Walnut & Oat Bread

Hello from Melbourne!

Yes, I’ve moved again. I actually hate moving (all evidence to the contrary), but Melbourne is a really cool city and I’m happy to be here. Much as I loved my time in beautiful Byron Bay, it was time for a change. So here I am. Back to being new to town and living in a hostel. A hostel without an oven.

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Luckily I do have a couple recipes I’ve been saving for you, and hopefully I’ll find a room before long and I’ll be back to baking. I’ve certainly been getting good baking weather here—it seems to be winter already in Victoria. I know it’s spring for some of you, but for me it’s definitely bread-making season. And if I had an oven, I would totally make some of this again.

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Homemade Baguettes

We’ve had a rainy couple of weeks here in Byron Bay. Plenty of sun in there too – it’s still summer, and it’s still Australia – but lots of those big, tropical showers. Which can really ruin a beach day, but which make the thought of baking a lot more palatable. Have you ever tried to make cookies in 30+ degree heat? I have to apologize to my flatmates before I turn on the oven, and then I have to stand there in the kitchen and sweat for however long the baking takes. Not exactly a sob story, I know, but if you were wondering at my infrequent posting, that is the explanation.

On a rainy day, though, there is nothing better than some nice, quiet baking. I’ve been making a lot of brownies, and a couple different types of cookies, and as soon as I get my ever-volatile computer situation under control I will be able to post about all that. In the meantime, I baked some baguettes and I think you should, too.

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Pain Au Chocolat/Homemade Croissants

Croissants are one of those Intimidating Baking Projects. For a lot of amateur bakers, they go straight into the Too Hard basket and are deemed not worth the effort / better store-bought / both. I’m here to tell you not to panic. Yes, they are a bit finicky. Yes, it’s a long process. And yes, I have ruined an oven-full of croissants before, quite spectacularly, with very little effort. But I have used the recipe I’m going to share with you five times now, and only once have I had a bona fide baking disaster – the time I made the insane rookie mistake of leaving the house during the final, crucial proofing stage only to come home to two full trays of fat, buttery globs. Which I baked and served to general approval, but which were not really croissants.

That was last Easter. This Christmas, I tried again, opting for smaller, chocolate-filled croissants instead. A French girl told me they tasted Parisian, which as far as I’m concerned locks these solidly into my own personal baking Hall of Fame. And honestly? They’re not actually that hard to make.

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Josey Baker’s (Gluten-Free, Vegan) Adventure Bread

Bake this bread. Seriously, stop what you’re doing, go buy some nuts and oats and seeds, and get started, because it won’t be ready for at least another five and a half hours, which is already way too long to wait. This stuff is delicious. I ate at least five pieces of it, and the part I brought over to my backpacker friends (you know me, I have to give my baking away to someone) received rave reviews. It’s great plain, it’s great with butter, it’s great with olive oil, I can only imagine how good it would be with some honey or peanut butter or the right kind of cheese (I’m thinking a really sharp, nutty cheddar). It’s got a bit of a daunting ingredients list, but it is one of the easiest breads I have ever made. I promise.

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And it’s naturally gluten-free (although if you are baking this for someone with Celiac Disease, make sure your oats aren’t contaminated. I know a lot of major brands aren’t actually Celiac-friendly). Which is great, because I have a horrible confession to make, you guys: I’ve been cutting down on gluten. When I first got to Australia, I was all set to live off my favorite cheap diet of peanut butter sandwiches, but it turns out my stomach can’t handle quite that much wheat, and so I have become one of those obnoxious people with a fake gluten intolerance. I know, I’m not happy about it either. I will by no means be giving up flour on this blog, so don’t you worry. I’ve just been exploring some naturally gluten-free recipes as well. And this one, well, I think I may have mentioned that this one is delicious.

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Classic Challah

Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a Jewish population here in New Zealand. Everyone seems to be vaguely Christian or sometimes very Christian and that’s about it. I’m not Jewish, either, but I love a lot of Jewish foods and I was really excited to introduce some of the good stuff to my kiwi friends.

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I learned how to make challah one very rainy day around this time of year back in college. A Jewish friend of mine was complaining that no one ever wanted to learn how to bake it, and voracious baker that I am, I volunteered. We realized halfway through that we were baking it on the sabbath during Passover, which was pretty un-Jewish of us, but man did it taste good. This is my third time making it, and I have to say, I think this was the most successful.

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Challah’s a good rainy day activity. It’s a long process, so you want a day when you’ll be pottering around the house. I baked this loaf with a friend of mine, which kept things from getting boring. It was also very helpful having her on hand for when I got frustrated and threw a temper tantrum while we were trying to braid the dough…but we’ll come back to that.

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