Sunday, September 30, 2007

Daring Buns

Welcome to the tale of my daring bun baking experience in the genre of Jamie Oliver occasionally channelling Nigella.


Today we're going to be making buns. And not just any old buns

So the first thing I'm gonna do is some nice little cinnamon rolls. Lovely soft rolls laced with cinnamon and topped with crisp white fondant. Superb.

Then I'm gonna make some totally wicked sticky buns. Silky soft sweet pillowy rolls dripping with a lusciously smooth bronzen treacly caramel (cue long lilting stare down the camera lens).

Scene One - Cinnamon Buns

Right, first off, the cinnamon buns.

So what I'm gonna do is mix up a dough. All you've got to do right, is cream together some butter, sugar and salt. Throw in an egg. I've got a nice lemon here. What I'm gonna do is add a bit of zest. Just to give it that little bit of zing. (Cue some energetic zesting). Lovely. Now add your flour, yeast and milk. Hey presto, there it is. Now keep the mixer going and let it knead for 10 minutes and bob's your uncle.

Now if the dough insists on clinging to the centre of the dough hook and is just being whizzed around without actually being kneaded or anything. Not to worry. Just take it out and do it by hand.

Now if the dough is so soft that your hand just goes straight through it. Not to worry. All you've got to do is just keep adding flour until it looks about right. There you go, lovely.

So now what I'm wanna do is get really stuck into the dough for about fifteen minutes (cue strenuous kneading accompanied by some heavy breathing and grimacing facial expressions). Don't worry about that burning sensation in our arms. They won't fall off. And who couldn't do with a little bit of toning up. Just think how good you'll look down the beach this summer.

Right, that's done. Just bosh it in an oiled bowl, leave it rise for two hours, and happy days.

Just have a look at that. Totally pukka. Now get yourself a rolling pin and half your dough and turn out a bit of a rectangle. It don't have to be perfect. It's looks better if it's a bit rough and ready. So now what I wanna do is dust it with cinnamon sugar and sort of like roll it up. Lovely.

Right cut the roll into sort of like slices and pop them onto a baking tray. Don't worry if all the filling sort of like falls out onto the counter everywhere. We're going for rustic here. Leave them for another hour and a half until they're all satiny soft pillows of puffy fluffy goodness (cue simmering smirk into the camera).

(Cue shots of running about town on a motor scooter doing pointless errands overlayed by totally random background music from a band that's so ultra trendy noone has heard of it.)

Right, my buns are ready. Into the oven they go. Now's the time to get cracking on the sticky buns.

Scene two - Sticky Buns

Right, roll out the rest your dough, dust with your cinnamon sugar, roll up and cut. Just like before.

Now I'm gonna make the caramel for the top of the buns. Into the mixer goes white sugar, brown sugar, salt and butter. So now what I'm gonna do is cream that and then add in some corn syrup and a squeeze of lemon juice (cue exagerated squeezing complete with facial grimmacing). Keep mixing until it sort of like turns into a rich deeply dusky creamy cream. (Cue a lingering sidelong glance accompanied by a slight smile.)

So just get that into a pan. Nice and thin, about a 1/4 an inch thick which will be lovely. It doesn't have to be perfect, remember it's rustic. And sort of like dot with the buns. Then just leave it to proof.

Scene 3 - Cinnamon buns take two

Right, here are the cinnamon buns out of the oven. Just look at that. That's top top drawer. And in go the sticky buns.

What are buns without fondant icing right. Know what I mean. So here we go. Dead simple. Into a bowl icing sugar, lemon juice and warm milk. Just sort of whisk it together. Really give it some welly. (Cue shots of frenzied stirring with lots of facial grimmacing). That's the ticket. So have a little taste. (Cue finger dipping and tasting followed by some serious consideration). Mmmmm, I'm really pleased with that.

Now what I'm gonna do is just sort of like drizzle the soft snowy confection over the warm flaky sweetly scented buns (cue hair toss, backward head tilt and down the throat spoon licking). Just like that. If you've got endless uses for white fondant, make the whole recipe. You can drizzle it over some little crunchy biscuits, any old bits of fruitcake you've got lying around, your Grandad's false teeth. Go wild. Or do what I did and halve it. Too easy.

Scene 4 - Sticky buns take two

Now what I'm gonna do is have a bit of a peep under the buns before I take them out of the oven. You want to be sure you've got caramel. You really don't want to sort of like overcook them either. They'll go all hard and sort of like crispy. And then they won't be sticky will they.

Right turn them out. Whatever you do don't burn yourself. (Cue shots of an overly dramatic near miss, with a bit of a jump and some finger waving). And there you have it, sticky buns. I don't care what anyone else says there's never been anything better ever in whole history of the entire universe.

(Cue shots of lots of ultra trendy fake friends from central casting arriving, at the exact moment the food is ready, for an ultra trendy fake get together in a supercool rented for the purpose apartment, all overlayed by more random background music.)

(Cue shots of bun nibbling, dripping caramel (which somehow never gets into the long loose hanging hair) and finger licking.)

(Cue shots of central casting being disappointed at the slight dryness and lack of cinnamon in the cinnamon buns, but really enjoying the fondant icing.)

(Cue shots of central casting rhubarbing to each other about how totally delicious the sticky buns are, followed by shots of vague nausea because they are incredibly sweet and rich and scoffing down three in a row is never a good idea.)

Right cheers everyone. See you next time. (Cue late night shot of going into the kitchen and guzzling buns in the dark).

Scene 5 - The credits


Many thanks to Marce for a great challenge. The full recipe can be found on her blog. If it's not there yet it soon will be.

Why not check out the efforts of all the other fantastic Daring Bakers all around the world.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Lime Curd Butterfly Cakes

A little while ago I stumbled across the cupcake hero event being hosted by Laurie at Quirky Cupcake . I have a happy history with cupcakes and I just knew I had to participate.

When I was growing up, one of my weekly chores was to make a cake for lunchboxes, afternoon tea and so on. When I was about ten I discovered food colouring. This led to an outpouring of rainbow creations. Then I realised that by making cupcakes instead of a large single cake, I could multiply my canvass and give full vent to my colouring creativity.

The side benefits of this little scheme soon became obvious. It was easy for my Mum to identify the rate at which slices were disappearing out of a single cake. Much, much harder to keep track of a whole stack of cupcakes.

Then things got even better. I hit on the idea of adding sultanas. My sister hates them. Even more cakes for me then. Eventually, my Mum made me relent on the sultanas. So then I add jam, my sister hates that too. Haaaaa!! I was a mean child.

Anyway, the first step to being a cupcake hero was to find a recipe. I remembered that Donna Hay magazine had a cupcake special last year, so I decided to go with their base recipe. Having made them I have to say that, while they were good, I don't think it is the best recipe ever. A bit too dense and heavy for my taste. I prefer something lighter and more sponge like.

The theme for this month's event is lime. I had pretty much decided that I wanted to make butterfly cakes. They were always a feature of birthday parties when I was little. I loved them, I thought they were just so pretty.

The obvious thing seemed to be to make some lime curd for the filling of the cakes. I regularly make lemon curd based on a fantastic Delia Smith recipe, and it's not much of a stretch from lemon to lime. It turned out rather well.

In the end I was quite pleased with the cakes. They looked pretty and they tasted great. They didn't stick around for long. What more can you ask for.

(adapted from Donna Hay Magazine, May/June 2006)

Cream 250gm of softened butter, 1 1/4 cup caster sugar and a dash of vanilla extract. Gradually add 4 eggs and beat well. Sift over 2 1/4 cups of plain flour and 2 1/4 tspns of baking powder. Beat until combined. Fold through 1 cup of milk.

Spoon the mixture into a 12 hole half cup cupcake tin. Holes should be lined with patty cases.

Bake for 15-20 minutes in a 160C oven.

Lime Curd
(adapted from a Delia Smith Recipe)

Place 75gm of caster sugar, grated zest of 2 limes (or 1 lemon), 3-4 tbspn of lime juice or to taste (or juice of 1 lemon) and 2 eggs in the top of a double boiler. Whisk together. Add 50 gm of diced unsalted butter.

Bring the water in the bottom of the double boiler to a bare simmer.

Stir frequently till thickened. This should take 15-20 minutes. There is no need to stand and stir the whole time. Just give it a good stir every now and then.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Muffins, oh and a few flowers

A great sign that Spring has sprung in Canberra is the beginning of Floriade. A month long flower festival featuring over a million blooms. Here you can see just a fraction of what's on offer.

Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, pansies, irises, violas. All European flowers you notice. Australia has plethora of stunning native flowers, but really they don't lend themselves to organised mass displays. I think that their true beauty is best realised in their natural settings.

Every year there is a theme and this year's is Aussie icons, myths and legends. Predictably, this has been translated into a floral represenation of the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) complete with cricket pitch, a meat pie and an iced vovo biscuit. Among other things. Sigh. It doesn't really matter though because without the signs I would have no idea what a display is about anyway. Really, it's just a case if 'WOW, look at all those pretty flowers'.

So with all this on the doorstep and a beautiful Saturday on offer what else was there to do, but have a picnic. What bliss, settled onto some lush green grass, warm sun beating down, the perfume of a thousand hyacinths wafting by, good friends and idle chit chat, nibbling on fantastic food.

My contribution to this al fresco fiesta was my absolute all time favourite muffins -just baked and kept warm from the oven. I am very picky about muffins. I do not like them to be too heavy and leaden. I don't like the tops to be all sticky. And I like them to be small. Those horiffic giant muffins that are usually served after being microwaved to within an inch of their life are a serious pet hate of mine.

These muffins are from the Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander. Still warm, the outside is a light crispy shell. The crumb is very light, tender and buttery. Any chocolate chips are still gooey and melted. Yum. Yum. Yum.

The flavour here is banana and chocolate. I have never made banana before. The flavour was a bit weak I think. These muffins work best with berries, diced fruit (apples, mango, peach etc) and/or chocolate chips. My absolute all time favourite is raspberry and white chocolate. Ohh drooool !! They are also very good just plain, with no additional ingredients, and then served warm with a good jam. Scrummy!! I could go on and on.

Like most muffins they don't keep fantastically well. You can successfully reheat them in the oven, but they are best eaten within a few hours of baking.

(adapted from Cooks Companion by Stephanie Alexander)

Mix 220gm of self raising flour and 1/2 cup of castor sugar. Add any additional dry ingredients, such as spices, nuts, chocolate chips.

In a separate bowl, mix 3/4 cup of milk, an egg and 3/4 cup of vegetable oil. Add any additional wet ingredients, such bananas (150gm), berries, other fruit.

Pour liquid into dry ingredients and mix lightly.

Spoon into a muffin tin greased with butter. Fill by about 2/3. Chocolate chips will tend to stick, so it is important to grease the tin well. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a 180C oven.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

fantastic focaccia

One day about a year or so ago I was idly tootling around on the internet trying to keep myelf amused when I stumbled across Delicious Days. It was a revelation. I had no idea that food blogs existed and I had never even imagined such a thing. Such a narrow world view seems utterly bizarre now.

Anyhow, at that time Days was featuring a recipe for focaccia. I just could not resist the rave reviews and determined to try it for myself. Am I ever glad I did. It is quite simply a fantastic recipe. I have made it dozens of times over now and I think I will be making it forever.

What's so good about it. Well, for one thing the crumb of the bread is beautifully soft, springy and moist. For another, this is topped and tailed by a crunchy olive oil crust. For a third, you can go mad with the toppings to create endless tasty variations - olives, rosemary, herbs. My clear preference is for nothing more than a sprinkling of plain sea salt. I think it adds superbly to the soft yeasty taste of the bread.

As if that is not enough, it is the easiest of easy bread recipes. There is no kneading. The dough should be of an almost pourable consistency. Nicky gives a good demonstration of this in her post. There is only one rising which is usually accomplished well within the hour. It only needs 15-20 minutes in the oven. So easy.

I have made a few adaptations to the recipe Nicky provides. I put this down to the difference in Australian and German ingredients. This is how I make it.

(adapted from Delicious Days)

In a large bowl, dissolve 15gm of fresh yeast in 1 cup of tepid water. Add 1 cup of bread flour and 1 tspn of salt. Stir for a few minutes.

Add another cup of flour and mix. To get the right consistency, I usually have to add another 1/4 to 1/2 cup of tepid water. The dough should be soft, sticky and almost liquid. Stir for another 2-3 minutes.

Set aside in a warm spot to prove. The dough should be well risen - I usually leave it for 40 minutes to an hour depending on the weather. Pour dough into a 19x25cm high sided pan well coated with olive oil. Take care to keep as many bubbles as possible in the mixture. Brush the top with olive oil and sprinkle with preferred topping.

Bake for 15-20 minutes in a 230C oven. Brown the top under a hot grill if necessary.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

back again and meme

Well here I am back again. A big thanks to everyone who left me such kind get well messages. You are all such lovely people.

So I am slowly getting back into the swing of things again. I thought I would start off by answering a meme that I was tagged for ages and ages ago by Dharm at Dad-Baker Chef. Thanks for the tag Dharm and a million apologies for taking so long.

Here are the rules:

1. You have to post these rules before you give the facts.

2. Players, you must list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of their middle name. If you don’t have a middle name, use the middle name you would have liked to have had.

3. When you are tagged you need to write your own blog-post containing your own middle name game facts.

4. At the end of your blog-post, you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag.

5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

This is a tricky one. I have a middle name, but I only admit to it under the duress of officialdom.
So I decided to go with Option B and use a fictional name. But which one? I don't really have a preference. To solve this dilemma I turned on the TV and waited for the first female name to pop up. The lucky winner was – Nadine, as in Nadine Garner who is currently starring in City Homicide. It's as good a name as any other and I like her a lot. I was a fan of the Henderson Kids way, way, way back when. Whatever happened to Alex Papps or another little known star of that show Kylie Minogue? Hmmmm.

So here we go.

N is for nougat. One of my favourite lollies and something that I have never been able to successfully make for myself. I just buy tons of the stuff.

A is for Antartica, a place that I would dearly love to visit. If only I was a squillionaire.

D is for dagwood dogs – for non-Australians that's a deep fried thickly battered sausage on a stick dipped in tomato sauce. It was a once a year childhood treat during the family visit to the local show. When I was seven it was heaven on a stick. Now I cannot imagine anything more revolting.

I is for ice cream. I can’t wait for summer. I have a must try recipe list a mile long.

N is for nibbling, which is my favourite way of eating. I love trying little bits of lots of different things, preferably over a long period of time. I am a yum cha devotee.

E is for eating, a favourite past time of mine. As if you didn't know that already.

So I am supposed to tag six people. But I'm not going to. Instead, if you would like to do this meme, please feel free, you are tagged. I'm opening it up to the world.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A short hiatus

Dear friends in food

I am exiting the blogosphere for a short while due to some health issues. It is nothing even remotely serious. Well, except for the fact that I cannot face food right now. I cannot bear the taste, smell, sight or even thought of food. Oh the irony. So recipes, the kitchen and my little blog are on the outs. I hope to be back in a week or two when the earth returns to its axis.

In the meantime here are some photos from Canberra's botanical gardens. I was taken there on a little jaunt in celebration of a long awaited Spring and in the hope that it would make me feel better. It certainly did, who can resist nature at its finest. I hope you enjoy them too.

Take care, all the best, and I will see you soon.


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