High five! St Johns, Alexandra

jam rule

Recognition where it’s due.

We’d like to high five the ladies at the St Johns Anglican Church fete in Alexandra, Victoria. They made a delicious Raspberry and Blood Plum Jam.

I have been waiting to open this jam since March because of the the 2 jam rule.

The 2 jam rule is, not suprisingly, that we are only allowed to have two jars of jam open at any one time. It’s not weird.  Things get out of hand quickly otherwise. Fridge space is very important real estate in our house. There have been murmurs to adapt this rule for chutneys… but that dog won’t hunt, monsignor.

A day off work, some of rigoniman’s fresh bread, some fancy French butter (naughty), and this jam. Happiness.

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I was going to be a baker, but I couldn’t raise the dough.

Bread. Whether baguettes or bagels, focaccia or flatbread: it’s delicious, and something all of us can enjoy, Unless you’re gluten intolerant, in which case it can kill you. Celiacs aside, Bread has been a staple for over 12,000 years and is one of my favourites.

It’s Paris and your appartment is just off the Rue de Rivoli and not too far from Hôtel de Ville. You wake to the smell of freshly baked bread and you’re instantly compelled to find it and make it your own. “You stay here and make coffee while I pop downstairs to retrieve breakfast”. This bakery is so small that they only bake a dozen loaves at a time, so they bake all day, and it’s all day that you get this amazing aroma filling the street, Paris is not the city for dieting. But I’m not in Paris today, nor do I feel like dieting, so it’s time for a spot of bread and the baking of it.

Many people have trouble baking bread, Some use packet bread mixes or even go as far as to buy a bread maker. They may be considered shortcuts or not really baking by many but I personally have no problem with whatever method you chose. Whatever it takes to get you out of the supermarket aisle and into the kitchen is fine by me. Its not all that difficult and here is a great recipe I’ve used for some time now that works a treat.
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But first some tips.

Flour, Get some good bakers’ flour, 10kg of good bakers’ flour can be purchased from any good market for under $20. Yeast, I use freeze dried yeast that I add to a 1/4 cup of water with a pinch of sugar and let it sit for 20 minutes prior to adding it to dough. And time, dont rush your baking, a good bread shouldn’t be rushed.

  • 500 grams baking flour
  • 320 mls Warm water
  • 15 grams Yeast
  • 15 grams Salt
  • 15 grams Sugar
  • 15 grams Olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or mixer and knead into a dough for about 5 minutes. Cover and place in a warm place and let rise for at least half an hour.

photoFrom here I knead and shape the dough and in this case I’ll sprinkle a course flour (Semolina or Polenta) of the top, then I cut some lines atop the loaf, this isn’t purely decorative, it also helps to prevent bursting. It also adds extra crust which every bread lover knows is the tastiest part of the loaf. Let the dough rest again for another 30 minutes and preheat your oven to as hot as it will go.

I use a stone to bake on, you can pick up a baking stone or pizza stone from most kitchen shops and is well worth it. A preheated oven with baking stone is as close as you’re going to get to building a brick baking oven and for now it’s a great start.

After your dough has re-risen, sprinkle your baking stone with some course flower and slide your dough into your preheated oven, turn the temperature down to 180-200C and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.  When baked place bread on a wire rack to cool and listen to the crust cracking. Serve with anything!

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