Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rye bread, regular and rosemary and olive.

I recently bought an amazing little cook book – ‘Baking Frame by Frame’. It’s got these amazing step-by-step photos of the process of each recipe, which is a) a great way to cheat when it comes to composition etc (hey, amateur food photographer here! Totally allowed to steal borrow ideas for shots!) and b) really handy so that you can tell what your recipe should look like at each stage.

The beatifulwonderfulamazing book was only $9.00, so naturally, I snapped it up. Leafing through it, I couldn’t really decide what to bake. There was so much choice! Did I want to make croissants or muffins? An upside-down cake or a Bundt? Pies or quiches? In the end I chose rye bread because I’ve been meaning to make bread for quite some time. Also, my stomach likes to be difficult and although I am not celiac, I tend to have difficulty digesting wheat (actually, according to the doctor, any grain that I have too much of will become a problem for me), so as a result, I have to rotate my grains and try and reduce my wheat intake. Yay!

So today, having not much else to do, I got to work. I decided to make two loaves. One would be a straight forward, regular rye loaf. The other, a rosemary and olive flavour sensation!

This is the recipe I used:
Rye bread

450g rye flour
225g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
2tsp salt
2tsp light brown sugar I used regular brown sugar, and reduced it to 1.5tsp
1.5tsp easy-blend dried yeast
425ml lukewarm water (I hate lukewarm water. It makes me think of being in a public pool, and swimming through a patch of lukewarm water. Yeah. You know what that is.)
2tsp vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing
1 egg white


Sift together rye flour, strong flour and salt in a bowl. Add yeast and sugar. Stir in until fully incorporated.
Make a well in the centre of the mixture and add the oil and water.
Stir until the dough begins to come together and leaves the side of the bowl. If adding olives or rosemary (or any other herbs or vegetables) add them to the mixture once it has just started to come together and continue mixing.
Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead for ten minutes until elastic and smooth.
Brush a bowl with the extra oil, then shape the dough into a ball, place it in the bowl and leave it to rise in a warm place for two hours, or until doubled in volume.
Oil a baking tray or put baking paper down.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock back, then knead for another ten minutes.
Shape the dough into a loaf and put onto the baking tray and cover. Let it rise again in a warm place for a further 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190˚C and beat the egg white and 1 tablespoon of water in a bowl.
Bake the loaf for 20 minutes, then remove and brush with the egg white glaze. Bake for another 20 minutes and repeat.
Bake again for a further 20-30 minutes, until the crust is a rich brown colour and transfer to a wire rack to cool.


The process was a bit tedious, especially the bit with the oven and the egg whites... Nonetheless, it was fairly easy, and a perfect recipe if you’ve got a day at home, or even just two hours really. It’s simple enough to make the dough in the morning, then let it sit for the day before knocking it back, quickly kneading it again and then starting the oven drama (after letting it sit for another little while of course).

I love seeing dough go from this...

Photobucket this.

Taste-wise it was great. Had that beautiful rye bite, which I adore. The rosemary and olive version was by far my favourite. Absolutely delicious. The flavours worked really well with the tanginess of the rye, and it didn’t even need any butter or spread to be incredible.

The texture too was perfect. Nice and dense, but not too heavy on the stomach. The rosemary and olive version was a tinsy weenie bit moist, because I wasn’t able to squeeze all the liquid out of the olives (though I did add more flour to try and counter-act that) and probably could have done with a tiny bit longer in the oven, but you hardly notice it at all with something spread on top.


I actually prefer my bread with avocado, but I didn’t have a ripe one available.

My mum’s a bit like me when it comes to grains (though she prefers to eat almost entirely gluten-free), but I told her about my rye bread and she’s very excited. I’ll be popping by today to drop some off, and maybe even get the recipes for two of my favourite foods desserts – Hurmašice (Hor-ma-sti-che) and Tufahije (Tu-fah-hi-ye).
Maybe we’ll even see a post about them some time soon, though uni starts tomorrow which basically means my life and free time are forfeit....


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lemon Meringue Pie

It’s my birthday tomorrow and as such I’ve decided to bake myself a cake pie.

Originally I had big plans of layered French cakegasms, but after my last cooking adventure I decided to play it safe, do something nice and simple and start rebuilding my shattered self-esteem. (In my defence, for Christmas I made my boyfriend’s family a delicious French Yule log... definitely of cakegasm calibre).

And so I decided on lemon meringue pie (I was also considering sticky date pudding but given the sudden MEGAHEATWAVE that’s been piled on top of an already hot Queensland summer, I decided something light and airy and cool would be more appropriate).

PhotobucketI accidentally zested myself as well as these lemons...

PhotobucketThis was 125 grams of butter, but I have a feeling it may have been a little too much. I’m not sure whether to blame the recipe or my scale...

PhotobucketAs you can see, a nifty ‘patting into place’ technique had to be utilized.


Now please ignore my old/dirty/gross stove and concentrate for a moment on that beautiful yellow. The colour of sunshine, sunflowers, happiness and uh...lemons!


Mmmmm, yellow..... Isn’t the colour just lovely? By this stage I was starting to feel a little more confident, after the pastry crust fiasco.

PhotobucketI love the contrast between the bright white meringue and the delicious lemon yellow. It looks so good! I have to admit, there were a few poking fingers going on during this final stage of assembly...I couldn’t help myself!

PhotobucketTen minutes to go!

Anyway, I used a recipe from Bron Marshall, which I tweaked a bit.

This is the recipe:

Lemon Meringue Pie

For the Pastry:

200 grams / 7 oz of all purpose flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

a good pinch of salt

125 grams /4¼ oz of butter

50 grams / 2 oz of castor sugar

1 egg

(I also added a dash of vanilla essence)

For the Lemon Curd Filling:

1 cup of sugar

½ cup of cornflour/cornstarch

1½ cups of cold water

3 to 4 lemons, the juice and finely grated zest (I used 4)

3 egg yolks, beaten (I used 4)

50 grams / 2 oz of butter

For the Meringue topping:

5 egg whites

½ cup of castor sugar

a good pinch of salt

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C (392°F)
  2. WASH THE LEMONS. You have no idea what crazy chemicals these have been sprayed with, and if that’s not enough to encourage you, just think of all the grotty hands that have been fondling them!

To make the pastry crust:

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl or food processor Aw, come on guys! Getting your hands dirty is the fun part! Also, the rest of the recipe didn’t mention what to do with the baking powder so I also sifted it in here.
  2. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the flour either with your hands or using your food processor, until it resembles fine breadcrumbs This is where I started to notice something going wrong, my mixture looked too much like batter and not enough like breadcrumbs. Not enough flour or too much butter is the culprit, methinks.
  3. Whisk the castor sugar, eggs together (and vanilla essence) and add to the mixture to make a firm sloppy dough. My pastry was much too wet so I made up for it by heavily flouring my work bench. Could have made a whole other cake with how much flour I loaded on to it!
  4. On a lightly (heavily!) floured bench or board knead the mixture until it forms a smooth ball.
  5. Handle as little as possible to prevent the pastry from becoming hard when baked.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. I like to refrigerate my pastry much longer than this. 45 minutes at the very least.
  7. On a lightly floured board or bench carefully roll out half of the pastry until it’s approximately 5 mm thickness.
  8. Line a 23cm pie dish and prick the surface with a fork, line the inside of the pie shell and fill with baking beans or rice. Although I tried as hard as I could to roll the pastry out, it really just wasn’t happening for me. In the end I used the old ‘pat it into place’ method whereby I rolled as much as possible and then jst patted extra pieces in where they were needed (they were needed in a lot of places....) I also refrigerated mine before baking it for another 30 minutes...just because.
  9. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the crust is golden and cooked through. When I took mine out, the base hadn’t cooked at all and the sides, though browned weren’t too much better. I ended p removing my baking chick-peas (yeah, well, I didn’t know what else to do with them!) and baking the whole thing for an extra ten minutes, turning halfway through so that it didn’t burn).
  10. Remove the baking beans and set aside.

To make the Lemon Curd Filling:

  1. Place the sugar, cornflour, cold water and finely grated zest in a medium-sized saucepan.
  2. Over a gentle flame heat the curd, stirring continuously until it begins to thicken.
  3. Add the beaten eggs and butter and continue to heat and stir through until very thick.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, adding more to taste as desired. I added all of the lemon juice and skipped out on a bit of the sugar. I like my lemon meringue to be quite tart, and not too sweet like those awful store-bought sugary nightmares.
  5. Pour the lemon curd into the cooked pastry shell and top with the following meringue.

To make the Meringue topping

  1. In a very clean and large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer place the 5 egg whites and a pinch of salt.
  2. Whisk until soft peaks form and then gradually add in the sugar a little at a time until the meringue is thick, smooth and glossy and all of the sugar has dissolved I sometimes add a dash of vinegar to cut back the eggy taste of the meringue, though I didn’t in this instance and it turned out just fine.
  3. Spoon or pipe the meringue over the lemon curd filled pie shell and bake for a further 8 to 10 minutes until the meringue is golden.

  4. Cool slightly before serving.
  5. Serves 8 to 10

PhotobucketAnd the final product! A little bit ugly, but full of personality and love!

The verdict:

Despite the numerous little surprises that I encountered, overall I’m quite happy with how it turned out. The pie weeped (ewwww, I hate that word), but apparently this can be fixed if you mix some cornstarch and a bit of cold water into the meringue. Besides, I didn’t mind this overmuch as I thought the crust was a little bit too dry. It had a similar texture to shortbread, which wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, but the weeping fixed that! It didn’t however fix the fact that upon attempting to remove the pie from the pie dish the crust crumbled and broke, and unfortunately so did quite a few pieces of the meringue. Still. No affect on the taste, so we’ll just pretend like it never happened.

I really liked the lemon curd. It was beautifully zesty and citrusy and I enjoyed being able to feel the bits of lemon zest in my mouth. Sure beats the store bought stuff!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

An introduction, sort of.

Camera pans into wide world of food blogging and people who know what they’re doing in the kitchen. Enter me. Wannabe chef. Wannabe food blogger.


Having wanted to start my own foodblog for some time now, I feel that now, as in right this very second, is the moment. Not tomorrow. Not yesterday. Right now. Why? Well. What deterred me for so long was the awful inadequacy I felt when I stalked read other food blogs. The pictures were beautiful. They left me drooling. Sometimes I would catch myself nibbling corners of my computer screen (omnomnom...cake.....). The recipes were complex, and exciting. But more than that, what kept me off the internet waves was the fact that all these food bloggers out there seemed to never make mistakes. Or, when they did, they were such trivial silly little things and the food still looked and probably tasted amazing and I just sorta wanted to hit them over the head with something heavy and force feed them my latest concoction of oh-oh.

But I realise now; there must be more people like me out there. And if not, well surely somebody’s going to enjoy reading about my misendeavours in the kitchen.

Right? Right. Everybody likes laughing at someone.

Screen fades out. Camera pans to last night.

Last night. Oh, last night. Weeks of planning. A whole day of preparation. Shopping baskets and three runs to the store to grab stuff I had forgotten. And then last night.

You see, I’m a waitress and my boyfriend is an apprentice chef. This means that Valentine’s Day is the bane of our existence, the worst day of the year and easily the most unromantic event in our lives. It also means to layers of stress; stress for the physical day which we know will destroy us heart, mind and soul, and stress for the day that we chose to perform our sweet, Valentine’s-y activities on. Because it was has to totally rock otherwise it’s just another day of the week.

So what I decided to do was a three course dinner. The menu was sublime. Entree: Stuffed Portobello mushrooms. Rocket, kale and feta salad. Balsamic and shallot vinaigrette. Main: Filet Mignon in Bordelaise. Rosemary and white bean purée. Oven roasted vegetables. Balsamic honey glaze. (Well, I had eggplant and lentils instead of that dead cow business. Being vegetarian doesn’t lend well to eating filet mignon). Dessert: Bittersweet chocolate soufflé. Spun sugar. Honey chocolate sauce.

The mushrooms I figured would be easy. Really, how could I go wrong? And they were and they were great and he loved them and I patted myself on the back and felt smug.

Mains? I was a little very scared. Meat? Why? Bordelaise sauce? I couldn’t even taste it because it had stock in the stupid demi-glace (also, for those of you who don’t know; demi-glace is the other bane of my existence and my new mission in life is to STAMP IT OUT OF EXISTENCE for all the pain it caused me). But anyway.

I had everything prepared and everything would have gone great except that (of all things!), a circuit blew and the power to the oven and stove went off, so forty minutes later I was still labouring over the stove, cursing and yelling and poking the hotplates in a vain attempt to make them heat up. My boyfriend and my saviour eventually broke the stay-out-of-the-kitchen rule and came in to find me standing in the middle of what appeared to be a cyclone devastated kitchen crying and throwing bits of kale at the oven whilst cursing under my breath.

He hugged me, suggested he check the fuse box, got yelled at by me who thought it couldn’t POSSIBLY be that because the lights were on, checked it anyway, fixed the problem, came back in, hugged me, got kicked out of the kitchen and didn’t complain at all.

So eventually dinner was plated up. It was pretty and I wanted to take photos but given that his perfectly medium-rare meat (yay!) had been taken of the heat quite a while ago and was growing quite room-temperature I thought it best not to make him wait.

According to him everything was great, meat was perfectly cooked, sauce was awesome and the vegetables were delicious. His one criticism was that the bean purée was salty, but of course it was because rather than being able to simmer out the alcohol, and thus have a nicely balanced and well flavoured purée, I instead soaked mine in white wine for forty minutes and then couldn’t be bothered simmering it out because, well, it would just take TOO FLIPPING LONG.

So anyway. We decided to wash up after mains so that I could approach dessert with a clear mind. PSH.

I like soufflé. Usually I am quite good at it. Last night however, was special, so I thought I’d try and find an even better soufflé recipe. I chose one that used cocoa and water and a little bit of grated chocolate. I don’t know why the alarm bells weren’t ringing when it only required two egg whites and 75 grams of sugar. Regardless, I made the mixture (though I added an extra egg white and some extra grated chocolate) and put it in ramekins and on the night all I had to do was stick it into the oven. Apparently for 16 minutes. PSH.

When I checked them, they hadn’t risen at all. Like the soufflés, I was deflated, but I thought we should give them a go anyway. We did and found out why they hadn’t risen. They hadn’t cooked at all on the inside. Cue another ten minutes in the oven. This time they rose and I felt happier. Until I took a bite of one. Wow. They had been called ‘bittersweet chocolate soufflés’, but y’know, I only really got the ‘bitter’. Luckily I had made honey chocolate sauce as well otherwise dessert would have been a disaster. Or more of a disaster than it already was.

Eating it, I was seething. Obviously whoever had posted that god-awful recipe had done so for one purpose and one purpose only: to ruin my dessert/night/life (yes, I was that dramatic). And it had worked. So I seethed some more, had a few more bites and left half of it unfinished, vowing to get my revenge, and also promising my boyfriend to make him a better soufflé some other day. After I recover from this ordeal.

I went to bed furious at the whole day (or at least, the evening anyway), but waking up this morning I could see the humour. Sort of. Hopefully this is one of those things that I will look back on and laughing about, though for the moment it’s less of the laughing and more of the cringing. But, c’est la vie. It’s my birthday soon and for it I intend to make cake. So hopefully for that I shall have not only a nice recipe, but some decent pictures and a less embarrassing story to tell.