“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

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Carrot Spice Cake – Wholegrain and Vegan


There are bird nests in our bushes and hedges. A red vent bulbul with an insect in her bill stealthily enters phycus thicket and we can hear the chirrup of the fledglings. A dove first perches on the stump and inspects around. When she feels it is safe, she dives and disappears into the garden creeper where she has made a cup shaped nest. She does not come out for a long time. Perhaps she is sitting on her eggs.




A purple sunbird couple has been making their nest in one of the hooks in our door for the last four years. Is it the same couple that comes here every year or is it one of their generations raised here?....we wonder. Leaving trees and bushes they raise their brood in the bald patch. Perhaps they feel safe with us. It is a relationship of faith, trust and love. No language spoken yet we understand each other so well. Our pet cat is well fed, in fact over fed these days lest she eyes the baby birds that chirrup noisily.



A freak thunderstorm and mild showers brought the temperature down. I baked a wholegrain vegan carrot spice cake. We enjoyed with steaming ginger tea.



 Carrot Spice Cake – Wholegrain and Vegan

Recipe sourcewww.kingarthurflour.com
Ingredients
1 ¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 ¼ cup brown sugar/muscovado sugar/grated jaggery/white sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup tomato juice
1 cup grated carrots or chopped apples or nuts
Method
Preheat oven to 350 degrees C
Grease and line one 8 inch round cake pan.
Whisk together all the dry ingredients. Add tomato juice, oil and vanilla extract. Stir. Add grated carrots and stir till the ingredients are well combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven. Remove from the pan after 10 minutes.
Cool and wrap in a cling film. Slice and serve next day. 


Saturday, 11 April 2015

Semolina Wholegrain Bread | Atta Sooji Bread

  

Late vernal blooms are bright and profuse. Mercury is rising with days getting hotter and drier. Cuckoo is singing endlessly with each pitch higher than the previous one. A gust of strong wind sweeps all dry leaves in one direction and piles them up. A garden lizard almost undetectable till it moved, scurries through the leaves and clambers onto a nearby tree. 


A Desert Wheatear flits from branch to branch and then perches on electricity wire.



 It is a migratory bird and shall return home soon.


It is almost weekend and I decide on baking a bread using semolina. 



Semolina gives great texture to breads. The bread has a hint of sweetness and flavour imparted by honey. It rises well and has a great texture and taste.




Wholegrain Semolina Bread | Atta Sooji Bread
Ingredients
1 cup semolina
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 ¼ teaspoon instant dry yeast
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cup warm water
Method
Take semolina, all-purpose flour, yeast and salt in a big bowl. 
Take  1 ½  cups warm water. Add honey  and mix well.
Add this water to flour mix and mix well with a ladle. Add oil. Mix well. It will form a wet and shaggy dough. Cover and let it rest for 20 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a kneading plate. Add ½ cup whole wheat flour in parts mixing well after each each addition. Knead with hands for 6 to 8 minutes till dough becomes very smooth and elastic. The dough will be sticky.
Transfer it to an oiled bowl. Turn around so that it is evenly coated with oil. Cover and keep in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes or until doubled.
Grease one 8 x 4 inch loaf pan.
Punch dough and knead for 2 minutes. Shape it into a loaf. Transfer to the prepared pan. Cover and leave to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until it crests above the rim of the pan.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 40 minutes. The loaf should turn beautiful brown from top and should sound hollow when tapped at the bottom.
Remove from the pan after 5 minutes. Slice when cold or slice next day.


Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Double Chocolate Wholegrain Banana Cake


The cacophony of Bablers drive  away Cuckoo from the Jamun tree. He glides gracefully and settles in a branch of Magnolia tree. 




 Fresh green and tenders leaves have sprouted in the branches after leaf shedding. 
There are butterfly and moth caterpillars in the leaves, camouflaged beautifully, often difficult to spot, cradled by the gentle breeze, devouring   juicy leaves and  changing colour and size  almost every day as they pass from one phase to another. My son curiously counts the caterpillars in the curry leaf plant. Young ones resemble bird droppings while the older ones are perfectly merging with the leaves.


A praying mantis hangs upside down from the magnolia leaves keeping an eye on the small insects and flies, lunging at it’s prey immaculately. We spot two more caterpillars in magnolia leaves. A complete ecosystem is thriving here.


Some overripe bananas in the counter give out lovely smell. I decide to bake Chocolate Banana Cake. Bananas add great flavour and give a tender crumb to the cake.


 The cake tastes best next day. Dense, moist, flavourful and deliciously healthy.


Double Chocolate Wholegrain  Banana Cake
Ingredients
1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup melted butter
3 medium size ripe bananas
¾ cup brown sugar ( or white sugar)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips or dark chocolate chunks
Method
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line the bottom,   grease and dust the sides of one 7x7 inch cake pan.
Whisk together first four ingredients. Pass through a sieve to remove lumps.
Puree the bananas. Whisk in melted butter, sugar, egg and vanilla extract.
Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined. If the batter feels too thick or dry, add a tablespoon or two of milk. Fold in ¼ cup chocolate chips.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Invert it out onto a cooling rack.
Slice when cold.


Friday, 27 March 2015

Braided Beet Swirl Bread (Vegan)



Our pathways are littered with leaves of various shapes and hues. It is late spring and the trees are shedding leaves. A gust of wind blows and there is a shower of mottled brown and yellow leaves. Massive magnolia leaves waft rhythmically till they meet the ground while Ashoka leaves come trilling from higher branches. Jamun leaves rock and sway in the gentle wind. More and more leaves keep piling up, making the walkways cushiony. The leaves rustle and crackle and crush as we walk on them. Ultimately, each will become one  with  the Earth, enriching it.


Early in the morning we heard a Bush Chat. Soon we spotted it. It looked at us curiously and carried on with its high notes.




Yesterday, I baked a bread with beets. The colours came out brilliant, celebrating the spirit of spring.




Braided Beet Swirl Bread
Ingredients
Beet Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon instant dry yeast
¾ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ tablespoon sugar
½ cup beet puree (boiled and pureed beets).
Method
Whisk together first four ingredients. Add sugar to beet puree and mix till sugar dissolves.
Add this to flour mix. Knead till the dough comes together. Add some warm water if it feels dry. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes till soft and elastic. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl. Turn around the dough so that it is coated with oil.   Cover and keep in a warm place till it becomes double in size.
Plain Dough
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon instant dry yeast
½ teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon olive oil
½ tablespoon sugar
½ cup warm water
Method
Whisk together first four ingredients. Add sugar to water and mix till sugar dissolves.
Add this to flour mix. Knead till the dough comes together. Add some warm water if it feels dry. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes till soft and elastic. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl. Turn around the dough so that it is coated with oil.   Cover and keep in a warm place till it becomes double in size.





Shaping the braided loaf
Punch plain dough and knead for 2 minutes. Roll it into a rope about 13 cm long.
Punch beet dough and knead for 2 minutes. With a sharp knife, cut dough into two equal parts.
Roll each part into two 13 cm long ropes.
Keep the three ropes together. Bring the ends together, pinch and tuck in. Now braid the ropes tightly. Pinch the ends and tuck in. Grease one 8 x 4 inch loaf pan. Place the braid in the pan. Cover and keep in a warm place for one hour or till it doubles in size.
Bake in a preheated oven at 190 degrees C for 35 – 40 minutes or till the loaf turns golden from top and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Tent with a foil if the top turns brown early. Remove from oven. Remove from pan after 5 to 7 minutes.
Cool in the rack. Slice when cold or next day.





Sunday, 22 March 2015

Nolen Gur Sandesh | Sandesh wth Date Palm Jaggery


The enchanting aroma of lavender melded with the morning air greets on opening the door. Air is nippy but soothing and pleasant. 


The Sun is about to peep from behind the hills. My sister is arriving from the South and we are all excited. We are waiting for the whistle of the train that would announce her arrival. The train arrives on time and she comes with goodies for all. There is animated conversation over cups of tea and snacks. She got us a big slab of date palm jaggery. Smoky, earthy and uniquely flavoured date palm jaggery is relished by everyone.


 I keep a big chunk of jaggery to make sandesh- the famous Bengali delicacy. A generous friend from Kolkatta, Amrita sent me sandesh moulds some time back. There couldn’t have been a better time to try out the delectable sweet.


Nolen Gur Sandesh | Sandesh with Date Palm Jaggery
Ingredients
1 ½ liter full cream milk
¼ cup + 1/8 cup water (water will be half of vinegar)
1 cup crumbled date palm jaggery (you can also make sandesh with powdered sugar. Adjust sugar                                                                      according to taste)
5-6 cardamoms powdered
Method
Take milk in a pan. Bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat. After 5 minutes, add vinegar and water to milk. Do not add all vinegar and water at a time. Stop adding when the milk begins to curdle. Stir gently after 5 minutes. The cheese and greenish clear whey should separate. Take a muslin cloth on a large strainer and collect cottage cheese. While on strainer, add a glass of water to remove sourness from cottage cheese. Bring edges of cheese cloth together and tie a knot. Squeeze the cheese cloth to remove excess water and hang the cheese cloth for 4 to 5 hours.
Transfer cottage cheese to a plate and mash it with your hands for 15 to 20 minutes. It should become soft and smooth in texture. Add date palm jaggery and cardamom powder. Mash for another 5 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a thick bottom steel wok. Cook on low heat. Stir and cook for 6 to 7 minutes.
Turn off the heat. As soon as you are able to handle it, stuff a spoonful of mixture into the mould. Press and gently nudge out. You can also make balls with the mixture.
Serve when cold.



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