February 23, 2014

Oats and Moong Dosa

Every once in a while, I like to try new things. Sometimes, it is an experiment driven by curiosity. At others, it is driven by need. This one was purely the former. I wanted to keep my standard dosa recipe proportions, but wanted to switch the ingredients. However, while it started off that way, the end result was driven by need. 

I wanted to use moong dal and oats. So I soaked dal and rolled oats. However, I think I used a little extra water to grind the batter. I added my secret ingredient to help bring the texture of my batter back to normal.

The result was a light, yet filling breakfast idea, with the flax seeds giving the dosa a nice texture.

1/2 cup Green Gram Dal (Moong Dal)
1 cup Rolled Oats
1 tbsp Flax Seeds, ground
Salt to taste

Soak the Green Gram Dal and rolled oats for at least 4 hours. Grind to a batter using water. Add the flax seeds towards the end. Add salt.

Heat a tawa and smear a little oil on it. Pour a ladleful of the batter on the tawa and quickly spread it around in a circular motion.

Add a few drops of oil around the dosa. Carefully remove the dosa from the pan after a couple of minutes and flip it around so the other side is cooked too.

Repeat with the remaining batter. I got 12 dosas from this batter.

Serve with any chutney or chutney podi of your choice.

This is the first time I'm trying to blog from my phone. Let's hope it works. If it does, I may just be able to blog more often.

January 26, 2014

Focaccia Caprese

We Knead to Bake! I joined this group last year and dropped out after a couple of months. Did I not enjoy baking bread? Actually, I did enjoy it very much. And I enjoyed baking with a group. There is so much inspiration and motivation that it becomes tough to resist. I dropped out because I knew I would be traveling, had guests at home and at the end of it all, I was so far out that it was tough to come back. I didn't want anyone in the group to think I was dragging my feet.

This year, I thought I could learn to manage my time better. And I definitely wanted to keep trying new breads. So, I signed up again. With encouragement from all of you and the group, I am certain I can keep up. Or at least I know I will try very hard.

This month's bread is the Focaccia Capreseadapted from The Kitchen Whisperer. It only took me a few minutes to put this together and it was gone equally quickly. The only waiting was the time that the yeast took to get to work.

For the Dough:

2 tsp Instant Yeast
1 1/2 tbsp Sugar
3 1/2 cups Bread Flour
1 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Olive oil
1 1/2 cups Warm water
A little more olive oil for brushing the dough

For the Topping:

2 Tomatoes, sliced thin
1 6” round piece of Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, cut into1/4” slices
1/2 cup Fresh Basil Leaves, chiffonaded

For the Herbed Oil:

1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 tsp dried Oregano
1 tsp dried Basil
1/2 tsp Red Chilli flakes 
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
Salt to taste 

In a bottle, add all the ingredients for the herbed oil and shake well.
Oil a baking tin. Heat the oven to 210C/410F.
In a bowl, add the sugar, salt, and olive oil and mix well. Add the warm water and mix until the sugar dissolves. Add the yeast and mix well. Add the bread flour and mix until everything comes together. Knead for a few minutes. The dough will be a bit sticky at this point. Make it into a ball and cover it with oil.
Cover with cling film or a damp cloth and allow it to rise. This will take about 45 minutes to an hour. Divide the dough into 4 parts.
Take one part and stretch it into the prepared baking tin by patting it down. Stretch the dough as it will tend to spring back. Allow it to rise for another 20 minutes.
Make a few depressions all over the dough with a well oiled finger and brush the entire surface with oil.
Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until the bread is golden brown. 
Lightly drizzle some of the herbed oil over the bread and then evenly arrange some slices of mozzarella over the bread, leaving very little space between them. Arrange the tomato slices over this and a little sprinkle the chiffonaded basil over this. The topping should cover most of the surface of the bread.
Turn the heat of the oven up to 230C/450F. Drizzle more herbed oil over the bread and place it back in the oven for 5-7 minutes.

Cut it into slices while still warm and enjoy it fresh out of the oven. This bread was gone in no time. Given how easy this recipe is, I know I will make it more often.

January 19, 2014

Melange of Coloured Bell Peppers

There is something very appealing about a riot of colours. I try, as often as possible, to eat in colour. Most times, the colour is in our fruit boxes and not as much in our main meals. My pulaos tend to have almost the colours of the rainbow in them. But I don't seem to cook mixed vegetable dishes as often as I used to.

In 2012, we visited the US to attend my graduation ceremony. After the ceremony, we spent a couple of days with my uncle and aunt in New Jersey. One of the things I enjoyed about that stay was their fridge that was always full of food. My uncle says he likes to eat a variety of food everyday and so he just cooks whenever he has the inclination or time or both. And then, every meal is a feast.

One of the dishes that I enjoyed during that stay was a dish made of red bell peppers. I tried it the day we landed in Singapore. Then I forgot about it. More recently, I was at the supermarket with A. He picked out one green, one yellow and one red pepper. I decided I had to make the dish again. However, I had forgotten how. A quick text to my uncle and I had the recipe again. I've made this a couple of times since and while we love it, everyone we have served it to also seems to like it.

1 Red Capsicum
1 Yellow Capsicum
1 Green Capsicum
1/4 cup Red Gram Dal (Chana Dal)
1 tsp Chilli Powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1-2 tsp Oil
1/4 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Asafoetida
7-8 Curry Leaves
Salt to taste

Dry roast the red gram dal for 5-7 minutes or until nicely browned, but not burnt. Grind to a coarse powder with some salt. (Any extra powder can be frozen for use later.)

Chop the capsicum into small pieces.

Heat the oil in a kadhai. Add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, add the asafoetida and curry leaves. Add the capsicum pieces and fry for a minute. Add the chilli powder, turmeric and a little salt. When. the capsicum is half done, add the powdered red gram dal, a little by little (2 tablespoons or so). Stir from time to time, until the capsicum is cooked.

This dish goes very well with rice and dal/sambar and I think of it as a cheater's paruppu usli. I am quite sure it will make a nice side for rotis too. I love it just by itself as a quick snack and it could even be a carb free meal. I find this dish to be the easiest way to eat in colour.

January 12, 2014

Milk Chocolate Cake

A new year! A time for resolutions. A time for new beginnings. Many people say new year's are overrated, as are resolutions. Personally, I think there is no harm in trying. A few weeks ago, I resumed posting on this blog. At the same time, my namesake and I were chatting. I told her that I would probably not resume the project 365 this year, but would probably think of writing once a week on this blog. Almost two weeks have gone by and I have not yet started. So, maybe this project needs a bit of tweaking. Just to keep things simple and to add a bit of variety, I'm going to go with 10 sweet baked goodies/Indian sweets, 10 savoury baked goodies/Indian snacks, 10 South Indian dishes and 10 North Indian dishes. So, that's 40 for 2014. Whatever else I post here will either be part of something bigger, or quite simply, a bonus.

The one big cooking related thing I started doing in 2013 was baking with A. It really all started with a book we brought from the library: Spot Bakes a Cake. We read and reread the book so many times that one day I just bought him a copy. It remains a favourite. In the story, Spot bakes a chocolate cake for his father's birthday. Usually, whenever A wants to bake a cake, it is chocolate. So far he has asked for a different cake just once.

On weekends, we build Lego sets or play with blocks, go out, play hide and seek or simply bake together. A likes the concept of baking. He loves the concept of sprinkles. And as is probably standard for children his age, he has almost no concept of patience. After I've put the cake in the oven, he'd come by every few minutes and ask, "Is the cake ready yet, Amma?", but when I finally bring the cake out for him to cut, if I ask him, "Would you like a piece?", the answer would most immediately be a "No". To him, cake is food. He feels he can ask for it in place of any meal. It is also his comfort food. Scraped knees causing many tears? Fear not. As long as one can quickly be given a piece of cake, there is no cause for worry.

This morning, we decided to bake. He wanted a chocolate cake. But I've run out of cocoa. We made do with what we had. 

1 cup Flour
1/4 cup Butter
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Milk
1 Egg
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
A pinch of Salt
10 Cadbury's Dairy Milk miniatures (or 50 g milk chocolate)
Sprinkles and Chocolate Chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Prepare an 8" round cake tin.

Melt the milk chocolate miniatures in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds. Beat well. Repeat this twice until the chocolate is melted and the texture is creamy.

Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt.

Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl. Add the egg and beat again. Add the milk and vanilla and beat for 30 seconds. Add the sifted dry ingredients and beat until well incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and mix well.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. Decorate with the sprinkles and chocolate chips (this is the part that children seem to enjoy the most). Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and then cut into pieces.

The result, today, was the softest, yet firmest, chocolate cake I've baked in a long long time. A had two pieces fresh out of the oven. I suppose having an able assistant makes all the difference in the world.

Happy New Year, everyone. My heart is filled with gratitude for the love you continue to show.

December 31, 2013

Eggless Indian Mithai Mini Muffins (and a major milestone)

This evening, the sun will go down for the last time in 2013. As far as this blog is concerned, 2013 will go down as the year with the least posts. And I hope to keep it that way. 

When Sig resumed the project 365, I was very tempted to join in. My attempt to do the same in 2010 got derailed for a bunch of reasons. This year, if there’s one thing I have taken to completion, it would be this project. A smartphone, good connectivity and an abundance of subjects resulted in my ability to stick with the project till the end.

On the cooking front, I also signed up for baking 12 breads this year with Aparna. I baked two breads with the group. I did everything with the third “bread”, except post it on the blog. Several things happened in the next three months. Some good, and some not so good. Moments of immense happiness were followed by moments of immeasurable grief. And many plans were derailed. But as I type this, I know that this, too, shall pass.

2013: The year in which

  • We rang in the new year in the company of friends, as always.
  • We took A to India for the first time.
  • We celebrated my parents’ 50th anniversary.
  • We traveled, on work and for fun.
  • We made full use of our Annual membership to USS.
  • I attended a cookie decoration class.
  • I signed up for a cake decoration class.
  • A and I baked and cooked together.
  • We were able to spend a lot of time with friends.
  • We shall welcome the New Year in the company of friends.

I shall be thankful for what I have, and understand that what wasn’t mine, was probably not meant to be. One of the things I will be eternally thankful for is this blog and everything it has given me. If I may say so myself, I am a much better cook today than I was 7 years ago. My interest and enthusiasm for all things food related have not waned, but have, in fact, grown. Today, I am equally at ease making vegetable pies or bisi bele bhat, ricotta cakes or ribbon pakoda. And while S has been a major pillar of support by being the one who appreciates as well as criticizes, I need to acknowledge all of you too. Fellow bloggers and readers have taught me so much and have been so instrumental in expanding my repertoire.

This post is monumental. It is my last post for 2013. It is posted on the last day of 2013. And it is the 600th post on The Singing Chef. I have always said that this blog grew much bigger than I’d ever intended for it to. I’ve caught myself going back to it for inspiration every so often. And it will always be a part of me. And I will always be grateful for that one hot afternoon in May, in sunny and dry Gurgaon, when on an unexpected holiday I started this blog on a whim. From not expecting to put up any photos, to getting an SLR just so I can take better pictures, to ditching everything and clicking photographs with my phone, it has been one heck of a ride. I remember how eagerly I participated in blog events, how excited I was when I got a blogger award and how I even went shopping for pretty plates and bowls just so I could take pictures for the blog. Now, I just take a photo of my plate (the hand me down melamine ones we eat in) before I eat and use that for the blog. At least, that is the intention.

In attempting to keep up with tradition, I leave you with a sweet recipe. One that has been a super duper hit in my family and friends’ circle. While I have yet to master Indian mithai, I have been rather successful in recreating the same flavours through my first love: baking.

1 cup Flour
1 ½ tsp Baking Powder
½ cup Sugar
a Pinch Salt
¼ cup Butter
¼ cup Ricotta Cheese
½ cup Milk
2 tsp Milk Masala Powder (I use Everest)
A few strands of Saffron

Sift all the dry ingredients together.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare the mini muffin pans by lining them with paper muffin cases.

In a bowl, beat the ricotta cheese with the butter and sugar. Add the milk gradually. When the mixture is well blended, add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until just well blended. Add the saffron and the milk masala powder.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cases. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

This recipe beats slaving over the stove to make the perfect Indian mithai. No more worrying about one thread or two thread consistency, no need to stir until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Just mix, bake and get ready to eat a melt-in-your-mouth piece of goodness.

Make these, pop one in your mouth and reminisce the year that just went by. Dwell on the good, count your blessings, and surround yourself with friends and family. May 2014 take you one step closer to whatever your goals are. Thank you for following this space. Thank you for missing me. Thank you for helping bring this blog back on track. Wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year!

October 24, 2013

Jewel Blondies

I never thought I'd abandon this space. Not even for a few months. Whenever I thought I had been away too long, I'd be back, usually with a vengeance. This time, I realize I've been away for way too long. This blog which had become such an integral part of me, turned six, and I didn't blog about that. I threw a big surprise party for S' birthday. I didn't let any of you on the secret. I knew I always had a truckload of excuses: a new job, a toddler... but honestly, I've had it much worse than this and I blogged through all that.

I think it is just that 2013 has been one heck of a year for me. The never before and never again variety. I restarted the photo a day challenge and have stuck with it. I traveled to more countries in one year than I did in all my life until now. I had the honour of celebrating my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. I also learnt of the depth of my strength as I suffered a great loss. But I have always been the type that tries to take everything in her stride. But, sadly, this blog suffered.

A started school earlier this year and one of my endeavours is to give him homemade snacks. I have to admit I was taken by surprise when I realized that even two year olds suffer from peer pressure. Many of my attempts to create goodies for him has resulted in them being returned as is with an "I want Milo balls" or "I want Chocos".

I wanted to make some blondies for him as I was desperately fighting a chocolate war, and a seemingly fake one at that. I remembered saving a recipe from almost 10 years ago. The source has long been forgotten as this was in my pre-blog era. I modifed it to make a batch of much loved blondies. Even by a two year old.

3/4 cup Butter
1/2 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
2 cups Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Dried Cherries
1/4 cup Dried Blueberries
1/4 cup Dried Apricots
1/4 cup Butterscotch Bits
1/4 cup Chocolate Chips

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Grease two 8x8 cake tins.

Cream the butter and the sugars in a bowl. Add the eggs and beat well. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to the butter-sugar mixture, beating well after each addition. Stir in the dried fruits, chocolate chips and butterscotch bits.

Divide the mixture into the two pans. Bake for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown. Cool and cut into squares. Enjoy these with a cold glass of milk. These are little bejewelled, bite sized treats for kids and grown ups alike. Try it and let me know what you think.

I turned a year older two days ago. Many friends wished me. Most wished this blog well and hoped for many more recipes. Some wondered what had happened to this space. And then there was one who had been begging me to resume for months now. For the past few weeks, it had turned into a push of sorts. This morning she extracted a promise. Now, there is no way I can let this slip. My dear namesake, this one is just for you. 

March 24, 2013

Hokkaido Milk Bread

Things have been silent here for a while.I have been cooking and trying out new things more than ever, but am finding lesser and lesser time to blog about them and share them with you all. At the very least, I have been taking pictures, so we can hope that the posts could see the light of day at some point.

News on the Baby A front is that we celebrated his second birthday with a little party and a cake. So, he doesn't qualify to be called Baby A anymore. Since none of the established bakeries was willing to make a birthday at CNY, we placed an order with a home baker. We were so stunned by her creation. We asked her to put a few of A's favourite things: Thomas, Spot and Lightning McQueen. A was thrilled! A also started with a playgroup and seems to enjoy it. In his first week, he made pizzas at school! Another foodie in the making?

Earlier this year, I signed up with Aparna to bake 12 breads in 12 months with. I was in India for 3 weeks in February and so I dropped out of February's bread. We enjoyed the pull apart pesto bread so much that I was certain  I simply had to try the others. (OK, let's say the fear of being thrown out of the group also had something to do with the attempt.)

When we returned from India and were unwell for what felt like the longest time. I thought up every excuse in the book to opt out of this one. And then the pictures started pouring in. And I thought it'd be criminal to not even give this a try! So I went along with our credo: We Knead to Bake!

Hokkaido Milk Bread

A little time consuming, but very easy. The original recipe is for this bread is from 65 Degrees Tangzhong “65C Bread Doctor” by Yvonne Chen, and adapted from Kirbie’sCravings.

For The Tangzhong (Flour-Water Roux)

1 1/2 tbsp Flour
1/4 cup Water
1/4 cup Milk 
Whisk together lightly the flour, water and milk in a saucepan until smooth and there are no lumps. Place the saucepan on the stove, and over medium heat, let the roux cook till it starts thickening. Keep stirring/ whisking constantly so no lumps form and the roux is smooth.
Watch the roux/ tangzhong until you start seeing “lines” forming and take the pan off the heat at this point.
Let the roux/ tangzhong cool completely and rest for about 2 to 3 hours at least. It will have the consistency of a soft and creamy crème patisserie.
For The Dough:

 2 1/2 cups Flour
 3 tbsp Sugar
 1tsp Salt
2 tbsp Milk Powder
2 tsp Instant Yeast
1/2 cup Milk
1/8 cup Cream
Tangzhong from the recipe above
25gm Unsalted Butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)

Put the flour, salt, sugar, powdered milk and instant yeast in a bowl and mix with a hand blender and dough hooks. In another small bowl mix the milk, cream and Tangzhong till smooth and add to the processor bowl. Run on slow speed until the dough comes together. Now add the butter and process till you have a smooth and elastic dough which is just short of sticky.
Knead the dough to make it smooth. If the dough feels firm and not soft to touch, add a couple of tsps of milk till it becomes soft and elastic. When the dough is done, you should be able to stretch the dough without it breaking right away.  When it does break, the break should be form a circle.
Form the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl turning it so it is well coated. Cover with a towel, and let the dough rise for about 1 hour or till almost double in volume.  
Place the dough on the working surface. Divide the dough in 3 equal pieces. Roll out each portion of the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape, about 1/8” thick. Take one end of the dough from the shorter side of the oval and fold it to the middle of the oval. Take the other end and fold so it slightly overlaps the other fold.
Roll this folded dough with the rolling pin so the unfolded edges are stretched out to form a rectangle. Roll the rectangle from one short edge to the other, pinching the edges to seal well. Do this with each of the three larger pieces and place them, sealed edges down, in a well-oiled loaf tin. Cover with a towel and leave the dough to rise for another hour.
Brush the tops of the loaf with cream and bake at 170C (325F) for about 20 to 30 minutes till done and beautifully browned on top. Let the loaf cool in the tin for about 5 minutes and then unmould and transfer to a rack till slightly warm or cool. Slice and enjoy the fruits of your labour!
Soft and so tasty. This is, by far, the best bread I've baked.