Nearly 5

08082008404I can’t believe Jasper is nearly 5. It’s doing my head in to be very honest and I’ve avoided thinking about it until now. Ok, I’m still a few months shy of his actual birthday which is in August but I know I will need to wort out a few things before then so I need to get my thinking cap on now.

I’ve just asked him what sort of cake he wants and he’s requested a tiger cake. This seems like a truly simple thing, some black food colouring and orange and whammo, but it’s not that easy. We avoid all processed sugars and all artificial colours, flavours and preservatives whenever possible so I need to design his cake around this. Fortunately, I can do this with black and orange sort of easily I think. πŸ™‚ I hope. 😦

My first thought was, what kind of cake to bake? It must needs be a sourdough cake as this reduces the phytates in the flour and means I can eat it too so I need to make it sourdough whichever way we go. Chocolate makes sense if I make it really dark chocolate for the black stripe part but what about orange? Well, I love orange poppyseed cake butΒ I quickly discarded that idea. That’s a cake that must needs appear white (or very light at least) for the poppyseeds to show up as beautifully as they need to and rapadura is not conducive to light coloured cakes. It adds a lovely caramel tone (and flavour) though. I also loveΒ Β jaffas (the choc orange balls) which is the most divine combination of flavours for a cake outside of cherry and chocolate. If I make it a marbled cake between chocolate and orange, well, there are the tigers stripes. πŸ™‚ Ok, cake flavouring decided. πŸ˜€

A quick search on Dr Google (my best friend I swear) reveals these recipes…
http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipe/4071/Jaffa_cake/search/true
http://www.aliveandcooking.com.au/recipes/season2/s2-jaffa-cake.php
http://needsmoresugar.com/2011/04/04/chocolate-orange-mud-cake-jaffa-cake/
I am very much liking this last one but I need to tweak it more than just a bit to make it sourdough. I also don’t want to purchase sugar-laden chocolate so I will be using cocoa/cacao and cacao butter. I also need to substitute all the sugar for rapadura. Hmmm, am I taking on too much here? Can I do it? Am I up to the challenge?

Now for the icing. How does one ice a cake without using sugar. This I don’t quite yet have the answer for. I have foundΒ this recipe for sweet potato icingΒ on Pinterest which I intend to try and I hope it works as it solves two issues in one – making a sugar free icing and making an orange icing without the use of lots of artificial colouring. Natural yellow I have (turmeric) but natural red I do not. No cochineal for us thanks. If I make a chocolate icing then I can get away with substituting rapadura/jaggery/panela instead. That won’t work for orange coloured icing though even if I can actually get the colour orange enough.

Jasper has also been choosing the cake designs he wants too. My shortlist includes the simple cakes with stripes, the tigerish faces or even just a plain chocolate iced cake with a toy tiger on top but no, Jasper would like one of these masterpieces.

coolest-birthday-cakes.com

 

fancycakesblog.com

shoshannah84.deviantart.com

Now kid, as much as I appreciate your fine sense of artwork (and these cakes are nothing short) there are limits upon my abilities and creating something like this is so far beyond my capabilities as to render it utterly impossible. I can bake a nice cake and I can make it pretty. I can even whip up something with levels of creativity (I seem to remember an aeroplane cake somewhere back in history) but this I cannot do. And no I will not try. Thanks Allegra for the idea that you and daddy can help but I’m not sure a 3 year old, oh sorry, 3 and a HALF year old can help much and Daddy’s skill set lies elsewhere. Sorry to disappoint Jas but a masterpiece like above you will not receive.

Well, there’s the plan. A healthy cake, no sugar, sourdough, chocolate and orange and looking like a tiger. Not too much to ask is it? Any advice anyone?

Oh and I have a 40 something 21st birthday to face for Martin and a 2nd birthday for Orik in the 6 days before Jasper’s. My lovely Leo boys. πŸ˜‰

A workshop in Sourdough

Yesterday I attended the Prickleberry Sourdough workshop on how to make sourdough. Considering how much I have learned and how my bread turns out most of the time (not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but not bad none the less) I was really surprised with just how much I learned. All complimentary to what I already knew but I did learn why some of the breads I’ve made are less than satisfactory. And I’ve now got another starter on the go who shall be named Andreas (please don’t let mt brother-in-law know I’ve named some flour, water and wild yeasts after him πŸ˜‰ )

I’ve come away with 2 recipes, or 2 variations of the same recipe for bread and then information on how to jazz up the bread in a dozen ways. Whilst we made fruit loaves using soaked apricots, sultanas and spices, Oskar made chocolate loaf. Yep, chocolate bread! NOICE! πŸ˜€ I’ve come home with quite a doughy bounty. I have a new starter, a loaf of plain shaped loaf, a cob fruit loaf (the way to form a cob loaf is MUCH harder than I thought – practice needed there), dough that I made there, now baked into olive bread here at home this morning and as there was extra dough at the end of the class and we hung around to chat, another batch of dough I made into a tinned loaf this morning. I learned that the oldest known sourdough starter in Australia is about 150 years old and kept in 3 forms – dried, fresh and frozen. I learned that starters do well with sugars in them and Andreas has a slice of apple in him which I will discard tomorrow and a generous pinch of sultanas which will remain indefinitely. I also learned that using the water from cooking spuds makes a very sour smelling starter but even an over fermented apple based starter will smell of sweet apple cider vinegar. I also learned that I have been baking with a LOT of starter which may not all be necessary. Now there are different ways to bake and everyone has their own method, recipe and style and I’m not actually wrong which what I’ve been doing but I now have other recipes and techniques. I had an absolute ball making it too.

The only bad news I have to report is that not once did I think of taking a photo! Not a since one. Sorry.

Prickleberry Sourdough are only a new bakery (although Oskar grew up in a cake bakery on Ackland Street) and have done very well for themselves with their new store opining in a little over a month in Mair Street (just in case anyone is going through Ballarat or lives locally) and given the taste of the breads we ate throughout the day, if you can visit I highly recommend it. They have a Facebook page if you’re on Facebook too –https://www.facebook.com/prickleberrysourdough

A quiet time and all that we have achieved

Things have been quiet around here. Not literally in terms of noise. Our house is rarely devoid of noise but in terms of achievements and blogging things have been quiet. I’ve needed the downtime and time off from the blogosphere, both reading and writing, and as I come out the other side of this time I am feeling the better for the time off. And after getting a new RSS feed (thanks Narf7) I feel like I’m getting all my posts and nearly on top of them all too. πŸ™‚ Continue reading

A harvest meal, real food, Freecycle and bartering.

We dispatched our first chicken last Sunday. One of our roosters has been limping for a few weeks and he hasn’t improved so the decision was made to end his misery, despite not having reached maturity or harvesting age. His end was as quick as we could make it with no prolonged suffering and he has been waiting in the fridge, resting until we were ready to cook him up. I decided to roast him, despite the lack of meat on his scrawny carcass and so he was roasted with some Chinese 5 spice rubbed into him, with plums inside the cavity and around, roast spuds and peas and corn.Β I wouldn’t say it was the best meal I’ve ever eaten, not by a long shot but it was tasty. The plums which I had bottled the other week were sour but the rest of the meal was good. The bones are now simmering on the stove to make stock (waste not want not) and I am feeling comfortable with our decision to raise our own meat.

 

Roast chook stuffed with plums, surrounded by crunchy spuds and more plums. Best looking meal I’ve ever made that’s for sure. πŸ™‚

 

I had a friend come visit today and we were talking about food. She jokingly asked what “real” food we had in the house, referring to conventional supermarket foods and we went to have a look in my fridge, freezer and pantry. What we found makes me beam with pride. There are a few condiments, vinegar and the like, frozen peas and corn and a few leftover berries, milk, a beer (home-brew is on the cards one day) and a few other bits and pieces. I am proud to say we make the gross majority of our food from raw ingredients. πŸ˜€ I don’t have an issue with buying things and I am sure I will in future but I love the fact that I can “damn the man” and make it myself. I just wish I could find a recipe for homemade Vegemite. Supporting Kraft, even as infrequently as one buys Vegemite sticks in my craw. 😦

Who says you can't sleep the baby in the drawers? Yet another use for repurposing some old drawers into underbed storage - the kids can play in them :D

Who says you can’t sleep the baby in the drawers? Yet another use for repurposing some old drawers into underbed storage – the kids can play in them πŸ˜€

I love a good bargain but even more than that I love a free bargain! I mean who doesn’t? πŸ˜€ I love Freecycle for that reason. Freecycle is a place to list your unwanted goods or to put up a wanted ad if there is something you are after. You will not be offered things like a good car or the latest LED TV but people list unwanted books, furniture, unused garden items (gravel, plants, seeds), kitchen items and occasionally some pretty wonderful items too – I missed out on a knitting machine once which I sought for a friend (I already have one) – as well as the more commonplace. I’ve seen requests for glass jars, school uniforms, newspapers, yarn, and offers for kitchens (we listed our old one), topsoil, kindling, hot water units and more. Almost anything goes although different groups have different policies and those policies differ often around the placement of wanted or offering animals/pets.

The other day an offer came up for a 6 seater extendable dining table, something we have been after for quite some time. We have 5 of us crammed around a 4 seater table and Martin or I end up sitting on a folding chair as Orik’s high chair clips to a normal chair. I fired off a reply as soon as I saw the ad and was lucky enough to be offered the setting. The description wasn’t encouraging – laminate and timber – so I was expecting an old, possibly late 70’s early 80’s brown wood look laminate table and the matching vinyl chairs but needs must. I was jaw-droppingly surprised to discover we had just become the new owners of 6 lovely high backed chairs and a deep reddy-brown timber veneer extendable table with only a little damage. I am stoked! πŸ˜€ Freecycle, you RULE! We have some more stuff to list now, including our old table as well as some other unwanted items that are too good to throw out. If they don’t find homes on Freecycle then it’s off to the op shop.Β I love the idea of eBay, Freecycle, Gumtree and any other similar webpages, just like op shops, as they do one HUGE thing. They keep usable items from ending up in landfill. There is nothing wrong with our old table except its size but without a second hand market out there it’s a perfectly good and undamaged item that will sit there for all eternity (glass doesn’t decompose).

The excitement of lift off and pressure building int he pressure canner - first time I've used it and I "canned" chicken stock.

The excitement of lift off and pressure building int he pressure canner – first time I’ve used it and I “canned” chicken stock.

Another concept I love that I am just delving into which is fast becoming the new black, at least in my circles, is bartering. Swapping this for that. Offering your goods or services in exchange for other goods or services. Effectively buying things but without exchanging money. It’s fun and it’s challenging, just like op shopping. πŸ™‚ The challenge of locating what you need is far harder than just walking into a normal store and grabbing the item off the shelf. Now where is the challenge in that? I LOVE the thrill of the op shop hunt and the open mind that you must have too. You may not get exactly what you dreamed of but that’s the joy, the flexibility. πŸ˜€ Well, bartering is the next level up from that! Not only are you searching for what you want BUT you must have something to offer in exchange that the items owner wants. It all of a sudden becomes a dual challenge. You find yourself assessing your goods and services, what you can offer, afford to spare or are willing to give up. Recently I had made a wonderful barter swap with a fellow blogger and hippy Narf7 from Serendipity Farm in Northern Tasmania. Steve carves the most amazing and wonderful spoons from locally sourced timber, some even from their own farm and I have been gagging to get my hands on one of these amazing works of art. But what did I have that I could swap. Turns out I was rich in 2 things that Narf7 was after, sourdough starter and knowledge and kefir grains. We faced the potential problem of customs as Tasmania is pretty rigid regarding the importation of anything that could harm their beautiful island so seeds and plants are out (sorry Narf7, otherwise I’d split my mangel wurzel seeds 50/50 with you) but after discussing the issue with my local postmistress I was pretty sure it would be ok. I bundled up Audrey the sourdough starter into a couple of leak-proof layers and did the same with the offspring of Kiefer our kefir grains, threw in a handknitted dishcloth and some rye flour which I pulled out again. I figured it wouldn’t clear customs and rather than tempt fate it was better to leave it out. It arrived yesterday and both the kefir and starter as settling into their new homes. πŸ™‚ MY parcel arrived today. πŸ˜€ In exchange for my items I have received not 1 but 2 hand-carved spoons and some parsnip seeds (the ban on posting seeds only works one way πŸ™‚ ) To say that I am happy is a major understatement! I AM STOKED! My salt spoon is the sweetest cutest and most practical little spoon perfectly suited to its job. It now lives in the vintage ceramic salt cellar I purchased off eBay a while back, helping to spoon Himalayan salt into my cooking and baking. As or my second spoon, I am not sure what its purpose will be quite yet but rest assured it will be an honoured position. I feel very very proud to be the owner and recipient of not 1 but 2 of these gorgeous spoons.

My new celery top pine salt spoon. :D

My new celery top pine salt spoon. πŸ˜€

It's so little and cute and perfectly sized for its job.

It’s so little and cute and perfectly sized for its job.

My second piece of art.

My second piece of art.

 

LOVE how the spoon "bowl" sits proud f the handle. Your attention to detail and craftsmanship is amazing Steve.

LOVE how the spoon “bowl” sits proud f the handle. Your attention to detail and craftsmanship is amazing Steve.

Well, here’s hoping for an early night. I AM trying to get to bed before 10 and be up before 7. Truly!