Chocolate coconut oat cookies

Chocolate oat cookies

I love recipes that combine oats and coconut.I know that it is not one of the first flavor combinations that come to mind. But I have tried it in  biscotti, cookies, granola and every time the coconut transforms the oatmeal from good old earthy and boring to nutty and interesting.

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Berry almond coffee cake

coffee cake  

For this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I had Jess’s blog Inquiring chef. I have to admit that when I got the email with this month’s assignment I was thrilled! I love Jess’s blog, her recipes and her photography caught my attention the very first time I visited her blog but what kept me coming back for more was Jess’s kindness that shines through her words and her attitude towards life.

You see Jess was born and raised in Kansas. After finishing the university, she volunteered at a children’s home in Romania where she taught English to 14 amazing kiddos. She went back to work after that in Washington D.C. She got married in 2010 but soon after her husband was offered a position in Thailand so they packed up everything and left on a new adventure together.They were recently blessed with adorable twin girls

Being a new expat myself,going through her archives to look for a recipe to make for this month’s assignment carried the added joy of reading about her experience with being an expat and I think she beautifully summed up the way I feel now as I really begin to settle down here in the UAE:

“This is the part of the expat experience that is most thrilling.  Because when you’ve live in a place that is so very different from “home”, you are both satisfied when you get to know it well and continually amazed by its foreignness.  Most moments are shinier somehow.”

Ras Al Khaimah

Choosing  a recipe from Jess’s archives was not an easy task but I ended up making her raspberry almond coffee cake because Jess dubbed this as her favorite coffee cake, she described it as ” light, sweet base that hints of cinnamon, tart fruit, and crumbly topping piled high”.

Cinnamon, berries, and crumbly topping spell must try in my book! and the cake did not disappoint.

At first I found the idea of pairing berries with cinnamon odd yet quite intriguing. Like most, when I think of a fruit to combine with cinnamon in a cake, apples are the first that come to mind then maybe pears or pumpkin but berries? I had to try.

It turns out that the tart freshness of the berries works beautifully with the earthy tones of cinnamon, they somehow balance and compliment each other. Add a light cake canvas and a crunchy nutty almond crumble and you’ll have a cake that

Berry almond coffee cake

Berry almond coffee cake

 

Ingredients

For the Crumb Topping:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup slivered almonds, toasted, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes
For the Cake:
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups mixed berries (fresh or frozen will work, see notes)

Berry coffee cake

 

Instructions

To make the crumb topping:

In a bowl, add the flour, sugar, and salt, whisk to combine

Add the nuts and toss gently.

Add butter; using your fingertips,or a fork, work butter into the dry ingredients until large, moist crumbs begin to form.

Place the topping in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

To make the cake

Preheat oven to 350°.

Coat a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray.

Add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a bowl, whisk to combine.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat ¾ cup sugar and butter in a medium bowl until light and fluffy,this should take 3–4 minutes.

Add the vanilla and the eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until mixture is pale and fluffy, 3–4 minutes longer.

With mixer on low speed(to avoid spraying flour all over the place) add  the dry ingredients to bowl in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan and smooth top.

Prepare the cinnamon sugar: Whisk remaining 3 Tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl.

Sprinkle  the cinnamon sugar evenly over the batter in the pan.

Spoon remaining batter over; smooth top.

Pour the berries evenly over batter.

Sprinkle crumb topping over the berries.

Bake cake until top is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 55–60 minutes.

Let cool completely in pan.

Store in airtight container at room temperature. 

Note:Adapted from Old-Fashioned Blueberry Coffee Cake by Eric Wolitzky, Bon Appetit September 2012.

 

coffee cake

 

Notes:

The berries and nuts: the original recipe for this cake uses blueberries and pecans, Jess used raspberries and almonds and I used mixed berries with almonds Experiment with your favorite nut berry combo and have fun

Fresh or frozen:I used frozen mixed berries for this cake because they were what I had on hand, I defrosted the berries and then drained them then tossed them with a tablespoon of semolina to absorb any excess liquid

 

Chimney cake (Kürtőskalács )

chimney cake

 

The August Daring Bakers’ Challenge took us for a spin! Swathi of Zesty South Indian Kitchen taught us to make rolled pastries inspired by Kurtoskalacs, a traditional Hungarian wedding pastry. These tasty yeasted delights gave us lots to celebrate!

Kürtőskalács  or chimney cake is a traditional wedding pastry made in Transylvania (Romania) . The name comes from the shape of the cake, a strip of yeasted dough is wrapped around a spit. It is then rolled in granulated sugar and baked above charcoal cinders.

The end result is a chimney shaped cake with a caramelized, sugary, golden-brown exterior that crackles when you bite into it and a soft and chewy bread like strip interior. The contrast between the soft and crunchy, the fact that you have to unwind the chimney to eat it , all the different toppings you can use (think cinnamon, nuts or chocolate)makes these cakes simply irresistible.

cinnamon 

 Kürtőskalács /Chimney cake


Ingredients

For the dough:

1¾ cups (8½ oz) (240 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour

2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) (7 gm) active dry yeast OR 2 teaspoons instant yeast OR 14 gm (½ oz) fresh yeast

2 tablespoons (1 oz)(30 gm) sugar

1/8 teaspoon (3/4 gm) salt

1 large egg, room temperature

3 tablespoons (1½ oz) (45 gm) melted butter

1/2 cup (120 ml) milk, lukewarm temperature

For baking/grilling:

melted butter

sugar
Cinnamon

 

Directions:

If you are using active dry yeast, add ½ teaspoon sugar to lukewarm milk and set aside for 5-10 minutes until it proofs (becomes foamy).You can use the other yeast types directly along with the flour.
In a large bowl combine, flour, sugar and salt. To this add egg, milk, melted butter, and yeast Stir the mixture until it comes together to form a dough, and then knead for about five minutes.

It will be sticky. Don’t be tempted to add any flour. Grease your hand if needed.

step 1

Transfer to a well greased container

Allow the dough to rise for 60 minutes at room temperature until doubled in volume

step2You need to prepare something to wrap the dough around, this can be a wooden rolling pin or cardboard rolls ( the ones you are left with after tin foil or wrapping paper runs out). Whatever you decide to use, cover it with multiple layers of aluminum foil, do at least two or three layers, to prevent them from burning in the oven.

step3

Brush them with melted butter.

Punch down the dough and divide into 4 equal parts about 4 oz (115 gm) of each.

On a well floured surface spread one portion of the dough and shape into 1/6 inch (4 mm) thick square-shaped sheet.

step4

Using a pizza cutter cut the dough into a long ribbons of about 1/2 inch (13 mm) wide.

step5

Wrap one end of the dough strip around the spit/rolling pin, tucking in the end so the dough doesn’t unwind.

Keep the dough very thin (under ¼ inch (6 mm)) as you stretch and wind it on the rolling pun. Then roll the whole thing slightly on the counter top to flatten it/press it together.

Brush with melted butter

Roll in sugar

step6

Place in roasting pan and bake in a preheated moderately hot oven 375°F/190⁰C/gas mark 5 for 25 minutes.

If using roast function (375⁰F/190⁰C) in the oven it will take about 20 minutes.

If you are grilling (broiling) over the fire cooking time is about six minutes, until it starts to take on a dark golden color. Turn the rolling pin at once least once (or more) throughout baking time to ensure uniform cooking.

When cake is done you can roll it in sugar again or you can brush more butter, then roll the finished cake in the toppings of your choice.
Tap the mold on a table top to release the cake and set it up right to cool.

chimney cake by chef in disguise

Kürtőskalács /Chimney cake

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: Preparing dough 15 minutes, first rise: about an 1 hour , Cook time: 20 minutes in oven if you using roast function. Baking at 25 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Preparation time:dough 15 minutes, first rise: about an 1 hour

Cook time: 25 minutes

Chimney cake chef in disguise

Ingredients

For the dough:

1¾ cups (8½ oz) (240 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour

2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) (7 gm) active dry yeast OR 2 teaspoons instant yeast OR 14 gm (½ oz) fresh yeast

2 tablespoons (1 oz)(30 gm) sugar

1/8 teaspoon (3/4 gm) salt

1 large egg, room temperature

3 tablespoons (1½ oz) (45 gm) melted butter

1/2 cup (120 ml) milk, lukewarm temperature

For baking/grilling:

melted butter

sugar

 

Directions:

If you are using active dry yeast, add ½ teaspoon sugar to lukewarm milk and set aside for 5-10 minutes until it proofs (becomes foamy).

You can use the other yeast types directly along with the flour.

In a large bowl combine, flour, sugar and salt. To this add egg, milk, melted butter, and yeast Stir the mixture until it comes together to form a dough, and then knead for about five minutes.

It will be sticky. Don’t be tempted to add any flour. Grease your hand if needed.

Transfer to a well greased container

Allow the dough to rise for 60 minutes at room temperature until doubled in volume

Prepare the rolling pins by covering them with aluminum foil, do at least two or three layers, to protect the pins from burning in the oven.

Make sure to cover the rolling pins very well. Brush them with melted butter.

The risen dough after 60 minutes.

Punch down the dough and divide into 4 equal parts about 4 oz (115 gm) of each.

On a well floured surface spread one portion of the dough

Shape into 1/6 inch (4 mm) thick square-shaped sheet.

Using a pizza cutter cut the dough into a long ribbons of about 1/2 inch (13 mm) wide.

Wrap one end of the dough strip around the spit/rolling pin, tucking in the end so the dough doesn’t unwind.

Keep the dough very thin (under ¼ inch (6 mm)) as you stretch and wind it on the rolling pun. Then roll the whole thing slightly on the counter top to flatten it/press it together.

Brush with melted butter

Roll in sugar

Place in roasting pan and bake in a preheated moderately hot oven 375°F/190⁰C/gas mark 5 for 25 minutes.

If using roast function (375⁰F/190⁰C) in the oven it will take about 20 minutes.

If you are grilling (broiling) over the fire cooking time is about six minutes, until it starts to take on a dark golden color. Turn the rolling pin at once least once (or more) throughout baking time to ensure uniform cooking.

When cake is done roll it in sugar again

If you are using other toppings brush more butter, then roll the finished cake in the toppings of your choice.

Tap the mold on a table top to release the cake and set it up right to cool.

Ending the year on a positive note: best of 2012

best of 2012

One of my new year resolutions is to be more positive, worry less, keep my dad’s 100 theory in mind and celebrate my achievement no matter how small or simple they are.There is enough negativity around me, around everyone, enough gloom.As my friend Spree so beautifully stated, sometimes all we can do to fight the creeping shadows is shine. Each of us has a unique light and the world needs every bit of light to fight all the hurt, injustice and blinding darkness. No matter how faint your light is,no matter how bone tired you are, no matter how hurt or damage your soul might be, let your light sparkle. Your smile might be all that a depressed person needs to say, this too shall pass. I can make it through . Your determination might bring someone back from the edge of despair. Your kindness might change someone’s life. Don’t underestimate yourself, don’t let the darkness put out your light..let it shine.

So to end 2012 I have decided to compile my ” proud of ” list. Things about my blog that I am proud of achieving

1. I kept the blog going, in February my blog turns two.I am proud of my little space on the web and thankful for the support of each and every reader, commenter and friend who have cheered me on in this adventure.

2.My photography has improved through the past 12 months. Sure there is still a long way to go but I am truly enjoying the journey.Looking back on how my pictures looked at the begining and how they are now puts a big smile on my face

3. Getting to “know” people from around the globe through their blogs or comments , sharing their experiences, being able to look at the world through their eyes makes life so much richer. I am honored and proud to be one of those little dots that connect the world together.

4.last but not least: a list of the posts I am most proud of, they may not be the most popular but to me they were a challenge met,a lesson learnt , a sweet memory or maybe a fear conquered.

Caramel chocolate thumb cookies

Birthday chocolate cake

Mille-feuille recipe (homemade Napoleon recipe)

 The walnut lesson

Pita bread recipe – how to make pita pockets

Empanada Gallega

Filled pate a choux swans

Maamoul (Stuffed shortbread cookies)

Ramadan drinks, sweet tamarind and qamar el deen

How to make your own feta cheese

Petra, the rose red city half as old as time

How to make a birthday circus train cake

Clementine orange dessert balls

Fabulous Food Fotography Friday : The walnut lesson

Today I am taking part in my friend Jehanne’s Fabulous food fotography friday (the F in photography is not a typo :) ). It is a weekly event to work on your food photography skills, get inspired and above all have fun :)

Come join in the fun and share your images and thoughts

Looking at a walnut always reminds me of what my mum used to tell us when we were kids. A walnut looks like the human brain and it is loaded with nutrients that are good for your brain :) I love walnuts not only for their nutritional value but because every time I look at them I am reminded that so many people may look hard and harsh on the outside but if you take a look inside they are fragile and delicate. The walnut lesson however doesn’t end here, if you look at it from another point of view, some people may seem smooth and simple from a distance just like the walnut-shell but if you know how to crack their code,  you will get a maze of twists and turns.

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