Monday, September 29, 2014

Eggless Applesauce Loaf

We are a month into the new school year and so far we are doing well in the lunch and snack department. Admittedly, we rotate quite a few of the main 'entree' potion of the meal and I change up the sides quite a bit. That's one of the reasons I haven't started posting my Week in Bentos section. I am planning on incorporating a new set of lunch main dishes, so hopefully I will be able to restart that section again.
Every weekend, I try to bake at least two different types of muffins or quick breads so that I can use them liberally in the kids' lunch and snack boxes. LG8 has a really late lunch time this year and needs a hearty snack to tide him over till then. We cant afford to have hungry stomachs interfere with learning minds :). Rather than just sliced apples or pretzels, I try including something slightly more filling. A baked snack bar, or a couple of mini muffins, sandwiches too. Flavorful, healthy quick breads made with multi grain flour and studded with dried fruits lend themselves to interesting sandwiches.


I was browsing around for recipes when I came across this one at Williams Sonoma. It looked very adaptable and pretty easy to assemble quickly. It would probably have been healthier to make my own applesauce, but store bought organic applesauce, with no added sugar was a good substitute!

1 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 C amaranth flour
1/4 C stoneground corn meal
1/4 C spelt flour
1 C walnuts, coarsely chopped, or 1 cup dark or golden raisins (I used raisins)
2/3 C sugar (I used a mix of regular sugar and coconut palm sugar)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice
1/3 C neutral tasting oil (you could also use coconut oil for a nice change)
1/4 C sour cream or yogurt
1 heaping cup applesauce 
1 tsp corn starch or arrowroot powder


1. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease a standard 9 X 5 loaf pan liberally with softened butter or oil.
2. In a bowl, stir together the dry ingredients - flours, nuts or dried fruits, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices and the arrowroot or corn starch. Whisk thoroughly.
3. In another bowl, whisk the oil, sour cream and apple sauce to get a smooth homogeneous mixture.
4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until it is evenly moistened. Mix with a light hand so that the bread doesn't end up as a dense block.
4. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 55 minutes. Keep checking for doneness after 50 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven when an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
6. Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes and then remove to a wire rack until it cools completely.
7. If possible, do not slice into the bread until it has completely cooled down. It makes such a big difference to the texture and the crumb of the bread!
8. Slice evenly with a serrated knife and serve with butter, jam, peanut butter or even cream cheese for a yummy snack!

1. The original recipe called for 2 C of all purpose flour. I replaced half of it with various other flours that I had on hand. Use whatever you have available.
2. The original recipe also called for 1 egg that I replaced with sour cream. You could use yogurt, commercial egg replacers or any other substitute of choice.
3. I sprinkled the top of the bread with some rolled oats before baking for visual appeal!
4. The apple loaf turned out pretty tasty. I sent this in snack boxes, sandwiched with some cream cheese and jelly. It tastes delicious even plain with some soft butter.
5. You could also make mini or regular sized muffins with the same batter. Mini muffins take around 15 - 17 minutes and regular sized muffins need around 22 -24 minutes. If you use smaller loaf pans, adjust the time accordingly.
6. You could add other add-ins such as chopped apples, mini chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, etc. for a variation on the same bread.

Do give it a try!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Danish Pastry - Eggless Baking Challenge

Visit any bakery or avail your self of any continental breakfast in a hotel / motel and you will definitely have either seen or eaten a danish pastry. Flaky layers of  dough with sweet fillings like jam or savory ones like cheese, these pastries are rich, indulgent and are definitely on my "have once in a blue moon" list. When I saw that the next thing that the Baking Eggless group was going to attempt, was Danish pastry, I was apprehensive to say the least. I had seen cooking shows where the method of making the dough had been demonstrated and "easy" had most certainly not been the key word. But what's the fun in being a part of a challenge group, if one doesn't attempt any challenges? Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things definitely expands your knowledge and your confidence. So attempt I did.
As usual, I left things until the end of the month. Given that we also had a major Hindu festival to celebrate at around the same time, it wasn't until the first weekend in September that I was finally able to make the dough and bake off the pastries the next day.

Recipe source : Joe Pastry

For Pastry Dough:
2/3 c milk (I used whole milk)
2 Tbsp sugar
11/2 tsp instant yeast
2 C unbleached all purpose flour + more as required
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C yogurt (replaces 1 egg)

For the butter slab:
8 ounces of unsalted butter
3 Tbsp flour

1.I followed a slightly different order of making the dough. The original recipe had us making the dough first and then refrigerating it. I made the butter slab first and refrigerated that. I followed a youtube video that made the dough this way.
2.I brought the butter sticks to room temperature and then creamed it along with the flour until everything was well incorporated.
3. Using a butter knife, spread the butter - flour mixture into a roughly square shape on a parchment paper. Scrape off all the butter from the bowl onto the paper. You dont want to waste any butter after all!
4. Cover the butter square with another parchment paper, smooth it with your hands and then place it onto a flat cookie sheet and refrigerate for a few hours or even overnight.
5. For the dough: Warm the milk slightly. Add all the ingredients to the same bowl and knead lightly until a smooth and slightly sticky dough is formed. Add about 1 3/4 C of the flour first and then if needed, add by the tablespoon to make a dough that is easily kneaded. This dough doesnt require as long or as vigorous kneading as a bread dough. Once the dough came together, I kneaded lightly for about 3 minutes.
6. Place the dough back in the bowl. Cover it with a clean tea towel and place it in a warm area for the dough to rise.(about 2 hours)
7. After about 90 minutes, remove the butter slab from the refrigerator.
8. Now begins the fun part of laminating the dough!
9. Roll out the dough, using extra flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and the counter, into a shape that is slightly larger then the butter slab. It should be big enough to just cover the butter slab from all sides.
10. Once the dough is rolled out, peel the butter slab from the parchment paper and place it in the middle of the dough. Bring up the sides of the dough to cover the butter and encase it from all sides.
11. Keeping the seam side down, roll the dough gently but quickly into a rectangular shape.
12. Brush any residual flour that might be on the dough and then fold the dough like an envelope. The original site has very detailed pictures and referring to it will be very useful.
13. At this time, the butter in my dough started melting. It is the middle of summer here in North Dallas and temperatures are quite high. Not a very good time to be making laminated dough for the very first time, but still. So I quickly transferred the folded dough onto the cookie sheet and chilled it for 25 minutes.
14. Repeat the process two more times, rolling into a rectangular shape, folding into an envelope and then refrigerating for about 20 minutes.
15. Once the final folding was done, wrap the dough in plastic wrap, plunk it down on the baking sheet and send it back to the refrigerator. You can chill it overnight or you can start baking after about 3 hours.
16. When you are ready to bake the pastries, take the dough out from the fridge.
17. Using enough flour, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch. The exact dimensions don't matter. Try to get it as thin as you can get it. The butter might start melting and oozing out again. You can either patch up using flour or cooling it again.
18. Then proceed to cut and shape the dough according to whichever style you have chosen.
Here are a few options to make with danish pastry dough. 
I made the pinwheels. Cut the dough into rough square shapes. With a pair of kitchen scissors, cut from the 4 corners stopping just before the center. Take the right edge of each of the resulting triangles and secure it at the center to form a pinwheel shape. Form a depression in the center and then spoon in some jam into the center.
19. Once all the pastries are shaped, place them on a parchment paper on a cookie sheet, cover with the previously used parchment paper and let rise for about 45 minutes.
20. Preheat the oven to 375 deg. Once the dough is risen and the over preheated, bake the pastries for about 15 - 20 minutes, until they are puffed and golden brown.
21. Cool for a little while before enjoying the rich and flaky pastries.

1. Like I mentioned previously, the heat made it slightly difficult for me to roll out the pastry as thinly as I would have liked. Though the pastries were flaky and crispy, they were not as delicate as I would have liked. They were slightly bigger and thicker.
2. The quality of the butter matters because you can taste a lot of the butter in the layers. So use a good quality butter.
3. A lot of patience is required to make the dough and to roll it out. So give your self enough time for the preparation.
4. We all liked the pastries, but they are too full of fat and calories to be had frequently, much less made on a frequent basis.