Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers: September

crackers

Before I became a Daring Baker, I always got a little bit excited towards the end of the month to see what the challenge had been and what wonderful things the bakers had come up with. This month I’m excited not only to have survived my second challenge, but also because I got to join this lovely group and make Daring Bakers history, with the first Alternative Bakers challenge.

The September challenge consisted of two elements
- A crunchy cracker, gluten free if desired
- A vegan and gluten free dip

Because my sister is (trying to) follow a gluten free diet plan at the moment, I wanted to make the gluten free version of the crackers for her. But this month was so busy that I wasn’t even sure if I would have time to complete the challenge at all, let alone try my very first experiment with gluten free baking. This time around, I used regular bread flour but I have promised that I will try a gluten free version in the near future that she can enjoy.

crackers and dip

This was also my first time intentionally making a vegan dish, and its something I’m thankful for. The white bean dip recipe came from the December/January issue of Donna Hay magazine, one I’d wanted to make since I saw it back in summer. The combination of roasted garlic and white beans with lemon and basil was delicious, though not the most attractive dip ever. The salsa was inspired by our bruschetta toppings, with the addition of red capsicum to the tomatoes, parsley and fragrant basil. This summery dip goes very well with a crunchy cracker.

I really liked this challenge, because it was a chance to do something a little different in the kitchen, and pushed me to cook something I’d never even thought of making myself before. I was happy with the taste of the crackers, though while baking, the ones at the edge cooked through long before those in the center and I ended up with a mixture of crunchy crackers and softer, more bread-like crackers. I am looking forward to revisiting this, and trying a gluten free version of these crackers for my sister.

Thanks to Natalie from Gluten A Go Go and Shel of Musings From the Fishbowl for such an inspiring and different theme this month!

crackers and salsa

Lavash Crackers and Dip
Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

Crackers
• 1 ½ cups unbleached bread flour
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon instant yeast
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 1/3 to ½ cup + 2 tablespoons water, at room temperature
• Poppy seeds and sesame seeds

Roasted Garlic and White Bean Dip
Adapted from Donna Hay Magazine
• 1 head of garlic, cloves separated
• 1 red onion, chopped
• 1 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 x 400g can white beans (cannellini), rinsed and drained
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 2 tablespoons basil leaves, chopped
• sea salt and cracked black pepper

Tomato and Red Capsicum Salsa
• 4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
• ½ red capsicum, chopped
• 2 tablespoons basil leaves, chopped
• 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
• 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
• 2 teaspoons olive oil

1. To make the crackers, stir together the flour, salt, yeast, sugar, oil and just enough water to bring everything together in a mixing bowl. You may not need the full ½ cup + 2 tablespoons of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.
2. Transfer the dough to a flour sprinkled benchtop. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test, and be medium-firm, satiny to the touch, not tacky and supple enough to stretch when pulled.
3. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.
4. In the meantime, begin making the dip. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the garlic, onion and oil on a baking tray covered with non-stick baking paper and toss to coat. Roast for 25 minutes or until the garlic is soft. Peel the garlic and place in a food processor with the onion, beans, lemon juice, basil, salt and pepper and process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
5. To make the salsa, place all chopped ingredients with oil and vinegar into a small bowl and stir to combine
6. Mist the benchtop lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the bench. Divide the dough in half, press into a square with your hands and dust the top lightly with flour. Roll with a rolling pin into a paper-thin sheet. You may have to stop from time to time, to relax the glutens, so lift the dough from the benchtop and wave it a little. Cover with a clean tea towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes.
7. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with non-stick baking paper. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the tray. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.
8. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle sesame seeds on the dough. Use a sharp knife or a pizza cutter to cut rectangles or diamonds in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking.
9. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top. The baking time will depend on how thinly you rolled the dough.
10. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool for about 10 minutes. Break them apart and serve.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Spring Afternoon

shortcakes

The last few weeks have been particularly eventful, but also kind of exciting. At college, production has started on all my projects for the term – photography for a food magazine, a cross-cultural branding project, a Flash website and a two-minute movie about Kyle Cooper, who designed the opening credits for David Fincher’s incredible film Se7en - one of my all time favourites. I’ve been scratching old negatives with a scalpel and watching bug documentaries to composite a dark and scratchy short film.

I also started a new job with the design team of a company that owns several bars and pubs in Sydney. They’re located in the Rocks, which might just be my favourite part of the city. It’s much easier to sit waiting for a train when you have a wonderful view of the Harbour to look at – I’ll never get sick of seeing The Bridge. The work has been quite varied and interesting, and I’ve seen some of my posters in print. A couple of ads I designed have been in MX over the last two weeks, and found a flyer I designed sitting on our table at a bar. It is kind of surreal to see your work around the place, to say the least. As it turns out, the company owns the Australian Heritage Hotel, where I had that great kangaroo pizza, and we sat at the same table outside a few weeks later when I had my interview!

I have been to a few of the venues now, for research purposes… kinda! On Thursday we went to Fringe Bar in Paddington for Pizza night - $10 All You Can Eat Pizza and $8 cocktails. The pizzas were impressively delicious – I make a good pizza, but these were even better. The ingredients were fresh and flavoursome, even though the toppings were simple. I also highly recommend the Lynchberg Lemonade, with a tasty kick of Bourbon and Cointreau. On Friday night, after work drinks got fancy when we went to The Loft on King St Wharf. About the cocktail list, I can only say wow. The offerings were amazingly original and I was absolutely spoiled for choice. The tapas are also delicious – we shared the Middle Eastern platter and everything disappeared quickly. Cargo Bar is a short walk down the Wharf from TheLoft. As part of the September New York Taxi Club promotion, we caught some of Little Italy night, which was a lot of fun. And believe it or not, there are still more than a handful of venues still to check out, and two more opening up later this year!

In the last couple of weeks I’ve also seen one of my favourite Aussie bands, Gyroscope play live, and met a great group of new people. I’ve been planning things to do and places to eat in Melbourne, because the trip is only a few weeks away. My friends and I also had a lovely lunchtime picnic at college the other day. I think we should definitely do that more often. We had a delicious King Island Dairy Camembert with poppy seed crackers, and I made these buckwheat shortcakes from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert. I served them with some tiny, sweet strawberries and lightly whipped cream. The buckwheat was subtle, but flavourful enough to add an element of interest and difference. They come together quickly and easily – no need to bring out the mixer – and would make a perfect impromptu spring afternoon tea.

Buckwheat Strawberry Shortcakes
Adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich
Serves 9

• 1 cup + 2 tablespoons plain flour
• ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons buckwheat flour
• ¼ cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
• 1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder, sifted
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup heavy cream, plus extra for brushing

Filling
• 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
• Strawberries, rinsed and patted dry, hulled

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 220°C (425°F). Line a baking tray with two sheets of non-stick baking paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center and pour the cream into it.
3. Using a rubber spatula, push the dry ingredients from the sides of the bowl into the well, cutting and turning the mixture until the dry ingredients are moistened and the dough looks rough and shaggy.
4. Gather the dough into a ball and knead it gently against the sides of the bowl, pressing loose pieces into the dough until it just holds together, but is not smooth.
5. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and pat it down into a 15cm square, about 2cm thick. Trim the edges using a sharp knife. Cut the dough into 9 squares. Place them at least 3cm apart on the baking sheet. Brush the tops with some cream and sprinkle lightly with sugar.
6. Bake shortcakes until the tops are golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Cool on a rack.
7. Meanwhile, whip the cream, sweetening it lightly to taste as it begins to thicken. Continue beating until it holds a soft shape. The cream can be covered and refrigerated for a few hours.
8. Slice the berries and sweeten them lightly to taste with 1-2 tablespoons of sugar if desired. The berries can be covered and refrigerated for 1 hour.
9. To assemble the shortcakes, slice each cake horizontally in half. Place the bottom halves onto serving plates. Top each with a scoop of strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream. Cover with the tops of the cakes

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Morning Ritual

pancakes

For me, making pancakes is an act with a history that is still being written. For years it has been the traditional breakfast of Mother’s and Father’s Day, and this year was no exception. But in more recent times, pancakes are a Sunday morning ritual whenever Steve and I are together. Usually he whisks the mixture and I cook them while sipping hot coffee, still in my pyjamas. And since breakfast is usually treated as a rushed (or forgotten) affair, it is wonderful to occasionally sit down and eat with the people I love.

I can’t even count how many pancake recipes I’ve tried over the years, but the one I have kept going back to since the first time I made it is Donna Hay’s recipe from Modern Classics 2. I’ve tweaked it in many ways: adding lemon zest or coconut or vanilla, serving it with strawberries or bananas, or ice cream and maple syrup. But one of my favourite combinations so far was the one I made this morning for Father’s Day breakfast – cinnamon pancakes with pears.

The recipe couldn’t be easier, which I think is especially important in the morning before you’re fully caffeinated. The pancakes are beautifully fluffy, the perfect breakfast in my book. This is also my entry for Hay Hay It’s Donna Day this month, lovingly looked after by Bron Marshall, and hosted by the lovely Suzana of Home Gourmets. I can’t wait to see the round up!

Cinnamon Pancakes
Recipe adapted from Modern Classics 2 by Donna Hay
Makes 10

• 2 cups plain flour
• 3 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ½ cup caster sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ¾ cup buttermilk
• 1 1/3 cups milk
• Butter, for cooking

1. Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar together in a medium size bowl.
2. In another smaller bowl, whisk together the egg with the buttermilk, milk and vanilla extract, then whisk the milk mixture into the dry ingredients until smooth.
3. Melt a small amount of butter in a small frypan over medium-low heat. Add about ½ - ¾ cup of the pancake mixture. When small bubbles begin to form over the pancake, carefully flip it over and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
4. Repeat with the rest of the pancake mixture. Serve with maple syrup and pears if desired.

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