Thursday, August 27, 2009

Just Like Ali Baba

You know how sometimes, without warning, you find yourself awash in a slew of good fortune and treasures? Things that you never imagined happening at all, even one, yet all of a sudden every single event happens all at once... and you're not prepared to react? Yesterday was one of those days for me.

The day started off with some early excitement, times two, in my inbox. The first note I recieved was something that originally seemed innocuous... a newsletter from BakeSpace. Paging through, I saw a familiar photo on the sidebar, for none other than my Red Velvet Puffs With Espresso Frosting! Flattered to say the least, I forwarded the email to my ever-proud (and doting) dad, who I sometimes refer to as my biggest fan, and continued through the list of messages.

I then came upon one of the most incredible, joyous shocks of my life. One of the members of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, Erin Charter, had sent me a message to say that little ol' me had won the grand prize in their recipe contest with one of last year's "garden use-up solutions" - the Green Tomato Micemeat! The prize package is stunning, to say the least - a night in a Niagara Bed & Breakfast, Dinner at Tony DeLuca’s restaurant at the Oban Inn, and tickets to the Shaw festival. Suddenly, I've gone from moping about having no vacation this year at all, to having one heck of a great opportunity literally at my door! Now, I can't wait for Fall... isn't that sad?? My recipe, as well as the runner-up (a super-colourful meal called "Fresh Creamy Tomato Bowls" by Laura Paskevicius) and a ton of other seasonal yummies are up on the website.

So, after all that excitement, I still got to go to the "fair"! Keeping with the semi-tradition Andrew and I had begun back in the infancy of our relationship, we took our yearly trip to the Canadian National Exhibition yesterday. Braving the threats of rain, and the insanely cold buildings (why the public needs to be at a constant temperature of 10°C is beyond me) we did our annual tour, sadly discovering that either due to the economy or simple lack of public interest, at least a third of the exhibits, vendors and shows we had expected and looked forward to seeing had disappeared! (I did manage to capture a few photos of the famous foods that stayed at The Ex, and will cobble together a roundup, but later).

However, one of the places we make a point of visiting each time we make the trip, and undoubtedly one of the most precious areas of the permanent fairgrounds, is the City of Toronto Animal Services branch in the Horse Palace building. Each time we go in is both a joy and a bit of a letdown for me, since while I love looking at and watching all the cats, dogs and other assorted animals play and just "be cute" with each other, I know in my heart that none of them will ever be coming home with me on the train! Thank God for Andrew's presence while we're there - if he didn't talk sense for (and into) me during those hours, I'm sure I would have many more creatures in my home than we already do! Both our cats (the older black and white James Bond wannabe that is Preston, and the redhead clown we dubbed Bitt) are "rescue" cats, and our old mutt Shaggy was also an adoptee. My sister volunteered for a while in our local Humane Society chapter too, so the welfare of any animal in need is very close to my heart!

I had had a recurring dream over the past week or so that always focussed on me finding this one, small cat while putting away plates and bowls in the new home Andrew and I were moving into. In this dreamland, I would open up one of the cupboards, dishes in hand, to find a small black feline just sitting there, unafraid and more curious than anything. I would always pick her up and pet her a couple times before Andrew would re-enter the situation and ask me about finding the new animal, to which I would always somehow explain finding her and deciding to keep this new furball, naming her Dish. Even though I always just let the dream slide as nothing more than passing fancy, I could always remember the cat in every detail upon waking. She never changed, no matter how many times I dreamed of her, and as those of you on Twitter know I would talk incessantly of one day when Andrew and I would have our own place and could adopt our own cat-baby (we had always wanted to adopt a pet of our own, and a cat for us always seemed like the best option).

So colour me flabberghasted when, lo and behold, the spitting image of Dish was there waiting for me in the shelter! Of course that made leaving the building even harder, but just knowing that she was out there at all was enough to make me smile. When my mom (who knew about my dream from before) called me from her vacation on Niagara on the Lake, I told her about my find as passing conversation. We had, of course, talked about my dream before, and how I would love a cat of my own, but since we already had the other two we agreed it was best not to pursue a third one. But like everything else yesterday, I got another home run out of nowhere when my mom suddenly said to me: "actually, Sarah, we think that you should in fact get Dish. She would be good for you". Umm, what?? Who is this woman and what did she do to my mom?? Of course, I don't want to look a gift horse (or cat!) in the mouth, but I can't help it sometimes... is there a hidden agenda going on somewhere? Should I feel guilty now for being let down by other oversights on my mom's part, or when she puts spending time with my stepdad ahead of doing things with my sister and I? Perhaps. Time will tell!

I may still be sort of debating the notion of bringing Dish home, but there is one thing I know for sure... at the end of a stressful day, you can always rely on flour, water, a little yeast and the sheer strength of your emotions to create beauty. I named this bread after Ali Baba originally due to the high concentration of sesame products in the dough, but looking at it now it has another, deeper connotation too. The outward appearance is of nothing more than a homely, overly browned loaf (to be kind). However, upon slicing through the hard exterior crust, a soft, tender crumb opens up with the most wonderful nutty aroma. The pale tan background - made up of a mostly whole wheat dough enriched with almond milk and tahini - is speckled throughout with jewels of black and white sesame seeds that crunch ever so slightly should you encounter one in a bite of toast. It is unlike anything you would expect in a bread, and yet something so wonderful you can't help but want to share it. So without further ado, I will share it with you, and all those peeking in from YeastSpotting this week as well!

Ali Baba Sesame Bread
Serves 16
1 cup warm unsweetened almond milk
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp yeast
1 egg, beaten lightly
2/3 cup tahini
1/2 cup flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp black sesame seeds
2 tbsp white sesame seeds
  1. Combine warm almond milk, brown sugar and yeast in a large bowl or stand mixer basin. Let stand 10 minutes.
  2. When yeast is foaming and bubbly, mix in egg and tahini until well incorporated.
  3. Whisk together flours, salt and sesame seeds, then mix into the wet ingredients thoroughly to form a workable dough.
  4. Knead with the mixer or turn out on a floured surface and knead by hand for 12-15 minutes, until satiny and pliable.
  5. Place into an oiled bowl, cover and let rise 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Deflate the dough and shape into a loaf, place into a lightly greased loaf pan.
  7. Cover and allow to rise 1 hour.
  8. Preheat oven to 375F.
  9. Brush the top of the loaf with water and bake for 35 minutes.
  10. Turn out of pan immediately and cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 154.3
Total Fat: 7.3 g
Cholesterol: 13.3 mg
Sodium: 28.8 mg
Total Carbs: 19.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.2 g
Protein: 5.0 g


  1. Well well well I say YAY and job(s) well done! And I also say that you should reward yourself by going and picking up Dish and giving him a new home. It's just meant to be, right?

  2. The day was good to you, but it was great for me. After all, I got a sweet new bread recipe to play with.

    Everyone wins!


  3. Wow, big congratulations on your prize! Your loaf looks great, and not at all overbrown to me.

  4. Quick! Go buy a lottery ticket, you're on a roll!

    The bread looks really delicious.

  5. Congrats on the wonderful day. I was so distracted by all the great things that happened to you, that I forgot I came here from Yeastspotting to read about your beautiful bread!

  6. I love all your bread on your site. I just wish I have a bigger oven.


Thanks for the feedback!