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Category Archives: Breakfast

Bills Darlinghurst – Sydney Food Icon

I’m always interested in restaurants that stand the test of time. Sydney has a few, but I think the place that has consistently delivered quality food, retaining iconic dishes over the years, while introducing contemporary menu additions, is the famous bills in Darlinghurst.

For me, Bills IS Sydney, as much for the friendly and laid back vibe as for the food that showcases lovely produce and simple, good cooking techniques.

Bill Granger, the man behind the name, is an Australian who has restaurants worldwide, but the original bills, located in Darlinghurst, is my regular, and the one I am reviewing today.

As Bill says: ‘This is where it all began, in 1992. bills Darlinghurst is where I did my growing up. The miniscule kitchen and tiny dining room in one of Darlo’s old backstreet pub buildings set the tone for what we still do today. Local by-laws allowed us only a few seats – hence the now much-copied communal table where everyone ate together, reading the newspaper or striking up a conversation with the person enjoying scrambled eggs next to them. Today, it’s still a simple Sydney corner café, serving a menu of bills classics.’

Bills Darlo reflects his ethos for food and dining. When you walk into bills, the vibe is friendly, warm and generous. The communal table in the centre of the sunny space, allows everyone to share in each others’ dining experiences, while reading the paper, or people watching. This table of plenty has flowers, fruit and plates of cakes and other sweet delicacies. It’s a little bit like being at a family celebration in one’s childhood, with the anticipation of being able to tuck into the goodies so invitingly laid out.

There are some dishes that bills is famous for – creamy scrambled eggs, fluffy ricotta pancakes with banana and honeycomb butter and sweet corn fritters with roast tomato, spinach and bacon. These two latter dishes are available breakfast through to lunch. Everyone who has gone to bills has eaten these at least once! Bills burgers are pretty good too, the current beef version is a burger with comté, dill pickles, smoked chilli and onion aioli and maple bacon crumb. There’s a really spicy, sweet chicken burger too, with chilli, sesame and peanuts.

Desserts are simple, the offerings on the menu on my visit were cookies, salted caramel peanut brittle, daily baked cakes and white chocolate and pistachio pavlova with rhubarb and yoghurt cream.

This is my favourite! Who doesn’t love an Aussie pavlova, and the Darlo bills version, a little individual pav with its crunch of pistachio, slight tartness of rhubarb and hint of rosewater, is a delight to eat.

The bills concept is now worldwide, with restaurants in the UK, US, Japan and Korea. I’m looking forward to visiting Granger & Co in London for a comparison. And I know that famous pav is on the English menu. Yum – I can’t wait!

If you haven’t been, visit bills in Sydney or in other parts of the world. Consistently good food in a relaxed and friendly space. Highly recommended.

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Oven Bannocks, Shetland Style

I’ll bake anything that involves flour. If it’s yeast based, all the better. And baking with your very own sourdough starter is the ultimate in satisfaction.

So I sometimes forget those lovely bakes that just involve self raising flour or plain flour and baking powder. They can be just as satisfying as yeast baking and are a lot quicker.

I recently acquired Shetland: Baking on the Edge of the World, by James Morton and his father Tom Morton. James is my favourite bread baker and I’ve been cooking his recipes since he first rose to prominence on The Great British Bake-off in 2012.

I was fascinated by his discussion of bannocks, both girdle cooked and oven baked. I’ve made both, but opted for the latter as they were easier to manage and produced a lighter product. I have served them up to friends who seemed to think they were scones… I kind of agree, although this might be an heretical thing to say!

Here’s James’ recipe for oven bannocks as I have made them. I’ve included the original quantities, which makes 16. I have actually made a half quantity each time I’ve produced them. This gives me at least 8 decent sized bannocks, more than enough for a morning or afternoon tea.

Ingredients

550g self-raising flour, plus extra for shaping
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon table salt
25g caster sugar
50g butter salted or unsalted (I prefer salted)
280ml buttermilk
150ml natural yoghurt
150ml full fat milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Very lightly sprinkle them with flour.

Into a large bowl put the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar. Mix these roughly together with a wooden spoon. Add the butter and rub in with your fingers until the mixture resembles floury breadcrumbs.

Add the buttermilk, yoghurt and milk and mix together, then add to the flour using a wooden spoon, doing this quickly so as not to over mix. The mixture will be lumpy and quite wet and will need flour to handle it.

To make the bannocks, heavily flour a work surface, and scrape all the mixture out on top. Add more flour, and pat down the pile of mixture with your hands, into a rough square, about 2cm or ¾ inch thick.

Use a round cutter to cut out bannocks, or cut into rough squares with a knife, and then place the bannocks onto the prepared trays.

Bake the bannocks for about 12-15 minutes, or until light golden all over. You will need to watch them carefully, as there is a point at which they are golden and cooked, but still soft in the middle, and ready to come out of the oven.

Remove from the oven, and leave to cool a little before serving with lashings of butter or cream, and a good jam or conserve.

Two Chaps – Melbourne in Marrickville

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Breakfast. The best meal of the day as far as I’m concerned. Whether eating out or making it at home, breakfast is a joyous occasion, each and every day. So I do tend to go out for breakfast…a lot.

I have some advice: if you want to remain anonymous, don’t post your latest drool worthy restaurant dishes on Facebook or Instagram, as you are giving your friends – and stalkers – a GPS map of your daily movements! Certainly my nearest and dearest are able to track me down via my breakfast posts. Kind of doing away for the need for any personal contact… it’s a weird world we live in.

So I visit Melbourne fairly frequently, mostly to see theatre, as reviews soon to be published on this blog will attest, but I also go there to eat. Fitzroy, Carlton, Brunswick, all great destinations for the curious diner.

Back to breakfast. As a regular visitor to Melbourne I do admit to being unfaithful to my home city of Sydney on the important matter of breakfast.

Melbourne cafes just do it better than Sydney.  That is my belief. With one notable exception – a charming and hipster-esque cafe, located on a quiet suburban street in Marrickville, doing the very best breakfasts in Sydney.

You could be in Fitzroy. The urban terrain is similar. The quaintly named Two Chaps has all the right credentials to be a breakfast icon – officially vegetarian but caters for vegans, uses sustainable and ethically sourced produce, artistically designed and Insta worthy dishes, and saving the very best to last – they make everything in house! Slow proved sourdough loaves, rustic and full of deep flavour, flaky croissants with artful toppings (think torched meringue) and oh so sinful donuts! Yummy, really chocolatey house made notella – not to be confused with that commercial choc hazelnut spread – plus jams, preserves, honey and pickles. All artfully displayed as you enter the space, and then there are those donuts!

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Timing is a consideration to visiting Two Chaps. Saturdays and Sundays are buzzing, and a 20 minute wait is the norm, but worth it, and also rather fun, standing or sitting on the pavement where the vibe is cheerful and coffee can be ordered while you wait. But weekdays there’s usually no wait, though the cafe is always lively. So it’s up to you whether you want the to join the #Marrickville-on-Sunday-morning #justoutofbed #Ineedmycoffeefix crowd, or enjoy a leisurely weekday breakfast sans millennials but with a few yummy mummys and maybe a mamil or two. Up to you, I like either vibe!

As a baker of all things yeasty I often go for the crumpets, always on the menu.  I am in awe of their sourdough crumpets, which are light as a feather, and fabulous in either their savoury or sweet incarnations. I have eaten them lots in both forms.

Here are “Sourdough crumpets, spicy green tahini, deep fried cauliflower, harissa oil, pistachio and pink peppercorn dukkah + poached egg”, and a sweet offering “Chocolate sourdough crumpets with buttermilk ricotta, rhubarb jam, beetroot poached pear and candied pecans”:

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Even with my sweet tooth I don’t always have to have a sweet fix, and to prove it, here is a tasty savoury concoction: “Hash browns, sautéed medley of beans and rainbow chard, poached eggs and green goddess sauce”. 

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I’m saving the (current) best to last! Just last week – Friday 12 April – I was in breakfast heaven, had reached Nirvana, and whatever other purple prose I can get away with to describe the experience…

Visiting on a whim with one of my breakfast partners in crime – Quirky Sister the Elder – we both ordered something that rightly should have been dessert, but hey, I can do all kinds of sweetness and claim it as a nutritious experience!

We had “Passionfruit curd brioche, Kristen Allen’s labneh, torched Italian meringue, banana, house made notella, hazelnuts”. Here it is, smashed into, already half eaten. Completely and utterly delicious.

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Two Chaps https://www.twochaps.com.au

122 Chapel St.
Marrickville NSW 2204

(02) 9572 8858
info@twochaps.com.au

Hot Cross Buns – Great British Bake Off

It wouldn’t be Easter unless I make – and blog – hot cross buns. Well there’s a story in this. A week or two ago I made my first day batch. And then I made my second batch. Different recipes, both very tasty, but both a little too dark on top. I won’t use the burnt word, but they were heading in that direction…

So yesterday, the Thursday before Good Friday, I started all over again. I was watching a GBBO Easter special, where Paul Hollywood made hot cross buns. I’ve made Paul’s HC buns before, and posted the results, see here.

Paul used a slightly different recipe on the show, so I thought I would give it a go. I was pleased with the results, particularly as the buns were a respectable shade of brown, not too dark!

Here is Paul’s recipe. I include Paul’s oven temperature, but I took his 220 degrees C down to 190 degrees C as I think my oven runs hot. It’s up to you what you think works best.

Also, I added an additional 50g of sour cherries to the sultanas, as I love sour cherries and I like extra fruit in my buns.

Ingredients

For the buns
300ml full cream milk
500g strong white flour
75g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
7g fast-action yeast
50g butter
1 free-range egg, beaten
150g sultanas
80g mixed peel
1 apple, cored and chopped
2 oranges, zest only
2 tsp ground cinnamon

For the cross
75g plain flour

For the glaze
3 tbsp apricot jam

Method

Bring the milk to the boil and then remove from the heat and leave to cool until it reaches hand temperature.
Mix the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, butter and egg together in a bowl, then slowly add the warmed milk until it forms a soft, sticky dough.
Add the sultanas, mixed peel, chopped apple, orange zest and cinnamon, then tip out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough by holding the dough with one hand and stretching it with the heal of the other hand, then folding it back on itself. Repeat for five minutes, or until smooth and elastic.
Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled cling film (I use a plastic shower cap – works really well!)and leave to rise for approximately one hour, or until doubled in size.
Divide the dough into 12 even pieces, and roll each piece into a smooth ball on a lightly floured surface. Arrange the buns on a baking tray lined with parchment, leaving enough space so that the buns just touch when they rise and expand. Set aside to prove for another hour.
Heat the oven to 220 degrees C.
For the cross, mix the flour with about five tablespoons of water in small bowl, adding the water one tablespoon at a time, so that you add just enough for a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag with a small nozzle. Pipe a line along each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses.
Bake for 20-25 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven, or until golden-brown.
Gently heat the apricot jam to melt, then sieve to get rid of any chunks. While the jam is still warm, brush over the top of the warm buns and leave to cool.

Easter Sourdough Donut Top Muffins

Easter is coming…and soon too, but it’s not too late to do a little baking. Here’s a great alternative – or addition – to hot cross buns, super simple muffins with all the flavour of hot cross buns. And the added bonus that they are dipped in cinnamon sugar to give a donut crunch on the top!

I’ve called them sourdough muffins, because I included some of my left over starter in the mix. It certainly adds to the flavour, but you can just as easily make lovely muffins without the sourdough starter. You don’t need to add anything extra to the mixture if you leave out the starter, you will just have slightly less mix.

With the starter you will get 7-8 large muffins, without it, you will still get 6 large muffins. So you will need an extra 6 cup pan for the bigger mixture. You could also make them in a regular 12 cup muffin pan – same principle applies – with the starter you’ll get 15 or so smaller muffins, so you will need an extra pan.

However, this mixture keeps really well in the fridge for a couple of days, so bake as many or as few muffins as you like, of either size, and keep the remaining mixture in the fridge! That worked very well for me this week before Easter, and I have been able to bake muffins on demand all week!

Ingredients
1 cup sultanas and raisins
1/3 cup Pedro Ximinez sherry or any sweet sherry
2 cups plain flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking sofa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup sourdough starter
1/4 cup milk
2 large free-range eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup golden syrup

For the topping
20g melted butter
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Method
Soak the sultanas and raisins in the sherry for half an hour or more, if you have the time.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease the holes of a 6 or 12 cup muffin pan.
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a second bowl, beat together the starter, if using, and the milk, eggs, oil, honey and golden syrup. Blend the wet ingredients with the dry, taking about 20 seconds. Gently stir in the fruit just until blended.
Fill the holes of the prepared pan two-thirds full. Or fill a little higher if you like muffins that have a “muffin top”!
Bake the muffins for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. I check after 15 minutes. Ovens are variable, so you need to keep checking for doneness.
When the muffins are clearly cooked, remove the muffin pan from the oven and allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing them from the pan.
Put the melted butter in a small bowl, and mix the caster sugar and cinnamon on a plate. While the muffins are still warm, dip the top of each one in butter and then in the sugar/cinnamon mixture.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Great with your Easter Sunday morning tea or coffee!

Simple Sourdough Revisited

I’m revisiting a post I wrote a while back when I was first getting into bread. Bread is my favourite thing to bake and I’m fascinated by the whole idea of yeast and its amazing ability to make humble dough turn into a beautifully risen loaf. This post details my first experiments with sourdough. I’ve updated the text and the photos of the bread are new too.

My guide on the sourdough journey – and there’s more to come on this front – is James Morton, the Baker/Doctor who came to prominence in the 2012 series of The Great British Bakeoff. He has a pretty common sense approach to bread making and following his recipes has worked well for me.

This recipe for sourdough bread and sourdough starter comes from James’ first book Brilliant Bread. Everything you wanted to know about bread making, and more! Lots of sound recipes and helpful advice too.

Getting a sourdough starter going. This is a real labour of love. You have to be dedicated, patient, observant and accurate. A starter needs constant care and vigilance. It needs to be fed regularly, and, unless you hibernate your starter in the fridge, you have to look after it for ever!!! Or be prepared for the news of its demise.

Your sourdough starter needs more care than a pet….

Sourdough Starter

Here is an abbreviated recipe from James’ book. Buy the book to get the full, incredibly helpful story.

1. Take 100g strong flour and 100g tepid water and measure into a glass jar (see through is best so you can see what’s going on).

2. Add your starter aid to kick start the the starter. James recommends raisins – that’s what I used.

3. Cover your jar and leave for 24 hours at room temperature.

4. Whether the starter is bubbling or not, add another 100g flour and 100g water and stir vigorously to combine.

5. Leave for 24-72 hours, or until you notice plenty of bubbles forming through the mixture and that it has definitely increased in volume. Then pour away at least 3/4 of your starter.

6. Give what’s left a good feed of flour and water – make it up to at least the size it was before you poured it away. James recommends not bothering with weighing feeds from now on – always feed your starter  using more flour than you think is already in the jar. James doesn’t mention how much water to add – having added the flour, I carefully add enough water so that the mixture looks roughly the same as it was before you threw stuff away.

7. Feed your starter every day and keep it at room temperature. You can put your starter in the fridge to hibernate if you’re going away or if you’re not baking. You will still need to feed it every week or so. If you want to use it, take it out of the fridge, let it warm up and give it a big feed.

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Some basic points:

Once you are onto the feeding stage, use cheap white flour, as you will be using a lot of it.

Remember, you need to discard at least 3/4 of your starter before you feed it. Of course, if you are using your starter for making bread, you have already taken away some starter so you can feed it at that point.

Your can use your starter when it is full of bubbles and has grown in size in the jar. (It does get noticeably bigger, but I don’t think there is a level of “bigness” that is required).

At this stage the yeasts in your starter are used to being fed  – they are said to be in a “fed state”. This normally 12- 24 hours after a feed and if the starter is fed regularly.

Simple Sourdough

This is basically James’ recipe. But as with the starter, the book is really helpful for more details.

Ingredients

400g Strong White Flour

10g Salt

200g White Sourdough Starter

275g Cold Water

Method

In a large bowl, weigh the flour and then rub in the salt until combined. Add the starter and water and mix until it has come together into a very wet dough. Cover and autolyse for 30 minutes. (This is resting of the dough, letting the yeast get a lot of the work done for you, so that when you knead, your dough will come together more easily).

Knead the dough for 10 minutes.

Cover and rest the dough for approximately 4-6 hours at room temperature, or, alternatively, after a couple of hours, put it in the fridge overnight or during the day. This is an important stage, so the dough should be noticeably risen, if not quite doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and then shape your loaf.  I used the method of rolling up your dough like a Swiss roll really tightly. Then turning the rolled dough 90 degrees and rolling it up again. The dough will have a seam on the top.

Carefully transfer the dough to a proving basket or a floured tea towel inside a bowl, with the seam side on top. I have used both on different occasions, here I used the proving basket.  Leave to prove for 3-4 hours at room temperature until noticeably larger again. Or you can put your dough in the fridge to prove after an hour or two overnight or during the day. I left my dough to prove overnight.

Preheat the oven to 240 degrees C at least 30 minutes before you intend to bake, and heat a cast iron casserole pot with the lid on.

When the 30 minutes is up, it’s time to turn out the proved dough into the pot. Turn down the oven to 210 degrees C. Take the lid off the pot and carefully turn out the dough into the pot. The smooth side will be on top. Score a cross on your loaf with a sharp serrated knife.

Bake for 40 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 10 – 15  minutes until the top and sides are really brown. Remove from the oven, and let rest for 30 – 60 minutes.

Serve with lashings of butter and your favourite jam. This time mine was apricot conserve from last summer’s bounty.

Cinnamon Puffins (Buns)

So these delicious pastries are actually cinnamon buns, a recipe straight from the wonderful Claire Ptak from her book The Violet Bakery Cookbook. I have renamed them “puffins” as they are pastry cooked in muffin molds, just like cruffins are croissant dough baked in muffin molds. Not sure that it will take off, but I like the name!

I am really enjoying reading Claire’s book, as the recipes are really tempting but not overly complicated. It’s their simplicity which makes them so elegant and visually pleasing.

Here is the recipe from the Violet Bakery Cookbook with a couple of tweaks from me. These “puffins” work for me as the pastry doesn’t involve yeast, so is quick to make. They’re not difficult to make, with the hardest part cutting the dough into equal sized segments and depositing into the muffin molds. But even this step is not too tricky, as the puffins are pretty forgiving and will take the shape of the muffin cavities on baking.

Ingredients

For the filling
75g unsalted butter
250g brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

For the buns
560g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp ground cardamom
240g unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
300g cold milk
Caster sugar, for dipping
Butter, for greasing the muffin tray

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Grease a 12-cup muffin mold. I used a silicone muffin mold, as muffins come out really easily with nice clean sides, but any muffin tray will be fine.

To prepare the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan or melt very carefully in the microwave. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon until no lumps remain, then set aside.

To make the dough, combine all the dry ingredients with the cubes of butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix until you have a coarse meal. Slowly pour in the cold milk while the mixer is running, until the dough forms a ball and comes away from the bowl.

Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and leave to rest for a few minutes. Gently fold the dough over itself once or twice to pull it all together. Let it rest a second time, for 10 minutes.

Dust a benchtop or large surface lightly with flour, and roll out the dough into a large rectangle about 5mm thick. Brush the dough with melted butter, and before the butter hardens, sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar, in a thick layer.

Roll up the dough, starting at a long side, keeping it neat and tight. In order to get a taut roll, gently tug the dough towards you while rolling away from you into a spiral. Gently squeeze the finished roll to ensure the roll is the same thickness throughout. Use a sharp knife to cut it crossways into 12 even slices. Take a slice, peel back about 5cm of the loose end of the pastry and fold it in back under the roll to loosely cover the bottom.

Place in the muffin cavities, flap-side down. Repeat with the remaining slices.

Bake the puffin/buns for 25 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and immediately flip them on to a wire cooling rack, to stop them sticking to the cavities.

Dip each puffin/bun into caster sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature. They are delish!

 

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