Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 - A Delicious Recap


The Holiday season is officially upon us. As the manic 'shopping' season get underway, I just got over clearing out all the dishes from my food coma inducing Thanksgiving feast.
Thanksgiving must be the most festive non-denominational holiday in the US, irrespective of religion, social status, geographic location, Everyone gathers around as a family to celebrate and eat. and eat, and then fill up on dessert and coffee!
 For me, Its an opportunity to shift to high gear and get cracking on experimenting with the flavors of Fall ingredients - Pumpkins, cranberries, apples.

This year, I volunteered to test a 10 cup stack n'snap food processor from Hamilton Beach and I received a package last Monday. While my kids had a little spat over what the packaging carton would be converted into, (a cloning machine vs. a car), I took the opportunity to explore the new gadget.. 


My first food processor was a Hamilton Beach which was a perfect workhorse until a little piece of the jar snapped off. Turns out that piece was crucial in completing the safety circuit so the gadget would not work without it.

One of the first things that I noticed about the new machine was that there was no sliding  or any king of shearing action required  to lock the jar onto the part housing the motor. the jar slides down on the motor and the spindle on which the blade is fitted is airtight (other brands have a doughnut hole shaped design which can leak). The machine is simple and uncomplicated, One disc that is used for both shredding and slicing, and a large S blade that handles all crushing and pureeing jobs with ease. The best part ? the blade stays put & doesn't drop out when pouring the food out.

I ran the machine for almost every dish I made for thanksgiving and it executed the tasks smoothly. You know, the way it amazes you that you take the entire process for granted without going through the anxiety that comes with trying something for the first time. I definitely look forward to have this appliance by my side for my culinary adventures.
The Stack n' Snap food processor retails at $59.99 at retailers in the US of A and from the Hamilton Beach's site.

My thanksgiving table this year had more dishes than I have photographs for. That's what happens when mother Nature decides to literally 'rain on the parade'. Ambient natural light is practically non existent for taking good photographs, not to mention that the sun bids adieu by 5:00 pm. other than the sweet potato salad and the roasted brussels sprouts, the new food processor was indispensable in making them,

The dishes:

Cranberry Orange Zest Rasam (A clear soup for my 5 year old daughter)

A Roasted Pumpkin Biryani spiced with Vadouvan, a French spice blend that traces its origin to the Southern Indian state of Pondicherry.


Diced and baked sweet potatoes tossed into a salad with pomegranates, Vidalia onions and Pomegranates, a hint of jalapenos and a drizzle of lime.


Brussels Sprouts, roasted to perfection after being marinaded briefly with Annaparabrahma's Malvani Masala.


and not one but two pies, an egg-less, chai spiced pumpkin pie baked with a gingersnap crust, topped with home made spun sugar 'sculptures'.


And lastly, an Apple Pecan tart spiced with ginger, cinnamon & cloves.



It makes no sense to cram five recipes into one blog post, so I plan to share those in the next five post.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The 'We Knead to Bake' project 2014 - # 22 : Sheermal


Its been a while since I did one of these baking projects. Lets see, I made the bread (Gibassier) for July but did not blog about it, and then completely skipped the next three sessions. Of course, there was a bit of ambiguity in the selections, so laziness got the better of me and I merrily skipped these.
Aparna Balasubramanian's selection for this month was a recipe from Indian cuisine, a lesser known bread compared to the ubiquitous Naan & Kulchas.

Sheermal traces its origins to Persian cuisine and is basically a leavened bread kneaded with milk instead of water. Its slightly sweetened and the primary flavors are the heady notes of Saffron, backed up with a supplementary floral flavoring, usually rose or screwpine /pandanus/kewra. The 'Sheer' apparently is the Persian word for milk and thats where the name originates, although the term also occurs with the same meaning in Sanskrit (Ksheer).
It is traditional eaten as a breakfast dish along with tea or paired with the rich thick bone marrrow curry known as 'Nihari' in Northern India and Pakistan. Its mild sweet flavor must complement with the robust spicy bone marrow. (I'll have to take the word of my fellow meat eating blog readers)


Although the original recipe calls for the addition of a beaten egg, the dough is quite rich enough that you can leave it out.

I decided to stick with the recipe completely but had to tweak it a bit since my son nixed the rose / Kevra flavorings as he doesn't care for them. So went with orange blossom water instead. Also was curious to see how the bread would fare if baked in a tin. I had some miniature 4 inch springform pans on hand that I put to good use. Pleasantly surprised that the dough rose up beautifully into a soft bread.

Sheermal : (Persian Saffron flavored flatbread)


You need:

1 teaspoon active dried yeast
teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup melted ghee
1/2 cup milk (or more, as required for kneading)
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1 teaspoon orange zest
A few strands saffron soaked in 2 tbsp warm milk

Melted butter, for brushing 

Whisk in the sugar and yeast in the lukewarm water and allow to stand for about 15 minutes till the yeast activates.

Sift the salt and flour together and add to the bowl of the food processor, gently pour in the yeast mixture and mix together. Next add the melted ghee and the grated orange zest gradually until the mixture resembles that of coarse bread crumbs. Now drizzle the milk gradually (as much as needed) so that the ingredients come together to form a soft and slightly sticky dough. Transfer the dough into an oiled bowl and allow to rise to double its original volume (~ 2 hours).



Punch down the dough and knead once again into a ball and keep covered for about 15 minutes more. Divide the dough into 4 portions and flatten them with your palm and fingers to a 4 inch disc.



Place the discs on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Alternatively place the portions into  greased 4 inch mini springform pans. Using a fork, dock (prick holes) evenly over the surface of the dough and brush liberally with the saffron infused milk.


I tried pressing down with some cookie/pie cutters, but the pronounced depressions tended to smooth out during the baking process.

Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes till the top surface turns a golden brown. The pans required an extra 5 minutes. I left out the last step of brushing the breads with melted butter after they came out of the oven, not deliberately, but because I was nursing a blistered thumb from hastily yanking out a couple of heirloom cast iron pans (with wooden handles at that)  that had been stored in the oven!


Instead of going the savory route I settled on whipping 1/2 a cup of heavy cream along with a few strands of saffron and 2 teaspoons each of honey & icing sugar. My 8 year old loved the whipped cream slathered onto the bread.


 This recipe is being 'Yeastspotted.'





Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Casual cooking - Preserved Mayer Lemon Foccaccia


My 'burn out' from daily recipes is yet to dissipate, but I think I still plod on. Quickly scribbling down ideas as they pop into my head and before they disappear, like the same flash with which they crossed my train of thought. My support system comprising of fellow bloggers gave me a much need 'kick in the pants' last weekend when we met up at home for a casual lunch. Siri, the bubbly author of 'Cooking with Siri',  Radhika  ( Food for 7 stages of life ) and Latha ( A Peek into my Kitchen ). 

(L to R: Siri, Me, Radhika & Latha)

As is with all the food bloggers I've met so far, there was no ice to break whatsoever, the conversation just flowed, along with the wine & food!

Quinoa, roasted corn & Black bean tabbouleh with pomegranate

Motivation all fired up, I decided that I was going to surprise my son by making him Pizza for Dinner. My standard go - to failproof recipe for the dough is from Food52 - in particular Jim Lahey's no knead Pizza dough  'Genius' recipe



This time around, partly accidentally and partly on purpose. I decided to tweak the dough. I used bread flour (higher gluten content) instead of the standard all purpose flour and (accidentally) used a whole packet of yeast instead of the recommended 1 teaspoon. The result was a rather 'liquidy' looking dough that I definitely did  NOT feel confident of rolling into a Pizza round. So, in the interest of not wasting precious ingredients, decided to 'pour' out the dough into a well oiled baking pan and make a focaccia instead. once that was decided, the choice of toppings just fell into place.

Preserved lemon Focaccia


You need: (For the dough)

500 gms Bread flour (you can substitute with All purpose flour if you want, the bread will not be quite as chewy)
1 packet active dried yeast (the regular one,  not the instant/rapid rise )
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups water at room temperature

For the topping:

1 preserved lemon,  chopped (added bonus if its a Mayer lemon)
2 tablespoons rosemary needles coarsely cut up
1-2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes or Korean chili threads (if available)
1-2 tablespoon brown sugar.






Combine the flour, yeast and the salt in a large mixing bowl. Gradually pour in the water, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until all the flour seems to be moist. Cover and place in a warm place for about a couple of hours (~3 hrs)  until the dough has more than doubled its original volume (it should look like its completely rising up the sides of the bowl with no discernible shape.

Liberally coat a 13 * 9 inch baking pan with olive oil and 'pour' out the dough into the pan. using greased finger tips gently press down the dough so that it evenly fills out the entire base. The surface of the dough should be uneven and feel free to 'dimple' the dough with your fingertips. Sprinkle the chopped preserved lemon, rosemary , brown sugar and the chili pepper flakes / threads.
(I did sprinkle on some added flaked salt but that kinda over salted the bread, so my advice, leave it out even though you see those flakes in the photographs).

Allow the dough to rise again for about 15 - 20 minutes (A great time to click those 'before baking' pictures!). During this time, Preheat the oven to 450 F (230 C).

Place the dough into the oven and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until the top turns a golden brown color.


 Once the bread is ready, allow it to cool slightly before cutting it up. Swallow whole or in pieces at room temperature or slightly warm. It tastes best when eaten the day its baked.

Anyone who may feel intimidated by ingredients like preserved lemon - Don't be.. the classic Indian 'Neembu ka achar' (without the red chili pepper and asafetida) is a perfect substitute.

Bon Appetit!


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