Category Archives: vegetarian

The ‘We knead to bake’ project #11: Swedish Cinnamon buns -Kannelbullar / Kannelsnegle (cinnamon buns/snails)


Time flies when you’re having fun – so goes the saying. I never realized how relevant it would be to something so very different as this baking project that we started way back in January. Aparna Balasubramanian, the author of the blog ‘My diverse kitchen’ has led us through a fabulous journey through sweet and savory yeast  confections. It started out with the pull apart bread and wended its way through classic breads like Croissants to unusual cookies such as Torcettini de St. Vincent.

This years penultimate bread is the classic Swedish cinnamon bun, (yep, from the same set of those addictive treats you look forward to on a trip to Ikea). These buns are traditionally made on Oct. 4th to celebrate ‘The day of the cinnamon bun’ but then these are so addictive that they’re available all year round in Swedish bakeries. The Swedish version is a lot less sticky and sweet compared to the American version. I tried both the traditional swirled version as well as the ‘trouser twisted’ version. Here’s a You Tube video of the process:

 


Swedish Cinnamon buns -Kannelbullar / Kannelsnegle

You need:


Starter:

1 cup warm milk

2 tsp instant yeast

2 cups all-purpose flour


Dough:

All the Starter

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp salt (if using salted butter, otherwise 1 1/2 tsp)

6 to 8 pods cardamom, powdered

2 tsp orange zest

1/3 cup caster sugar

4 tablespoons butter, soft at room temperature


Filling:

5 tablespoons butter, soft at room temperature

1/2 cup brown sugar, loosely packed

2 tsp powdered cinnamon

1/3 cup Almond meal (I used Uncle Bob’s Almond meal).


Topping:

1/4 cup milk (or egg wash if you eat eggs)

Pearl sugar or large sugar crystals

 

Combine all the ingredients for the Starter into a sticky dough, in a large bowl. Place the Starter dough in an oiled bowl and loosely cover it and then refrigerate it overnight.  The dough will rise quite a bit so use a container that has enough room for this. 

 Allow the dough to rest on the counter for about 1/2 hour the next day before starting on the cinnamon buns. Sift the flour, salt and the powdered cardamom into a bowl.

Tear off chunks of the dough and add it incrementally into the bowl of the Stand mixer. keeping the machine running, gradually add the sifted flour mixture, Orange zest and the sugar and allow the ingredients to mix well.
Lastly add the softened butter and knead into a smooth dough thats stretchy. If the dough feels a bit dry, add a few teaspooons of milk. Conversely, add flour if the dough is sticky.

Make the filling by creaming together the soft butter, brown sugar, almond meal and cinnamon with a fork or spoon into a spreadable paste.

 



Turn the dough over onto a floured surface and roll it out into a  rectangle about 20” by 12” in size.

If you’re making the spiral cinnamon rolls, spread the filling evenly over the whole rectangle


Roll the dough tightly in a jelly roll/Swiss roll style, gently pinching the edge to seal. Cut into 20 pieces using  a sharp knife and place them on a lined baking sheet (making sure to leave enough space in between), or on a cupcake case.

For the twisted version, spread the filling over  half the length of the dough as shown below. Fold over the half spread with filling and cut into 20 strips with a sharp knife. With each strip, cut a slit almost along the length such that the strip looks like a ‘trouser’.


Twist each leg as shown above, cross the ‘legs’ over and press the ends together under the uncut part of the dough. As with the spiral rolls,  place the rolls in a lined baking sheet  or in cupcake cases with plenty of space in between.

Allow to rise for about 15 minutes (the buns will look a bit puffy, not fully risen), brush with milk and sprinkle pearl-ized sugar (or egg wash). Place in a preheated 400 F oven to bake for 15 minutes until they appear golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.  If they seem to be browning too quickly, turn down the heat to 375 F.

Turn out to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with a hot cup of coffee. These Kannelbullar freeze well, so store the extra away for a rainy day. Just heat one or two in a microwave whenever the craving strikes.



This post is being Yeast spotted.

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Thanksgiving treats: Cheeseless Pumpkin Cheesecake

 
As if to compensate for the dreary daylight saving change of time, the short day’s and the brown scattered leaves fluttering about in the cold breeze, Nature gives you glimpses of some pretty spectacular colors that are best appreciated in autumn, like this gorgeous sunset a couple of days ago

 I’m gracefully resigning my self to the crisp cold sunny  days of Fall, and beginning to look forward to the seasonal bounty that the season brings along, The bright colored winter squashes & pumpkins, the gemstone colored cranberries, Persimmons, pomegranates..and the list goes on.

The recipe for this post ironically uses none of these, relying instead on a canned ingredient. Yep, I’m referring to the good ol’ canned pumpkin that makes its appearance around now.

Its convenience lies in the fact that the texture and flavor is consistent and pleasantly enough it wasn’t too sweet, which meant that I could use the contents from the same can in a dessert as well as a savory spinach curry.

Back to the ‘Cheeseless’ Cheesecake: I’d first tried Raghavan Iyer’s recipe for the 10 lb Cherry Challenge that was hosted by Oxo . The dessert is basically a classic Bengali bhapa Doi , a steamed yogurt that is flavored with cardamom. This time around, I tweaked the recipe with the addition of pumpkin puree and a spice blend of cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.

Cheeseless Pumpkin cheesecake (Recipe inspired and adapted from  Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer)

 You need:

2 1/2 cup plain low fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup Pumpkin puree
1 can condensed milk
1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon spice blend* (as per taste) -see the note below the recipe for instructions
18-20 strands saffron
8-10 Pistachios for garnish (optional, leave out if concerned about nut allergies)
9 ramekins (4.0 oz / 1/2 cup volume)
Plenty of boiling hot water in a kettle

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Combine the yogurt, condensed milk, spice blend and the pumpkin puree in a mixing bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine

Ladle the mixture evenly into the ramekins. Garnish each bowl with 2 strands of saffron and microplane the pistachio over the mix. Place the ramekins in a large baking pan. Fill the baking pan with about 3/4th inch of  the hot water.

Place the water bath into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and refrigerate for atleast 2 hours prior to serving. Garnish with a piece of sugar glass ** and serve chilled.

 ** Sugar glass
 In a saucepan, combine  1 cup of sugar and 2 table spoons of water.
Bring to a boil to completely dissolve, keep stirring with a wooden spoon, lower the heat and allow the sugar to cook down beyond the hard crack stage. Keep 2 sheets of silpat silicone mats next to you on the counter. Once the sugar solution begins to turn a light amber, remove it from the heat. Allow the sugar to cease bubbling. Carefully dip the wooden spoon into the molten sugar and drizzle the liquid onto the silicone mats, making random criss cross patterns. Allow to cool completely before gently breaking the pieces. store the pieces in an airtight jar.

*Spice blend:
2 cardamoms pods (just the seeds)
4 cloves
1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon powdered nutmeg

Combine all the ingredients and crush to a fine powder using a mortar & pestle. Use the required quantity of the blend.

Bon appetit!

Garlicky Herbed Lentil & Carrot Pilaf:

I hate negativity, I’d much rather spend my time in the Lab doing what I love best, running my experiments, taking measurements,  analyzing & visually recording  the results. Or, in blogger-speak, create a recipe, clear my kitchen counters,  prepare the dish, take photographs & then tuck into my creation. I’d rather not have written up my last post, my response to Martha Stewart, but there was something so smug about her tone in the interview, non verbal, that my pre-frontal cortex just had to sit back and support my lower brain in lashing out. It was not easy, for every 2 sentences I put down, I had to erase one. It was a learning experience, one that made me determined to never let my self imposed guard down when it came to to the quality of the recipes I post and never be stingy on listing references & inspiration, however insignificant or indirect.

 Today’s recipe was both an example of something hurriedly cobbled together into a one pot dish that had a healthy proportion of carbohydrates, protein & vegetables, as well as a dish inspired by someone else’s recipe. The combination of herbs was the brainchild of Liz Larkin, a.k.a The scone lady. and it was for a recipe of Pan fried Fragrant Cauliflowers that I discovered on Food52.

The flavoring from this ‘masala paste’ left such an imprint that it begged to be tried again, despite the obvious lack of a resident cauliflower, in fact, the lack of any other convenient vegetable, except for a bag of bunny food,viz carrots. Combined with some lentils (I have 1/2 a dozen varieties sitting in my pantry, neatly labeled) & cooked Basmati, The two dishes, compared side by side, have no relation to each other, and yet, the root flavoring is the same.

Since I had hurriedly cobbled up the first batch and the family polished off every morsel of it, I went back & recreated the dish before the combination of spices & tastes slipped out my my brain & food memory. The results were identical the second time around as well. the combination of lentils & rice is reminiscent of the Middle Eastern dish Mujaddara, accompaniment of choice for Mujaddara is yogurt, and the same works perfectly for the ‘carrotty’ version as well.

Garlicky Herbed Lentil & Carrot Pilaf:

You need:
2 cups Basmati rice
4 cups boiling water
1/2 cup whole lentils (I used the green French Puy lentils)
2 large carrots, cut into sticks
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 dried bay leaves,
 Salt to taste.

For the paste:
2 heaped tablespoons minced or chopped ginger.
2 serrano chiles, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnishing

Rinse the lentils in plenty of water. add to a saucepan along with 2 cups of water, bring to a boil and allow the lentils to cook until soft, retaining their shapes and not mushy. Drain and set aside.

Rinse the Basmati rice until the water runs clear. In a heavy bottom pan, add 2 tablespoons of ghee, and ‘toast’ the rice until the grains begin to turn opaque. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt along with 4 cups of boiling water. Stir to dislodge all the grains sticking to the bottom of the pan, cover and lower the heat to the lowest setting. allow the rice to cook until all the water is absorbed. Uncover, allow to cool slightly & fluff with a fork to separate the grains.

Combine the cilantro, serrano chile, garlic and ginger and blend to a paste.  I used a Mexican mortar & Pestle, the molcajete, just so that I could have some irregular texture in my blend. (plus there’s something so relaxing in using manual tools, just builds a connection to your food.)

Slice the carrots into thick ‘coins’ at a diagonal angle. Then stack up 3-4 of these  coins and cut into little ‘sticks.

Heat the remaining ghee and the oil in a large skillet once the oil/ghee mix gets hot, add the nigella and fennel seeds along with the bay leaves. (No particular reason for adding these spices, Mrs. Larkins recipe doesn’t use ANY spices for the cauliflower. I just happen to love the nigella fennel combination). Add the cilantro/chile/ /ginger/garlic paste to the tempering and fry until the paste begins emitting a divine aroma. Add the carrots and saute until the carrot softens slightly (they should still retain a ‘crunch’) and then toss in the  cooked lentils.

Season with salt (remember the Basmati already is salted, so adjust accordingly), allow any remaining moisture to dry up.

Add the lentil mixture to the rice and fold in until the carrots and lentils are evenly dispersed. Garnish with the remaining cilantro and serve warm.

 with a side of yogurt, Raita or Tzaziki.

Bon appetit!

Recreating flavors (or at least trying) – White turnip stew with toasted Chana dal.

Kootu or vegetable stews are an integral part of South Indian cuisine. Just about any vegetable, be it a root, shoot or fruit, bud, blossom or bean, doesn’t matter, chances are that a South Indian has already made a kootu out of it. The kootu is a low maintenance recipe, vegetable of choice, boiled with a pinch of turmeric, thickened with either a paste of coconut, chile & cumin or cooked & mushed up dal. A shot of sizzling tadka (with mustard, Urad dal, a single arbol chile, a pinch of asafetida and Curry leaves) and voila, a nutritious stew, all set to be served up with steaming hot plain rice.
Asafetida takes the place of onion & garlic in South Indian food, especially dishes from the Brahmin community. Yea, we were born to be a bunch of nerdy geeks whose grandmothers shuddered at the mere mention of those smelly bulbs that incited base, scandalous emotions. They usually added cinnamon & Fennel to the list as well. And God forbid, you were ever cheeky enough to mention that asafetida was in fact a byproduct from a variety of fennel,  you’d be thrown out of the kitchen, if not the house with a glowing piece of firewood or coconut fiber broom, whichever is nearby!
Dealing with Asafetida in its raw form is not for the faint of heart. To put it mildly, it stinks, until it meets a pool of sizzling hot oil. Then just as a fairy tale troll changing into a prince by the kiss of the sizzling oil, it blooms, blooms into a magnificent aroma of onions & garlic frying. Yep those South Indian ‘maamies’ (aunties) certainly knew how to get around food restrictions!
The preferred dal for kootu  is usually tuvar (pigeon peas) or mung, but this particular recipe calls for toasted split chana dal (the smaller version of the garbanzo bean/ kabuli chana). Toasting the dal brings out a nutty aroma that complements the assertive aroma of the fried curry leaves. The soft mellow turnips  balances these assertive flavors with their mild sweetness. I first tasted this dish at Chennais flagship South Indian restaurant ‘Dakshin’ at the Park Sheraton Hotel, and have been making it rather regularly ever since.

Turnip ‘Kootu (Stew) with toasted Channa Dal

You need:
2 cups peeled and  cubed white turnips (~ 8 small turnips)
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric
Salt to taste
1 cup split chana dal
2 green chiles, slit or cut into pieces
For the tempering:
2 tablespoons Oil
1 teaspoon Black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon Split Urad dal
1/4 teaspoon Asafetida powder
1 sprig curry leaves, torn
1 red arbol chile
 
Toast the chana dal until it turns a light golden brown color, Rinse in adequate quantities of water, combine with 2 cups of water  and 1/8 teaspoon of turmeric  and cook till soft in a pressure cooker (about 7-8 whistles for a traditional Indian cooker). Allow the cooker to cool, open the lid, and mash to a smooth paste using the back of a spoon or an immersion blender.
Add the turnips to  just enough water to submerge them, along with the remaining turmeric and chiles. Bring to a boil. Add salt, lower the heat and cook until the turnips are fork tender. Add the mashed dal, taste for salt and simmer until the flavors combine (~ 10 minutes on a low flame).
 In a cast iron pan heat the oil until it sizzles. Add the mustard, Urad dal and Arbol chile. Once the mustard sputters and the Urad dal turns golden, lower the heat and add the asafetida and torn curry leaves. Allow the leaves to curl and fry up lightly and then pour the entire contents of the cast iron pan into the stew. give it a good stir, cover and allow to cool slightly before serving  with steamed rice.
Bon appetit!

So long Summer! – A recipe for Peach ‘Varatti’ (Peach Jam – South Indian style)

 I never fail to get a bit down & out when Sept 21st (the autumnal equinox) rolls out annually. Days officially (and from the planetary perspective) become shorter than nights, Coats get yanked out, the frantic search for a matching pair of warm socks from the sock drawer and before you knowing the Daylight saving weekend is upon you. You may gain an hour that day, but it seems to be a terrible compensation for the fact that it gets dark at 6.00 p.m and even that gets progressively earlier until Dec 22.

I’ve spent the summer playing with peaches, in fact, two Bushel’s worth. Smoothies, jams, salsa but the best of them went into making a preserve of a different kind – Varatti . You see, the inherent tropical weather in the Indian subcontinent, especially in Southern India, meant that fruits would spoil rapidly and canning was not a method of preservation employed in traditional cuisine. The preferred method was to cook the fruit down to evaporate the water content and preserve it with a liberal coating of ghee (which was added to the mashed fruit until it began oozing out of the thick pate). The most popular candidates for this kind of jamming were of course the native fruits, viz, Ripe mangoes and Jackfruit.

Given its ethereal aroma and the ‘custardy’ texture so reminiscent of mangoes, peaches were a perfect fruit for making traditional Indian style preserves. As with making jam in the traditional way, it is a labor of love and time, lots of it, but in the end, you’re left with a lot of perfectly portioned jars to  savor and/or gift (as I did, I carted about half a dozen bottles to India share with friends and family)

Yep, there are other fruits being jammed & canned here in the pics, to be blogged about in later posts!

Peach Varatti: (Makes about  six 8.0 oz  and three 4.0 oz jars)

You need:

25 – 30 peaches (really ripe ones), enough for 20 cups of puree
1/2 – 3/4 cups ghee
3.5 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon powdered cardamom
1/2 cup fresh extract of ginger

To prepare the ginger extract, puree about 1/2 a cup of peeled & chopped ginger root with as little water as needed. Squeeze and strain out the liquid in a cup and allow to stand for about 15 minutes.

Wash the peaches, and peel the skin off. Cut off the flesh and discard the pits. Puree the fruit.

In a heavy bottom pan ( an enamel coated 5 quart chicken fryer works great), add 1/4 cup of melted ghee and add the puree.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to little above a simmer (medium low). Cover with a spatter guard and allow the puree to cook down  to about 1/5 of its original volume. You can  add the puree in batches, if you prefer, instead of the whole  quantity all at once. It takes up to 3 hours to reduce, keep stirring occasionally just to make sure that the bottom does not get burnt, especially as the mixture thickens down.

Once the puree has reduced, stir in the sugar, the remaining ghee and the cardamom. Gently decant the ginger extract, discarding  the white starchy residue at the bottom of the cup, and add it to the peaches. cook down on a low flame until the ghee begins oozing out of the jam (which, by now has turned into a deep brown color, for a lighter color, feel free to use white sugar instead) . Transfer into sterilized glass jars and can the bottles using the standard technique applied for other jams.


 Store in a dark cool corner of your pantry at room temperature. I made my first batch in July, using the yellow peaches, and another batch last week using the milder white fleshed variety, my personal choice for flavor would be the yellow ones.

The varatti is divine when paired with a sharp cheese to make grilled paninis.

Using rustic Tuscan Pane bread, spread the varatti over one slice, layer with some sharp cheese (I used cheddar), add some fresh cracked black pepper,
 

Lightly brush some melted butter on the outside of the bread, grill the sandwich until the cheese melts and begins oozing out and the grill lines sear into the slices

and serve hot with a side of plantain chips!


Bon appetit!










Product Review: Ninja Mega Kitchen system and a recipe for Masala Dosa

 One of the biggest reasons for attending conferences is the priceless experience of meeting fellow bloggers and get an invaluable exposure to all things  culinary. This includes vendors with new products to savor and get inspiration from.

I had no complaints about whatever appliances I had for making traditional Dosa (Traditional South Indian rice & lentil crepes) batter, a sturdy tabletop stone grinder that you could add the Urad dal, turn the timer on , and 30  minutes later, come back to a container full of fluffy, batter with the consistency of whipped egg whites. The
The cons of this is the cleaning up, of the various parts, the roller, the grinding bin, the multiple trays on which the rollers need to be placed while transferring the rice & lentil batter, the invariable drips of thick batter on the counter…. you get the point, It takes quite a bit of time.

I was pleasantly surprised when the appliance company, Ninja asked me if I’d like to try any of their appliances (the Ninja team at BlogHer Food ’13 were real stars in terms of the delicious food samples they made on site). I accepted their offer and picked the  Mega Kitchen system. Unlike smaller passive gadgets such as scoops & knives, Electrical appliances cannot be verified with one successful try. I had to run the machine through multiple testing sessions before I could bring myself to vouch for it (even though , the delighted cook within me was already raving about the machine to anyone who listened).

In my opinion, Dosa batter is definitely one of the toughest tasks that any kitchen blending system can be tested with. First, soaked, hydrated rice turns to the consistency of concrete when blended and this puts quite some strain on the motor. The Urad lentils have a glutinous texture and grinding this to a smooth paste is non trivial, let alone eventually whipping the batter into a light airy texture.The aerating part seems to be tackled perfectly by the design if the blender has to survive for a number of years in a traditional Indian Kitchen. (we Indians lay a lot of emphasis & importance on the durability factor).
In Ninja’s blender jar, 6 blades (which can be removed for cleaning easily)  stacked up over each other ensure that the lentils & rice are pulverized with out having to go through that whirlpool motion of the conventional models that draw the ingredient down. The Ninja system packs a punch in terms of power – 1500 watts of power.

The entire system consists of a Large blender jar (which I’ve been regularly using for making Dosa batter), a dough & food processor attachment, and a small single serve smoothie attachment which I find perfect for grinding masalas & dry spices such as the classic Milaga Podi (pictured above).

New York Times  had published an article last year about pairing Dosas with Champagne,  and of course, I simply HAD to test it for myself. The yummy  (and pleasantly tipsy) brunch that followed the photography session verified NYTimes claim to a T, with the emphasis that it paired best with  Dosas made with Ghee instead of sesame oil (as the regular day to day breakfast menu goes). While the recipe below describes the traditional way of dosais, I opted to make miniature versions of the dosas topped with a marble sized scoop of the Masala.


Masala Dosais:

  • 1.5 cups Jasmine rice
  • 1/2 cup Spilt dehusked Urad Dal
  • 1 teaspoon Salt.
  • Melted ghee (for drizzling over the dosai) and Sesame oil (for brushing over the griddle)
  1. Rinse & soak the rice & lentils separately in plenty of water for about 2 hours (preferably overnight).
  2. Grind the rice to a thick paste in a blender. Transfer to a large container. Repeat with the lentil, taking care to add sufficient water while blending to obtain a batter which is somewhat fluffy in consistency. (like beaten egg whites). Combine the rice & the urad batters with the salt taking care to mix well using your hands (yeah , its messy, & the batter isn’t even worth licking!).
  3. Cover & place in the oven with the light switched on over night. Alternatively bloom a packet of yeast in warm water and add to the batter. Allow to rest for an hour. Mix well before making the dosai.
  4. Heat a cast iron griddle. Add a teaspoon of oil & wipe it using a paper towel. When the pan gets really hot, pour about 3 oz of the batter in the center & spread it around using the rounded side of the ladle. Drizzle with 1/2 a teaspoon of sesame oil. (the batter will bubble up leaving nooks & crannies on the surface. when the lower side begins to turn golden brown carefully flip the dosai over & cook till the other side turns a similar color. Serve with your choice of chutney, or jam, or even just a dollop of yogurt.

  1. For making dosais with the potato filling, spread the batter on the griddle & drizzle with the melted ghee. (Cover with a large lid & allow the top side to steam cook.). Remove the lid, and place a scoop (ice cream scoop ) of the potato masala in the center. Using the spatula, gently roll the dosai around the filling. (Like rolling a burrito, but without tucking the sides in, I guess like a cannoli). serve with your choice of chutney, or sambhar.

Potato masala:

  • 4 large idaho potatoes, boiled & peeled
  • 1 large onion, quartered & thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1 jalapeno, deseeded & finely chopped
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
  1. crumble the boiled & peeled potatoes. Set aside
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet, when it just begins to smoke, add the mustard & cumin seeds & allow to sputter. Add the curry leaves and the onion. saute till the onion turns translucent.
  3. Add the crumbled potatoes, salt and turmeric powder. Sprinkle with some water, stir, lower the heat, cover & cook till the flavors combine. remove from heat, add the lime juice.

The Ninja Mega Kitchen System is available online via their website , or Amazon.com ( Ninja Mega Kitchen System – Model BL771)  or at any retailer in the United States or Canada.

A big Thank you to the folks, especially Sarah Knutson at Ninja Kitchen Systems for the opportunity to test this appliance!

Bon Appetit!

Somewhat Rare Treats – Banana Stem Stir Fry

The banana tree  has often been described as a perfect example of being totally useful from root to fruit. (well, considering that the ‘tree’  is in reality a mutant, giant grass, the description begs for quite a bit of clarification). The banana ‘plant grows from fat squat entities called corms which are the actual stems of the plant, the ‘trunk’ in reality is the base of the leaves which are tightly layered in concentric layers. In terms of its use, other than the fruit, the inflorescence (banana flower)  is often used as a vegetable in Asian cuisine, the leaves are used for wrapping food for steaming, as disposable plates and the occasional umbrella. The fibers from the exterior part of the stems are used for textiles as well as yarn.

The core (or the heart)  used for cooking consists of the central, compressed part of the stem, the part which cannot be peeled off in layers. Its been used as a folk remedy for kidney stones and thanks to its fiber rich nature, its a great vegetable to add to your diet for weight control. (Its another story that the stems are rarely seen even in the ethnic grocery stores here in the US of A).

The prepping process is not straight forward. The instant the stem is cut, it turns brown due to oxidation. For this purpose, the diced bits need to be immediately immersed in acidulated water ( for some reason, the medium of choice is water mixed with a ladle of diluted yogurt or buttermilk).

When the stem is sliced into coins, the immature fibers that stretch out need to be removed. Don’t get grossed out, these are not slimy like Okra or sticky like spider webs.

They’re more like strands of delicate cotton that are pretty strong enough to lift the slice of stem.

The optimal way to extract them is to gently twist the fibers out of the stem, using your index finger and discard.

The coins are then diced and added to the acidulated water, and left for about 1/2 an hour.

The banana stem by itself does not have a particular flavor, just a delicate vegetal, grassy aroma. This make it the perfect vehicle for adding your choice of spices as per your preference. The crunch of the vegetable even after cooking gives it a textural distinction that is rather delightful.

Banana Stem Stir Fry:

You need:

 12″ banana stem core.
4 cups of water (whisked in with 1/4 cup buttermilk or yogurt)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 arbol chiles broken into bits
1 teaspoon split urad dal
1 pinch Asafetida powder
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric
1 sprig fresh curry leaves, torn

1/3 cup shredded coconut
salt to taste
Coconut oil for finishing

Prep the banana stem as per the instructions listed above.
 Drain the yogurt/water mix and transfer the diced stems to a pot containing water with the turmeric added. bring to a boil and cook the stems for about 15 minutes until they’re pleasantly crunchy to the bite. Drain the water and reserve the stems.
Heat the olive oil in a  wok and add the mustard seeds & the urad dal, just as the mustard begins to sputter add the broken arbol chiles and the torn curry leaves along with the asafetida.
Toss in the cooked stems, stir to combine. Add the salt and stir fry on medium heat until any residual water has completely evaporated. Stir in the shredded coconut to evenly distribute it. and transfer to a serving dish.
Drizzle with the coconut oil prior to serving.

Serve warm with rice and traditional South Indian dishes such as Sambhar & kootu.

 Bon appetit!

Cherry O Cherry O Baby! – The 10 lb Cherry Challenge!

There is something about cherries that is utterly addictive. Its a combination of factors, the size – that enables you to scarf down a whole fruit at a time, The childish delight that invariably suffuses you when you sit outside on a balmy summer evening with a big bowl of freshly washed cherries spitting out the pits, one by one (Yes, its summer companion, the watermelon allows for that as well, but the seeds just do not have the size and shape that allows for a good projectile), and of course the fact that the season is so short and fleeting simply means that cherries get their rightful priority.

OXO and NorthWest Cherries sponsored a cherry challenge where they invited bloggers to host a Cherry party with friends and blog about the experience. Each participating blogger received a set of nested mixing bowls with colanders, a weighing scale & cherry pitters from OXO and 10 lbs of the best cherries that you could ever find from the cherry growers association. They were wonderfully accommodating in allowing me to do a solo cherry marathon and it was a wonderful experience indeed. In my true style, I could not decide on any one recipe to work on and before I knew it, the recipes began piling up.

Here’s the list.

1. Cherry Compote for an Indian style Cheesecake.


2. Basil infused Cherry-Lime Granita.

3. Summer veggie Cous cous  salad with a smoky Cherry Chipotle dressing.


4. Boozy Cherries!  (Cherries in Bourbon with basil simple syrup).

5. Cherry Buckle cake.


6. Cherry Jam with Lemon zest & Mace.


 
Just click on the Tab on the top of the page to access the recipes. Bon appetit!

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 : Baked Doughnuts



Doughnuts.. There are those who claim that America runs on these yeasted goodies from a certain international chain. And they may not be completely off the mark. Its hard for me to think of anyone who’s been able to completely resist these deep fried rings of dough, especially if they carry the label ‘Krispy Kreme’ ( the lighted ‘hot doughnuts’  sign on the storefronts has been known to elicit pavlovian responses in those that are fortunate to pass by it)

Thanks to my extended break from the kitchen, this post is technically a month late. It was originally supposed to be posted in June, (June 1st happens to be ‘National Doughnut day’), but then, as with all good things, Its a classic case of better late than never!Aparna from ‘My diverse kitchen’ picked this recipe from Lara Ferroni’s book  ‘Doughnuts’ and the primary reason for choosing this particular recipe is that its a baked version, instead of a deep fried one. I opted to keep it simple this time and just dunked the finished doughnuts in cinnamon sugar and coated in chocolate sprinkles.


 Baked Doughnuts: 
(Recipe by Lara Ferroni, adapted from her book ‘Doughnuts’)

You need:

1/4 cup superfine sugar
1 cup warm milk (45C/115F)
3/4 tbsp instant yeast (or 1 tbsp active dry yeast)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour (or 1tbsp cornstarch + enough all-purpose flour to make up to 1 cup)
1.5 1/2 to 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
100gm cold butter, cut into 1 inch cubes

For the topping:

 melted butter for brushing
1 cup superfine sugar + 2 tbsp powdered cinnamon as per taste
Sugar glaze (combine 1 cup of icing sugar with 2 tablespoons of boiling water.)
Chocolate sprinkles 

Method:

Combine the sugar, milk, yeast salt and vanilla in the bowl of the food processor and pulse about 5 times to mix all the ingredients. Gradually add the cake flour and about 1 cup of the All purpose flour. Process the dough, gradually adding the flour until the dough thickens and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
At this point, add the pieces of butter one at a time. Process until there are no large chunks of butter left at the bottom of the bowl. Continue adding flour until the dough becomes soft and pliable, but not overly sticky.


 




Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently until the dough no longer sticks to your hands. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased large mixing bowl., turning it to coat well. 



Cover with a damp towel and let it rise till double in volume. This should take about an hour.




Punch down the dough and roll out to a thickness of 1/2″ thickness. Cut out doughnuts using a doughnut cutter or whatever you have on hand to cut out 3” diameter with 1” diameter holes. Place the doughnuts and the holes on parchment lined or lightly greased baking sheets, leaving at least 1” space between them.




 

 Save the little balls cut out from the center of the doughnuts. They bake up into perfect little doughnut holes.



Re-roll the scraps and cut out more doughnuts. Allow the dough to rise for about 20 minutes or till almost double in size and then bake them at 200C (400F) for about 5 to 10 minutes till they’re done and golden brown. Do not over bake them.

Take them out of the oven and immediately brush them with the melted butter and then dip them into the cinnamon sugar mixture. To cover the doughnuts with chocolate sprinkles, allow them to cool completely, dip them in glaze and immediately dunk them into the chocolate sprinkles.






Bon appetit!



This recipe is being Yeastspotted.