ANZAC Biscuits (also amazing oatmeal cookies)

Food has an amazing ability to transport you back to a certain time, a specific memory. There are certain tastes you’ll always associate with mom’s kitchen, that perfect date night, or that amazing trip.

I spent my first semester of junior year abroad in Melbourne, Australia. Many of my memories have to do with friends, and just as many have to do with food (most of the time it’s the two combined). I remember family dinners prepared in the dorm kitchen, sticky date pudding from blue train cafe on the Yarra River, and ANZAC biscuits. ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps and I first learned about these cookies from my contemporary Australia course. They were created to be sent to soldiers fighting overseas during World War 1. They have no eggs in them so that they wouldn’t spoil. They’re also one of my favorite cookie– a delicious blend of coconut and oatmeal and though traditionally they’re a hard cookie, I’ve always made them soft and gooey because who doesn’t love a soft cookie?

Though the ingredients are few and simple, they can be tricky to find in the US so I’ve had to substitute… that is until one day about a month ago I went into a fancy food shop in Hoboken and found golden syrup and unsweetened desiccated coconut (finely shredded). Right then I knew I was making ANZAC biscuits.

Ok so here’s what you’ll need (easier to find substitutions in parenthesis as usual)

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut (shredded coconut is fine, unsweetened shredded coconut is better)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (if you have sweetened coconut, cut this back to 1/2 cup)
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 Tbsp golden syrup (or honey)
  • 4 Tbsp boiling water
  • 1 tsp baking soda

The prep is quick and simple as well! Melt butter and golden syrup in a small pot over medium heat. Don’t melt it in the microwave… you’ll see why later. sort me! 017In a mixing bowl, combine oats, flour, sugar, and coconut. sort me! 018Dissolve baking soda in boiling water and pour into melted butter mixture. This is why you shouldn’t use the microwave… because awesomeness ensues! sort me! 019Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients and mix. sort me! 020The mix will likely be a bit dry, but 4 Tbsp of water should get you the right consistency (you can add a bit more if you want). sort me! 021Picking up a small amount of dough, roll it into a ball between your hands, this will help bind everything together and keep the cookie from crumbling.sort me! 022 Place on lined baking sheet and bake at 350*F for about 12-15 minutes (I like to rotate the cookie sheet from the bottom to the top shelf halfway through). 12-15 minutes should let the cookies be crispy on the outside and deliciously soft in the middle. You can adjust the baking time to your taste. Let the cookies cool on the sheet or on a cooling rack and enjoy!Finished ANZAC biscuit

I made smallish cookies and ended up with about 3 dozen which happily fed 2 offices and let us have a few at home for about 1 day. These cookies were a huge hit and I’ve had the recipe requested twice so far. So here it is! A small taste of Australia in the form of a delicious cookie. They’re a fun spin on an oatmeal cookie and if you use unsweetened coconut it’s not overly coconut-ty (though I dont understand people who don’t like coconut). Let me know what you think!

Rosemary Focaccia

A very belated happy new year! For 2012, one of my resolutions was to bake bread. I should have made the other resolution to remember to BLOG! Thankfully, I have been baking bread and photographing the adventures, so now I have a backlog of wonderful recipes to share with you.

Why a resolution to bake bread? Well, quite frankly yeast has always scared me. I mean, it’s a living thing that comes in a packet and you have to wake it up using the perfect temperature of water. Too hot or too cold and you’ll kill it along with your recipe. So I have stayed away from yeast. But having tasted some amazing home made bread, I decided this was the year I conquer my fear of yeast and enjoy all the delicious bread it has to offer.

For new years eve, we were invited to a fancy pot-luck dinner and I decided that it would be the perfect occasion to try making some focaccia. Rosemary focaccia to be exact. I found this recipe from a fellow blogger: and decided to give it a try with one of my favorite sous-chefs, Rose.

Here are the ingredients for 2 loaves (which is a lot of bread, but it will freeze well!):

  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 tsp instant yeast (as opposed to “active dry”)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1 3/4 cups warm water

I want to take a second to talk about the glory that is instant yeast. Especially if you are a new bread baker as I am, instant yeast takes a lot of pressure off. Remember how I was saying that you have to get the water temperature perfect in order for yeast to activate? Well, with instant yeast you just mix it right into the flour and add the water later. Even if it’s all the same, it feels nicer.

Ok so the process is actually pretty simple. All it takes is A LOT of flour and some patience. Oh, and you probably want a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. That makes life much easier when dealing with this quantity of dough (and it comes with a convenient dough hook). Put the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and rosemary in the bowl. Turn the mixer to stir just to combine the dry ingredients. In order to cut down on dishes, I used the dough hook the entire time, but you could start with the paddle if you wanted. I would change to the dough hook right here though.

So now we’re up to the water part. It says “warm water” and in most recipes it gives you the temperature, but really how many of us are going to sit with a thermometer in a cup of water to make sure it’s the right temperature? Think of it this way… the temperature it asks for is approximately 105ºF. If the normal human body temperature is 98.6ºF, then you basically want the water to feel slightly warm to the touch. Too cold to take a shower in, but too warm to brush your teeth with. “Lukewarm” if you will. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly pour 1 cup of water, followed by 1/2 cup olive oil, and finally the last 3/4 cup of water. Increase the speed to 4. You’ll notice the dough will become a ball and begin to be kneaded by the dough hook. Knead using the dough hook for a couple minutes, then turn the dough out onto a floured surface. 

Now it’s time to knead by hand. In order to knead:

  1. Use the heel of your hand to press and stretch the dough
  2. Fold the dough that you’ve stretched back over itself
  3. Rotate the dough and repeat
  4. Add flour as needed

Here’s a video on kneading in case that made no sense Now, I said add flour as needed. As you’re kneading you will notice that after a few minutes it will feel as if there is no flour in your dough anymore. It gets sticky. When this happens add some more flour. A cooking instructor told me that bread dough will take as much flour as it needs and then when it’s ready it will stop absorbing the flour. Knead by hand for about 5 minutes, or until dough is stiff, but pliable. The way to tell this is to make an indentation in the dough with your finger, it should spring back up easily. Place ball into an oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place (like the kitchen) for 1 1/2 hours until at least doubled in size. Watching dough rise is one of my favorite parts of the process because it really feels like magic. Trust me, it will bring out the little excited kid in you.

Place pizza stone in oven and preheat to 450ºF. It’s important to heat the pizza stone with the oven, otherwise the heat from the oven could crack it. If you don’t have a pizza stone, you can use a baking sheet turned upside down in the oven, but still preheat the oven with the baking sheet inside it. Punch down the risen dough to remove the air (this is also pretty entertaining). Divide the dough in half, cover one half with a clean towel and flatten the other half into a disk. Repeat with other half.  If you have a pizza peel, put some corn meal or flour on it and place the disks on there. If you don’t have one, just place them on a cutting board or other surface. Cover both disks and let rise for 1/2 hour. 

Using your finger, poke deep indentations around the top of each loaf about 1/2 inch apart. Drizzle loaves lightly with olive oil and another 1 tsp of dried rosemary. Place onto pizza stone. Bake for 10 minutes at 450ºF and then reduce temperature to 375ºF for another 20 minutes. At the end of these 20 minutes, remove bread from oven and brush with egg wash made of 1 egg yolk beaten with 2 tsp of water. Sprinkle with coarse salt and return to oven to cook for another 2 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. The texture of this bread was amazing and really tasted like the best focaccia you’ve ever had.

Since we were bringing it to a potluck, we put it back in the oven at 200 to re-warm it and served it with some olive oil. If you need to store it overnight, wrap it in tin foil and place in a zip lock bag. Freeze like this or leave it out at room temperature for up to 3 days. Don’t refrigerate it because that will dry it out.

This might seem like a lot of steps, but it was actually pretty easy and the results were so much better than any store bought focaccia because it was so fresh! This recipe would also be super easy to modify with any flavors you like. The original blog post actually has a bunch of variations at the end.

I hope you have added bake more bread to your resolution list! Let me know what you make!

Pumpkin Apple Scones

I’m happy to say that tonight I FINALLY finished the last of that pumpkin! (You know, the one that has been in my fridge since Halloween and the star of 2 recent mich dishes) I think it was on its last few days in my fridge, so now I don’t feel wasteful.

Another thing that happened tonight– I “healtified” a baking recipe. This was a first for me. I healtify (yeah, I made it up, but I kind of like it!) lots of savory recipes because frankly, there’s not as much science involved. I’ve also changed the flavor profiles of some sweet recipes but again, never altering the science. So yeah, I’m pretty proud of this accomplishment. I’ve deemed the recipe a “good breakfast or tea cake” but since it’s not overly sweet, my husband deemed it “interesting.”

Some things to know about this recipe. It’s messy and it’s not the most beautiful dough… but it is tasty, healthy, and pretty simple. OK, let’s jump right in!

First, combine the following ingredients in a medium bowl:

  • 2 1/2 cups of flour (I used 1/2 cup wheat and 2 cups all purpose… but only because I ran out of wheat– if I had more, I would do 1 1/2 cups wheat and 1 cup AP)
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
Next, cut up 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) cold butter into small chunks and add that to the flour with 1/4 cup fat free Greek yogurt. Cold butter is important, as is cold yogurt because you want to use your hands to mix these ingredients into the flour mixture until it has the consistency of little peas. I know recipes always say that… essentially, you want to break the butter up but not melt it  or soften it too much. You can use a pastry cutter but I don’t have one, so I just use my hands to do this. 
In a separate bowl, mix 1 cup pumpkin puree (again, you can use canned pumpkin) and 1/2 cup light soy milk (of course, you can use skim milk or almond milk or any milk, really. I always use soy milk in baking because my husband is protective of his milk supply and honestly, you can’t tell the difference in taste). Peel and dice a medium apple (I love Honeycrisp apples, but really any sweet and crunchy apple will do– there’s not a lot of sugar in this recipe, so I’d go for a sweet rather than a tart apple). Add pumpkin and milk mixture as well as apples to the flour and butter mixture. Mix until well combined. Roll up your sleeves, it’s about to get messy! In preparation, flour a non wood cutting board and wet your hands or spray them with non stick spray. What you want to do is incorporate another 1/2 cup of flour and knead the entire mixture. It will be thick and sticky, but not as dry as most scone dough. In fact, it’s more like a wet cookie dough. Use a scoop or your hands to create 12 scones. Flatten slightly. Fill a small sieve with 1 Tbsp of granulated sugar and 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon and evenly sprinkle over the top of the scones. 
Bake on a greased or lined cookie sheet at 375 for 30-35 minutes. Because of the apples the scones will always seem a little wet. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy with a hot cup of tea!