Sunday, February 15, 2015

Homemade Orecchiette with Bacon and Broccoli

Orecchiette have been on my list of pasta to make for a long time and this Sunday was the day! At a local restaurant some time ago I had order a dish of spelt orecchiette which were delicious and thinking of the spelt flour I had just purchase, I thought spelt orecchiette were just the thing. However some online research did not deliver a spelt orecchiette recipe instead the pasta used for orecchiette seemed to be a simple semolina flour and water dough. So let's not rock the boat...we will stick with tried and true....for the time being, anyway!
Taking a look at the method to hand make orecchiette looked simple...just drag the knife over the little pieces of dough and turn inside out. Easy! Hmmm, so I thought but instead I struggled while my daughter who always masters hand made pasta, ( I think she has an Italian nonna within! ) had no problems. It is tricky. There is no denying that but after a couple (read "lots") of failures, success was mine! Very excited to produce our first orecchiette!
With some local organic streaky bacon, fresh broccoli and good Parmesan our Sunday lunch was fit for a King (or Queen)

Orecchiette - adapted from here

3 cups fine semolina flour
1 cup plain flour
good pinch salt
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 warm water ( 105F to 115F or 40C to 45C)
1 tablespoon (20mls) extra virgin olive oil

Place the flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Turn the machine on slow and drizzle in 1/2 cup of water. Mix until thoroughly absorbed and the mixture is sandy - this could take 2 or 3 minutes. We need the flour to adsorb the water for as long as possible as this develops the gluten. Once we add the oil this inhibits the development of the gluten.

Drizzle in another 1/2 cup of warm water (it may need reheating) and continue to mix for 5 or 6 minutes. Drizzle in a 1/4 of a cup of warm water and keep mixing for another 5 minutes. By this stage if you machine is anything like mine it will be protesting! Drizzle in the oil and mix for a further 5 minutes. By now the mixture should start coming together and feel a bit like Play Dough. If it doesn't add in a little more water, 1 tablespoon at a time. 

Once it is ready flatten into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Allow to rest for 1 hour.

Now for the fun part! Take golf ball size pieces of dough and roll a long rope of dough. Keep the rest of your dough covered. The dough should be a little bit thinner than your fingers maybe 1/2 an inch or so in diametre. Now cut the rope into little pillows of only about 1/2 an inch or less. As you go you will learn to adjust the size according to the size of orecchiette you are making.

Take a butter knife or dinner knife, press firmly on one portion...

...draw the knife towards you causing the dough to curl...

.... you should end up with something that looks like this....

....with your fingers unfurl it and turn it inside out shaping it over your thumb. And, just like magic you have made your first orecchiette!

 After a while you will have lots!

To serve with our freshly made orecchiette I turned to our local organic streaky bacon from Backfatters. The pigs at the Backfatter's farm are very happy, heritage pigs that roam freely. I love that we have such premium quality at our doorstep.

So in a little extra virgin olive oil I sauteed the diced bacon and two finely chopped garlic cloves. After a little while a couple of spoonfuls of pine nuts and a finely sliced chilli followed.

While this happened I put a pot of salted water on to boil and prepared a large head of broccoli. Once the water was boiling the broccoli went in and cooked until just tender. Scooped out, draining all the water and straight into the frying bacon. The remaining water was brought back to the boil.

A little toss, 2 tablespoons of tomato passata and a splash of extra virgin olive brought the sauce together. No extra salt because the bacon is already quite salty.

Once the water returned to the boil all the pasta went in...yes, it's a lot. The pasta probably boiled for about 5 minutes but just keep tasting it. You don't want that floury taste and it still needs to have a bit of a bite. Then drain well.

Mix in the bacon and broccoli and a handful of good grated Parmesan cheese and there you have's a winner!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

An Australian oldie but goodie - Date and Nut Roll Cake

Cleaning out my refrigerator yesterday I realised I had a couple of packets of dried dates.What I had bought them for I don't know. But lately I have been reading a lot about minimalist lifestyles. Not that I could live that way, but there is a lot to be said for living with less and not giving in to consumerism. Maybe the dates were on special and I couldn't pass them up. What a waste if they aren't used. I love to have a very well stocked pantry and refrigerator so much so that a friend once looked into my pantry and called to her daughter. "Come and look, it's just like a supermarket!" I need to curb some of my spending, I think.
So, now I am on a mission to use and not waste what I have. Cook with what's in the pantry/refrigerator. Yes, a bit of a mystery box challenge, if you like.
Hmmm, what to do with my dates....then I remembered an old Australian classic,
 the Date and Nut Roll. This is an old recipe that I have been using for more than 25 years so I'm not sure where is originated. I have it jotted down in a notebook where I wrote many recipes before my marriage 26 years ago.

For this cake, special baking tins are required. The cake is not "rolled" but baked in a cylindrical baking tin which is sealed at both ends resulting in the cake sort of steaming and baking at the same time. These tins are a little hard to get a hold of but if you do look after them and treat them with care. They are usually made out of tin and can rust easily. Once I remove the cake after baking I quickly wash the tins then place them back into the still warm oven to completely dry. Moisture is a major factor in these tins rusting. 

Hope you like this and if you are Australian, that it brings back fond memories.

Date and Nut Roll Cake (makes 2 nut rolls)

1 cup chopped dried dates
1/2 cup sultanas
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarb soda)
30g butter
1 cup boiling water, from the kettle
1 egg, beaten a little
2 cups plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon mixed spice
pinch salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

In a bowl place dates, sultanas, sugar, baking soda and butter.

Pour over boiling water, mix and let stand until cool

Once cool mix in egg, flour, spice and walnuts.

Mix until it is just combined.

Butter the nut roll tins well ensuring both lids are coated. Seal one end of each tin and place on a baking tray. Fill each with half of the mixture ( it will rise). Seal with the top lid. Keep tins upright and on the baking tray (makes it easier to transfer to the oven and remove). Bake at 175C for 55 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Remove the top lid and breathe in the delicious, sweet and spicy goodness
Carefully remove the bottom seal and shake out gently. 

This picture is deceiving. It looks like a tall muffin but... a long cake. 

Cool on a rack.

This is a delicious almost wholesome cake so I'm sure a lick of butter is ok!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Grissini Torinesi - Breadsticks from Turin

One of my greatest loves in baking with yeast. I remember only being about 12 years old and buying a packet of dried yeast to make my first loaf of bread. It wasn't the best bread I had tasted but it lit a fire in my "baking belly" for yeast cookery. The idea that with a few simple ingredients we can create a wide variety of baked goods. My fascination with yeast has never waned and I have many cookbooks on the subject. One of my favorites is "The Italian Baker" by the award winning writer Carol Field.

These knobbly breadsticks are a perfect example of the wonderful recipes contained within this cookbook. They are crunchy, wholesome, and it's hard to stop reaching for another. The recipe is simple. Why don't you try it?

Grissini Torinesi  from The Italian Baker by Carol Field

1 1/4 teaspoon dried yeast
1 tablespoon malt syrup
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for brushing
3 3/4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup semolina flour

I prepare mine in the stand mixer but it could all be done by hand.

Mix the yeast, malt and warm water together in your stand mixer bowl. Allow to stand 10 minutes or so until bubbly. Add the oil, flour and salt and start mixing slowly with the dough hook until it all comes together. Continue to knead with the dough hook for about 3 minutes. Remove dough and knead a little by hand to bring it together.
Place the dough back in the bowl and rub the surface with a little oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled. That could be an hour or more.
Preheat your oven to 225C/ 450F
To shape - sprinkle the dough with semolina flour. Cut the dough crosswise into 4 equal pieces then cut each into 5 strips. You should have 20 strips. The dough is lovely and elastic so pick up each strip and stretch and pull until you have nice long breadsticks. Roll in more semolina if you like. Place each one onto a baking sheet (there should be no need to grease because the semolina will stop the sticking). Bake for 20/25 minutes until nice and crunchy. If you have a pizza stone the breadsticks can be baked directly on the heated stone.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Esterhazy cake - January 2015 daring bakers' challenge

For the month of January Jelena from A Kingdom for a Cake invited us to start this year with a dreamy celebration cake. She challenged us to make the Esterhazy cake a.k.a the Hungarian dream. What better way to start the year than with a sweet dream?

I always like to prepare a special cake to celebrate birthdays. My 17 year old son has for several years not wanted anything fancy...icecream cake or a plain chocolate cake. However my daughter, whose birthday is in January, loves to try lots of different cakes. This was an advantage when Jelena of A Kingdom for a Cake hosted our Daring Bakers' Challenge for the month of January. The Esterhazy cake we were challenge with contains 12 eggs, 300 grams of butter and 500 grams of hazelnuts...yep, a big cake... perfect for a crowd!

Esterhazy cake is made up of 5 layers of hazelnut dacquoise filled with a rich hazelnut cream. Jelena told us the the cake was first baked in the 19th century by a confectioner from Budapest who named after Prince Paul III Anton Esterhazy de Galantha, a member of the Esterhazy dynasty and diplomat of the Austrian Empire. So there is bit of royal history behind this cake.

I made a couple of adjustments to the warm filling by adding a bit of dark chocolate and a couple of tablespoons of Frangelico. While a had a bit of trouble with the chocolate web decoration the rest of the cake was relatively simple though time consuming. I would do it all again, though! A thoroughly delicious cake, perfect for a celebration! Thanks to our host, Jelena!

I have had a lot of trouble copying the recipe from the site so I decided to just post the link and my pics.I added 150g dark chocolate and 2 tablespoons of Frangelico to the filling while it was warm but other than that I stuck to the original's perfect!

Please find the recipe to the Esterhazy cake here.

Delicious when we got stuck into it...YUM!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Dutch Sweet Bread - December 2014 daring bakers challenge

For the month of December, Andrea from 4pure took us on a trip to the Netherlands. She challenged us to take our taste buds on a joyride through the land of sugar and spice by baking three different types of Dutch sweet bread.

As this year draws to a close, I know many reevaluated the past 12 months. The past 12 months are pulled apart and put back together and New Years Resolutions are made. In the coming year we will exercise more, spend more time with loved ones, slow down, learn to say "no" and generally turn over a new leaf.

Often my resolutions are put aside sometime in the first month of the year but many years ago when my children were young I decided on a resolution that as a family we would pray before our evening meal. We would take turns each night and no matter what happened during the day we would thank God and name one thing we were grateful for that day. Today with my children in their late teens we still maintain this resolution. Learning to be grateful for each day has helped us get through some difficult times this year as my dad declined as he suffered from dementia and then passed away in April of this year. In 2015, we will be grateful for the many blessings in our lives of family, friends and love.

On a lighter note, I am also grateful the the December Daring Bakers' challenge was simple and absolutely delicious! Thank you Andrea from 4pure - this was a perfect challenge for this time of the year. My house smelt amazing, it didn't take too much time and we had something tasty for breakfast!

Happy New Year, dear friends! Blessings.

Ontbijtkoek - from The Dutch Table

1 cup rye flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each of cardamomcoriander, ginger and ground cloves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses (I used treacle, because that's what I had)
1/2 cup honey
1 cup milk
pinch salt

Heat the oven 150C/300F and line a loaf pan with paper.

Mix everything together to a smooth batter. 

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 80 minutes or until done.

 Cool on a wire rack and serve with a slick of butter.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Paris Brest - November Daring Bakers Challenge 2014

The November Daring Baker’s challenge took us for a ride! Luisa from Rise of the Sourdough Preacher challenged us to make Paris-Brest, a beautiful pastry celebrating the Paris-Brest bicycle race.

This month's challenge took us to France for the Paris to Brest bicycle race....well not literally but in spirit! The traditional filling is a Crème Mousseline but I decided to give my favourite Creme Patissierie the praline twist with delicous results. Thanks to our great host, Luisa for choosing this delicous delight!

Paris Brest

Choux Pastry

3/4 cup water
60g butter
pinch salt
3/4 cup plain flour
3 eggs

In a saucepan bring to boil water, butter and salt. Once boiling and the butter is melted add, all at once, the flour. Stir until the mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides. Allow to cool to lukewarm and transfer into a stand mixer. With the mixer on low add one egg in at a time. Don't add the next egg in until the first one is incorporated into the mixture. Pipe mixture into rings about 6 or 7 cm in diameter. I got 12 out of the mixture

Bake in a preheated oven at 220C for 10 minutes then lower to 200C for another 10 to 15 minutes until well browned and dry. These can be baked ahead of time and store in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer. They take a minute to defrost.

Creme Patissierie

600ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or a vanilla pod, split
4 egg yolks
100 g sugar
40g plain flour
40g cornflour (cornstarch)
2 or 3 tablespoons Amaretto
250ml cream, whipped
100g praline (recipe below)

Warm 500ml of the milk with the vanilla. Mix the remaining 100ml milk with the sugar, egg yolks, flour and cornflour. Slowly add the warmed milk and whisk to combine. Strain back into the saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil whisking all the while. Once the mixture comes to the boil allow it to boil for a minute or two. Remove from heat and mix in the amaretto. Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap in complete contact with the creme patissierie and allow to cool. Once cool and ready to use beat to soften then fold in the whipped cream and the praline.


1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) whole almonds
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) whole hazelnuts ( I only had ground hazelnuts)
6 tablespoons (2¾ oz) (80 gm) caster sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) water
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar (to help stop crystallization)

Place sugar, water and vinegar in a small pan. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar then bring to the boil. Boil until the water evaporates and the sugar becomes golden. Add the nuts, stir quickly and tip onto nonstick baking paper.

Press to flatten and allow to cool.

Once cool and hard break it up and blend to crush in a food processor.

Split cooled pastries in half and fill with praline creme patisserie.

Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!