DRIED CRANBERRY & WALNUT BREAD from Ottolenghi for BBD, with Roasted Bell Pepper Pasta

“Bread is the warmest, kindest of all words. Write it always with a capital letter, like your own name.”
…from a café sign

Yay…finally managed to bake bread. No mean task these days. We live in the so called millennium city, but have suffered unannounced power outages this winter from 4 hours to 6 hours daily, sometimes even more. It’s bad enough for a daily routine, but spells desperate times for the baker in me.
But bread I had to bake for Jamie who is hosting Zorra of Kochtopf’s Bread Baking Day #26. Bake something special for Jamie’s special BBD theme -“Baking Bread for a Birthday Party”! How could I go to her birthday empty handed? So began the search for a suitable bread!

Didn’t have to look far because my current obsession made me reach out for Ottolenghi… a book that is possibly the best & most used one that I own. The fact that Jamie also has the same book, adds to the connect. {Add Hilda & Meeta to this explosive package, & you have the Ottelenghi sistah’s!! YAY}.

My attention was held by the Sour Cherry & Walnut Stick. I just had to make this. The pictures in the book are moreish. Bread that called my name because it looked so artisanal. Fitted in with my ‘Ten in 10′ resolution too… as it had healthy flours in it! Of course we have very limited flour varieities available here, so I substituted a bit here & there. Was thrilled to see buckwheat flour in the ingredients. I had buckwheat!! Yippee…
The Ottolenghi bread is much darker in the picture cause they use country brown flour. I used a combination of all purpose, whole wheat and buckwheat flours. Didn’t have sour cherries so used dried cranberries instead. The bread was wonderful. I made it over a 2 day period. Did the first rise & kept it in the fridge overnight to get a quick start the next morning. Worked fine, though I think warmer weather will give me a lighter, more airier crumb & texture. Can’t wait to try it again!
It tasted like an artisanal bread, full of deep wonderful flavours, the sweetness of the cranberries coming out beautifully with the nutty walnut. Also tasted quite like the artisan bread Jamie & I had with our sweet potato soup at The Natural Kitchen in London. I knew she was going to love this bread…so here it is for her, with flowers!! Happy Birthday twin sistah!

Dried Cranberry & Walnut Stick
adapted from Sour Cherry & Walnut Stick, Ottolenghi – The Cookbook
160ml lukewarm water (not more than 30C; I used a little extra)
2 1/4 tsp tightly packed fresh yeast (or 1 1/2 tsp active dried)
1 tbsp olive oil
40ml orange juice (from about 1 large orange)
200gm plain flour
50gm whole wheat flour
65g buckwheat flour
1 tsp salt
50g dried cranberries (or sour cherries)
50 gms walnuts, roughly broken up into pieces
Oil to oil bowl

Method:

Put the yeast into the warm water & stand for 10 minutes, then add the orange juice, olive oil & salt. Stir to mix well.
Mix the flours together in a big bowl, and knead with yeast mixture for 8-10 minutes into a smooth and silky dough, adding a little more water if required. Knead in the cranberries & walnuts. Put into an oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap & leave in a warm place to double.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Trying not to beat too much risen air out, pull the edges so that they all met in the centre to form a puffed round cushion shape.Using a long object, divide the dough into 2 equal spheres.Press down a little & fold one half over he other. Crimp the edges with your fingers like you were making Cornish pastry. Now roll this on th floured surface to create a torpedo like baguette shape. Lay it gently on a floured tea towel, cover loosely with cling film, and leave to rise in a warm place for another 45 minutes.
Heat the oven to 220C, place a bowl of hot water on the base. Roll the bread off the tea towl onto the baking sheet gently so as not to lose air. Use a sharp serated knife to give it 3 diagonal slashes, 1cm deep.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, till the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. (I baked for about 30-35 minutes). Leave to cool on a wire rack.
♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥
This bread is off to  Susan @ Wild Yeast for Yeastspotting!

The Ottolenghi cookbook is a celebration of tastes, texture, flavours, complexity, simplicity… so much. The glossy colourful pictures have the food leaping out of the pages, the presentation droolworthy. It is comforting, rustic and tantalizing! A book I have an instant connect with. Just my kind of book. Never have I baked/cooked so much out of a single book! Thank you Hilda.

We just had the bread for lunch…with this flavourful roasted bell pepper sauce pasta from Muneeba’s blog An Edible Symphony. I connect to Muneeba, her taste, her blogging style and her food, like I do to Ottolenghi. I know that whenever I stop by, she’ll tempt me to make something. That was the case with these Apple & Brown Butter Tartlets, and so too with this pasta. She said it was the fastest pasta ever…how true. I made the sauce while the pasta was boiling, and LOVED it. I didn’t have pine nuts, so I used walnuts instead. Worked fine!
Also used some garlic greens which I currently tend to use in all my savoury dishes as I really love the flavour this imparts to food. Lunch came full circle with Ottolenghi’s chargrilled broccoli made for the nth time on Mr PABs request. Never has broccoli been so popular in our home. (I made 3 heads of broccoli, all disappeared… & he’s asked when I’m making it again. YES!!)

The kids loved the pasta to bits, nuts and all. The flavours really come out deep and strong thanks to the roasted bell peppers. The sauce would have been redder, but I had 2 red & 1 yellow bell pepper, which explains the orangish hue! The recipe is adapted from The Pioneer Woman’s recipe here. In Muneeba’s words, ” The Pioneer Woman, Ree, being a cowgirl who is also usually short on time and needs to take a break from her typical man-pleasing food, had the perfect recipe for me. A pasta dish that came together in almost no time flat.”

Pasta With Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
adapted from An Edible Symphony
based on Ree’s original recipe
Serves 2-4
Ingredients:
3 roasted bell peppers(charred on the stove, skins removed, then deseeded)
3 tbsp walnuts
2 tbsp olive oil
4-5 garlic greens with stems, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup cream
fresh Parmesan, shaved or grated
fresh parsley OR cilantro OR basil
1/2 lb penne pasta
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Lightly toast walnuts in a skillet and set aside.
Puree peppers with walnuts with a stick blender and set aside.
Cook pasta according to package instructions.
In a pot over medium heat, drizzle in the olive oil, and saute the garlic and garlic greens till soft. Pour in pepper puree and stir together. Add plenty of salt and pepper – for some reason this sauce needs it.
Pour in cream and stir over low heat to combine. Add the cooked pasta and stir again. Taste for additional seasoning if needed. Place pasta in a comfortingly large bowl and sprinkle your fresh herb of choice over the top, as well as lots of shaved Parmesan.
…Then smile as you dig in to this bright, cheerful and super-quick pasta… in true ‘edible symphony’ style!!

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥

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Apple, Cranberry & Praline Cake… and Ten in 10!!

“One that would have the fruit must climb the tree.”
Thomas Fuller

Here’s a fruity filled beginning to 2010, a year that’s already beginning to look good. The year that we just wrapped up was filled with goodness too, ever so satisfying. The high points being blogging with friends, Food Blogger Connect, Twitter and macarons! Who would have dreamt that life would change monumentally with a microapplication called Twitter?? I’ve made breakfast club pals, macaron pals, laundry club pals, dragon pals and even snail pals!

Food blogging led to fabulous new friends, and some I was actually able to meet at the Food Blogger Connect! We exchanged gifts there, BIG TIME, and so came the idea of this absolutely delicious dessert! This is one from the heart, and is thus sweeter. It tasted so good!!

I used the praline from Pamela and cranberries from Jamie, both fine foodies and fab friends from France. As a matter of coincidence, I had apples on hand and was browsing one of my favourite French food blogs, Bea‘s La Tartine Gourmand. I just had to make this comforting cake. Bea’s blog is heart warming, just like I love it … full of connections, memories, family, food and gorgeous pictures. If you need a dose of inspiration, do head straight here! Vive la France!!

Twittering with food bloggers offered things to make life even better this year. I am delighted to have joined up for a wonderful challenge Ten in 10: ten Weeks to Healthy in 2010, the brainchild of a wonderful blogger Lori @ Recipe Girl. What is this all about?

It’s about wanting to feel healthy. Everyone has a different vision of what being healthy means. Some want to lose weight, some feel that they’re already at a comfortable weight but they would like to make a commitment to exercise, some would like to eat healthier, etc. Everyone will have their own individual goals for this healthy challenge.
Read about it here, and you can join in too.

I have penned down a few goals that I hope to work towards…(easier than putting down New Year resolutions LOL!)

  • Eat healthy
  • Increase vegetables in meals
  • Decrease non-vegetarian options on the table to 2 days a week
  • Make more stuff at home vs store bought to decrease preservatives, & my carbon footprint
  • Stick to local & seasonal food
  • Use more fruit in the daily diet especially for the kids
  • Focus on fruit and natural sugars in dessert

I have learnt to look at food in new ways. Fruit have become a HUGE part of my baking life, and I aim to include vegetable in the roll call too. I am waiting for a recipe of brownies with sweet potato that my sister has promised to mail me. Broccoli has been won, and I have my sights set on cauliflower. I can say from recent experience, persistence pays with kids; I can see them battling their veggies less now!

I will attempt to explore and achieve my healthy goals over the next 10 weeks, and will hopefully carry them through the rest of the year too.

Apple,Cranberry and Praline Cake
Adapted minimally from this recipe from La Tartine Gourmand

Ingredients:
3 large apples
2 oz dried cranberries (soaked in hot water for 20 min)
3 eggs
7 Tbsp butter, melted (1/2 cup)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (or 1/2 tsp fleur de sel)
75gm plain flour
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp vanilla sugar (or light brown sugar)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup nut praline (optional)

Method:
Sift the flours with the baking powder and keep on the side.
Soak the cranberries in hot water for 20 min, then drain.
In the meantime, peel your apples, remove the core and slice them thinly.
Preheat your oven at 180C.
Break the eggs in a large bowl and beat them with the sugar and salt, until light.
Add the melted butter and the rest of dry ingredients. Mix well but not for too long, until everything is incorporated.
Add the apple slices and half the nut praline.
Butter a round 9.5″ mold and pour in the apple batter.
Top evenly with the cranberries and nut praline.
Cook in the oven for 30 to 35 min. Remove and let cool for a few min before unmolding on a large plate. Eat it lukewarm, it is even better.

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥
A little news that I just got that I am excited to share. I am one of the 50 bloggers & chefs whose recipes have been included in the free STRAWBERRY mobile app for iPhone and iPod touch.

FREE IPHONE STRAWBERRY RECIPE APP LAUNCHES
“STRAWBERRIES” iPhone App to View and Share 50 Strawberry Recipes
from Top Food Bloggers and Chefs
Watsonville, CA (January 13, 2009) – The California Strawberry Commission today announced the availability of the free “STRAWBERRIES” mobile app for iPhone and iPod Touch users featuring more than 50 mouth-watering strawberry recipes from some of the most popular food bloggers and chefs from around the web. Individually selected for that “wow” factor, these recipes will inspire families, foodies, cooks, the health conscious and strawberry lovers everywhere to get even more creative with strawberries.
iPhone and iPod touch users can now access different strawberry recipes complete with vivid food photography and step-by-step directions to create that special dish for those around you. The free app neatly categorizes recipes under Snacks & Appetizers, Breakfast, Cocktails, Main Courses, Salads and Sweets. Recipes range from traditional favorites, such as shortcakes and pies to more exotic dishes like strawberry dumplings, salsa and ceviche.
Individual recipes can be shared with friends, family and online networks by simply posting the recipe to Facebook or Twitter with the click of a button. Recipes can also be emailed to anyone for viewing or printing.
Availability
The Strawberries app for the iPhone and iPod touch is available immediately as a free download at the Apple iTunes Store. Click here to download: http://bit.ly/8LANJo

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