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Archive for July, 2012

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love. The challenge required us to make crackers using two different methods of forming – hand rolling, pasta rollers or a combination of the two being the main choices.

It’s been a pretty testing month at work and I have been turning to frivolous baking for escapism. So I was initially slightly disappointed when I found out that this month’s challenge was crackers. What, no excessive amounts of fat and sugar?! Then I realised it was a chance to make something that I would actually like to eat. So yay for crackers!

I hadn’t realised, but apparently kale is the latest Miranda Kerr of the vegetable world. It’s the hipster vegetable of choice. I had been reading about kale chips, where you put some olive oil and salt on kale leaves, bake them until they are crispy then break them up into chips (crisps). I was curious but unconvinced.

Then I somehow stumbled across this recipe and was sold. The following recipe is a very slight adaption of the recipe appearing on Sketch-Free Vegan Eating:

Seedy Kale Crackers

6 leaves of kale
2/3 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 tbsp flax seeds
1 tsp curry powder
A sprinkle of sea salt (around a 1/4 tsp)

I ground the kale in the Thermoix then chucked everything else in and whizzed it for bit. I then scooped it all out onto a baking tray covered with baking paper, covered the mixture with some cling film and flattened it out with a rolling pin. The smell and colour were just sensational.

Kale crackers pre-baking

I realise it’s imprecise, but I think I baked them for about 30 minutes at about 180 – 200 degrees. By that time the thinner edge bits were getting crispy so I cut them off and put the rest back in the oven to crisp up.

Finished crackers

And they were delicious! A revelation. I’ve already made them twice and have a big bunch of kale waiting to be crackerised tomorrow. It’s almost enough to turn me vego again.

My second choice was based upon a desire to use my pasta roller, which doesn’t get as much use as it should (all the gear, no idea etc). I chose one of the recipes Dana suggested, which seemed to be like a lavash bread. My version was basically as follows:

Seedy Crisps

160 grams whole wheat kernels – ground in Thermomix
120 grams plain flour
2 tablespoons or so each of poppy seeds, sesame seeds and flax seeds
1½ teaspoons table salt
1½ teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons olive oil
around 190 grams of water

The water bit was a mistake – it made it too sloppy and I had to add more flour to pull it back. So if you are trying to recreate this, use less water.

I kneaded it for a bit (ie pressed the knead function on the Thermoix for around a minute) and then let it rest for about half an hour. I then put it through the pasta roller. On my first attempt I accidentally put it through the finest grade rather than the most coarse, but picked up my mistake pretty quickly.

in process

Cutting up pieces with the pasta roller

finished crackers

tidier finished crackers

I was happy with the result – they were quick, healthy and tasty and I knew exactly what went into them. The husband commented that they were better than commercial crackers and that they tasted more wholesome. I can’t really ask for more that.

And finally, apropos of nothing, here is a picture of the little fella who has been keeping me company on the wall while I type this. Apparently (at least according to Miss B), his name is Jamie.

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It was my boss’ birthday today. I think our team must have been bored on Friday because there was great email discussion about the need for cake. And I don’t think it was really about showing appreciation for the boss. There was also a lot of talk about cakes being made from packets. That was too much for me. I’m not even in the office on Fridays but I leapt in to the discussion and basically forced my baking efforts upon them. Fortunately there wasn’t much resistance.

After some research (also known as idly flicking through cookbooks once the children had gone to bed), I decided to make vanilla and lime pannacotta tarts from the Bourke Street Bakery cook book. I took the lazy option though and used the shortcrust recipe from the crostata challenge because the BSB one just had too many steps. I took an even lazier route by leaving off the top layer of lime jelly and going for a run instead.

Here is the finished product:

And the verdict? 5.5/10. The pannacotta didn’t set properly and the tarts were just too big. I probably should have been less lazy and made the proper pastry and the jelly too. But I had a nice run!

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Marbled Mocha Brownies

On Friday I had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I didn’t get to run, I had a cold, I had one of those bizarre sleep-related injuries where you wake up and can’t turn your head and we’d run out of coffee. And I had really bad hair.

So when the day finally ended I made myself a refreshing gin and tonic and turned to baking. I wanted to make something completely impractical, with no pretense of moderation. So I made marbled mocha brownies from Belinda Jeffery’s book Mix & Bake. I’d been meaning to make this recipe for a while and I’m glad I finally got around to it. It was a bit more involved than other brownies I have made (although I don’t claim to be an expert) but the results were worth the effort. It also seems to freeze quite well.The brownies have two distinct layers – one packed with dark chocolate, strong coffee, ground coffee and butter, and the second made with cream cheese, sour cream and a touch of coffee. The cream cheese layer gets dolloped on top of the dark layer, and then the two get swirled together.

The recipe said to bake the brownies for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. As you can see, I overbaked mine. I was worried they would be dry, but they seemed ok. I guess that’s one of the advantages of huge amounts of butter, eggs and chocolate. But it’s still pretty, right?

why yes, that is a massive slab of kilojoules

Unfortunately I was in a rush when I was cutting up the slab and forgot to photograph it. Can you believe it? It’s like actually eating it was more important! Luckily I had saved a few bits for a friend, so I took photos of them. Unluckily for me, they were end bits so they are not as pretty as the other bits. And unfortunately for my friend, the husband has now eaten them. Guess I’d better make another batch!

And the bad day? Cured by the magical combined powers of baking and gin.

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I decided to commit to baking my way through Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book Heavenly Cakes. I have, however, decided to do my baking after the children have gone to bed, as I fear they are developing a warped idea of the role cake plays in a healthy diet. Unfortunately, as least as far as their well being is concerned, my little (ie early thirties and quite a lot taller than me) brother had a birthday and we all know that means cake. Or, as it is known in my house, CAKE!

I gave him 24 hours to nominate a cake, failing which I would choose for him. You snooze you lose. He snoozed so I chose a red velvet cake, largely because I have never had one and wanted to find out what the fuss was about. I still don’t know actually, because I didn’t get to try any, but I am told it was nice. It also wasn’t red, because I couldn’t bring myself to use an entire bottle of red food colouring as directed.

So here is my hot pink velvet cake.

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The icing is a bit dodgy because I used left over white chocolate icing from the carrot cupcakes. I didn’t have quite enough, so the sides are patchy. I used my usual “cover it up with lollies” technique to try and conceal the shortage. I’m pretty sure the birthday boy didn’t notice.

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So, I ran the Gold Coast marathon last weekend. Or rather, I ran the first 21 or so kilometres, ran the next 10km feeling pretty awful and then ran/puked the next 10km. Suffice to say, that was not the race I had hoped for. So now I have to do another one ASAP to make up for it. Which counts as crazy idea number 1. Except that, obviously, I see nothing crazy about it at all.

Crazy/sensible idea number 2 is to try and make every recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s book Rose’s Heavenly Cakes – yes, the book I bang on about basically every time I post here. I just love this book. I made another recipe from it today – her carrot cake with white chocolate and cream cheese frosting. Only I made it as cupcakes for the husband to take to a relay. And yet again, Rose came up with the goods. I tried a bit and it was delicious, even for someone who is not a huge fan of carrot cake.

Here are some photos. I basically whacked the icing on as the husband was in a hurry to get to the race. Next time I make it (assuming I have time to make it through the whole book and come back to this one) I will take the lazy option and make it as one big cake.

So, what do you reckon? Should I bake my way through Rose’s Heavenly Cakes? And will you help me eat them?

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