Sunday, July 31, 2011


Tip scrounging - back at it again.  I'm thinking strawberry containment..

Crochet wrap, pattern here, raveled here
Party  breads

The garlic is plodding along nicely...

...between it and the parsley, the garden in pretty much covered. With the odd rhubarb stalk shooting out making it's presence known..

Washed skeins from the op-shopped jumper,  550g total. The possibilities!

Snowpeas are flowering in the greenhouse..not long to go!!

'Bounce' - a weekend favourite when the sun happens to shine.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Homemade Sour Cream

Sour Cream. I had  thought about making it from time to time but kept putting it off because it's not something our household goes through a lot of..although lately I've been finding myself buying the little plastic tubs more often than usual. Surely there was a better way?

To make sour cream at home is quite similar to making yoghurt,  the only difference being that cream is used instead of milk. The culture process is the same though, albeit with a 'sour cream' culture in place of a yoghurt one.

Homemade Sour Cream
Take any quantity of pouring cream you have available (near end of use by is good!), and place it in a saucepan. Around 1-1 1/2 cups is good.  Heat over low heat to a gentle simmer, remove from stove and allow to cool to lukewarm.

Add a couple of tablespoons of commercially prepared sour cream and whisk with a fork to combine. Pour the mixture into a clean glass jar, wrap in a kitchen towel and allow to sit somewhere draught free and cosy for 24-48 hours. The culturing process will take longer than your homemade yoghurt.

This is my sour cream after 48 hours in the toasty warm cupboard next to the fire (I wish I could squeeze myself in there!):

Fresh, homemade sour cream after 48 hours incubation
The cream had set into a thick mixture although is not quite the thickness I associate with bought sour cream.

After an overnight stint in the fridge, the sour cream sets beautifully, with a slightly different taste than the shop bought variety. Sooo...THIS is what homemade tastes like!

The same sour cream after setting overnight in the fridge.
Store refrigerated for up to a week. Use a couple of tablespoons from this jar to make the next batch and so on.  Don't you just love re-culturing?!

Use the cream the same way you would the bought kind. Delicious on baked potatoes. A couple of tablespoons added to your scone mixture will also add a surprising lightness.

With a fridge full of sour cream at the moment, I can feel a batch of nachos coming on.... oooh, should I or shouldn't I??

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Potato Bread

Have you ever eaten potato bread? Bread made with potato included in the dough somehow..? I have taken delight in making a potato and rosmeary bread in the past which includes a high percentage of mashed potatoes in the dough. This day however, I didn't want to play with big quantities of mashed potatoes, just a small amount that was leftover from dinner the night before...along with the half litre of potato water that the spuds were cooked in.

Cooking with potato water can add a whole other dimension to your I have discovered! This particular loaf was fluffy and moist, almost verging on the highly processed packaged white bread from the supermarkets  *gasp* that is forbidden in our house and that kids just love to ....well, love.

Our humble loaf here did not include any of those nasties that are the standard offerings in such mass produced, supermarket white loaves. Just flour, potatoes, water and salt. It's good enough for me, and it's good enough for our kids, oh yes!

Save the cooking water from boiled potatoes to make a fluffy, moist loaf with high kid appeal.  This one's definitely made it to the lunchboxes, thank goodness for that!

Potato Bread
makes 2 loaves
400g sourdough starter, active and bubbling
1 kg flour, your choice (I used a mix of strong white and organic white)
550g potato water, the leftover cooled water that has been used to boil potatoes
100g (1/2 cup) cold mashed potatoes
2  1/2 tsp salt

Combine dough ingredients by mixing sourdough starter and potato water together. Add flour and mashed potatoes and mix well by hand or machine. Delay addition of salt. Prove over several hours (this day I left it out on the bench virtually all day - 5 hours, while I was caught up doing other things) with gentle folds each hour or so or when I remembered. Shape into two loaves and allow to rise again for another few hours (3-4), until nearly doubled in size. Mist lightly with water spray and bake in a preheated 220c oven for 20 minutes, rotating loaves if needed and baking for a further 30-40 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

The potato is not noticeable at all in this bread, just the moistness and fluffliness that it provides, which makes it a satisfying loaf to make; one, because it is utilising a waste ingredient from the kitchen (potato water which is usually discarded) and two, because it appeals to even the fussiest least in our family! Enjoy.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

At our place...

...on this cold wintery day, sits an op-shopped jumper. After careful inspection I discovered it was a handknit worked in thick yarn in what I suspect is a wool/soybean mix (Prism).

Of course the jumper had to make it's way home with us (along with the waffle maker  and the coffee plunger), to be unravelled and niddy-noddied/skeined before washing. This is one sleeve. I'm not really sure on what to make with it yet or who for but quite often the choosing turns out to be the most enjoyable part..

I had tried to persuade the 9yo to be excited at the prospect of me making her a sleeveless wrap number but she was not keen. Does this happen to you? You have a project in mind but the potential recipient isn't grateful for your suggestions? What to do! (???). There is a LOT of yarn here and it would be great to see it go into something substantial instead of adding to the already cluttered cupboard of scarves and hats....

(Hospital visiting over the holidays)

My new favourite garden ornament! A salvaged kettle from the tip shop. Initially I had thought to plant something edible in it although I'm loving looking at it through the window just the way it is!

Crochet is happening! This time to use up ends of balls in cushion covers. I do love anything in a granny square.. they are so fast to whip up. Groups of three trebles separated by 2 chains..that's it! It couldn't be easier (or more relaxing). Mind numbing, sleep inducing crochet, aahhhh yes....

The cushion covers were inspired after the 11yo dragged out several home movies to watch over the holidays featuring her as a baby..and well, let's just say our cushion covers which were brand spanking new at the time were not looking so great 10 years on. Time for a change!! Most definitely!!

And hidden in a dark, cosy cupboard next to the fireplace lurks a dairy experiment..

We're not quite there yet with the little jar..but hopefully soon. Updates to follow.

What's happening at your place?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


*The fast and easy kind. Plus a little of the rambling kind, too.*

Over the holidays, during a long awaited op-shop crawl with 'tweens in tow, I happened to come across a little treasure hidden deep within the cluttered kitchen goods section at my favourite 'oppy'. Beyond the tupperware and aluminium pots, just behind a coffee plunger (which I confess happened to make it's way home with us), lurked a barely used waffle maker. I couldn't believe our luck! I had been lusting after just such a waffle maker for the longest time although never acted on my yearnings as it was a luxury purchase I just couldn't justify. But finding one in the op-shop that day was a whole other story... I was donating to a local charity plus giving something a second lease on life. Needless to say I snapped the little gem up without a further thought.

Do you know it makes the most amazing waffles? In mere minutes! Plus, the little treasure beeps when it's time to add the mix and then once more when it's finished cooking!

An op-shop treasure of the loveliest kind..

It was waffles for afternoon tea that day, and then for dessert. For dessert again the following night. A day or two to take a (much needed) breather and then back at it again with more waffles for dessert. Oh, my, oh  my, my body isn't used to such indulgences. Hot waffles straight from the iron. I do daydream about making a batch and freezing them for quick snacks to run through the toaster..although they haven't managed to get as far as the freezer..yet.

If you have an old waffle maker at the back of your cupboard, pull it out, dust it off and get cooking! The smell of those waffles wafting will cause one to wonder how indeed it managed to find it's way all the way back there into the darkened depths, or perhaps it was too late? You took it to the local oppy for a better home?

It's ok, this little sweetheart found such a home.

Waffles - the fast and easy kind
(because let's face it - we really just want to get on with eating the delicious offerings, don't we?)

2 cups plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tbs raw sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups milk
2 tbs homemade yoghurt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix the wet ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Allow to stand if there is time, around 10-20 minutes is fine. If not, don't worry. Cook in preheated waffle maker according to your maker's directions. Serve warm and do remember the ice-cream!

To re-heat later, toast on low setting for a crunchy, warm slice of winter indulgence.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A holiday excursion..

Before the holidays, the 11yo came home from school with a free pass to the Central Deborah Gold Mine in Bendigo in recognition of her efforts in the 'Gold' topic they had been studying! She was excited to go and with sports activities and school starting back up again next week, this was going to be our last chance for a while. Here are a few pics of our excursion...

Did you ever play quoits? Memories!

Not in use since the 1950's, the mine offers a fun experience for kids and adults. Greeted by our hilarious host, 'Bluey' (see second photo), the tour is full of historical anecdotes with a (noisy) demonstration or two on how the gold is extracted deep underground. The tour runs for 75 minutes although allow another hour or so to explore the outside displays and to pan for gold.

Central Deborah is also the pick up and drop off depot for the Talking Tram which travels through the streets of Bendigo. Take a jacket if you're planning on going down the's chilly!

Central Deborah Gold Mine, Bendigo, Victoria.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Chia - an experimental loaf

Chia. Just what is all the fuss about? Superfood? Ancient Grain? You may have heard these words tossed around in the same sentence as Chia.  Is this seed a  passing phase or is it here to stay?

I couldn't resist my curiosity this week when I found myself in a baking shop and came across these seeds. I came home with a precious little package containing 250g chia seeds for which I paid $5.00. Not bad, I thought, if they go the distance...

But what of the health benefits?

Chia, belonging to the mint family has been in use since ancient Aztec times, originally used as a cash crop. Gluten free, the seed can be eaten raw or cooked, whole or ground and is the highest known plant source of omega-3. The seeds are also high in fibre and protein, are known to lower blood pressure being rich in essential fatty acids and can stabilise blood sugar levels. Non GMO and pesticide free, the list of further health benefits seems to go on and on!

So, I was sold! Yes, albeit after I had made the purchase but that was fine with me.

But what to do with them?

The lady in the shop told me they absorb quite a bit of water so to soak them first when making bread and to take this soaking liquid into account in the recipe quantities.

Ok! I could try that!

Eager to play with my intriguing new chia seeds, I prepared the soak. The seeds were soaked in cold water at a ratio of 1:4 (50g seeds, 200ml water), overnight which produced a thick chia 'gel'.

Chia gel - seeds and water that have been soaked overnight
The gel was added to the dough ingredients at the mixing stage and the water slightly reduced to take this gooey gel into account.

Two loaves crammed full of chia. The loaf was incredibly moist..after resting for 12 hours and then slicing. SO moist! And it toasted up beautifully..even though it seemed to take aaages to brown in the toaster...

..and the taste?

It's hard to know if there is any taste coming from the chia - definitely not anything noticable,anyway. I was however blown away with how moist the loaf was..I know I mentioned this already, but it was really surprising!

Chia Experimental Loaves (#1)
makes 2 smaller loaves

50g chia seed
200ml water

400g sourdough starter
800g flour (I used a mix of strong white and organic white)
450g water
1 1/2 tsp salt
poppy seeds for garnish, optional

Soak the chia seeds and water overnight. The following morning mix all ingredients together, delaying the addition of salt. Fold often on floured surface over 4-5 hours (dough will be moist and flowing). Shape. As the dough was moist, I chose to use tins, although if free form loaves were sought, the water content could be reduced in the original ingredients. Allow to rise for 3-4 hours until doubled in size. Score and bake at 220c for 20 mins, rotate loaves and reduce temp to 200c and bake for a further 20-30 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Coincedentally, Brydie has also been playing with chia this week. Take a look at her hippy Chia Quinoa Bread here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Primping and Preening..

The fascinating display that was put on for us while eating lunch. I think they could've gone on like this all day!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Date and Nut Sourdough Loaves

After baking a couple of naturally leavened fruit loaves recently, I had been tossing around ideas for different fruit combinations which proved to be quite a task for a person who rejects sultanas, raisins and currants in all their cooked forms!

Dates had been calling to me though and while I think pecans would go wonderfully in this bread, walnuts were used instead as that is what we had at the time and I wanted to use them up.

Date and Nut Loaves
makes 2 hefty loaves

500g leaven/starter
700g bread flour
300g wholemeal flour (I used Atta, just for play)
1 tbs golden syrup
1/4 cup soft brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp finely ground sea salt
550g water - dechlorinated
1 cup dates, chopped (2 cups if you're hankering for a date fix)
1 cup nuts, your preference - I used a mixture of walnuts and flaked almonds (2 cups if you want to go nuts! Pun intended)
3 tsp mixed spice

I've been mixing the dough in my old mixmaster which performs the task beautifully - so long as the dough hooks are attached, very important - this is not beater territory! First the starter is added, then the water which is swished around to ensure the starter is well diluted. Then the remaining ingredients are added, minus the salt which is added up to an hour or so after the dough has first been mixed. This delayed addition of the salt helps the dough get a kick start on growing, as salt acts as a yeast inhibitor.

Ingredients are tossed in to the mixmaster bowl. This quantity is about the maximum my humble bowl here will accommodate.

Mixing on low speed, no need to go nuts! (ah, this time pun not intended!)
Once the dough has sat for a spell and the salt has been added, pull it out onto a floured surface and knead briefly, then wash out the bowl, dry and oil it then place the dough back in. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (or a damp tea towel) and leave to sit at room temperature. Time isn't crucial - remember this is a very forgiving dough!

Back to the plastic wrap, I like to use this as it stops any draughts entering the bowl and forming a crust on the dough - I have a couple out on the bench and just keep re-using them over and over until their appearance gets beyond my liking.

Whenever I am walking past the dough, through the kitchen or I remember, it is pulled out and 'folded' gently, from anything to 20 minute to 1 hour intervals. To fold, pat it out gently into a rough rectangle then fold the two outer thirds in on themselves towards the center. A scraper or egg flip can come in handy if the dough is sticking to the bench (try not to add too much flour, just a sprinkle - enough to stop it sticking).

Folding the dough - pat it out gently into a thick, large rectangle...

..then fold the two outer thirds into the center. Repeat another1-2 times until the dough won't fold anymore.
This gentle folding over a generous time frame distributes the air pockets evenly throughout the dough and assists the gluten development.

Having a glass bowl is particularly handy for observing this take place;
After several hours of occasional gentle folds - this dough has formed air pockets to my liking! Do you get excited about air pockets?
Once the dough is at this stage, I shape it and place on trays or in tins. Free form loaves were calling to me with this batch, which were propped up with clean tea-towels (impromptu couches) to stop the dough from flopping about all over the place.

Two to three hours later the loaves can be baked, depending on how fast/slow they are rising (room temperature - hot/cold?).  Preheat the oven to 220c, score the loaves, spray mist lightly with water and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce oven to 200c, rotate loaves if needed and bake for another 20-30 minutes until cooked to your liking.

No photos of shaping as I had to feed the goats, and scoring was done in a mad panic while preparing dinner! Ahh, bottlenecks in the oven - this needs better planning!
Date and Nut loaves
The finished loaves are surprisingly 'hot cross bun-ish' with a date twist. The addition of nuts I also find very appealing.  Eat fresh as is, or toasted...

With butter.

Plenty of butter.

Did I mention the butter?

Let's not skimp on the butter...