autumn equinox

A Roll By Any Other Name

The Autumn Equinox in Australia will take place on Wednesday, 21st March at around 3:15am. It is a time when the hours of day and night are equal. It heralds the beginning of cooler weather and Winter on the horizon. When I think of the Autumn Equinox I think of harvest time, of reaping what we have sown. I also think of bread 🙂

As one of my passions is researching food, I tend to find inspiration for recipes almost anywhere. Recently I had a most entertaining conversation with friends, while having drinks in my favourite bar. I was talking about my recent trip to America, which included a visit to Salem, Massachusetts. Talking about Salem flowed to a discussion about witches, which in turn led to a passionate discussion on religion, as so often happens after a few drinks. One of the patrons brought up the dead sea scrolls, or, as he called them, “the dead sea rolls!” After we all finished laughing, my foodie friend Pete and I turned to each and both said “but they sound delicious!” We spent a few minutes discussing how we would create these salty rolls. We both agreed they should be boiled in water and sprinkled with sea salt before baking. It wasn’t long before my mind turned to bagels.

Bagels are usually boiled in water sweetened with malt extract, but these heavenly rolls are boiled in salted water. This makes them a bit saltier than normal bagels so be careful how much salt you sprinkle on them before baking. If you don’t have access to salt from the dead sea, ordinary sea salt will do 🙂

My recipe for traditional bagels – and other tasty recipes – will be available in my soon to be 
published travelogue/cookbook!

Dead Sea Rolls (bagels)

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Ingredients
1 + 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 teaspoon honey
3 cups strong white flour
7g (1 teaspoon) dry yeast
2 teaspoons sea salt
extra sea salt for poaching liquid
1 egg white
2 teaspoons cold water
sesame seeds for topping
sea salt flakes for topping

Instructions
Whisk together the water and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Attach the dough hook.
Add the flour, yeast and salt.
Knead on low speed for 8 – 10 minutes or until elastic.
Cover with plastic wrap.
Place in a warm spot and allow to prove for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Lightly punch down the dough.
Separate into 10 pieces then shape into balls.
Gently flatten each ball.
Make a hole in the centre of each ball using your thumb or the handle of a wooden spoon.
Twirl the bagel until you make a hole approximately 1/3 diameter of bagel.
Place on baking trays lined with baking paper.
Cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 220C / 425F.
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.
Reduce to a simmer.
Place 2 – 3 bagels in the simmering water.
Poach for 2 minutes, turning over at the halfway point.
Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a tea towel to drain.
Repeat with remaining bagels.
Place 5 bagels back on each baking tray, keeping them apart.
Beat together the egg white and water in a cup.
Brush the mixture over the top of the bagels.
Sprinkle with chosen toppings.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown and the bottoms sound hollow when tapped.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.

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Moon Over Easter

The March Equinox has come and gone, which means Easter is on its way. Easter is a Moveable Feast that takes place on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon on or after the March Equinox. I’m using the term March Equinox because its seasonal attribute depends on the hemisphere you are in. In the southern hemisphere it’s the Autumnal Equinox. In the northern hemisphere it’s the Vernal (Spring) Equinox. As Easter is based on northern hemisphere seasons, it is a Spring Festival. Which explains the rabbit and the eggs.

What isn’t really explained is why there are often two Easters – one for Western Christians and one for Eastern Orthodox Christians. The answer is simple (well actually it’s not even slightly simple!). While the above formula is used by both, Western churches use the Gregorian calendar and Eastern churches use the Julian calendar. Plus, there are differences in how the Equinox and the Full Moon are defined. Eastern churches use the Astronomical Equinox and Full Moon, while the Western churches use a set date (March 21) for the Equinox and an Ecclesiastical Moon, which comes from a church calendar.

To make it a bit more confusing, Eastern Easter is always after Passover, because Jesus celebrated Passover before he was executed. Western Easter doesn’t worry about that in what appears to be a search for simplicity. So what does that all mean? Well this year Western Easter will be celebrated on Sunday March 27th and Eastern Orthodox on Sunday May 1st.

The one question that never gets answered for me is – “Does the Easter Bunny visit on both Easters?” 🙂 Just in case the answer is “yes”, here is a recipe for Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting topped with Candied Carrots.

Easter Bunny Cupcakes

easter bunny

Ingredients
for the carrot cupcakes
1 + 1/3 cup plain flour
1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 + 1/4  teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups peeled and grated carrot

for the candied carrots
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 cup peeled and grated carrot

for the cream cheese frosting
1 cup (225g) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups powdered (icing) sugar, sifted

optional
mini chocolate Easter eggs for decoration

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a 12-hole muffin pan with 12 paper cases.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and frothy.
Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the oil, vanilla and carrot.
Fold in the flour mix until just combined.
Using an ice-cream scoop, spoon the batter evenly into the paper cases.
Bake for 10 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

While cupcakes are cooling, make the candied carrots by placing the sugar and water into a saucepan. Bring to the boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the carrots and cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove carrots from the syrup and place in a heatproof bowl. Cook syrup for a further 10 minutes or until reduced. Pour syrup over carrots and allow to cool. Preheat oven to 110C / 230F. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Drain the carrots and spread in a thin layer on prepared tray. Bake for 45 – 60 minutes or until they start to harden. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. They will harden more when cooling.

While carrots are cooling make the cream cheese frosting by creaming together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract in a medium sized bowl with an electric mixer. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until frosting reaches a piping consistency. Spoon icing into a piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes.

Sprinkle a small amount of the candied carrot onto each cupcake.
Decorate with mini chocolate easter eggs if desired.

A Touch Of Autumn

I stepped outside today and finally felt it – Autumn!

The air felt cold and crisp, the sky was covered in dark clouds and rain threatened to spit. I couldn’t wait to go for a walk. As I walked I remembered autumn days from my youth, when walking to school would entail kicking through the fallen leaves blanketing the streets; the trees happily giving up their greenery and shedding their autumnally coloured offerings.

Autumn was always my time. It was a sign I had survived another sweltering hot summer and a promise of colder weather to come. I looked forward to days of rugging up in jackets, scarfs, hats and gloves and putting on thick socks and warm shoes. Nights would be spent rugged up in front of a heater with a book and a hot drink. Today has given me hope that we may actually have an autumn this year.

We’ve just had our Autumn Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. It is a time when the hours of day and night are equal. For many Pagans it is a time of harvest, of reaping what we have sown. It is a time of reflection, particularly reflecting on what it means to be Pagan.

As I reflect on autumns past, present and future I can’t help but feel that a wise, warm and heady beverage would help these contemplations. And what could be more warm and wise than a herb infused mulled wine 🙂

Sage Mulled Wine

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Ingredients
750ml bottle white wine
1/4 cup honey
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh sage
2 sprigs fresh lemon thyme
1/4 cup gin
lemon slices for serving
extra fresh sage sprigs for serving

Instructions
Add the wine, honey and bay leaf to a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Add the sage and lemon thyme.
Turn off the heat, cover and allow the wine to steep for 20 minutes.
Remove the lid and gently reheat the wine until it starts to steam.
Remove the bay leaf, sage and thyme.
Turn off the heat and add the gin.
Place a slice of lemon and a sprig of sage in heatproof glasses or mugs.
Ladle the wine evenly between the glasses.