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Before I was baking bread, I was buying it for what felt like extravagant prices from a local deli. A decade ago, my favourite was a black walnut sourdough – I can’t remember which bakery made it – but I do recall paying about $6 for a small loaf even back then.

I thought I’d have a go at baking a nutty loaf at home and ended up with one of the most delicious sourdoughs I’ve ever made…

Note: If you can’t find remilled semolina flour, substitute more bakers/bread flour and reduce water to 570g.

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, squelching them together until well combined.  Scrape off your fingers, cover the bowl and allow to rest for half an hour.

2. Uncover and knead briefly in the bowl for a minute, then cover again and allow to prove until doubled in size.

3. Dust the bench with fine semolina, or lightly oil it, and turn the risen dough out. Shape the dough as preferred – I made one large loaf and two small ones. Try to keep the nuts inside the dough as much as possible – any on the top might blacken during baking. Allow to prove a second time as you preheat your oven to 240C with fan.

4. I baked my loaves in covered enamel pots, but as this dough is quite low hydration, it will also work well baked directly on pizza stones or an oven tray. If you’re using pots, place them in the oven to heat up while the dough is having its second rise. Note that this is a bulky, cumbersome dough to work and shape – don’t worry too much if the end result isn’t particularly neat.

5. Once the dough has puffed up a bit, slash the top and drop it carefully into the pot and cover with the lid. Return the pot to the oven and reduce the temperature to 220C with fan. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 15 minutes at 200C with fan. Check the loaves and bake for a further 10 minutes at 175C with fan if required.

Alternatively, bake your shaped dough on pizza stones or oven trays for 15-20 minutes at 220C with fan, followed by a further 20 – 30 minutes at 175C with fan.

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The end result is a heavy, very nutty loaf which goes brilliantly with butter and a good cheddar cheese…

This bread toasts well, so I’ve sliced up the large loaf and stashed it in the freezer for future breakfasts!

One of the great joys of having backyard eggs is being able to make marshmallows from scratch.

Homemade marshmallows are completely different in texture to bought ones – they’re soft, pillowy and very moreish. I wrote a detailed tutorial on making marshmallows four years ago, but this was our first (and second) attempt at making flavoured ones.

We made a concentrated coulis by cooking a cup of frozen raspberries in a little water, then pushing the pulp through a sieve to remove the seeds. We then reduced it down even further until we were left with just a few spoonfuls of thick fruity redness…

We used the raspberry concentrate in place of vanilla, but otherwise followed our original recipe exactly. Surprisingly, the fruit added only the lightest tint of pink and a subtle raspberry flavour…

Two egg whites produced a mountain of marshmallows! I was planning to make rocky road with them, but we (and the neighbours) have just been eating them straight…

Emboldened by our success, we decided to try passionfruit marshmallows next. We bought a small tin of passionfruit pulp (our backyard vine isn’t producing fruit yet, but it is flowering)…

As with the raspberries, the syrup and pulp were strained, then cooked down in a small saucepan to form a thick, jammy concentrate…

The passionfruit marshmallows were absolutely divine, with a strong tangy flavour…

If you’ve never made marshmallows at home, I’d definitely recommend giving them a go. Remember to start with the freshest eggs you can find!

Little gifts of homemade chocolates are the perfect way to say “thank you”.

Our lives are filled with wonderful people – it’s nice to be able to let them know that we appreciate them. In all those situations where a bought gift might seem weird, a small selection of handcrafted chocolates is often just right. It’s affordable, consumable and doesn’t impose any obligation on the giftee to reciprocate!

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 Thank you for always delivering my parcels on time…

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Thank you for teaching me how to pipe buttercream roses…

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Thank you for always providing such cheerful service…

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Thank you for being the best neighbours ever

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Thank you for lending me a free courtesy car
while mine was being serviced…

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Thank you for being an adorable Viking…

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If you’d like to make your own chocolate treats, you might be interested in our tempering tutorial. It’s a great skill to have up your sleeve!

Rino Saffioti makes the best chocolate sorbet in Sydney.

Cow and the Moon were recently named the world’s best gelato makers, but nothing beats Rino’s chocolate sorbet. And because I’m a demanding pain-in-the-butt, they very kindly top it with homemade chocolate shavings and caramelised Piedmont hazelnuts for me…

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Baby M is the cutest little girl in the world.

She sat on our driveway and tried to make bubbles last week, by blowing through her nose…

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Baked goods improve exam performance. Chocolate helps too.

I’ve been baking and tempering for our young friends Rory and Alex as they study for their end of school exams. They assure me that it’s helping…

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Luca is going to be a famous fashion designer one day.

I gave him some Sheridan sheeting scraps I’d found at Reverse Garbage years ago, and he turned them into this shirt…

Note the perfectly straight stripes!

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There IS such a thing as a free lobster.

Two, in fact. My neighbour Liz ran out of freezer space and gave me her Costco lobsters. We made speedy mayo and Cuban bread today and enjoyed them for lunch…

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Life is always brighter with a new enthusiasm.

This month I’ve been learning to pipe buttercream flowers. This is my second attempt at hydrangeas following Rosie Cake-Diva’s YouTube tutorial

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Practice makes better.

Not perfect, but better. I’m still working on my roses…

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 Rocky Road should be made with dark chocolate.

This batch also had roasted hazelnuts, cranberries, glace ginger and marshmallows…

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What bold statements are you making today?

Did any of you read the title of this post and think of bagpipes? No? Sometimes I worry about the way my brain works…

Anyway…remember the rubbish attempt I made at cake decorating recently when I ended up with a volcano? Not just any volcano either, as my husband very kindly pointed out, but a “school science experiment one”.

So I decided I needed practice. I spoke to my wonderful friend Dotti who told me to start with a Wilton 1M piping nozzle and buttercream roses. A quick visit to Iced Affair (fabulous shop in Camperdown – Lorraine wrote about them here) and I had two tips (1M and 1F) and some primary gel colours…

Now I’m not a fan of cupcakes, but I figured they were the best foil for my fledgling attempts with a piping bag, so on the weekend I baked 31 of them. The first batch were made using our yoghurt cake recipe

I found Rosie Cake-Diva’s fabulous tutorials on YouTube, including this one for buttercream…

 

It uses…

  • 250g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 500g sifted icing sugar mixture (confectioner’s sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

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I watched her tutorial on buttercream roses three times before attempting them…

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Two-tone roses were probably a bit ambitious to start with, and I did end up with frosting everywhere. Nonetheless, after a few attempts, I was able to make this…

The 1F nozzle was great fun to play with…

The following day, I made chocolate cupcakes. The frosting on these didn’t hold up nearly as well for piping, but it was good practice nonetheless!

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t really like cupcakes, but thankfully the neighbours were happy to eat most of them. I still haven’t figured out how to prevent the edges of the roses from going raggedy – can anyone give me advice on that? Thanks! ♥

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