Four challenges, four giveaways – this has been a great blog anniversary celebration series. I feel good about giving this well-deserved attention to my blog. It has been quite interesting because after I completed my culinary challenge in 2013, I didn’t try anything new or exciting. These 4-part culinary challenge where I attempted making the raw cake, set- up a table for my first date and made some pasta and sauce from the scratch have given me such a sense of accomplishment. The last of my culinary challenge was about making a Baked Alaska, given to me by my husband.
Again, I did what I do best. I procrastinated until I did not have a choice. It wasn’t really half as difficult as I thought it would be. But working with meringue can be tricky at times. But before I get into the details of how I made the Baked Alaska, I would like to announce the winner of my giveaway #3. It is Gehna Purohit! Congratulations Gehna, you win yourself a copy of Paul Hollywood’s – How to Bake. Thank you for always reading my blog and helping me with polishing my piping skills and much more.
Now for my final giveaway that I call Worldwide giveaway #4
I am giving away yet another cook book this time. Rachel Khoo, the food creative, TV host, cook book author and talented illustrated is my absolute favourite. I dote on her every post, tweet and instagram picture to the point of being obsessed. That is why final giveaway will include her cookbook called – The little Paris Kitchen. I have tried several desserts and appetizers from this book and my absolute favourite is the chocolate lava cake which I have covered previously on the blog.
To win this book, all you need to do is –
1. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram – @sliceofmylyfe
2. Subscribe to my blog via email
3. Tweet about this giveaway and [Tweet “I have participated in the worldwide giveaway on sliceofmylyfe.com and you should too. You could win a cookbook by Rachel Khoo”]
4. Leave a comment on my blog saying that you did all of the above.
And voila one of you stands a chance to win my favourite cook book author’s book!
A Baked Alaska consists of layers of icecream ( different flavours and colours to make it interesting) and it is topped with layers or single layer of sponge cake. Finally, it is covered with meringue and I used an Italian meringue recipe which didn’t require me to bake the Baked Alaska in the oven. The Italian meringue involves cooking sugar and water at a very high temperature (240 F) which then is poured into the meringue mix. The heat of the sugar cooks the egg whites and the meringue becomes stiff and ready to use. This stiff meringue is applied to the dome – shaped icecream and cake layer and then burnt artfully with a blow torch.
There is nothing more beautiful then the sight of burnt meringue.
I looked at this video to make my Baked Alaska and used vanilla and chocolate ice cream inside with a vanilla pound cake ( Sara Lee’s) to create layers for my Baked Alaska.
This is the end of my culinary challenge series and I will announce the winner of giveaway #4 on the 23rd of February which is when the blog celebrates its 5th year anniversary.
If the previous challenge was wonderful, this one was so meditative and entertaining. I was intimidated by the first challenge but I was more intimidated by this one. Making pasta from the scratch is something I have seen on MasterChef. The equipment looked intimidating and the process too. I wasn’t sure if I would even get a pasta machine in Bahrain. But again, what use will it be after my challenge is done and dusted?
All these questions swirled around in my head and I procrastinated doing it till the very end. Finally, when I felt, there as no way out and even if I failed, I had to attempt it to be fair to my brother who gave me this culinary challenge.
His challenge was for me to attempt making pasta and a sauce from the scratch. Searching for good pasta recipes lead me to understand that a grade ’00’ flour is used and that a pasta making machine is handy. Rolling out pasta sheets is definitely the other resort but it is very tedious. I, more or less, made up by mind to buy a pasta machine. After procrastinating this challenge to the best of my ability, I finally set out to get the ingredients and the apparatus. Neither did not get the grade of the flour I wanted, nor the machine. Then I searched for alternate flour recipes to see that ‘spelt flour’ is widely used and is a healthier option compared to the other one. I have never tried Spelt before but I had no choice but to go with it. Also, without the machine, the only option left was to use the pizza rolling pin to roll out the pasta sheets. So that is the back story.
Before I set out to explain the recipe and the modus operandi of the pasta and sauce, let me announce the winner of my giveaway #2. Devi Ranjit has won herself Wilton’s 12 cupcake decorating set. Congratulations Devi. Well done and thank you for reading my blog.
Now I shall get on with the announcement of my World Wide Giveaway #3. One reader of my blog will win this awesome baking book by Paul Hollywood called – ‘How to bake’ . I have used Paul’s recipes to make different types of breads and most recently, the cinnamon rolls. It is a wonderful, wonderful baking book that I think every home baker should have.
To win this, you need to do the following:
1. Tell me in the comments, which blog post of mine on ‘Slice of my lyfe’ would be your favourite and why
2. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter – @sliceofmylyfe
3. Tweet this giveaway
[Tweet “I have participated in a worldwide giveaway on sliceofmylyfe.com. Win a baking book by Paul Hollywood!”]
This giveaway closes on Wednesday, 18th of February. Good luck!
Thank you to all those who have participated and I hope you will continue to come back to my space to read my posts.
Now back to the challenge. The picture above shows a step-by-step method. I was anxious of using spelt flour but to my pleasant surprise, it came together rather easily. The important things to remember with Spelt is that once you make the dough, make sure you cover it with cling wrap to avoid drying. Using dried dough will make your pasta break when you are boiling it. My kitchen is really quite tiny and the work space, tinier. To roll out pasta in big sheets wasn’t possible. So I made 6-7 round balls and flattened them out one by one with the rolling pin and cut pasta strips.
It is an honour to host Fresh From the Oven’s June Challenge. I would like to thank Michelle Rice of UtterlyScrummy and Claire of Purely Food for giving me this opportunity. It has been wonderful attempting challenges with yeast and each month I wait eagerly to know what the month’s challenge is going to be. For the month of June I would love everybody to participate together in make these easy-peasy pita bread. The details for how to participate are here and link to http://purelyfood.wordpress.com/fresh-from-the-oven/ and the round-up for this ( for the month of June) will be done by Purely Food.
I have been living an expat’s life in Bahrain for the past 2 years and the food of this region fascinates me more than others. The addictive tastes, the rustic textures, the haunting flavours, the clever methods of cooking, the influences that this part of the world takes from other cultures shines through from the Arabic Cuisine. In my time here, I have enjoyed cooking these Arabic dishes as much as I have enjoyed eating a hearty meal outside in restaurants. The food of this region inspired me to do a full-blown article on the Food of Bahrain called Bahrain: A culinary Oasis which got published in a compendium of sort called, My Beautiful Bahrain.
An excerpt from the book would tell you how fascinated I am with the food of this region. I went food-hunting literally, to write this article and the this insightful journey is the one I will cherish for a long time.
“About the famed bread making- Khuboos shops of Bahrain: It is fascinating to watch a queue build up by nightfall outside these traditional bakeries. A burning clay hearth and experienced pairs of hands slap the dough to make khuboos, the most popular flatbread that the country eats every single day of its life. This hearty bread forms the base for almost all the food that is served at homes and in restaurants. A freshly baked Khuboos emanates an aroma that tantalizes the senses with its simplicity and flavor. Khuboos comes in a lot of sizes, shapes and flavors; sesame, melted cheese, honey brushed, to name a few. My personal favorite is the plain khuboos that I love devouring bit by bit with some vegetables and Hummus (chickpea dip).“
Below are some photos of how Arabic bread is made traditionally in these Khuboos -houses.
Charmed by this, I have replicated the Arabic bread baking process in my oven very, many times. Pita “Pocket” bread, in this part of the world is also called Lebanese bread though there is no evidence proving that this bread originated from Lebanon. This bread is popular all over the Arab world and the Mediterranean region.
To make these, I usually use a combination of wholemeal flour and All purpose flour but for the challenge, I used All purpose flour entirely. You are free to experiment with different types of healthier flours to make your pita. You can follow my lead with step by step pictures for your better understanding:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
1 packet yeast (or, if from bulk, 2 teaspoons yeast)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
(I apologize for missing out the proportions of ingredients as I have made this so many times and remember it by heart. It just made me focus more on the method of preparation than the quantities. )
Mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon. All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water. Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a work surface, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes. If you are using an electric mixer, mix it at low-speed for 10 minutes.
When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with olive oil.
Form a ball out of the dough and place it into the bowl, rolling the ball of dough around in the bowl so that it has a light coat of oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into any number of pieces depending how big or small you like your pita. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it’ll be easier to shape.
While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone like I don’t too, then just use a normal baking tray, like I did.
After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling-pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to 1/4 inch thick approximately. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.
Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface. They should be baked through and puffy after 3 minutes. If you want your pitas to be crispy and brown you can bake them for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, but it is not mandatory. I did, because that is how we like pita bread; a little brown and crisp. Not all my pita puffed up but some did and it was a delight to see them puff up.
It is advisable to have pita bread as soon as it is out of the oven with hummous ( chickpea dip) or labneh dip ( yogurt dip) or even with meat or vegetable curries. It can be stored for many days in an air tight container and can be microwaved to soften them ( by sprinkling some water before putting it in a microwave)
Hope everybody who attempts this finds it easy and tasty an endeavour to try again and again.
With Thanksgiving being celebrated in most American homes, I felt the excitement rub off on me after I visited some food blogs. All the talk of good food pushed me into baking something spectacular. In the lieu of such delicious circumstances, the Fresh From the Oven November Challenge couldn’t have come up with a more appropriate challenge. Sarah of Maison Cupcakes challenged us to make the very popular Italian Panettone. This bread is eggy, ever so slightly sweet and full of buttery goodness. I added plenty of black raisins, chocolate chips and candied fruit in all my excitement. I even bought a special tumbler like mould to bake my Panettone since I couldn’t get hold of the traditional Panettone mould anywhere.
When I had a first look at the instructions, I felt intimidated beyond measure. I read it couple of times and it seemed like I could break it down into parts and implement it. This recipe required the dough to rise 4 times for an average 2 hours atleast. The baking time was broken down to 10 +40 minutes. All this was quite overwhelming considering my nascent approach towards bread making and the first mistake I committed was to follow the instructions blindly without tallying it with the ingredients list. In my haste I completely forgot to add the vanilla essence, citrus zest and two egg yolks as prescribed by the ingredient list. Unfortunately, the instructions fell short too. The part where the 2 egg yolks+citrus zest+ vanilla essence were to be added weren’t mentioned at all. I read it once, twice and thrice but my mind was more pre-occupied by the number of rises than taking note of whether all the ingredients have been incorporated or not. Ignorant, I continued in my pursuit of baking the Panettone. The results were less than impressive for obvious reasons. My dough did not rise at all inspite of the tediously long time I provided it. From that instant on, I was skeptical about the output. But I went ahead with it nevertheless and in the end I had a very ugly-looking but a delicious Panettone. Pardon me for the hideous pictures as my Panettone wasn’t an inspiring subject for photography.
Sarah was kind enough to add the missing instruction later but it was way too late for me to rectify. My Panettone was fabulously tasty but lacked the texture of the traditional Panettone.
Recipe for Panettone
Serves 1 large loaf
7g sachet dried yeast
400g strong white bread flour
75g caster sugar
2 large free range eggs plus 2 egg yolks at room temperature
3 tablespoons lukewarm water
half teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated zest of one unwaxed orange and one unwaxed lemon
half teaspoon salt
175g softened unsalted butter
75g sultanas (I made up the weight with raisins too)
50g candied orange, diced or finely chopped
50g dark chocolate chips (or more fruit)
40g unsalted butter to finish
Makes enough to fill a 15cm tall cake tin or panettone mould. Bear this in mind if improvising with smaller round tins.
1. Mix 125g of the weighed flour with the yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer and make a well in the centre. Mix the two whole eggs with the water and pour into the well. Stir in the egg yolks, vanilla and grated zest using your hand or dough hook. Gradually work in 175g flour plus the salt to make a soft sticky dough. ( I completely missed out this step because the original post missed it out too, but I should have checked and read well).
2. Using your hands or a dough hook, mix the flour into the liquid to make a smooth thick batter. Sprinkled a little of the remaining weighed flour over the top of the batter to prevent a skin forming then leave in a warm place for around an hour or until the batter is very bubbly.
3. Next add the softened butter and work in with your fingers or the dough hook on a slow speed. Beat until the butter is incorporated with no streaks.
4. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead thoroughly by hand for ten minutes (or use the dough hook for 3-4 minutes) working in the remainder of the weighed flour to make a satiny soft pliable non-sticky dough. Depending on the flour, you may not need it all or you may need a little more. (Mine was fine).
5. Cover the bowl with cling film (I used a tea towel as well, mainly because it feels “rustic”) and leave to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, probably 2 to 2.5 hours. Don’t leave in a very warm place as the butter will melt.
6. Next uncover the dough and punch down to deflate. Cover again and let it double in size again (1 to 1.5 hours although I left mine 2 whilst we had Sunday lunch).
7. Meanwhile combine the sultanas with the chopped peel and chocolate chips. Stir in a teaspoon of flour to stop it clumping in the dough.
8. Prepare the tin by lining with parchment paper. The paper should extend 5cm higher than the height of the tin.
9. Punch down the risen dough again and turn onto a floured surface; sprinkle the fruit and chocolate mixture on top and work into the dough gently until evenly distributed.
10. Shape the dough into a ball and gently drop into the prepared tin. Cut a cross into the top. Lay a sheet of cling-film loosely over the top of the tin and leave for another hour or so until doubled in size again.
11. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 200c / 400f / gas 6. When ready to bake, melt 15g of the butter for finishing and brush it over the risen dough. Put a knob of butter in the centre of the cross.
12. Bake for 10 minutes or until just starting to colour, then brush again with melted butter. Reduce the temperature to 180c / 350f / gas 4 and bake for a further 40 minutes until a good golden brown and a skewer inserted to the centre comes out clean. (My loaf was going very brown after 30 mins and I had to cover with foil to stop it burning).
13. Remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack. Allow to cool for a few minutes before teasing it out of the tin. If your crust is fragile allow to cool further before removing from tin.
14. Cool completely before slicing.
This experience has been an enlightening one and I understand more than ever why only bread makers are called ‘ Artisans’ and no other branch of baking is revered so much. I have learnt a lot from this experience and wish to make the Panettone once again and see how I fare.