Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Rosemary Flatbread - Daring Bakers' February 2013 Challenge

Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie was our February 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to use our creativity in making our own Crisp Flatbreads and Crackers!
When our February Daring Bakers' host Sarah from All Our Fingers insisted we were could not make anything soft and that it must be crispy, I couldn't have been more thrilled. Crunchy crackers and flatbreads are so satisfying.
Originally thinking I would do quite a few varieties I started with the Herbed Flatbread recipe provided by our host. I didn't get very far because this bread is so addictive my family kept asking me to make more.
We loved it! Thanks for the challenge, Sarah!
Herbed Flatbread
Ingredients:1 cup (240 ml) warm water (about 110°F/43°C)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (2 ¾ gm) active dry yeast
3 cups (720 ml) (420 gm) (15 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, plus more for rolling
3 tablespoons (45 ml) of extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) sugar
1 large egg whisked with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water, for egg wash
sea salt, for sprinkling
1/4 cup (60 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) fresh rosemary or thyme ( I used rosemary)

Place the water in a medium sized bowl and sprinkle the yeast. Let stand until the yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, oil, 2 teaspoons coarse salt, and the sugar. Stir until a dough forms.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 2 minutes. Use as much flour as necessary so it is not a sticky dough. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and roll the dough around in the bowl so that it is also lightly oiled on the surface. Cover with saran wrap. Let stand in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Divide dough into 16 equal portions and cover with plastic wrap. Roll out each piece to approximately 4"x10" (10cm x 26cm) on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with the egg mixture and sprinkle with sea salt and herbs.

Bake, rotating sheet halfway through baking, until crisp and golden, 18-22 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Storage and Freezing Instructions/Tips: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month. Prolong the freshness by freezing for up to 3 months.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hand made pasta - Busiati

Pasta has always been an integral part of my life. As children, my sister and I always helped with the pasta making and I have endeavoured to always include my children as well.
Whether helping to fill the tortellini or ravioli or hanging fettucini to dry over the broomsticks resting on the lounge room chairs or curling nests of fidelini on the homemade drying rack which consisting of insect screen material pulled and nailed tight over a frame, pasta and pasta making was just part and parcel of growing up in an Italian family.
Well, that is, with the assistance of the wonderful pasta machine to roll the pasta into long thin perfect lengths and further more it was always egg pasta.
When my husband's 98 year old grandmother passed away a little over a year ago I inherited her pasta rolling pin -36 inches long and over 2 inches in diameter! Yep, it sure is one mean rolling pin!
With it's discovery, (because it had been put to rest long ago) resurface my father-in-law's memories of the days of rolling pasta entirely by hand. He recalled that Nonna would roll and lift and turn the pasta until it was so long it hung well over the edges of the kitchen table and then it would be cut to shape for the pasta of the day. This task was performed each and every time pasta was on the menu which of course was generally every day.  As simple as it is, I treasure that rolling pin.
And so, my interest in handmade pasta grew.
This week I notice this wonderful pasta on one of my favourite blogs, Manu's Menu. Busiati, Manuela tells us, is a traditional pasta from the Trapani area of Sicily. The name is derived from the "buso" which is a wooden stick from a plant growing abundantly in this area of Sicily used to form the pasta. Manuela suggests a knitting needle but I found a wooden skewer worked quite well. If you have never visited Manu's Menu you are in for a treat of amazing Italian food and photo's.
Busiati are made with a non egg pasta dough. For me, this is very new and I was a little apprehensive but the results speak for themselves. I used the measurements from "My Calabria" by Rosetta Costantino.
 Thanks Manuela for a great technique and guidance via your very clear tutorial to make my first handmade pasta!
560 g plain all purpose flour
170 ml lukewarm water ( you may need a little more)
Mix the flour and water in the bowl of your stand mixer or you can do it by hand. The dough should be firm but come together in a ball. If it seems dry add a few drops of water until it just comes together. Wrap in plastic  and rest for a least half an hour.Then the fun starts!

 Take a small amount of dough leaving the rest wrapped in the plastic. Roll a sausage shape a bit less the a centimetre thick. Place your wooden skewer at the end of the dough on an angle and press onto the dough slightly to stick and start rolling the skewer with your hands so the dough wraps around. Once wrapped roll the skewer backwards and forwards with your hands until the busiato thins and lengthens. Slide the busiato off the skewer with your hands and place it onto a slightly floured tray.
Your first busiato is made!

Continue in this manner creating many busiati.

Enlist diners to help with the task and in no time at all you busiati will all be prepared.

My teenaged daughter helped me with these and we both really enjoyed it and had a laugh learning to perfect our busiati. Actually she picked it up so quickly, I was learning the whole time!

When it comes to cooking the busiati be sure to salt your water really well as there is no salt in the dough. We cooked out busiati for 5 minutes but it was little to long. Our busiati were a little on the small side so probably tasting and testing at 3 minutes would have been better.

Served with a Pork Ragu and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
We had a great Sunday lunch!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Piskota (Cherry Cake) - A Baker's Odyssey Personal Challenge #29

Years ago on a holiday in Tasmania my husband and I came across a farm selling pick-your-own cherries. We thought we were in heaven. Both born and bred in the tropics we had never seen a cherry tree let alone picked our own cherries. We picked and ate and enjoyed. The farmer told us they weren't cherries for eating more for preserving and jam making. We didn't care and we still have great memories of climbing the old wooden ladders leaning against the big old cherry trees, our hands stained pink matching our stained lips. It really was a novelty to us.
When I came across this recipe in "A Baker's Odyssey" by Greg Patent I relived that day and thought how perfect those cherries would have been in a cake like this. Piskota is a Hungarian sponge cake in this case topped with cherries - sour cherries if you have them. Piskota can be topped with any fruit but in Hungary cherries are the most popular according to Greg who learnt this recipe from Vera Eisenberg, teacher of cooking and baking and a food stylist who immigrated to the US more than forty years ago. I love the way it looks with the cherries forming dark craters in the spongy yellow cake.
I made half the quantity given and baked it in a 20 cm springform pan but I will give it to you as it appears in  "A Baker's Odyssey".
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons allpurpose flour.
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch
10 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1 pound (500g) sour or sweet cherries, pitted or other fruit.
Icing (Confectioners) sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Butter a 13 x 9 x2 inch baking pan and dust the bottom with flour.
Sift together flour, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Whip the egg yolks with an electric mixer until thick and pale. Gradually add  1/2 cup sugar. Increase the speed and beat for about five minutes until pale and thick. Add the lemon zest and extract. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the flour mixture by hand. Transfer this mixture to another bowl and wash and dry the mixer bowl ( you are going to need this to whip your egg whites).

So, in the clean bowl place the egg whites and a pinch of salt. Beat until they form soft peaks. Gradually beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until they whites are creamy and thick. 
Stir one quarter of the whites into the egg yolk mixture to lighten it. Then fold in the remaining egg whites in 3 lots. Fold gently just until no whites show.
Scrape the batter into the prepare pan and top with cherries. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the cake is puffed and golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Cool the cake completely on a wire rack.
Dust with confectioners sugar or serve with vanilla icecream as I have.
This cake is not sweet but quite nice with the vanilla icecream.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Pepperoncini Piccante Ripieni - Stuffed Hot Peppers

It's true, you know, Italy really is a food lovers paradise!
Ok, so I know everyone has already figured that out but I couldn't believe the person I turned intoover there.
I just wanted to buy food all the time. It's crazy. You really have to restrain yourself. I would love to have bought so much more food. I didn't because I wasn't sure what I could bring back into the country and actually, I felt a little silly just buying food the whole time!
I have attempted to recreate the food, the ambiance and the taste since I have been home.
This is a delicious antipasto I sampled at dinner with my cousin. Of course, she pickled fresh peppers and I have used bottled hot peppers. But then again she also cured the most delicious little Calabrian black olives and her husband made his own wine. Dinner was spectacular.
This is a very loose recipe and I'm sure you could adjust the few ingredients to suit your tastes. This is what I like.
Pepperoncini Piccante Ripieni
200g canned tuna in oil
2 tablespoons capers, if in salt rinse well
4 large or 6 small anchovies
a handful Italian parsley, coarsely chopped

 Put all your ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.

Whizz until smooth.
 Take a jar of hot peppers, drain and allow to dry upside down on paper towel

Fill a plastic disposable piping bag with the tuna mixture and fill each pepper cup.
Carefully place all the fill peppers into an appropriate size container with a lid and top up with olive oil before sealing with the lid. Apparently they will keep well for a while but we ate our quickly so I can't be sure about keeping qualities.
I can be sure that they are good, really good. Try stopping at just one!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Flour Tortillas - A Baker's Odyssey Personal Challenge #28

We seem to go through a lot of tortillas in our house. We use them for the usual Mexican dishes but also for wraps, to eat with soups or just general hunger busting. So when I  was deciding what to try next in my personal baking challenge using A Baker's Odyssey by Greg Patent, I couldn't go past the Flour Tortillas. Using basic ingredients you can have warm, preservative free, homemade tortillas in no time at all.
Don't let the lard frighten you. It is scary but consider 2 tablespoons divided amongst 12 large tortillas. I guess you could use butter and Greg also suggests vegetable shortening.
Flour Tortillas
4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons lard
1/4 cup half and half ( I used milk)
3/4 cup warm water
vegetable oil for cooking

In a large bowl mix the flour, salt and baking powder then rub in the lard. Combine the half and half (or milk) with the water and add to the flour. Using your hand form into a stiff dough.

I found the dough was rather scraggly and needed more warm water. I added just a few drops to bring it together.

Knead for 5 minutes then shape into a ball, wrap in plastic and rest for 1 hour.

 Unwrap the dough and cut into two pieces. Roll each into a log about 9 inches long and cut each into 6 even pieces. This is what I love about Greg Patent's recipes, most would just say divided into 12 equal pieces. Instead Greg teaches you the simple way of doing these things such as dividing dough.
Ok, so rest the balls of dough again for 10 minutes. This will make the dough easier to roll.
 Take a ball of dough onto a lightly floured surface. Press out into a round shape with your fingertips then roll with a rolling pin to about 8 or 9 inches (that's about 20 cm)  and they will be nice and thin.

 Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add a little oil with a brush or paper towel. Put in your first tortilla. It will bubble up after a few seconds and start getting brown underneath. After 30 check that it has brown spots underneath and then flip.

It may puff up but that's ok press it back down with paper towels. Brown for about 30 seconds then remove. Don't overcook the tortillas. Repeat with the remaining dough.

So, tortillas. Will I make them again?
Yep, you bet but I think these tortillas needed a bit more moisture and I would add a little more water. Maybe it was because I used milk instead of half and half which we don't have in Australia. The extra fat in the half and half would probably add the moisture needed.
 I think this one needs more experimenting.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lamingtons - A Baker's Odyssey Personal Challenge #27

I found my patience tested this week as today marked the 7th day without internet service. Yes, I live in Queensland, Australia where, 1000km south, many towns experienced floods disasters.  And yes, the telecommunications staff had more pressing matters to deal with. When I look out my front door this is what I see.

As I wander around my house this is the view.
And, more of the same!
As you can see my area is not densely populated so I guess me and my few distant neighbours aren't seen as a pressing problem to the telecommunications company. Grrrrrr!
But lo and behold! Today I woke to find internet restored!
Ahh,  all is as it should be!
So in the meantime I haven't been able to post or comment and I have to make up time lost!
I'm shocked at how much we have come to rely on having the internet always at hand.
Even my very computer illiterate husband was stressing because he couldn't check out the weather!
 Are you like our family?
Do you ever lose you internet service and does it bother you?
Or would you not care if you didn't check your blog/emails/whatever for weeks?
Australia day was celebrated on 26th January.
For the occasion I made lamingtons and not just my usual lamingtons but lamingtons from the cookbook A Baker's Odyssey by Greg Patent which is part of my personal baking challenge.
I was a little apprehensive of this recipe because it varied from the more commonly used sponge cake to a butter cake for the base.
But, guess what?
I was pleasantly surprised. These lamingtons, though a variation are really delicious.
Enjoy them with a cup of tea!


1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
12 tablespoons (170g) butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 large eggs

Chocolate sauce
4 cups confectioners (icing) sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tablespoons (60g) butter, melted
2/3 cup boiling water

3 to 4 cups unsweetened dessicated coconut

Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
Line 13 x 9 x 2 inch (33 x 23 x 5cm) with nonstick baking paper.
Sift flour and baking powder together.
Beat the butter in bowl of stand mixer until smooth. Add sugar gradually and then the vanilla. Beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed mix in the flour in 3 additions, alternately with the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour. Beat only until smooth. Do not overbeat. Scrape into prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes then turn onto a wire rake to cool.
Drape the cake with a clean kitchen towel and leave overnight at room temperature. The cake handles much better the next day.

Cut the cake into 24 even pieces with a serrated knife.

To make the chocolate sauce place the confectioners sugar, cocoa, butter and boiling water in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Set the bowl over a pan of very hot water to keep it fluid.

Place the coconut in a shallow dish. Drop a piece of cake into the chocolate sauce and using two forks turn it quickly to coat then remove let the excess sauce drip back into the bowl.

Transfer the cake to the coconut and roll around to coat all sides well.

Remove the cake and set it on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining cake and sauce. Allow the cakes to dry for an hour or two before serving.

It is common in Australia to have some lamingtons in the freezer in a well sealed plastic container. Lamingtons defrost quickly and retain their freshness so there is always something delicious for unexpected guests or for the children's lunchboxes or when the munchies take hold!