Cinnamon Buns – Fresh from the Oven October Challenge

I love making breads ( and I am repeating myself again and again). I try a lot of breads at home and all of them do not make their way into this blog. Another thing I noticed was, I tended to make the same recipe for breads over and over again whilst shaping them differently. So it was important for me to get out of my comfort zone and try something more fantastical and challenging. Joining a bread baking group was the answer and that is how I joined Fresh from the Oven which is a blog dedicated to baking all sorts of breads – sweet & savoury.

This happens to be my first challenge and I couldn’t ask for a better bread to bake. – CINNAMON BUNS.  These are my all round favourite but always thought of them to be too sacred to make at home. I held a feeling that I would  mess it up, if I were to ever attempt it. But joining a baking group ensures that you have an entire month to fight your fears ( which are usually ridiculous but you only realize that after you have attempted it)  and give the challenge your best shot.

For the Month of October, Claire challenged us to bake Cinnamon buns. Looking at the photographs on her blog, I felt intimidated beyond words. But the step by step instructions were simple and easy to follow. What started off as a trepidation filled project ended in a sweet success and I was ecstatic at the results. My very own Cinnamon buns; how cool is that!! I followed the recipe to the tee and my take is, these buns are highly versatile and beg to be fiddled with. The filling can vary from cardamom, to nutmeg to dried cranberries and as creative as fillings can get.

The Recipe for Cinnamon Buns

Ingredients

400g Strong White Bread Flour

2 Sachets of instant yeast (14/15g)

200g Plain Flour

2 Egg Yolks

250ml Lukewarm Milk

50g Melted Butter

1Tbsp Sugar

1/2 tsp Salt

Filling

150g Very Soft Butter

50g Brown Sugar – muscovado

1Tsp Cinnamon

A Handful of Sultanas (optional) ( I used Golden Raisins)

Icing (optional*)

2 Cups of Icing Sugar

1 Tblsp Melted Butter

1/4 Tsp Cinnamon

1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract

Water to Mix

Preparation

1. In a jug mix the yeast, warm milk and tablespoon of sugar.

2. Leave to froth for 10 minutes if you have time then add the melted butter and egg yolks.

3. Mix this into the flours, with the salt.

4. Knead for 5-10 minutes on a floured surface or in your food mixer with a dough hook for 5 minutes.

5. Put in a large bowl with a plate on top and leave in a warm place until doubled in size (1-2 hours)

6. Knock down and flatten out until it’s about the size of a large baking tray.

7. Slather with the very soft 100g of butter.

8. Sprinkle with the mix of brown sugar and cinnamon, and the sultanas.

9. Roll up so you have a long swiss roll type thing.

10. Slice into 2″ slices and place in a deep cake tin

11. I used a 26cm Kaiser tin, with a bit of butter rubbed into it.

12. Allow to rise for another 1/2 hour. Tuck in any sultanas so they don’t burn.

13. Bake at 200 c for 10 minutes

14. Cover loosely with foil and bake for another 15 minutes or so.

15. At this point brush it with a little melted butter and put it back in if not quite cooked through but it’s probably not necessary.

16. Tip out straight away – using a plate to tip it onto then back onto a 2nd plate.

17. Top with the warm buttery icing and leave to cool

18. They are still good on day two (and even better when warmed for 20 seconds in the microwave)

These buns were divine and I loved them with my breakfast tea, as an after lunch dessert, with my evening cuppa and as an indulgent treat after dinner. So that gives you a clear idea  how much I loved them.

When you read this post, I’d be  vacationing in India with family and friends and wouldn’t be able to respond to comments. So apologies mateys!

Dorie’s Marbled Loaf Cake for Ana

People who have followed this blog right from the beginning would know the original intend of this blog was never to be a food blog. I wanted it to be a journal to record my  mommy memories and following that, sharpen my writing skills. But somewhere in between I started baking and that influenced me so much that slowly and steadily I started chronicling my baking adventures and at times, misadventures as well. I guess, everything has to evolve and my blog did too. The content might have changed from diaper stories to Dorie recipes but the passion for writing  prevailed.

During the course of my 1.5 years of blogging, I also happened to join the Bahrain Writers’ Circle that aimed at getting  fellow writers and authors come together once a month to talk informally about writing and related topics. It has been great for me, a home maker, to venture out once a month to meet like-minded and inspiring bunch of writers. An offshoot of this circle  is the Creative Writing Workshop that is the brain child of the beautiful Ana Corradini Boreland.  Ana is from Brazil and came to Bahrain with her husband. She is a journalist, translator and an author of 14 children’s books. A live wire, Ana brought such energy to her Writing Workshops that we were forced to come out with our creative best. She spent hours  building wonderful writing exercises for us that manipulated us to push our writing boundaries. The truth be told, I feel a difference when I write now and try not to be as uni dimensional, like I used to be once. I try to gauge a topic from all corners and then attempt to bring out the best ( in my opinion) that I possibly can. These workshops by Ana instilled in me a confidence  and the courage to stop being so self-critical. Not in many words, her message was – ‘Unless you put yourself out there, there is no way you are going to know how well you can do something‘ and  “Unapologetic-ally be Yourself“. Her workshops were fun, informal and such a source of joy that I looked forward to them from days on end. But I had an inkling that  it was just too good to last and soon we heard some bitter-sweet news from her about moving away from Bahrain. To say, that I was heart-broken, would be an understatement and due to unavoidable circumstances I wasn’t able to attend her last workshop. But I wanted to tell her how much her time, effort and energy meant to me and as a going away gift I baked her the classic Marbled Loaf Cake.

Thank you Ana for every laugh, every word of encouragement and for simply being you.

Recipe for Dorie’s Marbled Loaf Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups plus 2 Tbsp All-Purpose Flour

1 ¼ tsp Baking Powder

½ tsp Salt

1 ½ sticks (10 ounces) Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

1 cup Sugar

4 large Eggs

½ tsp Pure Vanilla Extract

1/2 cup whole milk

4 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, melted and cooled

1/2 cup  of Chocolate chips – milk & semi sweet for topping

Directions:

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 9×5 loaf pan, dust the inside with flour, and tap out the excess. Place the pan on an insulated baking sheet.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, about three minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another two to three minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Don’t be concerned if the batter curdles and stays curdled. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and alternately add the flour mixture in three additions and the milk in two (begin and end with dry ingredients), mixing only until each addition is incorporated.

4. Divide the batter in half and stir four ounces bittersweet chocolate into one half and keep the other half plain. Scrape the batter into the pan. Top it with chocolate chips.

5. Bake the cake for 1 hour and 20 to 30 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. If the cake looks as if it’s getting too brown during its bake, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for about 15 minutes before unmolding, then cool the cake to room temperature right side up on the rack.

6. Wrapped well, the cake will keep at room temperature for up to four days.

Ana, I hope you enjoyed the Marbled loaf cake and here’s wishing you all my  best!

Kadala Masala Curry, a Childhood Favourite

Kadala  is a Malayalam word  that translates to Chickpeas ( Black or White)  happens to be one of my favourite pulses. Growing up I have had a fair share of these in curries and in their sautéed form. The way my mother made Kadala curry was to cook it in a paste of coriander seeds, red chillies, onion and grated coconut. That something so simple could taste so wonderful, always surprised me.

On the way back from school, my mind conjured these beautiful images of what all my mother would have made for lunch. That anticipation always made me race back home with a heavy school bag in tow. My mother was a banker so she wasn’t around to serve it to me piping hot. But that was hardly a bother as I was pretty much adept at doing most of the stuff myself ( also, I shouldn’t forget to mention that I had a caretaker until I was 14 years old and my brother had his).  All the cooking was done by my Mother  as a matter of principle and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Everyday, she would prepare a spread of two curries ( pulses), a vegetable, a raita or a salad, pappads, rice and rotis. She had to be at the her workplace by 10 a.m and before that she made a sumptuous breakfast, send us off to school with our tiffins and prepared such a large spread for lunch. Every single day.

We were so demanding, I realize now. Not giving her any respite and asking for something or the other. She happily obliged not caring if she was tired after a long day’s work.  We took it for granted and she did what she had to without complaining and with great joy. That joy translated into the food  that she made and calling it tasty would be an understatement.

Only after all these years, now that I have a child of my own, I realize, how she had to put up with her ever hungry, demanding kids. This post is an ode to all that she has done for me  and my brother for years and years. I know it wouldn’t measure up to it but something to say – “Thanks, Amma!”

Recipe for Kadala Masala Curry

Ingredients

1 cup of black or white chick peas ( soaked over night and boiled)

1 medium-sized onion , chopped

2 dried red chillies ( you can up the heat by added as many as 8 red chillies too)

1 cup fresh grated coconut

3 tablespoons of coriander seeds

Salt to taste

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

For tempering

Oil

1-2 tsp of mustard seeds

more dried red chillies (optional)

1 small chopped onion

small handful of curry leaves

Preparation

1. Boil the Chickpeas with some salt and turmeric and keep aside

2. Meanwhile prepare for the gravy by roasting grated coconut first and keep aside

3. Next roast, coriander seeds with dried red chillies

4. finally roast the chopped onion until golden brown.

5. Once all of the above roasted ingredients have cooled, grind them into a paste with some water. Do not grind it ultra smooth. It needs to be of a coarser consistency.

6. Pour this gravy into a pan / kadhaai and cook until the raw smell has gone and nice aroma spreads.Do this under a closed lid as it would be faster and to avoid all the gravy splashing about.  This would take some time and you would notice that the colour has changed too and is darker brown in colour.

7. To this add, the boiled chick peas and cook for sometime under a closed lid.

8. Once you feel that all of it has come together, ready the tempering in a different pan by heat oil and mustard seeds until they splutter. To this add the curry leaves and chopped onions and wait till the onions are done well. Pour this tempering into the curry.

9. Serve hot with rice.

If you find it too spicy you could lower the number of red chillies and even use yogurt while you dig in ( that’s my favourite way to eat – hot rice, curry and yogurt). The rice in the photographs is the fluffy red rice that we usually eat in Kerala. I also feel, the gravy would suit all kinds of meat such as chicken and mutton. It is finger licking good, trust me!

I am sending this off to Anamika’s Herbs & Flowers  event originally hosted by Seduce your tastebuds.

Muffin Monday : Olive Oil Muffins with Toasted Almonds and Chocolate

What do you think of  when you read Chocolate chunks +Toasted Almonds+Orange zest + Brown sugar?

Food has the power to capture our imagination.

It  transcends us through the Space – Time continuum ( I am watching a lot of Star Trek!) and bring to us memories from the past.  It transports us to the good time shared with people we love (or loved). But at times it is potent enough to make us see sights of places that we may not have been to. Olive Oil Muffins, this Monday did just that.

Early morning baking has it’s advantages. With my daughter still sleeping and my hubby already on his way to work, leaves me all the time, to create, innovate, adapt, photograph,  think,  write and most importantly bake without any disturbances. Sip-fulls of coffee in my system and playing with beautiful ingredients such as olive oil, orange zest, chocolate, toasted almonds can warm up the imagination. I could see pristine blue beaches of the Mediterranean, stocky white buildings, seagulls, the sun, the sand and bare feet. These homely and unpretentious muffins can do this to you.

This Monday, Anuradha of BakerStreet called us to bake together these fabulous muffins and dare I say, it cannot get better than this. It got an overwhelming thumbs up from family too.  I know in my heart that I haven’t seen the last of these gorgeous muffins because they were  good to the last crumb.

The Recipe for Olive Oil Muffins with Toasted Almonds and Chocolate

Ingredients

1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar ( I used 1/4 cup of sugar and 3/4 cup of muscovado sugar)

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons orange zest

2 teaspoons lemon zest ( I didn’t add any)

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons whole milk

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1/2 cup of chocolate, chopping coarsely ( my addition)

Powdered sugar, for sifting ( forgot to do this)

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Place paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin.

3. In a medium bowl, blend together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Using an electric mixer beat the sugar, eggs, and zest in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

5. Beat in the vinegar and milk. Gradually beat in the oil.

6. Add the flour mixture and stir just until blended. ( used a spatula to mix manually until just blended)

7. Crush the almonds with your hands as you add them to the batter and stir until mixed ( added chopped chocolate at this point)

8. Fill the muffin tin almost to the top of the paper liners.( crucial for lovely  dome shaped tops)

9. Bake until golden on top and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes.

10. Remove the muffins onto a platter and let cool for 5 more minutes. Sift powdered sugar over the muffins and serve

Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.

Of Pizzas and Marriages

“Marriage is our last, best chance to grow up.” said a wise man once  but this growing up happens, slowly and sometimes painfully. Opposites attract but what one forgets is that, they are Opposites to begin with. Every single time, for every single thing, for every single situation, my hubby and I head in opposite directions for no apparent reason. It just is natural for us to do. At least we are not loggerheads! Touch wood.

“What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.”— Leo Tolstoy

So during one such incompatible moment when hubby wanted a pizza on a weekend and I craved some  egg plant curry, we found we had reached the cul-de-sac. I am not the biggest fan of pizza and hubby is just short of being allergic to egg plants. For a moment it felt there was no solution in sight and we almost picked up the phone to order a pizza. Suddenly I remembered having seen a certain pizza that used egg plant curry and solution seemed to be in sight. I quickly browsed through Kankana’s Baigan Bhartha recipe and got down to work. I was happy working a pizza dough and while it rose in a warm place, I did my bit to get the Baigan Bhartha ( egg plant mash) ready. Smoked aubergine/ egg plants marinated in spices is the just thing to get my weekend rolling. Since I did not want to freak my hubby out with the mention of egg plants on a pizza, I kept mum until I had the piping hot spicy pizza out from the oven.

Needless to say, the pizza was a big hit and it did the best it could to satiate our cravings.

The Recipe for Baigan Bhartha Pizza

Adapted from Kankana’s Sunshineandsmile

 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs sugar

For the topping

  • 2 medium sized eggplants
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chilly powder ( you can turn up the heat if you like by adding an extra tsp or two)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1-2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped for garnish
  • Combination of mozzarella  and cheddar cheese
  • salt
  • pepper
  • oil

Preparation

1. Mix yeast with the warm water in a small bowl. Cover it and let it stand until it looks creamy. This should take about 7 minutes.

2. In another large bowl, combine flour, olive oil, salt and sugar.

3. Then, add the yeast mixture and mix it properly. Knead it for few minutes until its smooth and soft.

4. Take a glass bowl and grease it with some oil. Keep the dough in the bowl and brush some oil on top of the dough.

5. Cover it, keep it in a warm area and let it rise until it doubles in volume. This should take about an hour.

6. While the dough is rising, you can start working on the toppings.

7. Roasting the eggplants can be done either in the oven, stove top.

8. Pat dry the eggplants and brush some oil on it. Roast it until it soft and the skin starts to peel apart.

9. Let it cool before you start mashing it. After it cools down, peel the skin off the eggplant and put in a bowl.

10. Then, heat some oil in a pan and saute garlic and chopped onions.

11. Season with some salt and pepper, and once it’s translucent, add the tomatoes and continue cooking for about 2 minutes.

12. Add the roasted and mashed eggplant into this pan with the onion tomato mixture.

13. Add cumin powder, coriander powder, chilly flakes and mash it until it’s smooth. When the mixture is done, it will start to leave oil out on the sides.

14. Place  dough onto a well floured surface and roll out into a pizza crust shape.

15. In a baking pan, arrange the parchment paper and place the rolled pizza crust on it.

16. Top with the mashed eggplant mix and spread the mix evenly.

17. Grate some cheese on top and drizzle some oil.

18. Bake it at 350 F for about 30 minutes or until it’s slight brown and cooked through.

19. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

This pizza seems like a metaphor to all things that should be in a marriage. No marriage is perfect in my opinion because two imperfects cannot make a perfect like in Mathematics. But then I wouldn’t have it any other way since it is this imperfection that gives rise to immense choice and variety. This variety makes life so much more interesting.

We fought for the last crumb of this pizza and that made it worth my while.