You know what I love about cooking? The sounds. The clink of the spoon against the bowl, the bubble of boiling water, the hiss of escaping steam (beware escaping steam!) the whirr of the oven, the crackling of the plastic packaging, the crunch of the salt grinder.
I love music. I love a lot of different music, you may have even noticed a few songs I picked out to share with you on this blog, and I love cooking to music. Music’s a big part of my life. It helps us to connect to others, it takes us to another place.
It’s important to hear the music in everyday life. The sounds of baking delicious, egg-free brownies, the calling of one friend to another, click clack front and back, train choo choo, all of that. It’s important to listen to the cadence of another’s voice.
The science of noise is fascinating and completely confusing (although click here for a really cool, funny, not-too-confusing intro) but what interests me is how we all connect to it. We are all searching for something, but the weird, sometimes comforting, other times frustrating thing is that someone else has probably felt it before you, and even if you feel like you are all alone in the world, chances are that someone out there cares. It may be someone who’s been down your particular black hole before and so therefore can empathise with you, or it may be someone who’s seen someone not come back.
Perhaps it’s just that you don’t look hard enough in your own life to find the person close to you who cares that much about you and can have an actual conversation without being awkward about it. Perhaps you have online friends, who although they’re a million miles away or close enough, are closer to you than those you see everyday.
Hopefully you have some people you see, so you can share brownies and sad stories (or even hopeful ones) but have some virtual brownies on me anyway, and know that I care, and that maybe I even love you.
So originally these were vegan but I don’t keep soy milk or margarine around the house (sorry lactose intolerant and vegan people. It’s not that I don’t love you. I just don’t like the taste of those things) so I just made them egg free, which was what I was looking for anyway because I ran out of eggs. I also accidentally cooked them at 200 degrees for fifteen minutes and then realised my mistake and dropped the temperature to 150. So just try to keep it at one eighty, yeah?
**UPDATED** These do actually taste of coffee. A lot of the time the espresso is just put in to enhance the coffee flavour, but these do taste like coffee. Just a warning!
adapted from Milk’N Cookiezzz
4 ounces dark chocolate
3 ounces butter (substitute margarine for vegan version)
1/3 cup milk (substitute soy milk for vegan version)
2/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp instant coffee powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp cocoa
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line an 8″x8″ baking tray with foil and spray it with baking spray.
Melt chocolate and butter together. In a seperate bowl, whisk together milk, sugar, cornflour, coffee powder and vanilla.
Combine chocolate mixture and milk mixture. Sift in flour, baking powder and cocoa. Pour into prepared pan and bake about 20 minutes.
It’s funny how cooking can cheer me up. I was not in a good mood when I got home today. I got super stressed out about the essays I’ve got due next week (I’m not procrastinating – I’m cooking dinner. HUGE difference) and I didn’t have a good train trip and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball with a large block of chocolate. Thankfully, I had chores to get me out of this funk.
I took in my washing, cleaned up the kitchen and started up on dinner, then my housemate made me coffee – so good! The little upticks of life just make the day that much better. It’s not about grand sweeping gestures but more about the small pieces of happy sprinkled around.
By the way:
So, about that stew. It’s tomatoey, beany, and all around delicious; this stew ticks all the boxes. Sometimes I’m jealous of all you meat-eaters out there. It’s true, sometimes I just crave the warmth that a big pot of beef bourginon emulates but seriously, try this and you won’t go back. Served with that bread I told you about yesterday, some shaved parmesan and a beautifully poached egg, I could not have asked for more tonight.
It’s almost spring but those August winds are picking up, so make this stew and share it with your friends and family. I promise you, they will be begging for more. I’m lucky to have leftovers. Hello, lunch tomorrow!
White Bean and Tomato Stew
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
I made quite a few adaptations to this recipe. I was cooking for seven so I upped some of the ingredients. I don’t like celery so I left that out, I accidentally used diced “Italian” (read: with extra herbs and capsicum, not a bad idea but not one I particularly wanted to invest in this time) instead of pureed tomatoes, I used silverbeet and spinach instead of kale, although I would have liked more greens and less tomato. I will most likely be making this again. I feel it will become a staple.
About 400g (or more) spinach (can swap out for silverbeet or kale or any other greens) stems removed, washed thoroughly (especially if you picked them from your own garden like I did!
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
approx 1 cup chopped carrots
2 medium-large onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
350ml dry white wine
3x400g cans white beans, drained and rinsed (I used cannelini beans)
2 cans pureed tomatoes
1 litre (more or less depending on desired consistency) vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
three or four thyme sprigs
fresh crusty bread, poached eggs and parmesan to serve (optional)
Half fill a medium pot with water, well salted. Bring to the boil and cook the greens 1 minute (no need to cook anything like baby spinach, but silverbeet or anything heavier) drain and squeeze excess water. Chop roughly and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions, garlic and carrot and simmer for about15 minutes. Pour in the wine and reduce by about half.
Add the beans, tomatoes, vegetable stock, salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.
Take out the thyme and bay leaf, add the spinach and cook a further five minutes. (This is the point you would poach your eggs and toast your bread, if you wanted to serve it that way). Serve with crusty bread, poached eggs and parmesan, to friends and family.
I know! Three posts in three days! What is going on?!?! Don’t get used to it, I still have two essays to finish. Ok, one to finish, one to write. This is not going to be a regular thing.
Until after I hand my essays in and do my speeches.
Ok, so after I finished writing the homemade nutella post, I went into the already-dark kitchen (it’s only nine fifteen, people! I’m used to going to bed before you guys!) and did a little after dark baking.
Yes, it is a bit of a habit of mine to bake/cook late at night. I get restless, I get procrastination-y, I get the munchies. You understand.
I wanted to bake crusty bread to serve with dinner – I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned but at my house, we take it in turns to make dinner for everyone who happens to be home for dinner that night during the week. Every few weeks we have a night off because there’s six of us and only five weeknights (I can do maths!) and this week, I made white bean and spinach stew. (It was delicious, by the way. Yes, I will be posting. No, I’m not sure when.)
So I had to start tonight because I have uni tomorrow so I don’t have time to let the bread rise during the day, I have to let it rise in the refrigerator overnight (by the way, refrigerator, WHERE IS YOUR D?) Oh, hey, check out this awesome thigamabob:
I’m aware it’s a bowl with a lid. Guys, it’s a BOWLwith a LID. No need to get glad wrap out every time you want to let dough rise! Just pop the lid on! Magic.
It’s pretty easy to make crusty peasant style bread. Stir the flour, water, salt, yeast together. Let it rise. Bake it. Eat it. Easy.
After I put it in the fridge, because I am becoming increasingly unable to leave a dirty kitchen… I was going to say overnight but really, at all – I cleaned the kitchen and then put the dishwasher on (three cheers for dishwashers!) and then came and wrote this.
This actually reminds me of when I went to Surrender. I’m pretty sure I mentioned it… oh, yeah, that was a hectic few weeks back there. Surrender was amazing. While I was there, I did a bread workshop.
Now, it may seem a little weird to have a bread workshop at a Christian social justice gathering, but this was all about getting more in touch with God, with the earth, the things you eat, what sustains you. What brings us together. We come together to break bread, drink wine, share stories, give and receive love. Bread is powerful. Bread has been around almost since people have been around. Bread is so life-giving. Bread’s pretty dang awesome.
Get your hands dirty. Make some bread.
Adapted from girl versus dough
I quartered the recipe and I’ll give you the measurements I used next to the measurements you’ll need for the full four loaves. They’ll be pretty small if you want to do it that way but one was enough for seven people to have one slice, so it was perfect for our dinner.
3 cups (3/4 cup) lukewarm water (about body temperature)
1 1/2 tbsp (3/8 tsp… that was why it didn’t rise so much.. should be 3/8 TBSP…ah well) active dry yeast
1 1/2 (3/8) tbsp coarse salt
6 1/2 cups (1 4/5 cups) bread flour
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon until it’s all coming together. Dust flour over the top and lightly knead until you have a slightly sticky ball of dough. Grease a bowl (the same one you mixed it in if you want to save on dishes) dump the dough in, cover with glad wrap and let rise two hours (or overnight in the fridge).
If you made the full amount, split it into four separate balls. Dust each with flour again, and turn the dough around in your hands, tucking it under as you go, until it’s a smooth and elastic ball. Sprinkle polenta over a baking sheet and place the dough (evenly spread if you’re making more than one) on top, and let sit for about 40 minutes.
At about the 20 minute mark, preheat your oven to 230ºCelsius. Slash a sharp knife through the top of your loaves a few times, and place your baking tray on a top rack (when it’s done sitting:) and put a deep dish half full of hot water underneath it. Bake about half an hour.
When it’s done, it’ll be a lovely deep brown colour. Take it out of the oven and let it cool before slicing and serving. I didn’t let mine cool very much. I like hot-out-of-the-oven bread. Dip some in your homemade nutella.
Well, unless your mama is Stella of Bravetart. Then, yeah, I stole your mama’s nutella recipe. However, I’m fairly sure Stella doesn’t have kids, so no, this is not your mama’s nutella. Really, it’s not nutella at all, because Nutella is trademarked.
This is a chocolate hazelnut spread that is much better than nutella. Trust me. I know. It took me a while to get there, but it was worth it. (Whether it was worth the procrastination it took – the time away from my essays – only time will tell.) Oh, it was a real hassle but we got there in the end.
So, why make chocolate hazelnut spread yourself, you ask? Good question. The thing is, I’m trying (slowly, painfully, with not much success) to bring my life back to the ground. The earth. So I’m planting stuff and making bread and sitting in the spaces but I don’t have a lot of time and I make a lot of lame excuses.
I want to eat less processed food, more local and organic food. I want to celebrate life properly. It’s a long hard slog but I’m getting there. Sometimes I feel like I say that WAY too much. I’m getting there. Getting to a place where I’m at peace. Getting to the end of my tether. Getting to the top of the mountain. Getting back down again. Getting to God. Getting further away.
Getting there is usually positive, however, because positivity breeds positivity. I am not great at being positive all the time, however, I do my best. And physical activity plus healthy food equals a pretty positive day.
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
Adapted from Bravetart
Dude, this was a fiasco and a half, let me tell you. I started off with my sister in the kitchen and I should say right here, I am not good at sharing a kitchen with anyone, let alone family. Then the brittle didn’t become brittle, which I figured out later was because I didn’t cook it enough (so either get yourself a candy thermometer or cook until lovely golden brown) so I got sticky non-brittle EVERYWHERE and then it was like nine o’ clock before I even started the dishes. Oh my goodness.
But was it worth it? Yes, definitely. It’s amazing. Make this, and you will never buy storebought Nutella again.
7 ounces (205 mL) water
15 ounces (425g)
6 ounces (170g) honey or corn syrup
3 ounces (85g) butter
1 vanilla bean
10 ounces (285g) hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed, chopped coarsely
8 ounces (200g) dark chocolate (72% cocoa is preferred) melted and cooled
1 ounce (28g) cocoa powder
3/4 tsp salt
6-8 ounces (170-225g) hazelnut oil (We couldn’t find hazelnut oil in the supermarket so we used macadamia nut oil instead and it was fine. I only used about 5 ounces all up.)
Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out all the lovely insides and put it into the sugar. Slice the two halves lengthwise again and mince them as finely as you can. Rub all that vanilla goodness into the sugar so you have vanilla sugar (this is also a good way to clean off your hands and knife from all that clingy vanilla bean paste.)
Place the sugar, butter, honey/corn syrup and water into a saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and stir continuously until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, not stirring, until the mixture reaches about 300 degrees (Farenheit, I think) on a candy thermometer (this is about 150 degrees Celsius) or pale golden brown. Or lovely deep golden brown, if you want to go that way.
Take off the heat and stir in the hazelnuts. As you can probably see from my pictures, I didn’t chop the hazelnuts beforehand but I chopped up my brittle fairly well after it set so it turned out ok.
Grease a baking tray and pour the brittle mixture in.
While you’re waiting for the brittle to set is a good time to melt your chocolate.
When it’s set, carefully remove it from the pan and break it into manageable chunks (I fairly well chopped mine because I was scared my small slightly-cracked-but-still-useable food processor might not hold up to the pressure.) Be careful not to cut yourself on the sharp brittle!
Pulse half the brittle in the food processor. As it keeps running, add in the rest of the brittle piece by piece until it’s pretty much powder. Stop the food processor and dump in the cocoa, chocolate and salt. Keep the processor running until it’s pretty well homogenised, then as it keeps running, carefully pour the oil in until it reaches your desired consistency.
Now is the time you dip everything you can get your hands on into this liquid gold and stuff it in your mouth. Soft white bread, crunchy baguette, chopped fruit – anything and everything tastes better dipped in nutella. Then pour it into jars, seal tightly and keep indefinitely at room temperature.
My boss has these muffins that he makes and they’re really popular. You make them in a texas muffin tin (extra large… yum…) and they’re made with oil and they have berries in them (yeah.. I am so articulate today.) And they’re amazing! So I wanted to recreate them for snacks because I get hungry at uni and if I get hungry and I don’t have food on me I’ll buy something unhealthy because I’m shopping while hungry. Not a good idea.
So I looked on my favourite baking sites and found this recipe by Smitten Kitchen, so I decided to make a control batch before I changed things up a bit. Well, controlled by raspberries. I do love me some raspberries.
The thing about baking when you have a bunch of assessments to do is that it’s procrastinating, and I didn’t want to do that so I studied for a bit and then made these and then… failed to study more because it was late by then and I scarfed down a muffin even though I really shouldn’t eat that late at night (especially sweet things). Then I procrastinated a bunch more on the internet.
Then, a week later, I wrote this. Then, two days after that again, I’m posting it. I’m sorry I’m such a busy, frazzled person. I made you muffins. Eat them.
Olive Oil Muffins
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Ok, so as I said, I made this as a ‘control recipe’ that was no where near controlled. I swapped in some almond meal, I didn’t use sliced almonds, I added raspberries. They were still delicious. There will be more muffins soon. Just let me finish my essays.
1 3/4 cup plain flour (I swapped in 3/4 cup almond meal for flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons orange zest (I used the zest of one orange)
2 teaspoons lemon zest (I used the zest of one lemon)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted (I used about a cup of whole almonds, blitzed them in the food processor, toasted them and then blitzed the big bits again. It wasn’t ideal and I’ll probably do it differently next time.)
about a cup of frozen raspberries
icing sugar, to sift over
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Spray a 12 hole muffin pan with canola spray and dust with flour. Set aside.
Whisk together flour, almond meal (if using) baking powder and salt.
Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs, sugar and zests until they are really light and fluffy. Beat in balsamic vinegar and milk.
Pour the olive oil in a thin stream as you beat. Crush the sliced almonds as you add them or just dump the blitzed almonds in. Gradually fold in flour mix with a spatula just until incorporated.
Fill each muffin cavity almost to the top with mixture. Crush some raspberries into each muffin and stir in with a fork.
Bake 20-25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes in tin, then on a cooling rack. Eat one asap, but be careful, they’re fragile. Sift icing sugar over and serve with butter.
I started uni again a couple of weeks ago and just after I started, I discovered this youtube channel and stopped studying before I started.
That’s not entirely true. My general dispensation to stay inside and read, combined with my intense nerdiness which means I geek out over textbooks (textbooks. Not even awesome soon to be published by favourite author who’s going to sign all the first printing of his new book books but textbooks. NERD ALERT) combined with the terrible weather combined with OH MY GOODNESS ALL MY CLASSMATES ARE SMART I NEED TO PROVE MYSELF ness means I still study. But still, I procrastinate. Not only by watching youtube videos but also by baking.
Unfortunately, I seem to be much more able to convince myself not to bake than not to watch youtube (here’s the probable reason why) but fortunately, when I do bake, I make some pretty awesome things.
Like these rolls.
They’re adapted from the most popular recipe on Joy the Baker, Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread, but I made the dough into rolls because I don’t own a loaf pan. Also because I knew that cream cheese glaze would work on cinnamon rolls. Because I still had some left over from when I made carrot pineapple cupcakes.
These were amazing. They are best eaten straight out of the oven, with or without the cream cheese glaze on top (alternatively, for a more complementary cream cheese glaze you can blend the cream cheese with icing sugar and milk until it’s silky smooth and drapes well over the buns.)
This is the song I was listening to when I made the buns:
I freaking love this song!!
And the one I listened to as I ate them:
Clearly I still have some issues to do with procrastination (and perhaps vlogbrothers…) but I have to say, it’s true that when I have to do something, like for uni, I procrastinate, whereas when I do it just for fun, it tends to happen a lot faster. And so I just have to pretend I’m not going to uni and not getting anything for this assessment that’s due in two days, and it’ll happen really quickly! Yay!
It’s been 21 days since the project started and there are some updates, but I don’t want to post twice in one day so you’ll have to wait until an as yet undetermined date. DFTBA.
UPDATE: I wrote this the day the first project incarnation was supposed to “end” but I’m posting it now. Please don’t hate me. The project is failing miserably but I’ll write more later.
Adapted from Joy the Baker
2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons plain flour
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
200g unsalted butter
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (approximately) sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
Whisk together 2 cups of the flour, yeast and salt and set aside.
Whisk together the eggs and set them aside.
Melt the butter with the milk in a saucepan. Let it cool slightly and add the water. Cool so it doesn’t kill the yeast (about room temperature is fine).
Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the milk mixture. Mix it together, then add the eggs and mix them in. Mix until it’s all incorporated, then add 3/4 cup flour and mix until that’s incorporated.
Place the dough in a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Leave in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.
*At this stage, you can refrigerate it until morning.
Deflate the dough (if you’re taking it from the fridge, just leave it out for about half an hour first) and knead in 2 tablespoons of flour. Let that sit for five minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Melt the butter. Butter a large baking dish. (Do this. I didn’t. Do.)
Now, roll out the dough until it’s about 50cmx30cm. Brush it with the melted butter, then scatter the dry filling ingredients all over it. Roll it up into a log and slice into thick rounds. Arrange these on the baking tray and let rise another half hour or so. You can preheat your oven now to 180 degrees C.
*Alternatively, at this point I refrigerated my buns overnight. I let them sit for half an hour in the morning while my oven was preheating, and then…
Bake the buns for about half an hour, until deep golden brown. Share with your housemates. I said share! I know it’s difficult. Do it.
In a time when I’m inundated with stuff to do (my to do lists are numerous and scarily interconnected, like one to do list spawns another and another. For example, Uni stuff. Then, Study and Work On Assignments. Then, I work unit by unit, prioritising by when I’m going to have that class or when that particular assessment is due, counterbalanced by what’s easiest or more fun. And we move on to my other to do stuff, long term and short term – I make lists when I’m stressed. And some of those lists may have to do with 1) why I’m stressed and 2) what I can do [will do, should do] to become destressed.) I can’t believe I digressed so easily already, so when I have so much stuff to do, I want to bake and I want to cook and I want to write for you (and for me, it’s more about me than you at this moment in time, sorry) SO MANY PARENTHESES, I’M SORRY! when I do cook it kinda has to be simple.
Enter vanilla baked pears. Not bears, I’m vegetarian, I’ve had this space for seven months and I still get asked if I’d like some baked bears, no thank you unless they’re tiny teddies.
Wow, I am so distracted. So, the lowdown is, make these. Pears are in abundance because it’s still winter (and aggressively so, it’s freezing!) so you can buy them and they won’t be too expensive. You don’t have to do much – peel, cut, and place the pears in a roasting dish.
Rub vanilla extract or the insides of half a vanilla bean in sugar. Sprinkle it over with lemon juice and water. Dot with butter.
Put in the oven for longer than I did. Eat with whipped cream, ice cream and lots and lots of pan juices. Feel better about everything.
Vanilla Baked Pears
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
I did not follow this recipe exactly, my pears were ripe rather than underripe, I should have left them in for longer, I had no vanilla beans. This was amazing anyway. So just do it.
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 600g which is probably about 6 slightly underripe pears, whatever kind, peeled, halved, cored
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp (approx) butter
Preheat oven to 190 degrees celsius.
If you have the vanilla bean, scrape the insides out and rub them into the sugar, and use the sugar to scrub the vanilla bean itself and also the vanilla off your fingers. Mmm, vanilla sugar.
If not, just rub the vanilla extract into the sugar.
Place the pears, cut side up, into a baking dish. Sprinkle with the sugar, dot with the butter, sprinkle with the lemon juice and water. Put the vanilla bean in the dish also, to make pear vanilla caramel juices (yum).
Bake about half an hour, basting every few minutes. Turn the pears over so the cut side is down and bake another about half hour, basting every now and then. Serve with whipped cream and/or ice cream.
Try not to burn your mouth when you wolf it down because it’s so delicious.