Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Daring Bakers' May 2012 Challenge - Challah

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

I love when a challenge is something I have not heard of and that was the case this month. I also love sweet eggy buttery breads, so it was a good month. 

Challah is a Jewish celebration bread that is traditionally served on the Sabbath. Fortunately I made two loaves and put one in the freezer, because if there had been only one there is no way it would have lasted until Sunday. 

The mixing part was very simple to do in the stand mixer. The braiding part was slightly more complicated, but like most girls who have ever had long hair (or even a doll with long hair), I can plait pretty well. I chose to do a 4 strand braid, but you can't really see that from the finished product because it over-rose and the surface tore down the middle when baked. I don't know what the technical term for this is but I think it happened because I proved them for too long. I was not too upset though because it still makes a gorgeous looking loaf. 

I made the whole wheat version suggested by Ruth because I generally like wholemeal (as we call it Australia) but I think for next time plain white would probably work better.

Thanks to Ruth for the terrific challenge and especially for including lots of interesting information about challah - I really enjoyed baking (and eating) it. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Daring Cooks' May 2012 - Bouef Bourguignon

Our May 2012 Daring Cooks’ hostess was Fabi of fabsfood. Fabi challenged us to make Boeuf Bourguignon, a classic French stew originating from the Burgundy region of France.

This was a great challenge for me just at the moment. Firstly the weather is turning colder here in Sydney, so a lovely beefy stew is pretty appetising. It also makes 6 portions, so I could use it to add to my stash of frozen dinners. I recently discovered that it is a good idea to not cook dinner from scratch on the same day I clean the house - it only took me 5 months of staying at home to work that one out. 

The version of Boeuf Bourguignon suggested by the host is what I would call elaborate, in that it required the beef, the onions and the mushrooms to each be cooked separately and then combined together. The recipe is based on one from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which it goes without saying does not steer you wrong. So I was happy to follow the copious instructions, although I did note that there is a BB recipe in Stephanie Alexander's The Cooks Companion, which is also very reliable, and quite a bit simpler.  

My execution of this recipe provides a good illustration of my life at the moment. I spent most of the morning weighing, peeling and chopping the various components, in between feeds and naps and cuddles. Then I popped the meat in the oven and headed out to playgroup. It was supposed to cook for 3- 4 hours, which is roughly how long it takes me to walk to playgroup, play and walk back. But it was a lovely sunny day, the playgroupies wanted to stay longer than usual and I was the only committee member there, so I had to wait until everyone left. Then little mister fell asleep on the walk home and as decent naps are rather hard to come by for us, I was reluctant to go inside and tend to the BB until he woke up. So by time I got to it, it had been stewing away for 5 hours. There was not much sauce left and the meat was falling apart but it was far from ruined, so I was happy. 

Rather fortuitously I had leftovers of two delicious starchy sides to serve with the BB. Some parsnip dumplings left over from this recipe. And some leftover swede and potato cake leftover from this recipe. (Just quickly, isn't the internet amazing? Is there are recipe that you can't find a link to these days?)

So a few hours later, after our bath-feed-story-bed routine, it was nice and simple to reheat, add some veg and there we had a pretty amazing dinner. 

I can't recall now, but it is likely that we got about three quarters of the way through the meal before being summoned to the baby's room for a little more settling. "I'll go", "No, I'll go", "No its okay, you finish your dinner." Life is good. 

A big thank you to Fabi for hosting this challenge. I will think of you on housecleaning days in the coming weeks when I am eating delicious Boeuf Bourguignon for dinner without having to lift a finger.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Daring Bakers April 2012 - Armenian Nutmeg Cake

The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.

So I have missed a few challenges since my little man arrived 5 months ago. It is not that I don't have time to cook. I am at home on maternity leave and I cook pretty much every day. It is just the palaver of photographing, choosing and editing the photos and writing the posts that I find hard to get around to. Its also hard to find time to read the forums and look at other's blog posts, which is half the fun of the Daring Kitchen. 

This challenge was the perfect example. I completed the challenge on time, although only after a timely reminder via social media from The Procrastinating Baker (ironic no?) Yet here I am several weeks later still trying to get my post up. But I do want to continue with the Daring Kitchen though as I enjoy it so much. So I will try harder. 

This nutmeg cake was very easy to make. I whipped it up in under 2 hours after a last minute invitation to visit a friend. It was mostly devoured over a  lovely afternoon chatting with 2 mum friends. Breastfeeding is such a great excuse to eat extra cake.  

I love nutmeg but don't tend to use it very much apart from atop banana smoothies. So I was slightly nervous about using 1.5 teaspoons as it such a strong flavour, but it was not too much at all and next time I would even use more