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Woebegone kitchen

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I am sitting at my kitchen island as I write this and I'm trying hard not to look up from the laptop too often or I'll see the dingy cabinets with doors that are partly stripped of their paint (there are three layers ­­– blue, orange, and cream, the result of fickle-mindedness and then of sloth), a counter top permanently stained from spills and hot pots, an old fridge (you can't ignore the loud humming, though) that's situated in a less-than-ideal spot and cannot be prettied up even with cute magnets, photos of loved ones and that Homer Simpson figurine on the right (I know, he actually drools "mmmh..." to doughnuts but his lips say "oooh" here). It's a poorly planned kitchen (my own misjudgment) and not the best use of space. The whole thing makes me want to take a sledgehammer to it!

I shouldn't complain because lots of people do with much less, yet make substantial, and even fantastic, meals every day. And then to see Julie Powell preparing (sometimes elaborate) recipes from Julia Child's cookbook in her tiny kitchen for a year... well, that should shut me up good! (You need to watch Julie & Julia; heck, I need to watch it again since I had to squint at it on that tiny screen on board a Malaysia Airlines flight a while ago.)
* * *
I started this post a few weeks ago and while I still think my kitchen is cramped and inefficient, knocking through to the flat next door (after buying it of course) and making that into a workspace isn't really the solution. But after 12 years, my needs and interest in cookery have changed and so must my kitchen. It looks like I'll be knocking down some (cupboard) doors, after all.

In the meantime, I'm making something to lift the spirits, although if you're going to take a drug test for some reason, you may want to stay off this until after that ­­– you don't want to suffer the same fate as Elaine in Seinfeld, which the MythBusters tested and confirmed to be plausible! (This article may also interest you.)

Poppy seed bread is found in many cultures and come in the form of Czech kolache, Polish makowiec and Hungarian beigli, among others. All Eastern European... Hmmm.

I wanted an eggy, buttery bread for this. While I've been trying out a lot of no-knead bread recipes, this time, I didn't want to wait overnight for the dough to develop. The bread dough is Linda Collister's recipe for Polish poppy seed roll from her book Bread: From Ciabatta to Rye, but I did not use her poppy seed filling. For this, I simply threw together the poppy seeds and other ingredients I had. It's just a matter of taste, anyway, not of precise quantities.


Makes 8 palm-sized rolls
1 portion egg dough
1 cup poppy seed filling (recipe follows)
A little milk for brushing

Egg dough
250g unbleached strong white bread flour
¼ teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons caster sugar
50g unsalted butter, diced
About 90ml tepid milk
1 teaspoon instant dried yeast
1 medium egg, lightly beaten (at room temperature)

  • Sift flour, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. Mix in the yeast, then rub in the butter until the mixture looks like fine crumbs. Make a well in the centre and add the milk and egg. Gradually work the flour into the liquid to make a smooth, soft dough.
  • Turn out into a lightly floured surface and knead thoroughly for 10 minutes. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with cling film. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1½-2 hours.
To assemble and cook the rolls
  • Punch down the risen dough and divide into 8. Knead each portion, then press out into any desired shape and fill with 1 tablespoon of poppy seed filling. Place on a baking tray, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
  • 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 180°C. Brush rolls with milk and bake for 30-35 minutes until cooked through and top is light brown (if you want a darker brown, brush the top with egg instead). 
Circle: Form dough into a ball and make an indentation in the centre for the filling.
Envelop: Press dough into a square, place filling in the centre and fold the corners over into the middle. Or fold in just 2 opposite corners for a bar shape.
Crescent: Press dough into a triangle, spread with filling and roll up starting from the wide end to the point.

Makes 1¼ cups
75g (½ cup) poppy seeds
1 tablespoons lemon juice
75ml (¼ cup) honey
50g (⅓ cup) chopped dates (or raisins)
2 tablespoons milk
¼ cup almond flakes, toasted and crumbled

  • Put all the ingredients except the almonds into a small saucepan and cook, stirring well, until mixture is smooth and thick; cool. Stir in the toasted almond flakes. To store, put into a glass jar and keep refrigerated.

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