Friday, December 20, 2013

Gingerbread loaf (copycat Starbucks gingerbread loaf)



I find myself in a seasonal quandary the last quarter of the year. Don't we know that Starbucks sells three months of Christmas in steamed cups, all sweet syruped, candycane drenched, salted, foamed, chocolate sprinkled and flecked? Which is absolutely not what I walk through their doors for. My obsession lies behind the glass windows, love I've found in those double rows of sugary displays, with special regard to the topleft corner of neatly stacked treats. The waitallyearlong rings its bell and I cue in for a slab of light copper bread, iced with white and ornamented with golden bits. Yes, Starbucks iced gingerbread lies in wait for me to score off its remaining four slices. I can do without the latte.

I'm not clear if it's only a matter of flavor that catches me, I believe it maybe more so. Perhaps the effects of a cleverly scented (and well marketed) season? You understand how then the peppermint/cinnamon/smellsliketheholidays dial is tuned to its peak in the last three months of the year and your olfactory, in timely fashion, responds tremendously well to that sugarspice window of time. With my SAD (seasonal affective disorder) in full swing, the same condition that demands boxes of glitter-gold ornaments, came a new revelation that those few squares of SB's gingerbread loaf will never and not be enough. So, the idea to googlesearch began, following a viewing of several URLs that held the possibility of impressive imposter creations.

It didn't take much time, really and I stumbled upon it right here. With a smidge of adjustment,  and not demanding a great chunk of time, the recipe created itself, right before my eyes, into this beautiful block of spiced bread. The need to make a second came right after I "tested" my way through the first.

Of course this will offset your  cookies and candy curriculum a bit, no worries though, since it nods to a well understood and tradition oriented coalition of spicecake/cream cheese. And when you get to baking a loaf so intermingled with great notes and quality elements, you create a masterpiece a cut above the original (deemed sacrilege). Moreover, while the world is trying to make sense of ninja gingerfolk, you effortlessly conquer a stupendously delicious and likeminded bread.

My word of caution in this; all Starbucks(!) copycat(!) recipes are not equal, adding elements that may not be needed and eliminating ones that are vital to the cause of an exceptional loaf. The only component that most of these agreed on was the need for natural applesauce (read:make your own) which renders that customised paler than molasses hue and does much in lending to GBloaf's sturdysoft structure. This is intense yet delicate, heated but not aggressive, ending any quest for  outstanding copycat of the year .

As such, sweetened cream cheese amplifies just enough the not so overly sweet cinnamon/ clove/ ginger ensemble. The frosting makes a wee bit more than an actual loaf's spread though I'm not bothered in the least as to what its destiny holds. Lastly is the accessorizing, a top adorned with scatters of sugared bits makes for an utterly gorgeous feast for the eyes.

Will yourself to hide this in the depths of your refrigerator for next day purposes, (or double the batch to compare and contrast). The undertones of spice progressively shine brighter, granding up the show several notches. 

So we reach the end of today's segue, where visions of gingerbread loaves demand out of your heads and into the hollows of your homeovens. And in that there exists much comfort and joy. Now, if you'll excuse me,  I'll go grab that coffee.

For the loaf~
(Adapted from A Cup of Mascarpone)
Ingredients:
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp baking soda 
  • 1 cup natural applesauce *

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour a 9"x5" bread pan. You can also divide and conquer by using smaller loaf pans/ bakeware; just place them on a large baking tray, as I did.  
  • In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, orange zest and salt.  Set aside.
  • In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. 
  • Stir in vanilla extract. Mix in egg.
  • Combine baking soda into the applesauce. Stir into creamed butter mixture.
  • Add the flour mixture into this and beat until smooth.
  • Spread the batter into prepared loaf pan(s).
  • Bake 40 to 50 minutes, rotating pan halfway during baking, until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean.  If baking smaller loaves, check at 30 - 35 minutes.
 You'd be bereft of a grand experience if you forgot to smell the air 30 minutes into bake time. The loaf's insane aroma is almost as good as its velvety crumb. 


For the frosting~
Ingredients:
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • ½ tsp orange zest (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 2 ½ cups confectioner's sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp of chopped candied orange peel or crystallized ginger for garnish

Directions:
  • Beat the cream cheese until fluffy.  Add zest and vanilla. Slowly beat in confectioner's sugar and continue on medium speed, until light and fluffy
  • Once the cake has cooled, spread the frosting over the top of the loaf/loaves (you might have some extra which I'll leave you to decide the fate of) 
  • Sprinkle frosting with a few pieces of chopped candied orange peel or ginger.
  • Frosting sets well once chilled. Cover the loaf in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for upto 3 days (bets if you get it past day one). 

* Recipe for applesauce~

  • 5 medium apples  peeled, cored, and quartered (I use Fuji or even red delicious)
  • 3/4 c water
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tbsp butter
In a saucepan, combine apples, water, sugar and cinnamon stick. Bring to boil on high heat. Lower to medium and cover for 20-25 minutes until apples are soft and cooked through. Take out cinnamon. Blend with room temperature butter in a blender or with immersion blender.
If you're like me and can't wait, know that it crumbs up a great deal straight from oven. Practice patience and let it do its thing in the fridge for an hour or two. You'll have a firm, rested loaf. 
 I know what would go best with this...a cup of chai. Don't you think? 

Why not give the plumcake a try? You won't be disappointed.
******
"Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually,
“Let God be magnified!” Psalm 70:4(KJV)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Green rice pulao with mint, cilantro and peas

You may consider me a tad bit weird when it comes to mind confessionals, but I have to tell you, I believe the Internet talks to me on a regular basis. Sometimes its more than once a day, repetitive reminders from my superbright screen. It boldly interrupts any productive, read:all, thoughts I have, setting offkey my routine and schedule, while  gladly straightloading customised ideas and plans for my day. It turns extremely vocal during this time of year, pointing out the need for 100 new cookie recipes, in an all favorite(!) cookie publication. Baking trays that have seen better days, got chumped over for the ones on my Amazon wishlist, with air venting and all, and should be at my door, tomorrow, right? Of course, I'd be saving myself a ton of money and trips to Michael's if I just weborder the massive supply of nonpareils (does it make a difference that they're neon?) now invading every nook of my kitchen floor. Imagine the creepy realization that your sidebar has a mind of its own, periodically suggesting the magnetic measuring spoons and itsasteal parchment replacing silicone liners. You see where this is going?
Even still, I wasn't going to be bullied into blatant consumerism (*ahem, cough, cough**) . That's when the Grinch put it into perspective. In all his antiheroness, he said it right... "Christmas doesn't come from a store (screen ones included), Christmas, perhaps means...a little bit more?"And yes though the meaning and the gift will never leave the very beings of my soul, even I require common thought intervention, away from the routineness of flour and baking soda.
And so it came to be, my revelation, maybe unconventional, this consideration of sharing colored rice that may put aside your baker's rhythm and steers the head clear lugging into its parallel a great grains frame of mind.
So people, let's talk about this, because that's all I want to do today. It's the rarelyconsidered main that can help you in your days leading upto and after Christmas menu planning. Perhaps it might stage its way into earning centerplace, where pegs of grinchcoloreed rice become noteworthy and trump mighty protein on any night's dinner prospect .

Empathize with me here. I'm a little overobsessive over rice, owing to a cerealandgrains genetic input, a salute to those worldparts where I'm from, places where its unimaginable to meal-do without it. And though there will always be a louder, more universal rant for big slabs of meat and servings of fish, my experience knows a heaping plate of hot rice can achieve greatness with some coercing, and can scream as much good cheer as a decked out pot roast. Do I hear any calls of agreement on that? Please?

This onepan dish is a result of a tremendous mishmash of my imagination. I could write a thesis on the many ways to flavor rice. And its a shame I haven't shared one with you here, except in the form of these stuffed sweetened spheres,  ground and battered for a breakfast, even taking the beaten form of an addictive snack. But trust me on this, I will dig through and present some gems from my many accidental imaginative kitchen discoveries in days to come.

For the matter at hand, today's rice story relies on a simple five ingredient merger: garlic, ginger, cilantro, mint, lemon juice, which become the foundation of a chunky dream sauce for each  kernel to hinge into, bite by bite. Thus, oryza sativa is brought to its higher calling, dazzling emerald beauty on a plate, surging with flavor and reaching its destiny of a dream-come-true in cereal preparation.

I say you should. Share some love. Your friends will consider it divine providence to be on your guest list with green rice on the menu. Not to stop there, because it will totally fit that inapinch dinner bill, you know, where you can't miss Linus narrating the Christmas story, so mesmerising that you unresistingly reach for recurrent helpings. 

Ingredients: 
  • 3-4 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1" piece ginger, chopped
  • 2-3 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 4-5 large sprigs cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 4 mint stems, with leaves, chopped
  • 3-4 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 2 cups Basmati rice - rinsed 2-3 times
  • 3 ¾ cups hot water
  • 2 tsp salt or enough for flavor
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
Directions:
  • In a food processor or blender, pulse  garlic, ginger, lemon juice, cilantro and mint till blended with the consistency of thick paste, not too drippy.
  • In a deep set saucepan or dutch oven(large enough to cook rice), heat oil over medium heat. If using, add bay leaf.
  • If needed, reduce flame to medium-low and stir in blended green paste. Saute until ingredients are cooked through, about 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to burn.
  • Mix in cleaned, drained rice. Stir in with the ingredients until well coated.
  • Take heat to high. Add hot water and salt. Stir.
  • Bring rice to boil. Reduce flame to medium- low and keep rice covered. Simmer for 2 minutes.
  • Open lid and add the peas. Turn off heat. Cover tightly and allow the frozen peas too thaw and plump and rice to cook through (all water absorbed) with the remaining heat of the pan, about 10-12 minutes.
  • Fluff with fork before serving.
* You could swap 1 tbsp ghee or butter for the oil.
* What is pulao? Pulao, also known as pilaf refers to a steamed rice dish. It may include meats, seafood and/or a variety of vegetables. Its known for its fragrant aroma, due in part to the spices/herb ingredients and rice used.
To side this with plain yogurt would be great. To serve alongside masala fried chicken takes it to the phenomenal and beyond realm.

So pinterest just figured out how I should create some rustic love for our trees, at the same time covering lots of inbetween branch space.  Good times indeed, especially getting my midteen and almost twodigiter interested in putting together gnomes and bells. Hurrah, hurrah!

Your oven need not feel any neglect, since I have some Christmas appropriate cookies in the archives. Try the ultimate oatmeal cookies, sandwich cookies, or piped shortbread and snowcaps. Nomnomnom.
******
 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. " 
Micah 5:2