Waiting for Agnes

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Flash forward October 9, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Just bread,Parenting — titchandboofer @ 11:24 am
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One of the great things about having friends with children older than the small person is that we get a preview of what phases and stages kids can go through before we hit them ourselves. Some I’m looking forward to, like the learning to talk bit. Others, like heartstopping need to scale every giant tree, fence and rooftop, not so much. 

Today I discovered another perk to this friends with older children business. Today was the first netball game for one of the LMF’s daughters and the beloved, small and I went along to cheer her on. The sun was shining down, the courts were packed with six year olds in oversize t-shirts and scary women with whistles, we had coffee, we had croissants and it was glorious. Well, it was glorious, for the full three minutes of coffee-clutching, croissant-munching sunbaking we had before the first whistle. Then the shrieking started.




sotto voce….if I was coaching, they’d be a well oiled machine



Not one of the parents. No. That was the beloved. Who, up until now has been keeping her netballing expertise completely to herself. Just a little glimpse of the future parent.

Anyway. None of that has anything to do with fruit loaf.

Sort of Jamie Oliver’s Fruit Loaf

30 grams of dried yeast

30 grams of honey

~700 mls of warm water

500 grams of strong white bread flour

500 grams of wholemeal spelt flour

30 grams of salt

1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon

150 grams of dried dates

200 grams of dried apricots

150 grams of sultanas

Combine the yeast and honey with 300mls of the warm water in a small bowl. Stir well and set aside while you chop the dried fruit and prepare the flour – it will grow right in front of your eyes, foaming up to the bowl’s brim.

Mix the flours, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.

Add the yeast mixture and stir to combine.

Continue stirring, adding the remaining water until the mixture holds together. You may need a little more or a little less water depending on the particular flour you use.

Add the chopped dried fruit and stir to incorporate.

Dust your benchtop with flour. Turn the dough onto the bench and knead.

Knead for 5-10 minutes, until the dough is pliable and not too sticky.

Separate into two portions.

Butter two large bowls and put one portion in each bowl. Leave to rise in a warm place for about 2 hours. I put each bowl in a plastic bag with a hot heat pack and tie up the bag. This rises the dough beautifully in about 1 hour. The Nanna used to put her dough in bed with an electric blanket on and, if it’s sunny, SF will put hers in the car. Whatever takes your fancy and gets the job done.

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down to knock the air out, knead lightly for a minute or so, then put it into your tins (or on a tray for a freeform loaf) to rise again.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius (180 fan forced).

When the dough has risen again bake for 30-40 minutes. To test if it’s cooked, turn out of the tin and knock on the base of the loaf – it should sound hollow. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

For a glossy, sticky finish, brush the still hot loaves with honey.

Slice, slather generously with butter and eat. Yum.


Nothing Fancy July 28, 2010

Filed under: Just bread — titchandboofer @ 3:50 am
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Once upon a time I lived in a glorious share-house, with beautiful blankets for curtains and only a few weeds growing through the floor. I shared with two girls and when we weren’t occupied with weeding the floor or breaking the bathroom fixtures, we had a great time guzzling red wine and fitting in a bit of study. It was during this time that my almost-compatible interests in DIY and gardening began. The DIY was essential for jobs like repairing the garage door  with old vertical blind pieces (after I broke it with my motorbike) and sticking down kitchen floor tiles with excessive grout (I didn’t break those, I suspect they were running away). The gardening was mainly for fun and survival – if the grass stayed short we could play cricket and we couldn’t lose drunk friends down the bottom of the substantial block. Being poor students, we were in possession of a motley collection of tools, including a very useful hammer and the world’s smallest electric whipper snipper. We did not have a lawn mower. So, the only thing to do was find someone to mow for us. As luck would have it, not long after we made this decision a harassed and muddy  lawnmowing man materialised on a neighbour’s front lawn. I dragged him round to our back yard so he could give us a quote for a regular mowing gig. He glared hard at the large block and the overgrown driveway, muttering to himself. Reluctantly, after a few minutes, he said “I can do it for twenty bucks, but I won’t do nothing fancy”. Deal.

Just like his mowing, this bread is nothing fancy. It is white, medium sized, soft in the middle, crunchy on the outside when just baked and simply tasty. Even small children only accustomed to eating wonder-soft-sliced-in-a-packet bread will eat this. Originally a Domestic Goddess Nigella recipe, I’ve tweaked it slightly.

Just White Bread

500 grams of bread flour

8 grams of dried yeast (1 7g sachet will also work fine)

1 tablespoon of rock salt

~350 mls of very warm water

1 tablespoon of unsalted butter at room temperature

Bread tin optional – you can just make a loafy shape and bake it on a tray

Preheat oven to 200 deg Celsius

In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt. Add about 250mls of the water and mix thoroughly. Add more water as needed to bring the dough together until it looks like:

Tip onto your lightly floured bench top, add the butter in little blobs and knead. This will take 5-10 minutes, depending on your individual style. I love this bit, but I also sing the praises of laundering cloth nappies and knitting socks, so if it’s not your thing just use the dough hook on your mixer and judge by appearance rather than feel. When the dough has been kneaded enough it will be smooth, springy and only slightly sticky. Put the dough into a large, buttered bowl (I just wash out and reuse the original bowl), turning once so the upper surface has a sheen of butter. Leave to rise. at this point you have a choice – put the bowl in a warm place for about two hours, until the dough has doubled in size; leave it overnight; or use my mum’s quick-rise trick like I do. This involves putting a hot heat pack in the bottom of a plastic bag, resting your bowl on the heat pack and tying up the bag on top. This will get your dough risen in about one hour.

Next, the fun part: knock back the dough. Yes, actually punch it down. Then put it back onto your lightly floured bench and give it a brief knead. Shape it or put it in your tin. Cover loosely with a clean tea towel. Leave to rise again for an hour or so.

Then bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven. Ours is fan-forced and quite quick. To test for readiness, tip it out of the tin and knock on the bottom of the loaf – it should sound hollow. Slather the hot bread in butter, or dip it in soup, or weigh it down with scrambled egg and freshly picked parsley, or sandwich baby spinach, goat’s cheese and beetroot between its slices, or just toast it for breakfast and enjoy with a big hot mug of earl grey tea.

Like so – with home-made plum jam… a recipe for another season.