Sunday, October 31, 2010

Baking Bread

Couronne cooling on the rack

A photo in the sun for better light


The book where it all began
Today was my one weekend day off and I had a fair bit to the kitchen. My lovely friend Leon was coming over with his little boy and Harry's friend, Billy, and it is my sisters birthday so we were headed over there in the afternoon for a margarita to celebrate. As I worked yesterday for a 13 hour day I hadn't had much of a chance to do anything let alone make anything of the weekend. I started the day making pikelets for Harry for breakfast which are his favourite. I had some left over to have with jam and cream for when Leon and Billy came over. I also baked some chocolate Sables from Dorie Greenspan's new book 'Around my French Table' (I'll post about them during the week). As well as that I baked some baked some bread to take to my sisters.

This bread is AMAZING!! it is from this book called 'Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day' and what a revelation this book is. You make a lot of dough without any need to knead and this stays in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. You can shape it how you like and the book has lots of different ideas as well as various recipes for different types of dough like Flatbreads and Enriched breads. The bread is wonderful. I tend to stick to the Boule dough as I love the thick crunchy crust and the lovely interior of the bread. As it spends longer in the fridge the dough takes on more of a sourdough flavour. We had ours with fresh butter and it really was very very delicious. The method here is very important and it can be found on the internet. There is another method/recipe around called No Knead Bread and even though this is good, it is more time consuming than this method and produces a very similar loaf of bread. Have a search for it and give it a go. 

Here is Harry and Billy having something to eat in the middle of playing.

Beautiful boys

Freaky Friday Disco for Halloween

On Friday night Harry has his school's Freaky Friday Disco. Tickets were like gold and sold out within a day. It was honestly like trying to get a ticket for the Rolling Stones or Madonna as was the stress that went along with it. I knew Harry would have been bitterly disappointed if I had missed out, (like I did for the Matariki Disco), so I was hellbent in making sure that didn't happen again. The disco was fantastic...rather overwhelming for the little ones but they had a great time. It's a big school fundraiser so there were all sorts of stalls and things to do. Our class was fortunate as we were in charge of the bar so us parents all took a shift to work on it. It was a good job to have and of course we did a roaring trade! Harry and his friends, once they got used to the throng of people, boogied the night away... until 8.30 when it ended anyway. So here are some photos of the night...

Looking scary

Getting into character

A very excited Harry and Maisie

With faces painted

Working hard on the bar

Harry and friends

Having a boogie

Friday, October 29, 2010

FFwD- Marie-Helene's Apple Cake

This weeks recipe was this apple cake which I only actually got to bake today. It is described in the book as "more apple than cake" and as being "rather plain but very appealing in it's simplicity". I used a mix of Braeburn, Royal Gala and Rose apples in mine and instead of rum (which I'm not so keen on), I used Brandy. It is very easy to make and you don't even need a stand mixer to make it. I had a small slice so I could comment on the cake itself. I would have to say it seems to have more of a clafoutis type of texture. It also tastes really lovely and would be great with some lightly whipped cream. I'm going to take it to work tomorrow as I am on a (rare) day shift. You can see how the others went with their cake here. Sorry about the photo quality but I was in a rush to get this posted.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Cupcakes for the Freaky Friday Disco

Tomorrow is Harry's Freaky Friday Halloween Disco at school. It's really a great big fundraiser but it's also a chance for the school (well those who managed to get tickets!), to get together and have a good time. We don't really have a big Halloween culture in NZ but it has slowly started to creep in over the last ten years or so even though most people aren't all that keen on it. Most schools seem to try to acknowledge it by having a disco so the kids can still say they have done something for Halloween, (and they can raise money at the same time), and that way it keeps them off the streets on the actual night....well that's the theory!

Anyway we were asked if we could take some baking and although I work shifts and am often unavailable to help out with these sorts of things, the one thing I can do is bake! I only finished my set of nightshifts this morning so these were done on zero sleep. I really did enjoy doing them and while I would have liked to have gone all out even more, I have to acknowledge that this was better than nothing and in fact they turned out really well. Sometimes I aim for the stars when I have had no sleep but when it comes to the crunch find that I have run out of steam, so I had to keep it pretty simple. Having said that I still made around 34 cupcakes to take for them to sell so it did take up quite a lot of time.

Here are some photos:

Waiting to be put away for tomorrow

With a plain coloured vanilla buttercream and Halloween sprinkles

Mummy cupcakes (chocolate buttercream underneath and fondant strips for the bandages) 

The 'now-I'm-too-tired-for piping cupcakes' with a chocolate buttercream icing and sprinkles

Harry's self decorated cupcake
The recipe I used for these was my favourite one from the Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook. The cupcake is amazing- really light and totally delicious.I'm sure it's the method of creaming and creaming each initial step along the way that gives them this lovely texture. The recipe says it makes 24 but I got 42 standard sized cupcakes out of this mixture. Most of the time I halve the recipe and still get a good 20 out of the mix. This is really well worth trying so here it is:

Dinosaur Rock Cupcakes (from the Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook)

3 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt (I never use this as I use salted butter)
3 Tbsp instant coffee
1 c cocoa
1 c hot water
1 c cold water
200 gms butter
2 1/2 c caster sugar
4 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla

Oven to 170 C. Line cupcake tins.

Sift together flour, soda and baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coffee, cocoa and hot water until you have a paste. Add the cold water and mix til smooth and combined.

Cream butter until it's really well creamed. Add in caster sugar 1/3 at a time and beat well (at least 2 mins) after each addition. Make sure the mix is light and fluffy as this is the secret I think. Add in eggs one at a time and beat at least a min after each. Add vanilla and beat until well combined.

Add a 1/4 of the flour mix and mix on low speed, then add 1/3 of the cocoa mix until all ingredients have been used. Don't over beat but make sure it's well combined.

Bake 18-20 mins and remove form the tins immediately they are out of the oven.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Baking for Nightshft- Moist Coconut Cake with Coconut Ice Frosting

This weekend was labour weekend but has been rather busy with Harry having his ballet show on both Saturday and Sunday. He was SO amazing and we really could not have been more proud, (in fact we even had tears when he first came on stage). He LOVES ballet and he and my friend Leigh's little boy, Billy, are the only two boys in his ballet academy. Billy is a bit younger than Harry so he is in a different class. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any photo's of either him in costume or of the show but here is one of him with his makeup on before we left to go on Sunday...

Both days were really long and on the Sunday I braved doing parent help and got the 'enjoyable' job of looking after the really little ones. Boy oh boy it really was work too as they needed to be looked after constantly and kept occupied for the full 4 1/2 hours. I had to get them into costume, fed, reclothed and then make sure they were safe and happy, and as they were so exhausted by the end of the afternoon try to keep them from falling asleep. I have to say they were adorable though and a lovely bunch of little girls. Luckily I had Ang there too who was also doing parent help to help keep me sane! Anyway Harry performed beautifully, (as did his whole group), and even got to perform a very short little solo. In fact his class were so good they all won an incentive prize/ medal for doing the best on the day. Needless to say my heart swelled with pride for my clever little boy!

Anyway onto the baking post. As the weekend has been so busy there has been precious little time for any relaxation. As well as that the weekend has been absolutely stunning! So today my aim was to have a quiet day at home so both me and the boys could recharge our batteries...especially as I have to start back on 3 nightshifts. Of course we did go to the park to walk the dog as well which was lovely, but by the time we got home all Harry wanted to do was to lie on the couch and watch a movie. I, of course, took the opportunity to do some baking to take to work. I got this recipe from an AWW cookbook which I had borrowed from the library called 'Food We Love'. This recipe caught my attention immediately. Of course for the sake of this blog I had to try a piece and it really is lovely. The cake is nice and moist and the icing sets on top like coconut ice. You can't give this to anyone who can't have raw egg whites though. Excuse the rather gaudy pink colour of the icing. It was meant to be a delicate rose pink but I was a little too heavy handed with the colouring. Never mind at least it's vibrant!!!

Moist Coconut Cake with Coconut Ice Frosting

125 gm butter
1/2 tsp coconut essence
1 c caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c desiccated coconut
1 1/2 c self raising flour, sifted
300 gm sour cream
1/3 c milk


2 c icing sugar
1 1/3 c desiccated coconut
2 eggs whites, lightly beaten

Oven to 180 C. Grease a 22 cm tin (I used a 23 cm), and line the base.

Beat butter, essence, sugar til light and fluffy then add in the eggs one at a time.

Stir in half the coconut, flour, sour cream and milk, then add the rest and stir until smooth.

Bake about 50 mins. Stand in the pan for 5 mins then turn out onto a rack.

Make the frosting but combining all ingredients and mixing well. Tint if you want to. Top the cold cake.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Harry's School Assembly

Yesterday we went to the first Junior school assembly where Harry's class was taking it. They read out notices and acted out a play called 'Alligator Alley'. We were so proud looking at our baby up there and saying his line which as I recall was "Please stand quietly for the National Anthem" (although he actually said the "natural anthem") cute! Harry takes the stage pretty seriously and I think he really enjoys drama, dance and the like. We have his ballet show this weekend so we are well prepared for some very proud parent moments. Anyway here are some photos from the assembly...

With his bird mask on that he made

Holding down the mats as the wind was terrible

Waiting on the 'stage'

Saying his line

Looking at us

Singing the anthem

Baking for Nightshift- Emily's Lemon Shortcake

I have made this recipe many times and I only decided late afternoon to make this for nightshift. A woman I work with, Vanita, has a lemon tree and she had brought some lemons in for me. These are great lemons with a lovely flavour and I didn't want them to go to waste, so I thought that this recipe fit the bill in that it is easy and quick to make, would use up some lemons and it is totally delicious! It was just as well I did make something as we were very, very busy so it was nice to have something to perk us up. This recipe is from Jo Seager's cookbook called 'The Cook School Recipes' and if you don't make anything else from this blog I suggest you make this. It makes a lovely morning or afternoon tea slice but also makes a fantastic dessert with some cream or yoghurt. So here is the recipe:

Emily's Lemon Shortcake (from Jo Seager)

Oven to 180 C. Line a 20 cm x 30 cm tin with non stick baking paper.

For the Shortcake

1 c self raising flour
1 c plain flour
1 c sugar
pinch salt
100 gm cold butter grated
1 egg beaten
2 Tbsp milk

For the Filling

100 gm butter
grated rind and juice of 3 lemons
1 c sugar
3 eggs beaten

To make the shortcake, mix the flours, salt, sugar together. Rub in the butter. Add the beaten egg and milk and mix to form a dough. Divide off about a third, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge. Press the remaining dough into the lined tin and bake 8-10 mins until pale and just cooked.

While the shortcake is cooking, make the filling. Into a small pot over a low heat, put the butter, sugar, rind and juice of the lemons. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the beaten egg and stir continually over the low heat until it starts to thicken. Do not let it boil. Pour the filling over the partially cooked shortcake.

Break off bits of the refrigerated dough and dot over the lemon filling. Bake a further 10-15 mins until the shortcake is lightly browned. Cool in the tin.

FFwD- Hachis Parmentier

This weeks FFwD was a dish called Hachis Parmentier. At first glance I was thrilled to be making this as I love cottage pie and this is essentially the French version of that. However once I reread the recipe I was a bit...ok a lot more dubious about it. I decided to continue on with the recipe as I already had the ingredients so thought if it all went terribly wrong, I could at least rustle up something else to eat. As well I have been surprised by Dorie's recipes before and thought they will not taste and they have been fantastic so I just put the faith in Dorie and hope this was one of those times. I have to admit that right up to the very end I was convinced we weren't having this for dinner.... Well I was wrong! It was actually pretty tasty and we all ate it for dinner so there was no need for any alternative. I did it the long way and I think that for a long-in-the-making dish I don't know if it was worth the effort as you essentially make a beef stock then chop all the meat up before cooking it with sausages and a tiny bit of tomato paste.

Does this look unappetising or what!
I actually thought it would be the boys who would like it the least but in fact they gobbled it up quite willingly with some fresh bread. I also enjoyed it and was relieved to no have to find something else to make. Actually I have to say the real star of the dish was the potato mash and cheese on top! So all up a pleasant surprise with this recipe. See what the others thought of it here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chicken Curry and Roti for Dinner

I am lucky enough to work with a great group of women from all backgrounds. In fact I have already been 'adopted' into the crowd of amazing Filipina girls who tell me I'm actually a 'half cast'. Boy oh boy do those girls know their food and I know they have a lot of respect for those people who can cook and like to feed people. I really love this attitude towards food from this and other cultures...the way people come together around food, share what food they have and enjoy feeding other people. I think that even though I'm a garden variety Pakeha I really hold those food values close too (and I know quite a few others who are just the same). Anyway I often talk to my work friends about what they cook, how they make it and where they buy their ingredients from. I'm so lucky as the Filipina girls bring me all sorts of treats like the totally delicious and moreish Pansit and Chicken Adobo (if you never try any Filipino dishes try these!), and one of them makes incredible Baklava and these delicious biscuits made only at Ramadan which are like a shortbread type thing with a pistachio and rosewater filling. So thanks my new family especially Ning, Jonette, Rose, Angeline and Jen- you are truly wonderful people and amazing cooks...and thanks for feeding me on nightshift!

Another woman I work with called Herra is a lovely Fijian Indian woman who is also an amazing cook. A few weeks ago she brought me a big jar of her own masala mix which she had made and ground up herself. OMG this is a revelation! She also told me how to make a couple of different curries with it and also how to make Roti. Although the curry I made tonight isn't a traditional Fijian Indian (sorry Herra), but was one that I made up after looking online for some ideas. I wanted something with a gravy so thought this would fit the bill. It's onion, garlic, ginger, Herra's masala (a good couple of tablespoons worth), chicken, salt and pepper, a can of chopped tomatoes and a can of coconut milk. It simmered for a couple of hours and even though I didn't add chilli as I was feeding my boys with it, it was still very tasty.

To go with the curry I made Roti Herra's way. I have made this in the past and been disappointed with it. However since Herra told me how to make it I have never looked back. It is basically:

1/2 c wholemeal flour (you can use all plain)
1 1/2 c plain flour
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil (not measured but thereabouts)
Boiling water to make a soft dough (this is the key to a soft Roti)

Knead a few minutes until smooth. The dough will feel light and warm. Rest about 10 mins then break off golf ball sized bits. Roll out on a floured surface until they are a bit like a thin pancake (not a crepe), and cook in a dry heated frying pan. They should puff up in the middle and only take about 2-3 mins on the first side and only briefly on the second side to get colour on them. Totally delicious and well worth it. They are actually very easy to make and don't take all that much time either. So thanks Herra for your cooking tips!

Stack of Roti- even though they might look it they aren't burnt!