Sunday, June 29, 2008

the silly baker

I may have been out of my mind, but I joined the Daring Bakers for a little bit of ... something.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I was up half the night (I happened to be up half the night in a head-cold-induced trance) pondering fillings and rollings and my arms .. what's the underside of the forearm? .. were sore for two days after the rolling, we definitely need a rolling pin on a wheel, rather than a big fat stick that requires much awkward wrist twists.

Was it worth it?
My Danish Braids. It made a truckload of pastry and with my offcuts there is a little family of darling croissants. I think I forgot to take photos once the croissants were done, but they are sugar and spice and all things nice.

Apricot Almond Danish braid. and below, apple.

I am worn out! ....but vaguely proud.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Longwinded kitchen spells

...seem to be wearing me out. I am spending ridiculous amounts of time performing menial tasks that chain me to the bench. However it does get some kind of cool results.
Above is the first silly pursuit. I read in the paper about beans dressed softly in chickpeas, it was that Alexander woman again, and we didn't have any ricotta for the beans so it was Homemade Milk Ricotta - very easy to make, as it turned out. Only my saucepan on the lowest heat was determined to do nothing less than boil, so boil away merrily it did until I (too late) remembered the simmer mat and it may have been my fault if it was slightly too hard to beat to a creamy consistency. But it was delicious.
Next was to make a porridge of chickpea flour (besan), oops, thought that said 250g, no wonder it needed so much more water than I originally put.. never mind, it will be fat, bake it anyway for a much longer time. Process the tomatoes for a vinaigrette? No, I'm hungry. Lemon/olive oil salsa it shall be.
Did I mention it was meant to be a roulade? No way that was going to happen when I had the exact sized pan (18 x 28 cm, thankyou very much) with double the amount of chickpea.. thing.. and anyway a roulade is meant to wait for an hour.
I had a sandwich, and very pretty too.

I am also having a slight teacake obsession at the moment, no photos of any of them yet. So far I have made three and am hunting around for more.. apple and custard may make an appearance somewhere in the next month or two, and the glazed Irish will definitely get a second go. Oh winter and sore throats and comforting English ideas (and puddings! lovely old stodge).

It has to be one of my favourite things to curl up - sorry for the cliché - with a good book in front of the fire (or in front of some BBC with a blanket) and a hot cup of tea. Oh tea, how I love thee.
Especially when we get winter rain, which was kind enough to drop in for a few hours this morning and may yet be back, fingers crossed.

More sweet things to come.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Rahat Lokum

I love all Middle Eastern consumables I have come across so far (with the exception of some ultra-perfumed lemon sugar water that just didn't seem right). And I do enjoy Claudia Roden's writing, and read her book quite a bit, and my brother loves Turkish Delight - the real stuff of course - and I was hiking off to Coburg for music lessons and catching the tram down Sydney Road, and so it came about that we planned to make our own Turkish Delight, or as it is otherwise called, Rahat Lokum. The lokum will keep for a long time in a box, apparently. Sugar usually does.
So more than once I jumped off the no. 19 and wandered interestedly but less fruitfully around Brunswick/Albion (is Albion an actual place or just a lonely station like Dennis?) in search of mastic to flavour our lokum. Mah-stick-uh seems to be the way to say it, best as I can spell anyway. It took a few goes and I was late for class twice because of this quest! Eventually A1 produced a tiny plastic pocket (turned out to contain a small teaspoon's worth) of tiny translucent pebbles, one of many stapled to a cardboard backing, that cost me either 70c or $1.65 or something. Not much. Will have to go back to the grocery I found for that sour cherry jam...
Brother and I followed the recipe as faithfully as we could, grinding the mastic tears with sugar, mortar and pestle, taking turns to stir for - granted - 2 hours not 3, but we were only making half the whopping 3kg of sugar's quantity. We still didn't have enough cornflour and had to run down to the neighbours.. and had serious lump problems.. and with pistachios, lemon, all the pink colouring we had, mastic and a new packet of cornflour (maybe wheaten would have worked better? No amount of stirring would smooth our lumps) not poured but scooped and scraped into a heavily dusted dish. It must have been fate that the Sunday of stirring was the day the Age magazine had an entry about the tears of the mastic tree.

The next day we tried to cut with cornflour and probably too much icing sugar, but still.. our sweet fragrant lokum releases its hard-sought flavours in a slow rush of mouth-watering tang that requires a second (almost solid) piece. It's slightly tinged with colour and very soft, like we would no doubt become if we ate it all quickly - as is quite tempting.