Friday, July 18, 2014

Recipe : Poppyseed Bagels

After my recent trip to the King Arthur Flour headquarters, I've been a baking maniac, going through my bounty of spoils from the store there! While there, I picked up high-gluten flour on a whim - and decided to finally take the (scary) plunge of making bagels. Having lived in New York City for the last 7 years, I've had my share of bagels - and these are not only darn good, but relatively easy to make!

Homemade Poppyseed bagels

To make the bagels, I used this recipe from The Sophisticated Gourmet and this recipe from King Arthur Flour as my starting point then tweaked from there.

Poppyseed Bagels - makes 8 medium-sized bagels
3.5 cups high-gluten flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1.5 tablespoons sugar
1.5 teaspoons salt

Water bath
1 tablespoon sugar
Large pot filled with water

Toppings (optional)
1 egg white + splash of water
Poppyseeds, flake salt, sesame seeds, dried onions, etc

1. Activate your yeast by adding it along with 1.5 tablespoons of sugar to a bowl with 0.5 cups warm water. Let it sit for a few minutes then stir until it all dissolves.

2. While you're waiting on the yeast, combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture once it's fully activated.

3. Add about 0.75-1.25 cups of warm water to the the dough until it comes together - you want it to be moist and elastic. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes (until your elbows ache or until the dough is nice and springy... whichever comes first).

4. Transfer the dough to a buttered or oiled bowl and let it rise (cover with a damp paper towel) until doubled in bulk - about an hour.

5. Think of a bad traffic jam then punch down your dough. While your dough recovers (10 mins is good) from the beating, preheat your oven to 425 F (or 460 if your oven is like mine and lies about the temperature!) and get your water bath going.

6. Divide your dough into 8 equal portions and roll each portion into little logs. For each dough-log, bring the ends together and pinch them twice upon themselves to create a nice seal. You now have 8 little raw bagels! Cover them with a damp paper towel and let them rest for another 10 minutes - these bagels are tired!

Homemade poppyseed bagels ready to bake

7. Bath time. So that your bagels don't get lonely, plunk them two at a time into your simmering water bath for 1-2 minutes per side. The longer they 'bathe' the chewier the resulting bagels will be. I like mine chewy so did full 2 minutes each side!

8. Once all your bagels have paid a visit to the water bath, return them to the baking sheet. Brush each one with your egg-white-wash and then douse with poppyseeds. I like a lot. In fact, I should serve each of these bagels with a toothpick - but I digress.

9. Put your bagels into your hot oven for 20-25 minutes - they're ready when they have reached a nice golden hue.

Homemade poppyseed bagel - see the egg wash?

10. Let cool on a wire rack, then enjoy!

Homemade poppyseed bagels: begging for some shmear!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Recipe: Dill Crackers

My adventures in flour continue - this time minus the yeast. I decided to give crackers a go because - lets face it - waiting hours for bread dough to proof just doesn't hit that 'instant gratification' spot in baking!

Homemade Dill crackers

These crackers are adapted from a recipe by my new favorite site - The Kitchn - with the addition of one of my favorite herbs! They're simple, tasty, adaptable and best: fast.

It takes a village... of yummy Instagram-ed crackers to make you happy.

Dill Crackers - makes about 40 crackers
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup + 2 tablespoons cool water
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon dried dill

1. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add in the olive oil and water and stir until it comes together.

2. Slap (yes) half of your dough on a floured surface and roll it out to about 1/8 inch thick with a rolling pin. Side note: I recently acquired a rolling pin and it's really a wondrous invention!

Dill cracker - dough

3. Brush your dough with a tiny bit of water - just enough to make your toppings stick - not enough to make the dough sticky.

4. Sprinkle on sea salt, dill or really any herb or spice you want! The possibilities abound! Using a pizza cutter, cut your dough into crackers about 1.5x2 inches each then prick each cracker with the tines of a fork to keep them from ballooning up (like I will after eating this entire batch of crackers!). ***Note: If you want to get really Martha Stewart on us, use one of those ravioli cutters.

5. Bake for 13-15 minutes at 450 F, until they have a nice golden hue.

6. Remove from oven and transfer crackers to a cooling rack. Rinse and repeat with the second half of your dough.

7. Let cool and enjoy! *** Note: These crackers are best served fresh. If you don't eat them immediately, store them in an air-tight container and crisp them up in a toaster oven before serving.

Dill Crackers: Go ahead, shmear on some cheese. You know you want to!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Recipe: Focaccia Bread

What do you do when you have extra yeast and a yoooooge bag of flour ?! Make bread of course! After sifting (har har) through tons of bread recipes that all require specialty flour, I realized focaccia can be made with just all purpose flour and I was sold! This is a versatile and forgiving recipe - it's hard to mess up and the possibilities for toppings are endless!

Rosemary Focaccia

Rosemary Focaccia Bread (makes ones medium loaf)
Bread dough
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon yeast
3/4 cup warm water
Extra virgin olive oil

Toppings - feel free to experiment here! Olives, garlic or sun dried tomatoes could be delicious.
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 large onion (I used Spanish)
Extra virgin olive oil (use the best oil you have on top)

1. Combine the flour, sugar, yeast and water in a bowl and let sit for about 15 minutes (the longer you let it sit, the more the yeast will take effect and the airier the bread will turn out).

2. Mix the ingredients together with a spoon until the dough comes together, then transfer to a floured surface and knead by hand until it's smooth - about 5-10 minutes. Work more flour into your dough if it's still sticking to your fingers.

Yes those are knuckle prints: kneading can be cathartic.

3. Form a ball out of the dough and place in a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it sit for 1-2 hours (you want your dough to double in size).

4. If you're adding caramelized onions, you can make them while your dough is rising - it will take about 40-50 minutes. Read some fantastic instructions on caramelizing onions here.

Caramelized onions for focaccia: that smell!

5. Preheat your oven to 450 F. While preheating, clean and roughly chop the rosemary.

6. Spread the dough into an oiled pan (jelly roll pans work well since they have high edges) and dimple the surface with your fingers - you want this to look rustic.

7. Brush the focaccia dough with (more!!!) olive oil, sprinkle with salt then add on the rosemary and toppings.

Focaccia bread topped with caramelized onions and rosemary: ready for the oven

8. Put in the oven and bake until golden brown - about 20-25 minutes.

9. Let cool, slice and enjoy!!!

Focaccia with Rosemary and Caramelized Onions

Olive Focaccia

Focaccia Bread with Rosemary and Caramelized Onions

Friday, June 13, 2014

Recipe: Nazook or Gata - Persian / Armenian Sweet

I've been in lurk mode for a while (but don't worry, I've still been eating - a lot), waiting for the right recipe to inspire a new blog post - and when Fae from Fae's Twist and Tango posted this recipe for Nazook last night, I knew I had to make it immediately as it caused a wave of lovely childhood memories!

Nazook - also known as Gata

I vividly remember riding in the car with my mom after school to go visit our older Armenian friends who lived nearby. As an 8 year old, I eagerly awaited these visits with our octogenarian friends because I knew I would be greeted with the warm scent of nazook bread. Years and lifetimes have passed since then, but I can still taste the sweet memory. Making the gata took me back over 20 years - thank you Fae for sharing!

Upon googling, Pavithra from Dishes from My Kitchen has an interesting write up of the history of Nazook bread - apparently it is traditionally prepared on Easter and eaten through Ascension - almost 40 days after Easter itself.

I used Fae's recipe and made the following adaptations:

  • Chilled the dough for 2 hours
  • Added to the filling:
    • 2 tsps ground cardamom
    • 1 tsp rosewater (golab)
They came out delicious - a fluffy, delicately sweet accompaniment to tea - while reminiscing of course!

Nazook dough

Nazook filling

Nazook pre-baking
Piping hot Nazook!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Norouz 2014 Recipe: Toot - Persian Mulberry Marzipan Candy

I am really excited about this post for a number of reasons - Norouz is just around the corner (I can almost smell the Sabzi Polo Mahi!), spring is in the air, and I get to participate in this #Norouz recipe round-up with a group of the most talented Persian food bloggers around! I'm honored to be included (huge shout out to Sanam of My Persian Kitchen for being the brain behind it) - and with such an amazing collection of recipes I have no doubt that this will be the most delicious Norouz yet! This is a season of new beginnings, celebrations and of course things that taste and smell delicious - so pop a couple of these candies into your mouth to ensure a sweet year!

Persian Toot Marzipan candy

Any Iranian knows toot candy - it's a delicious marzipan candy scented with Persian flavorings and shaped to look like it's namesake - the fruit from a mulberry tree! Traditionally served at Norouz or other celebrations, I liked the candy but like many other dishes, never even thought about making it myself. After reading the recipes for toot from Turmeric and Saffron, Fig & Quince and My Persian Kitchen, I decided to give it a go. Boy am I glad I did - not only are they super easy to make but delicious and festive! A perfect treat to have around during the Norouz season to share with friends, family and loved ones. Bonus: they're gluten free too!

Persian Toot 

Toot - Persian Mulberry-shaped Marzipan Candy (makes about 50-60 depending on size)
1 cup of slivered almonds, plus more for garnish
1 cup of powdered sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons of rosewater (golab)
1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1. Add 1 cup of almonds, the powdered sugar and cardamom to your food processor. Blend for 2-3 minutes until it is all an even consistently.

2. Add in 1 tablespoon of rosewater and blend for another minute. Repeat with the 2nd tablespoon of rosewater. The mixture should come together as a dough now - test it with your fingers. If it has some give and feel like dough, you're ready!

3. Now is the assembly line part. Fill a flat, shallow pan with your granulated sugar - this is what you'll roll your formed toot in to coat.

4. Pinch a piece of dough and roll between your palms into a ball about the size of a grape. Once you've made a ball, form it into a cone by pinching one end and flattening the other.

5. Roll your marzipan cone in the granulated sugar bath and finally, insert a long almond sliver into the fatter end to make it look like the stem of the mulberry fruit. Now repeat this about 50 times! :) Serve immediately or store in an air tight container and enjoy later!

***Note: you can use slivered pistachios as the 'stem' as well - I find slivered almonds much easier to find/make!

Persian Toot Candy - the lifecycle! 

Participating Bloggers In The Norouz Recipe Round-Up 2014

Afsaneh’s Persian Kitchen - Koloucheh Ahwazi - Cookies for Nowrouz 
Ahu Eats - Norouz 2014 Recipe: Toot - Persian Mulberry Marzipan Candy
Café Leilee - Northern-Iranian Style Herb Stuffed Fish
Fae’s Twist & Tango - Naw-Ruz, A New Year Recipe Round-up!
Family Spice - Norouz Twist on Kookoo Sabzi (Persian Herb Quiche with Chard and Kale)
Fig & Quince - A Norouz'a Palooza
Lucid Food - Persian Raisin and Saffron Cookies for Norooz
My Persian Kitchen - Naan Gerdooee ~ Persian Walnut Cookie
Simi’s Kitchen - New Blog for Nowruz
Spice Spoon - Noon Berenj - Thumbprint Rice Flour Cookies with Saffron & Rosewater for Persian Nowruz
The Pomegranate Diaries - Nowruz Inspired Pistachio, Rosewater and Cardamom Shortbread Cookies
Turmeric & Saffron - Loze Nargil - Persian Coconut Sweets with Rosewater and Pistachios for Nowruz
West of Persia - Happy Nowruz, Recipe Roundup, and a Classic: Kuku Sabzi on TV
Zozo Baking - Nane Nokhodchi Nowruz Iran

From my kitchen to yours - Norouz Mobarak - wishing you a sweet and healthy year filled with joy and laughter!
Love, Ahu

Friday, February 28, 2014

Saffron Olive Oil Cookies with Orange Glaze

Yes, I've been on an olive oil kick recently. What can I say - it's healthy and makes baked goods so light and delicate! And as a Mark Bittman devotee, when I came across this recipe and saw it incorporated olive oil, saffron and citrus I knew I had to give it a try. An unlikely combination in a baked good but I promise it is successful and even the picky will enjoy it.

Saffron Olive Oil Cookies with Orange Glaze

The result is a moist, pillowy cookie with a subtle taste of saffron.

So pillow. Much wow! 

The cookies are just barely sweet so I decided to add an orange glaze (this recipe, but with 3x the orange juice) to give it a bit of sweetness and tang.

What's your favorite unexpected food combination?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Recipe: Sohan Asali (Persian Honey Saffron Brittle)

In today's culture of instant gratification (apparently now Amazon knows when I want something before I even do), sometimes toiling over something by hand is the most soul satisfying activity of all.

This was my 4th attempt to make Sohan Asali over the past 3 years. I tried twice in 2012 and gave up in frustration when the candies came out a crystallized mess. Fast forward to last week - another nailed it scene - crystallized chunks of sugar and almond. Tragedy! That's where my mom came in - she suggested adding lemon or lime juice (a form of acid!) which stops the crystallization...magic. I now have a small yet fast disappearing mountain of beautiful candy. Mom knows best!

Sohan Asali - Persian Honey Saffron Brittle

I've always been drawn in by the deep and rich color of Sohan Asali - the only thing I can compare it to is a deep amber, or our own Persian tea. Doesn't hurt that it's addictively tasty!

Sohan Asali (Persian Honey Saffron Brittle)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup almond slices or slivers
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon rose water
1 teaspoon saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
Juice of half a lemon
Crushed pistachio for garnish (optional)

1. Prepare two cookie sheets by lining them with wax paper and placing them right by your stove. Combine the sugar, butter and honey and melt over medium low heat. Stir for about 5 minutes until melted.

2. Add the rosewater carefully and stir for another minute or so.  The mix should be fragrant and becoming a light caramel color by now.

3. Add in the almonds and stir until coated. Your mixture should be thickening a bit now.

4. Carefully add in the saffron water and lemon juice.  The mixture may boil a bit so watch your hands. Once you add the saffron, stir until its all incorporated. The mix will turn an incredibly rich color.

5. Take a medium spoon and quickly spoon dollops of the mixture on your cookie sheet, taking care not to drip (because the drips will cause some nasty smoke...not that I would know). Leave an inch between each candy as they will spread. If you have a second pair of hands, here is where they can follow you and sprinkle a bit of pistachio onto each candy.

6. Let the candies dry for about an hour. They'll have a smooth, glassy sheen when done. Serve with tea and enjoy! You can store remaining candies in an air-tight container.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Recipe: Orange Olive Oil Cake

In a season when gluttony prevails, there is nothing like a light and citrusy dessert to cut through all the richness. This dessert is actually inspired by a similar one I had at L'Artusi a year ago and it was surprisingly delicious end to a large meal. And while the idea of an olive oil based dessert may seem strange, in reality it gives a delicate flavor perfectly suited to a citrus or herb pairing (think sage or basil).

Orange Olive Oil Cake 

Orange Olive Oil Cake - adapted from Melissa d'Arabian's recipe
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
3/4 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar for garnish

1. Butter a medium cake pan and preheat your oven to 350 F.

2. Mix the sugar and eggs together until frothy.  Pour in the olive oil and vanilla slowly and keep mixing until smooth.

3. Add the zest and orange juice to the batter and combine.

4. Sift together the dry ingredients then slowly mix them into the batter (don't over mix).

5. Pour the batter into the baking dish and bake until brown and a stick in the center of the cake comes out clean (about 30 minutes).

6. Let the cake cool then dust with powdered sugar and any additional orange zest. Serve alone or with a drizzle of orange liqueur or even some warmed berry jam. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Recipe: Cardamom Coffee - and a giveaway!

Cardamom may very well be my favorite spice. Often used in eastern cuisine, it has a rich, warm flavor and is related to ginger. It is grown in pods and boasts many health benefits including improving digestion, lowering cholesterol and curing the hiccups (it's an anti-spasmodic!).

You typically see cardamom sold ground, but when Merit Trade sent me some of their beautiful whole, green cardamom pods, I was really excited to use it in its original form.

Merit Trade's Colombian Cardamom

When I first came to New York City, I was friends with a group of Colombians and they introduced me to cardamom coffee (cafe cardamomo), which is coffee with cardamom infused milk. It's like your normal coffee took on a beautiful earthy spice to it and I was immediately hooked. I figured this would be the perfect way to use my Colombian cardamom! This recipe is for the cardamom coffee but you could really add the cardamom-infused milk to many things (coffee, tea,  etc).

I am happy to be giving away two bags of Merit Trade's Colombian Cardamom to two random readers! To enter simply comment on this post with your favorite way to use cardamom or how you would use it. I will select two winners at random on Sunday, November 24th (I can only ship to folks in the US, sorry international friends!). Please make sure I have a way to get in touch with you - either a link to your blog or email.

Green Cardamom Pods

Cardamom Coffee 
1 cardamom pod or a pinch of ground cardamom
Coffee (anything works - French press, drip, instant)
Sugar (if desired)

1. Start by beginning to prepare your coffee in your preferred method.

2. Take a cardamom pod and crack it open. I used the back of a wooden spoon to give it a 'smack'.

3. Remove the seeds from the pod (it should smell amazing) and give them a light smush. This will encourage the flavor to come out.

4. Drop the cardamom seeds into a small sauce pot with some milk (I use about 1/3 cup of 1% cows milk). Simmer for about 5 minutes to let the flavors infuse.

5. Pour the milk into your coffee mug through a strainer, then add the coffee and sugar to it. Enjoy!