Partly so I could hang out and share delicious food with great company and partly because I wanted to introduce you guys to some of my incredibly talented friends, I've decided to dust off this old column, hit the road and sweet talk some cool people into baking for me. Somehow people are falling for my tricks so I have a few posts lined up in this series that I am really really excited to share with you!
To start it all off, please say hello how are you to Jasmin and Matthew - creative couple extraordinaire, web designer and developer from Millet Studio and urban gardening and home cooking blog, Wild Thyme Sweet Pea.
Over the weekend I spent a day at their place making Bomboloni (an Italian yeasted baked doughnut that is in another league altogether) and asked them some hard hitting questions.
// Firstly, Donut or Doughnut?
// Glad we got that cleared up. Tell us about what you do Monday to Friday.
M & J: We run a small web design studio called Millet Studio, which we started in April 2013. We work with small businesses and creative individuals to craft smart and beautiful solutions for their online presence. You can find Jasmin obsessing over details and typefaces in Photoshop; Matthew is usually wrangling code in HTML and CSS, making sure the output is as precise and practical as possible.
// You seem to be a great team, complementing each other really well. What’s it like working together?
J: Thank you! Honestly, it’s the most challenging thing we’ve done together. Besides our side projects, we never worked together full-time before this. There are days when neither of us is really getting through to the other, then there are days when certain prospects email us or projects start, making us very excited and happy.
The best part about working together is making a unanimously conscious choice on every project we accept. There is no greater freedom than that.
M: It’s fantastic to be able to receive feedback and improve my appreciation of design. Collaborating with Jasmin means that I’m able to take greater responsibility and have a bigger say in where things go; my voice forms half the decision-making process. It definitely feels great to be valued and to be a core component of the business.
At the same time, it can be pretty difficult because your own flaws and shortcomings are exposed very quickly.
// Matthew, I happen to know that you bake a sourdough loaf every weekend. Who is Darwin and how did you get into doing this?
M: Darwin is my two-year-old sourdough culture, started in the winter of 2012. I developed an interest in bread-making from cooking school, and decided to take on the challenge of baking sourdough bread from scratch, based on the lessons from school.
A sourdough culture takes about 4 weeks to become strong enough to leaven bread. The aroma of the sourdough changes according on the season: in winter, malty; in summer, fruity.
// Talk to us about Nonna’s garden. What does this place mean to you and what do you feel most proud of growing?
M: I’ve been gardening with my family at my grandmother’s (Nonna) house since I was a young boy. About four years ago, I took over sole responsibility of tending the vegetable garden at Nonna’s when she became too old to take care of it. It brings the family together, and I feel close to the earth, contributing to a project that slowly changes before my eyes.
From seed saving and unplanned cross-pollination, I’ve managed to grow a variety of basil which combines the smells of menthol, anise and cinnamon from 3 different heirloom varieties.
J: When I met Matthew, I was a typical city girl and had no idea what an heirloom vegetable was. When he first showed me how to transplant a basil plant, I was equal parts amazed and shocked by him digging his bare hands into the pot without preamble!
Nonna’s garden is the perfect expression of family collaboration. Everyone has a say in the kind of veggies they’d like to eat that season. I’m most proud of learning to do basic gardening and identify many specimens of backyard flowers and edible plants. It’s also made me appreciate eating homegrown fresh food a lot more.
// Jasmin, what would you be doing if you got sick of designing?
J: I honestly don’t know! I fear the day when I wake up and realise I don’t want to do this anymore. I anticipate that being at least another ten years down the road, as I’m still very much in love with what I do, talking to clients and helping them refine and polish their initial idea. Maybe when I get tired of this (highly doubtful) I will focus more on photography, as that’s another thing I love very much.
// What’s next for you guys?
M: We’re starting work on a mobile app community project that’s been in the works for about 2 years. This is completely self-funded and driven so it’s quite scary and exciting.
J: In addition to that, we’re working to get some awesome client projects launched by September. One of them is a redesign of Alphabet Family Journal’s website, which we are completely, wholeheartedly stoked to have the opportunity to work on.
// Oh, what IS that noise in the background? I think I can hear something about a baby boy?
J: Shhh, Felix! One of his favourite phrases to say is “Are you a baby boy?”
M: Felix the fearless, our little yellow budgie.
Yeasted Baked Doughnuts (Bomboloni)
(based on the recipe from Wild Yeast)
For the Doughnuts
350g plain flour
200ml milk, lukewarm
1 large egg (about 60g)
30g butter at room temperature
3g (1 teaspoon) instant yeast
4g salt (2/3 teaspoon)
For the Spiced Butter Topping
50g butter, melted
Sugar mixed with cinnamon and nutmeg
Add milk, egg, butter and yeast into the bowl of a food processor.
Process until the ingredients are loosely combined. With the motor running, carefully and gradually add the flour until a stiff, firm dough is formed.
Remove the dough from the food processor and gently knead into a ball.
Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling wrap. Allow to ferment for 3 hours, knocking back (degassing) after 1.5 hours.
Divide the dough into 8 pieces—each piece should be around 80g. On a very lightly floured countertop, shape the pieces into little balls by cupping and tucking into themselves.
Cover the balls lightly with a cloth and let them rest for 15 minutes.
Poke a hole into the centre of each ball with a chopstick or your little finger.
Place the balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and ferment for another 1-1.5 hours—they are ready when doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200℃.
Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the pan and continue baking with the heat off for another 5 minutes until the doughnuts appear lightly brown.
Prepare the spiced butter topping ingredients and a pastry brush. Keep the butter warm.
Remove the doughnuts from the oven. While still hot, brush the doughnuts with melted butter and roll them in spiced sugar.
Thank you so much for having me (and feeding me) Jasmin and Matthew! You two are just as warm and sweet as your doughnuts.