Saturday, July 28, 2012

Crackers - Daring Bakers July 2012 Challenge

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

 Have you ever made your own crackers?
I know I've thought about it and I have come across some tasty sounding recipes.
But until this month I had never made my own crackers.
Challenged by Dana McFarland to make homemade crackers many Daring Bakers came up with great creative crackers using delicious ingredients.
I simply tried  a recipe for Seedy Crackers supplied by our host, Dana.

I rolled my seedy crackers with a pasta machine so they were quite thin and crunchy and probably took only 7 minutes in total of cooking. The first tray out of the oven was polished off by my daughter and myself. All in the spirit of sampling, of course! 

They were so delicious, it has inspired me to try more cracker recipes in the future but for now I present...

...Seedy Crackers 

Servings: Varies depending on thickness; approximately 50 crackers


1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) whole wheat four
1 cup (240 ml) 140 gm/5 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
1/3 cup (80 ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz)poppy seeds
1/3 cup (80 ml) (40 gm) (1¼ oz) sesame seeds
1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (9 gm) table salt
1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (8 gm) baking powder
3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon (195 ml) (6½ fl oz) water


1. Mix the flours, seeds, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.
2. Add the oil and stir until combined.
3. Add the water until the dough comes together.
4. Kneed the dough 5 or 6 times and allow to rest, covered, on the counter for 15 minutes. You can also chill the dough at this point and come back later.
 5. Preheat the oven to hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8.
6. Working with a quarter of the dough at a time, either use a rolling pin to reach a desired thickness (thick or thin) or roll out in your pasta rollers. If you use pasta rollers, ensure the dough is well-floured so as not to stick.

 7. Place strips of dough on a sheet pan lined with parchment.
8. If the crackers are thick, bake for 7minutes, flip them over and bake for 7 minutes more. Then cut or break into crackers shapes while still warm. Return to the oven for a further 5 minutes until crispy.
9. If not crispy enough when cooled, crackers can be returned to the oven.
10. Store in an airtight container and eat within 2 weeks.

Rolled so thinly, the crackers were easy to overbake. So watch carefully.

 Popped into a zip lock bag these crackers accompanied a tomato, feta, olive, caper and oregano salad in my daughter's school lunch box.

Thank you Dana for a fabulous challenge. I can't wait to try more cracker varieties.....hmmmm....parmesan and thyme, olive oil and rosemary, sea salt......

Edited 29-07-2012: Oops! I forgot we were supposed to bake two different versions of crackers! I will get around to it eventually. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cheese and Potato Pierogi - A Baker's Odyssey Personal Challenge #22

I always considered myself a carb freak. Bread with my meals, pasta is my comfort food and potatoes are always on the menu. But I think I have finally met my nemesis! Cheese and Potato Pierogi! Wow, carb overload!

Pierogi, like all good food, was the food of Polish peasants. I would imagine the cook of the home intending to warm and fill the bellies of her family. Perhaps not quite food for the tropics of Australia even if it is the middle of winter.

Continuing with my challenge of baking through A Baker's Odyssey this recipe is found in the Savoury Pastries section. Greg Patent states that "Pierogi are perhaps the best known Polish dish in America". 

Ok, now let me challenge my American readers.
I need feed back! 

How well ( or not so well) did I form the Pierogi?

Is this how you would eat Pierogi?

Tell me about your favourites ?

Cheese and Potato Pierogi

Makes 60 to 70 dumplings to serve 5 to 6
Print the recipe here!

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped medium fine
2 pounds/ a little less than 1 kg potatoes
12 ounces/340 grams ricotta cheese, drained overnight
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 cups allpurpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons olive oil

Make the filling first. Heat the oil and fry the onions until gently until golden brown and begining to caramelize about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat.
Peel potatoes and cut into large chunks. Add to a pot of boiling salted water and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
Drain potatoes and put through a ricer into a large bowl. Add the cheese, salt, pepper and cooked onions and mix well. This mixture can be made the day before. Keep refrigerated.
To make the dough. Put the flour into  large bowl and make a well in the centre. In a medium bowl stir the warm water, egg yolk and olive oil with a fork. Add liquid to the flour and mix to make a soft dough. Adjust with a little more water warm if necessary.
Knead on a floured surface for a few minutes. Then cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
To shape - cut the dough in half and keep the unused portion covered. Roll the dough on a floured surface until it is about 1/8 inch/ 3mm thick. Cup our circles with a 2 1/2inch/ 6.5cm cutter ( or thereabouts) Put a heaping teaspoon of filling into the centre of the circle and bring up the edges to cover the filling. Then crimp the edges in 4 or 5 places to give the pleated look. Set aside on a floured tray and continue with the remaining filling and dough.
To cook - bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add 8 to 10 pierogi. If they settle to the bottom dislodge with a rubber spatula. When the pierogi float cook for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to an oil baking tray. Continue cooking remaining pierogi.

To serve, I gave the pierogi a quick fry in melted butter until slightly browned and added crisp bacon and caramelised onion. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chin Chin - A Baker's Odyssey Personal Challenge #21

At every celebration or gathering, my family never begins the meal without a toast to the family's health and good luck. However as an Italian family we never used the word "salute" instead as we clink glasses each one declares "cin cin" (pronouced "chin chin"). Young and old alike and no one misses out. My children have also picked up this tradition.  

So this past wet and gloomy weekend when I was looking for a deep fried indulgence I couldn't go past "A Bakers Odyssey" recipe Chin Chin. These crunchy nuggets are a Nigerian classic snack served with drinks or coffee, at parties, weddings and given as hostest gifts.

Hubby called them "crunchy doughnuts" and my darling son asked if there was any chocolate fondue he could dip them into.
Dunking them into melted chocolate?

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you they keep well for 1 or 2 weeks in an airtight container,
if they last that long!

You will need freshly grated nutmeg for this recipe.

Chin Chin
Makes about 4 cups of small nuggets

2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick/115g) cold, salted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup water, plus more if needed

vegetable oil for deep frying

Put the flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and baking powder into a medium bowl and mix well with fingers. Add the butter pieces and rub them into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles fine crumbs. This will take a little bit of time. With a knife slowly mix in the water. Bring the dough together with your hands to form a soft non sticky dough. You might need to add a little more water.

To shape the Chin Chin, divide the dough into 3. Roll out each piece on a lightly floured surface until just 3/16in (about 5mm) thick. Cut into 3/4in  (2cm) strips.

...and cut each strip into 1/2in (1.5cm) pieces
Pour about 1 1/2 inches (about 4 cm) of oil into a large heavy pot.  Use a deep fry thermometer to heat the oil to 360F to 370F (about 182C to 187C) over medium heat. Line a large baking tray with paper towels. Carefully add handfuls of the chin chin. I found it was easier to put a handful onto a slotted spoon and lower the spoon carefully into the oil.

Cook, stirring almost constantly...

...until the chin chin are a uniform deep brown colour.

Remove the chin chin onto the paper towel lined baking tray to drain. Continue cooking the remaining chin chin. Let them cool completely.

Crunchy and moreish.

 By the way, did you check out Greg Patent' blog. He limited autographed copies of A Baker's Odyssey for sale. After these are sold A Baker's Odyssey will be out of print.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Get yourself an Autographed copy of A Baker's Odyssey!

A Baker's Odyssey


A Baker's Odyssey is about to go out of print!!!
I have just been informed by Greg Patent, author of A Baker's Odyssey that he has 30 autographed copies of his cookbook for sale at The Baking Wizard. After this the publisher is putting the book out of print. So get in now before this fabulous baking book is no longer available. A Baker's Odyssey is not only a collection of international recipes from the immigrants of America, it has also proved to be a comprehensive guide to many baking techniques. And no, I am not getting paid for this, I just believe this is one of the best cookbooks a baker can have on their book shelf. 

While you're at The Baking Wizard take a look at Greg's award winning book "Baking in America" which is also available autographed.
Get a copy of A Baker's Odyssey today and join me in my quest to bake my way through the book.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Boschendal Pudding - A Baker's Odyssey Personal Challenge #20

 I received an email from my sister entitled "Good News from the Kitchen". Maybe you've seen this one, too.
The email opened up with a picture of a rather wrinkled and bedraggled woman with tired eyes and wiry hair. Apparently a TV health guru, 51 years of age who advocated a "holistic approach to nutrition and health" exercise and an organic, vegetarian diet. Hmmmmm.

 Then in the next picture is the voluptuous Nigella Lawson also 51 years, eyes sparkling and a captivating smile. Nigella is eats meat, butter and desserts washed down with red wine!

Now, with this bit of information, I can eat this dessert with a clear conscience!

Boschendal Pudding is a rich dessert of South African origins and becomes #20 in my personal baking challenge of baking my way through A Baker's Odyssey by Greg Patent. If the above mentioned email is anything to go by, the quantities of butter, sugar and cream in this dessert are guaranteed to have us glowing like Nigella in no time at all!

Edited 07/07/2012: Boschendal Restaurant has since been in contact with me and linked this post to their facebook page. Check it out here. They tell me this is one of their most famous desserts. I can see why! 
Boschendal Pudding

1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons apricot jam
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and still hot
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

12 tablespoons /180g unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water

Heat oven to350F/180C
Butter an 8 x 3 inch round cake pan.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.
Beat sugar and egg in a bowl of the stand mixer on medium high for 5 minutes until pale and thick. Add the jam and mix in on low speed. Still on low speed add dry ingredients alternately with milk ending with dry ingredient. Beat just until the batter is smooth. In a small cup combine butter and vinegar and stir into batter.  Pour into prepare pan and bake for 45 - 60 minutes until skewer inserted come out clean. 

In the meantime prepare the sauce. In a medium saucepan melt the butter. Add the sugar, cream and boiling water and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Keep the sauce hot over a low heat.
As soon as the cake come out of the oven pour over the sauce. Let it stand until the liquid is absorbed.

According to the recipe it should only take a few minutes however my cake never absorbed all of the sauce. I think, the recipe for the sauce could be halved with no adverse affect.

But come to think of it, I want to look like Nigella. So no, I will continue to use all that butter, sugar and cream! 

The only words that could be heard as we consumed this dessert were.....mmmm, that's good!

Mmmm, that's so good!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cheese Sambouseks -"A Baker's Odyssey" Personal Challenge #19

It's been raining here in the tropics. That miserable winter rain that puts everyone in a black mood. The drizzle that soaks you through. The bleak days where you long and hunger for sunshine.
We people of the tropics can put  up (well, sort of) with the long rainy days of summer, when the wet season never wants to end. It is a bit of a reprieve for the scorching heat. But come winter we look forward to the cool, bright, sunshine filled days where chores are no longer a chore and time spent in the kitchen a pleasure.

Today after a bleak start, the skies have cleared and the breeze is cool. Moods have lifted. Days like this are why we live in the northern tropics of Australia.

So, I hear you ask, "what has Cheese Sambouseks and tropical, winter days have in common?
Not a lot really.
Except on my list of pleasures which goes something like this -
Good food
Beautiful days

For this, the  nineteenth recipe in my personal challenge of baking my way through "A Baker's Odyssey" by Greg Patent, I used a mixture of cheeses. Ricotta, sharp cheddar and feta. Use up what ever you have left in the fridge just be sure to use a mixture of mild and sharp cheeses.

Cheese Sambouseks
 Makes 24 pastries

Dough for Granny's Kahk 

12ounces/340grams cheese (of your choice), shredded
pinch salt
pinch cayenne pepper
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon water for egg wash 
sesame seeds to sprinkle

Make up the dough as instructed in the linked post. Divide the dough into 24 pieces and cover them with a tea towel while you make up the filling - about 30 minutes.
Place the cheese, salt, cayenne, egg and egg white into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth.
Heat the oven to 350F/170C and line a couple of baking trays with baking parchment.

Roll out each ball of dough on an unfloured surface to 4inches/10cm circle. Take a good teaspoonful of the cheese mixture and place it slightly below the centre of the circle of dough.

Fold over the top half of the dough and press to seal.

 Using a fingertip push back the edge of the dough so that it fold over itself and forms a crimped edge.

Place on the prepare baking tray, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with seasame seeds. Bake for 30 minutes until golden.

These a equally good warm or at room temperature.