Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I wanted to make the German style pretzel with a crunchy exterior and a soft crumb. I think that comes from the water bath you put the formed dough in before you put it in the oven, and crank the oven temperature really high.

Here's my version of the German pretzels. The last time I used baking soda in the water bath, but this time I used brown sugar and I think that made a big difference. What is your trick for getting a crunchy, hard crust?


3 cups All-Purpose Flour
3/4 tsp Instant Dry Yeast
1 tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Salt
1 cup Warm Milk
4 tbsp Brown Sugar (for the water bath)

Mix all the ingredients together. Knead for about 8-10 minutes or until smooth and silky.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a muslin cloth. Let the dough rise for about an hour. Gently deflate and divide into 6 parts.

Bring a quart of water to a rolling boil with the brown sugar. And preheat the oven to 200 deg C.

Roll each part into a long rope (try to get it to about 22" to 24"). Holding each end, twist the two portions of the rope and the fold it back down. Watch this video for shaping instructions.

Gently lift each pretzel with a spatula and lower into the water. Keep it in the water by pushing down on it with the spatula. Let it boil for about 20 seconds per side. You can boil 2-3 pretzels at a time.

Transfer the pretzels to a lightly oiled baking tray. Sprinkle with Kosher salt. Place in the preheated oven for about 10-12 minutes or until a dark golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm with mustard.

This is for Susan @ Wild Yeast for YeastSpotting.

Other pretzels in this blog: Jalapeno Pretzels.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

Oh my goodness. Do you have one day that you just want to indulge? Well, this is the perfect food to indulge in. Its absolutely incredible! I think this was an original Daring Bakers challenge, but I found the recipe on Andrea's incredible blog.

Cinnamon Rolls

(tweaked a little from Andrea's Recipes)

6 1/2 tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Salt
5 1/2 tbsp Butter
1 Egg
3 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp Yeast
1 1/4 cups Milk

For the Cinnamon layer:
6 1/2 tbsp Sugar mixed with 1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon

For the Glaze:
2 cups Icing Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
6 tbsp Milk

Cream the butter. Add the sugar and salt and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat again.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and yeast. Add to the butter mixture. Stir everything together. Add the milk and mix to combine. Empty the contents onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. The dough was really sticky, and I added at least another 1/4 cup of flour as I kneaded. The dough will become soft and absolutely lovely to work with.

Place in a greased bowl, cover with a muslin cloth or cling wrap and keep in a warm place until doubled in size.

Roll out the dough to a rectangle. Spread the cinnamon-sugar mixture all over the rectangle. Roll into a log. I didn't roll it too tight because I didn't want to lose all the lovely texture. Once rolled into the log, cut at about 1" intervals. I got only 6 buns, but maybe I should have cut it thinner.

Place the buns on a greased baking tray. Cover with muslin and let it rise until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 175 deg C. Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. While the rolls are baking, make the glaze.

To make the glaze, just whisk together the icing sugar, milk and vanilla until thick and smooth. Pour over the rolls while still warm out of the oven. Now, I don't know why, but my glaze never ever looks white - I've tried it a few times, and it is always transparent. But it tasted amazing.

Thanks, Andrea, for a fabulous recipe.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mango Bread

Mangoes are back in season! Woohoo! The downside is that this means that summer's here in full force - in April! At an average temperature of 95 deg F, Madras is way way too hot! But... you can't be really too frustrated with the heat when you have gorgeous juicy mangoes to fill you up!

Is there anything better than mangoes with vanilla ice cream? Well, maybe this mango bread! Have you ever visited Joy the Baker? Her blog is absolutely incredible with beautiful photographs. Do take a look, if you haven't already.

This recipe was inspired by her Mango Lime Bread. I made a few changes. Actually, quite a few changes - I omitted the ginger and apples and added walnuts instead. It was simply an amazing bread!

Mango Bread

2 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Cinnamon Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
3 Eggs
3/4 cup Oil (try to use a flavor-less oil, like Safflower)
1 1/4 cup Mango pieces (I had to chop up about 1 1/2 mangoes)
3/4 cup Raisins
1/2 cup Walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, sugar and salt. Crumble in the brown sugar. Add the wet ingredients (oil and eggs). Mix till fully combined. This might be a little difficult but keep stirring and it will come together. Fold in the mango, raisins and walnuts.

Transfer the dough to a greased and floured loaf pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Turn loaf out from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Enjoy the wonderful smell in your kitchen!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ilai Vadam

India is a caste-ridden society. One of the castes is Brahmins. Traditionally, they were the scholars, preachers and educators. Now, Brahmins make up about 4 % of the entire population. Now, in the Brahmin class, there is a sub-category called Iyengars (pronounced eye-en-gars). Though there aren't many glaring differences between the sub-categories, there are subtle differences. Some of the subtle differences exist in the food.

South Indian food is mostly healthy with subtle flavors, steamed or cooked with a bare minimum of oil. One of the lesser known foods of the Iyengars is Ilai Vadam (Ilai means Leaf in Tamil and Vadam is a crispy snack - but in this case, the vadam isn't fried, but steamed).

It seems to be a dying food (if there's any such thing!). We love it in our house. Its a time-consuming activity, but so worth the effort. Basically, its a batter of rice and sago, mixed with green chillies and cumin. It is ladled over banana leaves and steamed until done.

This is going to be a pictorial explanation of the process.

Ilai Vadam
(Steamed rice flour spiced pancakes on banana leaves)

Makes 25-30, depending on size

1 cup Raw Rice
1/2 cup Sago Pearls
4 Green Chillies
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
Salt, to taste
2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
15 Banana Leaves, each cut into half (you could also use saran wrap cut into squares or thin plastic sheets that hold up when steamed. I'm sure it's difficult to get banana leaves in most places, so you could use plastic wrap if you must.)

1st Day:
Soak the rice in water for 2 hours. Grind with water to a thick, smooth consistency. Cover and keep aside (leave it outside - do not put it in the refrigerator).

2nd Day Evening:

Soak the sago in water.

3rd Day Morning:
Grind the soaked sago with green chillies and salt to a smooth consistency.

Mix the sago batter with the rice flour batter. (The rice flour batter has been left outside for 3 days now and might have developed some dark spots - this is fine and is expected - it has not gone bad, and you don't have to throw it away! )

Add the cumin seeds and oil to the mixed batter.

Prepare a steamer. I used a tall steamer with about 2 cups of water at the bottom. Then put an inverted plate or bowl or any flat surface at the top. Make sure you have a close fitted lid.

Now spread about a ladle-ful of batter onto a banana leaf (you have to do this one at a time), in a circular motion (like you would for a dosa) and try to spread it as thin as possible.

Carefully lift the leaf and put it on the flat surface.

Close the lid and let it steam for about 2-3 minutes.

There will be puffed up little bubbles all over, which will flatten out after a few seconds.

You could just peel off the leaf and eat it. Or you could roll it up into a cigar-shape. Or, you could add some stir-fried veggies and roll up to make a steamed Indian-style spring roll!

I'm not sure if anyone reading this will try it, but if you do, kudos to you for trying something new. I hope you enjoy it as much as we love it.

This is as traditional an Indian food as you can get! :-) I wanted to tell everyone about it just to spread the word and hope that this beautiful dish doesn't die into non-existence.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Nutella Ice Cream

Could there be anything better? I doubt I have to sell this one to you - if you like Nutella and ice cream, well, there isn't much else to say, is there?

Nutella is God's way of letting you know there is a heaven! It's a chocolate hazelnut spread (for breads, or just about anything else) that is truly divine. Go, run, to the store and buy some if you haven't tried it.

When I saw the recipe on Sugarlaws, I knew I absolutely had to make it. I'm a Nutella-holic.

Nutella Ice Cream with Roasted Almonds
(inspired from Sugarlaws' Nutella Ice Cream)

1/3 cup Nutella
1/2 cup Cream (I used regular cream, but use heavy cream if you have it)
1/3 cup Sugar
1 cup Milk
1 tbsp Vodka (alcohol keeps ice cream soft. You could leave it out if you want)
1/2 cup Toasted and Slivered Almonds

Mix together all the ingredients except for the almonds. Beat well. Pour into a plastic container (use a shallow container if making by hand). Add the almonds and mix to combine. Close and put it in the freezer. If you have an ice cream machine, follow the instructions.

If not, remove the container every 1 1/2 - 2 hours and churn the ice cream completely. Make sure you get all the frozen parts on the sides of the container. Initially a hand blender would work very well. Repeat the churning about 3-4 times, until ice cream is completely set.

Enjoy. This is truly one of the best ice creams I've ever had.

Similar posts on this blog: Vanilla Ice Cream, Nutella Brownies.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

Or... Mud Muffins. They truly look like mounds of mud. But they are oh-so-delicious. And completely easy to put together. They are great to serve as dessert with ice cream when you need a quick fix.

And they don't have eggs, so you get to lick the spoon after mixing the batter!

Chocolate Muffins

(makes 6 muffins)

1 cup Flour
3/4 cup Sugar
scant 1/4 cup Cocoa
1/2 tsp Cinnamon Powder
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Buttermilk
1/8 cup Oil
1 tsp Vanilla
1 cup Chocolate Chips (or a mix of Chocolate Chips and Nuts to equal 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 200 deg C.

Combine all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, baking soda and salt). Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla and stir till combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and/or nuts.

And you can taste the batter because there are NO EGGS!

Divide the batter equally (or as equally as possible) between greased muffin cups (if you're using a non-stick pan, you don't need to grease it).

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Mmm. Delicious!

This is off to Madhuram @ Madhuram's Eggless Cooking for the Egg Substitute Event: Yogurt/Buttermilk.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cucumber Salad

In India, these tender cucumbers are common street food - sold cut with a little bit of salt and chilli powder. The cucumber is soft enough to eat without peeling - just wash, slice off the two ends and cut into pieces.

Aren't they gorgeous?

To celebrate these cucumbers, here's a really lovely flavorful and cool salad that's extremely easy to put together and looks impressive. It's a nice addition to a summer lunch!

Cucumber Salad
(adapted from Vidhu Mittal's "Pure and Simple")

2 Cucumbers, sliced thin

1/2 cup Yogurt (I used non-fat, but I'm sure any kind of yogurt will work)
2 tbsp Mint Leaves, chopped
2 tsp Powdered Sugar
1 tsp Vinegar
A pinch of Salt

For the Garnish:
1/4 cup Peanuts, chopped

Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl. Keep refrigerated.

When ready to serve, spoon the dressing over the cucumbers and top with peanuts.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Khara Bread

In Bangalore there's this bakery called VB Bakery that sells loaves and loaves of this bread. While on vacation in Bangalore, this would be a daily tea time snack - a slice of hot, buttered khara (khara means spicy) bread.

I still bring back a loaf every time I visit Bangalore. I tried to recreate it at home, and it was amazing. The same spicy taste with the incredibly soft crumb.

Khara Bread
(Bread with Chillies, Onions and Cilantro)
Makes 2 Loaves

For the Flavoring:
1 cup Onions, chopped fine
2-3 tbsp Green Chillies, chopped fine
1 cup Cilantro leaves, chopped fine

Saute the onions and green chillies (separately) in a teaspoon of oil. Set aside.

For the Bread
(I used a variation of Peter Reinhart's White Bread from the Bread Baker's Apprentice)

4 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Milk (I used 2% milk)
3 tbsp Sugar
2 tsp Instant Dry Yeast
1 large Egg, beaten
3 1/4 tbsp Butter, melted
1 1/2 cups Water (you might need more as you knead, so keep some on hand)

Mix together the flour, salt, milk, sugar and yeast in a bowl. Add in the egg and butter and mix to combine. Pour in a little bit of water at a time until the dough begins to come together. There shouldn't be any obvious dry spots, and all the flour should be combined. If the dough is dry, add a few drops of water. If its too sticky, add a tiny dusting of flour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and start kneading the bread. Knead for about 8 minutes. The dough will be smooth and soft. Now press the bread out into a slightly rectangular shape. Add the cilantro, onions and chillies in the middle and bring the sides of the dough over the filling to enclose it (I've just found that adding flavoring to dough is easier this way, but you can use any method you want).

Start kneading again for about 2 minutes. As you knead the fillings will get evenly distributed through the dough.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a muslin cloth and leave in a warm area of the house. Allow the dough to double, approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the dough and divide in two. Shape each part into a loaf - I rolled them gently into a log, tucking in the corners slightly. Place them in a greased loaf pans, cover with a muslin cloth and allow to double in size, approximately 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown on top. They should also be brown on the sides, when removed from the pan and make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.

Remove from pans and allow to cool on a wire rack for an hour (I waited maybe 20 minutes!).

As you can see the crumb was really really soft and lovely.

The small hole in the middle is from an air pocket formed while rising (didn't affect the bread but kinda let some butter drip through when toasted and buttered!).

This is off to Susan @ Wild Yeast for Yeast Spotting.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sevai (Thin Rice Noodles)

Sevai is a huge south Indian favorite. They are essentially thin rice noodles and are either eaten plain or mixed with spices to make it savory or like a sweet pudding. It is sort of difficult to make - it needs a bit of muscle work - but no more than, say, kneading dough or churning ice cream!

The rice noodles are thin and delicate and absolutely delicious.


1 cup Parboiled Rice (or puzhungal arisi), soaked in water for 2 hours
Salt, to taste
2 tbsp Oil

Special equipment needed: Sevai press. The traditional ones were large and stood on the floor (that's the one I have). Now you get smaller, sleeker table-top versions - even automatic electric ones, that require you to just push a button.

After soaking, grind the salt and rice together with the water until smooth.

Heat a saucepan with the oil and add the batter. Keep stirring for approximately 10 minutes or until thick.

Remove from the stove and while warm, roll into tennis-ball sized balls. Steam the balls for about 1/2 hour, until cooked and tender.

Place the balls, one at a time, in the compartment of the press.

Turn the handle a couple of times, and presto - out comes the beautiful sevai!

Serve hot with more kozhambu. I've also frozen sevai and it keeps well for up to 3 months. When you are ready to serve, just sprinkle on some water and heat, covered, in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Other popular types of sevai: Mango Lemon Sevai, Coconut Sevai, Sweet Sevai and a healthy Ragi (finger millet or african millet - available in most Indian grocery stores) Sevai.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Oatmeal Chocolate Raisin Cookies

And we get to Sweet and Simple Bakes to start the month on a great note. My favorite cookies in the world are oatmeal raisin and what better way than to add chocolate to it? They were, in short, fantastic! Do try this at home.

Oatmeal Chocolate Raisin Cookies

(recipe from Sweet and Simple Bakes - I changed it a little bit)

1/2 cup Butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup Caster Sugar
1/2 cup Soft Brown Sugar
1 Egg
2 tbsp Water
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 1/4 cups Rolled Oats (the recipe was for 9 oz or 1.12 cups, but I added more to get it to a dough consistency)
1 cup Self-Raising Flour (again, the original recipe called for 1/2 cup or 4 oz, and I had to add more)
1 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup Raisins

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C or 350 deg F.

Cream the butter. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy.
Add the egg, water and vanilla and beat well, until creamy. Now add the oats, flour and salt and beat on slow until blended. Fold in the chocolate chips and raisins until thoroughly combined.

At this point, I had a bit of a problem. You have to roll it into walnut-sized balls - but I couldn't roll it at all because it was really really sticky, which is why I added that extra flour and oatmeal that I mentioned above.

Okay, so now roll the dough into walnut sized balls. Keep them slightly apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or golden brown and slightly soft in the middle. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Thanks again, Rosie and Maria for a winner recipe!

Other cookies on this blog: Double Chocolate Chip, Potato Chip Cookies, Snickerdoodles, Peanut Butter Cookies, Butter Cookies and Savory Cookies. Yeah, looks like there's way way too many cookies on here!!