Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Baking with Yeast

This April, we're excited to release The Lost Art of Baking with Yeast by Baba Schwartz.

Many cooks would love to utilise the incredible properties of yeast, but lack a guide to inform and inspire them. The Lost Art of Baking with Yeast shows how simple baking with yeast can be, and how irresistible the results.

The book includes recipes for cakes, slices, pastries and buns. You can find two delicious sample recipes below.   


This traditional cake comes from northwest Hungary. It is usually baked for festivals and other special occasions.
Makes four rolls, two with poppy seed and two with walnut filling.

15 g fresh or 1 heaped teaspoon dry yeast
50 g sugar
3 tablespoons warm water
140 g margarine
350 g plain flour
1 egg yolk
¼ cup orange juice
pinch of salt
apricot jam


Nut Filling
1 egg white
100 g sugar
juice of ½ lemon
rind of ½ lemon
150 g ground walnuts or almonds
¼ Granny Smith apple, grated

Poppy Seed Filling
1 cup water
½ cup sugar
250 g freshly ground poppy seed
grated rind of ½ lemon
egg wash for glazing

Dissolve the yeast and a pinch of the sugar in the warm water and set aside to bubble for 5 minutes.

Work the margarine into the flour with your fingers until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the risen yeast, egg yolk, orange juice, the remaining sugar and salt, mixing by hand to form a dough. Knead, bringing the dough in from the sides of the bowl and pushing it into the middle with your knuckles. The dough should be firm but elastic. If it is too stiff, add a little more orange juice. Continue to knead for 5–6 minutes, then cover and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

To make the nut filling, beat the egg white and sugar together, add the lemon juice and rind, then mix in the ground nuts and grated apple.

To make the poppy seed filling, put the water and sugar into a small saucepan and heat until the water dissolves. Add the poppy seed, stirring well, and simmer for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lemon rind. If the mixture is too dense, add a little more water.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Divide the risen dough into four equal portions.

In turn, roll each portion out into a rectangle 35 x 45 cm. Spread a thin layer of the apricot jam over the entire surface. Using a metal spatula or knife, spread a 2–3 mm layer of filling over the layer of jam.

Roll up tightly and press the long side and both ends to seal and enclose the prepared filling. When all four portions of dough have been rolled out and filled, transfer them, seam-side down, to a baking sheet that has been lined with baking paper or well oiled.

Brush with beaten egg and set aside to rest for 10–15 minutes. Prick with a fork at 2.5 cm intervals on the diagonal to form a decorative pattern.

Bake for 30–35 minutes or until golden, rotating the baking sheets after 15 minutes to ensure even browning.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool before cutting, on the diagonal, into 1.5–2 cm slices.

Jam Cornets (Hamentaschen or Oznei Haman)
These are special cakes baked for the Feast of Purim which commemorates Jewish Queen Esther’s saving of her people from destruction by the wicked Haman. In Hebrew, their name means ‘Haman’s ears’. It is traditional to give gifts to the poor and send trays of sweetmeats including these cakes to all one’s friends during the Feast of Purim.

5 g fresh or 1 level teaspoon dry yeast
pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons warm water
150 g margarine
250 g plain flour
100 g caster sugar
2 eggs
rind of ½ lemon

thick jam such as powidl
beaten egg white for glazing

To make the dough, dissolve the yeast and pinch of sugar in the warm water. Cover and set aside to bubble for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, work the margarine into the flour with your fingers until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the risen yeast, sugar, eggs and lemon rind, mixing well. Knead for 3–4 minutes, then set aside in a warm place to rise for 25–30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and roll it out to a thickness of 3 mm. Cut out circles with a large round cookie cutter. Put a generous spoonful of your preferred filling in the centre of each circle and roll into a cornet shape. Place each cornet on a paper-lined baking sheet.

Brush with the beaten egg white and set aside to rise for 20 minutes. Bake for 25–30 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the baking sheet after 15 minutes to ensure even browning.

The above recipes are just a taster of what you can find in the book. The picture below shows lots of other delicious goodies you can make:

And here's a picture of the results when our very own staff members made some of the recipes (boiled bagels and Kindli):

We can confidently say, if you love baking, you'll love this book! Available now from all good bookstores.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

International Women's Day

In celebration of International Women’s Day on Monday 8 March, here are some of our most talented and inspirational female authors. We’re immensely proud to publish their work.

Catherine Deveny
Writer, comedian, serial pest and author of Free to a Good Home, Say When and It’s Not My Fault They Print Them.

Alice Pung
Writer, teacher, lawyer, mentor and author of Unpolished Gem and editor of Growing Up Asian in Australia.

Kate Jennings
Writer, poet, essayist, and author of the newly released Trouble

Ariel Levy
Writer, feminist and author of Female Chauvinist Pigs

Rebecca Huntley
Writer, social researcher and author of Eating Between the Lines.

Anna Goldsworthy
Writer, pianist and author of Piano Lessons.

Amanda Lohrey
Writer, essayist and author of Vertigo

Ann Blainey
Writer, historian and author of I am Melba.

Tanya Levin
Writer, social worker and author of People in Glass Houses.

Maude Barlow
Writer, activist and author of Blue Covenant.

Dorothy Porter
Poet, lyricist, librettist and author of The Bee Hut.
Of course, this is just a sample of some of our wonderful female authors, not an exhaustive list. Visit our website to discover more.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Guest Post: Author AJ Mackinnon on travel

I’m not sure I’ve worked out this whole travel thing actually. In my younger travelling days, I always chose to do things the good old-fashioned proper way. That is, I’d set myself the task of getting from one end of the world to the other without resorting to air-travel, or of seeing how far I could get a dilapidated wooden dinghy, pretending it was the Golden Hind or something similar. Despite the fact that this approach has led to a couple of books and an undeserved status of minor eccentric and explorer, I’ve never been really convinced that this was actually a good way to travel.

“I went through Laos,” I’d explain to some interested chap in a bar.
“Ah, Laos! Now there’s a marvellous country for you,” the chap would enthuse. “How about the Plain of Jars, eh? Astonishing, eh? Good for you!”
Tentatively I would admit that I hadn’t actually visited the Plain of Jars and there would be a stunned silence.
“But surely… I mean… the Plain of Jars? Are you SURE it was Laos you went through?”
And I would slowly gather that the whole point of visiting Laos in the first place is solely to see the Plain of Jars. Why else would you go? How could you have missed them?
In vain would I explain that they weren’t actually on my route, that if one drew a straight line from Vientiane on the Thai border to Mengla on the Chinese border, then the Plain of Jars were a bit off to one side of that line and so therefore not something I had time to swerve aside for, being too busy at the time finding out which sampan, train or explosives-truck was heading north in the next hour.

Conversations like these have left me feeling that for all the adventurous potential of my self-imposed travel rules, it’s not actually a very good way of seeing all that a country has to offer. It’s a bit like someone arriving in Port Adelaide, hopping on the first train to Alice, catching a Greyhound coach to Darwin and utterly failing to see the Flinders Ranges, Uluru or Kings Canyon on the way. Surely you took in the Barossa Valley? Nup. Katherine Gorge? Nup.
Darwin Mall?
Straight to the shipping terminal and a tanker out of there… but it seems a nice enough place, Australia. Did I miss much?

So as I say, I’ve never been entirely confident about choosing to travel the hard way and thus devoting ninety percent of my time to arguments with truck-drivers. But now, I’ve just had the luxury of travelling for three months on Long Service Leave, of travelling as the rest of the world do – a cruise up the Norwegian fjords, a driving-tour down the entire west coast of the United States, a there-and-back-again expedition to Morocco, an idle plane-hopping ramble through Switzerland, Spain and Holland and much, much more – and I am equally doubtful about this type of travelling as well.

Don’t get me wrong. And please don’t think that I’m pretty bloody difficult to satisfy. The three months of travelling were packed with beauty, friendships old and new, extraordinary sights and old familiar favourites. But I have also felt such a fraud. I hated being asked by a chance-met stranger where I was off to next, knowing that the reply was something bland and all too easy – something along the lines of having a flight booked that afternoon from Marrakech to Oslo, or a hire-car waiting at Gatwick, or that I thought I might swing by Maine before jetting to London. I so wanted to be able to look into the distance with a steely look in my eye and mutter between pursed lips that I was due to meet a camel-salesman here an hour ago to organise the next leg down through Mali and that if he didn’t show up soon, it would have to be the old mule-train after all.

So I remain confused. Are faraway places and foreign lands to be dipped into at will, no more obstinate than a tray of milk-chocolates, as we hover over the Taj Mahals and the hazelnut swirls, dive in and sample, and then out again Business Class to the next succulent and foil-wrapped delight? Should the In-Flight magazine replace the compass and dodgy roadmap as our guide to exploring the world? Or should we re-kindle the romance of travel again by eschewing the conveniences of the world.

Romance? What a foolishly inappropriate word. The toughness of travel, the incorrigibility of travel, the sweaty-shirted, camel-dunged, loose-bowelled exasperation of travel, is more accurate perhaps. But then again, oh the wonders. The sudden hoopoe flying to hide in an orange tree against a wall. The haze and the seabirds shrouding the loom of the Rock of Gibraltar seen over the stern of a churning ferry. The darkening moors and the first fine spatter of rain and still four miles to walk before any chance of a fire and a beer or two with an old friend and much to talk about.
So hey ho, what to do? And it must be admitted that even in the tamest travel there is a feeling of intrepid resolve. Air travel might have become easier but there will always still be the immigration official who looks at your passport thirty seconds more than is absolutely necessary and has one wondering if someone has scribbled ‘Viva la Revolucion!’ across the title page while one’s back was turned. And there are still items on foreign menus that baffle and intimidate and result in an unexpected dose of fish-head soup. And if all else fails, one can thoroughly rely on New Yorkers to be breathtakingly rude at the drop of a hat and leave one feeling bristlingly indignant and alive for the next three days.

So long live travel, however it’s done - and cheers to the big wide world.

AJ Mackinnon is the author of The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow. His new book The Well at the World's End will be published in July 2010.