Category Archives: bread

Mother’s day Challah

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Mother’s day Challah

My mom is an amazing woman. Strong, caring, intelligent and yet loving. She is the strength of the family and we are so lucky to be born to her.

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She is my inspiration in so many ways. She manages home while handling the business just as well. I still remember to what lengths she would go ( and still does to make things for us. Be it a dress for a play in school, be it packing tiffin with special treats for the school trip, be it helping with math homework to be it helping us with the babies, she does it effortlessly.

She is a great cook, a great entrepreneur and so many more things, but the biggest things that stands out is her unconditional love towards her family. She brings every one together. So today;s recipe is dedicated to my Aai( Thats what I call her).

 

She always pushes us to challenge ourselves. As you all know I cook a lot but have not been much of a baker. So this birthday resolution was to learn baking.

Today I have made Challah. Challah is a jewish bread( said like halla). You would typically see this in a braided form. Since I am making this for mother’s day I wanted to incorporate something that is significant to my Mom. My Mom not only loves us all very much, she has also created a family where all of us love each other very much.We are four siblings and we are like a tight fist.

Today I decided to make a round challah with four ropes and top it with four different seeds. This represent how my Mom’s love has brought us together and sort of her arms around the four of us.

Mother’s day Challah

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The recipe comes from a very famous book, Breaking breads .  I am in love with that book and you will be seeing many more recipes soon. I love how he not gives step by step instructions but also tells a bit of a history as well.

Ingredients

Dough

  • 1000 grams ( about 7 cups) flour sifted well
  • 400 grams room temperature water
  • 15 grams Active dry yeast
  •  100 grams granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 tbsp oil
  • 15 grams salt

Egg wash and toppings

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2/3 cup different seeds, I have used Nigella, Poppy, Fennel and sesame seeds

Mix all of these together to make an egg wash

Method

Make the dough

  • In a stand mixer, add water and yeast, whisk it till combined
  • Add flour, eggs, sugar and salt
  • Mix the dough on low speed till the ingredients are combined. Stop and sracpe the flour if needed to avoid dry flour patches. It should take about 2 mins for the dough to come together
  • Now increase the speed and knead the dough on medium for about 4 minutes.
  • Now take the dough on a lightly floured surface
  • stretch and fold the dough  for about a minute as shown in the picture below 

     

  • Rest the dough for about 45 mins. It should be about 70% risen
  • Heat the oven at 425 F
  • Shaping the dough-Today I am going to shape it in a circle with 4 ropes, representing my Mom’s four kids. 
    • Take the risen dough and gently put it on a floured board.
    • Make it into a rectangle, make sure you do not deflate the dough
    • Cut the rectangle into 2 pieces.  Keep one piece aside.
    • With one half of the rectangle, make four parts.
    • Roll each part into a 14 inch cylinder
    • Weave the four ropes as I call them into a round
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  • Cover and let it proof for at least 40 mins. To check if the dough has risen enough , when you press the dough surface with your finger, the indentation should fill up about 1/2 way. If your dough is not risen, the indentation wont fill, if its over risen, it will fill up to fast
  • Decorating
    • Now comes the fun part, decorating the challah
    • Brush with challah with egg-wash
    • Sprinkle with seeds of your choice.
  • Here I have used four different seeds to decorate

 

  • Bake at 425 F for about 25-30 mins
  • Serve with butter & honey. I served it with a Apple -Honey Jam

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Til-Gul Babka Jewish Indian bread

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Nothing is more appetizing than the smell of freshly made bread. Be it the fresh roti that is made right on the stove top or a loaf of bread baked in the oven.. it calls everyone to the kitchen and around the dining table. I am not much of a baker, I do bake cakes occasionally but it does not come to me naturally. I feel cakes are way easier than the breads, when you start baking breads, you are going closer to the science than art.

After MasterChef, one of the goals has been to bake more often and since my family is not too much into the cakes, and I like to challenge myself, I am planning to bake more breads and try new techniques.

January is one of my favorite months. This is the month of resolutions, new beginnings and many more things. One of the things is Hurda, its my most favorite thing on this face earth, and this is the time we celebrate Sankranti. This is the only festival in Maharashtra that is based on a Solar/Gregorian calendar, rest of them are all lunar calendar based. Sankranti is celebrated on the 14th of Jan, and other parts of India celebrate this festival with different names, Pongal in southern India, Bihu in Eastern India, Uttarayan in Western India and Lohri in Northern India.  The common theme is great food and happiness and most of the  sweets  are made from Sesame seeds and Jaggery. Both these foods create ‘heat’ in the body and hence eaten during this winter season.

Going back to my baking breads, as you know, I love combining flavors. I had seen this sesame bread recipe on pintrest and that is also my source of inspiration today.So I decided to make this bread which is fit for the Sankrant and something new. Here it comes;

Til Gul Babka

 

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I know right, it sounds crazy but tasted yummy, if you are into sweet breads, you might want to give it a try. This recipe is quite versatile and can be easily made into a savory bread as well, all you have to change is the filling and you are good to go.

I had read about this technique of ‘Tangzhong‘ and decided to try using it with this bread. I think it definitely helped keep the bread very moist. Tangzhong is a a Japanese technique, it makes for a very sticky dough that is very tricky to handle, but thats what makes for the very soft final product.

Tangzhong is nothing else but a paste made with flour and water, you cook it to almost a roux like consistency. You cool it and mix it in the dough.It sounds so simple and it is, but let me tell you, it created incredibly soft almost pillowy bread.

I think I am so in love this technique that I think I will end up using in everything I bake. 🙂

Back to the recipe

Ingredients

Tangzhong

  • 50 g  Flour
  • 1 cup milk

Bread dough

  • 350 g Bread Flour ( about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 salt
  • 65 g sugar ( about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup warm Milk
  • 2 tsp Yeast
  • About 1 cup Tangzhong
  • 1 egg for egg wash

Filling

  • 1/2 cup Crushed Jaggery ( you can use dark brown sugar if you can not find jaggery)
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanut
  • 4 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 4-5 Tbsp ghee ( or softened unsalted butter)

Method

Making Tangzhong

  • Mix in the water and flour to form a good slurry
  • Cook it on low flame till it thickens. It should be a little less thick that a mashed potatoes. One way to check is if you stop stirring, does the mixture stays in circles and you can see the bottom of the pan
  • Take it off the heat, cover with a plastic wrap, making sure it touches the surface of the paste. This will ensure that no crust forms
  • Cool the Tangzhong to use later

Making the filling

  • Grind all the ingredients except the ghee and molasses
  • Mix the powder in ghee and molasses to make a paste

Making the dough

  • Warm up the milk and add the yeast. Leave it aside for 10-15 mins for it to foam up
  • Until then mix, Flour, Salt, sugar, sesame seeds
  • Add an egg and mix
  • Now add the yeast and milk mixture and mix for 30 secs
  • Add the tangzhong that is cooled
  • Now knead the dough in the stand mixer for 10-15 mins
  • Keep adding softened butter while the mixer is running
  • The dough will be a very wet dough, don’t worry. If the dough sticks to the bottom of the bowl, don’t worry
  • Take a greased bowl and transfer the dough.Let the dough roof for at least 2 hours.
  • I like to proof my dough in the fridge, so I can use it when I am ready
  • The dough should double in size

Assembling it together

  • Punch and deflate the dough
  • Roll it into a reactangle
  • Spread the filling evenly

Shaping the bread

  • Take the rolled log and cut it along the length with a sharp knife
  • Twist the two parts together to form a braid keeping the cut side up
  • Take a bread loaf pan that is greased and lined with a parchment paper
  • Add the dough in it and let it rest for at least 60 mins

Baking

  • Heat the oven at 350 F
  • Brush the dough with egg wash and bake for 25-30 mins in a 350F

Note:

  1. This dough was a little more than a standard bread loaf can handle, so I removed about 1/3 cup dough before shaping it
  2. If you can not find molasses, you can substitute with honey

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Focaccia with fennel seeds

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Focaccia with fennel seeds

I love this time of the year, after a long winter when you start seeing flowers blossoming on the bare tree branches, you see birds busy building nests  and the mercury starts going up. So this is the time when I am again motivated to cook a few dishes that need fermentation. In India the weather is always warm and you dont have to think if your batter will ferment or not, or if your bread will rise or not, but here one has to plan. It can be quite frustrating when you plan to make Dosa ( Indian crepe made from ground rice & lentil batter) and the batter does not ferment or when you are trying to make Yogurt and it does not set because you forgot to keep it in the oven and so on.

So as soon as I found out that it is going to be warm I decided to make my favorite Focaccia. I lvoe Focaccia especially when it is topped with sea salt and some fragrant herbs. I like it plain just out of the oven or with some nice vinegar. I love fruity vinegars like Fig Vinegar. There is a shop in the Ferry Building and they have some amazing varieties of Olive oils & Vinegars. I love their Meyer Lemon loive oil with Fig Balsamic…I could eat a whole loaf of bread with that.

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Coming back to focaccia, as you may know I like making things from scratch, I feel it makes me appreciate what I am eating more and appreciate all the efforts when someone makes it for me. I like to bake breads but it does not come naturally. Growing up in India, most of the breads are made without any yeast and don’t require any proofing, so I started baking breads when I came to California.

This is a very simple recipe but needs patience. There may be a shorter way to make this but I like the way this turns out so I don’t mind spending the time. It is funny where I got this recipe. I had gone to London for work and it was frigid cold. I still remember that I went out to grab a bite and I thought my fingers are going to fall off, it was that cold. Anyway, since it was cold I was in my hotel room watching TV. A cooking show came on and how can I forget, it was an Italian Chef. I did not understand what he was saying but he was so cute that I decided to watch the program any way. He had made this focaccia and to my surprise at the end of the show they shared the recipe in English..I have made this recipe quite a few times with variations of toppings and each time it comes out good.

Focaccia with fennel seeds & caramelized onions

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Ingredients:

2 cups of  bread flour ( I have made it with regular flour and it is not bad)

1/2 cup Semolina ( Rava/Sooji)

1tsp salt

1 packet Regular Yeast

3/4 cup water at 75F

1/4 cup olive oil

 

Method:

Mix all the dry ingredients.

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Add half of the olive oil, add water and knead a soft dough. Knead for 5 mins, this is absolutely critical for the gluten to develop.

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Before First Rise

 

 

First Rise: Oil a large bowl and out the ball of dough in it. Cover and keep in a warm place to rise for 45 mins.

First rise

After First rise

Second rise: After 45 mins, take out the dough on a board and flatten it out. Make a sort of envelope and out it back in the bowl for another 45 mins

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Before Second Rise

Second Rise

After Second Rise

 

Third Rise: After 45 mins, take the dough and place it in the skillet or baking tray you plan to bake it in. Let it rise again for 45 mins

Before Third Rise

Before Third Rise

After Third Rise

After Third Rise

Fourth Rise: You will see that the dough is again doubled. Using the fingers poke holes in eat and spread it around to the edges of the skillet. Spread a couple of tsp of olive oil to keep the dough moist. Let it rise for another 45 mins.

Forth rise

After Forth rise

Bake: Now take a toothpick and pierce the dough in a few places to release the air.  Brush more oilve oil on top. Sprinkle with sea salt & herbs, I used Fennel seeds, crushed red pepper.

Poked with Toothpick

Poked with Toothpick

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Bake it at 500F for 15-18 mins until it is golden brown

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Cheddar Pimiento Harissa muffins

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I am always looking for savory options for breakfast. So when I made Harissa, I decided to make these muffins and use Harissa for flavoring. I had seen a similar recipe in a Food magazine, added my twist to it.

I also make savory breakfast waffles  which are also a great savory breakfast option.

I like this recipe since you can have all the wet ingredients mixed and in a container in the fridge and dry ingredients mixed as well. In the morning you just mix them together and you have yummy muffins for breakfast in 20 mins. You can also serve them as appetizers with some spread.

I also make these with some bacon bits and those taste yummy as well.

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Ingredients:

Dry ingredients

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2 1/2 cup flour

1 1/2 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Wet ingredients

1 1/2 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

4 tbsp melted butter

1 tsp chopped jalapeno

1 tsp Harissa Paste

1/4 cup chopped chives

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

3 tbsp chopped cilantro

3 oz chopped pimiento

1 tbsp worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 shredded cheddar cheese

 

Method:

Heat the oven to 375F

Line your muffin pan with liners.

Mix all the dry ingredients well and keep aside. You can adjust the spices in it as per your taste.

Beat the two eggs, add buttermilk, butter and mix again. Now add the harissa and mix.

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Add chopped vegetables and herbs. Add the shredded cheese and mix well.

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Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture 1 tbsp at a time. Immediately add to lined muffin pans

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It is important that you don’t wait after the wet and dry ingredients are combined. The baking soda and buttermilk get to work right away and if you dont make it right away, the muffins may not rise.

Bake for 18-20 mins in a 375 F oven.

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I also make savory breakfast waffles  which are also a great savory breakfast option.

 

 

 

Jowar Bhakri- Sorghum flat bread

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Jowar Bhakri (ज्वारीची भाकरी)

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Whenever I talk to any non-indians about Indian breads, most of them only know naan. Although I like Naan, there are so many different breads that are part of the Indian cuisine  that the rest of the world  is unaware of. I hope to do a series of posts on various Indian Breads.

My most favorite Indian bread is actually a flat bread.

What is Jowar(Sorghum)?

Jowar is a grain cultivated through out India. It is considered a cheap alternative to wheat. It is a very healthy grain with a lot of fibre and rich nutrients that are supposedly beneficial to fight against diseases like cancer, diabetes. The list of health benefits is pretty long.

 

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Jowar fields

Jowar bhakri is very common in many parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka, especially  it is an integral part of the Farmers’ diet.In the villages Bhakri is made typically on a wooden stove. The smoky flavor you get with that is unmatchable.

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I love to eat bhakri right off the stove, with a pinch of salt, onion and green chili, I feel that it is the best food on the planet. In fact, if I am asked on my death bed what I would like to eat, it would be bhakri.

I typically make Bhakri with spicy chicken and some greens.

Today’s post is dedicated to ‘Jowar Bhakri’

Ingredients are very simple, Jowar flour & water. How much simpler can it get. The trick is in making these beauties.  Although I did not cook at all before I got married, this is one thing I made sure I learnt how to make.  I thought it will be easier to explain it through videos rather than just the pictures or words.

So here is my attempt to capture Jowar Bhakri Recipe.

 

Ingredients

2 cups of Jowar flour

about 1 cup of water

Method:

Step 2:

Make a dough with the flour. Make sure you knead it a bit to ensure that it is smooth. It will be almost the consistency of mashed potatoes.

Step 3:

Make a flat bread patting with you hands. Use flour to ensure that the bread does not stick to the board or your hands

Step 4:

Heat the pan on med-high heat and ensure it is hot before you start to roast the bread on it.

Step 5:

Put the flattened bread on the pan. Make sure you put the flour side up. Spread some water on it. This helps remove the excess flour.

Step 6:

As soon as the water sort of dries up and the first side sort of turns opaque, flip over to roast the second side.

Step 7:

Roast the second side till you see nice brown spots on it.

Step Final:

Once the second side is roasted well, take the pan of the stove and roast the first side directly on the flame.

Step 8:

Enjoy with your favorite curry ‘Chicken Savji’. I made this typical Maharashtrian dinner tonight.

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