24 September 2008

Daring bakers

Daring bakers time again, this months challenge was co-hosted by Natalie from Gluten a Go Go and Shel from Musings from the fishbowl and this was the first ever 'alternative' Daring baker's challenge.

The challenge: This was also my first savoury challenge since joining the Daring baker's, this month we had to bake Lavash crackers, the recipe came from Peter Reinhart's book 'The bread baker's apprentice' and also make a accompanying dip/ salsa/spread or relish to go with the crackers.

The rules: We really had so much leverage with this challenge,what with which seasoning or spices we added to the crackers and make whatever dip/ relish we wish.

The only strict rules we had were to make the Lavash crackers with either wheat flour or use a gluten free alternative.

All relish / salsa/ spread or dips must be vegan and gluten free.

I was really excited about this challenge, the lavash crackers were very simple to make, a lightly yeasted dough, that was difficult to knead but I got there, and the dough was wonderful to work with once it had had sufficient kneading.
The dough has to be rolled very thinly and placed on a baking sheet, we had complete freedom with out toppings/ seasoning so I used Nigella seeds (I am loving Nigella seeds at the moment) and on my second batch I used sea salt and cracked black pepper, hardly original but they tasted divine.

The big part of this challenge for me was making sure my dip was vegan and gluten free, I suppose I eat many foods that fit into both categories without realising it but it is different when I have to stick to the rules. I decided to make a dip using my favourite ingrediants red pepper, chilli, garlic and onion.

Roast pepper, chilli and garlic dip

1 1/2 red peppers
1 red chilli
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion
olive oil

Heat the oven to 180c
Cut red pepper into quarters,
place in a roasting tin with the chilli (quartered), garlic cloves (skinned but left whole), onion (cut into 4) drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, cool, and pulverise in the blender not to a pulp though, leave some texture.

I loved this months challenge, I have never made crackers before, but they were so easy and quick too, I also loved having a lot of freedom with the dip,it was delicious, and having the too there together were the perfect duo to have nibble on all night.

Thank you to this months host Natalie and Shellyfish, don't forget to visit their blogs where you will find this months challenge recipe and also check out the Daring baker's blogroll for more Lavash crackers.

23 September 2008

Award time

Beautiful site award

Maria from The goddess kitchen has given me this lovely award, the 'Beautiful site' award. Thank you very much Maria it is much appreciated. Do go and look at Maria's beautiful blog.

I shall pass on this award to some beautiful sites I often visit, do go and visit them yourself.

Culinary travels of a kitchen goddess

Tea and wheaten bread

The clayton's blog

19 September 2008

The best chocolate chunk cookies

These are my favourite cookies, crisp on the outside, soft, chewy and melting in the middle, I love them.
The recipe comes from Phil Vickery's 'A passion for puddings' this is a great book done in conjunction with Carnation milk to raise money for the charity 'Shelter'. Every recipe in the book contains Carnation condensed milk but the variety of recipes is great.

is the recipe Phil used for his petits fours in a hotel, they are so good, I have passed this recipe on many times and it always gets rave reviews.

I ommitted the hazelnuts and used belgium and white chocolate, the uncooked cookie dough keeps very well, infact it gets better if kept in the fridge for a few days. I must admit my version never looks like Phil's, his always look crisp, like biscuits, mine have never turned out like that but I still love them. They are especially good slightly underdone.

17 September 2008

Chocolate orange cake

I rarely bake for myself, meaning for my own benefit. I bake for my loved ones, what they like to eat. I bake for other people, most people that come to my house end up eating cake and I like that, it is homely, welcoming and comforting.
It was a bit of treat to bake something just for me, to be truthful the reason I decided to do this was, after a disagreement with my OH I decided to annoy him and please myself by baking a favourite of mine, that he just happens to hate, chocolate orange cake. Revenge is sweet, even more so when it's sugar sweet.
I find it so strange that anyone can not like the combination of chocolate and orange, the flavours merge together brilliantly but my OH can't stand the two together.
Baking is my ME time, I love nothing more than pottering around the kitchen rustling up delicious goodies, but it was more pleasurable when the sole purpose of this was for my own pleasure.
Looking through my books I found only a couple recipes for chocolate orange cake, both from Nigella but neither did it for me, one was a store cupboard cake using a jar of marmalade and the other was based on Nigella's famous clementine cake, I didn't like the clementine cake last time and to be honest the idea of boiling oranges for hours on end didn't interest me. So I went it alone, I decided on a plain loaf cake, the best, darkest cocoa I could find and for the orange I used freshly squeezed orange juice and orange zest.

Chocolate orange cake

250g self raising flour
225g butter
175g caster sugar
50g good quality cocoa
3 large eggs, beaten
juice and zest of 3 large oranges
juice of 1 lime

Preheat the oven to 180c
Line a 2lb loaf tin.
In a mixer combine the flour, butter, sugar, cocoa and eggs.
Stir in the freshly grated orange zest.
Pour in the orange and lime juice. Mix well.
Pour into the prepared tin, bake for 1, 1/4 - 1, 1/2 hours.

A very simple recipe, and a very simple but delicious cake. Super moist, this cake was perfect with a cup of tea.

The orange flavour however wasn't as strong as I would have liked, it was very subtle, I thought adding the lime juice would have helped bring out the orange flavour, next time I think I would add a splash of cointreau or maybe a drop of orange oil...but still a wonderful treat for myself.

08 September 2008


Sourdough is bread with a natural leaven i.e no yeast. Dating back to 1500BC, it is the more than likely to be the original leavening available for bread baking. This is biblical bread.

As sourdough uses no yeast you need to create your own leaven or 'starter' of flour and water, and feed it for several days in the hope of catching the natural yeasts in the air and breeding them, as they breed they give off carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide produces a bubbly mix which (hopefully) will help your bread rise.
I cheated a little by making my starter on my bread baking day, hoping that the yeast in my dough (and therefore in the air in my kitchen) would encourage the natural yeasts in my sourdough to breed.

I used Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall's recipe from 'The family cookbook'

day one

Measure 3 heaped tablespoons of organic strong white flour into a large mixing bowl. Add a tablespoon of organic wholemeal flour. Tip in the juice of half a orange and enough lukewarm still mineral water or rain water (I used boiled and cooled tap water but Hugh says not too) to make a thick stir-able dough - about 4 tablespoons.

Stir this mixture and then beat it with a wooden spoon or a whisk for a few minutes to drive air into it. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and set it aside in a warm place.

day two

Day two:

Check for frothy bubbles- signs that your mixture is 'breeding' and therefore producing carbon dioxide gas.

Beat in another 4 tbsp of white and wholemeal flour just as before, plus 4 tbsp of water.

Cover with more clingfilm and leave overnight.

day three

Day three:

Hopefully the dough will be quite active - bubbling furiously and rising up the bowl.

Beat in another 4 tbsp of flour and 4 of water.

Cover and leave overnight.
day four

Day four:
Tip in 6 tbsp of organic flour - 5 of white and 1 of wholemeal. Stir well and allow the dough to rise again but just for 2-3 hours this time.

final stage

The dough will look puffy.

Take out 2 tbsp of dough mix and put in a small bowl and put to the side. (This is now your starter for your next loaf.)

Tip in 125ml water and 300g organic strong white flour, plus 2tsp of salt and enough warm water to make a smooth dough.

Mix, knead, prove and bake (200c for 25 - 30 Min's) as you would any other loaf. This loaf will take much longer to rise than a regular loaf and won't rise as much either.

unbaked dough

fresh from the oven

Although this was a lengthy process it wasn't hard work, in fact it was rater fun to keep checking in hope of finding your starter had worked and started breeding.
The starter had a slightly sour smell to it, not unpleasant, rather like beer (unsurprisingly)
The dough was great to work with too, the finished bread was delicious, it wasn't as heavy as I'd expected it had a lovely texture and chewy crust....with a slight sour tang, delicious!

02 September 2008

Wholemeal honey bread

I love baking bread, it is one of those foods that you can't rush, it needs love and attention and never fails to make me feel like domestic goddess. Homemade bread is the best, nothing compares to the aroma that fills the house from bread baking in the oven. Well, maybe the only thing that rivals the smell is the taste of warm bread, fresh from the oven and smothered in butter.

I bake a lot of bread although havent blogged about it, I thinks is probably because it doesn't hang around long enough to have it's photo taken.

My usual homemade breads are a plain white loaf, always popular and naan bread (my personal fave) I try not to eat white bread often, preferring wholemeal / brown loafs in place as I have found homemade brown loafs quite heavy, until I tried this recipe from Rachel Allen.

This brown loaf took my fancy as it uses honey in place of sugar, I prefer natural sugars to processed white sugar, it takes a wee while but is well worth it. This recipe makes enough for two loafs I split the dough and added a bag of mixed seeds to one half of the dough (but forgot to take a picture :)) I think I preferred the seeded loaf and will make this one often.
Rachel Allen's wholemeal honey bread
makes 2 x 900g loaves
450ml warm water
3 tbsp honey
3 tsp dried yeast
600g strong white flour
300g wholemeal flour
2 tsp salt
100g butter,cut into cubes.

In a small bowl, mix the warm water with the honey, add the yeast and leave to stand for 5 minutes until frothy.

Place the flours in a big mixing bowl (or the bowl of a electric mixer) and mix in the salt and then rub in the butter. Pour most of the frothy liquid into the flour and mix to a dough - it should not be too wet and sticky; if it's too dry add more warm water and if it's too wet, add more flour.

Knead by hand on a floured surface for about 10 minutes (it may only take 5 minutes in a mixer) until the dough is smooth and springy. Place in a large oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave somewhere warm (like a warm spot in your kitchen) for 2-3 hours until it's doubled in size. It has risen enough when it does not spring back when you push your finger onto the dough.

When it's risen, knock back by punching it down in the bowl and kneading on a floured surface for 1 minute. (This is when I add the bag of mixed seeds) Allow to rest on the work surface, covered with a tea towel for 5 minutes before shaping it. (Rachel makes 2 round or oval loaves) Slash the loaves four or five times with a sharp knife.

Preheat the oven to 200c/ gas mark 6.

Place the loaves on a floured baking tray, sprinkle with flour (or more seeds if using) and cover with a tea towel and allow to rise (this may take another 45 minutes) and, again, leave somewhere warm until they have doubled in size. The dough has risen enough when it does not spring back when you push your finger onto it.

Remove the teatowel and bake the bread in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the base.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.

This is a delicious loaf, very light not dense and heavy. I sliced one loaf and froze it, next time I shall up the ratio of wholemeal flour to white.

This bread will be a regular in our house.

01 September 2008

Award time

I have been given another award, this time from Jilly at 2 drumsticks and a bottle of wine, please go and check out Jilly's lovely blog and see who else she passed her award on to.

I have to pass on this award to 5 other blogger's, here are the rules:

1. Choose 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material and their contribution to the blogging community.

2. Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog.

3.Each award winner has to show the award and put the name of and a link to the blog that presented him/her the award.

4.The award winner and the one who has given the prize has to show the link of Arte Y Pico blog so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5. Show the rules.

Thank you Jilly for my award, I am going to pass it on to:

1. Kelly jane at 'Cooking the books'

2. Linda at 'Thinking about food'

3. Laura at 'Hungry and frozen'

4. Amy at 'The New Nigella'

5. Kerry at 'Me and my three'

Congratulations to these very deserving blogger's, go and have a look at their blogs and see who they pass the award on to.