Liebster Blog Award

Liebster Blog Awards!

Liebster is German and translates to the English word
“dearest”or” favourite”. It’s meant for up-and-coming
blogs with less than 200 followers.”
A Liebster Blog Award is given to talented bloggers who have less than 200 followers. “Liebster” is a German word that means “Dearest”, it also means ”Favorite”. So, in a way the award not only recognizes these bloggers as amazingly gifted in their own right but also as your very own personal favourites.
So I’m obviously thrilled that Liam from isbutteracarb recognised my blog for this award. Liam, yes I’m pleasantly surprised and you’ve certainly made me and my pots, pans, rolling pin and baking trays jump up n down with glee… Weeee! You have such an interesting blog and it contains two of my favourite words in the whole world, so I guess that makes us friends for life ;-). So here’s to Liam and isbutteracarb, and to food and to all good things and to his mum’s Irish soda bread which is on my to-do list.
A big shout goes out to all my blog followers and everyone who drops in now and then, with their valuable comments, and encouragement. They keep the the cook, the baker and the clay boy maker in me inspired and going.
So in the great tradition of the Liebster Blog Awards, I’m passing on the torch to 5 of my favourite up and coming blogs with less than 200 followers.
Here are the rules
  1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
  2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you.
  3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.
  4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed. (Some say just 3 or more blogs of less than 200 followers each)
  5. Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment at their blog.

And they are –

1. Donna @ thesugaredpecan.wordpress.com

2. Jen @ juanitascocina.blog.com

3. Choc Chip Uru @ gobakeyourself.wordpress.com

4. Red Shallot @ redshallotkitchen.blogspot.in

5. Apple Pie Zucchini @ applepiezucchini.wordpress.com

So there they are, my 5 Liebster Blog Awardees, for their passion for food and their love for sharing. And to Liam once again for nominating me.

Thanks Liam. Cheers!

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Date and Pistachio Soft Crumb Cookies

Don’t you love chewy cakey cookies. I’m talking soft crumb, the sort that straddles the best of bake worlds. Part cake, part cookie. Yum!

I’ve been dreaming chewy cookies for a couple of days now and then I saw these packets of dates at the supermarket, and knew I had a recipe on the make.

Now speaking of dates, an acquaintance from Iran once gave me a box of fresh dates, with instruction to eat them quick.They were so fresh, she was afraid they wouldn’t last the Mumbai summer. Oh, I remember those dates, delicious and rich, I was tempted to eat the whole lot, and then I shared them around. I’d like to think the Gods of plenty have and will continue to smile down upon me for that good deed. If you ate those dates, you’d know what I was talking about.

But these dates were packaged, Middle Eastern, Omani dates… soft, black, pitted and then vacuum sealed to preserve their goodness. And perfect for that bag of pistachios I had sitting in my pantry.

And here they are, my tribute to things Eastern… To black dates and lovely salted, green pistachios in their shells. To clean and wholesome flavours. And to soft crumb cookies

Date and Pistachio Cookies

The best part about this recipe is that you can bake the amount you want, when you want. Then freeze the rest of the cookie dough, conveniently and compactly cling wrapped.

Don’t you love the person who invented cling wrap?

And no… it wasn’t invented by the Klingons.

To make the cookie dough you’ll need –

1/2 cup butter (+ 1 heaped tablespoonful)

1/2 cup powdered sugar (white)

2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar (you could use more if you like it sweeter)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup dates (chopped)

1/2 cup shelled and chopped salted pistachios

After kneading the dough, shape it into a log, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate the dough for 4 to 6 hours or overnight.

The cookie dough
Kling-ing-on

When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 220 degrees C. Remove the log of dough from the fridge, let it thaw for 5 minutes and slice the log into 1/4″ rounds. Place the rounds on a parchment lined baking tray 2″ apart, and bake them for 15 – 18 minutes at 190 degrees.

Cool the cookies on the baking tray for 10 – 15 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Pour yourself a cup of coffee, grab a cookie or two.. or three and bite into luxurious goodness.

And yeah! Share at your own risk.

Stashed away for the midnight munchies...

Spinach Feta and Toasted Pinenut Pinwheels

What is it about the beach that kids love? For me, it was gathering seashells, building sandcastles and feeling the squidgy sand under my feet, though I didn’t venture too far into the water. Some past life fear of drowning I suppose, though I love to think of it as a Virginia Woolf hangover. And of course the pink cotton candy, speckled with stray grains of sand, which somehow made it taste sweeter, and balloons and pinwheels from the men who walked along the beach hawking their wares. When I grew older I changed into a hills and mountains person. In preparation for the long walk beyond I suppose. Or perhaps my lungs had just had enough of city dwelling, and my eyes had tired of seeing buildings and cars and people and wanted a respite. Well, whatever it was that prompted the change, the beach was one of my favourite places as a child.

But that was a long time ago and times have changed. And walking along the beach the other day, it suddenly struck me that there was something amiss.

You don’t get pinwheels out there any more!

Nothing whirly which you can hold up and run along the beach with, or stick out the window on the ride home, with mother screaming at you, threats of a severed head urging you to stick your neck out just that bit more, as though daring the forces that be to just try.

So I looked around, and it wasn’t like the kids had all disappeared in Wonkaesque fashion. they were still pretty much all around. Sure, Xboxes, Ps3s and iPads seem to have replaced the good old notion of fun-times… but if I saw a guy selling pinwheels I’d probably pick one up myself. Just for old times sake.

So you can say that the walk to the beach inspired these.

Spinach, Feta and Toasted Pine-nut Pinwheels.

Whirrrr….

The dough for these pinwheels is basic. 2 1/2 cups flour, about a heaped teaspoonful fresh yeast (11/12gms), 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 3 tablespoons olive oil and about a 3/4 cup of tepid water… and you have your dough ready. Knead it well, leave it to prove (1 1/2 to 2 hours should be good), and while your dough is proving, prepare the filling.

You can fill the pinwheels with just about anything, sweet or savoury, but I was in the mood for spinach. 3 1/2 cups of big leaf or baby spinach, washed (use a salad spinner to drain out the excess water). Then chop and sauté in a tablespoon of olive oil with a clove or two of minced garlic. Cook on high, stirring constantly till all the water evaporates, turn off the flame and stir in 3/4 to a cup of crumbled feta and 1/3 cup toasted pinenuts, roughly chopped.

Let the filling cool completely.

Once the dough has doubled, knock it back and knead for a minute on a floured surface before rolling it out into a rectangle. Spread the filling onto the dough with a spatula, and roll the dough up into a log. Slice it into 1/2″ circles and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Drizzle the pinwheels with olive oil and bake in a 200 degrees C preheated oven for 20 minutes. I suppose I could have kept them in the oven a bit longer to brown, but I didn’t want to risk overdoing the bread.

I’m glad I didn’t. They were soft and packed with flavour, the chopped pinenuts the perfect little add-on… for that surprise crunch.

A trip to YeastSpotting perhaps?

So I finally got my pinwheels.

And they were yummy 🙂


Spicy Minced Chicken Buns

I made my first submissions to YeastSpotting last week and it’s got me pretty fired up. Which basically means that on any given day after all my other work is done, I’m hands deep in flour. Which also means that I probably need to invest in a bread-machine. But then I don’t want to lose the thrill of kneading the dough, working it, while it clings to your fingers at first and then lets go… that’s something which will be hard to pass up.

So no bread-machine… well at least for now. At least not until I decide to open a little bakery or follow my heart and head to the hills and open my little café.

I heard raucous shouts this morning while I was fixing my mug of coffee. There’s work going on in the building complex next door, and the migrant labourers the contractor has employed all sleep in the stilt parking space on the ground floor of the building facing mine. They’ve mosquito netted their sleep area, wise in this season, where despite the repellents the critters still manage to sneak in. Anyway, today’s raucousness was the result of a rather exuberant lot of the younger men, boys really, playing football (soccer), with an old pretty beat-up and tattered ball. But that didn’t stifle their enthusiasm. They played with such abandon, shouting out at each other to pass the ball, then deftly manoeuvring it through the obstacle-course of bamboo poles, clumps of rope and pipes.

Goal! one of them yelled, as he shot the ball into what was apparently the goal, and his team converged on him, the opposing goalie looking crestfallen for a second and then joining in the cheering.

What joy. I almost forgot I had other things to do.

Which brings me to some of my favourite things and that includes, stuffed buns or bread-rolls. My favourites, the minced meat ones, the spicier the better.

Spicy Minced Chicken Buns

The dough for these is a very simple one. 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, a teaspoon of sugar, about 12gms fresh yeast, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 3/4 to a cup of warm water, and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Activate the yeast (with warm water and sugar), then add the flour, salt and olive oil. Knead for 12 – 15 minutes till the dough is soft and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to prove for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or till slightly more than doubled.

In the meantime get your filling ready. I filled the buns with spicy minced chicken. So for about 400gms chicken, use 2 scallions, 4 large pods of garlic, a 1″ piece of ginger (more if you like), and 2 green chillies – all minced. Sautéing them in 2 tablespoons sunflower oil, with salt to taste, a large pinch of pepper, a teaspoon each of cumin and coriander powder, a 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, paprika and garam masala, and a pinch of clove powder. Do not add any water while cooking the mince. Keep it covered and on a low flame, breaking down the meat and separating it with a fork to prevent it from clumping together. Finish with a squeeze of lime, a sprinkling of garam masala (another 1/2 teaspoon) and two tablespoons chopped fresh coriander. Cook till all the moisture evaporates and set it aside to cool.

Spicy Minced Chicken

Now return to the dough…

Once your dough has risen (1 1/2 to 2 hours), knock it back and knead lightly, then roll it out into a log and cut out 12 pieces. Knead each piece for a bit, then using your fingers stretch out the dough to make a cup for the mince and spoon in 3 teaspoonfuls of the spicy meat.

Pinch the dough together to close and work it for a bit to shape till round. Place on a cornmeal dusted baking tray. Allow to rise for about 30 – 40 minutes.

Preheat your oven at 230 degrees C. Brush the top of the buns with an eggwash, and sprinkle with seeds or herbs of your choice. I used poppy seeds and paprika for one lot and sesame seeds and ground cumin for the other… just coz they looked so pretty.

Poppy seed and Paprika

Sesame and Cumin sprinkled

And baked them for 20 minutes at 200 degrees C.

Two for One...

They were just a bit spicy (the chillies were hot and I didn’t remove the seeds), but the bread around it provided the perfect foil to the spiciness of the mince. And they turned out refreshingly light. I ate three at a go. I really mustn’t.

Off to YeastSpotting they go!

Orange Paprika Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I’ve got a confession to make.

I don’t like chocolate chips.

Fine… go ahead. Hate me. But I’ve got to be honest. There’s something about chocolate chips which just puts me off. Which doesn’t mean that I’m not a chocolate lover. I love chocolate… especially dark chocolate. There’s nothing that elevates the mood quite like dark chocolate does.

Why isn’t it a girl’s best friend?

After diamonds of course.

So here are my chocolate chunk cookies. Or should I say, my Orange Paprika Chocolate Chunk Cookies. I wanted them eggless, and was a bit worried that they wouldn’t hold up quite as well. But they surprised me.

Orange Paprika Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I used about a 3/4 cup of dark chocolate, chopped into chunks, and 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour.  The orange really does the job in these cookies… about a 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed juice, and a tablespoonful of julienned peel (you could zest it if you like but make sure that none of the pithy white parts go in) elevate these cookies to a realm of specialness. And the 1/2 teaspoon of paprika (it’s quite enough so don’t add more) takes it over the edge and soaring.

I used both white granulated sugar and packed dark brown sugar (1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons respectively), with a 1/2 cup of butter. Creaming it well, then adding in the vanilla extract and the orange juice, before incorporating the dry ingredients. Finally folding in the orange peel and chunks of chocolate.

Spoon the batter onto parchment lined trays, press it down a bit, sprinkle with brown sugar and bake in an oven preheated to 150 degrees C for about 35 minutes or till the edges turn brown.

A spoonful of gooey goodness... just waiting to be baked.

Remove the trays from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on the trays for 15 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Deliciously chewy and chocolaty with a hint of orange and paprika.

These cookies turned out wonderfully chewy… the gooey chocolate coming through first… then the orange, with the paprika finally kicking in to round up a delicious mouthful. 

Didn’t I say the 1/2 teaspoon would be quite enough?

Raisin Cardamom French Toast

If you’ve read my last couple of posts, you’ll know about the Raisin Pull Apart Bread I made earlier this week. It was so good, not too sweet, and tasted as good with a dollop of chunky peanut butter, as it did with a couple of slices of ham. But the Loaf’s almost all gone now and I still had one thing I wanted to make. French Toast. So I squirrelled a bit away and stuck it in the fridge to firm up a bit.

Now I absolutely love French Toast, and the idea of making French Toast from a Raisin Loaf liberally dusted with cinnamon and cardamom seemed too good to not try out. All I needed was a cup of milk, one egg, 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, and a 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder… all whisked together.

I wanted reasonably thick slices of bread which could absorb the milk and egg and not fall apart in the pan, cutting them about 1/2″ thick and dipping them into the luxurious pale yellow mix, making sure that the slices were completely coated.

I used a teaspoon of butter for every two pieces of bread. Frying them till they caramelised. Dusted them with icing sugar and enjoyed every last bite.

Raisin Cardamom French Toast

Yum!

Delicious on their own... with a touch of frost!

Raisin Pull Apart Bread – Part 2

Continuing from Raisin Pull Apart Bread – Part 1

A sneak peak at what you're in for...

So to back-track a bit… this pull-apart loaf was made from scratch. Right from making my own raisin yeast water from a formulation I got on Original Yeast, to making the pre-ferment and cooking the raisins that went into the bread. 1/3 cup raisins to 1/2 cup rum and 2 tablespoons sugar, till most of the liquor evaporated and the raisins were plump and flavourful.

Use the entire pre-ferment, which should be about 2 3/4 cups. Adding it to 3 1/2 cups flour. I used a mix of All Purpose and Whole-Wheat flour (2 1/2 cups A.P.:1 cup Whole-Wheat). About a 1/2 cup of the yeast water (extra) and 1/4 – 1/3 cup of warm water, a teaspoon of salt and 4 tablespoons honey. Mixing it all together and kneading it for a bit, before adding in the rummy raisins. Make sure that the raisins are evenly distributed through the dough and knead well. Then cover the dough and leave it to prove for 6 – 8 hours or overnight.

The dough will more than double.

Knock the air out , knead it lightly, and let it stand for 15 to 20 minutes before putting the loaf together (see the picture below). Giving it a minimum of 4 – 5 hours to prove (I gave it 6 hours).

Once the dough has risen, brush the top of the loaf with melted butter and give it a lavish dusting of cinnamon, cardamom and powdered sugar.

If you think it smells divine during the prep, just wait till you pop it into your 200 degrees C preheated oven. The aroma will not just fill your kitchen, but waft through the entire house. Leave your windows open and your neighbours may drop by just to say hello.

A loaf of bread that definitely warrants the journey to YeastSpotting.

Bake the loaf until golden brown for approximately 30 – 35 minutes (turning on the upper element for the last 5 – 7). Cool for a bit in the pan and turn out onto a wire rack.

The honey and the raisins give this loaf just the right amount of sweetness.

So what are you waiting for?

This is a Raisin Pull Apart Loaf isn’t it? Pull out a nice big chunk and enjoy!

A had some extra dough left over after making the pull-apart loaf. Not enough for another loaf, but enough for two buns, generously slathered with butter, and liberally dusted with the sugar and spice mix. Baking then at 220 degrees C for about 20 – 25 minutes.

The result; a lovely deep golden brown bun with a soft white crumb.