On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

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Mr Fussy’s Vanilla Cookies

What a treat. Mr Fussy baked cookies.

Actually during the week we had an interesting, albeit brief, discussion about the type of baking we both preferred. Mr Fussy likes cookies. I’d say my favourite is a slice, with caramel of course!


I recall a time after we’d been together that Mr Fussy asked his Mum for a couple of her recipes. This, and a Tan Square is what he wanted. Mr Fussy dutifully took the recipe down over the phone.

Because I had a bit of a big day in the kitchen the cookies were made and baked after lunch. There was a false start but apparently it was my fault for putting him off by snapping photos of him. Oooh the pressure Winking smile It was all said in jest. The upshot is we’re out of butter, so my plans to make my own version of a cookie slice will have to wait.


The handwritten note, with imperial measurements, and converted to metric, doesn’t give any clue as to where the recipe originated from. Though I suspect it’s one of those tried and true recipes of an era long gone.


Vanilla Cookies


  • 250 gm butter
  • 250 gm white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 dessert spoons of golden syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence or extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 450 gm all purpose flour
  • Dried fruit to your liking


  • Heat the oven to 180deg Celsius
  • Put butter, sugar, milk and golden syrup into a large pot and melt together
  • Let the liquid cool to room temperature
  • Add in the vanilla essence, flour, baking soda and sultanas and stir to combine
  • Put teaspoon amounts onto a baking sheet *we had a variety of sizes (and shapes)
  • Lightly press to flatten if need be
  • Bake for 10 minutes
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool
  • Store in an air tight container


Mr Fussy got to use my cookie scoop, even I’ve not used it yet. The recipe said to place teaspoon lots of dough on a baking tray. The cookie scoop held considerably more. Then Mr Fussy decided to measure out tablespoons, using the measuring spoons. I pleaded him not to bend them as he scraped the spoon up the side of the pan to ensure it was full and no more.

And then you flatten the cookies a little. Someone’s big paws show two very large indentations. And you can see that after cooking the indentations are still there. These cookies do not spread.

BeforeAfter (2)

I’m convinced the pint glass milk jug looks pretty cool in the photo, but Mr Fussy was keen for me to include his own “Man size” mug. It takes 500ml, of tea, of course.


And as you do, we’ve been sampling a few of these, you know, one of each size, just for quality control. Mr Fussy asked his Mum what her verdict was. She thought there needed to be more vanilla. Mr Fussy used the Vanilla essence I’d spent a month shaking to make. I made it from scratch, but it appears it’s not quite hitting the mark. Still, who’s to say the store bought stuff would have done a better job.

All up Mr Fussy was a fairly obliging “model” for the photos. There are some crackers that I can’t include. And we’re still counting how many chins the photos make it appear he has. The photo of Mr Fussy holding the one cookie made him feel like he was holding a delicate birds egg. But he did ok, though “a little to the left”, “your hand has dropped” is pretty hard to gauge from the other side of the camera. It took more goes than you’d think and sensing his impatience I decided I’d made do with the best shot I had.

And for those observant, yes he loves that Contiki shirt. It’s amazing the quality of clothing some 17+ years ago.

And one last note, the little glass stand in the photos came from a school fair we dropped in on yesterday. It cost $0.50 but since they were fumbling about looking for change I said I was more than happy to pay the $1.00 I’d given. Mr Fussy was making a point about value for money. The $20 I paid for the glass pint bottle acquired last weekend and the glass stand. You win some, you lose some.


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Yvonne’s Toasted Muesli

I’m not sure where Yvonne found this recipe. I’m not sure if I asked, was told, or have never known. Whatever has happened with the passage of time, I do not know where this recipe originates, other than with Yvonne. So I apologise for not giving credit where credit is due.


Yvonne was my Matron of Honour. We met while working at, what was then, TrustBank Card Services. So that’s going back a few years. Time has marched on and Westpac “merged” with TrustBank. But our friendship has remained unchanged. I love Yvonne to bits and the fact she’s now living in Holland doesn’t mean she’s out of sight, out of mind.

This is a simple recipe, or at least I think it is. I’ve been making it since the very next day after Yvonne told me the recipe. I’ve been making it for years (and years).


Yvonne’s Toasted Muesli


  • 1.5kg Wholegrain Rolled Oats (don’t use anything else, you’ll thank me for this insistence)
  • 1 cup Shredded Coconut
  • 1 cup Walnuts, chopped roughly
  • 1 cup Slivered Almonds
  • 1 cup Pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup Sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup Sesame seeds (I call this optional, I’ve stopped adding these)
  • 1 cup Cold pressed Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup liquid Honey
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed Brown Sugar
  • * For all those dried ingredients that say 1 cup, other than Shredded Coconut which you buy in a much larger package, I usually use 2x 70gm packs, if you’re not buying the nuts/seeds in bulk. It’s only the walnuts you’ll need 2+ 70gm packs.


  • Heat the oven to 150deg Celsius
  • In a small pot, heat together the oil, honey and brown sugar so it’s melted, but not boiling
  • Mix into a very large roasting pan all other ingredients
  • Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients
  • Carefully mix the dry and wet ingredients so that all of the rolled oats are coated, and the liquid hasn’t pooled in any one place. I sort of use a bit of a folding action to insure it’s all fully incorporated.
  • Place the roasting pan into the oven and leave it for 15-20 minutes. When the timer beeps take the pan out of the oven and mix it all up to prevent uneven toasting of the muesli.
  • Put the roasting pan back in for another 15-20 minutes.
  • Mix up the muesli and return to the oven once more, for a further 15-20 minutes.
  • Depending on how toasted you like you muesli, the total cooking time will be between 45-60 minutes.
  • Once you’ve finished toasting the muesli remove the roasting pan from the oven and leave on the bench to cool.
  • You’ll need to pop back and stir the muesli at regular intervals while it cools. This will prevent it from clumping.  I’ve found that if it does form any clumps they “crush” up easily enough by patting the clump with the back of a spoon.
  • Once the muesli has cooled completely add in your preferred dried fruits, in whatever quantities you like.

Dried fruit

I use:

Diced Apricots




Currents (if I have them)


You can also add in things like crystallised strawberries, any type of dried fruit and banana chips.

The world is your oyster.


I love walnuts. You can toast them before chopping them up if you like. Just pop them into the oven for about 8-10 minutes. The flavour will enhance.


Every time I make the Muesli I’m thinking of Yvonne. I wish she weren’t so far away. However it’s only weeks now until she’s back in Christchurch. We’ll have a wonderful time catching up over Christmas and New Year before she’s whisked back to Holland.

I simply can not make muesli without having some of it ending up on the floor. I know that when I make muesli there’s a compulsory floor sweep on the agenda.


It’s Salsa Time!

The other weekend I made Quesadillas. We had looked for a nice Salsa and come home having failed. Instead we had one of those Old El Paso jars of “mild” salsa.

I’m not one for hot or spicy foods. It makes my lips tingle, sometimes burn. And it’s really uncomfortable. Why would you want to do that to yourself? Food is to be enjoyed, not approached with trepidation. So I don’t eat Indian, Thai and other spicy foods. Though Mr Fussy is particularly fond of (some) Mexican. And I quite like Nachos. I find them tasty without being “burn your lips off, gulp down water. No! that only made it worse” material.

Back to my first attempt to make Quesadillas, guided by Mr Fussy’s recollection of how they have been served at Coyotes, one of his favourite restaurants, no more in existence in Christchurch.

The salsa looked like cat food. I’m sorry, there’s just nothing nice to say about how it looks on the plate, as an accompaniment.

The Quesadillas needed some refinement. Not a bad effort of my interpretation under Mr Fussy’s guidance, but it wasn’t quite as it should have been. Mostly it needed more cheese. But everything in this house is always greeted with “more cheese”. We love cheese.


To be fair, how could a jar of Old El Paso really compete with vibrant fresh ingredients?

As per usual I searched online for recipes for Salsa. I found a couple that seemed suitable, but in searching more details on Coriander (Cilantro) I came across a different site and was more interested in the recipe, perhaps because the post was written by a man. Nothing wrong with a man being in the kitchen. I’m all for it. But it also used fresh tomatos, unlike the other recipes I’d considered. Since we’d picked up some hot house tomatos at the Lyttelton Farmers Market I thought this would be the perfect use for them.


While I was preparing the vegetables and chop, chop, chopping away (there’s a lot of chopping, and mincing!) I decided to taste the Coriander. I’ve never used it before in preparing a meal. Boy that stuff is quite peppery/hot. Mr Fussy was urged to taste it too, and he agreed with my assessment.

Given the list of ingredients listed Jalapeno Peppers and pepper and spring onions and garlic, I was expecting this stuff to be really REALLY firey.


I have never EVER used Jalapeno Peppers in a recipe either. These things scare me. I’ve seen those weird shows where people get dared to eat a Jalapeno Pepper and their eyes water, mouth goes numb and they flap their arms, a lot. No thank you. But here I was cutting them up and scraping the seeds out. And a few silent prayers went out that these would not cause cardiac arrest.


It all looks so good. And I love limes. However limes are really expensive. I didn’t quite need the two I’d bought and not being one to throw the leftovers out of something quite expensive, the small amount left over has gone into a Glad bag in the freezer.

This recipe made quite a lot, quite a lot more than I anticipated.


I’ve got 3 jars of varying sizes, the small squat one at the front is 500gm, I can’t remember the biggest one, it had the cherries in it that I used for Mum’s BFC cake.

On Tuesday morning I caramelised the onions, or at least started the process. I used the shredded chicken I’d made a week or so back and froze. In hindsight we really needed more chicken.

I used a mix of Havarti and Gruyere cheese, and I sprinkled (hot) chilli over the chicken while it was heating through in the pan.


Given my hesitancy for hot and spicy, I was really going to be doing myself in with all of the ingredients and extra spice I was adding. I’m certainly not giving the impression that I dislike the fire in your mouth, blow the top of your head off, experience.

Assembling the Quesadillas was really easy, and I had no trouble keeping the top and bottom (and filling) together when turning them over to brown the other side.


Mr Fussy later told me that Coyotes would usually serve the meal with a red rice. What that is I don’t know.

The meal was surprisingly filling given there was no salad, or red rice.


The recipe for the Salsa can be found here.


I’m sure the Salsa would be even better if we were at the height of our summer with really succulent tomatos.

What I was surprised by was the Salsa was NOT hot. The after taste of garlic was evident, but when it was eaten as a whole none of the ingredients were over powering and not in the slightest hot or spicy. So if you’re looking for that type of experience I suggest you add more Jalapenos or some other type of spice to get it a bit more kick.

I felt the Salsa was too chunky so I blitzed one of the jars to make it a little more refined and it was much more manageable, and Mr Fussy also conceded that it needed to be a smaller cut. So I blitzed all the remaining Salsa.

We’ve now had this 3 nights in a row as accompaniment to other meals. It’s all gone now and I’m a little sad by that.  I’ll make it again, that’s for sure.



Flatbread–or not so flat as it happened

Laying in bed this morning, listening to the rain, I knew much of the day would be spent in the Kitchen. And what better way to spend Labour Day in New Zealand.

Being in the kitchen is a labour of love, it usually doesn’t feel like labouring away. Except when having to try and come up with something different for a week night meal, though week night meals are generally for Mr Fussy to coordinate (which sometimes means I’m actually “on duty”).

While Monday is a week night, it’s a public holiday. That means my weekend got extended by a day (well two, because Friday was an Annual Leave day for me).

I had several things planned for today, Pasta Sauce, Roasted Garlic and Salsa. But laying in bed, unable to sleep past 7am, meant I was catching up on Twitter goings on. Monday in NZ is Sunday evening in America. And there’s a huge “Sunday Supper” event each week on the foodie calendar. And it was reading one of the tweets for this recipe for a flatbread with Grapes, Gruyere, Rosemary and Red Onion that changed my plans and saw me add another cooking creation to my list.

Here’s the recipe for the toppings for the flatbread.


I had to decide which Pizza recipe I was going to use. I’d previously bookmarked a recipe from David Lebovitz. I read the recipe and it was really simple, and wouldn’t take all day and the next to prepare. Though there is this recipe from Pioneer Woman that I want to try. Just because I’m a fan of having bread sit overnight proving.


The Pizza recipe is really simple to make. Again I used the Semolina Flour.

I also used the paddle in the Kenwood up until the point where all of the flour had been added along with the remainder wet ingredients. I swapped and used the Dough Hook and then left the dough kneading for 5 minutes.


The dough wasn’t sticky and it turned out of the bowl without anything more than my hands easing it from the bottom. It as already around the dough hook, and the sides of the bowl were clean. So that made things pretty straight forward.

Look how much the dough rose! That’s at 1.5 hours. I had left the bowl sitting on the ceramic top (don’t tell F&P) which was slightly warm since the Pasta Sauce I was cooking was simmering away on another element.

The dough was really easy to shape and I loved squishing it under my finger tips. However, since I’ve now made the Flatbread, it wasn’t very flat at all. The dough rose quite a bit during cooking. I probably should have halved the dough. I know it wouldn’t have rolled out quite as far (I had to stop since it was already the size of my pizza stone), but it would have been a little thinner and more “flat”.

Assembling the ingredients was quick since I’d already prepared everything. Those grapes were surprisingly sweet. I was eating them before they had a chance to make friends with the dough.

I used the roasted garlic I’d prepared earlier in the morning with the oil that was used to brush over the dough. And then I added all the remaining roasted garlic as well. That’s the only deviation I made. The garlic was an obvious addition, but a nice surprise.

The pizza stone was put into the oven while it heated up. I used the hottest temperature I dared. The stone is so big that it only fits on the very bottom rack. That’s because the fan in the oven protrudes into the centre taking some precious space. And being on the very bottom, on the hottest setting I was pretty sure the back of the pizza might be a little more “coloured” (aka burnt) than the front. And I was right. But Mr Fussy doesn’t like crusts so chopping them off isn’t a hardship.


The flatbread was quite nice. A lovely sweet taste mingled in with garlic and cheese. If I hadn’t made this, and known there was red onion or rosemary, I probably wouldn’t have been aware they were present. This wasn’t so sweet that you’d have it as a “dessert”, the cheese balanced things out nicely.

There’s enough left over that we’ll all (Mum included) have a piece for lunch tomorrow. That takes care of that then.

In conclusion, I really liked the flavours of the toppings, and I loved working with the dough. It’s not the type of pizza base we like however, we prefer it much thinner, and that’s another reason I’ll try the Pioneer Woman recipe sometime in the future. But this was good and worth making.


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Rhubarb Streusel Cake–my first “designed” recipe

Well I’m pretty chuffed with myself. This cake is not from a recipe I found, but from ideas I read from a variety of different recipes.

I got to use two ingredients I’ve never used before, Muscovado Cane Sugar and Semolina Flour.

Yes, I had both of those in the pantry. How decadent.

I’ve been looking at my Rhubarb plant for a few weeks now and been really keen to pick some stalks. But I didn’t want to get stuck in too soon. I wanted nice strong flavourful stalks.


I was all set to make a Lemon Pound Cake, or an Orange Cake today. But here I am making a Rhubarb Streusel Cake instead. And it turned out nicely.

I don’t know if you know what it’s like to make something like a cake without a recipe. You hold your breath hoping that it will cook ok. Then when you cut it you hope the texture is how you imagined. Then when you taste it, you hope all the flavours you added marry nicely and none overpower the other.

I’d give myself a 8.5/10. Perhaps I’m a little generous with myself because it’s my first effort. I think you automatically get a couple of points for stepping out of your comfort zone and taking a few risks.


I guess my biggest worry was the Rhubarb cooking properly. I’ve made many a Rhubarb crumble and had crunchy, squeaky Rhubarb chunks, even after more cooking time than the recipe called for.


You need to slice the Rhubarb really thinly. I wish I had the skills of a chef. I manage to cut my nail, not through. Not so that I had to warn people they may come across a foreign object in the cake. I think I could watch a person with good knife skills all day. I have a video of Jamie Oliver chopping and passing on his tips (not finger tips!). But I don’t have the patience, or the right rhythm to move the vegetables at the right speed to get even slices.


But it was all worth it, even though I was hanging out the washing between stages of the cake and managing to snag my nail of every garment I pegged. And with my slight OCD tendencies, each item had matching coloured pegs. I don’t quite make each row the same colour, so careful with the judgement Winking smile


Since I’m still learning, and a long way of fluid, with my photography you’re being bombarded with a lot of photos. But I’m pretty proud of the progress I’m making, and did I mention this was the first cake I made up designed all on my own?

Plus I needed to get that pint milk bottle in as many photos as I dared. I came across that yesterday at the Lyttelton Farmers Market. Well the school has a bit of a “boot sale” and I spotted this on one of the tables. I paid $20 for it. Mr Fussy laughed at me, but he doesn’t appreciate how many food blogs use a milk bottle. It looks cute. Right? Ok it probably better suits cupcakes and this cake should really have a fancy cup and saucer instead but hey.

And so to the recipe.

Rhubarb Streusel Cake by Anita Paling


  • 1 ½ cups All Purpose Flour
  • ½ cup Semolina Flour
  • ¼ tsp Ginger
  • ¼ tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ½ cup Muscovado Dark Cane sugar
  • 150ml Oil
  • 2 large eggs (size 7)
  • 1 cup Plain Yoghurt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 stalks of Rhubarb, about 190gm, sliced thinly


  • Heat the oven to 175deg Celsius
  • Line the base of a 9” cake tin and spray the bottom and sides of the tin with non-stick spray
  • Mix the plain and semolina flours, ginger, cinnamon white and muscovado sugar together
  • Because the muscovado sugar is more sticky due to the molasses, you may need to rub it with the dry ingredients, a bit like rubbing butter into flour for a scone mixture
  • Add the oil and mix together with a fork
  • Set aside ½ cup of the mixed ingredients which will be used for the Streusel topping
  • Add the yoghurt and eggs, baking powder and baking soda and mix into the dry ingredients, either by hand or with a mixer
  • Pour the batter into the prepared tin
  • Top with the sliced rhubarb
  • Sprinkle the Streusel mix
  • Bake for 50 minutes on fan bake or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean
  • Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes
  • Invert the cake onto a cooling rack, and using another rack flip the cake back up right side
  • Any bits of Streusel topping that has fallen off during the flipping of the cake, you can scatter back onto the cake


  • You can use ½ tsp of Cinnamon instead of ¼ tsp each of Cinnamon and Ginger
  • If you don’t have Semolina flour just replace it with All Purpose Flour, making the total of flour 2 cups
  • Muscovado Cane Sugar can be replaced with Brown Sugar
  • Yoghurt can be replaced with Sour Cream
  • Oil can be replaced with 140 gm melted butter
  • Rhubarb can be replaced with any berry, fresh or frozen would work
  • If your oven doesn’t have a fan bake function, just increase the temperature by around 5 degrees and check the cake from around 45 minutes

You can serve the cake with yoghurt, cream or even ice cream. I had mine plain and still enjoyed it.

If I could change anything it would be the outside of the cake which was a little thicker than I would have preferred. I’m not quite sure what needs to be altered to reduce it. I wonder if it was the stickiness of the Muscovado cane sugar. I might try the recipe again with brown sugar and see if that improves things.



Cheesy Puff Loaves–a light lunch

I’ve made this recipe several times now. It started many months ago when I wanted a nice cheesy lunch, but nothing heavy.

I scoured the Internet looking for something that sounded interesting. And as I have on numerous occasion, I went browsing through the recipes published by the Otago Daily Times. I can thank the ODT for the Carrot Cake find, a recipe that gets rave reviews whenever I made it.


These babies are meant to be baked in a muffin pan, but I like those cute little loaves.

You can serve these with any type of chutney, or keep it simple and slather butter like a scone.



2 eggs, size 7
¾ cup standard milk
¾ cup plain yoghurt
260g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper
90g Parmesan cheese, grated



  • Lightly spray with oil or brush with melted butter 12 large muffin pans (100ml).
  • Beat eggs, milk and yoghurt together.
  • Into a large bowl sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cayenne pepper and stir in the cheese, using a fork to mix the cheese through the dry ingredients.
  • Add the beaten eggs, milk and yoghurt mixture to the dry ingredients in the bowl and stir just to blend. Do not over-mix or beat. The mixture will be quite moist and lumpy.
  • Fill the prepared muffin pans about three-quarters full.
  • Bake at 180degC for about 20 minutes until puffed and golden and remove from the oven.
  • Stand muffins in tins for 12-15 minutes. As the puffs cool the cheese becomes less sticky and they will turn out more easily if not too hot.
  • Run a knife around the edges of each puff and turn out on to a wire rack to cool.
  • Makes 12 large cheese puffs.



Using the mini loaf tin you’ll get 8, plus enough for two normal muffins.

I used Reggiano cheese for a change to Parmesan.

I’d run out of Paprika so I used the same amount of Chilli powder.

Use a Microplane for grating  hard cheese. It takes the work out of it, and it’s quick. Honestly, my microplane is one of my most loved kitchen implements.

While the loaves/muffins sit in the tin they will go a little bit soggy, but once out of the tin, cooling on a rack they’ll come right. Just don’t leave them too long to sweat in the tin.




I like mine with a bit of chutney. Barkers make some really nice varieties. The Tamarillo and Plum in my current favourite.




The highs and lows of baking with Yeast

The other weekend I made a Lemon Pullapart bread. It ended badly, but I’m not one to go down without a fight. I was determined to give it another go, and succeed. I did, I’ll post later.

In order to gain a better understanding of why the bread didn’t turn out as expected I set about understanding the different types of yeast available in our supermarkets.

By far the Edmonds brand is the most popular (so says I). There’s two varieties of it.

I have the red top yeast at home. I bake bread each weekend in the breadmaker, and that’s the type of yeast I use.

But there’s yellow top yeast too. More on that later.

First of all I decided to make sure the yeast had life in it still. Was it still “active”. It was a brand new jar, but it wouldn’t have been the first time a new jar, within it’s expiry date, ended up being a dud.

I found several websites describing how to tell if the yeast was still good (proofing).

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast
  • Still in the yeast
  • In 10 minutes the yeast should have risen to 1/2 cup.

So how did it go?

Excuse the photos, these were taken on my phone, and rushed a little. As per usual these brainwaves comes to me when I’m expected to be out the door on 10.5 minutes (no lie).


2012-10-12 07.46.59


This was already at 10 minutes, and not looking like I expected.

2012-10-12 07.48.41

At a pinch you could say it “passed”. The mound in the middle exceeded 1/2 cup. But it took more like 12 minutes.

I wasn’t totally convinced this was the best type of yeast to use for the recipe I had found. On a mission I headed to the supermarket and bought the yellow top yeast.

For a start it looked more like the yeast used in the recipe. The yeast was little balls. The red top yeast is more like flakes with a very fine powder. The yeast includes improvers for assisting bread machine bread.

2012-10-12 22.47.12

In less than 10 minutes the yeast looked like this. Even though all the yeast balls still looked like they were hanging out down the bottom of the measuring jug.

2012-10-12 22.48.22

It was definitely “doing” stuff.



The yellow top yeast is on the left (with the round balls) and the red top yeast on the right (flakes/powder).


To complete my experiment I made my bread machine bread once using the yellow top yeast. It was a reluctant riser and the bread was more dense. I made the same recipe (as I have for the past 5+ years) with the red top yeast and it was spot on.

Then I made the crusty no knead bread with the yellow top yeast. Up until now I’ve made it with the same yeast (red) I’ve had on hand.

The bread was much better. It rose more, it wasn’t quite so “soupy” when it was ready to be turned out and shaped into a ball. And the texture of the bread was more light and airy.

So my conclusion: If you’re making bread for the bread machine, stick with the Edmonds Red top yeast. If you’re making bread for baking in the oven, use the Edmonds Yellow top yeast.

Here’s a picture of the Crusty No Knead Bread using the red top yeast.


And a picture of the same bread using the yellow top yeast.


And to re-cap. The Lemon Pullapart loaf I made with the red top yeast had to be thrown, even though we tried to pretend it was edible. The same recipe using the yellow top yeast was near perfect. It did all the right things and baked up correctly (except the very centre of the middle of the loaf). Stay tuned for that post.