“We have so much, too much, that we can buy, yet the basic labor of doing, the making with our own hands, is what enlivens us and makes us feel human." Dan Lepard

Monday, 1 February 2016

Super Soft Dinner Rolls and Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls


We woke up to a mild drizzle. The rain could be heard falling on the terrace and on the leaves. A cold wind shook the tree tops.   We snuggled deeper into our quilts - a liberty we could afford, on a Sunday. Soon, rays of the Sun sneaked through the scattered clouds and brightened up the morning.

Routine chores started. A handful of grains were placed lovingly on the food table and bird bath filled up. First guest arrived. A Dove perched itself on the table and had ate to its heart’s content. 

Two squirrels came after and nibbled on the grains.

The Sun gained strength as the day progressed. It being a warm day, we decided to make bread rolls for dinner along with Red pumpkin soup.

The dough was kneaded, rested, punched and shaped into rolls. 

Soon we had yeasty aroma wafting all over.

Earlier, a batch was baked with whole wheat flour which turned out to be equally delicious, albeit a little dense. It was nutty, earthy and filling.

Super Soft Dinner Rolls and Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 ¼ teaspoon instant dry yeast
½ cup warm milk
¼ cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Whisk together flour, yeast and salt.
Combine water, milk and butter.
Add to flour mix and knead for 6 to 8 minutes till you get a soft elastic dough.
Cover and keep for 15 minutes. Knead again for 5 minutes. The dough should be supple and smooth.
Grease one 8 inch round cake pan. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
Divide dough into 12 equal size balls. Arrange in the pan. Cover and leave it to rise for 1 hour or until double.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or till the rolls turn golden.
Remove from the pan and brush the tops with butter.

To prepare rolls with whole wheat flour, replace all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour.
You might require more water to get a soft dough
Knead and keep dough to rise for 1 hour or until double.
Punch and knead again for 5 minutes.
Shape into rolls, rest of the steps are  same as above.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Doce de grão (Goan Chonya Doce)

Happiness comes in many avatars. It came to me in form of my own cookbook published by www.betterbutter.in My family felt happy and my kids were overjoyed to see their favourite cakes, breads and cookies in the book. Cooking is sometimes looked upon as a blasé and routine affair. It gets little credit and appreciation. But when it is valued as a skill, it gets a lot of attention and admiration. My cook book added value to my adventures and experiments in kitchen.

Celebrations add colour to life. And small moments, even seemingly insignificant ones, must be stolen from life and celebrated. My cook book was celebrated. We made Doce de grão.

I learnt this recipe from my friend Freda. She blogs at aromaticessence
Her blog is one stop shop for lovely bakes, sweets and candies.

Doce de grão (Goan Chonya Doce)

Doce de grão is a popular Goan sweet. It is prepared during Christmas, festivities, celebrations and special occasions like marriage. It is a soft fudgy sweet with lovely flavor of coconut and cardamom.

It is a healthy sweet that can be made in advance, stored and savoured as and when you like.

250 grams Chana dal (split Bengal gram)
200 grams desiccated coconut
450 grams granulated sugar
½ teaspoon green cardamom powder
1 ½ tablespoon ghee
½ teaspoon salt
Clean Chana dal and soak in water for 3 to 4 hours. Drain.
Add just enough water to cover the dal and pressure cook till tender. Let it cool to room temperature.
Grind dal into a fine, smooth and thick paste
Transfer paste into a thick bottom steel wok. Add coconut, sugar and salt. Cook on medium heat.
Keep stirring continuously. The mixture will be thin initially but as it cooks, it will start thickening. The mixture will bubble and splutter. A ladle with long handle will be convenient for stirring.
The mixture will keep thickening and requires constant and vigorous stirring till it leaves the sides of the wok. Soon it will become quite dry come together as a ball. Add ghee and powdered cardamom. Give a good final stir.
Grease a big size tray or a part of kitchen counter. Empty the mixture and roll it out into one inch thick rectangle with a greased rolling pin. Cut into diamond shapes while warm. Serve when cold

Wednesday, 6 January 2016


A Brown headed Barbet came to our bird bath today.

We are journeying further into winters. The Sun is getting paler and weaker, softer and calmer. However, it does tend to gain strength by midday.  This is the time when people in small hamlet like ours are through with the routine chores and come out of their rooms to get warmth of the Sun. This is post lunch session. Lazing around and reading a book, or eating oranges and nuts or just napping….it is absolute relaxation.

Having spent afternoon in the Sun, we decided on baking Focaccia with grapes- Schiacciata Con L’uva. Soon the pots and pans clanked as kids, decided to lend help in baking it. My daughter measured yeast and added it to sweetened warm water. Son washed and wiped the grapes dry, tossing a few in his mouth stealthily. Amidst animated conversation and excited chatter, the final dough was ready. Grapes were studded carefully, rosemary tossed, salt sprinkled and olive oil drizzled generously over the bread.

Yeasty aroma wafted through and our bread was ready.

In Tuscany, Schiacciata means “flattened down” and refers to flatbread that is otherwise known as Focaccia in Italy.  Tuscans make this lovely bread with grapes during grape wine harvest. You’ll love this chewy, sweet-salty indulgence that has a unique taste of olive oil, grapes, rosemary all combined in every slice that has crisp edges and soft crumb.

¾ cup warm water
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons warm milk
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups black or red grapes halved
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoons fresh rosemary needles or dry rosemary
Mix water, sugar and milk. Add yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes till frothy.
Add salt, flour and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Stir well and knead for 6 to 8 minutes till you get a very smooth and elastic dough.
Transfer dough to an oiled bowl. Turn around dough so that it is evenly coated with oil. Cover with a kitchen cloth. Let is rise for 1 hour or until double.
Press the down dough with oiled hand. Turn the dough onto a floured counter and divide into 2 balls. Let balls rest for 20 minutes. Brush two baking trays with oil. Apply oil in your hands and stretch balls one by one into a rectangle. Cover and let it rise for about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 220 degrees C. Brush the top of the Focaccia with remaining olive oil. Sprinkle the top with grapes, rosemary, salt and sugar. Bake for 15 minutes. The crust should turn golden.
Cool on the rack. Slice and serve warm or cold.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Classic Malta Marmalade

Come winters and its Citrus boom. Limes, Lemons, Oranges, Kinnows,  Pomelos and all the local varieties of Citrus flood the market. And this is the best time to make Marmalade. Nothing beats homemade marmalade that is chunky and bittersweet. And even when the citrus season is over, you can savour the citrusy deliciousness from the bottle!

In North, our very own local citrus Malta reaches the market in early winters. Malta (Citrus sinesis) is the most commonly grown tree in the Kumaon hills. It fruits during winter season. Malta is called sweet orange. It is a hybrid between Pomelo (Citrus maxima) and Mandarin (Citrus reticulate). Malta is highly medicinal and has an intense citrusy flavour too. Local varieties are the best for marmalade as the skin is not sprayed with pesticides unlike the commercial varieties that are sprayed and waxed for an attractive look and longer shelf life.

Marmalade can be made with any local variety of citrus or oranges.  

Classic Malta Marmalade
8 Maltas (oranges or  any citrus)
2 lemons
4 cups water
You will also need
A hand juicer, a sharp knife, kitchen scissors, muslin cloth, a plate kept in freezer and jars.
Wash and wipe the fruits.  
Slice all the fruits into half. Juice the Maltas and lemons. Separate flesh and seeds.
Collect all the seeds.
With a sharp knife, scrape out the white membranes and keep them aside.
Scrape out as much pith as you can from the juiced fruit. Discard pith.
Cut peels (Malta and Lemon) into fine shreds with scissors. Collect all the seeds and membranes and tie them in a muslin cloth.
In a large steel wok/container, take juice, flesh, peels and water. Place muslin bag in the side. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cook till the shreds become tender. Keep pressing muslin bag from time to time. Seeds and membranes are rich in pectin. Whitish gel from muslin bag is pectin. It will help the marmalade set well.
Turn off the heat. Discard the muslin bag. Cool the mixture and refrigerate overnight.
Next morning, measure the mixture. For every one cup, add ¾ cup sugar. Boil.
Keep boiling till it becomes thick. To test for doneness, drop a spoonful on frozen plate. Push with a finger. If it has slight a film and collects, then it is done. If it spreads out thin, it needs to be cooked more. Repeat the frozen plate test.
To sterilize the bottles, Place the washed and dried bottles with the lids in the oven. Set the temperature to 100 degrees and set the timer to 10 minutes. Remove the bottles and their lids from the oven.
Ladle Marmalade into warm sterilized jars, leaving ½ inch space.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Vegan Chocolate Orange Cake (Wholegrain)

She climbs up the monkey ladder and reaches the top. She moves forward with a bottle in her hand and balances herself precariously between the rods. Then, gently empties water in the bird bath. Next, she climbs up again with a handful of millets and scatters the grain on a stone slab which serves as food table for birds. While descending, a squirrel’s call gets her attention and she spots one in the Mango tree. She looks up and gestures, seems, some kind of communication has taken place between the two….she opens the refrigerator and takes out an apple and cuts it into half, and places it on the slab. She hides behind the door. Soon a squirrel scampers down and starts nibbling the piece. My daughter smiles.

Oven timer tinkles. We check cake for doneness. A vegan Chocolate Orange Cake is out of the oven. 

It’s my daughter’s birthday. She wanted a vegan cake.

 The cake is cooling on the rack. She plans to dress it up with ganache and sprinkle some chocolate chips on top.

 An ardent animal lover to the core, she keeps one slice each for the cat and the dog.

Vegan Chocolate Orange Cake
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar
¾ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup olive oil or any neutral vegetable oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon marmalade (mixed fruit jam will also do)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Finely grated zest of two oranges or two tablespoons candied peels.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Grease the sides and line the bottom of one 8 inch round cake pan.
Whisk together first five ingredients in a large bowl.
Mix the remaining ingredients in another large bowl.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix till combined.
Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Invert on the rack and cool.
Next day, Pour 1 cup warm Ganache (Heat the 200 grams dark chocolate in a double boiler. Add 5 tablespoons cream. Stir constantly till the chocolate melts. Take off the heat and stir briskly till it becomes smooth and shiny. It will thicken as it cools.)
 and sprinkle some chocolate chips. 

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