeding's culture and discarding the rest. You want to see in increase in the number of small bubbles on the surface. After each feeding, the starter will continue to rise.
Now begin to make the sourdough starter. Knead all the ingredients together for approximately 5 minutes. Transfer the starter to a bowl and let rest, covered, for 5-24 hours - it needs to ripen before it is usable.
Once you get to the 24 hour mark, however, you must repeat the previous step for the starter to continue to be a viable culture: discard all but 250g of the starter and mix with 250g flour and 50ml water. Feedings can be stretched to 48 hours if the starter is kept in the fridge.
Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl or mixer fitted with a dough hook. Knead or mix on low for 3-5 minutes, until thoroughly combined. Knead or mix on medium-high for another 2-3 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Remove the dough and lightly oil the bowl. Replace the dough and cover loosely with clingfilm of a damp tea towel. Set aside to rise at room temperature for 1½ hours.
Set a timer for 15 minute intervals. At each interval remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 10 seconds.
The dough should now feel light and airy.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Flatten the dough into a square about 3 inches thick. Pick up each corner and pull them into the middle so that all four corners meet. Repeat, folding the corners into the centre again and seal them to prevent them springing back.
Place the dough in a linen-lined rising basket dusted with flour, keeping the seam upwards. Cover with cling film or a damp tea towel and allow to rise at room temperature for 3-4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 425°F (230°C/gas mark 8), with the baking stone in place and an oven proof dish at the bottom of the oven. Once hot, remove the stone from the oven and carefully turn the dough out on to it, seam side down. Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour. Score the bread using a sharp knife, then return the stone to the oven. Throw a handful of ice cubes into the oven proof dish and quickly shut the door. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the loaf has a golden brown crust and sounds hollow when tapped.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Preheat the grill to high.
Lightly toast the bread. Lay the cheese and pear slices alternately on the bread, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle with thyme and season with salt and pepper.
Place under the grill for about 4 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown slightly. Remove from the heat and drizzle with honey.
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~ This Goat’s Cheese, Pear, Honey and Thyme Tartine is a commissioned recipe for Le Pain Quotidien ~
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