October 27, 2013

Easy Halloween Cupcakes – Mummy Cupcakes, Owl Cupcakes & Tombstone/ Graveyard Cupcakes

H
alloween’s round the corner and though it’s not celebrated in India, there’s no way you can escape the season if you’re a part of the food blogging community. Look at food and lifestyle blogs written in the US and pages are awash with the colours and flavour of fall, and of course all thing Halloween.



 
As I have mentioned before, the bloody, bizarre, ghastly, ghoulish, gory, grisly, gruesome, scary side of the festivities does nothing for me. In fact, I’m at a loss to understand how a lot of the scary parts of the festivities are supposed to be fun for children!




However there is some kind of cuteness in some of it and that part of it gets to me every year – owls, not-so-wicked witches, gingerbread skeletons, spider cookies and cupcakes (even though I don’t like real spiders!), the most non-scary white chocolate or meringue spooks and ghosts, delightful mummy cakes, cookies and cupcakes, pretty pumpkins, the cutest tombstones, and the list goes on.



 
So you will find that Halloween has in the past had me making Spider Web Cookies, Hoot Owl Cookies & Spider Cupcakes, and a Spook-tacularly Boo-tiful Cake! One of the nice things about not celebrating a particular festivity is that you can cook/ bake for it whenever you please – before or even after it’s all over.

My daughter wanted me to bake something to share with her friends at school before their week-long vacation started. After seeing all the Halloween themed food (the cute kind), I thought I would use this excuse to try out something different this time. I just didn’t have the energy to spend a lot of time on baking and decorating so this year I decided to make a large batch of cupcakes and decorate them differently. What could be better than baking something that doesn’t take too much time or effort but taste good and looks like you slaved over it for a night and a day?





Over the years, I’ve discovered that most kids seem to like anything chocolate or vanilla, so chocolate cupcakes it was. I made a large batch of Vanilla Frosting and used that to frost all the three different kinds of cupcakes. Decorating anything using store bought candy has to be simple in India because what we get is pretty limited. So I went simple with Vanilla Cream Oreos, Cadbury 5 Star bars (caramel centred chocolate bars), Gems (coloured chocolate buttons similar to Smarties/ M&Ms), and Cadbury Dairymilk Shots (sugar candy coated milk chocolate balls).
The Oreos made the cutest looking Owl Cupcakes, the 5 Star bars made the head stones and crumbled Oreos were the “dirt “for the Tombstone/ Graveyard Cupcakes, and Vanilla Frosting made great “bandages for the Mummy Cupcakes.
If you don’t want to do the baking and the decorating the same day, you can make the cupcakes the previous day and decorate them the following day.
Chocolate Cupcakes
(Cupcakes adapted from Joy of Baking)
 
Ingredients:
For the Cupcakes:
 
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp instant coffee powder
1 cup boiling hot water
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
100 gm butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract 
For the Vanilla Frosting
3 cups icing sugar
100gm butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 to 2 tbsp hot milk (or water) 
For Decorating the Cupcakes:
Coloured chocolate buttons like Gems, Smarties, M&Ms
Vanilla Cream Oreo Cookies (2 per cupcake)
Chocolate sprinkles, Chocolate Candy Bars, etc
 
Method:
Put the cocoa powder and the coffee powder in a bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Stir well until smooth and keep aside to cool.
In another bowl, using a hand held mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, while scraping down the sides in between. Add the egg and the vanilla extract and beat well. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl and add to the butter-sugar mixture. Mix well and then add the coca mixture (it’s alright if it is still quite warm) and beat till smooth.
Divide the batter between 16 muffin cups lined with paper cases so that each one is about 2/3rds full. Bake the cupcakes at 190C (375F) for 15 to 20 minutes till they’re done, springy to touch and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.
 
 

 
Cool them on a wire rack, then decorate. This recipe makes 16 cupcakes.
While the cupcakes are baking make the frosting. Put the soft butter and icing sugar in a bowl and beat with a hand held mixer till the frosting is fluffy. Add the vanilla and 1 tbsp hot milk/ water ( more of needed) and beat well till the frosting is of desired consistency. The frosting is ready to use and is enough to decorate the 16 cupcakes.
 
 
To make the Owl Cupcakes, using a spatula or spoon, pile about a tablespoon of frosting on each cupcake and smoothen it all over covering the top of the cupcakes completely. You will need two Oreo cookies for each cupcake. Carefully twist open and separate the Oreo cookies so that the cream filling is on one cookie – these will form the eyes. Using a knife cut the cookie halves without the cream into exact halves – these will make the eyebrows.
 
 
Do watch this video which explains how to make these owl cupcakes. Take a cupcake and place the two Oreo halves at the top to make the eyebrows. Place two cookies with the cream slightly below overlapping this to form the two eyes. Use coloured or brown chocolate buttons or for the middle of the eyes and press in an orange chocolate button slightly below in the middle to make the beak. That’s it, and your Owl Cupcakes are ready!
To make the Mummy Cupcakes, you will need a “basket weave” icing tip to form the ribbon-like flat bandages. Watch this video to get an idea on how to pipe the“bandages” onto the cupcakes and here’s a video that shows you how to pipe the“bandages” without a tip.
Fill your piping bag with the Vanilla Frosting and then pipe the “bandages” across the top of the cupcakes, back and forth in a random manner, using coloured chocolate buttons for the eyes. That’s all there is to this Mummy Cupcakes.
 
 
And the Tombstone/ Graveyard Cupcakes are the easiest. Cover the cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting like for the Owl Cupcakes above. Crumble the remaining Oreo cookies (the halves without the cream) left over from the Owl Cupcakes to form the “dirt”, and sprinkle this over the frosted cupcakes. 
You can use any small chocolate candy bar to make the “tombstones”.  I used the small Cadbury 5 Star bars (soft caramel centred chocolate bars) and cut each in half for one “tombstone”. Fill a little Vanilla Frosting into a piping bag with a writing tip and use this to decorate the “tombstone” with lettering like “RIP” or whatever you like.  Push this down on the top of the “dirt” covered cupcakes and your Tombstone/ Graveyard” Cupcakes are ready too.
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October 24, 2013

We Knead To Bake #10 : 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

K
now that ad on Indian TV where Bipasha Basu tells that you’re eating all-purpose flour in the name of a biscuit? Well it’s pretty much the same with white bread or even a lot of the so called brown bread of the supermarket variety. Even the more expensive supposedly “real” whole wheat breads with a bit of bran sprinkled on the top, a mix of a little whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour. The brown colour in these “pretender” whole wheat loaves more often than not comes from the addition of caramel to the bread dough!
So what’s wrong with all-purpose flour? Nothing much really except that it’s nutritionally just carbohydrates and little else. And that’s just fine if one uses all-purpose flour sparingly. However, though whole wheat flour is richer in fibre and other nutrients, the truth of the matter really is the whole wheat is not very easily digested by human beings and I’m not talking about the gluten intolerant or those suffering from Celiac Disease.
I learned about the school of thought that if you soak your whole grain flours overnight, especially whole wheat flour, it breaks down the phytates in them, aids mineral absorption and makes them softer and more digestible. 



 
A 100% whole wheat bread is not very warmly received in my home, though I quite like it occasionally. The major reason for this unpopularity is that whole wheat breads tend to be dense so whenever I do bake what my family calls my “healthy” breads, I tend to use a 50-50 combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flours. This makes my bread nutritionally better and somewhat satisfies the demand for softer bread.
To pass my family’s test for “good bread” this whole wheat bread would have to look and taste pretty close to a well risen white bread.  Some people might tell you that it’s the knowledge that you’re eating what’s good for you that matters but we all know that argument does not cut it with most families.
I have however wanted to try making a soft 100% whole wheat bread (if that was possible) for some time now and a while back I came across rave reviews about Peter Reinhart’s recipe for such a bread. I had promised myself I would try making it and it was recent request from one of my fellow bakers in our We Knead To Bake group that had actually get down to it.
Peter Reinhart’s recipe uses a soaking procedure and the Biga/ sponge and that is the secret to the softness and texture of this bread. Other than that, it is important to knead the dough well to develop whatever little gluten there is in the whole wheat flour. Also be careful while shaping the dough into a loaf and make sure that you do not tear the risen dough as this will tear the gluten “cloak” that would have developed. Do see this video which gives you an idea on how to shape bread loaves.


 

This bread is not really difficult to make though it requires a little bit of planning as the Soaker (at room temperature) and the Biga/ Sponge (refrigerated) have to be made and rested for at least 12 hours. After this they can be kept refrigerated for about 2 days before baking them into bread.
I have made this bread a couple of times now. The first loaf I made was using the original recipe without any changes and I got pretty good results. I still kept feeling that I could get better results so I made some changes.
The first change was to use water to make my Soaker instead of milk because I wasn’t comfortable leaving dough mixed with milk on the kitchen counter overnight because it might spoil in my tropical temperatures. However, milk contributes to the softness of bread, so I used milk instead of water in my Biga/ Sponge which would be refrigerated and so be safe.
Then I added a little vinegar to the Soaker and the Biga/ Sponge. Vinegar tends to increase the acidity of the dough which, within limits, helps gluten development and contributes to the “bready” texture. I also added a bit of Vital Wheat Gluten, but not too much (see further down in this post), and some oil. All these helped to make a 100% whole wheat loaf which I felt was better and softer in texture.
Just in case you’re not keen on making an all whole wheat loaf (I know many people don’t), I have made this using 1 cup all-purpose flour and 3/4 cup whole wheat flour for the Soaker and for the Biga, and the bread has been excellent. Of course it rises a bit more than an all whole wheat bread so you would need to use a slightly larger loaf tin (or 2  smaller ones).
About which whole wheat flour to use, we don’t have much choice in this matter in India. If you can find it, use fine milled whole wheat flour, the real “Chakki” ground Atta and not the packaged stuff. Packaged Atta doesn’t give the best results for whole wheat bread but when one has to work with whatever is available, you can use it and bake a fairly decent whole wheat bread with it. I used the Aashirvaad brand of whole wheat flour which I use to make chappathis, to make this bread.



 
Vital Wheat Gluten (VWG) is protein which is extracted from wheat and sold separately to be added to low protein flours to increase the protein content.  So if you add VWG to all-purpose flour you can make your own bread flour. Whole wheat flour is very low in gluten/ wheat protein which is extremely important in bread as it gives bread its characteristic texture/ chewiness and rise. So many bakers tend to add a little VWG to whole wheat flour especially when baking 100% whole wheat breads.
 
You can make this bread without VWG as the Soaker, the Biga/ Sponge and the honey and milk are all supposed to make it soft and give it a really good texture. I have made it both with and without and while adding a little bit of VWG does make for a slightly higher and softer bread, the one without is also pretty good. If using VWG, the rule of the thumb measurement in most cases is suggested as 1 tbsp of VWG for every 2 to 3 cups. Remember to put the VGW in the measuring cup and then top up with whole wheat flour.
100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
 

Ingredients: 

For The Soaker:

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 to 1 cup water at room temperature
1 tbsp vinegar (apple cider or plain) 

For The Biga/ Sponge:

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
3/4 cup milk (or a little more)
1 tbsp vinegar (apple cider or plain) 

For The Final Dough:

All of the Soaker
All of the Biga/ Sponge
1 1/2 tsp Vital Wheat Gluten (optional)
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup whole wheat flour (and a few tbsp. more if required)
2 tsp instant yeast
1/8 cup oil (or melted butter if preferred)
 2 tbsp honey
 

Method: 

First make the Soaker. Mix all of the Soaker ingredients together in a bowl until all of the flour is hydrated.  I found that I needed more than the original 3/4 cup of water suggested and used a little over 1 cup but this can change from flour to flour. So I would suggest using 3/4 cup water and then adding a little at a time, until you have the desired consistency. Your Soaker should be somewhat like reasonably firm bread dough in consistency. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours.


 
Now make the Biga/ Sponge. Mix all of the Biga/ Sponge in a bowl and knead together well till a soft ball forms. Again you might need more than the originally suggested 3/4 cup of liquid; I needed a little more. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. This will keep for up to 3 days.
Two hours before you plan to mix your dough for the bread, remove the Biga from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. You might find your Biga rising a little during this time.


 
Divide the Biga and Soaker into small pieces (about 12 pieces each) using a sharp knife or scraper and put them in the food processor bowl (or stand mixer). You can knead this by hand too, but the dough will be tacky and a little difficult to manage. Do not be tempted to add more flour, when it is time to, than necessary.
Add the remaining ingredients for the dough, except the 1/3 cup flour) and knead for about 3 minutes.  Let it rest for 5 minutes, then add as much flour as needed (if necessary) to the dough and  knead for another 3-4 minutes. Your dough should now come away from the sides of the bowl but still be a little sticky but somewhat manageable. It’s really important to not add too much extra flour during this step. 

 
 
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let rise until almost doubled (about 1 1/2 hours). Then turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat the dough out into a rectangle with a width that just a bit less than your loaf tin. See that you do not tear the dough. Roll it up and shape into a loaf (see the video, if you need it).
Place your loaf in a greased and floured loaf tin (I used a 9” by 4” loaf tin) and let it rise until it is just higher than your loaf tin. Bake the loaf at 180C (350F) for about 40 to 45 minutes until the top is a nice deep brown colour and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
Let the loaf cool completely (at least for about 2 hours), before slicing it. Refrigerate the loaf if not consuming immediately.

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October 19, 2013

Verkadalai (Kadalakkai) Chundal/ Sundal (Spicy Groundnuts/ Peanuts With Coconut)

L
ast week was time to celebrate Navarthri once again, but my plans for that disappeared with me stuck in bed unwell with a rather bad bout of viral fever. Navarathri (also known as Dussehra or Puja) refers to ten day festival celebrated by most Hindu households across India. In each state of India, it takes on a different manner of celebration but involves ten days of celebrating Shakti or the power of the Goddess Durga in all her forms.
“Nava” means nine and “Rathri” means night so it’s really a celebration that is over nine days with the festival ending on the tenth day, Vijayadashami (the day of victory over all that’s inauspicious or evil).
Like in many other parts of India, we celebrate all the ten days of Navarathri and one part of the celebrations is to make a dish as offering to the Goddess (neivedhyam/ prasaadam), for each evening of the first nine days. The offering for the tenth day is Paanakam, a delicious cardamom flavoured jaggery and ginger based drink with excellent digestive properties which is supposed to be an antidote for nine days of feasting!



We generally make savoury and sweet offerings on alternate days of Navarathri with a sweet offering in particular for the Friday that falls within these ten days. With most of us no longer living in extended families, or in urban areas where we have busier lives Navarathri celebrations no longer have the fun that used to be a part of my childhood memories of the festivities.
In our community, Navarthri was as much a social affair as it was religious and it centred around women and children. Men were rarely seen during the festivities except on the periphery of things. There are two things that are so intricately linked in my childhood memories of celebrating Navarathri. One is the singing, and the other is the little packets of neivedhyam/ prasaadham (ritual food offerings) that we all came back home with from our visits to friends and family.



 
Once Navarathri was upon us, every Palakkad Iyer home that was celebrating would decorate a corner of the living room or the Puja room if it was large enough with the “Bomma Kolu”. In the evenings women and children would drop by the homes of neighbours or family members, and it was usually the done thing to sing a song/ prayer, spend some time admiring the “Kolu” and of course pass on the gossip for the day.
The lady of every house would insist that the children who visited for Navarathri, had to sing a song if we wanted our share of food for the evening. It didn’t matter if you were shy and the kind that limited your singing to the bathroom, or even if your brand of singing resembled a crowd of crows at their loudest, you had to sing! To give everyone their due, no one ever laughed or poked fun at you (except the meanest of your own friends, perhaps) if your singing performance wasn’t exactly bringing in the applause.
I personally found this bit of ritual harrowing and would refuse to sing even it meant forgoing my share of the neivedhaym.
Before the visitors left, they were offered the traditional festive “vethelai paaku” ( a traditional ritual offering to married women which typically includes betel  leaves and nuts, kumkum, pieces of turmeric, a small banana, a coconut, a small mirror. Comb, glass bangles, sari blouse pieces, and packets of the day’s neivedhyam/ prasaadham).



Ask anyone from my community what food comes to mind when you mention Navarathri, and nine out of every ten people will tell you “Chundal/ Sundal”! Even though other foods are prepared during Navarathri festivities, Chundal is something that everyone prepares at least once if not twice during these ten days.

 Chundal is a preparation, a sort of cooked salad made of lentils like Bengal gram lentils (chana dal) or dried beans like chickpeas, black-eyed beans/ cowpeas or whole moong beans. Usually a savoury preparation, the legumes or lentils are soaked overnight, cooked and then tempered with a few simple spices and fresh coconut. Not only are Chundals/ Sundals easy to make they’re also tasty, healthy and filling. The sweet version of Chundal/ Sundal is made with jaggery, coconut and flavoured with cardamom and a little ghee.
This version of Chundal is made with raw groundnuts which is what we call peanuts in India. I have never seen this made at home (though it is a popular dish in the Indian state of Tami Nadu)probably because we don’t use groundnuts very much in our traditional cooking. I get raw groundnuts here in season and when they are cooked they have an inherent sweetness which lends itself very well to this dish.
This dish cannot be made with roasted or dried groundnuts so if you can’t find raw groundnuts, you can substitute it with an equal amount of cooked chickpeas or black-eyed beans or whole green moong beans. 

While this is served as festive fare, it also makes for an excellent teatime snack and can also be served on the side with a main meal.
Verkadalai (Kadalekai) Chundal/ Sundal (Spicy Groundnuts/ Peanuts With Coconut)
 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups raw groundnuts/ peanuts (with skin)
2 tsp oil
1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp black gram lentils (urad dal)
2 to 3 dried red chillies, broken into 2 or 3 pieces
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1 sprig curry leaves
1/3 cup fresh grated coconut
Salt to taste
 

Method:

Soak the groundnuts for about an hour in water. If you’re using freshly shelled groundnuts, they do not need soaking. Drain the water and add fresh water, enough to cover the groundnuts and pressure cook them till they’re cooked but still firm with a little crunch (but not raw). If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can cook the groundnuts as you please (stove top or microwave). 
 
 
Drain the groundnuts well and keep aside.
In a wok or pan, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds to it. When they splutter, turn down the heat to medium and add the lentils and stir a couple of times until they start turning golden.
Then add the chillies, the asafoetida and the curry leaves. Stir fry them a couple of times, add the drained groundnuts/ peanuts and salt to taste. Stir well so that the groundnuts/ peanuts are well coated with the tempered ingredients. Turn off the heat, add the coconut and mix well.
Let it cool somewhat. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
This recipe should serve 6.
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October 16, 2013

Sunflower Bread/ Pane Girasole/ Pain Tournesol

B
y now I’m sure there’s no one who regularly reads (or even once in a while) my blog who hasn’t realised that I love baking bread. If there’s one thing I do like more than baking bread then it is baking unusually shaped bread. For me it brings together some things I really enjoy – baking bread, getting creative with the dough and the aroma of bread in the oven.
So whenever I do come across an unusual way of shaping bread dough, I suaully make a note of it to try out whenever I can. This time it’s a Sunflower Bread which seems to pop up on a lot of Italian food blogs under the name of Pane Girasole, French food blogs as Pain Tournesol and some Eastern European blogs as well, under other names. Girasole (in French) and Tournesol (in Italian) mean “Sunflower”, by the way.



 
Shaping breads into patterns or designs inspired by nature is something that goes way back in time, shaping bread/ loaves into flowers have attained significance and come to stand for various aspects of human life such as fertility, purity, love, etc and have been adapted into social and religious celebrations especially in cultures all around the world, especially those that have always baked and celebrated with bread. So while flower shaped breads have been around for a very long time, I don’t know if shaping breads into sunflowers is something traditional or something that someone was inspired to try out one fine day.

I came across sunflower shaped breads a long time back on Pinterest and have baked this this twice before. A couple of sites on which I came across this bread were in languages that I couldn’t understand though Google Translate did help some, I couldn’t figure out a couple of the ingredients. The recipes had very detailed step-by-step instructions on shaping the bread accompanied by images so that was a big help. I needed a somewhat rich dough to start with so I went to one of my trusted bread sources to look for one.



 
I have found King Arthur Flour very reliable with their recipes and detailed descriptions/ instructions (especially if you also follow their blog) and decided to use a somewhat adapted version of their Korovai (Ukrainian Wedding Bread). The Korovai is celebratory bread and typically made from an enriched dough which is fashioned into the most beautifully decorated breads, some of which are true works of art!
The dough comes together quite easily whether you knead it by hand or machine. It is important to knead it well to a soft and pliable dough. What will take a little time is the shaping. Its not really difficult to do, but it would be good to work methodically and quickly or you will have the outer ring of “petals” sitting for a long time and rising a bit before you’ve managed to fashion the second row of petals.
If you understand things better when they’re explained visually like me, then this is an excellent video on how to shape a Sunflower Bread. Its worth watching before getting started.



 
This bread is definitely a winner with or without the sunflower shape. Add the sunflower shape and you have a stunner – a bread that’s soft, flaky, slightly buttery with the aroma of cardamom and a hint of orange.
It so happens that today is being celebrated as the 8th World Bread Day in honour of the humble daily bread, and this Sunflower Bread is my contribution. This bread is also being YeastSpotted!
Sunflower Bread
(Bread recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour and shape inspired by Dalla A allo Zucchero)
 

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp instant dry yeast
1/2 cup warm milk
2 cups flour
50gm butter, soft at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt (1 tsp if using salted butter)
2 eggs
5-6 pods cardamom, powdered
1 tbsp orange zest
25gm butter, melted to brush the dough circles
Black sesame seeds for the centre (or poppy seeds, mini chocolate chips)
 

Method: 

I used my food processor with the plastic blade but you can knead the dough by hand if you prefer. Put 1 1/4 cups flour, yeast and the milk in the processor bowl and run the processor till these are well mixed and form a very sticky dough.  Leave this covered, to rise until “puffy”. This should take about an hour.
Now add the remaining ingredients except the melted butter and chocolate chips and knead, until the dough is soft and smooth.  Take the dough out and place in a well-oiled bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough double in volume (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours).
Lightly grease your baking tray or line it with parchment paper. Your tray should be large enough to comfortably take an 11” (in diameter) round sunflower bread.
 
 Now the dough has to be shaped. Gently deflate the dough and shape it into a rectangle. Divide the dough into half, and then divide one of the halves into 1/3rd and 2/3rd to give you three portions in all.

Start with the big portion of dough (1/2) keeping the others aside. Divide this portion into five equal portions. Dusting your work surface with a little flour and roll out each portion into a circle that’s about 7 1/2" in diameter. Make sure all the 5 circles are of the same size.
Place one circle in the centre of the baking tray. Brush the surface completely with melted butter and put another circle of dough over this so it fits exactly on top of the first one. Brush again with melted butter and cover with another circle of dough. Repeat this till you have a stack of the five circles but do not brush the top most one with butter. 
Using a sharp knife, pizza or pie wheel cut a cross that intersects in the centre through the 5 layers stopping about an inch from the circumference of the dough stack (See the photographs). Make sure your cuts are neat and cut right through to the bottom of your baking tray.
Cut another cross exactly in the centre of the first cross, also intersecting at the centre and stopping at about an inch from the circumference. 
You should now have a sort of star shape with 8 spokes to it, forming 8 equal triangular segments cut into the dough separating only on 2 sides.
 
 
 

Slowly peel back each triangle from the centre, and fold it back outwards so the the “tip” of the triangle is extending a little beyond and resting on the edge of the dough circle. When done, you should have a circle of dough “petals” pointing outwards and an empty circle in the middle. 
Now take the 2/3rd piece of dough and divide it into five equal pieces. As before, roll each piece out into a circle, but about 6” in diameter this time. The diameter of this set of the circles should be equal to the diameter of the “empty” circle from the first set of “flower petals” on the baking tray.
Repeat the same process by brushing melted butter over the circles and layering them one over the next. Do not brush the topmost circle of dough. Place the stack of dough circles in the middle of the “petals” on the baking sheet. This should fit into that empty space exactly. Now cut two crosses, as done earlier, leaving about 3/4" from the edge/ circumference. This time however make the cuts so that they lie adjacent to the middle of each “petal” in the outer ring of dough. This will ensure the second inner row of petals is alternate to the first one.
In the same manner peel back the triangular segments outwards, resting them such that they form an alternate row of inner petals. Take the 1/3rd portion of dough, roll it smooth and flatten it to fit the centre space of the inner row of petals.
Brush the remaining melted butter all over the surface of the “sunflower”. Sprinkle black sesame seeds or poppy seeds in the centre and bake the bread at 200C (400F) for about 12 minutes. This will cause the bread to puff up and brown a bit. Then turn down the oven temperature to 180C (350F) and bake it for another 20 minutes till the bread is done and a beautiful golden brown.
Cool the bread on a rack and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
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October 5, 2013

An Alcohol-free Tiramisu Cake (And How To Make Perfectly Flat Topped Cake Layers!)

I
t was my birthday some days ago and I suddenly wanted to eat cake! How many of you bake their own birthday cakes? I do some of the time, and have people ask me where the fun is in doing something like that? 
To answer the question, though I’m not the best cake maker by any standards, especially fancy-shmancy kind of cakes, I am the cake maker in my home. And if I want a particular cake, and the way I like it then its best that I bake it myself.
The funny thing is that I am not really a cake person. I like certain cakes but rarely will you find me having more than a very small slice. When I do eat cake, I prefer the plain simple kinds that are usually served at tea time and I tend to avoid the kinds that are dressed up with copious amounts of buttercream inside and out.



 
I have however been dreaming about a cake for some time now. Not just any cake, but a Tiramisu cake. I really like Tiramisu but if I have to eat some then I have to make it myself. That’s a whole lot of work because living where I do, I cannot find theraw material for Tiramisu in the stores here so I would have to start withmaking the Savoiardi/ Ladyfinger biscuits, then the Mascarpone and so on. While home-made Mascarpone is easy, the Savoiardi biscuits take a little time, but the high humidity here right now would destroy them before they made it into a Tiramisu!
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