Category Archives: Bars

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January is usually a month of New Year resolutions and staying healthy is one of the most common one. Gyms record the highest number of new memberships. True to the spirit of this season I have made an attempt(yet another!)to be health conscious. Apart from completely switching to olive oil, I have tried to minimize the use of butter/shortening in anything I bake. But there is no way you can completely do without it, can we? Can you even imagine Croissant/Puff Pastry without butter?

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Shortbread is one such recipe which uses up a lot of BUTTER. A while back I baked the – TRADITIONAL SHORTBREAD with three main ingredients – Butter, flour and sugar. I came across the non buttery one in the book “Olive Oil Desserts by Micki Sannar” and decided to bake it immediately.

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To cut down little more calories I replaced ½ cup of all-purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour and didn’t use up ½ cup granulated sugar required to roll the baked shortbreads. I really didn’t miss anything in this new version. It was crumbly,soft and very addictive. If you really love shortbreads and are looking for a healthier option, this is a perfect recipe. Its truly a guilt free indulgence:)

OLIVE OIL SHORT BREAD

Ingredients:

3/4 cup pure olive oil
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar(powdered Sugar)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon butter extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder

Direction:

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly coat a 9×9 inch pan with olive oil cooking spray. In mixer bowl, combine all ingredients and blend on medium high speed until dough is smooth. Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan. SLice into rectangular shapes and score with a fork before baking. Bake for 35-40 minutes( mine took about 32 minutes). When cool and while in pan, slice again and roll in granulated sugar if you like.

After baking,you may choose to roll them over granulated sugar. I felt it wasn’t necessary.

Bon Appétit

Nina

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I must confess that if it was not for Daring Baker’s Challenge I wouldn’t have “dared” to bake so many things. Even in my wildest of dreams I wouldn’t have thought about making-Armenian Nazook,Batternberg Cake,Dutch Crunch Bread,Povitica….and so on. DBC is such a wonderful platform to give folks an opportunity to pursue and hone their baking skills! What makes this even special is the exposure it gives to baking delicacies of different countries and ethnicities.

It is entirely my privilege to be a part of this forum. This month’s challenge reminded me of the Nanaimo Bars that we baked few years back on DBC. Very soon it going to be four years with Daring Baker’s and I have loved every bit of this exciting and enriching journey. Lets go ahead with yet another fascinating challenge – A traditional Dutch Pastry called GEVULDE SPECULAAS ( Stuffed Speculaas).

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Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers’ Hostess and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch! That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough! Delicious!

To start with we had to make the speculaas spice;the almond paste and then the speculaas dough.The entire recipe can be made in one day but to enjoy the full flavor it was recommended to refrigerate the almond paste and dough for a few days before assembling it.

Francijn mentioned about the history of Netherlands and spices – Until 1800 cloves, mace and nutmeg are exclusively found on the Maluku Islands, in the East Indian Archipelago. That’s why these islands are called “the spice islands”. To make one’s fortune in Europe through the spice trade, one needed a monopoly on the European trade. Since 1500 the Portuguese owned that monopoly.
The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, too, wanted to get rich from the spice trade, and established the Dutch East India Company around 1600, to join forces. Since 1660 the monopoly on spice trade was firmly in Dutch hands. In the Dutch Golden Age, roughly the 17th century, the republic got rich through this trade, and flourished like never before, economically, artistically and scientifically. In many Dutch cities the heritage of this century is still visible. Sadly, this wealth must be considered in the light of war and repression. The Dutch used much violence and oppressed people to establish and defend their monopoly.

Only after World War II Dutch India became independent from the Netherlands. Until that moment the trade of spices, coffee, rubber, tobacco, opium, sugar, indigo and tea from Dutch India contributed significantly to the Dutch economy.
In light of this historical involvement of the Netherlands in the spice trade, the contents of my kitchen cupboard are not surprising. Anise seeds, cayenne pepper, chili pepper, lemon grass, mace, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, curry powder, cumin, coriander seeds, cloves, galangal, mustard seed, nutmeg, paprika, allspice, saffron, vanilla, fennel, white pepper, black pepper. And that’s without the long list of herbs.

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SPECULAAS SPICES

When spices had become commonly available in the 17th century, bakers’ guilds began to make their secret spice mixtures. A mixture that gloriously survived the ages is “speculaaskruiden” (speculaas spices). Speculaaskruiden contain at least cinnamon, cloves, mace and ginger, and these spices to taste: pepper, cardamom, coriander, anise seeds and nutmeg.The smell of speculaaskruiden is overwhelming, especially when you take the trouble to mix them yourself. The deliciously warm and woody aroma is a perfect fit for the chilly Dutch winter months.
From the golden age onward, this spice mixture was used to bake a crisp, buttery biscuit: speculaas. For centuries it remained a luxury item, baked only in the holiday season, and often given as a present. Sometimes bakers made the dough three months in advance so that the flavor would permeate the dough.Ever since the 15th century, the 6th of December has been celebrated as the nameday of St. Nicholas, combined with an exchange of gifts on the evening before. But in the age of the Dutch East India Company St. Nicholas became associated with speculaas. And that is not so strange, as St. Nicholas was the patron saint of sailors as well as many bakers’ guilds.

In the course of time many recipes using speculaas spices have been created. Speculaasjes (“speculaas cookies / windmill cookies”) which are shaped using a wooden mold, speculaasbrokken (“speculaas chunks”), kruidnoten (“spiced nuts / miniature spiced cookies”), gevulde speculaas (“speculaas stuffed with almond paste”). And that is not the end of it: speculaas spices can be used in custards, cakes, muffins, bread toppings, cheesecake crusts and so on.
Recipe Speculaas SpicesSpeculaas spices can be bought in a store. But it’s more fun to make your own mixture, so that you can adjust the flavor. Here is a representative recipe from the extensive Dutch tradition.

Mandatory:
cinnamon 40 to 60 % of the total amount
ground cloves 1 or 2 parts
mace ½ or 1 part
ginger ½ or 1 part
Optional:
white pepper ½ or 1 part
cardamom ½ or 1 part
coriander ½ or 1 part
anise ½ or 1 part
nutmeg 1 or 2 parts
A convenient way to mix the spices is as below:

GEVULDE SPECULAAS – TRADITIONAL DUTCH PASTRY

SPECULAS SPICE
Take at least 1 or 2 teaspoons of ground cloves, ½ or 1 teaspoon of mace and ½ or 1 teaspoon of ginger.
Add to taste ½ or 1 teaspoon of white pepper, ½ or 1 teaspoon of cardamom, ½ or 1 teaspoon of coriander, ½ or 1 teaspoon of anise, and 1 or 2 teaspoons of nutmeg.Measure or weigh the amount of spices you have now, and add an equal amount of cinnamon.This method yields at least 4 and at most 18 teaspoons of spices, so if you plan to mix just a few spices, use bigger or more spoons to get a reasonable amount.

Take your time to smell the ingredients individually before you decide how much to add. And remember the proportions,that will make adjustments easier next time. Store the spices airtight, dry and dark, they will not spoil for a long time.

ALMOND PASTE
Ingredients:

1-1/3 cups ground almonds
5/8 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Add Almonds and sugar, grind for one or two minutes. Add the egg and let the food processor combine it. You’ll end up with a sticky mass of almonds paste. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Although the flavor gets better as days pass by, it is not wise to store the paste for too long, as it contains a raw egg. For the same reason you should not eat the paste unbaked.

SPECULAAS DOUGH

Ingredients:
1¾ cups all purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch salt
2 tablespoons speculaas spices
3/4 cup unsalted butter

Directions:Put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl.Cut the butter in dices and add.Knead until smooth.Feel free to add a little milk if the dough is too dry.Wrap in clingfoil and put in the refrigerator for two hours.You can choose to make the dough a few days in advance, just like the almond paste, that will benefit the flavor. Freezing is no problem.

ASSEMBLING

Ingredients:
speculaas dough
almond paste
whole almonds without skins for decoration
1 large egg
shallow baking pan, 8×10 inch (20×26 cm) or, round with of diameter 10 inch (26 cm)

Directions:
Grease the pan. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F. Divide the dough into two portions.Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly as big as the baking pan. Put one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to fill the bottom. Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon cold water. Smear 1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan. Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of clingfoil, until it is exactly as big as the pan, and put it on the dough in the pan. (If you chose to make the paste soft, you can smear the paste instead of rolling it.) Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and smear the next 1/3 of the egg over it. Now put the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible. Smear the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough. Decorate the pastry with the almonds. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut it in portions as you like. If you wrap the stuffed speculaas in clingfoil, after it has cooled completely, you can store it a few days at room temperature. Freezing is possible, but fresh speculaas tastes better.

While mixing the spices – I smelt each and every one of them. I could feel it’s wonderful aroma fill up the entire house while baking. The nutty almond filling sandwiched between two layers of crunchy Speculaas dough was yum. The sweet level was perfect, just like the way I like – not too sweet.

While I was planning to decorate the pastry with almonds,I came across Hannah’s comment in the DBC forum. She had decorated her pastry so beautifully and I was totally inspired by her creativity. I decorated mine in a similar way!

Thanks Francijn for such a lovely challenge!

Bon Apetite!

Nina

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Forget love– I’d rather fall in chocolate:).

I had to rework on my site as I changed my Domain.Thanks to P and R who helped me with it. I was hoping this to work before DBC and thank god,its just up in time.This month, it’s a Gluten free challenge,a dessert of Canadian origin – a type of no bake Chocolate square. Sweet Rice flour and Sorghum flour were the two new entries to my pantry.The challenge had two parts – Making Graham Crackers and then using it to make the Nanaimo bars.I have always used store brought Graham Crackers and making them from scratch was quite a task.On the other hand the bars were pretty easy to work with. They consisted of a crumb based layer on the bottom,a total chocolaty top with a creamy vanilla custard in between.

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

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Preparation time:
• Graham Wafers: 30 to 45 minutes total active prep, 2 ½ hours to overnight and 45 minutes inactive prep.
• Nanaimo Bars: 30 minutes.

NANAIMO BARS

GLUTEN FREE GRAHAM WAFERS

Ingredients

1 cup (138 g) (4.9 ounces) Sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour)
3/4 cup (100 g) (3.5 ounces) Tapioca Starch/Flour
1/2 cup (65 g) (2.3 ounces) Sorghum Flour
1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL ) Kosher Salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) (3 ½ ounces) Unsalted Butter (Cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
1/3 cup (80 mL) Honey, Mild-flavoured such as clover.
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole Milk
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Pure Vanilla Extract

Directions:

1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. If making by hand, combine aforementioned dry ingredients with a whisk, then cut in butter until you have a coarse meal. No chunks of butter should be visible.
2. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
3. Turn the dough onto a surface well-floured with sweet rice flour and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.
4. Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of sweet rice flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be quite sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
5. Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
6. Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more sweet rice flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers.
7. Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.
8. Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Might take less, and the starting location of each sheet may determine its required time. The ones that started on the bottom browned faster.
9. When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) of crumbs. Another way to do this is to place in a large ziplock bag, force all air out and smash with a rolling pin until wafers are crumbs.

Ingredients:
For Nanaimo Bars — Bottom Layer

1/2 cup Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
5 tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 1/4 cups Gluten Free Graham Wafer Crumbs (See previous recipe)
1/2 cup Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped)
1 cup Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

For Nanaimo Bars — Middle Layer
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
2 cups Icing Sugar

For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer
4 ounces Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
Directions:

1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.
3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.

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Verdict: When it comes to chocolate,nothing else seems to matter.Its sinful!!!!!
The chocolate over powers any other flavor in this bar.I think the custard was a little less and I cudnt get good thick middle layer.However it is,just one small square of this bar can satisfy ones chocolate cravings!

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Social networking sites/social media – tell me who is not addicted. This is something that has caught up with youngsters and elders alike. While at work, never did I have a chance to indulge in such activities,now that I have all the time in the world I got lured into it too. Just a couple days back in Facebook, a friend of mine tagged me for something called  25 things you have to say about yourself and keep passing the baton. It was funny, yet intriguing. Once done, I decided to do something similar in our very own blogging world ,at least this would give us an opportunity to know our fellow bloggers better other than their culinary expertise. Instead of 25 things, I thought 5 to 7 was good enough to kick start.Coincidentally,Varsha proposed something similar too and tagged me. Great minds think alike,dont they? Let me not bore you much,I am just writing seven of them,will leave the rest to your imagination 😀

1.Kitchen is my exclusive paradise, an area where I pursue my culinary endeavors , no one gets to cook..It’s MY SPACE!
2.I am a cleanliness freak, particularly Kitchen & Bathroom. Utensils lying in the sink is a good enough reason for me to lose my temper.P bares the brunt most times.
3.I drink gallons of water,so I use the loo a lot:-P My friends always take a dig at me for this!
4. I believe,am not only good in making friends but keeping them too,still in touch with folks I’ve known since I was 5yrs old. Touchwood!
5.As a kid I]ve been told books are like god,if your feet happens to touch it,take it immediately and hold it close to your eyes (actually its like saying sorry god).Just for fun,my Dad and bro torture me by actually taking a newspaper,touch it to my feet,hide it & make me run around the entire house,I would be relieved only when I find it. Its quite funny but I still believe in this.
6.I dont claim to be a Master neither a geek,but certainly good at excel and numbers, after all thats been my bread & butter for long.
7. I drool over Death by Chocolate & Tiramisu,the latter being my fav one.Am crazy to the extent of naming P’s number on my mobile phone as Tiramisu

I would be happy to see your responses too, however I leave the choice to you.I am tagging seven of them  Asha,Mahimaa,Supershef,Vidhya,Alka,Hema,Malar

This is also going to be my last post before a long vacation to India.Whenever I get time,I will surely try and check all your blogs.If not,I will catch up with all your posts once am back.I thought to wind up with a sweet dish using any fruit and the soft gui gui Litchi is the fruit that came into my mind first.Its also spelt as Lychee and called Litchu or Laichi.The original recipe was called Pear Custard Bar from the book Taste of Home Desserts.Instead of Pear, I used Litchi and also tweaked the recipe a lil and made this gorgeous looking dessert. So here it is.

LITCHI CINNAMON CUSTARD BAR

Ingredients:
Sugar – 1/3 cup
All Purpose Flour – 3/4cup
Vanilla extract/essence – 1 tsp
Pecans – 1 cup
Cashewnuts -1/2 cup
Macadamia nuts 1/4 cup(optional)- I didnt add this

For the topping:

Cream cheese -1 package (8 ounces),softened
Sugar – 1/2 cup
Vanilla extract/essence 1 tsp
Litchi – 1 can (this had about 18 pieces),drained
Sugar – 1 tsp
Ground Cinnamon 1/2 tsp

Method:

1.Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.Add Vanilla extract,gradually add flour to the creamed mixture.Mix well and stir in the nuts.
2.Press into a greased 8-in square baking pan.Bake at 350F for about 20min or until lightly brown.Cool it.
3.In a small mixing bowl,beat cream cheese until smooth.Beat in sugar(1/2 cup),egg and vanilla.Pour over the crust.
4.Cut the litchi into half,arrange in a single layer over filling.Combine sugar(1/2tsp) and cinnamon;sprinkle over the litchi.Bake at 375F for 30min.Cool on a wire rack for an hour.
5.Cover and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hrs before cutting.


Once its done,the centre will be soft set and will become firmer upon cooling.Store in the refrigerator.

Its time for Awards – Superchef and Malar has passed on these awards to me….thanks so much.

.Also Jaishree has passed on the above mentioned award and the Yumblog award.Thanks so much.

I want to take time,appreciate and thank each of the bloggers,you truly make a difference to the blogging world.Hence,am passing on all these awards to-Varsha,Asha,Mahimaa,Vidhya,Trupti,Alka,Hema,Rajeshwari,Malar,

Jaishree,Priya,Paru,Harini,Usha,Mangala,DeepaHari,

Rekha,Superchef,Dershana,Daily Meals,Ujwal,Preety,

Pavithra,Vani,Redchillies,Cham,Madhu,Madhumitha,

Priya,Lubna,Uma,Lavanya,AnuSriram,Sia,

Navita,Shama,Aparna, “http://www.egglesscooking.com/”>Madhuram,Chitra,Ashwini,Vibaas,

Jayasree,Indhu,Akal’s SaapaduLG,Maya,

Veggiebelly and Sowmya.

Have fun blogging:)

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