Archive for March, 2012

Sara and Erica of Baking JDs were our March 2012 Daring Baker hostesses! Sara & Erica challenged us to make Dutch Crunch bread, a delicious sandwich bread with a unique, crunchy topping. Sara and Erica also challenged us to create a one of a kind sandwich with our bread!

Sara and Erica explained that:

Technically, Dutch Crunch doesn’t refer to the type of bread, but rather the topping that is spread over the bread before baking. In Dutch it’s called Tijgerbrood or “tiger bread” after the tiger-like shell on the bread when it comes out of the oven. The final product has a delightful sweet crunch to it that makes it perfect for a sandwich roll. It’s a common option at sandwich shops all over the Bay Area and is often one of the first breads to run out.

Sara and Erica recommended using a soft, white bread and provided the recipe below. Given that white bread is a bit of a novelty in our house, I decided to give it a go. I also decided to make my own rice flour in the Thermomix, as I had never tried that before. I used brown rice in an effort to make the white bread a bit healthier.

Dutch Crunch Topping

Servings: This recipe should make sufficient topping for two 9×5 loaves (23cmx13cm) or 12 rolls. If you make only 6 rolls in the first soft white roll recipe, you can cut the topping recipe in half. (NB – I didn’t read this part. No wonder I had so much topping!)

We’ve provided this recipe first because it is the mandatory aspect of the challenge. Note, however, that you should not prepare the topping until the bread you’ve selected to bake is almost finished rising (~15 minutes from baking).


2 tablespoons (2 packets) (30 ml) (15 gm/½ oz) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) warm water (105-115º F) (41-46°C)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm/1 oz) sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (240 gm/8½ oz) rice flour (white or brown; NOT sweet or glutinous rice flour) (increase by 1 cup or more for home-made rice flour)


1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a whisk; beat hard to combine. The consistency should be like stiff royal icing – spreadable, but not too runny. If you pull some up with your whisk, as shown below, it should drip off slowly. Add more water or rice flour as necessary. Let stand 15 minutes.

2. Coat the top of each loaf or roll with a thick layer of topping. You should err on the side of applying too much topping – a thin layer will not crack properly.

3. Let stand, uncovered, for any additional time your recipe recommends. With the Soft White Roll, you can place the rolls directly into the oven after applying the topping. With the Brown Rice Bread, the loaves should stand for 20 minutes with the topping before baking.
4. When baking, place pans on a rack in the center of the oven and bake your bread as you ordinarily would. The Dutch Cruch topping should crack and turn a nice golden-brown color.

Soft White Roll

Servings: Six sandwich rolls

This recipe approximates the quintessential white sandwich roll found throughout the Bay Area. The recipe is simple, quick, and addictive.


1 tablespoon (1 packet) (15 ml) (7 gm/ ¼ oz) active dry yeast
¼ cup (60 ml) warm water (105-110º F) (41-43°C) (No need to use a thermometer – it should feel between lukewarm and hot to the touch).
1 cup (240 ml) warm milk (105-110º F) (41-43°C)
1½ tablespoons (22½ ml) (20 gm/ ⅔ oz) sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil (plus additional olive or vegetable oil for greasing bowl during rising)
1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (9 gm/⅓ oz) salt
Up to 4 cups (960 ml) (600 gm/21oz) all purpose flour


1. In the bowl of an electric mixer or large mixing bowl, combine yeast, water, milk and sugar. Stir to dissolve and let sit for about 5 minutes (The mixture should start to bubble or foam a bit and smell yeasty).

2. Add in vegetable oil, salt and 2 cups of flour. Using the dough hook attachment or a wooden spoon, mix at medium speed until the dough comes together. (The photo to below is with the first 2 cups of flour added).

3. Add remaining flour a quarter cup at time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

4. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 4 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

5. Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled (or more) in size.

6. Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 6 equal portions (if you’d like to make rolls) or 2 equal portions (if you’d like to make a loaf) (using a sharp knife or a dough scraper works well). Shape each into a ball or loaf and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (try not to handle the dough too much at this point).

7. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 15 minutes while you prepare the topping.

8. Coat the top of each roll or loaf with the topping as described above.

9. Once you’ve applied the topping, bake in a preheated moderately hot 380ºF/190°C/gas mark 5 for 25-30 minutes, until well browned. Let cool completely on a wire rack before eating.

Here are the photos of my challenge attempt:

The rice flour

Dough after proving

the topping immediately after being made


the topping straight away

…versus 15 minutes later

the topping 15 minutes later

the topping applied to the rolls, which in retrospect were placed far too close together

the finished loaves – pretty!

Close up

Finally, we were challenging to make an adventurous sandwich. With two small children, one of whom protests loudly when she is offered anything that isn’t spaghetti bolognaise (see last entry), I just didn’t have it in me to be adventurous today. So I made burgers. Which Ms B refused to eat on the basis that it wasn’t spaghetti bolognaise. She did eat the lettuce however, so perhaps there is hope.

Thanks a lot Sara and Erica for encouraging me to try something completely new!


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What is braising?
The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.

Traditional cooking methods may be classed as how heat is conducted through the food. First is moist heat (poaching, simmering, steaming or boiling) where heat is conducted through some sort of liquid; be it stock, sauces or steam. The second method is dry heat (roasting, baking, broiling, sautéing, pan frying) where heat is conducted by hot air, radiation or hot fat. Different methods are suited for different kinds of food. Braising, from the French “braiser”, offers us a combination cooking method – dry heat followed by moist heat. Typically, meat is seared in hot fat which helps to add flavor and aromas, improves color (browning), and texture (crust). It is then submerged in liquid and cooked slowly and gently at low heat. In a nut-shell that’s it! It should be noted that there are endless variations for braising including stove-top versus oven; partially submerged in liquid or completely submerged; or stews where there are many ingredients that are cut into smaller pieces.

I was running late for this challenge, despite having given it quite a lot of thought. I often make large casseroles in winter and freeze them in dinner-sized portions. I’m not a huge fan of eating them myself, but they are easy and fairly versatile. I ended up trying this recipe from Jane and Jeremy Strode –  http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/cuisine/meat/recipe/beef-braised-in-red-wine-20111018-1lwz6.html , based largely on the fact that I had half a bottle of red wine sitting around. If you read the recipe you will note that it calls for the meat to be marinaded in wine and spices for 2 days in 2 litres of wine, plus another 2 litres of wine to go in the braise. I don’t know about you, but I can think of other ways to use 4 litres of red wine. OK, maybe just one way to better use 4 litres of wine. Possibly not all at once, however.

So I took the lazy person short cut and didn’t soak the meat, and only used the wine that I had. I also used less meat. And, since I grew up in a family where it was considered a sin to waste vegetables, I threw in some additional vegetables. In this case, cubes of eggplant and some green beans. Partly out of curiosity but mostly because that is what I had in the vegetable crisper. Despite my non-compliance with the recipe I think it worked out pretty well. The husband was happy, the 2 year old ate some and the 4 year old complained that it wasn’t spaghetti bolognaise, as she does for every meal which isn’t spaghetti bolognaise.

Here are some pictures.

Braising has several advantages over other cooking methods in that it provides for uniform cooking when done in an oven with heat coming from all sides instead of just the bottom of the pan as well it requires less attention as it’s cooked at a slow and steady temperature for longer periods. Other advantages are that it clears the stove top for other preparations, the dish may be prepared in advance and the flavor improves over time!

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The birthday girl and I had many, many discussions about what birthday cake she would have for this year, her fourth birthday. For a long time she was certain that she wanted Foofa from Yo Gabba Gabba, which was achievable.

However, she then got distracted by almost every other cake in the Womens Weekly Children’s birthday cake book (ie the birthday bible) so I ended up just picking the one she picked out first. The recipe noted that it was time-consuming but not necessarily difficult, which turned out to be the case. The hard part was trying to get the upper layer to balance, which is where the handy engineer husband stepped in – thanks handy husband!

Overall, I was pretty happy with the result. Sure, it looks homemade and rough and like it was finished off in a rush in the 15 minutes before the guests arrived, at which time I was still wearing my running clothes. But that’s because it was.

The horses are My Little Pony horses, glued on to skewers. I was a bit worried I would have to drill holes through them and impale them, but luckily we avoided that. And 8 little girls got to go home with a “unicorn” (as they were promptly proclaimed), as well as a massive sugar high. Happy, happy day.

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