It is the year for replenishing the jam cupboard. There aren’t too many pots left. I did not do any jam last year, would you believe it?
I reassure you I did not cook any jam today. It has been awfully hot today. The breeze has just arrived and hopefully we will lose a few degrees overnight.
I usually make jams when fruits are in full season and their price has gone down sufficiently. I make:
red current jam
There are some odd batches as well, such as rhubarb or banana mango. The latest one is delicious but doesn’t keep very long. The mother of a close friend introduced me and my girlfriends to it years ago, during a trip to French Guyana. We must have significantly helped emptying her freezer of it over a couple of weeks!
Replenishing the jam cupboard
As I was looking through the jam cupboard for this post, I realised there are a few unlabeled jars, some I am not sure what it may be. One of the unlabeled jar looks like milk jam (homemade dulce de leche).
Apricot and rosemary jam
This week I made apricot and rosemary jam. The idea of adding a couple of sprigs of rosemary came a bit from nowhere. Maybe having a few sprigs of rosemary extra lying around inspired me (they use rosemary as ornamental bushes in the nearby township! 🙂 ).
I made a first small batch, loved it, specially on fresh bread with cream cheese. By now, I have made a bigger batch, enough for a while. Check out the apricot and rosemary jam recipe HERE.
I hope you had a great Christmas. Christmas here – when it comes to the food- has been all about green lush salads, light seafood, glazed ham and the traditional queugneux of North and North Eastern France (ou cougnoux in Belgium) with think hot chocolate on Christmas morning (recipes to come ahead of next Christmas)!
This post is about the journey of trials and errors in getting to make sourdough baguettes. Now, they are all you expect from a baguette: crusty, tasty, bubbly. They keep well if not eaten on day one or two and can then be toasted for breakfast. I even got an order of baguettes for Christmas!
My first trials was to try making sourdough baguettes out of the same dough as bread dough. While the baguette taste all right, it does not have any of the quality of the real baguette and its biggest failure is the lack of those big bubbles that make for a lighter bread. Having played a few times with very wet dough (when you put the same weight of flour and water), I knew that those dough were lighter and allowed for much bigger bubbles. The drawback, those breads cannot held their weight and tend to be rather flat.
So, in a game of trials and error, I did end up finding the suitable proportions. Looking at a few recipes after that, it is similar to those. I could have saved myself a fair bit of trialing.
In need of flexibility in the dough
Next, I was not getting a very flexible dough (yes, we – and some neighbours- ate a number of trial breads!). As a consequence, the shaping was a little difficult. In a book that I bought nine years ago called “The bread bible” by Rose Levy Beranbaum, the author has a recipe for baguettes, but for the classic french baguette. That recipe has a number of prefermented doughs. Prefermented dough have the benefits to add flavour to the bread and as I found by trialing make the dough a lot more flexible.
The two technics that I now use:
I mix the water and flour from the main part of the recipe at the same time I feed the starter, that is 24 hours before actually making the bread. I cover it and place it in the fridge. It takes 3 minutes max.
When I make the dough, I use my mixer. I am sure to obtain the right consistency and it is rather quick (7 minutes and voila!).
The last rising is critical
The above practices have not prevented me ending up with some pretty poor breads because I sped up the last rising, or rather did not let it happen properly. Lesson learnt, the last rising is critical for the baguette.
A camping holidays experience
And I could not let you go without speaking of my bread test trials while camping…
At the end of the school break, we joined a few families for a week camping along the NSW coastline. I had taken a little of my sourdough starter to experiment cooking bread while camping. Our family does the camping thing very lightly, we have none of the camping bulky equipment, so our camp remains basic. The camp ground was walk access only, which is great!! In other words, I had no camp oven (even so, it was total fire ban!).
I realised I had nothing to measure proportions to make the bread. In the end, I made a big batch of bread dough and got the children to make little bread rolls, I kept enough for a large bread. Until then, all went as it should. The only option for the baking was the large cooking pots with lids. I placed the rolls on baking baker, some water at the bottom bellow the baking paper. The rolls were basically cooked by steaming. Cooking time is really quick that way. The result was a little strange: there was no crust! The taste was fine, the inside as well, it was just missing its natural aesthetic. Next morning I had avo on toast and it was delicious!
Going to the beach or to a park? Going for a little bush wonder? These pages point you out to simple recipes for outdoors afternoons. Add this to fruits and/or crudity and you are ready to go! Great little snack for kids always on the move!
To go straight to the new recipe of the week, go to “le cake” or simply HERE. I did it today for the local children music performance and manage to get a good photo before going (the cake was still hot when e arrived there). Use those at other time for lunch box or get-together, garanteed to go!
This one if probably my favourite for excursion: no cutting required, easy to handle, small size and quite popular. The recipe for the basic version is HERE, you can vary and incorporate variations, one of them is with strawberries and rosemary (recipe HERE).
The log cake called “le cake”
I promised this recipe a while ago. For me, it is childhood memories of delicious afternoon snacks. Le cake (sic in French) is a log cake , a simple butter cake flavoured with lemon or sultanas or candied fruits. This is the new recipe of the week! Check the recipe HERE.
The palets bretons
Palets bretons are a type of french biscuits. You need to start the recipe the day before, even better, as they keep for a couple weeks, make them in batch dring the holidays season and use as required! Again, pretty simple to make! Recipe HERE.
Chocolate chip cookies
Another favourite in our family, no need to look at another recipe. I have posted on them recently. Look HERE.
No cooking today. A bit of play with Mother Nature!
Hanging plants or kokedama
These hanging plants or moss balls are also known as kokedama in Japan. I do not pretend here to know the best way of making them. We more of less made it up. We also watched a few video on you tube, that said, everybody seem to have their own method. The moss balls are relatively easy to do. You need some sphagnum moss, some good dirt (we mixed some recent compost with some ashes here), some sisal string and a few plants. The choice of the plant needs to match the area you propose to place them in as for heat, exposure to light and humidity level.
We used local vines to make the round structure, a few shells found on the beach and some feathers of cockatoos found at the top of the island below some tall white gums!
Anyone there? Can I have your attention for a quick meal? Most of what you need would be in your fridge. Or can be if you plan for it. The last few weeks, I added some recipes on Bread’N Butter Kids, mostly cakes and biscuits. This one is a main meal and:
It is easy
It is quick
It is light
It does not use anything too fancy!
The veal tenderloin in curry sauce
Veal tenderloin can be found at butchers or if you are around Sydney, head in one Harris Farm grocery shop and look into their meat section, they have them quite often.
Don’t think curry as Thai or indian type of curry. There is just enough to make a great taste and not be spicy. It is more a european type of dish than asian.
and for breakfast or lunch boxes? Fresh sourdough baguette!
This is very exciting, I have been trialing for the last two months sourdough baguettes . I think now we are all pretty happy with it. The baguettes are really tasty, crusty and (I find) quite simple to manage. This will likely be my next post!
Basis of cake baking 8 year old. Yeah! I realise that I addded recipes in the last few weeks but did not share them in my post blog! I will have to do some catch up posts.
This post has been coming for a while. I decided to write it when my 8 y.o asked to do some biscuits, and because I was busy she had to do them on her own. So she went through cooking books and settled on a recipe which I agree she could attempt to. When she had finished the first stage I helped her for the last part. This is when I realised this was a great recipe to get some key baking skills through to them. Here are two recipes to teach the basis of cake baking for an eight year old child. And when I say that, they are the first doer, your role is only to advise and ensure they have not missed a step (and even if you don’t bake, you will be all right there!).
Your child if not eight? Don’t run away! This approach is suitable for all ages up from eight. For younger children, you would need to be the main doer and probably replace the first recipe below by a simpler shortbread recipe. While I write this I am realising that this recipe is not even on my blog! This is now fixed.
Teaching your 8 y.o baking skills – Recipe 1
LA REINE DE SABA (The queen of Sheba) chocolate cake
Yes, chocolate. If you want to motivate a child in baking, this is definitely one successful way. Now, I have one rule: no eating any from the dough mix while preparing. Once the cake is cooking, the baker is allowed to lick the spatula and bowl!
For those who do not know this cake, this is a light chocolate cake. Generally you bake it in a round tin, but you can also cook it in a rectangular ti to make mouth-bite size cubes. it is not a very thick cake, it handles very well between 3 cm and 6 cm. The thickness depends on what you want it for and the tins you have available.
Why did I chose this recipe?
The recipe teaches to:
measure ingredients (great math!)
know about oven temperature for cakes (pretty much right for all cakes)
prepare the baking tin (it is the same for all cakes)
This is the recipe I discovered with my daughter. The result is nice looking shortcrust biscuits. The chocolate taste is quite light. Those biscuits keep well in a cookie jars for a couple of weeks. You could choose to replace the chocolate with food colorants for other effects.
Why did I chose this recipe?
The recipe teaches to:
measure ingredients (great math!)
make shortbread which is used in many sweet desserts (tarts, base for cakes, etc)
mix and get your hand in the dough (not to be afraid of getting your hand dirty)
understand that dough needs to rest
use a rolling-pin and ensure the dough does not stick
stick dough pieces together
What is great there is that there is room for error: small errors in the measurements and the undertaking will not dramatically affect the outcome.
Where we live this is the end of the school holidays. Last week, we went for few days to the Great Lakes area in NSW. If you that does not ring a bell, think Seals Rock-Blueys Beach-Boomerang Beach-Forster area. That area has long white sand beaches with barely anyone on them. We went pipis hunting, or rather pipis harvesting.
What are pipis?
Pipis are clams, in other words, a small edible bivalve species fund in Australia between the QLD/NSW border all the way to South Australia.
Pipis are also known as also known as Coorong cockle, eugarie, Goolwa cockle and ugari (Ref – Sydney Fish Market). Pipis live ten to twenty centimeter deep in the sand in the intertidal zone of the surf. You will often see pipis shells along the foreshore in areas where these clams are present.
If not harvesting them, you can find pipis at fish mongers, especially in ares with asian communities.
Rule of thumb as for any foraging: only take what you need, no more.
The second consideration is the location of the area. Check, there may be restrictions.
Last consideration is the size. Where we go, when pipis in an area are all below 2 cm large, this is probably because they are either over-harvested or not so happy there, I don’t take them then, as normally they would be around 5 cm large.
Be ready to get wet! One way to go about it is to do the “pipi danse”. That method is very popular with children, more fun! It consists of swinging your legs when the wave come up so your feet “dig” into the sand, this will expose pipis or you will feel them with your feet. The other way is to dig with your hands here and then, this method is generally quicker. Watch out for those bigger waves!
Pipis are really quick at burrowing in the sand, so when some get exposed you will need to be quick and pick it up.
How to cook pipis?
Pipis live in the sand and open slightly to filter water and feed themselves. As a result, pipis shells may contain a fair bit of sand. You will need to desand them by placing them overnight in a large bowl with cool water and salt (30 g / L of water). If you place them in the fridge, they will not open up and release the sand.
Pipis cook quickly and require heat. The most simple way is with salted butter and crashed garlic. Place the butter and garlic in a saucepan or tall edge frypan and once the butter is melted throw in the pipis. Cover with a lid. You will see and hear all the pipis open up. Once they are all open, remove from the heat and serve straight away with a large salad.
You could very well add some fresh chilli during the cooking, or 1/2 glass of dry white wine. You can also used a tomato base to cook them in.
There is such a large variation of breakfasts available, especially in Australia where the options between savoury and sweet breakfasts are many. Oats were not (and still are not) a popular choice of breakfast in France. Here is how I ended up recently trialing homemade toasted muesli.
A few years ago, I would not have considered a savoury breakfast before the clock showed at least 10 am. Now, I don’t mind a fresh piece of bread with avocado and ham early in the morning, yum!
I grew up on bread and butter, or rather bread and jam or bread and honey, as I was not a big fan of butter when growing up. Forget Nutella. Nutella didn’t make its way into my mother’s kitchen until many years later. We used to make a chocolate spreadable out of a can of condensed milk and a tablet of chocolate. If you ask me now, I would not put that recipe on this blog. Back to now, most mornings I leave the house quite early – to avoid some traffic knots – and have breakfast a bit later. I have been trying out a few brands of muesli and toasted muesli. Of course, curiosity obliging, I gave a try doing toasted muesli.
How to make your own toasted muesli?
The key is to define upfront the flavour(s) you want as dominant and the “medium” you are after.
Do you want nuts as the dominant flavour? Or is it dry fruits? Is it berries? Keep one dominant flavour and then build round it.
Each main flavour will dictate the rest of the ingredients. For example, if you want dry fruits such as cranberries and apricots, you would not add more than two types of nuts as it will become a very “busy” muesli and will lack the simplicity of good simple things. With cranberries and apricots, you may consider adding shredded coconuts, maybe some almonds and possibly some chia seeds.
Typically muesli uses rolled oats. Commercial mueslis are composed of between 60% (for the gluten free ones) to 80% (more often) of rolled oats and other cereals flours (by weight). If you are gluten intolerant, you could choose to use buckwheat based cereals or a mix of corn flakes or puffed rice.
My first toasted muesli mix were quite heavy on nuts and seeds. I would now aim at 60% oats.
Some recipes do not add anything else than the medium, nuts, seeds, fruits. I like to add a little oil and honey (not much) and a pinch of salt. It adds a lot to the flavour and to the colour!
So, how to go about it?
Well, this is pretty simple, get a big baking tray out. Cut large nuts (almond, hazelnuts and up size-wise) to smaller chunks. Cut dry fruits similarly. Place all dry ingredients in the tray. Warm up a little the honey and oil, pour over and with your hands “massage” it through. Then, all you have left to do is bake the muesli in the oven while keeping an eye on it and mixing from time to time.
Note: you can add the dry fruits after the baking if you don’t like them too hard.
A few ideas of combinations
Combinations for toasted muesli are endless. Here are a few I tried or some which jump to my mind.
Go nuts muesli! Oats (50%), hazelnuts, walnuts, chia seeds, coconut, macadamia nuts. You can use almond there too, almonds and I don’t agree well, so I would only put very little or avoid them. That muesli was quite nutritious.
Chocoholic muesli: oats (70%), hazelnuts, almond or walnut, cocoa powder, chopped dark chocolate (to add at the end).
And the price bit?
On my last muesli, I calculated that to come to the same price as a box at the supermarket, I would need to have 40% oats and plenty nuts (hazelnuts and macadamia are quite expensive). And that was using supermarket based ingredients i.e. no bulk price considerations!
I also calculated that is you use 60%, your cost become half of the commercial cost. So definitely worth it!
Managing your choux pastry can be easy for some, disheartening for others. Well, good news, I struggled with it this week and because it was not the first time, I decided to write about it and share my choux pastry secrets.
Why choux pastry this week?
This weekend was Father’s day for us in Australia. My older daughter (8 y.o.) wanted to bake a treat for her father. To get a change from chocolate cakes (please! – I never though I would say that), I made a few suggestions and she decided to go for eclairs. Yes, of course she knows what they are! I have gourmet kids!
nd by the way, if you are going to make the choux pastry with your kids, it is a great opportunity to teach them and get them to practice the piping technique since it does not drip all over!
A small note: if you have access to a thermomix, save all the hard work and use it. I have had the opportunity to use one for a month last year and I must say that choux pastry is one thing I would praise it for (although not buy one just for that!).
Things don’t always go to plan
Because when you cook a dessert, prepare bread on the side, manage the younger child on Reading Eggs (an interactive program for early readers) and I can’t remember what else, you tend to be a little distracted. In the end, round one of eclairs ended up flat, very flat. Check for yourself! So, not willing to disappoint my daughter I expedited a second round of pastry (it takes 10 minutes really), this time with my full attention. To be honest, I knew it was not going to work before baking round 1 when I realised the dough was more than coherent and flexible, getting towards Nutella consistency.
How choux pastry works?
Choux pastry is only made of flour, butter and water really (and eggs, sure). Well, there is no rising agent or yeast. But there is a fair bit of elbow oil, you would remember that if you have had a go to the recipe! To make the dough rise, there is only one way: trapping the steam made by the water and butter during baking with the gluten matrix of the flour.
Here you need to think more bread making that cake making. The flour contains gluten. When you work the dough, we speak of gluten development and this means the development of the structure of the gluten through alignment of the strands. Professionals speak of short mix, improved mix and intensive mix to define how much structure development is required. It is worth noting that gluten can be overdeveloped and then can lose its structural properties, but rest assure that cannot happen with manual handling.
In brief, the steam released during baking is trapped inside the choux structure and rises the choux or eclair. It makes the “skeleton” of the choux. The next stage is to get it to dry so the structure can hold its own weight.
Critical steps and tips
There are a few factors that make this pastry hard to master but not impossible. For reference, the recipe can be found on its own page HERE.
Here are the tips for you to consider before starting:
The temperature of your saucepan
Early in the recipe, you will be asked to add the flour suddenly to the water. Then you have to “dry” the dough over low heat until the dough detaches from the saucepan. Here the amount of water lost during this stage will strongly depend on the type and temperature of your saucepan. Keep that in mind, but do remove the saucepan from the heat when the dough detaches well from the sides of the saucepan.
The size of the eggs
The next point of attention is the size of your eggs. The recipe calls for four eggs. If you use 60 g eggs (700 g box of 12), you will likely need three to three and a half. If you use small eggs, this is the other way around, you may need an extra half to one egg.
To add half an egg at the time, beat the egg slightly in a small bowl and pour half of it. What difference does it make? The dough will not be firm enough if you put too much egg. It will not be liquid either but will not be firm enough to retain its shape and the shape will collapse in the oven.
Mixing hard to develop the gluten structure
The gluten development happens when you energetically mix the egg into the dough. So make sure you mix heartily, no shortcut here! When will you know the dough is ready? This is the multi million dollar question! The dough must be firm yet flexible:
So the “strands” must not break when you mix it.
the “shapes” made by the dough when mixing must remain 3D and not collapse to 2D.
expect gaps between sections of your dough as the ball of dough is moved one way and another by your wooden spoon.
If you know what the surface tension of a fluid is, great! Imagine it here, there need plenty to keep the shape.
Doing the right thing during baking
Finally the baking. All recipes will tell you to use a very hot oven for the first 10 minutes. Some recipes will then ask to reduce the heat while leaving the door of the oven slightly open with a wooden spoon, others will only ask to reduce the heat. The process during that stage is the drying of the skeleton of the choux (this is assuming the choux have reached their full size which often takes more than 10 minutes I find). What happens if you do not dry your choux sufficiently? Well, the choux will look great for 2 minutes when pulled out of the oven and will then collapse. What a pity!
Father’s day eclairs
Curious to what the colours of our artisan eclairs hide? You would have guessed the dark ones are chocolate eclairs. The pink one is inside a vanilla, nutmeg and grilled pistachio custard. The icing is a raspberry (using the juice of 1/2 cup of frozen raspberries) icing: raspberry juice, hot water, drops of lemon juice and icing sugar.
I probably buy two big bags of apples each week at this season. Where do they go? Lunchboxes, snack and occasionally dessert. Last week, I wanted to do an apple based dessert but I did not feel like any apple tart or any traditional recipe. Taste wise I wanted something different. Yes for apple, only a little differently!
…Only a little differently
I am about to share two recipes with you. One savoury, a piece of pork cooked on a bed of apples and in cider; and one sweet one, a red pepper apple and strawberry crumble. I strongly recommend the two of them!
Pork belly roast on an apple bed and in apple cider
This is a different way to roast pork. It is really tasty. I have adding chesnuts around as well in subsequent versions. The recipe is HERE. Like for any pork roast, this recipe requires a fair amount of cooking time.
Note: the chesnuts would need to be peeled beforehand. Make a small cut in the skin. Place them in boiling water for one minute and peel the skin.
Red pepper apple and strawberry crumble
This is what I ended up cooking last week. Three month ago, I stayed at some friend one night and was offered a beautiful dinner. The dessert followed a recipe of baked apple by Yotam Ottolenghi. In this recipe Yotam Ottolenghi used pepper cracked over baked apple to subtlety change the flavours and bring up different aromas. It was delicious!
This crumble recipe is inspired from that dish. Here, I used black pepper and mostly pink peppercorns. You will find pink peppercorns in deli stores, at Paddy’s market (Sydney Haymarket) and online spice shops such as Herbies. The rest is pretty much like a normal crumble. Recipe HERE.
Sunday night diner is the wrap up of the weekend and the last step before the start of the new week. It has this homy comfortable feeling. Yes, but…
We, or rather my daughters started a silk rope class on Sunday afternoon. They love it! I find it great too. By the time we come home it is often after 6 pm , sometimes after 7 pm. So, not willing to cook much at this stage of the day, I devise a quick meal. One that came back a few times recently is a bean and sausages bake. Dessert tonight – yes, there is always dessert – was a flan patissier.
The bean and sausage bake
You can rarely do easier and it require strictly no cooking skills. All you need are cans of beans, tomato sauce and sausages! Pretty simple! Still need the recipe? Click HERE.
A flan patissier for dessert
Flans patissiers need to be made in advance preferably as they taste better warm or cold. I made mine this morning before heading across Scotland Island through bushland on gorgeous little tracks. Flan patissier are a typical French dessert, it is like a (homemade) baked custard. Quite nice.
For the last two weeks we have been trialing crumpets recipes. Why now? First because this has always been on my mind, but never a top priority. At the moment, we are hosting my French niece. She has discovered crumpets with friends of ours while staying with them for a few weeks (I sent her there in June to ensure a full English immersion). Stating the obvious, crumpets are an english breakfast item. No chance to find them in France in supermarkets! We decided she may as well go home with a recipe that works well. So we have been actively seeking the right recipe!
The first go at crumpets was with a recipe out of an internet search, far from being a success. The next go was using a recipe from my yellow cooking notebook. I do not recall where that recipe came from, I had scribbled it on a piece of paper a couple of years ago, inserted it in one of the plastic sleeves, and it was there waiting for the right day! The “yellow notebook” is the second one of the type, there is also a red one, now full.
After that, I did another internet search and decided to put to the test three recipes simultaneously:
First I brought back all recipes to 200 mL of milk. This is expected to produce 6 crumpets of 10 cm diameter. Plenty to trial with and judge!
As indicated below, the main difference is in the amount of yeast and the use of butter or not. The Jamie Oliver’s recipe has slightly more flour. As a result that dough is a little tighter.
Yellow book recipe
Jamie Oliver recipe
Gourmet Travellers recipe
1 tbsp (10 g)
oil/butter for cooking
As represented in the above photo from left to right.
Yellow book recipe: Very good, very tasty, more complex flavour (due to the butter and the strong flavour brought by the fresh yeast
Jamie Oliver’s crumpets: Very good. closer in taste to commercial crumpets (the dough is a bit heavy)
Gourmet Travellers’ recipe: surprisingly chewy, not my favourite, but the dough is a pleasure to work with (perfect consistency)
I used my crepe pans, perfect for that. I had some non-stick crumpet rings.
We wanted to try the with and without flipping the crumpet methods. The benefit of not flipping it is to keep the bubbles open at the top so when you place butter, honey, jam or maple syrup over the crumpet, it all falls into the holes. Double yummy!
I found that flipping the crumpets ensures that they are cooked on both sides, it is a nice finish look also. When we did not cook them on the other side, we have had some dryer results and a few burnt bottom ones. It may be worth looking into using a lid so the steam can be cooking the top part of the crumpet.
The winning recipe:
Personally, I am quite happy with the recipe that was in my yellow book. I however find the ratio of yeast to flour a bit high and may reduce it in the future. For indication 7 g would be used with 250 g of flour.