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

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

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