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

Home-made Pizza and Baby un-blues

It is that period of the life again. When everyone around you is asking “When is the (……) thing happening?” Insert in the bracket –  getting married/ having kid/ having second kid/ blah blah and bhlah. And with a lot of my friends, cousins, their friends going down the path of having a baby, I am not spared.

From easy nonchalant remarks of my mom to the serious discussion which my granny had with me a few days back, everyone assures me how it is the “right” time. And then if I brush off their remarks, they put their feet down, gaze straight into my eyes and pointedly ask me – “Do you guys want kids or not?”. I meekly say a yes and prepare myself for the onslaught of the next set of reasonings which clearly establish that our generation thinks too much. Atleast about this issue if nothing else.

It is true that before I went to Paris to study a month long culinary course, I had thought that may be this is it. May be once I come back from Paris we will be ‘ready’ to have a baby. But something else happened. I suddenly realized that I have to do so many more things, before resigning assigning most part of my day to changing nappies and monitoring growth spurts to answering questions about why is the apple red and why do we have to go to school. Sure, I adore little ones (am blatantly biased more towards baby girls than boys) and love to play with them and fuss over them etc. But as long as it is somebody else’s responsibility at the end of the day. As long as I can hand over the baby to someone else once it starts crying, I love babies.

We are still from that generation where our parents had the first kid in the first year of marriage. Without much ado. In fact when I asked my mom-in-law how they had spent their first wedding anniversary, I was surprised to hear that it coincided with the naming ceremony of her newborn baby. Simple. That was how mostly lives went on.

But apparently not now. The responsibilities of the baby business sound much larger than the joys. The pressure of making a healthy baby, then there is pressure of giving it quality time, combined with the pressure of growing it up into a noble, smart, good, well-behaved, witty, sensitive, mannered, loving kid – looms over me like a cloud. How will I be able to do that when on most days I don’t qualify for any of those adjectives myself?! How would we spend lazy days eating instant noodles and lazing around reading on the couch when we have to feed the baby 10 times a day. How can we get sloshed out over a healthy dose of bhaang drink, hog on some home-made pizza and sleep like an ass for three hours in the afternoon when the kid will have to do a zillion other things in those three hours?! Or how can I do a marathon of baking and cooking and researching with my big cook books on weekends if there are play-dates and birthday parties to be attended with the kids?!

The purists again try to explain me that this will be the case even if you have a baby 5 years later. In fact you would be older then and all the running around the kid will be more exhausting. But who knows? I might get fitter and wiser by then. I just might. Or not.

Sincerely,

Rutvika Charegaonkar

P.S : All of this does not stop me from calculating my ovulation dates. Oh, silly confused me!


So after the bhaang induced session, we did make the Pizza. Chicken for the husband and vegetables for me. I have experimented with several Pizza doughs in the last couple of months, but some smelled yeasty, some were flat, and some were just blah. But this one is a beautiful elastic dough which bakes into a layered crust and browns to a lovely crispness at the bottom.

Homemade Pizza

I adapted (say copied) the recipe from Raks Kitchen, she is very popular with all the South Indian aunties around and I have tried a lot of her breakfast items, which work very well. The Pizza sauce is the one I have been using for ages, but essentially if I am not wrong, it originated from wikihow.

Home-made Pizza with chicken and vegetables

What you will need :

For the dough :

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp sugar

For the sauce and toppings:

  • 5-6 tomatoes, pureed and strained to remove skin
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 3 tbsp chopped basil
  • oregano, pepper, salt and sugar to taste
  • Shredded mozzarella or Pizza cheese
  • Small chunks of chicken marinated with a marinade of choice and cooked 80% in a pan
  • Onions, tomatoes, bell pepper and any other vegetable you fancy, cut into vertical strips

What to do :

  1. To make the pizza crust, mix flour, salt and yeast in a bowl.
  2. Take milk and water and sugar in a saucepan and heat it to lukewarm stage while dissolving the sugar.
  3. Add this milk and water mixture to the flour and stir it in with a spoon.
  4. Take it on the kitchen counter and knead into a smooth dough for 5 mins.
  5. Keep in a well-oiled bowl and cover the bowl with a plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let the dough rise to its double size for about 1 and 1/2 hours.
  6. To make the sauce, simmer the tomatoes till slightly cooked, add the garlic, basil, oregano, pepper, salt and sugar and cook till it all comes together.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 230°C for 10 minutes.
  8. Then once the dough has risen, knead it again for a minute and divide into 4 balls of equal size. Keep the other dough balls covered while working with one.
  9. Roll the dough ball into a flat disk, making the sides like a rim. Transfer to a baking pan.
  10. Spread a thick layer of sauce on the disk, leave out the rim and then cover with a generous layer of cheese. Place the chicken and vegetable on top and spread another layer of shredded cheese. (You can cut down on the cheese to make it more healthy, but of-course it comes with the downside of not being cheesy enough).
  11. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 12-14 minutes. The pizza should move freely on the pan, be browned at the bottom and cheese should be melted on top.
  12. Serve sizzling hot with coke. Wait, diet coke. Yes.

pizza with veggies

Notes :

  • I am not a big fan of the elastic Mozzarella hence I use processed cheddar. You can use a combination of whichever cheeses you like.
  • This dough is really easy to work with and it takes less than 10 mins to mix it, knead and then some time to rise. If planned even 2 hours in advance, it is fantastic quick meal.
  • The Pizza sauce is very versatile and can be used for sandwiches, lasagna or even as a dip.

Pizza sauce