Thursday, January 24, 2013

The 'We Knead to Bake' project 2013 - Herby Cheesy Pull apart bread

I had promised a carbo loaded treat in the midst of sensible healthy food, hadn't I?? As delicious as it was making these 3  treats featured today, no, I did not over indulge on them. One portion of each flavor leaving the rest to my 7 year old and my husband, who were quite happy polishing the the rest.

To get back to the What, why , who etc.. of this project.. It is the brainchild of Aparna Balasubramanian, the author of the blog 'My Diverse Kitchen'. Her fabulous recipes are matched only by her photographs which give meaning to the term 'Food Porn', because they have you salivating over the keys & trying to take a swipe at her gorgeous culinary presentations.
This is a group culinary with a bunch of blogging buddies getting together and giving vent to their individual culinary visions on a single monthly theme. The Theme for January : Herby Cheesy pull apart bread.

Pull apart bread , once you actively start looking for them, seem to come in all forms and  the best part is that they have the advantage of baking perfectly thanks to the rudimentary 'pre slicing' (if there indeed exists such a term) of the dough prior to proofing.

When the first attempt succeed beyond expectations ....

(well not exactly, I ended up setting a big bag of All purpose flour in front of me and went to cobble up the dough using rice flour, It made for a good enough photograph, but had to start all over again from scratch after cleaning out the food processor! and when the dough was ready, I realized that my only loaf pan was too small to fit the bread prior to the second proofing), I was obsessed enough to invest in a second loaf pan and make 2 more variations, so here they are all three loaves / rolls, using Aparna's prescribed recipe with flavor variations thrown in! I'm linking this post to Aparna's blog post on the theme as well as to Yeastspotting.

 Savory Herb and Cheese Pull apart bread 

You need: (for the dough)

1/2 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 3/4 - 3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2.5 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon garlic paste
3/4 cup milk

For the Filling. (Version 1 - Fresh Rosemary, Aleppo pepper and pepper jack cheese)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
(combine these three ingredients together in a small bowl)
1/2 cup fresh grated Pepper jack cheese
3 tablespoons melted butter
  1. In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar and the yeast in the 1/2 cup of warm milk. Set aside for about 15-20 minutes till the yeast mixture blooms.
  2. Combine the flour, salt, softened butter, and garlic paste in the food processor bowl (or a large bowl) and pulse a couple of times to blend. Add the yeast mixture and  milk gradually and knead till you have a soft, smooth and elastic/ pliable dough which is not sticky. Add a little extra flour if your dough is sticking, but only just as much as is necessary.
  3. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat it completely with oil. Cover and let it rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until it doubles in volume.
  4.  Deflate the dough,  and  divide into 2 portions. return one portion back to the oily bowl while you roll out the other into a long rectangle on a floured surface . Brush the melted butter liberally on the surface and sprinkle the Rosemary /Allepo pepper mix. Roll lightly with the rolling pin to ensure that the blend sticks to the dough. Cut into 8 rectangles and stack. Repeat with the remaining dough, using the cheese. ( I chose to alternate the flavorings due to individual preferences within the family, my 7 yr old does not care for the cheese, but loved the rosemary)
5. Stack the strips in an alternating sequence in Large loaf pan . I had to make hasty changes when  I   realized that mine was too small to fit the dough.

6. Fold each rectangle of dough longitudinally, press together lightly and roll it up as shown below.

    7. Stack each roll in an alternating sequence in a 9 inch square baking pan that has been buttered and floured.
    8. Brush with milk, cover and allow the  dough to proof a second time or about 1.5  hours.
    9. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake the dough for about 35 - 40 minutes until the top is golden brown.

    Allow to cool on a rack and serve fresh with a bowl of your favorite soup!.

    Version 2: (Basil Pesto, Sundried tomatoes and Parmesan)

    For the Filling

    1/4 cup Basil Pesto
    1/4 cup finely chopped sun dried tomatoes
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    Liberal amount of EVOO for brushing.

    Use Olive oil instead of butter in the dough.

     Since the Parmesan cheese tends to be 'drier' as compared to a softer cheese, make sure that you liberally drilled EVOO when layering the sun dried tomatoes.
    Using two medium sized loaf tins stack up the pieces of dough, (8 slices to a loaf pan) and continue with steps 8 & 9.

    In retrospect, Irealized that it was not a good idea to sprinkle the excess sundried tomato over the loaf since they tended to char while baking. In fact, if possible, pick out the  stray pieces that stubbornly stick to the surface.

    The third version I made was a sweet one with a chocolate cinnamon  and marmalade filling.


    1/2 cup melted marmalade (I used Scotts 3 citrus marmalade)
    1/2 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
    1 tablespoon dutch processed unsweetened cocoa

    First, NO GARLIC in the dough. I doubled the amount of butter  (to ensure a 'softer' baked texture) and added 1/4 cup extra of sugar with a teaspoon of vanilla extract in the dough. For the layering, the order is 1. Liberal brushing of melted buttter followed by spreading the warm, melted marmalade and then lastly liberally dusting a mix of cinnamon, cocoa and sugar (as per your taste).

    Its perfect with a hot cup of coffee!

    Wednesday, January 23, 2013

    Quick healthy fix for a crazy week - Wintermelon & mung bean stew

     It takes a really steely resolve to keep with a strict regimen when you're down with a combined case of the flu and a cold. The best that one can do under these circumstances is try to stay hydrated and fill up on soups and light stews. When half a ton of stress is added (by way of the little ones falling sick, its time to put any regimen up on a shelf, it can begin to grate on you and the last thing you need is to start resenting a resolution). Tales of my Carb-loading kitchen capers will be posted on the 24th of the month.. stay tuned! In the mean time, here is a sneak peek!

    When it comes to favorites in the vegetable kingdom, I'd rank the white fleshed winter melon up there at the top. there is something about its crisp yet yielding texture with the explosion of pure liquid when you bite into a well cooked cube.

    Winter melon is traditionally cooked with a coconut cumin and red chile paste which provide the bulk of its calories. a healthy and hearty alternative is to use cooked split mung dal instead. I found that the hearty flavors of the mung and vegetal lightness of the winter melon shone beautifully when the stew was spiced minimally. The best part, a chunk of the calories comes from the tablespoon of oil used for the tempering, which is pretty semi optional.

    Mung beans and Winter melon stew: (serves 3 generously as a meal by itself)

    You need: 
    4 cups winter melon cubed ( 40 cals, 2 WW plus points)
     1/2 cup split mung beans (300 cals , 7 WW plus points)
    1/4 teaspoon turmeric
    1 pinch asafetida (optional)
    1 green birds eye or serrano chile split longitudinally
    1 sprig curry leaves
    2- 3 cups water
    Salt to taste

    For the tempering:
    1 tablespoon oil (120 cals, 4 WW plus points)
    1 teaspoon mustard seeds
    1 teaspoon split Urad dal
    1 small arbol chile

    Rinse, clean and drain the mung dal. Add the water, turmeric, split green chile and turmeric.  Bring to a boil,  lower the heat and allow the mung dal to cook until its soft yet retains its shape. Add the cubed winter melon along with the curry leaves , optional asafetida and salt. Allow to cook on a low heat until the winter melon turns translucent.

    Heat the oil and add the ingredients for tempering. Once the mustard pops, the Urad and arbol chile turn a reddish brown ( I burnt it a bit in the photograph above) , add the tempering to the stew. Serve hot with a cup of fresh steaming plain rice. Given that Weight watchers does not assign points to vegetables, this dish tops out at a measly 4 points without the rice.

    and yes, I confess, I also went ahead and created a fabulous fattening spiced Persimmon & blood orange mousse, which I promise to share in future posts! Bon Appetit!

    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    New Years resolution.. Pushing the line!!

     NO, I am absolutely NOT breaking  my resolution, just pushing the line. One of the most essential aspects to a good, healthy dietary balance is to  never deprive oneself outright of any thing that you are particularly fond of.

    One of the hardest things to gain control over in a diet is not fats, not proteins, its  Carbohydrate. While on my last weight watchers session, I realized that passing up a pack of potato chips was no big deal, but resisting that third slice of toasted bread or an extra ladle of plain rice (and I'm taking the fifth amendment  on specifying the size of the spoon used for the rice!) meant overcoming that little voice inside that gently goads you on to 'go ahead its just one little slice / spoon more'.  t was entirely by chance that I happened to tune into Dr. Richard  Lustig's interview on NPR a couple of days ago that completely validated my own personal observations.

    Getting healthy is not about  skipping a meal, or salving away on the treadmill. Its about consciously avoiding processed sugars, in particular the dreaded F word.. Fructose

    Lets face it, there is something irresistible about the texture / flavor/ mouth feel of Carbohydrates that  makes us want more. Turns out that the receptors that get activated by sugars are the very dopamine receptors in the brains 'reward centers' that get a high from other addictive substances such as nicotine. I'll get back to this topic once I finish reading Dr. Lustigs latest best selling book ' Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease'.

    As odd as it seems to wrap up a post with a Carb heavy recipe, I still like to maintain that its infinitely better to indulge in a smaller serving of tasty, nutritious (relatively) unprocessed carbs rather than an American super sized portion of toxic fructose laden ... (prefer not to use expletives here!).

     Ever since I tried out Vikas Khanna's recipe for Forbidden rice pulao, I was hooked on its chewy earthy flavor, so different from the processed white rice. Discovering forbidden rice noodles at the Oriental grocery store was a bonus. Its conveniently apportioned out into five bundles (even though it says 4 servings on the package), each bundle worth 128 calories, 25 .6 gms total carbs,  4.8 g proteins, 1.6 g dietary fiber and 0.8 gs of Fat. (WW plus  points value - 3). the texture is chewy and the noodles have a refreshing earthy flavor that fill you up beautifully. Although I've used Brussels sprouts , feel free to substitute other roasted vegetables such as broccoli or bell peppers for a refreshing variation.

    Roasted Brussels sprouts with Forbidden rice noodles (makes 2 servings, 5 Weight watcher plus points)

    You need:

    2 cups shredded Brussels sprouts
    1 tablespoon oil
    Salt & pepper to taste

    2 bundles forbidden rice noodles:

    for the dressing/ seasoning
    1 teaspoon sesame oil
    2 tablespoon soy sauce,
    A pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
    1/2  teaspoon minced ginger root
    1 tablespoon lemon juice + 1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest
    1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)

    Combine the teaspoon of sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger,  the lemon juice and zest along with the sesame seeds and set aside.

    Heat the oven to 450 F. Combine the shredded Brussels sprouts, Oil, salt & pepper & mix well. It may be an optical illusion but measuring out  oil in a 'beaker' tends make it feel as if you're being extremely generous. and conversely, a tablespoon is plenty to coat the vegetables liberally.

    Spread the Brussels sprouts on a baking tray lined with aluminum foil and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, taking care to periodically keep stirring the veggies around.

    Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the noodles, lower the heat to a simmer. and allow the noodles to cook for about 7-10  minutes until they turn limp. The texture needs to be a tad softer than 'al dente'. Drain and shake to get rid of any excess water. Add the soy sauce seasoning and toss to coat. Fold in the roasted Brussels sprouts and combine. Serve warm.

    2 cups of Brussels sprouts have a collective Weight watchers points value of 2 (which by the way can be omitted from the total points values since the new program does not assign values for fresh veggies in the hope that will be generous in filling themselves with fiber rich produce)  the oil brings in 4 total points. This works out to 5 points for the entire meal.

    Bon appetit!

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

    Feasting my way to weight loss - A New Years resolution

    I made a promise that I would reward myself with a complete break from posting after my daily marathon of A Dish a Day in 2012 and believed that  it was wonderful not having to constantly think about a new dish to post on January 1st 2013. Or so I thought. As much as I relished the welcome break of not touching my camera for seven days, The withdrawal symptoms drove me batty. It was hard stopping myself from going nuts at the grocery store and restraining my arms from picking each & everything that was remotely interesting. I made a compromise with myself that this year, I would resolutely focus on dishes that were healthy, delicious and came with the nutritive values attached.

    I've been hooked on to fresh green garbanzos for a while now and never miss an opportunity to pick up some whenever I spot them. The texture is poles apart compared to the dried version (even the green dried ones). These are closer to edamame (fresh green soy beans)  in terms of their silky creamy mouth feel with the slightest of peach fuzz texture. & no trace of that starchy mealy texture that cooked dried garbanzos have. And the best part, Its pretty  low in calories , just about 250 calories per cup that fills you up completely.

    I came across a recipe for Balilah in Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbook, Jerusalem. What made me fall in love with this was that it was a Middle Eastern version of a comfort snack food that my dad introduced me to from ONE particular street vendor in Mumbai in 1998. He insisted that I try the snack just for observing the sheer attention to detail that that food vendor lavished on each cone of the 'chane ki chaat' (chick pea chaat). (This was a 'defining' moment for me, an unforgettable lesson to cast aside food snobbery and appreciate street food for what it is.) The resulting dish was a bejeweled mix of green chickpeas and ruby red pomegranate arils, interspersed with the tiniest bits of sweet onion and pinpricks of heat from finely, almost-minced green chiles. As I made this for today's lunch, the memories came flooding back and the resulting version of my appetizer was a blend of similar street foods from two great culinary traditions. (With some improvisation thrown in!).

     I opted to used mashed up preserved lemons but regular lemon juice with some lemon zest works just as well.

    Balilah with fresh green garbanzo & pomegranate:
    (4 servings as a salad or 2 as a complete meal)

    2 cups fresh green garbanzos 
    1 cup pomegranate arils (~ 1/2 a pomegranate fruit)
    1/4 cup finely chopped shallots or red onions
    1/2 cup finely chopped parsley 
    1/4  preserved lemon, (or juice of 1/2 a lemon and 1 teaspoon lemon zest)
    cracked pepper to taste
    1 teaspoon finely powdered cumin seeds
    Salt to taste

    Steam the green garbanzos for about 10 minutes. rinse completely in cold water to stop cooking and drain. Combine with the pomegranate arils and the shallots.  Deseed the preserved lemon and mince the pulp and peel finely Add t the  garbanzos along with the cumin powder, peppercorn and the parsley. Taste and adjust for seasoning, the preserved lemon is quite salty so you may wnat to be careful with adding any extra salt . If using the lemon juice, add salt to taste along with the citrus.

    Nutritional Info 

    2 cups green garbanzo : 480 Cal (12 WW points)
    1 cup pomegranate : 60 Cal (2 WW points)
    1/4 cup shallots : 30 Cals (1 WW points)
    Total calories / serving:  ~ 150 Cal ( ~ 4 WW points per generous serving)
    The other ingredients, being primarily flavorants of the non calorific kinds, I've omitted the  nutritional values, 

    If you're interested in picking up a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi's book Jerusalem, here is the link from Amazon.


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