Sundried Tomato And Garlic Breadsticks

I have been on a bread baking spree lately. Not all of my experiments make it to the blog. Some of them go straight into the trash can. Some just sit on the counter top because they are, well, blah! Not bad but not very exciting either. But some, like this recipe, shoot straight to the top of my list of (current) favorites.

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Who knew baking breadsticks was going to be this easy? Not only are they easy, they’re quick (by bread baking standards), they lend themselves well to experimentation and they make a great all day snack!

I used Paul Hollywood’s Olive Breadsticks recipe. The only change I made was to swap out the olives for sun dried tomatoes and garlic. They’re glorious! I am sure they will work just as great with any other flavor of your choosing, should you decide to experiment.

On a side note – I urge you to buy a cheap kitchen scale, if you haven’t already. They are more precise than measuring cups and mise en place is so much easier!

Ingredients

  • Bread flour – 500 grams
  • Salt – 10 grams
  • Instant yeast – 10 grams
  • Warm water – 400 ml
  • Olive oil – 2  tbsp
  • Sun dried tomatoes in oil – 150 grams roughly chopped
  • Garlic puree – 1 and 1/2 to 2 tbsp
  • Fine semolina – for dusting optional

Method

  • Take a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer if you have one. Add the bread flour. Add the salt to one side of the bowl and the instant yeast to the other side of the bowl. Make sure they do not mix just yet as the salt will kill the yeast
  • Make sure your water is between 110 to 115 F. Add 3/4th of the water to the flour. Using a mixer with the dough hook attached start mixing on low speed
  • Once the dough has come together add the rest of the water in and mix on medium speed for 8 minutes. The dough will be quite wet and very stretchy

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  • Add the olive oil to the dough and mix for two minutes. Then add the sun dried tomatoes and garlic and run the mixer till the are thoroughly mixed in. The garlic will smell a little pungent but will mellow out after it is baked
  • Oil a 2 to 3 liter capacity rectangular or square plastic container. Make sure it has a lid. Put the dough into the container. Close the lid and leave it in a warm place to rise. The dough should triple in size. This takes about an hour

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  • Dust your work surface generously with semolina and little flour. Gently tip the risen dough onto this surface making sure not to handle it too much. Don’t knock any air out of the dough. Dust the surface of the dough with more semolina and flour. Gently nudge the dough into a rough rectangle without flattening it – you need all the air in the dough to stay intact
  • Line 3 baking trays with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 425 F or 220 degree Celsius
  • Starting at the short edge and with a bench scraper or sharp knife cut the dough into 18 to 20 strips. As you cut each strip roll it gently in the semolina and flour on the work surface. This makes it easier to handle as this dough is very tender and stretchy.

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  • Transfer each piece to the parchment lined trays and space them about an inch apart. You can take the help of the bench scraper or a wide spatula to do this. The dough will stretch a bit while you transfer it but that is okay. Just make sure all the breadsticks are more or less of the same length before baking

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  • Bake the breadsticks in a preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes till they turn golden brown
  • Cool them on a wire rack till they have cooled down completely.
  • Breadsticks are best when eaten fresh on the day they are made. Store them wrapped in foil in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days

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Cranberry Oat Cookies With Almonds & Chocolate

My toddler likes to think she’s the original cookie monster. She can inhale a whole batch of cookies in a couple of sittings – if allowed to. Though I am not much of a cookie person myself, we do go through quite a few batches around here. I prefer baking cookies that have a savory quality to them. I also need them to taste less like a dessert and more like a healthy-ish snack that wont have me running to closest treadmill after snack time.

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Fortunately, my current food idol, Ottolenghi, has just what I need. His latest release, Sweet, is my favorite bedtime reading. I plan to bake my way through the book and this recipe is a great starting point. It has something for everyone. It is sweet without being excessively so. It’s chewiness is punctuated by the crunch of the nuts. The tartness of the cranberries plays beautifully with the bittersweet notes of chocolate.

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That’s not all. This recipe has the goodness of wholewheat flour and oats. The cookie dough doesn’t need to be chilled before baking and the cookies will stay good for up to a week in an airtight container at room temperature.

Have I convinced you to bake a batch yet? Let’s get started!

Ingredients

  • All purpose flour – 50 grams or 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp
  • White whole wheat flour – 25 grams or 3 tbsp
  • Old fashioned oats – 50 grams or 1/2 cup plus 1.5 tbsp
  • Whole almonds – 50 grams or 1/3 cup*
  • Dried cranberries – 42 grams or 1/3 cup
  • Orange zest – 1/2 tbsp or the zest of a small orange
  • Orange juice – 1 tbsp
  • Unsalted butter – 75 grams or 1/3 cup (softened to room temperature)
  • Granulated sugar – 34 grams or 1/4 cup minus 1 tbsp
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Bittersweet chocolate bar (at least 60%) – 3 oz or 90 grams

*I used slivered almonds instead of whole almonds while testing the recipe and they turned out just as good. You will need 2/3 cup of slivered almonds. You can skip the roasting step and add them to the recipe as is

Yield – 10 to 12 cookies that are 2.5 inches in diameter. Recipe can be doubled

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread the whole almonds out on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes till they’re just roasted. Set them to cool on a rack. Once cooled, chop them roughly into bite sized pieces. Set aside. If using slivered almonds you can skip this step
  • Increase the oven temperature to 375 F or 190 degree Celsius and preheat
  • Rough chop the dried cranberries. Soak them in the orange juice for about 10 minutes
  • In a medium bowl combine the all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, oats, almonds and salt and set aside
  • In the bowl of a mixer cream the butter, granulated sugar and orange zest till it turns light and fluffy and increases in volume. This takes at least 5 minutes
  • Add the flour-almond mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and whip to combine
  • Add the cranberries soaked in orange juice and whip briefly
  • Lightly dust your work surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto it and gently bring it together into a ball
  • Roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper or cling film into a rough circle which is 1/4th of an inch thick
  • Using a 2.5 inch cookie cutter punch out the cookies. Using a spatula gently transfer the cookies onto a tray lined with parchment paper. Place the cookies about an inch apart. They do not expand in the oven
  • Bake in a preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes till they are uniformly golden brown
  • Cool the cookies on the tray for 5 minutes then transfer them to a wire rack
  • While the cookies are cooling, melt the chocolate in a double boiler (set a small sauce pan with an inch of water in it over the stovetop on low heat. Place the bowl with chocolate over this saucepan and stir periodically till the chocolate melts). Set aside to cool slightly
  • Dollop about a teaspoon of chocolate on the cookies and spread it out evenly using the back of a spoon. Set the cookies back on the rack to cool completely and till the chocolate sets
  • The cookies will stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week

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Recipe adapted from the Cranberry and Oat Cookies recipe from his latest book Sweet

Pesto Swirled Bread

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I’ve only recently discovered how therapeutic bread baking can be. Right from activating the yeast to the kneading (oh, the kneading!) to watching it proof – the entire process is so rewarding. Of course it took me a quite a few failed attempts to get to this point. But it was all worth it. A freshly baked loaf of bread resets my mood. Slicing into a homemade loaf, toasting a slice with butter and topping it off with a fried egg….that’s how you need to start your day!

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The pesto swirl just kicks it up a notch. Pesto and bread are a match made in breakfast heaven. I made my own spinach-kale-basil pesto but a store bought pesto will work just as well. Make sure it is not too watery. If it is, cook it down on the stove top on a medium-low flame till it reduces to a thick spread-like consistency. You don’t want any extra moisture or water in your bread, trust me!

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If you’re not a pesto person then go ahead and substitute it with whatever spread you like. Or jam. Or applesauce and cinnamon. It’s a very versatile recipe.

The instructions will seem a little too long and complicated but the actual process is anything but. This is definitely something you can try if you’re new to bread baking.

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Ingredients

  • Warm water – 1 and 1/2 cups
  • Active dry yeast – 2 and 1/4 tsp (one packet or 7 gm)
  • Light brown sugar – 2 tbsp
  • Unsalted butter at room temperature – 3 tbsp
  • All purpose flour – 3 to 4 cups divided*
  • Salt – 3/4 tsp
  • Pesto – 1/2 to 2/3 cup

*You may not need all 4 cups of flour. Start with two cups and add flour gradually  till the dough is just formed as per the instructions given below

Yield – 2 loves each approx 8×4 inches

Method

  • Warm water on the stove top or in the microwave till it reaches 110 to 115 F (43 to 46 degree Celsius). Stir in the brown sugar and sprinkle yeast over it. Stir gently and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to let it activate
  • In a large bowl add butter, salt, 2 cups of all purpose flour and activated yeast and using a mixer, knead it on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes
  • With the mixer still running add more flour to the dough 1/4 cup at a time. Stop when the dough starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl and starts to gather around the dough hook
  • Feel the dough between your fingers. It should still be a little tacky but should not stick to your fingers
  • Take the dough out of the bowl, place it on a lightly floured surface and knead with your hands till it turns smooth and elastic. If you feel the dough is too sticky add flour 2 tbsp at a time and continue to knead till it turns smooth. Make sure you don’t add too much flour
  • Grease a large bowl (you can use the one used to mix the dough) and place the ball of dough in it. Turn it once so that both sides of the dough ball are now lightly greased. Loosely cover the top of the bowl with a cling film and set it in a warm place to rise. It should double in size. This takes approximately 45 minutes
  • After it has doubled in size take it out of the bowl onto a floured surface, punch it down and then divide it into two halves. I used two 7.5 x 3.5 inch pans. If you’re using a larger loaf pan you may not need to divide your dough
  • Roll each half of the dough out into a rough rectangle about 1/4 inch thick
  • Spread pesto evenly over the surface of the dough and starting from the short side, roll it up as tightly as you can
  • At this point you can pinch the ends together and place it into a greased loaf tin. You will get spiral swirls of pesto. If you’re looking for a little more drama then you can braid the dough as described below
  • Cut the rolled up dough in half lengthwise leaving about an inch from the top still joined. Twist each cut portion of the dough outwards a couple of times. Then loosely braid these two portions over each other and pinch together at the free end. It will get a little messy but that’s okay. Place this loosely braided dough in a greased loaf tin. Repeat with the other half of the dough ball.
  • Loosely cover the loaf tins with greased clingfilm and set aside in a warm place to rise again till they double in size. This takes 30 to 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 F or 180 degree Celsius while they proof
  • Bake the loaves in a preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes till they turn a deep golden brown on top and sound hollow when you knock lightly on the bottom of the loaf. If they don’t feel hollow put them back in the loaf pans and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes and then check again
  • Once done take the loaves out of the pans and set them on a cooling rack to cool down completely
  • Once cooled you can store them at room temperature covered in two layers of aluminium foil. They will stay fresh for a couple of days. If you need to store them for longer then I would suggest freezing slices of bread. Though I have not frozen bread yet, I’m sure they last much longer that way.

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Apple Cinnamon Scones with Maple Glaze

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Is it September already?! I know ‘time flies’ and all that but this year, in particular, has driven by at top speed. I enjoy summer and I’m not ready to say goodbye yet. If there is a silver lining to this whole autumn-winter business it is that baking season is just around the corner. That can never be a bad thing right? Apples, figs, pears and all those warming spices? Yes please! Though, I have to admit, that was not the inspiration for this recipe.

 

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These scones came about because dear old husband bought the wrong brand of applesauce, which the toddler disapproved of in no uncertain terms, and I needed an excuse to use it up. That and the lone apple languishing in my fruit bowl. Don’t be fooled by these humble origins though. These scones are legit!

Tender and crisp on the outside, soft and crumbly on the inside and flecked with  juicy bites of apple that pop in your mouth – this may be my favorite scone version yet!

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They are surprisingly easy to make. You need simple ingredients. You don’t need to bring any of them to room temperature. No need for fancy equipment or elbow grease.

Just add all the ingredients to a bowl, mix till you get a slightly wet dough. Form into two circles and cut into wedges. That’s it! You’ll go from dreaming about scones to having them with your morning coffee in about half an hour.

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Yield – 12 scones

Ingredients

For the scones

  • All purpose flour – 2 cups
  • Granulated sugar – 1/3 cup
  • Baking powder – 2 tsp
  • Baking soda – 1/2 tsp
  • Cinnamon powder – 1 tsp
  • Cold butter – 1/4 cup*
  • Unsweetened applesauce – 1/2 cup
  • Chopped apple – 1/2 cup
  • Half and half – 1/2 cup**

For the glaze

  • Icing sugar – 1 cup
  • Milk – 2 tbsp
  • Maple syrup – 2 tbsp

*I used salted butter. If using unsalted butter add 1/4 tsp salt to the dry ingredients

** If you do not have half and half you can use an equal quantity of milk

Method

  • Preheat oven to 425 F or 218 degree Celsius. Shred cold butter using a grater and place it in the freezer while you get the dry ingredients ready
  • In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients and whisk to combine
  • Add the shredded butter to this bowl and cut it in using a pastry cutter or a fork. The flour mixture should begin to look a little like sand with pea sized bits of butter still visible
  • Add applesauce and half and half to this mixture and stir with a spatula to combine. You should arrive at a soft dough that is just a tiny bit sticky and still wet. If the dough is too wet add flour one tablespoon at a time till you arrive at the right consistency
  • Add the chopped apples and gently fold them through the dough with a spatula
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide it into two halves. Do not knead. Using floured hands flatten each half of the dough into a circle approximately 6 inches in diameter. Cut each circle into 6 wedges
  • Place these wedges on a parchment lined baking sheet at least a couple of inches apart. Sprinkle the tops with a bit of granulated sugar. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes till they turn golden brown and a tester inserted into a scone comes out dry
  • Transfer them to a cooling rack
  • For the glaze – Add all the ingredients to a bowl and whisk till smooth.
  • Top the scones with glaze while they are still warm and allow the glaze to set for about 5 minutes

These scones are best eaten fresh out of the oven while they are still warm. You can store them at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Warm them up in the microwave for 20 seconds before eating!

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Recipe adapted from The Kitchen Magpie