Saturday, 30 August 2014

Black Garlic

Black garlic you say?
Before today, I thought I knew garlic, but today at the Capital Region Farmer's Markets at EPIC I came across two very interesting types, smoked garlic and black garlic.
Black garlic is indeed black in colour and yes, it is still garlic.  It is fermented, which means it is kept at a certain temperature, humidity and for a certain amount of time. 

I sampled some. It was kind of gelatinous in texture, something akin to a quince paste in feel, BUT it still had a garlicky tang. 
I chatted today with John Pye from the Ingelara biodynamic farm in Michelago, who makes this product which they call 'Bredbo Black'. There are only two producers of black garlic in Australia, this Michelago farm, and one other farm in the Huon Valley in Tasmania, run by the Christie family.
How it is used? On a cracker accompanied with a wedge of cheese, or in a sauce, or with slow roasted meats.  Some chef's are even experimenting with using it in desserts!!

Anyone for black garlic sorbet or ice cream?

Bagel bagel bagel

I have always wanted to try my hand at making bagels, but was put off thinking they were really hard to do. However, it turns out they are really quite simple to make.  Make a dough, prove it, portion it, shape it, stick a whole in it, boil it for next to no time, then bake!  So I began.

Four cups of plain flour, sifted into probably my biggest bowl. Add two teaspoons of dry yeast, a tablespoon of caster sugar, and some salt.  Stir together (I used the handle of a wooden spoon), make a well in the middle, then pour in 1 2/3 cups of warm water. Move that around with said wooden spoon handle until it seems like a cohesive mass.  Turn out onto the counter, sprinkle over some more flour and knead like a crazy woman for, oh, about 10 minutes.  Kneading is actually very therapeutic. You become one with the dough, pushing it about, turning it, turning it over, pushing it about some more, all while sprinkling a little flour here and there. Pop the dough blob into an oiled bowl (oiled, so it comes out easier) cover it with cling film (aka Glad Wrap), cover again with a tea towel and put somewhere warm to do its thing.  This turned out to be near a window with the sun streaming in.  It doubled in size in an hour and a half.

Prepare the oven. 160 degrees fan forced, or 180 degrees.

Next, the fun part.  Sprinkle some flour onto the counter, then unfurl the dough mass from the bowl (remember now why you oiled it!) and push into a roundish like shape.  You need to now cut this soft pillow into twelve (roughly) equal portions. Take each portion and roll in our hands so its ball like.  Poke your finger in the middle of each, and softly spin them around your finger until the hole widens. Flatten them slightly and place onto a tray covered with baking paper. You will need two trays, six bagels to each tray. Let them rest for ten minutes or so.

Next, the boiling.  Get a large pot of water on a medium boil.  Pop three of the bagels in at the same time and boil them on each side for twenty seconds.  Some say that boiling longer will give a chewier texture. For my first try, I stuck to the twenty second instruction and they turned out fantastic, chewy, but soft and bready. Pop them back onto their original trays.

Then brush each one with a mix of beaten egg and water. Sprinkle them with whatever you like! I did some with sesame seeds, some with a mix of parmesan cheese and tasty cheese, some with cheese plus onion powder, and a couple were left plain. Verdict? Delicious! I was very surprised they came out tasting, looking, smelling and feeling like bought bagels.

I am one very happy home baker!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Experimental baking adventure > Braided Pizza

I tried my hand today at some 'experimental baking'. Thanks to those wonderful pinners on Pinterest, I came across many varieties of 'braided pizzas', so thought I would give one a go.  First decision was, what sort of dough to make?  A yeasty dough that requires plenty of time in a warm spot to double in size? Pffft. Not likely today in Canberra. There was a touch of springy-ness in air, but it was still on the cool side. Besides, who's got the time to wait for a ball of dough to do its thing? So off to Google I went. I searched for 'pizza dough no yeast' and came across (of all things) a kids cooking website

The recipe called for 1 cup of Greek yoghurt, and 1 cup of self-raising flour. I have to say you need waaay more flour for the yoghurt I used, so it was more like a cup and a half.  Mix yoghurt and flour together until it comes together enough to turn out and knead for about 8 minutes.  It is a very soft, light dough.  Roll out on baking paper, to make it easier to transfer onto your baking tray.

Now for the mixture. I cooked off a finely chopped blend of; 4 x mushrooms, 5cm chorizo, and 1 x ham steak. Let this mix cool slightly after you've tossed it around in a pan for a few minutes.  Now for the assembly.  I spread a wide line of pizza sauce on first, then layered down small slices of pepperoni.

Next was a crumbling of green capsicum, followed by the mushroom/chorizo/ham mix.  Crowning glory was a mix of grated tasty and mozzarella cheeses.

Now the fun part, the braiding!! make slits on either side of the central 'log' of filling, then working from one end, begin to bring one side in and over followed by the other. Angle slightly and pull as you go to blanket in the filling.

I used a touch of water so each flap stuck down nicely on his neighbour. Transfer carefully onto a tray, and bung into an oven, at say, 180 degrees (fan forced). I watched mine like a mother hawk and when it turned a shade of light brown all over I gave it the knock test. Took close to 15 minutes. It sounded hollow, and the bottom was nicely cooked. DONE! Oven off. Rested on the tray for a couple of minutes more to crisp up.

The verdict?  Awesome.  A nice light dough and a great tasting filling. The plus side was it was quick to whip up.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Its gonna get a little Smoque-y in Woden soon!

So Smoque is opening in Woden in October 2014!!!

Plus, as an added bonus, its just up the road from my workplace. 

They will be filling the much anticipated restaurant spot at the new Abode Hotel on Bowes Street.  I can just see a sun drenched summer afternoon, sitting outside, eating a fabulous pulled pork sandwich, washing it down with a nice frosty beer.  Or... starting the day with a scrumptious waffle stack and strong coffee.  Oh wait... it just hit me... imagine the smell wafting out around the offices come lunch time??? NoM nOM noM

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Sunday baking adventure > RSPCA Cupcake Day baking frenzy

Monday 18 August 2014 is RSPCA Cupcake Day, where my workplace's Social Club will be selling cupcakes to raise funds for the RSPCA.

I have baked two different cupcakes, coz, well it IS cupcake day. Plus a slice, just for something different.

1. Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing, thanks to Martha Stewart's recipe,
2. Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes, from Ann Nicol's book 'Cupcakes & Muffins' and
3. Raspberry Coconut Slice, thanks to

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Chef's Signature Dinner - 15 August 2014

Let me start off by saying this was definitely NOT in my kitchen. Rather, this delicious dinner was created in the kitchen of the Canberra Southern Cross Club's Yacht Club premises... and what a dinner it was. Two girlfriends and I were quite anticipating the awaiting feast, having purchased tickets over a month earlier.

So, the scope of the dinner was for the chef to use ingredients available within a 200km range of Canberra, and make them shine. Each course was also paired with a selected wine.  We knew were in for a fancy offering, as seen from the number of wine glasses, and the sheer volume of cutlery set on each table.  All up, there were nearly 80 guests.

So... the first course. A 'pre-entree' to whet the appetite juices, was a capsicum stuffed chicken roulade. Two pieces, delicately balanced on the place, paired with a crisp, sharp Terra Felix Pinot Gris.  A great way to start off the night. We could each have eaten more, however knowing what was to come, it was just the right amount. Petite, tasty and delicate.

Second course... second wine poured. This one a Sandalford Classic Dry White. One sip, and you just knew it would be perfect for seafood.  The entrĂ©e was indeed from the sea and consisted of a duo of scallops, served with a caviar cream sauce, potato rosti, and a crustacean bisque. The chef later revealed his bisque was made with roasted crustacean shells, which definitely added to the full rich flavour.

After the scallops, came a palate cleanser in the way of a sorbet. Twas not any fruit based sorbet, but a capsicum based sorbet! The taste was unusual on first mouthful, as it is so unexpected, but it certainly was tasty and each of us finished it in record time.

Palate cleansed... bring on course No. 3, the main course. The new wine arrived, this one the Angove Chalk Hill Shiraz Cabernet, which was light, fruity and soft. The main course arrived, on a huge square white platter.  Two soft, juicy, melt by the touch of a fork beef cheeks, portabello mushroom, duo of asparagus, duo of potato, and a fabulous jus. Hearty, meaty, comforting, delicious.  The chef advised the beef had been marinated, then sous-vide'd for 17 hours at 70 degrees.

Last but certainly not least > dessert.  First the pouring of McWilliams Hanwood Estate Port, which was mouth smackingly sticky and sweet, lingered longingly on the tongue and made it a joy to go back for another sip.  The dessert course arrived and it was creatively presented. It consisted of three offerings, a lightly textured, sturdy square of berry cloud mousse, a perfectly poached pear atop a small almond based morsel of cake, and two pieces of decadent chocolate terrine that had been enveloped in chopped pistachio pieces.

Tea and coffee were served to complete the evening.

My girlfriends and I will definitely look out the for next Chef's Signature dinner.

Thank you to the Southern Cross Club for such an enjoyable evening.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Sunday baking adventure > Chocolate, Blood Orange, Almond Cake

After waking on another Sunday, hubby and I wandered off to the markets. There I saw blood oranges for sale, and thanks to the inspiration of a foodie blogger friend, I bought some.  Now... what to make with these little beauties...

Then it struck me.  How about a lusciously dark, rich, dense Chocolate Blood Orange Almond Cake!  I had all the ingredients on hand, and set about making this creation.


250g dark chocolate, chopped
100g unsalted butter, chopped
1/2 cup blood orange juice (OR could use strong coffee instead)
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup caster sugar, plus 1 tbsn extra
200g ground almond
sifted cocoa powder, for dusting

Preheat oven to 180 degrees (or 160 degrees for fan forced). Line a 20cm springform pan with baking paper.
Place chocolate, butter, juice (or coffee) and vanilla into a heavy based pot and stir over a low het until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.  Remove from the heat and cool until lukewarm
Place egg yolks and sugar into a bowl, and using an electric beater, beat until the mixture is light and creamy. Gradually add in the chocolate mixture and beat on low until just combined.  Add in the almond meal and stir until combined.
Wash beaters, and using a clean bowl, beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks form. Add in the extra sugar and beat for 1 minute longer until sugar is dissolved.
Gently fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the remaining egg whites.
Pour mixture into the springform pan. Gently tap the pan to settle the mixture.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until cooked through and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
When cool, dust with cocoa powder.

The finished product, taken to work and devoured for morning tea the next day:

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Sunday baking adventure > finger buns

I love waking up on a Sunday, looking forward to pottering around in the kitchen, creating something from scratch.  I received a lovely book last Christmas, Merle's Country Show Baking. The author is Merle Parrish, a baker from the small NSW town of Cudal. Her book is filled with a lovely homely warmth, reflected in her stories, her recipes and accompanied by such lovely photography. 

I was inspired to bake something classic, so Finger Buns was the go.  My dear hubby just loves finger buns, so I thought I would try and improve on the local supermarket ones.

And voila... finger buns were born.