June 29, 2013

Traditions: Blood's Bonny Brown Bread

My grandfather had the most amazing hands. Larger than life they could, and did, do anything. They were clever and compassionate; holding both the power of knowledge, and the kindness of a genuinely good soul.

For many years I looked on as they set about brewing beer and baking bread, and although age forced them to retire from such hobbies by the time mine were big enough to join in, they continued to pass on their knowledge and their love for many years to come.

Today, as I stand here kneading I am thinking of him with great fondness, and reflect that to what I have always given my heart, will now and forever get that little bit more. I am grateful that I'll be reminded of this every time I indulge my passion for baking and only hope that my hands, too, will one day be that great.

"Douglas C Blood passed away peacefully on the 6th of June 2013. Cherished partner of Shirley, beloved husband of Marian (dec.), much loved father of Christine, Sue, Judy, Linda and Kate, wonderful grandfather of Alice, Zoe, Sally, Emily, Bronwen and Amelia, great-grandfather of Zane and Thea, and esteemed and loved father-in-law of Rob, Ross, David and Rob. A gentle man of great intellect, compassion and good will who touched many lives. We will miss him so much."

June 1, 2013

Sweet indulgence: fruit galettes

Around this time last year I was lucky enough to enjoy a quick trip to San Francisco and while conference time took priority, a spare half day saw myself and some work colleagues taking in as much of this beautiful city as was humanly possible. Consuming our way across town we walked from one neighbourhood to another, ticking off plenty of shortlisted cafes and eateries as we went. But as my workmates weren't quite at my level of food obsession there were only so many specialty coffee houses they could take, and since they'd already been so generous in entertaining my whims, after the fourth we decided to call it a day. It was therefore with the face of a small child who's just watched their scoop of favourite ice cream fall to the pavement that I paused outside a 'just closed' shopfront and wondered how on Earth I had made such a monumental oversight. Nose pressed to the window of the kitchen just beyond reach I could do little but rue the missed opportunity as I realised that, this time at least, there would be no Tartine bakery for me.

Thankfully the chefs and co-owners behind Tartine, Elisabeth Prueitt and her husband Chad Robertson, have authored a book by the same name, so I can at least now attempt some of their irresistible creations at home, including these delectable fruit galettes.

One of the funnest pastries to make, this dough is prepared completely on-bench, and while rolling a pile of flour at first seems strange, what begins as a shaggy mess in no time comes together as a smooth cohesive dough that is easy to handle and bakes up to be ever-so wonderfully flaky and crisp.

Like most tarts the filling possibilities are endless, and while stone fruit are perhaps the most popular this time I opted for the autumnal combination of blackberry and apple, as well as another favourite in raspberry and pear. As the pastry itself is fundamentally savoury the only sugar comes as a small sprinkling to counter any tartness, and so the flavour of the butter and fruits really shines through.

With their rustic beauty and a hot cup of tea these galettes are a truly comforting treat, and the perfect afternoon accompaniment for that rain beating against the window on a dreary winter's day.