July 24, 2014

We Knead To Bake #19 : Gibassier (A French Anise & Orange Flavored Loaf)

t is another sweet bread again, this month, at the We Knead To Bake group. This month I chose a French breakfast pastry/ bread called Gibassier (pronounced zee-bah-see-ay) from the Provence region, for the group to bake. Incidentally, Gibassier is also the name for large cookie from Lourmarin in particular that’s about a foot long, is made with olive oil and oval shaped like a leaf.
So what is a Gibassier?
The Gibassier is a buttery textured French breakfast bread that is flavoured with candied orange peel, orange blossom water and aniseed, and topped with a sprinkling of plain or vanilla sugar. It is shaped somewhat the way one shapes a fougasse and delightfully soft and delicious. Gibassier can be shaped and made as one big round loaf, or larger or smaller single serve breads. Whatever size they come in, they are slashed/ snipped decoratively before they’re baked and this makes them even more irresistible.

It is thought that the Gibassier is named after a mountain peak in the Luberon Mountains, called Le Gibas. Others suggest that the name comes from the “gibacier” which referred to a flat bag that was used to carry game, somewhat similar to the shape of the pastry.

Gibassier is one of the 13 traditional French Christmas desserts that are traditionally served after Midnight Mass to signify Christ and his 12 aposltels at the Last Supper. Many people refer to the Gibassier as Pompe à Huile (French olive oil bread) while others insist the two are not the same. The Gibassier is somewhat like an Italian Panettone, and it is believed that it must apparently be torn apart with the hands when served to bring good luck in the New Year.

Making Gibassier is not very difficult but it takes a little time as the process involves starting with a “Biga” or pre-ferment which is made the previous night of the baking of this bread. There are recipes which do away with the use of the pre-ferment and the bread is made all on the same day. But I personally find that where there is traditionally the use of a pre-ferment for a bread, that it is better to use it because this adds to the flavour and texture of the finished bread. 
There are some aspects of the Gibassier which are important because they define this bread.
The use of Orange Blossom Water is important as it gives the Gibassier a distinct flavour that is difficult to replicate with any substitute. So leave it out if you can’t find Orange Blossom Water, or maybe try one of the substitutes mentioned in the recipe section of this post.


The other important part of this bread is the candied orange peel. You can make it at home, or if candied peel is not your thing (we’re not fans of it particularly, and my daughter will not touch anything with peel in it unless it something she likes when she will patiently pick out all the peel!) then you can substitute it with chopped dried apricots soaked in some orange juice. The orange flecked Gibassier has a lot of aesthetic appeal.

After baking the Gibassier, brushing them with clarified butter (ghee)while still warm not only gives them a lovely nutty flavour and taste but also helps the dusted sugar to stick well to the bread. Clarified butter is easy enough to make, as all it requires is to melt some butter and cook it till it turns golden.

To make the decorative cuts in the Gibassier, don’t use a knife (however sharp it may be) or anything that drags through the dough. What you need is something that you can push down into the down to make a clean cut. I used the end of a piece of plastic strip to make cuts in my dough.
And here’s the recipe!

Gibassier (A French Anise & Orange Flavored Loaf)


For the Pre-ferment (Biga):

1 1/2 cups bread flour          
1/2 cup milk
1/16 tsp instant yeast

For the Dough:

2 eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup orange blossom water*
1/8 cup warm water (or orange juice) **
3 1/4 cups bread flour
All the pre-ferment/ Biga from above
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 tsp instant yeast
75 gm butter, slightly soft***
1 1/2 to 2 tsp anise seeds
1/2 cup chopped candied orange peel (I used dried apricots) ****
1 tsp orange zest (use 2 tsp if using dried apricot)

For Glazing and Dusting the Gibassier

1/3 cup to 1/2 cup clarified butter (ghee) *****
Vanilla sugar or castor sugar


*What gives this bread its signature aroma is the orange flavour and orange blossom water makes all the difference. It is difficult to replicate with substitutions, so if you cannot find it, you may leave it out altogether. In this recipe since orange is an important flavour, you can can use 1/2 tsp orange extract instead, if you have it. Otherwise you can substitute the 1/8 cup water with unsweetened orange juice.
**If you are using apricots instead of candies orange peel, replace the 1/8 cup water with warm unsweetened orange juice.
***It is important to use butter that is just beginning to soften. The butter should be somewhat cold but just soft enough for you to press down with your finger. If your butter is too soft you might have greasy Gibassier.
If you don’t like candied peel, you can substitute it with chopped dried apricots. But then remember to use warm orange juice instead of warm water for a stronger orange flavour.
*****If you don’t have ghee, you can make your own clarified butter. Just put unsalted butter in a pan and melt it. Let it boil and bubble on medium heat until it turns golden. Strain out the solids and you have clarified butter/ ghee. Store in a glass jar.
You can use melted butter instead of clarified butter but you will not get the same flavour.
You can make your own vanilla sugar at home, by steeping slit vanilla pods (whole or those from which you have removed the seeds) in a jar of granulated or castor sugar. Let it sit for about a week or two and your vanilla sugar is ready for use.

The Process:

The pre-ferment has to be made the night before the Gibassier are baked. So the previous night, mix together the ingredients for the pre-ferment into a slightly stiff but smooth dough. Add a little more milk if your dough is too stiff.
Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and cover loosely. Let it stand, at room temperature, for about 14 to 16 hours. At the end of this time, the dough would have risen and have a fermented look.

The next morning, make the dough for the Gibassier. You can do this by hand, but it will require some effort as the dough can get a bit sticky. Using a kitchen machine or a food processor will make things easier.
Put the eggs, olive oil and Orange Blossom Water in the processor bowl and run a couple of times to mix well. Then add the warm water and mix. If the water is too hot, the mixture will curdle because of the eggs!
Now add the pre-ferment (tear it up into chunks first so it will mix easily), bread flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and knead until the dough is smooth. Now add the butter in chunks (3 or four times) and knead until the butter is incorporated into the dough before adding the next chunk. Knead well until the dough is soft and supple.
Add the chopped candied orange (or apricots), aniseed and the zest and knead till incorporated. Shape the dough into a round and place in a well-oiled bowl turning it to coat well. Cover loosely and allow the dough to double in volume. This should take about 2 hours.

When done, turn the dough out onto your working surface. Divide it into 12 equal portions, shape each into a round and let the dough rest for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then shape and flatten each round into a semi-circle or oval.  Make three cuts in the semi-circle, one in the centre and two on either side of this cut from the straight edge to the arch of the semi-circle (see photographs), by pushing your implement straight into the dough. Making sure the cuts open up into neat slits. Then using scissors, make 4 snips along the arched side at equal distance.
Lift the Gibassier dough and transfer it to a parchment lined baking sheet making sure to stretch it a little so the cuts open up well and the slits also spread a bit. Repeat with all the balls of dough, and let the shaped dough rise for about 30 to 45 minutes till a little puffy.
Then bake them at 180C (350F) for about 10 to 15 minutes till they turn a golden brown on top.
Take the Gibassier out of the oven and brush them while still hot, with clarified butter/ ghee. Immediately press the brushed side down lightly (or sprinkle with sugar instead) into vanilla sugar or castor sugar. Then let them cool on a rack.
Serve them slightly warm or at room temperature with coffee or tea. This recipe makes 12 large Gibassier.

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July 18, 2014

Panmarino (Italian Rosemary Bread)

t’s been a crazy couple of months here with so much going on that I’m running like mad just to stay where I am and get everything done. And now with the daughter leaving for college this weekend and the Indian Bloggers Meet happening in less than two weeks from now I only wish there were a few more hours than 24 in each day!

I was just on Facebook when I stared seeing a couple of posts from fellow Bread Baking Babes when I realised that today was the posting deadline for this month’s bread. For a change, I actually baked my bread  over a week back but then the photographs I took were still in the camera till a couple of hours back.

Given that I don’t have too much time on my hands, this post is going to be very short and to the point, mostly. This month’s BBB bread, chosen for us by Cathy from BreadExperience, is the Panmarino.
The Panmarino is an Italian bread that is generously flavoured with fresh rosemary and olive oil. This golden coloured rustic loaf is known for its light crumb and crisp crust with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt. 
As the story goes, the recipe for the Panmarino as it is known today, was developed a baker named Luciano Pancalde who lived in Ferrara near Venice. Luciano Panclade apparently was once reading the biography of the d'Este family who were the rulers of Ferrara, and came across descriptions of their grand court banquets. Some of these banquets also served a rosemary bread that had a sea salt sprinkled crust that “sparkled with diamonds”.
 So Lucioano Panclade  experimented with dough to reproduce a similar rosemary bread and the result was the dome shaped, star patterned and sea salt crusted Panmarino that is perfumed with the fragrance of rosemary.

The Panmarino takes some time and little planning ahead, but most of the 18 to 20 hours it takes to make is spent on the overnight Biga or pre-ferment. Kneading the bread, shaping it, letting it rise and baking it just takes as much time as a regular loaf of bread would. There are recipes for Panmarino which take just a couple of hours to make, but the traditional version involves the use of a pre-ferment which gives the bread its texture and flavour.
I halved the original recipe and chose to bake the dough as one large boule instead of two smaller ones. Even that was a little on the larger side for our family of three. I didn’t have anything like a couche that would ensure that my boule would have a bit of height, and it did spread a wee bit even though I shaped it hoping the gluten cloak would hold it in (which it mostly did). I decided against slashing the boule because I was worried that might cause my boule to flatten out a bit more. I’ll be honest and confess that my bread dough slashing skills aren’t the finest especially when dealing with the more hydrated sourdough kind of stuff.

All in all, my Panmarino turned out pretty good even though there were no "sparkling diamonds" on mine, serve with roasted bell pepper and tomato soup. Though I must advice you that if you’re not a fan of rosemary, then you might think this bread’s a big deal. So leave out the rosemary and still bake this bread because it is a good one.

Panmarino  (Italian Rosemary Bread)


For the Biga:

1/2 cup bread flour
1/3 cup water
A pinch of instant yeast  

For the Final Dough:

3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 cup 2 slightly warm water
1 1/2 tbsp milk
All the Biga from above
3/4 tbsp salt
A pinch of instant yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary


Start with preparing the Biga or pre-ferment. Do this the night previous to the day you’re planning to bake the Panmarino. Combine the flour, water and yeast in a bowl and mix together with a spoon or fork. You should have a somewhat viscous semi-liquid dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest overnight, or for about 12 to 16 hours, at room temperature. 

Making the Final Dough.Put the bread flour, water, milk, and biga in the processor bowl. Using a machine makes kneading easier but you can do this by hand too. Knead till blended. Then add the salt and the yeast and knead well till smooth. When the gluten is well developed add the olive oil and the rosemary. Knead well until oil is absorbed into the dough. The dough should be smooth, well kneaded and a little loose.
Scrape the dough into a well-oiled bowl and cover loosely. Let it rise till almost double. This should take about 1 hour or so.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into two equal portions (if making 2 smaller boules). Shape the portions of dough into rounds. Let them rest for about 15 to 20 minutes. If you have couches then use that. Do see the original recipe on how to work with that.
Otherwise, shape each round of dough making sure the that you don’t tear the gluten cloak. Place them on a lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Loosely cover them and let them rise for about an hour.

Just before baking, pre-heat your oven to 230C (450F) with a baking stone or an over turned baking sheet on the rack and an empty baking pan under it.
Uncover the dough and score the top of each loaf in a star pattern using a lame or sharp knife. You can, if you like, sprinkle sea salt into the crevices as the original baker did to make it "sparkle with diamonds."
Carefully place your loaves in the oven.  To make the steam (this will give you a good crust), add 1 cup of ice to the empty baking tray under the rack. Bake the loaves for about 35 to 40 minutes or until they are crisp and golden brown on top and the loaves make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. Remove the loaves from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. 

Though the Bread Baking Babes (BBB) are a closed group, you can still bake with us as a Bread Baking Buddy and here’s how it works.
The Kitchen of the Month this month is Cathy's and the recipe for this month’s bread is on her blog. Bake the eaujolais Bread according to that recipe and post it on your blog before the 28th of this month. Make sure you mention the Bread Baking Babes and link to her BBB post in your own post.
Then e-mail Cathy with your name and the link to the post, or leave a comment on her blog post with this information. She will then do a Buddy round-up for this month on her blog and also send you a BBB badge for this bread that you can then add to your post on your blog. 

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July 13, 2014

To Food, Blogging & Friendships : The First Ever Indian Food Bloggers Meet 2014

’m sure most of you, at least those who are in India and on Facebook, have been seeing post and updates about the Indian Food Bloggers Meet (a.k.a. IFBMeet) at Bangalore on the 1st & 2nd August. We are all quite excited about the event and really looking forward to meeting the food bloggers who will be there, some of whom are very good friends.
The idea behind the IFBMeet popped up somewhere in 2010/ 2011 during a routine conversation with a good friend and fellow food blogger, Arundati (Escapades). We knew there were a lot of food blogger based in India who lived across the country and felt it was a good idea to have them come together as a community, meet one another and recognise the people behind those food blogs.
That idea seemed a little ahead of its time at that point and kept bubbling on the back burner, coming out of the pot when it would get discussed, on and off over the next couple of years. Sometime in late 2013, the idea popped up once again during conversation, this time when Arundati was visiting Goa on a short vacation. She, another friend and food blogger based in Goa - Revati (Hungry & Excited) and I were to meet for lunch.
So one warm afternoon, the three of us sat down to lunch under some coconut palms not far from a beautiful sandy Goan beach and decided it was finally time to put our idea down on paper. We chalked down an agenda of sorts, roped in a fourth friend and food blogger, Nandita (Saffron Trail), into our discussions and the IFBMeet was born.


The main idea behind a Meet of this kind was to bring together food bloggers from across India at one venue so that they could interact with like-minded people who enjoy food and blogging about it. We also wanted the occasion to go beyond an enjoyable meet-and-greet experience and make it one where food bloggers could also take back something in terms of knowledge connected with good food blogging practices.
Speaking for myself, being someone who didn’t even know where to start with something like this, I’ve been lucky to have three good friends and great organizers along with me and the going has been good so far.  
A lot of people have come forward to join us by becoming sponsors at the Meet. We’re happy to be associated with the Aloft Hotels at Bangalore who are our venue partners and sponsor for the Meet.
Burrp! have come forward to be our main event sponsor. KitchenAid is another of our sponsors and they have arranged for a Masterclass by Chef Surjan Singh Jolly of the JW Marriott Bengaluru. HarperCollinsIndia is launching the newest cookbook, Spice Sorcery by Husna Rahaman, at the event and will also be giving away a copy of one of their cookbooks to every registered participant at the Meet.
We have a lot of exciting sessions planned for the two days. Participants at the Meet can expect to sit in on sessions on topics including Food Styling by Deeba Rajpal, Food Writing by Rushina Ghildayal, Social Media for Food Bloggers by Nandita Iyer, and Taking Better Food Photographs by me. Please see the IFBMeet blog for details on the other sessions.
We also have a goodie bag packed with surprises that we will be giving away to all the food bloggers attending the Meet.
That's not all, as we have a lot more in store. To find out what else is happening at the Indian Food Bloggers Meet, please follow us on the blog dedicated to the Meet, on Facebook and Twitter.
Registrations for attending the All India Food Bloggers Meet close on the 15th of July, 2014 (that’s another two days left!), and there are a few spots still available. If you would like to join us at Bangalore, then hurry up and send us an e-mail. If there's a place  still available when you e-mail reaches us, we will see you at the Meet.
Looking forward to seeing some of you at Bangalore.
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July 10, 2014

A Birthday Cake - Cookies & Cream Rosette Cake With Classic Vanilla Buttercream

his year will be marked in our memories for many reasons, including the fact that we had an uncomfortably hot summer and that was followed by monsoon where it hardly rained all June, and July doesn’t seem very promising so far. What we will surely remember is that 2014was the year when our daughter turned 18 and that she left for college to stay away from home for the first time.
She still has a couple of weeks before she has to leave for college, and rather than dwell on that, I shall move onto happier thoughts like she turned 18 last weekend. It wasn’t quite like the birthday of past years because most of her friends have moved away to college, and the remaining few are in the process of doing so, like her. So we had a quiet day but enjoyable day at home.

When our daughter was younger, we used to order her birthday cakes from a local bakery that makes the tastiest birthday cakes I’ve had. They don’t do over the top cakes with fondant decorations and fancy themes, just the good old fashioned kind of buttery cakes which didn’t stretch beyond shapes of cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, or maybe a Pink Panther! The cakes would be covered with buttercream and piped decorations with a “Happy Birthday” spelt out in swirling and pretty alphabets. The birthday girl would pick out the shape and flavours she wanted which were invariably chocolate or vanilla.

Then somewhere around the time she turned9 or 10, I started becoming  a little adventurous and started baking her birthday cake at home and it’s become a tradition now. Of course, it has helped that I have been steadily improving with my skills as a “layered-birthday-cake- with-buttercream” maker even though my piping/ decoration skills are pretty basic.
I learnt the hard way that it was better not to surprise the birthday girl with the cake, at least in terms of flavour. Of course, I must admit that I used to have a tendency to go a bit overboard with my birthday cake ideas and executions initially. I would end up spending a lot of effort on them given my then very basic skills with multiple layer cakes and decorating, drive myself and my husband up the wall only to find the cake or the frosting wouldn’t turn out quite the way I wanted them to. I would then have to find ways and means to make adjustments so everything turned out right. I would also have the rest of the birthday party cooking to do too.


So somewhere a couple of years in to birthday cake making, I wised up and figured the way to go was to bake simple cakes that took the least effort, but had the best taste and texture,  and the maximum “wow” factor. To keep an element of surprise in the whole birthday cake baking thing, I always ask my daughter what sort of cake she wants. I’d then find a recipe that would accommodate those wishes and tweak them to suit my needs. The birthday girl would have no idea what her cake would look like and the final unveiling would invariably elicit reactions that were music to my ears.
This year was pretty much the same. The birthday girl’s demand was pretty simple and what she wanted was a cake with buttercream! Those of you who are veterans at making frosted cakes, or even at eating them every now and then without giving it a second thought must be wondering what’ the big deal is about buttercream on cake. It just so happens that I don’ make buttercream very often, just like maybe just twice a year so a home-made cake with buttercream on it is a bit of a rare treat for our daughter. I personally dislike the stuff, and to be honest, a lot of butter and sugar is something you don’t want to see too often especially when you are on the wrong side of forty!
So the birthday girl demanded a cake frosted with buttercream, and it was her 18th birthday so I wanted to bake something special and bit different my my usual cakes, but also stay well within my decorating skills. I had decided that this birthday we would not go down the chocolate-y road for a change, so that pretty much left me to choose between vanilla and butterscotch which are the birthday girl’s two favouritest flavours!

After much thought about the cake (a two layer cake as I have two same size cake tins and wouldn’t have to slice through one cake and have it fall apart on me) and searching around, I picked this cake. It can’t get much better than a one bowl cake (no creaming till soft and fluffy, looking for ingredients I don’t have, and just the bowl, a spoon or two, and the beaters to wash!) with another favourite of the daughter’s – Oreo cookies.

Just in case the thought of a one-bowl cake doesn’t seem right for a birthday cake, let me assure that this one turned so good that my daughter and her bunch of teenage friends thought it was so good that I was getting compliments on my cake days after they ate it. It wasn’t just attractive look from the piped roses on the top and the Oreo speckled cake on the inside, but how good the cake tasted. If you don’t like Oreos ( I don’t, and cannot understand what it is that people love about them), you will hardly taste them in the cake but they do something good for it.

Be warned that this is American style buttercream, it is very sweet and not really my thing at all. I chose to use this because it’s easy to make, kids seem to like it and it has no eggs in it. I always use salted butter for this buttercream because I feel it cuts through the sweetness abit. Make sure that the butter is not very salty or it will come through in the buttercream and taste weird). So if you’d prefer a less sweet buttercream, please use your own regular recipe for it.

You might notice that my cake has an "unfinished" look when viewd from the side. Ideally the whole cake, top and sides, should have been covered with rosettes. However, when I started working on the sides, for some reason, the rosettes I piped along the side just wouldn’t stay there but kept sliding down. I was almost in tears seeing a vision of my beautiful cake turning out to be a colossal disaster. It might have been the humid heat of a monsoon morning that just wasn’t right for buttercream.
I ended up leaving the sides plain and just piped a layer of stars along the bottom of the edge of the cake and decided to call it a day as far as cake decorating went. My daughter and her friends and everyone else who saw the cake thought it looked good and tasted even better, so that’s all that mattered in the end.

Cookies & Cream Rosette Cake With Classic Vanilla Buttercream
(Cake adapted from Betty Crocker)


For the Cake:

2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup sugar*
3/4 cup yogurt
100gm butter, soft at room temperature
1/2 cup water
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
15 to 16 vanilla cream filled chocolate sandwich cookies, coarsely chopped** 

For the Classic Vanilla Buttercream:

300gm butter (soft at room temperature)
 3 tsp vanilla extract
5 to 6 cups of icing sugar
3 to 4 tbsp milk


*You can use 1 1/2 cups sugar for a sweeter cake. I cut the sugar down by 1/4 cup because the frosting I was using for the cake was really sweet.
**I used Oreos, but you can use any brand of vanilla cream filled cookies you like. Chop them up into small pieces the size of large chocolate chips. Hold each cookie down along the edges so that the top most part of the sandwich cookie doesn’t slide off when you cut through. Use a s sharp knife and cut straight down through the cookies. This way they will cut up mostly into neat pieces. Pick only the pieces and don’t add the crumbs to the batter if you want a clean looking cake dotted with chocolate bits.

Make the cakes first. Put all the ingredients for the cake, except the chopped Oreo cookies, in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat at low speed for about 30 seconds while scraping the batter from the sides frequently. Then beat on high speed for about 2 minutes, scraping down the batter from the sides occasionally.
Turn off the mixer and fold in the chopped cookies. Divide the batter equally between two 7” or 8” round cake tins lined which are with parchment paper at the bottom and the sides have been well greased. Smooth the top lightly.

Bake at 180C (350F) for about 30 minutes or till the cakes are a golden brown and a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then carefully take the cakes out, peel off the parchment from the bottom and let them cool down completely.
Now make the Vanilla Buttercream. Put the soft butter in a large bowl, and using an electric mixer, whip the butter so it becomes lighter in colour and fluffy (for about a couple of minutes).
Now add about 3 cups of the icing sugar, and keep beating until it is well incorporated. Add another 2 cups of icing sugar and beat till incorporated. Now add 2 tbsp of milk and the vanilla extract and beat well. Add as much of the remaining icing sugar as needed and beat well to get the consistency needed to pipe the buttercream. You can adjust the thickness of the buttercream by adjusting the amount of milk or icing sugar till you’re satisfied with the way your buttercream consistency.

Refrigerate the buttercream till you need it. If necessary, beat the buttercream to fluff it up before decorating the cake. This recipe will make enough buttercream to frost this cake. You might have some left over. 
To put together and decorate the cake, start with the cooled cakes. Once the cakes have cooled, make sure the tops are level. Otherwise level them by trimming off the dome, if necessary. My caked didn’t dome much so I left them as they were.
Place one cake on your plate, bottom facing upwards, and pipe/ fill with enough buttercream to form a sandwich layer. Place the second cake, bottom facing downwards over this slowly so the edges of both cakes are matched at the edges. If the buttercream seems to be softening, refrigerate the cake for some time before proceeding.
Now cover the top and sides of the sandwiched cake with a “crumb coat” which is a thin layer of buttercream that covers the cake completely and seals the crumbs. Then fill a disposable piping bag fitted with an open star nozzle/ tip (a bigger one) with the buttercream. The recommended nozzle/ icing tip size is Wilton’s 1M tip which is also what I used, but I’m sure any large open star icing nozzle/ tip should work.
Pipe rosettes (see this video to learn how that’ done) along the sides and the top of the cake. The rosettes are easy enough to pipe but they need a little practise. I ended up scraping my first three attempts off the cake before I got mine right! I started by piping my rosettes on the top of the cake, from the edge to the centre.
Cover the cake with rosettes, filling in the gaps in between the rosettes with buttercream as well. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve. This cake should serve about 12 depending on the size of your slices and how much your guests like the cake.
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June 29, 2014

Non Alcoholic/ Virgin Sangria Punch

e don’t drink alcohol and we are vegetarian. This has a lot to do with our traditions and the cultural and religious backgrounds we come from.  Our community traditionally promotes a lifestyle that is vegetarian and simple with prescribed kinds of meals/ cooking for religious and social observances which are a big part of our lives. Though things have changed much and many people don’t go by those “rules” any more, we have stayed vegetarian and teetotallers by choice.
Being vegetarian or a teetotaller does not mean that recipes that feature alcohol or non-vegetarian ingredients cannot be adapted to be alcohol free or vegetarian. Purists may turn up their noses at such attempts to “fiddle” with supposedly authentic recipes but I believe that one’s choices in food must be determined by what one can eat or drink and is really a matter of personal taste.

In that spirit (no pun intended), I present to you a non-alcoholic version of Sangria. I remember the one and only time I did take a sip of Sangria, much against my better judgement, when I was persuaded by someone to just taste it so I could see what it was about. I was terribly disappointed by that one sip. All I can say is that either it was badly made Sangria, or else the “real” Sangria is a very acquired taste I am unlikely to ever acquire.

Sangria is a wine punch traditionally made with Spanish red wine, sugar, orange, lemon, and fruit, usually peaches. Some people also add a bit of brandy or cognac while making Sangria. It is prepared ahead, generally allowed to sit overnight, which allows the Sangria to develop fruity flavours. It is always served chilled and is very popular during the hot summers though it is made and served the year round in countries where Sangria has become a national favourite.
Years ago, the Spanish took their Sangria along wherever their voyages took them so you can find Sangria pretty much a part of the local colour in Peru, Cuba, Argentina, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico as well.

Sangria is Spanish in origin and takes its name word "sangre," which means blood referring to this drink’s dark red colour.
Sangria is one of those drinks which can take on pretty much any avatar depending on availability of ingredients so long as there’s red wine, a sweetener, orange and lemon, and fruit in it, which means it’s a really good way to showcase the season’s fruit.
There are different kinds of Sangria depending on the wine used to make it. Though red wine is typically used in Sangria, it can also be made with white wine and is then referred to as Sangria Blanca or Clerico. Some Sangrias are made with heavier red wines, and then white wine is used to “lighten” it. Sangria can also be made with mulled wine for “spicy” tones.
I looked at a lot of Sangria recipes, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, and then put together one that I felt would appeal to us. The basics to work with are mainly the colour and the taste. So the base must be  blood/ ruby red like wine, and any red coloured fruit juice is a good place to start. Pomegranate juice, cranberry juice, red grape juice or even a mix of two or more of these all work well. Then one needs to replicate the tartness/ acidity of the wine which  is taken care of by the tea and the lemon juice. Add honey and orange juice (and sugar if you use it) for the sweetness and you're more or less done. Add the fruit and the fizz and your Sangria Punch is ready.
Juicier fruits tend to work better in Sangria so apples, peaches, pineapple, mango, kiwi fruit, oranges, etc are all good candidates. I have chosen to slice them very thin, but you can always chop them up into smaller, easier to eat sized pieces too. You can use sugar or honey to sweeten your Sangria and plain soda/ carbonated water or a lemon flavoured fizzy drink like Sprite or 7Up to add some zing to it.

Non-Alcoholic/ Virgin Sangria Punch
1 cup unsweetened black tea*
3 cups pomegranate juice or equal parts grape and cranberry juice**
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 to 2 tbsp lime/ lemon juice
2 tbsp honey
Sugar to taste (if necessary)
1 small apple, cut into thin slices with skin
 1 medium pear, cut into thin slices with skin
1 orange, sliced thin with peel
2 peaches, cut into thin slices with skin
2 cups plain soda/ carbonated water***
*Black tea made with 1 spoon loose tea leaves (or 1 tea bag of black tea) of your choice in 1 cup water – not too strong or too weak, a nice golden brown colour. At a pinch you can also use a couple of tablespoons of lemon flavoured iced tea mix like Lipton or Nestea. Adjust the amount of lime juice and sugar accordingly.
**Use your choice of fruit juice that has a nice deep red/ ruby colour and tastes a little sharp and tart. I used the Tropicana brand of Cranberry Delight which is a mix of cranberry, grape and apple juices.
***If you don’t like the idea of diluting your Sangria with soda or carbonated water, replace this with more juice. The soda/ carbonated water does however add a summery feel to this Sangria.
Put the first five ingredients into a large glass jug/ bowl. Check for sweetness and add sugar to your taste, if necessary.
Add the sliced fruit and mix. Refrigerate for 4 to 5 hours, preferably overnight. The longer the fruit says in the juice in the fridge, the fruitier your Sangria will taste. You can choose to cut up your fruit a little smaller than slicing it, if you prefer. It will look a little less pretty but will be easier to eat.
Just before serving, add the plain soda/ carbonated water to the Sangria and mix well. Pour into glasses, adding some of the fruit as well. Serve with spoons so that the fruit can be scooped out and eaten, and your guests will thank you.
This recipe makes 6 cups of Sangria.
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June 24, 2014

We Knead To Bake #18 : Komaj (Persian Date Bread With Turmeric & Cumin)

For this month, the We Knead To Bake group is baking Komaj. Komaj is a Persian (now Iranian) turmeric and cumin bread that’s filled with chopped dates. I came across the Komaj a little while back when I was looking for something to make with dates, as I had a small box of it sitting in the fridge. It goes without saying that I love baking bread, but what drew me to this bread in particular was the mention of turmeric and cumin, both spices that are used extensively in Indian cooking. I also happen to like cumin in breads, and the dates were the clincher.

Unfortunately, beyond the fact that this sweet and savoury bread is served with tea, I wasn’t able to find any other information about it. The recipe is taken from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s  book, Saraban – A Chef’sJourney Through Persia, and here’s what they have to say about Komaj.
“This is our interpretation of a wonderful savoury–sweet bread we tasted in the oasis town of Mahan in the south-east of Iran. Cumin is grown in abundance in the region and is used to flavour many of the local dishes, often in combination with turmeric. “
They cut their Komaj into heart shaped buns because that was the way they ate it in Iran. I chose to use square and round cookie cutters. One other thing is that this dough has three rises instead of the usual two.

It might seem odd to pair savoury spices like cumin and turmeric with something sweet like dates, but this is a combination that really works, in my opinion. Of course, there will be people who do not like this combination especially those who don’t particularly like dates. My daughter is one of those who will steer clear of dates, and she said “It’s okay” when I asked her how she liked these golden buns. Knowing her, I read that to mean I didn’t really like them, but I don’t want to say so and hurt your feelings!

The dates to be used are the dehydrated ones that are still a little soft, and can be sliced through easily with a knife.

Komaj  (Persian Date Bread With Turmeric & Cumin)


For the dough:

1 tsp active dried yeast
1/8 cup warm water
3 3/4 cups bread flour (or all-purpose flour)
2 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
1 egg (optional)
2/3 cups warm milk
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

For the filling:

12 to 15 dried dates, pitted and cut into chunks (the slightly soft kind)
25 gm unsalted butter, soft at room temperature
4 to 5 pods cardamom, powdered 

Milk/ cream for brushing dough
icing sugar, for dusting (optional)


Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and keep it aside for 10 minutes and it will have bubbled up a little.
Put the flour, 2 tsp of the crushed cumin, sugar, turmeric and salt in the bowl of your food processor and run a couple of times to mix. Then add the yeast mixture and the egg and run the processor again, till it is incorporated.
Now add the milk and olive oil, and knead until you have a smooth and pliable dough that’s not sticky. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a well-oiled bowl, turn to coat the dough and then cover loosely and let it rise till it has doubled (about an hour or so).
When the dough has risen, deflate it and then shape into a round. Put it back in the bowl for a second rise till it has doubled (an hour or so). In the meanwhile prepare the filling by mixing together the chopped dates, soft butter and cardamom together in a bowl.
Divide the dough in to 4 equal portions, and divide each in half so you have 8 portions. Working with one portion at a time, roll each one out into a rectangle that is about between 1/4" and 1/8” thick. Choose a cookie cutter that is about 8cm at the widest. Press it down lightly n one half of the rectangle to guide you to put the filling.

At this point, I brushed a little water over the entire surface to make sure the dough would stick well when folded over.
Then place about 1 tsp (more than this is not necessary) in the centre of the cookie outline and then fold the other half of the rectangle over the filling so that it’s now a covered square. Using the cookie cutter cut, with the filling in the centre, cut out the bun making sure the sides are neat and well-sealed. If the sides are not well sealed, the bun will swell and open up during baking. It will taste good but look weird!

Repeat with the remaining portions of dough, then reroll the scraps and you should be able to make two more buns making a total of 10 buns. Place them on a lightly greased baking tray leaving space between them because they will puff up on baking. Let them sit for about 15 minutes.
Then brush them with a little milk (or egg wash if you use it) and sprinkle the remaining ½ tsp of crushed cumin on top, pressing it down a little with your fingers. Bake the Komaj at 200C (400F) for about 8 to 10 minutes.
Let them cool on a rack a little and dust with icing sugar if you like. Serve them warm with tea or coffee. These are best eaten the day they’re made. Leftovers can be reheated and eaten the next day.
This recipe makes 10 Komaj.

These Komaj Buns are being YeastSpotted!

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