Baked Mandazi (Swahili Sweet Bread)

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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!

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Cream Cheese Cookies

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Apple Cinnamon is so quintessential “October”, I don’t think anything else can even come to mind if you tried. Especially in the US, where it is synonymous with Fall, and all things cozy, warm and annoyingly, tooth achingly sweet.

Which is why, when tasked with pairing this bold, rich and fragrant “Apple Cinnamon Black Tea” by Simple Loose Leaf, I turned to one of my favorite fall-themed cakes for inspiration: apple cinnamon cake with brown sugar cream cheese frosting. The tea brings the Apple and Cinnamon to the table, and the Cream Cheese Cookies you see on the top, bedazzled with turbinado sugar, do the rest!

These are actually simple sugar cookies, transformed by King Arthur flour into something much more complex (yet retaining all of the ease) with the addition of cream cheese and almond extract, adapted again, for simplicity, by Smitten Kitchen.

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Cinnamon Sugar and Chai Spice Khari (puff pastry twists)

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I ramble about tea, or something tea related, in most of my posts. Many of the things I make are tea accompaniments – this is simply because “teatime” is sacred around here. And it is sacred in many other parts of the world – something we’ve learned and experienced in our travels.

One of the most classic teatime accompaniments back home in India is “Khari”. In essence these are baked puff pastry rectangles, sometimes flavored with roasted cumin or caraway seeds. But the best kind of Khari is plain, buttery and delicious. Dipped into hot and spicy milk tea, it is one of the highest callings for butter and flour pounded together.

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Easy and Wildly Inauthentic “Tilgul” (dairy-free, gluten-free sesame energy bites)

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Every other year or so I have attempted (and failed at) “Tilgul” – a sweet treat made with sesame seeds (“Til”), jaggery (“Gul”), coconut and a whiff of cardamom, sometimes rolled into balls (“Laddoos”), or formed into bars. There’s many different kinds too, with different levels of complexity (and corresponding failure rates). Some varieties are fudge-y and moist, while others are crunchy and almost brittle-like.

No matter the way, I find it tricky to make Tilgul at home especially with the variation in the jaggery available in the US. It seems to have a lower moisture content sometimes, and other times it liquifies too fast and hardens into a rock. It’s not that my Tilgul attempts have been complete disasters, but they haven’t been as perfect as they should be, or could be (unless you call dismantling it and eating it like granola with your cereal a success).

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Vegan Rose and Pistachio Cake

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As much as I love vegan cake recipes, many times they involve strange ingredients (like flax eggs instead of regular eggs, or things like tapioca starch, and so forth). It’s most likely my ignorance on the matter because folks make wonders with these things, but my problem with them is the fact that they are substitutions, and not organically vegan.

I usually draw the line at using an extra banana or two instead of eggs in a banana-based baked good, like a banana bread, or a double chocolate banana bread, or pancakes and waffles, but beyond that I don’t find it appealing at least at this point. Which is why I was so happy to find this inherently vegan cake recipe in a handout I got at a cooking class somewhere in the Caribbean, and then spotted a variation of it on smitten kitchen!

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Gingerbread Cake

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Gingerbread is one of them Christmastime/December rituals, something you make when you are invited to a holiday party, or throw one. It’s a purely seasonal event – both it’s making and consumption. And usually if someone asks me to make Gingerbread in any of the remaining 11 months of the year, I politely decline and make something else instead. I’m very much like Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper that way; he has a clear rule about these type of things, in that he only drinks Hot Cocoa in months that have “R” in them. Take a minute to see that it makes total sense.

Gingerbread is only for December, only when it’s cold out, and you are enjoying it with a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate or mulled wine, doing absolutely nothing. The ultimate year end treat. Second only to Black Forest Cake, Gingerbread is one of the best things to come from Germany.

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Nutella Chocolate Chunk Cookies (gluten-free)

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This is going to be a rather short post, as I need to get back to eating my cookies. Also because they are ridiculously easy to make so there’s nothing much to say about the whole “recipe” aspect of it.

My family can best be described as Nutella fiends (among other notorious foodie descriptions) so I’m always trying to sneak Nutella into cakes, muffins and frostings; why should cookies be left behind?

Especially if the cookies in question happen to be one-bowl, gluten-free, spanning 6 ingredients, and ready to go into the oven faster than it takes for the oven to preheat.

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