Category Archives: Basics

Recipe: Almond milk patisserie cream

I’ve only discovered the joys of patisserie cream recently.  In fact, up until about a year ago, I would have told you that I really hated custard.  I grew up with a great uncle who owned an Italian bakery, so I grew up with a strong appreciation for really good bread – and, alas, a complete and utter loathing for cannoli, Italian sponge cakes, and chou pastry with custard in it.  I don’t know what it is about Italian-style custards, but I just can’t stand them.  And believe me, I’ve tried to like them – many, many times.

I’m also not at all keen on English-style custards.  The whole vanilla slice thing makes me shudder.  How can people even eat that?  And I’ve made Portuguese tarts, out of sheerest curiosity, which everyone loved except for me…

So when we were told that we would be making crème patissière at the croissant class I went to last year, my heart sank, because now I, too, would be able to make custards that made me feel vaguely queasy.  But, being the good and obedient student I am, I dutifully made my crème pat, tasted it – and was astonished to discover that it actually tasted good.  A miracle!  Or possibly, just a different recipe. 

Honestly, I don’t know why this recipe works for me, but it really does.  And, having found the one custard recipe in the world that I like, I promptly had to… go and change it.  Yeah, I don’t understand the logic of that, either.  But I have friends who can’t eat dairy, so what can you do?  And, as it turns out, the almond-milk version of this custard is surprisingly good.  Who knew?

Maybe I should pop down the road to my local bakery and give the cannoli another try.

Maybe not.


Your shopping list

For plain, vanilla pastry cream

500 ml almond milk
1 vanilla pod
125 g caster sugar
100 g egg yolks (from about 5-6 eggs)
40 g custard powder or cornflour (custard powder, not to be confused with custard mix, is basically cornflour with a little yellow colouring anyway.  It thickens the pastry cream and makes it look prettier)
25 g cocoa butter

For light, fruity pastry cream

1 tsp orange flower water
2 tbsp (40 ml) peach schnapps

For passionfruit and chocolate pastry cream

200 ml almond milk (extra)
150 g dark chocolate, chopped
50 g freeze dried passionfruit powder

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Recipe: Vegan Choc-Cross Buns with Tahini and Apricots

I take Easter, and particularly Good Friday, very seriously.  It’s not just because of the sheer number of professional commitments I have around Easter (and Good Friday is pretty much the peak of these, as I tend to have a late service on Thursday evening, then help lead the Way of the Cross procession through the city all morning on the Friday, before settling in for an afternoon service somewhere – Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday are relaxing by comparison!), or even just about the religious aspect, though this is important to me, too. 

In fact, these days I have a personal Good Friday ritual that involves fish and chips and a re-watching of the really good 1971 Jesus Christ Superstar film – because I spend so much of Easter feverishly keeping track of how many more rounds of chant I need to do, or where in the pew sheet I am, or how to make that hymn scan in Italian, or concentrating feverishly on using my voice efficiently so that it actually lasts through four days of epic singing, that there really isn’t much room for personal religious observance.  I’m too busy concentrating on doing my job right!  And that’s totally fine, but I then need something that will let me stop and contemplate the season, and it turns out that JCSS is great for that.  Especially this year, when I’ve spent so much time living in Passion land, between St Matthew, and the readings this week, and listening to the St John Passion sent to me by my pen-friend’s mother.

I just got totally distracted from what I was going to say, which is that for me, Good Friday is also sort of a birthday.  I was born on Good Friday in 1976, so I tend to view the entire Easter Weekend as fair game for birthday gatherings, if there is no time on the day itself.  And the first thing my mother ate after I was born was a hot cross bun, so I am undoubtedly pre-disposed by the conditions of my birth to take hot cross buns seriously, too!


Anyway, after doing the Hot Cross Bun class at Gewürzhaus, I was consumed with the need to make hot cross buns, repeatedly.  And when I saw the recipe for the choc-chip kind (which I actually view as Not Proper Hot Cross Buns, but never mind that), I was immediately seized by the conviction that these needed to be veganised.  Of course, I then got totally overwhelmed by singing commitments, but yesterday’s afternoon service, in addition to being long, was also fairly inaudible from the organ loft, and so I found my brain turning to recipe design.  As one does.  In particular, I could not help thinking that chocolate tahini would make an amazing substitute for all the butter and eggs that one normally finds in hot cross buns.  Oh yes, indeed.  And since there is at least one vegan in the choir I’m singing with tonight, this is clearly exactly the right time to unleash vegan chocolate hot cross buns on the world!  

Happy Easter to you, if you celebrate it.  As for me, I’ll be singing…

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Two really easy recipes for things you want to have in the fridge

Also known as Roast Garlic and Slow Roasted tomatoes.  These are my personal saviours when it comes to vegetarian cooking in summer – I’ve been making batches of both these things every week and storing them in the fridge for use in any recipe that needs an instant flavour hit.  The roasted garlic is good in basically anything – mayonnaise, mashed cannelini beans, béchamel sauce, casseroles, pasta, or just spread on bread.  The roasted tomatoes are brilliant for pasta or salads (especially panzanella), particularly when the tomatoes at the shops are a bit lacklustre.  They are great for adding zing to a tomato soup or ratatouille, and are lovely on grilled anything (chicken, fish, tomatoes, and, I suspect, seitan), and again, are great on bread. 

Your Shopping List for both these items

3 bulbs of garlic (think big!)
3 punnets of cherry tomatoes, any kind
olive oil

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Christmas Leftovers Recipe: Broccoli Pesto Vichysoisse

It’s hot and stuffy and the house is full of leftovers, and in addition to being exhausted and not especially hungry, I’m actually in a fair bit of pain, which is not very Christmassy at all.  Since you don’t get to take pain medication without food (and, ideally, alcohol), some sort of food preparation is required.

This recipe is, basically, a leftovers dish.  It’s stock from the slow-cooked chicken, leftover roast potatoes and leftover broccoli dip.  The quantities are nonexistent because it was just what I had in the fridge, but you should think of this as more of a template for making creative use of leftovers.   I’ll be posting a few recipes like this in the next few days, because I can’t possibly be the only one who overcatered.

Also, it’s lovely and cold and easy to eat, even in this hot weather.  And it’s a very fetching shade of green, too.


Your Leftovers List
Leftover potatoes from Christmas dinner – roasted, baked, gratin or even scalloped – the cream will be a nice touch!
Leftover broccoli pesto, or leftover pesto or any pesto or other dip composed primarily of herbs, vegetables and nuts
Leftover steamed broccoli, if there was  no broccoli in your pesto
Stock or water.  If you have a chicken or turkey carcase, it would be very much in the spirit of this recipe to make stock out of it, which is what I did, so I’m supplying the recipe below.  It’s easy.

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Recipe: Orange, Raisin and Spice Scones for a Christmas in the Sun

We had our work Christmas party today.  Well, one of them.  When you work with two highly sociable Divisions, you don’t just get one work Christmas party – I believe that my official count this year is a modest six, down from a high point of ten a couple of years back.  (There will be a seventh party, but it isn’t a Christmas one, so that doesn’t count.)  There are Division parties, Kris Kringle for the whole floor, the Institute party, the Admin party, and the party for my little choir.  No technician party this year (they had that one during the Conference of Doom), and I don’t generally go to the Union barbecue or the individual lab get-togethers, because enough is really enough, but they exist, oh yes they do.

(Oh, and let’s not forget the work Christmas Choir or Food for Families, which aren’t parties, but do keep me usefully occupied in December…)

Anyway.  Today’s party was for the more sociable and hyperactive of my two Divisions, which means we always have to have an Activity, preferably of the Outdoors variety (the lab heads insist… and it’s more fun than lunch at the pub).  This year’s party was a bit of an excursion – we took the ferry to Williamstown, and then walked around the coast to Williamstown Beach where we had afternoon tea and beach cricket (a cultural experience that not all our overseas scientists were willing to try).  It was actually a really fun day out – like a miniature summer holiday – and the weather was very kind to us.  And it turns out that the French – or at least, our French – make surprisingly good cricketers, at least if one is playing by beach-cricket rules, though the Germans were resolute in their refusal to play such a non-soccer-like game.  It also turns out that it’s impossible to convince a USA-born Professor that one does not twirl the bat around while waiting for the bowler to run up.  And the less said about his (terrifying) bowling style, the better.  Baseball has much to answer for.

Anyway. Our best Christmas parties always seem to come with scones, so when we aren’t going somewhere that will make scones for us, I feel compelled to make them myself.  This is dangerous, because once I start making scones, I find it difficult to stop, and the next thing I know we have ninety scones, which is silly when I know perfectly well that everyone else is bringing food too.  Also, making ninety scones in only one flavour is *boring*, so I’ll always start off making plain ones, and cheese ones, and then the next thing you know I’ll be sticking lavender or pink lemonade in them, and who knows where it will end?

I got a bit carried away.

I got a bit carried away.

The pick of today’s litter turned out to be the ones I flavoured with blood orange, raisins, spekulaas spice mix and cinnamon.  They were really good, with a surprisingly wholemeal-like texture and colour – I think this came from the blood orange juice, interestingly.  I sprinkled them with Viennese Christmas Sugar from Gewürzhaus just before I baked them, which gave them a lovely crunchy top.

These scones don’t really need anything on them, as they are pleasantly sweet when eaten plain, but butter would never hurt.  And if you have any of The Butter Factory‘s honey and walnut butter, that would be even better.

I am almost positive that these scones constitute a healthy breakfast for Christmas morning.

But I might be lying.

Your Shopping List

3 cups self-raising flour
60 g unsalted butter
zest and juice of 1 blood orange
2 Australian tablespoons of caster sugar
1 tsp spekulaas spice or mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
pinch salt
3/4 cup milk (you should have 1-1 1/4 cups of liquid, so squeeze your orange and then top up accordingly.  The mixture may curdle which is fine, because you’ve basically now made the equivalent of buttermilk)
2/3 cup raisins
Viennese Christmas sugar or raw sugar, for sprinkling

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Recipe: Banana Buns (da DA, da-da-da!)

It’s not actually possible to say the phrase ‘banana buns’ without developing an attack of the Muppets, really.  Seriously, try it.  You’ll be humming the Muppet theme before you know it.

Anyway.  This recipe, like so many banana recipes, came out of the discovery of a couple of very daggy-looking bananas on my fruit stand.  But I wasn’t really in the mood for making banana bread this week – I feel like I’ve been doing cakes all week, when what I really want to play with right now is yeast and sticky buns.  And then I was considering my failure to come up with a good vegan variant on my sticky cinnamon scroll recipe a couple of weeks back, which is when I started wondering if you could enrich bread dough with bananas instead of eggs.

It turns out you can.  These are quite wholesome buns, sweet (though not excessively so) from the fruit,  faintly banana flavoured, but with a reasonable amount of heft from the rolled oats (which melt into the dough, incidentally, but are still very present in terms of texture).  They have what I think of as a ‘squidgy’ texture – not fluffy, not dense and heavy, but soft and a bit chewy.  The kind of bread that has a bit of substance to it, without being hard work to eat.

Exactly right for breakfast.


Your Shopping List

1 1/4 cups sultanas that are taking a walk on the dry side
1/2 cup sherry, marsala, rum, or anything along those lines
275 milk or almond milk or a mixture of both if that is what you happen to have on hand
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
a pinch of nutmeg
7 g yeast
2 daggy bananas
550 g flour
1 tbsp maple sugar or brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
75 g rolled oats
50 g butter, ghee, or canola oil
sunflower or canola oil for your hands (you will need this)
maple syrup to glaze

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Recipe: Sticky Apricot Cardamom Scrolls

After I made those cinnamon scrolls last week and bragged about them to the internet, I had a few requests for the recipe.  Well, I can’t give you the recipe, because for once in my life, I was actually following a recipe properly, and that recipe came from The Great Australian Bake Off Cookbook.  Incidentally, I hope some of you saw the bake off when it was on, because it was enormously fun – like someone took all the interesting parts of Masterchef, condensed them into one hour a week, got rid of the endless repetition and commentary, and added amusing musical stings and a very cute, playschool-like pastel coloured kitchen for everyone to work in, in the gardens of Werribee Mansion.  Oh, and it was all baking, no annoying savoury dishes with everyone nattering on about protein, where protein must always and only mean meat.

Anyway, much to my surprise, this cookbook turns out to actually have all the recipes from the show that *I* wanted to try, which is very clever of them.  Clearly whoever put this together shares my tastes to a remarkable degree.  I want to bake everything in the book. 

Hello, digression!  Getting back to the point, rather than share a recipe that wasn’t mine, I decided yesterday to modify the recipe to something I could share with you.  So instead of coffee scrolls, we have these sticky apricot and cardamom buns which are absolutely gorgeous, if I say so myself.  They do have quite a strong cardamom flavour, so if you like your spices subtle, you might want to halve the quantity. 

The dough, incidentally, is absolutely beautiful to work with – so soft and tender to the touch, just delicious.  And I love the method, which is spread out over a lazy few hours… or a frenetic few hours as you run into the study between kneads in order to write endless political posts (only six left now, hooray!) and food blog wrap-ups.  It’s strangely relaxing to make.

And the results are glorious.

buns close

Your Shopping List

275 ml milk (low fat milk or a non-dairy milk are both fine here)
7 g dry yeast
1 egg
450 g bread flour
25 g caster sugar + 1/4 cup for the syrup
1 tsp salt
50 g unsalted butter, plus another 50 g for the filling
1 1/4 cups chopped dried apricots
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cardamom
50 ml blood orange juice – from about half an orange
2 cups icing sugar

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Recipe: Spiced Rye Bread

This is based on a recipe for Heidelberg rye bread from Bread: The Universal Loaf, by Tamara Milstein.  I was going to make the actual recipe, but first I found myself mostly out of molasses, so I had to use honey, and then I found myself out of caraway seeds, but I did have a jar of St Nicholas Spekulaas Spice from Gewürzhaus, and I realised that this could be a rather wonderful thing combined with rye, just a little treacle, honey and brown sugar.

And it is.  The bread is dark in flavour with a lovely aroma of spices, and the perfect foil for – you guessed it! – honey!  Though jam is also excellent.  I should have come up with this years ago.


Your shopping list

1 cup water (you may need a little more to get the dough right at the end)
1 tbsp (20 ml) treacle
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 pinch salt
2 tsp yeast
1 cup rye flour
1 1/3 cups bread flour
3-4 tsp Spekulaas spice, or any good mixed spice

Now what will you do with it?

Bring the water to the boil, and add the treacle, honey, sugar, butter and salt. Pour into a large bowl and let cool to warm room temperature.

Why did I take a photo of this?  Even I don't know...

Why did I take a photo of this? Even I don’t know…

Add the yeast, rye flour and bread flour, along with the spices, and use a spoon or your hands to mix to a dough.  You are aiming for a dough that isn’t sticky, but isn’t too tough, either – I found I had to add a little more water as I kneaded to get to the right consistency.  Basically, kneading shouldn’t be incredibly hard work – if it is, you need more water.  But if it looks like a mud pie, add more flour (incidentally, add water 1 tsp at a time – you have no idea how fast dough can take up water and go from absurdly dry to ridiculously sticky.  Be wary!).

Knead your dough for about 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and homogenous.  It won’t go quite as silky as a dough made from pure bread flour, but it will definitely have a more elastic, smooth texture than when you started.

This is seriously the prettiest photo of bread dough I've ever seen.  Then again, how many photos of bread dough have I seen?  Actually, more than you might think, but still...

This is seriously the prettiest photo of bread dough I’ve ever seen. Then again, how many photos of bread dough have I seen? Actually, more than you might think, but still…

Put your lovely bowl of dough into a clean, oiled bowl, and bat it around a few times to coat it in oil.  Cover the bowl with glad-wrap or a clean tea towel.


Let rise in a warm, humid place for an hour or more, until it’s doubled in size.  This dough can take forever to rise, so if you are doing this late on a work night like me, and if you are fortunate enough to have an oven with a keep warm function, I recommend turning this to 40°C and putting the bowl in there, with a bowl of water next to it to keep the oven from drying it out.


Line a small loaf tin (about 7 cm by 16 cm in the base), or a flat baking tray, if you want a free-form loaf, with baking paper.  Punch down the dough, and form it into a loaf shape or an oval.  Slash it a few times because we all love slash.  Also, it looks pretty.


Place the dough in its tin or on its tray, and let rise for another half hour.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.


When the bread is risen again, bake at 200°C for 30 minutes or until it is well risen, golden brown, and sounds hollow when you topple it out of the tin and tap it underneath.


Eat for breakfast.


This bread is, of course, egg- and nut-free and vegetarian.  It’s dairy free (and vegan) if you replace the butter with margarine or canola oil, both of which work just fine.  It’s not low-fructose or gluten-free, but I think you knew that already.  It’s glycemic index isn’t brilliant but isn’t terrible, either.  You could always substitute in some oats for some of the rye and bread flour, to bring the GI down a bit.

In terms of flavour, you could do all sorts of things with this.  It’s tempting to take out the spices and add a handful of dried cranberries.  I don’t know why, but I have a feeling that dark rye with cranberries would be amazing.  Caraway seeds are another obvious substitute, and you could probably make a lovely seedy bread with caraway, fennel, and perhaps cumin seeds through it, along with some stealth hemp seeds or chia seeds for bonus health tricks.  I’d then sprinkle sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds on top, just to show off.  Yum.  And very good for you!



Two years ago: Recipe: Chocolate for Breakfast
                                  Farmers’ Market

Recipe: Orange and Cranberry Marmalade Bread

risen2This bread is a cross between several different recipes, necessitated by the fact that my pantry does not currently contain polenta and that it does contain both marmalade and orange powder, not to mention cranberries.  Also, I like putting oats in my bread so that I can pretend it is healthy, so it got oats.  And rye, because I have this rye flour…

It’s not quite as orangey as I’d hoped, and it’s very, very sticky, and a little structurally unsound for toasting but it’s also entirely delicious and marginally healthy (it has oats!  And cranberries!  It must be good for you!).  And you don’t even need to put marmalade on it for breakfast!

Your shopping list

1 cup of lukewarm water (it should feel just barely warm to your finger)
1 tsp dry yeast
1 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp salt (I actually use less, but you do need to use some, as it keeps the yeast in check)
50 g rolled oats (about half a cup)
300 g bread flour (about 2 cups)
50 g rye flour (about 1/3 cup)
2 tsp dried whole orange powder
65 g cup dried cranberries (about half a cup)
1/4 cup orange jam or marmalade

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Recipe: Simple Mint Syrup / Mint Cordial

drinkThis recipe is a very simple one, born out of the fact that my husband really, really loves mint.  I thought it would be nice to make a fresh, minty drink for these hot days.  Though, having made it, I can’t help thinking that it would be gorgeous added to a rich hot chocolate drink, too.  Or drizzled over berries and ice-cream, for that matter.  Or frozen and churned into sorbet.

Or just eaten with a spoon.  Why bother freezing it first?

Your Shopping List (makes about 2 1/2 cups)

35 g fresh mint leaves – this would be the leaves from one nice bunch of mint, or from two dodgy bunches of mint, which is what I had.
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 cups water

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