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

Eggless Ginger Orange chocolate cake – #CaLbakes

Eggless ginger chocolate cake

For 5 months beginning November 2015, I am hosting a guided baking session on the Facebook foodie group called Chef At Large. The aim is to present baking recipes as simply as possible with the most commonly available ingredients, so it is easier for people to take that step into baking.

While testing recipes and documenting it so that everyone understands, I have learnt so much myself. And when people respond with pictures and feedback of something they made following this recipe, it feels quite good.

I hope I am doing justice to the initiative by offering as much as I know.

This eggless chocolate cake is for the month of November. With loads of pictures showing each step. Let me know what you think.

Eggless Ginger Orange chocolate cake

What you will need:

  1. one slab of 100 grams Amul butter, softened
  2. 20 grams of castor sugar
  3. 1/2 can of condensed milk (200 grams)
  4. 125 ml whole milk
  5. 125 all-purpose flour or maida
  6. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  7. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  8. 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (or orange zest)
  9. 2 teaspoon orange juice
  10. 150 grams dark chocolate – melted completely

What to do :

  • In a big mixing bowl, take softened (but not melted) Amul butter. Add sugar to it and whisk.
  • Then to this add the condensed milk and whole milk and whisk well. Let it form a smooth mixture.

Steps 1-3 rec 1

  • In a separate bowl, take flour +baking soda + baking powder and first mix it with a spoon to distribute baking soda and powder throughout the flour. Then sift this once through a regular kitchen sieve.
  • Melt the chopped chocolate over a double boiler or in a microwave in 30 second intervals, whisking well at each interval.

chocolate melting

  • Now, to the butter mixture add the melted chocolate and whisk well till fully incorporated.
  • Then add the grated ginger or orange zest and orange or apple juice and mix.
  • Remove the whisk. Now with a rubber spatula, fold in the dry ingredients in two batches. Always move the spatula in one direction and the bowl in the other while folding. Me being right-handed, move the spatula from right to left with the right hand and the bowl from left to right with the left hand.

mixing and folding flour

  • Now pre-heat the oven to 180 C for 10 minutes and meanwhile prepare your pan.
  • Lightly butter and line your 6-8 inch baking pan with parchment paper at the bottom as well as the sides. Alternately you can line the bottom with a parchment paper and grease and flour the sides.
  • Pour the batter in the prepared pan.

Lining a pan and filling

  • Now bake the cake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Insert a skewer or a knife in the cake to check if it’s done.
  • Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
  • Take it out and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
  • There are several ways of making 2 layers of a cake. But the one I prefer the most is this desi jugaad style. For it, all you need is a steel plate, which has a side and covers about half the height of the cake and you also need a knife with serrated edges.

Layering a cake 1

  • Once the cake is completely cool, place it in the plate and taking that as an aid, cut the cake horizontally into two. Be careful to have your knife touching the edge of the steel plate at all times so that you get an even cut.

Layering a cake 2

  • Once cut from all sides, take a cake board or a simple cardboard will do and slide it between the two layers of the cake and separate them.
  • Now use the frosting or the ganache recipe and frost the cake or decorate it as you like.

Buttercream filling

Decorate the cake with a chocolate ganache and/or buttercream.

I have used the buttercream to sandwich between the cakes and frost the sides and ganache for decoration.

Ganache decoration

This post first appeared here.

 

Spicy Crisp Masala Cookies

Spicy Masala cookies

I have been a fan of Daring Kitchen – Daring Bakers and Daring Chefs Challenges since a long time. Although currently with a baby and all his shenanigans, I find it difficult to make the challenge every month. But I sure bookmark them for whenever time permits.

These Indian Biscuits were hosted by Aprarna of My Diverse Kitchen somewhere back in August 2013. I had them written in a tiny little recipe book I maintain. And finally last week made these crisp yet flaky (and quite spicy) Masala cookies. The crisp crunch of the cookies as you bit into the them with the chillies is quite good.

When I made these biscuits the second time, I replaced the curry leaves and pepper with a generous amount of homemade garam masala and it tasted delicious.

Here is the adapted recipe from Daring Bakers . You can sure make your own variations.

Heart shaped cookies

Spicy Crisp Masala Cookies

What you will need:

  • 1 and 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon corn flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 tablespoon cold yoghurt
  • 115 grams chilled butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry curry leaves powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon powder sugar
  • 2 red chillies, very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • Little oil

Method :

  1. Mix together all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, rice flour and corn flour.
  2. To that add diced cold butter cubes and mix it with a hand blender till the texture becomes like sand.
  3. Now add pepper, curry leaves, chilli powder, sugar, ginger garlic paste and yoghurt. Mix well with the blender.
  4. The dough should be moist, not wet.
  5. Pat the dough into a thick disk and place it in a saran or plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge for atleast 3 hours. I kept it overnight.
  6. Preheat oven to 160C and line a baking tray with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
  7. Lightly dust your working surface with all purpose flour. Roll out disks of flour to 2-3 mm thickness.
  8. Cut shapes with a cookie cutter.
  9. Transfer to the parchment line baking tray. Spread on with some sesame seeds and press down.
  10. Gently brush with some oil and bake for 20-25 minutes till the brown from the bottom.
  11. Let them cool on the tray for 5 minutes and further on a wire rack. Once completely cool they should be crispy.

Notes:

  1. Baking time will depend on the thickness and size of your cookies.
  2. The first 8 ingredients form the base of the cookies. You can replace the next ingredients with spices of your choice. They will also taste good with Italian dried herbs and fresh basil.

Masala cookies

 

Persimmon Eggless No-bake cheesecake

Pregnancy Blues

Last Sunday, husband and I were sitting in Kala Ghoda Cafe, having their most delicious rösti and hot chocolate, when a group of girls and boys occupied the adjacent table. They were perhaps 3-4 years younger than us, but in an entirely different zone of life. They were chatting, laughing, constantly getting up to take selfies and creating a hullabaloo in the tiny little cafe. While I was clumsily sitting with my 30 week pregnant belly and thinking out aloud ‘We will never be this wild and free again’. The husband heard it and was alarmed at why was I suddenly feeling this feeling of being trapped. I saw the worried look on his face and assured him how I am fine, and I so want the baby and how it is the correct thing to do and the next stage of life and so on.

Just a day back, at our pregnancy and lamaze class, Fit for Birth, the counsellor had advised us to be on a lookout for pregnancy and postpartum blues. Although I have never been capable of having the dramatized versions of “blues”, I knew I was in that zone.

Now my subconscious knows how badly I want this baby and the two-three months that it took us to get pregnant, I would cry like a baby when I got my periods. But still, now it feels like I have been pregnant forever. It is awesome, let me tell you, this whole thing of making a baby inside me, it makes me feel almost God-like. I am making kidneys, brain, lungs, heart, arms, legs, eyes; you name it, I am making it. So that part is amazing. But it is taking a toll on my senses.

There is a constant feeling of tiredness, fatigue, acidity, it feels as if my body is burning at times and uninterrupted sound sleep at night hasn’t been granted in a long long time. When I look in the mirror I can see a lumpy body, lack-lustre hair, mildly puffy eyes and pimpled cheeks. We haven’t been able to get out of the city in the last 3-4 months and it looks difficult for at least another 5-6 months.I long for that Pineapple daiquiri with strong white rum, and a puff of the clove cigarette Gudang Garam I love and indulge myself in once every two months or so.

Strangely, most of my dresses still fit me, with a stretch over the belly, but it makes me wonder what kind of clothes did I wear pre-pregnancy? (Mental note : I need to re-look at my dressing style once back in shape). And thankfully all my medical stats are on track, so I can manage to do most of my daily stuff uninterrupted, albeit with less energy. But the sheer willpower required to get out of bed every morning, make breakfast, get dressed, go to work, attend pregnancy exercise classes in the evening and stay awake till at least 9.30 pm is exhausting. I long to be me, the one with a zillion times more enthusiasm than now.

When my best friend was pregnant and in her last trimester a couple of months back, I remember her telling me how she too was bored. At that time, I thought, ‘Oh, how could you be bored of this miracle?’. But I hear ye now, and I know exactly how it feels.

On the other hand, or may be on the same lines, I am desperate to see my baby now. I want to hold him/ her in my arms, look at that little face and see how it’s little hands hold on to my finger. But yeah, no sooner than full term. I was born about 6 weeks premature, and my momma had a rough six months nursing me to health. So I better wait and carry the baby in my womb to meetings and movies, and not eject it prematurely.

Perhaps once my mom-in-law is back from the US in 15 days, I would feel relief. Relief from the responsibility of running the house, freedom from worrying if the maid will show up, not being in charge of shopping for groceries and having someone experienced to talk to in the middle of the night if the baby is aggressively kicking.

Well, till then, its time to enjoy the different shades of blue.

*******       *******       *******

Meanwhile these gorgeous beauties are in the market. Hachiya Persimmons or Amar-phal, they are exotically delicious once fully ripe, but cut them a day earlier and you will be shocked at their astringence.

persimmons

This fruit can be beautifully pureed. Just unplug the green head, cut it into four pieces and puree it in a mixer. Thats it. With the skin.

Opening a persimmon

I made a no-bake low calorie cheesecake with these beauties and it looked gorgeous!

A slice of cheesecake

No-bake Persimmon cheesecake

What you will need :

  • 3 ripe Persimmons (2+1)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 250 gms paneer (cottage cheese)
  • 300 gms hung curd (about 650-700 gms curd)
  • 200 gms Digestive biscuits
  • 60 gms butter (Amul)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 5 tsp Gelatin (4 + 1)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup water (1 + 1/2)

First layer of cheesecake

What to do :

  1. Hang 700 gms curd so that the water drains. Roughly it will reduce to half the volume.Take 300 gm of such hung curd.
  2. Break digestive biscuits into a crumbly powder . Soften the butter and mix it with the crumbs to form an even paste. Then cover the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan with it and press down really hard. Refrigerate for an hour till it sets.
  3. Combine the grated hung curd and grated paneer. Add powdered sugar. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and mix well to remove all clumps. Set aside.
  4. Puree 2 ripe persimmons.
  5. Add 4 tsp gelatin in 1 cup water and keep aside. This process is called blooming.
  6. Prepare a double boiler. Essentially a large utensil to boil water and a smaller utensil which can be placed within. Heat the gelatin-water mix in this double broiler. Do not let it boil. Boiling destroys the thickening capacity of gelatin.
  7. Heat the persimmon puree in a separate bowl. Then add the heated gelatin with the persimmon pure, and take it off heat.
  8. Lightly mix the persimmon and gelatin mixture with the hung curd and paneer mixture, till fully incorporated.
  9. Take out the chilled biscuit pan and pour the cheesecake mix on it. Press evenly and again chill for sometime.To make the persimmon glaze :
    1. Make a puree with 1 persimmon. Put on gentle heat.
    2. Bloom 1 tsp gelatin in ½ cup water and heat over double broiler as earlier.
    3. Add to persimmon puree. Mix well.
    4. Pour over the chilled cheesecake.

    Chill the cheesecake again for an hour, un-mould and serve!

Side view of Persimmon cheesecake

Notes :

  • This is not a very sweet dessert. But the mild tartness of the fruit goes very well with the hung curd and paneer to produce a delicate light dessert.
  • You can add some cinnamon and honey to with the paneer and hung curd to give it a spicy autumn feeling.