A very rustic Cake this – Mixed Berry Almond Cake

“Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.”
― Audrey Hepburn

Well this is not a creamy cake nor is it a Chocolate cake. Hell, it isn’t even the best looking cake in town but this rustic “Mix Berries Almond Cake” has to be the most succulent cake that you would ever eat if you like enough to try it.

IMG_0158I have always mentioned that I am not a big Cake eater at all. If I was out for lunch and had to pass through the dessert counter I would happily give Cakes a miss. Sadly there is something about a creamy cake that just doesn’t appeal to me. While growing up in India we had a lot of small time bakeries that sold cream cakes. The creams used in these cakes were not your decadent Butter creams or fondant but a weird, colorful, gooey cream that just tasted iffy and it somehow managed to put me off creamy cakes forever.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetSo when I do bake a cake myself I stick to basic simple cakes that do not have any cream or icing to finish them off. The most I will push myself to do is a “Chocolate Ganache” but off late I cannot even be bothered with that.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetWhen the nephew demanded another cake from his favorite aunty I did not want to disappoint him. Thankfully he is happy eating any cake I baked so I trolled the internet looking for good recipes till I stumbled upon this beautiful blog called “The Kitchen Paper” by a lovely blogger called “Mary”. Her blog is full of beautiful recipes and the one that I loved the most was the “Blackberry and Coffee Almond Cake”.  It looked so earthy and beautiful and had no frosting so that was the biggest initiative for me to try it. I loved the easy simple recipe and I baked the cake which was an instant hit.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset I replaced the Blackberries with mixed berries, it did not stop the cake from coming out beautifully. I have since baked this cake 3 times and everyone loves it, including the cake hater me. The berries just burst in your mouth with every bite and the Almond makes the texture of the cake really moist and soft.

I have used the exact recipe from Mary’s blog, you can head over there or check the recipe below.

For the Cake

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp almond extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

¾ cup milk

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

½ cup slivered almonds

1 cup fresh blackberries or any other berries of your choice

Topping

⅓ cup brown sugar

¼ cup flour

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ cup slivered almonds

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Butter a 9″ spring form pan, or a baking dish, and line with parchment.
  2. With a mixer, cream the butter together with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time.
  3. Add the almond and vanilla extract, along with the milk.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine and then add to the wet mixture along with the ½ cup slivered almonds. Mix just to combine.
  5. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan and press the blackberries into the top of the batter, which should be thick.
  6. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon for the topping. Use a fork to combine then cut in the butter until crumbly. Mix with the ¼ cup slivered almonds and sprinkle over the top of the batter.
  7. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean from the center of the cake.

 

 

Chocolate Zucchini Bread for the Cheeky Monkey

So this week has been very hectic for me as we have family visiting from India. The husband’s parents, sister and her 7 year old son have come calling and we have a full house.

IMG_9388 Now we have not spent a lot of time with the husbands nephew before so I have been making an extra effort for him to enjoy his first visit to his uncles home in Australia. Not having kids means I have been a little lost about how to entertain the cheeky monkey. So I have been doing what I love best, cooking for him and It is working, he loves everything I cook and seems to have become my new best friend.

IMG_9382We have baked Chocolate Chip cookies and Brownies together, which he has enjoyed baking. So I have gone into overdrive and have been baking as much as I can. It feels great to see him relish everything I make for him and it is a very rewarding feeling especially because he will go home with happy memories and hopefully look forward to coming back for another visit.

IMG_9392Today we baked a “Chocolate Zucchini Bread” together. The fact that the bread had Zucchini in it had me think twice but I gave it a shot anyway and seeing the monkey lick the plate absolutely clean meant that I had made a good choice.

IMG_9400The bread was decadent and moist with the Chocolate chips oozing and melting in our mouths. I am sure this is a bread he will remember eating for  a long time.

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Recipe (Cooking time 60 – 75 minutes)

1 1/2 cups (360 ml) shredded raw zucchini (courgette), clean and wash the zucchini and cut the top and the bottom before shredding it.

1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (45 grams) unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

2 large eggs

1/2 cup vegetable, safflower, corn, or canola oil

1/2 cup granulated white sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure Vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Grease (or spray with a non-stick vegetable spray) a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan.

Grate the zucchini, using a medium sized grater. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon. Then fold in the chocolate chips.

In another large bowl whisk the eggs. Then add the oil, sugars, and vanilla extract and whisk until well blended (can use an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer).

Fold in the grated zucchini. Then fold into the flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the bread has risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes.

Place on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove the bread from the pan and cool completely. This bread can be stored at room temperature for several days, or it can be frozen.

Makes one loaf.

Recipe Source : Joy of Baking

 

All we want is a cake – Armenian Nutmeg Cake

 “A party without cake is just a meeting” – Julia Child

Well this quote was said by Julia Child and we all know she could bake fabulous cakes. But I am not her. Nothing gives me more heartache than baking a cake. I cringe, moan, shudder and do similar gestures at the thought of baking a cake.

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Give me a Bread to bake and I will jump around in the kitchen happily but the thought of baking a cake makes me scared.Not sure whether it is the fact that my cakes always crack on the top or they never taste as good as I think they should. So when I had to host a tea party for friends I took on the task of conquering my fears and bake a cake.

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Since doing a cake with icing was like climbing Mount Everest when I had not even learned how to trek, I decided to try a simple cake that would be easy to make and had no frills. So I started trolling the internet for some good cake recipes till I stumbled upon this lovely blog “Dishes from my kitchen“. It had a recipe of a very beautifully earthy looking cake called “Armenian Nutmeg Cake”. I instantly knew I wanted to make it, so I obsessed over it for a few days till I finally gathered enough courage to bake.

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I followed the recipe to the T and ensured that I had the oven ready at the right temperature. I also substituted the Brown Sugar with Coconut Sugar, which imparted a caramel flavour to the cake. And then I prayed. Not sure whether it was the correct oven temperature or me covering the cake with foil, it came out perfectly well shaped and had no cracks.

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As I screamed and danced with joy, the husband roused himself from the couch to see why I had suddenly lost my marbles, before admiring my handiwork J

IMG_8450And it gives me great joy to post this recipe and the pictures of my perfect cake. I know it isn’t a great cake but I feel like a proud mother who thinks only her baby is beautiful J

Ingredients:

Milk – 1 cup

Baking soda – 1 tsp

All-purpose – 2 cups

Baking powder – 2 tsp

Brown sugar, firmly packed – 2 cups (I used Coconut Sugar)

Butter – 3/4 cup (preferably unsalted, cubed)

Walnut pieces -1/2 cup you may need a little more

Ground nutmeg – 1 to 1 1/2 tsp (5 to 7 ½ ml) (5 to 8 gm) (try to grate it fresh yourself; the aroma is enchanting)

Egg – 1

1. Preheat your oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.

2. Mix the baking soda (not baking powder) into the milk. Set aside.

3. Put the flour, baking powder, and the brown sugar into a food processor and mix uniformly.

4. Toss in the cubed butter and mix till you get tan color crumbs.

5. Pour half of the crumbs into your spring form (9”/23cm) pan. Press out a crust using your fingers and knuckles. This is like you would for a base of a Cheesecake.

6. Crack the egg into the food processor with the rest of the crumbs still in it.

7. Grate 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg (I used Nutmeg powder). Toss that into the food processor and blitz everything

8. Pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until a slightly lumpy tan batter is formed.

9. Pour the batter over the crust in the spring form pan.

10. Gently sprinkle the walnut pieces over the batter.

11. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for 30-40 minutes. It is ready when the top is golden brown, and when it passes the toothpick test (comes out clean). I baked the cake for an hour covered with foil.

Of baking pangs and Cookies – Honey & Oat Cookies with Coconut Sugar

I haven’t baked for a while now and people who love to bake will vouch for the fact that they get baking pangs when separated from their oven at long periods of time. I get them occasionally too when I am apart from my oven and baking tools.

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So while I was tottering about the house doing my usual chores images of cakes and cookies kept flashing my mind disrupting my day. Now I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, even if I may bake, I will resist from eating the sinful goodies a lot. I desperately wanted to bake something so I could just have my house smell of cake or any other baked goodie.

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I did not have a lot of time at hand so the easiest way to gratify myself was by baking cookies. Cookies are so easy to bake and even though I am not really big on eating them I will bake the occasional cookie for my cookie monster husband. But since we were on a health kick he had not eaten cookies in a few months now and I felt it was the right time for us to get the Cookie back in the house.

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So I made “Honey & Oats cookies” that has even me asking for seconds. The cookie is deliciously chewy and soft, melting in my mouth in the first bite. Because I still wanted to have some semblance of being healthy I  substituted the Brown sugar with Coconut Sugar which I use very often now giving the Cookie hints of Caramel along with the deliciousness that a soft Cookie usually has.

Here is the very simple recipe that you would love.

Cooking time (12 – 15 minutes)

Butter 150 Gms

Coconut Sugar 240 Gms (You can substitute it with Brown Sugar)

Honey 15 Gms

1 Egg (around 60 Gm)

Plain flour (120 Gms)

½ tsp Baking powder

Oats 150 Gms

1) Cream the Butter with Sugar and Honey.

2) Add the Egg and beat the mixture a little. Now add the Flour, Baking powder and Oats mixing well.

3) Refrigerate the mixture and let it cool for atleast 30 minutes.

4) Preheat your oven at 180 degrees C. On a baking tray lay down a baking paper and then using an Ice cream scoop place single dollops of the Cookie mixture keeping some space in between each cookie as they will expand while they bake.

5) Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, cool before dipping them in some Milk or Tea and enjoy them.

We Knead to bake – freshly baked Focaccia with Rosemary and Sea salt

Oh my god it is 24th again the time to make the Bread for the month for the “Knead to Bake” group and I had completely forgotten about it till I saw a delicious looking “Focaccia Caprese” appear on my facebook timeline from “Spiceroots” blog. I checked my calendar and almost let out a groan that I had missed the date completely.

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Focaccia is a my favorite Bread not because it is so easy to make but it is also very rustically Italian. I have an affinity with Italian food because it reminds me so much of Indian food. Every region in Italy has its own cuisine just like India, Italians are loud like us, love food and do a lot of hand gesturing like we Indians too and the food, oh the food is to die for. So what is not to love.

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The theme for this month was a “Focaccia Caprese” where the Caprese is a topping of fresh Mozzarella cheese with Basil & Tomato from the region of Capri. Unfortunately I had waited too late to bake and I had no Mozzarella cheese in fridge, infact I had no Cheese at all.  Nor did I have any Basil. But by now I was in the mood to smell some fresh Bread and desperately wanted to make it. Thankfully with Focaccia you can really go wild with your toppings and try any variation that catches your fancy. so I decided to just pluck some fresh rosemary from my garden and sprinkle that on the bread.

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And the result I must admit was mind blowing. The bread was so fresh and delicious that I was almost thankful of having the opportunity to make something so beautiful . Between the husband and I we finished the entire Bread in one go. Strangely it was not very heavy either and the Eggplant Parmigiana that I made it in fresh Tomato sauce was soaked up the Bread greedily. I personally feel that everyone must try this Bread once just to feel how freshness tastes like. It will definitely be your go to Bread for any occasion.

For the actual recipe of Focaccia Caprese please visit Aparna’s blog. I have followed the same recipe for the dough just changed the topping. You can also just use the Herb oil detailed in the original recipe as a topping, I tried it and that was also very good.

For the Dough:

2 tsp instant yeast

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

3 1/2 cups bread flour (I used plain flour)

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup oil (preferably olive oil, use very good quality Olive oil, I never compromise on this)

1 to 1 1/2 cups warm water

A little more olive oil for brushing the dough

For the Topping:

fresh Rosemary

Sea Salt and good quality Olive oil to garnish

1) Put the yeast, sugar flour, salt and oil in the bowl of the processor and pulse a couple of times to mix well. Then add 1 cup of warm water (and as much more as you need) and knead until you have a soft elastic dough that is just short of sticky. Alternatively you can just knead the dough with your hands.

2) Remove the dough from the processor bowl, shape into a round and place in a well-oiled bowl turning the dough around so it is coated. Cover and let it rise till almost double in volume. This should take about an hour.

3) You can make this as 2 medium sized Focaccia or 4 smaller ones. When ready to bake roll each portion out (or press out) evenly and then transfer the dough to the baking tins. The dough will shrink a little. Use your fingers and push it out a bit making sure it’s evenly thick throughout. Let it rise for 20 minutes. Lightly oil your finger tips and press into the dough creating evenly spaced “dimples” in it. Generously brush the surface with oil.

4) Sprinkle the Olive Oil, Rosemary and Sea Salt on top of the bread and bake at 210C (410F) for about 20 – 25 minutes till done and is beginning to turn golden brown. The best way to check if your Bread is done is my tapping it to check if it makes a hollow sound. Serve warm with Soup, on its own as a light snack or as a sandwich bread.

Merry Christmas with We Knead To Bake #12 : Bienenstich Kuchen (German Bee Sting Cake)

I love Baking but off late I don’t do much of it as the husband is on a health kick and we have completely cut down our Sugar and Flour intake. I know there are healthy alternatives that one can use for baking but I am too lazy to move off my bottom and do something about it. So when it come to Christmas and everyone started to bake I was a little lost as I honestly had no idea what to do or for that matter whether to even do anything at all.

ImageEvery month I usually try and take part in a baking group called “We Knead to Bake” where a group of home bakers bake the same Bread. However this month we had the challenge of baking a Cake which was almost like a Bread. It is called a “Bienenstich Kuchen (German Bee Sting Cake) “. I saw the pictures and I could feel myself drooling away on my laptop, as I wiped off the mess and read more I just knew I had to bake it. After all it is Christmas and even though we don’t really celebrate it. There was no reason why I could not bake it.

ImageIt is a yeasted cake which is made with a Brioche like dough and is not very sweet at all. However it is topped up with a delicious caramelized topping of Almond and honey which lends it the sweetness that we usually expect from a cake. There are a lot of legends surrounding this cake. One is where the Baker who actually baked this cake was actually stung by a bee hence it is named as a Bee sting Cake. Another source cites a legend of German bakers from the 15th century who lobbed beehives at raiders from a neighboring village, successfully repelling them, and celebrated later by baking a version of this cake named after their efforts.

ImageWe had to make a very heavy custard cream as a filling in between the cake. Aparna from My Diverse Kitchen who runs the group told us that a problem with this yeasted cake is making sure the filling is strong enough to take the weight of the upper layer. The other problem is cutting the Bienenstich into slices or squares without the filling squishing out ad making a mess of everything.

ImageShe suggested that the first problem can be taken care of by using a filling that will hold up and not using too much filling. The whipped cream can be stabilized with cornstarch (or agar or gelatin if you use it). You can always thing the remaining fillng and serve it with the Bienestich as a sauce. In my case I added more cream and less custard and actually later served the remaining cream with Strawberries (who wastes good cream).

ImageThe second problem can be taken care of by placing the lower layer of the cake on the serving plate and then making a collar around it with a double layer of parchment paper that should be a little taller than the height of your finished Bienenstich and then spreading the filling over the lower layer. She advised that we could pre cut the upper almond toffee layer into slices or squares and placing the slices/ squares on top of the filling so it looks like the top layer is whole.

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Instead of using a big cake tin I baked the dough in individual muffin tins and found them easier to manage and fill. One thing to keep in mind is that the cream should be really chilled and the cake should also be cold when we do the filling. Since I had l lined the muffin tins with parchment paper I just refrigerated them in the tin itself and then just removed the parchment and cut them in the middle for the filling.

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It was so much fun baking these little beauties and I had some very happy neighbors who got these cakes as a Christmas gift from me.

Ingredients:  (I made 6 muffins)

For the Pastry Cream Filling:

250ml milk (I used 2%)

3 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp vanilla flavoured custard powder

200ml cream (I used 25% fat)

1 tbsp corn-starch

For the Dough:

1/4 cup full cream milk

100gm butter, at room temperature

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tbsp sugar

1 egg

3/4 tsp salt

1 1/4 tsp instant yeast

For the Honey-Almond Topping:

50 gm butter

1/3 cup sugar

2 tbsp honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

2/3 cup almonds, sliced* (see Note above)

Method:

Make the custard for the filling first. This can be made the previous day and refrigerated till required.

Keep aside 1/4 cup of milk, and put the remaining milk and the sugar in pan. Over medium heat, bring this to a boil while stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. In the meanwhile, dissolve the custard powder in the 1/4 cup of milk. Add this in a stream, to the boiling milk and keep whisking so that no lumps are formed.

Keep whisking until the custard becomes very thick. Take the pan off the heat and let the custard cool to room temperature. Whisk it on and off so it stays smooth. If it does become lumpy after cooling, use a hand blender to make it smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Once you are ready to fill the Bienenstich, whip 200ml of cream till soft peaks form. Then add the corn-starch and whip till it forms stiff peaks. Whisk the custard to make sure it is smooth. Gently fold the cream into the custard. If you feel it is too soft, refrigerate for a couple of hours and then use.

To make the dough, heat the milk until it is quite hot but not boiling. Cut the butter into pieces and add to the milk, stirring it until the better melts completely. Let it cool a little.

In the meanwhile, put the flour, sugar, salt and the yeast in the bowl of your processor. Run a couple of times to mix well and then add the egg (leave the egg out if you don’t use it). Run again till the egg has also mixed well. Now add the butter-milk mixture (it should be warm, not hot) and the then knead till it forms a smooth and soft (loose) brioche-like dough that’s just short of sticky. It should come way from the sides of the bowl and be easy to handle.

Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl. Cover loosely and let it rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. This dough will rise quite well but not to double or as much as your regular bread dough.

Deflate the dough, and shape again to a smooth ball. Place it in a 8” spring form cake tin lined with parchment. It is important to do this otherwise the topping will make the bread/ cake sticky and difficult to unmould. Flatten the dough a little, pressing down lightly so that the dough fits the cake tin. It doesn’t matter if its not touching the sides like batter does. Let it rise for about 30 to 45 minutes. It will not rise very much and look a little puffy.

Prepare the topping while the dough rises. Melt the butter, sugar, honey and vanilla in a small pan, over medium heat. Keep stirring frequently and it will start bubbling up. Let it cook for about 3 minutes or so until it turns to a light beige colour. Add the sliced almonds, and stir well till the almonds are well coated. Take the pan off the heat and let it cool a bit. The mixture will become quite thick.

Now get ready to bake the bread/ cake. Once the dough has risen, use a spoon take bits if the topping (it will be quite thick, like a sticky fudge) and distribute it uniformly over the surface. If there are small gaps they will get covered once the bread/ cake is baking.

Bake at 180C (350F) for about 25 to 35 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbling. A cake tester through the centre should come out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Then gently loosen the sides with a spatula and unmould. Let it cool completely on a rack.

When it has cooled completely, slice the cake into two equal layers carefully, using a very sharp knife. Spread the pastry cream on the lower layer and top with the upper layer and refrigerate till ready to serve

Not just another Biscuit – Maple & Pecan Biscuits

So I am not a Biscuit lover. I intend to live without them for as long as I can. But the husband loves his Biscuits and every trip to the super market is a fight between not buying too many packets of Biscuits and eating something healthy. Now that is a battle that I seem to loose every time. Hence we have made a deal that once a month I will bake some really nice Biscuits at home and we will reduce the number of packs of Biscuits he buys every week.

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Hence to keep up my part of the deal I look for some good cookie recipe to bake and hopefully wean the husband off store brought addictive laced junk. I recently stumbled upon a lovely “Maple and Pecan Biscuits” and I knew I had to bake them. The original recipe calls for “Brown Sugar” but being on a “Coconut Sugar” kick I used that instead and got great results, which inspired me so much that I baked them again and even froze some of the dough to keep for biscuit related emergencies.

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The biscuit tastes especially good with a nice cup of Coffee and lasts in an air tight container for around 10 – 15 days. They are not very sweet but I like the fact that they are not. Here is the recipe, which I hope you will enjoy.

Recipe (makes about 45 – 50 cookies)

185 g unsalted softened Butter

185 g Soft Brown Sugar or Coconut Sugar

60 ml Maple Syryp

1 tsp natural Vanilla extract

1 Egg

280 g plain Flour

1 tsp Baking powder

120 g finely chopped Pecans

some more pecans to decorate

1) Mix the Sugar and Butter in a bowl and beat them until they are light and fluffy.  Add the Maple syrup, vanilla extract and Egg and beat till combined together.

2) Transfer to a large bowl and add the sifted Flour and Baking powder and mix with a spatula. You may need to add a tbsp of extra Flour to bring the dough together. The dough will be soft and easy to roll. Gather the dough and divide it into two equal portions.

3) Place one portion of the dough on a sheet of baking paper and press lightly until the dough is around 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches thick. Roll neatly into a log shape and roll it in chopped Pecans. Cover it in the same baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Repeat the same process with the remaining portion of the dough.

4) Once the dough is firm, cut the logs into slices about 1/2 inch thick. You can press a Pecan on each biscuit if you wish, I skipped it.

5) Preheat the oven at 180 degrees C and line a baking tray with baking paper and place the biscuits on it. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until golden. Cool on the tray for 2- 3 minutes and transfer on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an air tight conditioner.

Tip : As the recipe makes 2 large logs, I usually freeze one and only bake one.

Recipe source : Sweet and savory bites from Jane Price.

We Knead to Bake Pretzels – Laugenbrezel (German Style Soft Pretzels) With Sesame Seeds

I had eaten hard Pretzels many moons ago and frankly speaking they did not rock my boat at all. So when Aparna from My Diverse Kitchen decided that we would bake Pretzels for this month’s Knead to Bake group, I just was not sure whether I wanted to bake them at all.

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Then Aparna mentioned that we could also try the soft version and I felt I should try the soft ones as they sounded delicious. I really enjoyed doing them and they smelled incredibly good.

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I have baked plain Pretzels but you can really go crazy by using different types of toppings to enhance their flavor and taste. Pretzels are made with Bread dough and then boiled and baked so they have this delicious chewy texture.

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Pretzels have a distinctive knot like shape and doing the knots took a bit of a practice for me. They are very common in Europe and have lots of stories associated with their origin. My favorite one is the in 610 AD an Italian monk invents pretzels as a reward to children who learn their prayers. He calls the strips of baked dough, folded to resemble arms crossing the chest, ‘pretiola’ (“little rewards”)”.

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I personally feel that it doesn’t matter where they have originated from, end of the day they are terrific in taste and something that I would be baking a lot of.

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Here is the recipe :

2 1/4 tsp dried active yeast (I used instant Yeast)

1 1/2 tsp sugar

1 cup warm milk (the temperature should be just lukewarm or your Yeast will die)

3 cups + 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

6 cups water

2 tbsp baking soda

1 tsp cornmeal or semolina

2 tbsp milk

2 tbsp white sesame seeds

2 tbsp black sesame seeds

Method:

1)    In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm milk and allow that to stand for about 5 minutes.

2)    Add the 3 cups flour and salt to the proofed yeast and stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. The dough will feel slightly sticky, so add a bit of flour as and when necessary while kneading. This should take about 8 minutes.

3)    Form the dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl, turning to coat the dough with oil. Cover and allow the dough to rise for about 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)

4)    Deflate the dough, cover and let it rest 5 minutes. Divide dough into 12 equal portions.

5)    Work with one portion at a time and cover remaining dough to prevent it drying. Roll each portion into an 18-inch-long rope with tapered ends. Cross one end of rope over the other to form a circle, leaving about 4 inches at end of each rope. Twist the rope at the base of the circle. Fold the ends over the circle and into a traditional pretzel shape, pinching gently to seal. Place pretzels on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise 10 minutes (pretzels will rise only slightly).

6)    Put the 6 cups of water and baking soda in a steel pan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer. Gently lower a pretzel into the simmering water. Cook on each side for about 15 seconds. The pretzel will swell/ puff up a bit. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place on a greased wire rack. This will prevent the pretzel from sticking to the rack. Repeat with the remaining pretzels.

7)    Place the pretzels on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal or semolina. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 220C (425F) for 12 minutes or until pretzels are deep golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

8)    Serve warm with a dip of your choice or just plain. They’re best eaten fresh, and on the same day. This recipe makes 12 Pretzels.

PS: Some information on how to shape Pretzels can be found here .

Recipe Source – My Diverse Kitchen

Another Tart from my kitchen – Apple and Butter Tarts

I have been having a lot of fun lately with dressing up Tarts. The reason why I used the word dressing up is because I don’t make the puff pastry from scratch. I know a real foodie should make it at home but I don’t have the time or the energy to do it and when you can get really good quality readymade pastry then when should I break my back in making them.

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But I totally enjoy doing them in funky ways using different toppings and at the risk of sounding like a pompous fool I do a pretty good job of it. I have made a few savory tarts before which you can check out here, Tomato & Goats Cheese, Onions & Mushrooms Tart  and even an Onion & Zucchini one and they are loved and demanded by everyone who has eaten them.

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This week I decided to try the tarts in a sweet way by using some Apples which nobody wanted to eat. I thought slicing the apples thinly and baking them on the tart would be a good idea. But then felt that the Apples might burn and needed some extra protection and a little help with the sweetness. So I coated the pastry sheet and Apple with some Butter and Sugar and boy was I glad I did it.

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The Butter and Sugar gave the Apples a deliciously caramel flavor and protected them from being burned. I sprinkled some Icing sugar on top to give it a nice edge and I had a gorgeous dessert on my hands.

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I was really proud of myself for trying to do something different and the delicious tarts were my reward. Hope you enjoy baking them.

 Recipe (for 4 tarts, cooking time 25 minutes)

1 sheet of really good quality puff pastry

2 medium sized Apples (I used red delicious)

1 tbsp soft melted butter

2 tsp Raw Sugar

1 tbsp Icing Sugar

1) Preheat your oven at 170 Degrees C. Mix the Butter and Raw Sugar together and put it aside.

2) Lay the puff pastry on a non stick baking paper and let it thaw till you get the stuffing ready.

3) Thinly slice your Apples making sure you work really fast as they can turn darker really fast. If you are making a lot of tarts put the slices of the Apples in a bowl of cold water which has some Lemon squeezed in it.  Just ensure you wipe them a bit before you lay them on the Tart.

4) Cut your pastry sheet into 4 squares. You can make smaller size squares and get 6 from 1 sheet but I was just greedy so did only 4.

5) Lay as many slices of Apple slices on the tart in a fan like shape so they look lovely,

6) Coat the entire tart with a generous coating of the Butter and Sugar mix.

7) Put the tray in the oven and bake for 12 – 15 minutes till the tarts have browned and puffed up and the Apples look golden.

8) Remove from the oven, sprinkle some Icing Sugar on each tart and serve warm.

You can serve some fresh Cream or Ice cream with the tarts and really enhance the guilty pleasures.

Gluten Free Sweet & Salty Brownies with Coconut Sugar made for another crazy Rainy day

Rains and Chocolates go hand in hand for me. Even though I am someone who does not enjoy Chocolates at all (I had a Chocolate making business in a past life and got sick of making them). However there is something about the Rains that make me crave for some gooey soft Chocolaty comfort.

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And if you have been reading my blog you would know how many of my posts are inspired by rains. My heart sings and craves for comfort every time it rains. I have a kitchen with huge French windows so I can stand in my kitchen and watch the rain drench the balcony outside and provided much needed relief to my thirsty plants and somehow even to me.

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So when the weather in Perth decided to play havoc yesterday I just was desperate to make something Chocolaty and Gooey and warm to make me feel happy. I had recently discovered “Coconut Sugar” and made some delicious “Coconut Sugar Brownies” using them and just had 1 more cup of the Sugar left. So I decided to make Gluten Free Chocolate Brownies using this Sugar and absolutely no Flour.

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I had made these Brownies before but had burned them so I decided to try them again and this time I thought of doing them gently. So I whipped up all the ingredients in the mixer and while the Brownie baked I put on some Norah Jones on the I pod and just sat on the Lounge watching the rain.

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The Brownie cooks under 30 minutes and is soft and fudgy in texture. As it is has no flour but a lot of Eggs it is airy and light and the addition of Peanuts gives it a Salty bite which somehow works really well. Also without the flour and the addition of Coconut Sugar I somehow felt a little less Guilty about eating them then I usually would.

Here is the recipe (Preparation time 10 minutes, cooking time 30 minutes)

1 1/4 cup Semi sweet dark Chocolate Chips

1 cup softened unsalted Butter

4 Large Eggs

1 cup Coconut Sugar

6 tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa powder

2 tbsp Cornstarch

1/2 tsp Kosher Salt

1 tsp Instant Espresso Powder

2 tsp Vanilla extract (I used pure home made Vanilla extract)

1 cup  chopped dry roasted salted Peanuts

1) Preheat the oven at 170 degrees C and line a square baking dish with non stick baking paper.

2) In a bowl or food processor add the soft Butter and Chocolate chips and mix well. Add the Eggs, Coconut Sugar, Salt, Espresso Powder, Cornstarch, Vanilla extract and Cocoa powder and mix well. The batter will like look lumpy and thick. Remember we are not adding any flour so the Eggs will make the Brownies very light.

3) Spread the mixture evenly in your baking tray. Cover with the chopped Peanuts and press them gently in the mixture.

4) Increase the oven temp to 180 Degrees C and Bake for 25 – 30 minutes till the Brownie has cooked and the batter has set and is a little firm.

Cool down and cut into squares. The baking time varies for every oven. The original recipe only called for baking for 20 minutes and my Brownie was undercooked. The second time I cooked it for a bit longer and watched it like a hawk. So please use your judgement while baking it as you know your oven better than I know mine 🙂

Recipe Courtesy – Carol Kicinski

 

The TART for INA Friday’s – Tomato & Goats Cheese Tart

I must admit I have a huge fascination for baking tarts. Well not that I really bake the pastry but I love assembling the various flavors to mix and match for the tart.

I always have good quality store brought puff pastry at home and it has been my blessing more often than not. So when we had to make an Appetizer for this month’s INA Friday’s event (a group that makes Ina Garten’s recipes every month). I just knew I had to bake a tart.

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The tart uses Goats cheese which I am not really a fan of. I hate the typical smell that Goats cheese so I was a little unsure of whether everyone will like it or not. However the Parmesan that we also added worked really well somehow offsetting the weird taste of the Goats cheese and I had some really happy faces by the end of the meal.

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Ina’s original recipe has the tarts shaped into circles, however lazy person that I am I have just cut the pastry into Squares. I also skipped the White Wine and used White Wine vinegar instead, but you can use wine if cooking these in the evening. I also reduced the quantity of Cheese as my pastry was Butter pastry and I was already feeling guilty about the carb overload.

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The best thing about these tarts are the fact that you can make the filling a day or 2 in advance and just assemble them before your guests arrive. They will come home to some delicious goodness and you ofcourse will be the desi version of Ina Garten who can whip up some amazing food.

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Do visit the pages of these amazing bloggers who take part in this event:
Anshie @  Spice Roots , Barbara @ Moveable Feasts , Alyce @ moretimeatthetable.blogspot.com, Chaya @  Bizzy Bakes  , Linda  @ Tumbleweed Contessa  , Martha @ Simple Nourished Living , Minnie @ The Lady 8 Home, Mireya @ My Healthy Eating Habits, Nancy @ My Picadillo, Ria @ Ria’s Collection , Rocky Mountain Woman @ Rocky Mountain Woman, Veronica@ My Catholic Kitchen

Recipe (Makes 8 large tart squares, cooking time 30 – 40 minutes)

1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted
Good olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dry white Wine  or White wine Vinegar or Plain Vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 ounces shaved with a vegetable peeler
2 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (I just used 120 G plain Goats Cheese since I couldn’t find the Garlic one)
3 medium tomatoes, cut into 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices
2 tablespoons julienned basil leaves

Directions

1) Unfold the sheets of puff Pastry on a lightly floured surface and let it thaw before you cut each Pastry into 4 large squares. Place the pastry squares on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

2) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

3) Heat 1 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Sauté for 15 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet.

4) Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine or vinegar, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.

5) Remove the pastry sheet from the fridge and place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each sheet staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Place 2 slices of tomato in the centre of each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart.

6) Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. The bottom sheet pan may need an extra few minutes in the oven. Serve hot or warm.

Coming back home to baking with Savoury Kugelhopf

I fell in love with baking Breads a year ago and until 2 months ago I made it almost every week.  As the smell of freshly baked bread started to fill my kitchen, store brought bread became a history. There is something really therapeutic about baking bread in an oven.

The whole process of kneading, proofing and then baking has managed to calm down many frayed nerves in the past and I seem to have grown to get really fond of it. However I have not had a chance to bake Bread for some time now for some reason or the other. My new or rather my old oven is not a very happy oven either, so I have hardly baked, as the thought of destroying good bread in my sad little oven scares me.

So when I had to take part in this month’s “Knead to Bake” event and had to bake “Kugelhopf” I was skeptical on account of the fact that it was too cold in Perth and that my oven was still unfamiliar. But fool that I am I decided to make it. And it worked out just fine.

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Kugelhopf or Gugelhupf as it is also called is a big cake, derived from the Groninger Poffert, and has a distinctive ring shape or the shape of a torus. It is usually eaten with coffee, at coffee breaks. Gugelhupf consists of soft yeast dough which contains raisins, almonds and Kirschwasser cherry brandy. Some also contain candied fruits and nuts. Some regional varieties (Czech, Hungarian and Slovenian) are also filled, often with a layer of sweetened ground poppy seeds.

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It is baked in a special circular pan with a central tube, originally made of enameled pottery. The version we made for the event is a savory one instead of the usual sweet version that one gets and as I did not have the Kugelhopf pan I used a Bundt pan. The bread rose beautifully and after the second proofing I felt that I had come home, there was this familiar feeling of knowing what I was doing, even if I was not comfortable with the equipment.

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This Kugelhopf bakes in an 8” Kugelhopf pan, but you should also be able to bake it in an 8” Bundt pan, a regular loaf tin (or 2 small ones), smaller Brioche tins or even muffin tins. If you’re baking this in muffin tins you might want to use half the recipe, this bread freezes well.

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Savoury Kugelhopf

Ingredients: For the Bread

3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp instant yeast

1 tsp salt (or to taste)

75gm butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup milk

2 eggs, beaten lightly

For the Filling:

1 tsp oil

1/3 cup deseeded, pulp-free and chopped tomatoes

1 cup onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup diced cheddar cheese

½ cup Sun dried Capsicum

1/3 cup coarsely chopped Pinenuts or Walnuts

1 1/2 tsp coarsely crushed black pepper

1 tbsp fresh Rosemary

Method:

1)    Using your processor add 3 cups of flour, yeast, and salt in the bowl of the processor. Pulse a couple of times to mix. Then add the butter, a little at a time, and process till incorporated.

2)    Add the warm milk and process till mixed. Now add the eggs and process till mixed. You will now have soft and sticky dough. Knead some more, adding more flour, a little at a time and just enough till the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Do not be tempted to add more flour than absolutely necessary.

3)    Your dough will be very soft, elastic and just short of sticky. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let it rise until double in volume. This can take from 1 1/2 hours to 2 1/2 hours.

4)    In the meanwhile, heat 1/2 tsp oil in a pan. Add the Onion and a pinch of salt and stir-fry till the raw smell disappear. Remove and keep aside. To the same pan, add the remaining 1/2 tsp oil and sauté the Tomatoes with a pinch of salt till they turn golden brown. Remove and add to the sun dried capsicums and and keep aside.

5)    Grease an 8” kugelhopf mould or bundt pan well especially around the center (or whatever pan/ tin you plan to use). Place some of the chopped walnuts/Pinenuts in the bottom of the mould. If you’re using a loaf tin or brioche moulds, then don’t do this. Instead press in the nuts on top of the dough after the second rise, just before baking.

6)    Once the dough has risen, deflate it. Then work the cheese, stir-fried onions, Capsicum and tomato, the remaining nuts, black pepper and Rosemary into the dough. The best way to do this is to flatten the dough out and spread all this over the surface, fold the dough over and then knead it. This will ensure a more uniform incorporation of the “filling”. The dough will be a bit sticky, so use a scraper to help you with the kneading. Do not add more flour.

7)    Roll the dough into a longish log, long enough to fit into the mould comfortably. Lift the “log” of dough and place it in the mould in a circular fashion and pinch the two ends together to close the “circle” of dough. Cover and let the dough rise for about an hour or so, until it reaches the edge/ rim of the mould.

8)    Bake the Kugelhopf at 200C (400F) Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and sounds hollow when it is tapped.

9)    Unmould the Kugelhopf and let it cool on a rack. Slice and serve. This Kugelhopf should serve about 10.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gugelhupf