Baking and blooms

DSC_1013

I have had a growing sense over the past few years that I needed to pay more attention to herbs and spices – particularly to the use of flowers – in cooking. I am always drawn to the variegated dunes of spices in the markets, find myself picking rosemary leaves from the bushes by the gate at my grandparents on my way to the door just to smell them and, this past summer, fell in love with culinary bouquets at the farmer’s markets (posies of edible flowers and herbs, yes please!). I think that it may have something to do with my romantic invocation of old English kitchen gardens, medieval spice caravans and poems about herbs for healing. Scents have stories it seems. Not that long ago I did find a little illustrated cookbook of recipes (the best kind) that revolved around incorporating the diverse flavours of ‘herbs de Provence’ into sweet and savoury dishes. I have also used rose petals to dress cakes a few times this last year – but I have had this sense that there was more than could be done. Even though school work takes up most of my creative energy, these ideas have been simmering away, so to speak, on the back burner in my brain.

All that to say, when my friend Lauren presented ‘Lavender’ as a plant and product in our community group a few weeks ago (presentation complete with lavender scones to sample!), I finally made my first move. After a Wholefoods excursion I was ready to start – I experimented with a butter cake recipe from the Vintage Cakes cookbook – a birthday present from my grandmother. The cake book is a delight and the cakes (one loaf and several-many cup cakes) turned out so well for a first try. I added 3 tablespoons to the classic birthday cake recipe and made vanilla butter cream as the frosting. It was very decadent – but such a treat. All in all, I feel my lavender explorations have only just begun – the cake called for ‘cake flour’ which incorporates some corn starch into the mix – something that I am quite unfamiliar with. I think it makes the grain of the cake quite fine – not necessarily my favourite texture. For now I will count this as an excellent first attempt and will keep exploring the exciting world of herbs, spices and flowers in food. I will keep you posted!

Advertisements

How to make a birthday

DSC_0609

 

DSC_0608

DSC_0605

DSC_0631

When it’s for this particular muso there must be lots of instruments, lots of friends and family and lots of good food. We celebrated another year of Asher with pizza, playing and partying last week and it seemed to come off! People seemed happy and relaxed, enjoying all the different aspects of the night. The birthday boy was pretty wrapt … it may not be last birthday we celebrate like that! Special thanks to my dad for teaching me about all things yeast, including this particular recipe. I’ve even adapted his instructions here. If you would like to make some pizzas like his/ours (or really, like Donna Hays – see Issue 8, Autumn 2003 for the original recipe) read on …

Makes 3-4 thin based pizzas or 2-3 thicker based pizzas. For a family of 5 we often doubled it. 7 batches worked well for this party and there were 20-25 people.

Ingredients:
2 teasp active dry yeast
½ teasp sugar
1 cup warm water
2 ½ C Plain Flour (approx 360g) (doesn’t need to have very high Protein)
1 teasp Salt (6g)

Toppings:
Tomato pasta sauce (or a mixture of this, tinned tomatoes and tomato paste) + Bocconcini cheese + Basil leaves
Basil Pesto + pan fried chicken thighs + shaved parmesan + rosemary leaves
Dad also likes doing garlic + olive oil + rosemary leaves + parmesan and its a bit of a winner too!

Method:
1. Put yeast, sugar and water into a small in a small bowl, mix to combine. Let sit for a few minutes. Check for bubbles – if there are none, the yeast is dead and you need to find more yeast! Otherwise continue …
2. Put the salt and flour into a bigger bowl, pour in the water mixture and then mix till a dough forms. Knead this for 5-10 minutes. Divide the dough into 3-4 (2-3) balls.
3. Preheat oven to 2200C (2100C fan forced).
4. Let this rest for 30mins-2hours (if you are that patient, 30mins is fine though!). Dad says to cover with a damp cloth, I just covered mine with glad wrap. Either will be fine.
5. Roll out each one to desired shape – round or rectangular, on a floured surface if necessary. Dad says in his instructions to get them as thin as you can. I like mine a bit thicker I think, I let them stay about 1-1.5cm thick and they were great too. Depends on which result you want! Thin and crispy or thick and doughy! At this point Dad also makes a border round the edge, pressing with his fingers … its does work, I just didn’t do it this time and it was also fine. Follow your intuition!
6. Spread with desired toppings and cook for 12-15 minutes or till golden and crispy on top and toppings are looking and smelling very tasty!
7. Cut into several slices (we do rectangle pieces – a pizza cutter and or kitchen scissors work well) and share!