Merry Christmas and a festive Stollen

I can hear the kookaburras calling outside my window and the Torres Strait pigeon in the mango tree as dusk settles here after a hot and humid Christmas eve. It’s not what many would consider typically Christmasy but to us it is.

Today I baked and prepared for our meal tomorrow. Part of it was this delicious stollen, another recipe from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent. Get this amazing cookbook before it is sold out to make all the wonderful recipes.

As my family and I are preparing to attend Christmas eve Mass at our local church, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the peace and joy of Christmas and the holidays.

Christmas Cake – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #55

Do you like Christmas fruit cake? Fruit cake is very alienating – you either love it or you hate it. Here in Australia, we have had an English baking heritage and that includes fruit cakes. In years gone by it was the only cake to have for a wedding, baptism or at Christmas. Even my Italian mother made a great fruit cake. Mum’s cake began with boiling of dried fruits, butter, sugar and spices which was left to cool before adding the flour, eggs and rum. I loved that smell of cooking fruits and spices and still do. Fruit cakes have lost favour in recent years but I still enjoy really good fruit cake moist with fruit that has been plumped in dark rum.

This Welsh Christmas cake from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent, is a very traditional fruit cake. My version includes stem ginger in syrup and dark Jamaican rum to soak the fruits. Baking it in a ring pan ensures even baking and it doesn’t dry out on the edges in an effort to cook the centre. Fruit cake is not meant to be served in fat wedges rather a thin sliver with a little liqueur on the side is perfect, almost like a spoon sweet. Do try it any time of the year!

Welsh Christmas Cake adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent

280g/10oz currants
340g/12oz sultanas or golden raisins
280g/10oz dark raisins
1 cup dark Jamaican rum

Soak the dried fruit in the rum for about a week until all the rum is absorbed.
1 cup glace cherries
1/2 cup diced candied lemon peel
1/2 cup diced stem ginger in syrup
3/4 cup blanched almonds, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup plain flour

After a week, mix the cherries, lemon peel, ginger almonds and flour together with the dried soaked fruit.

Now prepare the cake:
fine dry breadcrumbs for the pan
2 cups plain flour
pinch salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup almond meal
250g/ 2 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
5 large eggs
1/4 cup dark Jamaican rum, a little extra to spoon over the cake
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Prepare a large angel food pan by coating with cooking spray and dusting with dried breadcrumbs. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F. Sift the flour, salt and spices and set aside.
In a stand mixer beat the butter until smooth, add the sugar and then the syrup. Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well beating additions and scraping the bowl when necessary. Add in the rum and extracts. On low speed mix in the flour mixture and almonds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the fruits and almond mixture. Stir until well combined. Spoon into the prepared pan, taping the pan down on the kitchen bench to ensure there are no air pockets. Bake the cake for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until a skewer inserted comes out clean. My cake was cooked at 2 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven. I like to give the cake a little drink at this stage by spooning over a couple of tablespoons of rum while the cake is still warm. To keep the cake moist I like to wrap it in a clean cloth to cool slowly. When the cake is cool wrap in plastic wrap and keep in an airtight container. This cake will keep well but can be portioned and stored in the freezer.

Brandied Fig and Caramelised Honey Macarons

For the month of October we got to take on one of many bakers’ deepest, darkest kitchen nightmares : macarons. Our talented bakers Korena from Korena in the Kitchen and Rachael from pizzarossa made the intimidating task of mastering these French beauties a breeze.

Quite a long time ago, actually October 2009, we Daring Bakers were first challenged to bake macarons. At the time I had heard of the macaron but had never seen or tasted one. Yes, true! Where I live in tropical North Queensland we have lots of sun, summer and beaches but trends take a long time to arrive! Hence that challenge was a challenge indeed. I went on to make them regularly even giving them as gifts to my children’s teachers at the end of the school year. A couple of years later I made two macaron towers for my niece’s wedding. I think that did it for me as I hadn’t made a successful macaron since

Fast forward to Daring Bakers Challenge October 2015 and once again we are challenged with macarons. This time I decided to try the Italian meringue method said to produce shinier shells. Actually I didn’t think it did produce shinier shells but it does seem to produce more consistent results and a more forgiving mixture. And this time no air bubbles in my shells! I am so happy! Thanks to our hosts Rachael and Korena!

Macaron shells using the Italian meringue method (Rachael’s recipe)

Servings: 30 x 4cm / 1 1/2” filled macarons

(original recipe in grams)

140g / 4.9 oz ground almonds, room temperature
140g / 4.9 oz powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
100g / 3.5 oz egg white (from approx. 3 eggs), room temperature, divided 50/50
100g / 3.5 oz granulated (white) sugar
40g / 1.4 oz (weight) water


Replace 20g / .7 oz of the powdered sugar with unsweetened cocoa powder or powdered freeze dried fruit
The seeds of 1 vanilla bean
A few drops of non-oil-based essence
A few drops of gel food colouring or a pinch of powder food colouring


Prepare 2 parchment (not wax paper) lined baking sheets. They need to be big enough to hold 30 x 4cm / 1 1/2” diameter shells each.

Mix the ground almonds and powdered sugar (and cocoa powder, if using) together in a bowl, then grind in a food processor until you have an extra fine texture. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor.

Sift into a large bowl (I use a mesh strainer and push the mixture through with a spatula), putting any bigger pieces of almond back into the food processor to re-grind.

Add 50g egg whites and mix thoroughly into the almond mixture. At this point, you can add food colouring or flavouring such as vanilla seeds, citrus zest, essence, if desired. ( I coloured mine violet) Set aside.

In another bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, scrupulously clean and free of any oil or egg yolk, beat the other 50g egg whites to stiff peaks.

Meanwhile, put the granulated sugar and water into a small heavy-based saucepan and heat on medium-low to 118°C / 244°F, without stirring.

While whisking constantly on low speed (to avoid splashing hot syrup), slowly add the cooked sugar mixture to the beaten egg whites, pouring it down the inside edge of the bowl. You’ll get a bit of it hardening on the side of the bowl, but that’s okay – just leave it there.

Whisk at high speed until the mixture is cool, about 3 minutes. About 1 minute before the end, you can add food colouring, if not done at the almond paste stage. The mixture should increase in volume and become firm and shiny, and it should be thick and marshmallowy when you lift the whisk.

Scrape the meringue onto the almond mixture and incorporate with a rubber or silicone spatula. You do actually want to get a lot of the air out of the mixture – you do this by folding and squashing the mixture against the side of the bowl, rotating the bowl a quarter turn with each fold. Be sure to firmly scrape the bottom of the bowl with the spatula, so you don’t leave a layer of almond paste there.

Mix until you have a homogeneous batter that runs from the spatula in a thick ribbon.

Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 7 – 9mm / #10 – #12 plain round tip (this is best done in two batches, so you don’t overfill the bag). Pipe 60 equally sized rounds, about 4cm / 1 1/2” in diameter, in staggered rows onto the prepared sheets. Hold the piping bag upright with the tip just above the sheet and pipe without pulling upwards or swirling in circles, so the batter comes out in a round blob around the tip, and give a little sideways flick at the end to break the stream.

Tap the baking sheet firmly on the bench several times to release air bubbles and obtain a smooth surface. If you have any tips sticking up, press them gently down with a damp fingertip.

Leave the tray to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes until a slight skin forms. If you touch it, it should be only just tacky.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2.

Bake the macarons in the centre of the oven for 18 minutes (20 minutes if using cocoa in the shells), one sheet at a time, turning the sheet half-way.
Remove from oven and remove the parchment from the tray with the shells still on it and place on a cooling racks for at least 30 minutes, until completely cool, then remove macaron shells carefully from the parchment.
If not filling straight away, store in an airtight container at room temperature, separating layers with parchment. Otherwise, fill and store in an airtight container in the fridge to mature for at least 24 hours before eating.

Brandied Fig and Caramelised Honey Filling (my own adaption of an Adriano Zumbo recipe)

250g dried figs, roughly chopped
50g honey
100g dark chocolate (70%)
50g brandy
65g butter, chopped and softened

Place the figs in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for an hour then drain and puree the figs in a food processor until smooth.
Put the honey in a small pan over a medium heat until it boils and caramelises.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. Add the puree of figs, caramelised honey and brandy. Mix well and bring up to 50C.
Add the butter to the chocolate mixture and blitz with a stick blender. Allow to cool. Then pipe generously onto half of the macaron shells and top with remaining shells.
Allow the macarons to rest in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Seed and Nut Loaf with Dates and Dried Cranberries – Daring Bakers’ Challenge August 2015

 For the August challenge Susan from The Kiwi Cook dared us to make Seed & Nut Loaf – a super-healthy and gluten-free alternative to standard wheat-based bread.

Gluten free? The word alone brings to my mind strange food and loss. Loss of enjoying a crusty baguette, or a flaky croissant or simply white bread with butter and Vegemite. Loss of traditional pasta dishes so important in my life. Loss of cakes, biscuits and baking I know and love so well. This month we were challenged to bake a gluten free seed and nut loaf by Susan of The Kiwi Cook. Strangely this month my daughter was having tests to check if she was gluten intolerant. While she was waiting for the results I pondered about my future baking should the test come back positive. Anyone who knows me knows my love of baking and of breads. And my family are pivotal in my baking choices. I bake for them. It is part of who I am and what I can give to the ones I love.

So to step into the world of gluten free seems so limiting. It is with this thought that I plunged into the recipe. Could I make it work? Could I love it? Gluten free and all?

The answer is a resounding yes!

This gluten free loaf is bound together not with eggs but with psyllium seed husks which soak up the liquid and act as a binding ingredient. The original recipe was probably more savoury than my version because I wanted to bring in the natural sweetness of dates and orange juice and the bite of cranberries.

During the month I also made an delicious Apricot, Apple and Coconut version, substituting the dates, cranberries and cinnamon for 1/2 cup chopped dried apricot, 1/2 cup chopped dried apple and 1/2 cup desiccated coconut. I used water instead of orange juice but I think coconut milk would be nice. This photo shows the loaf untoasted but toasting definitely adds the finishing touch.

So if you’re game, bake this, slice it, toast it and drizzle it with honey…I think you will be pleasantly surprised! Thanks to our host, Susan and my Daring Bakers friends.

GLUTEN-FREE SEED & NUT LOAF with Dates and Dried Cranberries

Makes 1 loaf


1 cup (250 ml) (140 gm) ( 5 oz) sunflower seeds
½ cup (125 ml) (90 gm) (3 oz) flax seeds (linseeds)
½ cup (125 ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) sliced almonds (or nuts you prefer, I used almonds and macadamias)
1-½ cups (375 ml) (135 gm) (4¾ oz) gluten-free rolled oats
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (20 gm) (¾ oz) sesame seeds
4 tablespoons (60 ml) (25 gm) (1 oz) psyllium seed husks (3 tablespoons if using psyllium husk powder)
1/2 cup chopped dried dates
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) fine grain sea salt (it’s fine to reduce this if you prefer)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey, I definitely added more!
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons (45 ml) butter, melted
1-½ cups (375 ml) orange juice, freshly squeezed


In a standard sized silicone, non-stick, or greased and lined loaf pan, combine all the dry ingredients (I find it’s easier and less messy to combine in a large bowl first).

Whisk honey, butter and juice together in a separate bowl.

Add mixture to the dry ingredients and combine until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (while the mixture will be wet, there should be no excess liquid).

Transfer the mixture to the loaf pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Cover the pan lightly with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours or overnight. The mixture should feel very firm to the touch.
Preheat oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/ gas mark 4. Then bake bread initially for 20 minutes.

Take the loaf out of the oven, place a wire rack over top and invert to remove the bread (if you’ve lined the loaf tin, you should remove the lining at this point).

Put the now inverted loaf on its wire rack into the oven again and bake for another 30-40 minutes (it should sound hollow when tapped). The loaf should be starting to brown on the outside – this gives a lovely nutty crunch to the finished loaf.
Let the loaf cool completely before slicing.


You can store the loaf in an airtight container (or wrap it in plastic wrap) for up to 5 days. You can also freeze it for at least 3 months (it helps to slice it first before freezing so you can enjoy that occasional piece of toast!).

An Australian oldie but goodie – Date and Nut Roll Cake

Cleaning out my refrigerator yesterday I realised I had a couple of packets of dried dates.What I had bought them for I don’t know. But lately I have been reading a lot about minimalist lifestyles. Not that I could live that way, but there is a lot to be said for living with less and not giving in to consumerism. Maybe the dates were on special and I couldn’t pass them up. What a waste if they aren’t used. I love to have a very well stocked pantry and refrigerator so much so that a friend once looked into my pantry and called to her daughter. “Come and look, it’s just like a supermarket!” I need to curb some of my spending, I think.
So, now I am on a mission to use and not waste what I have. Cook with what’s in the pantry/refrigerator. Yes, a bit of a mystery box challenge, if you like.
Hmmm, what to do with my dates….then I remembered an old Australian classic,
 the Date and Nut Roll. This is an old recipe that I have been using for more than 25 years so I’m not sure where is originated. I have it jotted down in a notebook where I wrote many recipes before my marriage 26 years ago.

For this cake, special baking tins are required. The cake is not “rolled” but baked in a cylindrical baking tin which is sealed at both ends resulting in the cake sort of steaming and baking at the same time. These tins are a little hard to get a hold of but if you do look after them and treat them with care. They are usually made out of tin and can rust easily. Once I remove the cake after baking I quickly wash the tins then place them back into the still warm oven to completely dry. Moisture is a major factor in these tins rusting. 
Hope you like this and if you are Australian, that it brings back fond memories.

Date and Nut Roll Cake (makes 2 nut rolls)

1 cup chopped dried dates
1/2 cup sultanas
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarb soda)
30g butter
1 cup boiling water, from the kettle
1 egg, beaten a little
2 cups plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon mixed spice
pinch salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

In a bowl place dates, sultanas, sugar, baking soda and butter.

Pour over boiling water, mix and let stand until cool

Once cool mix in egg, flour, spice and walnuts.

Mix until it is just combined.

Butter the nut roll tins well ensuring both lids are coated. Seal one end of each tin and place on a baking tray. Fill each with half of the mixture ( it will rise). Seal with the top lid. Keep tins upright and on the baking tray (makes it easier to transfer to the oven and remove). Bake at 175C for 55 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Remove the top lid and breathe in the delicious, sweet and spicy goodness
Carefully remove the bottom seal and shake out gently. 
This picture is deceiving. It looks like a tall muffin but… a long cake. 
Cool on a rack.
This is a delicious almost wholesome cake so I’m sure a lick of butter is ok!

Curried Roasted Cauliflower Salad

I get very stale sometimes!
With my cooking that is!
 I get caught up making the same old thing. Like salads. I’m never very adventurous with salads. I find one I like and stick to it but recently tasted a delicious cauliflower salad and decided to go home and make one. Why I had never thought of Curried Cauliflower Salad, I don’t know but wow, it is so good!
After a bit of time spent googling (and can’t that take lots of time!) I came up with something I really loved. So did my guests.
I started making this Curried Cauliflower Salad but then it took some twists and turns.
My Curried Roasted Cauliflower Salad
Take 1 cup of cashews, 2 spoonfuls of maple syrup, 1 teaspoon of curry powder and a pinch of salt. Mix them up and pop them on a baking paper lined tray (makes washing up so much easier).

 Roast in a preheated 180C oven for 15-20 minutes until lovely and golden brown.

Then break up two cauliflowers into flowerettes.

In a large bowl mix together 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons curry powder, 1 teaspoon each of salt, ground cumin seeds, ground coriander seeds and dry mustard powder.  Add the flowerettes and mix well. Tip onto a baking paper lined oven tray.

And bake at 180C until tender and golden, about 30 minutes. Toss regularly during roasting.

In a small bowl mix together a dressing of 3 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/4 cup olive oil. In a large bowl toss together the cauliflower, 1 cup of defrosted frozen peas, 1/2 cup diced capsicum, 1/4 cup diced dried apricot, the roasted cashews and 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Add the dressing and salt to taste. Mix well and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavours to develop.



The December 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread!
Yep, you read correctly.
That’s me!
I hosted the December 2012 Daring Bakers’ Challenge!
I was so thrilled to be asked to host this challenge and enjoyed the experience immensely. Here is the  challenge as I presented it.  
I joined DB in June 2009 to learn my about my favourite pastime – baking! Since then I have felt as though I have been learning at a patisserie school with some of the world’s best teachers. From macarons to croissants, puff pastry to bombe Alaska, I never know what each month will bring.
This month I am your host. I can’t believe it either! I’m not sure how qualified I am but this month I’m going to challenge you to make Panettone – a traditional Italian Christmas Bread.
I live in a little town in far northern Australia which is known as “Little Italy” due to its predominantly Italian heritage and culture. Being born of Italian parents in this very Italian town, Italian food was and still is, just part and parcel of my life. Every Christmas the commercially prepared panettone took pride of place on the table and was enjoyed with dipped into our Asti Spumante. Leftovers are eaten for breakfast with our morning coffee and I always buy an extra one to have on hand when visitors drop in.
So how was the Panettone born? Traditionally it is eaten by the Milanese but now it is available all through Italy and in many parts of the world. There are many stories and legends of the Panettone but the one recounted by Carol Field, whose recipe I have favoured, is that of a rich young Milanese noble who fell in love with the daughter of a poor baker whose name was Tony (Antonio). The nobleman wanted to marry the baker’s daughter so he ensured the baker had at his disposal the very best ingredients – eggs, butter, flour, candied orange peel, citron and sultanas. The baker created a wonderful bread which became known as pan di Tonio (Tony’s bread). The baker found his fame and fortune and the nobleman honorably married the baker’s daughter.
There are lots of different types of Panettone now available – some with chocolate or vanilla fillings or coated in chocolate but the traditional Panettone is my favourite. Traditionally, the Panettone is made with wild yeasts but I’m never very good with sourdough breads so even though I tried a traditional recipe I settled on this one with commercial active dry yeast. If you have had success with sourdough Panettone I would welcome your version. This recipe may seem a little complicate but let me assure you, taken over a two day period (resting in the refrigerator overnight) it is quite simple, only time consuming as all yeasted products are, but even then it’s inactive time waiting for the dough to rise. Also, not to worry if you don’t like dried or candied fruit, simply substitute with chocolate chips, nuts or some of the wonderful flavoured chips you lucky guys have in the US. Think about using dried date and walnuts or dried cranberries and white chocolate. Flavour it however you like – soak your fruit in rum or brandy. Mmmm.. what about coffee flavoured? Maybe certain types of candy might work. And then if you are like me, a Panettone fan, you will find that this recipe comes quite close to the commercial variety. Adding the Almond Glaze simply gives the Panettone another dimension and it really is very tasty.
I hope you enjoy the challenge of making your very own Panettone in the flavours custom made for you and your loved ones.
 For me the hardest thing was to find traditional Panettone papers in my part of the world. I found them online at a New Zealand store but I know they are available at Amazon (P & P was exorbitant to Australia). Failing that an empty can, 6 inch (15 centimeter) diameter lined with paper works. Or a small 6 inch (15 centimeter) cake pan with paper lined card extending the rim would also be fine as would a charlotte mold or soufflé dish. I tried homemade panettone papers which were also quite successful if none of the above are suitable. *Note: See photo instruction in the “Additional Information” section below.
Mandatory Items: Make a panettone in the traditional tall cylindrical shape using the recipe provided with or without the almond glaze. It is optional to make your own candied orange peel.
Variations allowed: You can substitute the golden raisins, candied citron, candied orange peel, grated lemon and orange rind with other dried or candied fruits or nuts or chocolate, use different flavours or whatever you like. If you have a recipe you love using the traditional wild yeast it would be great if you could make that recipe and share it with us.

Preparation time:
35 minutes
First Dough
mixing 15-20 minutes
rising time 1 -1 ¼ hours
Second dough
mixing 15-20 minutes
Rising time 2 ½ – 4 hours or overnight in a cool place
Final dough and rise
preparing and mixing 1 hour
rising 2-4 hours
Baking 40 minutes
Cooling 30 minutes
Almond Glaze extra 15 minutes
Candied Orange Peel
Prep time about 1 hour
Cooking time 3 hours plus resting time
Equipment required:
  • Small bowl (for the sponge and soaking the raisins)
  • Spoon
  • Stand mixer with paddle and dough hook or wooden spoon, medium large bowl and arm strength
  • Measuring cups, spoons and scales
  • Plastic wrap
  • Large bowl for rising the dough
  • Paper towel to dry the raisins
  • Grater
  • Medium bowl for mixing filling
  • Panettone papers or pans as above
  • Food processor and spoon for Almond Glaze
  • Cutting board for candied orange peels
  • Knife for candied orange peels
  • Saucepan for candied orange peels
  • Wooden spoon for candied orange peels


Makes 2 Panettoni
1 satchel (2¼ teaspoons) (7 gm) active dry yeast
1/3 cup (80 ml) warm water
½ cup (70 gm) unbleached all purpose flour
First Dough
1 satchel (2¼ teaspoons) (7 gm) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water
2 large eggs, at room temp
1¼ cup (175 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
¼ cup (55 gm) (2 oz) sugar
½ cup (1 stick) (115 gm) unsalted butter, at room temp
Second dough
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup (150 gm) (5-2/3 oz) sugar
3 tablespoons (45 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon essence/extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) orange essence/extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
1 cup (2 sticks) (225 gm) unsalted butter, at room temp
3 cups (420 gm) (15 oz) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour; plus up to (2/3 cup) 100 gm for kneading
Filling and final dough
1½ cups (250 gm) (9 oz) golden raisins or golden sultanas
½ cup (75 gm) (2-2/3 oz) candied citron ( I didn’t have this so I made it up with candied orange peel)
½ cup (75 gm) (2-2/3 oz) candied orange peel (try making your own; recipe below)
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 to 3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) (15-25 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
  1. Mix the yeast and water in a small bowl and allow to stand until creamy. That’s about 10 minutes or so
2.Mix in the flour.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size for about 20 to 30 minutes

First Dough
By hand:
  1. Mix the yeast and water in a large bowl and allow to stand until creamy. Again, about 10 minutes or so
  2. Mix in the sponge and beat well with a wooden spoon
  3. Stir in the eggs, flour and sugar.
  4. Mix in the butter well
  5. This should only take about 5 – 6 minutes
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and allow double in size, about 1 – 1 ¼ hours
By Mixer:
  1. In the mixer bowl, mix together the yeast and water and allow to stand until creamy. Again, about 10 minutes or so
  2. With the paddle attached mix in the sponge, eggs, flour, and sugar.
  3. Add in the butter and mix for 3 minutes until the dough is smooth and even.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and allow double in size, about 1 – 1 ¼ hours
Second dough
By Hand:
  1. Be sure to have your dough in a large bowl as above.
  2. With a wooden spoon mix in eggs, egg yolk, sugar, honey, vanilla, essences/extracts and salt.
  3. Mix in the butter.
  4. Then add the flour. Stir until smooth.
  5. At this stage the dough will seem a little too soft, like cookie dough.
  6. Turn it out and knead it on a well-floured surface until it sort of holds its shape. Don’t knead in too much flour but you may need as much as 2/3 cup (100 gm). Be careful the excess flour will affect the finished product.
By Mixer:
  1. With the paddle mix in thoroughly the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, honey, vanilla, essences/extracts, and salt.
  2. Mix in the butter until smooth.
3. Add the flour and slowly incorporate
4. At this stage the dough will seem a little too soft, like cookie dough.
5. Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead for about 2 minutes.
6. Turn out the dough and knead it on a well-floured surface until it sort of holds its shape.
7. Don’t knead in too much flour but you may need as much as 2/3 cup (100 gm). Be careful the excess flour will affect the finished product.
First Rise
  1. Oil a large bowl lightly, plop in your dough and cover with plastic wrap
2. Now we need to let it rise until it has tripled in size. There are two ways to go about this.
  • Rise in a warm place for 2 – 4 hours
  • Or find a cool spot (64°F -68°F) (18°C – 20°C) and rise overnight
  • Or rise for 2 hours on your kitchen bench then slow the rise down and place in the refrigerator overnight. If you do this it will take some time to wake up the next morning but I preferred this method.

 Filling and Final Rise:

  1. Soak the raisin/sultanas in water 30 minutes before the end of the first rise. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Now take your dough and cut it in half. Remember we are making two panettoni
3. Combine all your filling ingredients and mix well
4. Press out one portion of dough into an oval shape
5. Sprinkle over one quarter of the filling and roll up the dough into a log
  1. Press out again into an oval shape and sprinkle over another quarter of the filling
  2. Roll into a log shape again.
  3. Repeat with the second portion of dough
  4. Shape each into a ball and slip into your prepared pans, panettone papers or homemade panettone papers.

10. Cut an X into the top of each panettone and allow to double in size.
11. Rising time will vary according to method of first rise. If it has been in the refrigerator it could take 4 hours or more. If it has been rising on the kitchen bench in a warm place it should be doubled in about 2 hours. 
  1. When you think your dough has only about 30 minutes left to rise preheat your oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 and adjust your oven racks
  2. Just before baking carefully (don’t deflate it!) cut the X into the dough again and place in a knob (a nut) of butter.

3. Place your panettoni in the oven and bake for 10 minutes
4. Reduce the heat to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 and bake for another 10 minutes

5. Reduce the heat again to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3 and bake for 30 minutes until the tops are well browned and a skewer inserted into the panettone comes out clean.
6. Cooling your panettone is also important. If you have use papers (commercial or homemade) lie your panettoni on their side cushioned with rolled up towels. Turn gently as they cool. If you have used pans cool in the pans for 30 minutes then remove and cushion with towels as above.
7. Panettone can also be cooled suspended. How to do this? Firstly you need to use papers (commercial or homemade), insert clean knitting needles into the bottom of the panettone in a X shape. Flip over and support the knitting needles on the edges of a large saucepan with the panettone suspended within the saucepan. Yep, a lot of trouble and I didn’t really find that much difference – maybe I took too long to insert the needles.
Almond Glaze for Panettone
1 cup (140 gm) (5 oz) whole blanched almonds
1 cup (125 gm) (4 ½ oz) confectioners’ (icing) sugar
2 tablespoons (18 gm) (2/3 oz) whole wheat flour
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons (45 ml) good quality extra virgin olive oil
Few drops of almond essence, to your taste
Pearl sugar, flaked almonds or demerara (course crystal) sugar to decorate
During the final rise, prepare the almond glaze. Process almond, confectioners’ sugar and flour until the nuts are finely chopped and well blended. Mix in the egg whites, oil and essence. Process to combine. It is meant to be thick and glue like. All is well! When the panettoni are well risen carefully spread half the mixture over the top. Don’t worry about spreading it to the edges, in fact keep well away from the edges because the glaze will melt and spread. Bake as per the panettone recipe above.
Candied Orange Peel 
9 thin skinned oranges
3½ cups (800 gm) (28 oz) sugar
¼ cup (60 ml) corn syrup (If corn syrup is not available you can use a dash of lemon juice or cream of tartar.)
Water as needed
Granulated sugar
  1. Wash and dry oranges then cut the tops and bottoms off.
  2. Cut into 6 or 8 pieces vertically
  3. Remove the flesh with a sharp knife and reserve for another use (or just munch on it)

4. Put the peels in a large saucepan and cover with water

5. Cook slowly over gently heat until the peels are tender – about ¾ hour to 1 hour
6. Drain and cover with fresh water. Sit for an hour or up to overnight. Drain
7. Into another large saucepan pour 2 cups of water. Mix in the sugar and the corn syrup.
8. Bring mixture to boil then add peels. Partially cover the pan.
9. Reduce heat to very low and using a candy thermometer adjust the temperature so that (212°F to 222°F) 100°C to 105°C is maintained. You may need to add extra water – I didn’t
10. After 2 hours has passed remove the lid and rise the temperature to (235°F) 110°C so that it boils and the water evaporates
11. Turn off the heat and wait until the bubbles subside
12.  Scoop out the peels with a slotted spoon and place on a rack to cool and dry.
13. After a couple of hours the peels are ready to roll in sugar and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. These will keep well for a few months in the bottom of your fridge.

Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: Once your panettone is thoroughly cooled, place in a large plastic bag or container and it will keep quite well maybe for a week. At first the panettone is soft and tender but after a day or two it becomes dry like the commercial variety. I found that the glaze kept the panettone a bit more moist. I didn’t freeze mine but I have frozen the commercial variety for a month or two.

How to make homemade Panettone papers:

Cut 6 long strips on baking parchment and arrange in a star pattern on a baking parchment lined oven tray. Staple the middle.
Place the Panettone dough in the middle
Wrap strips around the dough.
Make a collar out of baking parchment using a cake pan or saucepan to give the shape and staple in place.
Remove the collar from the cake pan and slip over the dough. Attach the strips of paper which cover the dough to the collar with staples.
Bake as directed without removing from the oven tray.
Looks rough but it works. Takes a bit of fiddling.

“A Baker’s Odyssey” Personal Challenge #11 Welsh Griddle Cakes

Today I continue my challenge  to cook through “A Baker’s Odyssey” Greg Patent. From the last entry of Kulich and Pashka which was long and moderately difficult, I go to an easy and delicious afternoon treat. These are a lemony, tea cake with a crumbly, buttery texture filled with golden raisins or currants – I used sultanas. Apparently this recipe dates back to the eighteenth century or earlier. Almost like a scone though with much less liquid to hold the mixture together. I love the idea of not having to turn on the oven instead these a simply cooked  on a nonstick griddle or pan.
Welsh Griddle Cakes
Make 20 to 24
4 cups cake flour ( I made my own)   
2  teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
250g (2 sticks)  butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cup golden raisins, sultana or currents
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 large egg
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon milk
The butter needs to be rubbed into the dry ingredients and this can be done by hand, stand mixer or food processor. I use the food processor for this task.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. If your food processor has a large bowl you can place all of these dry ingredients into the bowl. If not, use 2/3 of this mixture. With the metal blade in the food processor add the butter and pulse 5 or  6 times then process continuously for 10 seconds. I found mine needed more processing. The mixture should look like fine meal. Be careful not to over process. Transfer this mixture into a large bowl then mix in the spices, dried fruit and lemon rind. 
Beat the egg then add the lemon juice and milk.
Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and use a fork to toss and stir until the mixture forms medium to large clumps. Now use your hands to bring the mixture together. Work quickly so the butter doesn’t soften. The key to this recipe is that minimum liquid is used . If you really need a few drops of additional milk can be used so that the mixture will hold. 

Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the mixture to 1/3 inch (just under 1cm) thick. Don’t make it any thick or else it won’t cook through.
Use a  2 1/2 inch cutter (about 6.5cm) to stamp out circles.
Place rounds onto baking sheet lined with plastic wrap.
Gather the scraps together and keep stamping out circles. The last one or two might need to be formed by hand.

If you have a non stick electric griddle heat to 250F to 275F. I use a non stick pan over a low gas flame, adjusting the heat periodically.
Add the cakes to the pan leaving about 2 inches between each. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until nicely browned.
 Using a egg flip or pancake turner carefully turn each cake and cook for a further 5 to 6 minutes. The cakes will feel firm and the sides will have lost their softness. A wooden skewer inserted should come out clean.  Transfer to cake rack to cool.
Continue cooking cakes in the same way.
Greg recommends sprinkling with sugar while hot but we enjoyed them just as they were.
Serve the cakes warm or at room temperature with a cup of steaming tea.
These cakes are moreish! The taste and texture makes them irresistible and I did eat more than I should have! 

“A Baker’s Odyssey” Personal Challenge #5 – Date Babas

This week I bake my first recipe from the “Sweet Pastries” chapter of A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent. When introducing this chapter Greg says, ” Baking this collection of recipes is like taking a pastry course at a culinary school. After making all of them, you’ll be equipped to handle just about any pastry recipe that comes your way.”  Flicking through this chapter I come across Baklawa, Apple Strudel, Puff Pastry Squares with Lemon Buttercream and I know that this statement is not made lightly. Certainly within one chapter there is a world of pastries that I  look forward to making and eating with high anticipation! But I start with Date Babas. This recipe looks simple enough – pastry wrapped around a date filling – and it is simple but the taste! The flaky pastry with a hint of rosewater encase a filling of blended dates. As with the Kahk I made previously, this is a recipe of Greg’s childhood made by his Granny. As I have said before Granny was some cook! These are delicious! These will be a regular in my home.
Pay particular attention to how the pastry is made in the food processor which I have quoted directly from Greg’s recipe for the precision that is needed. I think this method results in a very flaky pastry because the butter is not over processed into the flour instead there a little bits of butter scattered through out the pastry. Perfect!
Date Babas
Makes 30 pastries
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping 
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
 1 teaspoon baking powder
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks or 170g) cold unsalted butter. cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon rose water
1 pound (450g) pitted dates, check for pits
2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter, at room temperature  
1 large egg. lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water for egg wash
sesame seeds for sprinkling
Put the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process for 5 seconds. Add the butter and pulse 5 or 6 times to begin cutting the butter into the flour. Combine the water with the rose water. As you pulse the machine rapidly, add the liquid to the dry ingredients in a steady stream, then pulse about 30 times until you have several large clumps of dough.  Remove the dough and knead the pieces together briefly. Wrap the dough in plastic  and refrigerate for 1 hour or over night.
Make the filling by first cleaning out the bowl of the food processor. Insert the blade add the dates and pulse several times until the dates are finely chopped. Add the butter and process to a paste.  Stop and scrap the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once pureed there may still remain a few small pieces of date but this is fine.  Divide the filling into 30 portions and roll each into a ball.

Line two baking trays with non stick paper and preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
Now to shape the babas, divide the dough into 30 equal portions and roll each into a ball. This dough is beautiful to work with but if you need add a little flour to your work surface or your hands.

Shape the dough ball into a cup extending up the sides to fit in a ball of filling. Wrap the dough up and around the filling complete encasing it.
Set the babas seam side down on the baking tray and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Continue with the remaining dough and filling. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds before baking in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Cool on the baking sheet.

Babas keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for about 1 week – if they last that long!

Take a bite to reveal the rich filling of dates. The hint of rose water is barely detectable just enough to have the eater, (is there such a word?) wonder about the exotic flavour. 
These gorgeous morsels are a classic Iraqi cake and one bite will transport you on that magic carpet across the world.