Lauren Gemmell

Food, Fitness, and Technology

Month: August 2009

Challah : Bread Bakers Challenge

I made this bread last weekend when I was feeling a little bit under the weather, which is my excuse for why the few pictures I took are so bad.


This is my first attempt at a braided loaf, and I found the instructions on braiding hard to follow. I spent 5 minutes reading the instructions, trying, and unweaving the strands, before it dawned on me – I already KNOW how to braid. All that time playing with Barbie’s hair wasn’t for nothing!

The bread is quite impressive, both in shape and size, so this would be a good loaf to give as a present or to take to a barbecue. The weather here isn’t exactly barbecue weather, so we had to eat it between us. This was a shame as there was way too much for two people to eat before it went past its best.

As for the actual loaf, it has no butter in it but to me had more of the texture I associate with brioche. I loved this bread and I am sure I will make it again.

Chocolate and Cherry Dobos Torte: Daring Baker's Challenge

It’s that time of the month again, where I realise that although I did my Daring Bakers Challenge weeks ago, I need to dig out the pictures and dredge the bottom of my memory to make some sort of intelligent comment.

My final torta

The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

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Tomato and Broad Bean Salsa

I always find it hard to decide what to pair with dishes so packed full of vegetables, like the Mexican Vegetable Burgers I made last week. As the burgers were quite filling, potatoes or chips wouldn’t do. So the only other options was a salad or since it was a spicy salad with Mexican burgers – a salsa.

The broad beans, I’ll admit aren’t exactly authentic for a salsa however they worked well, and it turned out a really tasty way to eat them. Plus I liked the colours.

Tomato and Broad Bean Salsa

Tomato and Broad Bean Salsa

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Mexican Vegetable Burgers

Going away a lot and meeting up with friends is all good – but it sure mucks with your ability to use up the vegetables in your weekly delivery!

I’ve been taking some long weekends away (in Liverpool last week) and going out for dinner a lot recently, with old high school friends, university friends and family. Since I do most of my cooking on the weekends (The Other Half does week days) being away makes it really difficult to use up all the produce I am sent. Sure I could just cancel the next box – but where’s the fun in that?

So I have been scouring Twitter and FoodBuzz for recipes that use lots of interchangeable vegetables. When I found this recipe for Mexican burgers.

Mexican burger with tomato and broad bean salsa

Mexican burger with tomato and broad bean salsa

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Butterfly Cakes

So this whole cupcake thing? I’m not really sure I get it. I love the cake part but the buttercream filling/topping? I’d rather not bother – all that sugar, yuck!

Anyway since I am the only person on the planet that has this view, I went ahead and made butterfly cakes for my friends. Hoping that when I made them myself that something would click, and I’d love them and fit in with the rest of the world.

Butterfly cakes

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BBA: Bagels and Brioche

I’ve got a little behind on posting my BBA challenges, so here goes two at once.

Flat bagels

Making bagels is a two day long process, and I was so determined to make them for breakfast that I got up a full hour earlier than usual, on a week day!

First you add water, flour and yeast to make a sponge and leave it for a couple of hours. This is all the water you will add to your bagels, so make sure you get it right. (As I didn’t and this made for some very flat bagels).

Step 1 of Bagels

Step 1 of Bagels - the sponge

Add more flour and yeast to your sponge and mix, to form a solid dough. That should not be tacky. When you read this several times and pretend your dough isn’t tacky, when really it’s worse than that – it’s sticky. Give up. Don’t waste the other ingredients and your time, cause they are just not going to work.

I did try adding more and more flour during the kneading stage, but in the end I gave up and continued. Make rolls from your not tacky dough.

Let the rolls proof

Let the rolls proof

After some proofing time, shape each roll into a long snake and make bagels!

Bagel shaped!

Bagel shaped!

Proof the bagels again and when they float in water (normally after at least 20 minutes) then they are ready for the fridge.

It’s the next morning where the main problems appear with sticky dough. In that mine had soldered themselves to the baking sheet, and to get them off they stretched out, becoming huge and flat.

Bagels and morning coffee

Bagels and morning coffee

They tasted just fine. I think however I am going to try making these again, I love bagels and I would love to be able to make fresh batches whenever I want. (The bagels you buy in the UK are pretty rubbish, nothing like their amazing fresh American counterparts).

Poor Man’s Brioche

So there are three varieties of brioche in BBA Rich Man’s, Middle Class and Poor Man’s, the classification is based off the amount of butter that is involved. I guess back in the day in France only the super-rich could afford 16oz of butter for two loaves of brioche!

16oz! It made me sick to even think of creating this bread, I had read a number of accounts saying this bread was so rich that it wasn’t particularly pleasant. So I decided to give Rich Man’s a miss.

So then I was left with the decision of Middle Class (8 oz) or Poor Man’s (4 oz). As my other half isn’t such a fan of buttery things I decided to go for the one most appealing to him, the Poor Man’s. Plus the dough is easier to handle the less butter it contains so I was more likely to make a good loaf.

In the end The Other Half had none of the bread, but I did take a loaf down to my parents, who do like buttery tasting things – like a proper brioche. Proper brioche in my mind is a sweet bread, but Poor Man’s is more of a sandwich loaf, therefore it needed a lot of jam to balance the fairly savoury taste.

If I was going to make Poor Man’s again I would add more than the 2 tablespoons of sugar, to create more of a sweet taste. Admittedly all the brioche in the book have largely the same amount of sugar in them – so I wouldn’t say that Middle Class would necessarily be better for this.

Loaves fresh from the oven

Loaves fresh from the oven

On the plus side, the brioche loaves were the first that truly had the correct texture and density, and they looked just like the real thing. At first my mum thought I had bought a bread maker, which of course I haven’t – I made it all by hand!

So pleased overall with this loaf, as I got to show off my new cooking skills to my parents, who I think were suitably impressed!

Up next Challah bread, which is a braided Sabbath bread. (I am skipping Casatiello for now because of the amount butter and cheese in it are The Other Half’s two least favourite things).

It is a truth universally acknowledged…


I went to Lyme Park this weekend, which was the setting for the much loved BBC adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice”. It was a beautiful day in a wonderful setting and a dream come true for my sister and I.

I am a great lover of period dramas, say what you will about them, but they spawned an interest for me in classic literature that I had never had before. Austen is one of the few authors I turn to for a relaxing evening knowing that in her romantic world the ending is always happy. During the long periods of exams I had a university it was the classics I turned to to-get-a-way-from-it-all, “Pride and Prejudice” and “Jane Eyre” being my favourites at the time.

A good adaption can make a book come to life, and I will happily pay my TV license for the rest of my days on the back of this one and the quiet hope that in another couple of decades they can pull off just one more that catches my imagination in the way Pride and Prejudice did.

p.s. No I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and I never will

p.p.s Yes I have seen the Keira Knightly version and no, it doesn’t compare.

Caramelised Rainbow Chard Spaghetti

This week when I peaked inside my organic box and saw another bag of chard I groaned. It’s that small feeling of disappointment knowing of all the vegetables in the world – they keep sending me this. I could just ask them to never send me it again, but that feels like giving up. Admitting that this green and rainbow coloured leafy vegetable has defeated me.

It’s not that the vegetable doesn’t look pretty, it does, its pink, yellow and red stems look beautiful on a plate but it tastes metallic and bitter. Usually I sauté it and have it as a side, but in my vain attempts to make it taste better I over cook it and it becomes a green goo. But oh no, not this time.

A beautiful light colourful lunch

A beautiful light colourful lunch

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