20 May 2015

How to Make Bread Baking Easier

You may have seen my bread posts where the loaves look golden brown and the texture is fluffy and beautiful and thought to yourself "Bitch." I know this because I once did the same thing.
I used to spend hours on sites looking up ways to make the perfect loaf and how to make it fluffier and lighter and more like the bread I bought at the supermarket. My first few loaves could have been used as alternatives for bricks and I spent most baking sessions in tears while my father used the baked loaves as a doorstop.

But things changed when I took a bread course in Italy in 2011. I learnt two life changing things in that kitchen in Ponte e Mariano. 
The first was patience and the second was preparation.
Bread making is not quick, it is very dirty and you will have to work for that loaf. If you're in a rush or eager to get it over with, it just won't be the same. People can call it love or patience or virtue but it boils down to one thing: don't rush it. And the easiest way to not rush is to be prepared.
So here are my basic tips to making sure your bread rises every time.

1// The recipe is important
Read that sucker like your life depends on it. Make sure you know what exactly is going into your loaf, how much of it and have it at your fingertips. This will stop you from getting flustered and grabbing wildly around for something mid-knead.

2// Close that door, your horse is bolting
Have a sink of warm soapy water ready for when you need to scrub your hands or your tools down quickly. This will stop dough getting stuck to the taps, the plug, the doors and the walls. 
Seriously, it's a messy business so make sure you have an easy way to clean up. Also, if your utensils soak in the water while you knead, you'll find half of the washing up is done before you've even started!

3// Let it rise and it will shine
It seems stupidly obvious but please just let your dough rise in peace. Checking up on it too often is like being woken up several times during a nap. It's unpleasant and your dough will hate you. Don't be too afraid of over-proving something, just let it run it's course and practice that patience we were talking about. Alternatively, do something that is all consuming in the mean time so you do not have the opportunity to pester your dough.

4// Bun in the oven
I have seen so many people open and close their ovens continuously as if it'll make the bread cook quicker. You're actually damaging the chance of a perfect loaf. Leave it be. Use that new found patience to walk away and let the oven do the work for you. There is a period during the bake (fairly early on) when you do not want your bread to be exposed to changing temperatures. Every time you open that door, you're essentially cooling the oven and your bread down. Don't be that person.

5// High expectations will be the death of you
If you expect your bread to be perfect every time then you're only letting yourself down in the long run. Perfect bread is actually a trick and no one really gets it 100% right all the time or even at all. If your bread didn't form a perfect round then call it rustic and be done with it. If your bread is a little doughy, let people rip chunks off instead of cutting it and provide plenty of cheese. 
If you've made a loaf of bread from scratch then you need a pat on the back instead of putting yourself down and you need to just acknowledge that amazing little bundle of carbs you created.

I hope this helps a little. They're more practical tips than tips for the actual making process. 
Making bread is a wonderful thing so the main thing to remember is to enjoy it and make the most of your time with that lump of dough.

12 May 2015

Micro Blogging on Instagram

If you haven't already seen, #NZbloggers is doing a challenge called #BlogGreatness. While it's only open to New Zealand bloggers, it is something that is great to be apart of.
Laura has done a fantastic job of pulling together ideas with the help of some other bloggers and compiling it into a list. There is a theme per week that started last week and runs all the way up to the last week of April 2016.

So I decided that I would hop on board with the project and last week I posted my first entry entitled Sage. I won't be blogging this here on PlanetBakeLife but rather over on my Instagram account. Don't forget to follow along over there.

If you're participating in the #BlogGreatness then let me know in the comments and tell me where I can find your contributions (Instagram, Twitter, your blog).

5 May 2015

Red Velvet Chocolate Tim Tam Milkshake

I know Tim Tam biscuits are like a staple here in New Zealand and over in Aussie but I had never had one until I was 19. We don't have them in South Africa and they're not widely available in the UK unless you visit specialty shops. So when I visited a friend one day and he offered me a Tim Tam, I thought he was being rude. Turned out to be one of these delicious little morsels.
So we made tea and spent the afternoon doing Tim Tam slams.
We were only entitled to plain chocolate biscuits as New Zealand and Australia obviously wanted to keep the best for themselves.

And now I get to say something awesome. Did you know there are new Tim Tam biscuits out? Well there are and if you haven't heard about them yet, you sure will soon! I was very lucky to be sent a pack of each of the new flavours from Tim Tam themselves to use in a recipe. As if these new flavours aren't amazing enough as they are!

  Tim Tam Moments

With the on and off again weather we're having in New Zealand, I decided it was time for a milkshake. If you're not quite ready to let go of the summer vibes then you will love this and if you're trying to make the most of the warm days over the weekend then this is the recipe for you.
If you can't find the Lewis Road Creamery Chocolate Milk then you can just use your favourite chocolate milk instead. Alternatively use normal milk and a few teaspoons of Milo or Nesquik.

150ml Lewis Road Creamery Chocolate Milk
2 Large Scoops Vanilla Ice Cream
2 Red Velvet Tim Tam Biscuits
1 Can Ready Whipped Spray Cream
  Tim Tam Moments

1// Pop your milk and ice cream into a blender (I used my George Foreman Mix and Go for a single serve) and blend until combined and smooth. You can add a bit more milk if needed.
2// Pop into a glass and pile the cream on top. Crush a few Red Velvet Tim Tam biscuits in a bowl and add to the top of the whipped cream. They tend to smash easily if you pop them in the fridge or freezer for a bit beforehand.
Add a straw and enjoy!

Tim Tam Moments

  Tim Tam Moments

These milkshakes are amazing even in cold weather (the ice cream and cream take longer to melt so don't end up a mess!). You can even add a Red Velvet Tim Tam to the blender to make the milkshake extra special and thick. The Red Velvet Tim Tam biscuits were a favourite in my house with my boyfriend devouring a whole pack on his own. These new flavours make your average Tim Tam seem extra indulgent. I like to serve this milkshake with an extra biscuit on the side as well to have really fantastic #timtammoments
This recipe was first published on NZGirl.

This is a sponsored post. I was paid for my time in developing the recipe, taking photos, writing this piece and publishing it. I was not paid for my opinions or any feedback given about the product in this post.

7 Apr 2015

Perfect Homemade Pasta Top Tips

Let's be honest here: homemade pasta takes time to make and it's so much easier to buy that stuff from the supermarket.
But making pasta at home has it's perks. You can add whatever you want to the dough, you can experiment with shapes and colours and sizes and stuffings. The world is your oyster when it comes to homemade pasta and it makes you feel so damn good about yourself.
After my successful pasta making experience, I thought it might be a good idea to put together a few tips to make the experience that little bit easier for you.

1// Have extra flour to hand
There is nothing worse than making pasta and realising that your hands are covered in sticky dough and you need more flour. Chances are it was already put away or you measured out the exact amount you needed and no more. This is a big mistake.
When making pasta, especially with eggs, you might need to adjust the recipe ever so slightly to allow for smaller or larger eggs, the temperature of the flour and the humidity in the air. So having extra flour to hand is going to make life so much easier and all of your possessions significantly less doughy.

2// Buddy up
While you can make pasta by yourself, it's not quite the same. When you roll the sheets out using the pasta machine, it's easier to have two sets of hands. You cannot do everything and this is a prime example.
Depending on what pasta you're making, you might even wish and pray for a third set so be kind to yourself and ask someone to help you. It'll reduce the stress factor by 78%.

3// Bowl it over
Pasta dough can dry out pretty quickly. You don't want to be stuck rolling out another 1kg of dough when the already rolled sheets are drying out before your very eyes. The easiest solution (thanks Martha Stewart!) is to pop a mixing bowl over your pasta dough. The dough isn't going to rise (there's no rising agent) so you don't need a huge bowl but it will stop the drying process significantly and buy you some time.

4// Early bird gets the pasta
Start early. I'm not talking 6am but if you want to eat at 7pm then make sure you start around 4pm to give yourself plenty of time to make the pasta, cook it and add it to dinner. The drying process can take a while or not long at all depending on humidity levels and the heat of the day so make sure to take this into account.
Making pasta is not a twenty minute job so don't be caught short!

Have you ever tried to make homemade pasta? If you have, let me know below how it went and if you have any tips and tricks to help the process along.