Thursday, 26 March 2015

Celia's overnight sourdough bread - step by step photos

I was at a market recently and tempted by the expensive sourdough loaves.  I had to remind myself that I had a fresh loaf of sourdough bread at home that had come out of the oven only a hour or so beforehand.  Thanks to the lovely Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, it was ridiculously easy to make but even easier to eat.

It seems crazy that a bread which has very little kneading is so so so good.  Yet you can see in the photos that it has a chewy golden crust and an open tender crumb.  I send Sylvia to school with sandwiches made of the bread.  We eat it on lazy weekends at home.

I have even given some of my sourdough starter and Celia's recipe to two of the mothers at school who hadn't baked sourdough bread before.  These friends have had great success with it.  It is lovely to have other sourdough bakers to chat to in the playground.  And it demonstrates that it works for others too.  It is such a brilliant recipe.

The bread I have been making is an overnight sourdough bread.  I have been baking it regularly since December and still am in love with it.  It requires very little kneading and very little attention.  I usually prepare the dough before I go to bed and bake it in the morning but sometimes start it in the morning and bake it in the evening.  Today I am going to share some step by step photos and my notes on the process.


A few hours before I make the loaf, I take my sourdough starter out of the fridge and feed it so it gets nice and bubbly.

NOTES: However I have had days where I have taken it from the fridge and put it straight in the mixture and it still works.  My starter is 100% hydration (ie I add equal grams of flour and water) but Celia's is a slightly different hydration because she uses cup measures to feed her starter.

About half an hour before I go to bed (or first thing in the morning) mix

300g of bubbly starter
570g water
18g salt
1 kg of flour

NOTES: I usually mix the starter, water and salt first and then add the flour but sometimes I do it all together.  Celia suggested using your hands.  Some days I just use a spoon and some days I dig my hands in as well.  Cover with clingwrap and rest for 30 minutes.

Knead in the bowl for about 1 minute.  Cover with clingwrap and leave at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

NOTES: I sometimes put a little flour on my hands if the dough is sticky.  On a couple of occasions I halved the dough to let it rise as two balls but this is too fussy.  However I did discover that the dough kneads smoother and easier if the bowl is cleaned and oiled.  But again it is not something I really want to do late at night or first thing in the morning.

I usually grease the clingwrap in case it rises enough to stick to it.  Or sometimes I have dusted it with maize flour.

In the morning or evening the dough should be risen.

Scrape dough out onto a lightly floured board.  Very gently without punching the air out, fold the dough in three.

NOTES: I have a silicon spatula that I use to scrape the dough out of the bowl.  The dough should not be punched down at this stage.  I use maize flour - a very fine polenta or cornmeal that has been in my flour collection for ages and finally I am using it.  Celia uses a fine semolina but warns that wheat flour makes it stick too much. Hmmm... I wonder if I forgot to fold the dough in three last time.

Cut the dough in half and shape into two loaves.  Place on a floured surface and cover with the lightly greased clingwrap.  Set aside to rise for 30 minutes.

NOTES: I used to use a knife to cut the dough but it tore at the dough.  Celia has dough scrapers to cut her dough but I don't have any.  So I  started to use a firm plastic eggflip/spatula that is a bit like a dough scraper.  It cuts more cleanly.

I am still learning to shape the dough but find online advice useful such as Celia's advice.  I have sometimes sprinkled flour over the top of the dough instead of greasing the clingwrap.

While the loaves rise, preheat oven to 240 C, with casserole dishes heating if you are using them.

NOTES: Celia bakes her loaves in enamel roasters.  I have a cheap oval ceramic casserole dish and an old round ceramic casserole dish.  Neither are ideal but they do the job.  I prefer oval to round loaves.  Oval loaves produce more manageable slices, though it is easier to shape the round loaves.  However my main problem with the round casserole dish is that it doesn't have handles and is hard to get out of the oven when it is quite snug against the oval one.  I keep meaning to find another dish but it is not that high on my list of priorities.

It is not necessary to use the casserole dishes - bread can also be baked on an oven tray or in a tin, neither of which needs to be preheated when you preheat the oven.

After half an hour the loaves will have risen slightly.

Slash the loaves and put in the heated casserole dishes with lids on (or on a tray or in a tin). 

NOTES: I haven't been great at slashing loaves.  Lately I have been doing better.  I am not sure if it is the recipe of my purchase of a stanley knife to slash.  The stanley knife is constantly getting rusty and I need to scrub it so it is not ideal.  A firm confident hand also helps with slashing.

Then I find that transferring the loaves into the heated casserole dishes and keep the slash open because even my gentle handling seems to make the dough a little misshapen.  However this usually seems to sort itself out in the oven even if the dough lands in the dish a bit skewhiff.

And yes, the casserole dishes don't need greasing.  If you use a tray or tin you might need grease or baking paper.

Bake for 20 minutes with lid on.

Remove lid and bake another 20 minutes.  Then reduce oven heat to 180 C and return to oven for another 10 minutes to make sure the crust is crispy and golden brown.

Cool your loaves on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing.

NOTES: The bread keeps baking when out of the oven.  If you slice in too early the texture will be claggy but if you are really impatient or hungry it is very edible.

Slice up your bread and enjoy.  It is best on day of baking, delicious the next day and then after that I find either freezing it or toasting it is best.

  • I have made this recipe with half the ingredients and it works well but I figure we will always go through the bread even if some needs to go into the freezer so now I always make two loaves.  I have even been known to give the second loaf to a friend.
  • If you don't have scales you can convert to cups - one friend doesn't have scales and is delighted with her bread.  
  • I recently tried adding a tablespoon or two of chia seeds and about 1/4 of the flour being wholemeal.  This worked well.

And for those who like such things, I have made an image of all the step by step photos.

I can't recommend this bread highly enough.  In fact I suspect I might not have been keeping my sourdough starter alive if I didn't have this easy recipe to make it a doddle to bake sourdough bread regularly.

I am sending this sourdough bread to Susan of Wild Yeast for YeastSpotting.  And I am sending it to Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes for Bookmarked Recipes.

More sourdough recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Basic sourdough loaf
Sourdough chocolate cake 
Sourdough hot cross buns
Sourdough pizza bases
Sourdough flatbreads

More sourdough recipes elsewhere online:
24 hour GF sourdough bread - Gluten Free Gourmand
Hazelnut and fruit sourdough loaf - Milk and Honey
Sourdough bread bowls - My Borrowed Kitchen
Sourdough currant buns - CityHippyFarmGirl
Sourdough english muffins - In Vegetabes We Trust

On the Stereo:
Teddy Boys Don't Knit: Vivian Stanshall

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Thai Nee Cafe and East Brunswick Street Art

There was a time when I would go to Thai restaurants every now and again.  It is long passed.  However when I had a particularly wet Pad Thai at a market recently it was so wrong that I longed for a good Pad Thai.  So when Sylvia went to a sleepover birthday party E and I had the rare treat of a dinner date at Thai Nee.  We ate well, we were treated well, and we admired the street art outside.

I chose Thai Nee in East Brunswick because we had been there with friends years ago.  It was so long ago I barely remember the meal but I know I enjoyed it.  I was pretty sure that it was vegetarian-friendly because the friends who chose it were also vegetarian.

We were pleased when we arrived to find a rose and a candle at the table.  The restaurant wasn't that big, though not quite tiny.  It was fairly busy with not many empty seats.  (The photo below was taken later in the evening after some tables emptied.)  When I asked the waiters about dietary issues they were very helpful in telling me what was and wasn't vegetarian on the menu.  While I didn't ask directly I got the impression that they were vegan-friendly as well.

And while I am reminiscing, do you remember a time when vegetarian meals were cheaper than meat meals.  I always thought this was because meat was more expensive but these days I have no idea of the price of meat so I don't know if it has changed.

Anyway, I loved the Thai Nee menu because it is a list of types of dishes with the option for each dish of Vegetables, Meat or Seafood.  In each case the Vegetables dish was the cheapest.  However the menu prices were very reasonable.  We ordered spring rolls, 2 mains, rice, roti and tea.  It came to $42 for both of us.  (NB It is cash only and BYO.)

We started with vegetarian spring rolls.  They were crisp and hot and made us happy while we waited for our main course.  E then had a chicken curry with rice which he loved.  Sadly we didn't order enough rice to have it in one of the fancy silver bowls.  We also had roti with our mains.  (I was told that the dipping sauce had fish sauce in it so I avoided it.)  It was fantastic.  Really light and fluffy with crisp edges.

My main course was Pad Thai.  It seems a given, but there were so many other tempting meals on the menu that I swithered before ordering.  Probably one of the disappointments was that the tofu was not very hot and a bit bland but I did appreciate having some tofu.

I was surprised that there were no peanuts on top.  Perhaps our nut sensitive world makes it too risky.  When I asked, I was brought a little dish of chopped nuts.  I also was impressed that they checked if I wanted egg in my Pad Thai.  I said yes.  (Despite my dislike of eggs, I can usually cope with little bits of egg in a dish.)

So overall I really enjoyed my Pad Thai.  The flat rice noodles were full of flavour in that pleasingly sticky way and there was a satisfying amount of vegetables as well the the tofu and peanuts and eggs.

By the time we left it was dark and harder to see the artwork on the side of the Thai Nee building.  I had taken this photo a while back.  It seems a good segue into the street art in the area.

When we arrived at Thai Nee I couldn't go in without crossing the street to look at the street art on the other side of the road.  It is full of interesting characters.

I particularly liked the bird woman.  (Or perhaps bird man?)

And I was quite taken by the little house on fire.  I wonder why the person is standing outside.  Are they watching their own house burn, having escaped, or are they just a passerby?

Then we noticed the some of the artwork seemed incomplete.

I really need to go back and see if more has been added to the mural since our visit.

Meanwhile I have some other photos of street art from the same area of East Brunswick that it seems timely to share.  (I have more street art photos than I ever have time to share on my blog!)

Isn't this little girl cute?

More street art, some of it in the lanes just off Lygon Street.

And I end with one of my favourite pictures that I see when we drive up and down Lygon Street.  It makes me think of Swan Lake and the poignant moment when the swan is dying. 

Thai Nee Cafe
150 Lygon Street
East Brunswick
Tel: (03) 9388 0411
Open for dinner, Wed to Mon

Thai Nee Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Lime and white chocolate ice cream

Last week was a funny kind of week.  Sylvia's school had a pupil-free day and she then had a couple of sick days.  I had to cancel her swimming lesson and an appointment.  Not everything was pushed to the side.  We made ice cream.  Really good lime and white chocolate ice cream.

Regular readers might remember that my siblings and I are a bit 'meh' about ice cream because it was served on nights when my mum didn't bake desserts when we were kids.  So when I had condensed milk, white chocolate chips and ice cream cones leftover from Sylvia's birthday party, I was very tempted to make the Kitchen Maid's lime and white chocolate slice.  I even bought the limes.

We had lots of ice cream cones after I initially bought the wrong sort for the castle cake.  I bought a tub of caramel and honeycomb ice cream but there were still many cones left.  E said we needed to buy another tub of ice cream to use up the ice cream cones.  It seemed a good idea just to make ice cream and get those cones out of our life!

I used the no churn condensed milk and cream method of making ice cream.  Sylvia loves ice cream so much that we bought her a little single serve ice cream maker at Christmas.  You freeze the base and then squeeze cold liquid to make instant ice cream. 

I am not sure I am thrilled with it.  It takes up a lot of room in the freezer for not much return.  Perhaps we don't use it well or perhaps my lack of enthusiasm for ice cream has prevented me embracing it.

I am more enthusiastic about my lemon and lime trees that are heavy with fruit right now.  It seems like they will be ripe any day now.  Until then we are still buying lemons and limes.  As I did for this ice cream.  Then I used a lime that had fallen off the tree.  I found it rather sour but I find most lemons and limes rather sour.  Perhaps the limes are closer to being ripe than I thought.

The ice cream was creamy but I really liked how the lime took the edge off the sweetness.  It was more prominent than the white chocolate.  We all loved it.  However I found that it was hard to get the right moment to scoop it out.  It seemed either too hard to scoop in a nice round ball or too soft and mushy to hold its shape.  I think I preferred the latter.  One thing is for sure.  It has made me look forward to our limes coming off the tree and into kitchen.

More ice cream recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Rhubarb and white chocolate ice cream
Strawberry ice cream with agar agar 
Vegan chocolate ice cream 
Violet crumble ice cream 

More ice cream recipes from elsewhere:
Cookies'n'malted cream ice cream - Where's the Beef?
Mint choc chip cookie dough ice cream - Elizabeth's Kitchen
Strawberry ice cream - Free People
Toasted coconut ice cream - Ice Cream by Coco Cake

Lime and white chocolate ice cream
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe

1 cup white chocolate chips
juice of 2 1/2 limes
zest of 2 limes
3/4 cup condensed milk
300ml cream (I used 51%)

Melt 3/4 cup of white choc chips.  Gradually add the condensed milk into the melted chocolate, stirring all the while so it remains smooth.  Stir in the lime juice and zest.  Add the cream and blend with electric beaters until creamy (but not buttery - I do this on a low speed so I don't overbeat suddenly).  Gently stir in remaining 1/4 cup of white choc chips.  Spoon into a tub with lid.  Freeze until firm.

On the Stereo:
Father Abraham in Smurfland

Thursday, 19 March 2015

DIY cupcake decorating - a fun birthday party activity

When planning Sylvia's birthday party one of the first activities that we decided upon was cupcake decorating.  Sylvia was very excited about it.  I was pretty happy at the idea of using some of the sprinkles and tubes of icing that lingered in the pantry.  I love the look of the stuff but am less keen to eat it which creates a dilemma when decorating cakes.

I bought some sturdy paper muffin cups so that the cakes would not collapse in the little hands.  I also decided to bake the cakes the day before because cakes can be quite fragile on the day of baking.  I found a recipe for patty cakes (as we often called small cakes or fairy cakes before the advent of "cupcakes"). 

Unfortunately the muffin cups were rather large and I only made 8 rather than 12 that the recipe promised.  They were rather large for little girls to eat and I would have preferred one or two spare cupcakes in case of accidents.  At least they were easy to handle and gave plenty of scope for decoration.

This was an activity for the backyard.  I didn't want sticky sprinkles and icing all over the house.  The weather kept threatening to be too hot or too wet but in the end it was overcast and mild enough.  I prepared a tray of sprinkles, lollies, icing tubes and spreaders that could be taken outside as we started.

It was quite windy but Kerin showed me how to secure the tablecloth with a twist of the cloth and a peg at each corner.  My parents also helped by bringing over one of their trestle tables. 
I had lots of icing leftover from the castle cake, though I made the mistake of adding a little milk because it was so thick and it curdled.  I coloured one lot pink and another yellow.  I may have well not have bothered with the yellow. 

I used cupcake papers to give each child a paper with a few spoonfuls of icing and a paper for them to choose some sprinkles and lollies.  This was to stop them loading up all the lollies or sprinkles.  Each child also had a spreader - they are quite short blunt knifes for butter and dips.  They were easier for kids to handle and don't flip over like longer bread and butter knifes.

The kids just loved decorating their own cupcake.  (Again it might have been helpful to write their names on each cupcake but they seemed to know their own.)   They were so proud of their creations.  A couple of kids came late but one of the parents helped to decorate the extra cakes so they had one each.  I had expected that the kids would eat their cupcakes with afternoon tea but there was so much food that they ended up taking them home.

I am sending the patty cakes to Caroline Makes (and The More Then Occasional Baker) for the Alphabakes blog event.  This month the theme is the letter S (for sprinkles).  I am also sending them to Eat Your Veg (and Bangers and Mash) for the March Family Foodies event: Let's Get Baking.

More fun cupcake decorations on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Animal cupcakes: chicks, pigs, frogs and mice
Jelly bean flower cupcakes
Owl and spider cupcakes
Panda cupcakes
Small cakes
St Patrick's day cupcakes (with chocolate coins)
Strawberry cupcakes 

Patty cakes
From Kidspot
Makes 8 to 12

125g butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
2 cups self-raising flour

Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  Fold in half the milk and half the flour and then repeat with remaining milk and flour.  Spoon into pattypan cups or a greased pattypan (or muffin or cupcake) tray.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

On the Stereo:
The definitive Simon and Garfunkle

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

St Patrick's Day potato pie and green moments

Happy St Patrick's Day.  It has been quite low-key here this year.  No banner making, profusion of green food and stories like last year!  (Where has that energy gone?)  Rather than focus on green this year, I was determined to use some of the sack of potatoes in the cupboard.  I made pie.  And I do have a few green moments to share once dinner is done!

It was only today that I finally had a little time to think about what to make for St Patrick's Day.  I recently started a St Patrick's Day Pinterest Board.  Most friends did not seem to even notice it is St Patrick's Day, though I did run into one who was wearing a "Kiss Me I'm Irish" badge and my brother is playing a St Patrick's Day gig tonight so there are still a few of us around who love that day!  But it is always heartwarming to see lots of celebrations in the blogosphere!

Hence dinner is a good time to remember St Patrick's Day.  I found a potato pie recipe that used bacon and cream.  I veganised it with tofu bacon (or facon) and vegan alfredo sauce that were already in the fridge as well as a solo sheet of puff pastry lingering in the freezer.  Using these leftovers helped hurry it along but slicing and frying potatoes still took a while.  And then I forgot to fry up onions and scatter parsley over the cooked pie.

Sylvia loved my forgetfulness.  She even had a second helping of the pie.  What child doesn't love pastry, potato and tofu bacon!  Oh that's right, I am just talking about my own child tonight!  I don't claim that other children will love it because I can't even claim that Sylvia would love it on another night.  E and I also loved the pie.  E added a little chilli jam but I was happy to eat it with some vegies on the side.  It wasn't as pretty as the pie in the original recipe but it was very tasty.

I don't claim that my Irish ancestors would understand this pie.  The potatoes would be familiar enough but my vegan changes to the recipe would no doubt be a mystery to them.  However I like to think that they would appreciate me acknowledging my heritage today.  And perhaps even be pleased that I wore green in honour of them.

I had a few other nice green moments today that I will share:

Green Moment 1: Today I was talking about green with a friend and how despite there never been enough green clothes for me, I have a few green cardigans.  If I do see them I snap them up.  Perhaps this explains my purchase of a new green leafy plate from an op shop.  It is in most of the photos on this post so I have had good use out of it already.

Green Moment 2: I made myself cheesey peas on toast for lunch.  I heated and mashed some green peas.  I mixed them with a spoonful of cream cheese and a little grated cheese.  It was very nice with a grinding of black pepper and some time under the grill.  However the peas were quite sweet so perhaps some spring onions in the mix would give the bite it needed.  A nice easy lunch that I would be happy to eat often.

Green Moment 3: Finally tonight we finished reading Sylvia's book: Lob by Linda Newbery.  It is about a little girl and her grandfather seeing a little green man in the garden called Lob.  Unusually I found myself more absorbed by this children's book than by the book I have been reading (Sucked In by Shane Maloney).  Lob is such a beautifully written book about loss and our connection with the natural world.  It made me want to go outside and nurture a garden.  Anyway I have finished my book and am now about to start Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warning.

I am sending the potato and facon pie to A Mummy Too for Recipe of the Week for 14-20 March, and to Jen’s Food (and United Cakedom) for a new event called The Pastry Challenge.  I am also sending the cheesey peas on toast to Deb Souper Sundays, a weekly soup, salad and sandwich blog event, because I hope she will accept this as an open sandwich.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: St Patrick's Day dinner: cupcakes, spinach dip, soda bread and lots of green
Two year ago: Potato, cabbage and facon soup for St Patrick's Day
Three years ago: NCR Chang's crispy salad with green burgers
Four years ago: WHB St Pat's Day Cabbage and Quicklinks
Five years ago: Paddy’s day cabbage and smoked tofu
Six years ago: Broccoli Burgers are Winners
Seven years ago: St Patrick, Soup and a Shamrock

Potato and facon pie
Adapted from A Spicy Perspective
Serves 3 to 4

1 sheet frozen puff pastry
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter
1/4 batch of tofu bacon (facon), diced
1 onion, thinly sliced*
5 medium potatoes, thinly sliced*
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped*
1/2 cup vegan cheese sauce (like this)*
Salt and pepper
Chives for garnish*

Preheat oven to 180 C.*

Let pastry thaw while frying the (uncooked) tofu bacon in the oil until golden brown.  While the facon is frying slice the onion and potatoes thinly as possible.  Press thawed puff pastry into a 20 to 22cm pie tin and chill in fridge until ready to fill.  Remove facon from pan with a slotted spoon to leave as much oil as possible in the frypan.  Set aside in a bowl.  Fry the onion until golden brown and transfer to bowl with facon.  Now fry the potatoes until just starting to soften.*  Return facon and onions to frypan to warm through and mix with potatoes and parsley.

Arrange potato mixture in lined pie tin.  Pour the sauce over it.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown and feel soft when a knife is poked through them.  Set aside for 10 minutes and serve in wedges with vegies or salad on the side.

I forgot the onion but would like to add it next time (if not trying to please a particular child).  Dill is too exotic to taste bog Irish!  I used red skinned potatoes and did not peel them.  The recipe I followed used dill so I used up some dill but it didn't taste quite right to me so next time I would use parsley. The hurry up alfredo cheese sauce that I used gave a lot of flavour so I used less seasoning that the recipe suggest.  I thinned it slightly with some tofu bacon marinade and some soy milk because I didn't quite have 1/2 a cup leftover.

I fried my potatoes in 2 batches for about 10 to 15 minutes each and baked them at 200 C because my oven has a bad track record with cooking through vegies but the recipe I followed said 3 to 5 minutes and don't worry if they potatoes aren't cooked.  I think that I could probably get away with 180 C next time but am not sure I would cook the potatoes less on the frypan.

On the Stereo:
Black is the Colour: Cara Dillon