Thursday, 24 July 2008

Bread Activity for a Rainy Day: Poppy Seed Pinwheels

It rain all day today. On my day off!!!

I had to put away my running shoes and decided I may as well get some chores done. The best kind of baking between three loads of laundry is bread making. This time, I decided to do something creative and made these pretty pinwheels with poppy seed fillings. The dough reminded me of a lighter cousin of brioche and was perfectly paired with the poppy seed filling. The sweetness and richness of the filling was just right.

I am so glad it rained today.

Bread Rolls with Poppy Seed Filling

350g unbleached plain flour
1 ½ tsp instant yeast
25g caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ cup milk, lukewarm
50g butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten

250g poppy seed filling (e.g. Schwartau Mohn-Back#)
50g ground almonds (or hazelnuts/ walnuts)

1 egg yolk and a little milk

# Lucky me, my German friend Eva "imported" it for me. You can purchase this product on-line: US, Canada, Dublin and UK.

- Mix the flour, yeast, salt and sugar together in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Add all the liquid to the centre of the flour and mix to a soft dough. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oil bowl, cover with a clear film and leave in a warm place for 1-1 ½ hour, or until doubled in size.
- Turn the dough into a lightly floured surface and knock it back (punch down) lightly then roll it out to form a rectangle. This is the part you can get creative. I rolled it quite thinly (17x11 inches).
- Mix the poppy seed filling with the ground almond. Using a spatula, spread the filling evenly on the dough. Trim the edges, if desired.
- Mark the centre of the short end of the dough. Carefully roll up the dough on one side of the long edge, stopping in the middle. Do the same with the other side. Gently press the two rolls together. Cut the bread to fit the pans you are using and gently lift them into the lightly buttered pans. Using a fork, prick the top of the dough. Cover with cling film and leave the rolls in a warm place for 30-60 mins or till it increases in size (they won’t double in size).
- Brush the top of the breads with a lightly beaten egg yolk mixed with a little milk.
- Place the breads in a preheated oven (190° C) for 20-30mins or until golden brown. Turn out onto a wire rack. Slice and serve warm with a cup of tea or coffee.

Dough recipe adapted from The Complete Book of Bread and Bread machines by C. Ingram & J. Shapter.

Rolling the dough to make the twin pinwheels

Golden brown and boring looking, but wait till you slice it...

Ooooh, moist poppy seed goodness!

Since I like mini-anything, I also made a mini version, and...

with the scraps, I kneaded the filling into the dough and got these mini rolls.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Say Cheese!

On July 1st, Haalo published her 700th post! Most of you would be familiar with her food blog Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once. I always learn something new when I visit her blog, and the photos are just simply stunning. That’s why I was prompted to participate in the event “Say Cheese” that Haalo is hosting. The requirement was to post and photograph a favourite cheese in July.

I did not eat much cheese in my childhood because my mother’s culinary repertoire did not include the use of many dairy products. But as I traveled to other parts of the world and was exposed to different culinary habits, I learnt to savour different types of cheese as a course on its own, rather than on a cheese burger or grated on my pasta. Although the proper cheese etiquette is to serve cheese after mains and before dessert, I've fallen into the Australian habit of having it as an appetizer before mains. Oh, and don't get me started about the art of cutting cheese!

My first love was with Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, especially in a insalata caprese. My favourites since moving to Sydney have been washed rind and ripened brie and I tend to buy only Australian milk and goat cheeses (or a blend), especially local produce from New South Wales and Tasmania.

As a “newbie” cheese lover, I am still getting accustomed to the pungency of stronger and more ripened cheeses. Hence, I have only a teeny-weeny piece of blue cheese on my cracker. Happily, last year I discovered a cheese by Binnorie Dairy (Hunter Valley Region, Pokolbin, NSW) that suited my palate and what I consider a good “training” product for the non-blue cheese lover. It’s called Duetto and is a combination of Gorgonzola and Mascarpone cheeses, both produced on the Binnorie dairy farm. The flavour of the Gorgonzola was prominent enough to give it a nice "bite" and the addition of Mascarpone meant that it was not too pungent for me and lends a melt-in-your-mouth texture. The downside is that I can only buy it during my annual visit to the Hunter Valley because Binnorie is a small dairy company with a small list of distributors. Quikong suggested that I try to blend my own version of Duetto. Maybe I will!

Haalo did write “no cheese in a can or similar plastic products” for this event. But this cheese in a tub did win the Blue Mould Section of the 4th Fromage du Monde last year. Fromage du Monde claims to be the largest public cheese judging event in the world. So I hope that I can still enter to win Haalo's very own cheese photo book.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Willie Nelson's “Famous” Banana Choc Bread

Can someone please explain to me the difference between a banana bread and a banana cake? Do we use the word bread to fool ourselves because we feel less guilty when we have “bread” rather than “cake”? Perhaps banana bread is supposed to contain less sugar and butter? Or maybe banana breads have to be baked in a loaf pan? So what should I call this delicious treat which has absolutely no butter or oil, but was baked in a round cake pan? (This reminds me of the muffin vs cupcake debate....)

At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what you call this yummy treat. This recipe is a keeper – so quick and easy to make and freezes exceptionally well. It has a moist crumb which is studded with choc chips (ok, so it’s not fat-free), and I love the crunchy topping.

Oh, and I have no idea why this recipe is associated with Willie Nelson. Kickpleat got it from a friend in San Fransisco and she's not sure either if Willie ever made this bread or if it really was some kind of famous secret recipe....and the plot thickens....

Willie Nelson's “Famous” Banana Choc Bread (Cake?)

My version (original here)

3 really ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
1 ¼ cup flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar (mix of white & brown sugars to make about 1 cup)
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup chocolate chips (white &semi-sweet)
topping: extra brown sugar

1. In a large bowl, mix bananas with eggs and stir till well combined. Place your sifter containing the flour, sugar, baking soda & powder, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon above the bowl, sift, and mix well. Briefly stir through 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips into the batter. Do not over-mix.

2. Pour batter into a non-stick cake/loaf pan. I used a round 8” springform pan. Sprinkle with the extra brown sugar and the remaining chocolate chips.

3. Bake at 180 degrees C for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. Place pan on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes to cool before removing the cake from the pan and serving.

This will be my contribution to this week's Weekend Herb Blogging event. WHB is a food blogging event sponsored by Kalyn's Kitchen where each week food bloggers around the world photograph and write about herbs, plants, veggies, or flowers, and on the weekend, a Recap with links to all the posts is published by the host for that week. This week’s host is Pam from Sidewalk Shoes.

In my opinion, the banana is the perfect snack because it is highly recognized for its undisputed health benefits. When comparing fruit to fruit, none can compare to the nutrition found in the banana.

Storage & Freezing
Keep bananas on a fruit bowl at room temperature. If you want the bananas to ripen faster place the bowl near sunlight. Similar to other tropical fruits and tomatoes, never store bananas in the refrigerator. Bananas will not ripen but the skin will darken in the refrigerator. Ripe bananas (with skin on) can be frozen. However, the skin will turn very dark and it gets slimy on the inside. I frequently freeze bananas for baking (or smoothies) at a later time. When using whole frozen bananas, let the banana defrost for 15 minutes before pealing the skin. If you freeze them as a puree, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to each cup of mashed fruit before freezing. Don't forget to label indicating the number of mashed bananas in each container/freezer bag.