Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Rawmazing Race

I planned on posting so much baking. But alas, things got in the the flu which somehow I got  and although I have told it the relationship is over and to please leave,  it just doesn't listen. Must be  a man flu then ;) huh? It is my own fault. I stopped having green smoothies for breakfast, and eating naughty things, and I guess my body just decided it couldn't stand up to the germs that have been circulating at home and the office for the past 6 weeks and all the white blood cells must have waved their little white flags and surrendered. So, it just goes to show the amazing power of green smoothies and raw vegan food, because I got through last winter with not a sniffle - the minute I slacken, I'm in trouble. So, while I'll be putting up a few more baking posts before April is over, I may not necessarily be eating much of it. I'm sure the Beloved won't mind, and neither will the boys at work on a Saturday morning - more for them!

So with that in mind, and a need to ahem, drop a few kilos, May will be all about raw. So, what's the Rawmazing Race all about? It's about me, trying to get really good fuel into my body, so that it heals itself, and getting my fitness back up to scratch. It's not easy for me partly due to having had my thyroid removed - this gland controls your metabolism. But, I have had great success before with mostly raw food and a really good workout plan. So, the mission? To lose some flab and feel fab. How am I going to do it? Race around the world via my plate and explore some tastes from around the globe in raw form. At the end of the month I should be feeling much better! The posts will probably not be as pretty as my other ones, as photos of dinner without natural light never really look that great - but it will be a chance to document what I eat. Wish me luck!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Go Ahead, Bake My Day: Vegan ANZAC Biscuits

For any of you readers not in our hemisphere, Anzac biscuits are more Aussie than Vegemite, and we take these very seriously. Like, protected by law seriously. The acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and was first used during WWI. The story goes, the biscuits were made by soldiers wives and shipped overseas as they contained ingredients that would store for a long period and not spoil. The beautiful thing about these is, they already contain no eggs, so I just had to sub the butter to make them. Due to the scarcity of eggs during the war, eggs were left out and golden syrup or treacle was used as the binder. They are very popular in Australia, and with ANZAC Day coming up on Wednesday I thought this would be a good time to make them. Let me make one thing clear: these are a biscuit, not a cookie, as these are Australian and cookie is an American term (in any case I always think of cookies as softer and heaped, whereas biscuits are thinner, hard, and crisp - but I digress). The official recipe is actually controlled by the Retired Serviceman's League and the term ANZAC is protected under Australian law - the only exception to use the term is for these biscuits! To call these Anzac biscuits they must conform to the original recipe.  (Subway learned all this the hard way a couple of years ago and were forced to remove the biscuit from the menu). Any kind of commercial venture must be approved by the RSL - there are only a couple of companies allowed to use the name officially.

Anyhoo, these beautifully crisp biscuits  are well worthy of being veganised and I hope you make a batch! Unfortunately, my Aussie grandparents are no longer with us, but making a batch of these for yours, or perhaps a serviceman (or woman) and giving to them on Anzac Day would make a lovely pressie.

1 cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
100gr copha
40gr nuttelex
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 tsp bicarb soda

Mix in a large bowl flour sugar and rolled oats.
In a large saucepan melt copha with golden syrup and nuttelex ( I found the two different fats best substituted butter when the biscuits were cooled).
In a separate bowl or small jug, mix boiling water and bicarb.
Add to hot copha mixture - watch out it will foam (hence there need for a large saucepan)!
Pour into dry mixture and stir rapidly to combine.
Drop small teaspoonfuls on a baking tray well apart - these guys really spread during baking which I absolutely forgot when I made the first batch and ended up with one giant biscuit, but that's OK, Mr Sprout will eat them.
Bake in a 170C oven for about 12 minutes until golden brown.
Leave on the tray for a few minutes before you slide them off onto a rack to cool. They won't come off until the fat and sugar cool and solidify so don't even attempt it until they have cooled somewhat!

There are lots of variations, including adding coconut, or macadamias, but I wanted to make these to the original, because remembering our ANZAC soldiers is what the day is all about. And since it's all about Aussies, dip your biccie in a cuppa of Twinings limited edition Australian Afternoon Tea, a blend by former PM Kevin Rudd. And while I'm giving it a plug, can I also add that 10c from every pack of this sold goes to Kev's charity of choice, which happens to be the RSPCA! See Kev's plug here for the comp held last year for the winning blend, which involves his own animals "trying" the tea :)

Monday, 9 April 2012

Autumn Planting - Garlic and Shallots

Finally, finally, I was able to get into the garden on this long weekend and tidy up, as well as doing some planting. The corn is ready, and the tomatillos have finally ripened (better late than never). Since I have a plot of coriander fresh salsa is on the menu.

. I've covered the pumpkin as the nights are getting a bit chilly and I have three enormous ones that are not quite ripe. It is nowhere near the 18 pumpkins I harvested two years ago, but some are better than none! And being so large, I may even have to cut up and freeze what I don't use straight away or the Beloved Mr Sprout will get sick of all the pumpkin soup, and corn and pumpkin pies.

I planted a nice big patch of purple Monaro garlic, as well as a patch of golden and red shallots. I know the shallots will do better than my poor onions planted last winter, and I can use the tops at the same time as they grow. The varieties chosen are suited to the cooler mountain climate, and having grown before, I know these will flourish. When choosing a variety check if it is suitable for your zone! Quite often garden centres carry plants unsuitable for the zone you are in (for example I saw corn and tomato seedlings the other day, totally unsuitable for planting here now). Both plantings are in a sunny spot in well drained soil, flatter or root end down, deep enough to just cover the bulbs 15 cm apart. The beds were fertilised with litter from the chook shed, so I won't need to do anything else with them for awhile! These have gone into the tomato beds to rotate my crops and prevent diseases building up in the soil. By October, I should have garlic for harvest.

Go Ahead, Bake My Day: Vegan Strawberry Scones Forever

I dehydrated a batch of strawberries, but it wasn't quite what I was after. So rather than wasting them, I put them into a scone. Have these with a dollop of sweetened vegan cream cheese. Listening to "Strawberry Fields Forever" doesn't make them taste any better, but having a scone is certainly British enough to warrant having a splendid afternoon tea in a nice frock. Maybe make a cucumber sandwich or two to go with them?

3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
100gr dairy free margarine
2 tablespoons golden syrup
50 gr dried strawberries
approx 1/2 cup soymilk, water, or ricemilk

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Sift together flour and baking powder.
Rub in margarine, to the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs.
Add chopped dried strawberries, and mix through.
Add soymilk, just enough to draw the mixture together to a soft dough, you don't want it runny, and form the scones quickly, not handling the dough more than necessary. I get 10 smaller scones from this.
Put in a greased tin with sides, not on a tray, just touching.
Bake for approx  20 minutes.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Go Ahead, Bake My Day: Bread Basket

I love baking bread. The tactile sensation of silky dough, the smell of the yeast and the bread baking fill the house, the taste of new bread straight from the oven smothered in butter...and the satisfaction of making it myself.  Once upon a time I used a bread machine, but it died, and I didn't want to buy another one. So I taught myself how to make bread from scratch. There is a huge difference between machine made bread and handmade bread. I find machine bread too airy and crumbly. This I think is largely due to not testing the dough during the kneading process. When you have made bread for a while, you will get a real feel for the dough, you will throw away your measures, and concentrate only on how it rolls under your fingers. It depends on the flour and yeast you use, the humidity of the day, and the temperature. In warmer months, the dough rises quickly; in winter, I often have to warm the oven for 10 minutes, turn it off, and leave the dough in there with the door open (it really works!). Today I made basic bread dough, then divided it into 4 and added different flavours - rosemary and garlic, olive and paprika, cheese and chive, and pickled onion and caraway. 

Basic Bread Dough
3 cups of bakers flour
approx 500 mls warm water
2 tablespoons dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tsp salt
approx 4 tablespoons olive oil

Whisk together yeast, sugar, salt, oil and water. Set aside until bubbly and frothy - if it doesn't bubble your yeast is dead! Some people will tell you not to put sugar in your bread -certainly you can do without it. But -  sugar feeds the yeast, and you will get a better rise, particularly if you use dry rather than fresh yeast. The salt in turn, balances the sugar out. It also gives the bread some flavour.

Activated yeast - alive and kicking!

Add 2 cups of flour and stir with a wooden spoon, gradually adding remaining flour, and adding more if required. You want a nice soft dough, easily indented with a finger. If it appears tough you have put too much flour in. 

Turn the dough out onto a floured bench top or board and knead, knead, knead for about 10 minutes. The best way to knead is to fold over the dough on itself, and use your weight to push forward and squash the dough - which is less tiring than using only your arm muscles. give it a quarter turn and repeat. Pop on your favourite few songs, I usually knead to three or four tracks rather than timing it. There are recipes out there that claim to be "no knead." I am here to tell you, they will not be as good, will probably be quite crumbly (like a scone) and in my opinion, suggests a certain amount of laziness. Kneading is not hard!! It's 10 minutes - consider it part of a workout! Kneading activates the gluten in the flour, which gives the dough the elasticity it needs to capture gases created by the yeast creating air pockets and giving structure to your loaf, and  a chewy texture. Properly kneaded dough rises quickly and well. when it is ready the dough will be silky soft, and elastic - ie if you try to pull a bit off, it won't tear easily.
This is what the dough should look like, nice and smooth

Put your dough into a greased bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave in a warm place for about 3/4 an hour, or until doubled in size.

And 45 minutes later, doubled in size

Punch down your dough. At this point I divided into four and added herbs, spices, chopped onion etc, and kneaded for about a minute until incorporate.

Next, shape into the loaf you would like and put on a baking tray, or use a bread tin. I have an assortment of sizes for various breads. Just make sure there is plenty of room so your bread doesn't explode over the side and all over your oven.

Leave aside covered, for at least an hour, slashing the top after about 15 minutes (if you like). I often leave mine for even longer, an hour and a half. 

Preheat your oven to 180C and bake until bread sounds hollow when tapped. If the top is browning too quickly, just put some foil over the top. 40 minutes does the trick in my gas oven, but may take less or longer in yours. Turn out when done, and allow to cool.

Voila! You have bread!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Go Ahead, Bake My Day: Vegan Hot Cross Buns

I'm going to be doing a baking theme for April, so this is the first one. The days are warm but cool quickly, daylight saving has come to a close, and the harvest of summer fruits means really good quality ingredients are readily available. I hope you enjoy this months posts and get creative in the kitchen!

Easter is just around the corner! I don't eat a lot of chocolate but I can't say no to a really good hot cross bun. And I mean the real buns, not those stupid chocolate chip cookies posing as a bun. And not the ones that have a cross but are just sweet buns. I mean the ones with spices and fruit, that fill an autumn kitchen with deliciousness and just cry out for some butter (or butter substitute) to ooze through them while warm from the oven. The cup of tea to go with it is absolutely compulsory - the teapot is optional.

3 cups bakers flour 

250ml warm water

250ml warm milk ( I use soy)

2 Tablespoons dry yeast
½ cup caster sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsp mixed spice
1 cup currants
½ cup mixed peel


Put water, milk yeast, sugar oil and salt into a large bowl,and whisk. Leave aside in a warm place for about 5-10 minutes to let the yeast activate (you should see it bubbly at the top).

Put into an other bowl the flour, spice, and peel, and combine thoroughly. Make a well in the centre and add ¾ of your liquid mixture, slowly drawing in from around the sides. Keep going with the liquid, if it feels too dry add more water, if it is too sticky add more flour. It should be a nice soft dough. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about ten minutes, it should become smooth and elastic. Place into a greased bowl, cover, and set aside. Leave in a warm place for about an hour and a half. ( If it’s really cold and I don’t have the fire on, I turn the oven on for 15 minutes to about 150C, turn off, leave the door open half way, and stick the bowl inside). 

Line a large baking tray with greaseproof. Punch dough down, knead for a minute r two, then divide into equal portions ( I get about 10- 12 but it depends how big you make them). Let them rise again, about 30-45minutes.

If you want to do the crosses…

½ cup flour 

5 tablespoons of water

Mix to a smooth paste, and put into a piping bag. Pipe crosses onto tops of buns, and put into 180C preheated oven for approx 30 minutes. 

Glaze with a sugar glaze while still warm…

1/3 cup water

3 T caster sugar

Dissolve sugar in hot water, and brush tops of buns while still warm.

I find the flour and liquid ratios are approximate. Some days I need more flour, others I need more liquid. Just combine slowly and judge by feel.