Simple Eggless Bread Loaf with cheese and pepper

I think I got my bread baking mojo back. After a hiatus of 3 years, I am back in the game.

Pepper Cheese loaf cut

Baking bread is a time consuming affair and slightly complicated than just throwing in a few ingredients like we do while baking a cake. First it starts with buying or finding the right kind of yeast. Then adapting a recipe to the type of yeast you have, blooming of the yeast, mixing, kneading and first rise, shaping, the second rise and finally baking. So a simple loaf can take anywhere upto 5 hours from start to finish. When my baby was little, I couldn’t guarantee the loaf that I would come to shape it after its first rise, or I would be able to knead it for 5-10 mins without the baby requiring me on an urgent basis (with babies, it’s always very urgent). But now that he is over two, I am beginning to enjoy baking bread again. Its euphoric to see it rise. It is instinctive, scientific and artistic all in one go.

This here today is a simple loaf with cheese and some spices. I baked it twice on the weekend (it was that good), once with cheese and crushed black pepper and the second time with more cheese and a pizza spice mixture which I had at home – very similar to those Oregano spice packets which come with Dominoes Pizza. Its a fool-proof recipe, just follow the steps and the notes to bake your own bread.

This recipe is from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger is adapted to suit Indian flour and humidity conditions.

Whole loaf of pepper cheese bread

 

Eggless Bread Loaf with cheese and pepper

What you will need :

  • 2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup lukewarm water
  • 300 grams all purpose flour (maida)
  • 50 grams whole wheat flour (aatta)
  • 2 grams bread improver (see notes)
  • 90 grams freshly shredded processed Cheddar (I used Amul)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper or any other spice mixture (see notes)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • 4 tablespoon butter (I use Amul salted)
  • 3/4 cup cool water
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used Tabasco)

What to do :

  1. In a big cup or a glass, warm 1/3 cup of water. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over this water and gently stir it. Keep it in the corner of your kitchen platform till it becomes foamy, about 10-15 mins.
  2. Meanwhile, in a big bowl, combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, bread improver, pepper and salt. Mix it with a whisk to ensure that bread improver is evenly incorporated.
  3. Add 4 tablespoons butter to this flour mixture.
  4. After the yeast mixture has become foamy, stir it with a spoon, and add the 3/4 cup cool water to it. Add the hot sauce to this mixture.
  5. Now with the dough hooks of a electric beater beating, add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture in a steady stream so that it all starts coming together to form a sticky soft dough.
  6. After the dough forms a soft elastic ball that clears the sides of the bowl, add the cheese and beat it for another minute so that all the cheese gets incorporated in it. If the dough is too sticky, add some more flour by a tablespoon , if the dough is too dry, add a teaspoon of water. (See notes)
  7. Using a plastic dough scraper, transfer the dough onto a smooth floured surface. Knead it slightly with the plastic scraper. It will still be an extremely sticky dough, just keep flouring the surface and keep bringing the dough together with the scraper.
  8. Grease a big bowl with olive oil or butter and put the dough ball in it. Turn it once to grease all sides of the dough.
  9. Cover it with a plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature till it doubles in bulk, about one hour.
  10. Grease a 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with butter.
  11. Turn out the dough onto a clean floured surface. Shape it into an oblong loaf and place it in the prepared pan. Cover it loosely with a plastic wrap. Let it rise again at room temperature until it reaches 1 inch above the top of the pan. Around 1 and 1/2 hours.
  12. Twenty minutes before baking, pre-heat oven to 170C. Using a sharp knife slash the loaf one-three times diagonal across top,  no more than 1/2 inch deep.
  13. Place the pan on a rack in the centre (or bottom rack – see notes ) of the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes till it is lightly browned and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped with your finger.
  14. Transfer the loaf from the pan to a cooling rack. Let it cool before slicing.

Kneading and shaping the dough

Notes :

  • Adding bread improver to a bread recipe is optional, but I have found that since bread flour is not available in India, and there is no standardised flour type, it is better to add bread improver. Approximately 0.01% of the quantity of the flour and the results are remarkable. To know where to buy it, check this.
  • Pepper is a strong spice so 1 and 1/2 teaspoon is sufficient. If you are replacing it with anything other spice mixture, you can use 2- 3 teaspoon easily.
  • For point no. 6 : I have found that in hot and tropical climate like ours, generally the dough becomes very sticky and needs more flour. So you can add a little amount to the dough or generously flour the work surface so that it gets absorbed.
  • Indian ovens like MR, Bajaj are smaller and hence it is prefarable to keep the pan on the lowest rack and bake. Because the pan is tall and dough has risen 1 inch above the pan. So if you keep it on middle rack, the top gets too browned or burnt. So keep it not he lowest rack, with both rods on. If you have a big commercial oven, use the middle rack.
  • Do not let the loaf cool in the pan, or the bottom and sides will become moist. Always use a cooling rack to cool it.

slices of bread

Pepper and Cheese bread pinterest

Songs that stay and a Cheddar Cheese bread

Yesterday someone sent me an audio clip with snippets of best Bollywood songs from the 1950s-60s. More than two decades before I was born. But those songs are very close to my heart, I have heard each one of them at least a hundred times, silently playing on the radio or the cassette player in the background, while our routine life went on in the foreground. They are so ingrained in my memory, that now when I listen to them I can see parts of my life in my mind as if a movie was playing.

Like those summer afternoons at my uncle and aunts place, where the radio would be constantly humming in the background. While we would all sit for lunch, my uncle would be whistling the tune, seated in his signature white banian or a vest and he would draw our attention to the different beats in the song with his myriad hand gestures. All of us kids wished at least on some days he would change the radio station to something “new and flashy”, but perhaps that old radio knew only those old songs. And now, because of some family issues, I haven’t spoken to my uncle in over two years. But yesterday those medley of songs burst open a locked chapter in my head and and I painfully longed to be in that place, just one more time. I wanted to pick up the phone and call him, there is nothing in the world that cant be set right by talking about it and my heart knew that this is no exception.

But my cautious brain did not let me make the call. Not now. Not when you are 33 weeks pregnant and can’t afford to be depressed. Not now when you are on bed-rest to avoid premature delivery, and you have all the time in the world to think and obsess over little memories tugging at your heart.

Not now. I let it pass.

But songs have that power on us. They become a representative of different eras in life. A particularly trashy song, which was very famous back in early 90s reminds me of the great times I had with my mom and dad, in our small apartment, where most of the time the three of us would be huddled in one room. Singing and dancing to that song, life felt good. Now when I look at the video, I cringe, That’s besides the point.

Or, the first song any guy sung for me was Roxette- She’s Got the Look. I had never heard that song before. But we were 18, and my boyfriend was participating in a college fest with his little band, and thats when he sung this song for me. I realised I was concentrating so hard on the lyrics, lest I miss something or some clue, and totally I ignored the wonderful melody. And I couldn’t show that I had never heard of the song, so I came home and played it on youtube a dozen times before going to college the next day. And yes, that song stuck in my head. Even now, if I am feeling low, I listen to that upbeat number, being 18 and have someone sing songs for you, was pretty darn good.

Needless to say, it was followed by Roxette’s very own – Must have been love… But it’s over now ; but thats for another story.

And then one the songs closest to my heart is “Hey there Delilah” by Plain White Ts. it was just 2-3 months after my wedding, and my husband was going on a long official tour. And he sung and recorded this one on my phone, I could listen to it whenever I wanted to, and boy, I heard that minute long clip, million times a day.

“Don’t you worry about the distance
I’m right there if you get lonely
Give this song another listen
Close your eyes
Listen to my voice, it’s my disguise
I’m by your side” 🙂

And as I have said before, I have a constant jukebox and a running list in my head of songs I want to sing to my little baby. I may not have a very melodious voice or a lot of times I cant keep a track of the pitch I started singing in, but that doesn’t stop me singing .

Because as Ella Fitzgerald used to say, “The only thing better than singing is more singing”

Cheers!

Rutvika

*******       *******       ********

And this post marks my 100th post on this blog. Its been a hundred recipes, a hundred stories and a huge part of my life. May be I should commemorate with a song 🙂

And with this, I have a special Cheesy bread with toasted sesame seeds. Let me tell you, this is one indulgent bread. About 30% in the baked bread is pure cheese, which gets sets into a beautiful marbled pattern in the bread. Eat it freshly with some salad and you are set for the day!

Cheddar Cheese Bread with toasted Sesame Seeds

Cheddar cheese bread

Adapted from The Bread Bible. Makes two 9*5 inch loaves

What you will need :

  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • 2 cups warm water (not hot)
  • 3/4 tablespoon instant yeast.
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 to 6 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 cups Cheddar cheese (I used processed Britannia cheese)

Bread making process

What to do :

  1. Toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet over medium heat. Shaking the pan often, cook until they are golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve in another bowl to cool completely.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup of the warm water in a bowl. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the surface of the water.Stir to dissolve and let it stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes, till foamy.
  3. In a large bowl, using a whisk, combine remaining 1 and 1/2 cup warm water + oil + salt + sesame seeds + eggs + 2 cups all purpose flour + yeast mixture. Whisk hard until it forms a smooth mixture.
  4. Then add half of the shredded cheese and the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a shaggy dough is formed. Switch to a wooden spoon when necessary to mix the dough.
  5. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and silky, about 4-5 minutes, dusting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time to prevent sticking.
  6. Place the dough in a greased deep container. Turn once to coat the top and cover with a plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  7. Gently deflate the dough. Turn the dough into a lightly floured work surface. Grease two 9*5 inch loaf tins or one loaf tin and one 9 inch cake tin.
  8. Pat the dough into a thick 12 inch rectangle. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, fold the dough around the cheese and knead gently a few times to distribute the cheese throughout the dough. This will produce marbled effect.
  9. Cover the dough with a tea towel or a plastic wrap to prevent drying and let rest for 5-10 minutes to relax the dough.
  10. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and shape it into a loaf or a desired pattern in the cake tin. Place the loaf seam side down in the pans.
  11. Cover loosely with a plastic wrap and let it rise for 45 minutes until doubled.
  12. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 190C. Using a sharp knife, make small incisions on the dough.
  13. Bake for 40-45 minutes till the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped with your finger.
  14. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack and cool immediately before slicing.
  15. Enjoy your freshly made bread!

Fancy shaped cheddar cheese bread

Cheesy Onion and Sesame Seed Braided Bread

The Baby kicked!

Yesterday my baby (or foetus, if you prefer to call it that way) kicked  a feel-able kick for the first time. A real knock-off one which the father could sense too. And once again I realised what they show in movies is total crap! The baby does not know what “All is Well, All is Well” is and kicking the first time can not really be defined.

I had been feeling the flutters since the last two weeks, as if I am slowly releasing an air-filled bottle deep under water and the bubbles are gushing out. Thats how the initial baby movements felt. And then I would frantically place my husband’s hand on my tummy so that he could feel it and I would momentarily stop breathing. Lest my breathing rhythm would camouflage the baby’s kick. But naah, I could just feel it inside, and nothing through the layers of the womb and skin. So the Eureka moment of “He kicked/ She kicked – for the first time” was spread out over a two weeks!

Similar thing had happened when we found out I was pregnant. Being led on by the movies, I was expecting a lightning moment where I realise I had conceived, and would tell the husband, he would lift me in his arms, we would sing a song or two and already start dreaming about baby’s names. But noh! It was a long, excruciating process where you confirm that you are really pregnant.

I had a stack of home pregnancy tests, anticipating I would miss my periods and intended to take the test the very day I missed them. Curiosity was killing me, but still we decided to wait for a day. I couldn’t sleep all night, as if it were result day the next morning. And at 4 am, I finally woke up and took the test, unable to resist it any longer. In the sleepy groggy state I waited for a second for the strip to change color. It did not. I was disappointed and came back to sleep. The husband had woken up by now, consoled me saying that we will check it again a few days later and then he went to use the bathroom. I slept.

When we woke up at 7 am, husband said to me that the strip lying on the counter had changed color. I went and checked, and it had! Very slightly, but there was a change. Duh. We had to take the test again, and till then nothing could be confirmed. And then the next day there was another home pregnancy test, and then later on the blood test at the gynaecologist, and then finally it was confirmed that I am pregnant.

All the song singing and whirling and twirling stayed in my head.

Someone may say I am watching too many shitty movies and soaps, but they are a source of education. The first time I saw the home pregnancy test was in FRIENDS and Rachel has to be thanked for it. So there you go.

Another dilemma I am now facing is when I see mothers talking to their babies in the womb. I find it REALLY awkward to look down at the tummy and talk. Sure, I have conversations with the baby, but in my head. I can’t, for the love of life, unmute myself and quote Einstein to that little tadpole like thing deep inside layers of amniotic fluid. The father talks to the little one, but it is as if he is talking to me and I am responding to what he is saying. But me saying something to my stomach in an empty room? Well, thats not happening.

I just hope that doesn’t make me any less of a mother, but I have to preserve my sanity. I am sure the baby will eventually know my voice, albeit without a woman who talks to her body parts.

Lovingly,

Rutvika

*******       *******       *******

My other love has been Beth Hensperger’s book The Bread Bible. I have made several breads from the book before like this one or this one or even this beautiful one. All three use entirely different methods and with some adjustment of flour, the bread dough shapes up beautifully. There is really nothing like home-baked fresh bread.

And when it comes filled with cheesy onion and sesame seed filling and shaped like this one here, it’s a total winner.

Braided bread

It may look intimidating in the first glance, but it is super easy to shape the bread like this –

Braiding the bread

Cheesy Onion and Sesame Seed Braided Bread

What you will need :

For the dough

  • 3/4 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 110 grams salted butter (at room temperature)
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup hot milk
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 large egg

For the filling –

  • 4 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups chopped onions
  • 3 tablespoon grated parmesan or cheddar cheese
  • 5 tablespoon sesame seeds + 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
  • rich egg glaze of one egg yolk + little milk

What to do :

  1. In a large bowl using an electric beater with paddle attachment, combine yeast + sugar + salt + 1 and 1/2 cup flour.
  2. Add milk and water and beat until creamy for about 1 minute.
  3. Add the egg + softened butter with another 1/2 cup of flour and beat until butter is incorporated.
  4. Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough which releases the sides of the bowl is formed.
  5. Then turn the dough into a lightly floured surface and knead till a soft yet springy dough is formed, dusting with flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Knead for 6-8 minutes by hand.
  6. Place dough in a greased deep container and turn once to coat. Cover with a plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 and 1/2 hours.
  7. Meanwhile prepare filling. In a medium skillet, melt butter + oil. Add onions and cook till translucent and limp but not browned, or the filling will turn bitter. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and sesame seeds. Set aside to cool at room temperature.
  8. Then gently deflate the dough, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Grease or parchment line a baking sheet.
  9. Cut the dough in half. Roll one half into 18×12 inch rectangle. Cut lengthwise into three 4 inch wide strips (4×18 inch.
  10. Carefully spread filling in the centre of each strip, leaving one inch margin on all sides. Fold over the edges and pinch them together, encasing the filling. Lift the ropes and place them on the greased baking sheet one inch apart.
  11. Beginning in the middle braid each rope loosely to each end. Pinch the ends and tuck them under securely. Cover loosely with a plastic wrap and let it double, for 30 minutes.
  12. Twenty minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven to 170C. Gently brush the braid with egg glaze and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  13. Bake for 30-35 minutes till browned on top and sound hollow when tapped. Repeat with the other half of dough.
  14. Let it cool on a wire rack.

Cutting the bread braid

Notes :

  • If using unsalted butter in dough preparation, use 2 teaspoon salt.
  • Depending on the type of flour and humidity conditions, little more or less flour is required to make a soft and springy dough. The book calls for 4 and 1/2 cups, but I had to use 5 cups of flour.
  • If using active dry yeast, use 1 whole tablespoon of yeast.

 

Bon Apetit!

Inside the braid

Orange and olive oil whole wheat breakfast bread

We, the (internet) people

Officially we are going to be the last generation which has known the per-internet age as well as the internet one. We are the link between these two vastly different worlds, and since we have known the other side, it is obvious to yearn for the simplicity of that time, while not wanting to let go off the convenience internet offers.

I was born in 1986, and we got the first personal computer in our house when I was 16 and my brother was 10. With a dial-up internet connection. Yes, the one that used to make whoozing sounds before connecting and all mails had to be downloaded (which were mostly forwarded messages) before the internet connection was lost. And browsing speed was not guaranteed. Additionally, being connected to the internet blocked the telephone land-line and grandmothers resented their only link to the world being broken. That was the time when Orkut had just appeared and was becoming a rage and mobile phone call charges still cost a lot per minute. So we used to give each other ‘missed call’ for fun and agonized if someone picked up the call by mistake. SMSes had to be carefully worded in 160 characters, to send it at a minimum cost.

But that’s all the connectivity we had. Now, just 10-12 years later, we cannot imagine a day without being connected to 100s of ‘friends’ over Facebook, getting an email on the smartphones the instant it is sent, following random people on twitter, posting on social networking groups and anticipating atleast a gazillion likes, looking intently on your cellphones at the dozen whats-app groups and… oh the list is endless.

But it is also an era where Google maps does not let you get lost. Sure, you see a lot more stuff and places because of Trip Advisor, but walking up to locals and asking them the speciality of that place and wandering to reach there, is lost on us. Having a friend over and enjoying a few hours of uninterrupted talking without any calls and messages from the outside world is a luxury of the past. Or suddenly bumping into someone you knew years back and catching up on life is not possible as the Facebook feed already keeps you up-to-date with everything that’s going on. And even hunting for those rare books in old libraries for that one piece of information is no longer required, for Mr. Google is doing all of that for us in an instant.

But who am I to complain? I am a blogger, and having my own website/ blog would not have been possible without the simple and abundant internet today. I want people to follow me, to read what I wrote, to bake what I baked and in general I need to be out there on the scene. It is essential that I post on social groups, engage in discussion over twitter, post pictures on Pinterest, Food-gawker, learn Google analytics to maximize traffic to my blog, and do all that is required for self promotion.

And very frankly, I love it when the blog statistics are booming. I love it when someone writes in to say that I enjoyed this post or what you wrote struck a chord in my heart. I also enjoying finding a long-lost friend via facebook and being in touch with all friends and family over whatsapp.

But what scares me is the amount of validation we are seeking from the internet. If my tweet or post is liked, what I am saying makes sense. If my photo is liked, oh, I am definitely looking pretty. If some suggestions appear when I type my name in Google search, oh,  I am making a mark on the world. It is almost as if who I am is defined constantly by the feedback I get and what I think who I am is not significant anymore.

All these debates arise in my head when I am thinking of what values I want to instill in my kids. I definitely don’t want them addicted to internet from a young age, I want them to form their unbiased opinions about themselves and what they like or dislike, but at the same time they should have access to the hoard of information which internet readily provides.

Oh I need not worry, I will pick up on cues from the internet on how to keep your kids internet free 😉

*******       *******       *******

Last week I baked a very wholesome loaf cake without any butter. It is more of a breakfast bread, not very sweet , but with a beautiful orange flavor and tastes best when eaten with a cup of chai or coffee, or Nutella.

Orange Olive oil loaf

Whole Wheat Orange and Olive Oil Breakfast bread

Recipe adapted from OhtasteandSee

What you will need :

  • Zest of 3 oranges
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  •  a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup Extra virgin Olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup orange juice (from the 3 oranges)
  • butter for greasing the pan

What to do :

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175C. Generously butter a 9×4 inch loaf pan and set it aside.
  2. Zest the 3 oranges and collect the zest in a big bowl. Add caster sugar to the zest and whisk it with a fork or a whisk. The orange oil will get released from the zest and flavor the sugar.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients together, that is the whole wheat flour + all purpose flour+ baking powder + salt.
  4. Add olive oil to the sugar and beat well.
  5. Add the eggs to the olive oil sugar mixture, one at a time and whisk till thick and foamy.
  6. Add the dry ingredients and orange juice to the batter, alternately in 3-4 additions. Fold only till there are no more streaks of flour.
  7. Pour batter in the loaf pan and bake in a pre-heated oven for 50 mins to 1 hour, till a skewer comes out clean.

orange olive oil whole wheat cake

Sesame Whole Wheat Long Rolls

We stay in Mumbai , the biggest financial capital of India, and one of the major cities in the world. Technically, we have everything. Water, electricity, roads, trains, schools, housing complexes, markets, parks, art, theatre, everything. For majority of the people.

But barely 100 feet away from where we live, there is a colony of slums, of tin walls and tarpaulin roofs, of rooms so small that everyone has to squat on the footpath outside the walled tins. No electricity, no running tap water and we are not even talking about anything else. But what they have in abundance is kids. Of varying ages. As if it is a kid making factory, to be let out into the world. At least a dozen kids belonging to three or four houses are always running on the adjacent road, and wait, those parents are not even done yet. Barely 30 odd years old, they still have at least 15 more productive years and the capacity to bring another 5-6 screaming, naked kids into the world, per couple. And we are talking about folks whose daily income is less than Rs. 200.

Now I understand that not everybody gets equal opportunity to study, to work and earn a decent living for themselves and their family. They are entitled to the way they want to manage their life, but for gods sake stop producing so many kids! Often I wonder how those people are unable to comprehend that every additional mouth to feed, to sustain, is a drain on their already meagre income. My heart goes out to them, but there is hardly anything I can do.

Our maid once told me that her drunkard, seasonally employed brother had four kids, before he died of a liver failure, when he was 32. The first born child, was a girl, and hence they had to have another child, in the hope of a son. The second was a son, but he was very sick and they had no hope of him surviving. Hence the third one, another girl who again was expected to live for 2-3 years because of her frail health and thus, they had to have another one, raising the count to four kids. All the kids survived and the oldest girl is in her early teens, but their father, or the sperm donor really, is long dead. Our maid and her other sister now take care of all those kids, in addition to a one or two of their own.

In olden times, in the villages when agriculture was subsistence, it was okay to have a dozen kids who would eventually be helping hands in the field. But that situation no longer applies in the cities of today, where resources and opportunities are limited and highly competitive. The Government provides free primary education, but thats not sufficient at all. It in effect leads to another generation of uneducated youth who would be emulating their parents, because thats all they have known.

But in a way, I find it miraculous how those women manage to bear and rear so many kids despite the circumstances. Nutrition is poor, they don’t have access to vitamin and protein supplements, most of them are doing manual labor; doctor visits and sonographies, if any are limited to emergencies and yet, life finds a way. While we, the educated urban population, on the other hand, thinks at least 300 times before having a kid, spends hours planning a nutritious healthy diet and has a minimum of 6-7 sonographies and a dozen tests to check the wellbeing of the mother and the fetus. None of it is available to those on the streets, and yet despite poor health and diet, those women in the tarpaulin shanties give birth to healthy and kicking babies.

That is nature. Strange and powerful.

Rutvika Charegaonkar


For brunch this weekend, we made Whole wheat rolls. Yes, our house smelled like a bakery and we nibbled on bread and cheese like the French. I have adapted this recipe from The Bread Bible written by Beth Hensperger. It is really a bible, and every time I bake a bread, it is better than the earlier one.

Sesame whole wheat buns

Sesame Whole Wheat Long Rolls

What you will need :

  • 1 and 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter (salted), melted
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon raw sesame seeds
  • 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 to 4 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • Rich egg glaze of one egg + 1 tablespoon milk

What to do :

  1. Pour the warm water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast and pinch of sugar over the surface of the water. Stir to combine and let it stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl using a whisk or an electric hand head beater (with dough hooks), combine milk, remaining sugar, butter, salt, sesame seeds and whole wheat flour. Beat hard until smooth, about 4-5 minutes. Or you can do it in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.
  3. Add the yeast mixture and all purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a dough that just cleans the sides of the bowl is formed. Switch to a wooden spoon when necessary.
  4. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead for about 5 minutes, dsuting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time as needed to make a smooth, soft, slightly sticky dough.
  5. Place the dough in a greased deep bowl. Turn once to grease the top and and cover with a plastic wrap. let it sit at room temperature till doubled in volume, about one hour.
  6. Gently deflate the dough . Turn onto a lightly floured work surface. Grease or parchment line two baking sheets. Divide the dough into 16 equal portions.
  7. Shape each portion into an oblong oval. Roll each oval up from the long end tightly and pinch the seam closed, like a mini french loaf.
  8. Place the rolls 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest until puffy and almost doubled, about 30 minutes. Brush with rich egg glaze before baking.
  9. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 180C. Place the baking sheet on the rack in the centre of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and hollow to sound.
  10. Transfer to a cooling rack.
  11. Spread with some mayonnaise and fresh cucumbers, tomatoes etc and your brunch is ready! I used the Cremica Tandoori mayonnaise which came with the huge gift hamper from Indian FOod Bloggers Meet 2014 😉

Sandwiched long rolls

Notes :

  • I always use Amul salted butter readily available in the market. If you are using unsalted butter, increase the added salt by 1/2 teaspoon.
  • If using active dry yeast, increase the amount to 1 and 1/2 tablespoon.

Buns with mayonnaise

Orange Chocolate chip loaf cake – robust and simple as life mostly is.

There are moments when I terribly miss Paris. The omnipresent Eiffel tower, the sunset over the Seine, the fancy-dressed musicians on the streets, colorful pavlovas dotting the patisseries, tiny little espressos, copper pots clinging to the walls, demure little macaroons, the flea markets, Rodin’s Thinker, carefully curated gardens, the morning vegetable markets, foie grass, carousels and all, but most importantly Danielle, my host in Paris and now my friend.

It was partly because of Danielle, a friend of my dear friend, that my Paris dream came true. I remember the first time I met her, on the bus stop where I was waiting for her to pick me up. I always thought Parisian women are very snooty (and believe me they are), but Danielle looked very kind and warm. She willingly took me to her beautiful apartment and instantly I knew that this month in paris, her home and she, will be a cherished part of my life for years to come.

I miss that 71-year-old, young friend of mine very dearly. At-least once a day, I catch myself remembering something she said, or something around her house, or the French potato gratin she made on my first day in Paris. Sometimes the wine bottle sitting on my shelf makes me think of her so much that I have a temptation to pour a little in a glass and swirl it to check its notes. Or simply make a creamy fish like she did and may be the aroma of the cream being baked will make me feel close to her.

Her bedroom, the room which she gave me generously for a month, was idyllic, like those you see on Pinterest. White French windows with pink and violet flowers in the balcony and the room full of books. How fervently I hoped I could read French, those books were alluring. And Danielle, whose daughter in law is from Kolkatta, and who visits India every year had very cleverly used cotton sarees as in-house curtains. Simple, yet so elegant.

The day before I started school in Le Cordon Bleu, she carefully showed me the way to school, which metro to take, which exit to walk out of, and all in English because I hardly understood French. Oh how it tired her, the act of thinking in French, translating and then talking in English. But we had some great conversations. I always used to look forward to having breakfast or lunch with her, and talking about the oddities of life, the dreams, hopes, desires, tales of cruising along through life and its myriad colorful lanes. How she would say Oh là là when she remembered a sweet thing, and how her eyes would go silent when talking of something estranged. Oh I miss her voice, her pause when she is remembering an english word, her acceptance of reality, her zest to help an older 85-year-old lady staying upstairs, her caramelised leek roast-  the way her mom made it, the opera music filling the room when she knitted, and oh, simply her presence. I miss all of it so bad that I have to exhale deeply to empty my heart of the longing to see her.

Danielle invited me to her book club meetings, took me out for a classic French dinner, invited her friends and family so that I could meet them, showed me photos of her in her young days, took me around Paris, we even went for a Bollywood movie, and patiently listened to my tales from patisserie school every day and ensured that I don’t feel home-sick. And she did it all with such finesse that it never felt that she was intruding in my life, but was always solidly present.

All through the day I could go waltzing around Paris or be in the school for 9 hours, because I knew I would have company at night, someone to report the events of the day before going to sleep. Someone to pull me out of trouble if I get into one, while in Paris. Someone to look after me when I was an ocean away from home and someone to simply ask me how was my day or if I had proper dinner.

Five weeks later, when it was time to leave, she came to drop me off at the bus station and while bidding goodbye, a silent lonesome tear trickled down my face. Not a sad tear but a thankful, indebted one. And her parting words to me , the ones that got etched in my mind were “Thank you, you were kind to me.” It was the simplest, least dramatic but very emotional good-bye which was more of a see-you soon than a farewell. It was the beginning. Of a new friendship. Of a new me.


Today I will share with you all a simple go-to chocolate chip pound cake recipe. It can be baked in an hour and sometimes all you need is an uncomplicated chocolate flavor, with a hint of orange. Nothing fancy and assuming, but something robust yet tender, like a grandma’s wholesome cake.

Chocolate chip cake with oranges

Orange Chocolate Chip pound cake

What you will need:

  • 240 gm all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 225 gm salted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (only if using unsalted butter)
  • 200 gm granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

What to do :

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175C. Generously butter a 9*5 inch loaf pan.
  2. Whisk together flour and baking powder to mix evenly and break any clumps.
  3. Beat sugar and butter till pale in color.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time till fully incorporated. Add orange zest.
  5. Fold in the dry ingredients with a spatula, taking care to not over-mix.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Spoon the batter in the prepared pan and level it with the spatula.
  8. Bake for 40-60 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  9. Once baked, let it rest for 15 minutes before removing from pan and transferring to a cooling rack.
  10. Serve with fresh orange pulp , drizzled with some chocolate syrup.

Orange chocolate chip cake

Notes :

  • Resist the temptation to cut into the cake till it has considerably cooled down, or it has a tendency to crumble when hot.
  • The orange zest can be substituted with vanilla extract/ vanilla essence, but I highly recommend orange zest.

 

Cracked wheat bread with sesame seeds and the Diary Chronicles

Learning of the week : Writing a diary is highly under-rated.

I have intermittently written a diary for the last 12 years of my life. Not everyday, but 15-20 entries a year chronicling the major events. It was more of a thoughtbook, registering an event as it looked in my head.

And now, while I spent the morning at my mom’s house, I chanced on them, my beloved diaries. Flipping through the pages, It felt as if I was talking to a different me. A 16-year-old me was circumspecting on what a particular gesture from the guy she had a crush on, meant. The 18-year-old me had a boyfriend for the first time, and the diary was giddy with adoration of the boyfriend and hence of self. The wiser, more serious 21-year-old was preparing for a big exam, and there was nothing but study planning and scheduling woes. At 22, that girl writing the diary got her first job as a banker, and at 17-19-20-23 there came boys, fleetingly and un-fleetingly ; sometimes in code words and sometimes a mere feeling. And throughout it all, one thing was also constant – what my best friend thought of the situation.

In my head I always like to think of myself as a rebellious, liberal woman. But I am wrong. When I read the diary pages, I realize I have always been a conformist. I did not intend to rattle the boat too much. I always knew I would marry the right guy, and have a nice family. Rebelliousness was only a fantasy, a passing whim. Never have I mentioned in the diary that I wish to be a wanderer or a hippie. I always knew that I will not marry without the approval of my parents even after considering the fact that I fell for the wrong guys, twice. My mind and heart clearly knew what I was after, and it is apparent in the pages of the diary. I felt good on learning that I was always grounded, but also disappointed thinking I never had a rebellious streak, which was and is, so much in fashion.

There used to be a famous quote which goes – “It’s the good girls who keep diaries. The bad girls never have the time.”. Tallulah Bankhead said this when she was in early thirties, and ironically went on to write the diary of all diaries, an autobiography, at age 50. But I got influenced by this line and ceased writing at times. What I did not realize was that it was laying the foundation for my future writing, it was a dart board of writing, practicing with a lots of hits and misses. Sure, sometimes I cringed on reading the ungrammatical sentences but the simplicity of what I wrote, warmed me.

A lot of life’s events and intricacies are lost in memory. Lost simply because that story was not told, lost because it felt trivial at the time. But a single entry with pen on paper solves that problem and things get immortalized. I wish I wrote what I felt when I was a kid, something to go back to when my kids would be giving me a tough time, arguing with everything that I say. Nevertheless, I can continue from here on, and may be, say 30 years later, my daughter (or son) would find solace in something their mom had written, at their age.

Rutvika Charegaonkar


Speaking of diaries, there is one book I would highly recommend for all you even mildly interested in food and Paris –  Lunch in Paris. It is a memoir of Elizabeth Bard’s love story as she landed in Paris, fell in love and never went back. The recipes are beautiful too.

And since I got the Bread Bible, I am on a bread baking spree. First I made a simple white loaf , and now this crunchy cracked wheat bread. I altered the recipe to suit Indian climate (slightly more flour), replaced the molasses with more honey and used instant yeast in place of dry yeast and changed the method accordingly. The interesting part is that 60% of this is whole wheat and only the rest is all-purpose flour (or maida), making it much more nutritious.

Bread cut into wedges

 

Cracked Wheat Bread with sesame seeds

This makes 3 medium round loaves

What you will need :

  • 3/4 cup cracked wheat
  • 1 and 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 cup warm buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • 4 tablespoons salted softened butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 and 1/2 – 3 cups all purpose flour
  •  2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing loaves

What to do :

  1. In a small bowl, put the cracked wheat and pour the boiling water over it and let it stand for 1 hour to soften.
  2. For blooming the yeast, pour warm water in a bowl, sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar. Stir to dissolve and let it stand at room temperature for 10 minutes till it becomes frothy.
  3. In another small bowl combine buttermilk, honey, and softened butter.
  4. In a large bowl, using a whisk or an electric beater, combine salt, sesame seeds and whole wheat flour. Stir in the buttermilk and yeast mixtures and beat until smooth about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Strain the cracked wheat and stir it into the flour mixture.
  6. Then add the all purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, while mixing with a wooden spoon, till a soft dough forms.
  7. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until soft and springy to touch, about 5 minutes. Dust only 1 tablespoon at a time to prevent sticking, but too much flour will make the bread dry. The dough should spring back when pressed, but it would still be tacky.
  8. Place the dough in a greased deep bowl and coat on all sides with oil and cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let it bulk to twice its size at room temperature for 2 hours.
  9. Gently deflate the dough and turn it on a lightly floured surface. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  10. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions and shape it into round or oblong 2 inch high loaves. Place the loaves on the lined baking tray and brush with melted butter and cover loosely with a plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature, till doubled.
  11. Brush the tops again with melted butter.
  12. Twenty minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven at 170C/ 350F. Place the baking tray int he centre rack and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until browned and loaves sound hollow when tapped with your fingers.
  13. Transfer the loaves immediately to a cooling rack.
  14. Once slightly cooled, cut into wedges and eat with whatever you like.

Cracked wheat bread cut in pieces

Notes :

  • Baking bread is not difficult, and after 1-2 times, you will instinctively know how much to knead and how much to bake. Keep all your senses open. It’s a treat, baking bread.
  • Use 1 and 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast if you prefer.
  • In case you are out of buttermilk, make your own by using half cup curd and half cup water to make 1 cup buttermilk.
  • The texture of this bread is crunchy because of the cracked wheat, and if eating on the second day, warm it in a toaster and never in a microwave or it will become soggy.
  • This bread stays for 2 days at room temperature and 3-4 days in the fridge, Remember, it has no preservatives.
  • Go on, have fun.

bread sticks with olives

Homemade white loaf bread with poppy seeds

I am a sucker for letters, old notes, postcards, greeting cards, newspaper cuttings, travel plan notes, my old diary entries, photos cut out from magazines, wrappers of gifted chocolates and also dried roses and other flowers.

I found all of that yesterday while cleaning my cupboard. When I got married, I had discarded a lot of stuff. Some which was awkward and some irrelevant. But still there are two big folders full of such ‘junk’. And I love it.

As kids we were encouraged to make cards on our friends birthdays, write little notes for special occasions etc. and I guess the habit stayed on. Might have even taken a different route, at times. I remember the first love letter I got was when I was 13. I vaguely remember the guy, but what I prominently remember is the way it was delivered to me. Through a long chain of friends. And then I had to hide it, fearing my mom would find out about it. And eventually I threw that letter away, because of the very little sense it made. Now when I think back, I feel I should have kept it. For the letters’ sake. And for posterity.

I also have an insane amount of newspaper clippings. I followed 2-3 writers very diligently then, and back in those times, newspapers were not available online. I know it sounds archaic, but that’s the truth. 12-15 years back, you had to wait for Tuesday for your favorite author’s article and it was available for just that day, if you didn’t cut it and save. Or the next day it would be gone as a packing for lunchbox. So I have loads of crap from Sapna Bhavnani, Cyrus Merchant and others who I am embarrassed to admit now.

And then there is an equally crazy number of greeting cards. Many a times, cards gifted by me and my brother to my parents, have come back to my folder. And I have preserved them. One day I will return them back to my parents but till then both of us are satisfied knowing that they exist. The birthday cards are sometimes funny, sometimes with roses and sometimes very emotional. Wholly depends on who gave it, and when. Because even if people remain the same, the relationships go through a curve, before stabilizing (if they ever do).

Then there are letters from my close friends and the diary entries. Those letters and diary posts address some of the most confusing, problematic situations of those times. Namely fights with parents (remember it is the teenage that I am talking about, not that I didn’t fight with them later on, but teenage was the best (sorry, worst) ). Every older me feels how stupid the younger me was, based on the letters and the diary entries. And on several occasions I have loudly exclaimed in my head – “Did i write THAT?”. But the ink on paper clearly says I did. And I am sure, tomorrow when I read my blog posts, I will be wondering to myself “Oh, how naive of me!”.

The best two things which I found were two postcards. One from my best friend from Malaysia, where she said how she missed me the most when she was having fun (isn’t that strange? You generally miss people when you are sad) and the other one was from another friend trekking in South America. Where he calls me a hippie soul like himself. (I cherish that comment so much, because I am generally known as boring). These two took the time out on a vacation and posted the cards, what more could I ask for?

Nothing much.

Rutvika Charegaonkar

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————–White Loaf Bread with Poppy seeds

Makes  two 9-5 inch loaves.

This recipe has been taken from The Bread Bible. The book talks in detail about making bread and its intricacies. If you are seriously into bread, go buy it. I picked up the white loaf to experiment and master the skills of bread baking. It is the most basic of breads, but it’s excellent for breakfast.

bread loaf sliced

I have adapted the recipe to suit Indian hot climate and the humidity. if you are in a colder climate, restrict to 5 and 1/2 cups of flour, if in a hotter climate use 6 cups. Also, I used instant yeast in place of  dried yeast and made adjustments accordingly.

Working with yeast

Instant yeast starts foaming in 10 minutes after adding warm water and sugar. Only then it is ready to use.

What you will need :

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 tablespoon instant yeast
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cup warm milk
  • 1 stick/ 1/2 cup/ 110 gms salted butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour divided in 2 cups + 3 cups
  • 1 egg + 1 tablespoon milk for the egg wash
  • 2 tablespoon poppy seeds

What to do :

  1. Pour warm water in a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over the surface. Stir to dissolve it and let it stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk milk, butter, salt, 2 cups of flour and the yeast mixture. Beat hard to combine.
  3. Then add remaining flour; 1/2 cup at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition till a shaggy dough that clears the side of the dough is formed.
  4. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface  and knead for 3-5 minutes until dough is smooth and satiny and springs back when pressed.
  5. Place the dough in a greased deep container. Turn once to coat and cover with a plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temperature to be doubled in size. About 1 and 1/2 hours.
  6. Gently deflate the dough. Turn it onto a floured surface. Cut it into half and you can refrigerate one half in a plastic wrap for using after day or two.
  7. Grease a 9-5 inch loaf pan. Form the dough half into a standard loaf. It will come upto about less than half of the pan. Cover with a plastic wrap and again let it rise for 30-45 minutes, till doubled.
  8. Pre-heat oven at 190C for 20 minutes. (See note)
  9. For the egg glaze, beat the egg and milk together. Brush on the loaf and while it is wet, drizzle a tablespoon of poppy seeds on top.
  10. Place in centre rack and bake for 35-40 minutes till the loaf has browned on top. Tap on the dough (careful it is hot), to see if it sounds hollow.
  11. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool before slicing.
  12. Spread a layer of cheese or some butter and jam and have a fresh home-made (by you!) slice of bread.

Loaf with jam and butter

Notes :

  1. For baking a bread, it is essential that you pre-heat oven for at least 20 minutes. Breads react very badly to cold temperature.
  2. You will have to judge the amount of flour required on the stickiness of dough. But generally 5 1/2 to 6 cups is perfect.
  3. It’s not that difficult. Don’t get intimidated. I can say that because I was very scared for a long time to bake bread. But its easy. And feel the dough, smell the yeast and hear the hollow sound of baked loaf and you will be fine.