Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Gulpoli (Jaggery paratha)

Gulpoli is a special poli (flatbread) made on Makar Sankrant, the harvest festival. In coastal Maharashtra Jaggery based dishes are primary made in winter and gulpoli is one of the more popular dishes. As the jaggery filling begins to cool the gulpoli turns crispy. Gulpoli is one of my favorite sweet breads.

I made these before my daughter headed to college. I made just eight gulpoli as it was part of a full meal. The dough for this recipe is mixed with hot oil and is super soft. That makes it easy to roll with the filling. If the jaggery seeps out little it is okay. Caramelized jaggery tastes pretty good.

When I first posted this recipe I had made a Maharastrian thali. I did not have very good pictures when I first posted this recipe. On the 25th of January I have updated the pictures.

You will need (for 8)
For the dough
2 cups wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
7 tbsp. olive oil

For the filling
1 cup jaggery
1/4 cup besan
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. polished sesame seeds
2-3 pods cardamon

Heat the olive oil. Put the flours in a mixing bowl and work the hot oil in. Knead the dough using water. Keep aside for a couple of hours. Knead again and divide into lemon sized balls. 

Dry roast the sesame seeds until they turn pinkish. Let cool and using a blender dry grind to a coarse powder. Shell the cardamom and pound to a powder. Cook the besan well in the oil. Combine in a mixing bowl with all the other ingredients for the filling. Keep aside.

Flatten one ball of dough in the palm of your hands.

Place filling in the flattened dough. Bring the edges together and and close at the top. 

On a working surface roll out a thin poli taking care to see the filling stays inside. 

Cook on a flat griddle pan. Put a few drops of oil while the poli is cooking. Serve hot.



This is my entry for week four, day two of BM #96 for the theme Redo. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM#96

Monday, January 27, 2014

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Fresh Blueberry sauce

Everybody loves Panna Cotta especially this vanilla flavored version served with fresh blueberry sauce. This is for week five of the 2014 52 week challenge for the theme Vanilla.

You will need
For the panna cotta
2 cups half and half
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 packet gelatin
3 tbsp. cold water

For the sauce
1 packet fresh blueberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

To make the panna cotta heat the whipping cream and half and half in a pan until just boiling. Turn off heat. Take cold water in a small bowl and add the gelatin to it. Let it stand for 5 minutes and then add it to the heated milk. Stir until the gelatin dissolves completely.

Pour into desired cups, ramekins or glasses and chill for a few hours or overnight.

To make the sauce heat the water and sugar in a saucepan. When the sugar melts and the water is boiling add half the blueberries. Let it simmer for a few minutes and turn off heat. Let it cool then run it through a blender. Chill for at least an hour. Drizzle over the panna cotta to serve.

Baumkuchen (German Tree Cake)

The January 2014 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Francijn of "Koken in de Brouwerij". She challenged us all to bake layered cakes in the tradition of Baumkuchen (tree cake) and Schichttorte (layered cake).

I had seen pictures of Baumkuchen on the web and my impression was that of a very complex cake too difficult to attempt. Then I found the group Daring Bakers. I liked the concept and decided to join in. January was my first month and Baumkuchen my first challenge with the Daring Bakers. If it had not been for this group I would never have attempted to bake this cake.

Baum Kuchen is German for Tree cake. Just like growth rings on a tree the cake has rings. The authentic Baumkuchen is made on an open spit on a log and truly resembles the tree rings. The version I baked is broiled in layers that can be clearly seen when the cake is sliced.

The batter was easy to prepare. It was the baking process that was very time consuming. I got about 10 layers excluding two layers of apricot jam. Each layers had to be broiled for about a minute and a half. A few seconds over and you risked burning the layer which would ruin the entire cake. But for all the effort the end result was awesome. I was thrilled when I cut into the cake and saw the layers.

Usually the Daring Bakers provide the recipe which the challengers are to follow. However, this month we were supposed to bake a layered cake. It was not mandatory to use the provided recipe. Hence I adapted the recipe from Global Adventures.

You will need
For the batter
6 oz. almond paste (I got it at Whole Foods)
3 tbsp. half and half
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 sugar
5 eggs
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup cake flour (I used King Arthur unbleached cake flour)
1/4 cup and 2 tbsp. cornstarch

5 oz. apricot preserve

To prepare the batter
Bring all the ingredients to room temperature. Break up the almond paste into pieces and add the half and half to it. Beat it until combined and creamy. Add the butter and beat some more. Add the sugar and beat until frothy. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Keep the egg whites aside. Beat in one egg yolk at a time into the almond mixture. Add the vanilla extract. Sift in the flour and corn starch a little at a time.

In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold them into the almond flour batter. Now you are all ready to prepare the cake.

The layering process
Use an 8" springform pan lined on the bottom with parchment paper. Put butter on the pan, place the parchment paper on it and then put some butter on the paper. Once the batter and the pan is ready, set the oven boiler on Low.

Use a 1/4 cup measure to place batter on the parchment paper in the pan. Spread it around evenly with a round pastry brush. Place the pan on the top rack under the broiler. Set the timer for a minute but watch it like a hawk. When the top turns brown take it out of the oven. If needed add another minute under the broiler. I was very surprised to see it done in just over a minute.

Add another layer of batter and spread it around evenly. You have to ensure you are building a level flat cake. Put the pan back in then oven. It took the batter a little over a minute to brown in my oven. You will figure out the time it takes in your oven in a few layers. Continue building the cake one layer at a time until a third of the batter is gone. Put in a layer of apricot jam and broil for about 30 seconds. Add another layer of batter. Continue building the cake adding a layer of apricot jam after every few layers until all the batter is gone. I got two apricot jam layers in this cake.

Take it out of the pan and place on a cooling rack or a parchment sheet. When cool remove the parchment paper and using plastic wrap cover the cake completely. Place a large inverted mixing bowl over it and leave on the counter top overnight.

Cover it with chocolate glaze. I used my own recipe for the chocolate glaze that you will find here. Pour it over the cake and let it dribble over the sides.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Focaccia Caprese

Last month as I was surfing the web I saw a picture of a beautifully baked bread that was supposed to have been baked with the group "We Knead to Bake". As luck would have it this closed group was accepting new members until the 31st of December. It was the 30th of December. Their only condition was that new members had to stick it out for a year. Now I have not baked anything worth mentioning for years. I have fondly looked at my cake decorating supplies from time to time but have not used those for several years either. On a whim I decided to join the group. This is my first bread baked with the group.

WE KNEAD TO BAKE #13 was Focaccia Caprese. Though I have eaten Focaccia and Caprese separately, I had never tried the two together. However, I could not imagine how something like that could not taste good. It was a perfect start to baking again.

I planned to make this bread on Saturday, the 11th of January, well before the reveal date of 24th. With the temperatures expected to rise to the upper 50s and lower 60s on the 11th it would be a perfect day for baking. However, as luck would have it, I overslept on the 7th, the first day of school after winter break. My teenager woke me up 15 minutes before leaving for school to ask what she should pack for lunch. Oh! the guilt! I decided to go out in the freezing cold (25 F) and get the ingredients. I baked the bread and delivered it to school in time for lunch. It turned out great! And I thoroughly enjoyed baking it.

You can make a meal of the bread as I did or you can serve it as a side with pasta or soup. That is what I am planning to do with the remaining loaf this evening.

The baking group works with a recipe given by the host Aparna. Aparna adapted her recipe from a recipe she found here. I have reproduced her recipe below with the few changes I needed to make to suit the tastes of my family.

You will need
For the dough
2 tsp. Fleischmann rapid rise yeast
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup warm water

For the Topping
4 large tomatoes (red or yellow), sliced thin
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4" thick
8 leaves fresh basil, rolled up and sliced into thin strips

For the herb oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 pod garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt to taste

olive oil to brush the loaves

In a bowl whisk all the ingredients for the herb oil. Keep aside until needed.

In a mixing bowl add all the ingredients for the dough except the water. Mix well. Add the water a little at a time and knead into a soft and elastic dough. I prefer not to use the electric mixer because I have recently found kneading to be very calming. The rough and tumble dough is tamed under your fingers as you keep working it and is replaced by a glossy, soft dough. Roll this soft dough into a ball. Moisten your palm with olive oil and rub all over the dough. Leave it in the mixing bowl covered with plastic wrap for an hour.

While the dough rests, prepare the baking sheet. I used a regular baking sheet and this recipe yielded two good sized Focaccia. Sprinkle olive oil on the baking sheet and spread it around. After resting for an hour the dough should have grown to twice its size.

Divide it into two and shape the loaves. Working with your hands flatten one of the two loaves on one side of the baking sheet. Flatten it to your desired thickness. Repeat with the other loaf.

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Let the loaves rest for about 20 minutes in the baking sheet. They will rise a little. Moisten you fingertips with olive oil and punch holes all over the loaves. Using a pastry brush spread the prepared herb oil liberally over the top of the loaves.

Bake uncovered in the oven for 18 minutes or until just brown. While the loaves are baking prepare the toppings.

Roll the basil leaves and slice thin resulting in thin strips. Leave a few leaves to garnish. Slice the fresh mozzarella in 1/4" think slices. Slice the tomatoes thin.

Remove the loaves from the oven. At this point the bread smelled and looked so good I had to resist trying it.

Sprinkle more herb oil. Crank the oven up to 450 F. Arrange the mozzarella slices on the bottom followed by tomato slices and basil strips. Sprinkle more herb oil on the top and return to the oven for about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the loaves rest for a few minutes. Serve hot.

Note: If you are unable to finish it all in one meal you can have leftovers. Leftover Focaccia can easily be freshened up. Preheat the oven to 375 F and place the Focaccia directly on the middle rack. Let it heat through for 5 minutes. Take out of the oven and serve hot. Even though it does not taste as good as the first time it is taken out of the oven, it comes close.

Ambti (Lentil soup, Tur Dal)

Ambti is a stable in the Marathi household and is made with tur dal. My mother made delicious ambti. Even though I have made it several times with her standing by my side I have never been able to make it as good as hers.

Ambti literally means a dish to which something sour has been added. The preferred sour ingredient in Maharashtra is the dried kokum fruit peel also called amsul (sol). In its absence tamarind can be used. I did not have fresh amsul so I used tamarind.

As a child I remember my mother used to buy amsul only from some vendors in the interior of Goa. She did not buy it in the town we lived. She had to have fresh amsul and that according to her was not available in town.

You will need
1 cup turdal
1 Serrano pepper, deseeded and minced
1 tsp. powdered roasted coriander and cumin seeds
1 tbsp. tamarind extract
1 tsp. Agave Nectar
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1/4 tsp. asafoetida
4-5 curry leaves (optional)
1 tbsp. olive oil

Pressure cook the turdal with twice the quantity of water. Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they crackle add the pepper, turmeric powder and asafoetida. Add the curry leaves and the cooked turdal. Bring it to a boil. Add the tamarind extract, Agave nectar. Season with salt. Let it simmer for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and serve hot.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mugachi Usal (Moogachi usal / Mung usal)

Mung, Matki, Chavli etc. are commonly used in Maharastra to make usal. Usal is the curry made with pulses. Dals are made with split pulses. They are a good source of protein in the vegetarian diet. Its preparation may vary from region to region but an usal is always part of the thali.

Mung is soaked overnight for best results. You may soak it for a couple hours and get away with it. However, mung is a quick cooking pulse and can be forgiving. Even if you do not soak it at all you can make the usal. Dry roast it on a pan until it gets a pinkish hue and pressure cook the roasted mung to use as needed.

You will need
1 cup mung
1 bunch cilantro
1 Serrano pepper
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1/4 tsp. asafoetida
tbsp. olive oil

Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When they crackle add turmeric powder and asafoetida. Now add the mung and let cook on medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes or until they are soft but not mushy.
In a blender grind cilantro and the Serrano pepper to a paste with a little water. Add the paste to the cooked mung. Season with salt and bring to a quick boil. Turn off heat and serve hot.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Aluchi wadi (Alu wadi / Arabi leaf cutlets / patra)

Aluchi wadi is a Maharashtrian delicacy. The alu leaves are coated with spiced besan and steamed. Instead of alu you can use cabbage to make kobi wadi or cilantro to make kothimbir wadi.

My mother used to make all three and I remember helping her as a child. My mother would insist on the black stalked alu for these wadis. But here where I live I cannot be so picky so I used the green stalked alu. I could not really tell the difference.

The Alu plant like the banana plant requires a lot of water. Alu leaves are heart shaped. Each stalk grows directly from the root. You will get about 8 wadis with two leaves. I used four leaves.

You will need
4 alu leaves

For the besan paste
1 cup besan
1 tbsp. rice flour
2 tbsp. tamarind extract
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. red chili powder
1 tsp. powdered roasted coriander and cumin seeds
salt to taste

For the final step
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1/4 tsp. asafoetida
1 tbsp. olive oil

Make the besan paste first. Mix all the ingredients together. Add a little water and whisk together. Add more water if needed.

Continue adding water and whisking until you have a thick paste. Keep aside.

Now prep the leaves. Wash them clean and dry them using a cloth. Be careful not to tear them.

Spread one leaf on a flat work surface with stalk side up. Trim the stalk. Coat completely with the prepared basan paste. This can get messy.

Now place a second leaf stalk side down over the first. Coat it with the paste. Have fun getting your fingers dirty.

Starting from the side of the stalk roll the leaves into a tight roll. When you get to the stalk you may have to snap it for the first couple of rolls.

Apply paste as you roll. Continue rolling till the end. I cut the rolls in half to fit into my steamer. I used a pressure cooker. I allowed the pressure to build, turned off the heat and allowed the pressure to go down. You can use any steamer you want. Grease the bottom to prevent sticking.

Transfer the rolls to a cutting board. They should be quite firm now. Cut them to the desired size.

Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When they crackle add turmeric powder and asafoetida. Put all the cooked and cut alu wadis into the pan.

Saute until they turn brownish in color and the tops are crisp. Serve hot.

Chocolate glaze (without corn syrup)

Chocolate glaze is used to decorate cakes and pastries. It is very easy to make. Most recipes use corn syrup but it is not really needed to make good chocolate glaze.

You will need
1 1/2 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. Agave nectar or honey
2 tbsp. butter
a handful of semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine all the ingredients in a microwaveable bowl and heat for 10 seconds. Stir and put it back for 10 seconds. Repeat until the chocolate chips and butter are completely melted. Keep aside and let it cool. It will thicken a little. Use as needed.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Pudina Chutney (Mint Chutney)

This chutney is not usually on a Maharastrian thali. You generally see cilantro chutney. Pudina chutney may be included for special occasions. Pudina or mint leaves have a very refreshing taste.

This chutney takes only a few minutes to make with a blender. I remember when I was a child the maid used to grind the chutney using a grinding stone. Most homes including mine do not have a grinding stone anymore.

You will need
1 big bunch of cilantro
1 small handful of pudina (mint) leaves
2 tbsp. dry roasted peanuts
salt to taste

Grind all the ingredients together in a blender to form a thick paste with as little water as your blender will allow.

Batata Bhaji (Potato bhaji)

Boiled potatoes are used to prepare side dishes in almost every culture. The potatoes are either mashed or cubed. This version is classic in its simplicity.

This bhaji is included in the thali because it goes with every other dish on the plate. It can be eaten with rice or poli (chapati).

The time needed to make this dish is in the boiling of the potatoes. The rest of it comes together very quickly. Serve it hot. You can heat leftovers and they taste almost as good too.

You will need
3 medium sized potatoes, boiled and cubed
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 Serrano pepper, deseeded and minced
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1/4 tsp. asafoetida
1 tsp. turmeric powder
3 curry leaves
1 tbsp. olive oil
salt to taste

Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they sizzle add the asafoetida, curry leaves and turmeric powder. Let the curry leaves fry in the oil. Be careful and keep your face away from the pan. Add the pepper and the potatoes. Saute for a few minutes until potatoes are coated and turn yellow. Add sugar and salt to taste. Cover and let it cook until heated through. Add the cilantro, mix it well and turn off the heat.

Pumpkin Muffins

As a child I did not like pumpkin at all. I do not believe I would have even tried these pumpkin muffins back then. I love them now even though I would rather not eat pumpkin in savory dishes.

I am submitting this dish to 2014 52 week challenge for the theme Ingredient you Hated as a child.

The pumpkin makes the muffins soft and moist on the inside. I cut down on the sugar so they can be used as breakfast muffins. If you like sweet muffins increase the amount of sugar.

You will need
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp. cinnamon powder
2 tsp. ginger powder
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup milk
3 tbsp. melted butter
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a 12 muffin baking tray and keep aside. In a mixing bowl add the dry ingredients, first 7 on the list, and mix together.

In another bowl mix the rest of the ingredients. Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients a little at a time.

Mix together to form a thick batter.

Fill the muffin tray with the batter.

Bake for 15-16 minutes. Let it cool for a couple minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before storing.