Sunday, 27 May 2012

Daring Bakers' May 2012 - Challah

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

Ruth provided us with three recipes to choose from; I decided that the Honey White Challah sounded very inviting and decided to stick with this recipe, topping with a generous sprinkling of poppy seeds. 

I have to admit, this challenge was a rushed one as I only completed it a couple of hours ago. Having never eaten nor seen a challah in real-life I tried familiarising myself with the braiding techniques by watching videos on YouTube numerous times. This wasn’t good enough because as you can see, my loaf is rather lopsided and the braiding pattern got kinda lost towards the end bit.  In hindsight, I should have probably stuck to the basic three-strand braid. Instead I decided to be adventurous and attempt a four-strand braid without any practice.

With regards to the taste and texture, this was probably the best loaf of bread I’ve ever made. It’s light and fluffy with a lovely crumb and the smell of honey is divine!

**A brief historical introduction:
Challah is a bread of celebration in Jewish tradition. At a time when white flour was considered a luxury, its use was reserved for either the wealthy or for festive events. In Judaism, the Sabbath is a weekly holiday, and therefore is a festive occasion. It was around the 15th century when Jews in parts of Austria and Germany adopted an oval braided loaf from their neighbors to make the Sabbath special. These fancy shaped loaves made with white flour were seen as a fitting way to honor the Shabbat (Sabbath), symbolized in Jewish culture as a queen, therefore deserving of the finest one can achieve. In honoring the Sabbath as a day of rest, two loaves are traditionally put on the table. This is generally seen as a representation of the double portion of manna provided to the Children of Israel on Fridays during their wandering in the desert after fleeing from Egypt. This double portion allowed them to maintain the commandment to not do “work” on the Sabbath.

You can find more information on this historical bread here, as well as the recipes for other versions of challah. 

Honey White Challah

Makes two loaves 

360 ml warm water
15 g sugar
18 g dry active yeast
120 ml honey
15 ml vegetable oil
4 large eggs
A large pinch of salt
700 g plain flour, possibly more
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water

  1. In a large bowl, combine yeast, sugar and 125 ml warm water. Allow to proof for 5-7 minutes until foamy.
  2. Add the remaining water, 4 eggs, honey salt and 700 grams of flour to the yeast mixture. Knead by hand or by machine, using the dough hook, until the dough comes together and is smooth, adding flour as needed. Continue kneading for a further 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer the dough to a well oiled clean bowl and cover with a tea-towel. Leave to rise until doubled in size, which takes about 1.5 hours.
  4. Punch down dough and divide into two portions.
  5. Use each half to make a loaf.
  6. Braided according to desired preference. * YouTube has many videos showing the various braiding techniques.
  7. Place loaf on a greased parchment lined tray and cover with tea-towel. Leave to rise for a further 30 minutes.
  8. Pre-heat oven to 200C. Brush top of loaf with egg wash and generously top with poppy seeds.
  9. Bake loaf for 25-30 minutes, or until done.
  10. Cool well before slicing.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Apple Crumble Squares

Apple Crumble Squares

Those close to me would know that I have been craving all things apples of late – apple crumbles, apple pies, apple name it! I finally got around to satiating my craving after putting it off for weeks. It was a toss up between Jamie Oliver’s Apple Pie and this recipe that I bookmarked quite some time ago. The crumble recipe won this round, largely due to my sheer laziness in making pastry from scratch!
(shredded apples, dry ingredients, wet ingredients, crumble and crust)

(Top: shredded apple and crust; Below: crumble and apple layer )
Leaving that aside, I must say that whoever came up with the idea for Apple Crumble Squares is a friggin’ genius! Warm apple and cinnamon crumble in a convenient form which to me is the perfect on-the-go dessert. (It’s been what’s keeping me sane during my painfully long commute to work this week! And yes, I am guilty of having dessert as breakfast and believe me, having sugar whilst stuck in traffic can turn a grumpy driver into a cheerful, positive-I’ll –sing-along-to-Beiber- because-his-new-song-is-awesome type of individual. You have been warned!
 (Evenly spread the apple mixture to cover the entire surface of the crust;  sprinkle crumble generously all over the apples) 
The only difference I made to the original recipe was to reduce the amount of sugar used as some of my family members found the squares to be a tad bit too sweet. If you think that the adapted amount may still be too much, you can perhaps use green apples which will help cut through the sweetness.
Oh I also added an additional teaspoon of cinnamon to the apple mixture, well because..I love cinnamon! 

Apple Crumble Squares

Adapted from

Makes 9-12 squares depending on how you cut it


380 g plain flour
160 g brown sugar
25 g granulated sugar + 50 g granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon + 1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
225 g cold butter, cubed
4 medium sized apples, peeled, cored and grated
2 tsp cornflour
Juice of half a lemon

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Grease and line a 9" by 13" pan and set aside.
  2. Peel, core and grate the apples. Pour lemon juice over the apples to prevent browning.
  3. Mix plain flour, 25 g granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Work in the butter and egg with your hands until the dough resembles pea-sized clumps. Make sure no plain flour remains at the bottom of the bowl.
  5. Press half the dough into the bottom of the pan ensuring that it is evenly spread out.
  6. In a separate bowl, squeeze all the excess juice from the apples and  mix in the 50 g of sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and cornflour.
  7. Spread the apple mixture all over the crust layer evenly.
  8. Sprinkle the remaining dough all over the apple layer.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top layer turns golden brown.
  10. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

French Fruit Tart

Take me into any Patisserie and the one pastry that will catch my eye every time are the French Fruit Tarts. Fresh fruit atop smooth pastry cream encased in a buttery sweet pastry - that has and always be my choice of dessert. And so it was only a matter of time that I tried to replicate this relatively delicate dessert in the  comforts of my own kitchen. 

I haven't had the best track record with regards to pastry making but this recipe courtesy of JoyofBaking yielded perfect, Patisserie like sweet crust pastry with minimal effort. And the aroma emitted from the oven during the baking process was mouth watering! This recipe is definitely a keeper and one which I will be using many times in the near future!

Making the pastry cream/creme patisserie was a breeze too - maybe I was having a good day in the kitchen; as it took all of 10 minutes for the cream to come together. The only piece of advice I would impart is to keep an eye on the cream at all times when cooking as there is a risk that if left too long on heat, or if the heat is too high, the pastry cream may curdle.
I also learnt that to prevent the crust from turning soggy, a glaze is spread over it to act as a sealant. I used a strawberry jam glaze this time around but am quite tempted to go for the chocolate option the next time around! Think melted chocolate (or Nutella?), fresh fruit and creme patisserie yummm!

Coming from a land full of exotic fruits, it seemed only right to go local with the topping. My initial plan was to use mangoes, lychees and dragon fruit and I envisioned the myriad of colours in a circular pattern however while assembling the layer of fruits, I realised that the contrast of the deep red dragon fruit would look just as gorgeous next to the white flesh of the lychees. And I was right :)

The tart disappeared within 24 hours and was such a hit with my cousins that I may have to make another one for the BBQ we're having this weekend!

French Fruit Tart

Makes one 9-inch tart

Recipe from Joy of Baking

Sweet Crust Pastry

195 g all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
113 g unsalted butter, room temperature
50 g caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
  1. Sift flour and salt in a bowl. Whisk briefly so that flour remains light.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg gradually and beat until just incorporated. 
  4. Add the flour in one go and mix until the dough forms a  rough ball.
  5. Remove and flatten dough to form a disk. 
  6. Wrap in cling film and leave in fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour to chill. (Or 15 minutes in freezer)
  7. Lightly butter and flour a 9" inch tart tin with a removable bottom.
  8. Evenly roll out the chilled dough and place it over the tin.
  9. Pat the dough out evenly, ensuring all ridges are covered. Cover with cling film and freeze for a further 15 minutes.
  10. Pre-heat oven to 200C. Prick the dough with a fork to prevent dough from puffing up during baking process.
  11. Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180C and bake for a further 15-20 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.
  12. Remove and cool completely before filling.
Creme Patisserie

* this can be made a couple of days in advance and refrigerated.

300 ml full-fat milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
50 g caster sugar
20 g all purpose flour
20 g corn flour (acts as thickener)
  1. In a bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until incorporated. Immediately add all purpose and corn flours (which have been sieved) and mix well until a smooth paste is obtained.
  2. In a saucepan, heat milk until bubbles form. Remove from heat and slowly add to the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking in the mixture, which will form lumps. If there are lumps, pour mixture through a strainer.
  3. Next, pour the egg mixture into a saucepan and cook over a low heat until the custard comes together, whisking constantly.
  4. Continue to whisk until custard becomes thick. Add the vanilla extract.
  5. Pour into a clean bowl and cover with cling film immediately to prevent a crust from forming.
  6. Leave to cool completely before using/refrigerating.
Jam Glaze

100 g strawberry jam
1 tbsp water
  1. Heat jam and water in a small saucepan over a low heat until diluted. 
  2. Remove from heat and leave to cool before brushing over cooled pastry, saving some to be brushed over the fruit topping.
Fruit Topping

Canned lychees
½ red dragon fruit, cubed

  1. Remove tart from tin by gently pushing the bottom center upwards.
  2. Generously brush bottom and sides with jam glaze.
  3. Fill with creme pattistiere.
  4. Arrange fruits according to desired pattern.
  5. Brush remaining glaze over the fruits.
  6. Best served chilled.