Monthly Archives: March 2013

Apple, Caramelised Onion and Brie Tart (with beetroot pastry).

recipe: beetroot pastryA decent menu is always a source of anxiety. To be forced to select one dish and neglect all the others can be a torment. This tart is well suited for those whom, understandably, find themselves indecisive around food: it sits in that magical sweet spot between sweet and savoury, saving you the agonies of at least one decision by generously satisfing both appetites at once. For those with firmer opinions on just what it is they want to eat, the tart can be made more savoury by skimming back on the apple and adding a little potato and crisp pancetta. I would not attempt to make this tart more distinctively sweet. The caramelised onion is essential to it and an onion in a sweet is just unpermissable in any circumstances.  Your sweet tooth will be far better served by another recipe.

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Rose and Nectarine Tartlets for those suffering the dulling effects of romantic contentment.

 

recipe: rose and peach tartI am, by some luck, no longer compelled to date. In many ways this is a relief. All that incessant grooming and leaving the flat is a lifestyle that I am pleased to leave behind. My romantic success has, however, come with a cost. All this happiness has comprised my competence both in wit and in the kitchen.

While I’m still a terrible show-off, I am now missing that slight sense of urgency that gives a single woman the edge both in banter and in baking. I was never quite so brilliant as when I was displaying my accomplishments in an effort to attract a suitor. Much of my free time was spent crafting gleaming witticisms for upcoming text messages and equally charming flavour combinations for upcoming dinner dates.

Surely, the finest dinners and the finest dinner conversations must be the work of romantic-hopefuls. The romantically-content could not hope to compete.

My self-esteem is, thankfully, just low enough to have me seek the approval of many more people in addition to my beloved. I still display in an attempt to impress, and this keeps me and my tarts just passable. I am not what I used to be and so I apologise, dear reader, for the quality of the recipe to follow.Recipe rose and peach/ nectarine tart

 

I was feeling particularly well loved on the day I made these Rose and Nectarine Tartlets:

Ingredients:

  1. Whatever bit of pastry your can get your hands on. In my case it was a bit of shop bought puff-pastry that due to some scandals of improper storage had lost all its “puff”. Puff-pastry without its puff is, I suppose, short-crust pastry.
  2. Nectarines sliced and coated in a sprinkling of flour, sugar and a heavy splash or rose water.

If you have no rose water on hand you might try grinding some minced coriander leaf or basil leaf into the sugar as an equally sophisticated substitute.

Method:

Arrange coated nectarine slices on top of a bit of pastry ( I used a round pastry cutter to cut mine into large circles) and bake at about 200 degrees Celsius until pastry has browned and the sugar has melted.

I served these with a bit of cream cheese mixed with honey because I had it lying around.

Recommended variations for the slightly less content:

  1. Use pastry that has not been frightfully abused
  2. Do an egg wash on the parts of the pastry not covered with pastry
  3. Garnish with chopped pistachios
  4. Serve with whipped cream

Variations for those in search of true-love:

  1. Make your own puff-pastry.   (As shown here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/video/2012/jul/09/how-make-puff-pastry-video)

If your pastry has puff you will have to prick holes all over the area on which the nectarine slices lie, to keep that area from puffing up.

2. Serve with home-made ice-cream (coriander leaf or pistachio would be best) and clever conversation.recipe: rose and peach tart

 

Oprah’s Biscuits

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Three to five times a week I put on the ugliest clothes and shoes that I can find in my cupboard and go out into the world to make a sweaty spectacle of myself, up and down the streets of Cape Town. Yip, that’s right I am the most ordinary of all things: I am a jogger. Jogging makes a great mediator in the constant battle between my gluttony and vanity. Its is also something of an addiction. I have, truth be told, even run a marathon. Oh the things I got to eat during this time. There is nothing quite like a 32km training running to prepare you appetite for the finer things in life.DSC_0773 (2)

It took me about four and half hours to run a marathon, just like Oprah. This marathon time was my only connection to the Grand Madame, until recently. At around about the time Oprah was publicly but gently scolding that handsome scoundrel Lance Armstrong, her representatives in South Africa were concerned with more delightful matters- matters relating to Pretty Biscuits. I know this because I am the recent and proud recipient of an email requesting photographs of some my very pretty biscuits (pictured in this post) for “possible inclusion in South Africa’s O magazine”.

Possible inclusion, people!

Move over Posh Beckham, I’m famous!

I think that now that I am famous I will have Opes over for tea and pretty biscuits where I will suggest a dimension to the Lance case that I think her interview overlooked. These world-class athletes are apparently not permitted to eat delicious baked goods and pretty biscuits, in the interest of performace. Given these harsh conditions its hardly surprising that they should misbehave now and then. Surely, we would all be the most dreadful people if we did not have regular treats to bolster our moral courage and keep us on the straight and narrow. I know that I, at least, would be capable of the most unspeakable things if, after making a sweaty and lycra clad spectacle of myself, I was not rewarded with cakes and biscuits. Oprah will agree and our friendship will be sealed . Oprah, Gail, Lance (now forgiven) and I will get together once a month to swap recipes.

For more about my Pretty Biscuits you can visit my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/PrettyBiscuit

Pretty Biscuit

How to Learn to Bake: Eat, Obey, Love (Part 3/3)

Part 3: LoveDSC_0141 (2)

Every now and then one of my many friends committed to the superiority of cooking over baking will take time out from all their obscene, frantic and misguided chopping to inform me that “baking is not an art like cooking. Baking is just recipe-following”. What vile slander! I am now, as always, outraged by these accusations. In fact I must pause briefly, before launching my defense, to go in search of the calming properties of some gluten.

I return fed and restored ( with the crumbs of a pumpkin and sage bread roll trailing behind me). I continue: By the time that you have eaten your way to expertise and have a vague handle on the basic techniques of baking you are bound to find every recipe you come across in urgent need of a little finessing . And finesse it you must. A Saturday spent strategising and executing a “recipe-adjustment” is a rare pleasure and fine reward to your careful obedience. Its time to be the heretic to your recipe bibles; its time to make baking your art.

Of course you cannot stray too far from the basic guidelines, there is science to be considered here. But there are still all kinds of things that can be done and what better reason is there to do them. You will require inspiration and in baking there is no finer inspiration than love in all its forms. Bake to nurture, bake to seduce or bake to comfort those you love. The personal preferences of your loved ones and the associations you have with them will naturally shape any recipes into your own. This does not mean that the misanthrope is lost. We don’t only love people. You might fall in love with a flavour combination, a colour or even a season and let it inspire you.

The most constant object of my affections is, rather distastefully, myself. Self-love is powerful inspiration and something I recommend to all amateur bakers. Bake for hubris, bake to boast, bake for pride and bake to prove to everybody else how skilled and artful you are in the kitchen.

This post is the third in a series:

Part One (Eat): https://thephilosophyofdelight.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/how-to-learn-to-bake-eat-obey-love-prt13/

Part Two (Obey): https://thephilosophyofdelight.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/how-to-learn-to-bake-eat-obey-love-part-23/

Disclaimer: I am probably poorly qualified to tell you how to learn to bake. My only credentials are the few unwanted kilograms I carry around my waist and the fact that my hair is always matted together with icing. This is how I learned to bake. It might work for you it might just make you fat and scruffy-looking.

Rooibos, Apple and Pecan Bread

Rooibos, Pecan and Apple Loaf

Rooibos, Pecan and Apple Loaf

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Rooibos, Apple and Roasted Pecan Breakfast Bread
While this loaf makes for a handsome and edifying breakfast it also gets on terribly well with a bit of  cheese- making its virtues enjoyable and accesible to the late riser/eater.

Makes One Medium Loaf

Ingredients:

  1. 300ml strong dark brewed Rooibos Tea, luke -warm
  2. 340g white bread flour
  3. 20g fresh yeast (or 3tsp dried fast action yeast)
  4. 1 ½ tsp salt
  5. 100g Roasted Pecans roughly chopped
  6. 50g Dried Apple roughly chopped
  7. 1tsp honey and some extra for drizzling
  8. A little oil

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Instructions.

A) For the Starter:

  • Combine Rooibos, yeast, 1tsp honey and 100g of the flour in a large bowl.
  • Leave to stand for about an hour and a half.

B) For the loaf

  • Mix the remainder of the flour and the salt to the starter.
  • Now knead the dough until its smooth and hold its shape (click here for a clear guide to knowing when you can stop kneading: http://www.thekitchn.com/bread-baking-tip-how-to-tell-w-156772)
  • Shape the kneaded dough into a rough ball and place into a large oiled bowl
  • Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave the dough to rise until it is about twice its original size.
  • Place the risen dough onto the counter and knead quickly and gently. Spread it out on the counter.
  • Sprinkle the dough with the Apple and Roasted Pecan and knead until its evenly spread.
  • Shape dough into loaf (or place into bread tin), remove any apples pieces that are on the surface of the crust (these will burn quickly). Here is an excellent guide to shaping bread:http://www.thefreshloaf.com/handbook/shaping
  • Allow the loaf to prove for about 30-40 minutes, until is 1 ½ times its original size. If you want to score your loaf do this about 20minutes into this time.
  • Bake in the top third of a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for about 40 minutes (until loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath)
  • Remove from oven and drizzle with a little honey
  • leave to cool before slicing.DSC_0221 (2)

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How to Learn to Bake: Eat, Obey, Love (Part 2/3)

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Part Two: Obey

Being a rather grave sort of girl, I have always enjoyed a bit of gravitas in the kitchen. It is for this this reason I like my recipe books to have the word “Bible” in the title . It seems only fitting that instruction in matters most important and miraculous to me should be contained in a volume that portents to be a final and serious authority: one fitting of my most earnest obedience. Obedient you must be if you are to learn to bake. There are all kinds of techniques to be mastered and many these are not easy. You must find some authority to whom you can submit and let them show you how to bake.

Even with the best instruction its going to be hard work. I have met people that claim to find their new found hobby of baking relaxing. The liars! Or, if not liars, they are bound to be doing a shoddy job. If your are not suffering from the equivalent of road-rage in your kitchen then then you probably aren’t learning to bake. All kinds of the most appalling things will happen in your first few weeks: You will burn your sugar syrup, you will overwork your pastry, you will under-prove your bread and you will, almost certainly, at some point forget to add the eggs. Oh, the trauma! When these things occur you must prepare yourself for fits of rage and frustration. You will find yourself covered in flour, banging your pots and pans about the kitchen and using all kinds of filthy language that you didn’t know you knew. The more closely you obey instructions the less this will happen, but it will happen.

It is going to be frustrating but it is also going to be fulfilling. Wipe the mascara from your cheeks, Novice-Baker, and feel contented. Your apple and walnut cake might have sunk in the middle but you probably now know why and knowing this, makes you just a little bit better at baking. And being just a little bit better at baking means,as we all know, that you are just a little bit better at living.

Have a look at the first part of this series here:

https://thephilosophyofdelight.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/how-to-learn-to-bake-eat-obey-love-prt13/

Disclaimer: I am probably poorly qualified to tell you how to learn to bake. My only credentials are the few unwanted kilograms I carry around my waist and the fact that my hair is always matted together with icing. This is how I learned to bake. It might work for you it might just make you fat and scruffy-looking.

How to learn to Bake: Eat, Obey, Love (Prt1/3)

DSC_0131 (2)Part One: Eat

Any home baker worth their organic sea salt lives in terror that they may find themselves in circumstances in which they will be called upon to wear a bathing suit. Baking wisdom, while enriching your life , also tends to leave your problem areas a little more problematic than they were in your ignorance. You see, the first step in learning to bake is to eat your way to expertise. Your ultimate aim, no doubt, is to produce pleasure and delight in yourself and others. This requires careful and rigorous research. You must commit yourself to a strict schedule of introducing a constant stream of fine baked goods into your diet.

This is not  just a“diet”- its a lifestyle change, a lifelong commitment. Even the most accomplished home baker must keep their skills sharp by regularly sitting down to eat something whose chief constituents are sugar and butter.

Some might find this lifestyle more challenging than others. You will have to find a way to silence any vanity you have about your appearance. The best way to do this, I find, is to always take fine baked goods along with you to places where you might experience scrutiny. Only the truly worst and shallow sort of person will be looking at the size of your thighs when they could be marvelling at the summer fruit tart or three tier chocolate mousse cake that you have in your company. Afterall nothing can be quite as flattering, to the fuller figure, than the accessory of a giant cheese-cake ready to be shared .

Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 (obey and love) to follow as quickly as my fingers can type them (and after I have furthered my education with the candied orange scone I have waiting for me in my study). Here is a snippet of whats to come:

“An afternoon’s baking and a session in the gym should end similarly: with a rosey flush to the face and the urgent need of a shower.”

Disclaimer: I am probably poorly qualified to tell you how to learn to bake. My only credentials are the few unwanted kilograms I carry around my waist and the fact that my hair is always matted together with icing. This is how I learned to bake. It might work for you it might just make you fat and scruffy-looking.