Saturday, January 25, 2014

The 'We Knead to Bake project - 2014' - Focaccia Caprese with smoked mozzarella and roasted tomatoes

 It almost seems like yesterday when a group of us bakers (wannabe) started with posting  yeasted goodies for this series. It was pull apart bread and a part of me gets nostalgic and wants to make some right now when I think about it. Well, thanks to the fact that Aparna Balasubramanian (My  Diverse kitchen ) is constantly on the search for different delightful breads & cookies, there is only a slim slim chance of a repetition!

We had a poll about what we should bake in January & my pick got the most votes (I detect a whiff of gloating at my end here, don't you?) and so, this months recipe is that of Focaccia Caprese.

Focaccia is a classic Italian bread, with Greek origins interestingly and is native to the North Eastern part of the county. Caprese, as the name suggests involves tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, just like the salad.

I had 2 iterations with this particular project. The first a straight forward try with Aparna's recipe, and the second a slight tweaking using an alternate technique for the dough, that I learned from this fabulous recipe from Food52. This particular topping has Mayer lemons, rosemary, sea salt & brown sugar.

While the former was a much quicker to make and is a comforting chewy bread, The latter produced a lighter crumb and thinner crust. I  topped the first set with 4 different kinds of pomodori and fresh mozzarella.  I used smoked Mozzarella instead of the fresh cheese and roasted tomatoes for the second version. Fresh mozzarella has a lot of moisture that makes the crust a tad soggy which is taken care of with the smoked variety.. The drier smoked version also provides a great earthy depth of flavor. The store bought roasted tomatoes had a great flavor enhanced by garlic & various herbs.

The downside of baking a Focaccia Caprese in winter is the lack of seasonal tomatoes. I experimented with 4 different kinds, viz, Plum,  brown Kumato, sun dried and grape. As far as flavors go, I'd pick the sun dried and grape tomatoes any day over the other two. On second thoughts, I wonder if the fresh tomatoes contributed to the higher moisture content resulting in the soggier crust compared to the grape and sun dried tomatoes. Quite quite possible.

So here it is, the recipe for Focaccia Caprese:

Focaccia Caprese with smoked Mozzarella and roasted tomatoes: (makes two 9 inch flatbreads)


(Adapted from Food52 and Aparna Balasubramaniam's recipes)

You need: (for the dough)

2 1/4 cups All purpose flour
1 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon active dried yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil (I used a store bought tomato, garlic & basil flavored olive oil )
1 tablespoon sugar
Some extra EVOO for coating the bowl

For the topping:

1 cup roasted tomatoes (with their skins peeled off if possible)
1/4 lb smoked mozzarella, sliced thin
1/2 cup basil leaves, cut into a fine chiffonade
Extra virgin Olive oil for brushing over the dough
Crystals of coarse, smoked sea salt

 Add the yeast to the lukewarm water and whisk. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes for the yeast to dissolve and bloom. Combine the liquid with the flour, salt, sugar and the flavored olive oil. stir well with a spoon and allow the mix to rest for about 10 minutes to hydrate. Mix and fold for a minute or two until it comes together into a smooth ball. Transfer the dough into another container coated with oil. Cover and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
Using oiled or wet hands, dip under the dough and stretch gently and fold the dough in half. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat. (4 'folds' from different sides). Allow to rest for 10 minutes and repeat the sequence 3 times more. Cover the bowl with plastic film and allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, allow the dough to sit out on the kitchen counter until it reaches room temperature.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and divide the dough between them. liberally brush the top surface with the olive oil.

Using the tips of your well oiled fingers & palms gently poke, pat & push the dough in outward circles to at least about 9 inches in diameter. Any smaller and the dough will be too thick to cook properly.  Place in a warm place for about 45 minutes for the dough to proof a second time. Preheat the oven to 450 F while the dough rises.

Once the dough has risen, layer the cheese over  the dough and top with the roasted tomatoes. Scatter the basil chiffonade over the topping along with the grains of smoked sea salt.

I used Alderwood smoked black sea salt for this flat bread
Place the trays to bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the exposed surfaces of the dough have turned golden brown, and the cheese has melted completely. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Cut into wedges and serve warm as an appetizer or as a light meal.

Bon appetit!

This recipe is being Yeast spotted.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Superbowl time.. with Taco Bowls!

The New year certainly got off to a great start for me, as I resurrected my 'dish - a - day' project that I had successfully completed in 2012. This time around, I decided on a bit more of structure around the 365 dishes, each day has a theme that will be repeated 12 times around through the year, and yes recipes for each one of the dishes I make, or provide links to the recipes from other sites anlong with my photographs.

As prepared as I was. when it  came  to Mexican earlier this week, I blanked out. I had none of the ingredients needed for an Enchilada sauce from scratch and basically had to change plans at the 11th hour. SO the enchilada got postponed to another session while I got ready to try & replicate my favorite pick at the local healthy Mexican fast food. As with most dishes, the exact replication is simply not possible, but I must say the taste was close enough to be heartily approved by my foodie guinea pig 8 year old. The best part, I found myself making this all over again not just for the photograph but for the addictive 'I want more' factor!

Taco Bowls (Makes 4 servings)

You need:
4 fresh whole wheat tortillas (6 inch)
Any good quality Mexican or taco shredded cheese blend
Sour cream
2 Anaheim or bell  Peppers cut into strips
3 medium sized red onions
Frozed Roast corn (I used the Trader Joes brand)
1 can black beans rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil (or any other oil of your choice)
Shredded Romaine Lettuce (which I forgot to add)
Guacamole (which I don't like much)

For the Rice:
2 cups cooked Basmati rice
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1-2 tablespoons Mexican Oregano*
2 tablespoons lime juice
Salt to taste

Combine the ingredients in a  large mixing bowl and fold to combine the ingredients evenly. Cover & set aside.

* Mexican oregano is completely different from the classic Mediterranean / Greek variety. In fact they're not even related to each other as families. For more information, here's a link.

For the Salsa:
4 vine tomatoes, deseeded  and chopped
1 medium sized onion finely diced
1-2 jalapenos, deseeded and finely diced
Salt to taste
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon mexican oregano
1 teaspoon crushed cumin

Combine the ingredients together in a bowl. Taste, and adjust for seasoning. cover and set aside for an hour for the flavors to combine.

To make the Taco Bowl:
Preheat oven to 250 F. Wrap the tortillas in a wet kitchen towel and heat in the microwave for 10 seconds. Then using an inverted muffin pan press the tortillas gentry in between the cups as shown below.

Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes till the tortillas are crisp.

In a cast iron skillet, heat the oil till it shimmers and add the peppers and onions. keeping the heat on high allow the vegetables to saute until they begin to caramelize at the edges. Remove from the pan and then add the corn to heat up in the same skillet. Combine with the pepper/onion mix or keep separate. (the other half does not care much for corn at home so I tend to keep these apart).

To Assemble:

If prepping the taco bowls ahead of time, you want to ensure that the bottom does not get soggy and disintegrate. To avoid this spread some of the shredded cheese over the bowl and the sides (press the cheese gently to allow it to stick). Microwave the tortilla bowls for 10 seconds until the cheese melts.
If you plan to allow everyone to make their own tacos, then by all means skip this.

Start with  the rice and the beans at the bottom of the tortilla bowl,

followed by the onions/peppers & roast corn

And finally pile on the salsa, shredded cheese, lettuce & Sour cream.

Serve up this festive Party dish at your upcoming Super Bowl Party with plenty of Corona, Margaritas or my current Favorite, the Masala Moscow Mule!

Enjoy the festivities of the year to come!
Bon appetit!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cranberries.. again! A recipe for Cranberry 'Chunda'

 What in the world am I doing? Cranberry season went out 6 weeks ago, as soon as the Black Friday sales swept into each and every retail establishment in the country. Yeah well, looks like I've misplaced that memo. I'm still rejoicing in the availability of those gorgeous crimson berries.

A good recipe is one that you want to make repeatedly, a GREAT recipe inspires many other creations that become favorites. In this context, I owe a big vote of thanks to David Leite & that awesome  recipe for cranberry sauce posted by . When the first batch of cranberry sauce got used up as is, the next batch made for some delicious craisins that went into Christmas time chocolate bark. 

 A tweak to the original recipe gave rise to this weeks post. A 'chunda' - a sweet & hot lip smacking relish that is native to the Western Indian state of Gujarat. The classic version is made with shredded raw mangoes that are set out to 'cook' under the hot summer sun to syrupy perfection. Well, considering the tiny detail that cranberries make their appearance only when the Sun's moved on down south and the relish is more likely to freeze than cook if placed outside, there was a bit of tweaking to be done. The end results nevertheless, were a success.

Cranberry Chunda: (Makes ~ 10 oz)

You need:

12 oz cranberries (1 packet), rinsed and dried
1 cup sugar ( I used white, but brown sugar would work equally well)
6-8 arbol chiles toasted lightly and powdered (adjust as per taste)
1  tablespoon coarsely crushed mustard powder (optional)
1 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds crushed coarse
Salt to taste (~ 1.5 teaspoon)

Add the cranberries, salt and the sugar into a Stand mixer  fitted with the paddle attachment. On the lowest speed setting, beat  the cranberries and sugar for one hour into a coarse sauce like consistency. This seems to help minimize that tannic characteristic of cranberries that manifest from its skin.

Transfer into a container with a fitted lid and allow the cranberries to rest in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. this allows the cranberries to interact with the sugar and start becoming candied.

Transfer the cranberries in a heavy bottomed skillet and cook on a medium heat until the sugar begins bubbling (~ 7-10 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the arbol chile powder (taste and adjust gradually instead of adding this all at once) and the powdered cumin powder. The crushed mustard adds an added kick of heat, but too much of it tends to confer a slight bitter after taste (probably due to the black outer skin of the seed). Allow to rest for a couple of days before using, so that the flavors get a chance to blend.

Cool & store in sterilized glass jars. This pickle will keep well under refrigeration for about a month.

 Serve as a relish with traditional Gujarati breads like Theplas.

Bon Appetit!


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