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Hot Cross Buns

27 Apr

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. Since, in addition to sharing the recipe for Osterbrot – German Easter Bread and Mama Pia’s Easter Bread, she had also given us the option to bake any Easter Bread of our choice. I seized this opportunity to bake the “Hot Cross Buns” 🙂

Hot Cross Buns

And I sang the kindergarten rhyme “Hot Cross Buns” all the time I was baking. Well, according to wikipedia, A hot cross bun is a spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisin and marked with a cross on the top, traditionally eaten on Good Friday in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, South Africa, and Canada. For the challenge I chose to use the one over at Foodness Gracious. I stumbled upon the blog while looking for a recipe for the buns, and I think I am a fan. I would totally recommend paying them a visit 🙂

INGREDIENTS (12 buns)

Buns

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 tsp quick rising yeast
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup dried milk powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 1/2 cup bread flour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup raisin

Cross

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 6 tsp water

Glaze

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tsp sugar

Dissolve the yeast in warm water and then add sugar, dried milk and the egg. Whisk them till combined. Add 1 1/2 cup of flour and mix it till it forms a smooth paste, cover and set it aside for ~30 minutes.

Hot Cross Buns

Add oil and salt, followed by the remaining flour, and after forming it into a ball, transfer to a stand mixer with a dough hook and add the spices. If the dough is still a little wet, add another tablespoon or two of flour. Add the raisins and mix at a low speed for a couple of minutes. Place the dough in a lightly greased container and set it aside again for ~30 minutes.

Grease a 13*10 inch baking tray and pre-heat the oven to 380 degree Fahrenheit. Divide the dough into 12 balls and place them into the tray  into a 4*3 grid. Cover the tray and set it aside till the dough balls rise enough to touch each other.  Meanwhile, mix water and flour together and once the dough balls are ready, pipe a cross across all the buns.

Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Boil sugar and water for the glaze. When the buns are golden brown remove from oven and  glaze them over.

Hot Cross Buns

The buns are now ready. I happened to stumble upon the recipe at the right time, not only was I looking for one I could use for this month’s DB challenge, the weather in the Bay Area has also been perfect to make one appreciate oven fresh buns (yeah,its raining here !!!!! and they say its summer! )

Hot Cross Buns

A good recipe, I say! You can butter them up or splash them over with some jam or marmalade, either way they are delicious. Off I go now, to make some hot tea 😀 Enjoy!!

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Almond Biscotti

20 Apr

I know quite a few people who love biscotti, but this friend of mine always orders a chocolate covered biscotti on our coffee runs. And so after our last run, I decided to try my hands at baking them up 🙂 There are a lot of biscotti recipes available on the net and the biscotti recipe I am going to share with you today has been adapted from Italian Dessert Recipes.

Almond biscotti

I love the fact that the recipe is so simple and involves very few ingredients. In fact, if you want to bake them without nuts, just don’t add any almonds and they would still be delicious.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp almond/vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit. Line a cookies tray with a parchment paper and set aside.

Almond biscotti

For blanching almonds, boil some water and pour the almonds in for not more than a few seconds. Drain and rinse wit cold water and just peel off the skin from the almonds. Next, toast the almonds in the oven for ~10 minutes and chop/slice them after they have cooled a bit.

Almond biscotti

In a bowl sift flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In another bowl beat sugar and eggs till a little thick and forms ribbons. The original recipe asked for almond extract but since, I only had vanilla extract, I used it instead. Add in the dry ingredients and beat till they mix well. Fold in the chopped almonds. If the resulting batter is runny use flour to shape the dough into 12 inch*4 inch rectangle and place it on the cookie sheet. Bake for 25 minutes and then cool the dough, before slicing the biscotti and baking each side of the biscotti for ~10 minutes in the oven.

Almond biscotti

For the chocolate, I melted some unsweetened baking chocolate and then dipped the biscotti lengthwise  into it. Let the chocolate dry off. Enjoy with tea/coffee or without.

They are light and yummy and the almonds add a nice flavor and crunch. I am thinking of experimenting with different flavors and nuts next. I had fun baking them. One of my goto recipes for sure 🙂

Nutella Pecan Cookies

16 May

I realized yesterday that its been real long since I shared another of my new experiments with you all, so I started thinking about what would be a good recipe to write about. It wasn’t that difficult a task, since I realized my blog still doesn’t have any chocolate based recipe, which seems such a contradiction as I am an ardent chocolate lover, not to mention, that the first cookies I ever baked were chocolate cookies.

I always have chocolate in my kitchen closet, but yesterday I couldn’t find any 😦 . So, instead of baking chocolate chip cookies I decided to go bold and bake with whatever I could lay my hands on, which was, a small box of Nutella, the delicious hazelnut spread and pecan halves. If you haven’t tried Nutella, you should, it is heaven in a box!  This, is a glimpse of the cookies I whipped up 🙂 Yummmyyy!! They reminded me of chocolate brownies, but were definitely more lighter than brownies. Also, these were just the right amount of sweet for me. They spread a bit while baking but, that might be because I was very impatient and took them out of the refrigerator in 20 minutes 😛 . I  have a strong suspicion that refrigerating the batter for longer duration would have solved that problem.

Nutella Pecan Cookies

INGREDIENTS (12 mid size cookies)

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Nutella (I used about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup roasted and chopped pecans (I used about 3/4 cup, I love pecans)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.

In a bowl whisk together flour, egg, sugar and nutella. You can use a hand mixer as well.

Nutella Pecan Cookies

 

Gently fold-in the pecan pieces till they are evenly distributed in the batter. Refrigerate the cookie dough for about 2 hours, or, if you are impatient like me, roll the dough into small balls and place them on an un-greased cookie tray for baking. Bake for about 10 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

Nutella Pecan Cookies

Trust me on this, when I tell you that these cookies are irresistible!! I am so glad, I baked only a dozen 😛 because the minute they were cool enough to touch, 4 of them vanished into thin air!! And sometime after dinner another couple of them were gone. Its a miracle I had any left for the photo shoot 🙂 😀

So, till I decide on what I will be baking next, Happy Baking friends!!

(adapted from: wesley & zoe)

Nankhatai – cardamom flavored Indian butter biscuits

9 Apr

Nankhatai has always been my favorite. Their aroma is irresistible and these tiny blobs melt in your mouth the instant you take a bite. So, here is a little history about these biscuits.

Years ago when India was still a colony, Dutch set up a bakery in Surat to produce bread for their consumption. When the Dutch left India, they handed over the bakery to one of the their employees named Dotivala and the bakery became the ‘Dotivala Bakery’. Nankhatai is one of his fusion creation, a combination of ‘Dutch butter biscuit’ and an Indian sweet called ‘Dal’. In Persian, Nankhatai means ‘bread of Cathay’ or Chinese bread. It was one of his masterpieces and went well in the Indian market since it did not even consist of eggs.

Nankhatai

Without much ado, here is the recipe.

INGREDIENTS (15-20 small biscuits)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (measure it after it has been powdered)
  • 1/2 cup ghee
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp cashew/almonds (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Pre-heat oven to 350 degree fahrenheit.

Sift cardamom powder, sugar and flour and either use powdered sugar or powder regular sugar using a grinder. Cream sugar and ghee in a bowl using hand mixer till light and fluffy.  Knead in the flour gradually into dough. If you want you can add chopped nuts at this time and gently fold them into the dough. Make 15-20 small balls and place them on a greased cookie sheet. Place the greased sheet into oven for baking.

Nankhatai

I remember my mother baking them once when I was a kid and the only thing I remember about that one session was that you need to be really careful when the biscuits are in the oven. Even a second more in oven would result in them getting over baked. Remember that the nankhatais should have no noticeable color change, color change indicates over-baking. Usually it take around 15-20 minutes but I would suggest you to bake only till cracks appear on the biscuits. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the biscuits cool.

Make yourself a nice hot cup of tea or coffee and enjoy it with nankhatais.

Have a good week and …bake away!!

My Weekend Bake – Cream Scones

17 Mar

Scones like every food, have their own history. I recently discovered that, originally these were made out of oats and baked on a girdle, but as a scone lover I can myself go to any extent to get a fresh one for myself. I am a frequent Starbucks visitor and am very much in love with their blueberry scones! Infact, it was here that I had my first scone but nothing beats being able to bake your own scones and have them with a cup of steaming hot tea! That was motivation enough for me to try to bake them.

Cream scones

INGREDIENTS (14-16 small scones)

  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp COLD unsalted butter, cut into smaller cubes
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream (I used milk and added the quantity based on judgement, enough to make the dough manageable but not too loose)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

NOTES

Some notes here, the butter should be really cold, you can keep them in the freezer for a couple of minutes. The second point of interest before we start baking is to remember not to over knead the dough, because we want our scones to be fluffy and crumbly and light! So, I chose to knead the flour lightly using my hands, you can use a mixer as well, your choice.

Pre-heat the oven to 275 degree F.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and add pieces of butter to it as well. Crumble through the mixture till it looks like the picture below.

crumble cold butter with dry ingredients

In a separate bowl beat the egg lightly and add cream and vanilla essence to it and stir them into the dry mixture. Knead the dough to make a uniformly moistened dough. Cover the dough with a cling wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into hand sized well rolled balls. On a flat, floured surface, flatten each roll to about 2 centimeters of thickness, using a rolling pin. Now, to shape each scone you can use a cookie cutter or I just used a knife to divide the dough into small scones (the shape they sell them in, at Starbucks!!). Brush the scone tops with oil and sprinkle them with crystal sugar.

sprinkle sugar on scone pieces

Bake the scone pieces on an unlined baking trey, for about 15-20 minutes or until their base is golden brown. The scone tops might be a little soft when taken fresh out of oven, but as long as a toothpick stuck into them turns out clean, they harden perfectly upon cooling.

golden brown scone bottom

fresh out of oven cream scones

The aroma from my kitchen right now is mouth watering, and even my husband complimented the aroma when the cones were still in the oven, not to mention he loved them with butter and agreed to fetch some fresh strawberries for strawberry shortcake (my next post)!! But yes, these scones were an instant hit!

(reference: savorysweetlife)

Crispy Fenugreek Crackers (Baked Methi Mathri)

15 Mar

This is my first blog for the Daring Baker challenge. I had been patiently waiting for a good few weeks when the February 2013 challenge was declared. Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie was our February 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to use our creativity in making our own Crisp Flatbreads and Crackers!

My tryst with baking had only been a sweet journey till a few weeks ago, so I was very excited at this chance to bake something savory. I returned from a trip to India, a couple of months ago, and, I am almost out of my stash of Indian snacks, so I jumped at this opportunity and decided to go for crispy fenugreek crackers (or methi mathri). There was however, just one problem, these crackers are deep-fried and not baked, so I had to do a lot of homework, dig up recipe’s and even try out a few of them before I finally arrived the best combination.  Also, I wanted these crackers to be healthy and therefore I wanted to use very little all-purpose flour and butter, with the best possible taste.

Crispy fenugreek crackers with mint chutney

So, it goes without saying that this week was a very hectic work week for me, especially with one less hour to sleep, thanks to day light saving that came into effect from Sunday! After a series of trials that lasted over a week and half, I decided that cooking or baking wasn’t very different than chemistry lab sessions. One only needs to know which elements result in which compounds and must definitely be aware of  which combination can cause an explosion!

So, without further ado, here is the recipe:

     INGREDIENTS 

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp semolina
  • 1/4 cup hot melted butter
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1-2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
  • salt to taste

Crispy fenugreek crackers with mint chutney

Pre-heat the one to 350 degree F. Oil the baking sheets or line them with parchment paper.

In a bowl mix together all the dry ingredients. Add hot melted butter to this mixture and crumble through it lightly. Do not knead. Slowly add water and knead to create a hard dough. My mother emphasized a great many times to make sure that the dough wasn’t soft or even a little soft, and that its a hard dough that makes these mathri’s awesome! So, I added water a little at a time and kneaded it diligently. Remember, too much kneading will make the crackers hard, so knead them lightly.

Once, the dough is ready, divide it into small portions and using a rolling pin, roll them out uniformly. Use a cookie cutter to cut these out into desired shape and lay them a few inches apart on the lined/oiled baking sheet. Bake them for 10-15 minutes or till they turn golden brown and then switch sides. Cool the crackers on a wire rack and store in a dry, air-tight container.

These taste best when eaten with mango pickle, mint chutney, tomato ketchup and/or with a hot cup of tea. Try them out and let me know what you think of them!

REFERENCES

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