whole wheat molasses yogurt bread with fig and walnuts

whole wheat molasses yogurt bread with fig and walnuts | A Brown Table

It starts with a swirl. Dark brown circular lines that slowly give way to bright golden yellow rings of pure sweetness. A part of me was tempted to blend it in a little more while the other part of my mind knew this would only be a fleeting moment. It eventually would morph into a deep toffee like color as the molasses mixes into the white yogurt. Molasses are delicious and if you ever get a chance to watch them being made, they can even become fascinating. Mix this sweetened yogurt with figs, walnuts and some flour, you'll end up with a loaf of bread that's full of rich flavor and color. This is one delicious soda bread recipe that Marian Bull shared in Food52’s latest cookbook on Baking!

And if you feel like experimenting a little, fold in some freshly cracked black pepper and the figs and walnuts will take on a whole new level of flavor.

Today, I'm giving away a copy of this book and believe me when I say, you will LOVE this book for the easy instructions and fool-proof tips and of course, unique recipes that will pique your interest. From a spice cake made with tomato soup to brown butter cupcake brownies, you get my drift.

The contest is open to readers who are legal residents of the U.S. and Canada only. To enter to win, all you need to do is leave a comment below to tell me what is the one thing you’ve always wanted to bake but haven’t yet tried to. The contest will start on Tuesday, September 22st 2015 at 9am EST and end on Tuesday, September 29th, 2015 at 9am. The winner will be announced after the 29th and will be notified by email. Good luck! 

whole wheat molasses yogurt bread with fig and walnuts | A Brown Table
whole wheat molasses yogurt bread with fig and walnuts | A Brown Table
whole wheat molasses yogurt bread with fig and walnuts | A Brown Table
whole wheat molasses yogurt bread with fig and walnuts | A Brown Table
whole wheat molasses yogurt bread with fig and walnuts | A Brown Table

Here are some kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this bread,

  • The dough is pretty heavy and dense. So don’t be nervous, the baking soda will help it rise and get airy once it bakes in the oven. 
  • You can spice this bread up a little bit just as I did with the black pepper. However, I don’t recommend overdoing it and making it too complex as you more intense spices can mask the flavor of the main ingredients used to make this bread.
  • Stick with whole fat dairy as recommended by Food52 or the bread might end up too dry. 
  • This bread is not very sweet, in fact I love it for this very reason. The molasses give a very gentle hint of sweetness but an intense golden brown color. Most of the sweetness you will taste is from the figs baked into the bread. 
  • I ate this bread with salted butter. You can melt some brie over a slice or lather it with some fig butter or jam. You get the point, here. There are several different ways you can enjoy a slice!
whole wheat molasses yogurt bread with fig and walnuts | A Brown Table

whole wheat molasses yogurt bread with fig and walnuts (from Food52: Baking cookbook)

yields: 1 loaf

ingredients

2 1/2 cups (300gm) whole wheat pastry flour or

1 1/2 cups (210gm) white whole wheat flour + 3/4 cup (100g) rye flour

1/2 cup (80g) medium or coarse-grind cornmeal

1/4 teaspoon black pepper powder, freshly ground (optional)

1 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 2/3 cups (395mL) whole milk yogurt or

1 1/2 cups (355mL) whole milk plus 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white vinegar

1/2 cup (120mL) dark molasses

1 cup (100gm) toasted walnuts, chopped

3/4 cup (105gm) dried figs, chopped

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

1. Place a wire rack at midlevel in the oven and preheat the oven to 325F. If using milk rather than yogurt, mix it with vinegar.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour cornmeal, salt and baking soda. 

3. Separately, whisk together the yogurt and molasses. Add to the flour mixture in two or three additions, stirring in round, sweeping motions and making sure to incorporate the flour at the bottom of the bowl; mix until just a few small pockets of flour remain. The dough will be quite thick. Now fold in the walnuts and figs. 

4. Melt the butter in a standard loaf pan or a 7 inch cast-iron skillet and put it into the oven until the butter melts. Tilt and swirl the pan to coat it evenly. Gently transfer the batter to the buttered pan without mixing it any further. The dough will be sticky and heavy.

5. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. The bread will be golden brown in color when done and is ready when a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean and the the top should be slightly firm but soft to touch.

6. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the bread to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Then remove the loaf and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing. Wrap leftovers tightly in foil and eat within 3 to 4 days. 

broiled figs with labneh panna cotta

broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table

I have one single fig on the little dwarf tree we bought last year. Just one....It started out with four but three didn't make it, they just dried and fell off. Now, I have one which I'm guarding like a hawk. One day, I will make a better home gardener....I hope.

If there's one thing the my world doesn't have enough of, it's figs. Big, fat, chubby and juicy bags of sweetness. They've been especially hard to find this summer and the ones, I've come across haven't been that good. But last week, I lucked out and decided to eat my weight in figs. And I have no regrets! 

Honey drizzled over fresh figs is probably my favorite way to eat them, the sprinkling of salt flakes is optional but the honey is what makes it magical. I kept the same theme here in this very simple labneh based panna cotta. I've flavored the panna cotta with orange blossom water and sweetened it lightly with a little honey. But the main sweetness in this dessert comes from broiling the fresh figs which helps to concentrate the sugar and add a nice caramel flavor to the fruit. And of course a little extra drizzle of honey before eating it!

broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips when preparing this dessert that you might find useful,

  • You can choose to serve the panna cotta in the jars or release them from the mold. To do the latter, you will need to spray the inner surface of the jar with a little neutral tasting oil and then pour the liquid in and allow it to set firm in the refrigerator. You can then release the panna cotta by running a knife along the edges of the pudding or simply just tapping it gently over a serving plate. I do however, recommend using a smaller volume if you want to release it from the mold, the weight doesn't make the pudding collapse as easy.
  • You could add a tiny pinch of Maldon sea salt flakes over the figs but that is a bit of an overkill here as the pistachios I use are already salted.
  • I used whole milk and full fat labneh here for a creamier taste. Low-fat should work too.
  • Experiment with flavored honeys for more complex tastes. I used clover but there are so many other lovely varieties to pair in this dish.

Since fig season is short you might want to make the most of it with these recipes:

broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table

broiled figs with labneh panna cotta

yields: 4 servings

ingredients 

1 cup whole milk

4 tablespoons honey + extra for drizzling

1 packet gelatin

6 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon orange blossom water

1 lb labneh, lightly whipped

8 large figs, fresh, firm and ripe

1 tablespoon olive oil

12 toasted salted pistachios, whole

1. Place the milk in a small saucepan along with the honey and bring it to a boil on medium-high heat. While the milk is boiling, sprinkle the gelatin in a small mixing bowl containing the water. Allow the gelatin to bloom for 5 minutes. 

2. Once the milk has boiled and the honey is dissolved, remove from stove and stir it while warm into the bowl containing the bloomed gelatin.

3. Pour the milk mixture into a large mixing bowl containing the labneh. Whisk to combine evenly. Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts and pour it into serving jars or bowls. Cover the mouth of each jar with cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 to 4 hours until firm.

4. Set a wire rack in the upper level of the oven and set to broil. Take the figs and slice them in half. Brush a baking dish with a little olive oil and place the figs, sliced surface up. Broil for about 3 to 4 minutes until the figs are lightly golden brown and slightly caramelized on the surface. Remove from oven and keep aside until ready to assemble the dessert.

5. Take the pistachios and remove them from the shells (if present). Crumble the pistachio meat with a knife or a rolling pin and keep aside.

6. Unwrap the jars containing the panna cotta. Place about 4 broiled figs halves over each jar containing the panna cotta and sprinkle the pistachio crumble. Drizzle with honey and serve immediately. 

indian sweet rice with dried figs and nuts

Indian Sweet Rice with Dried Figs and Nuts | A Brown Table

Let's start this Monday with some exciting news! This Wednesday, October 8th, I will be co-hosting a Supper club in San Francisco along with my dear friends, Phi of Princess Tofu and Alanna of The Bonjon Gourmet! This is a first for me, I've entertained at home quite a bit but never on a professional level, so I am definitely a little enthusiastic and excited about this fun venture. Phi and Alanna were kind enough to ask me to join them and I leaped at the opportunity because it's all about sharing our love to cook and create new recipes.

The entire menu will be centered around fresh figs grown locally and we've come up with some fun and delicious way to use figs in every course of the menu. The girls went to Santa Rosa over the weekend and picked bucket loads of figs of all sorts of colors, shapes and sizes from the trees, my only regret is not being able to join them in their adventures because they had a blast! Do check out their respective blogs for more of their trip. 

Indian Sweet Rice with Dried Figs and Nuts | A Brown Table

Fig season is a good one, full of fat and juicy figs that need to be eaten. Alas, this season is short but thankfully, someone figured out how to preserve figs by drying them centuries ago! This recipe that I am sharing with you today is a sweetened rice pilaf mixed with sautéed dried figs and nuts. I honestly, can't remember the exact first time, I ate sweet rice or "meetha chawal" but I do remember that I love it enough to make it a few times every year. 

Basmati rice is fragrant to begin with but saffron and the other spices add a sweet aroma that makes this dessert truly comforting. One way to describe this rice dessert would be a sweet pilaf. I like to serve this as a dessert after a fairly light meal (and sometimes even eat it for breakfast).  

Indian Sweet Rice with Dried Figs and Nuts | A Brown Table

Here are some of my tips on making this sweet rice, 

  • I can't stress the importance of using a good quality Indian variety of basmati. Not only is the grain long and fine, the starch content is different and the aroma will also be very fragrant. 
  • When cooking basmati rice, I like to wash the rice thoroughly to get rid of any starch that might result in stickiness during cooking.
  • Ghee can substituted with any vegetable oil that has a neutral flavor.
Indian Sweet Rice with Dried Figs and Nuts | A Brown Table

indian sweet rice with dried figs and nuts

yields: 4-6 servings

ingredients

1 cup long grain basmati rice

3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil

1 cup dried black mission/brown turkey figs (or any other type of dried figs), stalks removed and chopped

1/4 cup raw almonds, sliced

1/4 cup raw pistachios, chopped

6 whole cloves

1 inch piece cinnamon stick

6 green cardamom pods, cracked

1 teaspoon saffron strands soaked in 4 tablespoons of boiling water for 30 minutes

2 cups water

1/2 cup brown sugar

1. Wash the basmati rice under running cold tap water until no traces of white starch can be seen. Soak the rice in bowl in fresh cold tap water for 1 hour. 

2. While the rice is soaking, heat 1 tablespoon of the ghee or oil in a  deep thick-bottomed saucepan ( a non-stick pan can also be used here) on medium-high heat. Once the ghee is hot, sauté the chopped figs for about 1 minute, then add the almonds and pistachios and fry them for another 1 minute. Remove the sautéed figs and nuts and place them on a paper towel to drain any excess oil.

3. In the same pan, heat the rest of the ghee on medium-high heat. Add the cloves, cinnamon and cardamom and fry the spices for 30 seconds. Drain the excess liquid from the soaked rice and add the rice to the pan with the spices, stir and sauté for about 2 minutes with constant stirring. Add the saffron mixture, water and sugar to the rice, increase the heat to high and bring the contents to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and cook until the liquid evaporates. The rice will be long and tender once cooked which should take about 35-40 minutes. Remove from stove and allow to cool with the lid on for about 5-6 minutes. Fluff the rice up with a fork and stir in the fruit and nuts. Serve warm. 

dried apricot and fig almond oatmeal cookies

Dried Apricot and Fig Almond Oatmeal Cookies | A Brown Table

I decided to bake cookies in the middle of the night during the week because that is exactly what one does when their spouse is out of town. I made a happy mess, didn't tiptoe and worry about waking anyone up and I ended up cleaning the kitchen the next morning. Talk about the definition of being wild and crazy after you reach a certain age!

Dried Apricot and Fig Almond Oatmeal Cookies | A Brown Table

If you like a crispy oatmeal cookie then this cookie, is for you! It's packed with flavors and fruity bits of dried apricots and figs with each bite and a little hint of ginger too. Though my goal was to make an oatmeal cookie that was a little autumn/fall centric, you could make these cookies at anytime of the year because they use dried apricots and figs. 

 

You might notice here that I call for refrigerating the dough overnight before baking. This is what my dessert hero and one of my all-time favorite food personality, Alice Medrich (I do hope I get to meet her one day, she knows her desserts) says to do. It works every time and the cookies are much more flavorful and rise better.

Dried Apricot and Fig Almond Oatmeal Cookies | A Brown Table
Dried Apricot and Fig Almond Oatmeal Cookies | A Brown Table

dried apricot and fig almond oatmeal cookies

yields: 24-30 cookies

ingredients 

3 cups (9 1/2 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats

2 cups (5 ounces) almond flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ginger powder

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

3/4  (5 7/25 ounces) cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

4 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract ( I used Madagascar Bourbon vanilla)

1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) dried apricots, chopped

1 cup (3 3/8 ounces) dried figs, chopped

1. In a large mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients from the oats to the ginger powder. Whisk a few times until evenly combined. Reserve two tablespoons and keep aside.

2. Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for about 2-3 minutes. Beat in one egg at a time and continue to cream the mixture. Add the milk, vanilla and lemon zest and mix until combined for about a minute. Remove the bowl from the mixer. 

3. Toss the chopped apricots and figs in a small bowl with the two tablespoons of the dried mixture reserved from step 1. Keep aside.

4. Add the dry oatmeal-almond mixture from step 1 to the wet mixture in the bowl and stir until combined. Fold in the apricots and figs from step 3 until completely combined. Bring the dough to form a large ball and cover this cookie dough with cling film. Refrigerate the dough overnight.

5. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mold the cookies with the palms of your hand. (I prefer to wet my hands in a little water so it won't stick as much). Form cookies that are approximately 1 inch in diameter. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart from each other. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the cookies turn golden brown, turing the sheet halfway through during baking. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely and store in airtight container.

 

 

 

fig and ginger compote

Fig and Ginger Compote|A Brown Table

For the past few week, I've been feeling a bit reminiscent. Part of me misses my old life in DC, the familiar spots and friends that I spent so much time with. After seven wonderful years in a great city, where I worked my first job out of grad school, went back to grad school, made friends that I consider family, met the love of my life, got married and had many other special moments, this would obviously be a hard change. I'm extremely thankful that we were able to make the move to California and it was definitely time for a change that we both needed.

The past three months in our new home have been great, exploring new places and meeting new people but I miss the part where I could talk with my friends at any time of the day and have conversations that ranged from sensible to absolute nonsense. Not that this still doesn't happen but the three hour time difference between the two coasts makes it a little hard and requires a bit of extra planning. But, at the end of the day, I remind myself that life is full of changes and each one of those changes, planned or unplanned are important because it helps mold my way of thinking, the dual combination of the nervousness and joy of experiencing the unfamiliar that is exciting and what makes change and life fun. 

Fig and Ginger Compote|A Brown Table

I recently made this fig compote to use a bunch of figs that I picked up at the market. As much as I love figs, there is one thing about them that annoys me the most, they grow mold rather quickly if they are too overripe. This compote was my way of immediately using up those figs and making them last for a few weeks (I hate, hate, losing figs to mold, it's really aggravating because I usually can't blame anyone else but me)! 

Fig and Ginger Compote|A Brown Table

Bubbling red wine with vanilla beans is one of the most comforting fragrances that can come out of your kitchen. Fruity and floral aromas are the best when it comes to feeling relaxed. There are quite a few fall flavors in this compote, ginger and balsamic really give this a nice bump and all the flavors come together in one little jar of goodness that you can serve over cheeses or with charcuterie or pretty much anything else. 

Note: Since fresh figs can vary in sweetness, I recommend adding less sugar and then tasting the compote towards the end to see if you need more sugar. 

Fig and Ginger Compote|A Brown Table

fig and ginger compote 

yields: about 1 generous cup

ingredients

1 lb fresh figs (I used mission figs)

1 cup red wine ( used a sangiovese)

2-4 tablespoons brown sugar (you might need less)

1 vanilla bean, sliced in half

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1/4 cup crystallized ginger bits

4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (to make this compote extra fruity, you can also use a fruit/berry flavored balsamic vinegar here, I've tried blackberry and pineapple version and they all did really well)

1. Rinse the figs under running tap water and and trim the stalks off. Slice the figs in half and place them in a medium saucepan.

2. Add the red wine and 2 tablespoons of the sugar to the figs. Bring the contents to boil on a medium-high flame, this should take about 5-6 minutes. Remove from the stove and blend with an immersion blender until smooth.

3. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean with a sharp knife and add the seeds and the bean along with the black pepper and ginger to the fig mixture and return to the stove. Cook on medium-low with occasionally stirring until the mixture thickens and reduces in volume to about half its original. This will take about 35-40 minutes. Once this is done, taste to see if it is sweet enough, the sweetness depends on how sweet the figs are so add extra sugar if needed. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and remove from stove. Cool and store in an airtight container. 

fig and zucchini bread

fig and zucchini bread #dessert #wheat #foodphotography #foodstyling #zucchinibread #baking

Where do I begin! The first time I baked this bread, the dog stole it and ate the entire thing! I left the freshly baked bread out to cool on the kitchen counter and stepped out to take care of a few errands, boy was I in for a shock! By the time I came back, it was gone and there were no traces of any crumbs! I thought perhaps, I was being absent minded as usual and had stored the cake in the refrigerator or kept it some odd place. In the 4 years since I've had Snoopy he has never eaten anything off the table and we never feed him table scraps. My suspicions were confirmed later that day, as he voluntarily skipped his usual dinner begging routine. As you can probably imagine, Snoopy never skips a meal, he starts begging an hour before and when I do feed him, he munches his food down in a few seconds. I was worried he would throw up or fall sick and that is no fun. Thankfully, the bread was still in its testing phase and I knew that none of the ingredients in the first version would be deadly to him. Snoopy was just overstuffed and I knew that I would need to be more vigilant and careful when it come to him and our food. Lesson learned!

fig and zucchini bread #dessert #wheat #foodphotography #foodstyling #zucchinibread #baking
fig and zucchini bread #dessert #wheat #foodphotography #foodstyling #zucchinibread #baking

After Snoopy stole the first version of the bread, I knew a repeat was going to happen soon, there were several things I needed to fix to make this a good bread, I wanted it to be the best zucchini bread I have ever made in my kitchen to date. I wanted the bread to have some amount of whole wheat in it and I didn't want the bread to a soupy overly wet mass and it needed a little spark of flavor. I also wanted the bread to be simple, zucchini bread is comfort food and comfort should not be tedious to prepare, it should be easy, comfortable to make and comfortable to eat.  

fig and zucchini bread #dessert #wheat #foodphotography #foodstyling #zucchinibread #baking

I tried a trick I learned from watching America's test kitchen (this is what they do with bananas for banana bread), I microwaved the zucchini to force out the excess liquid. I got a little over a cupful of liquid from the shredded zucchini which made a huge difference. The rest of the recipe, is all about stirring the ingredients together, the hardest part is probably grating the zucchini! 

fig and zucchini bread #dessert #wheat #foodphotography #foodstyling #zucchinibread #baking

 

fig and zucchini bread

yields: 1 loaf (8 1/2 " X 4 1/2") 

ingredients 

1 tablespoon walnut/olive oil + a little all purpose flour for coating the loaf pan.

1 lb zucchini

1 cup dried figs, chopped 

2 large eggs

1/4 cup minus 1 tablespoon walnut oil/olive oil (I tried both separately)

1 teaspoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract

3/4 cup ( 5 7/25 ounces)  raw brown sugar

1/4 cup plain low-fat greek yogurt

4 1/4 ounces all purpose flour

4 1/4 ounces whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon dried ginger powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup (2 3/5 ounces) chopped walnuts

6 whole figs dried, thinly sliced across their length

1. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. Coat a 8 1/2" X 4 1/2" loaf pan with a little oil and dust with a little flour.

2. Trim the ends off the zucchini and grate them into fine shreds. Place the shredded zucchini into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 2 minutes. Transfer the zucchini into a larger strainer lined with two layers of cheesecloth/muslin. Allow the zucchini to drain for about 30 minutes or until you have about 1 cup of liquid. Bring the ends of the cheesecloth together and squeeze the zucchini to release as much as liquid as possible. Discard the liquid (you can use this liquid to prepare smoothies/juices or stocks) and place the shredded zucchini in a large mixing bowl.

3. Add the 1 cup of chopped dried figs to the zucchini along with the 2 large eggs, oil, vanilla, sugar and yogurt. Stir the contents together with a wooden spoon until combined. 

4. In a separate bowl, quickly whisk the flours, ginger powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Quickly stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients in the large mixing bowl until combined. Fold the walnuts into the batter and then transfer the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Tap gently to release any trapped air bubbles. Place the thinly sliced whole figs in a single center row on top of the batter in the pan.

5. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, rotating the cake 180 degrees once during the baking process. The bread is done when the center is firm to touch or a knife should come out clean from the center of the bread. Allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes in the pan and the run the edges of a knife around the cake. Remove and allow the bread to cool on a wire rack. Slice and serve as needed. 

Note: This is a quick bread recipe. I recommend proceeding as quickly as possible to the baking stage as soon as you prepare the wet and dry ingredients. This will prevent excess liquid being released from the zucchini.