Gadgets

When it comes to kitchenware and cooking, I'm more than a bit of a gadget girl. This week, we've acquired a new stick mixer and a breadmaker. Both have had a bit of a work-out over the week, and I'd have to say I'm pretty happy with both of them. And being happy with them, when I invited a group of friends over for lunch, I had to use both of them.

The food: Soup
The Gadget: Wizz Stick Plus

I'm kind of clumsy, so the extra length of the Wizz Stick Plus is a definite plus, keeping me out of the way of hot soup splashes. It's got two speeds, the low one being about the same as the standard speed of my old stick mixer. Altogether, it did a good job of blending the soup to a really smooth consistency.


Leek and Potato Soup


1 tbspn olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or chopped
2 leeks, thinly sliced
700g potato, peeled and chopped
1.25 litres vegetable stock

Cream to serve

Method

Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan. Saute the onion until translucent, then add garlic and continue cooking for around a minute. Add the leek and potato, stir, then add stock. Cover, and allow to simmer until potato is tender - depending on the size of the potato pieces, this should be around 20 minutes. When soft, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Using the slow setting on the stick mixer, break up the large chunks of potato. For an extra smooth soup, blend on the high setting. Serve with a dollop of cream and garnish with chopped spring onion.

The food:Ciabatta

The gadget: SmartBake Breadmaker

The SmartBake has a horizontal pan, which sounds like it should make a loaf with pretty normal dimensions. But that's only true when you compare it to a standard breadmaker which, generally speaking, would produce a loaf more like a tower than anything you see at the local bakery. That said, it certainly makes a nice loaf, kneading perfectly and rising just the right amount. And it's super easy to keep clean, which is always a bonus.

Since I'm fairly new to bread making, I used a packet of bread mix instead of bread flour, improver and what not. Having bought 5 kilos of bread flour yesterday, I'm sure there'll be plenty of more authentic recipes to come.

Ciabatta

1 pkt crusty white bread mix
4.5 tspns dried yeast
420 mls water

Method

Place the ingredients in the bread maker in the suggested order for your machine. Select a dough only setting - for the SmartBake, the pizza dough setting is the best one. Allow the machine to knead and prove the dough once, then remove from the pan. The dough will be very sticky and elastic. Divide the dough into two pieces and pull each half into an elongated oval shape. It should be fairly flat. Place the dough on an oiled baking tray and allow to rise for 30 - 45 minutes. The longer it rises, the coarser the bread will be. Leaving it to rise for any less than 30 minutes will result in a loaf that's like a standard white bread only denser. Bake at 210 C until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

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