Archives for posts with tag: walnuts

Meet Charlie, the latest addition to our flat. With him he has brought bread recipes, plans for ice cream making and biscuit baking. This is a good place to live. Here, he kneads hazelnut and walnut bread. I’ve written about fruit bread here before. I could write about fruit bread several times over; there are many moments and words for fruit bread. But now I turn to nut bread: savoury dough wrapped around hazelnuts and walnuts. We do not want fine sprinkles of nuts here, the sort you would top icecream with, but whole nuts barely cracked under the blade of a knife or the heel of a hand so their sweet oil perfumes the bread.

Charlie and I first made this bread several months ago, well before he parked his motorbike out front and claimed the downstairs room. We thought we both have a similar approach to cooking (a sort of wing it and hope approach): we should cook together.Work schedules forced our cooking date to late afternoon. Soup, we decided, and bread, were appropriate at this hour; light and warming for an early supper. We roasted mushrooms and pumpkin, the dark wrinkly undersides of the mushrooms becoming more rich and velvet like in the oven. Charlie made a broth of stock, herbs from our garden, carrot, red onion and a half head of garlic. It was all very pleasant – a slowly simmering broth on the stove, vegetables roasting, the pumpkin almost caramelising, while Charlie and I drank coffee and talked cocktails. (Charlie is a bartender by night, at this fine establishment. He is a good person to know.)The soup was everything good soups should be, but it is the bread I wanted to share. Charlie began making the bread earlier in the day, transporting the rising loaf in a big courier bag. It’s a nut bread he said, hazelnuts and walnuts. It’s also, he confessed, an Australian Masterchef recipe. We don’t discriminate when it comes to good bread, though. He became animated as he spoke, more than he usually is. In the oven, under the baking bread, he told me, is an oven tray with a few ice cubes, and as the ice melts it creates steam so the bread gets a good crust. It should be kick-ass good is what I believe he said next.

As it turned out, this bread needed a bit more tweaking. But there were good things going on here: it’s sweet and salty and when the nuts are still warm from the oven they are silky and smooth. The wholemeal flour is nubbly and more satisfying than regular white, something to sink your teeth in to.

The bread is perfect for soup as the nuts add a richness that negates the need for butter. Though, as a lover of butter, I slathered some on for good measure. This bread is versatile and easy enough for butter and jam, perhaps toasted and dunked in coffee. It could hold more oil and be rubbed in dukkah. It would make a fine sandwich, pehaps with hot mustards and smoky cured meats.Last week we made this bread again, determined to get it right this time. We did. It rose perfectly in the way that yeasted dough does – with a slight spring beneath your teeth and the tiniest of air pockets, but there remains a density. (Maybe Charlie would like to explore sourdough starters…?) The nuts spread throughout and when sliced, slivers of walnuts and cross-cuts of round hazelnuts form strata in the bread. And the crust really was kick-ass good.

Hazelnut and Walnut Bread

Adapted from here. One hour before baking pre-heat oven to 220°C.

200 grams wholemeal flour
200 grams plain flour
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons dried active yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
335ml lukewarm water
75 grams hazelnuts, lightly crushed
75 grams walnuts, lightly crushed

Mix the flours and salt in a large bowl. Fill a small bowl with 100ml of the lukewarm water and stir in the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and leave in a warm place for 10-15 minutes or until frothy. Make a well in the centre of the flours then add the yeast mixture and the remaining lukewarm water. Mix well with your hands until a dough forms. Add more water, a teaspoon at a time, if mixture is too dry or more flour if too wet. Clean the bowl with the dough then turn dough onto a floured surface.

Knead dough for 5-10 minutes or until dough is smooth and the ‘skin’ begins to tear. Push dough into a large rectangle and sprinkle with the nuts. Roll together and knead a few more times until the nuts are spread throughout the dough.

Place dough back in the bowl and leave, covered, in a warm place for 1 hour. Every 20 minutes knock back the dough by rolling it away from you with 5 to 6 strokes. After an hour knead the dough again for a few minutes and shape into a loaf. Place loaf on a greased and lined baking tray. Cover the baking tray and leave in warm place for 1 to 1.5 hours until doubled in bulk. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C at this stage.

Once doubled in bulk make 3 slashes in the top of the loaf with a sharp or serrated knife and place in the oven. Throw a half dozen ice cubes in an oven tray and quickly place underneath the bread or at the bottom of the oven. Immediately turn oven down to 200°C and bake for 25 minutes. Set oven door ajar with a wooden spoon and bake for another 5 minutes to dry the bread out.

Pumpkin is an ever versatile vegetable so why is it often in a roast, soup, mash rotation? Roast, soup, mash, roast, soup, mash. Perhaps, in New Zealand, this a nod to our Sunday roast, meat-and-three-vege traditional fare. Pumpkin should be treated more like the apple or the carrot, something that closes the gap between sweet and savoury, compliments the savoury or brightens the sweet.
I made this cake following the instructions of a banana yoghurt cake, but changing quantities and ingredients on a whim, hoping for good things. The colour is quite startling, as you would expect from a cake made with pumpkin. It’s autumnal, perhaps a shade of rust. The flavour mellows out; there is a whisper of nutmeg and cinnamon, and not a lot of sweetness. The pumpkin sits on the back burner, not saying a great deal, instead bringing a certain warmth and richness to the cake.
You could easily ice this cake, an orange drizzle icing could be nice, or make it up like carrot cake with a cream cheese frosting. Although, I feel icing takes away its ability to be a light snacking cake, perfect for breakfast.

Next I’m thinking pumpkin bread; savoury, light orange in colour, perhaps of the yeasty variety. Bread and butter pudding with sweetened pumpkin purée, brandy soaked raisins, cream and nutmeg. Cannelloni stuffed with pumpkin and feta; a savoury crumble with pumpkin and parsnip – a crumble laden with walnuts; maybe grated pumpkin will work in a rosti. May winter continue long enough for me to try all these ideas.

Sweet Pumpkin Cake

1 1/4 cup sugar
100 grams butter, melted
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (I cooked about 2 handfuls of pumpkin in sugared water until tender, drained the water and blended with a dash of cream)
1/2 cup natural yoghurt
2 cups self raising flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda

Pre-heat oven to 160°C. Grease a large rectangular or round tin.

Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition, until thick and creamy. Stir through the pumpkin puree, then the yoghurt. Sieve dry ingredients into the bowl and fold together until just combined. Pour into tin and bake for 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of your tin, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Leave in the tin for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool.

Serve with yoghurt, delicious afternoon tea cake.

N.B. This is a large mix.

Saturday night and I was feeling like a thick, fudgey, dense chocolate something. Maybe with fruit and nuts, maybe a little like panforte. Instead, I made biscotti, which has been on my to-make list all summer. When, finally, biscotti and I are on the same page, so to speak, summer has well and truly passed. We have been hit by what the weather reporters are calling a “weather bomb.” Power is down and rooves are being ripped off in some parts of the country. Here in Wellington it’s miserable and bleak: driving rain and furious winds.

A piece of biscotti to be enjoyed with a small glass of sherry later on, when it’s dark, and all I can hear are the winds beating the trees and the steady drip of rain in the pipes ouside.

 Chocolate and walnut biscotti
Recipe adapted from here and here

2 cups standard flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
60 grams butter, cubed
3/4 cup sugar, raw or white, I used raw demerara sugar
1/2 cup roughly broken walnut pieces
50 grams roughly chopped dark chocolate, I used Lindt Orange Intense
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Pre-heat oven to 160°. Stir flour and baking powder together in a large bowl. Use your fingertips to rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir through sugar, walnut pieces and chocolate. If you wish, add a small amount orange zest at this point.
Make a well in the centre and pour in the lightly beaten eggs and the vanilla essence. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms thick dough. (I had to add a dash of milk at this point..)

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and give it a quick knead. Divde dough in two and roll each half into a flat-ish log about 5cm wide. Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Heat oven to 170°. Slice each piece of biscotti diagonally to about 1cm thick. Place slices back on baking tray and into the oven for 10 minutes or until slightly browned but quite crisp to the touch.

Serve with sherry(!) or with espresso coffee, maybe combine the two, espresso with a shot of sherry. Biscotti would also be a good vehicle for delivering vanilla ice cream, or perhaps salted butter caramel ice cream, to your lips.

This recipe is begging to be adapted: swap the walnuts for almonds, or macadamias, increase the quantity. Remove the nut or the chocolate altogether and add a good handful of roughly chopped dried figs instead. Reduce the flour quantity a little and make it up with some cocoa. Experiment with the sugars, perhaps a decent tablespoon of maple syrup or a half cup of brown sugar for something a little bit richer and caramely. Add a citrus hit with chopped candied peel and a smattering of orange zest. Swap half the flour out for a cup of ground almonds to really bring forth the soft almond bitterness.

Last week on a quiet Sunday afternoon spent lounging in the sun, I read Stephanie Alexander’s book Cooking and Traveling in South-West France. It is a beautiful book with stories of the people she met and the meals they shared. The south-west is quite possibly my favourite region of France with its rich culinary history and wine culture. I enjoy Stephanie’s book in a somewhat bittersweet way: during my few days in Bordeaux I was as poor as a church mouse and surviving on a few yoghurts, a few apples and a pottle of couscous salad, eating a few teaspoons every few hours to tide me over.

It is these experiences of the poor starving backpacker that made me so appreciative of the meals I shared with my french friends. One particular meal with my friend Sophie and her family we had an entrée of a salad with mesclun, foie gras, magret de canard, corn and small preserved onions that were so tiny and so sweet I thought they might have been a berry. It is a surprisingly light salad, and a reminder that salad is so much more than torn lettuce with a chopped tomato or cucumber.

It was not until I read the page titled La Salade Composée in Stephanie Alexander’s book that I remembered this meal and this salad, the delicate flavours of the duck enhanced by the simple preparation. Stephanie writes that a ‘composed salad’ can be made with any number of ingredient combinations, though it pays not to overcrowd the flavours too much. La salade composée reminded me of another salad, our Saturday lunch sort of salad, in winter or summer: chicken, pear, walnut and blue cheese.

Slices of fragrant, slightly firm pear, crumbles of blue cheese, lightly toasted walnuts and pan-grilled chicken is a classic combination, and, like the duck and foie gras salad, the marriage of flavours is perfectly balanced by the freshness of mesclun, or baby rocket, or cos lettuce. Serve with grilled bread, drizzled in olive oil.

The Northern hemisphere blogosphere is going crazy over “fall.” My favourite writers are either lamenting the end of the stone fruit season- wondering how they will survive without roasted peaches and apricot compotes. Or other bloggers’ posts are full of exclamation marks as they look forward to woollen coats(!), thick stews(!), extra duvets (or comforters)(!), pumpkin and squash(!), crunchy leaves under foot(!) and wearing scarves(!), gloves(!) and seeing your breath at winter market stalls(!!!).

I love this excitement over the change of seasons. The new produce, a new wardrobe, a change in weather (hopefully for the better) can make all the difference to winter’s drudgery. New season asparagus, purple tipped and crunchy. New season potatoes, or rhubarb, or spring lamb – all are wonderful reminders of the importance of eating seasonally.

I wish to jump on this seasonal bandwagon with a pretty-in-pink rhubarb tart. Last week, while the weather in Wellington was decidedly not Spring, I went to cook and eat and speak french with Ollie’s lovely French flatmates, Gabrielle and Antoine. On the menu was a pear, walnut and Gorgonzola risotto and une tarte à la rhubarbe pour le dessert.

The risotto was, as Ollie declared, one of the best risottos he had ever had. Risotto can be quite rich and overly creamy but the sharpness of the Gorgonzola plus the sweetness of the pear made quite a delightful combination.

For la tarte à la rhubarbe I peeled the pinky-red threads from the rhubarb stalks while Gabrielle made the pastry. We drank mint tea and the kitchen steamed up, making it near impossible to see the rain still drizzling outside. With Gabrielle’s instruction I mixed the tart filling. Gabrielle is the kind of cook I would love to be one day – instinctive. We chatted away in a sort of franglais about grams and cup measurements as we made the tart filling, un petit peu plus, oh un peu trop, oh well!

La tarte came out of the oven slightly golden, the rhubarb pale shades of pink. I think it would be lovely with marscapone or vanilla bean ice cream.

It really is a very pretty dessert.

Rhubarb Tart
From the kitchen of Gabrielle et Antoine

Pastry:
200g flour
100g butter

Filling:
6 stalks of rhubarb
2 eggs
150ml cream
2 tablespoons ground almonds
3 heaped tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Pre-heat oven to 180°C.

Place the flour in a bowl. Rub in the butter and knead the mixture until a smooth dough forms. Press the dough into a shallow tart pan.

Peel the rhubarb and chop into 2cm pieces. Spread evenly over the pastry.

In a separate bowl thoroughly whisk the eggs. Then add the cream and other ingredients, whisk well. Pour over the rhubarb and place in the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft.

Serve hot or slightly warmed.

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