Friday, 19 May 2017

Caramelised Onion, Fennel and Tomato Focaccia

If a loaf of fresh, homemade bread gets polished off in record time in our house, then a filled focaccia doesn't stand a chance.  Think warp speed.

Caramelised Onion, Fennel and Tomato Focaccia
slightly adapted from here

320ml lukewarm water
1 x 7g sachet dried yeast
1 teaspoon caster sugar
80ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
450g bakers flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 red onions, finely sliced
1½ tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoon fennel seeds
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
Sea salt flakes for sprinkling
½ teaspoon very finely chopped rosemary

Pour the water into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Sprinkle the yeast evenly over he surface of the water, add the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the oil.  Set aside until frothy, about 10 minutes.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour and add the fine salt.  Add to the yeast mixture.  Mix on low speed for 10 minutes.  Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Set aside in a warm spot until doubled in size, about an hour.

Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan.  Add the onion and cook on low heat for 15 minutes or until soft.  Add the brown sugar and vinegar and cook, stirring from time to time, for another 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Punch the dough down and turn it out on to a floured surface.  Spread the dough out to a rough rectangle and cover it with the onion mixture.  Scatter the fennel seeds over and fold the dough over to enclose the onions.

Preheat the oven to 200C fan-forced and grease a baking tray with olive oil.

Press the dough onto the prepared tray and cover with a damp tea towel.  Put it in a warm spot for about 20 minutes or until doubled in size.

Press dimples all over the surface by pushing your fingertips into it. Press the tomato halves into the dimples and drizzle the lot with olive oil.  Sprinkle over the rosemary and sea salt flakes.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Flourless Chocolate Pecan Cake

The recipe for this Flourless Chocolate Pecan Cake is over at Bakelife. Join me for coffee and cake... two things I have a lot of experience with. 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Seriously Good Chocolate Loaf Cake

One of my sons is at a volleyball camp for the weekend (the other is playing football... so yeah, sport).  The volleyballers were asked to bring a plate of food to share for morning tea.  I had to make something that didn't require refrigeration, would travel well, would get better with age (as I made it the day before), wouldn't be too messy for teenage boys to eat (does such a thing exist?), wasn't overly indulgent (remembering that they are athletes) and something that 14 year old boys would go mad for (this is a popularity contest after all).  Enter this deep, dark, moist, moreish, fudgy, sticky, most perfect chocolate cake.  Of course I had to make two cakes so that I could have my cake and eat it too perform rigorous quality control tests on one (making sure it would meet all the above mentioned criteria) and, if it got a pass mark, send the other one off with the little... I mean very tall, darlings. PS: It passed with flying crumbs... I mean, colours.

Seriously Good Chocolate Loaf Cake
slightly adapted from here

225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
375g dark muscovado sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extact
100g dark chocolate, melted
200g plain four
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
250ml boiling water

Preheat the oven to 190 C.  Slide a baking sheet into the oven on the middle shelf to warm it up. Grease and line a 23 x 13 x 7cm (2 litre capacity) loaf pan with cooking oil spray and then line the base and sides with baking paper.  Set aside.

Mix the flour, salt and baking power together in a bowl and set aside.

Put the butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high for about 5 minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla, beating well.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to fold in the melted chocolate.  Add a third of the flour mixture and gently fold it in.  You don't want to incorporate too much air into the batter.  This is going to be the most deliciously dense, damp cake and too much air would negate that.  The add half of the boiling water, stirring until it is almost incorporated.  Add another third of the flour mixture, followed by the remaining water and finally the last third of flour.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 170C and continue to bake for a further 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it.

Place the loaf on a wire rack to cool completely in the pan.  Turn it out and cut into thick, satisfying slices.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Banana, Date and Cinnamon Muffins

When I'm running out of lunchbox snacks, it's time to break out the muffin pan.  That way I get to send the boys to school with a homemade treat and I get to enjoy a quiet breakfast of muffins and coffee.  It's a win-win situation.

Banana, Date and Cinnamon Muffins
Makes 12

For the Sugar Sprinkle Topping:
1 tablespoon raw caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the Muffins:
375g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
220g raw caster sugar
1 egg
125ml grape seed oil (or other light flavoured oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
180ml buttermilk
12 medjool dates, pitted
1 medium banana

Make the Sugar Sprinkle Topping:
Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Make the Muffins:
Preheat the oven to 180C.  Line a muffin pan with 12 paper liners. Set aside.

Put the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and sugar into a large mixing bowl.  Whisk briefly to combine.  Set aside.

Put the egg, oil and buttermilk in a separate bowl and whisk until thoroughly mixed.  Set aside.

Put the dates and banana into a blender (or use a stick blender) to blitz to a smooth puree. Add the puree to the buttermilk ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir gently until just combined.

Use an ice cream scoop to divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Sprinkle the tops with the sugar sprinkle topping and bake for about 20 - 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool

Monday, 1 May 2017

Greek Onion Pie

Both my boys play sport nearly every weekend and usually both days on the weekend.  Our little family could seriously keep Mr Four'n Twenty in business entirely on our own if we relied on the canteen at the local footy ground or sport stadium for nourishment on Saturdays and Sundays. But as much has a love a good meat pie now and then, I prefer to eat my own food as much as possible.  So I try to bake something reasonably portable to take for a "car picnic" while watching the boys chase whatever ball is in season at the time and so they can have something homemade while on the road. ... And with this, they can still say they had a pie at the footy, which is after all,  a rite of passage and a cultural obligation all in one. 

Greek Onion Pie
Serves 6 - 8
adapted from here

60ml extra virgin olive oil
6 brown onions
2 cloves garlic
4 French shallots
2 leeks
A sprig of thyme
2 bay leaves
200g ricotta, well drained
200g feta, crumbled
Olive oil spray, for greasing
16 sheets filo pastry, cut to fit the baking pan
100g ghee, melted and cooled
Sea salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

If you have a food processor with a slicing blade, now it the time to use it.  Thinly slice the onions, garlic, shallots and leeks (or slice by hand, but keep a box of tissues handy!)  Set aside.

Heat the oil on medium heat in a large heavy-based frying pan.  Add the sliced vegetables and the thyme and bay leaves.  Lightly season with salt and pepper and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for about 45 minutes or until soft and slightly caramelised.  Set aside to cool.

Remove the thyme and bays leaves and add the ricotta and feta.  Mix thoroughly and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 170C and slip a baking sheet on the middle shelf of the oven.

Spray a 20cm x 30cm (or thereabouts) baking pan with olive oil cooking spray and line the base and sides with baking paper.

Brush the baking paper with the melted ghee and line the pan with a sheet of filo pastry.  Brush the pastry with ghee and top it with another sheet of filo pastry.  Continue layering the pastry until you have 8 layers.

Spoon the onion filling on top and spread it evenly to fill the pan to the edges and level the top.

Lay a sheet of filo pastry over the filling and brush it with ghee.  Top it with another sheet of filo pastry and continue layering until you have 8 layers.  Brush the final layer with ghee.

Pop the baking tray on the preheated baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden.