Archive for May, 2012

A lovely colleague celebrated her 30th birthday last week. Or rather, turned 30 and didn’t celebrate it. She was stuck in a hearing for the actual day and then was planning to have “Easy Mac” for a birthday dinner later in the week. I had never heard of Easy Mac. I don’t feel like I have missed out on anything, to be honest. Anyway, I felt strongly that cake was required. I turned to my equal favourite cake bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes”. I will always be grateful to Y from Lemonpi for recommending this book to me, along with my other cake bible, Belinda Jeffery’s Mix & Bake.

It was a fabulously moist, smooth, slightly banana-y chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and fairly haphazardly applied chocolate chips. I probably would have liked a stronger banana flavour but maybe that would have been overkill.

Here is the end result:

It’s surrounded by lollies for two reasons. The first one is that I tried to make the serving plate (actually the plastic base of my cake carrier) look prettier by putting down strips of baking paper to protect it from the ganache. When I tried to remove the paper the bottom part of the ganache came away in a most untidy fashion, leading to my desire to cover it up. The second, and much nicer, reason is that the birthday girl really likes the lollies we get from the vending machine in the kitchen area of our floor. They are, somewhat bizarrely, chilled and are the kind of confectionery item where you eat one and think “mmmm…tasty”, followed rapidly by “I have a headache and feel unwell”. Luckily they played only a minor role in the proceedings.

So happy birthday lovely colleague!

Someone asked whether the children cried when they saw the cake and realised it wasn’t for them. I said no, but that my husband did. Rest assured, he will get cake later this week. He also got these rhubarb, ginger and pear muffins that I made using Jamie Oliver’s recipe (and chucking in a pear because I have too many and no-one here eats them):


I’m not sure I loved them, but they were quite tasty and used up one pear. So thanks for that Jamie.


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May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

I loved, loved this challenge. It felt like a great return for effort and all test eaters expressed themselves to be delighted with the results. And then were so loaded up on carbs that they all went for a run together. That last part may be an exaggeration.

Ruth provided some general information about challah, along with the three recipes to try. I used two of the recipes, as detailed below.

Mandatory Items: You must make an enriched bread which is braided or shaped. If you must use a loaf pan, the bread should be braided before it goes into the pan.

Variations allowed: Challah comes in many different shapes, sizes and flavors. Raisins, chocolate chips and other additions can be kneaded into the dough, loaves can be topped with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, vanilla sugar or other flavorful sprinklings, and filled challahs can be a lot of fun and very tasty, too! Braiding and shaping, though, become more difficult when the rolled strands have fillings in them. Use your own discretion and comfort level to determine what degree of difficulty you are ready for. Gluten free and egg free bakers can use the recipe links in the additional information section, or use other substitutions with which you are comfortable. (All of the recipes provided here can be made dairy free, as Jewish dietary laws prohibit eating dairy and meat at the same meal. If you prefer not to use margarine, unsalted butter can be substituted.)

Preparation time: As a general rule, challah takes about 4-6 hours from start to finish. This includes making the dough, at least two risings, baking and cooling. Specific recipes take slightly different amounts of time, and the first rise can be done overnight in the refrigerator if you prefer. Please read through the recipes for specific times. Following are approximates for most.
Mixing and kneading the dough: 20 min.
First rise: 1 ½ to 2 hours
Punching down, second rise: 1 hour (not all recipes have this second rise)
Shaping: 10 to 20 min.
Third rise (second rise for some recipes): 1 hour
Baking: 30 to 45 minutes
Cooling: 20 to 30 minutes.

Equipment required:
• Stand mixer with dough hook (not necessary, but it certainly helps!)
• Measuring cups
• Measuring spoons
• Mixing bowls (at least one large and one small)
• Pastry brush
• Rolling pin (again, not necessary, but it makes a difference)
• Baking tray/cookie sheet
• Parchment paper
• Kitchen/tea towel
• Cooling rack
• Offset spatula (really helps get the loaves off of the tray safely!)

The first recipe I tried was the Easy Challah

(from templedavid.org)

4 cups (960 ml) (360 gm/20 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup (240 ml) warm water
1 package (2¼ teaspoons) (11¼ ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) package rapid rise yeast
½ (120 ml) (115 gm/4 oz) cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water


1. Measure flour, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl.
2. In a separate bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer) combine water and yeast, allow to sit 5 minutes until foamy.
3. Add 1 ½ cups of the flour mixture to the water and yeast mixture, beat until well combined. Cover with a dish towel, let stand 30 min.
4. Add two eggs to the dough, beat again.
5. By hand or with your dough hook knead in the remaining flour mixture. Knead approximately 10 minutes.
6. Transfer to oiled bowl, cover, let rise one hour.
7. Punch down dough, knead approximately 3 minutes.
8. Divide dough in two. Shape each half as desired (3, 4, or 6 strand braid).
9. Place loaves on parchment covered or greased cookie sheets, cover with a towel, allow to rise one hour.
10. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
11. Brush loaves with egg wash.
12. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees, bake until golden crust forms (about 25-30 minutes).
13. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

First attempt at challah

I was really surprised by how much it “grew”, even in the oven. The honey gave it a lovely sweetness and the contrast of the crunchy crust and soft filling was fantastic. Unfortunately I didn’t pay enough attention to the instruction to practice the braiding before you started, so that I basically left out a whole strand of dough (the strange looking line underneath). It doesn’t bode well for my daughter’s hair for school next year.


I then told my (jewish) boss about the challenge, and he said “well of course it has to have poppyseeds!”. So I tried again, this time using Ruth’s “Go-To” Whole Wheat Challah recipe:

(adapted from D’s Whole Wheat Challah)
Servings: 12

2 (.25 oz.) packages (4½ teaspoons) (22½ ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) warm water (100°F/38°C)
½ cup (120 ml) (100 gm) (3½ oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup (one stick) (120 ml) (115 gm/4 oz) margarine or unsalted butter – room temperature
2 tsp. (10 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) salt
3 large eggs
2 cups (480 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) whole wheat flour
2 cups (480 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) all-purpose flour
½ cup (120 ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) rolled oats (Old Fashioned work just fine!)
Additional flour for kneading (½ to 1 cup) (120 to 240 ml) (70 to 140 gm) (2½ to 5 oz)
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water for glaze


1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, dissolve yeast in warm water. Allow to stand about 5 minutes until creamy/foamy.
2. With paddle attachment beat 3 eggs, sugar, margarine (or butter), whole wheat flour, all purpose flour and oats into the yeast mixture. Or, if mixing by hand (ok, spoon), combine eggs and margarine/butter with yeast mixture until well mixed. Add flours and oats and mix until it becomes difficult to mix.
3. Once combined, switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding flour as/if needed. If kneading by hand, this should take about 10-12 minutes.
4. Form dough into a round, compact ball. Turn in oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen/tea towel. Let rise in warm area until doubled, approx. 2 hours.
5. Once dough has doubled, punch down. Recover with towel, allow to rise again for an hour, but even 30 minutes will be fine if you’re in a hurry.
6. Punch the dough down again, divide in two.
7. Shape each half as desired (3, 4 or 6 strand braid, rolls, etc.). Place shaped loaves onto parchment covered baking trays. Cover with the towel and allow to rise another hour.
8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
9. Brush loaves with egg wash. (Sprinkle with vanilla sugar/sesame seeds/poppy seeds/other topping here if desired)
10. Bake 30 to 40 min. until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
11. Transfer loaves to a wire rack to cool before serving.

This time I watched the braiding video first, which definitely helped. The second attempt was a lot neater!

Poppy seed loaf pre-baking

Sesame seed sensation


I have to say, this batch was fan-bloody-tastic. Perhaps it was the oats, perhaps it was the brown sugar or perhaps it was the improved braiding technique. Either way, I am putting this on the to-do-again list. Thanks Ruth!

And since I made the loaves on Mother’s Day, here is a picture of the orange syrup cake I made my mum. The recipe came from Rosa’s Yummy Yums. (Just beware – the site plays music)

Love you Marce

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Buoyed by the success of recent croissant attempts, yet always searching for a way to express my inner laziness, I have been busy researching making baked goods in the Thermomix. This weekend involved a 10km race each for the husband and I (his a lot faster than mine), a return to ballet, a late-night long run and a long overdue visit with friends and their gorgeous boys. All of these things added up in my mind to a need for croissants.

I did a bit of lazy googling before setting on this recipe from the Thermomixer blog. The description was really easy to follow and it all made sense. I basically followed that, leaving the dough in the fridge overnight for the second 2 hour window.

Here is the end result:

And here is a photo of my small taste-testers:

The husband/chief croissant consumer declared himself to be well pleased with the product, so this may become the lazy baker’s croissant recipe of choice.

Next step brioche.

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