Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bannock - Native American Bread

Bannock is easy quick bread made with corn meal. This recipe comes from a here a website for Chippewa recipes. I was not sure how the bread was supposed to look so I went with the instructions and this is what I got.


The bread is a little dense but tasty.

You will need (for about 12)
For the batter
1 cup cornmeal
2 tbsp. oil
2 tbsp. honey or maple syrup
salt to taste
water as needed

2 tbsp. oil

In a bowl add all the ingredients except the water. Add enough water to make a thick batter.


Heat a pan on medium heat. Drop two or three blobs of batter a little over a tablespoon each on the pan. Drizzle a little oil on the sides. Cover and let them cook on low heat until brown.


Flip over and brown the other side. Take it off heat.


Soak it on paper towels.


Enjoy!

This is my entry for week 43 of the 2014 52 week challenge for the theme Native American.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Baked Mozzarella Stick Mummies

Mozzarella stick mummies are a perfect snack for a Halloween themed party. I wanted to make something fun for my teenager and her friends. I had leftover pizza dough and string cheese in the refrigerator. So I used it all up and made a snack that everyone enjoyed.  I used leftover pizza dough to make the mummies. Puff pastry or any bread dough should work too.


I used cloves for the eyes on two of the mummies and cinnamon candy drops on the other two. I also tried using slices of olives for the eyes but that did not work out very well.


You could bake the sticks and paint in the eyes with decorate gel. I served the sticks with homemade pizza sauce.

You will need (for 4 sticks)
1 200 gm ball of pizza dough (I used this recipe) (see notes at the end of this post for alternatives)
2 or 4 numbers string cheese (2 if you use half a stick for each one)
cloves, or candy or decorate gel for the eyes

Preheat oven to 375 F. Flatten the pizza dough with your hands into a thin rectangle wide enough to fir the string cheese. Slice the string cheese into half and place the 4 part on the dough about 2 inches apart. You could use the whole string cheese if you wish. In that case you will need four. Cut the dough into strips. Fold the top and bottom and roll the cheese in the dough. Seal the edges to completely cover the cheese. Using the tines of a fork poke holes on the two ends to allow steam to escape.


With the remaining dough cut strips less than half an inch in width. I used a rotary dough cutter. You could use a sharp knife.


Wrap the strips around the cheese stick to form a mummy. Keep the wrapping as uneven as possible. Stretch the dough in places to keep the width uneven too. Unlike the picture, place two cloves in the place of olive as eyes.


Repeat for the remaining sticks.


Bake for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 350 F and bake another 10 minutes or until the dough is cooked through.


Enjoy!

Notes:
You can use pizza dough made with your favorite recipe.
Alternately, use puff pastry dough or any other dough you have on hand.


This is my entry for week 44 to the 2014 52 week challenge for the theme Horror Movie Inspired.

Bread Baking Tips

I have been asked a lot of questions about baking bread. Here are some of those questions answered.
  • How do I half the recipe? This is the most frequently asked question. If you work with weights halving a recipe is very easy. If you work with volume it can get tricky. I would say half all the ingredients but when mixing the dough reserve a little of the liquid. Use the reserved liquid only if needed. 
  • Is leavened bread good for you? Our body does not have the ability to digest whole grain without help. Soaking, fermenting and cooking help release enzymes that break down the complex carbohydrates and proteins in a form we can digest and absorb. All ancients cultures recognized the value of fermentation. Leavened bread is dough fermented with the help of yeast and bacteria. When soaked the enzymes in the flour start to break down the complex carbohydrates and proteins. The yeast and bacteria work on these further to convert them to flavorful forms we can easily digest. They also release carbon-di-oxide which helps leaven the bread.
  • NEVER PUNCH DOUGH. This is a very common instruction for home recipes, but don't do it. If you need to punch the dough and have it rise again to double the volume you probably used too much yeast. Be gentle with the dough. There is really no need to punch it down in order to shape it.
  • Watch the amount of yeast you use. A loaf with three cups of flour should have no more than a teaspoon of yeast. Adding more yeast does not improve the texture of the bread but cuts down on the flavor. Remember, you are trying to break down the grain and develop flavor. You are not trying to create an aerated mass. If you are in a hurry use lukewarm liquid and proof the dough in a warm place. That will help the yeast.
  • To get well risen bread you need flour with a high gluten content. Gluten fibers form a network in which the gases released by the yeast are trapped. It is a lot easier to get the large uneven 'holes' of an artisan bread using high gluten flour. You can bake with low gluten flours but expect a denser bread. 
  • If you choose to use refined flour ensure the flour is not bleached (bromated). Try to find unbleached aged flour.  In the US some brands of refined flour are bleached. Read the labels. Almost all the ready to eat bread available in the supermarket is made with bleached flour. 
  • Is maida the same as all purpose flour? This is the question most asked by new bakers from India. The answer is no. Maida can be compared to cake flour or pastry flour which is a much softer refined flour than all purpose flour. And maida is almost always bromated.
  • Why long rise times? As mentioned earlier, soaking releases enzymes already present in the flour. These enzymes break down the complex carbohydrates into simpler sugars. This takes time especially for whole grain flours. That is the reason a resting period for dough is recommended even for unleavened breads. The yeast feeds on this sugar. Giving this process time not only helps to develop flavor but breaks down the dough in a form that our body can absorb. The resultant bread not only tastes a lot better than the one hour wonders but is good for you. Take your time baking the bread. 
  • Using whole grain flour. Wheat is the most commonly used flour to bake bread. Bakers use a lot of different flours, spelt, einkorn, rye, semolina just to name a few. The rise and crumb size may depend upon the gluten content of your flour/flour blend but if you control the quantity of yeast and give the dough time you can make flavorful and healthy loaves with any flour you choose.
Don't be afraid to get those hands dirty. 


This is my entry for week four, day three of BM #45 for the theme Taming the yeast. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#45.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Vada Pav

Vada Pav is a street food from Mumbai. Until I started working in Mumbai I had never tasted it or even heard of it. I was very wary of getting sick when I first started working in Mumbai so I stayed away from the street foods. Later a friend introduced me to it. She and I roomed together. She was from Nasik and had visited Mumbai many more times than I had. She insisted I try the vada pav from a street vendor. I was very skeptical. It was one thing to try grilled corn on the cob. The hot coals killed all the germs. But bread and vada were a different animal. After a lot of coaxing I tried it and really liked it. That version of vada pav was too spicy for me and I had to wash it down with lots of water. But the combination was great. And I did not get sick.


I am told there are wada pav chains in Mumbai now. I did not venture out to try it the last time I was in Mumbai but that may be because I was in a hotel close to the airport and the Mumbai office in Andheri, far away from these outlets.

After all these years the taste stayed with me and when I was wondering how to use these laadi pav I had baked I kept going back to vada pav. Finally I made vada pav at home. I made the garlic coconut chutney but deliberately kept it is very mild. You can spice it up with dry red chili peppers if you want. I had posted the recipe for batata vada a few days ago. I posted whole wheat laadi pav yeasterday. Today I bring it all together to present the wada pav.


It was only when I edited the pictures that I realized I had not put any green chutney on the bun I used for the pictures.

You will need
Laadi pav or Dinner roll
Batata vada
Green chutney

For the garlic coconut chutney
1 cup dry coconut flakes or powder
1 tsp. tamarind pulp
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1-2 red chili peppers (depends upon how brave you are, I am a wimp I skipped this)
1 tsp. red chili pepper powder (optional, use if not using red chili peppers)
3 tbsp. peanuts
salt to taste

Heat a small saute pan and add the dry coconut to it. Mix in the tamarind pulp such that it is distributed evenly. Continue to roast the coconut on low medium heat mixing it up occasionally so it does not burn. Remove from pan when done and add the minced garlic to the same pan. When roasted remove from pan and add the sesame seeds. Next add the red chili pepper. Let all the roasted ingredients cool before adding them to a grinder along with the peanuts and salt. Grind to a powder.

If you used red chili peppers your chutney will turn an orange red. Since I used red chili pepper powder mine was a dull orange.

To put it all together
Cut the pav though the center. Add the garlic chutney to one side and apply the green chutney to the other. Place the vada over the garlic chutney and place the other half of the pav over the top.


Enjoy!

This is my entry for week four, day two of BM #45 for the theme Taming the yeast. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#45.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Whole Wheat Eggless Dinner Rolls / Laadi Pav

The best yeast bread I bake is one leavened with wild yeast. It has nothing but flour, water and salt and tastes great. However, dinner rolls and buns can be a little different. Most recipes call for an egg or egg yolk, butter or oil and some sugar. These dinner rolls use flax seed instead of an egg and a little oil and sugar. The rolls were soft and fluffy and browned very well. I used King Arthur whole wheat flour and that gave the buns a lovely dark color. The dark specks are from the crushed flax seed. Though visible they do not alter the taste at all.


This recipe is the latest in the taming the yeast challenge where one member of our group presents a recipe that we all try to replicate. This recipe was shared by Priya of Priya's Versatile Recipes. Priya is an expert baker and has a large collection of baked goods on her blog. You should check it out. Thanks Priya for this awesome recipe.


Some changes I made - The dough was very wet. I like wet dough but this one needed more flour. I added about a 1/4 cup of additional flour. The original recipe called for 2 1/2 teaspoon of yeast. I reduced the amount to a scant teaspoon and increased the rise times. If I had mixed the dough in the morning instead of early afternoon I would have added no more than a 1/2 teaspoon. The long rise time allowed the flavors to develop making the rolls delicious on their own.

I have flax seed in my pantry that I run through a blender before I use it. Humans lack the enzymes needed to digest whole flax seed but it stores better as seed than powder. Running it through the blender crushes the seed making it possible to digest and absorb the nutrients.

You will need
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 scant tsp. yeast
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1 tbsp milk for brushing the rolls
oil to grease the dough while rising

Sift the flours in a large mixing bowl. Add the ground flax seed, sugar, salt and yeast. Heat the milk in a microwave and add it to the flour along with the oil. Mix together to form a dough. Knead for a few minutes until smooth and elastic. Put a few drops of oil on the palm of your hand and rub around the dough. Place the ball of dough in the bowl, cover and allow to rise for 3-4 hours until it doubles in volumes. On a hot day this process might go faster.

Flour your hands and your working surface and transfer the dough on to it. Do not punch it. Be gentle as you work the dough into a rectangle. Using a pastry cutter cut equal portions of the dough. I got 9 rolls of ~95 gm each and one tiny tester roll.


Place the rolls a half inch apart on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Sprinkle a little flour on the top of the rolls and cover loosely. Allow the rolls to rise for 20-30 minutes.


In the last 10 minutes preheat the oven to 350 F. Brush the tops of the rolls with a little warm milk.


Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the tops are brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack for a couple minutes.


You can have them hot with a stuffing/ filling or sides of your choice.

This is my entry for week four, day one of BM #45 for the theme Taming the yeast. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#45.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte

It is fall and pumpkins are everywhere! Even in your chai latte! Pumpkin spice flavors are very popular in coffee and tea. If you are one of those people who love pumpkin spice latte then you should try this at home. I am not really a tea or coffee person but I like the occasional cup. And in fall I like to indulge in a pumpkin spice flavored tea.


I used a BPA free can of pumpkin puree but you could make your own if you like. Cinnamon and nutmeg are must haves for this recipe. They flavor the otherwise bland pumpkin brown sugar combination.


I am not going to call this the pumpkin spice chai tea latte because it would be saying pumpkin spice tea tea latte. Chai is Hindi for tea.

You will need
For the pumpkin spice
1 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. dried ginger powder
1 tsp. cinnamon powder
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cardamom powder
a pinch of salt

For the latte
3 tbsp. water
1 tsp. tea leaves or one bag of chai
2 tsp. pumpkin spice mixture
1/2 cup milk

For the topping
whipped cream (optional)
cinnamon or nutmeg powder

Combine all the ingredients for the pumpkin spice. You can keep this mixture refrigerated for up to two weeks.


To make the latte, boil the water and take it off heat. If using tea leaves, add the leaves to the water. Allow it to sit for a minute, longer if you like strong tea. Run the water through a strainer and discard the leaves. If using a tea bag drop the bag in the water and allow to seep to the desired strength.

Meanwhile combine the milk and the pumpkin spice mixture. Bring it to a boil. Turn off heat and add it to the tea water. If you like top with whipped cream. Sprinkle cinnamon or nutmeg on the top.


Enjoy your hot cup of pumpkin spice chai latte!

This is my entry for the 41st week of the 2014 52 week challenge for the theme pumpkin.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Shubh Deepawali / Happy Diwali

Today is Narka Chaturdashi. We Maharashtrians celebrate this day with a family breakfast of the Diwali goodies, being thankful for what we have and enjoying each others company. The house is clean, the diyas are in place, the rangoli is painted and everywhere you look there is a festive atmosphere. This is a time to rejuvenate. I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very happy Deepawali!


May this season bring warmth, good health and happiness for the year to come.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Baked Dry Coconut Karanji (Kordya Khobryacha Karanjya)

Karanji is an must have faral item on the Maharashtrian Diwali faral platter. Two types of karanji are made. One is with fresh coconut and the other is with dry coconut flakes. The one made for Diwali is with dry coconut flakes. Traditionally the karnaji is deep fried but I baked it as I have done with all the faral recipes I made this year.


The karanji 'pari' or shell is crunchy but not hard. The stuffing is made of dry coconut, roasted poppy seeds, roasted semolina (rawa) and powdered sugar. Generally dry coconut flakes are used but I used shredded dry coconut and I believe that helped to keep the filling well distributed throughout the karanji. My daughter could not resist having one while it was still warm.


As a child I remember coming home from school to find fresh made karanjis. My mother always made them with the help of the maid while we were out of the house. I can understand why. Then as a teenager I remember helping my mother with karanjis. I always got very tired of the amount of time it took to deep fry them but on the whole we enjoyed ourselves. I remember being very strict about how many could be eaten before Diwali. With all the effort I would put in I would be pretty mad if they were all gone before Diwali and we had to make them again. Now I don't really care, in a way I am happy if everyone wants to eat them. Time passes and our roles change.


It is tradition to make at least one modak when making karanji, one puri when making shankarpale and one kadbola when making chakli. You see, just like Spanish, the Marathi language classifies everything as masculine or feminine. So at least one feminine piece is made with the masculine faral and vice versa. Karanji is feminine and hence the masculine modak. I will let you draw your own inference as for the reason behind the tradition.

You will need (makes 15 karanjis and 2 modaks)
For the shell
1 cup rawa (semolina)
1 cup all purpose flour
3 tbsp. melted warm ghee or clarified butter
~ 1/3 cup lukewarm milk or as needed

For the filling
1 cup shredded dry coconut
2 tbsp. poppy seeds
1 tsp. ghee
1/4 cup rawa (semolina)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
1 pod cardamom, shelled and seeds crushed

1/4 cup milk for sealing the karanji and brushing

To make the shell, combine the semolina and all purpose flour in a bowl. Rub in the melted ghee. Using a little milk at a time form a ball of dough. Do not make the dough too soft. Reserve the remaining milk. Cover the dough and keep aside for an hour.

Meanwhile make the filling. Roast the shredded coconut taking care to ensure it down not brown. Take it off heat and place in a mining bowl. Next roast the poppy seeds in the same pan. Keep aside to cool when done. Next melt the ghee in the same pan and roast the semolina in it. Again, ensure it is well roasted without turning brown. Take it off heat and add it to the roasted coconut. Grind the roasted and cooled poppy seeds to a powder. Add them to the coconut along with the powdered sugar and cardamom powder. Mix it well and keep aside until needed.


After an hour break the dough into pieces and run it through the food processor. If it is too dry add a tablespoon of milk and run it again. It should be soft and pliable. If not add another tablespoon of milk and run it through again. Transfer the softened dough to the mixing bowl and knead a little. Cover with a moistened tea towel.


Preheat the oven to 375 F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour a little

Break away a portion of dough the size of a large marble. Keep the rest of the dough covered. Knead the small portion of dough in the palm of your hand and place it on a work surface.


Using a rolling pin roll the dough to form a thin round disc.


Place the filling in the center. Moisten the perimeter with milk.


Fold the dough over to form a half moon shaped dumpling. Press it down with your fingers to seal.


Using a special decorative cutter cut the edges off. If you don't have a cutter use the tines of a fork to form a decorative edge.


Remove the discarded dough and place it separately from the rest of the dough under the tea towel. Place the prepared karanji on the baking sheet. Keep it covered and work with the rest of the dough. When the sheet is full brush the karanji with the milk and bake for 28-32 minutes or until brown. Flip them over once after 15-17 minutes. If you have sealed the edges right the karanji will puff up and stay that way.


Transfer to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container when completely cooled.


Enjoy!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Baked Bhajani Chakli

Chakli is Diwali faral that is made year around as a snack. In Maharashtrian homes chakli is usually made with bhajani. Whole grains are roasted separately, combined together and milled. Roasted coriander and cumin seeds are added for flavor. The resultant flour or bhajani is combined with sesame seeds and carom seeds (ajwain or ova) to form a dough. The chakli is shaped from this dough and is usually deep fried. I baked it.


I do not have the ability to mill grains so I started out with store bought flours. I roasted them separately and then combined them together with roasted coriander and cumin powder. Thereafter I followed the traditional process to prepare the dough. Once the dough was prepared I shaped the chakli and baked them.


Chakli is an integral part of the Diwali faral. It is one of the must have savory faral. I kept the chakli mild so we could all enjoy it.

You will need
Special equipment to shape the chakli

For the bhajani
3 cups rice flour
2 cups channa dal flour (besan or bengal gram flour)
1/2 cup urad dal flour
1/2 cup moong dal flour
1/2 cup coriander seeds
1/4 cup cumin seeds

For the chakli
3 cups water
2 tbsp. oil
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tbsp. ova (ajwain, carom seeds)
1 tsp. red chili pepper powder (optional)
2 tsp. salt (adjust to taste)
3 cups bhajani

To make the bhajani, roast all the ingredients one by one. Put the roasted coriander and cumin seeds in a grinder and grind to a fine powder. Combine all the flours and the ground powder in a mixing bowl. The bhajani is ready. It can be stored in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.


For the chakli
Bring the water to a boil in a pan along with the oil, salt, sesame seeds and red chili pepper. Working quickly lower the heat and add the bhajani. Mix it well with the water for a couple of minutes. Take the pan off of the heat, cover and keep aside for half an hour. Knead the dough well or run it through a food processor until you have a soft pliable dough. Keep this dough covered with a moist tea towel while you work.


Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Prepare the chakli mold. Break off a lemon size ball of the dough. Knead well in the palm of your moistened hands. Place it inside the mold. Press the lever to form the chakli. Try not to make them too big so they are baked evenly. Continue until you fill the baking sheet.


Bake for 20-30 minutes flipping them over once after 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and continue with the remaining dough. Store in an airtight container when completely cooled.


Enjoy!

This is my entry for week three, day three of BM #45 for the theme Healthy tea time snacks. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#45.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Batata Vada in Appe Pan (Not deep Fried)

I am in love! With my appe pan. This simple pan has changed the way tea time snacks are prepared in my house. My first experiment dahi vada was very successful. No one could tell the difference. That gave me a lot of confidence to experiment with other deep fried snacks. I tried dal vada, paneer kofta and a variety of other foods that I did not photograph or blog about. Over time I have gotten better at using the pan which is not surprising since I use it so often. I have better judgment of the size and shape of the food I cook in it. I am also better able to end up with perfect rounds instead of flat discs. By the time I made sabudana vada I knew I could make anything in this pan. Batata vada is my newest experiment.


The best part about using this pan is that I use a fraction of the oil that would otherwise be needed. Oil is mainly fat and fat is good for you in moderation, in fact fat is needed. However, the main problem with deep frying foods is not the oil itself but the effect it has on the nutrients in the food being fried. Science is all over the place on this one so I decided to stop deep frying foods and instead get the fat from other sources. While baking is a natural alternative some recipes do not do well when baked. And so I am in love with this pan. It allows me to enjoy a whole variety of snacks that I stopped making when I stopped deep frying foods.

Batata vada was one such snack. I loved it as a child - the crisp coating and the soft potato filling inside. My mother made the best vadas and she made them as starters frequently when we had guests over. Even though I helped her umpteen times with the preparation I cannot recollect her recipe. I do remember burning my fingers in the oil when I accidentally went too low while dropping the vadas in the oil.


Batata vada at its simplest is mashed spiced up potato rolled into balls, dipped in gram flour (besan) batter and deep fried. The vadas I made follow the traditional recipe except they are cooked in the appe pan with a few drops of oil. They taste just as good!

You will need (for 6 vadas)
For the filling
1 large Russet potato
3 springs cilantro, diced (I ran out so I did not add any)
1 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
5-6 curry leaves
1 tbsp. channa dal (bengal gram split dal)
1 green chili pepper
1/4 tsp. asafoetida
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. red chilli pepper powder
salt to taste

For the batter
1/4 cup besan or bengal gram flour
1 tsp. red chilli pepper powder
salt to taste

Wash the russet potato to remove all the dirt. Prick with a fork all over and place it in the microwave with a cup filled about 3/4 of the way with water. Cook the potato for 2 minutes, turn over and cook again for 2 minutes. Repeat until the potato is done. Wrap in aluminium foil and keep aside for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile in a small pan heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When they crackle add the cumin seeds, curry leaves, channa dal and the chili pepper broken into a couple of pieces. Add the asafoetida and turmeric powder and take it off the heat. Keep aside to cool.

Remove from foil, peel and discard the skin and place it in a bowl. Mash the potato and add the cilantro. Add the oil, mustard mixture, the sugar, red chilli pepper powder and salt to taste. Combine everything together without kneading and form into lemon sized balls. Keep aside.


Whisk the ingredients for the batter with a little water to get a thick batter.


Heat the appe pan and add a few drops of oil in each well. Drop the mashed potato balls into each of the wells and let them cook on mediun high heat.


Turn them over using a knitting needle or skewer.


Cook evenly on all sides.


When done take it off heat and enjoy it while it is hot with chutney or ketchup.

This is my entry for week three, day two of BM #45 for the theme Healthy tea time snacks. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#45.