Tuesday 9 April 2024

White Bread

Bread has been a common food item in India for a very long time. Whether you want to make a quick breakfast, a comfort food or a snack, bread comes in handy. I always wanted to bake bread at home, but could not do so for want of time. I also felt baking bread is complex process. After a few failed attempts, I finally got the process right. I have also included some practical tips to resolve issues I encountered while baking bread. These days, I bake bread at home and it is easy once you are familiar with the process. Let me take you through the steps of baking bread.

Ingredients: 

All purpose flour or maida - 300 gms

Dry yeast - 1 tablespoon  

Honey - 1 tablespoon 

Salt - 1 teaspoon

Vegetable oil - 2 tablespoons 

Butter or ghee - for brushing

Oil - for greasing the baking tin

All purpose flour - for dusting


Method: The most critical ingredient for baking bread is the yeast. I use dry yeast, which is available in many departmental stores. However, in my experience not all the brands of yeast give the desired results. If the yeast does not get activated, you cannot proceed. Hence, it is critical for you to get good quality yeast! I buy yeast from a nearby bakery and it works well for me.    

Step 1 - How to activate the yeast: Dissolve honey in  60 ml of warm water in a larger bowl to allow room for the yeast to rise. Add in 1 tablespoon of dry yeast and mix. Cover and keep in a warm place for up to 15 minutes. Please note that the water should NOT be hot, as it will kill the yeast and the dough will not rise. In warm weather the yeast gets activated quickly. Alternatively, you can warm a small bowl of water on micro-high for 1 minute. Switch off the microwave oven, place the bowl containing the yeast mixture inside the oven and close the door. The warm moist environment will help the yeast to rise quickly. When the yeast is activated, the surface froths and rises. Sometimes, it may take up to 20-30 minutes for the yeast to rise. If the yeast does not froth and rise, you will have to discard it, and start the process again with a different brand of yeast!

Step 2 - Preparing the dough: Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Add in yeast mixture and mix together. Slowly add 180 ml  of warm water and blend together. You may use a baking spatula to mix the ingredients. Now, knead the dough well for at least 10 minutes. The dough will be initially sticky, but as you keep kneading it becomes a mass. At this stage, add oil little by little and blend well. Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Keep it in a warm place for one hour.

Step 3 - First rise: Usually the dough rises to double the size in one hour. If not, wait till the dough reaches double the size. Sometimes, yeast can be slow acting. If the yeast takes longer time to get activated, more likely that the dough may take longer time to rise. Moreover, low environmental temperature also delays yeast activation.

Step 3 - Shaping the dough: Press down the dough to release the air and knead well. Now place the dough on a baking paper or parchment paper. Stretch and fold the dough a few times. Sprinkle flour as needed while handling the dough and shape it into a cylinder or log to fit the baking tin. I use a baking tin measuring 9" in length, 4" in height and 4" in width. Hence, I shape the dough into a 9" long cylinder.  

Step 4 - Second rise: Place the dough log in the greased baking tin. Gently press down the edges of the dough so that it fills the tin fully. Cover the baking tin with the damp cloth and keep it in a warm place for the second rise. Wait for 45 minutes to 1 hour or till the dough rises to the top of the baking tin.. 

Step 6 - Baking the bread:  Preheat the microwave oven in convection mode or oven-toaster-griller at 180℃ for 3 minutes. Bake the bread in a pre-heated oven 30 minutes or till the surface turns golden brown in color. Baked bread sounds hollow when tapped and you can smell the aroma of freshly baked bread. Remove from the oven and allow it  to cool. Gently separate the bread from the sides of the baking tin using a bread knife. Invert the tin over a plate and gently tap the bottom of the tin to remove the bread. Keep the bread on a wire mesh for it to cool. Brush the top with butter or ghee. 

Once the bread is cooled to room temperature, slice it to the desire thickness using the bread knife. You can store the bread in the tin for 2-3 days at room temperature.

Important Tips: 

  1. Measurements of ingredients is very important for successful baking.
  2. You can create a warm moist environment to activate the yeast and for the dough to rise. Warm a small bowl of water on micro-high for 1 minute. Switch off the microwave oven, place the bowl containing the yeast mixture or the bowl containing the dough covered with damp cloth inside the oven and close the door. The warm moist environment will help the yeast to get activated or the dough to rise quickly. 
  3. Once you get the hang of the process, you will know texture and consistency of the dough that will ensure successful outcome.

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Monday 8 April 2024

Healthy Cup Cake

Making healthy snacks has always been a challenge! To make a tasty snack, one needs to be liberal with sugar and oil/butter, which need not be very healthy. Hence, I have experimented with several combinations, some of which have been successful. Here is one such recipe! 

Ingredients: (Makes 4 cakes)

Home made or store bought health mix (கஞ்சி மாவு) - ¼ cup or 60 ml measure

Rava or semolina - 1 tablespoon

Brown sugar - ¼ cup or 60 ml measure

Coconut oil - 1 tablespoon

Curds - ¼ cup or 60 ml measure

Raisins - 1 tablespoon

Sunflower seeds - 2 teaspoons

Melon seeds - 2 teaspoons

Baking soda - ⅛ teaspoon 

Baking powder - ⅛ teaspoon

Vanilla essence - ¼ teaspoon*

* Skip vanilla essence, if the health mix you use contains cardamom or other flavoring substances.


Method: 

  • Mix health mix, rava, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl very well. Keep aside.
  • Beat the curds very well in another bowl. Add in coconut oil, brown sugar and vanilla essence. Mix well. 
  • Add raisins and melon seeds, and blend together. 
  • Place four cup cake liners one each in the depressions of a muffin tray and fill the liners equally with the cake dough. This quantity of dough is enough to fill the liners a little over half. 
  • Sprinkle sunflower seeds on top. 
  • Bake in a  microwave oven in convection mode or regular oven at 180℃ for 20 minutes. 
  • Remove from the oven and place the cakes on a wire rack to cool. Your healthy teatime snack is ready!

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Thursday 28 March 2024

Bombay Chutney (பாம்பே சட்னி)

My grandmother used to make Bombay chutney as an accompaniment to poori or chapati. I am not sure why it is called Bombay chutney! Those days, in a traditional household, poori and chapati were rare delicacies, probably learnt from those women who had settled down in North India, as girls were often married off to well-employed, eligible boys in Bombay. Therefore, it is possible that Bombay chutney was adapted from the Maharashtrian dish "Pitla" made from gram flour. Nonetheless, if you do not have any vegetable in stock, you can confidently rely on Bombay chutney to save the day!

Ingredients:

Bengal gram flour or besan - 2 tablespoons

Oil - 2 teaspoons

Split urad dhal - 1 teaspoon

Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon

Green chili - 1 no, chopped

Ginger - ½ inch piece, grated

Asafoetida - a generous pinch

Salt - to taste

Curry leaves - a few

Coriander leaves - chopped, 1 tablespoon

Lemon juice - 1 tablespoon (optional)


Method: 
  • Dissolve Bengal gram flour in 2 cups of water without forming lumps. Add in salt and asafoetida. Mix well and keep aside.
  • Heat oil in a kadai, add mustard seeds and when they start to sputter, add in urad dhal. Sauté till the dhal turns golden brown in color. Add green chilies and ginger; sauté for 30 seconds.
  • Reduce the flame and add in the besan mixture slowly while stirring continuously. Cook till the mixture thickens. Switch off the fire.
  • Add lemon juice and mix well. Garnish with curry leaves and coriander leaves. Serve hot with poori or chapati.
Note: If desired, you may add chopped onions to the seasoning in the kadai and fry till it becomes light brown in color, and then add gram flour mixture.

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Wednesday 27 March 2024

Chat Masala

Chat masala, a spicy, tangy spice powder, can be easily made at home. In addition to using this masala powder for making different chat varieties, you can simply sprinkle it over cut vegetables or fruits to make yummy salad or to spice up buttermilk or fruit juices. 

Ingredients:

Cumin seeds or jeera - 1½ tablespoons

Coriander seeds or dhaniya - 2 tablespoons

Carom seeds or ajwain - ½ teaspoon

Black pepper corns - ½ teaspoon

Kashmiri chili - 1 no

Dry ginger - ¼" piece 

Asafoetida - ⅛ teaspoon

Rock salt - 1 tablespoon

Amchur or dry mango powder - 1 tablespoon

Citric acid crystals - ¼ teaspoon


Method: Heat a kadai on medium flame; add in coriander seeds, cumin seeds, kashmiri chili and pepper corns. Sauté till you can smell the aroma of roasted cumin and coriander seeds. Add carom seeds and fry for 30 seconds. Switch off the stove.

Once the ingredients cooled to room temperature, transfer the roasted ingredients to a mixer jar. Add dry ginger, rock salt, citric acid crystals and asafoetida. Grind the ingredients to a fine powder. Transfer to a bowl. Add in amchur powder and mix very well. Allow the powder to cool to room temperature and then store in an air-tight container.

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Tuesday 26 March 2024

Hand-pounded Rice (கைக்குத்தல் அரிசி சாதம்)

When paddy is pounded manually, husk (உமி) is removed and the resultant hand-pounded rice (கைக்குத்தல் அரிசி) retains rice bran (தவிடு) and endosperm. When compared to white polished rice, hand-pounded rice retains greater quantity of fiber, vitamin and minerals. Hence, it is a better alternative to white rice.

Ingredients:

Rice – 1 measure*

Water – 4 measures

*Hand-pounded rice is light brown in color.


How to cook hand-pounded rice in an electric rice cooker: Wash the hand-pounded rice well in running water three or four times. Soak the rice for one hour in water. Later, drain fully and transfer the rice to the rice cooker vessel and add 4 parts of water. Cover with the lid provided. Switch on the rice cooker and shift the button to cook mode. Once the rice is cooked, the switch automatically changes to warm mode. Before serving the rice, allow it stay in the warm mode for at least 15 minutes. Cooked hand-pounded rice has a nutty aroma and slightly rough texture.

Note: Hand-pounded rice takes longer time to cook than the white rice.  

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