Cheese bread wreath

Cheese stuffed bread wreath

Today is the 16 th of Ramadan, every year I receive requests to explain a little more about the month of Ramadan and the practice of fasting and it is always a pleasure to do so.You can find my previous posts about Ramadan here, here and here but for this year I thought I’d answer a few FAQ.

If you have a question about Ramadan,I’d love to hear from you. So please leave me a comment or send me an email. let’s start with the basics:

So what is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the month in which Muslims are instructed to fast from sun rise till sunset.

What exactly is fasting?

To fast by definition means to abstain. In Ramadan Muslims abstain from food,tobacoo and drinks from sun rise till sunset but fasting goes way beyond this simple definition. Abstaining from eating or drinking is actually the easy part! To avoid repeating myself, here is a little explanation of what fasting is all about from the post I published last year.

Fasting is a school of discipline present in most religions and cultures. In Islam fasting by definition means to abstain, abstain from food and drink from sunrise till sunset but it doesn’t stop there.

One way to look at it is that in fasting what comes out of your mouth is just as important as what goes in. You have to abstain from everything that is bad. No lying, gossiping or using profanity. Keep in mind though, that your mouth is not the only part of you that is fasting, the whole of you is. Your hands are fasting, you can’t do harm, steal or hurt others. Your eyes are fasting, you are not allowed to watch anything inappropriate. Your ears are fasting, you can’t listen to anything inappropriate.

If you think about it, fasting  is meant to impact the way you behave,in every aspect.

But the lesson does not stop at your senses. It extends to controlling your mood, temper and desires. If you think fasting gives you an excuse to throw a tantrum because you’re not eating or drinking,think again. When you fast you are required to control your anger to the same extent that you control your mouth or your senses.

To fast or not to fast?Why should I do it?Only for religious reasons?

Although Muslims fast primarily for religious reasons. The true beauty of any religion is when you see the why behind the must.

Fasting gives your body a rest

Digesting food requires high amounts of energy; in fact, the digestive system can sometimes drain energy needed for healing, repair and general maintenance of the body. Therefore, it makes sense to give it a vacation once in awhile.

Help your body heal and detoxify

In many cultures, the art of fasting has been practiced for thousands of years for curing illness of all kinds, rejuvenation, clarity and decision making, cleansing and strengthening. Have you noticed that when you’re sick, your appetite diminishes? (Similarly, when animals are ill, they lie down and often don’t eat or drink.) Energy goes towards healing our bodies instead of digesting food.

Fasting makes you more compassionate. Trying out hunger for hours everyday gives you a sense of what it is like not to have anything to eat. It is a great motivation to reach out and help those in need

Fasting teaches you that you are in control. You are in control of your body, your senses and your desires.

It is a great way to break bad habits. If you can stop smoking for 16 hours because you are fasting, you can do it for the remaining 8 hours. If you can stop gossiping or lying or using profanity for 16 hours, you can quit it for good.

Why does Ramadan come at a different time each year?

The Islamic calendar(also called the hijri calender) is lunar(it follows the moon) and because of that, the start of the Islamic year advances 11 days each year compared with the seasonal year.That is why, Ramadan occurs at different times of the year over a 33-year cycle. This can result in the Ramadan fast being undertaken in markedly different environmental conditions between years in the same country.

Are all Muslims required to fast? Are there any exceptions?

Adult  sane Muslims are required to fast but there are exceptions to that rule.By definition, adult and sane excludes children and those who are mentally ill or insane. Because Islam is a religion based on compassion and mercy, there are also those who can postpone the fast because they are going through conditions that make fasting too hard or harmful to their health for example :(the acutely ill; women during menstruation, pregnancy, post-childbirth and during lactation and also travelers) . Then there are also those who are excused because they are unable to fast (the chronically ill; the frail elderly).

 

I hope I’ve covered a few of the questions you may have about Ramadan, if you have any more questions, please send me an email or leave me a comment.

Cheese bread wreath/ chef in disguise

A few weeks ago, Lail asked me to join her in her first virtual Iftar potluck. Lail is one of the sweetest bloggers I have met in the past three years of blogging. I deeply admire her dedication, passion and talent so it was a true pleasure to  oblige her invitation. I decided to bring her this Cheese bread wreath.

Today’s recipe is one of my go to bread recipes when I have company or when I am busy. Instead of making individual pastries, this lovely bread wreath is a great way to serve stuffed bread. It is elegant, easy to make and really versatile in terms of filling (you can check out the notes for both savory and sweet suggestions).

Cheese bread wreath

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) warm water
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup (57 gram) butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup (50 gram) white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams)salt
  • 3 1/4 tp 3 1/2 cups ( 416-448 gram) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (8 grams) dry yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram)cardamom optional

Instead of the egg-wash use

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) (25 gm) (1 oz) milk powder
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) lukewarm water
  • 1teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 gm) instant coffee

stuffing (see notes for options)

  • 1 cup (80 grams) Nabulsi cheese grated or cut into small cubes (you can use any firm salty cheese)
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese or mozzarella cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of dried mint  (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Nigella seeds (optional)

 

Instructions

In a bowl whisk the egg with milk, water, sugar, butter and yeast. Set aside

In another bowl sift the flour with the salt and the cardamom .

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and knead until you get a smooth dough. (That usually requires 7 to 10 minutes)

Place the dough in a bowl that you have previously brushed with some oil.

Cover the doughwith a wet kitchen towel and leave it in a warm place to double

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface

Roll into a rectangle

1

Spread cheese stuffing leaving 1 inch (2.5cm) margin all around

2

Roll the dough starting from the long side to foem a tube

3

Join both ends of the tube to form a circle and pinch the dough together

4

Using a scissor or a knife make cuts that go 2/3 of the way through the dough

5

Turn the slices 90 degrees so that cut part faces upward

Using a brush, brush the dough with egg wash  or my egg wash replacement if you prefer

Allow  the wreath to rest for 15 minutes during which you would heat your oven to 270C (500F) (rack in the middle)

Bake for 5 minutes on 270C (500F) then lower the temperature to 200 C (400 F) and cook for 15-20 more minutes

(ovens do differ greatly, so the time may differ..what you want is to bake it until the under side is golden brown)

If the top isn’t  golden, Place the wreath under the broiler for a couple of minutes until it is golden brown on top

Cheese stuffed bread wreath

Notes

The stuffing:

When it comes to the stuffing, the possibilities are really endless. For savory options try: Sauteed spinach with onions and garlic.Minced meat, sauteed with onions and your favorite blend of spices is a great choice for the meat lovers out there For a sweet option,try date puree, dried fruits, or jam.

Cheese stuffing:

The cheese I usually use in this bread is a combination of Nabulsi cheese and sharp cheddar but you can use any other cheese combination you like. Cheddar, Monterrey jack and Colby. Halloumi with fresh mint or parsley. Experiment and find your favorite, just remember to use a cheese with intense flavor or else it will be overwhelmed by the bread

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No knead olive bread

No knead olive bread Ramadan Mubarak to all my wonderful readers who observe it.

Hello everyone :) Yes, I am still here and I have not vanished off the face of the earth lol Moving  a family from one country to another is a huge adventure and regardless of how prepared you think you are, you are sure to get a few pleasant surprises along the way :) I will  do my best to reply to your emails , questions and comments soon, thank you for your patience .In my upcoming posts I will tell you more about the whole  move experience and hopefully manage to tell you a little more about Ramadan before this beautiful month is over.

In the mean time, there is nothing like a  Secret recipe club reveal date to get me out of my blogging slumber.

The assignment

For the month of July, my assigned blog was Della cucina povera. The beautiful Francesca describes her blog as being about a tuscan way of life. Using simple, seasonal ingredients and forgiving measurements. Francesca’s mother is Italian and her father is Iranian and she grew up enjoying this mix in her family’s restaurant in Washington. Later on, she traveled through out  North America, the Middle East, Asia and Europe in the pursuit of adventure. She shares the stories and recipes she came across on those foreign paths.

The recipe: no knead olive bread

After a tour in Francesca’s archives,I decided to go for her no knead bread because at the time of preparing this recipe, we were packing and anything with minimum effort and involvement seemed like the perfect choice. Added to that, I have been intrigued by the idea of no knead bread for quite some time and as always, I find that  secret recipe club assignments are the perfect opportunity to cross things off my “must try soon” list.

 The result:

The bread as the name implies requires no kneading, it relies on slow fermentation instead. All you have to do is invest 5 minutes to mix up the ingredients and then let time do the magic. The end result is a loaf of bread with a beautiful crisp walnut colored crust and a soft and chewy interior. The olives scattered throughout the crumb add color and a delicious richness to the bread.

My addition to the recipe was a tablespoon of rosemary, simply because I think rosemary and black olives are a match made in heaven, especially when bread is concerned. If you have never tried the two together, please do. You can thank me later :)

I found the process of making this bread reminiscent of sourdough bread . The wet dough, the long fermentation and the final shaping of the bread.The difference is that a sourdough starter adds a certain richness and depth of flavor to the bread in addition to being a leavening agent.

No knead bread

No knead olive bread

Recipe source: From Jim Lahey’s My Bread. Ingredients

  • 3 Cups Bread Flour
  • 1 1/2 Cup Kalamata Olives, pitted, drained, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 Teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 Cups cool water
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (optional)

Method

Preparing the dough

In a bowl mix the flour and yeast Add the drained,pitted,chopped olives and the rosemary Add the water and mix using your hands or a spoon step1 Cover the mix and allow it to rest at room temperature for 14-18 hours The dough will turn into a bubbly mess! That is actually OK because it means that the yeast is active and it has done its job step2

 

Shaping the dough

Scrape your dough onto a heavily floured surface (the dough will be very wet and almost batter like in consistency)

Liberally flour the top of the dough and just fold it a few times.

If you find that the dough is too sticky, add more flour

Eventually you want it to be firm enough to form a ball or loaf with it.

Take a large tea towel and sprinkle it liberally with flour, then plop your dough in the center, and cover your dough with the corners of your tea towel. (I personally proofed my bread on the baking sheet but that resulted in it spreading during baking, next time I will probably proof in in a pan and bake it in it as well)

Let the loaf ferment and proof for another two hours.

step 3 After your bread has been proofing for about 90 minutes, preheat your oven to AS HOT AS YOU CAN.

Bake  until the edges are golden brown and when you knock on the “back” of the bread, and it gives you a nice hollow sound.( it took me 30 minutes, the original recipe calls for 40-50 minutes, ovens vary. please keep that in mind) step 4 Allow the bread to cool down completely on a wire rack before cutting into it no knead bread - chef in disguiseNo knead bread

Notes:

The bread spread quite a bit during baking, I would suggest making it in a loaf pan if you want it to retain its shape. It was still quite tasty but when sliced it was a little on the thin side.

 

خبز الزيتون بدون عجن

ثلاث اكواب طحين

واحد و نصف كوب زيتون اسود مبزر و مصفى من الماء و مفروم

ثلاث ارباع ملعقه صغيره خميره

واحد و نصف كوب ماء

ملعقه كبيره اكليل الجبل مفروم

لتحضير العجين

اخلطي الطحين و الخميره

اضيفي الزيتون و كليل الجبل

اضيفي الماء و حركي باليد او بملعقه خشبيه

غطي العجين و دعيه يرتاح من 14-18 ساعه

سيتحول العجين الى قوام سائل مليء بالفقاقيع

لتشكيل العجين

رشي كميه من الطحين على سطح العجن و صبي العجين فوقه

رشي العجين بالكثير من الطحين و اثني العجين على نفسه عده مرات

اذا احسستي ان العجين لازال لزجا و يلصق باليد اضيفي المزيد من الطحين

استمري باضافه الطحين و ثني العجين على نفسه حتى يصبح متماسك و يمكن تشكيله على شكل كره

شكليه على شكل كرة و ضعيه على صينيه الخبز و غطيه مده ساعتين

يمكنك ايضا تخميره برش فوطه بالكثير من الطحين ووضع العجين في وسطها ثم اغلقي الفوطه على العجين و دعيه يتخمر

ضعي العجين على صينيه الخبز و اخبزيه في فرن محمى مسبقا على اعلى درجه حراره يصلها فرنك

اخبزيه حتى تصبح اطرافه ذهبيه و اذا طرقتي على الرغيف من الاسفل يعطي صوت اجوف

اخرجي الخبز من الفرن و دعيه يبرد

Couscous dessert

Moroccan Couscous dessert

A few weeks ago I shared my way of making maftoul (Palestinian couscous) from scratch and I promised you some new and creative recipes to use maftoul. I have already shared my Mediterranean couscous salad that I usually make with maftoul

Couscous salad with Mediterranean flavors

and today I am sharing a couscous dessert that you can make with maftoul or couscous or even left over couscous. This recipe is inspired by a Moroccan dessert called suffa which uses vermicelli or couscous and infuses it with milk and orange blossom water then it is decorated with nuts, dried fruits or ground sugar and spices.

Read the full post »

Anzac biscotti (oatmeal coconut biscotti)

biscotti

When I get my secret recipe club assignment, I go through the blog’s archives focusing mainly on healthy recipes. Salads,  and vegetarian categories are usually my first stop. This time things were a little different, I started my archive search with  bread and baked goods!

You see, May was a super stressful  month.We are moving to the United Arab Emirates in a couple of weeks and despite the fact that I have been preparing for this move for 4 months, the idea has not fully sinked in! The past few months and May in particular have been a hectic race to get everything done and organised in time for the move. I had to hand over my patients at the clinic to another Dr, the kids’  papers and school transfer arrangements, preparing the house, organizing the stuff to be shipped, the list goes on and on, I will spare you the headache and just say that venting through baking seemed like the only sane option.

Read the full post »

Pao de Queijo (irresistible Brazilian cheese bread)

Irresistible Brazilian cheese bread..pao de queijo

This month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge took us on a trip to beautiful Brazil! Renata of “Testado, Provado & Aprovado!” taught us how to make Pao De Queijo, tasty cheese buns that make the perfect snack or treat, and that will make your taste buds samba!

Pao De Queijo (  Pão means bread; Queijo means cheese) if you are not familiar with it, is a very popular Brazilian bread that doesn’t rely on yeast for leavening. It also  uses tapioca starch (flour) instead of wheat flour for its main ingredient and that makes it gluten free.

When Renata  posted the challenge I was both curious and excited. I have never worked with tapioca starch before and I wasn’t even sure that I will be able to find it here in Amman but I knew that any challenge posted by Renata will be an amazing one (Renata is one of the first and most wonderful bloggers I met through the daring kitchen, I deeply respect her talent and creativity and I love how caring and supportive she is on the forums and on her blog).

Added to that, the wonderful Sally had written about these little cheese bites, at the time I bookmarked the recipe because Sally promised that  you will fall in love with pao de queijo from the first bite and I have tried enough of Sally’s recipes to know she keeps her promises :)

mini sandwiches

After some hunting I managed to find tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour by some brands) and I couldn’t wait to try

Pao De Queijo turned out to be a true Brazilian treat. As my daughter put it after trying it, they are like little savory cheese macaroons! and indeed they are. The crust slightly crackles when you bite into it while the center is soft, chewy with rich cheese notes, it is almost feels like the center is formed entirely out of melted cheese despite being light and fluffy and full of little air bubbles.

I have to warn you that these little pao de queijo bites are addictive. Keeping track of how many you “tried” will not be an easy task!

Before getting to the recipe there are a few notes that you need to keep in mind:

TAPIOCA STARCH (also known as CASSAVA STARCH) is the main ingredient of Pão de Queijo. Some brands label it as Tapioca flour. You can find tapioca flour in two variables: REGULAR and SOUR. It looks pretty much like any other starch, powdery and white, sometimes it has little granules.

CHEESE: The second most important ingredient. The authentic recipe calls for “Queijo Minas Curado” which is typical from Minas Gerais. However,that cheese is not easy to find. Renata suggested using Monterey Jack Cheese as it is somewhat similar to the Brazilian cheese, taste and texture-wise

Brazilian cheese bread pao de queijo
 

TRADITIONAL PÃO DE QUEIJO
Servings:
Yields about 80 small balls

Ingredients:

500 gm (4 cups) tapioca starch (If you have access to sour tapioca, you can use 250gm (2 cups) of each)
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
2-3/4 tablespoons (40 ml) (1½ oz) (40 gm) butter
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) salt (or to taste depending on how salty your cheese is)
3 cups (750 ml) (9 oz) (250gm) Monterey Jack Cheese (or another cheese of your liking, or a mix of cheeses), coarsely grated
1 to 3 large eggs

Directions:

  • Heat milk, butter, and salt in a small sauce pan until it comes to a boil. Watch closely as it may boil over. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Sift tapioca starch into a large bowl.
  • Pour the boiled (hot) mixture over the tapioca and start stirring with a fork. The milk mixture will not be enough to form a dough yet. You will have a lumpy mixture, that’s what it is supposed to be.
step 1
  • Keep stirring with the fork, breaking down the lumps as much as you can, until the mixture cools down to warm.
  • At this point, preheat your oven to moderately hot 400° F/200° C/gs mark 6
  • Add the grated cheese to the tapioca mixture and mix well, now using your hands.
  • Add one egg at a time, mix with your hands until dough comes together. (I only needed one egg but keep in mind that tapioca differs from brand to brand so you may need more eggs )I suggest you lightly beat the egg with a fork and add little bits until the dough comes together into a soft but pliable dough. You only have to knead it a bit, not as much as you knead a yeasted bread. It’s OK if it is slightly sticky.
step 2
  • Form balls with the dough and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicon mat or lightly greased with vegetable oil. If necessary, you can oil your hands to make shaping easier. The size of the balls may vary from small bite-sized balls to the size of ping pong balls. They will puff up quite a bit after baking. I personally prefer the smaller ones.
step 3
  • Bake for about 25 minutes or until they just start to brown on the bottom. You may have golden spots of cheese on the crust. Don’t over-bake as they will get hard and bitter.

NOTE: If your dough gets too soft and sticky to shape balls, you can always add a bit more tapioca starch or pop the dough into a piping bag and pipe the dough on a baking sheet.

  • Serve hot or warm.

Note: After they cool down, Pao de queijo lose their special texture, so bake only what you need.You can form the dough, bake as much as you need and freeze the rest unbaked. If you happen to make extra and still have left-overs, keep them in an air-tight container (max. 24 hours) and try making “Panini”, or mini sandwiches with them.

mini sandwiches with cheese bread

“QUICK” PÃO DE QUEIJO WAFFLES
Servings:
Yields about 30 if made in small (2 tablespoons) 30 ml muffin cups

pao de quijo waffles

Ingredients:

2 large eggs
10 tablespoons (150 ml) whole milk
4 tablespoons (60 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) butter, melted OR 60 ml vegetable oil (neutral tasting such as canola, grapeseed, etc)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) salt (or to taste, depending on the saltiness of your cheese)
1/2 cup (125 ml) (1-2/3 oz) (50 gm) good quality parmesan cheese such as parmigiano-reggiano, grated
2 cups (500 ml) (9 oz) (250 gm) tapioca starch (or 150 gm regular, 100 gm sour tapioca starch)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6
  • Prepare a muffin pan by lightly greasing it with vegetable oil. Alternatively, you may use silicone muffin cups which don’t need any greasing.
  • Place all ingredients, except tapioca starch, in the jar of your blender. Blend for a minute or so.
  • With the blender still running, remove the little cap from the lid and add the tapioca flour by the spoonfuls.
  • Once you have added all the starch and your batter is smooth, turn off the blender.

NOTE: Because tapioca starch may vary from brand to brand, you may need to add some extra milk if your batter starts to get too thick and difficult to blend. Alternatively, you can stop adding the starch when you get a somewhat thick, but still pourable batter, similar to waffle batter.

  • Pour the batter onto a pre-heated waffle iron….
  • Cook until lightly golden.
  • Place the on a wire rack while you cook the others.
cheese waffles
  • Serve warm.

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:

Pão de Queijo dough should be baked right away. If not baked right after making the dough, it can be frozen (raw) with excellent results. All you have to do is shape the balls of dough to the desired size and place them side by side, but not touching, on a plate or baking sheet lined with a food-safe plastic bag (you can use this same bag to pack them after frozen).

Place it in the freezer for a few hours until hard. Remove from the freezer and place them in a food-safe plastic bag or ziplock bag and return to the freezer for later use. When you want to bake them, just pull out as many as you wish and arrange them on a very lightly greased baking sheet (or lined with parchment paper or silicone mat), about a couple inches apart and bake as directed. The dough balls can go straight from the freezer to the oven with perfect results!

The “waffle” kind can be frozen after cooking and then they can be stored in plastic bags right after they cool down. When you want to serve, they can go straight from the freezer to a toaster, just be careful so that they don’t brown too much.

Thank you Renata for an AMAZING challenge. I know I will be making pao de queijo again and again for many years to come

 

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