Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Bake off 2014

I can’t believe it has been two years since the last bake off competition. I have been feeling a bit of colour recently – perhaps due to winter and seasonal affective disorder.

The competition for the 2014 bake off is fierce, even *lamb* has been included – filed under the criteria: “well, it’s cooked in an oven”. Hmm.

Entry 1:
Blue cake with animals

The blue cake with animals

The baker who “enjoys baking and eating sweet things”, also took two days off work to make this work of art. I forgot to take a picture of the inside, but there were four layers – vanilla, chocolate, caramel and…well, it’s going to be hard to complete with that.

Entry 2:
Savoury Pumpkin pie

Pumpkin pie with brown rice crust

Both vegetarian and gluten free, this contained cheese and eggs and so was actually a savoury pumpkin pie. I think that if I had sampled this cake whilst hot, the crust would’ve been crunchy and added a different texture. Everyone admired the pie tin with its glazed non stick surface.

Entry 3:

Chocolate and Almond Brioche

chocolate and almond brioche
When I saw this one being prepared with rolling out, buttering and resting stages, I knew I was in for something special. The recipe had been translated from Hebrew on the fly, and reminded me a bit of my attempts to replicate the bowan island bakery’s chocolate babka. This had layers or ‘laminations’ … so I may have to have a go at making this one myself.

Entry 4:

Chocolate chip cookies

Choc chip cookies, with big square pieces of chocolate from a block of chocolate. Quite popular, but I did find them a bit too sweet for me… And possibly in need of walnuts. I just like the toll house cookie I guess.

Entry 5:

Gingerbread

Ginger bread

I baked this according to direction. Well, sort of. I misread the temperature to start of with and it was at 140 degrees for the thirty minutes. I don’t think I could have recovered from that, no matter what I did. When I cut it open, the inside looked really dense, like fudge, or just cooked mostly raw cake mixture. Nigella, I have let you down.

Entry 6:

Treacle and pear gunner came

pear and ginger cake with treacle

I saw this and I thought I was doomed. Something else involving ginger and it looked so pretty. This was the baker’s attempt to replicate a came that they enjoyed from Hominy Bakery. First attempt. As I tried this there was an odd flavour that I couldn’t quite place. Molasses? No. Wholemeal flour? No. Yeast? No. Hmm.

Entry 7:

Lemon cupcakes

Small child’s lemon cupcakes

Small child contributed the fistfuls of stars ontop as decoration. A really nice lemon flavour. Perhaps I enjoyed them so much as a contrast to the sweetness of the others. Mr SydneyFoodie is rather violently opposed to the concept of cupcakes, and voted these in last place. It takes some convincing that a cupcake is just a piece of cake that is round, and happens to have icing on it.

The competitive field:

The bake off competitors

You can see that the tasters have already hoed into the lamb and pumpkin pie as the savoury round of the judging.

I also need to mention the peanut butter brownies (bottom lefthand corner of the photo above). There were little decorative dabs of peanut butter on top of each brownie, as well as squiggles of chocolate. At first I really enjoyed these… and then I noticed how sweet they were. Alas, my sweet tooth now needs less sugar to be satisfied.

So who won?

I think that I have probably already given this one away.

Scores were as follows:

Bake off 2014

I know it looks really confusing, but the *lowest* score wins – because that would’ve been the one that you voted #1. There was some slight confusion over the sixes and the nines.. because the font chosen for the number sheet didn’t differentiate. So for those who had already voted… their 6 & 9’s got rounded to a generic “7.5”. If the vote hadn’t already been cast, then the voter indicated which was which.

So, dear reader… when have you spent more than one day making a cake? Did it win as spectacularly as the blue cake with animals?

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Banana Cookies

I borrowed this book from the library, and I have been all inspired, and tried several recipes from it already.

I spotted the banana cookies recipe and paused. Hmm. Banana? In a Biscuit?


Pastelitas de Platano
1/2 cup butter (125g)
1/2 cup sugar
1 ripe banana (I used two that weighed 125g, skin on)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
cinnamon sugar

Preheat the oven to 200 deg C.
In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar together. Mix in the mashed banana and vanilla. Mix in the egg.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt.

Combine the flour mixture with the banana mixture.

Drop small drops of mixture onto the baking tray, and bake for 5-6 minutes and then rotate the tray and bake for another 5-6 minutes.

When done, leave the cookies on the sheets and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Cool on a wire rack.


Assemble the ingredients:
ingredients

So this is what the mixture looks like:

mixture

The mixture got all puffy from the bicarb and baking soda interaction. I hadn’t quite it expected to puff up quite so much. As I had two bananas on the verge of extinction, I used both.

Result:

Banana Cookies

Mmm, tasty.

They were soft on the inside and crispy on the inside when I sampled some immediately after baking. However, when I pulled them out of a container the next morning they had gone all soggy, so I rebaked them to make them them crispy again.

And the taste? Very Buttery. Very banana-like in flavour. Quite sweet – probably because of the double banana. If you are someone who doesn’t normally use butter, the taste really stands out.

This will be added to the favourites list.

Bagel Failure

My head was so inflated with my initial success for the HCBs, I decided to branch out further and go for the bagels.

I got the recipe from allrecipes.

Additions or adjustments apart from halving the recipe, I have indicated with an asterix (*).


Ingredients
Makes 6.

250g plain flour
7 g dry yeast (1 packet)
125mL warm water
52.5mL warm water
20 g white sugar
10 g salt
1 tablespoon molasses or sugar*
Mix of sesame, chia, nigella seeds*

Directions
1. Mix 1 teaspoon of yeast, flour, and sugar together. Add in 125mL warm water. Leave to combine until it becomes foamy, or a nice crust forms. 15-30 minutes*.
2. In large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour, 3 tablespoons sugar and salt together. Add yeast mixture and remaining water. You need a moderately stiff dough.
3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (8-10
minutes). Cover, let rest for 15 minutes.
4. Cut into 6 portions, shape into smooth balls. Poke a hole in the centre with your
finger, and gently enlarge the hole while working the bagel into a uniform shape. Sprinkle with your choice of seeds, and push the seeds into the dough so they are ‘caught’.
Cover, let rise 20 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, start 3-4 litres of water boiling. Put 1 tablespoon of molasses or sugar in it, mix it
around a bit. Reduce to simmering.
6. When the bagels are ready, put 2 or 3 bagels into the water, depending on the size. You don’t want to crowd the water. Cook for 7 minutes, turning once. Drain them.
7. Place on a greased baking sheet, and bake at 190 degrees C for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven, cool on a wire rack if required.
8. Option: For a glossier surface, place raised bagels on an ungreased baking
sheet prior to boiling them. Bake them on the top shelf of the oven for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes on
each side at 220 degree C. Then put them into the hot water to be boiled as above.

Note: do not bake pre-baked bagels as long as the other ones, 25 minutes should be long enough.

Since I didn’t want to make a full 12 bagels, or a full 12 HCB’s, I thought that I would be super innovative, split the yeast mixture, and make 6 of each. It’s no longer Easter, so these would be “spiced fruit buns”, without the cross on top.

I of course, chose a sudden cold snap in the weather (also known as winter) to try and make a yeast mixture rise.

I mixed up 1 teaspoon of sugar, flour, yeast packet in accordance with the HCB recipe; but used 125mL water in accordance with the bagel recipe.

Once the yeast had become bubbly and foamy, I divided it by weight into two bowls trying give each one some of the bubble stuff and some of the liquid underneath. The yeast bubbles immediately disappeared.

I made each mixture to half sized spec, let them rise, punched them down and covered them with oiled plastic film and a tea towel. This I left next to the stove (which I had had on low whilst I was around), and left overnight in the kitchen. The door was shut to try and keep the heat in.

The next morning, I found an egg on the bench. Not a sudden attack of the chickens, but this was the egg that I was supposed to have put in the HCB mixture. The mixture was already so wet (I had soaked all of the fruit), I didn’t want to make it worse by adding egg. So I put in more flour, some psyllium as a binding substitute and kept going

I kneaded the dough and formed the ‘buns’. These were placed in my oiled roasting tray.

With the bagels, I tried to create a smooth ‘ball’, and then created a hole in the middle using my knuckle.

I left both trays in the kitchen covered with the tea towel for the rest of the day.

This step took me 30 minutes.

When I got home, the HCBs had oozed in a puddle and joined each other.

The bagels had also oozed and were big and floppy.

For the bagels, I pressed in a bunch of sesame, chia and nigella seeds. Half of the bagels were boiled first; the other half were baked for 2 minutes, then boiled, then baked.

The bagels stuck to the baking paper after I had boiled them and then stuck them in the oven. They were big, floppy and ungainly. I gave Mr L a bit of the best one, and he said it tasted like a bagel but was too hard. The second half batch I tried to partially bake first before boiling them, but greased the tray too much, so they ended up deep frying in the oven.

Bagel Failure

Out of my six “bagels” I got one decent looking one that was about the size of a beer coaster.

16% success!

Was it because it was too cold? Was it because I split the yeast mixture? Was it because the dough needed more kneading?

Hot Cross Buns

This year, I couldn’t stock up on my Hot Cross Buns from La Tartine. I missed the markets just prior to Easter.

HCB - tadah!

Thems mah buns.

Fortuitously, two recipes appeared in the paper for making the HCB. One from St Honoroe sourdough bakery that used fresh yeast; and just as I was converting the recipe to halve the amount and substitute dry yeast, I got one from the Blue Ribbon set of recipes that have won prizes at the Sydney Royal Agricultural show.

The changes that I have made I have indicated with an asterix (*).This took me about five hours to make, from starting with the yeast to cleaning up. Whilst I was waiting for the yeast to activate or the dough to raise, I was preparing for, or eating dinner.

HCB Ingredients
Makes 12
1 tsp dried yeast (1 packet 7g)*
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mixed spice*
1 tsp cinnamon*
[3 teaspoons ‘spice’ mix for this amount of flour is minimum]
60g butter
1 egg
1/2 cup sultanas (200g or 2 cups)*

Ingredients for the cross
1/2 cup plain flour, extra
1/3 cup water

Glaze Ingredients
1 tbsp sugar, extra
1 tbsp hot water
1 tsp gelatine

You need a tin that will allow your buns to pull each other up by their bootstraps; that is, it is small enough so that when the buns rise, they touch each other. I used a 20cm x 20cm square cake pan, so could only bake four buns at a time.


1. Lightly grease your tin.

2. Mix yeast with 1 teaspoon each of the sugar and flour, add lukewarm milk and mix well. Cover and stand in warm place 10 to 15 minutes or until mixture is frothy.

3. Meanwhile, sift sugar, flour, salt and spices, rub in butter, add egg, fruit and yeast mixture, and knead lightly to ensure ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

4. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and clean cloth and stand in a warm place 40 minutes or until dough doubles in bulk.

5. Punch dough down, turn out onto floured surface and knead well until smooth and elastic. It will be really sticky, so sprinkles of flour help.

6. Cut into 3 equal pieces then cut each piece into 5 (4 for me), making 15 (Me: 12) buns in all. Knead each into a round shape. Preheat oven to 220C. Put buns on tin and stand in warm place 10 to 15 minutes or until they reach top edge of tin.

Making the cross
7. Make paste by mixing 1/2 cup extra plain flour and 1/3 cup water, fill piping bag and pipe lines across the rows of buns, forming a cross.

8. Bake 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately brush with glaze made from heating extra sugar, hot water and gelatine in a saucepan and simmering for 1 minute.

Cool buns on a wire rack.


So here we go!

HCB - the beginning

I microwaved the milk for 30 seconds, and confirmed that was cool/warm enough for a finger. Then I added the yeast/flour/sugar combo. For the yeast mixture, I let the mixture stand and activate for at least 30 minutes. It had formed a nice bubbly crust on top whilst I was putting the dry ingredients together.

I didn’t bother sifting my flour. I never have, the sifter takes up too much space in my cupboards! For the spice mixture, I used powdered ginger, all spice and a tiny bit of chinese five spice powder. I didn’t knead at this stage, I just used my mixing spoon. This was covered with some oiled cling film, and then a tea towel, atop the stove with the underneath grill turned alternately on/off.

HCB - just mixed

For the fruit mixture I used 50g mixed peel (1/2 cup), 50g cranberries, 100g sultanas. Some of the cranberries and sultanas I soaked with hot water to make them plumper.

Once the dough had risen (approximately one hour – time to cook and eat dinner), I kneaded the dough. This was made much easier by dusting my hands with flour first. It didn’t take long for the dough to feel good.

HCB - risin'

I had to cook three batches because of my small square pan. I made 4 buns per batch. I rested the two thirds dough covered in cling wrap and a tea towel whilst the preparing the first third.

HCB - boot filling

Each ‘bun’ I placed in the pan, and then waited until they rose enough to join and help each other rise. This took much longer than the 10-15 minutes as suggested, and did not reach the top edge of the tin.

I made my own piping bag by putting it in a zip lock bag and squeezing.

This worked very well until Pop!, the seam broke. The remainder giant crosses were made using the back of a spoon handle dipped in batter. The hole I cut in the bag was also a little too small.

HCB - bake ready

Next time?

Use more spice! I used the 1/2 teaspoon per spice as recommended in the recipe, but my bun wasn’t flavourful enough. I have doubled the quantities, but not yet proved this.

Next time, I would form the buns from each of the other waiting thirds of batter, and leave these to rest under cling film whilst I was cooking and preparing the first batch. The less manhandling the better, as I found that me manipulating them made them deflate. Perhaps form them on a sheet of baking paper so I could slip them straight into the pan without waiting for them to rise again?

Post-post notes

1. Spice: I have remade the recipe, and fed it to unsuspecting colleagues. Use at least 3 teaspoons of ‘spice’ for the quantity of flour. I am tempted to use more.

2. Proving:
Don’t refrigerate your dough overnight! I made a batch, and then was worried about the little gremlins growing in the batter. I then put it in the fridge, and had
~~~~~~~HCB NIGHTMARES.~~~~~~~
Don’t do it! The dough was never the same again, but ended up proving for 24 hours, part-refrigerated, part-benchtop. Well, unless it is quite a warm night, you may be excused.

3. The taste test:

I ate half of a commercial HCB this morning and compared it to my one, HCB 2.5.

Commercial: Very sweet. It had ‘grainy’/bark-like bits in it, which came from the cassia, and ended up being unpleasant and bitter.

Mine: Quite yeasty in flavour (well it had been proving for close to 24 hours). Similar level of cinnamon/allspice “speckling” to the commercial bun. Very soft. But still not quite the amount of ‘spice’ flavouring I wanted! (Almost 5 teaspoons worth).

Happy Easter everyone.

Orange and Almond Cake

This cake is one of my sister’s signature cakes. I have tried alternatives, including one that came with a jammy orange marmalade toffee topping that took me three or so subsequent cakes to get rid of. I put that excess topping into the batter.

Orange and almond cake
serves 6-8

Ingredients
2 oranges
3 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 cups (300g) almond meal
1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder (this also works well with normal baking powder or even without baking powder)

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 170C, grease and line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.
2. Thoroughly scrub the oranges (to remove any wax). Place the oranges in a saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and repeat. (Cooking the oranges twice makes the skin less bitter). Coarsely chop and remove seeds.
3. Place the chopped oranges in a blender with a splash of cold water and pulse until smooth.
4. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric beater until thick and pale. Add the orange, almond meal and baking powder and fold to combine.
5. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in a water bath (using hot water) for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Set aside for 15 minutes before turning out.

Result?
Orange and Almond

Don’t do, as I did, and run out of almond meal. Then, forgetting I am catering for a coeliac, chuck in 1 cup of self raising flour. I was *that* close to substituting coconut flour too.

The non-gluten-free version actually didn’t turn out too bad; it was still moist and dense, but with a little more height to it than the standard almond-meal only cake. It got a lot of compliments too, and the coeliac didn’t turn up.

Recipe: Polish Honey Cake

polish honey cake

What better way to celebrate Australia Day than with a celebration cake.

I made this cake last year for a Polish colleague’s birthday.

I remember thinking what a ghastly amount of butter (about 1 stick or 250g) as I was making it, but it went down an absolute treat. This is most definitely a special occasion cake.

I was dreaming about it recently, so I made it again.

This took me about 3 hours to make from prep to washing up. If you want to pre-prepare the day before, you can grease and flour the cake tin, sift the flour, or even make the topping and store it in a jar. This will need to be warmed up again.

I got the recipe from big oven.

Polish Honey Cake

topping/glaze

105g butter (7 tablespoons)
184g dark honey (1/2 cup) less container
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
60g (1/2 cup) almonds

Melt the butter, add salt then add the honey. Stir until blended, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and almonds. Set aside.

prep pan & oven
Heat oven to 200 degrees C.
Trace out base of pan on baking paper.
Oil bottom and side of an 20cm/8 inch springform or cake pan. Line it with the pre-traced baking paper. Dust pan with flour, knocking out excess and set aside. I stored mine in the fridge.

the cake

230g plain flour (1 3/4 cups)
75g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
5 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup dark honey
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/2 cup full-cream milk; at room temperature

In a small mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Flour, baking powder, salt. Set aside.

In your large, main mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar until ‘fluffy’, mix in the honey.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla and beat to combine.

Add small amounts of the flour mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing until just blended after each addition, and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. This is the bit that takes the most time.

Polish honey cake: mixture

Turn the batter into the prepared pan, distributing evenly. Pour and spread the topping mixture evenly over the cake.

Place the cake pan on a baking tray and bake in the center of the preheated oven for about 35 minutes, or until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cake should spring back when gently touched in the center. When the cake is done, let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes, then turn out onto the wire rack to finish cooling completely.

If making this cake as individual cupcakes, fill each cupcake mould halfway or else they overflow. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Serve with plain yoghurt to cut through the richness of the cake.

Scented Geraniums

I helped a friend lay out part of her garden, and one of the plants we got were lemon scented geraniums. I have always liked these, because there is something just so annoying about a standard geranium. They’re boring and they’re not useful!

Luckily, since we bought out all the nursery’s stock for my friend’s garden, my neighbour gave me some cuttings. I am embarrassed to say: I don’t know what exactly they smelled like, except scented! Not rose, not cinnamon, just scented.

Scented Geraniums

The hot weather has just started, not ideal for cuttings, so I snipped the majority of the leaves off to reduce transpiration, and planted the stalk with the first segment/branch below the soil surface level. They have survived a week thus far.

What to do with all the remaining scented geranium leaves? Bake muffins!

Recipe was taken from geraniums online.

HOT MUFFIN BASIC RECIPE

2 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1 c. milk
4 tbsp. oil
Geranium leaves

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
In a separate bowl, combine egg, milk and oil. Add to dry ingredients.
Stir just until mixed; batter will still be lumpy. Place a geranium leaf in the bottom of 14* greased muffin tins. Fill 2/3 full with batter. Bake 25 minutes at 220 degrees Celsius.

* I used 12 muffin tins, but I wasn’t very exact with the filling.

I poured half of the mix into the tins, then added some dessicated coconut and pistachios since I thought the mixture rather boring.

Scented geranium muffins

The end result was really quite pretty. The heat and oil in the muffin tin “cooked” the geranium leaf. I can see what was supposed to happen: The heat was supposed to permeate the scent throughout the muffin mix – didn’t work. Don’t know why this recipe doesn’t have shredded bits of geranium leaf through it – like this other recipe.

Next time? Make scented geranium sugar, ala “vanilla pod” sugar, and use that. Also, try a variant with shredded bits of geranium leaf. If my cuttings take root, I should have plenty of leaves to play with.