Saturday, October 24, 2015

Barmbrack - Irish Halloween Fruit Bread - We Knead to bake -32

Barmbrack or Báirín Breac which means Speckled Bread, is an Irish fruit added bread. Interestingly the candied, dry fruits are soaked in hot tea. this imparts the flavour to the bread. This is October, when people celebrate Halloween, this bread was chosen by Aparna, so we, the members of the We Knead to Bake group can try to bake in our kitchens.
The raisins in the bread give it the speckled look and “báirín”is for loaf in Irish and “breac” means speckled. It is shaped either as loaf or roll bun, cut in thick slices and eaten with rather a generous lather of butter.
Aparna shares the following information:
The origin of Halloween goes back to the Celtic festival of "Samhain" which is derived from Old Irish and supposedly roughly translates to "Summer's End." The Barmbrack is very much a part of a traditional Irish Halloween custom that involved baking various objects or “fortunes” into the fruit bread. When the bread was cut and served, if you found one of the objects in your portion then that would tell your fortune.
There are yeasted versions of this recipe as well those that use baking powder to leaven it.  We are baking the yeasted barmbrack this month. The given recipe will make two loaves, i had to halve that to bake just one for the two of us.

Barmbrack (Báirín Breac) – Irish Halloween Fruit Bread/ Cake

Makes 2 loaves 8"X5"
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup sultanas
1/8 chopped dried apricots
1/8 cup dried cranberries
1&1/2 cup hot, strong black tea to soak the above fruits
3&1/2 - 4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon all spice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspon salt
30 grams unsalted butter softened, at room temperature
1 lightly beaten egg (I topped the liquid to substitute)
1/2 to 3/4 cup warm milk for making 1 cup of milk+tea (drained after soaking process is complete)
(The milk should be warm enough that the tea is warm to help the yeast to proof)
1 tablespoon caster sugar mixed in 1 tablespoon hot water for the glaze.

Place the dried fruits in a bowl. 
Make strong black tea and pout on the fruits while hot.
Let them stay soaked overnight or if that is not possible, for a minimum of 3 to 4 hours.
Drain the liquid tea after the fruits have swollen. Reserve the drained liquid.

kneading the dough can be done either by hand or by machine. 
Place the flour,instant yeast,sugar, spices, and salt in a large bowl, or in that of the machine.
Whisk them to mix well.
Add the egg if you are using and the butter. Mix them well.
Now pour the reserved liquid into a 1 cup measure, top it with hot milk to make 1 cup tea. Let this be just as warm to proof the yeast in the flour mix. 
I added extra milk to this to substitute for the egg (it could have done without also, this made the dough a bit loose that needed more kneading and used up all the given measure of flour).
Knead to a dough that is smooth and elastic and is just about sticky to touch.
Turn the dough on to a counter, make a rough rectangle and spread the swollen fruits over the surface.
Fold the dough in half once and fold that again in half. Knead gently to incorporate the fruits evenly.
Roll the dough in a ball, place in a lightly oiled bowl, turning it to coat all over with oil.
Cover and keep it away to double in volume for 1&1/2 to 2 hours.

Gently knead the risen dough, divide in two portions. Shape them to fit in two 8"X5" loaf tin, or in rounded buns.
Cover and allow them to rise for another 45 minutes. They would puff up and rise slightly.
Bake them in a pre-heated 180 degrees C/350 degrees F oven for 35 - 45 minutes.
If you are giving it the sugar glaze, prepare the glace by mixing sugar and warm water. Just befor five minutes to complete baking time, take the bread out, give it the glaze and put it back in the oven to complete baking.
The tops should be golden brown and the bread should sound hollow when tapped.

Cool them on wire racks.
Cut thick slices and serve with butter.
Aparna's post here has links to posts by other members. Do check them out too.

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.