Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Classic White Pan Bread

When I was little, we did not have whole wheat bread, multi-grain bread or maybe we did , we were unaware and as far as we knew, everyone went in for the 'regular' kind of bread. It was white bread and Paav.

You either buy a loaf of Wibs or Britannia sliced bread and if you want  paav, you scoot down to the local bakery and buy a slab (called 'laadi') or even individual rolls.  Making bread at home was not even thought of and we did not have an oven. In fact, there was this bhaiyaji who would come to our home and those in the neighborhood on his cycle carrying bags full of fresh baked bread and new laid eggs. He would wrap the bread in newspaper and hand over what we wanted and I would hand over the money ( .25 paise for a paav) he would then jokingly ask me, "baida chahiye kya baby?" (baida meaning egg) and hold an egg in his hand and offer it to me, knowing fully well that we did not eat eggs and cackle when I would shudder!

I would slather the paav / bread slices with Amul butter and dip it in my tea or maybe I'd add a slosh of ketchup or jam and eat it, enjoying every soft bite. 
I never dreamed I'd make bread at home. Well, not successfully that is. Years ago, when I went to a cookery class, the instructor taught us bread, she made it look kinda easy.  By that time, we had purchased an oven at home and my cousin and I were VERY eager to try our hand at making bread. The whole thing is a bit of a blur, but I do remember this, they made excellent paper weights. 
I gave up on baking. At least for the time being. I was down, but not completely out.
I made a couple of attempts after that, with no success. Gave up, yet again.
Then I hit the jack pot......I read the recipe over and over for days, tempted yet I had not the courage. I then attempted and succeeded in making pizza. I had overcome my fear of yeast, in part. This gave me courage to try bread and boy! am I glad I did!!!

Just like the last time, I chewed my nails to zero when the bread was in the oven, this time around as well. But I should have believed. The result was a  perfect loaf! Yaaay! 
I could not keep still, I could hardly stand the wait,  I even 'fanned' the loaf with the oven mitt to cool it faster and sliced it. Look at the picture below and learn from my mistakes. Let the loaf cool. Completely.
Over excitement? Take a deep calming breath, count to 10 and then slice, if you do not do this, the knife shakes and cuts unevenly, see? No harm done to the loaf, just don't look very pretty.

I made this a couple of times and with equal success. My friends shared it with me and  gave me the thumbs up sign. I only wish my parents were here with me to enjoy it. 

Makes: Two - 8 1/2 x 4 1/2x 2 3/4 inch loaves

2 1/2 tsp ( 1 envelope) Active Dry Yeast
2 Cups warm  Water
5 - 5 1/2 Cups All Purpose flour (APF)
1 Tbs. Sugar
1Tbs. Salt
5 Tbs. Unsalted Butter or Vegetable Oil

Whisk the yeast into the warm water and set aside and prepare other ingredients

To mix dough by hand:  place 5 Cups APF, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl and stir in yeast mix and melted butter

Continue to mix until the mix resembles a rough dough

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured  work surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 mins. If the dough is too soft and sticky, add flour 1 tbs. at a time.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to oil all surfaces

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour

Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface (you may need a scraper). Deflate the dough and divide into 2.

To form a loaf, make sure the surface is free of any excess flour, then stretch the dough until it is approximately the length of the pan, then fold in the short ends, then fold in the far long edge over  tot he middle. Fold over the  other long side and  compress to form a tight cylinder 

Place the loaf in the pan, seam side down and cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with second loaf and allow it to rise until double ( about 1 hour) 

When loaves are almost double, set a rack in the middle level of the oven and pre-heat to 400 deg. F

When the loaves have completely risen, place the pans in the oven and bake for 30 mins ot until golden brown and firm and internal temperature is 210 deg.

Unmold  the loaves to a cooling rack  to cool on side.

Cool completely and slice. Enjoy.
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Kairi Aamti / Raw Mango Curry

Before I forget and before this year ends, I need to clear the huge backlog in my drafts folder. I have  pictures and references to the recipes or the actual recipes lying in the drafts for nearly 6 months now. I have some recipes I tried in India, took pictures, and well, I left it at that.

Summer seems like a memory, hot, humid, noisy and mangoes. My whirlwind India visit is still fresh in my memory. The joy of  buying raw mango, thinking of a 100 things you want to make with those, finally keeping one aside,  using the rest to make this nectar .

Panha in one hand I  rummaged thru my old bookshelf, my favorite authors, the books I had patiently collected  in my school, college and MBA days. the books I would read when I was eating alone ( which was frequently as I worked in shifts and was at home at all odd hours), books I read when I could not sleep  or books I carried in my purse to read on my way to work. So many memories, so much I gave up.. of all the things I miss from home I miss my books the most. Sure I can go to the library and borrow what I want, but it isn't the same, it's not the same as holding the copy in your hands and lovingly adding it to the shelf, not the same as running a light finger on the spines of the books and trying to pick one. Not the same as smiling  and picking up an old, old copy of a much loved comic book or delighting in classics  or laughing out loud just looking at my collection of P G W 
And there, among the lowest  shelves are a few old books my Mother had kept, these looked different from my collection. And they were! they were my Mother's  knitting books and some cookbooks!  Now I am no knitter so I glanced at them and pounced on the cookbooks. 
She has this Marathi cookbook, 'Suruchi', which I had never really paid attention to before I got married. But now, things are different and I eagerly read the recipes. 

I absolutely LOVED this raw mango curry, couldn't get enough of it!  the taste, the texture in every bite is a delight. A burst of sour with sweet undertones of the jaggery and a hit of red chili powder, tickles the tongue  and  leaves you wanting more.

Recipe source: Suruchi

1 Big Raw Mango / Kairi
1/2 Fresh Coconut (Grated)
1/2 tsp Coriander seeds
1 tsp Mustard seeds (divided)
 7-8 Curry leaves
1/2 tsp Asafetida
 1 tsp Ghee
3/4  tsp Red Chilli Powder 
1/2 tsp Turmeric 
Jaggery lime size (grated)
1/2 tsp Urid dal 
10-12 seeds Methi  / fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp Wheat flour / Atta 

Peel the raw mango and make medium bite size pieces. Marinate the raw mango pieces with turmeric , red chili powder, jaggery and Salt.

Place the grated coconut, 1/4 tsp mustard and coriander seeds in the mixer and make a paste

Put ghee in the pan and add mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafetida. Add Urid dal when it turns light brown add Methi / fenugreek seeds.

Add 1 cup water

Add marinated raw mango pieces.

When the raw mango pieces become soft add the coconut paste, water (as per the desired consistency )wheat flour / atta -make a slurry if you want , flour +water,  and salt.

Bring it to boil. Serve hot with rice.
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

So I decided to rusk it.

When you have parents who work, there is a certain advantage, they both bring home 'khau' ( snacks) on their way home from work. 
My parents worked in V.T (Yes, I still call it that) Fort area and  there were several bakeries, snack shops  and dairies in the vicinity and many famous for a single item, which was usually sold out by evening. 
We were regulars at Pancham Puriwala a humble food joint serving  deep fried heaven on a platter. Or the fabulous Mathura Pedha  and of course a small dingy store which sold baked items, we started out with their crisp and light, flaky and calorie rich khari biscuits and go on to other mouth watering items like  Mawa cake, fruit cake, were regular items in our cookie jars. 
And then came the cake rusk/cake toast. I fell in love with those. I don't remember when exactly I first tasted  cake rusk, but  I do remember the taste and how much I liked it and  also remembered I had not tasted these in 4 years! A few months ago, when I was still living in Los Angeles, my friend Vandana dropped in and  gave a big box of cake rusk for my Son. Well, he did not eat so many, actually, he probably had a couple, umm... one, maybe. M and I devoured the lot! Down to the last crumb. Delish! 
We ate, we liked and we forgot. 

A few days ago, I made Banana nut cake and to own the truth, I was distracted. Too many things going on and some where I knew I should have stopped, but  the oven was pre-heating and I decided to go ahead.
To cut a long story short, I made some mistakes, no idea what - multi tasking when baking = bad idea = mistakes, but the cake turned out dense and could have done with a tad bit of extra sugar. I was disappointed, I was so looking forward to handing over a warm, soft slice to S and watching his smile as he ate it. 
Oh well, that bombed :(
As the cake sat cooling on the rack, the image of  cake rusk came floating on my mind and I decided to risk it!  I mean, rusk it!
The oven was still hot and the pizza stone was inside. I quickly sliced the cake and placed the slices on the pizza stone and baked them for about 10 minutes ( turning once) until golden brown. Cooled them and store in airtight container.

Verdict: YES!! loved it :) this does taste like the regular cake rusk/ toast you can buy at the Indian store for  $5 or $7, but so much better and cheaper when you make at home  ( even if you bungle it up!)

Try this with eggless banana bread  and you cannot go wrong.

Just to round it up nicely:

Bake Banana cake/bread using the above linked recipes or any cake recipe of your choice.

Cool the cake completely

Cut into 1/2 inch thick slices

Place the slices on a hot (pre heated) pizza stone or if you do not have one, line a  oven safe tray with  foil / parchment paper and place the slices in a row and bake for about 10 minutes, turning once so as to bake both sides. 10 minutes is not the exact timing, use it as a guideline only, keep an eye on those slices ! 

Remove from oven once they are golden brown on both sides

Cool completely and store in an air tight container 

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