Lovely soft Spring rain this morning and wonderful for the garden. I love the look of the rain droplets in the new leaves of the maple and next door’s Tortured Willow.Its a perfect day for baking, especially as we have a visitor for morning tea tomorrow, so I thought I’d share some of my basic recipes with you :
- Anzac Biscuits
- Voom Voom Bread
- Apple Cake
I have been making these biscuits for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, we christened them ‘Chokilolegs’, for the obscure reason that we happened to be reading the story of ‘The Ugly Duckling’ at the same time as we were eating them, a fact which my children found inexplicable when trying to enlighten their friends! My childhood recipe included bicarb and coconut, neither of which I use today. I was never quite happy with them and hankered after the chewy texture of Anzacs made by other people.
I discovered the secret when reading Matthew Evan’s Macadamia Anzac recipe in his book ‘Winter on the Farm’. See http://www.matthewevans.net.au/what/books.
It is important to let the melted butter mixture cool before adding it to the dry ingredients. Simple ! It was a light bulb moment, akin to the time when I learnt from a friend that when you want to make egg sandwiches, don’t even bother to peel the eggs, just cut them in half and scoop out the egg ! It’s obvious, isn’t it ?!!
Since then, I’ve always used Matthew’s recipe. While the macadamias are divine, they are expensive, so for an every-day biscuit, I omit them. I keep a constant supply of these biscuits on hand and they are so quick and easy to make. I usually melt the butter, sugar and syrup while I make the morning porridge, let it cool on the verandah while I eat, then mix the lot together and bake them over toast and tea. Easy ! So here it is :
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Ensure your racks are at the right level. Line your biscuit trays with Gladbake.
Melt 100g butter, 100g caster sugar and 70g golden syrup in a small saucepan over low heat. Let it cool.
Mix 100g rolled oats and 100g sifted self-raising flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Matthew adds 100g coarsely chopped macadamia nuts here – I have also tried walnuts, which are quite nice too.
Mix cooled butter mixture into the dry ingredients. The mixture should be quite moist.
Loosely pick up a rough spoonful of mixture and place on the tray. This recipe should make 24 biscuits. Bake for 20 minutes, swapping oven levels half way through. Cool for 5 minutes on the trays, then transfer to a cooling rack.
As I said- easy! All ingredients are 100g except for the golden syrup and salt of course !
Voom Voom Bread ( with apologies to Carol Bates! ):
When I was a new wife many years ago, I read ‘The easy No-Knead Bread Book’ by Carol Bates and it quickly became my bread bible. It is a very easy recipe and all it requires is that you can check in on the rising dough from time to time. No need for bread making machines, special bread mixes or even heavy duty kneading ! It is so easy in fact that it is equally easy to maintain a bread making routine and the bread is delicious and so nutritious ! It is affectionately named by my children as ‘Voom Voom Bread’ (they’ve inherited their mother’s naming propensity, though to be fair, their reasoning is much less obscure and will become obvious as you read the recipe !)
Voom Voom Bread :
Rub a large bowl with 2 tsp extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil. I use a metal bowl, so it conducts the heat to help the dough rise. The oil is one of the ingredients, but by rubbing it into the bowl at the same time, its much easier to clean up afterwards!
Measure out 1200 ml warm water. Pour one third of it into the bowl.
Add 5 cups of organic stoneground wholemeal flour. I buy my flours from the local wholefoods shop in 5kg bags, which each fill a large tupperware container. If you live in a hot place, keep these tubs in the fridge, otherwise the weevil eggs will hatch out and your flour will be ruined !
Add 4 tsp salt ( spread well round the bowl), 3 tsp instant dried yeast and 1 tsp honey. I use Premium Bakers’ Yeast, which I keep in the fridge. I used to use 2 oz (56g) of fresh compressed yeast, which I also kept in the fridge. But beware ! My sister-in-law needed to borrow some yeast for her bread one day and accidentally took the kids’ play dough instead ! No wonder her bread was rock-hard and didn’t rise !
Add another third of water, then 5 cups of organic unbleached white flour. Reserve half a cup of this flour to use later on the bread board. Put away the flour tubs.
Add the rest of the water, then using an oiled hand (again for easy later cleaning !), mix the dough, ensuring there are no dry patches. This will only take a few minutes.
Cover with Gladwrap or a warm wet teatowel and place bowl in a warm or sunny spot. Check on it occasionally- it should take 1-2 hours max. This recipe is so forgiving ! If you have been diverted to return to dough climbing out of its bowl and on the rampage, just knock it down to size and put it back in its place!
When the dough has risen to the top of the bowl, oil your hands again, as well as a 2nd high-sided bowl, and scoop the dough out of the bowl onto a floured board.
And here is where my children affectionately mock me and the source of this recipe’s name ! Working from the far side, bring the dough into the centre, then repeat from the left and the right, then turn the whole lot over and put into the 2nd oiled bowl : VOOM, VOOM, VOOM, VOOM!!!
Replace the same Gladwrap/ wet teatowel on top and leave to rise again in the sun for another hour or until the dough has reached the top of the bowl again.
Oil 2 high bread tins. Its worth buying proper deep bread tins – they are expensive, but worth it if you are going to be baking lots of bread and the loaves are so much better if the dough has room to rise in the tins. Make sure the base, sides and even the top rim of the tins are well oiled, otherwise it will be very difficult to remove the baked loaves from the tins without tearing the bread !
Preheat oven to 240 degrees Celsius and make sure your oven shelf is at the correct level ie : not too close to the bottom (burnt bases) or top ( major oven cleaning job ) !
Bring dough out onto the same floured board and divide into 4 quarters. I find the curved edge of a handheld rubber bowl scraper is great for dividing the dough. Shape each quarter into a ball and place 2 quarters in each tin. Spray or just wipe the tops of the loaves with water, cover with Gladwrap/ wet teatowel again and leave for its final rising in the sun.
I usually put the two tins in the oven (without the faithful Gladwrap//teatowel!) on another baking tray ( in case the dough is so enthusiastic that it decides to colonize the oven!), when the dough has barely reached the top of the tins, as they will continue to rise during baking and this way it makes a more manageable loaf, which is easier to remove from the tins.
Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and check if it is done by either knocking on the bottom of the loaf (hollow sound) or sticking a skewer in it ( it should come out clean ). Remove bread from the tins and cool on a cooling rack.
Divine when eaten warm straight out of the oven and slathered with butter and honey, but equally good as toast !
Keep on to the washing up. Put the bowls and board to soak in water straight after use and they will be so much easier to clean !
If the loaf is stuck to the tin, try using a cold wet tea towel around the outside of the tin for a few minutes to cool down the tins, then if all else fails, carefully encourage it out of its home with a blunt knife. Don’t worry – as my Mother always said, it will look worse in your stomach !
This recipe is very adaptable and flexible. I have given you the very basic version, which we make twice weekly. We keep one loaf in the fridge and freeze the other loaf for later. Experiment with different flours, different grains and even dried fruit. You can top the bread with sesame seeds or poppy seeds. Make it in different shapes- rolls, twists, sticks, rounds, ovals, in flower pots, whatever takes your fancy ! I think the rolls take half an hour to bake from memory. It is worth reading Carol’s book if you can get hold of a copy for other ideas. I think the book is out-of-print, but you may be able to buy it secondhand. Try sourcing it from AbeBooks: http://www.abebooks.com/book-search/title/the-easy-no-knead-bread-book/.
This one is from my mother’s recipe book and I’m not sure where she sourced it.
Line a 20cm round cake tin with Gladbake and preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Sift 250g plain flour with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda.
Rub in 125g butter.
Add 250g caster sugar, 2 cooking apples, which have been peeled, cored and diced into small chunks, 60g chopped walnuts and 6og raisins.
Beat 2 eggs with 1 tsp vanilla and add to dry ingredients. Mix well and get rid of any dry pockets of flour. You can add a bit of milk to help, but I never have needed it.
Bake for 1 hour. Cool on cooling rack. Cut into wedges when cool. Yummy !A very exciting event occurred after breakfast today. Three King Parrots visited the verandah ! They were so quiet that I suspect they may have been fed by our neighbours or perhaps they heard I was baking !! They are one of our favourite visitors to the garden, often feeding in large flocks on the apple tree, privet or Duranta bush, though recently, they have been enjoying the Prunus blossom! I thought that I already had some great photos of them, but today’s photo opportunity was amazing !I love these special moments when nature communes with you without fear. My two other stand-out moments were sitting with puffins outside their homes, which they shared with rabbits on the cliffs, when we stayed at the Bird Observatory on the Fair Isles when the kids were little;
And the Providence Petrels on Lord Howe Island in Winter. We climbed Mt. Gower for my 40th birthday and the kids were enthralled when we called the birds out of the sky to land at our feet and allow us to cuddle them ! Amazing experiences !!!