Tag Archives: cinnamon

Ma’amoul Cookies from my Great Aunt’s Armenian Vegan Cookbook

2 Jun

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While my family has always appreciated good meals, as a child, I seldom spent time in the kitchen. I cultivated my interest in food independently, experimenting with recipes, photographing, and sharing these experiences on my blog. As I grew older, my love of food and my Armenian heritage became defining aspects of my identity. I longed to learn about traditional Armenian cuisine, but did not know where to begin. That was until my great aunt, Dikranouhi Kirazian, released her new cookbook entitled Armenian Vegan. 

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Armenian Vegan contains more than 200 traditional Armenian recipes, including appetizers, breads, main courses, and desserts, using no animal products. For seven years, my aunt secretly labored over this book with the help of her husband, George. She told no one about the project, leaving my extended family in shock upon receiving copies in the mail.

I relished flipping through the pages, discovering recipes that I had never heard of before along with vegan adaptations of classic dishes. Dikranouhi presents a practical and healthy approach to cooking, with simple instructions and ingredients accessible to novice cooks. She writes thoughtfully, sharing personal anecdotes and the cultural significance behind certain foods.

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While reading the dessert section, these walnut-stuffed cookies caught my eye. Flavored with Mahlab, ground cherry pits, and delicate rose water, Ma’amoul are ubiquitous throughout the Middle East. I substituted a few ingredients based on what I had on hand, replacing Mahlab with ground cardamom and rose water with orange blossom water.

Though somewhat time-consuming to shape, these cookies’ handmade touch contributes to their charm. While nestling the sweet walnut filling inside a pocket of supple dough, I imagined my aunt learning this technique when she was a girl. Feeling a personal connection to a recipe makes eating it so much more fulfilling. Most importantly, however, the flavors here are wonderful. Semolina flour, traditionally used to make pasta, provides a toothsome texture and tender crumb, its robustness offset by a sliver of walnut-cinnamon paste. To finish, an elegant coating of powdered sugar makes these dainty treats ideal for serving alongside a cup of tea.

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Recipe adapted from Armenian Vegan 

These cookies can be adapted using various nuts and spices. Possible combinations include pistachio and rose water or date and orange blossom water. 

For the cookie dough:

  • 2 1/4 cups farina or semolina flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cardamon, preferably freshly ground
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup melted margarine or butter (for non-vegan option), melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup soy milk or cow’s milk (for non-vegan)
  • 2-4 tablespoons orange blossom or rose water

For the walnut filling:

  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of allspice
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Yields about two dozen cookies.

1. In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the farina or semolina flour, sugar, salt, and ground cardamom and mix thoroughly with a whisk or fork. Mix in melted margarine or butter with a spoon. Bring milk to a boil, add to the flour mixture, and mix well. Knead the dough with your hands until it reaches a smooth pasty consistency, about 1 minute. Add the orange blossom or rose water, knead a few more times to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 2-3 hours.

2. Meanwhile, make walnut filling. Place walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice into a small food processor. Process on high speed until the mixture reaches a moist, pasty consistency, about 1 minute.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven. When the dough is ready, measure out tablespoons of dough. Roll each piece into a ball and make an indent in the center, creating a little cup. Place 3/4 teaspoon of walnut paste into the cup, flatten it, then place another flattened ball of dough on top. Seal the seams tightly but carefully with you fingers. Repeat with remaining dough. If you own a Ma’amoul mold, you may use it instead.

4. Place stuffed cookies an inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes on the lower level of the oven, then transfer them to the top shelf for an additional 3-5 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Transfer the parchment onto a cooling rack, and allow the cookies to cool completely. Once cool, dust cookies with powdered sugar.

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Bill Granger’s Coconut Bread

17 May

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Certain meals occupy a special place in my heart, not simply because of delicious food, but the memories that accompany these experiences. When my family and I traveled to Australia last year, we visited a Sydney breakfast institution called Bills.

Bill Granger, the restaurant’s owner and a prominent Aussie chef and cookbook author, emphasizes a fresh and easy-going approach to cooking. For breakfast, Bills specialties include silky scrambled eggs, cloud-like ricotta pancakes topped with bananas and honeycomb butter, and organic sourdough toast smothered with fruit preserves. Other than being one of the tastiest breakfasts I’ve ever had, Bills’s bustling, light-filled atmosphere and welcoming service encapsulated my trip to Australia.

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While Bills offers a short and simple menu, every dish was masterfully executed using high-quality ingredients. My family and I each ordered the famous scrambled eggs (there’s a reason the New York Times crowned Granger the “Egg Master of Sydney”), and selected this coconut bread as a sweet complement.

Despite its humble description, this loaf boasts rich coconut flavor and a tender, sturdy crumb. While it is wonderful enjoyed plain, Bills serves it grilled, cut in thick slabs, with a dollop of butter and honey on the side. Best of all, every bite transports me to that sunny morning spent in a foreign country, enjoying vibrant, unfussy food with the people I love.

Recipe courtesy of the New York Times, via Smitten Kitchen

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 to 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 ounces sweetened flaked coconut (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 6 tblsp unsalted butter, melted or melted and browned, if desired
  • Vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray for baking pan

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add sugar and coconut, and stir to mix. Make a well in the center, and pour in egg mixture, then stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Add butter, and stir until just smooth — be careful not to overmix.

3. Butter and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or coat it with a nonstick spray. Spread batter in pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, anywhere from 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool in pan five minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Baked Cinnamon French Toast

16 Apr

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I featured this inexpensive and fool-proof recipe in my college student’s guide to hosting Easter brunch. The article was published in today’s issue of The Daily Trojan, and you can access it online here.

As far as brunch goes, French toast is both a quintessential menu item and a source of frustration. Brunch should be relaxed and carefree, the epitome of a decadent hybrid meal between breakfast and lunch. Why spend time leaning over the stove, flipping individual pieces of bread, while your guests drink mimosas in the backyard? That sounds like no fun to me.

Baked cinnamon French toast is a delicious one-pan solution to this problem. The recipe can be assembled in less than fifteen minutes using ingredients you probably already have on-hand. 

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Even the most inexperienced cook can execute this impressive dish. Simply toast the bread, coat each slice with butter and cinnamon-sugar, arrange them in one pan, and pour the custard over.

Layering the toasts creates a caramelized, golden exterior and a moist and creamy interior. Cut into thick slabs and topped with fresh berries and maple syrup, this French toast would be an outstanding recipe to serve to family and friends on Easter Sunday.

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Recipe courtesy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 16 slices (from a 1-pound or 450 gram loaf) white sandwich bread
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups whole or 2% milk
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Yields 8-12 servings.

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together in a small dish. Line two large baking sheets with foil. Place the bread slices on the baking sheets in one layer. Spread each slice of bread with 1 teaspoon of butter, then sprinkle each slice with one teaspoon of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Toast the trays of bread in the oven until the bread is golden, and until the cinnamon-sugar makes a caramelized crunch on top, for about 7 to 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and let the toast cool slightly.

2. Generously butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. Cut two slices of the cinnamon toast in half horizontally. Arrange the baking dish so that the longer side is horizontal to you on the counter. Place the bottom half of a divided slice of cinnamon toast in the upper left-hand corner, cut side facing left. Arrange the first full slice of toast on top of it, so that the upper crust of the slice meets the left side of the pan. Arrange six more slices across the top of the pan, crusts in the same direction, overlapping each slightly. Finish with the top of a divided slice of toast. Repeat with the second row, toasts facing in the opposite direction, starting and finishing with your second divided slice of toast.

3. Whisk the milk, eggs, salt and vanilla in a medium bowl and pour evenly over the cinnamon toast in the baking dish. Let sit for 15 minutes (or overnight, if you’re preparing this ahead of time) so that the custard absorbs.

4. Before baking, sprinkle any leftover cinnamon-sugar over the French toast. Bake for 30 minutes, until puffed and golden and until no liquid seeps out of the toasts when you nudge them in the pan. Cut into squares and serve plain, or with a dollop of yogurt and fresh berries, or maple syrup.

My Favorite Banana Bread

25 Feb

When I first began baking, I insisted that everything I made was absolutely delicious. I fiercely defended my rock-hard pound cakes, puddle-shaped sugar cookies, and acridly-sweet brownies. Over time, I learned that one must accept failure in order to develop outstanding recipes. Few baked goods come out perfect after the first try, and even then, an experienced baker will elevate them from great to excellent. My tireless pursuit of the perfect banana bread taught me this invaluable lesson.

When it comes to classic American treats, everyone has different preferences. Through sampling countless banana breads, from bakeries and my own kitchen, I formulated an ideal version in my mind. A moist, fragrant loaf with a tender crumb and cake-like consistency, this recipe achieved my goal.

This bread appeals to banana purists. Beating the butter and brown sugar creates a light, fluffy texture and a nice lift to the crust. This technique yields an end product closer to a tea cake than a spongy, dense quick bread. Even though it’s wonderful plain, sliced thick and smeared with a dab of butter, I can’t wait to spice it up with chocolate chunks, nuts, and coconut flakes. Because even my perfect recipe offers infinite opportunities for improvement.

Recipe adapted from Donna Hay Magazine via Sweetie’s Home

Adding a handful of walnuts provides a pleasant crunch and toasty flavor.

  • 8 tblsp (1 stick) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups of mashed, ripe bananas (about 4 large bananas)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan with butter. Using a stand mixer equipped with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the honey and beat for another minute, or until thoroughly combined. Reduce the mixer to medium speed, and add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla extract and banana and mix until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and walnuts. On low speed, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing until just barely combined. A few streaks of flour are OK.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool in pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then remove the bread and allow it to cool completely.

Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies with Coconut and Dates

24 Jan

If you search “perfect oatmeal cookie” on Google, you will find millions of unique renditions on the classic recipe. Perfect means something different to everyone. Your personality, tastes, and interests influence your idea of a perfect date, concert, or meal, for example.

Generally, I find that cookie connoisseurs are divided into two groups: thin and crispy versus soft, thick, and chewy. These oatmeal sandwich cookies fall right in the middle–subtly crunchy and golden on the outside with a soft, almost fluffy center. The brown sugar lends a deep butterscotch flavor, spiced up with the addition of coconut flakes and chopped dates. When sandwiched together with a tangy mascarpone filling, these oatmeal cookies become a grown-up version of a favorite childhood snack.

 Recipe barely adapted from The New York Times

This recipe yields fairly large cookies. If you prefer more manageable, bite-sized sandwiches, I suggest scooping rounded teaspoons of dough.

  • 3/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tblsp honey
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tblsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped
  • 5 tblsp granulated sugar

For the filling:

  • 6 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 6 tblsp mascarpone cheese
  • 3 tbslp confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Yields about 36 cookies; 18 sandwiches.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread coconut flakes on a non-stick skillet. Over medium heat, toast, stirring occasionally, until lightly colored and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Cool. Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed until light. Gradually add the brown sugar and honey, then beat until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl when necessary. Beat in vanilla.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and 1 tsp cinnamon. With the mixer set on low, beat flour mixture into butter mixture until just combined. Beat in oats, dates and toasted coconut.

4. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, stir together granulated sugar and remaining 2 tsp cinnamon. Roll heaping tablespoonfuls of dough into balls, then roll balls in cinnamon sugar; transfer to baking sheet, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space between dough balls. For smaller cookies, reduce the size of the balls.

5. Bake until cookies are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. Make the filling: Using the electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in mascarpone, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Scrape down sides of bowl. Sandwich about 1 tablespoon of filling between two cookies; repeat with the remaining filling and cookies.