I have always loved cardamom biscuits the most

April 15, 2012 § 4 Comments

I don’t think I have ever made these biscuits the same way twice. They seem to evolve from feeling and what is in the cupboard at the time. Here is a version that is close to what I always start out wanting to make  but am usually too stingy or don’t have all the ingredients at hand to pull it off. You can choose to add less almond meal and more flour if you like – the nuttiness makes them very rich.

Recipe for cardamom biscuits
100g butter
3/4 cup rapadura or brown sugar if you want
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp vanilla essence
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
zest of ½ orange
1 egg lightly beaten
1 cup almond meal
¾ cup wholemeal spelt flour sifted

Pre heat oven to 180°C. Cream together butter, rapadura and spices. Add and combine the egg and vanilla. Then stir in the flour, almond meal and baking powder until just combined. You don’t want to over stir once the flour  has been added because it will stimulate the gluten and make your biscuits tough

Place spoonfuls on a greased baking tray making sure you allow room for them to spread. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

wild sourdough bread

November 3, 2011 § 3 Comments

I had a sourdough starter given to me from a friend who had been given it from someone else who had inherited it from his mother. The original was rumored to be 30 years old or so the story goes, and no wonder it made such lovely bread. It wasn’t my first, I had inherited others and made some myself but I was never devoted enough to go the distance as travels would take me here and there and houses were often new. Needless to say, a lot of them got lost or perished along the way. But during their various lives spent with me, they all became well-loved members of the family.

Even though my descendent of the 30 year old starter had not been in my life more than four months it was no exception, it had worn a comfortable place in my heart. But one day it mysteriously disappeared, the little jar where it sat dormant in the fridge was gone without a trace. My reaction was one of somewhat panic. The mysteriousness made it all the more tormenting. I felt I had lost a wise old friend.

After some lonely days left yearning for some dough to stir and knead and bake and smell, I pulled myself together to start again, from scratch, to see what kind of a beast this spring Melbourne air would bring to a culture. Also, I have been wanting to post a recipe on sourdough for sometime now but never knew quite where to start… I guess at the very beginning is best.

Sourdough is pretty much a way of making bread without conventional yeast, instead you use natural yeasts harnessed from the air. And thats what is so very wonderful about it, every culture is unique taking the native variety that comes with the location.

How to make sourdough bread

The starter

Place 1 cup flour (I like using spelt or rye, but any wholemeal flour will do) and 1 cup water in a large wide-mouthed jar, stir well and let it sit, covered with a muslin cloth, for about 4-6 days or until it starts to bubble. During this time you must stir it at least once a day, twice is better – once in the morning and once in the evening. When it bubbles and starts to rise in the jar you should notice it has a nice sour smell. You can now add 1 tablespoon of flour every day for 3 or 4 days and continue stirring as before. It should get more bubbly and be doubling in size between feeds. Now you know it is ready and you can either feed it one last time and store in the fridge with a muslin cloth covering the jar or begin making your bread.

When storing the starter in the fridge it is best to feed it about 2 – 3 Tbsp of flour and a dash of water twice a week, it should remain the consistency of a thick paste or very wet dough. It will last in the fridge for about 3 weeks without being fed but might need a bit of extra feeding and stirring to get it happily bubbly again. You will get a feel for it as you go along.

The bread
The foundation for this recipe comes from another old friend Jenny, who gave me my very first sourdough culture about 5 years ago.

First you will need to empty the sourdough starter into a large bowl. Here its best to use a porcelain non reactive bowl. Stir in 1 cup water and 1 cup flour (again I like to use spelt or rye, but you can use any flour, or any combination of flours). Return half the mixture back into your jar, cover with your muslin cloth and return to the fridge for next time. Let what is left in the bowl sit for 6 – 12 hours. I usually cover it with a plate to prevent anything falling in.

When it is active and bubbly again, add another cup flour and water, mixing well. Allow to rest for another 6 – 12 hours (the colder the weather the longer it will need). Once active for a final time, its ready to make your bread!! (note if you used a starter that had been left in the fridge unfed  for more than a week it might need one more feed at this stage to get it really bubbly and happy again). You should now have roughly 2 cups of mixture.

The final stage
To your mixture add, 1 cup water, ~ 3 – 3  1/2 cups flour and 1 tsp salt. Stir until combined. Then knead for 10 minutes adding more flour as needed.

Richard Bertinet has a wonderful technique for kneading, really just the French way, but he is where I discovered it. I found a rather unglamorous you-tube demonstration here. You will need a slightly wetter dough than my recipe, so add less flour. Also, I have never had success with this kneading method when I have used rye. A combination of spelt and wheat or all wheat seems to work best. I think high gluten is important here. You will end up with a more chewy result with this technique but its a bit more tricky so it might be best to master the basic sourdough before moving into complicating ways of kneading.

Once kneaded into a smooth dough, place into a greased and lightly floured bread tin and allow to rise covered with a damp cloth or plastic bag, until it doubles in size. This is usually between 6 and 12 hours depending on the temperature. Hot weather will make it rise a lot faster. You also have to be careful you don’t let it over rise as you will notice it starts sinking again.

Finally, bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C/390°F for about 45 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped.

For example
Fri AM – Feed and split
Fri PM – Feed
Sat AM – Knead and put in tin
Sat PM – Bake 

For further reading on sourdough see Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions and Sandor Ellix Katz Wild Fermentation 

When life hands you lemons: olive oil, lemon and cardamom muffins

May 14, 2011 § 4 Comments

A lemon tree grows outside my bedroom window bushy and tall, almost the height of the house. From my bed I can watch them ripen on the branches too high to reach. And when I can’t contain myself any longer, I head out with a ladder and pull them down. The skin is rich with its lemony oils that fill the house when they are brought inside.

How to make Olive Oil Lemon Cardamom Muffins 

1 1/2 cups castor sugar
1 1/4 cups olive oil
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
3 cups plain flour
1 dessert spoon of baking powder
Zest of 2 lemons
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
1 tsp vanilla essence

Pre-heat oven to 170°C. Stir all ingredients in a large mixing bowl until just combined. Cook for 1/2 an hour or until cooked through when tested with a skewer.

Homemade Spicy Wedges with Aioli

February 26, 2011 § 3 Comments

I have had quite a few requests for this recipe, firstly at Friendly Beaches and then at our wonderful garden gig we had for the Luscombe street Community Garden last sunday.

To make these wedges you have to be prepared to go a bit wild in the spice cupboard. They are usually different every time I make them. This is probably depending on which spices aren’t too far back and hard to reach in the cupboard, but I will do my best to give you something to follow. I would also like to stress here that there is definitely room for personal touch. Sometimes I have made them with lemongrass, sometimes not, sometimes with cumin, sometimes not, sometimes with turmeric, sometimes not, sometimes with garam masala, sometimes not and so on. However, I think the lemon juice, zest and cinnamon are great ingredients to add an intriguing flavour.

I have provided an aioli recipe to go with the wedges but they are just as good with chutney or the like.

Spicy Wedges (Serves 4 – 5)

2 kg potatoes

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp paprika

2 tsp whole cumin seeds

2 tsp ground coriander seeds

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1 1/2 tsp salt

Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon

80 ml oil

1 stalk lemongrass beaten with the back of a knife and chopped finely

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Wash the potatoes and cut into wedges.  Place the potatoes and all the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix until the potatoes are coated evenly.

Place the potatoes on two large baking trays making sure all wedges are touching the tray. Bake for 1 hour if using a fan forced oven, a bit longer if not.

Aioli

2 egg yolks

1 cup light olive oil or a combination of stronger  olive oil and sunflower oil

3 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp mustard

1 tsp lemon zest

2 cloves crushed garlic

A big handful of fresh herbs. I used parsley, oregano and thyme.

Place the egg yolks and 2 Tbsp lemon juice on a large plate and stir well with a fork. Add the olive oil very very slowly, stirring well with the fork after each drop.

Once all the olive oil has been added, stir in the remainder lemon juice, zest, garlic and mustard. Finely chop the herbs and add these too.

(If you want to cheat and buy a good quality mayonnaise and add garlic lemon juice, zest and herbs to make your aioli, I promise I won’t tell anyone. I have been guilty of this too).

Serve in a bowl alongside the wedges.

Enjoy!

Everything Pink: Chocolate Beetroot Cupcakes

February 22, 2011 § 3 Comments

Pink is beautiful! I have only just noticed this.

My love affair with pink has crept up and surprised me, slowly taking form, settling into the back-seat of my mind, organising itself, getting comfortable before revealing itself to me.

Perhaps the seed was planted recently when I loved the paper curtain in our laundry.

Floral and patterned and pink.

Or when I started taking photos of pink roses.

Velvety and creamy and pink.

Or perhaps it was some years ago when I bought this dress.

1950’s and vintage and pink.

Or way back when I admired the stain of beetroot on everything it touched.

Bright and earthy and pink.

Either way, I have been told that pink is the colour of universal love and you should bring pink into your life when you want calmness, relaxation, acceptance and contentment.

Well that suits me just fine. Any excuse to make Chocolate Beetroot Cupcakes in a pink dress!

Recipe for Chocolate Beetroot Cupcakes with Orange Spiced Chocolate Mousse Topping

200 g dark cooking chocolate, I used Green and Blacks Organic 85% Cocoa
80 g butter
200 g dark brown sugar
3 free range organic eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
200 g raw beetroot finely grated
1 Tbsp natural yoghurt
Dash of milk if needed
80 g almond meal
80 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Method

Pre-heat oven to 170°C/340°F

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until fluffy. Mix in the grated beetroot, yoghurt and milk. Add the melted chocolate and combine well. Add the almond meal and sift in the flour cinnamon and baking powder. Stir until just combined.

Place 16 – 18 cupcake cases in a muffin tray. Spoon mixture into the cases until about 3/4 full.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

Chocolate mousse topping

100 g dark chocolate (85% cocoa)
200 ml sour cream
Zest of 1/4 orange
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch ground cloves
2 Tbsp honey

Method

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the topping by melting the chocolate along with the orange zest in a bowl over a saucepan with boiling water. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the sour cream. Add the cloves, vanilla extract and honey and smooth over the cooled cupcakes. Store in the fridge.

Enjoy!!

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