Tuesday, April 2, 2013

bill's Coconut Bread

I got so excited when baking this one that I forgot to take photos! (Also, I was running late for Easter Sunday lunch and I was determined to finish making this so I could take it with me (and score a return invitation!) With or without photos - this is a winner.

Rumour has it that this is so popular that it cannot be taken off the menu at bill granger's restaurants in Sydney. Having lived a block away from bill's 2 I can only lament that my undying obsession with scrambled eggs meant I never even looked at anything else on the menu - I have learnt my lesson.

bill granger's coconut bread

I made roughly 1 1/2 batches ( to serve as 1 1/2 hostess gifts ... I ever so politely stay long enough to ensure I'm served some!) with the amounts as below.

4 very small eggs
1 cup coconut milk
7/8 cup (I know ... why bother? ... but that's what I did) 
     semi skimmed milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
210g dessicated coconut
125g melted salted butter

Heat oven to 180 (I used fan-forced this time so had it down at 160).

Whisk together eggs, coconut milk, milk and vanilla.

In a larger bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, cinnnamon and sugars, before adding the coconut. Then gently fold in the contents of the other bowl before adding the melted butter.

Pour mix into one regular and one small loaf tin. This time I buttered and floured and it came out wonderfully. That said, the crust on this is pretty amazing so I have a feeling it'd probably be fine to leave any non-stick tins as is.

Now, the bit that made me late ... bake for and hour, or so, until a skewer comes out cleanly. I pulled the smaller one out just before the hour was up and after 1 hr 10mins I cranked the oven up to 180 (fan forced, remember) for another 10 minutes or so. Not ideal, but I had roast lamb waiting for me, and any 30-something Aussie girl knows that a lamb roast is better than a date with Tom Cruise (oh, how the times have changed!).

Let cool in the tins for 5-10 minutes then wrap up loosely in a teatowel and hurry off to Easter Sunday lunch! (As an aside, taunting people with the smell of freshly baked cake/bread on the train may be my new favourite pasttime!)

Next time: I'd soak the coconut in the coconut milk, and maybe use a higher proportion of coconut milk; I'd use more brown sugar (I ran out this time); I might brown the butter, or replace it with coconut oil; I think I'd add some sort of tropical fruit somehow ...; and mainly I'd like to convert it back to a cake. If nothing else (but trust me, this is so good it doesn't need anything else) I'd like to use this as a springboard to creating my very first cake recipe ... we'll see...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Defrosted Rustic Loaf

Way back when I last blogged I froze half a  batch of dough for use on a rainy day. It's not exactly rainy at the moment but with a long weekend just starting and the cold weather never-ending the timing sounded good enough to me!

I pulled the batch out of the freezer two days ago and left it on the drainer to defrost. At some point between then and this morning I realised that the bag had expanded and the dough was obviously rising again in my absence. I gently deflated and popped the defrosted dough in the fridge for a bit over a day. It rose a little again in the meantime before I rather neatly dropped it out of the bag, ready to roll.

I rolled it out as previously:

"Shape ... into a rough square and roll into a cylinder, then roll from one end into another cylinder before resting for 5 minutes.

Gently roll into a log, tapering at the ends, place on a floured baking tray, cover with cling wrap or a tea-towel and leave to double in size again."

It didn't rise as well as I'd hoped, but I'll assumed that was because of the way I defrosted it.

Nevertheless, the neat little loaf went into the oven which had been heated to 260 and then dropped to 220. As before, I had a steaming tray of water on the shelf below, which I think really made the difference this time. I turned the oven down to 170 after 15 minutes and then cooked for another 20 minutes before pulling out to cool.

At this point I was so absorbed with my spring cleaning that I didn't check the base of the loaf and when I went back to check a while later there wasn't quite the hollow sound that I'd been hoping for. Even so, the loaf wasn't a complete loss - though not as dense as I would have hoped. Still, incredibly tasty, especially served warm with lashings of salty butter - oh yes.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Back to bread basics

I'm going to get to grips with this bread baking, but at the moment I'm just enjoying getting the hang of how all the ingredients and processes work ... I think baking is the only time I manage to find science interesting ...

When I prepped the (considerably fresher) yeast this time around I realised what might have gone wrong last time ...

And I also tried to (unsuccessfully) mix it up with sesame seeds this time, and I've got my heart set on a lovely salted rosemary loaf in the near future ...

Rustic White-ish loaf again

Once again, based on this recipe and I should also note that my cup and spoon measurements are US sized ... don't ask!

150ml + 350ml warm water
1 tspn sugar
1 tbspn dried active yeast
1 3/4 cups strong bread flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 1/2 cups plain flour
Additional plain flour for kneading and dusting

Dissolve sugar in 150ml of water and whisk in yeast. Leave to rest in a warm place for about 10 minutes until the surface is covered with bubbles. Lots of bubbles. Top up with the remaining water and pour into a large bowl. Add all the flour and stir until mixture comes together then tip out onto floured surface.

Knead for 8-10 minutes - or longer if you feel that way inclined - until the dough is elastic. Try not to add too much extra flour. Even if you end up with dough all over your hands and your sleeves seem to be continuously falling down while you knead. Flour is not the answer. Put the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave in a warmish place until it has doubled in size ... I think this time I left it about an hour, which was probably longer than necessary.

Tip the dough back onto a floured surface and gently press all the air out of it before splitting in half. At this point I put one half in the freezer to use at a later date. Apparently this is the time in the process to interrupt ... we'll see how that one goes! Shape the remaining half into a rough square and roll into a cylinder, then roll from one end into another cylinder before resting for 5 minutes.

Gently roll into a log, tapering at the ends, place on a floured baking tray, cover with cling wrap or a tea-towel and leave to double in size again. This time I sprinkled with sesame seeds (though I'm sure there are some rules about the best way to do this ... probably ways which mean the seeds stay put!) before slashing the top three times.

Somewhere in here was when things went wrong. Not wrong wrong, just not perfect. I think the loaf had developed a bit of a skin, which made all the efforts I made next to allow it to keep rising, a little redundant.

Pre-heat the oven to 260 degrees celsius and lower to 220 when you put the bread in. Place a tray with water on the lower shelf to create some steam which apparently allows the loaf to rise fully before the crust begins to form. After 20 minutes remove the water tray and turn the oven down to 180 for another 20-30 minutes. If it's anything like mine it should be more like 20 ... 

Put the loaf straight onto a cooling rack and wait as long as possible before slathering with butter. Then sit back, enjoy and feel wonderfully smug.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Flashback: Grannie's biscuits

There was something funny in the air yesterday.

From what felt like out of the blue I had a yearning to bake some biscuits that I used to make with my grandmother when I was a little girl. I made a tenuous link from the red of the cherries to the celebration of Chinese New Year; I had friends visiting and needed something to share and to thank them for coming to see me; and I had - for the millionth time - re-discovered the little book my grandmother gave me so that I could make her recipes even when she was far away.

Much later in the day, as i thought about this last point, I remembered it was the anniversary of my grandfather's death. That day was a Sunday too, and it tore my world apart like I never imagined it would.

So here's to memories; to family and friends of the past, present and future; to staying close, even when you're very, very far away.

Grannie's Biscuits

This is how big walnuts are. Honest.
I made a minimal tweak, because I forgot I needed chopped mixed nuts, so I threw a few walnuts and macadamias in the food processor. I also used bottled lemon juice. I'm sorry Grannie, I won't do it again. So here's the recipe as it was written down for 6 year old me.

8 oz margarine or butter
4 oz caster sugar
10 oz plain flour
Finely grated rind of one lemon (or a good squeeze of lemon juice
1 oz chopped glacé cherries (roughly 9 or 10)
1 oz chopped mixed nuts

Cream all together then form into balls the size of a walnut. 

As an aside, when making these I realised that I learnt the size of walnuts, not from actual walnuts but from the size i learnt to roll balls of biscuit dough when you're told to roll them the size of walnuts.

Exactly how Grannie did it - in case you were wondering
But on with this terribly complex recipe. 

Put onto baking trays - space out nicely, press each one out a little to flatten then dip fork into flour and put lines on each one - here's the tricky bit - "like you did with Grannie."

I can see where some of you might struggle with that step. Don't put too much pressure on yourselves, I'm the only person in all of eternity fully qualified to do it properly.

Bake for 15-20 mins or until nicely browned. 325°

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bread Take Two: Rustic white-ish loaf

This time it was a combination of completely running out of bread (which was worse than usual because I was roasting a ham and thus had no way of making sandwiches with the leftovers!), and a desire to get this bread thing right.

I returned to old reliable, remembering that Deb had gone through a bit of an obsession with bread a few years back. There were two posts which she then simplified a little here and all three are filled with recipes I'm now feeling a bit more confident about trying out!

I based my recipe on this post though, wanting to make a loaf which was as simple as possible. It turned out well despite my experimentation although I still struggle with timing - I really like to cook at my pace rather than when the food decides it's ready, which isn't the ideal attitude for bread!

The loaf didn't end up quite the shape I was hoping for - it eventually proved quite well, but the final loaf didn't rise. I think this was a combination of my lack of attention and also the shape I made for the final prove. I guess time will tell if I've got the knack of this. It was however delicious, seemed to be the right consistency and had a lovely crust.

As is now habit, I'm telling it like it is, not necessarily as it should be!

Rustic white-ish loaf

1 cup warm water
1 1/4 tspn dried active yeast
1/4 tspn sugar
1 1/2 cup plain flour
3/4 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 cup white bread flour
Additional plain flour for dusting the loaf

Mix the warm water, yeast and sugar in a jug and leave for 5 minutes or until foam appears over the surface of the liquid.

Place all the flour in the food processor and pour in the liquid. Pulse until mix has formed into a ball and then leave to rest for 5-10 minutes. Let me machine run for about 20 seconds and then check the consistency to see if it's sufficiently kneaded -I gave mine another 20 seconds.

Place ball of dough in an oiled bowl, cover with clingwrap and leave to prove until it has doubled in size.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and gently press to deflate creating a square roughly 10 x 10 inches. Roll up tightly, then roll up again in the other direction before leaving to rest for 5 minutes. Gently roll out to elongate and move onto lightly dusted baking tray seam side down.

Cover with clingfilm and leave to prove again. About 20 minutes into this i decided I didn't like the shape of the loaf and repeated the rolling process. Leave to prove for around 30 minutes.

As you leave the loaf to prove preheat the oven to 260.

Before putting the loaf in the oven, dust the top with some more flour and slash the top a couple of times (I snipped it with scissors). Turn the oven down to 230 and place the loaf in also placing an empty baking tray on a lower shelf to absorb some of the heat.

After 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 180 and bake for another 20 minutes before removing and cooling on a rack.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Absinthe Cookies: yes, they really are a thing.

Wholefoods and generous friends to the rescue! Right?!
Except that they're not. 

Or they weren't until I invented them. Or , more correctly, until I invented 'Absinthe flour-free chocolate cake mushed up with a bit of cream cheese frosting (cake pop style) then pressed and cut into cookie sized shapes before being dolloped with a generous portion of Channel Islands cream flavoured with Cointreau and then smothered with green edible (but not digestible!) glitter'.

And despite getting a 'special mention' by the judging panel, they are unlikely to be a thing ever again.

I had a flourless chocolate cake flavoured with Absinthe. "I know! I'll cut it into stars and serve that as a course," I thought. "Everyone likes chocolate; Absinthe will make me look really glamorous, exotic and adventurous; and cutting dense cake into shapes with cookie cutters is dead simple."

I had a minor panic when I realised that I couldn't get enough servings using the cutter I'd chosen. Then, while I contemplated what to do I nibbled at some crumbs. That was when total and utter disaster struck - turns out, I really don't like Absinthe.

For reasons that seemed sensible at the time, I crumbled up the cake, stirred in a basic cream cheese frosting with a big of cocoa, mushed it all together and then rolled it out until it was about 5mm thick. Then I froze it briefly to make it easier to cut. After a bit I pulled it out if the freezer, cut into stars and layered it into a box with greaseproof paper to separate.

Stolen from little swallow : china doll with many thanks
When serving up I laid the 'cookies' on the plate and tried to smother them with the ridiculously delicious Cointreau cream I'd impulse bought while waiting for a delivery earlier in the evening. Then sous chef B took control and enthusiastically smothered them in green glitter.

I have never felt so uncomfortable as I do when serving people something I've made which I don't like. It's just not right.

They were really difficult to pick up and they were horrid. Well, they were horrid to someone who doesn't like Absinthe. But I totally would have licked the cream and glitter off each and every one of them!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Jamie Oliver's Banana & Honey Bread

As I sat at home on on a Saturday night, sick for the second weekend in a row, I had three serendipitous thoughts. 

The first was that I had no bread in the house. No bread meant no toast to have with my scrambled eggs in the morning - the only thing that would redeem not having been out the night before. The second was that while I was stuck in I might as well try to finish my list of new year's resolutions before it turned into a thesis. The third was that there was an obvious solution linking both of them, so I procrastinated a while longer and decided to make Jamie's Banana & Honey Bread for breakfast.

As usual, I made compromises. I used defrosted bananas; I think my yeast was a little old and I totally miscalculated; I forgot to add the honey; I ended up proving it about 3.5 times; and finally my breakfast was ready at ... well ... dinnertime.

I haven't quite worked out the best way to blog these things, so below is how I baked. I'd recommend sticking to Jamie's recipe.

Lizzie's Banana & Honey Bread

400g strong bread flour
100g wholemeal flour
3 bananas (defrosted)
0.5 tbspn dried active yeast
1/2 tspn + 2 1/2 tspn sugar
1/2 tbspn salt
4 tbspn runny honey

Knead, knead, knead, knead, knead and knead again ..
Whisk the bananas until there's no lumps and top up with warm water to make 325ml. Add the yeast, 1/2 sugar to the mix, stir and leave for 10-15 mins until the top is covered in foam.

In a large bowl mix the flours, remaining sugar (2 1/2 tspn) and salt, then make a well in the middle. Pour in half the banana and yeast mix and stir with a fork until it becomes too sticky. Then, add the remaining banana liquid and mix with your hands until it all comes together. Jamie said to knead for 4-5 minutes, thought that really wasn't enough for mine. A wise woman once told me that it's nearly impossible to over-knead by hand so I've believed that ever since. The dough is ready when it's pliable and elastic. One day when I've made enough bread I think this this'll come naturally, the same way I've learned to tell if a mix is right or a cake is baked properly.

This stage is not highly attractive.
Then put the round into a bowl covered with clingfilm and leave in a warm, moist place for 30 minutes. Mine didn't rise properly so I panicked and googled and kneaded again for 5-10 minutes before putting back in the bowl to rise for another 30 minutes. At this point I realised I'd completely forgotten the honey so I kneaded half of it in and left it to prove again for a while ... Finally (nearly) I pounded the air out of the mixture, shaped into 6 buns and placed in a round tin dusted with flour. At this point things looked really sticky and messy and highly un-photogenic. Seeing as though I am typing this blog in real time I appear to have committed myself. Unless I declare them inedible (which would really be saying something for me). So, prove them again for a bit - 30 minutes seems to be the favourite number. This proving is the important one as  this is the one that goes to bake. Once they've doubled(ish) pour over the remaining 2 tbsps of honey and put into the oven preheated to 190 degrees. Bake for about 25 minutes - I opened the oven at 20 mins to see how it was going and decided to squeeze some more honey over the top. Serve while warm. Eat them all. By this point you've earned them!

I was prepared to be disappointed but this... well, once you remember that you've just made bread, not the cake-like delicacy that I think of as 'banana bread', it's heavenly. It was a little heavy and stodgy and I know I can improve on it, but seriously, this stuff is great. And the wholemeal makes the lashings of butter so very acceptable!

What I also learnt today: An Australian tablespoon is bigger than a UK/US tablespoon by about 1/3 again (20ml vs 15ml). I always know there's differences in cups but i don't think I realised the tablespoon measurement was so drastically different. Must remember for when I'm called upon to make my godson's birthday cake. Please feel free to remind me.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Strawberry Tart: And then there were four...

This is the vibe I was aiming for
At our most recent Supperclub Petal served us a delicious strawberry tart with a balsamic, honey glaze, served with lashings of cream of course.

It was so simple and delicious that it seemed like an ideal fruity option to add to the menu, which could be easily turned into individual portions.

The carnage which followed just serves as evidence as to why I shouldn't experiment when cooking for others...

I had oh so carefully prepared my circles of pastry & my glaze - everything that could be chopped, mixed or baked ahead of time was neatly tucked into containers and packed into carry bags like a puzzle for OC bakers. I'd even got a little crazy and added some pepper to the glaze. I'd toyed with the idea of basil cream but thought better before I clogged our arteries completely.

As we began the prep, I laid the pastry into a greased. shallow cupcake tray, sliced the strawberries and strategically laid them into the tarts, and then handed them over to my sous chef B who gently painted them with glaze before I unceremoniously shoved the lit in the oven. 

B made an admirable rescue effort after I left them ...
When they emerged a little later - cook them until the pastry browns I figured - the strawberries had unattractively shrivelled (as they do), and the glaze had puddled in the base.

As midnight rapidly approached, I made an uncharacteristically rapid decision and decided not to serve them. It's fortunate I did, as when I returned to them later I found them stuck to the tin. Such an event would have sent me into meltdown pre-2013, but the new year brought with it a more relaxed, more mature outlook on the world (and by then I realised that 2 desserts each would have been plenty...)

I have no advice other than 'don't do what I did'. I will however be trying this again in summer - firmly sticking to the recipe!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Lemon Posset-y: Simple, tart indulgence

The New Year's Eve pudding-fest just keeps rolling ...

I knew I wanted something tart (in addition to the tarts) and originally was looking for an excuse to use up my lemon curd - ideally a lemon cheesecake with a curd swirl through it. 

Despite my best intentions practicality took over and I decided to go for something simple ... but keeping the digestive crust which is possibly my favourite part of any dessert. 

After lots of googling I decided to adapt the recipe from this article - ironically about the best summer ingredients. Why this one? Well, the author Simon Hopkinson was first served it by Lucy Crabb who was one of the chefs with who he and Terence Conran started Bibendum. And I am fascinated by Bibendum for so many reason - it, and the Michelin Building really is Terence to me.

But back to the cream and sugar etc.

I had already decided to serve this in small plastic wine glasses. Apart from looking pretty (though I did have my doubts about that) I was short on dishes and keen to save on the washing up.

Lemon Posset-y
Makes 10 small-ish servings in plastic wine glasses

Base 11 digestive biscuits
100g melted butter

Mix and fill bottom of glasses/ramekins. I left these in the fridge overnight. It probably doesn't need that long, but they should have a good hour in the fridge.

600ml double cream
165g caster sugar
150ml lemon juice (approx 3 lemons)

In a large pan, bring the cream and sugar to the boil and continue boiling for 3 minutes. The article makes note, as do I, that a large pan is important as the cream drastically expands as it boils.

Remove pan from heat and whisk in lemon juice. At this point I took a tip from another article (which for the life of me I cannot remember) and sat the pan in some cold water to cool the mix down a little. Strain through a fine sieve - I'm not entirely sure why this step is necessary, but perhaps I was luckier than most and didn't end up with any lumps. I strained into my mixing bowl which has a spout - it's just so useful for so many things, especially pouring into glasses or ramekins.

When I poured my mix in it stirred up some of the  crumbs from the bottom which is not ideal. not sure how to fix this one other than making sure the crust is firmly squashed down and pouring the mix in gently.

Tap the bottom of the glasses/dishes/whatever against the bench-top to get rid of any bubbles.

Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.


I made an attempt at candied lemon peel based on this recipe from smitten kitchen ... admittedly, they didn't quite work out, but even so I wouldn't bother again...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Nutty Balls: An unassuming champion

In the foodie feast that was New Year's Eve 2012 ... On a side note, it feels wrong to write 2012 when it was actually the eve of 2013, though my figuring is that it was New Year's Eve in 2012 and I shall stick with that until Google tells me differently ... but back to our gluttonous celebrations ...

Despite the effusive praise heaped upon the those marvellous meringues and luscious lemon possets there was a small little sweet treat that made its appearance after everything had been cleared away, after we all insisted that we never wanted to look at food ever again, that seems to have been the dark horse.

My New Year crush (Please note those awfully healthy apples in the background)
Small melting mouthfuls that are suitable for eating at any time of the day (honest) these 'Cashew Butter Balls', now affectionately known as 'Nutty Balls' - variations of which are called Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Polvorones - came to my attention the weekend before Christmas and my life has been the better for it.

Perhaps as I write more, and more frequently, my utter devotion to Smitten Kitchen will become a wee bit obvious. I love Deb's style of writing, I love the way she photographs her food, I love her somewhat obsessive nature, I love that we have quite different tastes. 

I also love cashews. When – in her post about these mouthfuls of melting yumminess – Deb wrote "...I’ve never made them or absolutely anything else with cashews because I don’t much care for cashews", I was mildly appalled, before figuring that if these had converted her, even momentarily, it was rather likely that I would not be averse to their charms.

I made these as Christmas gifts, I took them with me on Christmas Day, and at last, triumphantly they made their full public debut as 2013 dawned. 

My advice: take the cashews out of the oven before they're done and/or take them off the hot tray immediately; I prefer to roll the biscuits by hand; the sugaring is fiddly but worth spending the time; and never, ever, think that you've made too many - there is no such thing.

I don’t think I can improve on Deb’s recipe – not yet at least -  though I thoroughly intend to try her many variations as soon as humanely possible.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Start as I mean to go on?

As I've written elsewhere, 2013 started with a feast of epic proportions and neatly worked in to my resolution to "cook for people more" ...

Now seemed like as good a time as any to start documenting my baking 'adventures' (let's face it, they're rarely that adventurous) so I'd always remember the good, the bad and the ugly.

So here goes ...