Thursday 29 August 2019

Antipasto focaccia (overnight and sourdough)

After making my black cat focaccia I discovered just how easy focaccia could be.   So easy that I could bake a loaf in the morning to take to work for morning tea.  However to take it in for morning tea I didn't want the palaver of taking along spreads and toppings so I stuffed it with flavours.

I added a lot of cheese.  It seemed like an outrageous amount.  It didn't seem so much once cooked.  In fact a colleague commented that you can never had too much cheese.  I wished I had more sun dried tomato but was just using what was in my fridge.  That was a little bit frugal and a little bit disorganised.

I was slightly worried about leaving the cheese overnight but it seemed fine.  The dough rose well and it was easy to shape in the morning.  It took a little longer to bake than my recent black cat focaccia.  I suspect this was because I didn't have much time to preheat the oven on a chilly winter morning.  The focaccia, when hot out of the oven, was lovely for breakfast.  We had it for tea with leftover mac and cheese (for that carb on carb comfort).

The second focaccia went to work for a morning tea.  Everyone enjoyed it.  We also had green tea from China, nougat from Iran, red bean filled cakes from our local Chinatown, and some chocolate biscuits from the supermarket.  This spread reflects the diversity of my group.  And the generosity too!  When everyone is so complimentary about my baking, I am always happy to take in more.

More easy sourdough baking on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Black cat focaccia  (v)
Celia's overnight sourdough bread  (v)
Rhubarb and raspberry focaccia (v) 
Fast track sourdough pizza bases (v)
Sourdough toss-off flatbreads (v)

Antipasto focaccia
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe and Fig Jam and Lime Cordial
Makes 2 focaccia

300g ripe sourdough starter
400g warm water
40g (about 3 tbsp) olive oil
700g white bread flour
12g (generous 1/2 tbsp) salt
40g sun dried tomatoes
40g olives
150g chopped vintage cheddar cheese
extra olive oil and gold salt for topping

Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. If you have time give it a 15 second knead in the bowl after 30 minutes but this is optional.  Cover well (I used a cover with elasticised edges or you can use clingwrap) and leave overnight or 8-12 hours.

When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 220 C.

Scrape bread out of bowl onto a well floured surface (I used fine semolina sprinkled on the surface).  Cut in half.

Place on a large baking paper lined oven tray and shape the large piece into a an oval (I read that focaccia is rectangular but oval seems close enough).  If dough is sticky you can lightly oil fingers to make it easier to work with.)  Dimple the dough with your fingers.  Have fun and don't worry about going too deep because it will rise.

Drizzle olive over over the focaccia and sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and it sounds hollow when you tap it.  Eat warm or room temperature.  Lasts up to 2 days.

NOTES: I would have used more sun dried tomatoes but I ran out of them.  I would love to try some roast pumpkin or roast potato in this or your favourite antipasto bits.  Other cheeses would work here such as feta or parmesan. I'd like to try some fresh herbs in a focaccia too.  Or you could pile the fillings on top instead.  If you don't have a sourdough starter I suggest making this overnight focaccia recipe with yeast and adding in the antipasto ingredients - I haven't tried it but I created this focaccia by adding bits to a plain recipe. 

On the Stereo:
Les Sources: Vanessa Paradis

Sunday 25 August 2019

White Night Melbourne [Reimagined] 2019

White Night Melbourne [Reimagined] 2019 was different from other years.  It was in winter rather than Summer, for 3 days not one,  and the promoters focused on three precincts at the edge of the city - Treasury Gardens, Carlton Gardens and Birrung Marr.  I liked it in winter, despite the rain, but I did not like the focus away from the heart of the city.

Last night my dad, Sylvia and I started at the Forum Theatre on Flinders Street ("Circus of Inspiration").  This did not get promoted well and yet was the best of what I saw this year.  The projections, which echoed the amazing historic building, were full of fun and whimsy.  What better way to start White Night than to have the spirit of Dr Suess: "You are off to great places.  Today is your day"! 

We loved this projection with such odd ideas as a pigeon riding a camel, cats projecting rainbows and crayons holding up the tower.

Each projection was inspired by a quote from varied writers and artists from Rumi to Picasso and the images. 

However, the crowds here were ... just about missing.  A small group of people huddled undercover at ACMI.  Flinders Street was eerily empty.  It seemed especially odd after I had been there on a previous White Night and the street was so busy.  It is such a shame not to have more people see these illumations but perhaps the wet night was as much to blame as the promotion.

We walked up Flinders Street to the old Herald Sun building ("Impartial but not neutral") which was even more ignored than the Forum Theatre.  It has projections of newspaper headlines across the decades.  There was no place to shelter from the rain and we didn't stop long.  Only a handful of people stopped here.

We walked up to Treasury Gardens, which was one of the promoted precinct.  There were lots of domes lit up but it was hard to get a sense of what they were about.  A few had ridiculously long lines.  The one above had a few people queued up but it was fun to just watch the light.

Here are the lights from the above dome up close.  When someone put their hand on a marked circle, the lights reacted to their heart rate (I think).

We saw other light shows that seemed to be interactive but Sylvia was tiring and so we didn't wander too far into the gardens or queue for any shows.  (I had been curious about the Waterlight Graffiti but did not see it or seek it.)

The light show looked quite impressive from afar but was rather loud once we got closer.

I stopped to watch the projections ("Sensoria") on the Department of Education buildings behind Treasury.  Unfortunately from the gardens trees were in the way.  But I still enjoyed watching the changing images.

Above are just some of the changing images that we saw from afar.  Some I liked more than others but it was interesting to watch.

If we had had time, we could have gone up to the walkway that goes along the side of the buildings to view the projections up close but I am not sure if there was anywhere to get a big picture view without trees.

As we left the Treasury Gardens "Sensory Realm" we saw the huge eye ("Iris") surrounded by crowds.  Even from a distance this was quite impressive and unnerving as it moved and blinked like an eye.

Then we walked up the Treasury Building which was lit with images from "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child".  It seemed a commercial rather than popular choice of content.  Many more would relate to the books than the play but it had a lot of aesthetics of the books.

The Treasury Building worked well as a palate both because it is a magnificent building but also because there are many steps leading up the building so we were able to see quite well despite a decent crowd here.

I loved this projection and how it transformed the buidling.

In the panorama view above (apologies that it is so tiny) you can see that the four houses of Hogwarts were displayed on one side and the city lights on the other.  Below is a close up of the houses. 

We left at the point, with a tired child who needed to go to bed.  It should have taken half an hour to get home, give or take.  However the trains were not running through the loop so after realising it would take ages to get a train, we got a connecting tram and had our tram blocked by a police car for some time.  We finally got on our tram home that had a few drunks on board constantly telling everyone rather loudly that it was the "party tram".  Finally we walked home past the train station where we saw a train pulling in.  It took 2 hours to get home so we have been rather tired today.

I will be interested to see how White Night will change again next year.  More changes are afoot.  I have found the huge crowds overwhelming in previous years but this year I found it lacked the buzz and communal feel of previous years.  But there was some great illuminated artwork to see as in previous years.

More information and previous White Night outings:
White Night 2019 was on 22-24 August
Official White Night website
White Night Melbourne 2015
White Night Melbourne 2016
White Night Melbourne 2018
White Night Geelong 2018  

Friday 23 August 2019

Focaccia with Sourdough for a black cat birthday

There are times when I love trying new ideas and being a fearless adventurer in the world of recipes and others when I just find it tiring that I don't have the recipe I want.  On days of low energy I am often grateful for my blog to wander down the memory lane of recipes I have tried with notes to prompt my memory.  And so this focaccia was born of a need to make a charcoal cat bread for a black cat's birthday but with minimal energy.

Let me explain!  Sylvia decided we were to celebrate our black cat's birthday this year.  Shadow is a rescue cat, however, so we don't know his birthday.  Sylvia very wisely decided we could celebrate it on International Cat Day on 8 August or the nearest day.  Just in case you think that we invited all Shadow's cat friends, let me stop you there.  My dad once held a birthday party for our dog and invited all the neighbourhood dogs.  He threw a bone to them as a birthday treat but it just resulted in a dog fight.  And cats, thinking they are royalty, don't really need friends.  The adoring household slaves will do.

I promised Sylvia a black cat focaccia.  So I searched the internet for an overnight sourdough focaccia.  They were all so fussy with kneading til your knuckles bled and waiting an hour here and folding the pesky dough and then watching the clock for another hour.   Regular readers who know I love making my overnight sourdough bread will know that I don't do fussy breads.  Luckily I found an overnight sourdough focaccia on my blog that combined sourdough and yeast.  So I tinkered.  As I do.  Which means a lot of thought about how to do it before finally putting it together late at night.

Making the overnight sourdough bread as often as I do means I have a good feel for the quantities.  I tweaked the focaccia recipe to take out the commercial yeast altogether and was exceedingly lazy in just mixing the ingredients the previous night and then shaping and baking the bread without resting the next morning.  Amazingly it worked.  Perhaps it was the gold salt on top which Sylvia said was just a pinch of magic.  (Yes it could have been a bit bubblier but was very soft and lovely to eat fresh.)  We also had hummus, vegie sticks, cheezels, vegemite crackers, cat biscuits and fruit skewers.

Sylvia made Shadow a fluffy throne and put a bow tie around his neck.  She wanted to have dried cat food at the table for him but I put my foot down there.  My dad might have thought animals wanted parties but my mum was always very clear that animals had their place (usually out of the house).  So Shadow sat in his throne looking bemused for a few minutes before heading off to his favourite cushion and Sylvia, E and I enjoyed a cat-themed lunch.  Then Sylvia and I had a swim to work off our big lunch and enjoy a quiet pool in the middle of winter.

Now that I have hit a zenith of laziness in bread making, there is no stopping me.  I have tried another version of the focaccia that I will share soon.  Meanwhile, Sylvia and I had fun writing some cat top 5s that I will share here:

Top 5 cat songs: Love Cats (the Cure), Cat Song (Bryant Oden), The Cat Came Back (Harry S Miller), Cat's in the Cradle (Harry Chapin), What's New Pussy Cat (Tom Jones).

Top 5 cat movies: A Street Cat Named Bob, Mr Fuzzy Pants, The Cat Returns (Ghibli), A Cat in Paris, Thunder and the House of Magic.

Top 5 children's cat books: Mog (Judith Kerr), Gobbolino the Witch's Cat (Ursula Moray Williams), The Cat in the Hat (Dr Suess), There are Cats in this Book (Viviane Schwarz), I am Pusheen the Cat (Claire Belton).

To 5 adult cat books: Cleo: how a small black cat helped to heal a family (Helen Brown), Dewey the small-town library cat who touched the world (Vicki Myron and Bret Witter), Kaspar Prince of Cats (Michael Morpurgo), Oscar Bionic Cat (Kate Allan).

More cat posts on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Andy Warhol - Ai Weiwei and Studio Cats at the NGV
Black cat chocolate gingerbread recipe
Cat biscuits recipe (v)
Cat Cafe
Cat cupcakes recipe
Viking cat cake recipe

Black cat focaccia 
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe"s overnight sourdough bread and overnight focaccia
Makes one cat face and three small round focaccias

300g ripe sourdough starter
400g warm water
3 Tbsp olive oil
700g white bread flour
1 tbsp salt, or less
2 tsp (15 g) charcoal (optional)
extra olive oil and gold salt for topping

Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  Cover well (I used a cover with elasticised edges or you can use clingwrap) and leave overnight or 8-12 hours.

When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 220 C.

Scrape bread out of bowl onto a well floured surface (I used fine semolina sprinkled on the surface).  I cut into one large piece, a couple of smaller triangles for ears and three small pieces.

Place on a large baking paper lined oven tray and shape the large piece into a circle.  Attach and shape the ears.  Make very big holes for eyes, nose and mouth.  Dimple the rest of the face with fingers.  Shape the three smaller pieces into circles and dimple with your fingers.

Drizzle olive over over the focaccia and sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 20 minutes or until it sounds hollow when you tap it.  Eat warm or room temperature.  Lasts up to 2 days.

On the stereo:
The Belly of an Architect soundtrack: Wim Mertens

Sunday 18 August 2019

Christmas Bauble Ornament Biscuits (or cat version)

Christmas bauble biscuits in August probably seem quite unseasonal.  Yes and no!  I am still catching up on our Christmas in July lunch posts.  These bikkies (that my daughter insists on calling cookies) were made to eat after the lunch.  They were easy to whip up and good for making with children.  We tweaked the biscuit dough from Easter and had so much that half of it sat in the fridge for a few weeks until we had a need for cat biscuits for a cat birthday party.

Sylvia and I had different ideas on how to decorate the biscuits for our Christmas in July lunch. I went with the minimalist M and Ms on white, while she went all out with sprinkles.  Both worked.  They were enjoyed at the lunch.  I liked that we gave them a little more flavour than the ones we had made at Easter.

However, like the biscuits we made at Easter, we only used half the dough and put the other half in the fridge to make later.  When we had taken out the biscuit dough after Easter it was so hard, we could hardly roll them out.  With this batch, I took the dough from the fridge on a day I had planned to bake but got waylaid so it went back in.  This worked well when we took it from the fridge the next day and it was firm but not rock hard.

We made the second batch of biscuits with the Christmas in July dough when Sylvia decided to hold a cat birthday party.  I will write more about the "party" soon.  You can see that our attempts at piping the outline of our cat biscuits was not so great.  I thought they looked more like sheep or goats.  Rolling out the fondant and cutting it with the same cutter worked much better.  The biscuits are not very sweet so some sort of decoration balance this.

I am very fond of this biscuit recipe and hope to experiment a little more with it.  It is one of the good things in my life along with other things like Sylvia's pride in her own library card and finding a stamp in my purse when it spilled its contents in queue to buy a stamp at the post office.  Little stabs at happiness are very welcome at the moment while life is very busy and I despair every time I look at the news.  One of the nicest things about these biscuits is that they are easily vegan but originally from a mainstream magazine.  I had looked for some good vegan biscuits and found this a challenge.  However I can see this becoming a go-to recipe and highly recommend it.

More vegan biscuit (cookie) recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chocolate and black tahini cut out biscuits (v)
Chocolate tahini cookies (v)
Flourless almond butter choc chip cookies (gf, v)
Lego sugar cookies (v)
Walnut and quince thumbprint cookies (v)
Zimsterne (Cinnamon stars) (gf, v)

Christmas bauble ornament biscuits
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe

250g butter softened (or margaine for vegan biscuits)
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp molasses
2 cups plain flour
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp custard powder
2 tbsp rice flour
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp cinnamon

To decorate:
white icing
M and Ms
cardbury discs or rolos

Cream butter, brown sugar and molasses.  Gently mix in remaining ingredients until they clump together.  Use your hands to bring this together into a ball and knead a few times until the dough is smooth.  (This could be done in the food processor too.)

Wrap dough in clingfilm and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes.  (We left the second half of the dough in the fridge for about 3 weeks.  I took it out the day before I used it and brought it to room temperature.  Then I returned it to the fridge overnight and it was easy to roll out.)

Roll out to about 3mm on a lightly floured surface.  Cut into circles (About 6cm in diameter) or the size of a scone).  Place on a lined baking tray.  Bake at 160 C for 12-15 minutes (15 minutes for us).  Cool on a wire rack.

To decorate: Spread cooled biscuits with white icing (we made ours from icing sugar, boiling water and little butter but if you want absolutely white do not add butter or you could use royal icing), place a disc or rolo at the top of the circle and then decorate with rows of different coloured M and Ms.

These biscuits can be cut into other shapes.  We used the second part of the dough to make cat biscuits.  Trying to pipe around the outline of our cat shapes was not so successful.  For some we rolled out black fondant thinly and cut out with the same cookie cutter, then piped a bit of icing around the outline and inside of the cookie and put the fondant on top with a red line of icing piped around the neck to be a collar.

On the stereo:
The Greatest Hits 1966-1992: Neil Diamond

Friday 16 August 2019

Coburg Street Art V

As always I have seen some interesting street art around Coburg.  It can be cheery or colourful, yarn bombing, political, cute or downright silly.  The last five photos are council art, including yarn bombing trees in Victoria St Mall, the lights on a public toilet and then Coburg Library (which is housed in a building that used to be a supermarket).  Enjoy!

To see my previous posts on Coburg Street Art: