Sunday, 29 November 2009

Baking Adventures: Christmas Cookies - part 1: Speculatius

This weekend I got properly started with the Christmas baking. I made some Lebkuchen last weekend, but that was just a short prelude to this weekend's proper baking. And I'm not done yet either, but I'm finally getting into the spirit of things, even if it's much later than usual for me, as I've been known to start planning my Christmas baking in late September!

This weekend, I made two kinds of Christmas cookies: Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars) and Speculatius. I made the cinnamon stars yesterday and forgot to document them, so I'll report on that at another time. However, although I prepared the Speculatius dough yesterday, I didn't get around to shaping and baking it until today, and this time remembered to take pictures.

I've been making Speculatius using the traditional wooden models for over ten years now, but especially in recent times I haven't made them every year, as I always struggled both with the consistency of the dough and the shaping with the wooden models.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Baking Adventures: Panda Cookies

So the other day, a friend linked me to this site which has a recipe and instructions for bread where each slice looks like a panda face.

I liked the idea. A lot.

But I thought: panda bread, hm not sure what to do with that. It's obviously a sweet dough too, so...

Then I thought, hey how about cookies? I want to bake cookies anyway.

So that's what I did.

I picked a recipe for German black-and-white-shortbread style cookies, which works along a similar principal to achieve a patterned effect, and simply coloured a portion of the dough with green food colouring paste (I'd meant to use matcha as in the original, but simply couldn't find any affordable stuff).

The result is looking pretty good.

But now you're probably interested in the recipe, right?

Friday, 26 June 2009

Leftovers Adventures: Mashed potato

Today for lunch I had baked potatoes made from new potatoes that were on the larger side.

I overestimated my stomach's capacity, and had one good-sized potato left over.

So I decided to make some mashed potato with it for a small dinner.

I microwaved the potato (skin still on) for a minute until hot, peeled it, then added a dash of cream and some salt and mashed it all up. I wanted to add some butter but didn't have more than a quarter teaspoon left.

Then I remembered that I still had some homemade herb butter (my bbq staple: unsalted butter mixed with some salt and fresh-frozen provencal herbs from the supermarket) in the fridge that needed eating as well.

Well what can I say? The result tasted amazing. The herbs really complemented the slightly sweet note from the baked potatoes, and the butter enriched it just enough without making it too greasy.

I would post a picture except it's all gone already!

I will definitely keep this trick in mind for the next time I want mashed potatoes (I usually make them from baked potatoes anyway, because I like the slight roasting flavour this gives to the potatoes).

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Baking Adventures: Raisin Buns

I mention in my blog info that a recipe for raisin buns was my first foray into experimenting with recipes.

Taking and combining two different recipes as the basis (one I liked the texture of the result, the other had the better tasting buns), I eventually arrived at what I consider the perfect raisin bun:

  • 100ml warm milk
  • 42g fresh yeast
  • pinch of sugar
  • 60g melted butter (unsalted)
  • 500g plain or strong flour
  • 1 level teaspoon salt
  • 60g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg white
  • 200g raisins
  • zest of one lemon
You also need for the glaze:
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon milk

  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk with the pinch of sugar and the melted butter.
  2. Briefly mix together flour, salt, sugar and eggs, then add the yeast mix.
  3. knead thoroughly for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Add the raisins and lemon zest, then leave to rise in warm place for an hour or so until doubled in size.
  5. Preheat the oven to 160°C(fan assisted oven).
  6. Knock back the dough and shape into buns or braid into a loaf and leave to rise again until doubled.
  7. Mix the egg yolk with the milk and brush the dough with the glaze before baking.
  8. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-35 minutes depending on size. Loaf may take longer.
  9. Cool on wire rack.

These freeze really well. Place in freezer bags when still a little warm, fasten tightly, and place in freezer when cool. Deforst in a low oven (around 100°C) or simply at room temperature.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Bread Adventures: The recipe

Anne asked me for the recipe I used as the base for my herb bread, so I thought I'd share the story as well as the recipe.

It started out with a simple recipe for a basic white loaf. I had found it last year, tried it a couple of times and was very happy with the results. Then one day I wanted to make the bread and had just started, when I realised that I didn't have enough strong flour. It was either very early or very late, with the shops closed, but I'd already crumbled up the yeast into some sugar water, so I couldn't really stop. So I had a rummage in my cupboard, and luckily I still had some left over extrastrong flour (type 1050) and some wholemeal as well. Together they were just enough to make up the required amount of flour. So I mixed all the flours, then kept going with the original recipe, hoping that it would turn out passably.

Well, the result was not just passably, it was pretty nice. A brown bread that tasted like shop-bought brown toast, only better and more... substantial. I had been looking for this kind of recipe but had found it completely by accident.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Rabbit: The Aftermath

The rabbit dinner worked out a treat, despite a few complications due to the size, or lack of size, of my oven.

I wanted to serve the rabbit with oven roasted, herbed potatoes, but couldn't fit the roaster and the potatoes in at the same time, so had to settle for simmering the rabbit over two flames of my hob rather than just sticking it in the oven.

But from the beginning:

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Bread Adventures: Oregano and bacon breads

My brother asked me to make him a batch of bread dough today, because he's off cycling and having a bbq with friends. He plans to wrap the dough around sticks or branches and bake them over the hot coals.

I did this for him last week too, using a basic white loaf recipe from Rachel Allen's Bake, which I have altered slightly by replacing part of the strong flour with extra strong bread flour and wholemeal flour (1 part each of wholemeal, plain, and extra strong) to make a tasty and slightly healthier brown bread.

Then my brother suggested adding some diced bacon to one half of the dough, and some fresh herbs to the other. He wanted to use basil, but I used oregano, as it has a more intense flavour that I think stands up better to the kneading and baking process.

I don't know what he thinks of it yet, but I sneaked a bit of the herby dough for a roll for myself, and must say I'm very pleased. Now I'm tempted to whip up a whole batch of it, some to eat today and the rest for freezing.

The Beginning: Rabbit

Hello and welcome.

After several years of keeping my baking and cooking adventures offline (okay, mostly offline, I've posted the odd recipe and pictures elsewhere before), I finally thought it was time I kept a better record of my kitchen adventures.

You can find a short bio on the side of this blog, but right now I want to get straight to the point, that is, into my kitchen adventures:

This Easter, I'm planning to cook rabbit for the first time. I bought it fresh from the market this morning, and it's currently chilling until I need it tomorrow. The recipe calls for it to be marinaded with herbs (thyme, oregano, sage and rosemary) and citrus zest and juice for a couple of hours (I'll start that tomorrow morning), and then slowly stewed with tomatoes. I'm going to serve it with new potatoes roasted in some olive oil and with the leftovers of the herbs.

I'll see how it goes.