The Weekend Kitchen

Some hits, some misses…..in my kitchen, over the weekends


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Loafing Apples

“Is there anything to eat?” asks the almost 14 year old as I open the door at noon. He is back from exams.

“Lunch is on the table.”

“What is there to eat?” the question is repeated after less than an hour.

“You should have eaten all your lunch.”

“But amma, rice is so unexciting.”

“There are some apples in the fridge. Go have one.”

“Amma!” an exasperated cry and he is off.

“What is it that you want?” I ask, when the same question comes my way in the next half an hour.

“Brownies,” there is a naughty grin on his face, the kind when he asks for something that he is sure not to get easily.

“Brownies to curb your hunger? You must be kidding!” the indignant mother in me answers.

I know this can’t go on for long. So the puny brain gets racked and the idea of a healthy concoction forms. If it works, well and good. If not, can dunk some milkmaid and make a pudding. Smart, isn’t it?

So these went in:

1  cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup quick cooking oats (ground in a moxie for 1-2 minutes)

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp powdered cinnamon

1/2 tsp each powdered nutmeg and dry ginger powder (optional)

1/2 cup grated jaggery

1/2 cup olive oil (you could use sunflower oil instead)

1/2 cup curd

2 eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 cups diced apples (skin on , small pieces)

1/4 cup sunflower & flaxseeds (optional. You could use any seeds of your choice)

a handful of crushed almonds for topping

Directions

Sift together the flours, baking soda, spices and salt. Beat the jaggery, oil and curd till well blended. Add eggs one after the other. Beat well after each addition. Add the vanilla essence.

Add the flour mix in three parts. Beat on low for 1 minute after each addition. Add the apple pieces and seeds. Blend in with a spatula till just mixed. Transfer to a well buttered  loaf pan. Sprinkle the almonds on top. The nutty flavour once it is well toasted is something else.

Bake at 180 C for 50- 55 minutes.

Test whether done by inserting a tooth pick at 50 minutes. If it comes out clean, remove the pan from the oven. Cool for 10 minutes and invert the loaf onto a cooling rack.

Note: The apples are normally peeled while making loafs or cakes. Thought I’ll try with skin on this time. Turned out perfect.

And son gobbled it up. Proof of the pudding 🙂

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Going the Grainy Way

There was a time when cakes, cookies and bread was plain old white flour. The notion of health food wasn’t heard of, and the evils of white flour would have been laughed off. Maybe it didn’t do our generation much harm while we were growing up, these were luxuries, not everyday or even a weekly item. Cakes came with Christmas, and cookies were a once in a blue moon phenomenon. As for bread, we had 2-3 slices for breakfast once in two weeks. All that changed with the mushrooming, blossoming and then spreading like wild fire culture of eating out. We had no clue what went into the dishes that we relished with a passion. With the Internet came information and the era of ubiquitous home baking.

Like most others, I started with white flour cakes. When baking became an almost daily affair, the quantity of processed flour, butter and white sugar loomed as a monster in front of my eyes. I had to slay the dragon. If I can point to one person who prodded me in this direction, it has to be Sangeeta of www.healthfooddesivideshi.com. The kind of storm that she cooks up with local, healthy produce has to be seen to be believed. The courage to experiment with multiple grains came from her.

Baking bread is therapeutic. The yeast ferments, just as all the stress and frustrations that had been bottled up for long slowly percolates to the top. The slow kneading eases out the tension in your shoulders and soul. And inhaling the aroma of freshly baked bread can be as peaceful as an hour of meditation. This bread that I tried last week, however doesn’t need any kneading. Just mix, mash and bake. At the risk of sounding like blowing my own trumpet, let me say the texture and the taste was amazing. As certified by the husband, who is not too much into cakes and breads. That in itself is something, I suppose 🙂 image   Ingredients

Whole wheat flour – 1 cup

Barley Flour – 1/2 cup

Maize Flour – 1/2 cup

Almond Flour – 1/4 cup

Cocoa Powder – 1/4 cup

Brown sugar – 1/2 cup (optional, I didn’t use it)

Baking powder – 1 tsp

Baking soda – 1 tsp

Cinnamon powder – 1 tsp

Nutmeg powder – 1 tsp

Eggs – 2

Oil – 1/2 cup (used sun flower oil)

Honey – 1//3 cup

Ripe bananas – 3 (ripened to the extent that next step would be rotten)

Vanilla essence – 1/2 tsp

Crushed walnuts – 1/2 cup

Directions

Sift all the dry ingredients together, thrice.  Mash the bananas with a fork. Add eggs, oil , honey and vanilla. Beat at low speed for 1-2 minutes. Add the flour mixture in three batches. Mix gently. Beat at low speed for just a minute so that all the ingredients are blended well. Add walnuts and mix with a spatula. Preheat the oven for 10 minutes at 160 C. Transfer the batter into a well oiled loaf pan. Sprinkle some quick cooking oats and walnuts on top. Bake for 45-55 minutes.

Test whether done at about 45 minutes by inserting a toothpick. If it comes out clean, take the pan out, cool for 10 minutes, and transfer to a cooling rack.  Tastes best the next day.


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There is something about walnuts

image There is something about walnuts, especially when it decides to give company to carrots. Fresh and crispy roots coupled with slightly bitter crunchiness. So much power, packed with goodness. Carrot walnut cakes has been a favorite with family and friends. People who would run for their lives when faced with a fresh carrot has been known to run back at double the speed when it turned to these dense cakes. The recipe that I follow has some sugar in it and I don’t have sugar. But I love cakes. And walnuts.

By the way, did you know walnut trees were first brought to California in the 1700s? From Central Asia. And how they have taken root! Today, that small area produces almost 3/4th of world’s walnuts. The shell and the kernel inside looks like a miniature human head and the wrinkly brain inside. No surprise then, that it is considered brain food. Considered the king of nuts, it is supposed to boost the health of your heart, fight cancer, decrease the risk of diabetes and even aid weight reduction. Eating a quarter cup of walnuts every day is supposed to even reduce fasting sugar levels. Talking about walnuts and California, wonder is that why you find all the brainy types there.

Anyway, getting back to cakes and me, browsing through food sites and pictures is an addiction. Some recipes are bookmarked. More favourite ones (read easy ones 😉 ) are written down. Yes, I do that. There is something prosaic about butter stained cook books. Virtual love is just that. Virtual. You need to feel a person, the bare skin, that special smell, the sheen of sweat on the hands, caress their face, hug, kiss and hold to know what real love is. Just like hand written cook books. image The most difficult part in baking this? 1/3 rd tsp baking soda. Can you believe it? 1/3rd of a tea spoon. How in the world are you supposed to measure that out? There was a half tea spoon. And the brain started working. What they say about walnuts is true, you see. A little less than 0.5 and little more than 0.33 and crossed my fingers. No oranges in stock. So no zest. No big deal. The recipe asked to check the loaf at 45 minutes. The tooth pick that went in came out dry by look and sticky by touch. Another 15 minutes. Toothpick didn’t change its diagnosis. But the top looked brown enough. And the roasted walnuts tasted just perfect.

Patience has never been one of my virtues. After an hour of cooling time, tasted a small slice. It was okay. Just about. And I told myself, “you win some, and then you lose some more.”

Early morning hunger made me attempt another slice. What they say about carrot cakes is true. They taste better the next day. Much better. Far better. Always.


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Cinnamon Rolls

There is something about the smell of cinnamon, with or without apples. I feel like adding a pinch of it to whatever I make. And then there I find this recipe that asks for 3 whole tablespoons full of cinnamon, voila`, that is what goes into the oven today.

I have made some changes to the original recipe and avoided the topping altogether. The roll itself is sweet enough and more than enough butter and oil has gone into it. Why add cheese and cream to it, right? Will do that next time 😉

For the dough:
1 cup warm milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 3/4 cup flour
2 1/4 tsp yeast ( I use the normal Active Dry Yeast)

Take 1 tbsp sugar from the 1/2 cup. Add the yeast to it and add the warm milk. Keep covered for about 15 – 3o minutes, till it has bubbled. well.
Pour the yeast mixture and all other wet ingredients into a large pan. Add 3 1/2 cup flour to this and knead gently. Smear your hands with some oil so that it doesn’t stick. Add little more flour as required. The dough will be a little sticky , but should be soft to your touch. Oil a pan lightly, place the dough in it and cover with a wet cloth. Keep aside for an hour and half.

For the filling:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/ cup brown suagr
3 tbsp cinnamon powder

Mix these well.
Once the flour has risen well, place it on to a flat surface dusted with flour. Knead it with the ball of your palm, it will have a softer look and feel. Roll it out into a large rectangle. Spread some melted butter on it. Spread the filling evenly. Roll it tightly from the longer side. Cut into 1/2 inch wide strips. Keep covered in a wet cloth for another hour.
Brush the top and sides with some milk

Pre heat the oven to 180C for 10 minutes. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes.


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Garlic Bread – from scratch

There is something homely and inviting as you open the doors to a house to the heavenly aroma of freshly baked bread. I always love it when I am at home on a week day, decide to bake and son comes from school straight to the kitchen asking, “amma, are you baking Garlic Bread today?”

Gone are the days when I religiously noted down recipes in notebooks, then flip through it deciding what to make. Now, you think of a couple of ingredients or possible dishes, type it out, google it and a myriad of options opens out in front of you. You now devour the dishes with your eyes before even opening the kitchen shelves. After multiple experiments, I have zeroed in on a recipe for Garlic Bread which is pretty simple and straight forward.

Garlic bread is always a hit, with or without an accompaniment, a hot cup of tea is good enough:-)

Here goes the recipe from food.com. In fact, this is one web site that I keep going back to for anything 🙂 I have adapted it a little bit to suit my preferences

For the dough:
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
A little more flour to adjust the dough if it is too wet
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
1/2 tablespoon instant yeast ( I used the regular Active Dry Yeast)
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon oil

Garlic Mix:
1/4-1/3 cup butter (room temp, homemade really is better)

7-8 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
5-6 stalks of coriander leaves chopped fine
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp driied thyme ( in fact you can use any herb that you prefer)
Mix all these together and keep aside
Directions:
1. Mix the yeast and sugar in a measuring cup, that keeps it from getting lumpy, add the cup of warm water and stir together. let sit for 5 minute.
2. Mix the flour, whole wheat flour and salt in a med sized bowl, then dump in yeast mix and stir until a soft dough forms.
3. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour if needed. It should be just soft, and slightly wet to the touch
4. Rub the bowl with oil and keep the dough on it. Smear some oil on the dough ( I used olive oil)
5. Cover with a wet towel and keep it in a warm place for about an hour and half
6. Remove from the bowl onto to flat surface smeared generously with flour, punch it down and divide into two. Slash it diagonally across just a little deep below the top. Keep it on a baking sheet / aluminium foil smeared with butter.This is how it looked like

7. Cover with the wet towel again and keep aside for another hour
8. Preheat the oven 180C for 10 minutes. Bake for about 20 minutes.
9. Take the bread out and let it cool slightly.
10. Make a few vertical slashes almost till the bottom of the loaf. Smear the insides with the garlic butter mix. Brush the top of the loaves with the mix that is left over
11. Cover loosely with aluminium foil and return to the oven . Bake for another 15 minutes.
12. You can brush a beaten egg to the top of the loaves to get a golden brown colour.
13. Turn of the bottom filament in the last 5 minutes of baking keeping only the top filament on to get a nice brown crust.

Serve with any gravy of your choice. I made it this weeekend with meat loaf. Do I need even say that it disappeared in minutes?