“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

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Egg less Vanilla Tea Cake | Butter free Cake

Unending stretch of meadows dotted with a million flowers line up the pathway to the cottage.

 Some Cosmoses too, show up between the dainty flowers that outnumber all other wild flowers in the Valley. 

There is a sound..... It seems to be some kind of hum….very cosmic, very incomprehensible. Soon the source is discovered. A thousand bees or more, swarming on the wild flowers generate the reverberating murmur that pervades the air. It is a rare experience these days and we savour it while treading on the meandering path that leads to the veranda of Norah Richard’s art center in Andretta village in Himanchal. Another enchanting spectacle greets us as we pull our cane chairs and drink the beauty of the snow clad Dhauladhar ranges in the backdrop of the forest.

 It was a lovely evening walk. Back in room we sip steaming tea with Egg less Vanilla Tea Cake that was made for the trip.

This is a very simple cake. Best enjoyed with tea. This can be also be served with ice cream or custard or mango puree as dessert.

Egg less Vanilla Tea Cake | Butter free Cake
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ to 1 cup castor sugar (quantity depending on preference for sweetness)
1 cup thick yogurt
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Handful of roasted and chopped nuts of your choice
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Line, grease and dust one 6 ½ inches round cake pan.
Beat yogurt till smooth. Add baking powder and soda. Mix well. Keep aside for 3 minutes. The mixture will start bubbling.
Add oil, sugar and vanilla essence and mix till uniformly incorporated.
Add flour in parts. Mix gently till just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Level with a spoon, sprinkle the chopped nuts evenly on top.
Bake at 200 degrees C for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 175 degrees and bake for 40 – 45 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the tin for 10 minutes. Loosen the edges by running a knife along the sides and remove the cake from the pan. Cool in the rack.
Slice next day.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

50% Wholegrain Bread

It is late morning. The sky is overloaded with clouds. Hopes of a down pour and relief from heat take  wings. A cool breeze shakes the tree tops.

A purple sunbird settles on a Mussaenda branch and raises alarm. He has spotted our cat in deep slumber under a fish tail palm,   camouflaged in the dry vegetation. Soon we discover the reason of this alarm. One of his baby birds has just left the nest. It has taken its maiden flight and is perched in the lower branches of the Neem tree. “Cheep”, “Cheep” goes the baby bird. The female bird swoops down midair, catches an insect and feeds the baby. Soon the male joins his partner and they take turns to feed the fledgling.

Soon there is a good downpour…scent of the wet earth suffuses and the parched Earth greedily sucks in every drop of rain that falls on it
For dinner, a bread is being baked. 50% wholegrain bread is going through bulk fermentation. It is an   easy to bake bread that rises well and has a great crumb.

50% Wholegrain Bread
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¼ cup coarse cornmeal (makki ka atta)
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 ¼ -½ cup warm water
Whisk together first six ingredients in a deep bowl.
Stir honey in 1 ¼ cup warm water. Add this water to flour mix and stir. Keep adding more water till you get a shaggy dough. Transfer the dough to a kneading plate or a counter. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes. By the end of kneading, the dough should be slightly sticky, elastic and soft. Form a ball and transfer to a greased bowl. Turn the dough around so that it is evenly coated with oil. Keep in a warm place to rise  until double or for 1 hour.
Grease one 8 x 4 x 4  inch loaf pan.
Punch dough and knead it again for a minute or two.
Roll out the dough into a rectangle not bigger than the width of the pan you are using. Roll the dough towards you, tightly. Pinch seams to seal. Place the roll in the greased loaf tin with the seam side down. Cover and keep it to rise for 1 hour in a warm place or until it crests above the rim of the pan.
Bake in the preheated oven at 190 degrees C for 30 to 35 minutes or till the top turns brown and the bottom of the pan sounds empty when tapped. If the loaf is browning too quickly, tent the loaf loosely with a foil.
Remove from the loaf tin after 10 minutes. Cool in the rack.
Slice when cold.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Atta Raagi Bread | Whole Wheat Finger Millet Batter Bread | Multigrain Batter Bread | Vegan Bread

It is a dull summer afternoon. The temperature has touched 43 degrees C. It is stuffy outside and stuffier inside. “Burrrrrrrrrr Bah Bah Bah” goes a Barbet in the mango tree. Soon she perches on the lower branch and looks at the bird bath. She inspects the area blinking her eyes and tilting her head from side to side sense the slightest activity around. She seems to feel safe and descends from her perch. 

Reluctantly, she plunges her beak into the water and quenches her thirst. Then she gets bolder and almost dives into the pot splashing water around. She continues to play in water till a group of noisy babblers arrive and she flies away.

For dinner, I decide to bake a wholegrain bread. I‘ve always loved to incorporate local grains into my breads.   Raagi / finger millets (madua) grows in the hills and is sourced from the local farmer. It is grown in the Himalayan Valleys without any chemicals. Harvested grain is sent to water mills to be crushed into semi coarse flour.

Finger millet, known as Madua locally, has the highest amount of Calcium and Potassium. It is a great source of iron. Madua also contains important amino acids and B vitamins especially niacin, B6 and folic acid. Madua is low fat, gluten free and easy to digest

My earlier breads with finger millets turned out to be dry. Raagi being gluten free and sandy in texture, makes the bread dry and crumbly. The bread does not slice neatly and the slices break. This time I experimented   and decided to make a batter bread. 

The bread came out to be a real surprise. It sliced well and the slices were soft and supple. It tasted great.

Here is my recipe-

Multigrain Batter Bread | Whole Wheat Finger Millet Batter Bread| Multigrain No Knead Bread | Atta Raagi Bread | Vegan Bread
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup finger millet flour / Raagi flour / Madua flour/ Nachni flour
2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 ¼ teaspoons instant dry yeast
2 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ cups warm water
Grease one 8x4x4 inch bread pan. Dust with cornmeal (makki ka atta)
Whisk together first five ingredients in a deep bowl. I used a steel wok.
Add sugar to warm water. Add yeast. Stir.  Let sit for 5 minutes.
 Add water mix to flour mix. Stir with a ladle till the ingredients are well combined. Now mix steadily for 6 to 8 minutes (it requires a lot of muscle power J ). Do not add more water than the quantity specified, even if it feels heavy to stir. You will get a very stick batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Apply some oil in your hand and level the batter in the pan.
Cover the pan with a kitchen cloth generously dusted with flour. Keep in a warm to rise for 45minutes to 1 hour or until doubled.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees C for 25 to 30 minutes or till the top turns brown and the bread shrinks from the sides and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
Remove from the oven after 5 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool in the rack. Brush the top with butter.
Slice when completely cold.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Loaf Cake

Summers remind me of our holidays in Pondicherry. How intimidated we were on a friend telling us that summer is not the right time to visit Pondicherry. But we had our fill of good times and good food. We loved the guest house where we put up for four memorable days. The lotus pond, green frogs, the fish pond, the beach, and cashews growing kept us so amused and engaged that the heat did not bother us at all. 

On the last day, we had a simple lunch at a CafĂ©. The dessert counter had great varieties of cakes. The swirls of chocolate marble cake caught my kids’ attention and they wanted me to bake one for them.  Yesterday, when I baked this cake, the memories got fresh again. 

We enjoyed our slices with ice cream as we flipped through the pages of the album, reliving the good times.
Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Loaf Cake
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt (or less depending on taste)
1 cup castor sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2/3 cup buttermilk
Cocoa paste (¼ cup cocoa + 2 tablespoons boiling water. Stir till smooth)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees C. Line the bottom and grease the sides of one 9x5 inch loaf pan.
Whisk together first three ingredients in a large bowl.
Beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Add vanilla essence.
Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with buttermilk.
Set aside 1/3 of this batter.
Add cocoa paste to the reserved batter and stir till well combined.
Spoon the batters in the prepared pan. Add one tablespoon of vanilla batter followed by chocolate batter. Level the top with a spoon. Run a table knife or the back of a spoon in swirling motion through the batters to get to get marbling effect.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer pan to a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn out cake from pan and cool completely on the rack.
On my kids’ behest, I added 2 tablespoons of vanilla custard powder to the plain batter to get a golden hue. 

On another occasion, I added 2 tablespoons of strawberry custard powder to plain batter and the result was a lovely strawberry and chocolate marble cake.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Banana Walnut & Chocolate Cookie Cake - Wholegrain and Egg less

The wheel of time moves on……from a pleasant and colourful spring, we have reached mid summers or almost the peak of it. If this is not the peak then the anticipation of what lies in store is worrying. Parched Earth, dead bushes, withered leaves hanging listlessly from the branches, dry and dreary afternoons. The Sun is unrelenting, sky- cloudless, gusts of hot dusty air sweep away the dead leaves that rustle and pile up in corners.

In the midst of all the dullness, a visit to a nursery filled our day with colours and alleviated our woes albeit temporarily. 

Pots of Ranunculus placed in one square and Osteospermum in another were a treat to eyes and senses.

 What a creative genius Almighty is! Lovely colours and patterns of the flowers were just spell binding.

On our way back we picked up a slab of ice cream of the flavour decided by our kids. 

We had it with Banana Walnut & Chocolate Cookie Cake that was baked in the morning.

Banana Walnut & Chocolate Cookie Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (or, 2 cups all-purpose flour if you want a softer crumb)
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar or muscovado sugar or white sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 flax egg*
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ripe banana (mashed)
1 cup dark chocolate chunks
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

* To make one flax egg take 3 tablespoons water in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of raw flax meal. Whisk with a fork.  Refrigerate. This step is important. Refrigerate for about an hour. This gives it the consistency of an egg white. Add it to the recipe. It acts as a binder and makes the cake soft.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease line and dust one 8 inch round cake tin.
Whisk together first four ingredients in a large bowl.
Melt butter in a deep pan. Add sugar and mix well. When the mixture cools completely, add flax egg or an egg. Mix well till the mixture comes together. Add vanilla essence and mashed banana. Mix till the mixture becomes smooth and uniform.
Add flour mix in three shifts. Mix till you get a smooth batter.
Fold in chopped walnuts and chocolate chunks.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Level the top with a spoon.
Bake in the preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes or till the top turns brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
Remove from oven. Remove from pan after 5 minutes. Cool in the rack.
Enjoy the slices with tea or serve with a dollop of ice cream.

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