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Archive for the ‘Frugal Living’ Category

I know, I know. I bang on about this all the time.

The very best part of sourdough baking (for me) is being able to share bread with others.

And as my friends on the Bay Run found out recently, if you stand still long enough, I’m likely to hand you a loaf. In turn, Sue and Mel shared their warm baguettes with our favourite barista Samira, and when I popped in for a coffee the following day, she asked me if I’d bake a fruit loaf for her.

I don’t normally bake to order, but I couldn’t refuse Sami – after all, she’s been cheerfully making brilliant decaf piccolos for me for over a year. So I took the box of dried fruit she gave me and baked three sourdough fruit loaves for her the next morning…

She was excited, but didn’t want to take all three loaves. I figured she could share one and take two home, which is exactly what she did. By the time Mel and Sue had made their way over for coffee, Sami had already cut up and handed out a whole loaf to customers. How cool is that!

Big Boy and I shared a hot buttered slice as we walked, and it was divine

I came home, fed up Priscilla, and made another batch. Here’s the formula I used:

  • 100g bubbly sourdough starter (see note)
  • 1kg bread/bakers flour
  • 700g – 750g water (the flour I’m currently using is very thirsty, so adjust the water quantity as needed)
  • 18g fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 100g dried dates, chopped
  • 50g dried apple, finely chopped
  • 50g dried apricots, chopped
  • 100g walnut pieces

Note: Over the past couple of years, I’ve adopted the current trend of using less starter in my sourdoughs, and the results have been very pleasing. You could, however, simply add the dried fruit and cinnamon to the basic overnight sourdough recipe and it should work fine.

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the starter, water, cinnamon and dried fruit.

2. Add the flour and salt, and squelch everything together with a clean hand. Cover and allow the dough to rest for about half an hour.

3. Uncover the dough and give it a brief knead in the bowl (less than a minute), then cover it again and allow to prove overnight.

4. The following morning, the dough should be well risen and puffy. Dust the bench with flour or fine semolina (my preference) and scrape out the dough. Stretch and fold it onto itself so that all sides are coated in flour – this makes it easier to work with. There are photos of this process in our earlier tutorial.

5. Divide the dough into two or three even pieces. I bake three smaller loaves in my ginormous oven, but you could just as easily bake two larger ones. If you have a tiny oven, just halve the quantities and bake a single loaf. Shape each piece into a ball, then let it sit on the bench for 15 minutes, covered in a tea towel. This short rest will make shaping the loaves much easier.

6. Shape each ball into a round or oval loaf, trying to keep as much fruit inside the loaf as possible. Sit each loaf on a sheet of parchment, or nestle it seam-side up in a tea-towel lined banneton. If you’re going to use bannetons, I suggest rolling the shaped dough in fine semolina first, which will help prevent sticking. Preheat the oven to 220C with fan. Allow the dough to prove until puffed up – about 30 minutes to an hour.

I line my bannetons with Tenegui (coarse weave cotton hand towels) from Daiso. They work brilliantly!

. . . . .

7. If using bannetons, carefully turn the loaves onto sheets of parchment and slash a long cut on the top, either in the middle or offset to one side. Try to avoid any bits of fruit.  Place each loaf into an enamel roaster and cover with lid. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

My grotty enamel roasters. I never bother to wash them!

8. Remove the lid and bake for a further 20 minutes (you might need a bit more time if you’re baking larger loaves). I like to reduce the temperature to 210C with fan at this point, as the sugars in the fruit can cause the top to burn a bit. Bake until well browned and hollow sounding.

. . . . .

In theory, you should let the loaves cool before slicing, but this bread was so delicious hot and smothered in butter that all I can really recommend is letting it rest for half an hour or so before cutting into it.

This is hands down my favourite fruit and nut sourdough so far! It doesn’t have raisins or sultanas in it, nor is there any added sugar, yet the dates, apples and apricots add rich sweetness and depth of flavour. The walnuts turn the dough a gorgeous purpley-grey which carries through to the finished bread.

I took a leaf out of Sami’s book and invited all the neighbours over for a slice…

. . . . .

Break bread with others, folks. Share the sourdough love as often as you can! ♥

PS. If you’re just starting out, you might enjoy our earlier sourdough tutorials:

Overnight Sourdough Tutorial

Overnight High Hydration Sourdough Tutorial

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I’m always a bit conflicted when I post photos that I’ve taken at the White Rabbit Gallery.

On the one hand, I really want to encourage everyone in Sydney who has an interest in contemporary Chinese art to visit, and I don’t want my photos to gazump the magic of seeing an incredible piece for the first time. Additionally, many of the artworks are large and immersive, and it’s hard to do them justice in two dimensions. On the other hand, I know many of you don’t live in Sydney and will never get to see these amazing and unique pieces in person.

My compromise is to offer you a taster – a small snippet of what’s on offer over the three gallery floors. And it was hard to pare the photos down for this post, because Ritual Spirit is one of the most beautiful White Rabbit exhibitions ever.

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Farfur the Martyr (2008) by Peng Hung-Chih, a stainless steel creation juxtaposing different religious views on the meaning of martyrdom, stands in the entrance foyer…

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Defence (2014) by Xia Hang is a large stainless steel clockwork construction. Like all things steampunk, I found it hypnotically beautiful and instantly appealing…

. . . . .

Mr Sea (2014) by Geng Xue combines video with exquisitely expressive porcelain puppets…

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Play 201301 (2013) by Xu Zhen is a tied and suspended cathedral created from leather and BDSM accessories. It fills an entire room…

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100 Years of Repose (2011) by Yu Hong poignantly depicts what the artist refers to as China’s “sleeping sickness”. The pressures of modern Chinese life are so great that people fall asleep anywhere they can – on trains, benches or even under parked trucks…

. . . . .

Finally, a clip of the ethereally beautiful Scripting (2011) by Luxury Logico of Taiwan. Thirteen suspended fluorescent tubes move in time with John Cage’s haunting music. The artwork is massively enhanced by the clever curatorial decision to place it in a darkened room over a reflective black vinyl floor…

. . . . .

Every piece comes with its own story, and I’ve included links in the post above so that you can read a bit more about the individual artists.

The White Rabbit Gallery is one of Sydney’s great treasures and I’d urge you to visit if you ever get the opportunity to do so. Focusing on works of contemporary Chinese art made in the 21st century, the gallery continues to share these with the public completely for free. Their exhibitions are always brilliantly curated, thought-provoking and often very poignant.

. . . . .

White Rabbit Gallery
30 Balfour Street
Chippendale NSW 2008

RITUAL SPIRIT is open 10am to 5pm, Wed-Sun.
The exhibition runs until 28 January 2018

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Origami Stars

When I was young, I used to make these little paper stars until my hands hurt.

They were folded from strips of paper, which came in assorted colours that cost about 50c a packet. When I found them again recently in Japantown, San Francisco, I couldn’t resist buying some to teach my young friend Tully how to fold them.

The technique is quite simple and well explained in this excellent YouTube video…

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The strips are 1cm wide by 25cm long – you could cut them by hand, but they’re so cheap to buy that it hardly seems worth it. If you’re in the US, this bulk set from Amazon is good value, otherwise they’re easy to order from Ebay…

Warning: it can quickly become an addictive pastime!

It’s easy to recycle treasured papers as well – these wrappers from the Dandelion Chocolate bars (mentioned in the previous post) were far too pretty to waste, so we steamed off the labels and guillotined them into strips. We still have three bars to eat, but when they’re finished, I should have enough stars to fill a small glass bottle. It will be a perfect holiday souvenir!

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The latest furoshiki technique I’ve been practising is called Suika Tsutsumi (Watermelon Wrapping).

It’s a bit fiddlier than the simple bag (tutorial here) or the library bag (here), but still only needs two square knots. Tie these carefully and correctly to ensure they don’t pull undone…

1. Lay the furoshiki face down and place the melon (or other round object) in the centre…

2.  Bring up two corners and tie them in a square knot, leaving a small gap…

3. Turn the furoshiki and melon/pot around and repeat on the other side…

Leave a slightly bigger gap this time…

4. Holding a knot in each hand…

…pass the second knot through the gap beneath the first one…

5. Adjust the knots to neaten and to ensure that the item is well balanced. Make sure they’re all securely tied. You should be able to carry the item with one hand holding onto the top loop…

6. Variation: if you’re using a larger furoshiki, pass one knot through the other, then untie and twist the ends before re-tying…

I rarely have a melon (or a bowling ball) to wrap, but this technique works well for everything from a pot of rice to a bowl of salad. If you enjoy cooking or baking, you’ll probably find it very useful. Here’s how I wrapped two loaves of sourdough, flat sides together, for delivery to a friend…

The furoshiki fever is spreading fast – I’m making them as birthday gifts, mailing them to friends interstate, and haunting Daiso stores to find unusual tenugui (Japanese hand towels) to sew together (panda and sumo furoshiki in the photos above).

Last Sunday, I tied a backpack from two cloths and used it to carry meat home from the butcher. Later that evening, I made a smaller version for my adorable little neighbour…

If you’d like to have a go, you might enjoy our earlier posts. Have fun! ♥

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A LOT of Salt

I think it’s fair to say that I drive my husband bonkers.

On a regular basis.

There is a LOT of salt in our house at the moment.

You see, I couldn’t…couldn’t…pass up the opportunity to buy a second torn 25kg bag of Olsson’s Australian kiln dried flossy salt for $5. I know you all laughed heartily when I bought the first one six months ago, but I’ve given away and used up more than half of it. I’ve baked mountains of bread, made a dozen jars of preserved lemons, and little pots of salt hand scrub now sit at every sink.

So when I passed this bag on the clearance pallet at Southern Cross Supplies, I didn’t even hesitate…

After the initial eye-roll, the ever patient one helped me to pack it all into manageable 2kg bags…

So…then I had twelve bags, plus the five bags leftover from the first lot. Storing it required a little creativity, but I finally managed to get it all put away. It does, I’ll admit, look suspiciously like an illegal drug stash…

There are now bags of flossy salt hidden all over the house. Pete is unimpressed. We had this conversation last night:

Me: “I’m a wife with a LOT of salt. Get it? A LOT of salt. It’s a biblical reference..”

Pete: “I get it…and you need to stop saying it..”

Me: “I’m HILARIOUS, right?

Pete: “I’m leaving the room now..”

Me: “Don’t look back!”

Seriously, the joke alone was worth $5. The salt was an added bonus!

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