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.

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