30 March 2009

The best cake

I spent a lovely weekend here with Hanno. Not much happened, there were a few phone calls and little else. Hanno worked on the garden, cleaned out the chook house, Lucy-proofed the garden fence and mowed. I spent most of my time either writing or cooking and a couple of times we sat together on the front porch with our tea, talked and just enjoyed the weather and the scenery. It's been raining on and off most of the weekend, so it was just the right weather for baking. I've been experimenting with a tablespoon of boiling water in my cakes lately and I have to tell you it works a treat, giving a moist cake that will last quite well. Today's recipe is for the best cake I've ever made.

Really - it's THE best cake I've ever made. I baked it last weekend, we ate it on Sunday and during the week, having the last piece on Friday. It was still moist and delicious. This is a must try recipe.

The only change I made was to use eight bananas - but they were our little Lady Finger bananas, which would have been the equivalent of the three large bananas, mashed, in the recipe. Please try it and let me know.

The boiling water trick works in other cakes too - just add it after your cake is mixed and stir in. It gives a moistness you won't have otherwise.

I baked breadrolls on Saturday and Sunday but made the dough for both on Saturday morning. I wanted four rolls on each day, so I made up the recipe below, threw it all in the breadmaker, flour first then everything else on top.

I set the machine to the dough setting and when it's done kneading, I divided the dough in two equal portions, placed one in a plastic bag in the fridge. On Saturday our topping was polenta.

Can you see the small strand of bread attaching one roll to the next. That the sign of a good dough. And here it is again the following day on our Sunday rolls.

The dough needs to return to room temperature before it will do its second rise. I removed the dough from the fridge at 6 am and it was just ready to bake at 11.30am. On Sunday I topped the rolls with oatmeal.

You will notice in the photo of the uncooked rolls, I'm using a silicone baking mat. I've been using this, on and off, for about 18 months now and it's still working well. It's non-stick, reusable and easy to clean. This is not an advert, I have no idea what brand mine is, but I want you to know there are alternatives to parchment paper that can be reused many times.

Bread roll recipe

2 level teaspoons dry yeast, proved in ½ cup warm water + 1 teaspoon sugar or honey
4 cups bakers flour
1 teaspoon cooking salt (or kosher salt)
1 tablespoon soft butter
2 tablespoons milk powder (optional)
enough water to make a good dough - about 2 cups

The amount of water you add will depend on your flour and the weather. If it's humid you'll use less. Learn the feel of good dough. You should feel EVERY dough you make between your fingers. Aim for a moist dough that holds together well, has no areas of dry flour, but is not wet. When you know the feel, you'll be able to judge the amount of water in the dough by the feel of it.

Thank you all for the comments and good wishes yesterday. Both Hanno and I read them all. I also want to thank my dear friend Sharon who has worked on Down to Earth with me for a long time now. She just offered her help one day and that was that, we are firm friends now. Sharon is the reason the swaps are still going, she organises them along with Rose now, and Lorraine in the past. Thank you all, ladies. I appreciate your help, it is a real pleasure for me to work with you.

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