Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fruit Breads

Do you have a favourite fruit bread fruit combination? These are some of the ones I've made recently:

Date and walnut
Dried apricot
Fig and glacé ginger

I was particularly hopeful about the fig and ginger one, but it wasn't quite as mind blowingly good as I had hoped it would be (although it was still very nice). Perhaps it was too wholemeally? Perhaps it was the wrong shape (the dough was very wet and I didn't handle it well so it was flatter than I wanted, and I got rather cranky).

I think so far the dried apricot one is my favourite. I have a bunch of raisins and currants sitting in the pantry, so I might use those up next time, with almonds! Any other suggestions?

Blurry photo, sorry!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Things I don't normally do

There are two things I hardly ever bake: biscuits/cookies and pastry.

Biscuits (however tasty) involve faff. You have to make lots of little balls of dough, roll them, flatten them, bake them in lots of batches (or at least I do; our oven is small)... Yawn. I prefer to make one big thing, like a cake, that I can just stick in there and forget about for half an hour or whatever, without being chained to the kitchen. However, having made the oatmeal raisin cookies from Veganomicon (photo here) - VERY PATIENTLY I might add, three sheets worth of carefully rolled and flattened cookies) - I am prepared to admit that diligence does pay off. I'm just not that keen on that much diligence very often.

Pastry - I lack confidence with. I am intimidated by the concept of making and handling pastry. I'm not quite sure why though, because despite my fear I have made several lots of shortcrust pastry in the last month or so and each has turned out well, and even been easy! Perhaps my developing bread-baking skills are giving me more confidence. Even more exciting is the fact that I now know how to make sourdough pastry, using this recipe from Wild Sourdough:

50g sourdough starter (any kind; I normally use rye)
310g wholemeal wheat or spelt flour (I haven't tried it with white flour yet)
85g water for plain pastry or maple syrup for sweet (honey also works)
75g olive oil
1 tsp salt (optional so far as I'm concerned)

Preheat oven to 200C.

Combine the liquid ingredients including starter and mix thoroughly. Stir into the flour and add the salt if using. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before rolling out and lining your pie dish - this is enough pastry for a 26cm tart or about 3 dozen mini tarts. (It also works well for free-form tarts.) Prick the base several times with a fork.

Rest for 30 minutes in the fridge before filling and baking - you can also blind bake it for about 10 minutes or so if you want to add a filing later.


I filled this little stack of sweet tart cases with the following coconut-chocolate ganache:

200ml coconut cream
200g dark chocolate (50-70% cocoa depending on how sweet you want it)

Heat the coconut cream in a small saucepan over low heat until steaming. Remove from the heat. Break up the chocolate into small chunks and add to the coconut cream, stirring until completely melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly then pour into tart cases. It will thicken and set as it cools. Store in the fridge.

It's not super-strong in the coconut flavour - you might like to add some coconut essence or liqueur or something if you want it stronger. You can use it as a sauce for ice cream or to ice a cake. Or just eat it. It's pretty good.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Taking Things at a Different Pace

I tend to rush around. I like to get from A to B at a brisk pace. I tell myself I can 'slow down later'. Well, like tomorrow, later never comes... or when it does it tends to get filled up with other stuff that Has To Be Done Now.

Having a toddler in tow, however... well. That's a whole different thing isn't it. Either Pippin is attached to my leg making it difficult for me to get from A to B (and I'm talking about from the bench to the kitchen table, not some epic trip), or else I'm holding his hand while he toddles alongside me, forcing me to go at a pace his little legs can manage. Or else he's in the stroller and I'm going along at a fair crack and then I remember that I could go slower and actually point things out to him, talk to him, take him OUT of the stroller even (brainwave!) and let him potter around a bit, before continuing on our way.

Guess what? You can see and do some pretty fun and lovely things when you slow down a little bit.

Conservatory at the Fitzroy Gardens

 Tudor Village (ripe for stomping, Tokyo-style?)

 Snoozing wizard

Although that said... Pippin CAN also move himself from A to B pretty fast when he wants to, especially when A is one end of the kitchen where his toys are and B is the other end where the rubbish bin is.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What I've been baking lately

Half 'n half wheat-spelt sourdough, my new favourite I think - I've made two batches; this was the first and it was better than the second. Not quite sure why? That said the second batch was quite different from the first... no spelt just white/wholemeal wheat, I remembered the salt, I made it free-form instead of in a tin, held the dough over in the fridge for 2 days... ok, ok, so basically it was two different loaves entirely.

 Oatmeal-raisin cookies from Veganomicon - the yummiest ever!

 A second batch of ciabatta, more successfully and carefully shaped this time.

And a second batch of Peter Reinhart's French Bread #1 from Crust and Crumb... the first batch tasted ok but I didn't even photograph it because it looked appalling. I got the shelves and heat wrong in the oven so it burnt on the bottom and didn't colour on the top. This batch was better. I had to return the book to the library but when I get my hands on it again I'm going to try a third time to see if I can improve some more!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Peaceful Sunday

 Bread on the rise...


a gorgeous posie of herbs and flowers 
(from the Collingwood Children's Farm market yesterday)

...and kitteh basking on the windowsill!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Lemonade Scones

I have never made lemonade scones before. Have you? I don't think I've ever even eaten them before. Which is a pity, because they are delicious, and easy! I made them to share with a lovely friend who came over for afternoon tea yesterday - kindly bringing with her some DELICIOUS homemade peach and vanilla jam (I am still swooning! It was that delicious. Did I already say that?).

I think I need to somehow mark my scone cutters with their sizes though (and my cake tins for that matter) because I never know how wide they are, and it is a pain to have to get out the tape measure or ruler every time. Except for the times when I don't, and then I end up with scones that are too big, like yesterday's. But that didn't really matter all that much because they were so yummy!

The ones I made were based on this recipe from my version was as follows:

300g self-raising flour, sifted
55g caster sugar
125ml soy milk
125ml lemonade (fizzy, not flat - you need the bubbles to make the scones rise or something)
zest of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 220C and lightly grease a baking tray or square cake tin.

Stir together the sifted flour, sugar and lemon zest. Pour in the lemonade and soy milk and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for a couple of minutes - the dough is very sticky so you'll probably need to add a little more flour. Press into a flat round about 2cm thick and cut out with a 6cm (theoretically) cutter. Place close together on the tray or tin and brush the top with a little more soy milk if desired. 

Bake for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your scones. Turn out and enjoy while still warm!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Something Lovely

Yesterday I had the opportunity - the first in weeks, if not months - to leave Pippin at home with a babysitter in the afternoon and go out! By myself!! For a couple of hours!!!*

I walked up to Smith St and had a potter around in the awesome Lost and Found Market... I managed not to buy anything... (this time) and then took myself to Las Vegan Bakery for chai (best I've ever had while out and about) and some comfort e-book reading: The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie.

(original cover image from wikipedia, link above)

I love Agatha Christie books. LOVE them. I had read most of them by the time I was 12 years old... starting age 8 with The Seven Dials Mystery which was on my mum's bedside table when I used to curl up in my parents' electric-blanketed bed instead of my own on winter nights (until I got shooed out when they wanted to come to bed!) and onwards and upwards from there.

They are totally my go-to comfort reading. I think my favourites tend to be Miss Marple ones, but Tommy and Tuppence are so spunky and awesome (especially Tuppence) that their tales come a close second. There is no better reading with a cup of tea (except perhaps a Tea Shop Mystery).

*no, that is not too many exclamation marks for this momentous event.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Something Lovely

Image from we heart it

Yesterday I read this post, 'You Are Already Perfect' from Zen Habits, and it really resonated with me. It was just what I needed to read and I hope you enjoy it too.

I particularly liked this bit:

And here’s another realization that I’ve written about before: You already have everything you need to be happy, right here and right now.

Do you have eyes that see? You have the ability to appreciate the beauty of the sky, of greenery, of people’s faces, of water. Do you have ears that hear? You have the ability to appreciate music, the sound of rainfall, the laughter of friends. You have the ability to feel rough denim, cool breezes, grass on bare feet … to smell fresh-cut grass, flowers, coffee … to taste a plum, a chili pepper, chocolate.

This is a miracle, and we take it for granted. Instead, we strive for more, when we already have everything.