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!

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!