Baked Mandazi (Swahili Sweet Bread)

(jump to recipe)

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One of the things I’m loving about this tea pairing adventure with Simple Loose Leaf is the opportunity to think beyond the usual pairings that we are so comfortable with. Nothing wrong with reaching for Parle-G biscuits with your hot and sweet milk tea, but every so often you come across something so new and different, it stumps you, and in a good way.

The tea that stumped me this week, was Simple Loose Leaf Purple Jasmine Tea: a very unique blend of Tumoi purple broken leaf tea from the Nandi hills of Kenya in Africa, and Jasmine green tea, presumably to round out the intense fragrance of the purple tea. This was the first time I had purple tea, and I found it to be fragrant and very delicate. Combined with the Jasmine green tea, it took on a floral quality, and made me wonder why I had overlooked an entire continent in my tea adventures!

Purple Jasmine Tea by Simple Loose Leaf

My mom-in-law has traveled extensively all over the world; so much so that only the continents of Africa and Antarctica remain on her bucket list, waiting to be crossed off. My husband and I, both travel-crazy, were recently blown away by the fact that she needed a new passport couple years ago, since there weren’t enough pages left on it to get a new visa for her trip to Australia and New Zealand! Seeing as it might be slightly difficult for someone her age to get to and enjoy Antarctica, we have currently set Africa as a goal for her, for our next family vacation (and also to complete her bucket list)!

I have yet to start planning our Africa vacation, and given that my knowledge of the content is (quite embarrassingly) limited to Trevor Noah’s account of it, I decided to use this Kenyan Purple tea as my guiding light, into exploring the cuisine of Africa. I only made it through a few African snacks and street foods before coming across Mandazi, a barely sweet, fried dough snack, similar to a beignet or a doughnut, that happens to be one of main recipes from the Swahili coastal area.

A simple, yeasted dough made with flour, milk and sugar (coconut milk and/or coconut flakes are added often) is cut into triangular or square pieces and deep-fried. The Mandazi aren’t too sweet on their own (and could be considered almost unsweetened if compared to the American doughnut!), and make absolutely perfect tea time snacks. Being fried, they keep well for many days. They are typically dusted with confectioners sugar or cinnamon sugar if being served as dessert.

Unfortunately I am Indian, and we as a country do not share the advanced metabolism of our African brethren, so I had to steer clear of frying these confections. But fortunately, I stumbled upon a Baked Mandazi recipe via Immaculate Bites, and that one hit just the spot for tea pairing! The mild sweetness of the Mandazi punctuated with cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon goes splendidly with the delicate purple and jasmine green tea, resulting in another pairing I highly recommend you try for yourself!

Let’s get right to it!

From the top, L-R: lukewarm water, evaporated milk, melted butter, yeast, sugar, salt, all purpose flour, shredded coconut, egg, confectioners sugar, cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon

We start by whisking together the milk (you can use evaporated milk or coconut milk), lukewarm water, sugar and salt in a large bowl, until combined. To this, add the active dry yeast, mix well and set aside for 5-7 minutes.

I made these on a cold, rather gloomy day so I had to use a warm oven to get a rise out of the dough. But once the Mandazi was ready, it was such a treat to enjoy them warm with the piping hot tea on said gloomy day, that I didn’t mind fiddling withe dough one bit!

If its a cold day when you are making these, preheat the oven to 170 degrees F and then turn it off, so it will remain warm for you! If it is a warm day, then the dough can rise in a warm part of your kitchen, no need to turn on the oven just yet.

To the yeast wet mixture, we then, add the egg, lightly beat with a fork, and mix well. To this, add all the remaining ingredients: flour, melted butter, spices of your choice (I went with cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon) and shredded coconut, and mix well by hand, until the Dough comes together in a ball. This should take just a minute.

Flip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes until everything is uniformly incorporated and the dough is not sticky to the touch. It’s okay to add a few more tablespoons of dough if needed, but with the quantities specified below, you shouldn’t need to.

Transfer the dough to a well-greased bowl and turn it around once or twice so it is uniformly coated with the oil, and cover the bowl loosely with a clean dish towel.

Place the bowl in the oven (if using), or on the counter, for 1-2 hours, or until the dough almost doubles in volume. If the dough doesn’t rise at all in the first hour, definitely place it in the oven with the “Warm” setting (or low temperature of 150 degrees F) for the remainder of the duration. Depending on the weather, it may take longer than 2 hours to rise in your kitchen! Once the dough has doubled in volume, take it out of the oven, and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and grease using nonstick cooking spray.

Turn the dough over to a lightly floured counter, and using a heavy rolling pin, roll out the dough uniformly until it is 1-inch in thickness. Cut into desired shapes – I went with 2-inch squares, but you can also make them into 2-3 inch triangles or circles if you wish. Re-roll scraps if needed, to make about 24 Mandazi.

Place dough cutouts on the prepared baking sheets and bake in a 375 degrees F oven for 15-18 minutes, until lightly golden brown.

Ready for the oven!

Halfway through the baking time, rotate the pans (front to back) and switch racks (pan on the bottom rack goes up, upper one goes down), for uniform results. Once golden brown on top, remove from the oven and transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

Warm, golden brown and mildly sweet; ready for their final dusting.

While the Mandazi cool, make your favorite African origin tea!

This is the first African (Kenyan) tea I had – thank you Simple Loose Leaf

Dust the cooled Mandazi with confectioners sugar and enjoy with your tea, all the while plotting your wonderful African adventure!

Honestly, everything looks pretty when dusted with confectioners sugar!
Kenyan Purple Tea by Simple Loose Leaf, with Baked Mandazi
Not overly sweet, just the right texture!
No one can eat just one.

• Recipe •

Baked Mandazi
Adapted (barely) from Immaculate Bites
Makes 24 2-inch square Mandazi

1/4cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup evaporated milk or canned coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 large egg, light beaten
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for flouring surface
1/3 cup grated coconut or coconut flakes (dry)
4 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon crushed cardamom spice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons vegetable or other neutral oil for greasing bowl
1/2 cup powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar to sprinkle

If it’s a cold day, preheat oven to 170 degrees F. Once preheated, turn it off.

In a large bowl whisk together the lukewarm water, evaporated milk, salt and sugar. Mix in yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes. Stir lightly and then whisk in the egg.

To the bowl, add 3 ½ cups flour, melted butter, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, grated coconut, and mix with your hands or a wooden spoon for 1 minute, until the dough comes together into a ball, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Turn dough ball onto a lightly floured surface and knead dough until all the ingredients have been fully incorporated and the dough is not sticky to the touch. Add up to 4 tablespoons of flour, if dough is too sticky. Knead dough until smooth for an additional 1-2 minutes.

Grease a large bowl with vegetable oil and place the dough in it, turning it once to coat. Cover loosely with a clean cloth and place in the slightly warm oven to let it rise for 1 to 2 hours or until doubled in volume. If the oven seems too warm, leave the door ajar. If it’s a warm day, just leave the bowl on the counter in a warm part of the kitchen.

After the dough has doubled in volume, take it out of the oven (if using) and flip into a lightly floured surface and roll out dough into 1 inch thick. Cut into pieces if desired shape and size.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and grease with nonstick cooking spray. Place cut Mandazi dough on the baking sheets and bake for about 15-18 minutes or lightly golden brown.

Transfer to a cooling rack using a spatula to cool completely. dust with confectioners sugar. Serve with hot tea!


One thought on “Baked Mandazi (Swahili Sweet Bread)

  1. I love the baked version of Mahamri not mandazi. The difference is the yeast.However in Africa we cook mostly by steaming and boiling. so about the metabolism, Indians fry everything!


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