Saturday, 14 December 2013

New York Bagels

It seems rather fitting to make a post about NY bagels on board an American cruise ship. It is currently day four of our twelve day tour with Celebrity Solstice. We sailed from Auckland, stopped by Bay of Islands and Tauranga before arriving at Wellington this morning.  The weather's been mighty fine so far and the ocean vast and blue. This is our first cruise and everyone's been so nice. I suppose being on a holiday puts everyone in a good mood. Aside from the occasional rockiness and motion sickness, this trip has been relaxing. With an abundance of food on board that is available almost twenty four seven, it feels like all we've been doing all day is eat, sleep, walk. I haven't been as eager to take that many photos, just a few here and there of what I thought captured the essence of each location. I'll be sharing more about the trip once I get home and have a chance to edit the photos! So stay tuned for that!

Now about these bagels.  I got pretty obsessed with making them. They're much easier to make than I anticipated. You'll need some elbow grease for the kneading, but working for your food makes it more delicious doesn't it? It also makes the bagel chewy and bouncy! The recipe I pinched from The Sophisticated Gourmet, altering only the types of flour and the amount of salt. The bagels are so tasty. The wholewheat flour that I added gives a subtle sweetness to the bread that makes the bagels perfect treats even just by themselves.  Of course, they're great bases to the usual PB and J, but if you're feeling more up to it, you could whip up a warm salad and fry or poach an egg and there we go, a satisfying and nutritious lunch you'll have.  I made a warm, herby eggplant, tomato and fungi salad, of which I'll share with you soon!

Unlike Auckland which currently only have one store that specializes in bagels (Best Ugly Bagels), the ship has an abundance of it. I haven't gotten around to it yet though. Just been devouring their deliciously fluffy rye bread. But I don't feel too deprived. These bagels were just that amazing.

New York bagels 

Makes 8

2 tsp dried yeast
2 tbsp raw sugar
1/2 cup warm water
3/4 cup warm water
2 cups high grade unbleached plain flour
1 cup wholewheat flour
2 tsp salt

Pour dried yeast and sugar in the 1/2 cup of water and let it sit for 5 minutes without stirring. After 5 minutes, stir until sugar and yeast diasolves.
Combine flour and salt and make a well in the centre. Pour in the yeast mixture and begin stirring together. Gradually add in the 3/4 cup of water and continue to stir in. You may or may not need all the water. The dough should be moist and firm. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes on a floured surface with floured hands. The dough should end up firm and elastic and don't feel sticky. When you press down on the dough with your finger it should gently bounce back.
Place the dough in a large oiled bowl and leave to rest in a warm place, covered with a wet tea towel, for an hour until double in size. Knock down and let rise for another 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 8 and shape each one into round doughs. To shape, place the dough on the counter top and cup your hand over it. Move your arm in circular motions, pressing the dough down with slight pressure. Once all doughs are done, coat a finger in flour and press into the middle of the dough to make a hole, like a doughnut. The hole should be 1/3 the size of the dough.  Repeat with the rest. Leave in a warm place covered for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, boil a pot of water and preheat oven to 220C.
Once the water is boiled, reduce heat to a simmer. Drop the bagel doughs into the pot and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Don't over-crowd the pot. The doughs will float and expand. Drain on wire rack then bake in the oven on a tray lined with lightly oiled baking sheet for about 20 minutes until golden.
Serve with your favorite topping! 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Coconut berry cake

It was one of those days where none of the photos turned out how I wanted them to. I must've taken about 50 shots and still, the lighting wasn't right, it was too yellow or too cold, the background looked too plain or too busy, the cake just looked like a round lump. It was rather frustrating indeed.

This flopped photography episode was in fact preceded by further frustrations. In my absent state of mind, I had accidentally set the oven to 'grill'. The top of the cake, or rather the nutty layer was charcoaled. After the cake cooled, I patiently picked and scraped off the black bits. I was also afraid that my temperament oven had overcooked the cake and that it would turn out dry. 

Then I spent ages scratching the back of my head, wondering how I would ice the cake. I didn't have the regular ingredients that I would use to make icing - eg. cream cheese. I was reluctant to make butter icings or icing packed with sugar. Being frugal and busy, I did not want to make a trip to the supermarket. So I racked my brains and finally I racked my books. Correction. I racked one book. Jude Blereau's book (yes, again!), where I got the recipe for the cake. And so matching the recipes with the ingredients I have at hand, I made a berry coulis. One that contains chunks of strawberries and blueberries. And I experimented. Coconut cream plus cornstarch, as the gelling agent. Vanilla and golden syrup to elevate the sensory properties. Apply heat. Stir. Stir. Stir. And what have we got? A split mixture. Brilliant. 

But actually, it was brilliant. It was delicious. The icing. Smooth, velvety, sweet, deep flavours that penetrate that gentle spot of your heart. That creaminess. Unbeatable. The texture of it, despite being split was incredibly smooth. I knew the reason why it split. The heat was too high and the coconut oil melted. Refrigeration should amend things. And so off I went again, tinkering. 

Filling the cake had an advantage. It was an excuse to cut open the cake and have a taste of it. Thank goodness the inside of the cake stayed surprisingly moist! I suppose this was what you get when you use golden syrup instead of regular sugar. And almond meal and coconut milk and olive oil. These wonderful goodies worked their wonder. So coconut filling slathered on and berry coulis layered on. Second half of cake capped on and more berry coulis poured on. To contrast the moist texture and to complement the filling of the cake, I toasted some desiccated coconut and sprinkled them liberally on the cake. Compared to what the cake started out looking like, it was quite a transformation. 

So, despite the stormy encounters, my mother loved the cake. She's been raving about it and asking me to make it again since. I too love it. In fact, it is now one of my, if not my favourite cakes. The flavours of the ingredients really packed a punch. The wholesomeness of the cake - the wholewheat flour and almond flour, the lack of refined sugar, the beautiful oil, really do make the cake shine in such a humble way. Oh what more, this cake really is a guilt-free pleasure. It's nourishing. It kisses your soul as well as your body. I'd happily make this cake again, though with minor adjustments!


Coconut berry cake

Recipe adapted from Wholesome Baking | Jude Blereau 
Serves 8-10

195g unbleached wholewheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
50g almond meal
1/2 tsp salt
150g Golden syrup
80ml olive oil or macadamia or almond oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
50g pecans/almonds/walnut (optional)

Preheat oven to 180C. Line an 8 inch cake tin. Sift together the dry ingredients and stir to mix well. In a separate bowl, stir together the wet ingredients until well incorporated. Fold the dry and wet ingredients together until just combined. Transfer into cake tin. If you want the extra crunch, you top the cake batter with nuts. Make sure that your oven IS NOT set to grill. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden and skewer inserted to the middle comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and let it cool completely on wire rack before undressing it from the tin. Set aside.

Coconut filling
120ml coconut cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp Golden syrup
1 tbsp blended raw sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch

Whip the coconut cream using an electric mixer until nice and creamy. Add in the vanilla, golden syrup and raw sugar and continue mixing until well combined. Transfer the mixture into a saucepan and add in the cornstarch. Turn on the element to medium heat and stir continuously until the cornstarch is cooked. The mixture will turn slightly transparent. It will also boil, observed as pockets of mixture lifting gently off the pan. DO NOT over cook, as the mixture will split when the coconut oil melts. The whole process should only take about 1 minute. However, panic not if your mixture does split. It is still usable. Simply cool the cake in the refrigerator after spreading the filling on.

Berry coulis
1 handful of frozen berries
1 tbsp blended raw sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Generous splash of champagne/juice

On medium heat stir together the ingredients. You can determine the consistency you want of the mixture. Once the berries have disintegrated and the mixture has thickened and concentrated, turn off the heat and leave to cool. 

Desiccated coconut, slightly toasted

Patiently slice the cake in half. To ensure an even slicing, get down to the cake's level so your line of vision is horizontal to the cake. I find it easier to turn the cake as I slice.
Spread the coconut filling on the bottom half of the cake. Top the coconut filling with half of the berry mixture. Cap on the top half of the cake. Spread on remaining berry coulis. Top with toasted coconut.
Store the cake in the refrigerator. Remove it from the fridge half an hour before serving.