Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Not sure what it is about May, but I joined a LOT of groups! First I joined the Daring Bakers AND the Daring Cooks! Next I joined the Bread Bakers Apprentice Challenge! I had an extremely busy month and enjoyed every minute.

I was apprehensive about joining the Daring Bakers, but their challenges are always so technique based that I knew I would be learning a lot. I'm glad I did. The first challenge in itself has taught me so much!

The May Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Strudel dough

from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I did the entire thing by hand because I don't own a stand mixer. And everything came out okay!). Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.

Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.

Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.

Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

I did two kinds of strudel. One was the traditional apple strudel that was given to us by the Daring Bakers.

Apple strudel

from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper).

Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands or a feather pastry brush (I used a regular pastry brush). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-wide strip.

Mix the apples with the raisins and rum, and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

The second one I tried was a spicy vegetable and cheese filling.

Vegetable & Cheese Strudel

1 cup Peas
1 cup Green Bell Pepper, chopped
4-5 Onions, slices
3-4 Carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup Mushrooms, chopped
Crushed Red Pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
1 cup fresh grated Mozzarella

Saute the vegetables together until tender. Add salt and crushed red pepper to taste.

Spread the vegetables about 3 inches from the rolled out strudel dough. Top with the mozzarella.

Roll the strudel as described above. Brush with melted butter. And bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.

Allow to cool for 30 minutes before slicing.

I actually loved the apple strudel, and a lot more than the veggie version. I'm sure I could've been more creative with the savory strudel. Next time I'm going to try it with mushrooms and feta cheese and maybe drizzled with balsamic...sounds delicious! :-)

There will definitely be a next time. Its far easier than it sounds and a lot of fun to do too!

Thank you for a fun challenge, and excited to be part of the Daring Bakers!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


As the second bread in our Bread Bakers Apprentice Challenge, we were to tackle a Greek Celebration Bread, Artos. There are several variations of the basic bread. One of them is Christopsomos, a beautiful, decorative bread full of lovely flavors! For the recipe, please see Google Books.

We start with a poolish of water, flour and yeast. Allow it to rest overnight for a few hours at room temperature and then in the refrigerator. It will be all lovely and bubbly the next day.

Then add the rest of the flour, butter and lovely spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves), yeast, oil, honey and eggs. I left out the allspice because I couldn't find them in the store, and instead increased the quantity of cinnamon (because I just love cinnamon!).

This is the basic Artos bread. To make the variation, add dried fruit (cranberries/dates/figs/cherries), walnuts and raisins. I used dried chopped dates, walnuts and golden raisins. Be sure to include these in the final stages of kneading the dough before the bulk fermentation.

Allow the dough to double in size (about 90 minutes).

After the bulk ferment, divide the dough into 1/3rds and 2/3 rds. Wrap up the smaller portion and put it away in the refrigerator. The larger portion is shaped into a boule, then lightly oiled and allowed to proof at room temperature for about an hour.

When you are ready to bake the bread, take out the smaller piece and divide into half. Roll each half into a rope. Cross the ropes on top of the boule and let the ends hang down. Split each end and roll up to form a fun decorative pattern. If you're having trouble making the ends stick to the boule, apply a little bit of water.

Bake at 350 deg F for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan for even baking, and bake another 20-25 minutes. While the bread is baking, make a glaze of water, sugar, honey and lemon extract (I left this out because I didn't have it).

Brush the glaze onto the bread after you take it out of the oven and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds.

The bread was absolutely delicious. I made it on Mother's Day and my mother loved it. The crumb is soft and filled with the deliciousness of raisins, walnuts and dates.

The crust is sweet and sticky with the glaze and the sesame seeds.

I'll definitely be making this bread again!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Baked "Fries"

This is one the simplest recipes ever. I make this very often as a side at home and everyone constantly asks me for the recipe. I have a friend who requests this every time we have her over for dinner!

It is also very versatile. Use any fresh herbs that you enjoy. Make it spicy, if you'd like. Use different kinds of oil to see how they adapt - it's totally up to you. But the concept is the same. Here, I used fresh rosemary and olive oil with a touch of crushed red pepper.

Baked "Fries"

3-4 medium Potatoes, cut into wedges or thinner for fries (I used red-skinned, but any kind works fine)
2 tsp Olive Oil (you could also try coconut oil/ sunflower oil/ truffle oil/ garlic-infused oil)
2 sprigs fresh Rosemary, chopped (or basil/ cilantro/ garlic or a combination of dried herbs)
Crushed Red Pepper, or chilli powder (optional), to taste
Salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.

Toss the potatoes with the olive oil, rosemary, crushed red pepper and salt. Place in a baking tray, as far as possible, in a single layer.

Bake for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Halfway through, use a wooden spatula and stir the potatoes around the pan and return to the oven.

Serve warm.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ricotta Gnocchi

I LOVED my first Daring Cooks challenge. The gnocchi was light and fresh and full of flavor. And, I have to say it was much simpler than I thought it would be. I've made potato gnocchi before which was also delicious, but this was far better! Also, far richer, but hey, once in a while, this is a great indulgence.

I couldn't find fresh ricotta, so used store-bought. Next time, I think I'll try it with paneer. Maybe it might even work with non-fat paneer? Hmm.

Ricotta Gnocchi
(recipe from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook)

2 cups fresh Ricotta
2 large cold Eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp Butter, melted
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1/4 tsp Salt
All-Purpose Flour for rolling the gnocchi

Tie the ricotta in a muslin cloth and strain it overnight. It took me the night and the entire next day to finally strain all the water out of the ricotta. I resorted to placing a heavy weight on the muslin cloth, which really helped.

Place the drained ricotta in a bowl and mash slightly with the back of a spoon to make it smooth. Add the beaten eggs and mix thoroughly. Add melted butter, cheese and salt and combine to get a smooth and fluffy mixture. Add any flavorings you'd like, though try to keep it simple since you don't want to weigh down the cheese. I kept it simple without any additions.

Make a bed of all-purpose flour about a 1/4" thick on a baking sheet or tray. Also put a saucepan of water, heavily salted, on the stove and let it begin to simmer.

Take about 2-3 tsps of the mixture and gently push it out onto the bed of flour. With the spoon or the tip of your finger roll the cheese over the flour, so most parts of it get coated with a thin film of flour. Gently pick up the cheese and cradle it in both hands and move it from one hand to another being careful not to squeeze too tight or the gnocchi won't be light. Try to get the gnocchi into an oval shape.

Gently lower the gnocchi into the simmering water. It will sink and then rise to the top. Let it cook for about 3-5 minutes. If the gnocchi falls apart, there was too much water in the ricotta - add one egg white to the mixture and beat it in - that should hold it together.

If it doesn't fall apart (mine didn't), then great. Go ahead and make the rest of the cheese into gnocchi and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let it rest in the refrigerator for an hour and firm up.

Bring the water back up to a simmer and slip 3-4 gnocchi into the water at a time and cook for 3-5 minutes (as in the test done earlier). Remove with a slotted spoon.

Serve warm with your choice of sauce. I really wanted to do pesto, but was afraid it might be too heavy. So I just drizzled with a little bit of olive oil and grated some fresh Parmesan on top with some black pepper.

I don't think there's any doubt I'll make this again. It was simple and delicious and a sure crowd-pleaser. Thanks to Ivonne and Lisa for a wonderful first challenge and I'm excited to be part of the Daring Cooks!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Anadama Bread

When I first got the book, Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, I made quite a few of the recipes and every single one of them was fabulous. And then Nicole of Pinch My Salt came up with this idea of getting a bunch of people together and baking all the recipes from the book.

And what a great bunch of bakers - we're from all over the world and have lots of people who've never baked bread before, to people who have been baking bread since they were 10! Check out the other members of the Bread Bakers Apprentice Challenge.

We're starting with the first recipe and working our way to the end, week by week! So first up is the Anadama Bread. A New England bread, I had never heard of it before. Its made with cornmeal and molasses and has a crunchy, sweet flavor.

Mine didn't come out well! I mixed the cornmeal with water and let it soak for about 8 hours. The next day, I added the molasses, flour and the rest of the ingredients. The dough was soft (except for the coarse corn meal), and it was easy to get to the windowpane stage. I then put it into the refrigerator to proof overnight.

The next day, I left it out for an hour, and then shaped it into loaves. I put the loaves back into the refrigerator for about 6-7 hours. I then took them out and proofed them at room temperature for 3 hours. I should have waited longer, but it just didn't seem like they were going to rise to above the lip of the loaf pans. They were nowhere close! The first proof was beautiful, not sure what happened to the second rise.

Anyway, I then baked the bread for 50 minutes (rotating the pans half way). They came out not looking much like sandwich loaves.

But we sliced, buttered and toasted them and all was well with the world! Everyone at home loved it and we finished the two loaves in 2 days!

Next up in the BBA Challenge: Christopsomos, a Greek Celebration Bread!

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I just realized that I totally missed my 100th post. What better way to celebrate than to acknowledge all the people whose blogs are inspiring, funny, lovely and drool-worthy! So here we go!

I want to thank Jamie, Swati, Latha and Siri for giving me the Inspiration Award. Jamie originally started this award - her blog totally rocks and her food is just simple and delicious.
The award is a great idea - your blogs are truly inspirational as well.

Please check out the rules at Jamie's blog. Her blog rocks!!

I also got the Arte Y Pico Award from VegeYum. I am honored - thank you so much!

I want to thank Delhi Belle, Skribles and Gaurav for the Good Chat Blog award. That was really nice of you - I'm glad you enjoy the rants! :)

And I want to thank Ranji and Skribles for the Nice Matters Award.

Madhavi gave me the Blogging with a Purpose Award. Thanks so much Madhavi!

Priya and Jamie gave me the You Make My Day Award. Thanks so much. You made my day!

And thank you Maheshwari, Bharti and Vandana for the Rockin' Girl Blogger Award. You guys rock too!

And thanks, Rekha, Rajani and Maheshwari for the Yummy Blog Award!

Who doesn't need luck? Thanks, Arundati and Sunshinemom, for passing on the magic genie! :)

And thank you, Arundati for the Best Friend Forever award. Its wonderful to have gotten to know you!

Ramya passed on the I'm a Chocoholic Award. Um... How did you know? :D Yup, I Love Chocolate!

Priya passed on several awards to me!! She's so generous. I love her recipes - they're different and simple. She's definitely the Kreativ Blogger!

Rajee and Priya both gave me the Perfect Blend of Friendship Award! I can never say no to coffee! :)

And, finally, I received the Preemio Blogger Award from Holler. Thanks so much!! You totally rock! :)

Thanks everyone!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Beetroot Rasam

One of my favorite blogs is Lisa's Kitchen. Her recipes are simple, vegetarian and always delicious - right up my alley! When her blog was chosen for last month's Tried & Tasted, I bookmarked this recipe, but life got in the way and though I made the rasam, I didn't get a chance to write or post about it.

Rasam and rice is my all-time favorite comfort food. It is a south Indian dish made with lentils, pepper and spices, and usually gets its tartness from tomatoes (unlike sambar, which tends to use more tamarind). It is a fluid soup-like dish that is traditionally served with rice, but a lot of people drink it as soup as well. The Anglo-Indian version of Rasam is the famous soup, Mulligatawny (which is actually a combination of the Tamil words milagu (pepper) and thani (water)).

There are many different variations of rasam. My favorite is the tomato, but other popular ones are lemon rasam and pepper rasam (pepper rasam does wonders in clearing up sinuses!). But I think I might have a new favorite!

The beetroot rasam was so delicious, though, that I simply had to post it - even though the event is over. The taste was light and full of flavor and the color is just brilliant! She got the recipe from Chandra Padmanabhan's Dakshin, which is one of my favorite cookbooks, and the only one I had through all my years living away from home.

I'm not posting the recipe here, but I do hope you'll visit Lisa's blog and try this out.

Other rasams on this blog: Mysore Rasam.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Vanilla Cupcakes

If you haven't heard of Sweet and Simple Bakes, do check it out. Maria and Rosie have started a baking blog for amateur bakers about a year ago. I've tried to take part in almost all their bakes, and they've all been amazing.

This month's bake was no different. I tried them this afternoon and they were all gone in about 2 hours. My daughter and her friends thought they were awesome and literally couldn't stop eating them!

Vanilla Cupcakes
(recipe from Sweet and Simple Bakes)

Supposed to make 12, but I got about 9

6 oz Self-Raising Flour
6 oz Butter, softened
6 oz Caster Sugar
3 large Eggs
2 tbsp Milk
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

For the Buttercream Icing:
5 oz Butter, softened
11 oz Icing Sugar
1 tbsp Milk
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.

Mix together the flour, baking powder and caster sugar. Add the butter, eggs, milk and vanilla. Beat until well combined. Spoon the mixture into paper-case lined muffin pans. Bake for about 20 minutes. Leave to cool for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile make the buttercream. Beat the butter until soft. Add the icing sugar and combine. Add the vanilla and milk and beat well until light and fluffy. You could add food coloring too if you'd like colorful cupcakes.

Spread the buttercream onto the cupcakes. Decorate as you wish. I used Gems (an Indian equivalent of M&Ms).

Thanks, Maria and Rosie. This is something I've already made 3 times this month, and will definitely make again!