Monday, 10 September 2018

Steel Cut Oats Biscuits

I am always developing recipes for crisp, crunchy biscuits/cookies. This is one using steel cut oats, my latest passion in the world of oats. I like the nutty, chewy texture of the oats, and if I'm not in a hurry, I will lightly toast the oats before cooking them as this enhances the flavor of the finished product. These are not very sweet but can be made sweeter by increasing the amount of sugar and golden syrup. They will keep for quite a while in an airtight container.

100 grams steel cut oats., uncooked
450 grams self-rising flour
200 grams dark brown sugar (I like to use the ones with a strong caramel flavor e.g. coconut sugar, Colombian Panela, Mexican Piloncillo)
1 teaspoon salt
120 grams butter
120 grams Crisco
3-6 tablespoons golden syrup (depending on how sweet you like your cookies)
3 tablespoons half and half
1 cup puffed millet
1 teaspoon vanilla
1.      Bring about 6 cups water in a pot to boil. Add the steel cut oats and partially cook them for about 10-15 minutes until they are semi-chewy. Drain through a sieve, pressing out as much moisture as you can. Set aside.
2.      Combine the flour, salt, and puffed millet. Mix well and set aside.
3.      Melt the butter, shortening, vanilla, golden syrup, and half and half. Bring to a rolling boil then remove from heat.
4.      Mix the flour, millet, and the cooked oats together using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Add the butter mixture and lightly mix until the dough comes together. The dough should be soft and dry to touch.
5.      Drop by rounded tablespoons on to a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool while you are baking another batch.
6.      Decrease oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit and put the cookies back in the oven to dry out for another 60-90 minutes until they are golden brown.Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Kaak bi Haleeb

This is a traditional type of Kaak but it's not the soft variety that one usually with Kaak of this name. I have modified it by using a variety of flours, each of which bring a particular characteristic to the finished cookie, and drying it out in the oven to make it very crisp, almost like a rusk. This was the type favored by my family who grew up in a mountain village just outside of Beirut. Their recipe was much simpler, and used less ingredients. The hard, dry texture probably allowed it to keep for many weeks during a long, cold Winter. I remember one of my Great-Aunts telling me that they did dry a lot of food items in the Summer and Fall, including fruits, and dairy like "Lebneh", (Drained yogurt). This would be made into balls, thoroughly dried out then stored in Olive oil.

The different types of Kaak all look the same on the outside but their differences are from the texture and taste of each one. This version also uses "Myski", (Gum Arabic or Gum Mastic). It is used in Lebanese cooking mainly with pudding deserts like rice pudding ("M'halabeeh"), or Lebanese ice cream (Booza), much like one would use Xanthan Gum to provide texture to a variety of dishes. It is usually available in Greek or Lebanese stores.

The dough requires a lot of kneading to get it just right. It is for this reason that I would not recommend that you try this version without a stand mixer and dough hook. The consistency of the dough is important in determining texture. It has to be dry to touch, smooth, pliable to the point of being elastic (the gum mastic helps with this). During the kneading process, you may find that you have to add a small amount of additional flour to get the dough to the right consistency. The recipe involves a lot of risings, so it does take a while to make. However, this recipe does produce about 40 cookies that keep a long time in an airtight container.

2 cups bread flour
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups durum atta flour or semolina flour
½ cup arrowroot
1 cup  of  olive oil
1/2 cup of water + 1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup milk
2  teaspoons  of yeast
1 cup sugar
1 cup of sesame (toasted or untoasted)
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of mahlab 
1 tablespoon anise
1 tablespoon caraway
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon Myski (mastic gum)
2 tablespoons orange blossom water
  1. Place the flour, sugar, salt and all seeds in a mixing bowl. Combine the dry ingredients for a few seconds.
  2. Proof the yeast with 1/2 cup of warm water and the sugar for a few minutes.
  3. Add the oil to the ½ the flour mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached,  and combine well until the flour particles are moistened.
  4. Add the yeast mixture, mix with the dough hook.
  5. Add the milk and remaining flour a little at a time until the dough comes together in a firm ball that is smooth, pliable, almost elastic and dry to touch. Let it rest for 15 minutes then knead again for about 3 minutes.
  6. Let it rest covered in a warm place for 1 hour. When doubled in size, beat it down and then let it rise again for at least one hour, until doubled in size
  7. When the dough has doubled in volume, form into 20 balls. Cover with a damp towel and let them rise.
  8. Lightly beat the egg and pour into a plate. Sprinkle the sesame seeds into another plate. Put them side by side.
  9. Cut each ball in two and form each half into a long rope. Press the ends to form a ring, dip in the beaten egg, and then in the plate with sesame seeds.
  10. Bake in a 375F oven for about 15-20 minutes till golden. Then reduce the oven to 175F and let them dry out for another 6-8 hours to dry out completely.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

A Quick, Easy and very Tasty Shrimp Curry

Sometimes, I just want a quick, simple curry, one that uses minimal ingredients and that can be done in the least amount of time. This fits the bill. Takes less than 15 minutes to cook. These are the players:

The measurements are approximate and are done to meet my level of spiciness.
10 large raw, cleaned shrimp
1 shallot
1 garlic clove
small piece of ginger
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon curry powder
1-2 tablespoons Maggi Masala Spicy Chilli Sauce
1-2 tablespoons water
1. Chop the peeled shallot, garlic clove and ginger finely in a small food chopper.
2. Season the shrimp with a little salt and pepper
3. Saute the chopped shallot, garlic, ginger for about 3 minutes over medium heat. Add the curry powder and saute but do not burn the curry.
4. Add the raw shrimp to this along with the Masala sauce and water. Quickly saute until the shrimp are cooked and the sauce is thickened. Eat with rice or Naan bread.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Oatmeal Molasses Bread With Cranberries and Walnuts

This is a soft, satisfying yeast based bread, a slice of which goes well in the mornings with coffee. Makes great sandwiches when spread with butter and eaten with the filling of choice. It's not a very sweet bread and has a really good texture and taste. Having the beneficial properties of oats in it does help as well to make you feel less guilty about eating bread. The preparation time is long due to the multiple risings the bread needs to develop it's texture, and flour measurements to end up with the right feel to the dough, will vary. However, the recipe is a forgiving one, and produces two standard sized loaves that may be sliced and frozen for future use. Although I prefer it with the yogurt, and egg as they make the texture of the bread softer and more moist, but both may be omitted for people with allergies to these products.

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups boiling water
1 (1/4-ounce ) package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
5 to 6 cups bread flour
½ cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped (optional)
¼ cup yogurt
1 egg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the 1/2 cup wholewheat flour, oats, cranberries, brown sugar, chopped walnuts, molasses, salt, and butter.
  2. Pour the boiling water over the top and mix.
  3. Let cool to lukewarm (approx. 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I measure with a thermometer).
  4. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and allow to proof
  5. When the liquid mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add the yeast mixture, egg and yogurt. Mix using a stand mixer with a dough hook.
  6. Add enough bread flour to make an elastic dough and knead thoroughly until smooth. It is hard to give an exact estimate of the flour but the end result is a dough that is smooth, elastic, dry to touch, and forms a ball around the dough hook while cleaning the sides of the bowl. It should not stick to the side of the bowl.
  7. Place the dough in a large greased bowl and turn once so it’s greased lightly on top.
  8. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper and put to rise until double (about 2 hours).
  9. Punch the dough down, then re-cover and let rise again until nearly double (about 90 minutes). Divide the dough evenly into 2 halves and shape into loaves.
  10. Place each loaf in a greased loaf pan, cover, and set in a warm, draft-free place to rise again until nearly double (about 90 minutes).
  11. Bake in a 350°F oven for 30-45 minutes, or until the loaves are nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped.