Tag Archives: bread

Badass smoky chilli cheese beer bread

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Badass: seriously scary or seriously impressive. Words related to badass: epic, beast, Chuck Norris.

This bread doesn’t make me think of Chuck Norris. Though Chuck may like eating this bread* – a hefty, moist wholemeal affair, laced with parmesan and slathered in a spicy-smoky-sweet-salty sauce. There are browned crusty bits from the parmesan, and caramelised savoury bits from the smoky-chilli sauce. It’s not your average bread roll, this is chilli, smoky, cheesy, surprising goodness. And, you know, beer bread!

* Actually, I don’t know, what does Chuck Norris like to eat?

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After an eventful two weeks, this bread celebrated being back in the kitchen with time to play with food. It started with mild food poisoning, a few work dinners (ironically…), then a short trip to Singapore, baking cakes for friends who are moving away, and maybe taking on a new job at work (eeeeeep).

Crazy times, calls for crazy bread. Oui?

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The sauce features Korean red pepper paste, gochujang, which looks like a brilliant red version of miso. Sure, it’s spicy, but gochujang also has gorgeous sweet, salty, sour, umami flavours. Traditionally made by fermentation in large earthenware jars, the lingering, complex flavours develop as as hot chlli / pepper powder is fermented with glutinous rice, soy beans, salt and maybe some sweetener (honey, rice syrup).

While gochujang is traditionally used for soups, stews and rice cake dishes, it’s also used in ketchup and aioli, and jazzing up grilled cheese, tacos and quesadillas. So, I thought, why not use it in bread?

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An adventurous Easter: sourdough hot cross buns

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On this road trip, we’ve noticed the different types of place names that you can find in Australia. Words from England, Scotland, other places in Europe, and from the Aboriginal languages.

We have our share of Inverary, Baden Powell, New England, Kingston, even Neuhaus. Words from the old world. Then, we have words from our first people, strange and beautiful sounds. Araluen, Adaminaby, Cootamundra, Tumbarumba, Wagga Wagga, Wee Waa, Jindabyne, Gundagai.

A trip into regional Australia becomes a jumble of these names and sounds. A pair of city slickers finding new sights and sounds, new air to breathe.

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We have seen a lake and a river (any large body of water inland of our dry continent is a mesmerising sight); so many cows and sheep, and glimpses of the Snowy Mountains. We have also seen old train stations with cast iron lace, rusty sheds, ruined timber bridges. And that’s only the first few days.

I knew we would be on the road, so I made hot cross buns early this year, and using sourdough starter called Patrick, no less! I’ve nurtured wee Patrick since Christmas, but have only started baking with him.

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Gubana: Italian Easter bread for an Australian road trip

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We are on a road trip!

Tonight, we are in the inland town of Gundagai. First stop in what is shaping up to be a trip through historic inland towns and villages.

I haven’t driven our car for weeks, and for at least a couple of months before that, since I prefer to walk or take public transport to get around our patch of inner Sydney. It took a while to get used to the manual gears, the road, other cars, but then I settled back into familiarity with our good little car, and we were away, to quieter and greener places.

When I was not driving, I nibbled on a slice of gubana.

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Gubana. A special Easter cake/bread I stumbled across almost by accident. I made the recipe, and found the flavours intriguing, lingering, in a way that says old fashioned good things. Bread-like, not quite as rich as brioche or challah, crammed full of walnuts, pine nuts, raisins, chocolate, hazelnuts, and more. The bread is almost like panettone, and filling is so flavoursome, with a lingering sweetness that comes from dried fruit rather than sugar.

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Bialys, and a cow-herding robot called Shrimp

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I have something that I want to tell you about: a robot herding cows.

I knew some engineering students at uni, and one of them has been telling me about our university’s robotics research. Basically they are making robots that – one day – will be able to do all kinds of clever things by remote control or (gasp!) autonomously.

One of their experiments is cow herding with a robot called Shrimp. And it was picked up on Canadian TV, the BBC and lots of other media sites! I think Shrimp is kinda adorable, in the Wall-E style, and it looks like the cows just accepted that there’s a robot ushering them around – !!

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Bialys, the stories

I digress from bialys. This bread seems about as far removed from cow herding robots as you can get. The stories about bialys are a little sad yet appealing to the romantic imagination. They look into the past, not into a robotics future.

Bialys, or bialystoker kuchen, comes from the city of Bialystok, Poland; it was part of Czarist Russia at one stage. Bialys look similar to the bagel, except it has an indent and not a hole, the indent is traditionally filled with an onion and poppyseed mixture, and it is baked without being boiled first.

Bialys seems to have been eaten at all meals by the Jewish people in Bialystok, but now is much less commonly found. Some stories from people who have migrated to the US are here. Mimi Sheraton also wrote a book, The Bialy Eaters, The Story of a Bread and a Lost World.

(Mimi Sheraton’s book title made me think of the Lotus Eaters from Ulysses, except eating bialys in other parts of the world probably reminded people of home and Bialystok, not forgetful of it.)

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Fougasse with walnuts and fig paste (don’t mention the focaccia)

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Fougasse, panis focacius, fogatza, fouace, hougasse, fouasso.

Just don’t say focaccia.

Fougasse is a type of flat bread made in France, with a name derived from Latin and Occitan (the language of the Languedoc region, among others, and apparently a close relative to modern Catalan). The most famous variety is slashed to look like an ear of wheat, and is savoury, though other varieties include a sweet bread flavoured with orange water. Fougasse is baked until it’s very browned, and should have a crispy crust and a soft interior.

The English and French Wikipedia both tell me that fougasse was used by bakers to test if their bread oven was at the right temperature. If the French Wikipedia says so about a French bread, it must be right, right??

I also quickly learned it’s not focaccia. For a variety of reasons, including focaccia is Italian and fougasse is French.

Having got these preliminaries out of the way, I can get on with this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) assignment, sweet fougasse. I’ve wanted to make fougasse, with its distinctive wheat or leaf shape, for a while. Who could resist the idea of slashing dough, pulling on dough, until there are giant holes in the dough? It’s all of my “playing with food” wishes come true.

But.  Like a stroll through Alice in Wonderland, nothing turned out quite the way I expected.

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Pizza, Eastern Mediterranean, Syrian

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A few years ago, shortly before the Arab Spring, we had the trip of a lifetime in Syria. We met a friendly hotelier who used to live in Perth, Australia (his neighbours called him Abu Salim of Australia), saw some incredible Roman sites and Crusader-era castles, and wandered around the ancient cities of Damascus, Hama, Aleppo.

Some of our most cherished memories are of food. Knowing no Arabic, we looked, wondered, pointed, smiled, and began to understand the meaning of true Arabic hospitality. We walked into bakeries by the street, and walked out bearing bags of round, soft, silky bread, more refined than any lebanese-style bread we could find at home. I bought bags of fresh nuts, walked past sacks of spices – so many colours and smells, many barely recognised.

We walked past shops that sold rounds or pockets of silky bread. Some had a smear of lamb and tomato and mysterious spices, others were stuffed with unknown (but so tasty) white cheeses and herbs. Each one we tried was delicious. We had something similar on our day trip to Baalbek, Lebanon. Knowing no Arabic, we called them Syrian/Lebanese lamb pizza things.

A couple of years later, I found a recipe for the lamb pizza in Greg Malouf’s Saha, a culinary journey through Syria and Lebanon. The proper name is lahm bi ajine. (But I still call them lamb pizza things)

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This is a long-winded way of saying this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) assignment, Eastern Mediterranean Pizza by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, reminded me of those lamb pizzas. Both use a mixture of chopped tomatoes, minced lamb and spices on a thin dough base, which is cooked quickly on a hot pizza stone or baking tray. I made both the (Greek?) pita dough and Greg Malouf’s yoghurt dough, but played around with Greg Malouf’s recipe for pizza topping.

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Pierre, there’s butter in my brioche

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I had to laugh when I saw Pierre Hermé’s brioche recipe described as “richer than Bill Gates!” The archetypal French viennoiserie, compared to an all-American capitaliste?

Then, a few days ago, I read that Bill Gates is once again the richest man in the world, taking back the title from Mexico’s Carlos Slim. Such is the world of impossible riches (72 billions, really??), shady dealings and fickle finance.

If I were Bill Gates, I’d be celebrating with a bottle of the best champagne, and a few slices of baguette liberally smeared with smelly French cheese and garnished with truffles. Whole truffles. Make that the biggest truffles, just like Alice B Toklas wrote. Then, I’d spend time learning to make the perfect brioche.

I guess that’s why I will never be rich like Bill Gates or Carlos Slim. They love making money and owning Microsoft / America Movi. I like baking, and reading books for hours on end. And learning to make brioche.

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This “richer than Bill Gates” recipe is the closest I’ll get to feeling like a multi-billionaire. There is a whopping amount of butter, as much butter as there is of flour. “Enriched” doesn’t begin to describe what happens to the dough, ‘supersized by butter’ is closer to the mark.

Yet, such is the miracle of brioche, what came out of the oven wasn’t stodgy, or greasy, or heavy. Although the bread was richer than any bread I’ve ever had, although we knew we were eating butter by the spoonful, the bread was light, with an open, tender crumb, almost fluffy. There was a flaky crust that shattered – but oh so delicately – when we bite into it. Then there’s the ‘chiffon cake-like crumb’, as TX Farmer from the Fresh Loaf describes.

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