Apple, Caramelized Onion and Brie Focaccia

My daughter is home for the winter break. I took the last week and a half off from work and made plans to bake a lot of classic recipes from my bookmarked list. Things didn't go the way I had planned. First my daughter wanted to bake/cook some tried and tested dishes she had been craving. Then I pulled a muscle in my back and had to take it easy. At the end of the day I am glad I got to spend time with her and plan to make the most of the next few days before she heads back to school.

I baked this Focaccia as the last baked recipe of the year. The idea for this recipe started with some Brie I had left over from a party. I wanted to use it up and started brainstorming ideas. A few years back I made sandwiches with the classic combination of apple, caramelized onions and Brie. We loved the flavors. We always have apples in the fruit basket so this seemed the perfect way to use the cheese. But then I thought I should try something different. A few years back I had made these mini Brie en Croute. I figured I could add the apple and onions in place of the fruit preserve. I had some dough made with my sourdough starter intended for dinner rolls or pav for Vada pav that my daughter was craving. I was planning to use some of the dough for this recipe. The percentages of ingredients in that would were better suited for a Focaccia than the Brie en croute and so in the end I went with this Focaccia. Everyone enjoyed the flavors of apple, caramelized onion and Brie with the sourdough base.

You will need
Dough for the base
200 gm Whole wheat/All purpose flour combination
70% water
40% sourdough starter
10 gm salt

For the topping
1/4 large onion preferably white/yellow
Half an apple sliced thin
some slices gouda cheese (I ran out but would have like to add some)
an inch wide wedge of Brie

Herb oil
1 tbsp. oil (I used olive)
dried herbs of your choice (I used basil and oregano)

Combine all the ingredients for the dough in a bowl, cover and let it rest. After 15 minutes fold the dough over itself in the bowl. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat. Repeat the stretch and fold 8 times. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes. Repeat the process 3 more times. Cover the dough and place it in the refrigerator for 5-6 hours.

When you are ready to bake prepare the herb oil by whisking all the ingredients in a bowl. Keep aside until needed. Next caramelize the onions. Slice the onion into thin slices. Cook the onion on low heat until it sweats and starts turning color. When it is a deep brown, turn off the heat and let it cool. It should be sweet.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll it into an oval shape. Cover and let it rest on the counter top for 15-20 minutes. Uncover and brush with the oil. Using your fingertips make dimples all over the dough. Bake uncovered for about 15 minutes.

Prep the rest of the ingredients. Remove the partially baked bread from the oven and add the Brie, gouda if using and the apple slices. Return the bread to the oven for about 8 minutes. Sprinkle the onions over the top and bake for 5 minutes more.


Apple Raisin Muffins

My daughter is home from school for winter break and all she wants are my tried and tested recipes. Between cooking those and work there is no time to try anything new. I am posting a recipe today that I made a while back. It was in my drafts and we like it a lot. I have a list of things to try while she is home. Hopefully I will get to it soon.

These muffins are made with whole wheat and have no added sugar. The apples and the raisins provide the sweet flavor. If you like muffins really sweet then you could add some sugar.

You will need
1 Fuji apple
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened toasted coconut flakes
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup All purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
2/3 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease muffin molds with olive oil on a muffin pan.
In a bowl mix the flour, cinnamon and baking soda. Whisk the eggs with the oil and vanilla extract in a separate bowl and add it to the dry ingredients. Mix them together. Peel and dice the apple. Add the diced apple, raisins and coconut to the flour mixture. Mix it well but do not knead. The resultant batter is very thick.

Scoop the batter into the greased muffin molds. You should get 12 muffins. Bake for about 20 minutes. Place on a cooling rack to cool completely before storing.


Edible Lattice Bread Basket

I few years back I baked two woven bread baskets. I have since found this edible spring basket referenced in a few easter articles. Both of my earlier versions of baskets used ropes and the weave was tight. I was very happy with those baskets but I wanted to try something different. I wanted a make a basket with open holes that looked like it was part of the weave. This is what I came up with.

This basket was not made with ropes. Instead I made the lattice using flat strips of dough. I used a different technique with the weave. Instead of weaving it on the mold I wove it on a flat surface and then transferred it to the mold. This caused the holes to form in between the strips something I was looking for. In the end I was very happy with the result.

This basket is a lot easier to make than the two I made before. It is much smaller and uses a small amount of dough. The weaving technique is simpler too. I used my sourdough starter for this recipe but you could use commercial yeast if you wanted to. If you use commercial yeast refer to this basic dough recipe to prepare your dough.

Roll out a large rectangle from the dough. Using a small custard or similar bowl to ensure you have coverage cut a portion of the rectangle as the base (portion on left below). Cut this rectangle into wide strips being careful not to cut all the way through. Cut the remaining dough into wide strips cutting all the way through. These strips are to be used for weaving.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. On the base fold back alternating strips. Place a strip horizontally such that it covers end to end. Unfold the folded strips. Now fold back the other set of alternating strips and place a weaving strip horizontally.

Continue working the weave until you get to the end. Cover the outside of the bowl with foil. Place the woven lattice over the bowl taking care to see it does not unravel. Cut off the access.

Trim the edges to get a smooth edge around the edge of the bowl.

Using the discarded dough roll out a strip long enough to circle the edge of the bowl with a little overlap. Trim the strip to get neat edges and place it around the bowl. Seal the ends together by pressing the overlapping ends over one another.

Place the bowl on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. The bowl should begin to brown slightly. Allow it to cool on a rack for a few minutes. Unfold the foil over the bowl and remove the bowl carefully. Now carefully peel off the foil from the bread.


Savory Besan/Chickpea Flour Crackers

My post today is another version of crackers. I have few versions on this space already. Crackers are make a perfect snack with a cup of tea or coffee. After baking crackers with wheat flour I decided to try others flour combinations. Two days back I baked semolina crackers. Next I tried crackers with besan or chickpea flour. These were harder to perfect. I first tried with uncooked flour and realized the flour does not cook completely in the oven. The next time I used oil to roast the flour but that did not work either. Finally I tried ghee and it worked out. The crackers are crunchy and delicious.

Everyone at home loved the flavor but I think they have had too many versions of my baked crackers. I think I will have to finish these myself. Need to give these cracker experiments a break for a while. But now I have four perfect cracker recipes.

You will need (~50 crackers)
1 1/2 tbsp. ghee, melted

1/3 cup chickpea flour
1/3 cup unfed sourdough starter (100%)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ajwain or carom seeds

Heat the ghee in a pan. Add chickpea flour and on low heat roast the flour until cooked. You could do the same in a microwave checking and mixing the mixture every 30 seconds until the flour is cooked. Let it cool. Combine with all the remaining ingredients. Place it in a bowl, cover and put it in the refrigerator for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it on a parchment paper to about an eighth of an inch. Using a knife or roller cut into 1x1 inch pieces. Pierce with a fork. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes. Check often as these burn quickly.

When done transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.


Baked Semolina Crackers

I usually take a small afternoon snack with me to work. Whole wheat crackers are my favorite. About 10 1x1 inch crackers usually suffice. I would bake the crackers over the weekend. They would make a filling snack.

After a few weeks I began to crave variety. So last month I began experimenting with different flours. Some experiments were failures and some were successful. One Saturday my husband decided to make upama for an evening snack. When I saw the fine semolina I realized it was a good candidate for my experiment. Unfortunately the experiment failed. The flavor was really good but you could taste the gritty semolina as an after taste. I realized I had to roast the semolina before I made the dough. The next attempt was a roaring success.

You will need (~50 crackers)
1/3 cup fine semolina 
1/3 cup unfed sourdough starter (100%)
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. onion seeds (kalonji)

Place the semolina in a pan and roast it on low flame until it begins to change color. Turn off the heat and let it cool. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl to form a ball. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Take the ball of dough from the refrigerator and place it on a sheet of parchment paper. Roll it to an eighth of an inch. Using a pizza cutter, a knife or a decorative roller cut the dough into 1"x1" squares or diamonds. Pierce each cracker with a fork.

Place the parchment in a baking sheet. Place the sheet in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. The crackers will be soft when taken out of the oven. The will harden and turn crispy as they cool.

Perfect as a snack or with a cup of tea.


Cauliflower and Tomatillo-Red Bell Pepper Chutney Stuffed Sourdough rolls

Stuffed bread rolls are perfect for weekend brunch. Most of the prep work happens the night before. The day you want to bake these all you have to do is heat the oven and pop them in. This is the reason they are my favorite when my daughter is visiting. I can prep everything ahead of time and let the refrigerator and then the oven do all the work.

I like to make something new and different when my daughter visits from college. I have made stuffed rolls before but changing the stuffing makes for a completely new recipe. This time I used tomatillo and red bell pepper chutney mixed in with some cauliflower. You can take any chutney/sauce you have on hand, mix it with minced vegetables, saute until almost dry and use it as stuffing for these rolls.

The sourdough rolls are my recipe made with whole wheat flour. The end result is wholesome, filling and flavorful.

You will need (for 6 buns)
For the bun
100 gm 100% sourdough starter
190 gm water
20 gm sugar
30 gm olive oil
330 gm white whole wheat flour
8 gm salt

For the stuffing
1 head cauliflower, cut into tiny florets or minced
1 cup chutney, I used tomatillo and red bell pepper chutney
1 tbsp. oil (vegetable or olive oil)

For the chutney
1 large tomatillo
1 red bell pepper
1 tbsp. oil (vegetable or olive)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp channa dal
1 tsp white sesame seeds
3-4 curry leaves
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
salt and red chilli pepper powder to taste

The night before combine all the ingredients for the buns in a mixing bowl and form a soft dough. Cover and keep aside for 30 minutes. Uncover, reach down to the bottom of the far side, pick up the dough and fold it over the top towards you. Turn the bowl 90 degree and repeat. Continue until you have gone around twice. Cover and keep aside. Repeat this stretch and fold procedure two more times every half hour. Finally cover and keep aside for at least 4-5 hours. Alternately, keep refrigerated overnight.

Before you are ready to stuff and shape the rolls prepare the stuffing. For the chutney chop the peppers. Peel and chop the tomatillos. Heat oil in pan. Add the mustard seeds, sesame seeds and channa dal. When the mustard seeds sizzle add the curry leaves and peanuts.

When they change color add the chopped vegetables. Saute until cooked.

Turn off the heat and let it cool. Run it through a blender to desired consistency and keep aside.

Heat a 1/4 cup of water in a pan. Finely chop the cauliflower, you could mince it if you like. Add it to the heated water and let it cook on medium/high heat until done but not mushy.

Lower the heat a little to medium/low. Add the chutney and adjust seasoning. Remember the bread does not add much flavor so the stuffing has to compensate for that. Saute until it is dry with very little moisture. Cool.

Take the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into equal parts of about 70-80 gm each. Begin working each piece of dough into a bread roll like in my original sourdough buns recipe. When you have a smooth surface flatten the dough and stuff it with the stuffing. Bring all the sides together and continue shaping.

Place each roll in a baking sheet. Cover and place the sheet in the refrigerator and let it rise overnight. When you are ready to bake preheat the oven to 375 F. Place the baking sheet, uncovered, in the oven and bake for 30-33 minutes.

Cool on a baking rack and enjoy!

No Knead Light Sourdough Wheat Loaf

Last week I had the sudden urge to have sandwiches for breakfast. I decided to bake myself a loaf of bread. I got some fresh squeezed orange juice from Whole Foods to go along with the breakfast sandwiches. I put the sourdough starter out on the counter top to come to room temperature and bubble up. That is when I realized my favorite loaf recipe uses commercial yeast. I don't buy that stuff anymore so I decide to convert my old recipe to use the starter instead.

In case you are not into baking with sourdough here is the original recipe. It is simple and makes a super flavorful loaf. Do not get intimidated with the time it takes. That is what makes it so flavorful.

I followed these instructions that I had written up long ago to convert recipes to sourdough. The original recipe I had was in cup measure so I converted it to weight. I got 560 gm of flour and 430 gm water. Once you have these two numbers you can easily convert the recipe. If you are interested the math is as follows: First I calculated 40% of 560 and got 112 or round to 110. This is the weight of starter needed for this recipe. Since my starter is 50% flour and 50% water I reduce both water and flour by 110/2 which is 55 gm. My new flour by weight is 560-55=505 gm or rounded to 500 gm. The water needed by weight is 430-55=375 gm.

You will need for 1 loaf
110 gm 100% sourdough starter
505 gm flour (I used whole wheat flour, you can use 50% all purpose or any combination)
375 gm water
10 gm salt
3 tbsp. oil (vegetable oil or olive oil)

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and keep aside. After 15 minutes, reach over the far side of the dough and pull it over the top. Turn the bowl 45 degrees and repeat. Repeat two more time and keep aside. Fold and turn every 15 minutes another 3 times. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 4-6 hours.

Keep you loaf pan ready. Remove the dough from the bowl to a floured working surface. Fold over from both sides and place seam side down in the loaf pan. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

When you are ready to bake preheat the oven to 375 F. When the oven is heated remove the loaf from the refrigerator and take off the cover. Score the top of the loaf with a sharp blade or knife. Sprinkle a little flour over the top to add some interest. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Check after about 30 minutes and if the top is browning too quickly, tent it with foil.

Take the loaf out of the oven and let it sit for a couple minutes. Slide the loaf out of the pan and cool it on a cooling rack.

Slice and enjoy!

Eggless Banana Bread

This month I am going to post a few baked recipes as part of bakethon, an excuse to post recipes of baked goods with a few blogging friends. I am starting with a sweet basic banana bread. I baked this version of banana bread during the summer with my daughter. She was home for the summer and needed an afternoon snack when she got home from her EMT training. I did not have eggs and so I decided to bake the bread without eggs. I used mostly whole wheat flour so it was filling and tasted perfect.

Banana bread is one of the simplest sweet breads you can bake. It is almost impossible to get the recipe wrong and it tastes great. This is a great place to start your baking journey. This was one of my first breads.

Whenever a banana is overripe I put it in the freezer to use later. We usually buy the medium or small bananas so I have to wait for 3-4 to be able to use them.

You will need
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. cinnamon powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
4 small overripe bananas
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mash the bananas. Cream the sugar, butter and oil. Add the cinnamon and continue mixing in the ingredients in the order they appear above except the flours. Add the flours a little at a time until you have a sticky batter.

Pour the batter into a loaf pan and place in the oven center rack. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and tent with a foil. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and let it rest on the counter top for 5 minutes. Slide the loaf out and cool completely on a cooling rack.

Slice and enjoy!

Masala Tea in Instant Pot

My husband loves tea, strong tea, especially Masala Chai. I dislike tea and have never taken an interest in making strong tea. My husband makes his own cuppa every morning and evening. Unfortunately, some times he forgets he has the pot on the stove and leaves the kitchen. Many a time he has had to spent time cleaning up the mess. When I heard chai can be made in the instant pot my immediate reaction was "No hovering around the kitchen stove!".

This is my attempt to make two cups of tea using the instant pot. My husband liked it. My opinion does not matter as I am not a fan. If you had guests or had a lot of cups of tea to prepare in a hurry then this would be a really good option.

You will need
1 cup water
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. tea powder
2-3 peppercorns
1/4 in cinnamon
2-3 pods cardamom, shelled

Add all the ingredients to a small stainless steel pan. Insert the trivet in the instant pot and add 1 cup of water. Place the pan with the ingredients for tea on the trivet. Turn on the instant pot and cook on manual mode for 2 minutes. NPR (Naturally release pressure) from the instant pot for 2 minutes. Then slowly turn the venting knob to vent the steam. If you release the steam all at once the tea leaves and tea will make a mess in the pot.

When the pressure pin drops open the pot and enjoy the tea!

Baked Peaches with Ice Cream

I first tasted these baked peaches at a restaurant and fell in love with them. I have always wanted to try this recipe at home. The caramelized sugar infused with the juices of the fresh peach makes a fabulous sauce for the soft baked peaches. It is a very simple recipe but every summer for some reason or the other I never got around to making it. Last weekend on our weekly grocery trip I insisted on taking my time finding perfectly ripe peaches that were perfect for this recipe. I also bought a small tub of vanilla gelato made by a company called Talenti. It was the perfect combo with the baked peaches.

You could use any stone fruit for this recipe like nectarine or apricot. Make sure the fruit is ripe. The recipe works even if the fruit is not ripe, but for best results use ripe fruit.

You will need (4 servings)
4 small ripe peaches
8 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. butter

Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Cut the peaches in half and remove the seed. Keep aside.

Cut the butter in half. Continue to half the butter until you have 8 equal pieces. Keep aside. Prepare a baking tray. Using a tablespoon measure place a mound of brown sugar in the baking tray. Repeat seven more times so you have 8 mounds. Place a piece of butter on the sugar and one half of a peach, cut side down. Repeat for all the pieces.

Bake for 15 minutes. The peaches should be soft and done. Flip them over so the cut side is facing up. Pour some of the caramelized sugar from the baking tray over the top and return the tray to the oven for another 5 minutes.

Plate the baked peaches with your favorite ice cream and serve. Drizzle the sauce over the top.


Edible bread basket

Edible Spring Bread Basket / Braided Bread Basket

After I had made an edible bread basket I had this vision of a shallower basket that could be used as a centerpiece decorated with flowers. ...