“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

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Cranberry Cake

It is exceptionally bright today. It poured last night. The air is fresh and pure. The Sun is at its brilliant best. Our fish pond reflects the early morning Sun. A swarm of dragonflies is hovering around the pond. Some of them take a quick dip, causing ripples in the calm waters.

The weather is good, spirits high and a cake is being baked. Cranberry cake is in its last stages. I cover it with a foil lest the top will over brown leaving the cranberries burnt.

 The aroma of the cake is tempting.  

Nutmeg and lemon zest do the magic in this low fat cake. The flavours are intoxicating.
Later in the evening, we relish the cake with sugar free tea.

Cranberry Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon powdered nutmeg (adjust quantity according to your preference)
¾ cup to 1 cup powdered sugar (adjust sugar according to your taste)
3 tablespoons soft butter
1 egg
1 cup warm milk
1 cup dry sweetened cranberries
2 tablespoons orange or 1 tablespoon lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees C. Grease and line one 7 ½ inches x 6 inches rectangle cake pan.
Whisk together first three ingredients in a large bowl.
Cream together butter and sugar. Add egg and mix well. Now add milk. The milk should be warm and not hot, or else it will curdle the egg.
Add flour mix in three batches. Mix well after each addition till you get a lump free batter.
Fold in cranberries and orange/lemon zest.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or till the cake turns brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven after 5 minutes. Cool in the rack. Slice next day or when completely cold.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

50% Wholegrain Yeasted Banana Sandwich Bread | 50% Whole Wheat bread | Banana Atta Bread

The rhapsody of the rain continues to enthrall us. Landscape is verdant green, dotted with fresh and lush vegetation. Rain lilies have sprung up everywhere ….some pink and some yellow. 

Some wild flowers too have shown up, breaking the monotony of green. 

The colours and the greenery is soothing to the eyes as well as the soul.

We heard a bird’s call in the nearby tree and discovered a Great Barbet. It let out another call and glided away to another tree.

Some overripe bananas in our kitchen were beginning to fall off the bunch. A bookmarked recipe of a yeasted bread with bananas was waiting to happen and this was the right time to go ahead with it.
 I have baked this bread twice. 

 I incorporated whole wheat flour in the recipe, thus making it 50% whole grain bread. The bread is soft and moist with a very subtle- almost imperceptible flavour of banana. The bread has a wonderful balance of sweetness and salt.

50% Wholegrain Yeasted Banana Sandwich Bread
1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 ¼ teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 medium size ripe banana (mashed)
1 cup warm milk
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons butter
¼ to ½ cup warm water
Whisk together first three ingredients in a large bowl. Add melted butter and whisk well.
Mix together warm milk, banana and honey.
In a separate bowl, mix yeast and 3-4 tablespoons of warm water. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Yeast will turn frothy. Add yeast to milk mix.
Add this to the flour mix and knead. Keep adding warm water while kneading. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes till you a get a really soft and supple dough.
Place the dough in a greased bowl. Cover and keep for 1 hour or till it doubles.
Transfer the dough to a floured counter and shape into a log. Place it in a greased 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pan. Cover with a kitchen cloth and leave it to rise for 1 hour or till it crests above the rim of the pan.
Bake in a preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or till it turns golden from the top and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, cover with a foil.
Remove from the pan after 10 minutes. Cool in the rack.
Slice next day.

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.

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