April Daring Baker’s Challenge: Foccacia

IMG_1894“For the month of April Rachael of pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to Italy. They challenged us to try our hands at making focaccia from scratch”

So foccacia…. damn, more yeast. Not my favourite stuff in the world as I’m always scared it’s not going to workout alright; cakes are so much more reliable. However, they say practice makes perfect and what better way to practice than with a foccacia dough. It’s simple, versatile and makes a lovely addition to a lunch table, like mine did. In the future I’d like to try wholemeal or a sourdough version, but let’s learn to walk before trying to run. I topped mine with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, basil and parmesan, but the possibilities are endless. Even a dessert foccacia is possible!


385g all-purpose (plain) flour

1/2 teaspoon  salt

1 teaspoon  white sugar

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

1 teaspoon garlic paste

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1 pinch ground black pepper

1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil

1¼ cups (300 ml) milk

15g grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Toppings: sun-dried tomatoes, basil, parmesan, garlic


In a bowl mix the milk, yeast and sugar and wait until it becomes foamy and bubbly (This indicates that your yeast is active, if the yeast doesn’t bubble and foam it has gone bad and you can’t use it)

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, , garlic powder, oregano, thyme, basil, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Mix in the vegetable oil, then add the milk-yeast mixture.

Stir with a wooden spoon till the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic (around 10 minutes)

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil.

Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size. (If you are tight on time you could heat your oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 then turn it off and place the bowl with the dough in it)

Center your oven rack, preheat oven to hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8.

Punch dough down; place on greased baking sheet. Pat into a ½ -inch (15 mm) thick rectangle or any shape you desire.

To give the dough the dimples effect, use your fingertips , pushing gently all over the surface of the dough

Place your selected topping

Brush top generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, rosemary and salt.

Allow the dough to rest for 10-15 minutes

Bake in preheated hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8 oven for 15 minutes, or until the sidesbegin to brown then place under the broiler (grill) till the top becomes golden brown.

Serve warmIMG_1896


Daring Bakers December Challenge: Dutch Sweet Bread

For the month of December, Andrea from 4pure took us on a trip to the Netherlands. She challenged us to take our taste buds on a joyride through the land of sugar and spice by baking three different types of Dutch sweet bread” 


As usual December has been so hectic; holidays, baking, parties and presents. I love Christmas, it’s my favourite time of year. However, I left this challenge right down to the line: made this morning, cooled and photographed midmorning, editing at lunch, upload now. And to be honest, I don’t feel like baking, because we’ve got soooo much food. But these are good, really good.  And even better because I made them in my new mini bundt tin! Will become a staple in our house I’m sure. So keep this recipe for when you feel like seeing food again.



(I made half because, food, too much food)


4 cups (960 ml) (17-2/3 oz) (500 gm) all-purpose (plain) flourIMG_1831

1½ teaspoons (7 gm) baking powder

2½ cups (600 ml) (17-2/3 oz) (500 gm) brown sugar, firmly packed

2 teaspoons (10 gm) ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons (10 gm) ground nutmeg

2 cups (500 ml) milk


Preheat oven to moderate 180˚C and spray your tin. line with baking paper if using a loaf tin

Whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl

Put the milk in a small saucepan and warm until it almost comes to a boil. Remove from the heat

add the sugar and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.

Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients whisk (by hand or using a machine) until the batter is totally smooth.

Pour into tins and bake for 13-15 minutes.


Daring Bakers September Challenge: Dvojctihodné / Moravské koláče (Two fillings / Moravian Kolaches)

The September Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Lucie from ChezLucie. She challenged us to make a true Czech treat –Kolaches!

Wow things are hectic at the moment. So much is going on with assignments due all the time, but considering I haven’t done the last two challenges I told myself I must try this one. My heart sank when I saw dough and yeast again, due to my recent failures with sourdough. I’ve had a bit of a confidence knock when it comes to bread. But thankfully all went to planned this time around. At the same time as making these czech treats, I dared a simple sourdough loaf, which, though  far from perfect, was edible and enjoyable. After all this was a Daring Bakers challenge!IMG_1488

Anyway, these koláče were lovely. The perfect saturday morning breakfast, I filled them with apricot and strawberry jam as I didn’t have plum. I also substituted cream cheese for quark as I didn’t have any… except of course for the usual subatomic particles that make up everything. Sorry, physics nerd….

Anyway, enjoy my daring bake, and attempt your own!


for dough
500 g all-purpose flour
100 g sugar
250 ml milk, warm
75 g butter, melted
30 g fresh yeast or  15 g active day yeast
pinch of salt
2 small egg yolks

for quark filling
750 g quark or cream cheese
1 small egg yolkIMG_1490
confectioner’s (icing) sugar to taste

for jam filling
strawberry, apricot, plum (jam of your choice)

for streusel topping
50 g plain flour
50 g butter, chilled and diced
50 g sugar

for finish
1 egg

In a bowl mix together yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar. Add 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) warm milk, mix well and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 – 15 minutes.
In a bowl of your electric mixer (or in a large bowl) mix flour, sugar, salt, egg yolks, butter, milk and leavened yeast. Knead with dough hook (or with wooden spoon) on low speed for about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about one hour to double its volume.

Meanwhile prepare quark filling – just mix all ingredients – and jam filling – mix jam with rum or water to soften it. Set aside.

Prepare streusel topping. In a medium bowl, mix together sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add cold butter diced in small cubes and with your fingers, mix all ingredients until crumbly. You can also use my mum’s trick – in a saucepan melt the butter, add flour and sugar at once and mix with fork until crumbly. Set aside.

When the dough is risen turn it onto a lightly floured surface and roll it with rolling pin to a thickness of about 2 cm (¾ inch). Cut with 10cm (4 inch) cookie cutter or just with a glass (if you want small kolaches) or divide the dough into 10 equal pieces (if you want large kolaches). Splat each piece with your hands and fill with quark filling. Wrap it into a “purse” shape.

Preheat oven to moderate 340°F/170°C/gas mark 3. Line 2 – 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Put each kolach onto a prepared baking sheet with seam down. Press each kolach in the middle as you can see on the picture below. Brush it with egg wash and fill holes with plum filling. Sprinkle it with streusel topping. Bake for about 20 minutes to golden brown.IMG_1491

Experimental Creations: Sourdough, Cake, Red Velvet and Muffins

So no baking for me last week until friday, so I was quite ready to get in the kitchen come the weekend. A weekend of experiments, with a 75% success rate, not bad i’d say. Sourdough cinnamon buns, a naked cake, red velvet brownies and vanilla pear muffins.

Not strictly baking, but I started my second attempt at a sourdough starter on monday, Max II. Yes I named my sourdough… Is that weird? What happened to Max I, you may ask? Well… uh… my history with plants should have been an indication that I would battle to keep an inanimate live object alive. Anyway… Max II is alive and well, and I set out to make sourdough cinnamon buns for Saturday morning. The weather was against me from the start, and the dough was really sticky, so I added more flour. Warning signs were there by the end of the first prove but I pressed onwards and even shaped them and left them to prove overnight… Which they didn’t. So no cinnamon buns….

Enter Vanilla Pear Muffins! A new recipe, not too sweet, and yielded HUUGGEE muffins. Paired with the cream cheese icing meant for the cinnamon buns, they were a fair substitute. pearmuffin1IMG_1446IMG_1433IMG_1436

Now the cream cheese icing from the cinnamon bun/muffin incident, was created from the leftover fluffy vanilla icing topping the red velvet meant-to-be-brownies-but-were-too-amazingly-fluffy cake slices. I used my red velvet cupcake recipe to make red velvet brownies, but they really aren’t squidgy enough to be brownies. In fact, they’re so light and fluffy, I’ve renamed them red velvet clouds. Go make these now, they’re that good. You can easily do them as cupcakes or in a brownie tin.


As for the cake…. think orange and passionfruit naked layer cake, filled with passionfruit french buttercream, lightly dusted with icing sugar. An experiment in recipes and flavour for something exciting coming up in the next week….

Daring Bakers Challenge June 2014: Cinnamon Buns

My second daring bakers challenge! A really fun one this week, I’ve been looking forward to making these for ages but haven’t really been brave enough. And oh my were they lovely. I used a pouring fondant for the icing, which I’ve made often. These were a huge success with the rest of the family, including the retriever puppy, who ate 3 rolls during the proving process while my back was turned for 5 minutes.

Anyway here they are!

This month the Daring Bakers kept our creativity rolling with cinnamon bun inspired treats. Shelley from C Mom Cook dared us to create our own dough and fill it with any filling we wanted to craft tasty rolled treats, cinnamon not required!


90g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon extract OR 1 teaspoon (5 ml) grated lemon zest
450 g unbleached bread (or all-purpose/plain) flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast (active dry worked as well)
1 1/8 – 1 ¼ cups (270-300 ml) whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature
½ cup (120 ml) (3½ oz) (100 gm) cinnamon sugar (6½ tablespoons (100ml) (3 oz) (90 gm) granulated sugar plus 1½ tablespoons (20 ml) (1/3 oz) (10 gm) ground cinnamon)


In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together sugar, salt and shortening (though it is not difficult to do by hand, using a strong spoon).
Add the egg and lemon extract to the creamed sugar and shortening and mix together until smooth.
Add the flour, yeast and milk to the mixer and mix on low speed until the dough begins to form a ball.
At this point, switch to the dough hook attachment and knead for 10 minutes (if kneading by hand, you will probably need to do so for closer to 12 – 15 minutes). The dough will be silky and supple, but not overly sticky. You may need to add a touch of flour if your dough is too sticky – that is okay.IMG_9844
Lightly oil a bowl, turn the kneaded dough out into it, turning to coat, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Allow the dough to rest (ferment) until it has doubled in size, approximately 2 hours.
Once the dough has rested and risen, you are ready to shape the cinnamon buns. Prepare your a sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper.
Spray your work surface lightly with cooking spray and turn the dough out onto the work surface.
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough, into a rectangle about 2/3 an inch (15 mm) thick, 14 inches (350 mm)wide and 12 inches (300 mm) long (for large buns) (or 18 inches (450 mm) wide by 9 inches (230 mm) long for smaller ones). You may need to sprinkle the dough and/or work surface with a bit of flour to keep the dough from sticking. This is okay.
Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar filling over the surface of the dough.
Starting with a long end, roll the dough, creating a spiral, into a log shape, making sure to end with the seam side down.
Cut the dough into pieces approximately 1¾ inches (45 mm) thick (for large buns) (1¼ inch (30 mm) for smaller buns).

Place buns approximately ½ inch (15 mm) apart on the prepared pan. They shouldn’t be touching at this time.




Allow the shaped buns to proof at room temperature for 75 – 90 minutes until they have nearly doubled in size. They will now be touching each other. If you are not planning on baking the buns the same day as you are preparing them, you can place them into the refrigerator after they are shaped (before this rise) for up to 2 days. If you do so, you will need to allow them to return to room temperature prior to baking, which means removing them from the refrigerator about 3 or 4 hours before baking.

Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 degrees at the end of this proofing time.
Bake the buns for 20 – 30 minutes, until golden brown
Allow the buns to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then drizzle with glaze. Remove the buns from the pan to a cooling rack and allow them to cool for at least 20 minutes before eating.IMG_9852

Daring Baker’s May Challenge: Pão de Queijo

So I decided to take a stab at the daring baker’s challenges, partially to make sure I post at least once a month and mostly because it would force me out of my comfort zone and to learn new things. So far, I have learnt that even though I was meant to post this on May 27th, I seem to be largely incapable of adhering to deadlines. However, this delay was due to the impending deadline of my final folio for this semester, and the tragic and sudden passing of my Macbook. So I spent a fair bit of time depressed over the loss of my hard drive, until it was returned to me. So I have all my photos back and everything else, which is the silver lining to the fact that I am still computerless. Anyway, on with this challenge! It was interesting, fun and delicious. Also a wonderful gluten free recipe.

This month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge took us on a trip to beautiful Brazil! Renata of “Testado, Provado & Aprovado!” taught us how to make Pao De Queijo, tasty cheese buns that make the perfect snack or treat, and that will make your taste buds samba!

Yields about 20 small balls


250 gm (2 cups) tapioca starch
1/2 cup (125 ml) whole milk
20g butter
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste depending on how salty your cheese is)
1 1/2 cups 125g Monterey Jack Cheese (or another cheese of your liking, or a mix of cheeses), coarsely grated*IMG_9769
1 large egg

*I used gouda, parmesan and cheddar


  • Heat milk, butter, and salt in a small sauce pan until it comes to a boil. Watch closely as it may boil over. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Sift tapioca starch into a large bowl.
  • Pour the boiled (hot) mixture over the tapioca and start stirring with a fork. The milk mixture will not be enough to form a dough yet. You will have a lumpy mixture, that’s what it is supposed to be
  • Keep stirring with the fork, breaking down the lumps as much as you can, until the mixture cools down to warm.
  • At this point, preheat your oven to moderately hot 400° F/200° C/gs mark 6
  • Add the grated cheese to the tapioca mixture and mix well, now using your hands.
  • Add one egg at a time, mix with your hands until dough comes together. I suggest you lightly beat the egg with a fork and add little bits until the dough comes together into a soft but pliable dough. You only have to knead it a bit, not as much as you knead a yeasted bread. It’s OK if it is slightly sticky.
  • Form balls with the dough and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicon mat or lightly greased with vegetable oil. If necessary, you can oil your hands to make shaping easier. The size of the balls may vary from small bite-sized balls to the size of ping pong balls. They will puff up quite a bit after baking.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes or until they just start to brown on the bottom. You may have golden spots of cheese on the crust. Don’t over-bake as they will get hard and bitter.