Burning Away Autumn Gloom

After over a week of gloomy drizzle (which was very unusual for Christchurch), it was infinitely nice to wake up to sunshine on Easter Saturday! I had made some sourdough bread dough on the previous night, originally intended for baking in the indoor electric oven. With the sudden arrival of sunshine, I promptly changed the plan and fired up Big Bill the clay oven in the afternoon.

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Kiwi Bird and I enjoyed an early and leisurely dinner in the late afternoon sun until it set.

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One pizza really puffed up in Big Bill!

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Diego puss in boots was particularly keen on the smoked salmon pizza with cashews and brie.

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The fairy lights we hang around Big Bill came on as the light started to fade.

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After dinner, Kiwi Bird helped me brought out all the bread to be baked. I shaped them just before we started doing pizzas for dinner.

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The first load of baking had 2 big sourdough brioche cinnamon apple strudels and 2 cheese and caramelised onion sourdough loaves. I checked on them after half an hour. They had a nice crust by then, but I wanted to let the crust brown more, so I shifted them and made some room for 3 little “easter buns”, and let them baked all together for perhaps another 20 mins.

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The second load of baking were some sweet filled buns and the rest of the “easter buns”. The sweet buns had a filling of chunky red bean (aduki bean) paste and a piece of soft rice cake (mochi).

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I’m not a fan of the normal fruit hot cross buns, and made up my “easter buns” in the spirit of the holiday, after using up my bean paste for the filled buns. They had chunks of dark chocolates, cashews, and dried apricots mixed into the dough. Then I piped crosses onto them with chocolate icing after they cooled.

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Together with the buns, I also managed to squeeze in two small (about 15cm and 10cm) apple tarts. They were made because I couldn’t fit all the sliced apples (already sweetened and mixed with cinnamon) into the strudels. I made the filling similar to the almond yogurt tart (except I used cashews this time). I also spread a layer of dark chocolate on the crust, inspired by a dessert I recently saw. It worked really well, and I’ll definitely repeat it.

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Finally, at the end of the night, I put a pot of whole pieces of pork belly, topped with sliced taro, into Big Bill in a lidded dish. I marinate the pork in a little salt, sweet soy sauce, Chinese five spice, and lots of crushed garlics. They were left in the marinade for 8 hours or so before being slowed cooked in Big Bill. I was expecting a lot more fat to come out during cooking, so the belly would effectively cook in its own fat, sort of like a confit. But lots of juice came out and not really that much fat.

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Needless to say, the meat came out very tender, and I had to be very gentle when slicing the meat so they don’t fall apart. For serving, I sliced them thickly and pan grilled them, along with the taro, to lightly brown. More fat rendered out of the meat during pan grilling. Then I served them on steaming rice with stirred fried greens, which made a very lip smacking, satisfying meal on a cold rainy night, because rain didn’t stay away long after the weekend… Ah, at least we had soul-warming gorgeous pork belly!

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