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No Knead Bread!

I am sure many of you will be familiar with “no knead” bread, developed by Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. The technique has been used by many bakers to produce virtually effortless bread.

I discovered no knead bread only recently, via the TV program Paul Hollywood City Bakes – New York, when he visited the New York bakery, and Jim Lahey showed him the magic technique.

And yes it’s easy and yes it works! You only need to invest time, up to 24 hours, but the result is beautifully baked bread!

Here is the recipe/technique, based on that of Mark Bittman, who first shared the recipe in the New York Times in 2006. As Mark says “a wet dough and slow fermentation are the keys to success” as well as “the unique baking method — a heated covered pot — which creates essentially an oven within an oven to trap steam as the bread bakes.”

Ingredients

430g strong flour plus extra as needed

345g water

1g yeast  

8g salt 

Cornmeal, semolina, or wheat bran for dusting

Method

Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add the water and stir until blended. The dough should be shaggy and sticky – add a little more water if it seems dry. Dont knead!

Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap or my favourite, a plastic shower cap. Let the dough rest for a minimum 12 hours, or up to 18 hours at room temperature. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.

Lightly flour a work surface, and turn the dough onto the surface. Carefully and quickly lift the edges of the dough in toward the centre, folding the dough over onto itself. Tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round. Don’t knead!

Generously coat a cotton tea towel with cornmeal, semolina, or wheat bran and put the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with another tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours. When ready, the dough will be more than doubled in size and won’t spring back readily when poked with your finger.

At least a half hour before the dough is ready, adjust an oven rack to the lower third of the oven, and pre-heat the oven to 230 degrees C. Place a medium sized cast iron, enamel, Pyrex, or ceramic casserole pot, lid on, into the oven to heat up. I used a Le Creuset casserole.

When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and take off the lid. Turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up, by sliding your hand under the tea towel and quickly turning the dough over into the pot. It can look a bit untidy but the dough seems to settle into an acceptable shape in the oven!

Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is quite brown. The bread should look really brown – I am sometimes tempted to take out the bread 10 minutes too early. Brown to dark brown is good!

Once the bread is done, lift the bread from the pot onto a wire rack with pot holders or tongs. Let the bread cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting the loaf.

Serve with lashings of butter, olive oil or a great dip!

 

 

 

 

 

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Tropical Pavlova

Pavlova has to be one of my favourite desserts. I love any meringue concoction – light and fluffy pavs, meringues layered with cream, chocolate, berries or nuts like vacherin or dacquoise, or little meringues sandwiched together with cream in the form of meringue kisses. They are all delightful!

I was making a pavlova for friends recently. Everyone loves a pavlova filled with cream and strawberries, but this time I wanted to fill the pav with some seasonal flavours. There is an abundance of tropical fruit available in farmers’ markets and supermarkets at the moment, which is wonderful as we swelter through a hot, late summer in Sydney.

Pineapple, mango and passionfruit were the obvious choices. Pineapples in particular are fantastic – ripe, sweet and juicy.

I also love lemon curd as a filler for pavlova, and this time I made a passionfruit/lemon curd to top the cream and provide a base for the tropical fruit. Toasted coconut added the finishing touch!

I made the pavlova as a tranche – a long rectangle. It’s great for serving a crowd. The quantities here would also make a two layer round pavlova, or a very large round one for a party.

Ingredients

Pavlova
8 egg whites
450g caster sugar
1 teaspoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons cornflour, sifted

Passionfruit/Lemon Curd
You need one whole quantity of the curd, plus most of second quantity. I suggest making the curd in 2 lots, as I think it’s a bit tricky to make a really big amount. These are the ingredients to make 1 quantity.

Juice of 2 lemons
Juice and seeds of 2 passionfruit
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 egg yolks, beaten lightly

1 small pineapple
2 mangoes
2 passionfruit
A handful of coconut shavings

600mls cream
½ teaspoon vanilla paste

Method

Pavlova
Preheat oven to 120 degrees C. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. You will need a tray large enough for a rectangle (roughly) 35cm x 20cms or 14in x 8in.

Place egg whites in the clean, dry bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on high speed for 3-4 minutes to soft peaks.

Add caster sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each to be incorporated before adding the next, whisking until mixture is glossy. The meringue will be shiny and will hold stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. 

Reduce speed to low, then add vinegar and cornflour, beating for about 30 seconds to combine.

Spread ¾ of the mixture over the baking paper in a rectangle, smoothing the top. Place the remaining mixture in a large plastic piping bag and snip 1cm/½in off the end. Pipe the meringue onto the rectangle, in little blobs along all the sides, to make a rim.

Bake for about 1½ hours or until the meringue can be lifted easily off the paper without sticking. Turn off the oven, and leave in the oven for several hours, or even overnight, until the meringue is cold.

Passionfruit/Lemon Curd
Place all the ingredients except the passionfruit seeds in a double boiler or bain marie. Cook over a medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat, and stir through the passionfruit seeds, and set aside to cool. When cool, refrigerate until ready to use.

Cut the pineapple and mangoes into small chunks. You can, if you like, cook the pineapple in a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar and a couple of tablespoons of dark rum in a frying pan, until the pineapple is slightly softened. I think the pineapple is fine, though, without cooking.

You will need to lightly dry roast the coconut shavings in a hot frying pan for a few minutes until the coconut has some colour.

Whip the cream to soft peaks, with the vanilla paste.

To assemble, place the pavlova tranche on a large serving plate or board. Spoon the cream onto the pavlova, then top with the passionfruit/lemon curd. Place the fruit pieces on top of the curd, scattering the seeds of the other passionfruit. Finally scatter the toasted coconut over the pavlova.

The pavlova should be left for a couple of hours before serving. I think a pavlova is nicest the next day, when the flavours have had a chance to mature. A little bit messy, a little bit gooey, but definitely yummy!

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!

 

Ottolenghi’s Lentils with Roast Eggplant, Cherry Tomatoes and Yoghurt

I’ve recently acquired the new Ottolenghi book Simple. It’s a lovely book, written in such an interesting and useful way. The recipes, while not necessarily with a limited number of ingredients, are all quite ”simple” to prepare. The recipes are full of Ottolenghi’s trade mark Middle Eastern flavours.

I’ve tried some of the savoury recipes and of course I’m keen to get into the sweet stuff soon!

Here’s a relatively quick, and definitely easy to prepare savoury veggie dish, that works well as a salad or side as well as a lighter main.

Ottolenghi goes into detail about how to cook the eggplants. While his method uses the oven at a high temperature, he also describes how you can cook the eggplants directly over a gas flame on the stove top, which he rightly points out is very messy!

I cooked the eggplants on the bars of a very hot barbecue, lid down, for extra heat. This was very successful, and they cooked in about 15 minutes. Whatever method you go for, the idea is to blister the skin of the eggplants so the you can peel it off to get to the softened flesh.

Ingredients

4 eggplants, about 1.1kg, pricked a few times with a knife
300g cherry tomatoes
160g Puy lentils or 350g ready-cooked lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to serve
1½ tbsp lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, crushed
3 tablespoons oregano leaves – I used thyme which I prefer as a herb
salt and black pepper
100g Greek yogurt

Method

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees C or as high as your oven will go.

Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and roast for 1 hour, turning them over halfway through, until the flesh is completely soft and slightly smoky. Or use the barbecue method that I mentioned above. Remove from the oven and, once cool enough handle, scoop the flesh out into a colander. Set aside, in the sink or over a bowl, for 30 minutes, for any liquid to drain away. The skin can be discarded.

Place the cherry tomatoes on the same baking sheet and roast for 12 minutes, until slightly blackened, split, and soft. Remove from the oven and set aside. You can also cook the tomatoes on the barbecue too, but put them on a baking sheet.

Meanwhile, if starting with uncooked lentils, fill a medium saucepan with plenty of water and place over high heat. Once boiling, add the lentils, decrease the heat to medium, and cook for 20 minutes, until soft but still retaining a bite. Drain, then set aside to dry out slightly. If starting with ready-cooked lentils, just tip them into a large bowl and add the eggplant flesh, tomatoes, oil, lemon juice, garlic, 2 tablespoons of oregano or thyme, ¾ teaspoon of salt, and a good grind of pepper. Mix well, then spoon into a large shallow dish. Top with the yogurt, swirling it through slightly so there are obvious streaks. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oregano or thyme over the top, drizzle with a little oil, and serve.

Walnut Cake with Caramelised Figs

Figs are plentiful in the height of summer here in Sydney. I love cooking with seasonal fruit, particularly at this time of year when there are a multitude of summer fruits available. Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, pineapples and mangoes, peaches and nectarines, my absolute favourite passionfruit, and of course delicious figs.

This recipe for walnut cake is based on my almond cake recipe that I usually make with stone fruit. I have a couple of versions on this blog. This time, I used walnuts, as I was looking for a robust flavour to go with some caramelised figs. In the almond cake recipe, I use bought ground almonds, whereas in this recipe I take whole walnuts and whizz them in the food processor to make ground walnuts with some little nutty bits still remaining. This gives the cake a nice texture.

The cake is drizzled with a coffee caramel syrup, and figs which have been poached in this syrup are placed on top. I also put some fresh figs on top which worked well too. But I think the caramelised figs are nicer!

Ingredients

150g butter
100g caster sugar
50g brown sugar
3 free range eggs
I teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1 teaspoon almond essence
150g walnuts
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

Coffee Caramel
3 tablespoons caster sugar
75mls good coffee liqueur- I used Mr Black from Botanica Distillery in NSW, a cold brew coffee liquor. Any liqueur is fine!
A few splashes of water up to 50mls to thin syrup to pouring consistency
3 figs, cut in half for poaching, or 2 or 3 fresh figs.

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C, 160 degrees C fan forced. Grease a 20cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper.

Put the walnuts into a food processor and pulse, stopping every so often to make sure you don’t over process. You want some chunky bits as well as some fine ground walnuts. Set aside, but don’t bother washing the processor!

Combine butter and sugar in a food processor, with vanilla extract or paste and almond essence. Add the eggs one at a time and pulse well.
Fold in ground walnuts, plain flour, baking powder and salt.

Put the mixture into the springform and bake for about 45 minutes  or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake.

While the cake is baking, make the caramel.

For the coffee caramel, put the caster sugar in a small frying pan or saucepan and dissolve the sugar gently over a low heat. Don’t stir the sugar or it will crystallise! Once the sugar is dissolved, cook until it turns light brown, sort of tea coloured. Take it off the heat and add the coffee liqueur carefully, as the caramel is hot. You can add some water if the syrup is too thick. If the caramel has already turned to toffee, don’t worry. Just gently heat the caramel with the liqueur over low heat and the toffee will dissolve.

Put 6 of the fig halves into the coffee syrup and poach for a couple of minutes over a low heat until the figs are slightly softened.

Once the cake is out of the oven, and while it is still hot, pierce the top a few times with a skewer and pour a few teaspoonfuls of the syrup over the cake.

Serve the cake with the poached figs on top, with a little more syrup drizzled over the figs, and Greek yoghurt or whipped cream or creme fraiche. Or decorate the cake with the plain figs, or a combination of poached and fresh, and a little of the syrup and yoghurt or cream. Either way it’s delicious!

Zucchini and Halloumi Fritters

Fritters for breakfast lunch or dinner, these simple to make little gems are the mainstay of any meal. There are so many variations and lots of recipes out there. One of the most famous versions is Bill Granger’s iconic Sweet Corn Fritters. They’re on the menu at Granger and Co in London and at the original Bills in my home town Sydney. They are pretty good, wherever you eat them.

I have also blogged in the past Gordon Ramsay’s Halloumi, Zucchini amd Herb Cakes, see here for the post. These fritters are good, too.

But these bright green numbers are so easy to make and really tasty, and are currently high on my list of go-to recipes for lunch or dinner.

They are based on a recipe from Hugh Hamilton Wines, in McLaren Vale in South Australia, although I haven’t been able to find the original recipe when researching for this post. 

What I love about these fritters is that they keep their green colour on the outside and inside. And when you cut them open, the halloumi is still a little bit oozy! Lovely.

Ingredients

2 large zucchini
1 red onion
150g halloumi
Zest of a lemon
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup plain flour
1 free-range egg, lightly beaten

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C fan-forced. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Coarsely grate the zucchini and red onion using the large holes of a box grater.
Squeeze the grated zucchini and onion to remove excess liquid. The best way to to do this is using your hands, squeezing a handful at a time. Transfer the grated vegetables to a bowl. Now grate the halloumi in the same way.
Add the lemon, thyme leaves and halloumi to the bowl and mix. Stir in the flour and egg, and season with sea salt and black pepper.
Roll heaped tablespoons of the mixture into rough balls and place onto the baking tray. The mixture is quite wet, but don’t worry, as they will keep their shape as they bake. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden and firm. The edges may be a little dark – this just adds to the rustic effect!
Serve with sour cream or Greek yoghurt, and chilli jam or sweet chilli sauce, and a big green salad on the side. Delish!

Pavlova with Blackberries, Raspberries and Toasted Macadamias

You can never have too much pavlova in my opinion. It’s a truly luscious dessert, that’s as perfect on a hot summer’s day as in mid winter. Serve it with tropical fruits, berries or lemon curd in summer, or warming poached quince or chocolate and hazelnuts in winter.

I have had a pavlova week! Last weekend in Sydney there were summer lunches and barbecues planned to mark Australia Day. You might notice I don’t use the word celebrate, as there is a rising tide of discussion about whether we should mark this day on the 26 January or indeed mark it at all. But I leave that discussion for another post.

Notwithstanding, many pavlovas would have been dutifully made and consumed last week! I didn’t actually make a pavlova, but I did get very involved in the efforts of my friends to produce this famous dessert for their Australia Day lunch.

One friend, a novice cook, sort my advice about pavlova making via text over several days! I found it quite stressful, trying to give the right advice without watching the work in progress. I sent a link to my own pavlova recipes in this blog as well as a helpful YouTube video I found. I was so relieved to hear that the pavlova was a big success – the photos looked great!

Over the weekend I stayed with my friends in beautiful Palm Beach, the Architect and the Delegator, mentioned before in this blog.

The Architect was making his famous pavlova, and I was lucky enough to watch him in action. The recipe comes from that wonderful cook Maggie Beer, but the Architect has now made the pavlova his own, putting his own inimitable stamp on it.

I’ve blogged the original pav before, see here, but I’m doing it again as I have picked up a few tricks and tips watching the Architect in action.

In this version, we made blackberries the star, as they are so plentiful and delicious in high summer. We added raspberries as in the original recipe too, for colour. I laughingly say “we”, as I was giving a little advice, but it was the Architect’s creation!

So here is the recipe. I can only say that that it’s so worth making – it’s absolutely delicious!

Ingredients

6 free-range egg whites

Pinch of salt

2 cups (475 g) caster sugar

1 tbl cornflour

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1/2 cup macadamias

500 mls thickened cream

250 g creme fraiche

250 g blackberries

250 g raspberries

Method

Preheat oven to 140 degrees C fan forced. My experience with pavlovas is that you need this low temperature. Some recipes suggest higher, but I really think low is best. You can always cook a little longer if you’re worried the pav is not done.

Draw 3 x 22 cm circles on baking paper and place the paper on 3 oven trays.

Beat the egg whites and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Don’t over beat at this stage as you can actually beat the air out and the whites will flop!

Ideally a stand mixer is best, but the Architect used hand electric beaters. If you use these you will need an assistant to spoon in the sugar for the next stage. . Luckily I was there to assist!

Gradually add the sugar, a tablespoon full at a time, beating well after each addition until the sugar is dissolved. When all the sugar has been added, best for another minute to make sure all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is not grainy. To test, squash a little piece of meringue between thumb and forefinger and it should should feel smooth.

Fold in the cornflour and vinegar. Now spread the meringue evenly onto the circles. This is where the Architect used his incredible skills, judging exactly how much meringue to spoon onto each circle. You want the discs to be flattish, as you will be layering them, but a few rustic peaks are definitely ok!

Bake the meringue discs for about 40 minutes. They should look dry and crisp on the outside. Turn the oven off and leave the discs to cool on the trays in the oven.

Lightly toast the macadamias in a frying pan over a medium heat until they are golden to light brown.

Whip the cream in a large bowl and then stir in the crème fraiche.

To assemble, place 1 meringue disc on a large serving plate, spread with 1/3 cream mixture and top with 1/3 of the blackberries and raspberries. Place the second meringue disc on top, then another 1/3 cream mixture and 1/3 berries. Top with the remaining meringue disc and decorate, as artfully as you like, with the remaining cream mixture, blackberries and raspberries, and the toasted macadamias.

PS The left over pavlova, while looking a little messy, is so worth fighting friends and family for!

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