Thursday, August 27, 2015

Seed and Nut Loaf with Dates and Dried Cranberries - Daring Bakers' Challenge August 2015

 For the August challenge Susan from The Kiwi Cook dared us to make Seed & Nut Loaf – a super-healthy and gluten-free alternative to standard wheat-based bread.

Gluten free? The word alone brings to my mind strange food and loss. Loss of enjoying a crusty baguette, or a flaky croissant or simply white bread with butter and Vegemite. Loss of traditional pasta dishes so important in my life. Loss of cakes, biscuits and baking I know and love so well. This month we were challenged to bake a gluten free seed and nut loaf by Susan of The Kiwi Cook. Strangely this month my daughter was having tests to check if she was gluten intolerant. While she was waiting for the results I pondered about my future baking should the test come back positive. Anyone who knows me knows my love of baking and of breads. And my family are pivotal in my baking choices. I bake for them. It is part of who I am and what I can give to the ones I love.

So to step into the world of gluten free seems so limiting. It is with this thought that I plunged into the recipe. Could I make it work? Could I love it? Gluten free and all?

The answer is a resounding yes!

This gluten free loaf is bound together not with eggs but with psyllium seed husks which soak up the liquid and act as a binding ingredient. The original recipe was probably more savoury than my version because I wanted to bring in the natural sweetness of dates and orange juice and the bite of cranberries.

During the month I also made an delicious Apricot, Apple and Coconut version, substituting the dates, cranberries and cinnamon for 1/2 cup chopped dried apricot, 1/2 cup chopped dried apple and 1/2 cup desiccated coconut. I used water instead of orange juice but I think coconut milk would be nice. This photo shows the loaf untoasted but toasting definitely adds the finishing touch.

So if you're game, bake this, slice it, toast it and drizzle it with honey...I think you will be pleasantly surprised! Thanks to our host, Susan and my Daring Bakers friends.

GLUTEN-FREE SEED & NUT LOAF with Dates and Dried Cranberries

Makes 1 loaf


1 cup (250 ml) (140 gm) ( 5 oz) sunflower seeds
½ cup (125 ml) (90 gm) (3 oz) flax seeds (linseeds)
½ cup (125 ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) sliced almonds (or nuts you prefer, I used almonds and macadamias)
1-½ cups (375 ml) (135 gm) (4¾ oz) gluten-free rolled oats
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (20 gm) (¾ oz) sesame seeds
4 tablespoons (60 ml) (25 gm) (1 oz) psyllium seed husks (3 tablespoons if using psyllium husk powder)
1/2 cup chopped dried dates
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) fine grain sea salt (it’s fine to reduce this if you prefer)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey, I definitely added more!
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons (45 ml) butter, melted
1-½ cups (375 ml) orange juice, freshly squeezed


In a standard sized silicone, non-stick, or greased and lined loaf pan, combine all the dry ingredients (I find it’s easier and less messy to combine in a large bowl first).

Whisk honey, butter and juice together in a separate bowl.

Add mixture to the dry ingredients and combine until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (while the mixture will be wet, there should be no excess liquid).

Transfer the mixture to the loaf pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Cover the pan lightly with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours or overnight. The mixture should feel very firm to the touch.
Preheat oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/ gas mark 4. Then bake bread initially for 20 minutes.

Take the loaf out of the oven, place a wire rack over top and invert to remove the bread (if you’ve lined the loaf tin, you should remove the lining at this point).

Put the now inverted loaf on its wire rack into the oven again and bake for another 30-40 minutes (it should sound hollow when tapped). The loaf should be starting to brown on the outside - this gives a lovely nutty crunch to the finished loaf.
Let the loaf cool completely before slicing.


You can store the loaf in an airtight container (or wrap it in plastic wrap) for up to 5 days. You can also freeze it for at least 3 months (it helps to slice it first before freezing so you can enjoy that occasional piece of toast!).

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Yafawi Sfeeha - July 2015 daring bakers' challenge

The July daring Baker's Challenge was brought to us by Manal from Manal's Bites. She introduced us to an authentic Palestinian dish from Jaffa that is served as a main meal along with a bowl of soup of salad. The "Yafawi Sfeeha" or also known as "Milwayeh" which means twisted, is crispy yet tender and full of flavor.

This month we were introduced to an authentic filled pastry from Palestine by our host Manal from Manal's Bites. The tender dough is stretched thinly with ghee then filled, rolled and baked to produce delicious savoury or sweet pastries. First I tackled the meat filling using beef however the recipe require 1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses. Checking out the price in the store I found a bottle of pomegranate molasses retailed at AUD$17.00! Eeeeekkkk! But I did find a bottle of pomegranate juice for AUD$4.00 at the supermarket so with the juice in hand I googled and produced my own pomegranate molasses. I'm not sure if I could detect the flavour in the finished pastries but just the look of the sticky, shiny molasses made me feel good!

Next I made Sweet Walnut Sfeeha dusted with sugar. I think they should have been dunked in the sugar syrup because they were a bit dry. Nice with a cup of tea, though!

Many thanks to our host, Manal and please check out more Yafawi Sfeeha here at Daring Bakers'!

Pomagranate Molasses (based on this recipe from Tori Avey)

  • 2 cups pure 100% pomegranate juice (bottled or fresh)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 40mls freshly squeezed lemon juice

Heat up over medium until the sauce begins to simmer lightly. Stir to dissolve sugar. Allow the liquid to simmer very lightly for 40 - 60 minutes, stirring every regularly, until the liquid reduces by 75%.
The molasses will be ready when it has a light syrupy consistency and coats the back of a spoon. Don't let it thicken too much, or it will harden into toffee when it cools.
Remove from heat. The syrup will continue to thicken as it cools.
After the syrup cools completely, store it in an airtight jar or container in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

Isn't it gorgeous?

Yafawi Sfeeha

Servings: 15-18 pieces


To make the dough:

3 cups (750 ml) (420 gm) (15 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, scoop flour using cup measure then level
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) sugar
3 tablespoons (45 ml) powdered milk (you can substitute this with warm milk, you will need less water if using milk)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil
About 1 cup (250 ml) warm water for kneading
Melted ghee (or olive oil) to stretch the dough (ghee gives a great texture and flavor).


1.Mix flour, salt, sugar, powdered milk and vegetable oil then start adding the warm water until you get a tender and slightly sticky dough. Kneading will take about 8 min on a stand-up mixer or 12 min by hand. you might need more depending on where you live and the kind of flour you are using).

2.Form the dough into small golf-ball-sized balls. Place on a baking sheet that is very well greased with ghee or olive oil and pour some more (oil or ghee) over dough. Cover and let rest at room temperature for few hours at least (or overnight).

3.Prepare filling in the meantime.

Meat filling

1 pound (500 grams) ground beef, lamb or a mix of both
1 medium onion, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Middle Eastern 7 spice blend ( recipe here) or you can just use ½ teaspoon all-spice and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon.)
1 teaspoon sumaq (A Middle Eastern deep red colored and sour flavored spice) (or substitute with ¾ teaspoon lemon zest and ¼ teaspoon pepper)
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (see my homemade molasses above)
½ cup (120 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) toasted pine nuts (optional)


In a skillet over medium heat, cook meat until no longer pink and water has evaporated, add onion and cook till it becomes tender (around 3 minutes). Season the mixture and add spices; it will be very fragrant now. Remove off heat and add sumaq and pomegranate molasses. Add toasted pine nuts if using. Let the filling cool completely before stuffing Sfeeha

After you have your filling ready, use some of the ghee to brush a round tray (the surface that you will be working on). Take one piece of dough and using your hands, gently start spreading it as thinly and evenly as possible.

Once that is done fold the upper side to the middle, then fold the opposite side to the middle as well.

Spread your filling in a long line across the dough. Roll like a long tight rope making sure that it is tight enough to ensure no filling escapes.

 Then taking one end start rolling the rope towards the inside in a spiral shape

Put some more ghee on your baking sheet and place the done Sfeeha onto the baking sheet. Continue making the rest of your Sfeeha using ghee to keep it nice and moist.

Preheat oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 and bake Sfeeha for 15-20 minutes till golden brown. Serve hot or at room temperature with a bowl of soup during winter or a salad and Greek yogurt in summer time.

Sweet Walnut Sfeeha


2 cups (500 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) walnuts, coarsely chopped, (you can use any sort of nut you wish)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ tablespoon orange blossom water
½ tablespoon rose water


Mix all ingredients together and your filling is done.

For serving: Powdered sugar or sugar syrup

Sugar Syrup


2 cups (500 ml) (400 gm) (14 oz) sugar
1½ cup (375 ml) water
Juice of half a lemon
½ tablespoon orange blossom water (optional)


Mix sugar and water over high heat in a stainless steel pot. Don’t stir. Once it comes to a boil stir with a wooden spoon to ensure all sugar is dissolved. Add lemon juice and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Remove off heat and add orange blossom water if using.

Note: Once you have the sweet ones baked and hot pour some cold sugar syrup over them or let them cool off and dust with powdered sugar..

I dusted mine with powdered sugar.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Zucchini, Dried Tomato and Black Olive Charlotte - Daring Bakers Challenge June 2015

For the June daring bakers challenge Rebecca from challenged us to make Charlotte Royale and Charlotte Russe from scratch. Savory or sweet Charlottes were definitely tasty

Better late than never, they say...don't they?

This is a very late post for the June Daring Bakers challenge which should have been revealed on our blogs on the 27th June. However life again got in the way. As much as I love my blog and the wonderful online baking group I belong to sometimes I need to let things go so that my life is less stressed. This was one of those months. Can anyone give me tips on quick blogging?

In June we were required to make a Charlotte Royale or Russe or a Savory Charlotte. The Charlotte Russe looked delicious but I didn't really have an occasion to produce such a dessert and consuming it all ourselves was not going to happen so I decided on a savoury Charlotte to accompany lunch. The combination of flavours are classic and work well together. You can see the other Daring Bakers' Charlottes  here. Many thanks to our host Rebecca.
PS. Sorry I am so late!

Zucchini, Sun dried Tomato and Black Olive Charlotte
3 medium zucchini, sliced 3mm thick
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic

500g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 grated lemon rind
1/2 cup sour cream
8 basil leaves, finely shredded
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1/2 cup diced, dried tomatoes in oil
1/2 cup diced black olives
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper
pinch of salt or to taste

Mix the zucchini with the oil, salt and garlic. Fry or grill on a griddle pan until pliable but not too soft. Set aside to cool.

For the filling.
Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the lemon juice, rind and sour cream. Fold through remaining ingredients.

Take a 1 litre bowl. Line with plastic wrap. Start arranging the zucchini slices in the bottom of the bowl.

 Add a bit of the filling as you go so that the zucchini slices don't collapse in. Arrange more zucchini slices and filling as you go until it is all used.

 Fold the top zucchini slices over the filling and lay more zucchini slices to completely cover the filling.

Bring over the plastic wrap to cover the charlotte. Refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours until filling is set.

Turn the charlotte out onto a serving platter, remove the plastic wrap and serve with crusty bread.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Gâteau Basque

Living in Australia we are quite isolated from most of the world. However the town in which I live is quite multicultural as are many Australian towns. Among the nationalities in town are the Spanish Basque people who made their home here in the early to mid 1900's. Our local baker who delivered fresh bread daily door to door was a wonderful Basque man who only ever baked hot cross buns on Good Friday and not one day before. Each Good Friday he would rise early, bake and then deliver hot cross buns across the district. And the buns were very good!
Last month my daughter traveled to Spain and to the Basque area within...our dear Baker was so taken by the photos she sent to us of his beloved homeland!
What I didn't realise was that the Basque country covers the western Pyrenees in Spain and France. I had always only thought the Basque country was within the Spanish borders only. Hmmm, I musn't have been listening in geography lessons!
Gâteau Basque, which is more of a delicious sweet biscuit crust filled with creamy pastry cream and cherry jam, is famous throughout the Basque country. Apparently according to wiki when filled with pastry cream only it more common in the Spanish Basque Country.
This recipe comes from A Baker's Odyssey by Greg Patent, a wonderful book which I am gradually baking my way through. Coincidentally Greg posted his recipe on his blog Baking Wizard last weekend....that was definitely all the motivation I needed. So in honour of my Basque friends and my daughter who has just returned from the area I decided to bake Gâteau Basque. And it is delicious!

Gâteau Basque


3 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
250g butter, cut into smallish pieces
finely grated zest of  1 lemon
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure almond essence

Pastry Cream

2 cup milk
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1/2 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons rum ( my addition)

1 egg beaten with a little water for glazing

Place 2 1/2 cups flour, baking powder and sugar into a large bowl. Add butter and rub into the flour with fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Be sure to leave a few small flakes of butter and not rub it all in. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add lemon zest, eggs, egg yolk, and esssence. Beat the eggs with a fork and then begin to combine until the mixture comes together. Sprinkle some of the remaining flour onto a board and scrape the dough onto it. Knead the dough lightly added more flour as necessary. Be light and don't knead heavily or too long. Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Now make the pastry cream.
Heat milk and bring almost to the boil. In a bowl whisk the egg yolk for a minute or so add the sugar whisk again. Then add the vanilla and flour, mix until smooth.  Add about 1/3 on the hot milk to the eggs, whisk. Then add the remaining milk and whisk well. Return mixture to the saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the mixture boils whisking the whole time. Boil for a minute or until the floury taste is cooked out. Remove from heat add the rum and scrape into a bowl. Cover the surface of the cream with plastic wrap and allow to cool.

Heat the oven to 180C/350F and have ready a 9 inch springform pan.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator. Divide into two piece slightly larger. Take the larger piece and roll out between non stick baking paper to fit the pan. Sprinkle with flour if the dough seems stickly.  Line the springform pan with the dough bringing it all the way up the sides.

Fill with the cooled pastry cream.

Roll out the smaller piece of dough.  Use the springform pan to measure the diameter needed to cut the dough to fit over the pastry cream.

 Bring down the sides of pastry over the pastry cream then place the round of pastry over the top. Press edges to join. Then decorate with scrapes of dough and use a fork to make random designs over the surface. Brush with egg and water glaze.
The leftover dough can be rolled into balls and baked to make delicious biscuits or cookies.

Bake for 50 minutes until well browned. Cool thoroughly. Keeps well if refrigerated for several days.

Slice into wedges and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lamingtons - May 2015 Daring Bakers Challenge

 For the May challenge Marcellina from Marcellina in Cucina dared us to make Lamingtons. An Australian delicacy that is as tasty as it is elegant

I had the great pleasure of hosting this month's Daring Bakers Challenge. 

When I first hosted in December 2012 our culinary journey took us to Italy as we baked Panettone. On this occasion I would like to introduce you to one of my all time favourites – the Lamington. The classic Australian Lamington is a cube of vanilla sponge cake dipped in chocolate icing then coated with desiccated coconut. Sounds simple but it is delicious! It is said that the cakes were named after Lord Lamington who was the Governor of Queensland, Australia from 1896 to 1901. Stories abound as to why the cakes came about. I like the one that tells of Lord Lamington’s maid-servant accidentally dropping a freshly baked sponge cake into some melted chocolate. Apparently Lord Lamington disliked wastage so he suggested coating the chocolate coated cake in desiccated coconut to avoid messy fingers. A good idea, I think. Some New Zealanders actually like to claim the Lamington as their creation! However the Lamington came to be, it is now firmly embedded in the Australian culture. Sold in bakeries, cafés, supermarket, at bake sales and everywhere you expect and don’t expect. The Lamington is also a star at fund-raisers with “Lamington Drives” very popular with schools, sporting clubs and many other fund-raising ventures.
Usually the cake within the Lamington is a vanilla genoise sponge made by whipping eggs and sugar
until very thick and pale.  Flour (in my recipe cornflour otherwise known as cornstarch) is sifted well with baking powder and is very carefully and delicately but thoroughly folded into the eggs and sugar. A little bit of melted butter can be folded in at the end. This is optional but does add a bit of moisture to the cake. This cake is quite prized in Australia for being of a light and fluffy texture and a good sponge cake baker is highly regarded. The sponge is a little difficult to master but the key is a light hand, accurate measuring, room temperature eggs, and knowing just how long to bake it. Oh, and don’t open the oven door to peak or your cake will flop.

I would like to extend a big thank you to the amazing Daring Baker's who embraced this challenge and those who thought outside the "square" and came up with delicious and unique Lamingtons! You can visit Daring Baker's May 2015 challenge and the see the amazing variety lamingtons here.

Classic Lamingtons

Sponge Cake
Servings: 24
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) castor (superfine) sugar
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups (300 ml) (200 gm) (7 oz) cornflour (cornstarch)
1 ½ teaspoons (8 gm) baking powder
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) butter, melted (optional)
2¾ cups (660 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) unsweetened desiccated coconut, to assemble

1. Preheat oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

 2. Prepare a 4 ½ cm (1¾ inch) deep, 23cm x 33cm (9”x 13”) baking pan by lining with non-stick paper.

  3. In a stand mixer bowl place eggs, sugar and salt. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high for 15
 4. While the eggs and sugar are beating sift the cornflour and baking powder at least 3 times.
 5. After 15 minutes add vanilla and beat on high for another 5 minutes. The mixture should have at
least tripled in size, be light in colour and very foamy.

 6. Sift flour mixture over the egg mixture. I like to use a whisk but you can also use a large metal
spoon to lightly fold the flour in. Some people like to use a wooden spoon but I find it too heavy.
Heavy handling now will result in a flat tough sponge. If you are using butter, thoroughly fold it in
now but lightly.
 7. Spread mixture into your prepared pan and smooth out evenly. Some cooks at this stage drop the
pan onto the bench top to even out the air bubbles! I have never had that much courage!
8. Bake in preheated moderate oven for 22-25 minutes. The sponge will rise quite a lot but then settle
back down. Don’t be tempted to open the oven to peak. I also warn the family to walk gently past the
oven! When baked the sponge will have shrunk very slightly from the sides and should feel springy
when pressed gently.

8. Turn the sponge out immediately onto a wire rack to cool and reverse sponge so as not to mark the
top. Allow to cool. It is best to keep the cake for a day before making the Lamingtons as the cake will
be easier to handle.

Chocolate icing
3 ¼ cups (780 ml) (400 gm) (14 oz) icing (powdered) sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) (40 gm) (1-1/3 oz) cocoa powder
1 tablespoon (15 gm) (15 gm) (½ oz) butter, melted
½ to ¾ cup (120 ml to 180 ml) milk
Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl.
Stir in the butter and ½ cup milk. Set the bowl over a pan of hot water. Stir until icing is smooth
adding more milk to thin the icing if needed. I find I need more than ½ cup but not quite ¾ cup of

 To assemble the Lamingtons:
Cut the sponge cake into 24 rectangular pieces – 6 across and 4 down. To be particular you can trim
the crusts.

Keep the icing over the hot water to keep it melted. Place desiccated coconut in a shallow bowl.

 Dip each piece into the chocolate icing, allow excess to drip off

 Toss gently into the coconut.

 Stand cakes on a wire rack to set, about 2 hours.