Sunday, July 28, 2013

Home Made Olive and Rosemary Bread

"What should I wear?" This is a question all girls ask themselves when they have a date. My main question however is "What should we eat?" Just as the perfect outfit says something about your personal style, your life, your choices, and who you are so does the food you make. Im insanely superstitious about the first meal I cook for a boy. Firstly I want to know what kind of message the meal will it send. You can't go all out and cook a roast on a first date....its much too serious, and to settled. Fish is weird for a first meal, don't ask me why, it just it (with the exception of cured fish....thats romantic.) Chicken is boring. Red meat is usually pretty safe. Its warm, and sort of sexy. If the man is vegetarian however you are really going to run into trouble there. Im all for home made breads and pastas but only if you really like the boy. You don't want to be spending hours kneading and proving a beautiful loaf of bread, to go and waste it on a fling.

The meal needs to be romantic (of course), interesting, and in some way a little hint of how you might feel for that person. In saying this though, you cant go all out. Serving a boy a seven course degustation meal pared with wines in the same as turning up to a casual date in a prom dress.....just a wee bit too much. On the other extreme, if you don't put in effort it would be the same as turning up in track pants and a jumper (which lets be honest, I couldn't do as I don't own either.)

Another awful mistake would be to cook a meal for a boy that you have cooked for an old flame. Its like taking him to a special place you had with an ex. It just feels weird. New memories must be made.

I know this all sounds terribly complicated, but in reality its one of my favourite parts of the start of a relationship. When recently talking to a friend about their desire to meet a man one of their main reasonings for needing a relationship was so that they would have someone to go to brunch with. In the same way I feel there is nothing quite so beautiful as cooking a meal for someone.

Whatever you decide to cook for your gentleman or lady caller, I firmly believe that making home made bread is one of the most romantic things to cook, even if its just for yourself. Today I made myself a beautiful loaf of bread to eat for my breakfast in the morning and share with my housemate. I always fall a little bit in love with the process of watching it rise and grow into something truly beautiful.

This olive bread recipe Im giving you today is quite stunning. I was so very pleased with the way it turned out and its pretty simple to make. I know some people find bread making intimidating, but really its not. The main thing is to make sure you have plenty of time. I usually make bread when I know I'll be home all day, that way if it takes longer to rise then I expected, it doesn't matter. Don't rush the bread. Just let it do it thing. Remember that yeast is a living organism and be prepared to let it do its thing....however fast of slow it may decide to be that day.

 Olive and Rosemary Bread

You will need:

  • 600g of strong (or bakers) flour
  • 400g of wholemeal flour
  • Big splash of olive oil
  • 7g dried yeast
  • 1tsp of honey
  • 625ml of warm water (not hot) 
  • Large pinch of salt
  • Cracked pepper to taste
  • 3 tbs of dried rosemary
  • 1 large handful of pitted olives that have been cut up. 
  • Semolina for dusting.
What to do:

  • Mix together yeast, half the water and honey. Set aside until it has bubbled.
  • In a separate bowl mix together flour, salt, olives, pepper and rosemary. Make a well in the middle of the mixture and add oil, yeast mix and the remaining oil. 
  • Mix together until a dough forms and then place on a floured bench. 
  • Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes. This is really good for your arms (builds great muscles) and my favourite time to think.
  • Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Place in a warm spot and allow to rise until doubled in size. 
  • Knock back the dough and then shape into whatever shape you want the bread to be. I usually make a large oval shape. Place loaf onto a large tray dusted with semolina.
  • Allow the loaf to rise once more until it is doubled in size.
  • While it is rising preheat your oven to its highest temperature with a flat tray inside. 
  • Once your bread is all lovely and big, very very gently transfer the loaf onto the hot tray and slash it with a knife a few times across the top to make 3 or 4 deep incisions. This helps the loaf to cook evenly, but also just looks damn pretty.
  • Place the loaf in the oven (do this so carefully so as to not knock any air out of the bread) and spray the oven with some water. This is actually a really crucial step that a lot of home bread makers don't know to do. It gives the yeast the perfect environment to grow one last time (and make your bread really big) before it dies off. The best way to do this is with a little spray bottle but as I dont have one, I usually just throw 1/4 cup of water into the bottom of my oven to create the steam. This of course isn't practical if you have a gas oven! The spray bottle is probably the safest option. 
  • Spray the oven 3 times within the first ten minutes of cooking and then turn the heat back down to 190 degrees. 
  • Cook the bread for around 34 to 40

    minutes. To be honest I cant really give you a time as it all depends on your oven and how large the loaf grew and what not. You can check to see if its ready though because the bread will have a lovely golden crust and when you pick it up, and top on its bace it will sound hollow. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Home made Coconut and Lime Ice cream.

Sometimes it is much easier to write when you are feeling melancholy. Life feels a little bit more poetic when your sad, and words seem to flow quite naturally. I often used a little bit of sadness as inspiration to write when Im feeling a little down or have a bad case of the winter blues. These days however I just dont seem to get the 'winter sads' and life is flowing along quite beautifully. So writing has not been at the front of my mind.

Cooking however has been (of course), and I have been going through such a lovely experimental time in the kitchen making home made ice cream, fresh breads and pastries. Our whole house has been filled with such lovely smells and it wont be bizarre for me to be casually eating quail on a wednesday night for dinner with a good glass of wine.  

Something lately has changed, where all the recipes that used to intimidate me a little now seem so logical and simple. Thats not to say everything works out perfectly, but complicated recipes no longer seem scary. 

Im at a little bit of a loss for words....all I can tell you is everything is splendid. I hope you're feeling the same. 

Heres a super simple ice cream recipe to get you inspired.

Lime and Coconut Ice cream.
(From Gourmet Traveler)  

You will need: 

  • 100g of white sugar
  • 25g of liquid glucose
  • 200ml of coconut cream
  • 50ml of lime juice
What to do:
  • In a small pot combine 100ml of water, sugar and glucose and stir until sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool.
  • Stir together remaining ingredients and churn in an ice cream maker. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Winter treats

Today I have gone back to bed. I have turned on the heater to warm up a bread dough I was resting in the fridge over night, and decided that maybe I'd just take a rest along with it. Melbourne winter has really settled in and I've realised how much I love this season, with its clear sunny days, crisp air and freezing nights to curl up under loads of blankets. Everything is prettier in winter and I have taken to baking some beautiful treats to keep my little house warm, and my friends full. 

Last week one of my good friends had an engagement party and I was lucky enough to be able to get envolved by making a cake for the night. I had such a wonderful (and stressful) time working out how to cover the cake in ruffles and keep all the tiny pearls from falling off.

Winter has really felt like the perfect season for making bakery goods. After spending my last two days off fussing over a cake, I really wanted to get stuck into making some rustic breads and pastries on my weekend. Making bread is just so very wonderful, and a bit like falling in love, as you watch your dough puff up all light with air, get knocked back, puff up again, get shaped, and then finally be baked into something so beautiful.

I also made a batch of homemade pies with a rough puff pastry which was surprisingly easy to make. I have to say though....this is NOT a diet food (but then little of the food made in this house is.........actually none of it is.) There is so much butter! While making it I felt a little bit horrified, but after I tasted that flakey pastry, I sort of forgot. I have adopted a new strategy to dealing with such things lately anyway. I have decided that if I gain a little bit of winter weight I will simply buy a new dress. In turn if I loose a little bit of winter weight I will also buy a new dress. See where Im going with this? New dress! And of course.....if I just stay the same, I'll probably just buy a new dress? 

I've also ventured into the world of ice cream making lately. It was something we used to do a bit at culinary school but only recently since finding a little ice cream maker at the second hand shop have I really started to get back into it. Whenever I make ice cream I always thing back to the scene in the movie 'Its Complicated' where the fifty year old leading ladies' ex husband comes to visit, and sadly tells her how much he misses her lavender ice cream that she made from scratch.This scene always makes me laugh, and reminds me of my boyfriend from when I was twenty who still calls me from time to time to say "Cherry I've fallen in love with this beautiful girl, she is so pretty and funny......but she cant cook. Wont you come back and cook me dinner? I miss your cooking. I love this girl, but I miss your cooking." To me this was the greatest compliment. 

Im not quite sure what recipe to leave you with this week, as I have been testing out so many new ones. I think for now I best get back to curling up in bed with a book and cup of tea. I promise to post something yummy for you to cook soon.....bed bed is calling.