Parmesan-Thyme Focaccia

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I can probably bake cupcakes in my sleep but the thought of baking bread gives me nightmares. After three failed attempts I had almost given up on breads. But like with anything worth having, persistence pays. So does common sense!

Lessons learnt so far- start with simple, basic recipes. Pay attention to technique and the most important one, have patience! Baking bread is so much more rewarding than baking a cake (did I just say that?!) I truly enjoy the process. If you have not done this before, I urge you to give it a shot. It is so worth it!

 

Focaccia is a great place to start. It’s simple and superbly flavorful. You can play around with your choice of herbs and spices. It is a very versatile bread too – you can make sandwiches or just dip it into your favorite soup for a very comforting meal.

You can also bake it in any shape you like. I divided my dough in half after the first rise. Rolled out half into a rectangle to be baked on a sheet tray and sectioned the other half and baked it in my cast iron wedge pan

Yield – One 9 x 14 inch rectangle

Ingredients

  • Warm water (between 110 and 115 F) – 1 and 1/3 cup
  • Honey – 2 tsp
  • Active dry yeast – 1 package (0.25 ounces)
  • All purpose flour – 3 and 1/2 cup + extra as needed
  • Extra virgin olive oil – 1/4 cup plus more for drizzling on the bread
  • Grated parmesan – 1/3 cup
  • Sea salt – 2 tsp
  • Fresh thyme – 6 sprigs (you can use dry too)

Method

  • Take warm water in a bowl. It is advisable to measure the temperature with a thermometer. The optimum temperature for yeast is 110 to 115 F. Add honey to water and stir to dissolve. Sprinkle yeast on top and mix briefly. Set this aside for about 5 minutes till the yeast blooms and the water turns foamy
  •  Use a stand mixer or hand mixer with the dough hook attachment, run it on low speed and gradually add the flour, olive oil, salt and parmesan to the water and yeast mixture. Once it’s all added in run the mixer on medium speed for about 5 minutes
  • If after 5 to 7 minutes, the dough doesn’t pull away from the sides and gather around the dough hooks, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time till it comes together. The dough should not be too sticky
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and gently bring it together into a ball
  • Grease a large bowl and dump the dough ball into it. Now flip the dough ball in the bowl so that the entire ball now has a coating of oil

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  • Cover with a clean kitchen towel or greased cling film and leave it in a warm place to rise. This takes about an hour and the dough will almost double in size
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently roll it out into a rough rectangle till it is between 1/4 to 1/2 an inch thick. Place it on a greased baking tray, cover with a greased cling film and let it rise again for 15 to 20 minutes

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  • Preheat oven to 400 F or 204 degree Celsius
  • After the dough has risen, poke deep holes all over it with your finger. Drizzle olive oil generously over the entire surface of the dough. Sprinkle thyme and sea salt over the entire dough

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  • Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes. The focaccia will be slightly golden and will easily slide around on the tray when done
  • Slice and serve with more olive oil

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Recipe adapted from Gimme Some Oven

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Baked Churros

That’s right! Baked, not fried.

I’ve been wanting to make a baked version of these insanely addictive treats for quite some time now. My mom absolutely loves them and I so wanted to bake her a batch while she was here, visiting us. But every time we went out to eat she would skip the entree and order a plate of churros for herself. I did not want to double up on those calories so I kept delegating this recipe to the bottom of my baking to-do list.

Then I found the perfect motivation. I made a batch of Smitten Kitchen’s Hot Fudge Sauce. This stuff is indeed the bomb. I want to put it over everything! And what goes better with chocolate sauce than churros?

I mean, just check this out!

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It’s easy to make – half an hour from beginning to end – and it’s something you can easily whip up for company. Best part is, no special equipment needed. Just a saucepan, spatula and some elbow grease!

Let’s get started

Yield – 24 Churros each 4 inches long

Ingredients

  • All purpose flour – 1 and 1/3 cup
  • Large eggs – 3 (at room temperature)
  • Unsalted butter – 1/2 cup (If using salted butter leave out salt from the dry ingredients)
  • Light brown sugar – 1 tbsp
  • Granulated sugar – 2 tbsp
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp
  • Water – 1 cup
  • Vanilla extract -1 tsp
  • Granulated sugar with 1 tsp of nutmeg or cinnamon for dusting finished churros – 1/3 cup

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400 F or 205 degree Celsius
  • Add butter, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, salt (if using) and water to a medium sized saucepan and place it on medium heat. Stir occasionally till the sugars and butter melt completely
  • Let the liquid come to a boil and then take it off the heat
  • Add in the vanilla extract and flour to the hot liquid and stir vigorously till a smooth dough is formed and it begins to gather around the spatula
  • Make a well in the center of the dough and and the first egg. Stir vigorously again till the egg is completely incorporated. It takes a couple of minutes. You will see the dough getting smoother and shinier after the egg is mixed in
  • Mix the other two eggs one at a time stirring thoroughly after each addition. Here’s a visual guide. The image on the right was taken after the three eggs were added

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  • Fill the dough into a piping bag fitted with a wide open star tip and pipe the dough in straight lines on a parchment lined sheet tray. I piped them about 3.5 to 4 inches long

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  • Spray or lightly brush the piped dough with oil. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes
  • When done the churros will be crisp and golden brown on the outside and will slide around easily on the tray
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes
  • Take granulated sugar and nutmeg (or cinnamon) in a wide bowl and mix. Toss warm churros in the sugar till they are lightly coated. Serve!

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Notes – These churros are best eaten fresh, right out of the oven. You can dip them in any sauce of your choice – melted chocolate, salted caramel, fudge – all work great! If you want to make these churros in advance, cool them and store in an airtight container. Just before serving, warm them in a preheated oven at 350 F or 180 degree Celsius for 5 minutes and then toss them in the sugar – nutmeg mixture 

Recipe adapted from Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt

Fig Loaf

When your toddler refuses to get within 10 feet of anything that even remotely resembles a berry or dried fruit, you grumble a bit, blame it on her daddy's genes and then, if you're like me, you get baking. I find loaf cakes are excellent for camouflaging all kinds of those 'too healthy to eat' ingredients that your toddler and/or husband actively avoid. That's how this Fig Loaf came to be.

It's extremely easy to make. It goes excellently well with tea or coffee and it makes a great breakfast too! I like it lightly toasted with some chocolate spread and sprinkles on top. Now tell me that didn't entice you!

This recipe requires you to make a fig puree or 'jam'. You then add this puree to the batter which gives the loaf cake its pure fig-ey taste. It is a simple process that takes about 10 minutes start to finish.

If you want to forget about the loaf cake and just settle down with a bowl of this and a spoon, that's okay too. I won't mind.

Ingredients

  • All purpose flour – 1 and 1/2 cups
  • Baking soda – 1 and 1/2 tsp
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp
  • Egg – 1 large
  • Oil – 1/3 cup (Any neutral oil will do. No olive oil)
  • Granulated sugar – 3/4 cup (Can increase to 1 cup for more sweetness)
  • Buttermilk – 1/4 cup
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips – 1/3 cup
  • Chopped dried figs – 1 heaping cup
  • Brown sugar – 1 tbsp
  • Lemon juice – 1 tsp
  • Water – 1/4 cup
  • Vanilla essence – 1 tsp

Method

First we make Fig Puree

  • In a small saucepan combine figs, brown sugar, lemon juice and vanilla essence and cook over medium low heat. Once the sugar has melted add the water to the figs and cook them down, stirring occasionally. Make sure the figs don't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn
  • Once the figs turn mushy and begin to break down, take the pan off the heat and allow to cool. Puree the fig mixture, using very little water if necessary, to form a chunky 'jam'. Set aside

Now onto the bread

  • Preheat oven to 350 F or 180 degree Celsius
  • Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside
  • In another bowl whip the egg using a hand blender till it turns frothy
  • Add the sugar to the egg and whip till the mixture becomes very pale and fluffy. This takes 2 to 3 minutes
  • Now add the oil and the fig puree to the egg-sugar mixture and whip till it is thoroughly combined
  • Next add half the flour mixture and whip briefly to combine
  • Add in all the buttermilk and whip again
  • Add the remaining half of the dry ingredients and whip till it is all incorporated
  • Using a spatula gently mix in the chocolate chips and make sure there are no streaks of flour in the batter
  • Pour the batter into a greased and floured loaf pan till it is 2/3 full
  • Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, check on the loaf cake. If the top is too dark, tent the loaf pan with foil and continue to bake till it is done. This ensures that the top doesn't burn while the cake bakes
  • The loaf cake is done when a tester inserted into it comes out clean or with very few crumbs attached.
  • Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes on a cooling rack
  • Gently invert the pan onto the cooling and let the cake slide out and then allow it to cool completely

NOTES – I used a 7.5×3.5×2.5 inches loaf pan and had a bit of batter left over that made 3 small cupcakes. Every oven is different. Keep an eye on your loaf cake after the 30 minute mark to make sure it doesn't over bake. Store the loaf cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Then store it in the fridge.

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 This recipe is based on the Fresh Fig Bread recipe over at thespruce.com

  

Strawberry Orange Muffins

This was kind of a no-brainer. I had my eyes on a strawberry muffin recipe that looked totally tweak worthy and I knew that I wanted to add orange to it. I had not tried the combination before but it felt right. 


 Two batches later, let me tell you…..it’s totally, deliciously, absolutely right! Try it out for yourself! The orange glaze is optional however. You can save it for when you feel like giving yourself a little treat. The muffin still tastes great without it.

My only concern with this recipe is – it’s not exactly ‘healthy’. You hear ‘muffin’ and think that this is a health-food version of a cupcake, something that you can wolf down in twos and threes and still be able to get on your weighing scale without an overwhelming feeling of dread. Well yeah, there’s no frosting so it is a wee bit better – but it still has a good quantity of butter and all purpose flour and sugar. So for my third batch, I want to try some substitutions and see how that goes. Hopefully it will be successful enough to earn its own blog post!

This is a very versatile recipe. It can be had for breakfast, as an afternoon tea time snack or for dessert. As an added bonus, this recipe is toddler certified. I got 11 cupcake sized muffins. It should give you about 6 regular sized muffins.

UPDATE: I used blood orange zest and juice for the second iteration and I think it’s even better! Aaannndddd……the muffins taste so much more strawberry-orangey the next day, believe it or not. WIN! 

  
Blood oranges give the glaze a beautiful pink hue! 

Adapted from Strawberry Muffins over at Garnish and Glaze

Ingredients

Muffins

  • All purpose flour – 1 and 1/2 cups
  • Baking powder – 1 and 1/4 tsp
  • Baking soda – 1/4 tsp
  • Salted butter – 5 tbsp at room temperature*
  • Granulated sugar – 1/2 cup
  • Egg – 1
  • Freshly squeezed juice of half a regular sized orange (You can use blood oranges. See update above)
  • Orange zest – 1 tsp
  • Yogurt – 1/4 cup
  • Milk – 1/4 cup
  • Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  • Diced frozen strawberries – 3/4 cup You can use fresh strawberries too

*If using unsalted butter add about 1/4 tsp of salt to the dry ingredients 

Glaze – 1 cup icing sugar and juice of half an orange

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400F or 200 Degree Celsius. Line a muffin tray with liners and set aside
  • Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a bowl. Mix with a whisk until thoroughly combined
  • In another bowl, mix together orange juice, orange zest, vanilla extract, yogurt and milk and set it aside
  • In a large bowl, using a mixer, cream butter and sugar together until it turns pale and fluffy. This usually takes 3 to 5 minutes
  • Add the egg and mix again until thoroughly combined
  • Add half the flour mixture and mix on very low speed until just combined. It’s ok if there a few dry streaks. You do not want to over mix the batter
  • Add the wet ingredients and mix briefly. Then add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until combined
  • Using a spatula, gently fold in the strawberries
  • Using an ice cream scoop fill all the liners till about 3/4 full. You can also stud the top of these muffins with additional diced strawberries to make them look prettier
  • Bake in a preheated oven for about 12 to 15 minutes. Check for doneness at the 12 minute mark. The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached
  • Leave them in the pan for a couple of minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool thoroughly
  • For the glaze – take the icing sugar in a bowl and add orange juice to it 1 tsp at a time. Stir after each addition. The glaze should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and drip off slowly
  • Dip a cooled muffin into the glaze. Rotate it gently to coat the entire surface and then twirl it to remove the excess. Place on a wire rack set over a tray to catch drips. Eat immediately or wait for the he glaze to harden

Enjoy!!

Avocado and Blueberry Muffins

These muffins are my current favourite! No butter and no oil. The avocado supplies all the fat you need – talk about healthy!

  
     
I was looking for unconventional ways of using up that one ripe avocado sitting in my fruit bowl when I had a brainwave – why not make muffins? One simple search on Pinterest however, revealed that I was not the only creative baker in the world – of course this has been done before! So I picked up the most promising recipe I could find and set out to make it my own. As with all recipes, I try not to vary the original recipe too much on the first attempt. But this one needs no tweaking – it’s purrfect! And the lovely, all natural, pale green colour just took my breath away – yes, I’m that easy to please……somebody tell my husband that haha!

  

The recipe has been adapted – very very slightly – from Gimmesomeoven’s version.  The original recipe has a streusel topping which can be left out but I find it works great with the muffin and doesn’t make it too sweet. 
I got 16 cupcake sized muffins from this batch

Ingredients

Muffin

  • All purpose flour – 2 cups
  • Baking powder – 2 tsp
  • Baking soda – 1/2 tsp
  • Ground nutmeg – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt – 1/2 tsp
  • Mashed avocado – 1
  • Granulated sugar – 3/4 cup
  • Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  • Egg – 1
  • Yogurt – 1 cup
  • Blueberries  (or any berry of your choice) – 1 cup

Streusel Topping

  • Melted and cooled butter – 2 tbsp (I used salted)
  • All purpose flour – 4 tbsp
  • Granulated sugar – 2 tbsp
  • Raw cane sugar – 1/4 cup

Method

Streusel Topping

  • Whisk all the ingredients together and set aside

Muffin

  • Preheat oven to 375 F or 190 degree Celsius
  • In a bowl combine all the dry ingredients and mix with a whisk until thoroughly combined. You could use any spice you like though cinnamon and nutmeg work best. Or you could leave out the spice altogether
  • In a bigger bowl beat avocado with a mixer until it turns into a smooth puree
  • Add the sugar and beat until the mixture looks a little light and fluffy
  • Add the egg and whip again till completely mixed in
  • Add the yogurt and vanilla extract next and whip till combined
  • Now add the flour mixture in two batches. After the addition of each batch whip only until it is just combined. Do not over mix
  • Fold in the blueberries using a spatula
  • Scoop into prepared muffin/cupcake liners. Make sure fill only up to 3/4 of the liners. These muffins do rise a bit
  • Sprinkle the streusel topping generously over each muffin and bake in a preheated oven for about 15 to 17 minutes till a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out clean. Turn the pan around at the halfway mark. I used a cupcake pan. If you use a regular muffin pan the bake time will increase to about 20 minutes
  • Let the muffins cool in the pan for about 5 minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely
  • You can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 36 hours. They will need to be refrigerated after that

BONUS

They’re Toddler Approved! Score 🙂

  

Blueberry Brownies

There are brownies and then there are BROWNIES – the kind made with dark chocolate and blueberries. The difference? Night and day! If you haven’t added blueberries to your brownies yet you’re truly missing out on one of those mind numbingly good dessert moments that leave you completely speechless. No, really! I was completely dumb struck. No words. No adjectives. Nothing. Just a warm satisfied glow.
So I won’t ramble on here. I’ll just tell you that these are the best brownies ever made and leave it at that. The recipe has been adapted (ever so slightly) from I am baker’s fantabulous recipe

  
Of course they don’t look as awesome as hers. I didn’t have the right pan or tools but that’s the beauty of it – they still turned out sensational.

Ingredients 

  • Blueberries – 1 cup
  • Salted butter – 1 stick or 1/2 cup
  • Semi sweet chocolate chips – 1/4 cup
  • Sugar – 1 and 1/2 cups
  • Eggs – 2
  • Vanilla essence – 2 tsp
  • Dark cocoa powder – 1/2 cup
  • All purpose flour – 1 cup

Notes – You can use unsalted butter. Just add 1/4 tsp salt to the dry ingredients. I used Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder. You can use regular cocoa powder too. Leave out 2 tbsp sugar from the measured amount to enhance the chocolate flavor.

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350 F or 180 Celsius
  • Melt butter in a saucepan on medium low heat. Just as the butter melts add the blueberries and stir them around
  • Take the butter and blueberries off the heat. Add the chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate melts
  • In a separate bowl mix the eggs, sugar and vanilla with a whisk. To this add a teaspoon of the chocolate-blueberry mixture just to temper it. This will prevent the eggs from scrambling when the rest of the mixture is added
  • Add this tempered mixture back to the rest of the chcocolate-blueberry mixture and stir briefly to combine
  • Add the cocoa powder and flour (amd salt if using unsalted butter) and mix just until it is combined
  • Pour it into a greased 9×9 pan. Even out the top with a wet spatula and bake in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes
  • Check for doneness at 25 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the brownie should come out clean with a few crumbs attached. Do not overbake
  • Cool on a wire rack till it completely cooled. Cut only after the brownie cools down completely

   

 

Blueberry Muffin Cake

Looking for recipes on Pinterest is dangerous. Very dangerous. You’ll start off wanting to make one thing but will end up making something else entirely! 

For example – I started off wanting to make ‘healthy’ baby-friendly blueberry muffins. So I searched for it on Pinterest. What did I see? An absolutely drool worthy recipe for a Blueberry Muffin Cake posted by thecountrycook.net. This promised to be a much more delicious way of using up blueberries and I felt that a teeny tiny bit of cake wouldn’t harm the baby – I was sold!

  
Isn’t it gorgeous? I made only two changes to the original recipe. I amped up the lemon flavour and I used frozen blueberries as that was all I had. If you have fresh blueberries even better!

Make it. Eat it. You’ll love it.

Ingredients

Cake

  • All purpose flour – 2 and 3/4 cups
  • Baking powder – 2 tsp
  • Baking soda – 1/2 tsp
  • Butter – 1 cup at room temperature*
  • Sugar – 2 cups
  • Eggs – 3 at room temperature
  • Vanilla extract – 2 tsp
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice – 1 to 1.5 tbsp
  • Buttermilk – 1 and 1/4 cup at room temperature*
  • Zest of one medium sized lemon
  • Frozen blueberries – 200 gm

Glaze

  • Icing sugar – 1 cup
  • Lemon juice – 2 tsp
  • Milk – 2 tbsp

*Notes – I used salted butter. If using unsalted butter add 1/2 tsp of salt to your dry ingredients. I made my own buttermilk by mixing 1 cup homemade thick set yogurt with 1/4 cup of water. The result is a thick, tangy buttermilk which is the magic ingredient in this cake. You can use store bought as well. Just make sure it’s thick and fatty.

Method

Cake

  • Preheat oven to 160 degree Celsius. Grease and flour your 10 inch bundt pan. Be sure to get all the corners and the centre support
  • Using a mixer beat butter and sugar until it turns light in colour and is very fluffy. This takes 5 to 7 minutes
  • Next, add the eggs one at a time beating well after each additon 
  • Add the vanilla extract, lemon juice and zest and beat to combine
  • In a separate bowl, add flour, baking powder and baking soda (add salt if using). Mix it with a whisk to make sure all the dry ingredients are evenly combined
  • Next, add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk alternately to the sugar-butter mixture. Start and end with the flour mixture. DO NOT over mix. After each additon mix only until it is combined
  • Gently fold in half the blueberries into the batter
  • Pour the batter evenly into the prepared bundt pan. Spread the remaining blueberries evenly over the top of the cake and gently press them down into the batter

  

  • Bake in a preheated oven for about 45 minutes
  • If you find that the cake is browning too much but hasn’t cooked fully through then cover the top with foil and continue to bake. This will keep the top from burning
  • My cake took a little over 50 minutes to bake. Rotate the cake once at the 25 minute mark and check for doneness at the 45 minute mark. Adjust baking time as needed
  • The cake is done when the top feels springy and a tester comes out clean
  • Cool the cake in the pan placed on a wire rack. 
  • Don’t attempt to remove the cake from the pan till it is completely cooled. Only then will it come out clean and in one piece

Glaze

  • Take icing sugar in a bowl and add the lemon juice to it. Mix with a spoon or small whisk
  • Add milk one teaspoon at a time, mixing after each additon till you reach a thick pouring consistency 
  • If the glaze becomes too runny add more icing sugar to thicken it
  • Pour the glaze over a completely cooled cake

This cake is very versatile. You can have it for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. You should definitely try it. It’s sure to become a family favorite 🙂