“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, 29 October 2014

English Muffin Toasting Bread

It is a day after Diwali. We walk to our backyard. It is a hazy afternoon. The Sun is high up but not visible. It is nippy. The haze is thin fog or smog born out of crackers that were bursted by those whose idea of enjoyment is poisonous smoke and loud noise, we wonder. Backyard presents a perfect picture of beautiful autumn. 

Peacock Pansy

It is the season of butterflies. 

The winged beauties flitting from flower to flower never fail to mesmerize the nature lover in us. The intricate patterns and colour on their dainty wings intrigue us and hold us in awe as we get watch them fluttering by. 

Few days back, I baked an English Muffin Toasting Bread. A simple and easy no knead bread that is truly delicious and a perfect saver when you want a homemade loaf in a short time.

 I have baked this bread many times and we have always loved it. It is a soft and delicious bread.

English Muffin Toasting Bread
Recipe adapted from kingarthurflour.com  
3 cups all- purpose flour
1 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon instant dry yeast
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cornmeal (to sprinkle in the pan)
Grease one 8 ½ inch x 4 ½ inch bread pan. Sprinkle the sides and bottom with cornmeal.
Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and yeast in a large mixing bowl (I used a steel wok).
Take milk, water and oil in a pan. Heat the mixture till quite hot (hotter than lukewarm).
Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients in the wok.
Beat at high speed for 2 to 3 minutes. (I used a steel spoon to mix). The dough will be very soft.
Scoop the dough into the pan. Level with a spoon.
Cover the pan and let the dough rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour or till it crowns ¼ inch over the rim of the pan. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes till the top turns a beautiful golden brown.
Remove from the oven and remove from the pan after 5 minutes. Turn onto rack to cool. Slice when cold.

My notes: I have baked this bread many times. It is very yummy and bakes in a short time. While the bread is rising, it is very important to monitor it. When it crests ¼ inch above the lip of the pan, it should be kept for baking or else it will flow out of the pan from the sides.

Submitted for yeastspotting 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Bay Leaf Pound Cake (Whole Wheat Flour)

We are on a post monsoon cleaning spree. Having cleaned the front, it is now our backyard that needs attention. This is where our vegetable patch will come up. It is time for winter vegetables and the beds have to be prepared. 

We found a medley of wild creepers and climbers with lovely flowers thronging our backyard. 

A large number of butterflies, big and small fluttered amidst the myriad flowers. 

It looked so colourful and festive that we could not uproot them and decided to leave them to complete their life cycle. We prepared another patch for winter vegetables.

Yesterday, I made Bay Leaf Pound Cake. A simple cake that has citrusy aroma and a hint of flavour of the bay leaves, is ideal with a cup of hot tea that is an elixir after a hard day’s work. 

I used I cup of whole wheat flour and avoided the glaze mentioned in the recipe.  Feel free to use all- purpose flour for a lighter crumb and visit the original recipe for glaze.

Bay Leaf Pound Cake
A David Lebovitz recipe adapted from 101cookbooks.com
1 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (85g) butter
1 tablespoon butter for piping
½ cup sour cream*
3 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½  teaspoon vanilla extract
10 fresh or dry bay leaves
Zest of an orange
*you can prepare sour cream at home. I made it at home. I read the method here 
Melt 85g of butter in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and add 3 bay leaves. Leave for an hour.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line the base of one 8 inch round cake pan with a parchment paper. Grease and dust the sides. Take 4 bay leaves, butter one side and place the leaves with the buttered side down in the bottom of the pan.
Whisk together flours, sugar baking powder and salt.
Whisk together sour cream, eggs, vanilla extract and zest. If needed warm the butter barely to liquefy it. Remove bay leaves and add butter to cream –egg mixture.
Add dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients and mix till well combined. Do not over mix.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan without disturbing the bay leaves.
Take one tablespoon in a plastic bag. Snip off a corner and draw a circle on the batter. Place remaining bay leaves on top of the batter. Bake for 35 -40 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the pan and invert the cake onto a rack to cool. Slice when cold. The cake tastes best next day.

My Notes: The cake is dense and flavourful. Citrusy aroma dominates the aroma of Bay leaves which is subtle. It tastes great on the second day.

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.

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