Category Archives: Breads and Pastries

Lunchbox Treats – Potato and Bacon Scrolls

This is a great variation on cheesy scrolls for when you want a savoury lunch but can’t be bothered with making bread from scratch.

It’s a basic scone dough to which you add mashed potato and lots of flavours, making it the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tomato or vegetable soup or even a Ploughman’s lunch with ham, cheese and some home-made pickles. Because they’re a scone dough, they’re best eaten on the day they are made, or frozen as quickly as possible in an airtight container for another time. Continue reading Lunchbox Treats – Potato and Bacon Scrolls

Breads and Pastries – Saffron Buns

You may not have heard of saffron buns here in the Antipodes, but they are available – as rolls or as a larger loaf – in practically every bakery in the south-west of England. This was what I grew up with whenever we fancied raisin toast, back in the day when saffron, along with olive oil, was only ever available at the chemist.

There is something vaguely reminiscent of a hot cross bun in this recipe, and yet saffron buns are quite uniquely cornish and in my humble opinion, in a class of their own.

Part fruit bun, part scone, the result is a sweet fruit roll with a soft texture and an incredible and quite heady smell of saffron, in all its glorious hue.

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Breads and pastries – Tortillas

How much do you pay for a packet of ordinary tortillas? Not the specialty ones made of real maize masa flour, not the wholemeal ones – just ordinary bog-standard and, dare I say it, tasteless tortillas?

I made twelve for $1.00.

The stack in this photo was eaten over the next two hours by three people. Now, I would tell you that they are perfectly sane people with ordinary appetites but to see them hoeing into these tortillas and rolling their eyes in appreciation was a revelation. Not only were they easy to make, ridiculously easy in fact, but they were so intensely good. They were soft, pliable and light. They didn’t taste of uncooked flour. They didn’t taste of cardboard. They were incredibly moreish. Continue reading Breads and pastries – Tortillas

Breads and Pastries – Maggie Beer’s Sour Cream Pastry

I have wanted to try sour cream pastry ever since I saw Maggie Beer make some on the wonderful The Cook and The Chef  TV series several years ago.

In the last week I’ve used it twice, once for a light and lovely spring vegetable tart and then to cover a big, boofy beer and beef pie (no more alliteration, I promise). And in each case, it worked beautifully.

This really is a very light and crispy pastry and quite different form your normal fiddly shortcrust. Like the lady herself, it’s no fuss and always provides brilliant results.

To begin with, you will find yourself adding far more butter than you would normally and no egg or water to bind the pastry – the sour cream does the job magnificently. The result is a very soft dough, almost like a scone or damper mixture. When I lined a tart tin, it tore quite easily, but the great thing is that it’s very easy to press back into shape without making a botched mess of the whole thing – it’s wonderful to work with.

In flavour it’s very light, the texture is incredibly flaky, and with all that butter, a perfect foil to the big flavours of the tart or pie it contains. It’s a brilliant all-rounder, perfect for sweet or savoury fillings.

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Breads and Pastries – Beer Damper

It has to be said that I am not a beer drinker. It’s too gassy. It smells very beery. (Yes, I know. When my palate is not used to it I still find it very hard to explain exactly what it is I don’t like about the flavour). While some love it especially on a hot day, I can honestly say I’ve had about three beers in my life, all of them in Port Moresby, all of them in one afternoon. Marianne Faithfull’s Broken English was playing. It was that sort of time and place.

But even though a beer is not the first bevvy I reach for, I was rather taken with a recipe I came across for beer damper. So much so that I reached into the fridge at the local bottlo and paid for just one bottle. I am such a lush.

The other thing I am not a fan of is the inclusion of sugar in my bread. I rail against additional and unnecessary sugar in burger buns or in manky sliced white bread, preferring to use it – sparingly – in sweetbread such as brioche or a fruit bread.

So it comes as a great surprise to discover that this bread is really rather wonderful. There’s a hint of hops and malt in the flavour and it’s nicely offset by the sweetness of the dough. It would be wonderful with barbecued steak, some jerk chicken, a charcuterie platter or some tapas and especially nice with strong cheese and nutty smoked ham in a ploughman’s lunch.

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Day 10 – Pissaladière

Olives and rustic artisanal bread is a wonderful food partnership, beloved the world over and with a myriad of adaptations. Much as I love them solely as an arm-in-arm partnership, they surely deserve to be shared around with other flavours.

In this case anchovies, tomatoes and onions provide a wonderful topping for a dense bread base, much like a thick pizza base, redolent of Mediterranean sunshine and warm evenings spent eating outdoors. What makes this absolutely transcendent is the judicious use of olives, both in the bread and as a final topping. Teamed with a light green salad, this really is a wonderful meal. See if you can stop at just one piece.

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Breads and Pastries – Grape and Walnut Bread

I would love to be able to thank the Fairfax journalist who waxed lyrical about making your own bread but I can’t. I can’t remember her name or when I read the article, though it was a few years ago, I’m sure of that. After all it is just one of dozens of articles written about bread making over the years. However I can recall her final recommendation which was, “If you don’t believe that homemade bread can be better than anything you can buy, try this: to your favourite bread recipe add rosemary, grapes and walnuts.”

As regular readers well know, I have an awesome everyday recipe for bread, but I was intrigued. Just what sort of dough would be best suited to these additions? A sweet fluffy bread, similar to a brioche, would be too sugary for me. A bread with a rough texture like a pane di casa or ciabatta would not really suit the silkiness of the cheese being offered with it. What about a focaccia?

So I started experimenting and I failed, time and time again. Too soggy. Too dry. Way too much sugar. On one occasion, the bread failed to rise completely. On another, I miscued the temperature and burnt the topping while the middle of the bread was decidedly undercooked.

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Breads and Pastries – Challah

Without getting all profound this early in the morning, there is much to be said for the connectedness I feel to my God whenever I make bread. Wherever you are and whatever your beliefs, it would be hard to find someone who does not appreciate the meditative effect of the simple act of turning such basic ingredients as flour and yeast into such a well-loved staple food.

I get quite zen when kneading dough. I get into the rhythm of kneading and often give thanks that this simple act gives such sustenance and life to my loved ones. Agnostic, atheist or devout, no-one can deny the way good food tastes when it is prepared with integrity, has love added into the mixture and is served to people you love.

Continue reading Breads and Pastries – Challah

Day 13 – Spring Vegetable Pizza

A walk around the markets will confirm the suspicions of many of us, that spring is here even if the weather is still clinging to wintery conditions. Perhaps it was the start of daylight savings (for many of us at least), but  I now have a hankering for lighter meals.

Ahh, pizza. So good on so many levels.

The addition of spring vegetables together with a judicious scattering of fresh torn mozzarella, rather than great fistfuls of the pre-packed stuff all over the dough, is exactly the right combination.

Fior de latte is a tennis ball sized offering of freshly made mozzarella. It’s sold in brine rather than wrapped in plastic and is white rather than yellow. It’s got a very mild flavour, similar to bocconcini and it’s ideal for tearing into pieces or for feeding young children or fussy eaters, not to mention lighter and less calorific. Aldi sells it for $4.00 a pop, but mozzarella or large bocconcini work just as well. Team it with the best and freshest vegetables you can find. The addition of chorizo or hot salami is entirely up to you.

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Breads and Pastries – Miss Lizzie’s Fennel and Honey Buns

Despite the unfortunate inference, I want to make it quite clear to you that Miss Lizzie’s buns are delicious, not to mention sweet and aromatic as well.

In fact, they are a terrific accompaniment to North African cuisines such as tagines and Moroccan stews which may seem a little odd when you realise that most breads in that region are unleavened or flat breads.

These bread rolls might not make it into your child’s lunch box if all they want is a Vegemite sandwich, but they are sensational with roast meat and roasted vegetables, rich meaty casseroles, some barbecued chicken or some well-flavoured pork-based cold-cuts. They are also the perfect way to have a Grand Final roast pork roll, the recipe for which will be posted tomorrow in time for the weekend’s party you will be hosting.

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