Friday, May 24, 2013

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





Monday, May 13, 2013

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.







Monday, May 6, 2013

Gluten Free Rice Crepes and a Giveaway from OXO




Crepes.. Those delicate lacy handkerchief thin wisps of cooked batter, slathered with delicious Nutella, the kind of stuff that seems to be possible to savor & enjoy  in restaurants , food trucks and any other food establishments, EXCEPT the home!

To be honest, I've never attempted making a French crepe, or entertained the possibility of even trying. For one thing, my neurotic avoidance of using eggs and second, the general aura of the whole crepe making process.  The egg phobia thankfully, seems to be getting relegated to the past, with credit going to OXO for getting me to try some of their egg related tools. The recipes are slotted for future posts.

I've been a fan of OXO tools ever since my dad bought me a pair of OXO knives while settling me in Grad school at NYU (sometime in the last century). over the years, I've added a vast  array of OXO tools to my collection and have never been disappointed with ANY of my purchases. SO when OXO sent out a set of their latest tools for working with eggs,  I was more than happy to put the tools to good use. I already had an egg beater in my arsenal and OXO has graciously let me give away the  one they sent me to one lucky reader in the US of A.

Growing up, my mother would occasionally whip up these magical rice dosas which would be eaten along with a Tart tamarind dip made with fire roasted eggplants. They were known as 'Kali Kanji dosai' or 'verrum arisi dosai' depending upon whether I asked my mother or Paternal grandmother respectively (which in turn reflected their district of origin in South India).
The batter was made of rice, water and salt, thats it. The trick to make the starch bind into a crepe was to boil some of the batter (the stuff stuck to the blender jar) into a syrupy broth (the Kanji) and mix it with the rest. This makes the batter gel up into a crepe. The best part of the crepe is that it pairs equally well with savory or sweet fillings. I've tried this with warm Jack fruit Pate as well as caramelized bananas spiced with cardamom and frankly loved them both equally.




Rice Crepes with Cardamom spiced Caramelized bananas

You need :
For the caramelized bananas

3 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch slices
1/3 cups sugar,
2 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds

In a non stick skillet, add the sugar along the water and slowly  melt until the crystals begin to turn color and caramelize. Add the bananas and cardamom and gently toss to coat the pieces of fruit. Set aside to cool


(For the crepes)

1 cup basmati rice
1/3 - 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder (or) 1 teaspoon Rapid rise yeast 
1 stick of cold butter to grease the pan
2 cups water 

1/4 teaspoon salt
Microplaned pistachio nuts for garnish.

Wash & soak the Basmati rice in adequate quantity of warm water for about 3 hrs till its softened.

Transfer the soaked basmati with as little water as possible to a blender jar & grind completely into a very smooth (& extremely thick) paste (it'll have the consistency of wet concrete). Add a cup of water to dilute the paste & give it a whirl in the blender to dislodge the thick rice paste. Transfer the batter into a container. lightly scraping out the sides of the jar.


Add the second cup of water to the blender jar & completely wash out the remaining rice sticking to the sides, lid & blades of the jar. Transfer this liquid to a separate container & SAVE.


Transfer this washed out rice liquid to a saucepan and bring to a boil. The liquid will take on a syrupy appearance, due to the starch swelling up (similar to what happens when you cook oats). Remove from the stove & strain this liquid into the batter. Stir to eliminate lumps. The consistency should be like that of crepe batter. (should have a yield of about 3 cups (~ 24 oz) of batter.
Add the salt,  confectioners sugar (adjust to your personal level of sweetness and omit for savory fillings) and the yeast or baking powder. beat thoroughly to eliminate lumps and allow to rest for about 10 minutes. 




Heat a 6 inch nonstick skillet over the gas.

Rub the melted butter over the surface of the skillet to season it. Wipe uniformly over the hot surface using a paper towel.

Using a (1 oz) coffee scoop spoon, pour 2 scoops of the batter ( whisk the batter well before using each time, the rice tends to sink to the bottom) into the skillet. Using the wrist, swirl the batter around the base & the sides of the skillet to coat evenly. 




Cover & cook over a medium heat for about 1-2 minutes till the edges begin to brown & leave the surface of the skillet. '. Gently dislodge the crepe from the sides of the skillet & slide it onto a serving plate. The Omelet spatula is perfect for dislodging the crepe and flipping it over.

Spoon about a tablespoon of the caramelized banana filling onto the center of the crepe and gently fold the crepes over. Garnish with the microplaned Pistachio shavings and serve warm.




 Bon appetit!

Now for the details on the Giveaway. I have ONE egg beater that Oxo has allowed me to send to a lucky reader. I can only ship within the USA for this particular giveaway, but hopefully there will be others for all those of you around the world in the days to come. To enter just follow the directions on the 'Raffle copter' box below. Good luck!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, May 5, 2013

How to prep a Jackfruit and announcing a giveaway from OXO



 Think of fruit and one expects to nosh on a healthy crunchy / succulent orb with an ethereal aroma, NOT something you have to dissect like a caveman sawing through a mammoth carcass.  Well with the jack fruit it is exactly that. It starts with the sheer physical weight &  size of the fruit which can range from anywhere from 20 - 80 lbs and measures up to 50 inches in length. The Stalk that attaches the fruit to the tree trunk (yep it grows on the main trunk, since the branches would probably break under the weight!) needs to be sawed to detach the fruit.. (kinda make one nostalgic for picking an apple off a tree, doesn't it!). And this is the easy part. 




Well, here's a tutorial for the successful extraction of the divine arils that make you work for the reward of savoring the inimitable flavor. Thanks to the presence of an Ether compound that confers the jack fruit its characteristic flavor & aroma (which is funky & takes a little getting used to), the flavor is a combination of apple, banana & pineapple. 


This was a 40 lb specimen

Step 1. Get yourself a section of the fruit (or a whole fruit if you're feeling extra brave) from any Indian or Oriental grocery. They make their appearance at this time of the year.


Step 2: liberally coat your spare chef's knife with a good quality cooking oil (preferably one which does not have an assertive flavor of its own), and keep a pack of Band aids Handy. (or invest in a Kevlar glove)


Step 3: Make 2 perpendicular deep cuts slicing through the central Pithy core (which oozes a sticky latex). Now cut along the green leathery outer skin and detach the wedges. Stretch back the green peel against its normal curvature to expose the golden kernels of fruit from among the matted fibrous entities that didn't quite make the cut to carry a seed!



Using a paring knife, cut across the base to remove the fruit



Pile up the fruits in a bowl (~ 2 lbs)

and the remaining 6 lbs of waste in a trash bag.


Use the fleshy arils to whip up some delicious Jack fruit Pate.




Don't even think of discarding the seeds. they have a flavor and texture similar to chestnuts and are boiled or roasted and eaten in a similar fashion. You can find some chestnut recipes here & here.


Coming up on my next post: a Giveaway from OXO and a recipe for a comfort food breakfast rice crepe.











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