Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August Daring Bakers' Challenge - Mawa Cake and Masala Biscuits

Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen was our August 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to make some amazing regional Indian desserts. The Mawa Cake, the Bolinhas de Coco cookies and the Masala cookies – beautifully spiced and delicious!

If you've been reading this blog for a long time, or if you've been tracking the Daring Bakers for a while,  you may remember Aparna from the awesome tiramisu challenge.  So when I saw that she was the host, I was super excited.

But when I read the challenge, I will admit that I became a little bit... concerned.  The challenge consists of three recipes - a cake and two different styles of cookies. The requirement for successful completion of the challenge was to make the cake and at least one of the cookies.

So why was this concerning? Mawa, as it turns out, is milk that has been reduced by simmering it until all that remains are the solids.  Which means that the main component of this cake is something that little man can't eat. And I really don't like to make things, especially treats, that he can't enjoy with us.

I seriously considered sitting this one out. Seriously.

But I have never done that before, and I am not about to start now.

My sister happened across a blog post for a vegan variation of mawa cake and Aparna gave us the green light to go for it, so I did. Yesterday. Oh yeah, nothing like waiting until the last minute.

Instead of mawa, the vegan (allergen free, for me...) version uses vegan cream cheese.

But, just like the "real" version, the flavoring for this cake comes from cardamom.  Now, I am not all that familiar with cardamom. I bought it and used it for the biryani challenge, that was easy - just take a couple of pods and toss them in the pan. For this cake, you need only the seeds from inside the pods.

And those seeds then need to be crushed (I used a spice grinder), then added to the dry ingredients of the cake.

But other than those two "special" ingredients, this cake is actually very easy and straightforward to prepare. The thick batter is spread into a pan (I used a cake pan instead of a springform pan - it's what I have)...

...then baked for an hour until dark golden and super fragrant.

My cake was extremely flavorful with the cardamom, which was a big hit with me and little man, less so with daddy and little miss.

Hey, a 50% approval rating for a brand new recipe isn't bad, right?

The texture was really nice, though, so I am considering playing with the recipe a bit to flavor it in a way that will be more appealing to the entire family.

But the mawa cake was only half of the challenge. Remember, Aparna said that we had to make one of the given recipes for cookies, as well. My first choice was to make the coconut cookies - they sound flavorful and delicious. But I was running low on coconut, and they take a couple of days to make. And with the procrastination I had going on this month, a couple of days was... yeah, I waited too long.

The other cookie recipe was for savory spice cookies. As written, these biscuits, more like crackers, really, are full of spice and Indian flavors.

The base recipe is relatively similar to other crackers I've made. Dry ingredients are whisked together, then butter is cut in.

This is the point where the spices are added.  And this is where I adjusted the recipe to suit my family's tastes.  I omitted the green chilies, and used spices that my family likes - garlic powder, thyme, parsley and oregano (okay, so... these are... Italian inspired Indian crackers...).  Little man helped me scoop the spices.

He had fun with it, because I let him scoop a lot, so that these would be chock full of flavor.

The dough is then worked together, using yogurt (I used coconut milk plain Greek style yogurt) as the wet ingredient binder.  Once the dough can hold together, mold it into a disc and pop it into the fridge.

If you want the real chronology of events, I actually made the dough in the morning, then prepared the mawa cake while the dough rested in the fridge. Yeah, I had a busy baking day yesterday.


Once the dough has thoroughly chilled, roll it out, sprinkle it with sesame seeds (I used my seven seed mix), use the rolling pin to press the seeds in a bit, and cut out your crackers.

Now, I have to apologize - I don't have many pictures of the completed crackers.

I was too busy eating them.  These are addictive. Perfectly crisp and deliciously flavorful, I just kept eating them.  And considering that you can choose any spices you want, you can really use the base recipe to make any kind of treat you are in the mood for. Pretty cool!

Aparna, thank you for this challenge - I am so glad that I wised up and participated!

To see the full recipes as provided in the challenge, you can check them out here.

And to see the delicious cakes and biscuits baked up in the kitchen this month, take a look here.

Vegan Mawa Cake
(from Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes)

1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon powdered cardamom (the seeds from green cardamom pods, crushed with a mortar and pestle or ground in a spice grinder)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup soy milk (I used coconut milk) plus 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar. Mix and set aside to curdle for a few minutes. I promise, it will curdle.
1/4 (4 tablespoons) cup vegan cream cheese, like Tofutti, at room temperature.
1/2 cup or 8 tbsp vegan butter like Earth Balance, also at room temperature (I used coconut oil).
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8 inch cake pan (or springform pan, if you have the right size) with non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and whisk it all togehter. Add the cardamom powder and whisk again. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the vegan butter (coconut oil) and the sugar until light and fluffy, for no more than 2 minutes (at medium speed). Add the vegan cream cheese and beat until just mixed. Do not overbeat.
Mix in the vanilla extract.
Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the curdled soy (coconut) milk, beating in well after each addition so there are no lumps. Scrape down the bowl after each addition.
Spread batter into prepared cake pan, smoothing the top carefully.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven about an hour until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool on a rack. Mawa cakes are never frosted, so all you have to do now is eat it.


Spiced Crackers
(based on the Masala Biscuits from the challenge)

1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fine rice flour (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried parsley
3 to 4 tablespoons cold yogurt (I used coconut milk yogurt, plain)
1-1/2 tablespoons black sesame seeds (or white sesame seeds) (I used a prepared seed mix)
A little oil to brush the tops of the biscuits/ cookies

Whisk together both flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl and add the pieces of chilled butter. Cut or rub the butter into the dried ingredients until the mixture resembles the texture of breadcrumbs.
Add in all of your spices and mix to incorporate.
Add 2 tablespoons of the yogurt mix to combine. Continue adding the yogurt, one tablespoon at a time, mixing as you go, until the dough just comes togehter. Kneat the dough until it is just moist enough to hold together and shape into a ball. Flatten the ball into a disc and cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least hour. You can also leave it overnight (up to about 24 hours) and work on it the next day.
When you are ready to prepare the biscuits, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and line your baking trays with parchment, a silicone baking mat, or grease them with oil.
Lightly dust your working surface with flour and roll out the dough to 1/8” thickness, not more or your biscuits/ cookies will not be crisp. Sprinkle the seeds uniformly over the dough and use your rolling pin to very lightly, to press them in.
Using cutters of your choice, cut out biscuits/crackers and place them on the prepared baking trays. Brush a very thin coat of oil over them (I actually sprayed them with non-stick cooking spray). This will help them brown while baking.
Bake the crackers in the preheatd oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or till they’re done and golden brown on the top. Remember the baking time will depend on the thickness and shape of your biscuits/ cookies. Let them cool on the trays for about 5 minutes and then cool them on racks. Once they’re completely cool, they should be a bit crunchy and not chewy.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Biscoff Swirl Blondies

A couple of weeks ago,we had some friends over for dinner. It was just a casual pizza gathering, but that doesn't mean that dessert should be ignored!  I decided on blondies that night, and they were a big hit.  But it sparked an idea that I just couldn't shake.

Blondies are really a great base. They can be customized in so many ways to suit any craving, taste or preference.

So why not incorporate my new addiction into some blondies??

And thus I decided to make Biscoff blondies.

My go-to base blondie recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen. It's super simple and super adaptable.

The first thing that I did was substitute a quarter of the butter called for in the recipe with Biscoff, to add the flavor to the base of the cookie bar.

Once the batter was spread into the pan, though, it was time to go nuts. I scooped spoons of Biscoff right onto the batter and swirled them in as best I could.

The result was a little rough...

... but I was pretty sure that there would be Biscoff-y goodness in every bite, so into the oven they went.

These baked up beautifully - all golden and delicious. But there was one problem.

I seriously could not stop eating them. With little pockets of Biscoff throughout, these double cookie-cookie  bars (cookie butter + cookie bar... make sense??) were seriously delicious. Like, dangerously so.

I really meant to have one of these with a scoop of ice cream (ice cream makes everything  better, right? and I thought it would make a nice photo...), but... umm... they didn't last long enough. Oops. I guess I'll just have to make them again!

Biscoff Swirl Blondies
(based on the base recipe from Smitten Kitchen)

6 tablespoons butter, melted (I didn't melt my butter this time - just let it get super soft on the counter...)
2 tablespoons Biscoff (cookie  butter)
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
approximately 1/4 cup Biscoff for swirling.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter an 8×8 pan (or spray with nonstick cooking spray).
Mix melted/softened butter, 2 tablespoons of Biscoff and brown sugar, beating well until smooth. Beat in egg, then vanilla.
Add salt, then stir in the flour.
Spread dough into prepared pan.  Scoop spoonsful of Biscoff (approximately one and a half teaspoons for each scoop, but you don't have to measure) around the surface of the dough, spacing them around somewhat evenly. Using a dull knife or sturdy spatula, swirl the Biscoff throughout the batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until set in the middle. 
Cool on rack before cutting them.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August Sourdough Surprises - Crackers

Once upon a time, oh, about a year or so ago, the Daring Bakers' Challenge was for us all to make crackers.  At the time, I chose to make a variety of sourdough crackers that were both simple and delicious.

So when Sourdough Surprises chose crackers for the August theme, I automatically thought of those delicious crispy snacks.

But if I am going to do a challenge, I want to do something new, and this was no different.

There are so many different sourdough cracker recipes out there to choose from, but I quickly chose this one, a multi-grain cracker with a delicious seed mix on top.

The recipe calls for a mix of whole wheat and rye flour. I was actually out of whole wheat flour (what?!), so used all purpose and rye. Add to that some flax seeds and you're in a multi-grain happy place.

I did make a couple of adjustments to the recipe as written in order to make it friendlier to little man's allergies. The first change was to substitute coconut oil for the butter that is called for.

This dough comes together very much like pie pastry - the fat (coconut oil for me, butter usually) is cut or rubbed into the flour(s), and then the wet ingredients are incorporated. In this case, a bit of olive oil and a bunch of sourdough starter.

Now, much like pie pastry, it is important not to overwork the dough. So a quick mix with a spatula and my dough was...

...a little rough. But some gentle kneading brought it together enough to be able to roll out and begin cutting shapes.

Little miss chose the cookie cutter.

And little man wanted to have a turn, too.

Then there was one final step. The recipe calls for the cut crackers to be brushed with an egg wash then sprinkled with a seed mix. I substituted olive oil for the egg wash and the kids helped me sprinkle.

The crackers needed a few extra minutes to turn brown and crispy (I don't think I rolled them thin enough...), but the finished product was pretty darn tasty!

Little miss, who usually tells me she doesn't like sourdough, loved them, kept "sneaking" some, and even shared them with a whole bunch of our neighbors.  And I decided to have these as part of my lunch, with hummus for dipping!

So what kind of crackers did you sourdough this month? Link up and share!

Seeded Sourdough Crackers
(slightly adapted from Delectable Tidbits)

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I used all-purpose_
1/2 cup rye flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons flax seeds
1/4 cup cold butter (I used coconut oil)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup active sourdough starter

For the topping: You'll need about 3 tablespoons of seeds - I used a prepared seven-seed mix, you can create your own using your favorite seeds.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt and flax seeds. Using a pastry cutter (or your fingertips!), cut cold butter (coconut oil) into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse corn meal.
Make a well in the flour mixture. Pour in the oil and sourdough starter. Mix with a silicone spatula until well combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and lightly knead to make sure all the flour and liquid is mixed well. Do not over knead, you just want to make sure everything is combined.
Form the dough into a ball, flatten it out and roll out to about 1/8” thick. Using a 2” round cookie cutter (or cutter of your choice), cut dough. Transfer cut crackers onto parchment lined cookie sheets.
Brush with egg wash or olive oil and sprinkle with your seed mixture. You will have lots of scraps. When you are done cutting the first round of crackers, gather the scraps and carefully press them back into a ball (do not over work the dough), flatten dough and roll out to 1/8”, proceed with cutting more crackers and topping them with seeds. You can do this with the scraps a couple of times until most of the dough is used up. Once all of the crackers have been cut and seeded, transfer the cookie sheets to the hot oven. Bake for 13 – 15 minutes until browned, rotating the sheets from the upper to the lower racks of your oven halfway during baking for even browning. Mine needed closer to 20 minutes, so keep your eye on them!
Remove crackers from the oven and transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Oatmeal-Craisin Scones

We love to go to the library.  I have been taking my kids to the library for their whole entire lives. Story time, programs, just going and looking through books... Libraries are wonderful places, wonderful resources and just a fun place to go.

One weekend recently, we stopped by the library so little miss could pick out some new books. She's an avid reader and plows through books at an absolutely unbelievable rate.  She plopped herself down in front of the junior fiction section and I set to chasing little man around the stacks, trying to make sure he didn't pull down too many books on his way.  Daddy was also looking for something new to read, so he headed off to the grown-up section of the library.

When he came back, in addition to a couple of interesting looking novels, he had a cookbook for me. It's called CakeLove in the Morning, and is chock-full of amazing looking breakfast/brunch-type recipes. Flipping through the pages, every single one of  us wanted to try... well... darn near every single one of the recipes.

The first recipe I tried was for these delicious scones. It's actually a recipe for oatmeal-raising scones, but my kids prefer craisins, so I made that switch. 

Planning ahead, I prepared the dry ingredients the night before. This recipe was interesting because it called for a tablespoon of cornmeal for added texture, and, rather than using baking powder as the leavening agent (like most scones I've made), it called for a mix of baking soda and cream of tartar. Now, I knew that you could substitute that combination for baking powder in a pinch, but this was a different ratio, so I was curious as to how it would work.

In the morning, I simply had to cut in (or rub in, as I prefer) some cut, cold butter...

...and then mix in my wet ingredients to bring the dough together.

Then it's a simple matter of shaping and cutting the scones.

The recipe called for the scones to be brushed with an egg-wash, but, due to little man's egg allergy, I don't like to do that, so I brushed the tops with a bit of coconut milk mixed with a touch of vanilla extract. Add a tiny sprinkling of sugar and pink Himalayan sea salt (because... if you have it, why the heck not??) and these babies were ready to go into the oven.

Just over 15 minutes later, we were ready for breakfast.

These scones were absolutely delicious. The outside had a thin, crisp crust and the inside was perfectly soft and delicious.

And, see? Never would have had these if not for the local library.

Oatmeal-Craisin Scones
(only very slightly adapted from CakeLove in the Morning)

1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon maple syrup
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup craisins
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, cold
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
In a small bowl, stir together the coconut milk and maple syrup; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, raisins, oats, sugar, cornmeal, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Whisk these together briefly to incorporate.
Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until everything is clumpy.
Slowly add the coconut milk/maple syrup mixture, continually turning the dough. Stir until the dough easily forms a ball (I needed a couple of tablespoons extra coconut milk to do this).
Divide the dough into three portions. On a lightly floured work surface, place one of the sections and shape it approximately into a four-inch square, about 3/4 inch thick. Cut the square diagonally across in each direction, making four triangles. Place each triangle on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.
In a small bowl, mix together the 2 tablespoons of coconut milk and vanilla extract. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of each scone with this mixture.
If you want, you can sprinkle the tops with turbinado sugar and/or sea salt.
Bake scones in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until they are lightly browned on the sides and golden across the tops. (Mine needed an extra minute or two.)
Remove scones to cooling rack and cool for five minutes before serving.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

August Daring Cooks' Challenge - Biryani

I am definitely willing to admit when I don't know something, and this month's Daring Cooks' Challenge had me admitting it right away.

Grace, one of our talented non-blogging Daring Kitchen members, was our Daring Cooks’ August hostess who shared with us some of her family’s tried and true Bengali Biryani recipes – all of them delicious and all of them prepared fresh from our own kitchens!

Biryani? Never heard of it. Turns out, it's a mixed-rice dish popular in South Asia, and there are variations of it all over the region. After reading the recipe, the way I explained it to my husband was that it sounded to me like South Asian arroz con pollo.

The first thing I did was call upon my neighbor, who married into a traditional Indian family.  My first question was "Have you ever made biryani before?"

The response was very enthusiastic - it is her husband's favorite dish, and her mother in law made it for him quite a bit! In fact, she said that they is the "self proclaimed biryani king!"

The bad  news? She'd never made it. And the king modified his proclamation - he's the king of eating it - he'd never made it either.

But she was willing to share her experience with other Indian cooking, and even to join me on a journey to one of our local Indian markets.

Now, I've been to that market before - it's always so amazing to me. But this was the first time I had someone with me who could actually explain what I was looking at.  Together, though, we found everything we needed and I was ready to go.

Now, the list of ingredients looked a bit long, but it wasn't at all overwhelming once I really looked at it.  The longest part of the process was preparing everything.

In order to keep myself organized, I did all of my chopping, prepping and measuring ahead of time. Chopping included onions and tomatoes, not to mention the mincing of garlic and ginger.  Then I measured out the appropriate amounts of coriander, curry power, cumin and biryani powder (a spice mix acquired at the market. There were many to choose from, probably due to the regional varieties in recipes, but I just chose the one that had the most intriguing mix of spices). And that bottom cup? Cumin seeds, cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks (there were supposed to be bay leaves, too, which I was sure I already had at home... oops...).

All of this is added to the pan in specific order, starting with the whole seeds and cinnamon sticks as aromatics, moving on to the chopped and minced vegetables and herbs, and finishing with the powdered spices.

Once these come together, they make a very thick sauce kind of mixture.  At this point, I added bone-in chicken pieces to the pan to cook them right in that sauce.

All this while, I had a separate pot on the stove pre-cooking my rice. The standard rice in South Asian cuisine (according to my neighbor) is basmati rice, which I have never made before. The smallest bag that the Indian market carried was ten pounds! I was seriously hoping the family liked it!  The recipe called for the rice to be half-cooked while the meat/sauce is prepared, but I wound up (accidentally) cooking it mostly through. I also added a can of coconut milk to the cooking water of the rice to add a touch of flavor, and to balance the heat of the spices used in the sauce.

The final step was to layer the prepared rice and chicken sauce in a large pot to finish the cooking of the rice and the meat.

Another ten  minutes of simmering later, we were ready to serve!

I know the photo isn't the best, but this was delicious. Full of flavor but not too hot, I really enjoyed it. So did daddy. Little miss did great - she said she didn't love it, but she ate her entire serving without complaining. Little man? He ate a taste or two of the chicken, a bit of the rice, but I had thought ahead and reserved some of the rice and a couple of chicken thighs to prepare "plain" (without the spices), and he focused mostly on those. Hey, he tried it!

And best of all? The biryani king told me that he liked it! I set aside two servings for my neighbor and his wife and they said that the flavor was right on, and that they really enjoyed it. Sure, they added a bit more heat to their own servings, but I can handle that. I took it as a real complement that they enjoyed the flavors and that it reminded him of home.

Grace, thank you so much for sharing your family's recipes, and for introducing me to this delicious dish. I can't wait to try different varieties (hey - I have a lot of basmati rice to use up!), as well as lots of other South Asian cuisine!

To see the other delicious biryanis cooked up in the kitchen this month, check them out here.

To see the full set of recipes as presented to us in the challenge, you can see them here.

Chicken Biryani
(from the Daring Cooks' Challenge)

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 bay leaves (I didn't have these... I wish I had!)
2 small cinnamon sticks
2 cardamom pods (green, not black)
3 tablespoons ghee (I used vegetable oil)
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 tomato, skinned and chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon biryani powder
1 chicken, cut into 8 parts (I used chicken thighs)
3 cups basmati rice, soaked for 30 minutes and drained
1 tablespoon plain yogurt (I used coconut milk yogurt to keep this dairy free)

Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan (I used a large sautee pan). Fry the cumin seeds, bay leaves, cinnamon, and cardamom in it until fragrant.
Add the onions, garlic, ginger, tomato, and salt. Cook on medium high heat while stirring for 5 minutes or until the onions start to brown.
Add the cumin, coriander powder, curry powder, and biryani powder. Cook for another 2 minutes, then add the chicken pieces. Cover the pan, and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.
Add the yogurt to the pan. Cover and simmer for 2 more minutes.
Meanwhile, boil the rice in 6 cups of water (I used 4 cups of mater and one can of coconut milk) for 5 minutes or until half cooked. Drain any remaining water. In a large saucepan (I used my largest pot for this), alternate layers of rice and chicken starting and ending with a layer of rice. Cover the saucepan tightly and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes or until the rice is done.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Chia Pudding

Happy Monday!  It's hard to believe, but this is one of the last Mondays of summer for us here - little miss starts school in just a couple of weeks, so we are trying to make the most of our last weeks of freedom around here.

Once school starts, I'm going to be working hard to make sure that little miss has a good, healthy, brain-feeding breakfast to start her days off right.

Now, if you read the title to this post, you're probably thinking "pudding? breakfast? What?!"

But it makes sense, I promise!

When I received this month's Secret Recipe Club assignment, I was pretty excited. Betcha Can't Eat Just One is a really awesome blog - Katie is a very talented baker and writes a really delicious blog. I had a lot of trouble choosing what to make for this month. She has some really awesome recipes.

But then I saw this one for Chocolate Chia Pudding, and I knew I had to make it. Yes, it's easy, which almost felt like cheating, but it's something I've only just recently heard of, and that I was super excited to try. 

And when I say simple, I mean simple.

I started with coconut milk (little man held the measuring cup for me), to which I added cocoa powder,

sweetener (agave nectar), and these little beauties:

Chia seeds.

Chia seeds are gaining popularity right now, though are still considered a bit of a specialty item. They are very popular among the... well... health-nut crowd. And I say that lovingly.  They are chock-full of healthy fat, protein, dietary fiber and a variety of other good stuff - including calcium! Cool, huh?

So, yeah - just those few ingredients... and you're done! Whisk it all together and pop it in the fridge.

I made the chocolate version, like the recipe called for, and then thought to myself... "hmm... that was easy... I should try another flavor, too!"

So I did!

I did the same thing, but instead of agave nectar, I used hone, and instead of cocoa, I tried:

shredded coconut!  Hey, why not?

The recipe indicated that these should be refrigerated for at least 30 minutes. I prepared these just about two hours before dinner, so that we could have them for dessert.

And it worked pretty well!

The chia seeds absorb so much liquid, it really does give the pudding a very... well... pudding-y consistency!

You'll notice a bit of milkier pudding on the bottom. More time in the fridge firms it up even more.

But these were fun to eat!

And with the simple, short ingredient list, these would make a quick, healthy breakfast for a school morning!

Now, the chia seeds give the pudding a somewhat tapioca-like consistency, which the kids found a bit weird.

I read a tip online about blending the pudding once it is done, and I think I might try that. I am definitely going to try different flavors - I have blueberries and strawberries in the fridge just begging for their turn to be chia-fied, so I will let you know if I perfect a process for this that makes everyone happy.

Katie, thank you so much for your beautiful, delicious and inspiring blog - I can't wait to try many more of your recipes (starting with your Epic Focaccia Bread!).

Chocolate Chia Pudding
(from Betcha Can't Eat Just One)

1/4 cup chia seeds
3/4 - 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 rounded tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 - 2 tablespoons agave nectar (to taste)

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl and let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. (You can pour the mixture into smaller serving dishes if you want before refrigerating - I used ramekins.)
The seeds will expand and kind of gel up…they look like tapioca.  The longer you let them sit, the more moisture they will absorb and the thicker your pudding will be.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sesame Bread

There are some blogs that I follow where, with every new post, I find myself thinking the same exact thing: "Oooh. I want to make that!"

One such blog, and I know I have mentioned it before, seeing as, well, I constantly want to (and do!) make things from her blog, is Chef In Disguise, written by the wonderful Sawsan.  Aside from being an inspiring chef and baker, she is a mother, an artist and an all around sweet person.

Recently, Sawsan re-posted a recipe from her blog onto her facebook page (are you on facebook? follow it!!) that she'd originally posted over a year ago.  It was for a delicious looking sesame bread, and one look convinced me that I had to make it myself.

So I did!

This is a very straightforward recipe, though is a bit different from other breads I have made.

It starts with proofing some yeast...

...while, in a separate bowl, combining flour, salt, eggs and vinegar.

Vinegar? Hmm... that's a new one!

But once you knead everything together, the results is a beautiful, silky, smooth (yet slightly sticky!) dough.

But an hour later...

Nice rise!

And this is where the bread gets fun.  The dough is divided into four pieces, and each piece is rolled out into a thin rectangle. With help from some little hands, if you can manage it.

(sorry about the lighting in that photo - it was a bright afternoon and our work surface is directly in front of a window. I love the sunshine... except when it does that to my photos...)

Each rectangle is then rolled up (as if you're rolling a cinnamon bun or jelly roll) and then shaped into an oval.

The oval is then brushed with thinned out molasses (Sawsan used an egg-wash, but a comment on her post indicated that you could use diluted molasses, and with three eggs in the dough, I didn't want to add more egg...) and then liberally sprinkled with sesame seeds.

And then the bread bakes in a very, very hot oven. Turning it into a beautiful ring with a gorgeous color and amazing smell.

And, considering all of the eggs enriching this dough, the crumb is amazingly light and fluffy and utterly delicious.

Little man and I ate half of one of the loaves as soon as it was cool enough to touch. Little miss liked the inside of the bread, but not the thick crust or sesame seeds as much.  Either way, I definitely want to make this again, possibly play with a little bit to make the crust  more pleasing to little miss... but, truth be told, I loved this bread exactly as it was. Toasted up the next morning and spread with strawberry jam? What a delicious breakfast.

Sawsan, thank you once again for yet another amazing recipe. I can't wait to continue learning from your blog - you are a true inspiration!

Sesame Bread
(only slightly adapted from Chef In Disguise)

For the bread:
3 to 3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs
3/4 to 1 cup warm milk (it should feel slightly warm to the touch not hot) (I used coconut milk)
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 table spoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the topping:
2 tablespoons of molasses diluted with water to be thin
sesame seeds

Proof the yeast by mixing it with the sugar and 3/4 cup milk. The yeast should bubble and foam, if it doesn't you need to discard it and start over with new yeast.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add the flour, salt, eggs and vinegar. Rub the eggs into the flour with your finger tips.
Add the yeast water mixture and knead the dough on low speed for 10 minutes till you get a smooth slightly sticky dough (you may or may not need to add more liquid, depending on the type of flour you use. I needed only about a tablespoon or two more).
Place the dough in a slightly oiled bowl, cover it and allow it to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, approximately one hour (depending on the temperature where you are).
Cut the dough into 4 parts.
Roll out each part into a rectangle.
Using your finger tips, roll the dough starting with the long side of the rectangle.
Form the dough into a ring or elongated oval shape.
Mix together the molasses and water and brush the tops of each oval with the mixture.
Generously sprinkle the tops of each bread with sesame seeds.
Allow the breads to rest for 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 500 degrees (or as high as your oven can go).
Place the dough on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 5-7 minutes at 500, then lower the heat to 400 degrees and bake until the bottom is golden brown (this requires another 7- 10 minutes).
Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

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