Monday, May 11, 2015

Secret Recipe Club: Cranberry Orange Yoghurt Bread

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Yes. I know. It has been TWO WHOLE MONTHS since my last post here on the blog. I apologise for the long silence. It has been a crazy time for me. And I've been feeling really sick and out of it. The good thing is that I am starting to feel a lot better and I hope to be blogging regularly again.

I was glad to get back into the kitchen earlier this month to try out my recipe for this month's Secret Recipe Club post. 

This month I was assigned an awesome blog called A Spoonful of Thyme. I am no stranger to this blog and I have visited it before and even cooked from it! You guys know I don't usually blog about cooking recipes - mostly baking. But let me tell you - this rice recipe is awesome! So you won't be surprised when I say that I was thrilled to find I was assigned Kate's blog. Kate comes from a family of cooks and with cooking in her DNA, I'm not surprised that there are so many incredible recipes on her site! I loved cooking from your site, Kate!

I've bookmarked a ton of recipes to try - especially the fabulous pie recipes which you remember your mom and grandma for! I absolutely intend to try this Winter Fruit Pie with Walnut Crumb ASAP. Who cares if it is the middle of a blazing hot summer where I live. This will get made! 
The recipe I chose to make and share with you today is this absolutely flavourful, moist divine quick bread that my family and I LOVED. I am sure you will too!

Cranberry Orange Yogurt Bread
Adapted from this recipe on A Spoonful of Thyme
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup yoghurt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Zest of 2 oranges
1/2 tsp orange extract
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, halved
1 cup lightly toasted pecans

1. Prepare your loaf tin by lightly greasing and flouring it. Kate recommends a 6-cup capacity loaf tin. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. Stir together the yogurt and orange juice. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar for 3-4 minutes until creamy and light.
5. Beat the eggs in, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating for a further 2-3 minutes until the mixture is fluffy and creamy.
6. Beat in the orange zest and extract.
7. Add the flour mixture in small quantities, alternating with the yogurt mixture. Make sure you finish by adding the last of the flour mixture.
NOTE: This mixing should be done on low speed so that you don't end up working the gluten in the flour. Do not over-mix. Stop mixing as soon as the flour has been incorporated in each addition. If you mix too much at this stage, you won't have a bread with a tender crumb.
8. Add the cranberries and pecans and fold them in by hand until evenly distributed.
9. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 50-55 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean. Do not over-bake. Keep in mind that if you are using a smaller sized loaf tin, the baking time will decrease. Keep an eye on the bread and remove as soon as it is done.
10. Allow to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes and then gently turn out onto a wire rack to cool before slicing and serving.
I made double this recipe because I had gut feeling that this was going to be very popular around here - and I am so glad I did this! I ended up with two loaves (baked in 5 cup capacity loaf tins), plus 6 muffins with this recipe and I am enjoying the coveted last slice right now as I write this post. The texture was just divine - moist and melting and don't get me started on the flavor! My only change to the recipe was the addition of a dash of ground cinnamon - a flavor I love in combination with orange! I had to skip the orange oil since I didn't have it in my pantry, but I used a splash of orange extract instead, and I increased the amount of orange zest in my recipe.

I made one loaf with the pecans and the rest without because my kids don't really enjoy nuts in their bread. My husband adores pecans and so he ate the pecan loaf almost entirely by himself. Personally, my favourite part of the loaves was the ruby red cranberries. It is amazing how the cranberries are almost inedible when raw and fresh but taste SO good when baked into something like this. Just amazingly yummy!

If you're looking for good ways to use cranberries, this bread is a winner! And if you still have tons of cranberries left, please please please make this Cranberry Hazelnut Coffee Cake. You will not regret it! There are a few more yummy cranberry recipes in my recipe index, if you want them!

Until next time… 

Check out the other posts below for more Secret Recipe Club recipes from the group I bake with!

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Secret Recipe Club: Caramel Apple Shortbread Squares

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I always look forward to the second Monday of each month. That's when my group posts their reveals as part of Group B of Secret Recipe Club. I usually so look forward to my blog assignment each month that I bake from it within the first week… and then I have to wait three whole weeks to write about it!

This month, my assigned blog was Flavors by Four - an amazing blog by an awesome cook, baker and blogger duo - Susan and Nicole. This mother-daughter team takes turns blogging about the yummy recipes they find and cook! I love that they do this, and I hope that one day, my daughters will want to share my blog with me! My older one is already super interested and I can't get her out of the kitchen… :) Thanks for the yummy recipes, and inspiration, Susan and Nicole!

I had quite a few recipes shortlisted at first - my favourite being these awesome looking Buckeye Brownies! And since I love muffins so much, these Dark Chocolate Cherry Muffins were a close second. But after much pondering and browsing, I chose these delicious, buttery Caramel Apple Shortbread Bars
These are so flavourful and delicious, and were a hit in our home. The only change I made was that for some reason, my caramel was a little too runny and I wasn't sure I should pour such runny caramel over the shortbread base. So I used a tiny amount of cornstarch to thicken the caramel before using it. I think maybe it was the kind of apples I used. So if you have a thickish caramel, please feel free to omit the cornstarch I have used. 
Caramel Apple Shortbread Bars
Adapted from Flavors by Four
Shortbread crust & topping
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened

Caramel Apple Filling
3 large or 4 medium apples, peeled and sliced thin 
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
1-2 tbsp cornstarch (optional - only if required)

1. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F. Prepare a 9"x13" baking tin by lining the bottom and sides with parchment or non-stick baking paper. I used non-stick baking foil. 
2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Stir to combine.
3. Add the softened butter and using a mixer or a wooden spoon stir to bring the dough together. Mix until the dough is uniform but do not over-mix.
4. Press about 2/3 of the shortbread dough into the bottom of the prepared baking tin. Allow to parbake in the oven for about 20 minutes. This is sufficient time for you to get the filling ready. 
5. To make the filling, combine the sugar and water in a heavy bottom saucepan and stirring occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved. Then allow the mixture to come to a boil. Keep an eye on the sugar and watch it while it caramelises. It will turn a beautiful amber colour. Once you've achieved this colour, it can go for caramelised to burnt in a matter of seconds - so work quickly. 
6. As soon as the sugar is caramelised, stir in the sliced apples. This can cause the sugar to seize up and harden a little, but keep stirring and the sugar will dissolve. Once you have apples in smooth caramel, add in the cream and butter, stirring constantly. This mixture may bubble but it will subside. 
7. At this stage if you feel the mixture is too thin and runny (like mine was), dissolved about 2 tbsp of cornstarch in the caramel sugar and stir it back into the saucepan. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is thick and luscious. 
8. Remove the par-baked base and pour the caramel filling over the top. Spread it out evenly using a spatula.
9. Crumble the reserved 1/3 of the shortbread dough over the top of the caramel apple filling.
10. Continue baking for a further 15-20 minutes until the shortbread on top is lightly golden and the caramel is bubbly but set. 
10. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. I let it sit overnight before cutting it into squares. 
These were absolutely delicious. Everyone's favourite part was the yummy shortbread crust. I can imagine using the same crust for tons of different fillings. So delicious! And the caramel apple filling was so addictive that you could eat it with a spoon. Thank you Susan and Nicole for a truly delicious recipe! Don't forget to check out the other awesome Group B recipes in the link-up below! 

Until next time… 

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Strawberries & Cream Scones

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I love that strawberry season comes twice a year. The whole family rejoices when we walk into the market and find a table filled with box upon box of ripe, red strawberries. Both my daughters are just plain strawberry-mad! I've been buying so many boxes! Most of the berries are just washed and eaten, but I usually manage to hide a box or two to bake with. I love baking with fresh strawberries.
This recipe is one that I've made a few times now. It is no secret that our breakfast favourites are muffins and scones. So, I'm always trying out new scone and muffin recipes, and my family never complains. Of course, when you're trying out so many new recipes, you're bound to have some recipes you never want to try again. This isn't one of them.

If you want a lighter crumb and are baking for an occasion or for guests, and you don't want to worry about health, you could just bake it with all regular flour.

Strawberries & Cream Scones
Adapted from Taste of Home 
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar (plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp flaxseed meal
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
2/3 cup half and half, or medium-fat cream
2/3 cup chopped fresh strawberries
1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat your oven to 200C/400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or greaseproof paper, or use a silicone baking mat.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, 1/3 cup of sugar, baking powder, flaxseed meal, orange zest, salt and ground cinnamon. Mix well.
3. Add the cold butter and using just the tips of your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture. Work quickly, and gently until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
4. Add the cream and bring the dough together gently.
5. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, and add the chopped strawberries.
6. Working very lightly, so as to not bruise the berries too much, gently work the strawberries into the dough.
7. Transfer the dough onto your lined baking sheet, and form into a rough 8 or 9 inch circle. Pat down the dough until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Using a sharp knife, cut the circle into six or eight wedges.
8. Brush the top of the scones with the egg and sprinkle with the 2 tbsp of sugar you have reserved. You could also sprinkle the top with chopped nuts.
9. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until the top is a light golden brown.
The flaky, buttery scone is rich with cream and loaded with tangy-sweet berries that drip their juice and make a very welcome mess. I wish I could get my hands on some clotted cream. I think it would be perfect with these particular scones.

My husband had a valid complaint. While he love the sugary crunch on the top of the scones, he felt these scones would benefit with some more texture and crunch. So the next time around, I thought I'd throw in some hazelnuts or pistachios for some texture.
In other news, with my birthday and Valentine's Day falling in the same month, I have received a bounty of new cookbooks that I am SO excited about. I have the best husband, friends and family in the world! I can't wait to be sharing some awesome tried and tested recipes from these awesome new books! :)

But, for now, watch out for another awesome strawberry recipe to celebrate the season of yummy strawberries!

Until next time…

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