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.

February 3, 2013

Basil Pesto and Cheese Pull Apart Bread

A new year has dawned upon us. Happy New Year!
I just realized that an entire month has gone by and I have not posted anything here. But then, I haven't been as regular with my posting for some time now. But I have been cooking. Not a lot, and not necessarily anything different. But even then, I have a whole load of recipes sitting in my drafts that are waiting for me. The recipe is done and the photographs are taken. But since there's always an attempt to tell a story, I think I am faced with a writer's block. What can I say that I haven't said before? What are my thoughts and how do they link to the recipe? And is there a not so long winded way in which the story can be told? Sometimes, I lose time in just wondering about these things that I forget to actually blog.
I have baked "with" other food bloggers a few times before and I have enjoyed it. Very often, while my enthusiasm to bake again together remains intact, life has a way of making other plans. So, when Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen asked if we'd be interested in baking a bread a month, I liked the idea. But I knew that I have my moments when the spirit is willing and the flesh is tired. Sometimes, the schedule is tired. I will bake along with this group now as I know We Knead to Bake!
The first bread was a pull apart bread. I have been wanting to make it for some time now and this seemed like the perfect opporutnity. And the way Aparna had posted it, it seemed easier than some of the other methods I had read about. So I baked it last week. We ate it straight out of the pan... so I have no picture of the entire loaf.

My filling was a mixture of different gifts we had received over the holiday season and a little bit of imagination.
For the Dough:

1/2 cup warm Milk
1 tsp Sugar
2 tsp active dry Yeast
3 cups Bread Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tbsp Butter
1 tsp Mixed Herbs (Parsley, Basil, Chilli Flakes)
3/4 cup Milk (+ a couple of tbsp to brush over the bread)
For the filling:
2 tbsp Butter, melted
4 tbsp Basil Pesto
1/4 cup Cumin Gouda Cheese, grated
1/4 cup Habanero Jack Cheese, grated
1/2 tsp Chilli Flakes
In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar and the yeast in the 1/2 cup of warm milk. Keep aside for about 5 minutes till the yeast mixture bubbles up.
Add the flour, salt, softened butter, and herbs into the bowl and mix well. Add the 3/4 cup of milk and knead till you have a soft, smooth dough which is not sticky.
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat it completely with oil. Cover and let it rise for about 1 hour or until almost double in volume.
Deflate the dough, shape it into a square and roll the dough out into a larger square that is about 12" by 12". Brush the surface of the square with the melted butter. Evenly spread the pesto, chilli flakes and the grated cheeses. Lightly press the filling onto the dough.
Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough from top to bottom into 6 long and even strips – they do not have to be perfect. Lay each strip on top of the next, with the topping facing upwards, until you have a stack of the strips. Using a pastry scraper or a sharp knife, cut straight down through the stack dividing it into 6 equal pieces (6 square stacks).
Grease and lightly flour a 9” by 4” loaf tin. Layer the square slices, cut sides down into the loaf tin. Cover the loaf tin loosely with cling film and allow the dough to rise for an hour. Lightly brush some milk over the top of the loaf. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
Bake the dough for about 30 to 40 minutes until it is done and the top is golden brown. Attack!

This bread is great as a side with some soup. But mostly, it is great to just eat simply. Pull yourself a piece and enjoy!