Category Archives: Bread

The ‘We knead to bake project’ # 10 – 100% Whole wheat bread

Of all the breads baked this year, I must say October’s challenge that Aparna Balasubramanian from My Diverse kitchen picked out  really gave me a run for the effort and conferred a whole new respect  for the simple sandwich bread. As easy as it is to pick up a bag of brown bread from the supermarket (which unfortunately just turns out to be caramel colored white bread most of the time), It was quite a surprise to discover the completely different taste and texture of the real thing. Whole wheat flour needs a lot of coaxing to create a good looking loaf, and one of the reasons it took  me some time to get around to this post was that the sandwich bread exercise was a tough lesson to master. I could make it right the first time, but it took 2 more loaves to really get the hang of it.
This particular recipe is the brainchild of  Peter Reinhart, and makes use of an autolysing technique with 2 components a ‘soaker’ and a ‘sponge’. Just take your time to view the Ted Talk from Peter Reinhart to appreciate the beauty behind a loaf of bread.

When using flours that are not subject to heavy processing like all purpose flour is, its essential to understand the starting material in order to create a flavorful bread. WHeat flour is a jumble of bran, germ & starch. Starch yields the familiar flavor of bread, but cannot effectively do so in the presence of plain bran & germ. These nutrient rich components need to be coaxed to release their flavor, soften and undergo a bit of enzymatic change before they release their goodness, and Reinharts technique aims to ensure that perfectly.

I opted to use Lemon juice in the soaker and sponge in order to help the strands of gluten develop (gluten is a protein which ‘clump’ together in the presence of acid) and also boosted up the gluten up a notch by adding a bit of  extra wheat gluten. My first loaf was with a regular whole wheat flour without gluten, the second with a coarser whole wheat Pastry flour, and the third with an organic whole wheat flour from India that I use to make roti. Needless to say the softest was the third one, while the pastry flour bread yielded a nutty flavor & a chunky texture. The first loaf I made was riddled with a number of errors and did not rise quite as much as a consequence.

 
100 % Whole wheat  bread: (Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s ‘Whole Grain Breads’)
You need:
 
For The Soaker:
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 to 1 cup water at room temperature
1 tbsp lemon juice

For The Biga/ Sponge:
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
3/4 cup milk (or a little more)
1 tbsp lemon juice

For The Final Dough:
The Soaker
The Biga/ Sponge
1 1/2 tsp Vital Wheat Gluten (optional)
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup whole wheat flour (and a few tbsp. more if required)
2 tsp instant yeast
1/8 cup oil (you could use melted butter too, if you choose)
2 tbsp granulated honey

  


Step 1- Making the soaker and the Biga/Sponge:
Mix all of the  ingredients  for the soaker together in a bowl until all  flour is hydrated.  Start with  3/4 cup water and then adding a little at a time, until you have the desired consistency. The Soaker should be somewhat like reasonably firm bread dough in consistency. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours. 
Mix all of the ingredients for the Biga/ Sponge in a bowl and knead together well till a soft ball forms. As with the soaker, you might need more than the originally suggested 3/4 cup of liquid; Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. This will keep for up to 3 days. 
The next day, as you get set to bake the bread, remove the Biga from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. You might find your Biga rising a little during this time. 

Divide the Biga and Soaker into small pieces (about 12 pieces each) using a sharp knife or scraper and put them in the stand mixer. You can knead this by hand too, but the dough will be tacky and a little difficult to manage. Do not be tempted to add more flour, when it is time to, than necessary.
  
 Add the remaining ingredients for the dough, except the 1/3 cup flour) and knead for about 3 minutes.  
Let it rest for 5 minutes, then add as much flour as needed (if necessary) to the dough and  knead for another 3-4 minutes. The  dough should now come away from the sides of the bowl but still be a little sticky but somewhat manageable. It’s really important to not add too much extra flour during this step.  
 
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let rise until almost doubled (about 1 1/2 hours). Then turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat the dough out into a rectangle with a width that just a bit less than your loaf tin. See that you do not tear the dough. Roll it up and shape into a loaf.
Place your loaf in a greased and floured loaf tin (I used a 9” by 4” stoneware baking dish) and let it rise until it is just higher than your loaf tin. Bake the loaf at 180C (350F) for about 40 to 45 minutes until the top is a nice deep brown color and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
Let the loaf cool completely (at least for about 2 hours), before slicing it. Refrigerate the loaf if not consuming immediately.

This post is being yeast spotted.
  

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The ‘We knead to bake project’ 2013 – Savory Kugelhopf

 It never fails to amaze me how it seems like a short while ago that the new year had rolled in and a bake-crazy bunch of us bloggers signed on to Aparna Balasubramanian’s  suggestion that we collectively bake one yeasted recipe a month and post it on our respective blogs as a group. Before I knew it, we were half way through the year and I had made  6 wonderful breads that the family loved. Of course, there was a slight hiccup when my kitchen went out of commission and I’m quite happy about the fact that this post will push me into the ‘current’ status.

July’s assigned bread was a yeasted savory bread referred to as ‘Kugelhopf’  or gugelhupf in the southern regions of Germany, Austria and regions in Alsace. Its basically a rather large cake baked in a Bundt pan and the original sweet version calls for raisins, almonds and Kirschwasser or Cherry brandy. There is a colorful history regarding its origins, Austria, Alsace, Germany all lay claim. For details, I’ll take the easy way out and simply refer you  to Aparna’s post from my Diverse Kitchen.

I opted to give my version of bread (an egg free version that used Flax meal instead) a touch of Mexican flavors with roasted Poblano peppers, sundried tomatoes, smoked ancho chile pepper, and a sharp, smoky spicy Chipotle Cheddar from Cabot Creameries.
 

The end result was a perfectly soft, yet texture rich bread with the right amount of heat from the chiles and redolent with the aroma of Mexican oregano. Toasted pumpkin seeds add a pleasant crunch to the slices.

Savoury Kugelhopf ( yields about 12 generous slices)

You need:

3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoon instant (rapid rise) yeast

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

5-6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons finely powdered Flaxseed
6 tablespoons boiling water

1 tsp oil for brushing the pan.

1/3 cup chopped roasted poblano peppers (about 2 large whole peppers)

1/3 cup reconstituted sundried tomatoes (~ 8-10 pieces of the dried fruit)

1 cup shallots, finely chopped

1/2 cup diced chipotle cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon smoked ancho chile powder

1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

1 – 2 tablespoons dried Mexican Oregano


Method:
Lightly oil the poblano pepper skin and place over the gas flame. Grill until the skin blisters and chars black. Place the peppers in a paper bag to sweat. Once cool, rub the skins off with a paper towel, Remove the stem and the central core and chop into small pieces and set aside.
Whisk together the flax meal and the boiling water until it forms a wet liquid glutinous ‘blob’. Set aside this ‘egg substitute’.

Sift together 3 cups of flour, yeast, and salt in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. You can knead by hand but it will be a bit sticky to handle.  Start the mixer on a low speed and then add the butter, a little at a time, and process till incorporated.

Incorporate the warm milk and process till it is integrated. Now add the flax mixture and process till mixed.  The dough will now be soft and sticky. Knead some more, adding more flour, a little at a time and just enough till the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Do not be tempted to add more flour than absolutely necessary.

Your dough will be very soft, elastic and just short of sticky. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let it rise until double in volume (takes about 1-2 hrs)

In the meanwhile, heat 1/2 tsp oil in a skillet. Add the chopped poblano, the soaked & chopped sundried tomatoes  and a pinch of salt.  Transfer from the skillet and set  aside. To the same pan, add the remaining 1/2 tsp oil and sauté the shallots with a pinch of salt till they turn golden brown. Remove and add to the poblano/tomato mixture, sprinkle the dried Mexican oregano and keep aside.

Grease an 8” kugelhopf mould or bundt pan well especially around the center (I used a garlicky tomato basil infused oil, worked just fine. Place some of the toasted pumpkin seeds in the bottom of the mould.

Once the dough has risen, deflate it. Then work the cheese,  the vegetable mix and  the remaining pumpkin seeds  into the dough. The best way to do this is to flatten the dough out and spread all this over the surface, fold the dough over and then knead it. This will ensure a more uniform incorporation of the “filling”. The dough will be a bit sticky, so use a scraper to help you with the kneading. Do not add more flour!

Roll the dough into a longish log, long enough to fit into the mould comfortably. Lift the “log” of dough and place it in the mould in a circular fashion and pinch the two ends together to close the “circle” of dough.
Cover and let the dough rise for about an hour or so, until it reaches the edge/ rim of the mould. 

Pre-heat oven to 400 F  and bake the Kugelhopf  for about 35 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and sounds hollow when it is tapped. 

Unmould the Kugelhopf and let it cool on a rack. Slice and serve with a dab of  butter. Alternatively slice it up thick and lightly toast. This melts the cheese lightly and the crisp surface texture coupled with the soft pillowy interior makes for a delicious breakfast treat.

This Kugelhopf should serve about 10.

This Savory bread is being Yeastspotted.
Bon Appetit!




The ‘We Knead to Bake’ Project 2013 – Bialys (with toasted shallots in a Tamarind relish)


One of the things I love about the ‘We Knead to Bake’ Project is that Aparna Balasubramanian , the brains behind this endeavor, lets the group have a free hand in experimenting with variations on the monthly theme (either that or, she’s given up on me!). This month’s bread is a New York Classic, the Bialy.
For those who’re wondering what in the world this is.. Its simply a roll with poppy seeds & caramelized onions in the center, the kinds that invariably leaves you with a strong onion breath. Yes, the kind of breakfast one normally avoids before stepping out for an important meeting or interview! But be aware, one bite into the chewy warm bread will leave you addicted for life. For  about 3 years in graduate school, A Bialy with cream cheese and a cup of coffee from a vending cart on 1st Avenue in New York City was my staple breakfast. It remains a nostalgic comfort food to this day.


The name Bialy comes from Bialystocker Kuchen which translates as “bread from Bialystok” which is in Poland. According to Mimi Sheraton,  the author of the the book ‘The Bialy Eaters’, Bialys are rarely seen or made in Bialystock these days, an unfortunate consequence of World War II, when most of the Jewish Bakers that had honed Bialy making to an art were killed during the Holocaust.



In the early 1900s, many Eastern Europeans, including the Polish, immigrated to the US and settled down in New York. Naturally, they also brought their Bialy making skills with them and that is how the New York Bialy became famous. 

Inspired by a line by the Chinese poet-statesman Lin Yutang from Mimi Sheraton’s book ” What is patriotism but the longing for the foods of one’s homeland?”  (and here, I shamelessly justify my rather delicious fusion Bialy recipe), I decided to pair the mandatory toasted onions with a traditional South Indian Tamarind relish, the ‘Pulikaachal’. 



This spicy & tangy relish is the flavoring behind the iconic Tamarind rice and many a South Indian emigre to the US of A and all over the world are guilty of smearing their toast with a dab of this umami laden relish. (I’ll post the recipe for the relish in an upcoming post,  but its readily available in most Indian grocery stores).


Bialy’s with toasted Shallots in a Tamarind Relish (Pulikaachal Bialy)-Makes 8-10 Large sized Bialys


You need:

For the dough:
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 cup water
3 cups King Arthur Bread FLour (the higher gluten content yield a chewy texture)
1.5 teaspoon salt
Oil for coating the dough during proofing
Milk for brushing the dough

For the Filling

1 cup Finely diced Shallots
1 tablespoon Sesame seeds
Tamarind relish as per taste.
1 tablespoon sesame oil


Combine the yeast, sugar, salt and flour in a kitchen Aid Stand mixer. Using the balloon whisk runa t the lowest setting for about a minute to mix. Replace with the dough hook and then add the warm water in a steady stream. Knead until the dough comes together as a mass and then let the dough rest for 10 minutes. This will help the dough absorb water. Knead again, adding a little more water or flour (not too much) if you need it, until your dough is smooth and elastic but not sticky.
Shape it into a ball and put it in a well-oiled bowl, turning the dough till it is well coated with the oil. Cover and let it rise till about double. This should take about 2 hours. If you’re not making the Bialys right away, you can refrigerate the dough overnight at this point. When ready to make them, keep the dough at room temperature for about half an hour and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.


While the dough is proofing, heat the tablespoon of oil in a skillet and add the sesame seeds once they barely begin to ‘hop’ around in the hot oil, add the shallots and saute until they are translucent. Cool and combine with the tamarind relish as per your taste preference. The shallots will brown further to perfection when baking.



Sprinkle your work surface lightly with flour and place the dough on it. Divide it into 8 – 10 equal pieces and shape each one into a roll by flattening it and then pinching the ends together to form a smooth ball.  Place the rolls on a lightly greased baking sheet and cover them with a towel. Let them rise for about one hour (about  1 1/2 to 2 hours for refrigerated dough)  till pressing with a finger on the top leaves a dent. 

Work on one piece at a time, while you keep the others covered so they don’t dry out. When the rolls are ready, pick them up one at a time and using your fingers, form the depression in the middle. Hold the roll like a steering wheel with your thumbs in the middle and your fingers around the edges. Pinch the dough between your thumb and fingers, rotating as you go and gradually making the depression wider without actually poking a hole through.

Remember not to press on the edges, or they will flatten out. Once shaped, you should have a depression about 3” in diameter with 1” of puffy dough around the edge, so your Bialy should be about 4” in diameter. Prick the center of the Bialy with a fork so the center doesn’t rise when baking. 


Spiced Tamarind & Shallot (r) & sauteed Leeks with Za’atar seasoning (l)


Place the shaped dough on a parchment lined (or greased) baking tray leaving about 2 inches space between them. Place the caramelized onion filling in the depressions of each Bialy. Brush the outer dough circle with milk. 

Filled with Leek & Za’atar seasoning, brushed with milk and waiting to be baked.

Bake the Bialys at 230C (450F) for about 15 minutes till they’re golden brown in colour. Cool them on a rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. I found that the Bialys keep well in an airtight container for a day or two and just need to be warmed up slightly before serving with a generous dollop of fresh Cream Cheese.


Alternate fillings:

finely slice a cleaned leek (just the white and light green parts) and sautee until translucent in one tablespoon of olive oil. Add 2 tablespoons of Za’atar to the leeks and season with your preferred amount of salt. Allow to cool and fill the Bialy’s as per the recipe.

Bon Appetit!. & yes, this recipe is being Yeastspotted

A No – brainer solution for those ‘Naan’ cravings – No knead ‘Tadka Bread’

If there is ONE Indian bread I’m terrible at making its the Naan. Been working at it for years now, but invariably I’m left with a concoction that either looks like a dough sculpture of an Amoeba , crossed with a texture resembling a piece of Kevlar (umm… not that I’ve actually sunk my teeth into one!..).
It was time to look for a suitable alternative and be content to savor naan from the occasional restaurant visits. For starters, I gave up trying to make it into a naan. Instead set my sights upon a chunky satisfying Foccaccia like  bread that I could cut into generous wedges and serve up with a hearty bowl of Indian style red beans known as Rajma (for the recipe, just click the link!)
The flavor for the bread comes from Fennel, Nigella and bishops weed (commonly known as Ajwain in Hindi), tempered in sizzling hot oil and added to the flour. the chewiness of the bread is accentuated by the use of Bread flour.

Tadka Bread: (Makes two 9 inch rounds)

You need:
3 cups bread flour (the high gluten variety, not the All purpose flour)
1 cup Whole wheat flour
1 packet rapid rise yeast
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon each  Fennel, nigella & bishops weed (the whole spices)
1 cup plain Kefir or soured plain yogurt
1- 1.5 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
milk for brushing

Sift together the flours, yeast and salt, ensuring that the yeast & salt are well incorporated. Mix together the kefir and water. 

Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil until almost smoking and add the spices. Once they begin to sputter and emit their characteristic aroma, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before adding into the flour (you do not want to add the scalding hot spice blend into the flour directly , just in case  it scorches up the yeast!) 



Add 2 cups of the diluted into the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon to ensure that all the flour is soaking in the liquid (if the mixture still ‘blows’ out flour and comes together as a ball, add a bit more of the liquid).

Drizzle some of the oil over the mixture, cover with a cling wrap and place in a cold oven with the light on. In the meantime liberally brush the bottom and the sides of two circular  9 inch baking tins with oil.

Allow to rest and rise for about 2 hours until the volume doubles and the dough can easily be pinched off the surface revealing an abundance of air bubbles. 

 Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Punch down the dough (which will be quite sticky & viscous) and divide the dough into the two tins. divide the remaining oil evenly between the two tins and using your finger tips press down on the dough to cover the bottom of the pan. Brush liberally on the top with milk and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, turning the tins half way through the process. Check to see the ‘doneness’ by tapping on the bread. if it sounds hollow, then remove the tins to cool over a wire rack. Cut into wedges and serve warm with your favorite stew or even Pav Bhaji.




Bon appetit!

This post is being Yeastspotted.

The ‘We Knead to Bake’ project 2013 : Hokkaido Milk Bread



 Its not conventional to think of bread and associate it with any thing Japanese, after all Japanese cuisine is predominantly rice & fish based if you go with the conventional thought process. This may be the reason why this months baking project from +Aparna Balasubramanian  came as a ultra pleasant surprise. The bread is known as Hokkaido Milk bread (disclaimer, Its been less than a month since I myself heard about the term) and it is by far the softest, fluffiest (feel free to add on your own choice of cute happy superlatives) bread I’ve ever had. The texture of Wonder bread minus the processed entrapped air!

The secret to this ethereal texture is the addition of a roux  to prepare the dough. Referred to as ‘Tangzhong’, this cooked mixture of milk and flour confers the matchless texture. The secret here is to cook the flour and milk to 65 C at which point the gluten in the flour absorbs the liquid transforming into a gel like state that helps form a structure that holds up the shape of the bread). This ancient Japanese technique was popularized by Yvonne Chen through her book ’65 C Bread doctor’. The dough tends to be kind of sticky and hard to work with because of the added roux, so if you have access to a food processor or a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, just USE IT!

Apart from a traditional loaf, I also venture to try a filled bread, drawing inspiration from the iconic Bunny Chow of Durban, South Africa , the filling consisting of curried Puy Lentils. I’m just going to link to my recipe for curried lentils from an ancient post of mine for Curried lentil Crostatas.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit I goofed up the recipe the second time around by completely forgetting to add the butter required in the recipe. Much to my relief, the bread was perfectly soft and edible the morning after even after being cut and left out. 

Thanks Aparna for yet another superb pick of bread, here is the link to her original post of the Hokkaido Milk bread.

Hokkaido  Milk bread (adapted from the recipe on Kirbies cravings)

You need:
For the Tangzhong:
1/3 cup All purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water.

Whisk the flour into the milk and water in a saucepan ensuring that there are no lumps. Heat the mixture on a gentle heat (using a thermometer to measure the critical temperature of 65 C). If you don’t have one, no worries, just keep  whisking the mix on a low/medium heat until the roux begins to thicken. when the whisk leaves behind peaks in the roux and the consistency is like that off soft pudding, remove from the heat, cover and allow to cool completely (~ 2 hours). 

For the Bread dough:

 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

 1 tablespoon sugar

 1 teaspoon salt
2 tbsp powdered milk
2 tsp instant dried yeast
1/2 cup milk (and a little more if needed)
1/8 cup cream (25% fat)
 1/3 cup tangzhong (use HALF of the tangzhong from above)
25gm unsalted butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)
1 cup of curried lentils (if making the filled rolls)
In a bowl, whisk together the tangzhong, milk and cream together and ensure that there are no lumpy bits of the roux. Sift together the flour, sugar, salt, milk powder and yeast in a separate bowl.
Add the softened butter into the bowl of the stand mixer and switch on the machine with the dough hook attachment. Pour in the the milk/cream tangzhong mixture. gradually add the flour blend about a coffee scoop’s worth at a time. allow the dough to come together. The consistency is rather sticky at this point, so allow the food processor to knead the dough for about 5 minutes. If the dough feels a bit firm at this point add a couple of spoons of milk while kneading to make it soft. To test if the dough is of the right consistency, stretch a piece of dough between youe fingers. It should stretch and at the point of giving out, it will form a circular hole at the thinnest point.
Remove the dough from the mixer, form a ball with the seams tucked in the bottom and transfer into a well oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof in a warm dark corner for about an hour until it almost doubles in volume.

  The dough is sufficient to make one loaf (using a 9×5 loaf tin) or 8  rolls in a muffin tin. Depending upon what you are making, butter and flour the surface of the respective baking  pan.

Transfer the dough onto the working surface. you do not need any flour to help shape the bread. for the loaf, roll out the dough to a rectangle of  about 9 inch wide and 15 inches long (approximations are fine). Fold into a rectangle of about 9 by 5 inches (as if you’re folding a letter) and roll out once again to stretch the width. Roll the dough along the length pressing  the edges into the dough and pinching the sides. 


Using a sharp knife, make diagonal slashes into the dough. Brush liberally with cream, cover with a plastic wrap and allow to proof for a second time for about an hour.

Bake in an oven (preheated to 325 F) for about 25 – 30 minutes until the top has browned and the bread sounds hollow when tapped. 

Allow to cool in the loaf pan for about 5-10 minutes before tapping it out onto a wire rack to cool.

For the curried rolls:

Divide the rolls into 8 approximately equal parts. Roll out a portion of the dough into a 6 inch circle. Spoon in 2 tablespoons of the curried lentils onto the center of the dough.

Fold the edges together & seal the the dough as shown above. place into a buttered and floured muffin tin and brush well with cream. Cover loosely with a plastic wrap and allow to proof for about 45 minutes.

Bake in a 325 F oven for about 20 minute until the tops appear to have a golden brown color. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes in the muffin tin before flipping them out to cool on a rack. Serve warm with a pat of fresh churned butter!

This bread is being yeastspotted!

Bon appetit!

The ‘We Knead to Bake’ project 2013 : Classic Croissants

Its that time of the month again… the 24th day of each month when a batch of us food bloggers from the world over have pledged to pay homage to Carb-Devi, the goddess of all things delicious of starchy origin. This month, Aparna threw what seemed to be a sly curve ball at the lot of us, by listing Croissants as the bread to bake, and sure enough that feeble voice squeaking out warnings about butter & more ‘Buttah’ was quickly suppressed, tied down with culinary twine and dispatched to the 25th of the month! As Scarlett would say, “Tomorrow is another day!”
Yes, the prospect of making these is intimidating, it takes 3 days to prep the dough, roll out & bake, and then about 30 minutes to scarf them down. They are so wispy, light and flaky and if there is one thing I learnt from this experience, it has ruined me for store bought croissants. One batch make about 16 good sized pastries and given that the quality of the ingredients used is under ones control, it is well worth to make these beauties at home.The original version of the recipe we used is from www.finecooking.com.  Aparna’s directions were so perfect that I have taken the liberty of simply transferring it onto this page with some minor changes to reflect what I personally did while making the pastries.

As divine as they are, it is virtually impossible to  polish off 16 at one go, so feel free to divide the dough on day 3 and return  one half  of it to the refrigerator (if you plan to use it up within the next day or two, or freeze it for use at a later time). I opted to used a South Indian style filling on my second half,made with fresh coconut, jaggery and cardamom. This filling is a classic recipe called ‘Thengai poornam‘ in Tamil.  It is used for ‘Modak‘, a sweet rice dumpling. I decided to christen this version ‘Pain au poornam’! I’ll post this recipe next week once the foundations of prepping the classic croissant dough have been established.

Pain au ‘Poornam’: Croissants with a coconut, jaggery & cardamom filling

Classic Croissants:
Ingredients:
For the dough:
4 cups all-purpose flour, and a little more for dusting/ rolling out dough
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp ice water
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp cold milk
1/4 cup sugar
40gm soft/melted unsalted butter
1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp salt
For the butter layer:
250 gm cold unsalted butter (~2 sticks + 2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup of  mix of milk & heavy cream to brush the rolled croissants

Method:
Day 1:
Make the dough (and refrigerate overnight)
Combine all the ingredients for the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  You can also use a food processor with the plastic blade, or do this by hand. 
Mix everything on low speed for 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl once if necessary. Then mix further on medium speed for 3 minutes. Lightly flour a 10-inch pie pan or a dinner plate.  And place the ball of dough on this. 
Gently shape the dough into a flat ball by pressing it down before storing it in the fridge, this makes rolling out next morning easier. Making a tight ball will strengthen the gluten which you do not need. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and wrap well with plastic so it doesn’t dry out. Refrigerate overnight.

 

Day 2:
Make the butter layer
Cut  out 2 pieces of waxed paper into 10” squares each.  Cut the cold butter sticks along their length into 1/2-inch-thick slabs. Arrange the pieces on one piece of waxed paper so they form a 5- to 6-inch square. Trim the butter further into pieces as required to fit the square. Cover with the other piece of waxed paper. 
Using a rolling pin, pound the butter with light, even strokes. As the pieces begin to stick together, use more force. Pound the butter until it flattens out evenly into a square that’s approximately 7-1/2”. Trim the edges of the butter to make a neat square.
 
 Put the trimmings on top of the square and pound them in lightly with the rolling pin. Refrigerate this while you roll out the dough.

The ‘Lamination’ process (no pix for this step, since buttery, sticky fingers aren’t exactly camera friendly)
Unwrap and lay the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll it out to a 10-1/2-inch square, and brush off the excess flour. Remove the butter out from the refrigerator —it should be cold but pliable.  If it isn’t refrigerate it till it is. THis ensures  that when you roll out the dough with the butter in it, It is neither soft enough to melt, nor hard enough to break. Unwrap the butter and place it on the square of dough in the center, so that it forms a “diamond” shape on the dough.
Fold one flap of dough over the butter toward you, stretching it slightly so that the point just reaches the middle of the butter square. Bring the opposite flap to the middle, slightly overlapping the previous one. Similarly repeat with the other two so that the dough forms an envelope around the butter. Lightly press the edges together to completely seal the butter inside the dough to ensure the butter doesn’t escape when you roll out the dough later.
Lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. With the rolling pin, firmly press along the dough uniformly to elongate it slightly. Now begin rolling instead of pressing, focusing on lengthening rather than widening the dough and keeping the edges straight.
Roll the dough into an 8” by 24” rectangle. If the ends lose their square shape, gently reshape the corners with your hands. Brush off the excess flour. Mark the dough lightly equally into three along the long side. Using this as a guideline, pick up one short end of the dough and fold 1/3rd of it back over the dough, so that 1/3rdof the other end of dough is exposed. Now fold the 1/3rd exposed dough over the folded side. Basically, the dough is folded like 3-fold letter before it goes into an envelope (letter fold). Put the folded dough on a floured baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 15 to 20 minutes to relax and chill the dough.
Repeat the rolling and folding, this time rolling in the direction of the two open ends (from the shorter sides to lengthen the longer sides) until the dough is about 8” by 24”. Once again fold the dough in thirds, brushing off excess flour and turning under any rounded edges or short ends with exposed or smeared layers. Cover once again with plastic wrap and freeze for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Roll and fold the dough exactly in the same way for the third time and put it baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap, tucking the plastic under all four sides and refrigerate overnight. 
 
AS tempting as it may seem, resist the urge to laminate more than thrice, or else the butter will get so thinly distributed that the resulting pastry will not be optimized for flakiness.
Day 3:
Divide the dough
The next day, unwrap and lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. Cut the dough along the longer side into halves. Cover one half with plastic wrap and refrigerate it while working on the other half. (or save it for the ‘Panfusine’ version with a traditional South Indian filling.)
“Wake up the dough up” by pressing firmly along its length with the rolling pin. Don’t widen the dough but simply begin to lengthen it with these first strokes. Slowly roll the dough into a long and narrow strip, approximately 8” by 22”. If the dough sticks as you roll, sprinkle with flour. 
Once the dough is about half to two-thirds of its final length, it may start to resist rolling and even shrink back. If this happens, fold the dough in thirds, cover, and refrigerate for about 10 minutes; then unfold the dough and finish rolling. 
Lift the dough an inch or so off the table at its midpoint and allow it to shrink from both sides and prevent the dough from shrinking when it’s cut. Check that there’s enough excess dough on either end so that when you trim the edges to straighten them, you have a strip of dough that is 20’ inches long. Now trim the edges so they’re straight.
If you’re good at “eyeballing” and cutting the dough into triangles, then forget the measuring rule, marking and cutting instructions.  Otherwise, lay a measuring rule or tape measure lengthwise along the top length of the dough. With a knife, mark the top of the dough at 5-inch intervals along the length (there will be 3 marks in all). 
Now place the rule or tape measure along the bottom length of the dough. Make a mark 2-1/2 inches in from the end of the dough. Make marks at 5-inch intervals from this point all along the bottom of the dough. You’ll have 4 marks that fall halfway between the marks at the top.
Make diagonal cuts by positioning the yardstick at the top corner and the first bottom mark. Use a pizza wheel/ pie wheel or a bench scraper and cut the dough along this line which connects each top mark to the next bottom mark and then back to the next top mark and so on. This way you will have 7 triangles and a scrap of dough at each end. 
Shape the croissants
Now work with one piece of triangular dough at a time. Using your rolling pin, very lightly roll (do not make it thin but only stretch it slightly) the triangle to stretch it a little, until it is about 10” long. This will give your croissants height and layers. You can stretch it by hand too, but if you don’t have the practise, your stretching could be uneven.
Using a sharp small knife, make a 1/2- to 3/4-inch-long notch in the centre of the short side of each triangle. The notch helps the rolled croissant curl into a crescent.
Place the triangle on the work surface with the notched side closest to you. With one hand on each side of the notch, begin to roll the dough away from you, towards the pointed end.
Flare your hands outward as you roll so that the notched “legs” become longer. Roll the triangle tight enough but not too tight to compress it, until you reach the “pointy” end which should be under the croissant.
Now bend the two legs towards you to form a tight crescent shape and gently press the tips of the legs together (they’ll come apart while proofing but keep their crescent shape).

Shape all the triangles like this into croissants and place them on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet leaving as much space between them as they will rise quite a bit.
Proof the croissants
Brush the croissants with milk (or a mix of milk and cream). If you use eggs, make an egg wash by whisking one egg with 1 tsp water in a small bowl until very smooth. Lightly brush this on each croissant.
 Refrigerate the remaining milk/ milk+cream (or egg wash) for brushing the croissants again later. Place the croissants in a cool and draft-free place (the butter should not melt) for proofing/ rising for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  I found that covering the croissants with plastic wrap & placing it in an oven with the light on worked great.
 They might need longer than 2 hours to proof, maybe as much as 3 hours, so make sure to let croissants take the time to proof. The croissants will be distinctly larger but not doubled in size. They’re ready if you can see the layers of dough from the side, and if you lightly shake the sheets, the croissants will wiggle. 

Bake the croissants
Just before the croissants are fully proofed, pre-heat your oven to 200C (400F) in a convection oven or 220C (425F) in a regular oven. Brush the croissants with milk/ milk+cream (or egg wash) a second time, and place your baking sheets on the top and lower thirds of your oven (if regular) or bake one tray at a time in the convection oven. 
Bake them for about 15 to 20 minutes till they’re done and golden brown on top and just beginning to brown at the sides. In a regular oven, remember to turn your baking sheets halfway through. If they  seem to be darkening too quickly during baking, lower the oven temperature by 10C (25F). Cool the croissants on the baking sheets on racks.
Serve warm. This recipe makes 8 croissants. I served them up warm with a side of home made Mayer lemon marmalade.

 

 

  

As i said earlier, I’ll post the recipe for  filled version next week, but here’s a sneak peek:

 

 Bon appetit!


Countdown for my ‘ A Dish – a Day ‘ blog – Day 7

 December 25 is not really a day to spend in front of the laptop, trying to compose a post about a new recipe. This is a day to revel in the joy of watching the kids opening their presents and the jaw dropping realization of how quickly they're capable of  trashing a room in minutes, but then again, my resolution is getting the better of me. As Indian style breads go, there is no dearth to what may be mixed into the dough and with each new ingredient , there is a different unique  flavor profile.

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Countdown for my ‘Dish – a – day blog’ – Day 10

Of all the countless New Year's resolution I've made over the past decades, I cannot really recall a single one that I've kept and seen through over the next 365 days. And when I started my other daily blog 'A Dish a Day'  on a whim on Jan 1st 2012, I honestly never really expected to go past April (counting all the dishes I had whipped up for this blog and the numerous community picks that I've had the privilege of testing for Food52). This is not taking into account the inherent lethargy that I was sure , would make me skip days at my whim.

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Recaps & Rosemary Parathas

Call it childish, but the sensation of squirming with excitement as only a 6 year old is, in someways
one of the best states to be in occasionally. The feeling of ‘OH MY GOD, this can’t be happening to me, (but it is)’.. I went though one such ‘aha’ moment a fortnight ago, thanks to Cooking Channels Recipe Contest for their ‘The Perfect 3’ show.
The category was ‘Indian’, the show focuses on three ‘perfect dishes in each category made by three of the celebrity chefs from the Food Network/ Cooking channel family and the fourth, a winning original entry from amateur home cooks (such as yours truly), vetted & tested by the professionals at Food Network at their Kitchens. (The same stoves on which Iron Chef Bobby Flay tests his throw down recipes with his assistants Miriam & Stephanie).
The Hallowed Food Network Kitchens!
The taping sessions were a model of perfect efficiency. The associate producer, Natasza Fontaine had taken care of every detail one could think of. The winning contestants were flown to New York City (In my case, I just hopped onto a North East Corridor train on NJ Transit), with a comfortable  hotel stay at the boutique, nautically themed, Maritime Hotel for 2 nights. Also included was a guided tour of the Food Network studios, where hardcore Food Network fans such as myself could find out all that we’ve always wanted to know, but never got the chance to ask. ( My question of choice.. What happens to all the extra food & ingredients?.. Answer: Food Network donates all extra produce & groceries (other than proteins) to City Harvest, close to 2200  lbs every year).
The taping session was organized like clockwork by the production company, Working Dog Productions. At 9.15 a.m Sharp on the day of taping, I was picked up in a SUV with a large sign that read ‘Food Network Contest Winners’. (my head promptly began to cook up visions of cheesy Hindi ‘Fillum’ shots.. “Hallo ji, myself, Food Natwork competisson winnerAARRGH!)

They had everything ready for the taping session at the studio, from hair & make up touch ups & picking out my outfit ( settled on a deep blue tussar silk ‘kurti’ that my late mother had gifted me 7 yrs ago. My way of remembering her & keeping her close. That sentiment completely overrode any fashion preferences). Kelsey Nixon, the host of the show, breezed in with her cheerful smile & completely set me at ease.
A huge batch of my blondie bars, looking oh so delish, perfectly arranged greeted me on the set. 
 
They had a ‘rehearsal, followed by 3 final takes, and added bits with the close ups. The attention to detail simply blew me away. So much to learn from that!

This was clearly one of my highlights from my life as a food blogger and needless to say, this was my general state of mind when I got back home!

As I get ready for my Big 100th blog post next week, (no clue yet as to what I’m going to create), This weeks recipe is one that has been a staple at home for a couple of months now. The last time I took photographs of the process, they got ‘swallowed up’ by my old laptop that croaked on me. I’m pretty sure that Rosemary has been incorporated into Parathas way before I stumbled on to the idea, but one thing is for certain, the taste is unforgettably delicious.


Rosemary Potato Paratha: (makes ~ 6 parathas)

You need:

For the Dough:
2 cups whole wheat flour (preferably Roti Atta Flour)
a pinch of salt
~ 6 oz water.

Combine the flour & salt, add the water in increments & knead to make a firm ball of dough. Divide into six and cover with a wet towel until ready to roll into parathas.

For the Filling:

2 large Yukon gold or Idaho potatoes
1 large sprig Fresh Rosemary (leaves stripped off the twig)
1-2 small fresh green chili. (adjust as per your taste)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (adjust up or down as per your preference)
Juice of 1/2 a lime.
Melted ghee for brushing the paratha.

 Finely chop the chili and Rosemary leaves almost to a minced consistency.
Wash & cut the potatoes into half & boil till a knife slips through with little resistance through the cooked tuber.
Drain excess water, peel the potatoes and place in a mixing bowl along with the salt, lime juice and finely chopped rosemary & green chili blend.

Break the hot potatoes so that the steam is released. This helps the filling to be as dry as possible. Mash the potatoes to crush any lumps to get a smooth filling. Shape the filling into spheres, approximately the size of ping pong balls.

 Roll a portion of dough into a 6 inch flat tortilla. (use a generous amount of extra flour to ensure that the dough does not stick to the surface or rolling pin.).

Place a ball of filling and roll the dough around like you would do for an enchilada. Pinch the ends & fold over so that the filling is evenly enclosed within the dough.

Flour the board & gently roll out the the potato filled dough into a 5 inch circle.

Heat a flat griddle and add place the paratha on it. Brush liberally with ghee, after two minutes flip to the other side and brush the other side with ghee as well. The paratha is done when both sides have turned a golden brown with tiny black spots. Serve with a Raita of your choice and Indian Mango or lime Pickle.

 Bon Appetit!