Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Something Exotic, Yet Comfortingly Familiar

As Autumn -- which is my favourite season -- presses on and gets chillier, it's the kind of season where you sometimes just want a nice bread for breakfast. Banana bread is wonderful, but not everyone can get bananas, and in any case it takes time to age the bananas properly. What to do?

As you know, I'm a tea fancier and one of my favourite teas is chai. I always have some chai around, whether it's my own blend or someone else's. This recipe is especially convenient because you can get everything in it at most grocery stores.

It's quick, it's easy, and it's a good breakfast food that you won't feel too guilty about.

Exotic Yet Familiar Chai Bread


1 1/2 C flour
1/2 C sugar
1 C (soy)milk
2 eggs or egg substitute
1 tsp dry yeast
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
2 bags chai
handful cashew pieces

1) Preheat oven to 350F/175C. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Stir thoroughly, then add the yeast and blend it in.

2) Heat the milk over medium heat until it is hot enough to steam, then take the pot off heat. Place the two bags of chai in the milk and cover. Let steep for 10 minutes.

3) Add the milk gradually to the dry ingredients, stirring it in. Add the two eggs, stirring them completely, and then the cashews. Last, add the vanilla extract.

4) Once everything is smoothly blended, cover the bowl with a tea towel and let sit in a warm place for 15-20 minutes.

5) Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for one hour, or until golden brown on top and knife blade inserted in centre comes out clean.

6) Turn out onto rack and let cool.

Tips and Such

- You don't have to have a rack to cool a loaf of bread, but it helps if you do. This is because after baked goods like breads finish cooking, they release steam. It usually isn't obvious to the eye, but it collects and condenses into water. If you just set bread on a plate, it will absorb all that water back in and give it a soggy bottom!

If you don't have a rack, prop it diagonally so that the majority of the bottom isn't directly touching the plate or tray. You can also do this with a baking sheet. All you need is a gentle angle, and it will have enough room so that the bread isn't moistened to excess.

- After the first few hours, you'll want to place your bread in a breadbox or some other kind of container. You might even want to refrigerate it, for freshness; if you leave it out in the open air, it will gradually become more rigid and, in time, inedible. Although hardness is great for some things in life, bread unfortunately is not one of them.

- The reason why you place the bread somewhere for around 20 minutes, covered, is to let the yeast have time to start getting active and get the bread fluffier, with whatever you've used to help it to rise. You don't have to; if you don't mind a more condensed, solid loaf that is shorter, you can bake it directly.

Ingredient Info

Flour is grain ground into a powder. I use King Arthur brand because it's never bleached and isn't subject to a lot of the things that other flours are. There are plenty of very worthy, unbleached and unadulterated flours out there, so look at your local store and find a good one for you!

Sugar is usually derived from cane, although not always. See the previous entry on sugar for more information about sweeteners you can use.

Milk or soymilk are the nutritional byproduct of animals or soybeans, respectively. Soymilk is a great and nutritionally sound substitute, but for cooking purposes be careful not to buy a soymilk that has a distinct flavour added to it; just buy plain. You can also buy ricemilk or a variety of nutmilks, which are different and interesting themselves.

Eggs are yet another nutritional byproduct of animals, and they are very useful in cooking, to add fluffiness, nutrients, and as a binder for ingredients. You can, however, find vegan egg substitutes, or you can do what I do when I don't want to use eggs in baking: combine about 1-2 tsp baking soda with about a tbsp vinegar. Add the baking soda with the dry ingredients, add the vinegar with the wet. You can probably even omit the yeast if you don't want to bother with it, as long as you add the baking soda and vinegar. It's not that important in a bread like this, anyway.

Remember those volcano things people used to make when you were younger? This works on the same basic principle. Vinegar and baking soda together help to make a reaction that lets the bread rise, without the need for the eggs to make the dough fluffy. During wartime and other times where people were forced to do without their usual dairy, they developed recipes that used this combination instead. Give it a try!

Dry yeast is an ingredient used to help bread to rise. You can get this in packets or in jars, but I prefer to use jars since it's less wasteful than the paper for individual packets. Plus the jars have a really cool design that you can reuse for other things after you've emptied them, so that's an added bonus. I'm all about recycling through reuse! If you're only starting to use yeast for the first time, get used to measuring it by spoons instead of packets, and you'll always be able to gauge!

Baking powder is a convenient combination of baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. It is easier to use baking powder instead of those ingredients separately, although for many recipes it's recommended to use another pinch of salt or perhaps a little more baking soda sometimes. It's up to you.

Vanilla extract is the liquid extract of the vanilla bean, one of nature's most sensual and flavourful substances. Pure vanilla extract is typically suspended in alcohol, which is why for a while it was hard to get at times (although Chana has always had it handy), but there's also an imitation vanilla extract if you like. Personally I recommend getting real vanilla extract and not imitation. Be careful to read the packaging...sometimes they put 'imitation' in teeny tiny letters!

Chai is a kind of blend of spices and black tea. It was originally developed in India as a medicinal tonic for the nobility, but its popularity spread and now many people all over the world enjoy chai. It's very healthy by nature, and it can be helpful for a variety of reasons.

Cashews are seeds from the cashew tree, also called acajou. Isn't that a romantic-sounding word? I love to say it. ~Acajou~ Anyway, they're actually seeds that are attached to the bottom of the cashew apple, which is a fruit that is enjoyed in some parts of the world. For many regions, though, it's all about the nuts, which is a sentiment I can understand.

You hush up that giggling.

Cashews are really great nutritionally and have an immense amount of flavour. They make a fantastic nut butter and are also superb in sweets. They also absorb and enhance flavours, which is why they're ideal for a bread like this.

Note that people who are allergic to tree nuts can, however, omit the cashews and the bread will still be tasty!

Well, I hope you all enjoy this bread! It's great as it is, or toasted and lightly brushed with ghee, or just toasted and eaten dry. You can enjoy it with fruit or tea, or coffee. It also provides a lovely mid-afternoon snack when you can't eat dinner yet but you're hungry enough to need something.

What's especially nice is that it's really a very good bread and isn't full of things that are bad for you to eat. I'm not suggesting you eat a whole loaf at once, of course, but you shouldn't feel bad about indulging in a couple of pieces for breakfast! It's a good way to start the day and wake your taste buds, whilst being subtle enough not to jar you into the day.

Please do let me know how you're enjoying it!

Until next time, keeping cooking and doing your best. You can do it!

};) Dhiar <3

1 comment:

  1. Eee, thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipe. I've just made a loaf and eaten the first slice, and it's delicious! I didn't have vanilla or cashews to put in this one, but I will have to get some for the next loaf. ^_^