Monday, July 27, 2015


The July Daring Bakers’ Challenge was brought to us by Manal from Manal’s Bites. She introduced us to an authentic Palestinian dish from Java that is served as a main meal along with a bowl of soup or a salad. The “Yafawi Sfeeha” or also known as “Milwayeh” which means twisted, is crispy yet tender and full of flavor.Click here for the link to the background information and original recipes from the challenge.

I was nervous about this challenge and especially nervous about getting the shape done. The dough seemed very thin and I saw disaster in my kitchen looming. So, I did a bit of research to see if perhaps there was another acceptable shape that I could manage. I was surprised and happy to see that one of our own in Daring Bakers, The Food Doctor, had blogged about meat pies and had a nice(easy) shape to mimic. So, I am admitting that this may not be a true Yawafi Sfeeha but it is a Sfeeha and it is a fun way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

The Sfeeha look impressive and made the house smell divine. My hubby kept lurking about waiting for me to turn my back so he could  taste test. He loved them but he likes a sauce with most everything and I knew he would want one with these. They don't need them but he was dipping away and said they were really good. I used a Peanut Coconut Sauce from Whole Foods. I put a link on the name to Amazon in case you do not have a Whole Foods nearby but want to try it. Here is a picture of the sauce.
Now back to the Sfeeha. I want to give a suggestion about the baking. Because the Sfeeha bake at a very high temperature, I used two baking pans nested to help insulate. This proved to be a vital step. When I removed the Sfeeha from the oven, two of them were not yet golden brown on the bottom(they were the first two I shaped also) so I removed the others and put the two back in the oven for a few more minutes. When I put them in though, I did not double pan them as I did initially. Within a minute, my oven was smoking. I took them out and they were burned, the parchment paper was burned and here is what they looked like. The underside was black.
No Good :(
But let's talk about the other successful eight! The pastry was crispy outside and cloud like tender inside. The meat was juicy and flavorful, the spices worked well together not overpowering each other or the dish. I served them with braised broccoli rabe and Russian kale but I think a fresh cold salad would have been a better choice. 
All in all, I think these will make a nice pot luck and I plan to bring some to the next book club meeting. They will travel well and don't really need a knife and fork.
Manal has some great versions that are sweet as well. Perhaps you are braver than I am and will give them a try.
Below is the recipe for Sfeeha that I made:


2  to 2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup water
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon sour cream, or Labana
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
salt, to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons dried mint flakes



Proof the yeast by mixing the yeast, sugar and warm water and allowing it to sit for about 5 to 10 minutes until the mixture starts to bubble and foam. 

In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the oil and rub the mixture with your fingers to make a coarse looking meal.

Add the water/yeast mixture and knead the dough until it forms a smooth soft dough that does not stick to your hands.

 Lightly coat a clean bowl large enough to allow the dough to expand and put the dough in it. Cover with a towel and allow the dough to double in size. At my house, in 72 degree Fahrenheit, it took a little over an hour. The warmer the room the faster the dough will rise. 

Punch down the dough and cut into 10 balls. Cover them with a towel and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.


In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute the onions in the 2 
tablespoons olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the ground beef and spices and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the beef is browned. Turn off the heat.

Add the molasses, tahini, sour cream or labaneh and mint. Mix well.

Grease your baking sheets or line with parchment paper. Place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Heat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The recommended temperature was 270 degrees Celsius(518 degrees F.) but I was uncomfortable cooking higher than 500.  I also double panned my baking sheets for extra insulation.

Roll the dough into a small(I did a 4-inch) circle. Place the filling in the center. Wet your fingers and pinch two sides of the dough circle with your index finger and thumb. Repeat on the other side so that you have four corners
Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and allow to rest 10 minutes.
I you are making a large amount of meat pies, cover the pies with a cloth while they are resting to prevent the surface from drying which will result in cracked surfaces at baking.
Just before baking, re-pinch the corners to , making sure they are sealed tightly. Brush the pastry surface with an egg wash optionally. I mixed an egg with 1/4 cup milk and brushed the pastry using a pastry brush.

Bake the pies for about 10 minutes or until the underside is golden. If they are golden on the bottom but not on top, you can put them under the broiler to brown the tops. i did not have to do this and the egg wash helped promote browning. Transfer to a wire rack and cool slightly. These are delicious warm.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sourdough Starter Makes Sourdough Crackers

My sourdough starter is a couple of years old now. I feel as though it deserves a post. I got my starter from a great friend and have somehow managed to keep it alive. My mother also gave me some starter from King Arthur Flour Company and I keep the two separate but use them both. The King Arthur starter seems a little sweeter although I am not sure why. Sourdough starter gives bread that tang that is really delicious. King Arthur Flour gives a nice history and wonderful ideas for sourdough so hop over to their site for background information. For those of you considering the commitment of a starter, it is far less work than you think. If you leave it out at room temperature, especially a warm room temperature, you will have to feed it at least every day. I keep mine in the refrigerator and feed it about once a week if I am not in the baking mood. For just a little technical background, it is important to know that when you feed the starter, you remove some before adding some. The starter I remove has been traditionally been going down the drain, sadly. But then I came across a recipe from King Arthur flour that solved my guilty conscience,Sourdough Crackers.

Making these crackers is quick and fun. I have trouble keeping them on hand because they are so popular. You will need sourdough starter but if you have gotten this far, I am guessing you may have some already. A quick whirl around Google shows a lot of recipes for these type of crackers and I think most of them are using King Arthur Flour's recipe. I am using the recipe too with of course a personal spin. I eliminate the salt from the dough because I like the effect that sprinkling the kosher salt on top before baking the crackers gives to the texture and flavor. Having the salt in the dough and again on top made them a little too salty. Also, I used some herbs that I bought in the Laurentian Mountains while vacationing in  Montreal. If you do not have access to these wonderful organic melange of herbs, use whatever you fancy. The reason I used mine is because it was a mixture of lemon peel, thyme, garlic and a little salt. I like to serve these crackers with smoked salmon pate and the herb/spice blend is perfect. Click here for the information about the company and area in case you are interested. If you are nearby, head over to St. Sauveur and visit one of the sweetest little ladies who will not pass judgement on your lacking french skills but talk to you like a neighbor over the fence.
Below is the cracker recipe and then Smoked Salmon Pate recipe. I am thinking you will make a personal twist to the recipe so let me know what you have substituted. I am always amazed by a cook's creativity.

Here is the adapted recipe from King Arthur Flour

Sourdough Crackers

1 cup Sourdough Starter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon mixed herbs, dried
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a Kitchen Aid mixing bowl with the dough hook on Speed 2 for about 5 minutes or until it forms a soft smooth dough. If mixing by hand, this should take about ten minutes. And after that, put a Kitchen Aid on your birthday wish list.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes and up to 2 days. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove the dough from the fridge. Cut in half and roll each half to about 1/16th inch thickness. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Prick with a fork all over. 

Using a pizza cutter or pastry wheel, cut the dough into strips about 1-inch wide, then across into 1-inch squares. Note the width of a ruler is about an inch so I just trace my ruler. You can cut any shape you please but make sure all the shapes are about the same size for even cooking.

Bake the crackers for about 20 minutes. After about 10 minutes of cooking, rotate the pan 180 degrees to promote even baking. Remove from oven and transfer crackers to a wire rack to cool.
Mis en Place
Store in airtight bag. 
Make sure all the ingredients are room temperature for best mixing

Cut any shape you want but try to keep the same size so they cook evenly

Smoked Salmon Pate

4 ounces smoked salmon
8 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chives, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse till combined. Taste for seasoning. Serve chilled.
Yes! It is that easy. And it is good on the morning toast too.

Good Gosh, I sound like a King Arthur groupie...wait a minute, I am!!! I went there on the way to and from Montreal and they crowned me their Queen(in my dreams)