Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving dishes - Saag Delicata (Spinach with pumpkin puree and pan roasted delicata squash)


 As I slowly cobble up my thanksgiving menu, The natural curiosity in me seems to have allowed me to go haywire with whatever fall produce is available. I had plenty of leftover puree



from my cheesecake that I did not want to toss away so decided to incorporate it for a savory recipe,




So just added it to some spinach to make a savory Saag curry paired with piping hot Naans. To make this a vegan version, use olive or vegetable oil. I diced some Delicata squash,  and added them both as a complementary textural ingredient (sauteed) as well as a garnish (Pan fried). If access to  delicata squashes is restricted, feel free to substitute with any other squash.

Saag Delicata

You need:

2 bunches fresh spinach
1 delicata squash , Peeled, cored and diced
1 cup shallots or red onions, sliced thin
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 + 3 (total 5) tablespoons Ghee or Oil (if you prefer a vegan option)
1 tablespoon cumin
1-2 blades mace
2 small sticks cassia cinnamon (the flat variety)
cayenne pepper to taste
Cilantro for garnishing
Salt to taste

Wash the spinach and detach the thicker stems from the leaf. Add the leaf to a big pot and cook down until they wilt completely. Allow to cool and puree using a hand mixer or in a blender. Set aside.




Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and add the cinnamon & cumin seeds when its near smoking. Once the seeds pop, add the mace, followed by the onion/shallots. Fry until the onion turns translucent. Now add the 1/2 the delicata squash cubes along with the Garam masala and the Cayenne pepper.


 Allow to soften. Fold in the spinach and the pumpkin puree. Mix well and allow to cook for about 15 minutes  on a low flame allowing the flavors to combine.


While the spinach is cooking down, Heat the remaining oil in  a pan and fry the remaining squash cubes until golden brown

Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with cilantro and the squash cubes . Serve warm with hot Naan.


Bon Appetit & Happy Thanksgiving.








Sunday, November 24, 2013

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.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Quick post.. A tutorial on Idlies?


I had no idea of what I would be blogging about, or even if I was going to post today. Yes, there are a couple of posts sitting in my drafts column, that I was to publish in the next couple of day, but it was never going to be plain Idlies. 

So, back to basics? What are Idlies? Answer: they're basically spongy steamed cakes made with a fermented rice and Urad lentil batter. The perfect healthy blend of protein & carbs,  The fermentation confers a depth of Umami and one of the best things is that you can pair the cakes with just about anything, Sugar, ketchup, Sriracha, and the usual chutneys, the milaga podi, Sambar & yes, Fresh home made yogurt.

The purpose of this post is not about sharing a recipe for idli. Its a classic national dish and there are countless sites you could get it from. Its about discussing the myriad ways that one could shape them. I've been making unconventional Idlies  way, way before I even knew that there was such a thing as food blogging. (even if a certain pompous dame of the British Empire claimed along with BBC Good Foods (India)  magazine that they invented the cupcake mold version.), And I'm not alone, countless mothers  must have done this before me.   And it was out of pure necessity, in other words, getting my kids to eat healthy stuff in cute forms. Silicone cupcake molds were merely the first. They could be fitted into a conventional Idli stand with the lenticular molds  and steamed, and yes filled up with fresh blueberries or even a Hersheys kisses pressed in for a molten chocolate variety.



 Well, Its been years since I revisited the shaped idlies until yesterday when I spotted some long forgotten silicone molds from years ago and opted to make a kid friendly lunch for my son to get the week kicked off.



Before I knew it, I was out looking for more shapes just to use for this post. It turns out that Crate and Barrel the store from which I picked up the pumpkin and leaf mold had discontinued them and I had to settle on this Ice cube tray. 



well, they worked perfectly, did not twist out of shape when I lifted the tray onto the pan to steam, and the best part, the idlies just dropped out, unlike the conventional mold where you need to scoop them out.

MOLDED IDLIES

I'm just going to link the detailed recipe for the idli batter from my friend Dhivya's blog 'Chef in you'.

The Tovolo Jumbo ice cube tray accommodates 2 oz  of batter which produces a near perfect cube.

Brush the inside surfaces of the tray with oil. (it isn't really necessary, since the silicone does release the finished product, but the oil really helps in sliding the entire cube out without even a morsel sticking to the pan).



Ladle the batter into the sections of the ice cube tray. Place the tray over a steamer basket in a skillet (with a cup of water added to the bottom. Cover with a lid and steam for 10-12 minutes on  medium heat.)



 If you do manage to spot silicone molds in different shapes like this pumpkin, pick them up, the work great for pretty party designs. (2 - 3 oz of batter steamed for 12 minutes). The only drawback is that you have to make them one at a time (or have a really wide skillet and an equally large lid to keep multiple molds flat without squishing them.)



So go ahead, think outside the mold and let the idli imagination run wild, your kids will love you for it!


 Bon appetit!

PS: An update: For more intricate shapes like this gorgeous snowflake, Just make sure to oil the inner surface of the mould design that comes into contact with the batter, Steam and allow the mold to cool down completely before attempting to push out the idlies. I used a seasonal silicone ice cube tray to make these beauties.


Friday, November 15, 2013

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!












Tuesday, November 12, 2013

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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