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My mother’s legendary aniseed brioche (anysbeskuit)

30 Aug

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For the past 30 plus years, my mother Erna Uys has been baking the best aniseed brioche I’ve ever tasted. I say aniseed brioche and not “mosbolletjies”, because although this loaf might look like mosbolletjies, it simply isn’t. She calls it “anysbeskuit”, but I’ve also read that it is known as “soetbeskuit” – a tall and feathery sweet brioche flavoured with aniseed that you can also break into tufty fingers for drying out as rusks. My mother’s recipe doesn’t contain any fermented grape juice, which is the key ingredient to traditional South African mosbolletjies – an identical looking loaf that is usually made shortly after grapes are harvested in the Boland. What makes her recipe different is that it contains condensed milk, and more than double the amount of aniseeds that are found in other aniseed brioche recipes.

When I was a child, my mother used to bake for a local bakery called “Die Koskas” (The Food Cupboard) here in Stellenbosch. Her aniseed brioche (which most people just called mosbolletjies because it looked exactly like it) were baked in massive loaf pans, still luke warm when she delivered them, keeping the bags open to release the last bit of steam. People used to wait in line to buy these, so her loaves never really even hit the shelves before being lapped up.

Aniseed brioche is a labour of love, mostly because you need patience. It takes long to make because the rich dough needs a few hours to proof properly, a second proof of about an hour or two when inside the tin and another 50 minutes of baking time. But once you’ve tasted the warm feathery tufts slathered in butter, you’ll know why it’s special and why people go crazy for it. I’m sharing this special family recipe in collaboration with Gideon Milling, using their South African grown, stone ground cake wheat flour – a fantastic all-purpose flour that I use very often for anything from cakes to pizza.

Here are a few notes on this recipe:

  • My mother’s original recipe calls for 2,5 kg cake flour, which is just too large a batch for regular home baking (it yields 3 extra large loaves which might feed at least 30 people). I changed the recipe to use 850 g cake flour, still resulting in an extra large loaf by anyone’s standards.
  • *If you want to bake this loaf in one extra large pan, you’re going to look for something about 35 cm long and 15 cm wide. The largest pan that I own (pictured in this post) is 34 cm long and 9 cm wide, resulting in the tops rising above the pan’s sides if I use all of the mixture, so I’ve recently started filling it with only 75% of the dough, filling a very small second pan on the size with the remaining dough. However, my mother’s pans are large and wide enough to “contain” the dough and result in two rows of very neat looking smooth rounds on top. You can certainly also split the dough up and bake two large loaves of about 25 cm x 10 cm, or three medium loaves of 20 x 9 cm – this way you can gift one or two loaves to a friend.
  • My mother insists on frothing her instant yeast in water with some sugar, although technically you should be able to add it in with the dry ingredients. I follow her guidance.
  • If you want to make sure that your loaf doesn’t stick to the pan, rather just line it with baking paper. Most modern pans are relatively non-stick these days, but some older pans tend to stick, even when greased well. The brioche is VERY tender when warm from the oven, and will break if it cannot slide out easily.
  • This loaf will last quite a few days on the shelf, wrapped in plastic. It might become a lot firmer, but will regain its magic with the help of a toaster. The great thing is that it slices very neatly the older it gets, so you can make beautiful melba toasts (dry out in the oven at 70 C for about 1 hour) that will keep for weeks in an airtight container. Perfect addition to your next cheese platter.
  • This loaf makes wonderful rusks – sliced each individual segment lengthways (or break it with the use of a fork to keep the feathery look), then dry out at 70 C for about 5 hours without it getting any colour.
  • Aniseed are small little spice seeds and have a distinctive liquorice flavour. They cannot be substituted with similar sounding whole star anise or similar looking cumin seeds – it’s a completely different spice.

Here are some how-to photographs to guide you through your first “anysbeskuit” adventure:

Start with using good quality natural stone ground flour, like Gideon Milling’s cake flour. The dough is enriched with a free range egg, butter and condensed milk, and flavoured with aniseed. It need 2-4 hours to proof – it should triple in size.

I use a kitchen scale to make sure my balls are all an even size. Shape them by hand to ensure a smooth surface.

Make sure your pan is very well oiled. The balls should fit tightly and should preferably only cover the lower third (or maximum lower half) of your pan. They will proof to double in size, and rise even more while baking.

 

Ingredients:

(makes 1 XL loaf or 2 large loaves or 3 medium loaves – see *pan size guides in notes above)

Prep time: 20 min for mixing & kneeding, 2-4 hours for proofing, 15 minutes for shaping, 1-2 hours for second proof, 50 minutes for baking.

  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) luke warm water
  • 10 g (3 teaspoons) instant yeast
  • 200 g (250 ml) white sugar
  • 850 g (6 cups) Gideon Milling cake flour
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) salt
  • 20 g (3 tablespoons) aniseed
  • 60 ml (4 tablespoons) condensed milk
  • 100 g butter, melted
  • 1 XL egg, lightly whisked
  • 250 ml warm water (warmer than luke warm, but not boiling)
  • oil, for brushing the bowl & tin
  • for the syrup: 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water

Method:

In a medium jug/bowl (about 500 ml capacity), add the warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Stir, then leave to froth for about 10 minutes while you get the rest of the ingredients ready. To the bowl of a stand mixer (or just a large mixing bowl, if doing this by hand), add the rest of the sugar along with the flour, salt & aniseed. Stir to mix. When the yeast mixture is frothy, add the wet ingredients to the mixing bowl in the following order: condensed milk, butter, egg, warm water and then the frothy yeast mixture. Mix on low speed using the K-beater for about 30 seconds, then switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed for 10 minutes (if working by hand, stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture become sticky, then knead for at least 10 minutes until the mixture is very smooth and soft, adding a little flour if the mixture is sticking to the working surface). Lightly oil the inside of a large bowl with room for proofing, then shape the dough into a smooth ball and add it to the bowl. Cover with plastic and leave to rise in a warm area until tripled in size – 2 to 4 hours depending on weather conditions.

In the meantime, oil the inside of your preferred *tin/s using a pastry brush. When the dough is ready, divide it into 12 balls of the same size (about 170 g each). Lightly oil your hands, then shape each ball by pushing it from below through the hole you make by pressing your thumb and forefinger together, pinching it at the bottom to stay round, then arrange tightly in rows in your tin/s. Again, cover with plastic for a second proof – you need the dough to almost reach the top of the tins. While it is proofing, preheat your oven to 170 C and arrange your oven rack to be in the lower third. Remove the plastic from the tin when the dough has proofed enough, then bake the loaf for 1 hour at 170 C. In the meantime, make the syrup by stirring the sugar and warm water together in a cup.

When the baking time is up, have a clean, thick folded tea towel ready, then turn the freshly baked loaf out onto the towel (the loaf is too soft for a cooling rack at this stage). Brush with the syrup, then leave to cool slightly before serving warm – tearing off the “bolletjies” one by one to reveal their natural feathery nature. The loaf can also be sliced (when cooled), if preferred. Best served with butter (and optionally also jam).

– In proud collaboration with Gideon Milling. –

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Lemon semolina syrup cake

25 Aug

This easy, scrumptious, moist, bright yellow cake is the fourth and final recipe in the series #WhenLifeGivesYouLemons with LemonGold. It is made with four whole boiled LemonGolds (they’re seedless, so no need to remove seeds) and gets drenched in a lemony, almondy syrup as soon as it comes from the oven. The bright yellow colour doesn’t only come from the yellow fruit pulp (skins and all), but also from the use of extra virgin olive oil, locally sourced free range eggs and pale yellow semolina, resulting in a truly golden colour. Fine semolina lends a tender soft crumb, light as air.

The cake can be stored on the counter, covered, for up to 3 days, or refrigerated for up to 1 week. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, or at room temperature with a cup of coffee.

Ingredients: (serves at least 8)

  • 4 LemonGolds
  • water, for boiling
  • 180 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 140 g (2/3 cup) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 XL free range eggs
  • 2 cups (250 g) fine semolina
  • 20 ml (4 teaspoons) baking powder

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 C and spray a large rectangular deep baking dish with non-stick spray (mine is 24 x 30 cm).

Cover the lemons with water and bring to a boil. Turn heat to a simmer and cover with a lid, then cook until soft (about 30 min). Remove with tongs and cool slightly, then remove the hard woody end stubs and cut into quarters. Blitz until smooth in a food processor. Now add the olive oil, sugar, salt and eggs. Process until well mixed, scraping the sides. Add the semolina and baking powder and pulse to mix.

Scrape the mixture out into the prepared baking tin and smooth the surface, edging the mixture evenly into all the corners. Bake for 30 minutes (while you make the syrup) – the centre should be cooked and the surface golden. Remove from the oven and cut into diamonds, then ladle the syrup all over.

For the syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • juice of a LemonGold
  • 5 ml almond essence

Boil all the syrup ingredients for 1 minute, then set aside to cool. 

Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream, or at room temperature with a strong coffee.

 

 

 

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Apple caramel pecan pie

13 May

I adore apples in every shape and form – tart and crunchy, sweet and juicy, fresh, baked, caramelized, stewed – the works. They’re the easiest lunchbox treats, the most convenient quick snack, the humblest dessert ingredient that never disappoints.

Today is international Apple Pie Day! I teamed up with Dutoit Agri to create my favourite “apple pie” inspired dish – they said it could be a pie, a smoothie, a sweet treat, anything derived from the humble yet classic apple pie. Seeing that I haven’t created an apple pie in some time, I was extremely keen to create an actual pie, especially after recently visiting one of the Dutoit Agri apple farms in the Koue Bokkeveld in April this year. It was eye opening to see the vast orchards, treated with the utmost care and respect by generations of farmers, the fruit ripe and plump and wholesome. I understood in that instant that the humble apple played an indispensable role in our South African community, and that the family business that is Dutoit Agri is key to many household’s basic nutritional intake.

Here is my take on the classic apple pie that can take on so many jackets: an apple caramel pecan pie – a fruit-focused pie made with a combination of Dutoit Agri’s Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples, steeped in a brown sugar liquid, swirled with caramel treat and pecan nuts, baked in a flaky buttery pastry casing, topped with beautiful lattice pastry strips. The result is something between a pie and a pudding, because it crumbles irresistably as you plate it, perfect for a bowl full of pudding and whipped cream.

To skip some of the labour, you can opt for a convenient store-bought short crust pastry which is very stable to handle and bake, but with less of the flakiness and none of the sweetness. But it you’re keen for a tender flaky crust that’s fragrant with butter and vanilla, make your own – recipe listed below.

This recipe is something between a traditional American-style chunky apple pie, a French-style finely sliced apple pie and a caramel pecan pie. It might not behave neatly when sliced (and rightly so), therefor you can certainly scoop it with a spoon into bowls instead of trying to slice, serving as a pudding instead of tea-time treats. Best served slightly warm with a generous dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.

Notes & tips:

  • I’ve used a combination of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples, but you can use only one varietal if you want to.
  • I’ve used a 23 cm round pie dish, about 4 cm deep. You can also use a 20 cm dish, the pie will just be piled a bit higher – remember that the cooked apples will soften and sink back.
  • If you’ve never worked with pastry before, or if you are not keen on doing lattice work, remember that you can always just place the strips in one direction with a little space inbetween – it will be much easier and equally beautiful. Another option would be to cover the pie completely with a rolled out layer of pastry, just trim the sides and make a few slits in the top for the steam to escape. (As mentioned earlier, you can also use store-bought short crust pastry for a quick and convenient alternative – it isn’t sweet like my recipe, but it is still crisp and flaky and very easy to handle.)
  • Always place a regular baking tray underneath the pie dish when baking, as the caramel tends to bubble up and escape over the sides. This way you prevent any caramel from dripping on the base of your oven.
  • The pie gets covered with a layer of foil half way through baking to prevent it from browning too much. To make a very convenient foil dome lid, turn a dinner plate upside down and shape a sheet of foil to fit it, then use to cover.
  • For a cheeky twist, replace the pecan nuts with chopped Peppermint Crisp chocolate bars (perhaps 1 medium bar is enough) for an Apple Caramel Peppermint Crisp Pie.

Ingredients: (serves 8) – also check out my how-to video on Instagram!

For the filling:

  • 10 medium size apples (about 1,1-1,2 kg), suitable for cooking (Granny Smith, Golden Delicious etc.)
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) demerara sugar
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) white sugar
  • 1 ml (1/4) teaspoon salt
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) ground cinnamon
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) allspice
  • 20 ml (4 teaspoons) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) corn flour

For the sweet sort pastry crust: (optional – you can also use a store-bought short crust pastry or puff pastry)

  • 280 g (2 cups) cake flour
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 200 g cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 XL egg yolks
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) lemon juice
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 20 ml (4 teaspoons) ice cold water

For assembling & serving:

  • 1/2 can “caramel treat” / caramel dessert topping
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) pecan nuts, chopped
  • 1 egg, whisked (for brushing)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) fresh cream, whipped (for serving)

Method:

For the filling: Peel the apples, cut them from the core and slice finely. Place the slices in a large mixing bowl, then add the demerara sugar, white sugar, salt, cinnamon, allspice and lemon juice. Stir well to coat on all sides, then leave to macerate for 30 minutes. (At this point, you can continue making the pastry – see below.) The fruit will release liquid and a pool of dark brown sugary syrup will form on the base of the bowl. Sprinkle the corn flour all over and stir again to mix very well. Set aside.

For the sweet shortcrust pastry: Place the flour, caster sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the cold butter cubes and pulse to mix until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs, then add the yolks, lemon juice and vanilla and process briefly to mix. While the motor is running, add the iced water through the feeding tube and process until it just starts to come together in a ball, then remove from the bowl and divide into two equal parts, patting them into flat disks with floured hands. Cover each and refrigerate until ready to roll out (can be made ahead and refrigerated for a day or two).

For assembling: Preheat the oven to 180 C and place a rack in the middle. Grease a 23 cm round deep pastry dish with non-stick spray. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the first disk of pastry to a rough circle of about 30 cm in diameter (or cut a ready rolled sheet of store-bought shortcrust/puff pastry into a 30 cm round), adding more flour to prevent the pastry from sticking. Carefully transfer it to the pastry dish, easing in the sides and leaving a slight overhang. Spoon the apple filling and all the liquid into the lined pan and smooth the top. Warm the caramel in a medium size jug in the microwave, then stir until smooth, and pour all over the top of the filling. Scatter all over with the pecan nuts, then place the whole pie as is in the fridge while you roll out the second pastry disc. Again, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a rough rectangle and cut into 12 long strips (or use another sheet of store bought pastry for this). Arrange the strips on top of the pie to form a lattice (or any other pattern of your choice), then trim the sides – I cut any leftover pastry into thinner strips and place all around the sides, then press with a fork and brush all over with the whisked egg. Place the prepared pie on another baking tray, then bake for 45 minutes uncovered. Lightly cover with foil (see notes above), then continue to bake for another 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the foil and leave to cool completely for the liquids to set – the pie is best cut when completely cooled, as it will hold its shape, but best served slightly warm (a microwave will do the trick!). Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream.

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Pistachio cake with chocolate mousse & ganache glaze

3 May

This is my ode to Mothers Day 2021 – a celebratory double layered cake made with bright green locally farmed pistachios, lightly infused with almond extract, vanilla and rose water, sandwiched with Joostenberg Deli‘s ready-made decadent chocolate mousse and topped with an easy dark chocolate ganache glaze. The texture of the cake is so tender and moist, and it bakes beautifully even on top (so you don’t have to slice off any humps). It is slightly sweet and a little salty, golden with a tinge of green, and invitingly fragrant.

Pistachios have always been one of my absolute favourite nuts – breathtakingly beautiful and the most delicious delicate flavour. They’re more expensive than other nuts, so I usually use them sparingly. But this year, I feel like we all need a little extra pampering. On a recent trip to Joostenberg Deli, I discovered the unrivalled quality of Senqu River Pistachios from the Prieska area. They sell it in 150 g packets at R112 – the most beautifully vibrant, fresh, large, bright pistachios I’ve ever seen. I decided to celebrate pistachios as an ingredient, baking it into a delicately green cake, pairing it with fluffy, rich chocolate mousse and glossy ganache for a show-stopping centrepiece. Although the recipe might seem exuberant, the ingredients will cost you around R300 in total (maybe less) and considering that the cake will feed at least 12 people, it’s truly worth making for a special occasion.

Senqu River pistachios, Nature golden caster sugar, Usana eggs and Valrhona 70% chocolate disks. All available from Joostenberg Deli.

Joostenberg Deli will also stock Valrhona’s dark chocolate disks available in smaller tubs soon, which means that you’ll have access to chef’s quality chocolate in convenient small shapes for melting without having to buy bulk. Other ingredients that make this cake fabulous are Natura’s golden caster sugar and Usana’s free range eggs – all available from Joostenberg’s Deli.

This cake is best served at room temperature, but do store it in the fridge if you’re not serving it right away, as the mousse is made with fresh cream. Other frostings that will work very well are 1) classic cream cheese frosting, 2) vanilla, rose or chocolate buttercream or 3) creme patissierre. You can also make a fragrant rosewater syrup, pouring it over the cake when warm from the oven, and serving the cake with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream – Joostenberg makes a fabulous pistachio ice cream which will be the perfect partner.

Pipe a layer of Joostenberg’s chocolate mousse on the first cake layer.
Pour the ganache glaze over the second layer.
Top with chopped pistachios and some rose petals, optionally.

For the cake: (makes a double layered 20 cm cake, serves 12)

(Notes: Recipe adapted from the fabulous Broma Bakery. This recipe uses 3 large eggs – if you only have XL on hand, use 2 whole eggs plus 1 egg white).

  • 150 g (1 + 1/3 cup) raw pistachios – reserve a tablespoon for topping
  • 280 g (2 cups) cake flour
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) salt
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) baking powder
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 125 g butter, softened
  • 60 ml vegetable oil
  • 300 g (1 + 2/3 cups) golden caster sugar (or regular caster sugar)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) almond extract
  • 5-10 ml (1-2 teaspoons) rose water (optional)
  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) double cream yoghurt (or sour cream)
  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) milk

For the ganache glaze:

  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) butter
  • 70 ml (4 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) milk
  • 100 g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa (I used disks, but you can also just chop a chocolate bar)

Other:

  • 500 ml ready-made chocolate mousse (find it in the fridge at Joostenberg Deli)
  • a few rose petals for decoration, optional

Method:

1) Preheat the oven to 180 C (regular convection) and arrange the rack in the middle of the oven. Grease 2 x 20cm loose bottom cake tins with non-stick spray and line the bases with non-stick baking paper, spraying the paper’s surface too.

2) In a food processor, process the pistachios to fine crumbs (don’t use a power blender, because you might end up with a paste). Add it to a mixing bowl along with the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda, then stir with a whisk to mix.

3) In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the butter and oil and beat until well mixed and creamy. Add the sugar and beat until light and creamy. Add the eggs, vanilla, almond extract and rose water and mix until very light and creamy.

4) Add the yoghurt and milk and beat slowly until the mixture start to look curdled (don’t overmix), then add the dry ingredients and continue to fold it in by hand, continuing until the mixture is very smooth and creamy with speckles from the nuts.

5) Divide the mixture between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops, then bake at 180 C for 35 minutes or until golden and fully cooked (an inserted toothpick should come out clean). Remove from the oven, leave to cool in the tins fo 15 minutes, then carefully remove from the tins and leave to cool completely.

6) To make the glaze, heat the butter and milk in a heat proof jug in the microwave until the butter has melted (don’t let the milk boil). Add the chocolate discs/pieces and leave to melt for a few minutes, then stir until smooth. Now assemble the cake: Place one layer on a cake stand, then use a piping bag filled with chocolate mousse to pipe mousse all over the surface (or just spread it with a knife). Top with the second layer of cake, then pour the ganache glaze all over, edging some of the glaze over the sides. Decorate with the reserved pistachios (roughly chopped) and a few rose petals. Serve at once, or store in the fridge and return to room temperature before serving.

This recipe is part of a proud collaboration series with Joostenberg Bistro & Deli.

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Coq au vin pie

18 Mar

Easter is around the corner and I just had the privilege of creating an Easter-inspired recipe for La Motte with their iconic 2018 Millennium – a Merlot Cabernet Franc red blend. 

I immediately thought of the (also iconic) French chicken stew, coq au vin – a delightful dish made with red wine, mushrooms and onions, perfect for the cooler Autumn weather in the Boland. But for an Easter celebration, I really wanted to go the extra mile and turn the stew into a scrumptious (boneless) pie with a royal homemade sour cream pie crust. 

Making pie from scratch is not a quick meal, but it is certainly one of the most rewarding. My advice would be to start the day before, making the pastry (it needs quite a bit of folding and rolling) and making the stew. Let the stew cool, debone it, and refrigerate. Then assemble the pie about an hour and a half before you want to serve it – take your time with cutting out extra shapes using a cookie cutter or just a small sharp knife. I cut all my leaves by hand, making the grooves with the edge of the knife. This pie is quite saucy, so I prefer not to line the base of my pie dish, but to rather go over the top with pie shapes on top so that they stay super crisp. Bake any delicate or elaborate shapes on a separate lined baking sheet, brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with salt flakes – the baking time will be shorter than the assembled pie, so just keep an eye on it (about 25-30 minutes, depending on the size and thickness).

I served this festive pie with a luxurious seasonal salad of honey glazed butternut with figs, pomegranates, spinach, blue cheese and pecan nuts. The salad and the pie both pair exceptionally well with La Motte’s 2018 Millennium, and the wine is available at 15% off between 15 March and 15 April 2021, available online or from the farm.

For the sour cream pastry:

Note: if you want to save time, use a good quality store-bought puff pastry instead for the crust.

  • 3 cups (420 g) cake flour
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) salt
  • 250 g butter, cold, cubed
  • 250 ml thick sour cream
  • 1 egg, whisked, for brushing

In a large wide bowl, mix the flour and salt, then add the butter cubes, rubbing it into flat small discs with your fingers. When the cubes are all transformed into discs, add the sour cream and stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together in a rough ball (don’t add any liquid, it will eventually become a soft ball of dough). Cover with plastic and rest the dough for at least 30 minutes (if it is a cool day, it can be rested on the counter top in a cool spot, but if it is hot, rather rest it in the fridge). Roll out into a rectangle on a floured surface, then fold into three layers (when facing horizontally, fold the right side to the middle, and the left side over both layers to the middle, making 3 layers). Immediately roll out again into a rectangle, and fold into three layers. Repeat a third time. Rest the dough for another 30 minutes. Now repeat the 3-part rolling and folding process. Rest again for 30 minutes. The dough is now ready to roll out into a 5 mm thick sheet (on a lightly floured surface) before cutting out and baking.

For the coq au vin:

  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 1 large free range chicken (about 1,5 kg), cut into quarters
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 medium onions, sliced into 1/8 wedges
  • 200 g streaky bacon, chopped
  • a generous handful thyme sprigs, leaves only (discard stalks)
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) cake flour
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) tomato paste
  • 1/2 bottle (375 ml) dry red wine (I used La Motte’s 2018 Millennium)
  • 250 g portabellini mushrooms, halved

In a wide large pot/casserole with lid that can also go into the oven, over medium heat, add the chicken and fry on both sides until golden. Season with salt & pepper, then remove from the pot. Add the onions, bacon and thyme, and fry until the onions start to soften slightly and the bottom of the pot starts to turn sticky. Add the flour and tomato paste, and stir for a minute, then add the red wine and stir to loosen all the sticky bits on the bottom. Bring to a simmer, then replace the chicken quarters and add the mushrooms, pushing them down into the sauce. Cover with a lid and braise in the oven for about 1h15 minutes or until very tender and falling from the bone. Remove from the oven, turn the chicken pieces over, replace lid and leave to cool to a temperature where it is easy to debone. When cool, using tongs and clean hands, debone the chicken and shred the meat into chunks. Check the seasoning of the sauce and add more salt  & pepper if necessary. Transfer the filling to a large deep pie dish and press down to create a flat surface. Now top it with the pastry. 

Preheat the oven to 180 C. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the rested pastry to a large slab of about 5 mm thick. To cover your round pie dish with pastry, measure a circle slightly bigger than the dish, then cut it out with a pizze cutter or sharp small knife (the dough will always shrink back a little while baking). Carefully place over the pie dish, then use a fork to make indents on the edges (if you want to). Brush with egg wash, then cut more small decorative shapes to adorn the edges and centre, using a cookie cutter or a sharp small knife. Brush all the extra shapes with egg wash. Cut a few slits into the top for steam to escape, then bake for about 50 minutes on the centre rack until golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve hot. 

For the honey glazed butternut, fig, pomegranate & blue cheese salad:

Note: the glazed butternut can be made ahead before you bake the pie. Serve at room temperature.

  • 1 medium butternut, peeled and sliced into 1 cm thick slices (remove seeds)
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) olive oil
  • 15-30 ml (1-2 tablespoons) honey
  • salt & pepper
  • dressing:
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
    • 10 ml Dijon mustard
    • 5 ml honey
  • about 150 g swiss chard spinach, chopped (stems finely sliced) – or use rocket leaves
  • 6-8 ripe black figs, sliced 
  • 100 g blue cheese, crumbled
  • seeds of 1/2 ripe pomegranate
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) pecan nuts, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 220 C. Arrange the butternut on a large baking sheet lined with non-stick baking paper. Drizzle all over with olive oil and honey, then toss with a spatula to cover on all sides. Season with salt & pepper, then roast for 20-25 minutes or until brown on the edges and tender.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

Make the dressing: add the olive oil, vinegar, mustard and honey to a small jar, season with salt & pepper and shake vigorously. Add the spinach to a mixing bowl, then add half the dressing and toss to coat all over. Transfer the dressed spinach to a salad serving platter, then add the glazed butternut, figs, blue cheese, pomegranate seeds and pecan nuts. Serve at once (the dressed spinach will continue to wilt on standing). 

This post was proudly created in collaboration with La Motte Wines.

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Almond financiers (a step-by-step guide)

11 Aug

A few years ago, I discovered almond financiers while shopping at Joostenberg Deli. They produce a wide range of French-inspired pastries within their bakery, also including madeleines, croissants, etc. These unassuming little pastries looked intrigueing: no icing, no impressive decoration, just rectangular golden nuggets with their characteristic cracked tops. I’ve always been a sucker for any type of almond pastry, so I expected to love them. But when I finished all six in the packet by myself before even getting home, I knew I was hooked. Crunchy on the outside, densely moist in the middle, with the distinctive yet subtle almond flavour that all frangipane-style pastries are globally adored for.

I’ve since created a recipe for baking my own, using a mini-muffin tin instead of the original iconic rectangular molds that I cannot seem to find anywhere (I suppose they do look like little gold bars, and perhaps therefor the “financiers” name). I’ve baked many batches of these, and they never disappoint. Over the years I’ve adapted the recipe slightly to suit a number of easy substitutions (even using home-ground whole almonds) and to make sure that they didn’t stick to the pan as easily (the purists prefer buttering the moulds, but I honestly think non-stick spray does a better job).  I’ve also found David Lebovitz’s financiers post very handy, and specifically found the comments section very insightful (because so many people wanted to know if you atually stir in the egg whites without giving them a whisk first, and the answer is yes, you stir them in just a gloopy as they are). Apart from turning the butter into browned butter over the stove top, the rest is literally a stir-together vibe – it couldn’t be simpler.

I’ve created a few visuals in my kitchen, showing you what the process and the mixture look like – keep scrolling down to get the full recipe at the end of the post. Have fun in the kitchen and prepare to fall in love with these humble little nuggets.

Browned butter – take a look at the essential darker bits that form at the bottom of the pan. Keep swirling to prevent the butter from burning.

Separating my eggs – you’ll only use the whites, so keep the yolks for making custard later.

Add the ground almonds to a mixing bowl, along with flour, salt and sugar. Use store-bought “almond flour” (blanched ground almonds) or make your own by grinding whole almonds to a powdery consistency in a blender.

Add the whites to the dry ingredients and mix to a sticky thick batter.

Add the slightly cooled browned butter to the batter and stir until fully incorporated.

It’s a stirring game – no technique, very easy.

Keep stirring until the butter is fully incorporated.

Use two spoons to drop the batter into a mini-muffin tin that’s thoroughly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Optionally, top with a few flaked almonds.

Bake for 12 minutes at 220 C (or 200 C for fan assisted ovens).

Remove carefully from the tin using a sharp small bladed knife, and cool on a rack.

French simplicity at its finest: freshly baked almond financiers, baked in mini-muffin tins.

Ingredients: (makes 24 mini-muffin financiers)

  • 100 g salted butter
  • 140 g (1 cup tightly packed) ground almonds / almond flour (or grind your own from raw almonds)
  • 180 g (4/5 cup) light brown sugar (or white sugar)
  • 60 g (1/2 cup) white bread flour (or cake flour)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 XL egg whites 
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • about 1/4 cup flaked almonds (optional)

Method:

  1. Make the browned butter: Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, swirling every now and then until melted. It will start to sizzle and bubble with a slightly “split” look. Continue to swirl from side to side (do not stir) every 15 seconds, watching it carefully. The large spattering bubbles will change to a gentler fine coffee-coloured foam – when this happens, check for a golden brown residue on the bottom of the pan. As soon as you spot this golden brown residue starting to form, remove the pot from the heat and keep on swirling until the foam subsides and you are left with a liquid, nutty, brown butter. Be careful not to burn the butter. The butter should now be around 80 ml in total, which is perfect. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220 °C (or 200 °C if using fan-assisted oven). Spray a 24 hole mini-muffin tin generously with non-stick spray.
  3. Add the ground almonds, sugar, flour and salt to a large mixing bowl and stir with a spatula. Add the egg whites and extract and stir well – it will be a sticky, thick batter.
  4. Add the slightly cooled but still liquid browned butter and stir until well mixed. Divide the mixture evenly between the mini-muffin holes using two spoons. Top with some flaked almonds (optional) then bake for 12 minutes until golden brown and risen.
  5. Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes in the pan before use a sharp small knife to loosen the sides of the financiers. Leave on a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.
  6. Serve with tea/coffee. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Note: If you are using unsalted butter, rather add 1/2 teaspoon salt. If not topping with almond flakes, the financiers with rise a little more and you’ll see more of the characteristic “cracked” top.

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Olive and cheese bread with capers and thyme (with step-by-step pictures)

3 Jul

Warm, fragrant bread rolls that ooze with cheese when pulled apart. The extra virgin olive oil leans a wonderful flavour and texture to the bread.

 

These pull-apart bread rolls are so good, they cannot be categorised as a side dish. They demand to be the showstopper of the table – golden and sizzling as it comes from the oven, packed with pitted kalamata olives, mozzarella, parmesan, capers and thyme, and drenched with only the best extra virgin olive oil. In its essence, it’s a soft type of pizza bianca – easy to make, but with maximum results.

Cooking and baking with extra virgin olive oil is something that I do daily. In this case, the EVOO is in the dough, it get’s drizzled over before rolling the dough up, and it gets drizzled again once the bread comes from the oven. The oil lends a fresh and vibrant flavour to the rolls, and assures that they have a pleasant “wet” mouthfeel here and there. The bread don’t need anything else – in fact, after photographing it, we had it for lunch ánd dinner, as is. My plan was to add boerewors and a salad, but we were blinded by the bread, love at first bite.

After rolling out the dough in a rough rectangle, top it with mozzarella, parmesan, halved olives, capers and thyme. Then drizzle all over with extra virgin olive oil.

 

Carefully roll up the assembled bread dough into a log.

 

Cut the rolled dough into slices.

 

Arrange the sliced dough cut-side-up in a lined baking dish and top with more thyme, salt & pepper. Leave to rise for a second time before baking.

 

When the bread is golden and fully cooked, remove from the oven and drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil. Ceramics by Mervyn Gers.

 

For the dough: (serves 6)

  • 500 g stone ground white bread flour
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) instant yeast
  • 1,5 ml (1,5 teaspoons) salt
  • 300 ml lukewarm water
  • 15 ml extra virgin olive oil

For the filling:

  • 300 g mozzarella cheese, roughly grated
  • 1/2 cup (about 40 g) parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted & halved
  • 2-3 tablespoons baby capers (in brine, drained)
  • 4-5 sprigs thyme, leaves only (woody stalks discarded), plus extra
  • about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling, plus extra
  • salt & pepper

Method:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the K-beater, add the flour, yeast, salt and mix well. Add the water and oil and mix on low speed until it comes together, then switch to the dough hook and continue to knead for about 7 minutes until you have a very smooth dough (you can also do this by hand in a large mixing bowl, kneading for at least 10 minutes). Shape the dough into a ball, then leave to proof in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic or reusable wax wrap until doubled in size (about 30 minutes, depending on the temperature outside).

Preheat the oven to 200 C and line a large deep baking dish with non-stick baking paper (I used a 26 cm round casserole). On a clean floured surface, roll out the dough to a rough rectangle of about 30 x 40 cm, making sure that it doesn’t stick to the surface. Distribute the mozzarella evenly all over the surface, then the parmesan, then the olives, capers and thyme leaves. Carefully roll the dough up in the length, then cut evenly into rounds, transferring each round to the prepared baking dish (cut side up) immediately after cutting to prevent the oil from leaking out onto the working surface. Shallower slices will cover a larger baking dish, of course. Cover loosely with a tea towel to rise for 15 minutes, then bake in the heated oven at 200 C for 35 minutes or until golden brown and cooked.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes before sprinkling with salt, pepper, more thyme leaves and another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. The bread can be transferred to a serving plate by pulling on the edges of the baking paper and lifting it out. Serve warm.

(This recipe was proudly created in association with the SA Olive Industry.)

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Chocolate eclairs with salted caramel custard and pecan brittle

28 Apr

 

During lockdown, many of my readers have shared how they are cooking recipes from my blog. It’s such a wonderful feeling – to know that my recipes can provide others with a little pleasure and inspiration during a very uncertain and serious time! Thank you so much for all of your feedback, photos, comments and shares. It makes me feel warm and valued, and it is a shining beacon carrying me through this uncertainty with all of you.

I am at a point where I’m searching for recipes that will bring the most amount of joy, for the least amount of money. With a limited spectrum of recreation and entertainment available during lockdown, baking and cooking has become just that: a recreational activity. Yet with limited funds because of limited (or no) work opportunities, many of us need to get really creative in making the most of what we have, while still feeding our families. Every now and then, a special homemade treat can provide some kind of light hearted escape from the gloom that otherwise hangs over all of us. And for me, in allowing myself this special joy, I choose hope.

One of my friends, Anele Horn, recently sent me a photograph of her homemade chocolate eclairs – she used a recipe from my blog that I haven’t made in years. Then I remembered that basic eclairs (choux pastries) are made of a handful of very simple ingredients: water, flour, eggs, sugar, salt. I also remembered that a custard filling can be made of very simple ingredients too: milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cornstarch. I found a recipe online for making salted caramel flavoured custard, because hey, it sounded like a good idea. With the addition of a simple caramel syrup (made from sugar and a little water) and some salt, I made a salted caramel custard perfect for piping into the choux buns, without buying a single exotic ingredient. So when my husband went to buy a few essential fresh supplies, I asked him to buy 2 slabs of the cheapest dark chocolate he could find (they costed R11,99 each) for the topping. I found a handful of pecan pieces in our cupboard (the last of my “lockdown” nut supply) and with a little extra effort I made a simple nut brittle (using just sugar and the nuts) that I chopped up for decoration at the end.

 

These were some of the best sweet treats we’ve had the pleasure of enjoying in the past 5 weeks, and we only spent R24 (excluding the cost of the basic ingredients that we had in the house). The recipe makes about 21 medium size eclairs. I do hope that you’ll try it – SO worth the effort!

Notes for substitutions: You can also use whipped sweetened cream to fill the eclairs, and a very economical cocoa glaze for the top (if you have cocoa powder and icing sugar in your pantry). And yes, you can certainly also use cheaper peanuts for the brittle!

Notes on effort/skill levels:

  • The choux buns are moderately easy to make, but the following tools will make the process easier: a digital scale, an electric mixer (stand mixer) and a piping bag. Without these, you’re going to apply some decent elbow grease for mixing, and you won’t be able to pipe rows (just use two spoons instead to create round choux “balls”).
  • The salted caramel custard requires medium skill levels and time. It is best to make it the day before you want to make the eclairs, to split the effort into 2 days. Make the caramel first, let it cool, and then use it to make the custard. Let the custard cool completely before making the choux buns.
  • The nut brittle requires medium skill levels, but only because you’re working with very hot melted sugar that requires timing – otherwise it’s a simple recipe with only 2 ingredients. It is an optional extra, but I promise you it delivers BIG on added texture, luxury and flavour.
  • To melt chocolate: I do it in the microwave, so it should be easy enough. Just follow the instructions and be patient.

 

Ingredients: (makes about 21 medium size eclair buns)

For the salted caramel custard filling: (recipe adapted from Jo The Tart Queen)

  • 200 ml (170 g) white granulated sugar
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) tap water
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) hot water from a recently boiled kettle
  • 500 ml (2 cups) milk, preferably full-cream
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 125 g egg yolks (about 7 XL yolks)
  • 50 g (about 7 tablespoons or 105 ml) cornflour
  • 50 g butter, cubed
  • salt, to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon salt flakes, but if you’re using fine salt, use less)

To make the caramel: place the sugar and tap water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Let it come to a boil without stirring, only tilting the pan now and then. Boil until it changes colour to a light golden, and get your hot water ready. When it reaches a darker amber caramel colour, carefully add the hot water all at one (if will splutter!), then remove from the heat at once, tilting it from side to side to mix. Set aside to cool completely – you’ll use it later for the custard.

To make the custard: Place the milk and vanilla in a medium size pot over medium heat. While it is heating, whisk the yolks with the cooled caramel in a mixing bowl, then add the cornflour and whisk again to mix well. When the milk just starts to simmer, pour it carefully into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Now pour the mixture back into the pot and place over medium heat. Stir constantly, until the custard starts to thicken. Continue stirring until it makes a few slow boiling bubbles, then lower the heat to very low and cook for at least another minute or too until it becomes very thick. Remove from the heat, then  stir in the butter.  When melted, season with salt – you don’t want the salt to be overpowering, but you want to taste it. Transfer the custard to a wide container and cover with a layer of clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming, then leave to cool fully. Keep refrigerated until ready to use (will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator).

For the choux pastry:

  • 250 ml (1 cup) water
  • 2,5 ml (1/4 teaspoon) salt
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) sugar
  • 65 g (1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon) butter, cubed if cold
  • 140 g (250 ml / 1 cup) white bread flour or cake flour
  • 3 XL eggs

Method:

Preheat the oven to 220 C. Add water, salt, sugar and butter to a small saucepan. Heat until the butter melts, then bring to the boil. As soon as the mixture starts to boil, add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, cooking the paste until it thickens and pulls into a ball (it takes about 20 seconds for the mixture to form a ball). Remove from the heat at once and transfer the ball to the bowl of an electric mixer (if doing by hand, transfer to a large mixing bowl). With the K-beater fitted, turn on the mixer on medium-low, releasing steam from the hot flour mixture. Now add the eggs one at a time, mixing until it comes together before adding another (it will look like it is splitting at first, but be patient, it will come together). Continue until the mixture is smooth and glossy but still stiff enough to hold shape. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag, then pipe buns of about 8 cm long and 2,5 cm wide on a greased/lined baking sheet, leaving enough space between them for swelling (or use two spoons to drop balls of paste on the baking sheet). Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220 C for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 160 C for 25-30 minutes (smaller buns will take 10-15 minutes) until the buns are golden brown and crisp to the touch. Remove from the oven and pierce with a small sharp knife to allow steam to escape. Leave to cool completely before filling.

For the nut brittle: (optional)

  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecan nuts

Have a small baking tray ready, lined with non-stick baking paper. Place the sugar in a small pan or pot over moderately high heat. Leave until the sugar starts to melt (without adding any liquid), gently tipping the pan from side to side. When the sugar has melted, it will change colour. Watch it carefully, gently tipping the pan now and then, until it is a deep amber colour. Remove from the heat and add the nuts at once, tipping the pan to coat all over (only a few seconds). Tip out on the lined baking tray, using a silicone spatula to remove from the pan (work quickly before the caramel hardens). Use the spatula to flatten the brittle slightly. Leave to cool completely, then chop into smaller pieces for topping your eclairs. (Preferably don’t make this too long ahead, as it will become sticky again on standing. Keep in an airtight container, when completely cooled.)

For assembly:

  • about 150-180 g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

Remove the cooled custard from the fridge, use a whisk to mix it to a smooth consistency, then transfer to a piping bag. Cut the buns open on one side horizontally, then pipe the filling into each one. To melt the chocolate, place it in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds at a time, stirring inbetween with a spatula. After about the third or fourth session, it should be warm enough and fully melted. Spread each bun with chocolate on top (or transfer the chocolate to a small plastic bag or piping bag, and snip off the one corner to neatly pipe onto the buns). Top with a few shards of brittle. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

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A simple white bread loaf (with video)

9 Apr

I’ve had many requests for posting a simple bread recipe, so here it is. A simple white bread loaf that doesn’t need any special tools (other than a mixing bowl and spoon, baking tins and your oven – and yes, you can also bake it on a fire in a pot). You’re going to have to knead it, so if you’ve never done it before, just give it a try. It’s quite therapeutic – anyone who’s done it before will agree. Then the dough simply rises in the tins, so you’re not going to have to knead it a second time.

Here are a few handy tips to keep in mind when baking this bread:

  • What type of flour works best? I’ve listed white bread flour (I prefer stoneground), but you can also use cake flour, wholewheat flour etc. for a variety of end results. Remember, stoneground white bread flour can “take” more water than regular commercial white bread flour or cake flour, so adjust your liquid quantities accordingly (less water for fine cake flour). If your mixture is very sticky after adding the liquid, just keep adding a little flour while kneading until your dough is soft and not sticky.
  • Why milk? Milk will keep your loaf softer for longer, but you can certainly substitute the milk for more water of the same quantity.
  • What if I don’t have bread tins? You can bake the shaped dough free-form on a roasting tray, or you can bake it in cleaned canned-food tins (those large 800g food tins work well), or you can bake it in in a ceramic or glass baking dish (like the one you use for lasagne etc.). You can also bake it in an oven-safe pot (no plastic handles allowed). For very large pots, use all of the dough, and increase the baking time to 1 hour (cover the pot with a lid for the last 20 minutes).
  • Should I grease the tins? Absolutely yes. The bread will stick to the tins if you don’t, and it will break when you try to turn it out. Use oil, butter or non-stick spray.
  • Can I bake this bread on a fire? Yes, in a cast iron pot, over mild coals, with a lid on (coals on the lid as well), for about 1 hour.
  • Can I half the recipe to only make 1 loaf? Yes you can, but while you’re taking the time to make one loaf, it makes sense to make a second one for tomorrow, or for the freezer (and bread flour gets sold in neat 1kg packets). Frozen bread can be thawed on the counter, and then refreshed in the oven at 180 C for about 10-15 minutes – as good as freshly baked.
  • For a softer crust: If you prefer a softer crust, wrap your freshly baked loaves in a clean cloth while they’re cooling. This way the crust will steam and soften while cooling. Don’t try to slice the bread when it’s straight from the oven, give it at least 15-20 minutes to cool (otherwise it will make dense “clots”).
  • How to store: Wrap in a plastic bag and keep in a cool, dry place. The bread is always best on the day it was baked, served warm, but it will last for a few days on the shelf, and tastes great when toasted.

 

Ingredients: (makes 2 medium loaves, or one extra large loaf)

  • 1 kg white bread flour, plus a little extra for kneading (I prefer stoneground unbleached white bread flour, see my tips above)
  • 1 x 10g packet instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) salt
  • 1,5 cups (375 ml) warm water
  • 1,5 cups (375 ml) milk (use a little less milk if you’re using cake flour or commercial bread flour)
  • vegetable oil, for brushing

Method:

In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Stir to mix. Add the water and milk, then stir with a wooden spoon until you have a sticky mixture. Turn it out on a lightly floured surface, then start folding the dough over, and over, and over (see video). Keep on kneading for at least 5 minutes (up to 10 min), adding a litle more flour if the dough is too sticky, kneading until the mixture is smooth and elastic and not sticky at all. Cut the dough in half, shape into oblong loaves, and place in two greased tins (brush with oil or spray with non-stick baking spray). Cover loosely with plastic, then leave to rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes or until doubled in size. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 220 C. Remove the plastic, then bake the loaves for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked. Remove from the oven, turn out of the tins (be careful, very hot!), wrap in a clean cloth and leave to cool at least 15-20 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature with your choice of butter/jam/cheese etc, or dip into soups and stews.

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Oat and bran digestive cookies

28 Mar

Baking is a form of self-care for me. It’s one of my happy-place activities, something I do when I really have time on my side, not feeling rushed or restrained. I’d much rather bake than read (although I love reading), because there’s a tangible end result to baking – an edible reward.

With many recipe developers confined to their homes at the moment, all across the world, there’s an endless stream of recipe inspiration to be absorbed and enjoyed for everyone who has access to the internet. One of these stream comes from Bon Appetit. I subscribe to their newsletter, and their recent recipe for digestive cookies was delivered straight to my inbox. Theirs looked so perfect, I couldn’t look away. I absolutely adore digestive cookies, especially when they’re covered on one side in chocolate, and these looked delectable. So when I scanned the ingredients list, I realized that I missed 2 key ingredients: wholewheat flour and wheatgerm. It turns out you can substitute the wheatgerm for toasted oats (according to the recipe writer, because many people didn’t have wheatgerm in their pantries), and I made my own plan with the wholewheat flour, using a mixture of unbleached stoneground white bread flour and wheat bran (wheat bran is the same stuff that you’d use to make bran muffins). I needed a little less milk than the original recipe stated, but the rest worked like a charm. Incredibly “short” and crunchy, almost like wholewheat shortbread, just sweet enough, tasting very very similar to original digestives. What a triumph!

 

 

I only had enough chocolate to partly cover about 3/4 of my cookies, but hey, nothing wrong with a few plain digestive cookies either.

You’re going to need a food processor for this recipe, as well as a rolling pin and a cookie cutter. The rest is quite literally childsplay.

Ingredients (slightly adapted from Bon Appetit’s original recipe, developed by Sohla El-Waylly)

  • ½ cup regular oats, toasted in a dry pan
  • 90 ml or 6 tablespoons (75 g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
  • 1 cups (125 g) white bread flour*, plus more for rolling
  • 3/4 cup wheat bran* (about 25 g)
  • ½ cup (125 g) cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 2-3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) milk
  • about 100 g chocolate (milk or dark), chopped (optional)
Method:

Place two oven racks in upper and lower thirds of your oven and preheat to 180°C. Using a food processor, add the oats, flour, bran, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl. Process until very fine. Add the butter and pulse until it is well incorporated, then add the milk little by little and pulse until a crumbly dough forms (add just enough milk, you don’t want a dough that’s too sticky).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead into a ball. Now flatten it into a disk. Roll out on a lightly floured surface until 5mm thickness (it doesn’t have to be perfect). Lightly flour a cookie cutter (I used a 45 – 45 mm square cutter with round edges, you can use whatever shape you want) and punch out cookies, dusting lightly with more flour as needed to avoid sticking. Dust any excess flour off the cookies with a dry pastry brush.

Using a spatula, transfer cookies to 2 baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Gently knead the scraps together, reroll, and punch out more cookies. (Bake any smaller scraps as is and crumble over ice cream!)

Prick each cookie 3 times with a fork and bake, rotating baking sheets top to bottom halfway through, until bottoms and edges are browned, 15–18 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets (cookies will crisp up as they cool).

If using, melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave in 20-second increments, stirring after each burst, until almost fully melted, about 1 minute total, then let it stand for a minute to fully melt. Stir, then eave to clool for about 10 minutes before using.

Using a small offset spatula or butter knife and working one at a time, spread about 1 teaspoon of melted chocolate over the flat underside of each cookie. Using the side edge of the spatula, tap a few lines into the chocolate to make a slight pattern. Chill cookies on baking sheets until chocolate is set, about 10 minutes.

Cookies will stay fresh for at least 3 weeks. Store airtight at room temperature.

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