Friday, August 22, 2014

It's raining croissants

A rainy day for us is something to be celebrated and it is considered very poor form to ever complain about it, no matter when it falls.  On rainy days we stay close to home unless venturing out is absolutely necessary.   Our roads are much easier to negotiate when they are dry and aside from the road situation we love being at home to simply enjoy the moment. 

When rain tumbled down recently I felt the need for a baking project, in addition to my usual bread adventures and I settled on croissants.  This was my third ever attempt at croissants and my first attempt in the cold weather.  With such a glorious amount of butter involved, cold weather baking is easier for croissants, in my opinion.

I wouldn't recommend attempting these with a cluttered kitchen bench, a sink full of dirty dishes, visitors looming or when you are feeling impatient or frazzled.  Although not necessarily difficult, croissant creation is a lengthy process involving quite a few steps and plenty of clear, clean bench and fridge space is preferable.


The dough prior to the addition of butter is the most magnificent, silky combination of flour, milk, brown sugar, yeast and salt.  It smells and feels heavenly.


There is a lot of laminating (folding) and resting the dough, while keeping everything cool at all times. 


Pointy triangles are carefully cut, using a template and then rested. 



The triangles are carefully rolled, gently stretched and left to quietly prove.       


These croissants were flaky, crisp and less oily than previous batches I have attempted.  I know I have barely scratched the surface when it comes to learning these complex baking techniques.  But, this batch made me happy and I found the process both therapeutic and rewarding.  Isn't that what cooking should be about?


Have a lovely Friday and weekend friends, I hope you find time for some baking.  

**I will not be sharing this recipe on my blog.  Instead I recommend using the recipe from here: Bourke Street Bakery, the ultimate baking companion by Paul Allam and David McGuinness.  This is easily my favourite baking book for easy to follow instructions, achievable recipes and inspiring photography.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Out and about in the bush

Life is jam-packed.  Some exciting plans are on the horizon.  We are preparing for spring and a possible escape to the beach before the hot weather arrives.  There are busy times ahead on the farm and the school year is rushing by. 

For me the best way to handle the hectic rhythm of life is to make time to get out and about.  Fresh air and the wide open spaces help to reset the mind and remind me of everything I am grateful for.

I kept one eye firmly on the horizon while I quickly took this photo, waiting for the father emu to return to his sparse nest. 
  

Sunrise through one of our apple trees.  It was -4°C when I took this photo which is about as cold as it gets in our part of the world. 


The lonely, parched skull of a feral pig resting in the red dirt.


Early morning olive tree shadows on the woolshed. 


 At a recent family engagement party most people rolled up to the community hall in utes and four wheel drives to join the celebration.  One outback character and his lovely wife made an understated entrance in this big machine and nobody thought anything of it.  Another reminder that we do live in a unique part of the world. 


I hope you are getting out and about! 

Happy Sunday to you.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

In My Kitchen, August 2014

Here we are again in my kitchen and this month there is a lot of bread happening.  My friend Paula gave me two kilograms of fresh yeast.  As most home bakers know, this is an enormous amount of yeast.  I have tried my hardest to make a dint in it.


Mouthful/handful size panini rolls made with yeasted olive oil dough.  These were soft and easy for the little people to handle.  


A yeasted white loaf which almost turned into a high top.  Once again, this was a hit with the kids.  


Kipfler potatoes from the patch where we grew potatoes last year.  We either missed them last year or they continued to produce.  Either way, they were a happy discovery.


This cauliflower weighed in at just over four kilograms.  Although it looks like two separate heads, they were actually growing together.  I see cauliflower soup in my future.    


I recently purchased some beautiful fresh pecan nuts, still in their shells from Elina at the Sunraysia Farmers Market.  Before they all disappeared I wanted to bake something special with them.  So, I invented this sourdough loaf containing currants, sultanas, barberries, dried figs and pecan nuts.  While it was still warm the loaf received a generous honey glaze. This turned out to be comforting winter food at its best.  

 

Are you baking or inventing?  I hope so!
Are you keeping warm?  
Thanks for calling in, I hope you are having a lovely Sunday.

I am linking up with Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  

Lastly, Katie and Reuben have kindly hosted me on their blog House of Humble.  Take a peek.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cooking with coals and cast iron

Camp oven cooking is a favourite family winter pastime for us.  Recently when the team from Slow Food Mildura called on their members to join the team at the Koorlong Camp Oven Cook Off we immediately volunteered.


While we have done plenty of camp oven cooking at home and for friends we have never ventured into the competitive side of cooking with coals, cast iron and fire.

The rules for the day were fairly simple.  Teams had to supply their own coals/fuel and cook all food in camp ovens or Bedourie ovens.  Naturally, Slow Food Mildura went to great efforts to ensure most of their meal was sourced from seasonal, local ingredients. 


We spent the day preparing and cooking, tending to the charcoal to keep the ovens hot, serving the hungry paying customers, testing some food and drinks ourselves, making new friends and soaking up the country music and slight smoky atmosphere.   As we chopped and mixed ingredients, conversation and discussion flowed easily.  Busy hands seem to encourage easy conversation. 


Although we have been Slow Food members for a year or two we haven’t attended many of their events.  This day was a perfect place to start.  With the underlying love of food connecting our group we felt welcomed, like instant friends.   At the end of the day we were generously loaded up with fresh home grown produce that the local team members had supplied to decorate the serving area.




Food really does connect people and days like this just prove it to me all over again. 

Do you dabble in any camp oven cooking or camp cooking?
Do you have a favourite outdoor dish?  

Have a lovely Sunday, friends x

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Slower days

Life for us is rarely slow, despite how it might look on my blog.  Thankfully the school holidays break up our usual home school/distance education routine.  During the term our mornings are taken up with maths leaflets, spelling words, satellite lessons and the general juggle of life. 

Instead of school, for the last two weeks our time has been taken up with early morning trips to the horses. 


Reading has been high on my list of things to do.  Alphabet Family Journal is a magazine that actually feels more like a book.   The thick pages are full of real stories and creative photography and the whole package feels simplified and refreshingly un-styled.   Thanks Luisa for my special copy. 


We have packed up chops, soup and bread and headed to the paddock to cut firewood.  Actually, the big people cut firewood while the little people played on tree stumps that become imaginary boats and planes while poking sticks in the fire and daydreaming.


Some mornings we have cooked and then lingered just a little longer over morning tea.


The rather unruly vegetable garden has finally had some proper attention. 


Sheep work has been in full swing which has meant plenty of warm food and thermoses to keep the workers fuelled in this cold weather.


Farewell school holidays, you will be missed!

Happy Sunday friends x

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Flour and Fire Day, 2014

Last Sunday morning I crept out of bed at 3.30am and again at 5.30am to refuel our wood oven and to check on my bread that had been proving all night.  In the darkness, at the wood pile I felt the lightest mist on my face and I knew that the day ahead was full of possibilities and goodness.

Our second Flour and Fire Day was different to the first.   This year we had one more year of cooking in the wood oven behind us.  Our children were all one year older, making them more independent and freer to roam and explore.  The returning bakers had a year of baking experience behind them which meant we could really trade knowledge on proving, shaping, slashing, equipment and all things sourdough. 





Our friend Paula kindly volunteered to give us a hands-on haloumi and ricotta making demonstration.  Cheese making complimented the bread making perfectly.  Similarly to bread making, cheese making is often a process of hurry-up-and-wait, as Paula so rightly described it.  When we weren't attending to our loaves we were attending to the cheese which gave our day rhythm and purpose. 



The food for the day was assembled from mostly home raised, home baked and home grown produce.  We squashed pieces of freshly sizzled hand made haloumi straight from the fire between chunks of warm sourdough baguettes, real food at its best.  


At the end of the day, as the sun set behind the wood oven the drinks and stories flowed.

This day filled me with a sense of community spirit, generosity and sharing.  It has also proved to me that it is possible to make things happen, even if it is on a small scale.

If you can, gather some like-minded friends and family and make food.  Talk, listen and share.  Let the children join in, or play in the dirt or both!  Perhaps the world would be a better place if more people could do this. 


Thank you to the families who attended our day.  It wouldn't have happened without your enthusiasm and contributions.  Thank you Paula for your professional cheese making and for so generously sharing your delicious haloumi with everyone.  Thank you also to Terry for fuelling the fire, helping with the photos and always believing in my schemes.  

What we ate, for anyone who is interested.

Morning tea: sausage rolls, vegetable and chickpea non-sausage rolls, quince and almond tart, cheese and crackers

Lunch: slow cooked camp oven lamb shanks, fresh pasta, pesto, salad, baguettes, fire sizzled haloumi

Afternoon grazing: scones with jam and cream, cheese and crackers, affogato served with pistachio biscotti, chocolates, warm ricotta drizzled with olive oil

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

In My Kitchen, July 2014

Now it really is feeling like winter.  Frosty mornings, shorter days and sparkly rays of afternoon sunshine most days. 

One little spot in our kitchen catches particularly pretty afternoon light.  When there are no flowers to pick there is always plenty of olive tree foliage. 


Outdoor cooking in camp ovens is very common for us at this time of year, but cooking desserts and baking sweets things in camp ovens is something we are still experimenting with.  This fruit and almond tart was a recent camp oven success story.  As per usual when cooking with fire or coals, timing is everything. 


I am so grateful for a successful broccoli crop. 


Locally grown oranges.  There is nothing better at this time of year.  Do you have a favourite way to use oranges, other than fresh or juiced?


From what I read, a lot of my favourite bloggers drink a lot of tea.  So do I, especially in the cold weather when drinking water is less appealing.  Black tea in the morning, green tea at lunchtime, red tea in the afternoon and back to green in the evening.   My friend Sarah reminded me recently that tea and popcorn is a great pick-me-up on a cold afternoon.  Tea and popcorn also has a lovely ring to it don’t you think?  


What are you cooking or making at the moment?

I hope it is warm and smelling delicious in your kitchen.

Linking up with my friend Celia at  Fig Jam and Lime Cordial