A course!

I volunteered to teach a bread course for a local co-op a while ago, and just heard back. It looks like they’re interested! Naturally, these pages will be filled with bread in the coming weeks as I prepare, so stay tuned…

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Meyer lemon tart and a recipe in pictures

Meyer lemon tart

One of our first purchases for our new home in Sydney was a dwarf Meyer lemon tree. $50 and several months later, we picked our first three fragrant fruit. Not bad for a partially sunny balcony in Sydney’s Inner West, don’t you think?

Meyer lemons, a cross between lemons and mandarins, have a bewitching floral scent and a sweet, tart, juicy interior, so they make especially good additions to baked goods.  With this in mind, I decided to use the juice from two lemons to make a tart and the zest to make a Meyer lemon vodka. The tart lasts several days in the fridge, and the Meyer lemon vodka lends the fragrance of these beauties to everything from cocktails to cookies for months after the citrus season has come to an end.

With the last lemon, we made homemade Meyer lemon-lime bitters—a fitting way to celebrate our first citrus harvest.

Meyer lemon vodka – a recipe in pictures

Meyer lemon vodka essentials

1. Gather ingredients.  Excellent vodka isn’t essential for this; Smirnoff or something similar will do.

Zest

2. Peel off the zest of the Meyer lemons, carefully avoiding the pith.

Finished product

3. Drop the Meyer lemon zest into the vodka, and let the flavor of the zest infuse in the vodka for a few weeks. When the vodka is fragrant, it’s finished.

This vodka is delicious in any fruity mixed drink, and also works well in baked goods calling for orange liqueur.

Meyer lemon tart with cardamom and orange zest
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Funny enough for a Friday night

(and very, very true).

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Raisin coriander sesame semolina sourdough

I only started to feel settled here in Sydney when we figured out where to get decent flour.  It was an outright quest for us, slowed only by the oppressive heat of summer, but we found it in the end: high-protein, good quality bread flour, with sufficient gluten to make a proper, self-supporting loaf.  With it, we discovered rye, hard whole wheat, spelt, semolina, all the ingredients we needed to make the bread we missed, and perhaps try a few new ones along the way.

This loaf here? It’s a new favorite. The raisins give it a subtle sweetness while the coriander turns this bread into something decidedly adult.  And the semolina? It makes this amazing toast without messing with Tartine Bakery’s characteristic open crumb.  In short, it’s the kind of sourdough loaf I’ve been trying to create since James and I became interested in baking so many years ago.

The only fault I can find with this bread is that it takes some planning to make. But now that it’s dark when I leave work, I don’t mind this so much.  It gives me something to look forward to on the long drive home.

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Autumn on our balcony

I cannot yet bring myself to embrace Autumn like I once did. Here in Sydney, the only signs of the changing seasons are bursts of torrential rain, moonlight on the drive home, and a sickly browning of the deciduous trees in place of the usual coppers, auburns, golds.  But Sydney does have one distinct advantage over the Northeastern United States when it comes to Autumn: the garden is still green, still abundant.

Without the threat of impending frost, we plant dwarf green peas and drape our late tomatoes over the balcony edge. Once plucked of green caterpillars disguised as stems, the fruit begins to warm in color, too late perhaps for the taste of summer’s first tomato.  But that’s the price we pay for waiting until February to plant this year’s crop (February–once the time for picking seeds out for the coming year, now a time for greenery, and the hottest nights you could ever possibly envision).

It’s been a tardy summer, filled with other things. But here, finally, we managed to grow more than we thought we could in tiny pots, full of store-bought soil.  We have discovered that most things will grow in closer proximity than the seed packets claim, and while the results are occasionally cartoonish, like our French Breakfast radishes below will attest, they are still finer than their store-bought cousins.

Thinned out greens (young radish, kale, pea shoots, arugula, cilantro) make for memorable salads, accompanied only by good olive oil, a splash of balsamic, pepper, a dash of salt. And now that our sourdough starter is alive again (our newest pet), perhaps some homemade sourdough bread is in our future. Autumn is, after all, the start of baking season.

Time to go buy some flour.

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It’s alive!

I think our balcony has more greenery than all the sum total of all the other balconies in our apartment complex.  That’s saying something, given the 4-balcony townhouse monstrosities opposite us.

What we’re growing:

  • tomatoes (planted late, but doing well, thanks to worm castings)
  • dwarf Meyer lemon
  • broccoli
  • kale
  • leeks
  • spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Brussels sprout (from the No-Dig workshop run by The Watershed)
  • lettuce mix
  • arugula / rocket
  • dwarf peas (The shoots are delicious in salad)
  • French breakfast radishes (If you plant too close, pluck the extra shoots and throw them in a salad.)
  • strawberries
  • sage
  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • After-dinner mint
  • rosemary
  • basil
  • thyme
  • And some other stuff we had seeds for and decided to throw in the mix…

It’s not quite the same as our Connecticut garden, but here in Sydney, I think we’re doing pretty well.

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Cold-brewed iced coffee

Thank goodness for ice cubes. It’s been in the 40s here (C, not F–oh, how I wish it were the other way around), with high humidity, and it’s made for a rough week.

Even Australians seem to be having a tough time with it.  I came in to work on Wednesday after yet another sleepless night and found that people either couldn’t sleep, or had the courage to move their entire family into the living room, where most people have the only air conditioner in the house.  At least we’re not suffering alone.

The only thing that’s getting me through is copious amounts of cold-brewed iced coffee.  It’s magic in two ingredients. Three if you count the milk.

Don’t forget the ice.

Cold-brewed iced coffee

This recipe is the equivalent of sun tea for coffee drinkers. The main benefit to making iced coffee this way is that the end product lacks the bitterness you usually get from hot-brewed and then chilled iced coffee.

You need a french press (plunger pot, I think they’re called here?) or a coffee filter+large jug, and decent coffee beans. I make this in bulk, because it just makes more sense.  This recipe is imprecise; you will need to vary the amount of ground coffee to taste.

First, find out how much water your jug or french press holds.  You want a ratio of coffee to water of about 1:5.  Add the appropriate amount of ground* coffee.

Fill the jug with coffee grounds up with water. Cover, refrigerate, and let sit overnight, or all day.  Make sure your ice cube tray is full of ice.

If you are using a french press, plunge down the grounds. If you are using a coffee filter, then it’s best to filter the grounds from the coffee on a cup-by-cup basis.

Serve over ice, black or with milk.

Variations:

  • Make simple syrup (recipe in the ingredients list here) and use that to sweeten your drink. You can even get fancy with this and make flavored simple syrup. Vanilla is a great thing to add, particularly if you want a creamy taste without the milk. Mint simple syrup is also a nice idea for summer.
  • Stir in sweetened condensed milk to taste. You have now successfully made a bastardized version of Thai iced coffee.

*I use the usual grind for my french press.

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