Monday, May 23, 2005

Pita bread

For a friend's 'Pot Luck' BBQ dinner over the weekend, I decided to contribute hoisin and sambal marinated pork chops (i had made these before) and thought i would experiment with Pita bread. I had read in a back issue of Delicious magazine (compliments of Jamie Oliver) a recipe for delicious pita bread cooked on the barbeque grill, drizzled once done with rosemary, olive oil and some sea salt.
I had never known one could 'bake' pita bread on the grill instead of in the heated confines of an oven.
After rolling the dough into flat oval shapes, they were thrown on the pit, approx 3 mins on each side - and true to form, they puffed up into white pita oval pieces, complete with the aesthetically 'decorative' charred lines of the grill imprinted on it.
Basting it with rosemary and olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt, i have to say they tasted great with the exception that they were not rolled out thin enough, and would probably have tasted better split into half instead of torn into chunks (with impatient eagerness by hungry hands!)
I know i have said it before, but i will say it again. There is nothing like baking your own bread. The satisfaction, the sense of accomplishment, it's ability to impress, the pure joy of taking that first bite knowing that you made it with your own bare hands. In Nigel Slater's book Appetite (great read, highly recommend it), he says 'There's nothing like baking bread. It's easy, and everyone thinks you're a genius for it'

I would certainly make this again when the chance for another BBQ arises. It's a wonderful alternative to fluffy hot dog buns, and certainly do wonders to add a touch of 'sophistication' to normal BBQ fare.
Unfortunately, i don't have a good picture of the pita bread - oh well, one will just have to make it again soon!

Below is the recipe for whole wheat pita breads (i decided to replace the whole wheat flour with bread flour for the BBQ version) and of course, instead of baking them as recipe below suggests, simply throw them on the BBQ pit 3 mins each side.

1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon honey
1 1/4 cups warm water (105–115°F)
2 cups bread flour or high-gluten flour, plus additional for kneading
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Cornmeal for sprinkling baking sheets

Stir together yeast, honey, and 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn't foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
While yeast mixture stands, stir together flours in another bowl. Whisk 1/2 cup flour mixture into yeast mixture until smooth, then cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Stir in oil, salt, remaining 3/4 cup warm water, and remaining 2 1/2 cups flour mixture until a dough forms.

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead, working in just enough additional flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and put in an oiled large bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough and cut into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Flatten 1 ball, then roll out into a 6 1/2- to 7-inch round on floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Transfer round to 1 of 2 baking sheets lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Make 7 more rounds in same manner, arranging them on baking sheets. Loosely cover pitas with 2 clean kitchen towels (not terry cloth) and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Set oven rack in lower third of oven and remove other racks. Preheat oven to 500°F.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Warm Bread Rolls

These bread rolls didn't actually taste as good as they look in the picture. I have baked bread on a few ocassions in the past to great success, my favourite recipe being tomato and onion bread. Now let me tell you that there is absolutely NOTHING like the smell of warm bread wafting out of your oven. My first experience of this was in England, when i had stayed a week with an English friend who lived in the countryside. She had a beautiful home with rabbits in her backyard, ponies that she would feed with fresh carrots at the field nearby and a bright kitchen with big windows that allowed the morning sunlight to stream in. She also had a lovely mother who baked bread. I remember the strong smell of warm freshly made bread wafting around in seductive circles in her kitchen (it was near midnight! i wonder if most 'bakers' have a craving to 'create' in the wee hours of the morning?!) My friend and i sat on kitchen stools watching in anticipation as her mother pulled the proud loaf of bread out of her big oven, cut them into thick slices and allowed us to slather an obscenely generous slab of salted butter on them. We oohed and aahed as the butter melted into the warm slice, and oh - the joy of that experience. I have never forgotten that - and that experience has never been replicated since. Except now in my kitchen!

I was experimenting with a new recipe downloaded from the net, inspired into action by a dinner i'm making for a party of eight on Saturday night. The pressure was on to produce a perfect loaf of bread. This recipe was quite frankly a disaster. It instructed me to heat the oil, milk and water in a pan until the temperature was at 160 degrees farhenheit. Silly me trusted they knew what they were talking about, but having searched the net since, it seems that yeast will not survive beyond 115 degrees farhenheit. So effectively, i killed off the yeast by pouring in this almost boiling mixture, and as a result, did not get the dough to rise, or double in size. It sat there, a nice elastic blob (dough hook used for the first time with my kitchenaid!) refusing to grow or develope air bubbles (punching down the dough was a futile exercise).

Nevertheless -that lovely sweet bready smell came wafting out of my oven, and taking that first bite of 'near hot' bread with butter was still a little piece of heaven. But the texture of the dough was stodgy and heavy - not ideal at all.

more bread rolls to be made then! these are not the end of my midnight projects.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Carrot & Raisin Cupcakes

My weekly delivery of muffins to the cafe continues, and this week, i decided to branch out a bit from the ordinary to whip up some Carrot and Raisin muffins. I've made a cake from this recipe before, with a cream cheese frosting and it was delicious! The only modifications i made to the recipe for 'muffin' versions were to use double acting baking powder (for the large domed top) and omitted the cream cheese frosting because i wasn't sure how popular these would be, and didn't want to leave the cream cheese languishing atop the muffins all day,unrefrigerated.

Rain and Muffin Cravings
I returned to the cafe on a late Sunday afternoon to see that only 1 muffin had been purchased! The cafe owners consoled me with the fact that nothing 'sweet' had been sold all day - we blamed it on the weather! (heavy pouring rain throughout the day i suppose sparks off the need for greasy savoury fry ups , warm toast and sausages) - a longing for sunny side ups to will the sun into it's blazing glory.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Lemon Chiffon Delight

Bear with me - i have to rant on about my Kitchenaid. It will probably last me through a few more entries on this blog. The presence of this gleaming beauty in my kitchen has well invaded my dreams of big fluffy cakes otherwise impossible to create without the help of some amazing tools. And it didn't take long before i started fantasising about making that perfect Chiffon cake.

I have been eating chiffon cakes since i was a child. A common cake in Malaysia, a constant feature in one's neighbourhood bakery,my mum would often buy one of 2 varieties - pandan and orange. A single chiffon cake would sit on our dining table on a Saturday, slowly disappearing in quarters as the day went on.

Since migrating to a kitchen of my own, i have attempted chiffon cakes twice. Both to no particular success - the base of the cake would taste dense, and there would be a lack of 'air' in the texture. But with a Lemon Chiffon cake newly downloaded from the net, i was ready to brave it once again with my 'kitchenaid' courage.

Whisking 8 egg whites is no easy feat unless you have a kickass machine (see what i mean about the constant bragging!) i almost wanted to hug my kitchenaid in appreciation as it whisked away in whirring efficiency, whipping the egg whites into a frothy storm.

Lemon Chiffon cakes are not for those watching their cholesterol. 8 large eggs can't be all that good for you. Having said that - no butter - only half a cup of vegetable oil, hence the lack of the 'oily' aftertaste one gets from a buttery cake.

After one hour baking time in the oven, i lifted it out of it's heated cocoon to witness a chiffon cake in full bloom, all light and airy and fluffy as god intended.
My first bite was heaven. The first thought that popped into my head was 'I gotta let my mum try this' - it was the sweet taste of cakes eaten at home, purchased from the market, shared with the family. Only this time, i was eating it once again at midnight under the curious stare of my ginger cat - and i sure as hell wasn't about to share it with him.