Curry Rolls


I’m always inspired by bread baskets I get at restaurants. More often than not, they serve a crusty artisan bread with butter or olive oil. However, there’s always the odd place that realizes that the complimentary bread basket is a great way to go above and beyond. I got an extremely outstanding bread basket at Public, and the one most memorable bread was their chipotle and cranberry roll. The bread flavors are apparently experimental and vary from day to day, so I’m glad that I was there that day. And that bun was what really inspired me. The bread was soft, sweet and fluffy, but had a hint of spice from the chipotle. And that’s what inspired my curry buns.


A basic sweet dinner roll recipe with curry powder, they turned out amazing. Extremely soft and fluffy and sweet, and also harbored a slight hint of curry. They taste delicious on its own, but might be interesting with fried Spam (mmmm fried Spam) or as a way to sop up stew sauces.


I used some egg wash to give it a glossy coat, but I didn’t have a pastry brush, so I did what I could with a fork. Alas, the plight of a college baker. Also, I kinda haphazardly shaped the balls. I’m pretty sure there’s a proper technique to it but I did whatever I felt like.

Curry Rolls
Makes 16
Adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1/2 cup warm milk
1/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons curry powder.
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast

Directions

1. Nuke water and milk in the microwave for 1 minute and 15 seconds and mix sugar in till dissolved. Add yeast to mixture and let yeast bloom.
2. In the yeast mixture, mix in the salt, curry powder butter and egg. Mix flour in half cup at a time. Knead dough for about 10 minutes or until the dough passes the windowpane test. If you can stretch a small amount of the dough until it becomes a translucent sheet (just about 1.5 inches wide is fine), then it’s ready.
3. Let it rise for about 60 minutes in a bowl covered loosely with a kitchen towel, until the dough doubles.
4. Punch it down, divided it into 16 balls and let it rise for another hour. (I realized it’s easiest to section the dough by using a pair of scissors.)
5. Bake for 12 minutes at 375 F.

Red Velvet Rum Balls


I was having one of those days where I was really jonesing to make something but I knew that I should be studying instead. In an attempt to compromise, I chose to make these red velvet rum balls: they don’t take a lot of care or attention, can be done in stages, and require such little thought that I could recite test material in my head while I shape the balls. And of course, nothing like the waft of rum to ease my tense nerves.


I happened to have a box of red velvet cake mix bought a long time ago, in the event of situations like these. Making the cake was easy enough, and mashing it up was kind of fun too. This recipe is no-bake too, so it’s probably kid/kitchen-noob friendly.

If you have never made rum balls before, you would probably freak out when you taste some of the rum-infused balls right after you add the rum. I definitely did. It tasted very strongly of rum, and I tried everything I could to make it less strong. Initially, I only used 1/2 the cake and 1/2 cup of rum, and after realizing that snacking on these rum balls could probably knock me out, I proceeded to add the next half the cake, 1/3 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of white chocolate chips. After lots of Googling, I realized that the rum balls mellow out if you let them sit, uncovered. The alcohol evaporates, and all you’re left is a subtle alcoholic flavor.


I coated the rum balls in dulce de leche, which I made out of milk that was past its expiry date. Note: homemade dulce de leche is a great way to use up milk especially if it’s starting to smell/taste a little bit off. The sugar/caramelization takes care of any rancidness and I’m sure the heat kills off any potential germs. I made some rum balls with a chocolate coating, some with a dulce de leche coating, and some with dulce de leche THEN chocolate. The dulce de leche coating was certainly quite messy to apply but it made the rum balls so much better. I realize that the dulce de leche coating sort of seeps into the rum ball, making it moister and sweeter.

Don’t you want to put the whole thing in your mouth and feel the textures dance on your tongue? Noms.

Red Velvet Rum Balls
Makes at least 50, I didn’t count

1 red velvet cake from mix, prepared (I used Duncan Hines and did the low-fat version; thought it was ok)
1/2 cup rum
1/3 cup white sugar
1 cup white chocolate chips
2 cups dulce de leche (I used Alton Brown’s recipe here, you probably could leave it out or sub with caramel coating from here)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Crumble cake with a fork. Add sugar and rum, mix well. Mix in white chocolate chips. Shape into little balls, approximately 1-inch in diameter. Coat in dulce de leche, and then stick it in the freezer for half an hour or whenever you feel like it. The dulce de leche; in my experience, doesn’t really freeze anyway. Melt the chocolate chips and coat the balls. Chill in the fridge.

Banana-Oat Walnut Bread

Despite this being called a dessert blog, I don’t make dessert all the time. I might want dessert all the time, but I simply don’t have enough calories allotted to eat everything I want. So, I improvise. I fulfill my desire to create by adding a chock-full of healthy ingredients into what could otherwise be dessert masquerading as healthy food. This, is actually good for you. Bananas, bran, oatmeal and walnuts. No better way to put your digestive system to work.

Of course, the downside to using no fat and less sugar is that you get something that tastes like health food. I probably tweaked the recipe a little too much, but I’m going to reproduce the original so you know what to do.

Banana-Oat Walnut Bread
Makes one 9×5 loaf
Adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup white sugar (I used 1/3 cup)
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/3 cup nonfat milk
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I omitted this)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 cup white whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup bran)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Spray a bread pan with non-stick cooking spray, and lightly dust with flour.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in bananas, applesauce, milk, oil and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir flour mixture into banana mixture, mixing just until blended. Fold in walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  4. Bake in preheated pan until golden and a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour. Turn bread out onto a wire rack and let cool.

Bagels


Bagels are one of the many specific things that I have cravings for. I have never actually had a bagel before I came to New York City. My first encounter with bagels were in the dining hall, where they mostly looked quite unappetizing. However, bagels have grown on me since then, and my favorite varieties include pumpernickel and poppy seed. (Did you know poppy seed is contraband in Singapore?) As with any baked item that I like to eat, I like trying to replicate them too. To be honest, this is probably the best picture of the bagels I took. The rest are not quite as pretty:

Craggy, and malformed by the cooling rack and my use of chopsticks to lift the bagels instead of a slatted spoon. Sigh. I thought I could do it Chinese-style like so:

This is Hum Jin Peng, or 咸煎饼. It’s like a donut with red bean filling or five spice flavoring.

But obviously that didn’t bode so well for the soft dough. This batch was actually my second attempt. In my first attempt, I used half whole wheat flour and my dough did not rise at all. I ended up with a slab of tough, unusable dough that I made into “flatbread” and spread some dulce de leche on, but it was otherwise the most unappetizing failure I’ve ever made.

Fortunately, despite the looks of this batch, they actually came out pretty well. They were chewy and had a nice crust, and definitely went very well with my smoked salmon. You might notice my lack of cream cheese, but I am generally averse to slathering fat — fat that I can see — onto my food, but I am perfectly happy with eating cake when I can’t see the stick of butter that went into the frosting.

Bagels
Makes 6 3-inch wide bagels
Adapted from Allrecipes

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
3/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon white sugar

Directions:
1. In large bowl, combine 3/4 cups flour and yeast. Mix water, tablespoons sugar and salt together, and add to the dry ingredients. Beat with a mixer for half a minute at a low speed, scraping the sides of the bowl clean. Beat at a higher speed for 3 minutes. Then, by hand, mix in enough flour to make a moderately stiff dough.
2. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (12-15 minutes). Cover, let rest for 15 minutes.
3. Cut into 6 portions, shape into smooth balls. Poke a hole in the center with your finger, and gently enlarge the hole while working the bagel into a uniform shape. Cover, let rise 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, start a gallon of water boiling. Put 1/2 tablespoon of sugar in it, mix it around a bit. Reduce to simmering.
5. When the bagels are ready, put 4 or 5 bagels into the water, and cook 7 minutes, turning once. Drain them. Place on a greased baking sheet, and bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven, eat hot or cold.

Zucchini Bread

Nothing makes me feel better about chowing down dessert when I know there’s two cups worth of zucchini in there. Not having a grater has really put a damper on my carrot cake-making ambitions, but I randomly decided that I am going to ignore the thought of mincing a vegetable by hand and go ahead anyway.

I tried a couple of techniques in order to cut up the zucchini as fine as possible with as little effort. I first tried cutting the zucchini into the thinnest medallions I could, then stacked them up and then chopped through them both vertically and horizontally. This didn’t always result in the smallest pieces, so I had to rock the knife back and forth to get it smaller. Next, I tried doing it like how I would mince an onion (slideshow from Serious Eats here). I’d say the latter method worked better; the pieces were more evenly sized for sure. Surprisingly, it didn’t take too long and it was even kind of relaxing.

I would personally reduce the sugar by maybe 1/3 to 1/2 cup because it tasted too one-note sweet to me. Perhaps that problem might be mitigated with the addition of nutmeg. Also, I didn’t have two loaf pans so I used a 9-inch round cake pan and baked for 60 minutes. My cake ended up a little dry though not burned so perhaps the bake time could be shortened by 10 minutes — though it could’ve been because I simply didn’t use very much fat in the recipe.

Zucchini Bread

Makes 1 9-inch round cake or two 8×5 loaves
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Zucchini Bread
Adapted from several sources

Yield: 2 loaves or approximately 24 muffins

3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries, raisins or chocolate chips or a combination thereof (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease one 9-inch round pan liberally. Alternatively, line 24 muffin cups with paper liners or grease two 8×5 loaf pans.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in oil, applesauce and sugar, then zucchini and vanilla.

Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt, as well as nuts, chocolate chips and/or dried fruit, if using.

Stir this into the egg mixture. Divide the batter into prepared pans.

Bake loaves for 60 minutes, plus or minus ten, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Muffins will bake far more quickly, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.