The test kitchen

October has been quite an experimental month for me in the kitchen – with varying degrees of success. But then, cooking is a science and science rarely works perfectly on the first try.

It began with “simple” fruit scones. The primary aim was to use up some of the sugar and flour in the cupboards, ahead of my end-of-year purging. Plus, I like scones.

To be honest, I expected making scones to be the same as making (American-style) biscuits. And since I know how to make biscuits, making scones was going to be a breeze.

Only it wasn’t the same. The consistency of the batter/dough was different and the way they baked up was different. And, ultimately, they weren’t delicious. They were edible, just not delicious.

After this experience, I don’t think I will try scones again. I didn’t enjoy the process and I didn’t enjoy the output. Plus, I like the idea of scones being one of those nice treats I enjoy when I’m at a little café with friends or visiting National Trust sites. At least then I know that I will (mostly) be getting excellent scones with nice jam and a bit of cream.

My next experiment was focaccia bread. I have been wanting to try my hand at floral focaccia because it looks so pretty, but I thought I should probably learn how to make plain focaccia first. For some reason, I felt intimidated by the idea of focaccia for quite some time. So when it came to finding a recipe I spent a lot of time reviewing a range of different approaches.

In the end, I went with a cold-rise recipe I found on Alexandra’s Kitchen blog. And I kept it simple with just rosemary on top.

I was quite pleased with how easy it was. The only “glitches” in the recipe were (1) it took a little longer to bake than the recipe stated and (2) it was unclear just how much oil to use at each stage and I feel I overdid it. That last one meant that the result was a little greasy for my liking. But those are easy things to fix.

Unlike the scones, I tried the focaccia a second time – using the infused oil below. For the second attempt, I made a half-batch and added kalamata olives and sundried tomatoes (in addition to rosemary) on top. I certainly think I’ve found a winner here and will do a bit of experimentation over the coming months with an aim to make my first floral focaccia in the spring.

My last October culinary experiment was garlic- and rosemary-infused olive oil. The inspiration for this experiment was trifold: (1) I am running low on smoked seaweed-infused oil, and wondered if I could make some myself; (2) my neighbour gave me a bulb of their home-grown garlic; and (3) I thought it would be nice to use for my ongoing focaccia experiments.

I made the infusion using the garlic from my neighbour and the rosemary I purchased for my first focaccia experiment. Putting it all together was quick and easy; the biggest “time burden” was the slow process of heating the infusion followed by cooling it enough to put in a bottle.

The recipes I used for inspiration were all “fresh” recipes, meaning that the oil would only last a few days. I should have made far less oil because I will never be able to use all the oil before it goes off. Still, I think the recipe can easily be scaled up or down so I will be able to hone my skills as I go.

Ultimately, the oil was another winning experiment and coupled nicely with my second batch of focaccia. I can’t wait to taste my improved results over time!

I need to spend more time in the kitchen trying new recipes, including all my family recipes. But it’s been a little hectic lately and I have had to prioritise other things. It is likely to be a few months before I’m able to really settle into a home-life routine again, although I will do my best to dip my toes in every few weeks just so that I can enjoy some kitchen crafts.

And if all goes to plan, I will be ready to make that floral focaccia in the spring – in a new home of my own. (That’s a little teaser for the regular readers.)

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