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

Pan Grilled chicken over buttery rice and tomato salsa

chicken-baked

Every once in a while, mostly on a Sunday, I make an elaborate lunch at home. The weekday meals are all made by my mum-in-law, a delicious vegetarian affair. So on Sundays, I try to give her a break and make something myself. A lot of times my folks have to eat the experimentation – uncooked pasta, overcooked chicken , too tangy salad etc. But sometimes, something like this gets created and I can’t wait to put it up here and share it with you all.

chicken-with-salsa-and-rice

This time it is Pepper Pan-Grilled Chicken over Buttery Baked Rice and Tomato Salsa. This technique of baked rice was shown to me by our European business associate, they always bake rice and don’t use any pressure cooker. You can very well cook rice in the pressure cooker and lightly season it.

All the pans that we use at home currently are from Khlos. Wonderfully built and sturdy and yet non-stick, that our oil consumption has drastically reduced.And they look so pretty and are still very affordable.

 

chicken-cooked-in-pan

Buttery Baked Rice

  • 200 gram long grained rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 25 gram butter
  • 400 ml boiling water
  1. Grease a 1.1 capacity ovenproof dish or casserole.
  2. Put the rice in the dish and stir int he salt until well mixed. Dot with butter.
  3. Pour over the boiling water. Cover and bake at 180C for 30 minutes until the water has been absorbed and rice is tender.

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Pepper and Olive Oil Tender Chicken breasts

  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil + 1 tablespoon softened butter
  • 2-3 tablespoon coarsely crushed pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • chilli flakes
  • butter for pan-grilling the chicken and for the sauce
  1. Lightly pound the washed chicken breasts with a chicken rolling pin. Rub it with  the mixture of olive oil + butter+  salt+ pepper + chilli flakes.
  2. Let it sit for 20 minutes.
  3. Heat a thick bottommed pan and melt 1-2 tablespoon of butter. I have used Khlos grill pan to brown the chicken and give the pepper a crackling feel.
  4. Once the chicken breasts are browned on both sides, transfer them and the butter from the pan into an ovenproof dish. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 10 minutes so that the chicken gets cooked till the centre.
  5. Remove from heat and reserve the juices and butter.

Tomato Salsa

  • 2 cups finely chopped tomatoes (about 4 tomatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 tablespoon chopped coriander
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely chopped green chillies
  • about 3/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Mix all the above ingredients of the salsa and adjust the salt as per taste.

Assembly :

  1. Slice the chicken and place it on a bed of rice with salsa on the side. Garnish with some mint/basil leaves.

chicken-rice-and-salsa

Those three months and Kiwi Cupcakes with frosting

Last year around this time, I got pregnant. Which means that we were busy doing the hoo-hoos and haa-haas, very enthusiastically. Since then there hasn’t been much hoo or haa, but that’s a different story. (Now I seriously wish that no kids are reading this and neither is my mom or mom-in-law.) But anyway, it is an understatement to say that life has turned upside down since last April.

A few days back I found a letter I had written to myself. Last year this time. I often write letters to myself. Kind of a diary entry, but it works as if I am looking at the issue from a third party point of view. There, in that letter, I was telling myself to take it easy. It had been three months since we were trying to get pregnant and each time I got my periods, I would be immensely depressed. It felt as if I was killing the babies each month. I know how incorrect that statement is. I know. I know. But somewhere it just felt very bad. I would frantically chart my menstrual cycle in various apps and find out the “fertile” days. And coerce my husband into having sex as a rule on those days. Not that he minded it, but I had turned into an obsessive compulsive sexter, for those days of the month. For the first 10 days of the month, I would read up on all websites advising ‘how to get pregnant’ , and then later on obsess over ‘are you pregnant’ type webpages. I would dread each day as my periods got closer and any sign on PMS would make me cry. It was a very taxing time, let me tell ya.

My mom would keep telling me that it takes time, be patient. My husband would say, our bodies are not machines, have faith, it will happen soon. But I felt very low. And it is such a situation that couldnt even be discussed with anyone outside your innermost circle. At that time. To top it, my best-friend, my closest cousin and my sister-in-law : all were pregnant! Not me. Just not me.

I laugh at the insanity of the situation now, it feels stupid to look back at that version of myself, but I still shudder when I remember how I thought the worst was going to happen to us. And I had reached that conclusion in just three little months.

Later, when we registered with the gynaecologist’s hospital for delivery, the nurse excitedly told me that in India, December January is the busiest period in the hospital as it is the best “season” to have a baby. Most couples plan it that way, to have a baby in winter. And I thought to myself – “How the hell do they do that?”. How do they know when they will get pregnant? That answer still eludes me.

But anyway. Now I am hoping that when planning for the second child, I wont be so paranoid. Or I just might be. Because I will soon reach the big 3-0 in a year and half. Sigh.

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And I still don’t bake that often, my little one keeps me on my toes all the time. But these gorgeous kiwis in the market and eventually in the fruit basket made me want to bake. Urgently. And what could be faster than cupcakes?

Kiwi cupcake closeup

Kiwi Cupcakes with Kiwi buttercream frosting

What you will need :

For the cupcakes –

  • 1/3 cup mashed kiwi – about 2 kiwis
  • 1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup + 3 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 egg whites

For kiwi buttercream –

  • 1 kiwi, peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and sliced for decoration

What to do :

  1. Pre heat oven to 180C and line a 12-muffin pan with cupcake paper liners.
  2. Remove the skin of the kiwis and mash it with a fork to make 1/3 cup mashed kiwi. Add milk and vanilla to the mashed kiwi and keep aside.
  3. Sift together flour and baking powder .
  4. In another bowl, cream butter and all the sugar till light.
  5. Add the egg and egg white to butter and incorporate well.
  6. Now alternately add flour mixture and kiwi mixture to the cream butter and eggs. Start and end with dry ingredients i.e flour.
  7. Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre of a cupcake comes out clean and the tops are golden.
  8. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and let them cool completely before frosting.
  9. To make the buttercream, cream butter till its light. Add 3-4 tablespoon of mashed kiwi, 1 tablespoon at a time. (Ensure that the mixture is creamy and not watery).
  10. Add vanilla and icing sugar and mix well.
  11. Taste and add some more kiwi or icing sugar as per taste. But add kiwi cautiously or the mixture will get watery.
  12. Decorate the cupcakes with buttercream frosting and half a slice of kiwi.

Kiwi cupcake platter

Balsamic Mushroom Pasta and the end of my maternity leave

This week is the last week of my maternity leave and I will soon resume work. It is difficult to believe that it’s been 3 months since I gave birth , since the first time my baby boy tightly held my little finger till his fingertips looked white. He still does that, but now he wants to firmly hold on to my index finger. And he looks directly into my eyes, follows me as I move from one side to the other while doing my chores and sometimes I just move to check his ability to follow me. He has also graduated from ‘newborn’ clothes to ‘3-6 months’ set of tee shirts and onesies. And my little boy now generously showers everyone with that toothless gummy smile.

I talk to him a lot. I tell him how momma needs to go to office now, but his ajji will take care of him. He coos as if he understands, but makes me promise him that I will cuddle and hug him as soon as I come home. I promise, he animatedly waves his hands and I pick him up. He is my son, we have a connection and he knows momma will be happier when she works.

As for me, it’s been four months since I am at home. Initially bed rest for a month and then these three months. Now that my baby has a set routine, it gives me time to think of things beyond him. I have to restart from the basic things. I have nothing to wear, pregnancy has made me an L from an M and I need to go shopping. My hair is in a frizzy mess, good foot wear is non existent and my sense of traffic has gone for a toss. I ride my two wheeler at the speed of 20, because after being home-borne for 4 months, even 20 kmph seems very fast. I gotta get back on track before I can resume work.

It’s strange the ways in which motherhood can change you. It has made me paranoid. I worry over his every sneeze, try to monitor his next milestone and insist on placing his blanket exactly at the same place every night.  Moreover I am constantly worried that something might happen to me when the baby is so fully dependent on me. Every fast approaching vehicle feels as if it will bump into me and give a bloody fracture. And so I need to start working. I need to start spending some amount of time away from baby worries otherwise it would make me go crazy.

My baby is exclusively breastfed and I plan to continue that for another 3 months. Office is close by so I can drop in for his feeding times and perhaps also express milk for alternate feedings. It’s a good thing, I will be on my toes. And anyway work expands to fill the time available. So I guess I will be able to do justice at my workplace too.

This baby boy and hence we as parents are lucky. He has one set of grandparents living with him (or we living with them) and another set of grandparents just 5 minutes away. And all four of them dote on him and are indulgent babysitters. It makes it so much easier for me to go out, knowing that he is in very good hands. In fact it becomes my responsibility to be very efficient at work and at home since I have a strong support system.

But right now when I look at him having a conversation with his beloved ceiling fan,  I wonder if I will constantly miss him while at work.

May be. But I need to slightly detach to attach better.

Xoxo,

Loving mama

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For the last few days, I have been baking and cooking a lot. Experimenting with new flavors and textures. And one such byproduct is this Balsamic Mushroom Pasta. I like my pasta little well cooked so that it melts in the mouth with the creamy balsamic glaze. Without much ado, presenting a simple pasta dish which can be whipped up in half an hour.

Mushroom pasta

Balsamic Mushroom Pasta

What you will need :

  • 2 cups mushroom, washed and sliced
  • 2 tablespoon butter + 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup penne, cooked al dente for 10 to 12 minutes or as per instructions on the packet
  • 1 cup water in which the pasta was boiled
  • 3-4 tablespoon balsamic vinegar / balsamic glaze
  • 2 cubes or 40 gms Cheedar cheese cubes, grated
  • dried oregano, basil or other herbs as per taste

Pasta in a pot

What to do :

  1. In a big pot, melt butter and olive oil. Add the mushrooms and let them cook on medium heat till soft.
  2. Then add the chopped or crushed garlic and stir.
  3. Ad the cream and salt and mix well on low heat.
  4. Then add the pasta to this. Mix well.
  5. Add water and milk to the pan and cover and cook for about 10 minutes on low heat so that the sauce gets creamier and coats the pasta well.
  6. Then add the balsamic glaze, stir well. Add the grated cheese, dried herbs and stir well.
  7. Serve when hot with some red chillies or paprika.

Pasta in a pot and bowls

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

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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

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 😉

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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

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

Piastachio Chocolate chip cake and summer vacations

Today morning while watering the various plants dotting our balconies, I suddenly felt as if my grandfather was standing besides me. Instructing me to take note of the leaves and flowers. Judge the soil and decide the correct level of watering. I was transported back 20 years in time. To another summer when you could be in your shorts, sit in the mud and talk to plants all day long.

And then go up on the terrace, take a big slice of watermelon and hog it down. Staining your clothes pink and spitting the seeds all over. A time which seemed to go on, and day which seemed like one chunk of time. Not divided in morning, afternoon or evening. Because you could eat breakfast for lunch, take a shower in the afternoon and have an ice-cream whenever you wish. It was the summer vacation time. At my grandparents house with my cousins.

Every year, we would have such uninterrupted vacation for at least 15 days or even more. The hot blazing sun overhead did not matter, neither did the bruises on the knees. I was more acquainted with G.I.Joes and fighting techniques than Barbie dolls, because my cousin and his best friend were both guys. Who loved fighting. With each other, with the armored figurines or with me. He-man – The master of the Universe came into my life way earlier than dolls and dresses. I learnt to brat my way through, to get the maximum number of mangoes or to be the last one to take a shower.

I remember getting lots of candies then, which we would deposit with my grandpa in his big jar of candies. And every day we got to put our hand in the multi-colored candy jar and pick out the biggest candy. And then scare the world with our newly colored red green or blue tongues. The jar never ran out of candy, and our minds out of things to do. At the end of every exciting activity was a turn which led to another activity. So we would wake up and go out to pluck flowers for the daily pooja (a daily prayer ritual), then eat breakfast teemed up with a lot of fruits, make mud castles, go swimming, play with the dog, then a mandatory break for lunch, eat ice-cream(s), make origami animals, paint (sometimes books and sometimes walls), wait on the porch for my uncle and aunt to return from work and then go to the Appughar – local Disneyland, come back sweaty and itchy, take a shower, and then relax while listening to some historical stories and some fairy tales. And then dream. Dream of Shivaji Maharaj and dreams of being Rapunzel.

That was a time when there were no video games or Ipads. We played with Lego and doll houses and sand castles. We read from books which were made of paper and real pages which had to be turned to know what comes next. With our little hands and big thoughts, we were planting seeds of what would become of us. Those were the long uninterrupted days filled with possibilities. Of spotting a new bird or sucking the honey from a flower bud. Or just lying down and viewing the sun from our tin kaleidoscopes.

Rutvika


Pistachio Chocolate Chip Cake

This cake is as simple as childhood dreams. Nothing fancy, just some ground pistachios, ground almonds and chocolate chips which will melt in your mouth. I had seen this recipe in a magazine in Paris, inspired from a cake served in Rose Bakery, Pigalle. Try it, you will love the distinctive pistachio flavor.

close up of pistachio cake

What you will need:

  • 225 gm sugar
  • 200 gm butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100 gm toasted pistachios, finely ground and sieved
  • 100 gm toasted almonds, finely ground and sieved
  • 200 gm all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt (if using unsalted butter)
  • 200 gm chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate

What to do:

  1. Butter and line a loaf pan or a 10 inch round cake pan. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together till creamy and light in color.
  3. Then add the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating it before adding the next one.
  4. Add in the vanilla extract.
  5. In another bowl mix together pistachio powder, almond powder, flour and baking powder.
  6. Gently fold in the dry ingredients with the egg mixture till it all comes together. Mix in the chocolate chips.
  7. Spoon the batter into the loaf pan.
  8. Bake for 50 minutes (for the bigger loaf) , or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Notes:

  1. The pistachio flavor is over-powering the almonds, but the almond powder keeps the cake wonderfully moist.
  2. Be careful to not let any pistachio shell get ground. It will be a nightmare to bite into a piece with the pointy shell in the cake. Hence i recommend sieving the pistachio powder.
  3. I used almonds with the skin to give it a slightly golden brown color. Feel free to use skin-less almonds if you prefer a greener color from the pistachios.
  4. You can use un-toasted nuts, but toasting releases the oils, and hence the flavors.

Pistach cake slice

Nutella Bread twists. So not grumpy.

Sometimes, for no real reason I feel grumpy towards the whole world. As if whole of humanity has err-ed and I am their only savior. I go around pretending being calm and collected, but I am seething from the inside. My responses are cold and I avert eye-gaze and keep busy in seemingly important and un-important chores. Sure, something somewhere has disturbed me, but it’s really not that big as I make it out to be.

Earlier, all the brunt of my internal conflict would fall on my dear mom. She would bear the sulking me with kindness only mothers are capable of. But since I got married, and especially since I started writing on my blog, I have been able to tone down the tantrums. Sure, I am still exceptionally silent on those occasions, but no tantrums. No crying and no saying nasty things. But it needs a constant reminder to myself to keep it up.

This time I tried to analyze what is happening and why is it getting blown up. And I realized:

  • I need to cry at-least once a month. Call it the war of the hormones, or just being a woman. So the best, and safest option for everyone around, is watching a good emotional movie. And crying. But if that does not happen, it leads to this.
  • I ought to get a reality check once in a while, or the ‘damsel-in-distress’ attitude of mine goes off the roof and I start thinking that I am the most hard-working girl of all times. Duh.
  • And strange as it sounds, I need to blog, bake and generally do my own thing once every week. If the entire week goes by without any respite from work and daily conundrum, I go crazy.

Now all these things seem manageable, but they are not, if not carefully managed. Which is what happened last week. And now I hate having spent a whole Sunday disgruntled. It wont come back. That Sunday is lost on me.

“I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.”
― P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters

I am glad my husband doesn’t give up on me and waits patiently for the Cancerian crab to come out its shell. Or else I am doomed.

The only flicker of hope in this god-damn-it melodrama was this beautiful Nutella bread. And that my best-friend’s husband was intrigued by it, I baked this bread twice. Once alone and once with him.

Nutella whole bread

Beauty surrounded the Daring Bakers this month as our host, Sawsan, of chef in disguise, challenged us to make beautiful, filled breads. Who knew breads could look as great as they taste? They are still intimidating to me, but I believe in Daring Bakers, and till date I have not been let down.

Although I must admit, that the first one was with 16 twists. it was more complicated but somehow it looked messy when I baked it. hence this second one, with just 8 triangles of twists. Much more manageable.

And Nutella spread in three layers of the dough disks, what’s not to like in it? And baked into a fluffy bread. I could even lick off the jar.

A piece of Nutella bread

Nutella bread twists:

What you will need:

  • 1 can (400 gm) sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 tsp (12 gm) instant dry yeast
  • 7 cups (1 kg) all-purpose (plain) flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • Instead of the eggwash use
    2 tbsp milk powder
    3 tbsp lukewarm water
    1tsp sugar
    1/4 tsp instant coffee
  • For the filling ½ jar (200 gm)of nutella (or similar)

Layering with nutella Twists of bread

What to do :

  1. Mix the condensed milk, yeast, oil, water, and eggs in the bowl of your mixer
  2. Add the flour one cup at a time and knead using the kneading attachment or by hand till you get a soft dough
  3. The dough will be slightly sticky due to the sweetened condensed milk, don’t worry once the dough rests it will have a wonderful consistency
  4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to rest till it doubles in size
  5. Punch down the dough and divide it into 2 parts. Wrap one part in a plastic bag and work with the other
  6. Divide the dough ball into 4 parts
  7. Roll each part into a circle at least 20 cm (8 inch) in diameter. You can use a plate or any other round item as a template if you want your layers to be identical and uniform
  8. Spread the Nutella (or similar filling) on the first layer
  9. Place the second layer on top of the first and repeat
  10. Top with the fourth layer, this time only brush it with butter.
  11. Using a knife make cuts that divide the dough circles into 8 triangles starting at the center but don’t go all the way to the outer edge. Then divide each triangle into two (2) . That gives you a total of 16 triangles. If you prefer Stay with 8 triangles.
  12. Gently lift the triangles one at a time and twist them.
  13. Brush the dough with egg wash replacement
  14. Allow to rest for 15 minutes during which you would heat your oven to very hot 500°F/240°C/gas mark 9 (rack in the middle)
  15. Bake for 5 minutes on very hot 500°F/240°C/gas mark 9, then lower the temperature to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 and bake for 15-20 more minutes (ovens do differ greatly, so the time may differ… what you want is to bake it until the under side is golden brown).
  16. Remove from oven and let it cool.
  17. Marvel at your creation. 🙂

Notes :

  1. It might seem intimidating to do the twists, but they are easy once you get to it. And you can just lightly twist it and leave to bake. Its beautiful
  2. The egg-wash replacement recipe is a keeper. Save it.
  3. You can replace Nutella with any flavored butter. Next I will be trying it with some strawberry butter.

Slice of the Nutella bread