Friday, 29 February 2008

DB February Challenge: French Bread

This month's challenge, hosted by Mary and Sara, was French Bread. This wasn't like my first bread or anything, and yeast is a friend too :P but it had been ages that I had baked a bread. I remember a funny incident from years and years back, I was baking those braided loaves, I had seen a recipe on TV, and had wanted to try immediately. I remember the chef lovingly calling them his pregnant ladies, as the braids were filled with nuts! Anyway the recipe yielded three loaves, and as I was at third, I couldn't, for the life of me, make that braid! The more I tried, the more the strands kept getting longer! Finally I had to ask my brother and he did it for me!

Anyway that's neither here nor there! Am finally through with my challenge, and thanks to Mary and Sara for kindling some old memories. As I said baking a bread wasn't a first for me, but what was a first was reading and re-reading and re-reading... n times, a recipe this long! Well, that's the fun of being a Daring Baker, doing something you wouldn't otherwise do!

Here's my dough after the preliminary stages.

It wasn't sticky, it wasn't dry, yet I felt it needed some water, so I added a few tablespoons but that didn't make much of a difference I think.

After the first rise, I was kinda pleased with it :P

After the second rise.

Inverted onto a kneading surface...

I decided to make small rolls, the only reason being that I really couldn't make out how I was to transfer the dough from the canvas to the baking tray using a cardboard without completely flattening it. For the small buns (petit pains) it said you had to carefully pick them up and place them on the tray, and that sounded infinitely easier. Here's one of the balls. I don't think they quite tripled, and also I managed to deflate them considerably during slashing.

And yeah that isn't a piece of canvas or linen towel. When it comes to cloth and their types, I am dumb. I was going to ask my mother for the cloth and when I needed it (trust me not to have asked for it before hand) she was taking her afternoon nap, so I waited, waited some more, and then dusted a piece of parchment paper generously with flour.

In the oven.

I think I should have taken these out earlier, it looks a bit over done. And that white flaky thing on top is the flour which got stuck to the bottoms during the final rise!

I found it difficult to slice the bread because of its crust, and found it chewy to eat.

I think this isn't something I'd be making again, but I definitely enjoyed this challenge!

To find out how the rest of the DBer's tackled this challenge visit the blogroll.

Update: I just had one, slicing it in half and toasting it slightly, buttering it generously, finishing with some jam, yum! Also the crust is no longer hard.


Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Chocolate Chocolate Cake

Yet again, Martha Stewart's One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes take the cake. It was a family birthday, and for special occasions I stick to tried and tested recipes, and since this was pretty much tried and tested, I again went for it. 

I made two round cakes and sliced both into two (three if you count removing the dome) and got a four layered cake, layered with chocolate ganache and nougat. For the nougat I made caramel from two cups of sugar and tossed into it around a cupful of toasted almonds and walnuts. My family loves nougat, whether its with vanilla ice cream (with chocolate sauce if you are feeling particularly indulgent) or just like that, yeah, I mean just popping them into your mouth like popcorn!

Ok, here's an interesting bit. Did you realise you were looking at chocolate ganache of three different colours. Here's how that happened. After I had the cake covered in ganache, I wanted to do to feather icing, so I added some cocoa to the leftover ganache thinking it will get darker in colour, but no! it got lighter. Thinking my eyes were playing tricks, I added some more, and it got still lighter! So then I made the rings with this lighter ganache, and then made the second one with some little-old-much-darker-than-both ganache I had! Am sorry, this all is soo confusing I know!

After making the caramel and before adding the nuts to it, I made some caramel sticks with which I crowned the cake, though I agree it does look like a crown of thorns! Now I feel it really wasn't required and would have looked much prettier on a cake covered with whipped cream. (Try sponge cake with whipped cream and nougat if you havent yet!) For the layers I used the finer nougat and used the bigger pieces to cover the sides. And as always I was behind time so couldn't really wait for the ganache to cool down completely and thicken, therefore the nougat didn't stick properly, creating a ring of yummy debri around the cake!

'Someone's been in my kitchen!', cried the mumma bear. Who could it be, I wonder.

The leftovers. Stuffed. "How ruuude!"

Note: The propotions given on the site are somewhat different from those of the book, and I used the book. 

Wondering what happened to the domes? Three days later they made a very good two layer cake by themselves, covered and sandwiched with leftover ganache and nougat.


Thursday, 14 February 2008

A card I made using an embossing sheet. Its just two pieces of paper tied with a ribbon. Not your regular Valentine Day stuff (maybe I oughta have chosen pink), but somewhere close I guess :P And thats not my normal handwriting! Dunno, I just wanted to write that in the curliest silliest writing possible.



Sunday, 10 February 2008

Some punishment for your Valentine?

Here is a quick post, my entry for Zorra's 'A heart for your Valentine' event. These cookies, called Punitions, which apparently means 'punishment' in French leave you wondering who named 'em! For the recipe you can check out this link, from Dorie Greenspan's website. Not only does it have the recipe, it'll also help you understand your butter better. As you can see I rolled the dough out thin directly on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, made the shapes, and then baked it just like that! And later on picked out the hearts! I will definitely be posting more about them soon, just that I am in a bit of hurry right now!


Saturday, 9 February 2008

Scrumptious scones

I'm a tea-aholic... Not the weird tasting "chai tea" abominations (hello, chai means tea in half a dozen languages!) sold in places that shall remain unnamed, but strong brewed Indian tea, preferably long-leaf Darjeeling, with cream and sugar. Heaven. And the best thing to go with tea? Scones... So I made a batch of Cranberry cream scones, from Tartlette's tasty take on a Dorie Greenspan recipe. Also because I wanted to use up some heavy cream dangerously on the verge of spoiling. The result was fabulous.... practically melted in my mouth. And I didn't even need any jam, clotted cream or butter!


Friday, 8 February 2008

Comfort food

MASOOR DAL (Red lentil soup) 

A friend recently asked for a recipe using red lentils, so I made some dal, which is kind of like soup, so I could note the ingredients and proportions.  Yummy!
This recipe, though not one of our family traditionals, has become one. It's adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's Red lentil soup recipe in Indian Cooking
I love this book, and I've made almost half the recipes. I began with my mom's copy, as a 14-year-old learning how to cook (mom refused to "teach"... her advice was just watch... something i didn't have the patience for as a teen). This book gave me the skills and understanding to be able to watch my mom and understand her truncated instructions. And many years later, in NYC, I got to meet Madhur Jaffrey in person, well actually shake her hand and tell her how much I love her work! It was after a reading from Shashi Tharoor's Riot. Madhur was first an actress, before her cooking eclipsed her other talent!

Masoor Dal
Ingredients (serves 2-4)

¾ cup red lentils
2.5 cups water
½ tsp salt
2 thin slices ginger
½ tsp turmeric (scant)
1-2 tbsp butter
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp thinly sliced onion
¼ tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp cayenne (or less)
1 mild green chile, (I use a deseeded jalapeno)
2-3 tbsp cilantro, chopped

Wash the lentils (I put them in a medium bowl, fill with water, rub with my fingers and then drain, and repeat 4-5 times until water is somewhat clear), and then fill with water again and let the lentils soak for about 30 minutes.

In a 2 qt or so pot, add the lentils, water, salt, ginger and turmeric. Bring to boil and then simmer on a low flame until done, about 15-20 minutes.

In a separate small frying pan, melt the butter, when hot add the cumin seeds, then onions, when onions are brown add chile and the coriander and cayenne powders, stir a few times, then add the cilantro, stir again a few times, and then pour this mixture over the lentils. Give it a good stir, and you’re done! I like to have this with rice and an Indian veggie dish. Also as a plain soup, with a squeeze of lemon.


Thursday, 7 February 2008

My first loaf of bread

I finally did it... I baked a loaf of bread. I'd been eyeing the famous no-knead bread featured in the NYT for ever and ever, but lacking a cast-iron pot, and not sure whether I should get one because of shoulder problems, I held off. Then I came across another slow-rise, no-knead recipe  in the Washington Post. Using a loaf pan! Perfect.
I used King Arthur's unbleached AP flour and 1 part Indian chapati flour, which I believe is a soft wholewheat (durrum?). 
The loaf was delicious, almost like a french loaf. Reading various tips, I added a bowl of water in the beginning to get a bit of a crust. My only complaint, slightly difficult to slice, but it got easier after I let it rest an hour or so.