Songs that stay and a Cheddar Cheese bread

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

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

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

Not now. I let it pass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Rutvika

*******       *******       ********

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

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

Cheddar Cheese Bread with toasted Sesame Seeds

Cheddar cheese bread

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

What you will need :

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

Bread making process

What to do :

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

Fancy shaped cheddar cheese bread

Cheesy Onion and Sesame Seed Braided Bread

The Baby kicked!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lovingly,

Rutvika

*******       *******       *******

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

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

Braided bread

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

Braiding the bread

Cheesy Onion and Sesame Seed Braided Bread

What you will need :

For the dough

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

For the filling –

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

What to do :

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

Cutting the bread braid

Notes :

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

 

Bon Apetit!

Inside the braid

Sesame Whole Wheat Long Rolls

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is nature. Strange and powerful.

Rutvika Charegaonkar


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

Sesame whole wheat buns

Sesame Whole Wheat Long Rolls

What you will need :

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

What to do :

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

Sandwiched long rolls

Notes :

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

Buns with mayonnaise

Cracked wheat bread with sesame seeds and the Diary Chronicles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rutvika Charegaonkar


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

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

Bread cut into wedges

 

Cracked Wheat Bread with sesame seeds

This makes 3 medium round loaves

What you will need :

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

What to do :

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

Cracked wheat bread cut in pieces

Notes :

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

bread sticks with olives

Homemade white loaf bread with poppy seeds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing much.

Rutvika Charegaonkar

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

Makes  two 9-5 inch loaves.

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

bread loaf sliced

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

Working with yeast

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

What you will need :

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

What to do :

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

Loaf with jam and butter

Notes :

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