baking · food + drink · posts

cinnamon buns – fresh from the oven

Recently I came across some delicious looking saffron buns, baked as part of the Fresh from the Oven Challenge! Now I knew the only way I was going to have one of these buns was to bake them myself and with some home-made Doughnut Peach Conserve in the fridge… how could I resist! When it comes to bread making there is no greater pleasure than the smell and taste of bread fresh from the oven… Irish soda bread is baked quite often in our house!

Sally from My Custard Pie had set the challenge and the full recipe and instructions for saffron buns will be found on her blog!  As cinnamon is a favourite with everyone in our family I decided to forgo the saffron for another time! I did follow Sally’s recipe and method and the only changes I made were as follows:

  • Omitted the saffron and replaced with 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon which was sieved in with the flour and salt
  • Used light brown muscovado sugar instead of golden caster sugar
  • Used salted butter instead of unsalted
  • Used 1/4 teaspoon of salt instead of 1/2 teaspoon

When it came to adding the water to the dry ingredients I needed a little more than the 100ml of water suggested… depends on the brand and type of flour used, so maybe keep this in mind!

The kitchen was a bit on the warm side so when it came to rubbing the butter into the flour I opted to use a pastry blender which is a handy kitchen tool to have, especially if you have warm hands.

Kneading bread dough is a very therapeutic process (one that I love), but this time I decided to use the dough hook on a stand mixer, making the process of kneading the dough a breeze!

Rather than placing all the pieces of dough on a baking tray to prove, I placed them into small lightly oiled baking tins… giving them a different shape when baked, which of course is completely optional.

The dough took longer than one hour to prove and I did find by moving the dough to a much warmer area of the house gave the dough a better rise! The cinnamon buns were baked in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes. Serve warm with butter and preserves.

You could also try to make a really easy Uncooked Raspberry Jam which would be very delicious with these cinnamon buns or other home-made breads! 

food + drink · posts · store cupboard

how to make garam masala

Garam masala means warm or hot spice mix and is a blend of spices used extensively in Indian cooking. There are many variations of garam masala as there are cooks and this depends on taste, the recipe being prepared and the region.

Sometimes garam masala is referred to as a finishing spice and can be sprinkled over the surface of a finished dish just before serving or added towards the end of cooking, enhancing the dishes fragrance and flavour. Also this spice mixture (whole or ground) can be added to recipes at the beginning stages of cooking.

Making a visit to the souk (spice section) in Manama, I managed to stock up on some whole spices, some of which will be used to make a fairly basic garam masala which I use when cooking Dhal Makhani... which happens to be one of my favourite Indian dishes!  Usually I grind small batches of the whole spices using my electric spice grinder which does the job, although not as finely ground as shop bought! An electric coffee grinder can also be used, solely for the purpose of grinding whole spices… unless you are happy to consume spiced ground coffee!

Bahrain’s shops, supermarket’s and souk’s are stocked with a huge array of ground spices and spice mixes (which I buy at times) and that means never needing to grind another spice! However, grinding whole spices at home will provide maximum freshness, bringing the aroma and flavour of the spices to another level!

Garam Masala


  • 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • 1inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 3 blades of mace
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 dried bay leaves

How to make:

Heat a heavy-based frying pan over moderate heat and lightly roast each spice (except the bay leaf) seperately, moving the frying pan around until the spice releases a fragrant aroma, this does not take long, about 30 seconds. Immediately transfer the roasted spice onto a cold plate.

Grind all the cooled spices plus the bay leaf in an electric spice grinder or coffee grinder and store in an airtight container.

Note:  After dry roasting the cinnamon stick and blades of mace, break them up into smaller pieces using a pestle and mortar! Your spice grinder or coffee grinder will thank you for this! Also tear up the bay leaf.

If you are not a big cardamom fan, break open the pods and use only the seeds.

If you can’t find mace blades use 1 whole nutmeg instead, break into chunks before dry roasting.

To dry roast or not to dry roast!  I guess that depends on the recipe in question and may also be a preference!  I tend to dry roast the whole spices if I am going to use the ground garam masala towards the end of cooking!

Storage:  Spices are best kept in airtight containers away from direct heat and sunlight. The recommended keeping time for ground spices and whole spices varies, with ground spices loosing their potency faster than whole spices! Let your nose, eyes and taste be  the judge when checking the freshness of your spices!  It is always best to buy small quantities of spices and replenish often.

Do you make up your own spice blends? Do you have any thoughts on dry roasting spices?

food + drink · posts

A Real Hot Chocolate Fix

What to make for the Death by Chocolate Blog Hop, hosted by The Hungry Australian.

Thinking…  a decadent chocolate cake or some fudgy brownies, what about  chocolate pots, or maybe a rich chocolate mousse. The list is endless when chocolate is the subject and in the end, decided on “Real Hot Chocolate”… a fix of liquid chocolate in a mug. Good quality chocolate and cocoa percentage is the defining factor for flavour and intensity and it’s all a matter of taste.

Real Hot Chocolate with a Hint of Cinnamon


  • 200g good quality dark chocolate (around 50% to 60% cocoa solids)
  • 600ml whole fresh milk
  • 2 tablespoons powdered milk
  • 4 cinnamon sticks

How to make:

With a sharp knife chop the chocolate into small pieces and place into a heat-proof bowl.

Pour the milk into a heavy-based saucepan and with a whisk blend in the powdered milk. Place the saucepan on medium heat and bring the milk to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the boiling milk over the chopped chocolate. Use the whisk to stir continuously until the milk and chocolate combine completely.

Pour the hot chocolate into cups or small mugs and serve with a cinnamon stick. Using cinnamon sticks to stir the hot chocolate with will impart a slight cinnamon taste.

The Cocoa Bean Pod… the beginning of all our chocolate addictions.

Try different types of chocolate, milk, dark, or even white. Chocolate with chilli or flavoured with orange could also be used. Using chocolate with 70% to 90% cocoa solids will need sweetening with sugar, unless you enjoy the taste of bitter chocolate.

This post was part of the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop! Click on the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop Badge to check out all the other “Death by Chocolate” entries!