Encouraged by my recent successes in the kitchen (experimenting with kale chips and veggie chips after receiving my first order of organic produce from the Ethical Co-op) I felt inspired to try another experiment, this time, by making something delicious with the lovely bunch of beetroots I had received: Chocolate and Beetroot Brownies.
“What on earth are these?” I asked Tuffy-Cat, holding up a bunch of vegetables that looked like gigantic radishes. Tuffy-Cat was watching me closely, as I was unpacking a big cardboard box, and laying each of the items out on the kitchen counter. “These can’t be radishes. They’re massive.”
“Mreow?” responded Tuffy-Cat, with a questioning intonation.
“Oh, okay, you want a sniff?” I lowered the bunch of whatsits to her head-height, and she gave them an inquisitive sniff, before turning up her nose and stalking off to her foodbowl, where she’d deliberately left a few korreltjies for a post-lunch snack.
“Well, you’re a lot of help today,” I said, turning my attention to the print-out I’d made of the order. “You know what, I think they must be turnips. But what do you use them for? Soup, perhaps?”
A couple of weeks ago, an invitation arrived from my friend Colette, who owns and runs a bakery, known as Cakes and Desserts; she is famous for the beautiful pastries, desserts and cakes she lovingly makes by hand. You may remember her from last year’s Shavathon, and from the pictures I posted last Christmas of the lovingly handmade Knusperhäuschen we had bought from her.
In the run-up to Christmas, and in keeping with the German tradition, she and her team have been working long, loooong hours to bake traditional Stollen and all my favourite German Weihnachtsgebäck, and yes – she is again making ginger bread houses too, as they proved so popular last year. If you are lucky enough to live in Cape Town and haven’t placed an order yet, do not hesitate too long!
When hubby was a laaitie (i.e. a young boy), one of his favourite types of Christmas cookies were something he called Streifenkekse (loosely translated from the German, this means something like ‘striped cookies’). They are also known as Schwarz-Weiß Gebäck (or ‘black-and-white cookies’). So when mom-in-law came to visit us over Christmas this year, hubby’s beloved Streifenkekse were immediately placed on our Must Bake With Lissi List.
And naturally, I was on hand to document the process with my trusty camera for my loyal readers. (It also meant I couldn’t do any of the hard work of actually kneading the dough, because I had to keep my hands clean for the camera ;-).)
Are you curious to see some pictures? Shall I give you the recipe too?
A couple of weeks ago (Who would like to buy a Knusperhäuschen?), I told you about my creative friend Colette of Cakes and Desserts who, in the run-up to the Christmas season, and in keeping with the German tradition, has been baking vast amounts of traditional Stollen and all manner of delicious Weihnachtsgebäck.
This year, they also made ginger bread houses, otherwise known as Lebkuchenhäuschen, Pfefferkuchenhäuschen or Knusperhäuschen. They are about 30cm high, 20cm wide, and 30 cm long, and take about four days to make on order.
We placed our order for one of these lovingly handmade creations, and picked it up this weekend. I thought you all might like a closer look.
During our retreat at Bodhi Khaya (which I wrote about in my previous post), two items in particular stood out for us: Nina’s buttermilk rusks and her freshly baked bread.
The large bowl of rusks in the tea-room was magically replenished every morning. By night-time, to our communal sorrow, it was empty, with not even a handful of crumbs remaining at the bottom of the bowl. That should tell you something.
In addition to the rusks, there was a freshly baked loaf of bread every day. Actually, I think it was usually two loaves, because you couldn’t just have one slice with your thick, nourishing, vegetable soup on a cold wintry evening. No no no. You needed at least two.
This is a recipe for a really simple, straightforward, no-muss no-fuss, chocolate cake with some chunks of dark chocolate tossed into the mix.
The amounts used aren’t prescriptive, as I used Granny’s old method of “Backen nach Schnauze”.
This basically means that you adjust the ingredients as you go, depending on the water content or creaminess of the butter, the amount of sugar you like, the sizes of the eggs you use, the creaminess of the milk, the amount of dark cocoa or bitter chocolate you prefer, and the size of the loaf tin.
I’ve used roughly the following ingredients:
200g (less than a cup) of sugar
2 large free-range eggs
2 dessert spoons of milk
2 dessert spoons of dark cocoa
500g (about 2 cups) of flour
Half a slab of dark chocolate in chunks
You can add a layer of chocolate frosting or stick colourful smarties ontop if you wish (and if you want to subsidise your dentist), but I prefer cakes that aren’t sweet and sugary. And I like cakes that don’t require you to dirty a lot of dishes and utensils, or that need time and patience and attention to detail. There’s too many other things clamouring for our attention nowadays!
So, give it a try, and let me know if it works for you.
Enjoy slices of this delicious chocolate chunk loaf cake with a cup of coffee, or tea, in front of the telly, while watching the opening match of the 2010 Fifa World Cup Soccer Tournament between Bafana Bafana and Mexico at Soccer City in Johannesburg.
“At Samhain (which corresponds to modern Halloween), time lost all meaning and the past, present, and future were one. The dead, and the denizens of the Other World, walked among the living. It was a time of fairies, ghosts, demons, and witches. Winter itself was the Season of Ghosts, and Samhain is the night of their release from the Underworld. Many people lit bonfires to keep the evil spirits at bay. Often a torch was lit and carried around the boundaries of the home and farm, to protect the property and residents against the spirits throughout the winter.” (Samhain)
One of the nicest Irish traditions relating to Halloween is the baking of a yeasted bread known as Báirin Breac (or Barmbrack). And so, in view of my some-would-call-it-obsession-but-I-prefer-to-call-it-passionate-fascination with Ireland (both north and south, of course), it has now become tradition in our house that we bake a portion of Báirin Breac at this time of year.
Traditionally, Barmbracks are supposed to contain a couple of objects, which are baked into the bread. Each object, when you find it in your slice, carries a symbolic meaning. For instance, if you receive:
a pea - you will not marry next year (not a particularly nice prospect, if you aren’t married and your mammy’s been nagging you and you really wish to find your soulmate!)
a stick (!) – ‘to beat your wife with’ (personally, that’s one custom I don’t really wish to perpetuate) – meaning that you would have an unhappy marriage (again, not reeeeeally something to anticipate with joy)
a piece of cloth - you will have bad luck or be poor the next year (jeepers, these are really depressing!)
a ring - you will marry within the year (finally! something nice to look forward to!)
a coin - you will enjoy good fortune or become rich (yayyy!)
We haven’t taken up that part of the tradition, because I’d really like to change the symbolic items. For instance, Iwould rather put in the following (I guess you could get these as miniature plastic items from a toy store):
a heart - yes, of course, to symbolise love and romance
a shoe, car, boat or airplane - to symbolise travel to exciting places
a dog - to symbolise exuberance, loyalty and friendship (or you may actually get a dog this year…)
a cat - to symbolise gracefulness and inner peace (or you may actually have a cat moving in with you…)
a horse - to symbolise passion, power and courage
an elephant - to symbolise long life, wisdom and good memory…
I think these would be FAR nicer to find, don’t you?
A Recipe for Báirin Breac
Anyhow, I thought I’d share the recipe for with you here.
It used to be available on Wikipedia, but I see that it must have been removed since last October. Frankly, I don’t know why, because the recipe worked! Fortunately, I’d printed out a copy last year, so here it is (with illustrative photos from today’s baking experience):
You will need the following, in order of use in the recipe below:
50 g of mixed peel
60 g of mixed raisins and sultanas
100 ml of warm milk
15 g of dried baker’s yeast
50 g of fine white sugar (*1)
50 g unsalted butter (*2)
250 g of white flour (*3)
half a teaspoon of allspice or mixed cinnamon and nutmeg
half a teaspoon of salt
1 small egg
I used light-brown sugar, as we don’t have refined white sugar in our house.
I used salted butter because that’s what we have in the house, and then just used a little less salt.
I used self-raising flour, but I think you’re supposed to use baking flour that doesn’t have a raising agent in it.
1. Soak the dried fruit overnight in weak tea.
2. Warm the milk a little, then stir the yeast and one teaspoon of the sugar into two tablespoonfuls of the milk, and let it rise for 10 minutes. [Hubby just pointed out that I should have taken the photo below from a LOW angle, because "it doesn't look like the yeast has risen at all!" Sigh... Dear friends, I do hope you'll take my word for it?]
3. Melt the butter and let it cool. I always melt the butter over a pot filled with a bit of water, but when you do this, make sure the plastic bowl is sturdy enough not to melt!
4. Sift the flour, the allspice and the salt into a bowl. Add the rest of the sugar.
5. Pour in the rest of the milk. Add the yeast mixture, stirring well.
6. Beat the egg with a fork, and add it to the molten and cooled butter. Stir this into the dry ingredients.
7. Knead the mixture for about 5 mins, until the dough is elastic and no longer sticks to the bowl. [It was at this point that I realised that I must have mis-estimated the butter - instead of 50g, I probably had closer to 100g. In addition, the egg had not exactly been small. My dough, quite simply, was a runny mess. No amount of 'kneading' - or rather squelching and sloshing - would ever transform this into a recognisable dough. As a result, I temporarily abandoned the recipe and tossed in more flour, more sugar and more spices, until I had a nice, firm and elastic dough in my hands.]
8. Cover with a wet cloth. Let it rise in a warm place for one hour. [As it was a pleasantly warm and sunny day, I left the bowl outside next to a wall, where the sun would heat it up from above, and the reflected heat from the wall and the tarmac would heat it up from below.]
9. Use the time to wash the dirty dishes (less unpleasant work to do later and the kitchen will look habitable once more, in case guests pop over unexpectedly). Let the mixed peel and fruit dry – and if necessary, chop the mixed peel up into small sections.
10. Roll the mixed peel and the raisins and sultanas in a little flour.
11. Add these to the risen dough, and knead the mixture vigorously.
12. Butter a baking tin and spread the mixture evenly into it. Leave to rise for 30 minutes. I wrapped it in the damp cloth and left it in the sunshine again.
13. Shortly before the 30 mins are up, heat the oven to 220°C (428°F). Put the mixture in to bake for 25 minutes. (Set a timer to be on the safe side.)
14. Then reduce the heat to 190°C (374°F) and bake a little longer. [In our oven, we can either get the heat from the grid at the bottom, or from the top, but not from both at the same time. So I usually give it heat from below first, to make sure that it rises, and then reduced heat from the top for the last 1/4 of the time, to make sure that it doesn't burn.]
15. Let the barmbrack cool down for 15 minutes after taking it out of the oven. Allow it to cool thoroughly before cutting. Serve with tea and butter. [Hm... the COOLING DOWN period is always extremely short in our household... which may well be why I have such a stomach-ache at the moment... urgh...]
But honestly, look at this picture below:
Mugs of tea, and steaming hot, fresh-from-the-oven, irresistably fragrant Báirin Breac with a dollop of butter melting into each delectable piece – and tell me whether YOU would be able to wait?
Our lemon tree recently gave me a big, ripe, cheerful yellow lemon. Considering that the poor tree seems to be suffering from a severe form of mould or fungus on its leaves (probably because of the wet winter), I regard this as an impressive achievement.
“Ah, a lemon,” said my hubby pointedly when he saw it lying on the kitchen counter.
“Yeh,” I mumbled back, preoccupied with buttering a toast and keeping a watchful eye on the steeping tea.
“Lemon meringue, lemon cake, lemon cookies…?” he suggested, helpfully.
Today, as a result, I made sure that I had butter, flour, sugar…. . And my sixth-sense hubby had thoughtfully brought back a carton of eggs from the shops this morning.
I didn’t have a recipe, though. So I kinda ad-libbed the ingredients and their proportions, using my Gran’s favoured method of baking “nach Schnauze”. This is a German phrase that directly translated means something like ‘following your mouth or your nose’ – or rather “you toss in a bit of that, and stir in a handful of that, …”. As a result, it was always rather tricky replicating her recipes. :-)
But anyway, this is an approximate recipe for what I assembled.
You’ll need the following ingredients:
a big juicy lemon
200 g butter
150 g brown sugar (not the heavy syrupy type of sugar)
500 g – 600 g of self-raising flour (approx 2-3 cups)
a fairly low square-ish/rectangular baking pan
And this is what you do with them:
Preheat the oven to about 200 C.
Chop the butter into smaller pieces, place them into a heat-resistant mixing bowl, which is in turn placed ontop of a pot with a little bit of water in. Allow the butter to melt.
Remove bowl off the heat, and stir in the brown sugar. Make sure it is properly dissolved. Stir until it is smooth. You can use fine white sugar or even castor sugar if you prefer, but I personally find that just toooo sweet.
Once the butter has cooled down a bit, add in the two eggs, one after the other, stirring until smooth.
Add a cup of flour, stir until smooth.
Grate off the skin of the lemon. It doesn’t have to be too fine, just not long strips. Then slice the lemon in half and squeeze out all the juice.
Add the grated lemon peel to the mixture. Stir in thoroughly.
Add another cup of flour, a bit at a time, stiring in between to blend it in. You don’t want to use too much flour, or the dough will become too firm, and then the cake will taste too floury. It’s not a cookie-dough that you have to knead or roll.
Add about half the lemon juice, and stir in thoroughly.
The dough will probably look a bit odd now (almost like it’s curdled). If you like to taste raw dough, now’s a good time to double-check that it doesn’t taste too much of butter or flour.
Add enough flour to make a dough that is just starting to come off the sides of the mixing bowl, but is definitely not solid enough to pick up in your hands, roll or knead. How much flour you need will depend on the water content of your butter, the size of the eggs and the amount of lemon juice you used. Rather go slowly.
Transfer the dough into the baking tin, smooth the top, and pop in the oven. If your oven has a grill at the bottom and one at the top, then first use the one at the bottom for about 15-20 mins, and then switch it to the top grill for another 10 mins or so.
When the cake is ready, it will start to come off the sides of the baking tin. Now you can remove it from the oven.
Add a bit of sifted icing sugar to the remaining lemon juice, adding a little bit of sugar at a time, until you have a fairly liquid icing, but not too liquid. Then you can spoon/pour it over the still-warm cake in the baking tin. That way it will sink into the top layer of the cake. Yummmm.
Leave it to cool on a rack. Well, that’s if your house mates will allow it. :-)
This scrumptilicious lemon cake went oh-so-nicely together with a cup of fragrant filter coffee.
In fact, my hubby was so blissed-out that he even allowed me to take a photo of him on our new sofa, reading Philip Pullman’s “Northern Lights” (the movie of which we had seen in May – see The Golden Compass).
“To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour."