Archive for November, 2010

Brazilian Cheese Bread

November 29, 2010

I love that cookies have their own season.  There is Halloween season, and then there is  Thanksgiving, and then all of a sudden, you realize that it’s cookie season!  The best time of the year, hands down.

I do think that it gets to be a bit overwhelming to see all of the cookie recipes on TV shows and magazine covers and dropped in your inbox daily (yes, I have a weakness).  You get recipes for traditional cookies, cookies with a modern twist, rolled out cookies, drop cookies, gingerbread houses, mini pies, everyyything!  It’s overwhelming and hard to choose just several to make during the season.  And that’s exactly why I’m posting a recipe for Brazilian Cheese Bread!

Don’t be disappointed.  Seriously, you’re going to thank me for this one.  By the time you’re attending your third holiday party, while still planning on hosting your own, you are going to be craving something salty and savory.  Something that you can nosh on while wrapping presents, and even add to your holiday party spread.  It’s a recipe perfect for the season.

Plus.  There’s a bonus: they’re delicious AND easy.  They are this cheesy, chewy goodness that are so addictive that you will find yourself eating the whole batch within 2 hours of baking them.  Trust me.  I know.  And it’s all made in a blender!  It looks like a popover, but without the hollow center.  Because that center is taken up by the cheesy, chewy deliciousness.  Do I need to say it again?  Cheesy, chewy, yum.  And a brilliant contrast to the cookies that are about to bombard you.  And I’ll partake in that bombarding – coming soon!

Brazilian Cheese Bread (original recipe from here)

Tapioca flour is a necessary ingredient in this recipe – this is what makes the bread so chewy.  You will easily be able to find it at a specialty grocery store.  You can use any cheese you want for this bread, but I have only tried it with queso fresco, which is, undeniably, amazing.  The last thing: I’ve heard that the authentic version is a bit more salty than the recipe calls for.  I have tried this recipe with 1 teaspoon of salt, as well as 2.  I like it much better with the former, but this will depend on your own taste…and the saltiness level of the cheese you use.


1 egg, room temperature

1/3 cup olive oil

2/3 cup milk

1 1/2 cups tapioca flour

1/2 cup queso fresco, shredded

1 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a mini muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.  Place the muffin tin onto a baking sheet.

2. Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Fill the muffin tins to the top with batter.

3. Place cookie sheet with muffin tin into the oven and bake until puffed and golden, about 20 minutes.  Eat while warm or reheat later.


Sweet Potato Pudding Cake

November 18, 2010

You know what I love most about this time of year?  The color orange.  It’s everywhere!  I mean, besides the leaves changing to a bright saffron colored hue, it’s also the color of my favorite winter vegetables – sweet potatoes, and butternut squash and pumpkin!

With Thanksgiving only a week away, my favorite orange colored dish is just waiting to baked – pumpkin pie.  Nope, not the one with the fresh pumpkin where you add spices and sour cream or whipped egg whites, or cream or anything else that makes it absolutely divine.  I’m talking about the kind where the pumpkin and spices are already mixed for you in a can and you just pour it into a ready-made, store-bought crust.  Don’t judge.  It’s absolutely delicious and I wouldn’t want anything else for the holiday.

Needless to say, a post about canned pumpkin pie wouldn’t have cut it.  So I decided to step it up this year.  This sweet potato pudding cake has the texture of my beloved pumpkin pie, but a little more dense, a little less sweet and salutes my love affair with both the color orange and coconut.  It’s moist, luscious and has found a place next to my traditional pie on the Thanksgiving table.

Sweet Potato Pudding Cake (adapted from here)

Ingredients for Cake:
2-3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons coconut rum
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3 large eggs
14 ounce can coconut milk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Ingredients for topping:
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Cook sweet potatoes by baking in a 400 degree oven until tender (45 to 60 minutes).  Alternately, you can microwave the potatoes on high for 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool, then remove the peel and mash potato until smooth.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9” round springform pan with cooking spray.

3. In a large mixing bowl,  beat mashed sweet potato and eggs until smooth and combined. Mix in coconut milk, brown sugar, rum and butter, blending  until combined.Sift in  dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Scoop mixture into prepared pan.

4. In a separate small bowl, stir together coconut, brown sugar and cinnamon – sprinkle over the top of the cake batter.

5. Bake cake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 60 to 75 minutes. Remove from the oven and place pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.

6. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Gently run a thin bladed knife around the edge of the pan and slowly remove side ring – let cake cool for an hour, then place into the refrigerator until cold, about 3 hours.

Ghughra (Happy Diwali!)

November 11, 2010

What could have possibly kept me away from my blog for this amount of time??  Well, celebrating Diwali in India, of course!  (well, that, and some pretty unreliable internet).

Growing up, Diwali never carried much significance in our household.  I would be fascinated by my parents’ stories of celebrating the new year in India with fireworks, and huge amounts of sweets and snacks, and hearing about the customs and traditions.  But celebrating Diwali in such a grand way in this part of the world seemed so far-fetched.  I wanted to relive the stories that my parents told me.  So…naturally…I went to India.

Diwali is the festival of LIGHTS!  It’s the new year!  It is supposed to be festive and colorful and loud and happy!  So this year, I got all of that, and more, by celebrating in India with my extended family.  Besides doing several designs of rangoli, and shooting bigger fire crackers than I would ever imagine for the 4th of July, we made many treats!  My favorite being the almond and cardamom scented pastry called ghughra.  The one that we made uses a traditional ingredient called mawa, which is difficult to find in the States.  I’ve included a recipe that uses a more readily available dried fruits – though equally delicious.

I’m not going to fool you about this one: it’s a tough recipe.  Just look at my attempt at the folded pastry below (mine’s the one on the right, if you can’t tell).  My grandmother shot me looks of disapproval as I tried to help with this process.  But it doesn’t matter!  Just make sure you seal the pastries completely, and I guarantee that the taste will outdo the look.

Moving from one food holiday to another, I’m now back at home preparing my list of Thanksgiving recipes, but until then, Happy New Year!

Ghughra (recipe adapted from here)
Ingredients for the stuffing

  • 1/2 cup dry coconut
  • 1 cup of coarsely ground almonds
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped figs
  • 1/4 cup of finely chopped dates
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom

Ingredients for the outer crust

  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup ghee, clarified butter, or butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons of water

For dough: Combine the flour, ghee and salt in a bowl.  Work the ghee into the flour with your fingers until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.  Sprinkle water onto the crumbly dough and with your hands push the dough from the sides to the middle of the bowl to form a ball that holds together. Be careful to add only little water at a time, and not allowing the dough to become soggy.  Knead well with our hands until the dough becomes into a firm ball of dough.  Put aside, covered, ensuring that the dough does not dry out.

For stuffing: Combine all the ingredients for the stuffing until all the ingredients hold together. Divide the stuffing mixture into 20 equal portions.

To assemble: Divide the dough into 20 equal portions as well.  Roll out each portion into a 3 inch diameter circle.  Place a portion of the stuffing in the bottom half of the circle.  Fold the disc over into a half-moon shape and seal the edges, ensuring that the stuffing has not seeped out.  Twist the sealed edge, from one end to the other, for a fluted edge.

Repeat with the remaining dough and stuffing portions.

Fry ghughras in batches of 4-5 for about 4 minutes, flipping mid way.  The ghughras should be golden brown in color.