Monday, December 28, 2009

Bread baking

Baking bread is something I haven't done for a while, I used to do it lots as I couldn't buy the bread I liked, but the introduction of Artisan bread in Australia over the last few years has made me drop the habit. This morning however we had run out of bread and as today is a public holiday, getting decent fresh bread is not really possible, I decided to dust of my bread making skills and make us some.

I used a simple wholemeal recipe from Delia's How to Cook, Book One, Quick and easy wholemeal loaf, p. 82. If you've never made bread I recommend this recipe as it is easy and delicious.

Quick and easy wholemeal loaf
Makes 1 large or two small loaves
1 lb 4 oz (570g) 100% organically produced wholewheat flour, plus a little extra for the top of the bread (I used bread flour which has more gluten and provides a better structure)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon soft light brown sugar
2 teaspoons dried yeast
about 14 floz (400 ml) hand-hot water

You will also need a 2lb (900 g) loaf tin or two q lb (450 g) loaf tins, well buttered.

Begin by warming the flour slightly in the oven for about 10 mins, turn oven off for now.

Next, tip the warm flour into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt, sugar, yeast into it and mix together.

Make a well in the centre of your mixed flour and add the water. Mix this in with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough; the exact amount of water you need depends on the flour. Finish off by mixing with your hands until you have a smooth dough that leaves the bowl clean - there should be no bits of flour or dough remaining on the sides of the bowl and unlike pastry, its better to have too much water than too little. (NB: I use my Kenword dough mixing hook for this but hand mixing is just as good and more authentic).

Transfer your dough to a flat surface (your clean kitchen table is fine) stretch the dough into an oblong, then fold one edge into the centre and the other over that. Now fit the dough into the tin, pressing it firmly all round the edges, so that the top will be slightly rounded. Next, sprinkle the surface with a generous dusting of flour, then cover with a damp, clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 - 40 minutes or at room temperature for about an hour. If your making two loaves, divide the dough in half before following the steps above and folding it into two tins.

Meanwhile, pre-eat the oven to 200oC. When the dough is risen to the top of your tin/s, bake the bread for 40 minutes for the 2 lb or 30 mins for the two 1 lb loaves. When the bread is cooked, turn it out of its tin/s, turn it out on a cloth to protect your hands - it will sound hollow when wrapped underneath with your knuckles. Then return the bread, out of its tin/s, upside-down to the oven for a further5 - 10 minutes to crisp the base and sides.

Cool the bread on a wire rack, and never put it away or freeze it until its absolutely cold!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Summer Solstice - the end of a busy year

This year we celebrated Summer Solstice, or Litha, before the 21st December, last Saturday in fact, with our friends, a lovely BBQ under the oak tree, until it rained! That's the Blue Mountains and Climate Change for you LOL. I must admit that the rain pleases me, living so close to the Blue Mountains World Heritage National Park, hot summers make me twitchy about bush fire.

Summer Solstice signals the end of the year in Australia, school has finished, so has uni, nervous students are awaiting the results of their end of year exams on the beach while their parents madly scrabble to organise Christmas or Chanukah (Hanukkah). We all go to end of year parties, catch up with people we haven't seen all year because our lives are stupidly busy; and say good bye to another year with the hope that the next one will be different than the last.

Everyone is gearing up for some sort of summer break, though much less than in the past as Australians work far more than they should, its depressing that so many let the summer slide by without paying it any attention.

I'm looking forward to our two week holiday as this has been a huge year for us. We sold our house, bought a new one, packed, moved, both of us studied part-time and our work places were incredibly busy and not that fun to be in. I became a registered Civil Marriage Celebrant and got a business coach, Terri Cook of SuccessZone, to help me get the business up and running.

We hope to spend our summer holiday in the garden destroying the jasmine that the former owners let take over the garden. We have cleared at least half, but as our garden is big, there's still loads to do. We hope to create a small pond and build our own small stone henge from rocks taken from our former garden. Not sure if we'll achieve all of this as I also hope to get back into the studio to continue my Saloon Girl outfit. Really need three months, not two weeks!

I wish everyone a fabulous end of year festivity, whatever you may be celebrating, I hope the new year brings the joy, success, prosperity and happiness that you are looking for.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Something old, new, borrowed and blue - A marriage registry cover

I'm working with a business coach for the next year to help establish Blue Mountains Celebrations, I'm using Terri Cook (@TerriCook on Twitter) of SuccessZone and she is brilliant, I am learning lots and gaining confidence as I go. Terri sets me many tasks each week, all based around getting me into the Blue Mountains Celebrations business mode. Some of them are extremely practical but others are creative projects.

Terri set me the task to create something for my business using the creative skills I use for quilting and costuming. I thought about an item of clothing, but it didn't excite me and then at a GTG yum cha with my celebrant group Janette mentioned that she'd like a Marriage Registry cover, both to protect it and to make it special. My heart said, 'that's it' and I went on to create it.

For those of you who don't know, the Marriage Register is where your marriage details are entered and kept for posterity, once full, its returned to Birth Deaths and Marriages and kept for ever. If you have ever done family history searches, you may have used one in your search. The Register will out live me and all my couples, so it needs to be protected and kept clean and safe.

I went to my fabric stash and had a hunt for suitable fabrics, I have lots of fabric, laces, ribbons, braids, left over from my mother's wedding and ball gown couturier business, amongst them I found some perfect fabric and trims. As I'm a quilter, I decided to use these skills to make the cover. As this is my first cover I chose a traditional theme 'Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue'. I also made a book mark/place holder from a lovely blue woven braid and tassels.

It was a great project and gave me much pleasure. I know a business plan is more practical, but making this cover made my heart sing and let me see how my creativity could be used to enhance the business.

The positive thing from this is that Janette has commissioned me to make one, which is a bonus, and I will investigate interest and maybe there is a handmade product for Etsy so 'watch this space'!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Tipsy Christmas cake

I missed Stir-Up Sunday this year but I did get my Christmas cake made before December. I use my mother's recipe and I have blogged about it on Edna's Recipe's, the blog I have set up for my mum's recipes.

I love this recipe, I stray from it occasionally but always return, as it is such a delicious and no fuss recipe. Try it, you will enjoy it.