Thursday, 23 February 2012

French toast!

Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.

If you really do want to eat breakfast like a king, then this French toast is for you.
Its soft, sweet, deliciously crispy on the edges and moist in the center and is the true definition of the word ‘yumminess’.

My mum used to make it for us ages ago when we were kids and then once we moved to the UK it was forgotten about.
Until a couple of months ago when she made it for breakfast.
That's when I fell back in love with it!!!

The good thing is, just once slice of this can fill you up nicely because of the egg and milk that goes in to it.
We usually go for the freshly baked loaves of bread that you get in the bakery section of the grocery store. It is completely surrounded by a golden, crispy crust and is perfect for making French toast with. 
The method is so simple and so worth it!
You can use as much oil as you wish. If you are cautious about your health then use a tiny bit. The best thing to do is put a drop of oil on to your non stick pan and once its heated, you could brush it around the entire pan so that its greased up.
If you’re indulgent however, or would like a once in a while treat, then put use a generous amount of oil. Definitely don’t let your bread swim in it, but just enough to last in the pan until the bread is cooked.

Crispy on the outside and soft, sweet and
melt-in-your-mouth on the inside!!

Here’s the recipe:

1 loaf of bread- cut in to 6 chunky slices. (This would depend on the loaf that you use)
3 eggs
Whole milk- about a pint
1 tsp vanilla essence
Oil (If you are not worried about the amount, you can use about 6 tablespoons per two slices of bread)
Sugar (9 tablespoons or to taste)- you should be pretty generous here- for best results :-P

In a wide dish, whisk the eggs properly and then add the rest of the ingredients. 

Mix them all thoroughly and then dip your slices of bread in to the mixture for about 20 seconds each side (keep submerging the bread in to the mixture and make sure to do the same to the other side)
Meanwhile, in a wide non stick pan, heat the oil and then once it is quite hot, put in the slices of bread. Depending on how wide the pan is, I usually do two slices at the same time. Let it cook for about 2 and a half minutes. When you open the lid of your pan, the bread would have expanded a bit and sort of dried up. Flip them around and cover again. Leave it for another couple of minutes.

Cover the pan and reduce the heat slightly. This is especially important if you are not using much oil.
You can enjoy it straight away, or if you are cooking it in advance, then place it in an oven dish and cover with foil. 

Once it is almost completely done, using a pair of tongs, you can turn the edges of the bread on to the pan so that they crisp up nicely.
Once it is time to reheat, place it in the oven on a medium heat leaving the foil on.

(p.s the darkened bit is not burnt..its caramelised sugar...)

Oh so worth the calories...


Thursday, 16 February 2012

Better than shortbread...Naan Khatai :-)

If you've ever been to Mombasa- The coastal city in East Africa where I am from, you would most definitely have heard about Hussaini Bakery. It is the most popular bakery that makes all types of biscuits, cookies and stuff. The most popular item that they make is the HB naan khataai.
Its like a hundred times better tasting than shortbread biscuits. I'm not even exaggerating!!!

I can remember these cookies existing ever since I was old enough to understand what cookies are. Which is pretty young!
They are large, golden coloured, circlular shaped, buttery, crispy, crumbly, buttery pieces of yumminess. (Yes I mentioned buttery twice!!!)
These are without a doubt the most famous biscuits available in Mombasa, and what you find in almost every household. My grandparents courier us entire boxes when we lived in Nairobi. Not by flight, but by a long 8 hour bus ride. They always survived the journey- but didn't last very long once they reached home!
Whenever people travel back home to Mombasa, they are sure to wrap dozens of packs in their suitcases and bring them back here. Its funny, but whenever anyone is going back there, they almost always bring some of these HB naan khatai back here- if not for themselves then for people who have asked them to bring some for them.
They are precious goods- and if you ever are lucky enough to taste them, then consider yourself highly priviledged!! :-)

My Dad is the absolute king of these. They have been his absolute favourite since forever and he was pretty pleased with the results of my home baked ones.
He told me to make more. That means it was good right?? :-D

Recently, Fauzia (who I have mentioned here many times) came up with a recipe for these cookies. I was so excited that I baked them as soon as I got a chance- which was yesterday.  I have to say, these are really really close to tasting like the Original HB bakery's Naan Khatai. Of course I don't think anyone can get it exactly like theirs but its a really close rendition.

The result? Golden, butter, yummy, crumbly cookies.
Definitely worth making and enjoying with a cuppa.
Fauzia, Thanks for the recipe. You are a genius and you have saved the lives of all the HB loving East Africans who live far far away from the amazing Bakery in Mombasa!

Here's the recipe:
250gm room temperature butter
three-quarter cup castor/grinded sugar 
1 egg, lightly beaten and at room temperature
1 and a half tsp baking powder
4 tbsp custard powder (plain/vanilla flavour)
few drops of yellow colour
2 cups all-purpose flour 
4 tbsp fine sooji/semolina
1 tsp vanilla essence
half tsp salt

First, mix the flour, custard powder, semolina, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and set it aside.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar, add the drops of colour. Beat in the egg and vanilla until fluffy. 

Now gradually add in the dry ingredients and mix until the dough comes together. Do not over-mix as that will ruin the crumbly consistency. Only mix enough for everything to get well-combined.

TIP: If you feel that the dough needs a bit more flour, add a tbsp at a time. Do not over-knead the mixture. Keep in mind that the dough will be chilled before shaping and baking, so it will stiffen up some more later, so don't add more flour than you absolutely need to. 

Transfer the dough into a piece of cling film and wrap it up tight. Refrigerate for about an hour.

Place some greaseproof paper on your baking sheets. Divide the dough into about 20-21 equal balls. Shape them into big circles of about 3" each, using the palms of your hand, like how we make burger patties. Place them on the tray and flatten/level them slightly and gently. Remember to leave enough room around them as they will expand slightly during baking. You can make imprints on them at this point, I used my heart shaped cookie cutters to make little heart shapes on my cookies.

Once all are shaped, place the trays again into the refrigerator for another half an hour to chill. 

In the meantime, pre-heat the oven at 160 C. These cookies are normally large, so we need a lower temperature in order to get them to crisp up properly without getting brown.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes. When they are half-way done, turn the trays around so that the cookies get evenly baked, and if at any time you feel they are starting to take too much colour, lower the heat some more.

Once they are ready, remove them onto a wire-rack to cool completely. When they come out of the oven they will be slightly soft, but don't worry as they will crisp up as they cool. 

TIP: After they've cooled COMPLETELY and if you feel they are still not quite crisp enough, just pop them back into the oven on low temperature of about 120-140 C and bake them for another 10 minutes until you are satisfied with the results.

Store them in an airtight container. 

Enjoy the baking AND the results!!!