Monday, April 28, 2014

Soul Cakes (an SRC bonus!)

Last week, a call went out on the Secret Recipe Club's facebook group page that they needed help for a blogger whose assigned blogger was having trouble putting up their post.  With how busy I have been, I haven't been all that creative, cooking and baking wise, unless it's been challenge-related. So I immediately volunteered.

The blog to which I was directed was Lavender and Lovage, run by the amazingly impressive, talented and fantastic Karen. I had never visited Karen's blog before, but I can now guarantee that I'll be a regular visitor. Because WOW. She is amazing. And she's writing a cookbook of British recipes, which I can't wait to see!

I had a bit of a tough time deciding what to make, because there were so many amazing choices. But I finally chose to try a recipe for something called "soul cakes." I had never  heard of soul cakes before, but apparently they are traditional in British history, and are made in celebration of All-Soul's Day, which falls on November 2nd each year.  Karen described the soul cakes as kind of a cross between a scone and a biscuit. And looking at her amazing photos, they reminded me a bit of tea biscuits from one of my favorite bakeries. So I decided to give them a try!

The recipe is simple and straightforward. The "hardest" part is separating three eggs.

I did make two slight changes in the recipe. I omitted the currants (again - we'd just had the hot cross buns and my kids don't like dried fruits in their baked goods enough for me to do it too often...), and I chose to use my chai masala as the "mixed spice" that is called for in teh recipe.

The chai spices were whisked into the flour while the butter, sugar and egg yolks did their thing in the mixer.

Once the flour mixture is added, the resulting dough is rolled out...

...and cut into rounds using a biscuit cutter.

Yes, I still use a drinking glass as a biscuit cutter. It works great!

The soul cakes are marked with a cross, and I chose to sprinkle a bit of cinnamon sugar on top of them, as well.

And then they bake!

These came out as pretty rich cookies, and not very much like the tea biscuits I'd been thinking about, but they still pair extremely well with a cup of tea, and are a very delightful treat.  They are really delicious, though I think that next time (and yes, there will be a next time!) I will make them smaller, more like traditional cookie sized.

Karen, I thank you for your beautiful and inspirational blog and I can't wait to learn more about British cooking from you!

Chai-Spiced Soul Cakes
(only slightly adapted from Lavender and Lovage)

175 grams butter
175 grams caster sugar
3 egg yolks
450 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice (I used 1 teaspoon of chai masala)
100 grams currrants (I omitted)
a little milk to mix (I needed just about a tablespoon)

Preheat oven to 390 degrees (F) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream the butter and sugar together and then beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.
Sift the flour into another bowl with the mixed spice, then carefully add it to the butter, sugar and egg yolk mixture.
Stir in the currants, if using,  and add just enough milk to make a soft dough, similar to scones.
Roll the dough out (I made it between 1/4 and 1/2 an inch thick) and cut out little cakes with a biscuit cutter (or drinking glass!). Mark each cake with a cross and then place them onto the prepared baking sheets.
Bake the cakes for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack and the store in an airtight tin for up to 5 days.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

April Daring Bakers' Challenge - Easter Breads

The April Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den . She challenged us to Spring into our kitchens and make Easter breads reflecting cultures around the world.

This month was full of Easter themed breads for us between Sourdough Surprise's hot cross buns and the Daring Bakers' Challenge. Pretty funny considering that not only have I never made any sort of Easter bread before, I'd never even eaten one!

But after how delicious the hot cross buns were, I was extra excited to try my hand at another.

I briefly considered making another batch or variation of hot cross buns, but decided to try something different. Wolf provided a few sample recipes, but said that we could choose any Easter bread we wanted, from any world culture.  After a bit of reading, though, I decided to go with the first recipe that Wolf demonstrated for us - for Osterbrot, a German Easter bread.

But I did change it a little.  The Osterbrot is an enriched bread (with butter and egg in the dough) that is filled with nuts and dried fruits.  Of course I skip the nuts so that little man can enjoy the bread, and the hot cross buns had contained dried cranberries... so, to be a little different here, I got a little creative.

I started following the recipe as given, first making a sponge...

(my sponge turned out a little looser and stickier than I'd expected, but I just went with it...) and letting it rise for a few hours.

The sponge is then mixed with most of the rest of the ingredients to create a dough.

I omitted the orange zest that was called for in the recips, to go with the flavor choice I'd made, and replaced it with a teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

And instead of the dried fruits?

I chose chocolate chips!

The dough came together pretty easily, but I was grateful for my KitchenAid mixer to handle the kneading. Oh, and as a side note - I made this bread dairy free, replacing the milk in the sponge with coconut milk, and the butter in the dough with coconut oil.

The finished dough is left to rest for a while, then is shaped into a ball and allowed to rest again.

Just before baking, I brushed the dough with a bit of coconut oil...

...sprinkled it with a bit of cinnamon sugar...

...and slashed the top with a sharp knife.

And then it bakes. And smells amazing. And comes out looking delectable.

This made the perfect after-school snack, too. It has a nice, crisp crust and a lovely crumb and tastes so decadently delicious that everyone wanted seconds. And thirds.

I have to say... I think I might be addicted to Easter breads. I'm definitely going to be trying lots of different varieties, and going to be enjoying them year round!

Wolf, thank you so much for this awesome challenge!

To see the full challenge as presented by Wolf, check it out here.

To check out the amazing, impressive, varied and delicious Easter breads baked up this month, check them out here.

Cinnamon Chocoalte Chip Osterbrot
(adapted from

For the Sponge:
1 2/5 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2/3 cup cold milk (I used coconut milk)

For the Dough:
All of the sponge
1 2/5 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 tablespoon butter (I used coconut oil, melted)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup chocolate chips

To prepare the sponge:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the ingredients for the sponge together and mix until it forms a ball. Knead for several minutes, being careful not to let the sponge temperature rise above about 72°F (22°C or room temperature). Let the sponge rest for 1 - 2 hours at room temperature.

To prepare the dough:
Add to the sponge, already in the bowl of your mixer, the flour, sugar, cinnamon, egg, yeast and salt and mix until combined. Knead for several minutes. Add the butter (melted coconut oil) and knead for several more minutes.
Add the chocolate chips and knead them in. You want to kneat the dough until it is smooth and satiny. You may need to adjust the liquid or flour to achieve this.
Form the dough into a loose mound and let rest on a lightly floured work surface (covered loosely with plastic wrap) for 30 minutes.
Form the dough into a boule (round loaf), pulling the surface down over the dough towards the bottom and pinching closed (this creates surface tension). Cover again with loose plastic wrap and let the loaf rise for another 45 minutes at room temperature on a parchment covered baking sheet.
When you have about 15 minutes left of this final rise, preheat oven to 390 degrees.
Just before baking, brush the bread with milk (coconyt milk) (or you can use beaten egg yolk) and sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar. Then take a sharp knife and slash an "X" (or a cross) into the top of the bread.
Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 185°F. If the loaf is too dark on top, tent with foil for the last part and reduce the temperature to 350°F.
Allow bread to cool, then enjoy!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

April Sourdough Surprises - Hot Cross Buns

This month's Sourdough Surprises was something new for me. This month we were challenged to make hot cross buns. And when I say it was new to me, I don't just mean the sourdough variety - I'd never had a hot cross bun before - of any variety!

Now... I'm not overly familiar with the tradition or history regarding hot cross buns, but I know they're usually enriched, usually spiced in some way shape or form, usually have some kind of dried fruit in them, and are generally marked with a cross on the top.  Other than that, I had to just trust the recipes I was finding online.

They all looked and sounded interesting, but the one that spoke to me was this one, for chai spiced hot cross buns. The recipe looked flavorful and easy enough to follow, so I went for it!

It all starts with the starter... and quite a bit of it!

The starter is mixed with all of the dry ingredients. The recipe called for the chai flavoring to come in the form of the conttents of a chai tea bag. Me? I just added a bit of my chai masala.

Then the wet ingredients are combined in a separate bowl (or, you know... right in the measuring cup... always one to save a dish from  having to be washed...).

(and I love how you can see the egg yolk peeking through the other wet ingredients there... Yes... I whisked it all up right after that photo was taken, but I still thought it looked cool.)

The wet and dry ingredients are then kneaded together until it forms a beautiful, soft, sticky dough.

The dough then rises for a few hours, being gently folded a few times during the process, then gets popped into the fridge overnight to continue growing until it's...


The dough is still pretty sticky, though when it's cold from the fridge, it's a little easier to work with. Which is good, because the next step is to roll it out into bun-sized... um... buns.

While the buns rested for their final rise, it was time for the final step - the batter for the "crosses" on top. Now, I know that some recipes just put the crosses on top with some kind of icing after their baked, but I really did like the recipes that baked the crosses in.  And the batter is super quick and easy to whisk together.

And the fun part of making these yourself... is that you get to make any shape on them you want! As you can see, I took a few liberties...

Now, when I peeked into the oven about halfway through the baking time (a no-no, I know...), I was worried. The buns and the designs on top were exactly the same color. So I was worried I'd have to resort to the icing method after all.

But when they were fully baked...

...there they were! My designs!

All that was left was to baste them in honey...

...and eat!

I was so pleasantly surprised by how flavorful, light and fluffy these were, and they were delicious, to boot. The sourdough flavor, despite all that starter and all of that resting time, wasn't too strong, but that was totally okay with us. The kids loved them (probably because of the sticky honey goodness on the outside) and me? I had to share them with the neighbors to stop from eating them all.

And now I can't wait to see what everyone else made!  So link up!

Chai Spiced Sourdough Hot Cross Buns
(only slightly adapted from Rock Salt)

For the buns:
250g sourdough starter
400g plain flour
100g wholemeal bread flour
100g dried cranberries or Craisins
50g brown sugar
the contents of 1 spiced chai teabag (I used 1/2 teaspoon chai masala)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 egg
100ml warm water
100ml soy milk (I used coconut milk beverage)
1 tbsp honey

For the crosses:
75g plain flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp oil
juice of 1/2 orange (I used a splash of coconut milk - just enough to make it the right consistency...)
(I also added a dash of chai masala to mirror the flavor in the buns)

To glaze:
1 tbsp honey

Combine the sourdough starter and all the dry ingredients in a bowl. I used the bowl of my KitchenAid mixer. Combine the remaining wet ingredients in a jug (I used my two cup liquid measure) and whisk together.
Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix everything with a spatula to make a sticky dough.
Fit the mixer with the dough hook attachment and knead at a medium speed for 10 minutes. If you are so inclined, you can knead by hand for fifteen to twenty minutes, making sure to keep your hands slightly wet to stop the dough from sticking. Either way, you will end up with a wet, slightly sticky but smooth and shiny dough.
Oil a large tupperware box, and place the dough in the centre, turning it over once to coat it with oil, then cover and sit in a warm place for 90 minutes.
I took the lazy way and just sprayed the mixer bowl (lifting the dough as best I could) with cooking spray and covered it with plastic wrap to let it rest right in there. Works either way.
After 90 minutes, open the box (or remove the plastic wrap) and fold the dough, pulling the dough from each side of the bowl up and over the middle of the dough. I promise, it makes sense when you reach in the bowl and do it.
Cover again and rest for another 90 minutes.
Fold the dough again, as above, then cover once more.
At this point, place the bowl in the refrigerator to rest overnight (at least 8 hours).
In the morning, pull off chunks of the dough and shape into balls, as equally sized as you can make them. The recipe says that it makes 18. I made 12, so mine were undoubtedly bigger than they were supposed to be, but it worked out great. Slightly flatten out each ball and place them on a baking sheet which has been lined with parchment paper and sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Leave space between them to allow for rising.
Put the baking sheets in a warm place to rise for yet another 90 minutes.
In the last ten minutes of rising time, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees (F) and prepare the batter for the crosses.
To make the crosses, whisk all the ingredients in a jug to form a sticky, stiff paste. Fit a piping bag with a narrow round nozzle, and scrape the paste into the bag.  Pipe crosses (or whatever shape or design you choose!) on the buns.
Bake the buns for 15 minutes (mine took closer to 25 because I made them larger), then remove and place on a rack to cool. Heat the honey for glazing until it’s very runny – about 20 seconds in the microwave, and brush over the top of each bun before they cool.


Monday, April 14, 2014

April Daring Cooks' Challenge - Pathiri

I am so sorry I haven't posted in a while! But look at this - two posts in one day? What??

Yup - that's what happens every few months when the posting dates for the Secret Recipe Club and Daring Kitchen collide. I mean coincide.

The April Daring Cooks Challenge was brought to us by Joanna from What’s On The List. She taught us all about Pathiri and challenged us to create our own version of this inspirational Indian dish!

Pathiri was something completely new to me. Pathiri are a type of crepe-like pancake, usually rice based, which can then be used to create all kinds of savory dishes. Our challenge this month was to use these crepes to create a sort of savory crepe cake. Fun!

The given recipe was for a traditional Indian style dish.  Which looked outstanding.

But I only followed the recipe for the crepes.

For my filling, I went with what I had on hand - which happened to be Mexican inspired.  I had some leftover cooked Mexican-style chicken. I chopped the chicken, along with the tomatoes and onions that had cooked with it, and mixed everything together.

To construct my "cake," I spread each crepe with a thin layer of refried beans, then spread on some of the chicken filling.

I repeated these layers until I ran out of filling.

I then smothered the whole thing with a Mexican-spiced tomato sauce, then smothered the whole thing in cheese.

Which baked up...


The results were super fun to cut into...

...and absolutely delicious to eat.

Well, for me. The kids didn't like it because of the tomato sauce (I made a cheese-free mini-version for little man). But I thought it was really fun and delicious.

Now, I have been wanting to make a (sweet) crepe cake for quite some time, so this challenge  has re-inspired me to try my hand at it, and I definitely want to try another version of the savory version, too, to see if I can find one that is a winner for everyone in the family!

Joanne, thank you so much for introducing me to this fun, delicious dish!

To see the challenge as Joanne presented it, check it out here.

To see the delicious varieties of pathiri cooked up in the kitchen this month, check them out here.

I know I usually put the recipe that I used here at the bottom, but I really just winged my final recipe (and used leftover chicken from a chicken dish that I'd... yeah... totally winged...), so I'll put here the crepe recipe, from the challenge, that I used, and give you a basic overview of the finishing steps.

Pathiri-inspired crepes
(from April Daring Cooks' Challenge)

2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon grape-seed oil or neutral-tasting oil (I used vegetable oil)
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
pinch of salt
oil for crepe pan (I used non-stick cooking spray)

In a jug or mixing bowl add vinegar to milk; allow to sit for 5 minutes.
In a bowl (or larger jug), combine milk mixture with remaining ingredients; refrigerate for at least one hour.
Heat pan coating pan lightly with oil; remove excess oil with paper towel.
Pour batter to desired size; flip when edges start to lift.
Cook second side until just cooked.

For the final dish, prepare a cooked filling of our choice and allow it to cool. Also prepare a coordinating sauce of your choice.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Spoon a bit of sauce onto a baking dish (so the final product won't stick), and alternate layers of crepes and filling. There is no rule for how many layers you need to use, so go with what works for you. Cover all of the layers with sauce.
Bake in preheated oven until heated through.


Banana Zucchini Crumble Bread

This month's Secret Recipe Club assignment was a fun one. If you've never visited Ashley over at Cheese Curd in Paradise, do yourself a favor and check it out. She has tons of awesome recipes, participates in lots of different challenges, and is truly awesome.

When choosing what to make this month, I was particularly inspired by... bananas.

Odd. I know.

But we had lots of them. Lots and lots and lots.  So in addition to eating them plain, spreading them with peanut butter (sunbutter for allergy boy), and slicing them on our cereal, we also wanted to bake with them.

Luckily, Ashely has some great banana recipes.

I first made her banana blueberry muffins. Well... without the blueberries. We were out. But even as just banana muffins, they were absolutely delicious. I even brought some in to the lovely ladies in the front office of little miss's school.

But the next recipe I made was even better. Banana zucchini crumble bread. Oh my gosh, this bread is so delicious. And it's packed with wholesome goodness, you don't even feel guilty having an extra piece (or two...).

And the best part? It comes together super duper easily.

I made only a couple of modifications to the recipe to make it dairy free, replacing the butter with coconut oil.

And my camera battery died after those photos, so I can't show you just how easy it was.

But trust me. In no time, it went from mashed banana and shredded zucchini to this:

Crumb topped deliciousness.

This bread was moist and flavorful and so easy to eat. The crisp topping added the perfect amount of sweetness and crunch, making this extra fun.

I will definitely be making this again. And again.

Thank you, Ashley!

Banana Zucchini Crumble Bread
(from Cheese Curd In Paradise)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 bananas, mashed
1 cup grated zucchini
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted (I used coconut oil, melted)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter (I used coconut oil)

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x5 loaf pan.
In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, zucchini, sugar, egg and melted butter (coconut oil). Stir the wet ingredients into the dry mixture just until moistened. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter (coconut oil) until mixture resembles a coarse crumble. I found it easier to do this with my finger tips. It's a bit sticky, but gets the job done. Sprinkle topping over bread.
Bake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle come out clean. Allow bread to cool before removing from the baking dish.


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