Monday, November 30, 2015

New Zealand Baking: Maori Bread

"They would go into Granny's kitchen where the fire was always going and where the table would be set with best cups, and glass dishes of butter and jam. The big new round of bread would be on the board wrapped in a cloth." - Potika by Patricia Grace

Bread is central to the Maori meal, and in all the New Zealand literature I've read in New Zealand November, it seems to be present at times of turmoil, stress, and sorrow. No surprise since bread seems to have that function no matter the culture!

Traditional Maori bread is baked in the pot it rises in, but I had to adjust a little bit. I let the dough raise in a large bowl and baked it in a springform pan to maintain the high sides it would have with the pot. I used the recipe from Sam Choy's Polynesian Kitchen, a cookbook from which I hope to try a few more recipes. The recipe is pretty basic and I imagine every Maori cook has their own secrets and tweaks. Some of the recipes I came across use potato either as part of the flour or as a starter, while this just uses standard yeast. Many New Zealand children eat their bread (Maori or not) with golden syrup, and I'm sure that would be great here too. I made the honey-citrus butter mentioned. To me, this bread is best toasted.

Maori Bread

1 tbsp yeast
11/2 cups warm water
1 cup sugar
4 cups flour
honey-citrus butter

In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast, warm water, and sugar. Add flour, all 4 cups at once. Mix, then knead dough until elastic.

Grease a deep pot. Place dough in pot. Cover with a lid, and let rise for 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size. 

Preheat oven to 350 F.

After dough has risen sufficiently, place in oven (with lid on, I used foil) and bake for 45 minutes.

Open oven, remove lid (or foil), and let bread brown for the last 15 minutes. Remove bread from oven and take out of the pan.

Wrap loaf in dampened cheesecloth to keep the crust moist. Serve hot with honey-citrus butter.

Honey-Citrus Butter

Jenny's note: I didn't eat it as pictured. It is very strongly flavored and is best only lightly spread on the warm or toasted bread.

1 cup fresh orange juice
4 tbsp honey
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp minced orange rind
salt to taste

In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the orange juice to a boil. Reduce to the consistency of honey. Set aside to cool.

In a food processor, blend the orange syrup, honey, butter, orange rind, and salt until smooth, Place a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper on a work surface. Pour the butter onto a long side and form into a roll or log about 1 inch in diameter, leaving a 1-inch border of paper. Roll the butter in the paper, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Scones with Browned Butter Vanilla Glaze

My co-workers are frequent tasters of my baked goods, but this past week I had an experience that surprised me. I had been wanting to try making pumpkin scones with cinnamon chips; I love pumpkin and chocolate together but I had this idea that cinnamon would be even better. Since my dogs get me up super early, I always have a few hours before the library opens, so Friday morning I made these scones. I brought them to the meeting my group has every Friday at 9:30, and then left the rest in the library break room. By 11:15, they were completely gone. One person rolled her eyes back in her head as I walked by her desk, and another said she doubted I could ever top this recipe. In fact she had "been good" and only taken part of one, and when she went back for another taste there was only a partial one left.

So I had to share it with you without waiting until my usual Monday posting date, in case you were going to have house guests for Thanksgiving and you wanted an idea of a simple but stunning breakfast item. I used a recipe from Joy the Baker that she adapted from Alice's Tea Cup in Manhattan (the only cookbook that has ever made me cry), but instead of pecans I used cinnamon chips. And holy goodness, the browned butter glaze really does take it over the top, balancing the sweetness a little bit. This recipe makes a lot, double the amount I usually make when I make scones. But I was feeding a crowd. If you aren't, you might want to cut it in half.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Scones with Browned Butter Vanilla Glaze

makes about 16 scones

3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup, 6 ounces) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1 cup buttermilk, cold
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1-1 1/2 cups cinnamon chips

For the Glaze:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons whole milk

Place rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and all of the spices.  Add the cold butter to the dry ingredients and toss to coat.  Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, break the butter down into the dry ingredients.  Work quickly so that the butter remains cold. Some of the butter will be the size of oat flakes, others will be the size of small peas. Mix the cinnamon chips to the crumbles.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, pumpkin puree, and vanilla extract.

Add the wet ingredients, all at once to the dry ingredients.  Stir together until almost thoroughly combined.  Stir until no dry flour bits remain.

Divide dough into two and shape each half into a flat circle, which you can cut into 8 triangular scones. Spread out around cookie sheet.  Leave about 2-inches of space between each scone (I ended up wishing I had used two sheets.)

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until browned slightly with dry tops.  You can insert a toothpick into the center of a scone to test for doneness.

Allow to cool completely before glazing. (I glazed as soon as the glaze was done.)

To make the glaze, in a small saucepan melt butter over medium-low heat.  The butter will begin to crackle and pop.  After the crackling subsides a bit, the butter will begin to brown.  Continue to cook until the butter smells nutty and the butter solids begin to brown.  Immediately remove from the heat and transfer to a small bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, browned butter, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of milk.  Whisk together and add more milk as necessary until your desired consistency is reached.
Generously drizzle scones with glaze.  These scones are best served within 2 days of of baking. As if they could last that long.

Gingerbread Apple Upside Down Cake

I was poking around for recipes to make for an after-work fall gathering, and still had a few Mutsu apples left to use. I came across the Gingerbread Apple Upside Down Cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which I had pinned a few years back but never tried. It looked perfect, like a snacking cake, didn't need to feed a lot, and pretty simple to put together.  After reading her notes on it, I decided to use all molasses instead of half molasses and half honey. My conclusion: this is okay. I didn't think the upside down sugar mixture was successful; if I made this again I'd make an actual caramel in a saucepan or maybe make this in a skillet. I also think that Deb (from Smitten Kitchen) has a more delicious gingerbread recipe that I've made for several Christmases, one that I'm not sure can be beat - the Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread. I wonder if I could pour a half recipe of that batter over the apples and use the concept of this recipe! Something to file away for next time! I still wanted to post this recipe, because it is decent, I just felt like I would make a few changes to make it even more delicious the next time.

Gingerbread Apple Upside-Down Cake
Adapted by Deb at Smitten Kitchen from Karen Bates at the Philo Apple Farm via the New York Times
Serves 12

4 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing pan
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
4 apples (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch wedges*

1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup dark molasses
1/3 cup honey
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Very softly whipped cream

Make the topping: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 10-inch cake pan. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, four minutes, then swirl in salt. Remove from heat and pour into the bottom of your cake pan. Make circles of overlapping apple slices on top of the caramel. Chop any remaining slices and place them in the gaps.

Make the batter: Using a mixer, blend 1/2 cup butter and the sugar on medium-low speed. Increase the speed to high and cream until light and fluffy.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, molasses, honey and buttermilk. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon. Alternate mixing the flour and molasses mixtures into the butter mixture, adding the next once the last has been incorporated.

Pour the batter into the pan. Bake at least 45 to 50 minutes or until a wooden tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out onto a platter (one that will catch spills.)

Serve warm or cool with very softly whipped cream.

*I used 2.5 Mutsu apples since they are rather large, and that was too much!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Anzac Biscuits

This recipe has some interesting ties to several projects of mine. First of all, I made these cookies (biscuits) for my self-declared New Zealand November. ANZAC = Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and these are cookies that traveled well and lasted, a standard recipe for the wives and daughters back home to send to their soldiers on the front during World War I. Second of all, the primary battle commemorated by Anzac Day was the battle for Constantinople, a turning point in Turkish military history as well, and a significant moment leading to their own independence. (Cross-reference 2013, where I did a lot of Turkish baking!)

I am not sure what I expected, but I thought these would be more historical than tasty. I was wrong! The golden syrup (which I just happened to have in the pantry; it's a key ingredient in sticky toffee pudding and treacle tart) adds a delicious dark caramel flavor. The cookies can be enjoyed as is, where they are somehow both crunchy and chewy, or my favorite way - dipped in milk.

Anzac Biscuits

(recipes comes from Martha Stewart, but retains the original formula of 2+2+2+2. If you use a recipe that calls for eggs, corn syrup, or nuts, that is not an Anzac biscuit!)


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Lyle's Golden Syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup boiling water


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, and coconut. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter with syrup. Dissolve baking soda in boiling water, and add to butter mixture. Stir to combine. (Be careful; if the butter is hot, it will bubble up considerably.)
  3. Add butter mixture to dry ingredients, and stir to combine. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice-cream scoop, drop onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart (be sure to pack the scoop tightly so the mixture doesn't crumble). Flatten cookies slightly with the heel of your hand.
  4. Bake until golden brown and firm but not hard, about 15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Rock Cakes

I declared November to be New Zealand November. If you are interested in what I'm reading, you can check out my initial post as well as my first week update.

One of the first books I read was the first volume of an autobiography by Lauris Dorothy Edmond - Hot October. Edmond is a well-loved New Zealand poet. You can read more about her life in my book review, but the book was also useful as an insight into food of the 1930s and 1940s. The following passage comes from her childhood.
"Greenmeadows was a village, and we took part in local activities and performances without question. Our mother was a faithful member of the Women's Institute, intermittently secretary or president of the Gardening Circle and always president of the Drama Circle. They wrote away to Samuel French and Co for hired sets of plays, English drawing-room comedies mostly, and either rehearsed or performed them in the Taradale Town Hall or did readings in one another's sitting rooms.  When it was our turn there was much preparation, the making of peanut brownies, rock cakes, Sydney Special (a concoction of rolled oats, coconut, sugar, butter, also known as Doormat) and orange cake."
Doormat! Well I did find a recipe for Sydney Special but that will be a post for another day. I decided to make rock cakes one morning when I had a few hours before work. Rock cakes are very similar to scones but include eggs, which a traditional scone would not do. You can find them all over the British empire so while I found some New Zealand recipes, I ended up making a version of an Caribbean one. I liked the use of sultanas and coconut in this one, which was pretty standard for the recipes I found from NZ too. Despite its British empire, NZ is located in a place with easy access to coconut! Even in Edmond's childhood, that would not have been a surprising ingredient.

Coconut and Sultana Rock Cakes
(adapted from recipe for Coconut Rock Buns by Immaculate Bites, an Afro-Caribbean cooking blog, which she adapted from Trini Gourmet.)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1-2 teaspoon grated orange (I didn't have this so added a bit of cinnamon)
  • ½ cup butter diced (I forgot this and added buttermilk to the eggs)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ cup raisins (I used golden since that is what I had on hand)
  • ½ cup coconut flakes (I used the larger unsweetened variety but anything would work!)
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk or sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, grated orange, nutmeg and salt.
  3. Work in the butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly; it's OK for some larger chunks of butter to remain unincorporated. Stir in the raisins and coconut flakes
  4. Whisk together eggs and vanilla
  5. Gently fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together.
  6. For true rock cakes, drop portions of batter on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, making 8-10. The crags and uneven bits will look more like rocks.
  7.  Bake at 400° for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. (This step of the recipe mystifies me. Is it wrong? Do we actually preheat to 400? I am not sure what I did at the end but 425 isn't too hot for this kind of baked good.)
  8. Remove, let  cool and serve.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Pumpkin Cobbler

Tired of pumpkin pie? Pumpkin cobbler is a nice change from the ordinary and comes together fast. Thanks to my friend Kasia (from Kasia's Kitchen) for pointing me in the direction of this recipe. She says it is now her go-to fall dessert to bring to parties. It isn't as custardy as pumpkin pie, because the pumpkin mixture has flour in it. Personally, I preferred it because it was easier to tell when it was done. I think it is best served warm but can be baked ahead and warmed up.

This version is an adaptation to best fit a 9x13 pan, but really it is just 1.5x the original recipe, so full credit goes to the original author at Taste and Tell.

Pumpkin Custard
  • 1 1/2 cans (22.5 oz) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour (exactly 1.5x a recipe would be 1/2 cup but I found it a bit too stiff)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp flour
  • 10.5 teaspoons sugar, divided
  • 1 1/4 tsp teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into bits
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Combine the pumpkin puree, evaporated milk and eggs in a bowl. Add in both sugars, the flour, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish.
  3. In another bowl, combine the flour, 7.5 teaspoons of the sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add in the butter, and with a pastry cutter or a fork, cut in the butter until it resembles crumbs. Stir in the buttermilk and stir just until the mixture comes together. (If the mixture is still dry and doesn’t come together, add in more buttermilk, 1 teaspoon at a time.) Do not over stir.
  4. Drop the topping mixture in dollops over the custard. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
  5. Bake until the topping is golden brown, 45-50 minutes.