Category Archives: Snacks

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Empanadas it is !

Empanadas are something that’s very common in my house. Most often I have made the fried ones with a simple and delicious potato filling. I have baked a few times too, but the fried ones have always been our favorite. This time when I saw the empanadas challenge in the DBC forum, I was happy to participate. I must say I loved the dough….the crust was perfect..it was great.

Patri of the blog, Asi Son Los Cosas, was our September 2012 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she decided to tempt us with one of her family’s favorite recipes for Empanadas! We were given two dough recipes to choose from and encouraged to fill our Empanadas as creatively as we wish.


I made a simple potato filling for the savory ones and a coconut and nut filling for the sweet one. Here is how I made them:

EMPANADAS WITH SWEET AND SAVORY FILLING

3½ cups all-purpose or bread flour( I used the latter)
1 cup warm water
½ cup less 1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika

Sift the flour into a bowl, make a well in the middle and add all the ingredients.Mix with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients have been incorporated.Turn dough onto your counter and knead for 8 minutes.Make a ball and allow to rise covered with a cloth for about half an hour before using.Once risen, turn the dough back into a floured counter and cut it in half. Cover one half with the napkin to prevent drying.

Spread the other half of the dough using a rolling pin. You can use a piece of wax paper over the counter, it will make it easier to move the dough around. Depending on the shape of your oven pan or cookie sheet, you will make a rectangle or a round.Now, the thinness of the dough will depend on your choice of filling and how much bread you like in every bite. For your first time, make it about 3mm thin (about 1/10th of an inch) and then adjust from that in the next ones you make.

SAVORY POTATO FILLING

2 large Potatoes grated
1 medium onion,sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
a teaspoon chili flakes
salt as per taste

In a saucepan, heat oil and saute onions until translucent. Add grated potato and mix. Close the lid for about 2-3 minutes. Once the potatoes are half done, add salt and chili flakes. Mix and set aside.

SWEET COCONUT AND NUTS FILLING

1 cup freshly grated coconut
1 cup jaggery
1/2 cup chopped nuts(I used cashewnuts,almonds and pistachios)
2 tablespoon clarified butter
a pinch of salt

Heat butter in a pan, add in the nuts and saute until golden brown. Remove and set aside. In the same pan, mix coconut and jaggery. On low heat allow it to cook, stirring in between. First the Jaggery will melt and then it will all come together to a thick mass. Add in the nuts,mix. Allow it to cool completely before using it.

Assembling the Empanadas

For the Savory – If you haven’t used wax paper, either lightly flour or line with wax paper your pan or tray.Cover the base and sides with the dough. Using the rolling pin or a knife, cut the extra dough.Place the filling, making sure it is cold and that all the base is covered. Using a hot filling will make the bottom layer of the empanada become soggy. Be careful to avoid adding too much oil from the filling, try to make it as “dry” as possible. Start preheating your oven to moderate 350°F.Take the other half of the dough and spread it out to the same or less thinness of the base. You can use a piece of wax paper for this too. Take into account that this “top” dough needs to be smaller around than the bottom, as it only needs to cover the filling.If not using wax paper, move carefully the top to cover the filling. If using wax paper, transfer the dough, turn upside down, cover the filling and gently peel off the wax paper.
Using your fingers, join bottom and top dough, when you have gone all the way around, start pinching top and bottom together with your thumb and index finger and turning them half way in, that way you end up with a rope-like border. When you are finished, make a 1 inch hole in the middle of the top layer. This will help hot air exit the empanada while it’s baking without breaking the cover.You can use left-over dough to decorate the empanada.

In a small bowl, beat an egg and add a tbsp of cold water. With the pastry brush, paint the top of the empanada with the egg wash.
Place the empanada in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Check that the bottom part is done.

For the sweet empanada – Roll the dough into small disc(about 3″ in diameter). Place a tablespoon of the filling one one side and fold from the other end. Press the sides gently. Brush with the egg wash and bake. I baked both the savory and the sweet together, the latter took a little less time to bake.

I wasn’t happy with the sweet empanadas, the filling was fine but the crust was somewhat too very crunchy and tasted a little different…a little eggy too. The savory one was good but I guess it was the filling which needed some more make up.

My usual potato filling that I use to make fried empanadas wasn’t a great filling to use for the baked ones. The next time I should use a different filling. Also, the next time I plan to use individual ramekins for making empanadas.

Thanks Patri for a great challenge!

Nina

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Guess my break was longer than I expected it to be.Both my husband and my daughter were unwell in between and then once they got better I was occupied with too many things.Blogging completely took a back seat. Here I am, back now with this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge.

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

It’s been a busy day today and I just have a few minutes before I step out. I will write more in my next post. But for now presenting the yummiest crackers that I’ve ever made – Cheddar Oregano and Walnut Icebox Crackers. Wow the name itself sounds so tempting, isn’t it? It’s loaded with all my favorite ingredients.

We were asked to make two different crackers using different methods of forming. I chose the ““Icebox methods” to make the “Cheddar Oregano – Walnut Icebox Crackers” and the “Hand rolled method” for making the “Health Crackers”. I followed the recipes as is for the first one. Added chili flakes for the second one, just to give that extra kick;also substituted rosemary with oregano.

HEALTH CRACKERS

Makes about 40 crackers

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1 large egg white
Cracker topping:
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, nigella (onion) seeds, salt
Salt sprinkling

Directions:
Mix the oats, flour, wheat germ sugar and salt together in a large bowl or bowl for the standup mixer. Combine the water and oil and stir into the oat mixture until it comes together and a dough forms.Form dough into a disk and allow to rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes but up to a day if you are making the ahead.Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F. Divide the dough into quarters and work with one piece at a time, allowing the remaining pieces to stay in the fridge as you proceed with rolling out the crackers. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about 1/16 inch (1½ mm) thick and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet by carefully wrapping the dough around the rolling pin.
Brush the dough with the egg white mixed briefly with a tablespoon of water and sprinkle with seeds and salt of your choice.Cut the dough with a pizza wheel and bake for 25-30 minutes until browned. Crackers that are not crispy once cooled may be returned to the oven. Store in an airtight container and eat within two weeks.

CHEDDAR OREGANO AND WALNUT ICEBOX CRACKERS

Makes about 40 crackers

Ingredients

½ cup butter, well softened
2¼ cups grated aged cheddar cheese (the better the cheese, the better the cracker), firmly packed
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of chili flakes
Directions:

Combine butter, oregano,chili flakes and cheese in a stand mixer and beat well (can also be done by hand). Add the flour, salt and nuts and stir to combine. Form the dough into two tight logs and wrap with cling film. Chill for at least an hour and up to several days. The log can be frozen at this point for several months.Heat the oven to moderate 325°F.Slice a log into 5mm (1/5 inch) coins and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake about 10 minutes until golden brown.

Store in an airtight container and eat within three days.

I loved making these CRACKERS.Of the two,the Icebox Crackers were my favorite one.Thanks Dana for the great challenge!

Bon Appetit!

Nina

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We can’t seem to get enough of California. It was just last month that we were at San Diego and Los Angeles and this time it was SFO. We were there to visit our friends and it was so much fun. The weather was perfect. It had the hustle and bustle of New york and the quaint beach lifestyle of Florida. We instantly fell in love with the city. Our friends were excellent hosts and took us around the city.

We visited the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, SFO Downtown, Pier 39,Union Square, beautiful drive across the Bay and much more. The highlight of the trip was shopping at Daiso a Japanese shop where you get household, kitchenware, utensils, stationary / gift bags, travel containers , tiny props etc. Daiso has the best price to fulfill impulsive buys; almost everything is $1.50 unless otherwise indicated. I got carried away and picked up props for food photography. This is definitely the one stop shop for all food props. They don’t seem to have any other outlets in the Midwest, the only options is to shop online. I was lazy enough to put all the things together for the below photograph…just a few for your eyes:)

Coming to the recipe, I baked this Tart last week when we were craving for something Savory. It is easy to make and is very filling too. The secret to a good crust is to have everything cold and to handle as little as possible.

I had some filling left over and used it for quesadillas the next day. I also didn’t need the entire dough, so with the remaining I made an upside down tart,recipe to follow shortly:)

CARMELIZED ONION TART

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
12 tablespoon (1 1/2 sticks) butter( chopped into small pieces)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup+ 2 tablespoon water

Nut Filling

1/2 cup almonds
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoon olive oil

Onion Filling:

2 large onions ( sliced)
2 tablespoon olive oil
a teaspoon chili flakes/chili powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
a tablespoon cilantro (chopped)
salt as per taste
a teaspoon balsamic vinegar( optional)

sliced tomatoes for decoration

Pulse the flour and salt in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until it forms a coarse meal. With the motor running drizzle water little by little( a tablespoon at a time, as you might not need all of the water) until the mixture begins to hold together. You will end up with a soft ball. If you think the dough is too sticky, add little more flour and knead using your fingers. Flatten the dough into a disc and wrap in a plastic wrap; refrigerate it for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile get started with the filling.

For the Nut filling pulse walnuts and garlic in a food processor. With the machine running, add the olive oil and run until the mixture is finely chopped. Set aside.

For the Onion Filling – Heat oil in a wok. Saute the onions until golden brown. Add the chili powder,salt and sugar. Continue to cook and scrape until the onions richly browned and caramelized.Now at the end if you wish add the balsamic vinegar or wine( if you like) to de-glaze your pan and bring in some additional flavors to the onions. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 16 by 8 inch rectangle. Fit this dough into a 14 by 5 inch rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim the excess dough from all the sides. Pierce all over the bottom with a fork . Refrigerate for about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven at 375F. We have to blind bake the tart shell – Line the Tart shell with a parchment and fill it with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the crust begins to brown. Remove the pie weights and parchment, bake the tart shell for 10 minutes more. The shell must be golden brown. Allow it to cool.

Spread the nut filling all over the shell. Bake for 2-3 minutes. Now top it with the caramelized onions and finally bake for another 15-20 minutes. If you feel the crust is browning fast, cover it loosely with an aluminium foil and bake. Once done, decorate with sliced tomatoes and cilantro. Serve warm.

Tarts are easy to bake, if you’ve mastered the art then there is so many recipes you can come up with.There are endless ideas for the filling. You may just whip up some cream, fill the baked shell, decorate with fruits or whip mascarpone cheese and mango puree, or use vegetables such as Zuchini,Beets, Squash and ofcourse cheese.

Bon Appetit!

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Pita is a kind of a bread which is very popular in the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries. It is a round pocket bread which when baked puffs up and flattens as it cools. A very popular greek food is Falafel Sandwich were the falafels are stuffed inside the pita bread.This is one of my fav food at Gyros a greek restaurant in MN. The sandwich is served with cucumber,tomatoes,onions and tzatziki sauce.It tastes YUM!.

Hummus is like a dip made with garbanzo beans and Baba Ganoush is made using eggplant(aubergine).The first time I ate them was probably four years back at a Lebanese restaurant. They were served with warm Pita bread and Tabouli salad.The salad was something I just couldn’t eat,I think one has to have an acquired taste for “cous cous”.Anyways it was just not the delicious fare that we enjoyed, the traditional belly dancing accompanied with the foot tapping music made the recipe for a perfect evening. I was amazed with the finesse with which the dancers performed….it was sheer elegance coupled with superior dexterity.

The addition of Tahini is what makes these dips taste great. I believe you can make them without it as well, I sure haven’t tried it yet.I usually dont buy the paste, have always made it from scratch.

PITA BREAD WITH ROASTED GARLIC HUMMUS & BABA GANOUSH

Pita Bread
( makes about 8 pita breads)

1.5 cups flour
5 tablespoons warm water
1/2 teaspoon yeast proofed in a tablespoon of warm water with 1/2 tablespoon of flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon olive oil

Mix the flour,water and the yeast in a bowl. Add salt,mix and then add the olive oil. I used my stand mixer fitted with a dough hook to knead.Turn to high speed if needed to get the dough to slap against the sides of the bowl. Brush a glass bowl with oil and place the dough in it. Cover with a plastic wrap and let rise for about 3 hours in room temperature or until tripled in volume. Press down the dough,cut into equal pieces and shape them into small balls. Roll out the balls into 4 or 6 inch disks,flouring as needed to prevent sticking.Because the dough is elastic you may have to let the disks rest once or twice while you are rolling them out to get them to hold their shapes. Place a pizza stone on the floor of the oven and preheat the oven to 500F. You may also use a baking sheet. Arrange the discs on the sheet pans and slide it into the oven, bake for about 7 minutes until they are lightly browned. Turn them over and bake for another minute or two.

Tahini

¼ cup sesame seeds(white)
2 tablespoon sesame oil

Dry roast the sesame seeds until golden brown.(be careful as they turn dark very soon).Cool and grind it along with sesame oil. Store it in an air tight container.

Roasted Garlic

Preheat oven at 400F. Take a garlic bulb and cut the top of the clove.Place it on a small silver foil and drizzle about a teaspoon of olive oil. Wrap it with the foil and bake for about 40 minutes. Remove the skin.You will end up with a very soft golden colored garlic not to forget the amazing aroma too:).

Hummus

1 cup Garbanzo beans ( you may use the canned ones too,reserve the liquid)
Roasted garlic ( as needed)
4 tablespoon olive oil + ½ teaspoon for garnishing
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoon tahini paste
salt as needed
¼ teaspoon chili flakes and parsley ( optional)

Soak the Garbanzo beans overnight and cook it the next day until soft. (If you are using a canned ones this step is not required.). Reserve the liquid in which it is cooked. Allow it to cool. Grind it along with the rest of the ingredients except the last one. (If it is too thick use the reserved liquid, just a little which is purely optional). Garnish with olive oil,chili flakes and finely chopped parsley.

{If you like your Hummus to be super garlicky, use all of the roasted garlic else use about 3-4 pods}

Baba Ganoush

1 eggplant ( I used a baby eggplant)
2 tablespoon Olive oil + little extra for brushing
1 garlic pod ( you may use roasted garlic too)
1 teaspoon tahini paste
salt as needed
¼ teaspoon chili flakes

Preheat the oven at 400F. Brush little oil ( probably need about ¼ teaspoon)all over the eggplant and using a knife make small slits on all sides.You may even use a fork and prick. Bake for 40 minutes until they are completely soft. Peel the skin and scrape out the pulp. Grind it along with rest of the ingredients except the last one. Garnish with chili flakes and little olive oil.


If you prefer a smoky flavor, use the broil option in the oven to char the skin of the eggplant, then peel and use. I chose not to as I dont like it. Since I used a baby eggplant, I ended up with less than ½ cup of Baba Ganoush. You will have to adjust the quantity of ingredients as per your taste if you are using a large eggplant.

Serve the Hummus and Baba Ganoush with Pita bread.
Enjoy!
Note : The recipe for Pita Bread was adapted from the book Baking by James Peterson. I made some changes to suit my requirement.

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