Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Overnight sourdough cheese and olive or sundried tomato bread - and resilience

When you read about all the people taking up sourdough during the corona virus lockdown, they are the ones learning about sourdough basics.  For people like me who have been baking sourdough for years, the lockdown has given time to play with fun ideas.  Not only have we barely brought bread over the past couple of months but I have also made quite a few loaves of cheese and olive bread and cheese and sundried tomato bread. 

I was initially inspired by Karen at Lavender and Lovage who posted a recipe for sourdough pizza bread rolls in February.  In mid March as we were starting to work at home, I planned to make a cheese and sundried tomato bread.  The vision of sundried tomatoes in the fridge turned out to be a figment of my imagination.  But I had olives.  I had thought Sylvia might try sundried tomatoes but I knew she was not a fan of olives.  I put them in the bread anyway!  As you can see in the below picture from this batch, I usually make a loaf of bread and some bread rolls with each batch.

Since then I have made bread with different but quite strongly flavoured cheeses and either sundried tomatoes or olives quite a number of times.  These are our latest favourite bread.  Especially the cheese and olive bread!  Today Sylvia is fascinated with olives and trying them in different meals such as sprinkling on a pizza or fried egg.  So many times I have tried to encourage her to eat new things, with little outcome other than pain and disappointment, that I am still a little astounded that she has started to eat olives with no pushing from me!  Those of you who think I should just stand back and let her try things when she wants would not get much support from me.  I still see her reject a lot of what I cook for dinner. 

Now, a couple of months after my first attempt at olive bread, Sylvia is delighted when I make cheese and olive bread.  Her face falls a little if I make plain sourdough now.  Some days I don't have the energy to chop and grate.  I am thankful that lockdown has given me more time and motivation to bake bread.

The bread and rolls have often been part of our lunch.  Sylvia loves hers with a fried egg between the halves.  I love it with some soup, if there is any about.  I enjoy being able to heat leftovers for lunch while working from home and not having to cart it to work and make sure it does not spill.  And having nice bread makes any lunch feel special.  It is a nice pick-me-up when lockdown feels a bit grim.  (Actually we are gradually easing away from lockdown with 5 visitors now allowed, schools planning to open within weeks and bars and cafes opening in a couple of weeks but I am not sure when we will stop working from home.)

But I have wondered if one reason Sylvia has started to try olives is that this seemed a small change compared to all the big changes she has had to face.

When people ask me what I think about her doing school from home, I say that it is a great learning opportunity.  Her school talks about resilience a lot.  But never in their wildest dreams could they have presented the kids with such an amazing exercise in resilience.  I understand that not every kid will thrive but I think this will make for an interesting cohort of kids.  I expect there will be a lot of study on the long term effects on their development. 

For Sylvia who is to finish primary school this year, I hope this experience will make it much easier for her to start high school next year.  She has been given a taste of changing how she studies, learning to be independent, coping without her friends about, and undergoing huge changes.  Surely this will stand her in great stead next year when she faces more change.  I tend to focus on this rich experience more than on the possibility that her end of primary school might not have all the events that it usually would.  After all, if if if we can manage to dodge a second wave lockdown, she is luckier than some of her cousins overseas who are finishing primary school or high school without returning to their classrooms.  And I am sure there will be more appreciation for her last couple of terms of school after schooling at home.

And it is not just school kids who are experiencing massive change.  I am finding it all quite tiring and sometimes sad, but also rather fascinating.  People are experimenting and adapting to new ways of communication.  And we are all seeing each other in a new light.  We are seeing:

We might all have Zoom Fatigue but we are seeing lots of innovation.  There is lots of war analagy being used that is a bit off the mark, but one similarity is that we are going to have opportunities for self reflection, scientific discoveries and compassion that we might not have imagined beforehand.

And if we are baking more sourdough bread than before, well that is one of the positive changes from the corona virus.  While I always love to support local bakers, there is nothing like freshly baked bread in your kitchen.  Not only does it taste wonderful but the kitchen smells so good too.  Because I can appreciate change but I love cosiness!

More interesting sourdough breads on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Carrot, onion and poppy seed bread
Charcoal sourdough bread
Malted loaf with chocolate, figs and brazil nuts
Roast potato and rosemary bread
Sourdough cheesymite scrolls

Cheese and olive/sundriied tomato bread
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes 2 loaves (or 16 rolls)

Cheese and Olive Bread:

300g of bubbly starter
570g water
150g smoked cheese, grated
120g olives
1 tbsp lemon juice
16g salt
1 kg of flour

Cheese and SunDried Tomato Bread:

300g of bubbly starter
570g water
150g red Leicester cheese, grated
100g sundried tomatoes, drained of oil
3 tbsp sundried tomato oil
1 handful basil leaves, ripped
16g salt
1 kg of flour

[A few hours before making the loaf, take sourdough starter out of the fridge and feed it so it gets nice and bubbly.]

About an hour before going to bed (or first thing in the morning) mix everything together.  It is easiest to mix everything except flour first and then add flour.  Use hands to mix if required.  It is very sticky at this stage but settles into a more manageable dough.  Set aside covered with a tea towel for half an hour.  Knead in the bowl for about 15 seconds.  Cover with greased clingwrap or a bowl cover and leave at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

Scrape dough out onto a lightly floured board.  (I used fine semolina to "flour" the surfaces.)  Shape into a loaves (or cut and shape into rolls - if doing rolls I let them rise in the casserole as they don't need much in the way of slashing but slashing loaves is hard in the casserole). Place on a sheet of baking paper or a floured surface and cover with the lightly greased clingwrap or beeswax. Set aside to rise for 30 minutes.  While the loaves rise, preheat oven to 240 C.  I use enamel casserole dishes and don't heat them but used to heat them when I used ceramic casseroles.

Slash the loaves and put in the casserole dishes with lids on (or on a tray or in a tin).  I transfer the loaves on the baking paper but this is optional.  Bake for 20 minutes with lid (or foil cover) on.  Remove lid/foil and bake another 20 minutes.  Bread is ready if it sounds hollow when tapped.  If needed, reduce heat to 180 C and return to oven for another 10 minutes to make sure the crust is crispy and sounds hollow.  Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing.

On the Stereo:
The best of the radio songs: The Church

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Chocolate Babka

When I had made two batches of hot cross buns at Easter, it was enough to last us some time and I sought more Easter baking challenges.  The supermarket magazine had a recipe for a chocolate babka.  It is something I have always wanted to bake.  This seemed a good time to try it.  It was not smooth sailing as I prepared it but it I took great satisfaction in how good it tasted.  I have shared my challenges in the photos and the text so if you want to try this recipe, I hope these reflections will help.

This was a long process but I was on holidays and had time.  I started at 12pm and finished about 10 hours later.  The great thing about bread is that once you have gathered a dough together, if you hate waste as much as I do, you just keep going until there is a baked loaf, even if it doesn't go as expected.  And there is a lot of waiting around.

And this dough was not at all what I expected.  I had thought it was gong to be one of those soft brioche doughs because it was full of eggs and butter.  Not so!

This dough was incredibly tough and firm.  I had thought once I kneaded in the butter it might soften but it was still pretty firm.  In fact I was pretty worried I had the dough wrong because it was so firm.  It took about an hour from starting to having finished kneading the dough and there was a lot of kneading involved.  I cannot say that I (or my wrists) enjoyed all the kneading.  I am used to dough that gives way under the heel of my hand but this one resisted all the way.  It never became "smooth and elastic", as the recipe directed.  The only sign of hope was after the dough rested and rose in the fridge for 6-7 hours, was when I cut it in half and could see the air pockets.

Next was the challenge of rolling it out thinly and spreading chocolate filling on it.  You can se my ruler that I used to try and roll it out enough.  I followed the recipe for the filling but it hardened quickly.

The hard chocolate mixture made a mockery of the idea of splitting open the rolled up dough and twisting it.  In the magazine it looked like it held together with the soft chocolate spread clinging to the dough but mine fell open into layers with the hardened spread and was difficult to hold together.

I took step by step photos.   While I was doing the rolling out and twisting, I had to call Sylvia at her dad's for a question.  She was fascinated by what I was doing and watched on facetime.  My difficulties amused her greatly.  It would have been good to have a second pair of hands to help but she might have been laughing too much to be useful!

I really wanted a slice of warm babka but waited until Sylvia had come home the next day.  One of my reasons for making this was that I was resisting baking choc chip hot cross buns.  I much prefer them with dried fruit.  Sylvia prefers choc chips.  So I thought the babka might appease her.  Unfortunately not.  She was not a fan.  I shared some slices with my neighbour, who had a lot more appreciation.  It was fantastic warmed with a cuppa tea.  The only way to eat the soft chocolately, sticky bread without getting messy fingers was to use a spoon or fork.  But pulling the chocolate-lined strips apart with my fingers was very satisfying.

A lot of my babka went into the freezer to be reheated in the microwave and eaten from time to time.  It was far nicer than I would have guessed from the recalcitrant dough.  A little soft - but not fluffy - with swirly melting chocolate filling.  I would love to try more babka recipes to compare but this is something I can't imagine making very often!  It is a good feeling to have made babka and I hope to make it again one day!

More chocolate yeast/soughdough recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chocolate and blackberry pizza (v)
Chocolate, cranberry and apricot sourdough bread (v)
Doughnuts - baked and topped with chocolate and coconut bacon (v)
Doughnuts - baked, chocolate overnight sourdough (v)  
Malted sourdough loaf with chocolate, figs and brazil nuts (v) 

Chocolate Babka
From (originally in Coles Magazine, April 2020)
Makes 2 loaves

1 tbsp (2 sachets/14g) dried yeast
1/3 cup (80ml) lukewarm milk (I used soy)
1/3 cup (80ml) lukewarm water
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
4 cups (600g) plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
150g butter, softened and chopped

Chocolate filling:

100g butter, softened
1/2 cup (110g) brown sugar
200g dark chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Sugar syrup:

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence

Scatter yeast and 1 tsp of the sugar over combined lukewarm water and milk in a small bowl.  Set aide 5 minutes to get bubbly/frothy or just wrinkled with growth.

Mix flour, cinnamon, salt and the remaining sugar in a large bowl.  Make a well and add the eggs, egg yolks and yeast mixture.  Gradually stir into the flour. to make a dough  This took me quite a while to make into a dough.  I had to knead it in the bowl to incorporate all the flour and then it was a very dry dough.  Once I was ready to knead it on my kitchen table, I used a few drops of oil rather than flour to make it smooth.

Knead the butter into the dough gradually. I found I had to spread it over the dough and knead it in on a lightly floured surface because it got quite greasy.  This takes a while but the dough gets slightly easier by the end.

Place dough in a lightly oil bowl, turn dough to be covered by oil and then cover with clingfilm, shower cap or other wraps.  Rest to slowly rise in the fridge for 6 hours.  (I think I left mine for 7 hours because I was busy.)  It should double in size.

When you are just about ready to take the dough out of the fridge, make the chocolate filling.  Use electric beater to cream butter and sugar.  Beat in the chocolate, cocoa and cinnamon until smooth.  If needed, chill for 5 minutes in the fridge to set enough to spread.  When I left mine in the fridge 5 minutes it got too thick to spread and I had to warm in the microwave a little.

Grease and line 2 loaf tins with baking paper.  Halve dough in two pieces.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece into a 30 x 40cm rectangle.  It feels like it will not be soft enough to roll out that wide but keep going and it can be rolled thin enough.  Spread with half the chocolate spread.  Roll up from the long end.  Chill in fridge for 5 minutes to firm.  Use a knife to slice along the top of the roll so it opens to show the lines of chocolate filling.  (The recipe said to cut completely but I found it easier to cut almost all the way through but have a small section still keeping the two halves together so it didn't fall apart completely.)  Now twist this line of chocolate striped dough and place in one of the prepared tins.  This was easier said than done so do it gently and carefully.

Cover loaves and sit in a warm corner of the room for 30 minutes.  At the start of this period, preheat oven to 180 C.  The dough should rise slightly.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until it is golden brown on top and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  (However, I think mine could have been baked another 5-10 minutes and am not sure the skewer test worked well for me.)

Once the babka is out of the oven leave in tin and prepare sugar syrup.  Mix all ingredients over low heat and cook for about 2 minutes until the sugar has melted, stirring frequently.  Increase heat to high and boil (I think I just stirred every now and again) for about 2-3 minutes until the syrup thickens slightly.  Pour or brush over the loaves and leave them to cool in the tin.

I cooled mine overnight and then put some of it in the freezer in slices with baking paper between each slice.

On the stereo:
Wonderland: original music by Michael Nyman

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Apple jalousie for Mothers Day

On the eve of Mothers Day, Sylvia was at her dad's and I sent her a message to say I had baked bread and stewed apples.  She replied, "This day just gets better and better!"  What a sweetie!  Once we had the stewed apples, it was a no brainer to make it into apple pie for Mothers Day.  CoVid19 restrictions prevented me visiting my mum but she was with me in spirit (as well as on Zoom) with her inspiration for the pie.

It was a very quiet Mothers Day but Sylvia did an amazing job of looking after me.  She made my childhood favourite sweet treat, grubs.  She bought me some lovely presents locally, decided to make pancakes and gave me some gift vouchers for housework and cooking!

The gift vouchers were a school project which was really lovely.  Our school usually does a mothers day stall and mothers day projects.  I appreciated how innovative and thoughtful the school was in supporting the kids to do something for mothers day, even while the kids were doing school from home.

I was really relieved when I finally stewed my neglected apples.  At this time of year it is easy to get excited by apples and then lose some of that interest before they are all eaten.  We had quite a few that had been rolling about the fruit bowl for a few weeks.  They don't taste so great raw after sitting that long but they stew up a treat! I followed this recipe and managed to stop stewing before they were mush.  I had enough apples to double it and they were so good we ate a lot cold as they came from the tub.

I cut them up on a Friday night while watching Lion, a film I had wanted to see for some time.  It tells the story of a little boy in India who got lost on a train and ended up being adopted in Australia and as an adult searching Google Maps to find and be reunited with his Indian family.  Though, as every time I watch any show at the moment, I feel all horrified and jealous and nostalgic when I see lots of crowds in public and on planes and at school.

It was quite easy to take some puff pastry out of the freezer and make apple jalousie.  While I love a traditional apple pie I wanted to keep it easy.  My mum has been making jalousie with spinach and feta stuffing.  I was not that sure what a Jalousie was until I read Martha Stewart note that jalousie was french for shutters.  Which makes sense of calling this pie a jalousie with its cuts across the top.  It also means no waste or fuss when dealing with the pastry squares our pastry is ready rolling in.

The recipe I found in said to fold the pastry in half and cut and then unfold onto the bottom layer.  I think my mum just puts the second layer on and then slices across the top piece of pastry.  Next time I think I will do that as it was a bit fiddly folding it in half.  I used an eggwash for this pie because we had plenty of eggs but I have done similar sweet bakes (apple turnovers) by brushing soy milk on instead for a vegan alternative.

For dinner we had vegan omelette with sour cream and chive crisps in a sandwich.  Nothing fancy.  We dug into the apple jalousie and polished it off.  It was very good.  Sylvia had hers with a dollop of cream.  It was so quick and so delicious we made it again the next day in our lunch break so I could photograph it during the day.  (Hence the playing cards in one picture which seem a regular feature of Sylvia's maths exercises.)

Finally here are some flowers for all those who do all sorts of mothering.  I went for a ride on Mothers Day and was quite taken by these sunflowers by the railway track.

More apple desserts on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Apple pie
Apple and pumpkin pastries with spiced red wine (v)
Apple rose tarts (v)
Apple sponge (pudding) (v)
Apple turnovers (v)

Apple jalousie
Serves 3-4

1 sheet of 25 x 25cm frozen puff pastry
1 to 2 cups of stewed apple*
beaten egg or soy milk
raw sugar

Preheat oven til 220 C. Cut pastry in half and place on a baking paper lined oven tray.  Spoon stewed apple onto half the pastry, leaving about 1 inch around the edges.  Brush the edges with soy milk. Roll the second half to be a bit longer (not necessary but if there is a lot of apple, it helps it to fit under the doona).  Place second half of pastry over apples.  Brush with eggwash or soy milk.  Use a sharp knife to cut slats across the pastry from the short end.  Sprinkle with raw sugar.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 180 C and bake another 10-15 minutes until golden brown.  Serve warm or room temperature.

  • I made the stewed apples as I did for another apple pie but I doubled the recipe.  It was a matter of slicing up apples, cooking in melted butter and simmering about 10-15 minutes, then adding brown sugar and cinnamon. Last time I cooked it a bit more but they were much better keeping their shape.  This method also means the apples don't have too much liquid.
  • If you like dried fruit a handful of sultanas or dried cranberries would be very nice in here!
  • Other stewed fruit would also work.

On the Stereo:
Wide Eyed and Dreaming: Sea Stories

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Carrot, orange and smoked almond salad

Once upon time we had Easter holidays!  Don't they seem forever ago!  On a quiet day I made a fancy lunch salad from the supermarket magazine.  Most lunches I have a sandwich and fruit.  It is fairly plain but I try to add in more vegies when I can.  This was the sort of salad to get more vegies into me.  It didn't take long to put together but often I don't even have that much time and energy.

I loved this salad because it is the sort of salad that can be altered to what is about the house and use up bits and pieces.  I made quite a few changes.  I don't usually buy honey roasted cashews which the Coles magazine suggested.  Instead I used smoked almonds, which we sometimes buy.  In fact this salad can be made with any variety of salad leaves, nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, fresh vegetable and dressing.

I didn't expect Sylvia to eat the salad but was pleased she was happy to eat some carrot curls and orange wedges as I prepared the salad.  I heated a Linda McCartney sausage roll to eat with the salad but the salad was very filling and I didn't eat much of the sausage roll.  I really loved the salad for a nice change at lunch.  It is also very pretty so I would definitely keep it in mind as something to upscale for taking along to a potluck to share and impress.

Similarly impressive leaf, nut and fruit salads on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Avocado, pear and pecan salad (gf)
Cauliflower, rocket, pine nut and currant salad (gf, v)
Green apple and white chocolate salad (gf)
Pumpkin, pomegranate and orange salad with spiced walnuts (gf, v)
Spinach salad with spiced nuts and cranberries (gf, v)
Strawberry avocado and walnut salad with a chocolate vinaigrette (gf, v)

Carrot, orange and smoked almond salad  
Adapted from Coles Magazine, April 2020
Serves 1-2 as lunch

1 handful of rocket (about 60g)
1 carrot
1 orange
1-2 dried nectarines, diced
1-2 tbsp smoked almonds
I small spring onion, finely sliced
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp honey
1 tsp seeded mustard

Peel carrot and then use the vegie peeler to peel long ribbons of carrot to roll into curls.  Peel orange and cut into wedges.  Scatter the rocket on a small salad platter.  Arrange wedges and carrot curls among leaves.  Scatter with dried nectarine pieces.  Shake all dressing ingredients in a jar to mix (it can take a bit of shaking and patience for the honey to dissolve).  Check seasoning and adjust.  Drizzle dressing over salad.  Sprinkle with smoked almonds, spring onion slices and chopped parsley.  Eat fresh.

If you wanted to take it along to a shared meal, I would suggest keeping the dressing, and the nuts aside, preparing the rest of the salad and covering with some sort of wrap, then putting together just before serving.

On the stereo:
The Songbook Collection: Burt Bacharach and Hal David

Monday, 4 May 2020

In my kitchen: May 2020: lockdown comfort food, craft and garden

It is interesting that it is getting colder in Melbourne and yet the cases of CoVid19 are decreasing at a incredibly hopeful rate.  Government plans for a temporary hospital and morgue have been put aside (for now).  Our federal government is pressuring our state government to send the kids back to school.  At home I am very aware of the colder weather, now that I am spending so much time there.  No long warming bike rides to work or sitting in a heated office.  So last week I headed out to Bunnings hardware store to buy a heater and a lamp for my home office corner of the bedroom that is getting very cold and dark in the autumn gloom.  (I like the idea of light sensors in theory but don't miss the sensors in my work office that never seem to know I am there and leave me in the dark too often unless I get out of my seat and dance.) And did I mention record-breaking heavy rains!  Ironic after the year started with bushfires and heatwaves that by end of April we have had as much rain in 4 months as we had in 12 months last year.

So it will come as no surprise that comfort food is on the table a lot lately.  The top photo is a version of my favourite vegetarian lasagne which I make from time to time.  I am still feeling very time-poor and low in energy, which does not make sense as you would think I have more of both being at home so much.  But I did not think I would be able to make the lasagne in one go.  So I made the tomato, beans and veg sauce on one night and served it with short pasta.  Then I made the lasagne the next night but as it always takes me a while I made the cheese sauce and put half into a mac and cheese that Sylvia loved and ate other leftovers to avoid a really late dinner.  It was worth my cunning plans to outwit my tiredness and kept me happy at dinner (and occasionally lunch) all week.

A couple of weeks ago I took this photo as it seemed to sum up my Sunday.  I baked bread, did the washing, found the Easter eggs when checking the pockets of a jumper of Sylvia's before it went into the washing machine, and relaxed some some samurai suduko.  I took some notes on my suduko page while listening to the radio.  Not terribly exciting but at least I could finish the day feeling I had a few achievements.

I made a Japanese curry with tofu nuggets.  Stay tuned to hear more about that!  The tofu nuggets used to be a favourite and I was surprised how much Sylvia still loved them.  I should make them more.  We had quite a few leftover and some were great in tacos with cheese, vegetables and salsa.

It is the time of year for stewed fruit.  I love stewed plums and we ate these mostly by the spoonful but occasionally with toffee yoghurt.  They were really good with a bit of cinnamon and a squeeze of orange juice.  I have some apples and more plums that need stewing when I find a bit more time.

After the great toilet paper shortage in the supermarkets, our shopping zen is much restored as the shelves return to normal.  Flour has been slower to return than toilet paper but the supermarkets have removed restrictions on how many products can be bought.  Even so I was so excited to see a lone 5kg bag of flour that I managed to tie it to the back of my bike with a cloth bag.  My 12.5kg bag of flour was just about finished.  When I went shopping a few days later, there were a few large bags as well as many more smaller packets but I was glad we had seen the flour when dropping into the supermarket because I had needed it for bread before my next visit.

One of the great things about Melbourne's CoVid19 diagnoses being so low is that it is more relaxing going to the supermarket.  No longer does a trip to the supermarket seems like a dangerous mission that might end in death, where you look at each person with suspicion and wonder who else has touched any product you pick up.  It feels a bit more normal now.  Though there is still a need for vigilance.  We still need to get through the winter.  But everyone is hoping to be out of lockdown soon.

And here is my e-bike.  I took this photo when out of my ride a couple of weekends ago after I bought some Good Brew Hibiscus, Lemongrass and Ginger Kombucha at Ray's.  It ended up in my kitchen where my bike is usually parked in my kitchen until I get some outside storage sorted.  I miss having kombucha in my weekly catch up with other mothers after school and buying it at the farmers market but it is still nice to bring home a bottle of it occasionally.  My biggest regret during lockdown is not having got a scoby started.

My garden is in flux outside my kitchen.  Basil and strawberries are on the way out, my baby leeks are ok, my parsley is returning after going to seek and the kale plant continues to thrive.  I am most excited about the parsley because it took me years to get it to the stage where now for a couple of years I have had it regrow in its little patch.

Our camelia is flowering.  It seems amazing, given how much it has been neglected, but the recent rains have helped.  The catnip is at the top of the photo.  I am still amazed how it thrives.  It is less surprising though, when I remember it is related to mint.  Mint is one of the hardiest plants in my little garden.

The fruitful lime tree is also a pleasant surprise after some garden neglect over summer.  Sadly the lemon is a bit sadder and not about to give us any fruit right now though there is some flowering happening.  The limes have started to fall off the tree so we made limeade tonight.

Sylvia has been getting through school at home in plenty of time and keeping herself amused at home with some craft projects.  We went out in search of autumn leaves for her to give faces.  They are so cute.  It is odd every now and again though when I find one of her leaves on the floor staring up at me!

She made bath bombs, which make for relaxing baths.  The pink bombs are scented with rose essential oil and decorated with rose petals from our garden.  The yellow bath bombs are flavoured with a buttered popcorn food flavouring.  Sylvia loves how they fizz in the bath and make her skin feel soft and sweet smelling.

And when we have cute cupcake papers and Sylvia sees an idea for making them into owls, she can't resist.  She did two of them and I had a go at one.  My green and blue owl at the back looks a bit unsure of itself.  They were not as easy to sticky tape together as they look!

As well as her own personal projects, it is interesting to see much more of Sylvia's school work than I usually would.  She has had some fun art projects to do at home.  Today she made the little tinfoil person and tomorrow she gets to play with coloured iceblocks!

I bought these Pumped Up Pumpkin Lentil Bites in the supermarket.  I think the amusing pumpkin character on the packet made me want them but I also liked that they were almost half lentil and chickpea flour with not too many other ingredients.  They tasted very pleasing but I am not buying them again as they have individually packaged bags and sometimes I can resist excess packaging.

And we have had some evenings playing board games.  I prefer Scrabble because I had forgotten how long Monopoly takes but Sylvia is rather fond of a long night of Monopoly.  Life in lockdown is odd at the moment but we are lucky in Melbourne that is is not as bad as elsewhere around the world.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event, that was started by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial,  I am grateful to Sherry for soldiering on despite all the upheaval as In My Kitchen is always a fun event. If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog and visit more kitchens.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Sloth cupcakes for 13th blog anniversary

If you had described my current life to me when I started my blog 13 years ago, I don't think I would have believed you.  I might have laughed.  I might have stood with my mouth gaping.  I could not have taken you seriously.  But here I am in CoVid19 lockdown with an 11 year old daughter who has made amazing sloth cupcakes to take to her dad's home for his "Iso" birthday.  Actually I might have found it believable if you had told me I would have a daughter who is a great baker. 

It is no coincidence that Sylvia's dad's birthday coincides with the blog anniversary.  My first blog post was his vampire birthday cake.  Much has changed since then.  I have made E a birthday cake for my blog anniversary every year since.  This year however we changed things up and made  cupcakes instead of a big cake.  Sylvia decided on sloth cupcakes and did a lot of the work.

The cupcake recipe is one that she has made before and also kept a friend company on face time while they made it.  She asked what flavours E would like.  When he said spice and caramel, she decided to add cinnamon and a hint of mixed spice.  Those cupcakes smelled amazing.

The crowning glory of the cakes was the caramel buttercream.  We made a buttercream and added a few spoonfuls from a jar of Bonne Maman Caramel Sauce.  It was so good.  We used salted butter but could have perhaps used a little more salt.

Then we added fondant faces.  Sylvia did most of the work bu I helped a bit.  We kneaded colour into the fondant and rolled it out without it getting too sticky (thanks to a pinch of icing sugar), covered it up without it getting too dried and had fun drawing on the mouths in different expressions.  Sylvia and I have come a long way since we first started playing with fondant at the start of last year.  (And I was pleased we still had some black fondant leftover from the cats.)

They took some work and didn't taste that great but they looked so cute.  (I ignored the colleague who asked if they were raccoons).  The last few when we ran out of fondant were just spread with caramel.  They tasted the best!  But I also loved the raspberry bullets that Sylvia chose for the noses.  It was very kind of her to pass on the black jellybeans because she knew her dad didn't like them.

We also bought oreos for the eyes but reverted to fondant after a trial.  So we ate too many and then I opened a tin of chickpeas to eat plain because we needed something savoury.  We ate late that night - just chopped vegies, grated cheese and tacos, all scattered with a little taco seasoning that had been sitting in my shelves too long!  I read that we should create some fun memories in lockdown and I think making these cupcakes might be a moment to remember!

While we decorated, we talked about sloths.  Sylvia said they were lazy in a cute way.  I couldn't help thinking that sloths were not only popular with the kids but could be the mascot of Covid19 lockdown.  One of our favourite shows lately is Brooklyn 99 in which Jake does a David Attenborough impression of him saying "the majestic sloth".  It made me think of one of my favourite childhood shows, The Goodies (RIP Tim Brooke Taylor), in which Attenborough was parodied as David Rabbitborough.  It seemed a fun parallel that both of us had learned about Attenborough as kids through parodies without actually watching the real thing.  Then Sylvia began to watch his documentaries.

The moral of the story is that kids today have far greater access to learning where parodies originate than I did as a kid.  But also that one thing that is certain is change!  And so I end this post with a brief reflection on my time as a blogger.  So much change!  Since starting blogging 13 years ago I have met lots of amazing people, had lots of inspiration for dinner, seen blogging transform from a community to a career, created a sourdough starter, become the sort of person who makes pizza every Friday for her kid and  I have learnt so much about photography, curries, smoothies, tacos, kale salads, vegan baking, nut roasts, gingerbread, smoky flavours, nutella, pancakes, and sausage rolls that no one will ever believe are not meat!  It's been fun and I am grateful to still be here on my blog being inspired in the kitchen, even if I am not eating out right now.  It was a little sad that we weren't able to share the sloth cupcakes, thanks to lock down, but as always it is a joy to share them here on my blog with you.

More animal shaped cakes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Animal cupcakes: chicks, pigs, frogs and mice
Butterfly cake (2)
Cat cupcakes
Green Giraffe cake
Hedgehog cake
Monkey cake
Owl and spider cupcakes
Viking cat cake

How to make sloth cupcakes

You will need:
Cupcakes (see below)
Caramel buttercream (see below)
White fondant
Brown food colouring (or more cocoa, black and red food colouring)
Black fondant
Bullets or black jelly beans
Edible black marker or black icing in a bag with a thin writing tip.

Knead a spoonful or two of cocoa into a good handful of white fondant to make it light brown.  Stamp out circles slightly smaller than the cupcake top.  For each circle cut out 2 leaf shaped pieces to be under the eyes.  I used a piece of cardboard cut into the shape I wanted so I could have them all similar size and used scissors to cut around them.  Cover and set aside.

Take a good handful of white fondant and mix in colouring to make it a darker brown.  (We did not have brown food colouring so I mixed in cocoa, a little black and a little red food dye).  Stamp out circles the size of the cupcakes (one each for each of the lighter brown circles).  Cover and set aside. 

Spread caramel buttercream on a cupcake.  Top with a circle of darker brown fondant, then use a small amount of water to stick on a smaller light brown fondant (have a small bowl of water to stick on the other pieces of fondant).  Push a bullet or jelly bean in the middle of the light brown circle to make the nose, then place a leaf shape either side.  Roll a two black circles to be on the leaves and then white dots to place on the black to make eyes.  Use edible black marker (or black icing in a bag with a writing tip) to draw the mouth.  We did different expressions for fun.  Repeat with the rest of the cupcakes.  If you run out of fondant or energy these cupcakes taste amazing with caramel buttercream and no fondant.

Vanilla Spice Cupcakes
Adapted from Life, Love and Sugar
Makes 20-24 cupcakes

2 1/2 cups plain white flour
2 cups sugar (we used caster sugar)
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp mixed spice

1 cup milk (we used soy)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup water

Line 2 x 12 cupcake tins with papers and preheat oven to 180 C.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk together the wet ingredients in a small bowl.  Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  (This could all be done with electric beaters but we did it by hand.)

Spoon mixture into cupcake papers, filling them about a third.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  I found these cupcakes damp by the next day so they are made to be frosted or need to be baked longer.

Caramel Buttercream
Adapted from the Australian Women's Weekly Birthday Cake Book
Makes enough for 24 cupcakes if you spread with a knife not a piping bag!

125g butter
1 1/2 cups icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
3 tbsp caramel sauce
1 tbsp milk

Using electric blenders, beat butter until creamy.  Gradually add the icing sugar.  Then beat in the caramel sauce and milk.

On the Stereo:
Marvin the Album: Frente

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Street art in Melbourne: Brunswick 2020

Today I needed to get out.  I rode my bike to Ann Street in Brunswick to look at street art.  I forgot how risky going out is - I lost a favourite sleeveless puffer jacket which I foolishly thought would fit in my bag.  There were good things too.  Kombucha (purchased across a chain at the doorway) at Rays Cafe in Victoria Street.  And lots of lovely artwork to make me laugh and sigh.  I have shared my photos of the Ann Street artwork today plus a few more from around Brunswick, mostly taken on other days!

Above and below: Davies Street, near the corner of Holmes Street.

Upfield Train Line near Hope Street

Ewing Street

Cassels Road, near corner of Moreland Road

Off Albert Street East of Sydney Road

Victoria Street 

I have shared this photo of Tinning Street silo painting of New Zealand PM, Jacinda Ardern, before but it does not hurt to be reminded of great leadership, great compassion and the power of personal touch in these strange days of Covid19.

More Brunswick Street Art on Green Gourmet Giraffe: