Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Nov 2012 Daring Cooks' Challenge Brining & Roasting

Hello this Audax from Audax Artifex and I'm honoured to be your host this month. I have decided to concentrate on a couple of important cooking techniques that every good cook should have up his or her sleeve. The first technique is brining – which uses a brine (at its simplest, a combination of salt and water usually with some sugar) to infuse flavour and moisture into poultry, red- & white-meat, fish, seafood and most types of nuts and seeds. Brining guarantees moist succulent roast chickens and turkeys, fried steaks, steamed trout, BBQed prawns (shrimps), grilled seafood and toasted nuts and seeds. Brining is simple and only needs a few simple ingredients and really adds an extra dimension to your cooking. I will be providing a couple of different recipes and guidelines on how to brine which can be used with a whole array of meats, poultry, seafood, nuts and seeds.

Then for the second technique (once you have brined your chosen cut of meat) I want you to roast (or BBQ) it. Again I will be giving you guidelines and rules on how to roast your cut of meat. The roasting guidelines can be used for meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds. For our non-meat eating cooks I want you to use the roasting guidelines to roast a selection of vegetables and/or nuts or seeds to perfection.


Soaking in brine improves the taste and the moistness of all fowl (chicken, turkey, goose, duck and guinea fowl), also it works on lean red- and lean white-meats, fish, most seafood and most nuts and seeds. It is simple, cheap and effective and will ensure that your Christmas roast will be the tastiest you have ever made. All you do is brine your cut of meat and then proceed as normal, you will find that the roast is juicy and the skin has a lovely colour. The recipe for all-purpose brine is simple - for each cup (240 ml) of water use 1 tablespoon (18 gm) of table salt this makes a 8% brine solution which can be used for most foods. (This is equivalent to 1 cup of table salt for each gallon (4 litres) of water.)

Brining works in accordance with two principles, called diffusion and osmosis, these two principles like to keep things in equilibrium (or in stable balance). When brining a fowl for example, there is a greater concentration of salt and sugar outside of the fowl (in the brine) than inside the fowl (in the cells that make up its flesh). The law of diffusion states that the salt and sugar will naturally flow from the area of greater concentration (the brine) to lesser concentration (the cells). There is also a greater concentration of water, so to speak, outside of the fowl than inside. Here, too, the water will naturally flow from the area of greater concentration (the brine) to lesser concentration (the cells). When water moves in this fashion, the process is called osmosis. Once inside the cells, the salt and, to a lesser extent, the sugar causes the cell proteins to unravel, or denature. As the individual proteins unravel, they become more likely to interact with one another. This interaction results in the formation of a sticky matrix that captures and holds moisture. Once exposed to heat, the matrix gels and forms a barrier that keeps much of the water from leaking out as the meat cooks. Thus you have a roast that is both better seasoned and much more moist than when you started.


Brining does have one negative effect on poultry: Adding moisture to the skin as well as the flesh which can prevent the skin from crisping when cooked. This can be overcome by air-drying, a technique used in many Chinese recipes for roast duck and chicken. Letting brined chicken and turkey dry uncovered in the refrigerator allows surface moisture to evaporate, making the skin visibly more dry and taut and therefore promoting crispness when cooked. Although this step is optional, if crisp skin is a goal, it’s worth the extra time. For best results, air-dry whole brined birds overnight. Brined chicken parts can be air-dried for several hours. Transfer the brined bird to a heavy-duty cooling rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, pat the bird dry with paper towels, and refrigerate. The rack lifts the bird off the baking sheet, allowing air to circulate freely under the bird. If you are not air-drying your fowl it is best to pat dry the skin with paper towels before roasting in a hot oven.

Surprisingly, brining has one large positive effect on fish fillets, a quick brine (only 10 mins) greatly improves the appearance of cooked fillets, because the brine reduces the unsightly white layer of albumin that coagulates on the surface during cooking, I highly recommend brining fish fillets when presentation is paramount. 

Lean cuts of meat with mild flavour tend to benefit most from flavour brining also most nuts and seeds can be brined with good affect. These include:

Chicken: whole, butterflied, or pieces
Cornish Hens: whole or butterflied
Turkey: whole, butterflied, or pieces
Pork: chops, loin, tenderloin, fresh ham
Seafood: salmon, trout, shrimp
Beef: use lean pieces of beef
Nuts and Seeds: Most nuts and seeds are suitable i.e. pumpkin, peanuts, sesame, almonds etc.  

Fatty meats such as duck, beef, and lamb do not benefit as much from brining (but still can be brined)—they're naturally moist and flavourful. They also tend to be cooked to lower internal temperatures and thus don't lose as much of their natural moisture.

Kosher salt (called rock salt outside North America) and table salt are the most common salts used in brining.

Sea salt can be used for flavour brining, but it tends to be quite expensive. If you have a cheap supply available, go for it; otherwise, stick to kosher salt or table salt.
Some people say that kosher salt tastes "cleaner" than table salt because it does not contain the anti-caking agents added to table salt. Some people prefer non-iodized table salt over iodized table salt, believing that potassium iodide creates an off-taste. However, these flavour differences melt away when salt is diluted in large quantities of water in a brine. In an article about salt in the September/October 2002 issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine, taste testers felt that "all nine salts tasted pretty much the same" when dissolved in spring water and chicken stock, whether it was 36¢/pound iodized table salt, 66¢/pound kosher salt, or $36/pound Fleur de Sel de Camargue sea salt from France.

Table salt and kosher salt do not have the same saltiness in a flavour brine when measured by volume—but they do when measured by weight.

Table salt weighs about 10 ounces (285 grams) per cup, while kosher salt weighs 5-8 ounces (140-225 grams) per cup, depending on the brand. If using kosher salt in a brine, you must use more than a cup to achieve the same salt flavour you would get from a cup of table salt.

The chart below shows equivalent amounts of table salt and the two most popular brands of kosher salt.


Morton Kosher Salt weighs about 7.7 ounces (220 grams) per cup, making it three-fourths as strong as table salt. Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt weighs about 5 ounces (140 grams) per cup, making it half as strong as table salt.
What if you're using something other than Morton Kosher or Diamond Crystal Kosher salt? Regardless of the type of salt—sea salt, pickling salt, and any other brand of kosher salt—just measure 10 ounces (285 grams) of it on a kitchen scale and you will have the equivalent of 1 cup of table salt.

The length of time meat soaks in a flavour brine depends on the type of meat and its size, as well as the amount of salt used in the brine—the saltier the brine mixture, the shorter the soaking time. Here are common brining times found in recipes:


It is possible to end up with meat that's too salty for your taste, so you may want to brine on the low end of the time range to see how it turns out. You can always brine longer next time, but there's no way to salvage a piece of meat that's been brined too long.

When we roast brined cuts of meat (or whole birds) the procedure firstly is to brown the skin in a hot oven then to lower the temperature so we reduce the moisture loss in the roasted food. It is important to rest (loosely covered in foil) your roast so that the moisture can redistribute itself in the meat, it greatly adds to the final tenderness of the cooked product.


For other roasting times for red meat, fish, seafood, nuts and seeds see the additional information at the end of the challenge write-up.

Recipe Source:  The brine and roast chicken used are traditional recipes used in my family for many generations. The roast vegetable recipe is from my own family cookbook.   

Blog-checking lines:  Audax of Audax Artifax was our November 2012 Daring Cooks’ host.  Audax has brought us into the world of brining and roasting, where we brined meat and vegetables and roasted them afterwards for a delicious meal!

Posting Date:  November 14th, 2012

Download the printable .pdf file HERE

Note:  Important Information – brining must be done in the refrigerator the salt water will not stop the growth of germs and bacteria. Also brine cannot be reused always discard it after first use.  Make sure that the brine goes into the cavity of large chickens and turkeys when brining.  

Mandatory Items: If you eat meat you must brine a meat (or seafood) cut and then roast (or BBQ) it. For non-meat eaters please brine some nuts or seeds then roast them or just roast a load of vegetables. I have included an extensive listing of poultry, seafood, nut etc. recipes in the additional information section at the end of the challenge feel free to use any of these recipes. Of course you can use your own favourite recipe if you wish.

Variations allowed:  Any meat/seafood (or nuts/seeds) can be used for brining. And any vegetable can be used by non-meat eaters. 

Preparation time:  Generally brining takes from ½ hour to 2 days. Roasting can take up to 2 hours for most pieces of meat, for large poultry 6-7 hours.

Equipment required:
non-reactive container for the brine
roasting pans or trays

Challenge Recipes
I have included one all-purpose brine recipe, a roast chicken recipe and a roast vegetable recipe.

Recipe One – All-Purpose Brine:

Makes 4 cups of brine enough for about one pound (½ kg) of meat

This is the brine to use for most cuts of meat and poultry that will be roasted.

4 cups (1 litre) of cold water (see note 1)
¼ cup (70 gm) table salt or  ½ cup (70 gm) Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
optional 2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm/1 oz) sugar (see note 2)
optional 3-4 peppercorns, a few springs of herbs, a garlic clove or two, a knob of ginger etc. (see note 3)

1. Heat 1 cup of water to boiling point add the salt and stir until all the salt has totally dissolved.
2. Place in a non-reactive container (glass, plastic, stainless steel, zip-lock bags etc). Add the remaining water and stir. Make sure that all the salt has dissolved. Wait until the brine has reached room temperature.
3. Add your cut of meat make sure that the meat is completely submerged (that is totally covered in the salty water) if need be you can weigh down the cut of meat with a clean plate (etc). If using plastic bags make sure that the meat is totally covered in brine and make sure that is bag is locked securely.
4. Cover the container with plastic wrap to prevent odours contaminating the flavour brine or the brine leaking.
5. Place the container into the refrigerator for the soaking time suggested by the guidelines above.
6. If desired you can air-dry your poultry (usually over night) in the refrigerator if you wish to have crispy skin on your bird. It is best to pat dry your brined item (inside and out) with paper towels before cooking.
7. Cook the brined item as directed by the roasting guidelines above.

1. You can replace all or some of the water with a combination of wine, cider, beer, tea, coffee, fruit juice, most sauces (tomato, soya, BBQ, chilli etc), chicken stock, beef stock or fish stock. Be careful with acidic liquids like wine, cider, fruit juices which can turn your meat to mush if brined too long.
2. A little sugar can help overcome the saltiness of the brine and helps to give a nice sheen to your piece of meat when roasted. You can use up to ¼ cup of sugar (use the lesser amount (2 tablespoons) for high temperature roasting since the brine can burn at high heats if you use too much sugar). You can use brown sugar or honey or other sweeteners if you wish.
3. Any combination of spices and herbs can be used to flavour the brine. Garlic powder, onion powder and ginger powder are excellent to use for brining.


Recipe Two – Roast Brined Chicken
Serves four to six people

1 whole chicken (organic is best) about 2 kg (4 ½ pounds)
Enough brine (see recipe above) to cover the chicken in a large non-reactive container


1. Brine the whole chicken in the flavoured brine in the refrigerator overnight about 6 hours can be overnight. (Make sure that every part of the chicken is covered in the brine you can weigh the bird down with a clean plate so it is completely submerged.
2. Discard the brine and dry the skin and inside of the bird with paper towels.
3. If you desire crispy skin then leave the bird on a rack for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator so the skin can dry.
4. Preheat oven to moderately hot 220°C/425°F/gas 7.
5. Roast for 15 minutes.
6. Reduce oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas 4 and roast for a further 12-15 minutes per 450 grams/pound, You can check for done-ness the internal temperature should be 165°F/84°C, or the juices should run clear when you pierce the bird between the leg and thigh.  
7. Rest for approximately 30 minutes covered loosely in foil.


Recipe Three – Roast Vegetables
Serves six people

For best results use the largest shallow heavy-weight roasting pan you have and make sure that the vegetable are well spaced out in the pan and only form one layer, use two trays if necessary. A very hot oven 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9 is the key to roasting vegetables. Only toss the vegetables once or twice during cooking. For lighter-weight vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli or cut corn add it to the pan 15 minutes later, so it doesn't get too brown. Greens like kale and mustard greens are done in only 15 minutes. Root vegetables should be cut into cubes of about one-inch (2½ cm). You can add a small amount of apricot fruit spread or honey in the last 10 minutes to enhance the caramelising process. Fresh basil, rosemary and thyme are best when used fresh. Curry, paprika and turmeric are also great. Grated ginger or crushed garlic can also be added.  

1 small butternut squash (pumpkin), cubed
2 red bell peppers (capsicums), seeded and sliced
1 orange sweet potato, peeled and cubed OR 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced lengthways
3 Yukon Gold (or any baking) potatoes, cubed
1 red onion, quartered
optional 1 fat clove of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
2. In a large bowl, combine the squash, red bell peppers, sweet potato, red onion and Yukon Gold potatoes and the optional garlic if using.
3. In a small bowl, stir together thyme, rosemary, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Toss with vegetables until they are coated. Spread evenly on a large roasting pan.
4. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring one or twice, or until vegetables are cooked through and browned. If using a smaller tray the vegetables will take about 50-60 minutes.

Roast Vegetables

Brined and BBQed “seven-bone” steak (notice the shape of the bone in the steak)

Brined and BBQed “wagyu” steak

Brined and Roasted Peppered Ribeye Roast

Additional Information:  Include links to videos or information that can be of assistance to members.
Kosher salt versus table salt
Everything you wanted to know about brining
Brining Nuts and Seeds
How to brine pumpkin seeds
How a quick brine improves the appearance of fish fillets
Dry brining thick steaks (a great article)
Brining turkey a primer
Roast chicken ten ways
Cooking a turkey (many articles)
To roast a turkey
Roasting guidelines for red meat roasts Jamie Oliver's Roast Potato, parsnips and carrot recipe 
Jamie Oliver's Perfect Roast Potato recipe
Delia Smith's Roast Potato recipe
How to brine fish
Vegetable Roasting Guide
How to cook a steak to perfection
How to cook a steak (using American cuts of meat)

The Daring Kitchen and its members in no way suggest we are medical professionals and therefore are NOT responsible for any error in reporting of “alternate baking/cooking”.  If you have issues with digesting gluten, then it is YOUR responsibility to research the ingredient before using it.  If you have allergies, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are lactose intolerant, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. The responsibility is YOURS regardless of what health issue you’re dealing with. Please consult your physician with any questions before using an ingredient you are not familiar with.  Thank you! :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

7th World Bread Day 2012

Yeah it is the Seventh World Bread Day 2012
World Bread Day 2012 - 7th edition! Bake loaf of bread on October 16 and blog about it!

 Here is my effort

Twice baked pizza
Pizza bases are best baked twice, the first time at a high oven temperature is create a crisp browned base. Then it is cooled and then baked with topping at a low temperature suitable to melt and heat the toppings. This method works so well.

I made a heap of roasted vegetables and used them with some Danish cream feta cheese to create my pizza. I love the look of the colourful vegetables.

Pizza base
3 cups of strong bread flour
1 cup of warm water
2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoons salt

1. Combine the ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Knead for about 8 minutes.
3 Cover and let double in volume about an hour.
4. Punch down and let rise again about 1/2 hour.
5. Bake in a hot oven for 20 mins until brown and the crust is crisp.
6. Cool to room temperature.
7. When ready to use, top with your favourite toppings.
8. Bake in a moderate oven for 15-20 minutes until toppings are hot and the cheese if using has melted.

Pizza Base

Pizza topped with roasted vegetable

Monday, August 13, 2012

August 2012 Daring Cooks' Challenge - Polenta

Blog-checking lines: Rachael of pizzarossa was our August 2012 Daring Cook hostess and she challenged us to broaden our knowledge of cornmeal! Rachael provided us with some amazing recipes and encouraged us to hunt down other cornmeal recipes that we’d never tried before – opening our eyes to literally 100s of cuisines and 1000s of new-to-us recipes!

This month's challenge was to use cornmeal in a new recipe. What a great challenge so many choices I decided on a new cornbread recipe that used some masa flour which really imparted a lovely Tex-Mex flavour to the final bread.

Cornmeal bread
This is a recipe that I haven't tried before it uses yellow cornmeal, yellow lupin flour and blue cornmeal flour with some oat bran for extra flavour. The recipe produces a very light and airy loaf that produces the most beautiful slashes when baked. And the crumb (the bread's interior texture) is amazing crunchy due to the cornmeal and has that slight limy taste of the masa flour which adds a lot of authentic "Mexican" flavour profile to the loaf. Great with chilli or red beans.

Amazing crumb on the sliced bread
Deep clear slashes are a sign of a well proven-dough and that you have the correct ratio of dry to liquid ingredients
Cornmeal bread
1 cup white bread flour
1/4 cup yellow lupin flour
1/4 cup high-gluten flour
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup blue masa flour (blue corn flour)
1 cup of yellow cornmeal
1-1/3 cups warm water
2 tablespoons mild tasting oil (up to 1/2 cup of oil/butter if you wish)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried active yeast
1. Add the yeast in a small bowl with the warm water and oil, rest until foamy about 5 minutes.
2. Combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Add the foamy mixture to the dry ingredients mix then knead about 8 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover bowl to keep in the heat.
5. Prove in a warm place until doubled in size about 1-2 hrs depending on temperature.
6. Knock-down risen dough, shape into a large bun. slash with a sharp knife. Cover and rise in a warm place until just about doubled in size (usually half the time of the initial rise).
7. Bake in a hot oven (220C/425F/gas mark 7) for 50 mins with steam for the first 8 minutes (check at 40 mins) until brown in colour and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Friday, July 27, 2012

July 2012 Daring Bakers' Challenge - Crackers

Blog-checking lines: Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

Recipe Source: A few recipes from the pile of books I own:
• Brown, Alton (2011). Good Eats 3:The Early Years, “Seedy Crisps”. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, New York, NY.
• The American Culinary Institute. (2008). Garde Manger: The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen (3rd ed.) “Pepper Jack and Oregano Crackers”. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Hoboken, NJ.
• The American Culinary Institute. (2008). Garde Manger: The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen (3rd ed.). “Cheddar and Walnut Icebox Crackers”. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Hoboken, NJ.
• Smith, Sandy (2000). Kootenay Country Kitchens Cookbook: A Collection of Kootenay Favourites. “Health Crackers” Kootenay Kitchens Publishing, Nakusp, BC.

See here for a PDF of the challenge recipes.

Rolled five grain rye crisp bread
I'm Finnish born so I grew up eating rye crisp bread even now it is my main source of whole grains in my diet I really adore crisp bread. I'm so happy that this month's challenge is crackers, it allows me to indulge in my favourite food, I will be making many different sorts of Finnish crisp breads during the month. My first offering is a rye crisp bread made with rye flour and five types of rolled grain (rice, barley, triticale, oat and rye) and ground oat bran and chia seeds topped with four types of flavoured-sesame seeds (wasabi (green), charred bamboo (light red), BBQ (beige), seaweed (black). These are so tasty and sweet tasting (rye flour naturally is sweeter than wheat flour) as a a friend mentioned you can feel the goodness with each bite. Easy and quick and so so tasty a wonderful challenge.

Rye crisp bread is actually bread made with yeast, water, rye flour with a touch of salt it is fermented so making the dough slightly sour and then it is rolled very thin and baked it will keep for many months in a dry cool place.

Rolled five grain rye crisp bread
1 cup (250 ml) warm water
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (5 gm) dried instant yeast
1 cup (140 gm/5 oz) whole meal rye flour
1 cup (85 gm) (3 oz) five mixed rolled grains (rice, barley, triticale, oat and rye)
2 tablespoons (25 gm) (1 oz) flax seeds, ground or cracked
1 tablespoon (15 gm) (1/2 oz) chia seeds, ground or cracked
1 tablespoon (15 gm) (1/2 oz) oat bran
4 tablespoons (50 gm) (2 oz) various flavoured sesame seeds, for topping
1 teaspoon (3 gm) coarse sea salt, optional, for topping
0. Preheat oven to hot 220C/425F/gas mark 7.
1. In a large bowl mix the yeast and the warm water, rest until it becomes foamy (about 5 mins). 
2. Mix the rest of the dough ingredients together and add to the water mixture.
3. Knead for two minutes then rest covered for a minimum of 30 minutes in a warm place, the longer you rest the dough the stronger the tangy sour taste will become (overnight is best, you can add some vinegar (1 teaspoon) if you wish to increase the tangy taste if you wish). The mixture will be very stiff and will not rise.
4. Divide the dough into two.
5. Place one piece of dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll until 2 mm thick try to keep the shape the same shape as your baking sheet.
6. Sprinkle half of the sesame seeds onto the rolled dough, roll gently to press the seeds into the dough.
7. Cut the dough into pieces using a sharp knife. I did nine pieces per baking sheet (about 3"x4" (7cmx10m)). (Do not separate the pieces.)
8. Bake in a hot oven for 10 mins, rotate and bake for another 10 mins. Check to make sure the crisp bread is not browning too much. Take out and cool, the bread will "crisp-up" more when cooled. Repeat for the other piece of dough. (If you have rolled the dough thickly about 4 mm then it will take about 20 mins each side to bake.)
9. If the bread is not crisp enough return to moderate 359F/180C/gas mark 4 oven until it is done, checking carefully to stop burning or over-browning.

Hapanleipä - Finnish Sour Rye Crisp Bread
For my second offering on the theme of Finnish crisp breads is hapanleipä a fermented rye crisp bread in the traditional wheel shape. The ring form was once quite functional: in western Finland, crisp bread was baked only twice a year, and families strung hundreds of loaves on poles suspended from their rafters. It is still common practice in Finland to give a small hapanleipä on a stick (usually with a small bag of salt) as a present when you move into a new home. The hapanleipä will last for many years in a cool dry place, I still have some rings left which I eat from 2002 when my mum made 1200 for a wedding. These crisp cracker-like breads are; hard, have a tangy fermented faintly buttery mildly sweet taste, they are often slathered in butter and garnished with salt, or eaten with meats, cheeses or herring the stronger the taste of the garnish the better. These crisp breads have a strong robust flavour that can stand up to the strongest smelling cheeses or the most pungent gravlax (ferment fish) etc.

Hapanleipä - Finnish Sour Rye Crisp Bread
makes 4 large crisp bread wheels about 8" (20 cm) across
2 cups dark rye flour
1 cup barley or rye or oat bran (OR 1 cup barley or spelt or oat flour) See note
2 tablespoon butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar or 1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed (optional)
2 teaspoons dried yeast
1/2 cup plus 2 - 3 tablespoons warm water 
0. Preheat oven to hot 450F/230C/ gas mark 8.
1. In a small bowl dissolve the yeast into the warm water rest until it becomes foamy about 5 minutes.
2. Place the rye flour, sugar and salt in a bowl, mix together and add the butter.
3. Rub the butter into the flour with your hands until it is fully integrated it should appear sandy and clump together when it's done.
4. Add the yeast to the rye flour and mix it together with your hands or a wooden spoon.
5. Add the bran (or the additional flour or the caraway seeds if using) and knead for about 5 minutes until it is well mixed. It will be a firm dough.
6. Set the dough aside in a sealed bag or covered for a minimum of 8 hours or up to 3 days in a warm place. When opened the dough should have a tangy sourish smell.
7. Separate the dough into roughly 115 g balls (or just divide in 4). Take one and cover the rest again.
8. Roll the ball between two sheets of parchment paper into a circular shape about 8" (20 cm) across. It should be about 1/5" (5mm) thick don't roll it too thinly.
9. Take a small cutter or use a knife to cut out a hole directly in the middle. then take a fork and prick ("dock") the dough all over to prevent it from warping while baking. Save the holes and bake them also.
10. Bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes rotating half way through baking time. Let them cool a bit before moving or they will crack. Repeat for the other balls.
Note: If you want your crisp bread to be sweeter use oat flour or oat bran it is naturally sweeter than rye. Oat flour/bran is best when you are pairing the crisp bread with blue cheese or soured herring where a touch of sweetness goes down well.

The dough after kneading notice how stiff it is

The dough rolled shaped and the centre cut out ready to be "docked" with a fork and baked

The baked crisp breads

I'm extremely pleased with the results, they exactly like I remember them from my childhood, I will be making these a lot more. 

Brown rice and seaweed crackers
These crackers are made with finely ground microwave brown rice, I had a packet of microwave brown rice in the cupboard for ages not doing anything so I decided to use it to make some crispy crackers. I ground the rice in my coffee grinder until it was very very fine making sure to cool the rice flour down between grounding (coffee grinders can heat up the material being ground up to very high temperatures) added some baking soda and baking powder and some finely shredded seaweed and just enough water to hold the dough together. Then it is baked in a slow oven until the crackers are dry and crispy. Incredibly crisp and light crackers with a hint of umami "savoury" taste from the seaweed. I used my new cracker stamp to cut out the crackers worked like a charm.
Brown rice and seaweed crackers
1 cup (140 gm/5 oz) finely ground microwave brown rice
6 tablespoons (90 ml) water, approximately
1 tablespoon of soy sauce, optional, (reduced water by 1 tablespoon if using)
1 tablespoon shredded seaweed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Coarse sea salt for topping, optional, don't add if using soy sauce
0. Preheat oven to slow 150C/300F/gas mark 2.
1. Just combine all the cracker ingredients in a medium bowl, adding most of the water all at once, do not over-mix or the crackers will be chewy instead of crispy.
2. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment as thinly as possible about 1 or 2 mm thick. Best to roll out the dough on the baking sheet to ensure that it is the same size as the baking sheet.
3. Cut with a knife or stamp out using a cutter individual pieces (do not separate).
4. Bake in a slow oven 150C/300F/gas mark 2 for 40 minutes until dry and crisp.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

THE DARING COOKS’ JULY, 2012 CHALLENGE: Cooking "En Papillote"

Blog-checking lines: Our July 2012 Daring Cooks’ host was Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie! Sarah challenges us to learn a new cooking technique called “Cooking En Papillote” which is French and translates to “cooking in parchment”.
Recipe Source:
• Becky Luigart-Stayner
• The Envelope Please: Cooking en Papillote by Amanda Hesser, Published May 19, 1999
• Laura Martin, Cooking Light APRIL 2007
• Martha Stewart Living, May 1995
• Jonathan Waxman, Colina
• As found in the New York Times by Melissa Clark, April 21, 2010
• “The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook”
• Paula Wolfert
• Gourmet Magazine

What a wonderful challenge I love technique challenge where we learn a new technique and have to apply it, this method of cooking I have not done very often so it's good to experiment for the challenge. After some thought and having a look in my freezer I decided on some seafood .

Peppered chilli clams with sweet garlic greens en papillote

I really haven't done this type of cooking before, so I was excited to experiment with some ideas I had while I was reading the challenge write-up. For my first effort I remember a long while ago I had a marvellous dish at a dinner party so I tried to replicate it for this posting.

The basic dish is sweet clams with spicy peppery greens, chilli, red onions and garlic. It is most important that the vegetables and clams are just cooked that is delicate, soft, tender and aromatic with bright vibrant colours and flavours. And that the flavours are well balanced with a combination of spicy, sour, salty and sweet, the sauce is a mixture of clam juice (released during cooking), extra virgin olive oil, balsamic glaze.

Some ingredients for the dish (shown chopped watercress & spinach, thinly sliced red onions, balsamic glaze, garlic; not-shown clams, olive oil, chilli and whole peppercorns.)  

How to layer the ingredients. Place the greens first then the onions, garlic and chilli and lastly the clams then fold the ingredients over themselves making sure the clams are in the middle of the fold this ensures the seafood is not overcooked

The parchment paper parcel all tied-up with twine this is a photo after the cooking process notice the browned paper and the amount of liquid given off by the clams and vegetables.

The just-opened parcel notice the vibrant colours of the greens and onions

The finished dish

Peppered chilli clams with sweet garlic greens en papillote
Serves four
1/2 kg clams (I used half-thawed frozen clams)
1 bunch spinach, finely chopped, reserve eight large leaves to line the parcels
1 small bunch watercress, finely chopped
2 red hot chillies, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 red onion, finely sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon whole red and black peppercorns, cracked
1. Preheat oven to hot 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.
2. Cut four 8"x8" (20cmx20cm) parchment paper squares.
3. Combine the oil and the vinegar together in a small bowl.
4. Line each parchment square with large spinach leaves leaving a boarder of about 2" (5cm) all around the paper.
5. Add a quarter of the chopped greens, chilli, onions then the clams to each parcel, splash a quarter of the oil/vinegar mixture, lemon juice and the peppercorns onto the filling then fold the ingredients over themselves so the clams are in the centre of the parcel.
6. Tie up the parcel as a purse using twine.
7. Place the parcels into the hot oven for about 15-20 minutes, check at 10 minutes if you are using fresh clams. You should be able to see through the paper to notice the liquid given off.
8. When the parcel feels hot and the paper is browned it should be ready.
9. Carefully open the parcel so the steam escapes away from you and add a quarter of the balsamic glaze.
10. Enjoy!

Verdict - I'm really happy with this recipe I loved how bright and flavoursome the dish was especially the onions, spinach and clams. I think I did a better job on this than the original dish that I remember. Using a lot of watercress really helped emphasize the peppery/chilli flavour profile of the final dish. This method of cooking makes for a very sweet seafood and vegetable dish, the onions, clams and spinach were really sweet and soft.

Thank you so much Sarah for a most intriguing challenge. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

June 2012 Daring Cooks Challenge - Cannelloni

Recipe Source: Cannelloni di magro – Manuela Zangara; Cannelloni di carne – Manuela Zangara; Cannelloni al pesto – Manuela Zangara; Cannelloni with Ricotta, Ham and Fontina from

Blog-checking lines: Manu from Manu’s Menu was our Daring Cooks lovely June hostess and has challenged us to make traditional Italian cannelloni from scratch! We were taught how to make the pasta, filling, and sauces shared with us from her own and her family’s treasured recipes!

I loved this month's challenge since I have always wanted to do a "healthy" version of cannelloni for my gym buddies. I had a great time thinking and working out the method for creating a "gym junkie friendly" recipe.

Healthy charred onion and spinach cannelloni

I made a low-fat/high-protein/low-carbohydrate version for my gym buddies who are very health conscious. I made the pasta using a large omega-3 egg, 70 gm of gluten flour, 30 gm of de-fatted soy flour and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and enough extra water to make the dough's consistency correct which made an intensely yellow-coloured and super-high protein pasta with only 14 grams of carbohydrates for the whole batch of pasta sheets. I used a pasta rolling machine to make the sheets as thin as possible giving the sheets a long rest between rollings since the very high-protein content makes stretching the sheets a longer process than if using normal plain flour. Then I made the filling with freshly cooled, cooked, chopped and drained spinach and silverbeet, charred onion rings, low-fat/no-salt ricotta cheese, 2 tablespoons of chia seeds made into a gel with 1 cup of strong spinach and vegetable stock, balsamic glaze with tons of pepper and chilli flakes; also I made some olive oil infused wheat germ crumbs for the topping. I didn't use any béchamel sauce at all I made sure that I used plenty of greens (spinach and silverbeet), charred onion rings and the chia gel which really adds a wonderful moistness and creaminess to the dish. I only recently discovered chia seeds and how they can add a lot of flavour, moisture and creaminess to a recipe. 

I really liked the ease of this recipe and the incredibly tasty filling which was creamy and flavoursome, it went down well with my buddies, the pasta actually tasted good and its mouth feel was just fine.

A wonderful challenge thank you so much to our lovely host Manu.

I worked out the nutritional information for the dish, the recipe made enough for four servings. Per serving; energy 350 cals, fat 11.5 gm, carbs 18 gm, protein 44 gm.     


Here is the link to the challenge recipes Manu did a wonderful job on the write-up I especially like the Cannelloni di magro recipe.   .

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May 2012 Daring Bakers' Challenge - Challah

Six Braid Challah Bread
Recipe Source: The recipes provided for the challenge came from or were inspired by recipes found through a variety of online sources (including, but not limited to Also invaluable was the book “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh.
Blog-checking lines: May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

I have never made braided bread before so I was thrilled when I saw the challenge was Challah. In Finland we have a sweet bread called pulla that is braided (three strands) I saw my mum make it many times when I was a child and always wanted to make some. The final bread is very similar in taste to pulla I was very pleased about that. I decided to do a six strand braid. I was extra careful about making sure that the braids were all the same (size, shape and weight) and that I did a double coating of egg wash. I made a jury-rigged dough proofing cabinet the bread raised in only 45 minutes the final raising took about 20 minutes.

The process of making the bread was very straight forward, it was the braiding that was a little challenging for me, I practised the braiding using strands of playdough (dough made with salt and coloured dye) after a dozen attempts I had the technique down pat, looking at the final result I thought I had done a reasonable job on it for a first attempt. I was fairly pleased with the final outcome, it was only after I had looked at it I realised that I should of made the ropes of dough tapered I had made them absolutely straight and even the entire length of the strand hence the reason why the final challah loaf looks so flatt  but I didn't mind that at all. Overall a reasonable job I thought.

The jury-rigged proofing cabinet – fill the sink 5 cm (2 inches) with hot water from the tap. Place a metal pan on the bottom place the bowl with the dough on the pan making sure the bowl doesn't touch the hot water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then cover the sink with newspaper (this traps the warmth and steam) then prove the bread.

Process of rolling out the strands

Starting the six braid challah

The egg-washed proved bread just before going into the oven

The final bread

I liked doing this so much I will try some other shapes again soon.