Category Archives: Baking


For the month of October we got to take on one of many bakers’ deepest, darkest kitchen nightmares : macarons. Our talented bakers Korena from Korena in the Kitchen and Rachael from pizzarossa made the intimidating task of mastering these French beauties a breeze.

If anyone had ever asked me what is the one thing that I cannot bake? My immediate answer would have been Macarons for a very long time. Few months back I attended a workshop on Macarons by chef Michael Solovay. I finally learnt all the tricks and techniques, mastered the art of Macaron making:).
For this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge, it was mandatory to bake French macarons shells using either the French meringue or Italian meringue method, along with a filling of our choice.

I was happy to make some for this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge. I am adding all the notes from Korena and Rachael here. The original recipes for both macaron methods are in grams. Because macarons rely on specific ratios of almonds to powdered sugar to meringue, we recommend using weight rather than volume measurements, which are much less accurate. (Korena says: About those oddly specific amounts in the French meringue recipe – I tried rounding them to more regular numbers, and the macarons failed. An extra gram or two does make a difference!).
Many sources recommend aging your egg whites when making macarons, but neither of them have ever found it necessary for either method. The only stipulation is that the egg whites should be at room temperature (this helps them whip to maximum volume).

Regarding almonds – you can use ground almonds with or without the skins on, but they both preferred using clear ground almonds (no skins) for the look. If you can’t buy ground almonds locally, you can grind them yourself. Just don’t use an almond flour which is very fine and powdery – ground almonds are gritty when rubbed between your fingers. You will grind them further with the powdered sugar. Almonds can be substituted for other nuts or seeds, however their oil content can change the way the batter behaves, so it’s probably best to use almonds on your first try, and then play around once you’re confident in your macaron skills.

Some thoughts on food coloring – Whether you use it or not is entirely up to you, but if you do use it, what you use will determine how much you use and the method you use will determine when you add it. You should only use gel or powder – avoid liquid food coloring, as it can add too much moisture to the mix. With the Italian meringue method, Rachael prefers to add coloring or flavoring at the almond paste stage. This is mostly because it is easier to see the difference in color when folding in the meringue. You can add it to the meringue, though, as you prefer. For the French meringue method, gel color can be added to the meringue OR when folding in the almond mixture, whereas powdered color can be added to the ground almond mixture. Both recipes include instructions on when to add color. Remember, though, that after you add coloring to one part, you will dilute the color when combining the two parts. Flavorings such as vanilla bean seeds can also be added at these same stages.

Baking the macaron shells: Though you can use a parchment paper, my personal choice is a silicon mat. Try both and see what works best for you. And speaking of baking sheets, some bakers use a double or triple stack of baking sheets to help insulate the macaron shells as they bake. This might be a useful technique if your oven runs hot or heats unevenly.

Rachael says: I would like to clear up the misconception floating around the interwebbies that macarons made with the Italian meringue method aren’t “real French macarons” (yes, I have been told this on social media). In fact, neither method is more “French” than the other, they are just variations on a theme. Just like Ladurée and Pierre Hermé, I use this method because I find that it gives more consistent and reliable results. So go ahead and use whichever method suits you best!
Korena says: Egg whites and meringues can be temperamental – if there is even a trace of oil, fat, or egg yolk in the bowl or on the beater, it can prevent the egg whites from whipping to a stiff peaks. For this reason, when separating your eggs, be very careful not to get any yolks in with the whites. One trick I always use to ensure meringue success is to wipe my already-clean bowl and beater or whisk with a vinegar-moistened paper towel: this eliminates any grease, and the little bit of acid helps the egg whites turn into a meringue more readily.

Macaron shells - French meringue method

Serving Size: 25-30 x 3.5cm / 1 1/3” filled macarons


  • 112g / 4 oz ground almonds
  • 204g / 7 oz powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 102g / 3.5 oz egg whites (from approx. 3 eggs)
  • 51g / 1.75 oz granulated (white) sugar
  • Optional:
  • Replace 20g / .7 oz of the powdered sugar with unsweetened cocoa powder
  • The seeds of 1 vanilla bean
  • A few drops of non-oil-based essence
  • A few drops of gel food coloring or a pinch of powder food coloring


Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper on top of the piping guide, and set aside.In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ground almonds and powdered sugar, and pulse until completely combined and homogeneous. If you are using powdered food coloring, combine it with the almond mixture.Sift the mixture onto a bowl, then return any large bits left in the sifter to the food processor and pulse again until very fine. Set aside.

Place the egg whites in a scrupulously clean (free of any oil or egg yolks) large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk on medium speed until frothy, then very gradually add in the granulated sugar. Once all the sugar is added, increase the sped to medium-high and continue beating the egg whites until they form a stiff-peaked meringue (the peaks should not flop over). Don’t over mix or allow the meringue to become dry or chunky. Before the meringue reaches stiff peaks, you can mix in a few drops of paste food coloring or some vanilla bean seeds.

Add half the almond mixture to the meringue and fold vigorously with a spatula, using about 15 strokes to combine and break down the meringue so it is not so puffy (you can also add paste food coloring here if you haven’t already added it to the meringue. At this stage, I added the seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean). Make sure you scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as you fold so that the dry ingredients are all incorporated.

Add half the remaining almond mixture and fold again with about 10-15 strokes, until just combined. Add the remaining almond mixture and fold again, 10-15 strokes, until just combined. The mixture should fall from the spatula in long, thick ribbons, like slow-flowing lava, and the surface of the mixture should smooth out within 30 seconds.

Scoop the mixture into a large piping bag (only use half the mixture at a time) fitted with a large round tip or plain coupler, and pipe into the prepared baking sheets, using the piping template as a guide. Pipe straight down so that mixture comes out in a round blob – it will smooth and spread out on its own. I usually get one full pan of 28 circles and a second with about 20.

Lift the baking sheet up about 5cm / 2 inches and keeping it perfectly level, firmly bang it down on your work surface to dislodge any large air bubbles. Set the piped shells aside to dry for 30-60 minutes, until a skin has formed on the surface and they are no longer sticky to the touch.

Preheat the oven to 275?F. Bake the shells, one baking sheet at a time, in the top third of the oven for 12-16 minutes, during which time they should sprout feet (if you used cocoa in the shells, they may need an additional 2 minutes of baking time). To test the shells, gently tug on the top – if they jiggle at all, bake for another 1-2 minutes. Once baked, they should peel cleanly off the parchment paper. I get best results when I bake them for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheet and bake for another 2-6 minutes, checking for doneness every 2 minutes. I also find that my first batch always takes a few minutes longer than the second, for whatever reason!Allow the shells to cool completely on the parchment paper, then peel off and store in an airtight container, layered between wax paper, at room temperature or in the freezer (NOT the fridge) until you are ready to fill them. Once filled, they should still be kept in an airtight container and can be refrigerated or kept somewhere cool. It’s best to let the filled macarons mature for at least 1 day before eating.

According to a “perfect macaron” article that Rachael read, the ideal ratio of shell to filling is 2:1. That is, the filling should be about the same thickness as one shell. That’s pretty much the ratio we go with, and the easiest way to achieve that is to go by how much is in the piping bag. Fill the bag twice for piping the shells, so fill it once for piping the filling.

Thanks Korena and Rachael for the great challenge!




For the month of September’s Daring Baker’s Challenge Meredith from the Poco Loco Olsons challenged us to experiment with soda bread.
I got to learn a lot about Soda Bread, thanks to Meredith. Contrary to the popular belief, soda bread wasn’t invented by Irish bakers. In fact, food historians give credit of first using soda to leaven bread to the Native Americans, who used pearl ash to help their breads rise.

I believe, Over the years, the Irish people have definitely made this delicious treat their own and are most commonly associated with this diverse and delectable food. I have always come across Soda Breads with Raisins, cranberries etc. Most of the breads also have a cross in the top of each loaf. They can be white or brown.

IMG_9227 The bread contains simple ingredients – flour,baking soda, buttermilk and salt. No- eggs,butter,oil, sugar etc. The ingredients come together in matter of minutes and the bread is ready in less than one hour. Soda bread adds a festive flair to every St. Patrick’s Day meal.
IMG_9229 Using Soda Bread, I made two kinds of simple sandwiches – one with mayo, sun-dried tomatoes along with sautéed onion and peppers. The second one was my little ones favorite with almond butter and slices of banana. It turned out to be a little hard the next day, I should have wrapped the loaf in clean kitchen towel while they cool. Meredith says that Soda bread is best if wrapped in aluminum foil after it is completely cool and then given a day to season.

Irish Soda Bread – Daring Baker’s September’15 Challenge

Yield: 12

An easy quick bread!


  • 2½ cups sour milk or buttermilk
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour( I used white wheat flour)
  • 4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. (I do this by hand, but you could use a mixer if you’d prefer.)Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.Pour the buttermilk into the well.Mix the dough until the flour is completely incorporated. (It will be very stiff. I find it helpful to knead the dough by hand a few times while it is still in the bowl to make sure all of the flour is incorporated before moving on to the next step.)Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet.

Pat or roll the dough into a circle shape that is approximately 1 inch thick.Using your fingertips or the blunt end of a wooden spoon handle, make several dimples in the top of the dough. (This is very similar to the technique used when making focaccia bread.)

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated hot oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Reduce the heat to moderately hot 400°F. Pull the baking sheet out from under the dough, so the parchment is directly on the oven rack. Bake for 10 more minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Buttermilk substitutes :

To 2½ cups of milk add 2 tablespoons lemon juice (or white vinegar) let stand for five minutes and then use as normal buttermilk.
2 cups of plain unsweetened yoghurt plus ½ cup of milk
1½ cups of sour cream plus 1 cup of milk

Thanks Meredith for the easy challenge!


seed 1
I got very excited to see a healthy recipe this time in the Daring Baker’s Challenge. A nutritious Seed and Nut loaf which also happens to be gluten-free.

For the August challenge Susan from The Kiwi Cook dared us to make Seed & Nut Loaf – a super healthy and gluten free alternative to standard wheat based bread.
seed 5
Some notes from Susan – The psyllium hulls is the ingredient that binds the loaf together in the absence of flour. If you have a nut allergy, you could make the loaf exclusively seeds. If you use ground flax seeds instead of whole, you will need to add more water to the mix. Oats are inherently gluten free, however they can be cross contaminated with wheat products. If you are gluten-sensitive, ensure your oats are certified gluten free. Buckwheat or spelt flakes make a good alternative. While you can use any nut you prefer, it’s best to chop them fairly finely; if the nuts are too big, it’s harder for the loaf to hold together around them and you might end up with a very crumbly loaf. I find sliced almonds work really well. A silicon loaf pan is ideal for this recipe, as you can check whether the loaf is holding together before removing it from the pan. While I have used a nonstick pan successfully, once or twice some of the mixture has stuck in the pan when I’ve inverted the loaf as such, if you don’t own a silicon pan, It’s important that you line the pan with baking paper, then peel the paper off once you extract the loaf from the pan prior to baking it further. While the idea is that you can mix all the ingredients in the loaf pan itself, I found it easier (and less messy) to combine the wet and dry ingredients in a large bowl, before transferring it to the loaf pan. While you can ‘rest’ the mixture for a minimum of 2 hours, she recommends resting it overnight as it sets up much more firmly and is easier to extract from the pan during baking. All that soaking also ensures optimal nutrition and digestion.
seed 7
Recipe Source –

Gluten – free Seed & Nut Loaf – Daring Baker’s August 2015 Challenge


  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup flax seeds
  • ½ cup sliced almonds (or whatever nut you prefer)
  • 1½ cups gluten free rolled oats (or try buckwheat flakes or rolled spelt flakes)
  • 2 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 4 tablespoon psyllium seed husks (3 tablespoons if using psyllium husk powder)
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt (it’s fine to reduce this if you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (or liquid honey; for sugar free diets, use a pinch of stevia)
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee, melted
  • 1½ cups water


In a standard sized silicone, nonstick, or greased and lined loaf pan, combine all the dry ingredients It’s easier and less messy to combine in a large bowl first. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a separate bowl. Add mixture to the dry ingredients and combine until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (while the mixture will be wet, there should be no excess liquid).Transfer the mixture to the loaf pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Cover the pan lightly with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours or overnight. The

mixture should feel very firm to the touch. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F.Then bake bread initially for 20 minutes. Take the loaf out of the oven, place a wire rack over top and invert to remove the bread (if you’ve lined the loaf tin, you should remove the lining at this point). Put the now inverted loaf on its wire rack into the oven again and bake for another 30-40 minutes (it should sound hollow when tapped). The loaf should be starting to brown on the outside - this gives a lovely nutty crunch to the finished loaf. Let the loaf cool completely before slicing.

Using a fine serrated knife for slicing worked better than a typical bread knife with its more exaggerated serrated edge, which made for a very crumbly slice. You can store the loaf in an airtight container (or wrap it in plastic wrap) for up to 5 days. You can also freeze it for at least 3 months (it helps to slice it first before freezing so you can enjoy that occasional piece of toast!)

This ‘bread’ makes fabulous toast! Toasted with almond butter and slices of Banana or with some avocado is truly delicious!!!


sweeha 1
The July Daring Bakers’ Challenge was brought to us by Manal from Manal’s Bites. She introduced us to an authentic Palestinian dish from Jaffa that is served as a main meal along with a bowl of soup or a salad. The “Yafawi Sfeeha” or also known as “Milwayeh” which means twisted, is crispy yet tender and full of flavor.
Sfeeha 3
As I mentioned the filling was pretty easy one to make. We were supposed to mix the cheese, an egg, parsley and pepper. I skipped the egg while making my filling. You can store them in an air tight container in the refrigerator and reheat them a bit when serving. Or freeze them in a single layer in the freezer for up to 3 months. But mine didn’t last for this long, it got wiped the same day!
sheeha 5
This dish will need some planning ahead as the dough needs to rest overnight if possible. But once you start working, it will take a couple of hours from start to finish depending on the amount you are making.

Yafawi Sfeeha

Yield: 15 - 18 pieces

An authentic Palestinian dish from Jaffa that is served as a main meal along with a bowl of soup or a salad, crispy on the outside and softer on the inside.


  • To make the dough:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, scoop flour using cup measure then level
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons powdered milk (you can substitute this with warm milk, you will need less water if using milk)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • About 1 cup warm water for kneading
  • Melted ghee (or olive oil) to stretch the dough (ghee gives a great texture and flavor).
  • Cheese Filling
  • 3-4 cups Nabulsi cheese, crumbled (You can use feta or Halloumi if you like but you need a reasonably hard and salty white cheese)
  • ½ cup Italian parsley, minced (you can use fresh mint or fresh za’tar)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Black pepper
  • Walnut Sweet Filling
  • 2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped, (you can use any sort of nut you wish)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ tablespoon orange blossom water
  • ½ tablespoon rose water
  • Sugar Syrup
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1½ cup water
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • ½ tablespoon orange blossom water (optional)


Mix flour, salt, sugar, powdered milk and vegetable oil then start adding the warm water until you get a tender and slightly sticky dough. Kneading will take about 8 min on a stand-up mixer or 12 min by hand. you might need more depending on where you live and the kind of flour you are using). Form the dough into small golf-ball-sized balls. Place on a baking sheet that is very well greased with ghee or olive oil and pour some more (oil or ghee) over dough. Cover and let rest at room temperature for few hours at least (or overnight). Prepare filling in the meantime. After you have your filling ready, use some of the ghee to brush a round tray (the surface that you will be working on). Take one piece of dough and using your hands, gently start spreading it as thinly and evenly as possible. Once that is done fold the upper side to the middle, then fold the opposite side to the middle as well. Spread your filling in a long line across the dough. Roll like a long tight rope making sure that it is tight enough to ensure no filling escapes. Then taking one end start rolling the rope towards the inside in a spiral shape. Put some more ghee on your baking sheet and place the done Sfeeha onto the baking sheet. Continue making the rest of your Sfeeha using ghee to keep it nice and moist.

Preheat oven to moderately hot 400°F and bake Sfeeha for 15-20 minutes till golden brown. Serve hot or at room temperature with a bowl of soup during winter or a salad and Greek yogurt in summer time.

Cheese Filling - Mix ingredients and your cheese filling is ready.

For the Walnut Sweet Filling - Mix all ingredients together and your filling is done.

For serving: Powdered sugar or sugar syrup.

For the Sugar Syrup - Mix sugar and water over high heat in a stainless steel pot. Don’t stir. Once it comes to a boil stir with a wooden spoon to ensure all sugar is dissolved. Add lemon juice and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Remove off heat and add orange blossom water if using.

Note: Once you have the sweet ones baked and hot pour some cold sugar syrup over them or let them cool off and dust with powdered sugar. I decided to make mine into poaches instead of spirals.

Yafawi Sfeeha’s were delicious, full of flavor. This challenge was something new to me so I really enjoyed baking them. They make great appetizers too. I have also mentioned the sweet filling recipe above which I am yet to try.

Thanks Manal for a fantastic challenge!


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