Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Whole Wheat bread

Key to making whole wheat bread is to first get to know the high hydration requirements of whole wheat flour and secondly giving up the attraction for fancy shapes that white bread can be made into. When it comes to whole wheat bread, taste, texture and most importantly health are the highlights. If you want a golden glossy 5 strand braided wreath bread, please stick to white bread (it will look pretty on one's coffin as they say "the whiter your bread, the sooner you're dead!"). There is not much shaping possible with this bread.
This is the second post for whole wheat bread. This one is different in that it is a little lighter as there are no potatoes and I also found this was closer to the store bought wheat bread as regards the crumb and the ease of slicing.
For a small little loaf that can be polished off by two people at breakfast you will need:
- 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
- 5/6 cup of water *
- 1/6 cup of olive oil * (any liquid fat is fine, be healthy and choose a good kind)
- 3/4 tsp dry yeast
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- Salt
- Spices/nuts/seeds ** (optional add-ons)
- 1 Tbsp White flour i.e. maida - for handling the sticky dough. Lesser you use the better, although no more than 1 Tbsp.

(*The weird water to oil proportions are because I had to write in some numbers. The basis is 1 1/2 cup flour to 1 cup fluid (oil+water). Easy measuring is explained below)

Getting started. Warm roughly 1/4 - 1/3 cup of water. You should be able to hold your finger in the water comfortably (60 degrees C precisely). Add the warm water to the yeast and sugar, stir and keep side while you measure out the whole wheat flour in a large bowl. Add the salt and add-ons if using.

** Digression: Whole wheat flour uses the whole wheat berry i.e. the bran and the germ that contains oil is also ground into the flour. This oil is what gives the bread a more full nutty taste when fresh but is also responsible for the slightly bitter taste associated with whole wheat bread. The oil in the germ turns rancid due to contact with water. The bitter taste is very mild and does not at all mean that the bread is going bad. It can be felt only when eating the bread plain without toasting and if you are very discerning of such mild changes in taste. However, bitterness is bitterness and most whole wheat bread recipes contain some additives to mask it (I know of a recipe that uses orange juice!). Choose wisely at most one or two additives from each of these two groups.
Spices: (dry) oregano, thyme, rosemary, black pepper, crushed garlic.
Nuts/seeds: Sunflower kernels, watermelon seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame, walnuts. I used caraway (ajwain) + sesame in this one.

Back to the bread; your yeast should be frothy and bubbly by now. Pour it into your cup measure and add more water well above ¾ of the cup but not full. Then top up the cup to the brim with olive oil. This will get you close to the 5/6 water to 1/6 oil ratio. Pour the brimming cup of fluid into the dry ingredients and mix until all wet. Knead with the dough hook attachments on your and mixer for about 7-10 minutes. I don’t recommend hand kneading; it gets very sticky and you will waste a lot trying to clean your hands and hand kneading requires a good 20-25mins of kneading.
If you have made white bread before don’t expect the same smooth, springy dough. It is going to be a shaggy dough and definitely avoid attempting a paning test; it won’t pass. Scrape the sides of the bowl and the dough hooks to gather the dough to the center and keep covered to rise. There is no additional kneading on the counter top to make a ball, it can rise as such in the bowl.

In an hour or two your dough should have risen to double its volume. Grease your loafpan and keep ready. I find vegetable shortening (vanaspati/dalda) is the best for greasing. It’s horrible to taste and unhealthy to eat but excellent for greasing. It does not get into the bread. You can find it remaining in the pan once the loaf is out. Using a rubber spatula deflate the dough and gather it to the middle of the bowl. Heavily flour your counter top/kneading surface and your hands using some of the 1 Tbsp white flour. Turn out the dough onto your counter top and sprinkle on top some of the white flour. With as few as 6 to 10 light strokes pat it smooth and shape it into a log. Remember; do not work the white flour into the dough. It is supposed to remain at the surface to prevent sticking (to your hands and the counter). Plop the shaped log into your prepared loafpan and give it a shake for the log to settle in snuggly. Let rise another 30-40 minutes and bake at 180 degrees C for 35-40 minutes. Knocking on the bottom of the pan should produce a hollow sound. Remove from pan and slice when cooled completely.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Pizza bites

Nothing fancy. There are recipes all over the internet dime a dozen. This just happens to be a tried and working vegetarian variation. The classic recipe is with pepperoni. Also in this version the tomato sauce goes into the dish and is hence easier to serve. The prep for this dish is exactly the same as for pizza. In fact in the last minute you can just decide to make it a pizza, albeit one with only very unimaginative toppings. So let's get started.
The recipe has two parts- dough and filling. Start with the dough.
Warm about 1/4 cup of fluid (water or milk). You should be able to comfortably keep a finger in the water. "Ouch"- hot is equal to "ouch, you killed the yeast". If this subjectivity is too much for you, get a thermometer, we want 60 degrees C. Add 60 degrees C water to 3/4 tsp dry yeast and 1/2 tsp sugar, stir and keep aside while you measure out flour.
For 12 pizza bites you will need 2 cups of all-purpose flour. If all-purpose flour is synonymous with maida for you (which it is not, ask me), then take 1 3/4 cup of maida and 1/4 cup of atta. Add salt to taste and check the yeast now for bubbly froth. No froth? Pack up- next recipe please. Yeast has to be frothy. Pour the frothy yeast into the flour and an additional 1/4 cup plain water. Measure out 1/4 cup water and keep aside before starting to knead. Use the dough hooks attachment on your hand mixer. You will need more water as you knead. Use the measured out 1/4 cup of water, but that is the max you can go with water i.e. 2 cups of flour to 3/4 cup of water in total (1/4 cup with yeast, 1/4 to start kneading and 1/4 as you go on). It is precisely 2 cups of flour to 2/3 cup of water. Since atta soaks a lot we allow 3/4 cup water , but really no more. Knead 5-7 mins with the hand mixer or 15-20 mins after the dough comes together if kneading by hand. Nice smooth and springy ball, coat with a dot of oil to avoid drying and then pizza dough - R.I.P (rise in peace).
Summing up pizza dough ingredients and proportions:
- 2 cups flour (see above about what kind)
- 2/3 cup water in ALL (3/4 if using whole wheat, see above)
- 3/4 tsp dry yeast
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- salt

For the filling you will need:
- 6-7 ripe tomatoes
- A knob of butter (1tsp)
- 10 leaves of of fresh basil or dry oregano/thyme
- Black pepper corns
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- Handful of sweet corn kernels (frozen is fine)
- 75 gms of your favourite cheese (cheddar or mozarella works fine).
- 2 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
- salt

Quarter tomatoes and throw them in the jar of a blender. Pulse for 3-5 seconds. We don't want them pureed; just thoroughly crushed small chunks are good. Set on a stove a saucepan or any heavy bottomed vessel with the knob of butter on high flame. Add all the tomato mush and bring to a boil. Then reduce the flame to simmer; cover and forget about it for at least 20 mins.
Meanwhile, crush pepper corns, peel and mince garlic, thaw the corn kernels and cut the cheese into 12 equal cubes/pieces.
Back to the tomatoes. Scrape the sides of the pot and bring the pulp together in the middle. There should be very little water separating out of the tomato pulp, else cook open on a high flame. Add the crushed pepper, salt and minced garlic and stir well on high flame. You should have crossed pizza sauce consistency reached almost a loose tomato paste consistency. Turn off the heat and mix in the corn kernels immediately. After about 2 mins stir in olive oil and shreds of basil.

Assembly. Deflate with flour dusted hands the now risen pizza dough and make a ball with as little handling as possible. Depending on your work surface, roll out the dough as thick as you would for pizza (or a little thicker if you only make thin crust).

 Cut them up into about 3 inch pieces (squares/rectangles) with a knife.

On each piece of rolled out dough place some filling and a piece of the cheese (no grating..yipee!).

Wrap up each piece bringing up the sides and sealing in the filling. Place seam side down on a greased baking dish.

If you do not want them pull-apart style use a large cookie sheet and place them well spaced (totally unnecessary in my opinion). Let rise for another 20-30 mins and bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees C for about 30-40 mins or till the bread looks done. Optionally brush on top with butter and dry spices when still hot. Pull apart (or not) and enjoy.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Blog resurrected with prawn curry

I claim and assert my malayalee roots to excuse myself from explicitly calling the dish Kerala prawn curry. Well it is and most curry posts,especially seafood, unless otherwise qualified will be.
This is a super quick dinner fix; one of those meals about which you can hear non vegetarian Keralites saying.. "I make non-veg meals so that I don"t have too many veggies to chop and too many side dishes to make and just this one curry completes the meal".
A note before we begin, this is not a curry to make if you have umami craving. The prawns are really only meant to flavor the curry and not for biting into. Hence the really small quantity of prawns required. We now begin.
You will need
- 6-8 medium sized prawns (cleaned)
- 1 raw mango from the mango tree outside peeled and chopped.
- 10 curry leaves
- 2 green chillies
- 1/4 coconut
- Red chilli powder
- Turmeric powder
- Corriander powder
- Cumin seeds
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 small piece of ginger
- 3 dry red chillies
- 3 shallots/1/4 onion finely chopped
- Mustard seeds
- Fenugreek seeds
- 2-3 Tbsp Coconut oil
- Salt

Ok, that seemed like a long list, but you must admit it's mostly just regular stuff found in any Indian kitchen even when your grocery shopping is due. Set on the stove a pot with 2 cups of water with prawns, mango, curry leaves, slit green chillies, turmeric and salt. When it comes to a boil reduce to a simmer and carry on with the remaining prep. Into the jar of a blender make a paste of chopped coconut (don't bother with grating), red chilli powder, corriander powder, cumin seeds, garlic and ginger. Add water as needed. The prawns must be simmering for about 15-20 mins by now. Add the contents of the blender and bring to a boil. Simmer again for 5 mins for the raw spices to cook through and take off heat. Temper the curry - heat coconut oil in a wok, splutter mustard seeds, add fenugrek seeds, dry red chillies and shallots/onions- pour the hot oil with condiments into the curry and mix. Ladle some curry into the wok to get all the oil. Serve with rice or rice based main dish like idli, dosa, idiappam or appam.
Nothing fancy hence no photo.