Tuesday, 31 December 2013

yeasted vasilopita

a greek new year's eve is about getting together with family and friends, playing trianta ena (the card game 31) and cutting the vasilopita or basil pie at midnight..vasilopita is a type of yeasted bread or cake with a coin baked into it and tradition has it that the person finding the coin will be blessed for the rest of the year..

vasilopita is named after basil the fourth century bishop of caesarea in cappadocia in asia minor..the tradition of baking a coin into a loaf is said to be based on the coins st basil baked into sweetened bread as a way of distributing money to the poor..he's also recognised as having been the first person to establish a children's orphanage, a christian hospital and to have been one of the most wise and compassionate clergymen in the history of the church..his feast day is observed on january 1st at the beginning of the new year and the epiphany season..the orthodox church, in recognition of his contributions to the church and to humanity, combined the new year with the birth of christ and the epiphany, into the vasilopita observance..the vasilopita observance is the midnight tradition of cutting and distributing the bread among family and friends with a piece being set aside as a symbolic gesture toward the disadvantaged in recognition of st basil's work with the poor..

yeasted vasilopita recipe 
adapted from 'flavours of greece' rosemary barron
makes 1 large loaf
enough for 20 people

ingredients sponge

225 gms tepid full cream organic unhomegenised milk
1 teaspoon yeast (tsp)
100 gms plain flour 

ingredients dough

200-300 gms plain flour
300 gms wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp crushed mastic 
1 1/2 tsp mahlepi
6 eggs
225 gms honey
140 gms castor sugar
125 gms butter melted and cooled
4 tablespoons light olive oil
1 tbs finely cut candied organic orange peel (i used homemade)
1 tbs finely cut candied organic lemon peel (i used homemade)
2 tsp salt (i used murray river salt)

ingredients glaze

1 egg
2 tsp castor sugar
2 tbs milk

extra for decorating

blanched almonds and/or sesame seeds

method sponge

~ mix yeast into the milk, leave 10 minutes, or until foaming
~ mix in the flour, cover, and leave for an hour or until it has become sponge-like

method dough

~ into the bowl of a stand mixer beat eggs, honey, sugar and salt until light and frothy
~ add 200 gms plain flour, wholemeal flour, sponge, mastic, mahlepi, butter and oil and mix adding enough of the remaining plain flour, if necessary, to make a soft smooth dough
~ remove the bowl from the stand mixer, cover with greased cling film, and leave to prove for 2 hours or until doubled
~ turn the dough out onto a lightly floured bench, gently knead in the peels, and shape the dough into a round
~ place the dough in a large baking paper lined round dish and leave, loosely covered, for an hour or until a finger pressed into the dough leaves an impression
~ mix the glaze ingredients together, brush the top of the dough, and using the almonds write the numbers of the new year and sprinkle with sesame seeds
~ bake at 190 deg c for 20-30 minutes, cover with foil, and continue to bake for another 20-25 minutes or until cooked

baking notes

i found:
a) the dough too sweet so next time i would reduce the castor sugar to 100 or 80 gms 
b) the mastic/mahlepi ratio was unbalanced so i would reduce the mastic to 1/4 tsp and increase the mahlepi to 2 tsp
c) the bread needed a stronger citrus flavour so i'd increase the peels to 2 tbs each 
d) the dough was over hydrated (as i did when making tsoureki from the same book) so next time i would change the method and rub the butter into the flour rather than melting it thereby hopefully reducing the hydration level
e) the rising times slow so i'd consider increasing the yeast to 2 tsp (the original recipe called for 2 tbs) or retarding the dough overnight in the fridge (my preferred option)

greek coffee and vasilopita..yamas (cheers)!

kali xronia (happy new year)

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

sourdough stollen with homemade marzipan

even though i love christmas baking some years i just don't get much done but this year i've made puddings ( a friend of mine and i always make these together), christmas cake, fruit mince and mince pies, shortbread and stollen..in the past i've made yeasted stollen but this year i wanted to try making a sourdough version..even though i loved the process of making the stollen i wasn't sure if it would be a success or not..at each stage i was filled with a bit of trepidation and lots of questions..questions such as..will it rise? will these flavours work? have i put it too much/too little of (insert ingredient)? should i have added some spice? will the dough be chewy or heavy? have i over/undercooked it? but after waiting for it to (nearly) cool i tentatively cut a piece..ahh..sigh of relief and happiness..it looked like it should..and..it tasted like it should too..ahh.. 

sourdough stollen with homemade marzipan
tea with hazel
makes 2

ingredients dough (first ferment)

250 gms sourdough starter (100% hydration)
250 gms organic white bread flour
125 mls full cream milk

ingredients dough (second ferment)

625 gms first ferment dough
250 gms plain flour
115 gms softened butter cut into small cubes
75 gms castor sugar
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon (tsp) salt
1 egg
75 gms sultanas
75 gms currants
50 gms dried cranberries*
50 gms mixed peel (i used homemade)
100 mls dark rum

ingredients marzipan

150 gms almond meal
100 gms pure icing sugar
100 gms castor sugar
1 egg white (50 gms)
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp brandy
1/2 tsp vanilla


beaten egg
30 gms butter melted
castor sugar
icing sugar

day 1

method dough first ferment

~ in the bowl of a stand mixer mix the ingredients
~ cover with buttered cling film and leave overnight

dried fruit marinade

~ mix sultanas, currants, cranberries and peel with rum
~ cover with cling film and leave overnight

day 2

method marzipan

~ beat the egg white with the almond extract, brandy and vanilla
~ add to the almond meal, castor sugar and icing sugar and mix to form a paste
~ shape into 2 logs approximately 3 to 3 1/2 cms in diameter and 20 cms long, wrap in cling film, and refrigerate until needed

method dough second ferment

~ to the first ferment dough add flour, butter, castor sugar, lemon rind, salt and egg and mix until ingredients form a ball
~  rest for 10 minutes and mix again briefly
~ remove the bowl from stand mixer, cover with cling film and leave for 1 hour
~ drain the dried fruit
~ knead the drained dried fruit into dough then cover the dough and leave to prove for 2-3 hours
~ divide the dough in two and roll each piece into an oblong approximately 20 x 25 cms
~ brush the dough with melted butter
~ place the marzipan, adjusting the length to fit if necessary, just off centre of the dough, fold the dough over the marzipan and gently press the dough to seal
~ place on a baking paper lined baking sheet, loosely covered, to prove for about 2 hours until doubled in volume or when a finger pressed into the dough leaves an impression
~ brush stollen with egg
~ heat oven to 250 deg c, place stollen in oven, immediately reduce heat to 180 bake deg c and bake with steam for the first 20 minutes and then without steam for a further for 30 to 40 minutes or until cooked (cover with foil if the top of the dough is browning too much)
~ brush the top of the hot stollen with melted butter and sprinkle with castor sugar
~ remove excess castor sugar and dust generously with icing sugar

note: * i would have preferred to use dried sour cherries but i was unable to find any locally

this post submitted to yeast spotting

Monday, 9 December 2013

banana buns to go

my daughter has over an hour's drive to work every day and she makes a coffee and takes breakfast with her to consume on the journey..probably not recommended in the healthy lifestyle dietary guidelines but that's what works for her..it works for me too because i get to make things that are easy for her to eat..nothing worse than drips and crumbs in the lap or down the front of one's freshly ironed top..i made up the bit about the ironing..she doesn't iron either so i guess ironing aversion must be heritable..

forget those horrible liquid breakfasts in boxes which incidentally remind me of the sort of thing that's whizzed up for fractured mandible patients and looks gluggy, grey and pre digested..get the idea? no..these buns have the good stuff in them but they're not slurped through an oversized straw..there's fruit, milk and complex carbohydrates and you need teeth to eat them..i read somewhere that there's a link between satiation and chewing so they work in that department too..

banana buns to go
tea with hazel

ingredients dough

200 gms organic white bread making flour
100 gms organic wholemeal spelt flour
2 ripe bananas mashed
15 gms butter melted and cooled
200 mls (approximately) low fat milk (i used 1/2 low fat milk and 1/2 whey from draining yoghurt)
1 large tablespoon (tbs) organic candied orange peel (i used homemade) finely diced
1/3 cup currants
2 teaspoons (tsp) honey
2 tsp cardamon
2 tsp salt
1 tsp yeast
2 tbs active sourdough starter
extra milk

ingredients glaze

1 tbs sugar
1 tsp gelatine
1 tbs boiling water

method dough/glaze

~ place flours, banana, butter, peel, honey, cardamon, yeast and starter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix adding enough milk to achieve a shaggy dough 
~ autotolyse for 30 minutes, add salt, mix briefly, rest for 10-15 minutes, mix again briefly
~ cover dough with cling film and leave until well risen
~ remove the dough to a lightly floured board and gently knead in currants
~ divide the dough into 12, 70 gm pieces, shape into rounds, and place on a baking paper lined tray
~ cover buns loosely and leave until well risen or until an impression is left after a finger is pressed into the dough
~ brush the tops of the buns with milk and bake at 230 deg c for 15 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 200 deg c, cover the buns with brown paper, and cook for a further 10 minutes or until cooked
~ brush the tops of the hot buns with the glaze (see glaze method below)

method glaze

~ mix the gelatine and sugar with water and stir until dissolved placing the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water if necessary

grab a banana bun, butter it, and go to work or back to bed with a cup of tea!

this post submitted to yeast spotting

Sunday, 8 December 2013

fresh broad bean falafel

i planted a long row of broad beans in winter where last summer's tomatoes had grown to act as a soil improver but last week i reluctantly had to pull them out to make way for climbing beans, cucumber and zucchini..i know i'm late to get them in but i seem to be struggling to keep up with the growing seasons lately..i put my garlic in late too and as a result this year's garlic heads are the smallest i've ever grown..as i stripped the sacrificial bean pods off the stalks i knew then and there what dish would be worthy of them..fresh broad bean falafel..

fresh broad bean falafel
slightly adapted from here

3 cups double podded broad beans*#
1 small onion
1-2 garlic cloves*
a large pinch of chilli flakes*
small bunch each of dill, parsley including stalks, coriander and mint*
3 teaspoons (tsp) cumin
1 level tsp baking powder
1 tablespoon (tbs) sesame seeds
3-4 tbs olive oil
lemon juice*


~ process all ingredients except for the lemon juice and salt
~ add lemon juice and salt in increments to taste processing between additions
~ using two large spoons form quenelles and shallow fry in olive oil until golden on each side

serving suggestion

i served mine with yoghurt and tahini (recipe follows) and coleslaw made with freshly picked red cabbage*, shaved carrot, parsley*, spring onions* and a dijon mustard and lemon juice dressing

yoghurt and tahini 


1 cup strained homemade yoghurt
1 clove garlic grated fine*
3 tbs organic unhulled tahini
2 tsp honey (or to taste)
lemon juice*


~ whisk yoghurt, garlic, tahini and honey with lemon juice and salt to taste
~ dust with sumac to serve

note * denotes home grown produce
        # it's best to not blanch the broad beans prior to removing the skins..blanching results in an unmanageable mixture

if you grow your own vegetables do you sometimes find it hard to clear garden beds of productive plants to make way for new seasons crops?