Thursday, September 17, 2015

Floral Nutella Bread

I don't often indulge in Nutella deliciousness but as I was going about my usual pantry replenishment yesterday, I couldn't resist reaching for a jar. But getting an ingredient like this makes you wonder what the next step is going to be...
I looked online and came across this recipe for braid and tear bread. I had never made this before and it was indeed a showstopper of a bread. The recipe is from here. I made very few changes.
As I type this the house smells wonderful with the aroma of this bread....

31/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbs fine sugar
2 tsp active dried yeast ( I used Bluebird)
30 gram unsalted butter
3/4 cup warm milk
A pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
1 cup of nutella
A bit of vegetable oil to grease the bowl
The whites of the egg can be set aside for glazing the bread before baking
Add the sugar and the yeast to the warm milk. Stir gently with a spoon and set aside till it froths up.
Put the flour in a large bowl, add a pinch of sugar and the butter.
After the yeast mixture froths up, add it to the flour and bring the dough together.
Once it's in one mass, tip the contents to your work surface that's been lightly dusted with flour.
Knead for about 10 minutes by knocking the air out till the dough is smooth and elastic.
Transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Leave in a warm place to rise till it's double in size. This might take about an hour.

Remove from the bowl. Shape the dough like a long sausage by giving it a quick roll and cut into four pieces.
Take the first piece of dough, roll it into a ball, then roll it out into a circle.
Take a plate (the size of the bread you want) and press it on the circle (shown in the collage above) to make an impression.
Now with the help of a table knife spread the nutella inside the imprint. The excess dough will be removed later.

Repeat with the other two. Roll out, make the impression and spread the deliciousness. 
(At this point I got so carried away that I used nutella for the last circle of dough. I had already made the first cut before I realized my mistake. I had to remove the spread and turn the whole thing upside down which resulted in the non-alignment of the cuts. There's one that's very prominent).
After the last circle is layered, use the same plate and cut off all the excess dough by cutting around the plate.
Place a small glass or tart tin in the middle of the bread and make four cuts as seen in the picture.
Then make another in the middle of the cut space. Repeat as shown in the collage.

Now turn one cut piece twice. The adjacent piece must be turned in the opposite direction. Repeat till all the pieces are turned/braided.
Then seal the ends of the braids by pressing the edges with your fingers.
Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rise for another 25-30 minutes.
Brush with the egg whites that had been kept aside and bake for about 25-30 minutes in a preheated 180C oven or until the bread turns golden brown.

Remove and cool. It tastes so good warm from the oven. By far this has been the most satisfying bread that I have baked. Rich from the egg and the milk, nutty and chocolaty from the nutella...I think I'll go and visit one of my friends soon. It'll give me a reason to bake and wrap this bread in cellophane and a pretty ribbon. Maybe I'll add a bouquet of flowers too.:)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Pear & Almond Tart

Pear and almond tart
Pear & almond tart and freshly-cut anthuriums from my pots
One of the joys of life is baking with almond cream. Whether it's a hand pie or a tart, with or without the accompaniment of fruit, the taste makes you sit back and savour the moment(s). Images of pear tarts on the internet  have been whispering to me...Go, get those pears and bake!! I dragged myself out of the house and looked around for pears and did come across the ones that I thought would turn out good. I don't know the names and the fruits certainly do not come with name tags. You have to go by intuition...
I did some prepping yesterday. Ground the almonds, ground the sugar, and made the shortcrust pastry. There wasn't much to be done today but poach the pears and bake the tart. 

The pastry:
100 grams butter, cut into cubes and chilled
200 grams all-purpose flour, sieved
2 tbs fine sugar
1 egg + extra for the egg wash
Keep a small bowl of cold water to sprinkle on the dough
Transfer the flour into a large bowl and add the butter.
Add the sugar and mix with your finger tips till it becomes crumbly.
Break the egg and add to the mixture. Sprinkle some cold water (if needed) at this point.
Bring the mixture together. Wrap in clingfilm, and chill for at least 40 minutes.
I prefer to rest my pastry overnight so I usually make it a day ahead. 
The almond filling:
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbs butter at room temperature
1 tsp almond extract
1 tbs all-purpose flour
2 small eggs
Mix everything in the blender and chill till ready to be used.
Pear & almond tart

The pears: 
(I got the smaller-sized ones)
4 pears
4 cups of water, enough for the fruit to be submerged in
1 stick of cinnamon
6-7 cloves
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
A quarter tsp grated ginger
Heat the water in a pan and add the aromatics and the sugar.
Peel and halve the pears. Core them.
Add them to the water and poach them for about 18-20 minutes. Check using a knife. If it meets no resistance the pears are ready.
Cool in the poaching liquid.
After the pears cool down, place each one on a board and slice horizontally.
The cut must not go all the way through and each pear-half must remain intact.
With your fingers, fan out the cuts. Then use a paper towel to absorb the liquid from the poaching. Dry out gently using more paper towels if necessary. This is important as you don't want the liquid turning your filling soggy, particularly in the area surrounding the pears.
Pear & almond tart

Baking blind:
Meanwhile, take the pastry out of the fridge.
Lightly grease a loose-bottomed tart tin.
Roll out the pastry a little bigger than the tin.
With the help of the rolling pin, place it on the tart tin.
Press the edges and again with the rolling pin, discard the overhanging dough.
Chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Take the pastry out of the fridge.
Butter one side of a piece of foil and place the buttered side down.
Fill with baking beans and bake for about 12 minutes.
Remove the beans, apply egg-wash and bake again till the pastry is golden brown. This will take another 10 minutes or so.
Remove and cool.
Pear & almond tart

The final process:
Add the almond filling to the cooled pastry shell. With the help of a spatula, place the pears on top by forming a pattern. I placed one in the middle also. Bake in a preheated 180C oven for 40 minutes or till it's evenly browned. Remove and cool. A little sugar dusting might not be a bad thing. Cut into wedges and serve.
Not all the pastry dough was used. I prefer to make a little extra.

There's a bit of the filling left and that's likely to go into hand pies like the ones here:

Monday, September 7, 2015

Pomelo Salad

Pomelo salad
Pomelo salad
There are certain fruits that will always be associated with one's childhood. Mulberries in spring, mangoes and jamun in summer, oranges in winter but just when the heat shows some signs of leaving, the first pomelos make their appearance. The other day I got one fruit from my regular vendor who, bless her, usually brings (mostly) foraged vegetables right to my doorstep. The usual ware comprises vegetable fern, bamboo shoots, water spinach, banana flowers, colocasia and different kinds of gourds. I couldn't resist buying the pomelo as it was small in size and she assured me it was pink and sweet. It certainly turned out to be one of the sweetest that I have eaten...
In our region, the pomelo tree is filled with fragrant creamy flowers in March. The picture below shows pictures of the fruits taken in December (green)  and January (ripening). These pictures were taken in my mother's garden a few years ago.

I really haven't tried pomelo in recipes. I love the juice but we have it mostly in this form by throwing in a few things and it's ready! It tastes best in the afternoon (I think) with a dash of sweetness, a drizzle of oil and the freshness of mint.

The pomelo/Citrus maxima is also known by other names such as Chinese grapefruit and shaddock. It's the largest citrus fruit in the world. The rind is thick and the flesh inside can be cream-coloured or pink. There are also darker and lighter variations of pink. Some tend to be tart and some are on the sweeter side. 
The pomelo I used will serve 4.
1 pomelo
A bunch of mint
A dash of salt
Sugar to taste
2 chopped green chillies, some of the seeds can be discarded
A drizzle of mustard oil (optional)
Wash the fruit and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
Make vertical incisions on the rind all across. It's like cutting a pumpkin except that you don't cut through the flesh.
Remove the segmented portions of the rind by peeling them off. Remove some of the pith and you will see the segments.
Remove them the way you would remove orange segments.
Peel off the covering and remove all white pithy bits. Discard the seeds and remove/transfer the pink flesh to a bowl.
 Pomelo salad
Add all the other ingredients, drizzle with the oil (if using) and serve immediately.
This is a most refreshing snack particularly if the fruit is naturally sweet. 
This salad tastes best when it's fresh. Pomelo has the tendency to get a little bitter if it's stale.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Leaf-Shaped Fougasse

Leaf-shaped fougasse
Leaf-shaped fougasse
I'm fascinated by leaf shapes in baking. Which is why I often find myself cutting these patterns on bread dough.:) And it helps that the recipe is the same as foccacia which a bread that I bake more often than other breads.This started when I bought the book Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan. There are still many recipes that I'll try out and of course I started with the easier ones. In my family, the younger generation do not need rice at every meal and I love to bake for them. Seeing the joy on the faces of my nieces and nephews on receiving a leaf-shaped bread is wonderful indeed.
Leaf-shaped fougasse
Leaf-shaped fougasse made on another occasion
According to Wiki, in French cuisine, fougasse is a kind of flat bread associated with Provence but also found with variations in other regions. Fougasse was traditionally used to assess the temperature of a wood-fired oven. The time it would take to bake gave an idea of the oven temperature and whether the rest of the bread could be loaded.
3 cups flour (I used 2 parts all-purpose and 1 part wheat flour)
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbs dried yeast
1/2 tsp salt
About 300ml lukewarm water
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil + extra for brushing
12-15 pitted olives, patted dry and chopped
1 tbs dried thyme
2 red chillies, seeds discarded and chopped fine
Some time before being baked
Pour the water in a bowl and add the yeast. Add the sugar to activate the yeast. Stir gently and set aside till the mixture froths up. This will take about 12-15 minutes.
Transfer the flour to a large bowl. Add the oil, the salt and the yeast mixture.
Mix till the dough comes together. Tip the contents of the bowl on your flour-dusted work surface.
Knead for about 10 minutes till the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm.
Leave in a warm place for about an hour or till it doubles in size.
Knead again for a few minutes and leave to rise for the second time. This will take another hour.
Place the dough on a floured or greased baking tray. Make the required shape by slashing with a small knife. Take care to handle the dough gently. The slashes can be widened using your fingers. Scatter the chopped olives and chillies all across the surface and lightly press them. Leave to rise and check the nicks in between as they might get closed as the dough rises. Stretch them so the shape remains intact.
Just before hitting the oven
Ten minutes before the fougasse goes into a preheated 180C oven, brush it with olive oil. Scatter the dried thyme on the bread and sprinkle some salt.
Bake for about 20 minutes till the bread is golden brown.
As soon as it is removed from the oven, brush again with olive oil and transfer it to a rack for cooling.
This bread tastes best the day it's baked. 
I wouldn't have used chillies but the thought of contrasting colours came to mind as I was adding the olives. The colours look more vibrant before the bread is baked. The chillies I used are not the hot ones.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Purslane & Corn Salad

Purslane & corn salad
Purslane/corn salad with cucumber, tomato & onions
I'm starting off September's first post with a simple salad. Just like amaranth, the common purslane/Portulaca oleracea, sprouts amid my potted plants and in the ground each year. Purslane is most prolific around the height of summer and with all the rain that we get they look really healthy too. There isn't much by way of harvest but enough to add them to some dishes like dal and mostly to aloo sabji. It's a little acidic so a small bunch works out fine.
The idea of using corn and purslane came after seeing different recipes online. These weren't teamed up together but since it's the season of both, why not throw them into a salad...
Purple corn from my home district Dima Hasao & purslane in my ginger pot
This plant with thick rounded and smooth leaves has been given the name Parrot's tongue/batho shlai in our language. It is also known as hogweed and pigweed. The plant bears yellow flowers and the tiny black seeds are formed in pods. Like other blooms in the same family, the flowers close early. Purslane is said to contain more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable. It also contains vitamins such as A, C, E and B and dietary minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron.
A small bunch is enough
Perilla seeds (pictured below), like all oil-producing seeds have a nutty flavour. They are good on their own too, toasted and ground, with a dash of salt, chilli, diced onions and herbs.
2 medium cucumbers, peeled and diced
1/2 cup cooked corn
1 small bunch purslane, washed, cut, and steamed till they wilt
2 red chillies, seeds removed and chopped fine
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 tomato, diced
For the dressing:
2 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp coarsely grated pepper
1 tbs toasted and ground perilla seeds
1 tsp honey
Salt to taste
(I did not use lemon here as  purslane is acidic)

Purslane & corn salad

Put all the salad ingredients in a dish. Mix well. Drizzle the dressing all over the salad. 
Raw purslane and raw corn (something that I learnt recently, the corn I mean) can be added but since I had cooked corn I added them and I really don't like the taste of raw purslane. Hence the cooking and the steaming. This salad with its not-so-usual combination makes a great in-between snack.