Picnic bread.

Today was our annual Long Table Lunch Picnic Day. This happens to be one of my favourite days of the year, a group of us pack a picnic, wine, chairs and nibbles and spend the day on the bank of (and usually in) the Latrobe River just outside of Moe. We set up our tables, spread with the fare to share and sample each others offerings. I usually take lots of photos of the day, but this year I just kicked back and relaxed. I didn’t even get in and have a swim, first time ever that’s happened.

I made a few different breads to take, this pic is of me trying to juggle dough in my makeshift kitchen. This is my entire bench space! Left to right shows walnut, apple & cranberry dough. This was made by pulling dough into a rectangle and spreading it with chopped walnuts, cranberries that had been soaked to ‘fluff’ them up, a grated apple and a sprinkling of brown sugar, cinnamon and mixed spice. I had thought I would make a twist from this but it evolved differently. Back left is dough that is going to become herb batard, plain batard and baguettes and on right are 2 loaves of normal family bread. The herbs in front went into the  herb loaf along with a finely chopped chilli and some grated parmesan cheese.

Sourdough provingThings change! I decided to put the two pieces of the walnut dough together to even out how the nuts were distributed and this turned into a big roll. I curled it up and put into a tin.

Sourdough walnut, apple and cranberry loaf.

This went into my ‘toy oven’ with a dutch oven lid over the top for about 25 minutes then without lid for about 25 more minutes until internal temp hit about 105. Wasn’t at all confidant that this would work………

Not to worry! I iced the bun and added finely grated lemon rind zest. This was a winner!

IMG_6383 Everyone  at the picnic loved it and I asked for feedback about what to change, we decided that maybe just a clear bun glaze with the lemon might be better. It was very divided between icing or no icing, but all agreed it was lovely.IMG_0813These are the other loaves after baking. All in all a good bake considering the baguettes and batards were cooked on the gas barbecue. The herb bread was a winner again and I have a couple of people wanting me to make them some on a regular basis. That’s  lovely’

SOURDOUGH BREADI did some more paint removal on the chimney before we headed off to the picnic and it is ticking away nicely. Slowly, but nicely. Very happy indeed with the PeelAway product.

Brick chimney paint stripping Peel AwayGuess what tomorrow’s job is!

Posted in Bread | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

IMK February and reno update (Be warned, not much food!)

Well, I did say we were in for a big, busy year and that has proven to be true just in the first couple of weeks. We headed off to Pambula Beach for our annual dose of camping surf and sun, knowing full well we would have to return at some stage for the arrival of our first grandchild. Well, 4 nights into our holiday, the call came in so we secured camp and headed the 5&1/2 hour drive back to be rewarded with the beautiful ‘Charlie’ being born early the next morning. I think I was more stressed waiting for his arrival than I was going through the birth of our own children. A good outcome with a healthy baby, a healthy and happy mum and dad and some very thrilled grandparents. Here we are, the first hold of our first grandchild. Pretty darned special!

1st Hold

Three days later mum and Charlie, were sent home to make their own way in the world. Mr ATMT drove to Rosebud to pick up his 87 year old mum, brought her back to Newborough (2 hour drive each way) so she could see her 8th great grandchild then drove her back home again (he was a tad tired after all this driving). What a delightful experience it was to see her face as she welcomed this new addition to the family. As someone who never met a grandmother and barely remembers a grandfather it was quite a special moment seeing the four generations, mother & son, mother & son, together.

Not bad for 87 is she?

4 generationsIn My Kitchen-There is not much food cooking!

We have stripped everything out from the old kitchen space and commenced stripping the painted brickwork of the chimney. I trialled a sample of a product called Peel Away and we were very impressed with the test patch so here goes nothing. This product is reputed to be able to strip up to 30 layers of paint in one hit, doesn’t smell and is suitable for removing lead and asbestos based paint. The process is simply a matter of slathering the product on, covering it with the special paper they supply and waiting 24-48 hours for it to do its stuff. The paper is then peeled away and what’s left easily scrapes off and the surface can then be scrubbed clean. If repainting a neutraliser needs to be applied before painting.

Here is the spot we trialled on the front of the chimney under the mantle. Pretty impressed!

Peel AwayFirst section of the chimney brickwork treated with Peel Away. Coating applied and the special laminated paper placed over it waiting for it all to cook!

Peel Away Paint Removal SystemThe builders are back on site after the Christmas break and continue to excel in doing a sensational job. We came home from camping to having a roof on the new section, complete with keeping the old tin (with old telephone insulators) from the original gable and reinstalled it into the new gable. It’s little touches like this that keep the authenticity of the house intact.

IMG_6341We have ceiling windows installed that will become part of the new kitchen.

Ceiling windowsThe windows have been delivered and we are excited beyond words waiting for them to be fitted so the existing kitchen wall can be removed and I’ll get a real feel of what the space will be. In fact I had to start removing a few of the boards……………  just because I had to.

IMG_6367There have been a few little bits of food coming out from the toy oven and temporary kitchen. We had friends join us for a gathering on Australia Day so I made a tomato, cucumber, feta cheese and red onion salad.

IMG_6333 I served an assortment of breads. Potato and rosemary focaccia (toy oven), plain baguettes and herb baguettes (cooked in the barbecue) and 2 rye loaves (toy oven). All went down well with dukkah, cheeses and pickles.IMG_6331 I made a chocolate pavlova which made a nice change from the normal pav. I anticipated someone else would bring a pavlova and was right so it was nice to have a choice between normal and a chocky one. I topped this with freshly picked mulberries,  strawberries and lightly sweetened cream that I had grated chocolate into. Very nice.IMG_6335The mulberries were from our own tree and this is the first year we have had such a bountiful harvest. We think it may have something to do with the fact we set up a timed sprinkler  under the tree so all our pots would be watered while we were away. Boy, have we enjoyed mulberries! This is a 5 minute harvest-extra large coffee cups.

MulberriesBut look at what happens when you pick them.

IMG_0132Hence the warnings issued that when you plant a mulberry tree don’t plant near paths or areas where you will be troubled by staining. I love it!

Head over to Maureen’s at Orgasmic Chef to see what others are doing ‘In their kitchens’ this month, some may even have some food and goodies to share! Thanks for hosting Maureen.



Posted in Bread, In The Garden, Renovation, sourdough, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 33 Comments

Extended autolyse sourdough trial

Sourdough loaves using extended autolyse.Someone in one of my training classes (eons back when I was a Training Officer), once made the comment of “Geeze, the more you learn the more you realise you don’t know”.

This is a little how I feel about bread baking. The more experienced I become, the more I realise there are still millions of options as to how to create a loaf of bread that you are happy with. I think that’s the ultimate goal, finding a method and a recipe that gives you what you are happy with. Once you know the basics you can experiment with flours, different levels of hydration (how much water) so that the dough is more dense or has a more open crumb, add extras such as seeds, nuts, fruits, chocolate, spices, colours, it goes on and on. Of course the journey to get to find a loaf you are happy with can be a very long one indeed.

For our day-to-day bread, I am happy with a dough made from about 30%rye, 70% bread flour, 72% water, 20% starter and 2% salt. This is loosely based on Chad Robertson’s Tartine County Loaf and I’ve been really happy with it.

I have been reading a lot about the virtues of ‘extended autolyse’ recently. This is a method where the flour and water (or a fair portion of it) are mixed together before the starter and salt are added. This mix sits for a few hours which allows the flour to take up the water really well and gets the gluten  developing really well. It is purported that it can really help with ‘heavier’ doughs that are a high or total percentage of whole wheat flours. I tried this method when making  these loaves today. Flour and water were mixed together at about 6.00pm, I did a few stretch and folds before  leaving the mix on the bench overnight. In the morning I added the starter, then 1/2 an hour later the salt and did hourly S&Folds over the next 5 hours. Bulk ferment for about 3 hours then divided, preshaped, rested for 20 minutes before final shaping and into the bannetons. These two loaves were left out to proof for 2 hours before baking and another loaf has gone into the fridge for overnight proofing.


The results were great, excellent crumb, smells delicious and they feel really light and airy. I’ll be interested to see how the one in the fridge shapes up tomorrow.


Posted in Baking, Bread, sourdough, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

In My Kitchen – January 2016.

Welcome to 2016 where a very busy year is staring us straight in the smacker. To start the year, we have a grand baby due to arrive (literally any tick of the clock), a wedding in February, hopefully a working kitchen soon after that and a holiday to Greece and Turkey in May. I’m also hoping to hold some sourdough bread workshops once we have a kitchen, so I’m trying to wrap my head around the best way to present information that is most useful to participants. Thanks to Maureen over at Orgasmic Chef who has kindly taken over the co-ordinating of In My Kitchen while Celia has some ‘being gentle to herself’ time.

I’ve had a peek at a few other IMK postings and I can definitely say I’m not going to wow you with delightful Christmas goodies and gifts. In My Kitchen this month is very down to earth and some may even say “boring”. Never mind, here’s what’s In My Kitchen this month regardless.


Cucumbers, chillies, tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, beetroot, capsicum and in a couple of days there will be corn. We are chook sitting for our son, so I think I will have to turn some eggs into pasta over the next couple of days.

Egg Cucumber HarvestI love pickled cucumbers so I made some bread and butter cucumbers (not sure what the difference between the two is). I have been using this recipe that I found over at Liz’s Suburban Tomato Blog  and it’s a winner. Bread & Butter CucumbersPickled beet and cucumbersI also pickled some beetroot using this blend of pickling vinegar. This was enough for 500g of beets.

    • 750ml malt vinegar (can blend types to suit)
    • 400g caster sugar
    • 2 star anise
    • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

Boil all together, let cool then strain and pour over cooked beets that you have sliced or cut to desired shape and size and packed into sterilised jars, seal. Let mature for a couple of weeks before using. I really like the flavour of star anise with beetroot. Served with some feta or add greek yogurt, blitz it and you have a delicious dip in a matter of seconds.


I’ve followed a tip from Francesca at ‘Almost Italian‘ and this year not plaited my garlic harvest but just bundled the heads together and hung them. This was so much easier than plaiting and I think they look pretty good! I have not bought garlic for years now and I just love having it on hand knowing it’s been grown with no chemicals, no bleaching agents or sterilising agents to reduce the chance of it sprouting on the shelf. Nearly 100% of supermarket garlic is imported and the growing conditions are very questionable.

Garlic harvestAs well as this stash (it should last 12 months) I have kept enough aside for planting. I usually plant in March. This is much earlier than many recommend, but I have had great success since doing so.

Garlic for plantingWe have been picking tomatoes since mid November. Most have been from the greenhouse but they are now coming in from the wicking beds as well. We have to pick as soon as they get a slight blush because the birds are onto them like a flash if we don’t.

TomatoesI have about 15 compost buckets on my kitchen table. I take responsibility for collecting the compost bin from the staffroom at work  (sadly, I don’t have to compete with anyone for the privilege of doing this). I bring the bin home, add the goodies to the compost then usually forget to put the bin/bucket back in my car to take back to work. I’ve given them all a good scrub and airing and they are ready to be returned for the new year. I really wish I could create a swell of enthusiasm among others on staff to be more involved in sustainability and waste management, but there just isn’t any interest or sense of purpose  for doing so at all.

Compost binsClean out the fridge soup! There were many bits and pieces that were getting close to needing to be used or piffed (compost only, not rubbish bin) and as the weather was nice and cool today I made soup. This meant I could use up some celery, pumpkin, sweet potato, stock, and turkey that were sitting in the fridge. I added a stubby of passata,  some potato, my favourite zing szechuan (sichuan) pepper  and served the soup with some sliced chorizo I had grilled, flat leaf parsley and some of my ‘Maurizio’ sourdough

IMG_3585that had been grilled, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and rubbed with garlic.

Clean out fridge soupHappy New Year to all fellow IMK’rs out there and to any new participants. I am really looking forward to see what 2016 will bring to everyone.

Posted in Bread, Compost, Cucumber, Garlic, In My Kitchen, Preserving, Recipes, sourdough, Tomatoes, Vegetables, Wicking Beds | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Sourdough fun and frustration.

As regular followers know, I love playing with sourdough and making bread. It’s times like now, when I want to seriously play that I get incredibly frustrated with my limited oven capabilities. I have to keep reminding myself its nearing an end. I think knowing that makes it all the harder.

I started making bread at least 35 years ago. Back then it was all yeasted and things were done the hard way. Dough was beaten, bashed and kneaded for a good 10 minutes to get the gluten to develop, enabling the bread to have structure. These methods are still applicable at times, but the newer approaches such as stretching and folding the dough over a period of time has made things a lot easier and also offers you much more flexibility to schedule your baking.

I had dabbled with sourdough on and off over the years but about 5 years ago I got back into it seriously. I think we have only bought about 3 loaves of bread over the last couple of years and that’s usually when on holiday. I must admit that I’m a sucker for a cheese and tomato toasted sandwich on fluffy, white supermarket bread. This is diminishing too though ( I don’t want the plastic bag!).

There are millions of different people baking bread all over the world. All have different methods for making their breads, their starters, the flours they use and their baking regime, all are right, all give different results. This is why it can be really hard for beginners to know where to start. I’ve found now that I tend to stick to a basic recipe  (Chad Roberston’s Country Loaf) that I know will give good results for everyday bread. I do however love experimenting and trying other concepts to see how they work, to compare the results and continue to learn more and more.

Today I baked a loaf based on a recipe I found on one of my favourite bread blogging sites.  Maurizio has a blog called The Perfect Loaf, not only is it filled with great tips, advice, recipes and information, but you can feel the passion he has for this craft as  he writes. To match this his photos are stunning. It’s worth having a look at his site if only for the photos. You may just come out wanting to bake bread!

Here is my today’s loaf based on Maurizio’s recipe for his “Best Sourdough Recipe” It’s pretty,

IMG_3585but it isn’t nearly as pretty as Maurizio’s.

theperfectloaf-mybestsourdoughrecipe-11My dough was 80% hydration not 86% as was his. I didn’t leave it to retard in the fridge for the 15-16 hours he suggested, mine only got about 8. I didn’t get a crumb that was as  open as his (I’m a little heavy handed when it comes to shaping) but it isn’t too bad. This loaf tasted wonderful, really good crust and soft flavoursome crumb.

IMG_3591I’d wager that Maurizio’s looks so much prettier  because he has an oven, a real oven that can bake above about 210 degrees celsius max. An oven he can create steam in with his ingenious tip of using lava rocks. I am using this,

Toy ovendon’t get me wrong, this little oven has done some amazing things over the last couple of years, but I am really looking forward to seeing what I can produce in a proper oven.

Thank you to all the wonderful people who share their wisdom and skills for others to benefit on this wonderful medium. Go and have a look at The Perfect Loaf, it’s a great site.

Thanks Maurizio!

Posted in Bread | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Post Christmas Musings

Considering I didn’t really give Christmas much thought this year, I seem to be doing a really great job of needing to recover from it. Yes, I did party way too hard on Christmas Eve, yes, I did eat too much and yes, I had an awful lot of dishes, tables, glasses, bottles and paraphernalia to cleanup, but nothing like we usually deal with. I like to think it is because its been a big year and we now have the opportunity to slow down, so I have. Yesterday was a day of getting up, having a shower and then getting straight back onto the couch. Justification was that I could do some research on kitchen cabinets, tiles, window coverings and all sorts of things for the exteno. I also managed to read a really good book!

Christmas came and went. We had about 25 family and friends gather here on Christmas Eve sharing food, laughing, singing and generally letting loose. I do recall at some time one of the kids made a comment that the tables had turned and they were now watching the oldies do what we used to criticise them for doing. Fun times! This was taken very early in the evening, before everyone had arrived and the fun began. Goodness, I wonder whose rude children they are giving the camera the finger?

Back Yard Xmas EveSome of the food we shared included a platter of assorted roast veg with marinated mushrooms, roasted red capsicum and almond dip, tomatoes baked with sumac, olives and assorted crudite.IMG_3479 Smoked trout served with assorted sourdough crispsIMG_3477 Indian Vegetable Pakora. This is always a standout favourite and is requested at most family get-togethers, I use a lot of cauliflower in these and the batter is made using besan (chickpea) flour and beer. Served with mint yoghurt sauce.IMG_3496 I made some vegetarian ricotta, feta, kale and chilli rolls, wrapped in filo pastry and served with sweet chilli sauce.

IMG_3497A surprising hit of the night was a chick pea dip I made at the last minute. Purely a can of drained chick peas, lemon juice, parsley, olive oil zapped together in the food processor. Served with some olive oil drizzled over it and some turkish bread. This got lot’s of yummy!

Chick pea dip Dukkah served with sesame and rye ciabatta. I cooked this bread on the barbecue and was really pleased with the result. I added black and white sesame seed to the dough which worked really well with the dukkah.IMG_3474 Some mini chicken tikka kebabs served with a vietnamese style dipping sauce.IMG_3489 There were only four of us here for Christmas Lunch (which turned into tea due to our Christmas Eve shenanigans!). We went to our sons for breakfast and after that decided it might be best to do tea rather than lunch. I am a bit of a sucker for traditional Christmas fare, didn’t take any photos but we had pork, turkey that I had brined before roasting (that went well), ham, roast veg with all the trimmings, pudding and it was all lovely. All cooked on the barbecue to perfection. Who needs a kitchen?

Garden catch up

Today I was back up and rearing to go so I got stuck into the vegetable garden. It’s the first time I’ve focussed on it since our open garden weekend and it was in dire need of some TLC. With more hot weather forecast, I put up extra shade protection around the tomatoes. The late afternoon sun is ferocious and I noticed there has already been considerable damage to some flowers which will reduce the yield dramatically.


Shade cloth overhead

I also hung some netting on the north facing side of the bed to reduce the impact of the afternoon sun.


Light netting along north facing side of wicking bed.

The winds have been awful and the wicking beds have been struggling to keep up. I think mostly due to evaporation from the surface of the beds so I have placed a really thick layer of mulch on the surface. Hopefully these measures will assist in the tomatoes coping with more extreme heat. I trimmed off the growing tip on a few to allow the side shoots to take off. These will have many more new flowers which will hopefully set fruit and not get burned off.


To assist in pollinating the tomatoes, I have for a few years now used an electric toothbrush. You just start-up the toothbrush and touch the stem of the flowers, the vibration shakes the pollen onto the stamens. Much easier than going around with a paint brush or shaking the trusses that can be too rough on the flowers. If you look closely you can see the pollen. A bit like fairy dust to me!

Pollinating tomatoesThere are still a few raspberries to be found if you look hard.


The grapes are going really well, looking forward to those.

IMG_3529Tonight we had the first bruscetta of the season. The tomatoes in the greenhouse have been producing well and we have been picking these since mid November. Tomatoes, basil, feta, olive oil on top of grilled wholewheat sourdough that had garlic and olive oil rubbed into it. Heaven!


Tomorrow it’s back into the reno I think!




Posted in Bread, Fruit, Grapes, In The Garden, Raspberries, sourdough, tomato recipes, Uncategorized, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Gingerbread House Blues

Question: What’s the best way to feel cheated when you look forward to the annual smashing of the gingerbread house?

Answer: Having it self implode without any help from anyone!

For years and years (34 I think) I have made a gingerbread house that gets taken to wherever Christmas is celebrated and at the end of the day great delight is taken among the group coming up with ways to demolish it. For the last few years I videoed the smashing and we were all working on ways for the demolition to happen this year.

This what the gingerbread house usually looks like sitting in pride of place at the Christmas venue.

gb house 2014

I made a decision this year to try a different gingerbread recipe. Not sure if it was this or the fact the house was sitting in a spot that captured the morning sun to cause this happening…..

1421109_10153888428939455_989080835971192103_oThis was taken with my dodgy phone, apologies for the grainy shot. It went from that to this in a very short time. Wish I had thought to use time-lapse photos.

Self destructing!

Self destructing!

We had a gathering of friends over on Christmas Eve and as I was starting to set up, smarty pants son (who likes to push my buttons and knew I was a little upset) asked sarcastically “why don’t you bring the gingerbread house out mum and put it at pride of place at the table?” So I did!

IMG_3483As much as I was disappointed with the unassisted demise of the GB house, I must admit the gingerbread tasted nicer than the original recipe and it was the first time in years the kids actually got stuck into eating it! Here are 2 of them picking at it and the lollies.


Much to the disgust of  ‘Smarty Pants’ son, I didn’t react at all to his barbs and quite enjoyed the fact it created such a good talking point. I did miss the planning of how to smash it though!

Merry Christmas to all the Around The Mulberry Tree Followers.

It’s been a fun year and big things await us in 2016.



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 10 Comments