Hua Juan (flower Bun)

Have you heard about this sweet sesame filled steamed Chinese buns? These popular buns with sweet/savoury fillings are sold on every street corner in China and people rushing to work every morning find it convenient to grab a few on the way to work. Hua Juan literally means flower roll and these buns certainly look like flowers.

Some people use a sesame paste much like peanut butter for the filling but I powdered some toasted sesame seeds with sugar and used it. Of course, you can substitute peanut butter, Nutella, etc – let your imagination run riot! They are a perfect side for dinner. These nutty buns taste wonderful and they are a great comfort food.

These buns are shaped with the help of a chopstick, though there are different variations on shaping the buns. Pulling the ends together and then using the chopstick to twist the bun and pressing down on the chopstick creates the lovely flower shape.

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We use black sesame in Indian sweets and savouries and this filling reminded me so much of a simple South Indian sweet that is made with just toasted sesame and jaggery. It’s pounded together to release the oil in the sesame and then shaped into balls – one of my favourite sweets. Sesame seeds have a lovely nutty flavour and aroma.

These buns are really easy to make. Once the dough is made and rested enough, they are quite fluffy when steamed. The next time I make them, I am planning to use more filling. I hope you enjoy making them as much as I did.

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PREP:  20 minutes  COOK TIME:  15 minutes  TOTAL TIME:  2 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients

250 gms flour

1 tsp baking powder

150 gms milk

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp instant yeast

For the filling

2 tbsp butter (room temperature)

21/2 tbsp sesame seeds

3 tbsp sugar

Instructions

Toast the sesame seeds in a skillet on low heat for a few minutes until they are nutty and slightly smoky. Transfer them immediately to a large open pan to cool to room temperature. Blend the sesame and sugar together in a blender to a fine powder.

Mix the flour and baking powder together with a spatula.

Heat the milk to lukewarm and add the sugar and yeast. When they are dissolved, add the yeast mixture to the flour and quickly stir with a spatula till the dough comes together. Turn out the dough onto a marble surface and knead well until the it is elastic, about 10 minutes. You could also use a stand mixer. Shape the mixture into a ball and cover it with a lid. Let it rest for about 15 minutes.

Flatten the dough with a rolling pin and start rolling it out into a rectangle. Roll out the four corners using a little flour if the dough is sticky and the rectangle should be roughly 15 by 9 inches with the thickness being about a 1/4 inch. Make sure that the sides of the rectangle are straight. Spread the softened butter over the surface of the dough using a pastry brush and sprinkle the sesame paste generously all over the buttered surface. Smooth it out with your hand and spread it out to the corners.

Divide the dough into three even parts lengthwise. Roll the first third of the dough until it reaches the place where the next folding should start. Press the fold down and pack in the filling. Roll again to complete the folding. Press down firmly and  divide this into two even parts breadth wise. Cut each part into 6 strips about an inch wide. Pile two strips on top of each other and press down the centre with a chopstick lengthwise. It will immediately start separating along the folded parts. Take the dough and pull gently forming it into a slightly elongated strip. Twist it slightly and tuck the two ends together underneath. Push a chopstick into the top part of the bun where it curves and twist the bottom portion while at the same time pressing down firmly on the chopstick. This should be done on a marble surface. Shape all the strips in this fashion.

Have ready a steamer with some warm water in it. Place a greased rack on it to prevent the buns sticking to it. Place the buns on the rack and leave some space between each, because the buns will expand. Prove the buns for 11/2 hours. Steam the buns for 15 minutes when the water starts boiling. Turn off the heat and let the buns sit in the steamer for 5 minutes before opening the lid. The buns will retain its shape even if you squeeze them slightly. Cool and enjoy. They store well in the fridge. When you want one, just microwave or steam gently for a few minutes. It makes a lovely breakfast too.

Strawberry Bread

I found this intriguing recipe just when I had made strawberry preserve. It seemed the perfect time to make it.

The bread was moist and delicious. Though the original recipe had about 1 tablespoon of red colouring, I decided to add just a few drops of red colouring so that it would be pink and the strawberries would stand out.

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A nice tea time treat for the entire family! Juicy strawberries baked into a bread – what could be better? This recipe makes two loaves of bread.

This recipe is from American Cooking.

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PREP: 15 minutes COOK TIME: 45 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup butter

1 ½ cups sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

1 tsp lemon juice

4 eggs

½ tsp baking soda

½ cup sour cream

3 cups flour

½ cup chopped nuts

1 cup strawberry preserve

A few drops red colouring

Instructions

Grease and flour two loaf pans.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Blend butter, sugar, vanilla, salt and lemon juice. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Dissolve soda in sour cream and add it to the egg mixture. Fold in flour, nuts, strawberry preserve and the colouring. Spoon the batter into the loaf pans. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the bread pulls away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Orange Raisin Muffins with Cookie Butter Frosting

Hello friends. There’s a lot of re modelling going on at home and I just haven’t found the time to post recipes. Things are coming back to normal slowly and I hope to be able to share some recipes with you. However, the weather is insanely hot. It was around 40 C today. Cooking is quite an effort in this heat.

I wanted to try my hand at making cookie butter. I bought some coconut cookies and found a simple recipe online which I will share with you shortly. I liked the taste of the cookie butter. It was delicious and free of preservatives, etc. besides saving on the cost. You just throw the ingredients into the blender and that’s it! You can of course use any type of cookie for this.

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Once I made it, I was wondering how I could use it in a recipe. Instead of incorporating it with brownies or a cake batter, I decided to use it as a frosting. It was really, really good. Quite yummy.

The recipe for the cookie butter is from https://gimmedelicious.com/insanely-easy-homemade-cookie-butter/ .

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This recipe makes around 15 muffins. 

PREP: 30 minutes COOK TIME: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 tsp soda

1 tsp salt

½ cup sugar

½ cup butter

Grated rind of 1 orange

½ cup raisins

11/2 cups buttermilk

Cookie butter

Sprinkles

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 200 C.

Sift the flour, soda, salt and sugar into a bowl. Cut in the butter until the mixture is the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add the grated rind and raisins. Stir in enough buttermilk to make a soft dough. Spoon the dough into paper cups placed in muffin tins. Bake for about 15 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Cool completely. Frost with the cookie butter and garnish with some sprinkles on top.

Cottage Bread with Guava Jam

This cottage bread is very simple to make and it’s really delicious. You can try your own combination of herbs, etc. The smell of yeast and bread baking in the oven is just wonderful. There is something so satisfying about making your own bread. I sprinkled some rosemary on the top. I shaped the bread into a round loaf but you can shape it any way you like.

My guava tree was in bloom again and I decided to make some jam. These guavas are white and they are really juicy and tasty. However, they turn pink naturally in the cooking process and this particular jam is a lovely deep red in colour. It takes a little effort to sieve the cooked guava slices but it’s really worth it. The resulting jam was thick, luscious and fruity. I also didn’t use any preservatives except a little citric acid. It has to be stored in a cool place. I had to store mine in the fridge because it’s very hot right now.

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A slice of this heavenly bread with some butter and jam is perfect for tea time. This recipe makes one loaf of cottage bread and four bottles of jam.

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PREP: 2 hours for bread and 1 hour for the jam.

COOK TIME: 30-40 minutes for bread and 30 minutes for the jam.

Ingredients for Cottage Bread

21/4 tsp active dry yeast

11/4 cups warm water

11/2 tbsp sugar

11/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp butter

4 cups flour

11/2 tsp dried rosemary

Instructions

Dissolve yeast in the warm water. Add the sugar and salt. Leave covered in a warm place for 15 minutes until the top is frothy. Take 2 cups flour in a large mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture along with the butter. Beat until smooth. Add 13/4 cups flour and mix until the dough leave the sides of the bowl. Turn on to a floured surface and knead until smooth. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Turn onto a floured board and shape into a loaf, pressing well to knock the air out of the dough. Place in a greased loaf pan; cover. Let rise for 30-45 minutes. At this point, preheat the oven at 200 C. Sift the remaining flour on the top, after the dough rises and sprinkle with rosemary. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool on rack.

Ingredients for the Guava Jam

1 kg ripe guavas

1 tsp citric acid

5 cups sugar

Instructions

Slice the washed guavas. Add ½ teaspoon of the citric acid to one litre of water in a large pan. Add the fruit and cook on moderate heat. Bring it to a boil and simmer covered for about 15-20 minutes, until the fruit is soft. Cool.

Pureè the cooked guavas in a blender and strain through a fine sieve or muslin cloth. You will get around 5 cups of the guava pulp.

Place the guava pulp along with 5 cups of sugar and the remaining citric acid in a heavy pan. Cook on moderate heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture has thickened. Switch off the stove, spoon some jam onto a plate and cool in the refrigerator. If the jam is not runny, it’s done. If not, boil the jam further until it is thickened. Spoon the jam into clean bottles and cover when they are completely cool.

Mahjouba (Algerian Crèpes)

Mahjouba are traditional Algerian pancakes, very popular as a street food in Northern Africa. These thick pancakes are made of semolina and folded into a parcel after being filled with caramelized onions and tomatoes. It is often paired with harissa sauce.

The semolina dough has to be worked until it is not sticky. I greased the inside of my food processor with olive oil and made it. It’s very difficult to do by hand. You either need a stand mixer or a processor.

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My first attempt at making this was not as good as the professionals, though I was quite happy with the result. It reminded me of a sweet that we make here using semolina dough outside and a sweet coconut filling on the inside. It’s also flattened by hand and it’s a South Indian speciality called Ubbat.

I really liked the taste of the mahjouba. The tomato filling was very delicious. This recipe is from Saveur. This recipe makes around 12 crepes.

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PREP: 11/2 hours COOK TIME: 45 minutes

Ingredients

6 medium sized onions, chopped finely

3 green chillies, chopped finely

2 medium carrots, chopped finely

¼ cup olive oil, plus more for greasing

3 tbsp tomato paste

1 can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, drained

2 tbsp salt, plus more to taste

1 tsp turmeric powder

¾ tsp red chilli powder

1 cup fresh coriander, chopped finely

41/4 cups fine semolina

Instructions

Crush the tomatoes by using a stick processor, so that they remain chunky.

Heat oil in a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions, chillies and carrots and cook stirring until they are soft and caramelized. Add the tomato paste and cook for a further three minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, turmeric and chilli powder. Cook the mixture until it becomes thick and slightly dry. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped coriander. Cool.

Combine two tablespoons salt with the semolina. Add two cups of water and stir to make a firm dough. Transfer to a stand mixer or food processor and mix until it is no longer sticky. Use some olive oil to grease the inside of your mixer/processor. Divide into twelve equal pieces, shape into balls and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and rest for 30 minutes.

Lightly oil a marble surface and working one at a time, flatten the dough balls using more olive oil into a disk using the heel of your hands until it is 1/6 inch thick. Gently pull the edges to stretch into a paper thin rectangle and place about 2 tablespoons of the filling in the centre. Spread the filling so that it covers the middle section of the rectangle. Fold the long sides of the rectangle over the filling and fold over the short sides, pressing to seal and enclose the filling. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Heat a 12 inch skillet over medium heat and place a packet, seam side down and pat the crepes out into as thin a parcel as you can. Flip the crepe when it is browned on one side and repeat with the remaining packets.

Banana Mincemeat Bread

I had made a large quantity of mincemeat for Christmas but I just didn’t have the time to make anything. I was just looking up some recipes featuring mincemeat and came across this interesting one. As I had some over ripe bananas as well, I was rather pleased. It’s something that I could eat at anytime of the day.

The bread was really delicious and the combination of the bananas with the boozy mincemeat was great. I could taste the subtle flavour of both and it was a big hit with my family and friends. It’s definitely going to be something I make often.

It’s easy to make and is perfect over a cup of tea or even in the morning if you’re rushed for time.

This recipe is from the book American Cooking.

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PREP: 20 minutes COOK TIME: 1 hour

Ingredients

¼ cup butter

½ cup sugar

2 eggs

11/4 cup sifted flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

¼ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup mashed bananas

1 cup mincemeat, drained

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 160 C. Butter and line a loaf tin with parchment paper. I used a double lining for the tin.

Sift the flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt and soda together.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. Add the flour mixture to the butter alternating with the bananas and mincemeat. Mix well. Spoon into the buttered loaf tin. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, depending on the oven. Cool.