Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fruit, florals and my 2nd Daring Bakers challenge

You might have noticed I like to play around with the macro function of my snappy little camera and invade the privacy of flowers and fruits. Here are a couple of examples of the inner chambers of tulips.

To me, there's something fascinating about close-up peering at petals, stamens and the seedy centres of fruit. Here (below) are gooseberries and hydrangeas.

The gooseberry is quite sweet but kind of funny to eat. As the skin is hairy, I don't want to eat it, so I peel off a bit of skin and squeeze out the insides into my mouth. Mmm.

On to my next Daring Bakers challenge. It's lavash! Nice to have a savoury challenge. It's quite simple to make.

Allow me to quote the hosts, Natalie of Gluten A Go Go and Shel of Musings From The Fishbowl:

"The key to a crisp lavash is to roll out the dough paper-thin. The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking. The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets."

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see … ong-Enough for a description of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 C) with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

7. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

I topped my lavash with swathes of powdered cumin, poppyseeds, sea salt and garlic. We were asked to make vegan dips, so I did mine with avocado and tomato mixed with cumin, salt, pepper, garlic and lime juice. I also had on hand homemade grapefruit-orange marmalade, which, surprisingly, went quite well with the non-salty bits of lavash.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A tasty introduction to Kuih Cara

When I was recently back in Malaysia, an old school friend invited me to attend her Malaysian cooking class in Petaling Jaya (see sidebar at right). Aside from nasi lemak, prawn sambal and sago gula melaka, Kuih Cara was on the menu.

It was the first time I had heard of it. My friend, Ana, told us - a class of five 'students', three of whom were visitors to Kuala Lumpur, that Kuih Cara was usually sold at roadside stalls during Ramadan. It's a hearty minced meat appetiser with a base of coconut milk dough flavoured with pounded dried prawns. The minced beef topping is first saute'ed with some curry powder and sliced shallots or onions, while the 'pancake' base is coloured with a pinch of powdered turmeric.

Kuih Cara is cooked in a kuih bolu mould pan on a gas stove (or in muffin pans in a bottom-heated oven when I got back to Switzerland) and garnished with chopped red chillies and spring onion.

Have you ever had Kuih Cara?

My old living-room

My old living-room
In Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

A cherished dream

A cherished dream
To live on a pale beach by a crystal clear sea. (This was taken on the east coast of Johor state, Malaysia.)