Thursday, July 25, 2013

Braided Pesto Bread

Today is the time to start doing the spring cleaning because Ramadhan is almost at its end and I love my small corner in this world to be spic and span.

Amiko doesn’t go to school today because she fell down outside, hard, and scraped her knees. It must’ve hurt to walk so I let her stay home as long she stays in her room. What is it with little kids and cleaning? They hate to clean but whenever they see us cleaning and sorting things, they just wanna jump in and in the end we have even more mess and things we fail miserably to throw away because they think those junks are treasures.

Since her knees are smothered with Betadine, I am sure she isn’t gonna bother me downstairs. I’m safe.

From the outside, my refrigerator looks nice. But this gargantuan cool box I inherit from my mother in law looks like it was rampaged by the migrating wildebeest. But like a kid myself, I believe there is always a gem that we can find in the muddiest of muddy mud. I found two little pockets of frozen pesto in the freezer. I couldn’t be happier. At least I can make something that would cheer my daughter up.

At first I thought of pizza, but I want the pesto to shine and the idea of pasta is just too ordinary. So pesto bread it is. Braided Pesto Bread.

Recipe is modified from
Yield 1 big loaf enough to feed 8 polite people or 3 hungry people
285 gr bread flour
15 gr wheat bran
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar
2 tsp instant yeast
-/+ 1 cup water
1-2 tbs of sourdough starter, optional

Pesto sauce
Parmesan/old cheddar cheese
Note: If you don't have wheat bran, just use all flour

Combine all ingredients except pesto sauce and cheese. Knead well, oil the bowl, and leave it to proof until the size is doubled about an hour or so.

Lightly oil your work space and roll your dough into a 12x18 inch rectangle. Spread the pesto evenly and leave a clean inch around the edge.

Roll your dough nice and tight then cut precisely in the middle. You will have two pieces of dough and all you have to do is simply twist one another.

Transfer your braid to a baking sheet and form a wreath by joining both ends.

Let it proof for about 30 minutes, shave some parmesan or old cheddar cheese on top, then bake it in a preheated oven at 210C for 20 minutes or a little more depending on your oven until nicely browned.

Oohhh... The Smell!!
Simple ingredients made with a 'twist' do make the prettiest of dish. This particular dough recipe is not recommended for sweet fillings. If you want something other than pesto, tapenade would be great but of course, far more expensive.

So the next time you come across fresh basil, buy loads, make pesto, and freeze it in small batches for pasta, pizza, or this. It's so rewarding.


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Sunday, July 21, 2013


We’re blessed to have a little daughter who is as adventurous as us when it comes to food.

Food represents life and all its joy. It introduces us to a new culture, a new feeling, and for us at home who rarely travel and rely solely on our imagination through the things we read; food gives us a certain romance.

I actually have so many unique dishes that I should have posted but due to a certain numbers of things, number one would be me who prefers to sit and read and have ice cream, number two would be me who prefers to sit and read and have more ice creams, I haven’t been able to find the right time to do so. But this blog wouldn’t be writing itself, wouldn’t it? So allow me to share a little wonderful discovery we made yesterday.

One of my daughter’s hobbies is to ask me to cook something that has an interesting story behind it or at least a story that she comes up with and deems close to the truth. Take Vatrushka as an example. It is a Russian round cheese bread. Since Amiko loves Tchaikovsky so much and she believes that Tchaikovsky ate that when he wasn’t composing something, she asked me to make it.  Now Vatrushka is a regular treat on our Indonesian table just like Chinese Pao and she would enjoy it by listening to Tchaikovky’s scores.

That is just one of many, many wonderful things she have had me done. I could go on forever but there’s plenty of time for that and of course I owe you a delightful Vatrushka’s recipe. But not now. Now is the time I introduce you to Knäckebröd.

She was browsing and suddenly had the idea that we should have rabbit stew. I gave her the REALLY flat faced look and she bargained for Haggis. Apparently she was reading about Loch Ness and she wanted something Scottish. I offered to cook her Scotch Egg because it's a very easy dish and there was no way momma would want to eat rabbit. Not ever. We got into a very silly argument because she said she was in the mood for something new.

Since I was in the middle of re-reading American Gods, the best book by Neil Gaiman for me, I offered Amiko to have something Scandinavian instead. So I told her what the book was about and since she's already familiar with everything Viking related because her mom has this insane level crush on Loki and I was the one who would eventually cook, she had to agree.

We found out that the Vikings always have some Knäckebröd in their ships while sailing away in search for adventures and places to conquer. They needed bread that would hold for weeks, sometimes months, and up until this moment, the people in Sweden, Norwegia, and Finland still eat Knäckebröd. With my way of story telling, read: art of persuasion, we settled on Knäckebröd.

Adapted from Scandifoodie
100-150 ml warm water
1/3 cup sesame seeds
4 gr instant yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
300 gr rye flour
100 gr all purpose flour
whole wheat flour for rolling


Mix all the dry ingredients well 

Add the water then start kneading on the table. You are looking for a smooth consistency. If it's too wet, feel free to add more flour and vice versa if you have a very hard dough, add a bit of water. We are not kneading to achieve high level of gluten since we are using rye flour and it's very low in gluten.

Your dough should look like this. Just leave it on the table you knead on and cover with clingfilm. Leave it to rest for 30 minutes.

Use only whole wheat wheat flour so the dough won't stick on your working table. Shape the dough into a log then cut to 8 pieces. Make a ball out of each and work one by one, covering the rest with cling wrap so they won't dry out. Roll the ball as thinly as you can to get crispier result, cut a circle in the middle using anything you have at home (the reason will be revealed later), then really prick the surface with fork so there won't be air bubbles when it's baked.

Bake at 200C for 10 minutes then flip it and continue for another 3-5 minutes. Do bake in batches according to your oven capacity and know your oven so you don't have burnt Knäckebröd.


That is all I can say. They're so light and crispy and amazingly fulfilling!
Now I understand why this bread is the equivalent of Pao for the Chinese and factory white bread for the Americans. Having put literally zero fat in the dough and taking out all the moisture in the bread ensure a long shelf life. Perfect for a long time journey, perfect for snacking, perfect with cheese on top.

Beautiful, beautiful bread.

The taste of rye and the cumin together are so foreign to my palate yet I dare declare that these Knäckebröd will be baked at least once a week in our home. They are so fast to be made but disappear so quickly. It proves how delicious they are.

My husband loves it mainly because it gives him a reason to snack without any guilty feeling, Amiko loves it because it is yummy and it makes her feel like a starving Viking on a kill, and I enjoy it while I dream of a tall, handsome, icy blue eyed Norwegian man from the past sweeping me off my feet for a kiss. Does my husband get jealous, you asked? Nah, he knows that he  is married to a super imaginative geeky bookworm who dreams of Andalusia on Tuesday and grave digging on some other nights.


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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Whole Wheat Cheese Twists

I haven’t yet met any Indonesian who doesn't love crispy snacks.

We have many arrays of crispy snacks. Cheese sticks are one of the most famous snacks and has a gazillion of fans. Having said that, I am not so fond of cheese sticks. I rarely find a bag of cheese sticks that are cheesy enough to please my palate. To make the matter worse, they’re deep fried. It’s just something that spells doom to my tonsil’s well being. I can’t tolerate too much fried food. That’s why when PMS kicks in, I’m so walking the thin line between tonsillitis and bliss, courtesy of all those chips and whatever cousins they have. But still, never cheese sticks.

What makes crispy snacks so irresistible anyway? The very act of grinding the crispy food between our teeth and the crunchy sound it makes creates a certain happy sensation. I haven’t thought much about it before and I haven’t had a chance to read any scientific journals about the relation of snacking and limbic system in our brain. Surely if one of hypothalamus’ jobs is to control hunger, why is it quite difficult to stop snacking when we’re actually already full?

But that’s my homework and I shall not bother you with anything scientific except the delicious smell that would be captured by your olfactory sense when these crispy, cheesy, savory sticks come out from your oven.                  

I found the recipe at and told myself that I just got to make this. All of the ingredients are in the pantry. I was about to make it when my daughter asked me whether she could have it with whole wheat flour instead. Brilliant! But not only that, my little cheese loving helper also wanted to grate some gouda and put it into the batter. So what we had was a fun experiment resulting in healthy and utterly delicious crispy snacks.

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup mature cheddar cheese
3 tbs grated gouda cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground chili pepper
3 tbs cold unsalted butter
1 egg white
a pinch of dried thyme
a pinch of dried rosemary

-If your cheddar is young, use more than 1/2 cup
-If you don't have the herbs, you can use whatever suitable herbs to be paired with cheese
-Gouda can be substituted with any other hard cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan

1. Preheat your oven to 200C
2. Mix the cheese and all the dry ingredients then toss the butter in.
3. Using your finger tips, mix the butter and flour until they resemble coarse meal.
4. Put the egg white in and knead just until it comes together.
5. Roll the dough thinly, not until filo thin though, between two sheets of silpats or baking papers
6. Cut into strips and twist.
7. Bake for 12 minutes.
8. Enjoy!

--The color won't change much after they're baked--


I think this is a great example of perfect savory snacks. It's fast to make and it doesn't require you spending time washing dirty dishes and pans. How cool is that? Plus, it's very healthy and quite fulfilling. I don't see any reason why you would wait to make this. I know I can see these cheese twist as a regular in our house or just about whenever I need to unwind watching late night shows after a long day.

Happy Baking,

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Vegan Taro Buns

There are days when you just can’t take any of the drama around you. 

It was one of those days for me. Though the weather seems to be on my favor since yesterday, cloudy with light drizzles throughout the day, typical London weather, it was not enough to cover the hole in my chest.

After a good dose of Pink Floyd, scrolling down the 9Gag pages, and about 50 Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird played back to back, oh great.. Now you know how old I am, I felt a bit better and up to tackle any hard core bread recipe.  Why bread? Because the process of baking bread is therapeutic and I do need to stock up some for tomorrow’s breakfast. 

I chose this recipe because it took me several failed attempts in the past to perfect it. Not because I lack the capability in producing a good result, but simply because there is a major flaw in the recipe. The writer forgot to write how much water to use. It was a big challenge and despite the sometimes rock-hard, sometimes rubbery bread as the results, I enjoyed the process. In baking, the amount of liquid to use, though it may slightly vary according to the temperature of your environment, is crucial to be included in the recipe.

The use of taro or purple sweet potato is what attracted me the most to this bread plus the fact that it’s vegan. You can find the original recipe here (J3ssKitch3n). It’s originally a sandwich loaf recipe. But I prefer to have it made as mini buns so I can fill it with jam, chocolate, or any other delicious fillings, vegan or not. I feel like I have the obligation to tell you in advance that these buns are out-of-this-world soft. You will want to keep making it again and again.

So here is my true and tested recipe. Consider yourself warned.

Starter Dough Ingredients
200 gr bread flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast
130 gr steamed purple sweet potato, mashed, in room temperature
3/4 cup water

Final Dough Ingredients
All of Starter Dough
35 gr bread flour
35 gr all purpose flour
20 gr wheat bran
50 gr cooked purple sweet potato (mashed)
25 gr sugar
40 gr vegetable oil
Your choice of fillings if you're making buns
Note: Skip the wheat bran if you don't have it

Combine Starter Dough Ingredients in a bowl. You will have a shaggy mess of dough. Cover with cling wrap and proof for one hour or until it doubles in size.

After you proof the Starter Dough Ingredients and its size has doubled, combine it with the Final Dough Ingredients.

Knead until the dough is amalgamated and reach a moderate gluten development stage. I have to say that it takes a longer time to knead this dough than a dough without sweet potato. Oil the bowl and let it proof for an hour or until it doubles in size.

Take out the dough from the bowl. Divide your dough into 9 pieces if you're making buns. Don't divide if you're making a loaf.

Fill your dough with whatever yummy fillings you're in the mood for, mine is cheese this time, and shape it into a tight ball. Arrange these cuties on a pan that has already been lightly buttered so they won't stick or -God forbid- tear when you try to get them out of the pan after they're fully baked.

Cover with cling film and let them proof for an hour or double in size. Bake at 170C for 30 minutes. Add another 8 minutes if you're making a loaf.


A lot of people and bakeries out there use some kind of bread softener to make soft cottony bread. When I hear the word softener, I can't help to think of fabric softener and hair conditioner. There is no way I want to incorporate that into my food.

By using this recipe and really knead it well, you'd be very surprised with the result.

Looking at the bright color and knowing that it's 100% natural is like a triumph over everything artificial. The added wheat bran makes these buns full of fiber and just one bun will keep you full. That is if you can keep yourself from having a second one.

And now is time for me to have some tea and enjoy the chilly air with my bread and some slow Barry Manilow songs.


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