Thursday, October 8, 2015

Cranberries and Raisins Cookies

I do not qualify as an enthusiastic baker. I do not run away from baking, but I do far and few. Recently, baking with the WKtB group has given me more confidence to venture a few even without the illustrated and step-wise instructions.
Some time ago while visiting my daughter in the US of A, we were at a bookstore and it felt for me like a child in a candy store literally. we browsed the books on breads and in the used books section we picked up two books, both at a discounted price.
One of those books, is only breads, though not many. The other has more options and details techniques and every recipe has been illustrated. I had not found time to go through most of the recipes; to select something to bake was a task by itself. Few days ago, I bookmarked some recipes that did not call for eggs and this is one of those. Better still this does not call for butter either. I happened to have the cranberries and raisins which were given as variations. The original recipe uses prunes and candied citrus peel. So, here is what I baked from the book and am sharing today.

Cranberries and Raisins Cookies
( A variation of the Prunes and Candied Peel Cookies from The Practical Encyclopedia of Baking by Martha Day)

Makes 12 to 16 (depending on the size)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cups raw sugar*
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/3 cup chopped raisins
1/4 cup sunflower oil
5 tablespoons skimmed milk**
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon chai masala***

* I used unrefined cane sugar.
**I used semi skimmed milk. I needed a little more than the listed 5 tablespoons.
*** The given recipe goes with 1/4 teaspoon each of apple pie spice, ground ginger and ground cinnamon. I used the chai masala instead.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C.
Sift the baking powder into the flour.
Sift along the chai masala.
Stir in the sugar, cranberries, raisins and the rind of lemon.
Mix the oil and milk and add to the flour- sugar mixture.
Make a dough that is just about binding together.
Lightly oil a cookie sheet/ baking tray.
Spoon the cookie dough in rough mounds.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack before storing.

I may have rolled smaller quantity of dough and I got 16 cookies while the recipe lists 12 only.
These cookies are good to serve with tea.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Yet Another Milagai Podi pairs Dosais and Idlis

We are  heavy breakfast, moderate lunch, an evening snack and a light dinner routine family. Idlis and dosais can be made in varieties for the morning and the batter helps plan something for dinner too. Most likely, I might eat my idlis and dosais with a freshly made sambhar or some chutney. While that is the to-go accompaniment for them, apart from a quick tomato masala, I keep stock of idli milagai podi also. My mother's pantry never runs short of supply of  her  milagai podi. Stock in mine and my sister's though, seems one batch stays forever. Just the other day I used up all of the podi I had in stock and was wondering if I could have a recipe other than my frequently used ones.
My paternal cousins, my sisters and I are always a WhatsApp message away from each other. So that was the best forum to get a recipe and I put out my request. Not surprisingly, each one had a recipe, however little they varied in terms of ingredients or proportions. Thus, be warned, I shall be posting a different podi recipe soon as one stock gets finished.
The recipe I share today is from a cousin who follows her mother-in-law's. I did not make any tweaks or changes on my whim, though a lot of discussion happened, about more wholesome additions.This recipe is quite adaptable to such tweaks and one may try variations.

Milagai podi for Idlis and Dosais - Version 3

All measures are 125 ml cup
Yield: Fills a 450 ml jar/ 280 grams

1 packed cup dry red chillis broken in small bits
1 cup urad dhal
1/2 cup channa dhal
1/3 cup white sesame seeds
1 1/2 tablespoon powdered jaggery (for flavour only, so you may adjust accordingly)
Salt to taste
2 drops caster oil to fry chillis (optional)

Rub in the oil on the chillis and roast the chillis in a heavy bottom pan until brittle and brown without burning them.
Transfer to a largish plate and keep aside.
Dry roast each separately, the urad dhal and channa dhal until the lentils are golden and aromatic.
Transfer from heat.
Roast the sesame seeds until they pop and add to the dhals.
Finally toss the salt (I use coarse sea salt) in the heat of the pan and keep aside.
Transfer the dhals and sesame seeds to the jar of your spice grinder/ blender and pulse to a coarse powder.
Add the chillis and salt and grind further until almost fine.
Finally add the jaggery, pulse to mix and transfer to a dish.

Allow to cool and store in an airtight jar.
Keeps well for months at room temperature.
Serve this podi as side for idli and dosai along with sesame oil/ ghee.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Tender Ridge Gourd Salad with Nuts

I complain time and again that I do not find here, in Togo, most vegetables I might walk into my green grocer and pick up back home. The variety is so small that I might repeat the same fare week after the other. Though the variety is limited, I find most of the vegetables year around and that I am happy for. Many times the available vegetables are not quite fresh, but when you do get some fresh and tender, I will grab those, only to stock up inside the refrigerator. The vendors have standard prices and they would refuse to sell just the quantity I offer to take. I have no choice but buy a whole bunch. That said, I have learnt to freeze certain  vegetables and use when I choose to.
On my last visit though, i found very tender ridge gourd on a rare occasion and took them home. As I was trying to check them for the bitterness, which might be common with these gourds, they tasted so fresh, tender and almost sweet. I might be wasting the tenderness by cooking, I thought. Also in my supply I had cherry tomatoes and somewhat sour green grapes. Thus, the idea of this salad came up. Toss in a handful of favourite nuts and a colourful salad with crunch of nuts is ready to be consumed.

There is no specific recipe to share. It is upto one's own choice of vegetables to go in and nuts to add to. Nonetheless, I might share a basic recipe which anyone may build on.

Tender Ridge Gourd Salad with Nuts 
Serves two people 

2 very tender ridge gourds
8-10 cherry tomatoes
10 slightly sour green grapes
A fistful of mixed toasted nuts
Chilli flakes just a little to add heat

Cut the ridge gourd in small size cubes.
Halve the cherry tomatoes.
Halve the green grapes and remove the seeds. I had grapes with thick skin and thus peeled it also.
In a salad plate arrange all the above and toss in the nuts. Mix in the chilli flakes.
I had sour grapes so it balanced the heat. If necessary squeeze the juice of limes as desired.

Serve freshly put together salad.
The No Croutons Required Event is jointly hosted by Lisa and Jacqueline. This month's event is being held at Lisa's Kitchen. This salad is being sent to the same.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Yeasted Banana Sandwich Bread - We Knead to Bake 31

Having been away from this space for just about a month, I am back baking with the We Knead to Bake group this month. This month's is a simple bread which does not mean that it is not delicious. It might sure become one of your favourite breads.
Aparna chose this yeasted banana bread for this month. I had been away from my home and was back only a few days back. I had to wait to go to the market to procure certain ingredients needed and mainly bananas to attempt the bread. Here I am sharing this bread with readers.
Aparna adds,
"Banana bread as we know it is usually a moist, sweet, cake-like quick bread, that is a bread that is leavened with baking powder.  This month’s bread however is a twist on not just banana bread but also the classic white sandwich bread.

This Banana Bread is a yeasted slightly sweet sandwich bread that makes particularly excellent peanut butter sandwiches. Also try making French toast with it and you won’t regret it, I promise. You can also make savoury sandwiches with this Banana Bread or serve it on the side with curries or soup.
This is a recipe for Sandwich Bread so it’s best to leave it plain. If you would like to flavour the bread with something though, here are some suggestions for flavour pairings/ combinations that go well with banana.

Fruit - Apricot, Blueberry, Cherry, Date, Fig, Guava, Kiwi, Kumquat, Lime, Mango, Orange, Papaya, Passion Fruit, Pineapple, Pomegranate, Raspberry, Strawberry
Spices - Cardamom, Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger, Tea
Others - Caramel, Coconut, Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut, Honey, Macadamia, Maple, Oatmeal, Pecan, Walnuts, White Chocolate."
I chose to leave it plain with only the basic recipe given. However you have the above mentioned choices to try.

Yeasted Banana Sandwich Bread
(Adapted from )

Makes one medium loaf 81/2"X41/2"
3/4 cup to 1 cup lukewarm milk
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour *
1/2 tablespoon vital wheat gluten* (optional)
25 grams butter soft at room temperature
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
3 small ripe bananas (Chopped to fill 1 to 1&1/2 cups)

* I chose to use bread flour replacing the all purpose flour and hence did not use vital wheat gluten.
You may use all purpose flour and not use the vital wheat gluten also.

I use the machine to knead my dough while it can be done by hand also.
Place all the ingredients except the milk in a large bowl/ bowl of your processor. Mix well.
Add the milk and knead until you have a shaggy dough. Add more milk as necessary to achieve this. I needed a little more than 3/4 cup but not all of the 1 cup listed above.
Take away from the bowl and knead further by hand until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic.
Shape it into a ball and place in an oil coated bowl. Cover and let the dough double in volume for about an hour to an hour and a half.
Gently deflate the risen dough and shape it in a loaf to fit a 81/2"X41/2" loaf tin. Cover loosely and let it rise again to the top of the tin.
Brush the top with milk and if desired press some oats on top. 
Bake in a pre heated 180 degrees C/ 350 degrees F oven for about 40 to 50 minutes until the top is nicely brown and the breads feels hollow when tapped.
Remove from the oven and allow to completely cool before slicing it.

Serve as sandwich or plain with tea.
Now, head over to Aparna's post where you might find links to posts by other members also.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Mexican Cemita Buns - We Knead to Bake 30

This month we are baking an interesting bread again. It so happened that Aparna and Nandita had baked them for a project and shared the pictures on facebook. Some members of the We Knead to Bake group expressed their interest in baking them and so it was chosen for this month.
Aparna shares,
"Mexican Cemita Buns are used to make a sandwich which is very popular in the Puebla region of the country. There they make the Cemitas Poblana, which is a sandwich is filled with sliced avocado, meat, panela cheese or sometimes quesillo cheese, onions, a herb called pápalo and red sauce.

These buns may look like regular sesame topped burger buns but they’re nothing like it. The Cemita, which is the name given to the bread and the sandwich made with it, is made with a brioche-like enriched dough that has a crunchy outside but is soft inside.

Kenji Lopez-Alt whose recipe we have adapted, describes the Cemita as “sweet and savory flavor with a dense-yet-light crumb that can stand up to stacks and stacks of toppings without disintegrating or losing its tenderness". "
These buns are usually made with lard or butter, but Kenji Lopez-Alt used heavy cream for the same. I could only find Cooking Cream that has 30% fat where I live and thus used it. i also substituted for the two eggs with 1/2 cup extra milk. They turned out just as good, not using eggs did not affect the texture.
I proportioned the ingredients to 2/3rds of the below given recipe. So I made 4 buns that was quite a lot for just the two of us. We had them like pav with bhaji and again as sandwiches. They tasted great either way.

Mexican Cemita Buns

Adapted from
Makes 6 buns

2 & 1/2 to 3 cups all purpose flour ( I did not need all of the 3 cups, but a little more than 2&1/2 cups)
1/2 cup cream (I used 30% fat cooking cream)
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs (I substituted with 1/2 cup of milk)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 & 1/2 tablespoon sugar
A little milk for brushing on top of the buns
1/3 to 1/2 cup white sesame seeds
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

The dough is quite sticky to handle, you may choose to knead by hand or with a machine.
Place 2 and 1/2 cups flour, salt, sugar, yeast, cream, milk and the eggs (the extra milk in my recipe) in a mixing bowl and knead to a dough that is sticky and somewhat difficult to handle. If the dough is too batter-like add extra flour. Try not to add too much flour. The dough is supposed to be sticky.
Knead in the processor just until the dough climbs the blades. If doing by hand, knead until a soft yet sticky dough that is not so difficult to handle.
Place the dough in a large bowl and cover it. The original recipe does not call for spraying the bowl with oil, but I lightly oiled the walls and turned the dough in the oil.Let it sit at room temperature for about 3 to 4 hours until it has risen to 1&1/2 times its initial volume.
Take the dough and turn it on to a floured work surface. Sprinkle some flour on the dough also so it is manageable. Lightly knead the dough and make it rope like. Divide this into 6 equal parts.

Roll each portion into a smooth rounded roll by stretching the top to make a smooth 'skin'.
Place the prepared rolls in a baking tray lined with parchment. Leave some space between each allowing them to expand while they are proofing.
Cover the buns and let them rise again at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour. They would have expanded quite a bit.
Brush the buns with milk and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds. Gently press the sesame seeds to stick well. sprinkle coarse sea salt on top.
Bake for 15 minutes in a pre-heated 230 degree C oven.
Cool on wire rack before storing/ serving.

They are soft, mildly sweet and salty from the sprinkling of salt. They make great sandwich buns.
While the above recipe makes 6 buns, I sized down the ingredients to make just 4.
A click away from here to Aparna's post will show you links to other members' posts. Please check them out too.