COCONUT CARAMEL MINI BITES

 

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I was speaking to a friend last week and she asked “So what’s the plan for Valentine’s Day?”  Am I the only one who gets asked stupid questions? Every year I reply “Nothing special” and feel like a freak. This time I answered “Oh I am wearing my new black, lacy corset with the pink stilettos and taking the dog for a walk”. The man of the house heard this and choked on his beer and peanuts and the gawky teen rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath. Did I say something wrong? Freak! So, my friend and soon-to- be enemy pressed on ”Seriously, how will you show love, come on”   Show my love? Oh yeah…..for the last 5 years we wake up at the crack of dawn to pack food and drinks so that a young boy can pursue his passion, I load endless number of dishes into the dishwasher and piles of colour coordinated laundry into the washing machine, I tolerate male blindness and make lost T shirts appear out of thin air, I have cleaned blood, puke and poop endlessly, driven at 100 km/hour on empty roads to get the boy to training on time, held hands, prayed for patience and rejoiced at the victories, cried for our losses, smiled when I wanted to bash up the 2 men. We have shared, fought, kissed away tears, made up after a spat, held hands and assured each other, tied a fractured wrist in a splint, massaged aching backs, iced sore shoulders, supported each other’s dreams, gone to hell and back  and lived every minute of everyday for each other through thick and thin, sick and sin.  If that doesn’t show love, nothing  will. I guess everyday should be a celebration then.

 

 So 2 days before the advent of the “romantic day” Man of the house flew away on business leaving me with the temperamental teen. Teen declares “I want something different, coconutty”  Since no heart shaped candies were likely to come my way I decided on these coconut caramel bites to please the teen and see if it evoked any romance in my 40 plus heart. Fat chance!

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I have seen this recipe on one of the cooking shows where vegan food and vegan cheesecakes are ooh-ed and aah-ed over. They used coconut oil in the recipe. My only relationship with coconut oil went as far as my hair, so I decided on butter. Ofcourse being a healthy treat they omitted sugar but I did not want to risk feeding them to the bin so sugar won over healthy.  I have no big love for home made chocolates but these little treats are quite good. They are chewy in the centre with the bitter chocolate coating offering a contrasting flavour. Teen was generous with his praise and going “Mmmm”. I got a Happy “Momentine” hug and make some more  soon whispered in my ear…..ha ha….Love is in the air.

 

 

 

RECIPE

 

COCONUT CARAMEL BITES

 

MAKES- 15 PIECES

 

130 grams finely shredded, dessicated coconut (unsweetened)

 

200 ml coconut cream

 

50 grams  sugar

 

1 teaspoon butter

 

190 grams dark chocolate (baking)

 

Line a tin or cookie sheet with non stick paper, In a shallow saucepan heat sugar with a teaspoon of water on medium heat. The sugar will start darkening at the edge. Swirl the pan so as to avoid burning the sugar. Do not stir. Let the sugar darken to a golden brown.

 

Put off the heat and add the coconut cream. It will start spattering. Put the heat on medium and stirring constantly heat the mixture for 4-5 minutes till it thickens. Add in the coconut and continue stirring on low heat till the mixture comes together to form a sticky dough. Turn off the heat and add the butter and mix.

 

Spoon the mixture onto the lined sheet and shape into a 4’ by 8’ rectangle, using your wet fingers or the back of a spoon. The layer should be even and a little thicker than ¼ inch. Freeze. After 40 minutes in the freezer remove and cut into 15-16 squares. Do not separate yet. These are quite a heavy treat so don’t be too generous. Freeze for another hour or 2.

 

Line another large cookie sheet with non-stick paper. Melt chocolate over a double boiler/ bain-marie. Do not over heat chocolate. Stir occasionally. When partially melted remove from heat and stir, so that the remaining lumps melt in the residual heat. Remove filling from the freezer. Break into the cut pieces. Using 2 forks dip each piece of filling into the chocolate, turning over to coat it evenly. Place on lined sheet. Sprinkle with dessicated coconut (optional) Working fast coat all the pieces and return tray to the fridge.

 

Remove from the fridge (30-40 mins). Store in an air tight container. Keep refrigerated

 

 

 

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DIWALI SWEETS

SANKAR PALA & NANKHATAI

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Yes, its Diwali time for us Indians. In every household in India in whatever way and whichever form everyone will celebrate Diwali, whether it lighting lamps, doing Laxmi Pooja or kids bursting crackers. It’s so Indian to celebrate Diwali, irrespective of your faith, community, class. This year we are in Singapore, with its large Indian community it lacks the festive hustle and bustle. All around there are posters wishing Happy Diwali, announcing Diwali dinners and the Metro compartements are decked up with Indian motifs but the buzz and the beat, the colour and dance and FOOD (deep fried, sweet, savoury, spicy) its just not here. To put it kindly this is a polite, watered down version of the Diwali a Mumbai girl is used to.

A true blue Indian Diwali is an assault on your senses. The noise and colour and crowds and the food is enough to drive you into a tizzy and go meditate in the Himalayas after the festivities are done. The crackers are burst a million a minute, its one continuous “rat-a-tak-tak”. If migraine is not your thing then care for some asthma please? The streets are jammed with people in all their jhatak (shiny, gaudy) finery, the loudspeekers are belting out Bollywood music and the food is the focal point. The fantastic array of sweets and savouries, makes the noise and crowds and the sudden surge in air pollution bearable. Visiting friends to wish them has a special attraction. Even Mr. Junior the sullen teenager who is reluctant to accompany us on meet and greet sessions is quite excited and doesn’t pout or show attitude. From chaklis to chivda, gulab jamuns to gathiya, from mithai to mawa barfis, it a feast fit for a king.

I can guardedly say that though I don’t miss the crackers and noise and air pollution, I did miss out on dressing up in my sari and jewellery and making the gourmet tour around the city. Yes, away from home Diwali is Rookha-Sookha (Sad and Dry). If not the buzz, I decided to re-create the food that would certainly brighten our Diwali.

Sankar pala and Nan Khatai are two popular diwali farsans (snacks).

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Sankar pala is a crispy fried cookie which is sweet and mildly savoury and an excellent accompaniment to your cuppa. Nan Khatai is an Indian cousin of Shortbread biscuits but laden with ghee and cardamom. I topped it with nuts to add to the richness. Both are easy to prep and have very similar ingredients but the final product is chips and cookies (makes sense??)

So dear ones, my readers and visitors, thanks for stopping by and reading my crazed essays and showing your “Likes”…Happy Diwali! Go on make these rich, ghee laden, sugar filled sweets and enjoy the festivities…….if you can’t then what’s the point of those salads.

RECIPE (from  vegrecipesofindia.com )

SANKAR PALA

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup Semolina/ Rava

½ cup castor sugar

3 tablespoons ghee (melted)

Pinch of salt

½ to ¾ cup warm milk

Sunflower or any odourless Oil for deep frying

  • In a bowl or thali sieve the semolina, flour and salt. Add in the sugar and mix well using your fingers.
  • Pour in the ghee and rub it into the flour.
  • Add the milk a little at a time, bringing the dough together with your hands. Keep adding the milk till you get a firm but pliable dough. You may not need to use all the milk.
  • Divide the dough into large tennis sized balls and roll it out to 1/8th inch thickness. Cut the rough edges using a knife or pizza cutter. Cut into diamond shapes. Reusing the scraps roll out more dough.
  • Heat oil in a deep vessel. Turn down the heat to medium-low. Fry the cookies until golden brown, turning and flipping often. Drain on kitchen paper and store in an air tight container.

 

 

 

NAN KHATAI

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A close relative of the short bread cookies, these are popular cookies in western India, made usually during Diwali by The Maharashtrian and Gujarati communities. Most households in India do not own ovens. The ladies make the dough at home and bring it to the commercial bakeries for baking. Before the festival you can see long serpentine queues of women sitting on the pavements outside bakeries, patiently rolling the dough into balls and lining them up in tins, cheerfully chatting away, blissfully unaware of the traffic chaos they are causing. They are forgiven for the sake of these heavenly cookies and anyways all is fair and taken for granted in the spirit of Diwali.

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RECIPE

1 ¼ cup All-purpose Flour

¼ cup semolina

½ teaspooon Baking Powder

½ cup Caster sugar

½ cup or 8 tablespoons Ghee, at room temperature

¼ teaspoon Vanilla essence

1/2 teaspoon Powdered cardamom

pieces of cashews, Almonds and pistachios (soaked in milk)

  • Mix cardamom powder with the sugar.
  • Add the ghee and mix with a whisk until light and creamy. Add vanilla essence and mix well.
  • Sift the flour semolina and baking powder over the ghee mixture and using your hands bring the mixture together to form a crumbly dough. Add 1-2 tablespoons of warm milk if the dough falls apart.
  • Shape the dough into ping-pong sized balls and flatten them slightly. Embed the tops with the soaked nuts. Line them up on a greased tray and bake for 15-17 minutes at 170o C, until just golden around the edges.
  • Let them cool in the tray for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. Store in an air tight container.

 

 

MINI QUICHE (Spinach and Corn)

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My lunch girls, have been clamouring for an afternoon out for ages. Without meaning to be pricey I must have withdrawn from my lunch and /or coffee engagements; reasons ranging from fatigue to flat tyres ………… eventually they threw up their hands in despair and like good chums decided to plonk themselves in my living room (no permission asked or appointment taken). How nice is that….they could have kicked me out of the lunch group instead. Oh they were decent enough to give me a 2 day notice with strict instructions not to slave in the kitchen, a cup of tea and digestives would be great. Cup of tea and sweetened saw-dust for my girls?? I would have heard a few disappointed murmurs at a later date. The weather being the way it is, tea was out. Cold coffee and Lamingtons and my mini quiches sounded just the thing to please my “care two hoots for the waist line when good food is around” friends.image

Spending a morning with your girlfriends is one of the few pleasures of life. Nothing beats chatting aimlessly, venting your ire, crying over a bad haircut, discussing your mean teenager and using politically wrong language without being judged, without a harsh opinion or comment. On the contrary girls are so full of praise for your catty comments, they verbalise so many “oohs”, “aahs” and “yes you should have kicked his ….”, and then there are so many hugs going around for being brave, mean, greedy, lazy and all the other uncalled for behaviour. Where your male soul mate would just say “hmmm”, “oh”, “ok”, the female counterparts are so much superior in their efforts to make you feel wonderful, loved, beautiful and on top of the world. All it takes is cold coffee, lamingtons and quiche!!

Carried away with my unexpected morning affair!! Let me get to the Quiche on hand. Simply short crust pastry, spinach and corn filling and cream, eggs and nutmeg. Obviously there is a twist…..I flavoured the pastry dough with garlic powder and oregano (you pick your spices.) The cases were lined with thinly sliced gruyere (go ahead and use cheese slices, its so much easier). My recipe for the pastry makes the dough quite crumbly and difficult to handle, if you have a recipe which you are comfortable with go ahead. The quiche is light, healthy (I like to believe so) and the right accompaniment with the cold coffee. No fuss cutting it and the eternal embarrassment of the pastry falling off the filling. (LOL)

Life couldn’t be happier or simpler, a group of chatty, nutty, emotional females, sitting with their feet up on the chairs, sipping coffee without counting the calories, eating with their fingers, not bothering about my unwashed hair and flour dusted Tee, laughing, raving and ranting about their blessed life and promising to start the diet after the last bite of Quiche.

 

RECIPE

SPINACH AND CORN MINI QUICHES

MAKES 12

PLAIN SHORTCRUST PASTRY

250 grams plain flour

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon dried oregano (any other herb will do)

125 grams chilled butter, chopped

1 egg yolk

3-4 tablespoons cold water

  • Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add in the garlic powder and oregano and mix. Add the butter. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until crumbly.
  • Combine the egg yolk and 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Add to the flour mix. Cut with a knife to form a dough, adding another tablespoon of water if necessary.
  • Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together gently to form a dough. I find it very handy to turn out the dough onto a plastic wrap and bring it together with the help of the wrap, wrap it tightly and then gently press it together to form a dough ball. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.
  • Roll out the pastry between two sheets of plastic wraps or grease proof paper. Using a plain cutter or a jar cap cut rounds of the pastry to fit 12 cupcake tins. If the dough breaks in places, patch it up with little bits of dough.
  • Refrigerate while making the filling.

 

FILLING

50 grams Gruyere/ strong cheddar/ cheddar slices

1 tablespoon butter/ Olive oil

1 medium sized onion finely chopped

1 cup spinach, shredded

1/2 cup steamed corn

2 eggs

200 ml cream

50 ml milk

Freshly ground pepper

½ teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 190oC

  • In a pan melt butter with a dash of oil. Fry onions on low heat until tender. Add the spinach and corn. Continue stirring on low to mediun heat until the spinach wilts and any extra moisture dries up. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Remove the dough lined cupcake tins from the refrigerator. Line the bases with the cheese slices. Divide the spinach and corn mix between the 12 cases
  • In a bowl, whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, pepper and nutmeg. Laddle the cream- egg mix into the pastry shells.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned and set. Serve hot.

PIZZA PINWHEELS

imageIt is such an uphill task competing with the famous neighbourhood pizza delivery guy. He has invaded every nook and cranny of our city, streets, malls, business areas with his presence. He sends in mailers with attractive discounts, weird Wednesday offers (to get over the mid week slump), gigantic weekend deals and all the gimmicky stuff you can think of. So, how is a stay-at-home mom supposed to fight with this omnipresent monster who has made a fan out of son, father and herself (I am no saint), strictly in that order. Reasoning with the boys to eat healthy during the cricket season is no mean task. The horrors of trans fat, bleached flour, MSG and all the preservatives that come as additional toppings to the extra cheese, are lost in the taste.

So out of sheer desperation and the need to fight the friendly neighbourhood pizza guy, I have twisted the pizza (literally) into a pinwheel and given it a healthier, super tasty look and taste.

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These pinwheels are 100% homemade except for the cheese (so make it 85% homemade). The bread is super tasty, seasoned with herbs, part healthy, with wheat flour and olive oil. The sauce is homemade with real tomatoes, onions and herbs and no MSG!! You can play around with the cheese and add goat’s cheese or cottage cheese instead of pizza cheese or mozzarella. The topping options are endless. The bread is an adaptation of a focaccia recipe I followed from the Bread Bible by Christine Ingram and Jeannie Shapter. Half of the bread I turned into a Focaccia and the other half into Pizza Pinwheels. The idea for the pinwheels is not mine entirely and comes from a Youtube video I saw a few months back.

After reading the recipe some might argue- that’s too much effort for a mere pizza! Yes it is, but the sauce can be pre made in large quantities and only the bread needs to be made fresh. The effort is worth the oohs and aahs and then we all know, that nothing good and wholesome comes out of a cardboard box and gets delivered in half an hour! Hah!

RECIPE

PIZZA PINWHEELS

Makes 20- 25

Pizza Bread

200 garms whole wheat flour

300 grams all purpose flour

2 tsp salt

2 teaspoons dried yeast

325-300 ml lukewarm water

2 teaspoons salt

45 ml/ 3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon each thyme and rosemary finely chopped

  • Dissolve the yeast in the water ( use about 325 ml leaving the rest for later if you require)and set aside for 5 -10 minutes until it starts to bubble on the surface. Add in the oil.
  • Sift the flours and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centra and add in the yeast mixture. Mix to form a soft dough.
  • Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until soft and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a lightly oiled cling wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for 1-1 ½ hours or until doubled in bulk.
  • Once risen turn out the dough onto a floured surface, knock out the air and knead in the herbs.

 

 

Sauce

3 large ripe tomatoes

1 medium sized onion

4-5 cloves garlic

Fistful of fresh basil leaves (broken into rough pieces or cut fine)

1 teaspoon red chilli flakes

3 tablespoons ketchup

½ teaspoon sugar

Salt to taste

½ teaspoon pepper

  • Cut the tomatoes, onions and garlic into rough pieces. Put them in a pot and pour over water to just about cover (submerge ) them. Boil on medium heat until the veges have softened and the water has almost dried out. It’s alright if there is some water left behind.
  • With a hand blender, blend the mix to a smooth mixture and return to the pot. Add in the other ingredients and boil on medium –low heat until the sauce is thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

 

 

Toppings

8-9 green/black Olives (chopped)

3-4 cloves garlis finely chopped

1 onion thinely sliced and sautéed in olive oil

2-3 slices of smoked ham

Mozarella cheese/ Pizza cheese

Assembling

  • Divide the dough into 2 parts.
  • On a floured surface stretch out the dough into a rectangle about 11x 6 inches and 3 mm thick. It doesn’t need to be perfect or evenly thick. The longer side of the rectangle should be towards you.
  • Spread 3-4 tablespoons of sauce on the surface of the dough, leaving a ½ inch margin on the top and bottom (broad) side. Use the sauce sparingly or it may leak out.

 

  • Spread the toppings, grate the cheese.
  • Start rolling the long side of the rectangle (closest to you), away from you to form a long tube, like a swiss roll.
  • With a floured knife gently cut the roll into 11-12 slices (about 1 inch thick). Hold the roll and cut slowly with a sawing (back and forth) motion. Do not panic if the dough breaks open and the filling spills out. Carefully seal it and put it in the baking tray. The pinwheels will stick together on baking.
  • Gently lift each piece and arrange it in an 8×8 inch well oiled tin. Leave half an inch gap between the pinwheels. Grate a tablespoon or 2 of cheese on top and cover with a cloth and leave to rise in a warm place. ½ hour to 45 mins.
  • Meanwhile preheat oven to 200oC. Bake for 25-28 minutes until golden brown. Remove from tin and cool on wire rack. They are best eaten warm but stay well in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in cling film for 4-5 days.

 

Notes: The other half of the dough was used to make a Focaccia.

SHORTBREAD COOKIES

 

CLASSIC VANILLA & MOCHA-CHOCOLATE

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Its February already. The winter chill hasn’t receded yet, but there are a few warm days in between, the New Year is new no more and resolutions are long forgotten (Hurrah!!). Don’t get me wrong, but I find that festivities are such a hype and strain at times. They take me away from my routines, which get me crabby, they make demands on my time and me being the “old-habits-die-hard” kinda person, I want to make, bake and have fun. I can’t wait to get January out of my way and get started on routine baking. But Feb won’t leave me alone either. Look at the list of demands, cookies for school, cake for anniversary, missed Daring Bakers’ Challenges to make up and I am at it again.

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Valentines Day and my wedding anniversary following on each others tail, I usually try to combine the dessert or cake and roll it into one big celebration week. I must confess that I am not a pink, teddy, red hearts and long-stemmed roses person and I rather have a wholesome tea cake any day than a box of chocolates, but on this occasion I make an exception to my un-girly rules and roll out atleast a few heart shaped goodies. A beautifully rich dense cake- Le Diabola is baked and ready to be decorated (once I decide on the frosting) I hope I don’t end up serving it with lashings of cream or vanilla ice-cream. I have promised the boys to make it look pretty (They care a hoot about prettiness, to them the taste matters….LOL!!)

 

So to kick off the romance I baked a batch of my Valentine’s favourite Shortbread cookies. The recipe is Martha Stewarts’ and its absolutely gorgeous. I halved the batch and added coffee and chocolate chunks to one half and vanilla extract to the other. On hindsight I should have added a little more sugar to the coffee batch to cancel out the bitterness. These are super buttery and melt in the mouth with a crispy outside and a disintegrating inside. They look rustic and I felt no need to coat them with chocolate or fancy them up. They are so, so, so easy to make that its unreal.

I hope you try them dear reader, I can assure you they are the easiest way to “butter-up” your Valentine and if he cares more for the taste than the look, then you are one lucky gal.

 

RECIPE

SHORTBREAD COOKIES (adapted from Martha Stewart)

(Classic Vanilla and Coffee- Chocolate)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup Confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon salt

240 grams Butter (unsalted)

1 teaspoon Vanilla extract/ 1 tsp. Instant Coffee & 40 grams dark chocolate chunks

  • Cream the butter until light and add in the sugar ¼ cup at a time. Beat until light and fluffy, scrapping the bowl with a spatula.
  • Add in the flavouring of your choice at this stage. (coffee or Vanilla )
  • Sift the flour and salt and add to the butter mixture. Fold in until just combined and the dough comes together. If you want to add the chocolate do it now and gently incorporate it into the dough. Do not over-handle the dough.
  • Pat the dough into a 9”x 12” tray lined with parchment paper. Even it out with a palette knife and fork it all over. Refrigerate for an hour.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 155o C for 40-45 minutes until the edges are golden brown and there is a slight brown colouring on the top as well.
  • Remove from the oven and with a sharp knife cut them into rectangles of desired size in the tin itself. Cool for 10 minutes in the tin. Remove and continue cooling on the wire rack.
  • If you want to make shaped cookies- once the dough is ready, empty it onto a clingwrap, cover, flatten into a disk and refrigerate for an hour. Remove from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to 3 mm thickness. Cut into shapes and place on a well oiled or lined cookie sheet and bake at 155o C for 30 minutes or until light golden. Cool on a wire rack.

PIES

 

Apple Pie and Mince Pies

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Since the New Year has started I have been struggling to get off the sugar, flour and butter wagon and do it healthy. As a result I have been a bit crabby (LOL). Its not easy you know, for a person who has been popping cookies, gorging on cake and licking chocolate off every spoon and bowl the whole of December, to suddenly chuck the sweet life in January. Finally last week I decided to ease into my old self again and try out a slightly healthy version of the apple pie. A warm apple pie on a chilly evening or any chilly-time of the day is such a treat and if you know that it comes with oats and wheat flour in the crust and not too much sugar, then it is all the more welcome. Junior was a happy man to know his mom was back and sugar-sane again, but I detected a hint of sulkiness in Senior and thought I better treat him to a Mince pie since apple pies are too delicate for his hearty taste-buds.

I have taken a basic rough puff pastry recipe and added some ground oats and wheat flour, used low fat butter and a little olive oil. The oil was added to tame the flour and make it behave, since it was dry and crumbly and wouldn’t come together. The apple filling is sweetened with minimal sugar, I used lots of raisins instead and cashews.

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The mince pie filling is made from chicken mince with an addition of raisins and cashews as an ode to the Christmas Pies which I drooled over on other blogs. The filling was sweet and savoury with a mild hint of chilly and though I didn’t taste it I assume it was good……it didn’t last too long!

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The crusts need to be baked before they are filled and baked again. They need a good long bake or else they will end up doughy and raw. Finally, with this post I have got the New Year rolling with the Life of Two Pies (which didn’t last too long!!)

RECIPE

APPLE PIE

Makes 1 x 7” Pie

Serves 6

Rough Puff Pastry Crust

200 grams Butter, chilled (low-fat)

¼ cup oil

80 grams ground oats

100 grams whole wheat flour

100 grams plain flour

Pinch of salt

1 cup chilled water

1 ½ teaspoon lemon juice

  • Sift the flours and salt into a large bowl. Add the cubed butter. Using a knife cut the butter until coated with the flour.
  • Sprinkle over lemon juice, oil and half the water. Cut into the flour with a dinner knife until mixed but not breaking up the butter. Add a little more water if the mixture looks too dry.
  • With lightly floured fingers bring the mixture together to form a rough ball. Turn out onto a floured surface and bring it gently together and pat into a rectangle. Cover with a cling film and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove from the fridge and on a floured surface roll out the dough to form a rectangle, 18×6 inches. The dugh may look rough and difficult to manage at this stage but as you go along folding and rolling it will come together.
  • Fold the lower third up and the top third down. Give a quarter turn and seal the edges. Cover and refrigerate for 15-20 mins.
  • Continue rolling and folding, chilling the dough 4 times, giving it a quarter turn each time you fold.
  • Roll the pastry into a round of 3 mm thickness, line your tin (7 inch false bottomed pie tin) with the pastry . Trim the edges. Fork it all over and bake in a pre-heated oven at 190o C for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is a light golden and firm.

Filling

6 medium sized apples/ 4 large ( peeled, cored and sliced)

2 teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup golden raisins

½ cup cashews

Juice of ½ lemon

Pinch of salt

½ teaspoon oil/ butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

  • In a large pan heat oil or butter, add the apples and stir fry on medium heat.
  • Add the sugar, salt and cinnamon. Stir
  • Let the apples cook for 5 minutes to dry out the water content but make sure the pieces remain whole and do not turn mushy.
  • Add the raisins and cashews.
  • Cool the mixture before using.

Assembling:

  • Preheat oven to 190oC
  • Lightly brush the inside of the pre-cooked shell with beaten egg (this is optional). Spoon the mixture into the shell. Using left over pastry to make strips and form a lattice over the pie. Brush with egg.
  • Bake at 190oC until the top is golden brown and cooked (approx 30 minutes)

RUGELACH

RUGELACH

I love making pastry. I don’t claim to have mastered it but over the years I have been able to iron out a lot of bumps and creases. The whole of last week I have been showing off my skills to Big Sis who is in Mumbai spending quality time in my kitchen kneading, whipping, baking by my side and giving some invaluable inputs.

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Well, here’s Rugelach a pastry in a new avataar! A rich, cream cheese pastry which encases sweet and nutty fillings, is a traditional Jewish festive treat. These baby crescents are made for Jewish new year and the rolled up shape signifies the cyclical year. The dough is made from equal quantities of flour, butter and cream cheese. Cute little, mini croissant type thingies….good to look at and fabulous to devour and I will reserve my comments on the process and leave you to decide.

I came across them a few years back when I was in the infancy of Baking and took to them immediately. My first attempt was clumsy, with sticky dough, that just wouldn’t behave well in the sweltering heat, filling that toppled out and a thousand other woes.

I am a sucker for pastry making and I don’t give up easily. A failure keeps haunting me till I take another whack at it, then another and then one more…. In Mumbai’s 34-38 degree kitchens, it is not the best thing to be making. It makes a tough job tougher as the butter keeps melting, the dough feels sweaty and you are constantly running to the fridge. So Rugelach isn’t a cake walk and the pastry-adventure has the added excitement of cream cheese which makes your journey that much more satisfying (hopefully by now you have got the picture). Those of you who know me some, know that I am the proverbial Matador. I invite the bull into the kitchen. So on a hot and humid morning I embarked on my Rugelach journey. Having learnt some lessons from my last misadventure,  I kept the AC in the living room on a cool 18 Degrees, flung open the connecting kitchen door and began the “Taming of the Shrew”. I had made home-made Cream Cheese a day earlier. The fillings are pretty straight forward and you can make them sweet, savoury or just brush the dough with butter and bake them as is.

Traditional Rugelach is filled with chocolate chips, walnuts and brown sugar. I made varied fillings- apple raisin, rum and raisin, cream cheese and the chocolate chip walnut.

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This is a very delicately wrapped pastry so my advice to you would be to puree the filling and apply it on the rolled out pastry in a thin layer. Leaving the filling whole may result in a mess when baking.  Alternatively run you rolling pin over the filling once you have assembled it on the rolled out dough.

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It’s a finicky dough and especially so in this unkind, unforgiving heat. Though the end product is pure heaven, cookie-like and crumbly on the outside and slightly soft and flaky inside. Don’t use wet a filling, it will lead to soggy bites. I froze half the batch once I had filled and assembled them and baked them a few days later and they tasted just as good.

I hope you try them and won’t let the finicky dough dampen your pastry spirit! Whats a good cookie unless the dough crumbles……oopps did I get it wrong!!!

RECIPE

RUGELACH 

Dough

2 sticks/ 240 grms unsalted butter

240 grms cream cheese

1egg yolk

2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp granulated sugar (optional)

Egg Wash Ingredients

1 egg

1 tsp water

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

 

Filling 1

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1 cup chopped walnuts/ pecans/ almonds

1  cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

2-3 tblspns brown sugar

2 tblspns Honey

Put the ingredients in a blender/ food processor and whizz it to a coarse paste.

I left mine whole and sprinkled generous amounts on the pastry round.

 

Filling 2

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3 large apples chopped

1 heaped tblspn Butter

3 tblspn Raisins

4 tblspns brown sugar

½ tspn cinnamon powder

Juice of ½ lemon

Sautee the apples, raisins in the butter, until the apples turn soft. They should give way when pressed down with the back of a spoon. Add the cinnamon, lemon juice and sugar and cook for a further minute until the mix is jam like. Give it a whizz in a blender or squash it up with a fork.

If you prefer a chunky filling, just cook the apples until soft and don’t break them up too much.

 

Filling 3

 ½ cup prunes

½ cup dates

½ cup Raisins

1 tblspn Butter

½ tspn All-spice powder

½ cup rum

Chop and Soak the dry fruits in Rum and all-spice for an hour. Heat butter and add the soaked fruits, and cook on medium heat till all the juices have dried out. Squash to a jam like mixture with the back of a spoon or put it in a blender to make a jam like paste.

Filling 4

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200 grms cream cheese / cottage cheese crumbled

100 grms Cheddar

1 tsp coarsely ground pepper

1 tblspn Fresh thyme and rosemary

Salt to taste ( a pinch at the most)

In a medium sized bowl mix all the ingredients to a smooth paste. Taste and adjust salt.

 

Making the dough:

  • Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together. Add the egg yolk and whisk a little more. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and sugar. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, mixing with a wooden spoon, until dough comes together.  Pour dough onto a lightly floured rolling surface and form it into a rough ball shape with your hands. Do not over handle the dough or knead it. Just pat it into a ball.

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  • Divide the ball into four equal pieces and form those pieces into rough balls.
  • Cover each ball with plastic and place in the refrigerator. Refrigerate dough balls for at least 1 1/2 hours, for up to 48 hours. Freeze if you want for later use.

Assembling the cookies:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees C/ 375 degrees F. Lightly flour your rolling surface and rolling pin. Take one portion of the dough out the refrigerator (keep the rest of the dough cold until ready to use). Roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. The dough will be very firm and cold, but will become more pliable as it starts to warm. Just keep rolling with firm, even pressure.

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  • Use a round 9″ cake pan or bottom as a guide to make a nice, smooth imprint of a circle in the dough.

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  • Cut the dough into a large circle, following the shape of the cake pan. Take 1/4 of the filling (about 4 tbsp) and place it in the center of the circle. Spread it very thin and evenly across the surface of the dough. Leave about an inch around the edges of the circle.

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  • Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife cut the circle into 8 equal triangles by first cutting the circle in half, then quarters, then halve the quarters to make eighths. Dust the cutter or knife wth flour to prevent the filling from sticking on to it.

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  • Roll each triangle, starting from the wide edge and rolling towards the narrow point.
  • Press the end to secure it.

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  • Place the rolled cookies an inch apart onto a parchment lined cookie sheet or a well oiled baking tray, end point down. The cookies can be frozen at this stage and bagged for later use.

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  • When you are ready to bake, brush the top of each cookie with egg wash, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar or sesame seeds (for savoury cookies).
  • Bake for 25-28 minutes in a pre heated oven, until golden brown. If you like them darker, bake a minute or two longer.

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DARING BAKERS’ CHALLENGE- YAFAWI SFEEHA

YFAWI SFEEHA Blog-checking lines:  The July Daring Bakers’ Challenge was brought to us by Manal from Manal’s Bites. She introduced us to an authentic Palestinian dish from Jaffa that is served as a main meal along with a bowl of soup or a salad. The “Yafawi Sfeeha” or also known as “Milwayeh” which means twisted, is crispy yet tender and full of flavor. image Life has a way of levelling you out, rolling you up tight, turning you into spirals, and baking you in a hot, hot oven until you come out well-browned and good enough to eat. I am drawing parallels between my clash with the flu and this beautiful baked dish. I have been flattened by the flu, been rolling in pain and baked by fever in a hot oven….. but well like the Yafawi Sfeeha I have come out smelling well baked, a bit pale and stronger. So this was such an apt challenge for me, I had been aching for a month to get on track, bake my heart out and key into my blog but life stuck out a leg on my smooth course and got me tripping. So I am back and ready to take on the kitchen. The July challenge was hosted by  Manal Obieda, known as Manal’s Bites. The dish “Yafawi Sfeeha” (translation: meat pies from Jaffa) is an authentic dish from Jaffa in Palestine. They are traditional meat pies rolled in a thin pastry and formed into spirals and baked. There are vegetarian and sweet versions too. The pastry dough is easy to make and the taste of ghee (clarified butter) is a big plus, I urge you to throw the calories out of the door and use ghee liberally and not oil. The dough balls need to be rested for a good 12-14 hours as they become stretchy and easier to flatten with your fingers. More ghee needed here (LOL). I must warn you this flattening bit is tedious and requires patience and a “keep at it attitude”. Manal talks of making these pies at celebratory lunches where women gathered around and contributed to the process…..now I know why they made it when more hands were expected 🙂image image Fold the edge of the flattened disc right upto the center…since I missed out on that detail some of my filling spilled out. Brush with more melted ghee before baking. Mr.13 was rolling his eyes and wondering what was wrong with his “oil-stingy” mother. image image image image image image My meat version had a spicy chicken mince and the non-meat version had cottage cheese and some cheddar enhanced with pepper, a pinch of cardamom and nutmeg powders and some finely chopped mint and parsley. Throw in some raisins and chopped nuts. The baking time in the original recipe is 14-15 minutes but my spirals took about 21 mins, to look brown and well baked. I hate light pale looking pies, reminds me of clear soup on a sick day. Serve them with a Garlic Yogurt Dip or be lazy and squirt some ketchup onto them, they taste just as good. I would say it’s a sort of comfort food that I required after those days of gulping down insipid stuff and a little ghee indulgence never harmed anybody….. how else am I going to get my strength back! 🙂

RECIPE YAFAWI SFEEHA

Servings: 10-12 pieces  

Ingredients:

To make the dough:

3 cups (420 gm)  all-purpose (plain) flour, scoop flour using cup measure then level

1 teaspoon  salt

1 tablespoon sugar

3 tablespoons (45 ml) powdered milk (you can substitute this with warm milk, you will need less water if using milk)*

3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil

About 1 cup (250 ml) warm water for kneading

Melted ghee (or olive oil) to stretch the dough (ghee gives a great texture and flavor).

Note: I skipped the milk powder and instead substituted half the water with milk. I did use a tablespoon or 2 of extra water to bring the dough together

Meat Filling:

300 grms. ground chicken

1 large onion coarsely chopped

4-5 garlic pods crushed/ grated or finely chopped

1 teaspoon red chilly powder

2 teaspoons corriander powder

2 teaspoons cumin powder

2 tablespoons finely chopped mint and parsley

1 tablespoon oil Salt to taste

Non-meat Filling 200 grms cottage cheese/ haloumi

2-3 tablespoons Cheddar cheese

A generous pinch of pepper, cardommon, nutmeg powder

Salt to taste

2 teaspoons each of finely chopped parsley and mint (optional)  

Making the dough and pastry:

  • Mix flour, salt, sugar, powdered milk and vegetable oil then start adding the warm water until you get a soft and slightly sticky dough. Knead well until the dough feels soft and elastic. Add a tablespoon or 2 of warm water or milk if the dough appears dry.
  • Form the dough into small golf-ball-sized balls. Place on a baking sheet that is very well greased with ghee or olive oil and pour some more (oil or ghee) over dough. Cover and let rest at room temperature for few hours at least (or overnight).
  • Prepare filling in the meantime.
  • After you have your filling ready, use some of the ghee to brush a round tray  or an inverted tray works better (the surface that you will be working on). Take one piece of dough and using your hands, gently start spreading it as thinly and evenly as possible. Start from the center to the sides.
  • Once that is done fold the upper side to the middle, then fold the opposite side to the middle as well.
  • Spread the filling in a long line across the dough. Roll like a long tight rope making sure that it is tight enough to ensure no filling escapes. Then taking one end start rolling the rope towards the inside in a spiral shape (see photo).
  • Put some more ghee on the baking sheet and place the done Sfeeha onto the baking sheet. Continue making the rest of the Sfeeha using ghee to keep it nice and moist.
  • Preheat oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 and bake Sfeeha for 21-25 minutes till golden brown. Serve hot with Yogurt and garlic Dip.

Prepare the Filling:

  • For the meat/chicken filling fry the onions in 1 tblspoon oil until transculent, add in the garlic and the dry spices. Lower the heat and add a ¼ cup water to prevent the spices from burning. Fry for 2-3 mins. Add the mince and sauté on medium heat stirring constantly and breaking any lumps. Add a little water to moisten the meat , cover and lower the heat and let it cook till mince is cooked. The mixture should be dry. Add in the chopped herbs and salt. Stir well to mix.
  • For the cottage cheese filling, mix all the ingredients in a bowl with your finger ensuring that they are well mixed.