Recipes and Book reviews

Baking For All Occasions

A Treasury Of Recipes For Everyday Celebrations

This weighty hardback by San Francisco Chronicle baking columnist Flo Braker provides inspiration for every sweet American baking moment. Classic American cakes like Red Velvet and Braided Coffee Cake share the oven with modern inventions like Fresh Mint Brownies and Strawberry-Mango Shortcakes with Basil Syrup. A few savory bread recipes have made it into this baking book, including challah and foccacia, but the heart of this tome lies in land of the sweet. If you’re looking for tried and tested recipes that produce classic cakes with a modern twist, look no further.

Published by Chronicle Books
ISBN 978-0-8118-4547-2

Fresh From The Farmers’ Market

This paperback book by Janet Fletcher features an introduction from legendary Berkley chef, Alice Waters, always a good sign, and is illustrated with beautiful photographs by Victoria Pearson. I was excited to learn some of the tips the author has picked up for choosing, storing and cooking fresh produce from the farmers’ market.

Take persimmons, for example. Janet describes the different types of persimmons, suggests the best way to choose each different variety, and offers different uses for each variety as well.

The book is rich with quotes from farmers and chefs, with personal tips from the people who know best.

Published by Chronicle Books, 2008
ISBN 978-0-8118-6590-6

Persimmon Salsa

Persimmon Salsa

Here’s a super-simple recipe from Evonne Heyning. Good stuff to do with persimmons, goes very nicely with fish, chicken or vegetarian dishes.

5 very ripe persimmons (should fall out of their skins)
1 jalapeno (or 1/8 cup finely diced)
1/2 bunch of cilantro (1/8 cup finely diced)
1/8 cup green onions (about 3 long stalks, or red onion also works)
1 tablespoon salsa picante or other hot sauce of your choice
1 teaspoon sea salt (ground Hawaiian rose salt used here)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Mix and refrigerate. Also works well mixed with roasted tomatoes or your choice of peppers.

Betty’s bread recipe

Makes one 1lb loaf

155g organic wholemeal flour
155g strong white flour
5g sea salt
5g vegetable fat
8g fresh yeast
190ml water (tepid)
15ml fresh milk

For the Egg/Milk Glaze

1 egg/35ml milk

Place the flours, fat and salt into a mixing bowl. Rub in the fat until it forms a fine crumb with the flour. In a small jug dissolve the yeast in the tepid water. Add this to the dry ingredients together with the milk. Mix by hand until all the ingredients are combined together into a dough.

Once everything is combined, the dough is ready to be kneaded. This can be done by hand, for approximately 8-12 minutes, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

After kneading, mould into a ball, leave to rest for 5 minutes and then mould into a loaf shape and place into a lightly greased small loaf tin. Glaze the bread with a brush of egg wash and decorate if required. Cover with clingfilm and place in a warm area until the dough rises above the tin and springs back slowly when pressed. Place into a pre-heated oven at 200ºC and bake until golden brown and the base sounds hollow when tapped.

Here are Betty’s tips for perfect baking

1. You cannot make a good loaf without a good strong flour. Organic flour gives the best flavour and being free from pesticides and other chemicals will not impede the fermentation of the yeast. Stoneground flours give a better texture to the loaf than flour that has been commercially rolled or tilled. These preferred types of flours are produced by small independent millers such as Shipton Mill and Doves Farm.

2. It is important to keep your flour under the best conditions; a cool, dry and well-ventilated storage place is ideal. Never mix old and new flour, and make sure you always check the use-by date before use.

3. Fresh yeast will give your bread the best flavour. While being easy to handle, it does have a short shelf life. Dried yeasts are more convenient and can still be successfully used to make bread, simply replace half the weight of fresh yeast with dried. It’s important that dried yeast is weighed accurately. If too much is used the taste of the bread will be spoiled.

4. When making bread it is important to have your liquid at the correct temperature. If the liquid is too hot it will kill the yeast and if it’s too cold then the yeast’s growth will be inhibited and the dough will become under ripe. The ideal liquid temperature is between 30-37°C, however this is dependent upon the ambient temperature and temperature of other ingredients and equipment.

5. To improve the flavour and speed up the fermentation of the dough a starter sponge can be made. Take the yeast and water from the recipes and mix with a 1/3 of the flour in the recipe. Place the mix in a warm place and leave to rise and go frothy, this should take around 20 – 30 minutes.

6. When kneading dough you need to work quickly and you can’t take any short cuts. Be firm with the dough but not rough, and only lightly dust the surface and your hands with flour when necessary. Keep the work surface clean and free from any crumbs of dough, this will keep the dough smooth and give a good final appearance.

7. Use only glass or plastic bowls for mixing and proving. Do not use metal as this may taint the dough.

8. When proving always keep the bread dough covered, away from any draughts, in order to prevent “skinning”, which would spoil the final baked appearance. Use a damp tea towel (which may need re-damping during the proving) or greased clingfilm.

9. It is worth investing in an oven thermometer. A very hot oven is required to produce a good loaf of bread. Get to know your oven, it is a vital tool in breadmaking.

10. Once you have a good recipe and follow the basic principles, the secret to making the perfect loaf of bread is practice, practice, practice.

Recipe - Special Split Pea Soup

by Ysanne Spevack

Split Pea Soup

3 medium onions, peeled and diced
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, plus the inner leaves, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4 tablespoons bacon fat or ol