“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

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Semolina Laddu | Rava Laddu | Sooji Laddu

It is a pleasant evening. Houses are being spruced up for Diwali. There is frenzied shopping going on in the market. We, too, are imbued with the festive spirit. Though there is mindful buying at our end. Houses around us are decorated with lights. Different colours, different shades and some blinking alternately while some in different patterns intrigue our kids.

 Post dinner we go to the terrace and walk around. Kids are very excited as they spot and count the houses shining bright. A group of bats fly overhead towards north, flapping their giant wings. They meld into the darkness. There is chill in the air…..a series of crackers go up making patterns in the dark sky, leaving behind a trail of white smoke. We scurry indoors before the smoke suffuses the air and pollutes it.  Crackers are such a nuisance …….such a spoilsport.

Yesterday I made Semolina Laddus. A recipe that is extremely popular yet made every year in every household during festivals. A recipe that does not leave you guilty as it has very less sugar and very less fat. The laddus are mildly sweet, juicy and flavourful.

Semolina / Sooji / Rava Laddu
2 cups Semolina (Sooji)
1 cup desiccated coconut
½ cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup milk
½ cup cashews halved
10-15 almonds chopped into small pieces
1/3 cup golden raisins
10 -12 green cardamoms (seeds removed and crushed fine)
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
Take a thick bottom steel wok. Add ghee, cashew halves and almonds. Roast on low flame and turn off the heat when the cashews begin to change colour. Add raisins. Stir for few minutes. Transfer the mixture to a plate.
Take Semolina in the wok and roast on low flame. Turn off the heat when it becomes dry and gives out a sweet aroma and just begins to change colour. Add powdered sugar, desiccated coconut and cardamom powder. Stir well.  
Add milk to the mixture. Add 1/3 cup and stir so that the mixture is evenly moistened. Now add remaining 1/3 cup slowly. Test if the mixture can be rolled into balls. Add more milk only if the mixture feels dry and does not come together.
Make balls / laddus when the mixture is warm enough to be handled. Make lemon size laddus by pressing the mixture tightly.
Let the laddus cool. Store in an airtight container. Refrigerate the laddus.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

English Digestive Biscuits

A freak rainfall last week left us cold and clammy. It seems that we are already into winters. Morning Sun is so soothing and beautiful. As the Sun peeps from behind the hills, and the rays infiltrate the thicket of our garden, every form of life begins to throb.  

Soaked in the warmth of the Sun, our spirits soared, a lot of pending work in the garden saw the light of the day and a lot was accomplished in the early hours of the day. We transplanted Calendula, Pansy and Phlox around Magnolia. Some tiny branches were removed to get light and Sun under the thicket. Kids helped us in ferrying stones to mark the flowerbeds.

While we were working, a Myna peered at us curiously for some time and then flew away.

 Another bird sitting in the higher branches of Magnolia seemed enjoying the enchanting morning. Refilled by the rain, our fish pond looked emerald green and tranquil.

Having worked hard, we had our second tea with homemade digestive biscuits.
English Digestive Biscuits
Recipe adapted from kingarthur's flour.com
1½ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup all purpose flour
100 Gms (1 stick) butter
1/2 to ¾ cup powdered sugar (depending on taste)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
¼ cup cold milk
Pre heat oven to 180 degrees C.
Whisk together flours, baking powder and salt.
Beat butter and sugar till creamy. Add flours and sugar and mix with hands till the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
Add milk slowly till the mixture comes together as stiff dough. Knead further for 3 to 4 minutes to get smooth dough.
Roll out the dough into a large circle about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out round biscuits with a cookie cutter of with a cap of a bottle. The biscuits should be 2 to 2 ½ inches in diameter. Prick evenly with a fork or a toothpick.
Place biscuits in a greased baking tray and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until pale gold.
Cool and store in an airtight container.

My notes – These biscuits taste like our atta biscuits. I made two batches. First batch was according to the recipe above. In the second batch, I added 1 ¾ cup whole wheat flour. With this I needed a little more milk than ¼ cup to get smooth dough. You may adjust sugar according to your preference. I added less sugar

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Coconut Laddu | Coconut Balls - Cardamom and Chocolate Flavour

Diwali is round the corner and there is festivity in the air. There is something magical about the festivals. The spirits soar high and there is so much excitement everywhere. I make sweets at home every Diwali. Idea is to enjoy the process as much as the product. Homemade sweets are far more hygienic than the store bought ones and the purity of ingredients is also guaranteed. Kids lending the helping hands is a bonus and the whole process becomes a family event, a celebration.

We made coconut laddus at home yesterday. We made elaichi flavoured laddus and then experimented with chocolate flavour. Both the batches came out well.

Here is the recipe of soft,chewy coconut laddus in two flavours-

Coconut Laddu | Coconut Balls (Elaichi Flavour)
2 ½ cups + I tablespoon desiccated coconut (240 ml cup)
I (400 Gms) tin condensed milk
8 green cardamoms (remove the seeds and powder them)
20 almonds chopped finely
½ cup desiccated coconut to roll laddu
½ teaspoon ghee (clarified butter) or butter
Empty condensed milk in a thick bottomed steel wok. Add desiccated coconut.
Mix well. The mixture should be thick.
Cook the mixture on low flame. Keep stirring continuously so that it is evenly cooked.
The mixture will start leaving the sides and collect in the center as one big lump. Turn off the heat.
Add cardamom powder and chopped almonds. Mix well.
Apply ghee or butter in your palms and roll out mixture into medium size laddus (balls).
Roll the laddus (balls) in desiccated coconut. Cool and store in airtight jar.

Chocolate Coconut Laddu | Chocolate Coconut Balls
2 cups desiccated coconut (240 ml cup)
I (400 Gms) tin condensed milk
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tablespoons hot milk
½ cup chopped walnuts
A pinch of salt
½ cup desiccated coconut to roll laddu (balls)
½ teaspoon ghee (clarified butter) or butter
 Empty condensed milk in a thick bottomed steel wok.
Mix cocoa powder and milk to form a lump free paste. Add the paste to condensed milk and mix well.
 Add desiccated coconut and salt.
Cook the mixture on low flame. Keep stirring continuously so that it is evenly cooked.
The mixture will start leaving the sides and collect in the center as one big lump. Turn off the heat.
Add chopped walnuts.
Apply ghee or butter in your palms and roll out mixture into medium size laddus (balls).
Roll the laddus (balls) in desiccated coconut. Cool and store in airtight jar.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Bolillos - Crusty Mexican Rolls

Bolillos are the crusty rolls staple to Mexico. Nearly every village has a bakery and every bakery makes Bolillos.

 It is a lovely crusty bread perfect with hot soups. It makes lovely sandwiches too. It is simply fabulous with a little butter. Great for any meal where you want crisp rolls.

Bolillos – Crusty Mexican Rolls

Recipe adapted from www.foodnetwork.com 
 here  is a video on shaping the rolls


3 ¼ cups all- purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon butter or shortening melted and cooled
1 1/3 cup warm water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup cold water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Take warm water in a large mixing bowl. Add yeast. Stir and let stand for 5 minutes.
Stir in honey and butter/shortening. Add salt and stir.
Add flour.  First 2 ½ cups and then remaining quantity bit by bit kneading well so that the dough comes together. Knead for about 10 minutes till it becomes very soft and elastic. Take it out in the counter and knead further for about 5 minutes.
Transfer dough into a greased bowl and turn around so that it is coated with oil. Cover and keep in a warm and dry place for about 1 hour or till it doubles in volume.
Punch the dough down and knead again on the floured counter for 5 minutes.
Divide dough into 8 pieces and roll into balls.
Rolls the balls between your palms applying pressure in the center to make oval rolls.
Each piece should be about 5 ½ inches long and 2 inches in the middle, tapering at the ends.
Place the rolls in a greased tray keeping 3 inch gap between the two. Cover and let rise till doubled or for about 30 to 40 minutes.
While the rolls are rising, mix corn starch and cold water in a pan. Heat the pan and keep stirring constantly till the mixture starts boiling and becomes thick and clear. This will take 2 to 3 minutes.
Heat oven to 190 degrees C.
Brush each roll with the cooled starch mixture.
Slash each roll down the middle, stopping ½ inch from each end and cutting about ½ inch deep.
Bake the rolls for 30 to 35 minutes or till golden brown. The bottom of the tray should sound hollow when tapped.
Cool in the rack. Serve warm and fresh.

Submitted for  Yeastspotting

Monday, 6 October 2014

Easy Apple Cake (With Whole Wheat Flour)

Ramgarh belt of Kumaon is famous for apples specially the Golden Green Apples. This variety is crunchy, sweet, juicy and flavourful. Last time when we went to the hills, we saw the apples growing in the trees. They were not ripe that time. These days, the fruit mart is full of apples – both local and from Himanchal. We bought some Golden Green apples.

I baked a cake using the apples.

Easy Apple Cake (with whole wheat flour)
Recipe adapted from www.bettycrocker.com

I made some changes in the recipe.
I used whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose flour.
I used ¾ cup mineral sugar instead of I cup white sugar.
I used table spread instead of butter.
Please feel free to use the ingredients mentioned in the original recipe for a lighter buttery crumb.

This is how I made Whole Wheat Apple Cake
1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup to 1 cup mineral sugar (powdered)
1 ½ cup peeled and shredded apple (about 2 medium apples)
2 eggs
1 stick (½ cup) table spread
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla essence
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line one 8 inch round cake pan.
Whisk together flour, baking powder. Cinnamon and salt.
Beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add vanilla essence and shredded apples.
Add flour mix. Stir till well combined.  Fold in walnuts.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven after 10 minutes. Remove from the pan after 5 minutes. Cool in the rack.

Serve with ice cream or with a dollop of cream or enjoy plain.
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