Best Ever Anzac Biscuits

Or at least that’s what my bowl tells me…

Anzac Biscuits

And actually I’ve modified this recipe to make them even better.

I couldn’t quite bring myself to add so!much!sugar, so I normally reduce the cup of sugar to 3/4 of a cup (every little bit helps). And unless you like them extra crispy, cooking for 20 minutes in my oven is far far too long. At 160 degrees in a non-fan-forced oven, my biscuits take about 15 minutes (it’s about 12 minutes in a fan-forced oven). If you have two trays, set the time for 10 minutes, and then swap them over for the final five. You’ll notice that there are no directions for the size of the biscuit dough balls (gasp!). A generous dessert spoon of dough makes an approximately 1 inch ball,  which in turn makes a biscuit that is generous but not excessive (remember – you can always eat more than one!)

Anzac Biscuits Anzac Biscuits Anzac BIscuits

To be fair I am not such an Anzac Biscuit connoisseur to be able to define these as Best Ever. However I often have all the ingredients on hand, which means whipping up a batch for unexpected visitors is very quick and easy, and they never last long.

Bread and Butter

No Knead Bread

So I’ve been making Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread most weekends for 6 or so weeks. I’m not actually sure that we’ve bought bread since I started making it. This weekend’s batch was pronounced the Best!Bread!Evah! by the BF, and I’m not sure if the superiority of this weekend’s loaf is down to some random variable, or the fact that this is first time I’ve use my (new!) digital scales to weigh out the ingredients by mass, rather than measure by volume ( e.g., 400 g of flour, rather than 3 cups). I guess I will have to make some next week and see if I can reproduce this weekend’s results…

Which brings me to the subject of butter. Ever since we ate the Best Butter Ever in France (purchased from some convenience store near our apartment, so nothing super special), I’ve be researching why butter here in Australia is… not the Best Butter Ever. I first wondered if it was the salt content – european butter is generally salt free. But even the unsalted butter here doesn’t have the sweetness of the butter we had in France. Then I found this article,  which explains that up to 10% of Australian butter is frozen, which turns rancid when mixed with fresh butter. Oddly enough this hasn’t stopped me from buying ‘normal’ butter for baking,  but I’ve been trialing more exotic butters for my bread. To date, Girgar Butter has been the best substitute, though still not 100% the same. There are a couple of specialty food places around that do stock the proper French cultured butter too. I’d like to try them,  although that requires planning and breaking my normal shopping routines.  (If only I could buy it online!!)

No Knead Bread  No Knead Bread

Chocolate Lime Cookies

Chocolate Cookies with Cocoa Nibs and Lime

So you know how oranges and chocolate goes well together? Turns out chocolate and lime does too! I only found this out whilst looking for a recipe that used cocoa nibs, and I stumbled upon this recipe from Garret McCord from Simply Recipes. They’re seriously good. As an aside, coca nibs are also seriously good, though a little unsettling to eat by themselves – they have the consistency of coffee beans with a serious chocolate flavour. I need to find more recipes for them.  As another aside, Simply Recipes is also a great recipe source – I’ve been reading their RSS feed as long as I’ve been reading RSS feeds!!!

Cue the food porn…

Chocolate Cookies with Cocoa Nibs and Lime Chocolate Cookies with Cocoa Nibs and Lime Chocolate Cookies with Cocoa Nibs and Lime

More Recent Baking

Raspberry and Coconut Loaf

Apparently I’ve been doing a bit of entertaining recently (actually it was one afternoon tea at my place, and one at a friends). Here a few things I’ve made in the last few weeks.

This Coconut Raspberry Loaf is moist, delish and diary free ( it does have an egg in it), with coconut milk replacing all milk and butter. Since goign to Hawaii,  I’ve started using a lot more coconut, or at least become more much more aware that I’m using it.  It gives me fond memories  🙂

Guacamole Muffins

A desire to make a baked treat which invovled avocado, lead me to this Guacamole Scones recipe. though I really think their muffins.  I went mini size and easy on the chili because there were kids present (though lets face it – they totally just went for the chocolate!).  I would amp up the chili and perhaps use a sharper cheese (perhaps parmesan?) to give these a bit more bite, but the avocado still worked remarkably well.

Black Forest Cake Cupcakes
And, finally these black forest cake cupcakes ( or muffins), which looked adorable, but to be honest were a little on the dry sides, so I won’t bother typing out the recipe…

The Scones are a Lie

Scones my Arse

This is my pumpkin and date scone dough after I had added (approximately) double the self raising flour to the recipe in an attempt to form a workable scone dough. It was at the point I ran out of extra flour.

The recipe in question was from taste.com, who are normally very reliable, though not in this case: http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/23985/pumpkin+and+date+scones

I didn’t even add all the pumpkin and milk I was supposed to, and yet I ended up with batter, not dough. Indeed, if I’d bothered to read the comments I would have found someone who had experienced the exact same problem, and possibly I would  have not added quite so much milk (or perhaps *any* milk, until I had determined whether it was needed). Anyway, I took the advice of Bonnie9683, added a bit more brown sugar and spices, and bunged it in to two loaf tins. Apart from taking much much longer cook than the 15 minutes quoted for the scones, the bread actually turned out very well. Great flavour and I loved the vivid orange of the bread. I’d definitely try this again, just not so much milk this time.

Scones my Arse

British Poppy-Seeded Bloomer (with sesame seeds)

British Poppy-Seeded Bloomer

My good friends bought me ‘The Practical Encyclopedia of Baking’ by Martha Day during my student days and it’s a book I  come back to again and again (the san francisco sourdough bread recipe is very good).  Most recently I made the British Poppy-Seeded Bloomer, notable for it’s long rising time (almost 8 hours all up), which also gives it a (very) slight hint of a very sourdough flour. True to the notes,  the bread has kept very well – day 4 after baking and it’s still relatively fresh – much more so than other bread I’ve made in the past. As always, putting in the required kneading time really makes a difference to the consistency of the dough.  I was a little worried about the number of times the dough was knocked back, but it rose beautifully in the end. I still might only knock back next once next time.

Ingredients – Bread
675g unbleached white flour
2 tsp salt
15 g fresh yeast (I used ~ 7g dry)
430 mL water

For the topping
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp water
poppy seeds – for sprinkling (i sprinkled sesame)

Sift together flour and salt together into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Mix the yeast and 150 mL of the water in a jug or bowl.  Add in the remaining water.  Add to the centre of the flour and mix, gradually incorporating the surrounding flour, until the mixture forms a firm dough.

Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough very well, for at least 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with lightly oiled clear film and leave to rise, at cool room temperature, about 15-18 deg C, for 5-6 hours, or until doubled in bulk.

Knock back the dough, turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead it quite hard for about 5 minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, and re-cover. Leave to rise, at cool room temperature, for a further 2 hours.

Knock back again and repeat the thorough kneading. Leave to rest for 5 minutes, then roll out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle ~ 2.5 cm thick. Roll the dough up from one long side and shape it into a square-ended thick baton shape.

Place it seam side up and cover and leave to rest for 15 minutes. Turn the loaf over and place on the greased baking sheet. Plump up by tucking the dough under the sides and ends, then cut 6 diagonal slashes on top. Leave to rest, covered, in a warm place, for 10 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 230 deg C. Mix the salt and water together and brush this glaze over the bread. Sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Spray the oven with water, bake the bread immediately for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 200 deg C; bake for 25 minutes more, until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

British Poppy-Seeded Bloomer British Poppy-Seeded Bloomer

The Great Apple Pie Experiment

Apple Pie Apple Pie Apple Pie

Third time lucky.

We’ve been experimenting with apple pies to fulfill A’s wish to take apple pies to work on his birthday (instead of the normal store bought cake). I’ve had *some* experience with pies and quiches, but usually find the pastry too much effort. I usually avoid it. Anyway, we found a respectable looking recipe in a respectable looking baking book and away we went. Unfortunately following said respectable recipe (the one on page 156) produced pastry that was awful – far too crumbly to roll out (though edible once baked!).  The insides (apple, sugar, lemon and vanilla essence) were great though.  For the second time, we turned to the internet, adapting pastry from a Taste.com recipe, but keeping the insides the same ( except we added some frozen raspberries).  This second time,  the pastry was great (if a bit puffy from the self raising flour), but the filling was a bit undercooked and quite runny (we assume from the frozen raspberries).

(NB: In both cases the results went excellently with vanilla ice cream and did not go to waste!!)

The third time we had to get right because it was time to make pies for the birthday.  Oh! The pressure!! Fortunately, the third time was juuuust right. Or pretty right, anyway. Possibly the pastry remained a bit puffy, but for posterity, here is the recipe followed to make 2 pies (~23-24 cm wide, one dish slightly deeper than the other)

Recipe:

The outsides
100 whole meal flour
150 wholemeal self raising flour
500 plain white flour
8 heaped dessertspoonfuls of castor sugar
275 g  unsalted butter
~2/3 cups chilled water, you might need a bit more

The insides
1350 g of peeled and cored apple, thinly sliced (about 50% granny smith, and 50% gala, 1800 g total apple). a normal sized eating apple is about 150 g, so it’s about 12 apples for 2 pies
2 tsp vanilla essence (made from scratch!)
2 tbsp lemon juice
230 g sugar
small cubes of butter ~80g
1 tsp cinnamon
and 1/2 tsp mixed spice

Dice the chilled butter and then rub it into the sifted flour (and sugar) to make a crumbly mixture. Add chilled water bit by bit until the dough forms a ball.  Leave the dough to chill in the fridge while you core and peel the apples (OMG!  THE worst step!!), then roll out 1/2 the pastry to 3-4 mm thickness to cover the bases of your pie dishes.  Combine the peeled and sliced apples with the lemon juice, vanilla and sugar and divide the mixture between the dishes.  Dot small cubes of butter over the top of the apple before covering with a second sheet of rolled out pastry,  and decorate as desired.  Egg can be used to glaze the pies – we only ever had milk, however.

Bake for about 25 minutes at 230 deg, followed by about 35 minutes at 200 deg (NB:  we adjusted this from 200 deg and 180 deg because we have an old cold oven.  Also we wanted to avoid undercooked insides.  The smaller pie did get a bit brown in the process…)

And… success! I thought I wouldn’t even get to try these pies, but he bought me home a small sliver and it was *good*. Hopefully this is not the end of our pie making adventures.