Panettone : Fresh From the Oven November Challenge

With Thanksgiving being celebrated in most American homes, I felt the excitement rub off on me after I visited some food blogs. All the talk of good food pushed me into baking something spectacular. In the lieu of such delicious circumstances, the Fresh From the Oven November Challenge couldn’t have come up with a more appropriate challenge. Sarah of Maison Cupcakes challenged us to make the very popular Italian Panettone. This bread  is eggy, ever so slightly sweet and full of buttery goodness.  I added plenty of black raisins, chocolate chips and candied fruit in all my excitement. I even bought a special tumbler like mould to bake my Panettone since I couldn’t get hold of the traditional Panettone mould anywhere.

When I had a first look at the instructions, I felt intimidated beyond measure. I read it couple of times and it seemed like I could break it down into parts and implement it. This recipe required the dough to rise 4 times for an average 2 hours atleast. The baking time was broken down to 10 +40 minutes. All this was quite overwhelming considering my nascent approach towards bread making and the first mistake I committed was to follow the instructions blindly without tallying it with the ingredients list. In my haste I completely forgot to add the vanilla essence, citrus zest and two egg yolks as prescribed by the ingredient list. Unfortunately, the instructions fell short too. The part where the 2 egg yolks+citrus zest+ vanilla essence were to be added weren’t mentioned at all. I read it once, twice and thrice but my mind was more pre-occupied by the number of rises than taking note of whether all the ingredients have been incorporated or not. Ignorant, I continued in my pursuit of baking the Panettone. The results were less than impressive for obvious reasons. My dough did not rise at all inspite of the tediously long time I provided it. From that instant on, I was skeptical about the output. But I went ahead with it nevertheless and in the end I had a very ugly-looking but a delicious Panettone. Pardon me for the hideous pictures as my Panettone wasn’t an inspiring subject for photography.

Sarah was kind enough to add the missing instruction later but it was way too late for me to rectify. My Panettone was fabulously tasty but lacked the texture of the traditional Panettone.

Recipe for Panettone

Serves 1 large loaf

Ingredients:
7g sachet dried yeast
400g strong white bread flour
75g caster sugar
2 large free range eggs plus 2 egg yolks at room temperature
3 tablespoons lukewarm water
half teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated zest of one unwaxed orange and one unwaxed lemon
half teaspoon salt
175g softened unsalted butter
75g sultanas (I made up the weight with raisins too)
50g candied orange, diced or finely chopped
50g dark chocolate chips (or more fruit)
40g unsalted butter to finish
Makes enough to fill a 15cm tall cake tin or panettone mould. Bear this in mind if improvising with smaller round tins.
Directions:
1. Mix 125g of the weighed flour with the yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer and make a well in the centre. Mix the two whole eggs with the water and pour into the well. Stir in the egg yolks, vanilla and grated zest using your hand or dough hook. Gradually work in 175g flour plus the salt to make a soft sticky dough. ( I completely missed out this step because the original post missed it out too, but I should have checked and read well).
2. Using your hands or a dough hook, mix the flour into the liquid to make a smooth thick batter. Sprinkled a little of the remaining weighed flour over the top of the batter to prevent a skin forming then leave in a warm place for around an hour or until the batter is very bubbly.
3. Next add the softened butter and work in with your fingers or the dough hook on a slow speed. Beat until the butter is incorporated with no streaks.
4. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead thoroughly by hand for ten minutes  (or use the dough hook for 3-4 minutes) working in the remainder of the weighed flour to make a satiny soft pliable non-sticky dough. Depending on the flour, you may not need it all or you may need a little more. (Mine was fine).
5. Cover the bowl with cling film (I used a tea towel as well, mainly because it feels “rustic”) and leave to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, probably 2 to 2.5 hours. Don’t leave in a very warm place as the butter will melt.
6. Next uncover the dough and punch down to deflate. Cover again and let it double in size again (1 to 1.5 hours although I left mine 2 whilst we had Sunday lunch).
7. Meanwhile combine the sultanas with the chopped peel and chocolate chips. Stir in a teaspoon of flour to stop it clumping in the dough.
8. Prepare the tin by lining with parchment paper. The paper should extend 5cm higher than the height of the tin.
9. Punch down the risen dough again and turn onto a floured surface; sprinkle the fruit and chocolate mixture on top and work into the dough gently until evenly distributed.
10. Shape the dough into a ball and gently drop into the prepared tin. Cut a cross into the top. Lay a sheet of cling-film loosely over the top of the tin and leave for another hour or so until doubled in size again.
11. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 200c / 400f / gas 6. When ready to bake, melt 15g of the butter for finishing and brush it over the risen dough. Put a knob of butter in the centre of the cross.
12. Bake for 10 minutes or until just starting to colour, then brush again with melted butter. Reduce the temperature to 180c / 350f / gas 4 and bake for a further 40 minutes until a good golden brown and a skewer inserted to the centre comes out clean. (My loaf was going very brown after 30 mins and I had to cover with foil to stop it burning).
13. Remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack. Allow to cool for a few minutes before teasing it out of the tin. If your crust is fragile allow to cool further before removing from tin.
14. Cool completely before slicing.
This experience has been an enlightening one and I understand more than ever why only bread makers are called ‘ Artisans’ and no other branch of baking is revered so much. I have learnt a lot from this experience and wish to make the Panettone once again and see how I fare.

Spunky Chinese Fried Rice to Liven Up a Weeknight Dinner

It is rare that I experiment with nouvelle cuisine on a weekday. Weekdays  are chaste days ( only with regards to food) where the Routine is the Master and we are nothing but mere serfs to it. Week night dinners are the only meals that dear hubby and I have together and so it has to be simple and quick.  Then we get on with our cleaning, reading, some email checking or whatever we choose to do before we call it a night. For some reason, I haven’t been feeling the weekday pressure for quite many days. Probably it may have to do with the fact that the weather is glorious in Bahrain and it is a pleasure to wake up early and hit the gym. On one such weekday, I was felt a burgeoning urge to do something different and hassle the Big Routine. I was in no mood to refer recipe books and only wanted to make the most of what I had in my refrigerator. Once the ingredients gathered themselves, I chopped and hopped around the kitchen. Some sauces, a few condiments and a quarter of an hour later, I realized I made myself some spunky Chinese fried rice. This would be my first ever foray into the Chinese style of cooking and I was extremely happy with the way the fried rice turned out. It was full of flavour, the right amount of heat and quite enough on its own.

Recipe for Chinese Fried Rice ( Chicken)

Ingredients

Cooked rice – about 3 cups( left over rice works the best)

Salt to taste

Pepper – 1/2 tsp or according to taste

oil

Oyster sauce  – 2- 3 tablespoon ( I like the strong flavour)

Soy sauce – 2 tablespoon

white vinegar – as per taste ( I enjoy my fried rice a little tart)

Chicken ( shredded and half cooked) – 1 to 1 and a half cups ( I bought mine stir fry ready and  marinated from the super market.  But I feel that the flavour would be more wholesome if you marinate it at home in the spices of your choice)

Cabbage, chopped – 1/2 cup

beans, chopped – 1/2 or less ( these are not appreciated in my home)

mushrooms, chopped – 1/2 cup

capsicum, chopped – 1/2 cup or less

carrots, chopped – 1/2 cup

green chillies, chopped – according to taste and they serve as garnish too

spring onions, chopped – 1/2 cup and more for garnish

garlic and ginger paste – about 1 and half tablespoons

Preparation

1. Heat some oil in a non-stick frying pan and shallow fry/stir fry the marinated chicken and keep aside

2. In another wok, heat some oil and saute the garlic-ginger paste.

3. When the ginger garlic paste is done, add the chopped veggies and stir continuously. Do not over do it.

4. To this, add the said quantities of salt, pepper, oyster sauce, soy sauce and white vinegar and stir well.

5. Keep the flame from a medium to high all the times so that the contents do not remain soggy.

6. Add chicken pieces to and stir again. Check to taste and add more salt or sauce as per requirement.

7. Finally add the rice and mix well.

8. Garnish with chopped spring onions leaves and green/red chillies.

For vegetarians an easy substitution would be tofu or just the stir fried vegetables should do the trick.

I couldn’t believe it was so easy to put together and waited to see the reaction on my hubby’s face when I announced that there would be some Chinese Fried Rice for dinner. As expected, he was pleasantly surprised by the detour. When I saw him tuck into this rice preparation, I realized breaking the Routine once in while is good. The other thing I realized was, probably this was the only way I was going to have my Chinese Fried Rice from now on.

 

Muffin Mondays: Rocky Road Muffins

Yes, I am back at it again. I missed baking muffins for 4 whole weeks and it was terrible. My blues did not leave me. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit here. But I did miss baking with these maniac muffin bakers who brighten up my Monday. This time, we were in for a choco – treat that sounded decadent and fun. Rocky Road Muffins sounded so much fun that I had a questionnaire ( a verbal one, ofcourse) circulated among my family and friends, asking what came into their mind when they thought of a rocky roads.

Replies ranged from,

” Rocks!” ( ofcourse, why else would you call it Rocky Road )

” Stones and boulders”, (ookay)

” Trucks and Heavy vehicles”, “Iguanas and reptiles”  ( Hey wait! I think there has been some misunderstanding here. I did not tell them we were talking muffins !)

After the questionnaire was rectified, the replies were a lot saner.

“Huge Choco chunks” ( Tick mark)

“Maltesers” ( Interesting. Tick mark, again.)

“Marshmallows “( Tick Mark)

“Cashews and Hazelnuts” ( Now we are talking . Tick Mark)

Then I had to stop them there as I feared there would be more rocks and rock -like things than flour and other stuff that constitutes a muffin.

Rocky Road Muffins were a breeze to make but somehow were a bit dry for some reason. Another  thing I should have been careful of was to remind myself that the recipe called for self raising and I should have been a little conservative in filling up all those muffin cases to the brim. They seemed like they were ready to explode and which they did ( in a very subtle way) by bubbling out into a gooey mess in the oven. It broke my heart since I almost feared that I wouldn’t have any report aka muffins to share at the end of the Survey exercise. Muffins were alright but weren’t the best that my baking days have seen.  I feel responsible somehow about how they turned out but cannot really put a finger on what  went wrong since I followed the recipe precisely.

Thank you An, for sharing this muffin recipe with us. It feels terrific baking with you guys, as always.

Recipe for Rocky Road Muffins

From Susannah Blake’s Muffin Magic

Ingredients

2 cups (300grams) self raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

75 grams milk chocolate chopped ( Handful of maltesers)

1/2 cup walnuts  ( I used cashews and hazelnuts instead)

60 grams mini marshmallows or you can just chop large ones into small pieces

2/3 cup (150 grams) soft brown sugar

3/4 cup (200 ml) milk

2 eggs

75 grams butter

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Grease or line a 12 hole muffin pan.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and marshmallows. Set aside.

3. Reserve about 1/3 of the chocolate chunks and walnuts and add the rest to the flour mixture.

4. In a separate bowl or jug; combine sugar, milk, eggs and butter.

5. Stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients just until combined.

6. Spoon dollops into muffin cases and sprinkle chocolate and nuts on top. Press them gently into the batter

7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

8. Cool for 5 minutes and transfer to wire rack

So on that chocolate filled note and until another wonderful Monday, wish you all a chirpy week ahead.

Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.

The Onam Sadya Post

I am back from my long break and still reeling from the crazy schedule that I thought was my vacation. But trips to India have always been like that. Too many commitments, a lot of travelling to meet relatives and general humdrum. I have already declared to my husband that I need another vacation to recuperate from this one. I  missed Bahrain and felt like I was back home when I landed here. I also missed my little nook that is my blog and ached to write everyday. I actually wrote little notes behind  books in an attempt to note down the ideas. But now that I am back, I feel lethargy restraining me with all its slimy tentacles and even after a week ( well almost) I haven’t posted a single thing in my space. Finally, after a little nudge from my mother this morning, I decided to do a post about Onam Sadya which has been long languishing in my drafts. This post is more from my need to document my mother’s recipes than anything else.

Onam is the most important festival  for all Hindu Keralites.  The festival commemorates Mahabali’s yearly homecoming ( to His kingdom which was the beautiful state of Kerala)  after being sent down to the underworld  by Vaman (dwarf), the fifth avatar of Vishnu. The highlight of this festival is the lavish sadya ( feast) which includes various mouth – watering items grandly served on a banana leaf. Funnily, I have never had the opportunity to celebrate this beautiful festival in my home state where it is celebrated with much gusto and fervour. Boat races, intricate flower carpets, traditional dances are some of the festivities that are the mark of typical Onam celebrations in the state.

It has been quite a while that I had been meaning to document my mother’s recipes for all the Sadya ( feast) items. Finally, this Onam ( which was on the 9th of September) I managed to get down to it with my mother’s help, ofcourse. I had invited some friends ( all non- Keralites) over for an elaborate luncheon. It seemed like everybody did enjoy the feast and that gave me every ounce of satisfaction for all the effort that went into preparing this feast. I had made a total of 9 items excluding the pickle and banana chips which were store-bought. Here I shall be detailing only the curries and the rice pudding in particular.

Onam Sadya 

Recipe for Sambar

Serves 6

Ingredients

Toor dal/ yellow pigeon peas  – 1 cup

Drumsticks – 4 nos. ( Cut into smaller pieces.Alternately, you could use any vegetable, such as okra, bottle gourd, brinjals, pumpkin etc)

Tomatoes – 2 nos.

Tamarind –  lemon- sized soaked in warm water

Salt as per taste

Turmeric powder- half a teaspoon

For the Masala

Coriander seeds – 2 tablespoons

Dried red chilly -8 nos. ( You could reduce the number to reduce the heat)

Fenugreek seeds – 1/2 teaspoon

Asafoetida- 1 teaspoon

Onion cut into pieces – 1 No.

Grated coconut – 1 cup

For tempering

Mustard seeds,  dry red chilly and curry leaves, and oil

Garnish – coriander leaves (optional)

 Preparation

1. Cook dal in water with salt and turmeric.

2. Cook drumsticks pieces separately in water.

3. Fry all the masala ingredients with little oil until light brown and keep aside. When the masala has cooled to room temperate grind it using little water into a paste. Add this to the cooked dal and cooked drumsticks and let it all cook on medium heat for some time.

4. To this add tamarind water and let it all cook some more. Taste in between and realize the taste change primarily because the raw taste of masala has been replaced by this gorgeous cooked masala flavour.

5.  Add water if the gravy seems too thick until it seems equal a pouring consistency.

6. To this add the tempering for which oil is first heated in a frying pan. When the oil is sufficiently hot, add the tempering ingredients and wait until the mustard seeds have spluttered and the other ingredients have changed colour. Pour this tempering on the gravy with drumsticks and dal.

7. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with rice.

Recipe for Erissery Recipe

Ingredients

Yam –  cut in to cubes- 1 cup

Raw banana cut int0 small pieces – 1 cup

Turmeric powder- 1/4 teaspoon

chilly powder- 1/2 teaspoon

pepper powder – 1/2 teaspoon

salt

coconut grated – 2 cups

Cumin seeds – 1/4 teaspoon

oil – 1/4 cup

Curry leaves

Mustard seeds – 1/4 teaspoon

 Preparation

1. Cook yam  and raw banana with turmeric powder, chilly powder, pepper powder and salt.( don’t overcook) in very little water.

2. Grind 3/4 cup of coconut and cumin seeds.  Add to the cooked veg. and boil . Remove from heat

3. Then heat oil in a frying pan, splutter mustard seeds and then add remaining coconut grated and when it turns brown add curry leaves. Pour the tempering into the Erissery prepared.

Recipe for Avial

Ingredients

 Yam  – 1 cup ( all veggies cut into one inch long pieces)

Raw banana- 1  cup

elavan (Ash guard)-  1 cup

carrot -1/2 cup

Pumpkin-1/2 cup

ginger ( optional) 1 small piece cut in long pieces

Raw mango ( optional) 1 small piece cut in to long pieces

turmeric powder-1 teaspoon

chilly powder- 1 teaspoon

salt

3 coconut grated -2 cups

tamarind 1/2 small lemon size

Yogurt ( should be a little sour) – 1 cup

green chillies- 4-5 ( reduce the number if you want to reduce the heat)

butter or coconut oil – 1  tablespoon

curry leaves

Preparation

1. Cook all the vegetables in a thick bottomed vessel or non-stick vessel with minimum water along with turmeric, chilly powder and salt,

2. Coarsely grind the grated coconut, tamarind, green chillies and yogurt  and add to the cooked vegetables.Boil till the water gets evaporated .

3. Then remove from heat and add butter or coconut oil and curry leaves and mix

Recipe for Cabbage Thoran

Ingredients

Cabbage grated or chopped fine – 2 cups

coconut, grated- 1 cup

turmeric- 1/4 teaspoon

salt

green chillies- 5-6 ( reduce to lower the heat)

one onion – cut int pieces

Mustard seeds- 1/2 teaspoon

split chick peas / chana dal- 1 tablespoon

oil

curry leaves- 3-4 leaves

Preparation

1. Heat oil in a non stick pan and splutter mustard seeds. Add chana dal . when it turns light brown add curry leaves and then add grated cabbage and turmeric and salt . saute well

2. Coarsely grind coconut, green chillies and onions add this to the half cooked cabbage. Mix well. Cook for -2 minutes.

Recipe for Kalan

Ingredients

Yam – 1/2 cup (cut in to small cubes)

Raw bananas- 1/2 cup ( cut into small pieces)

pepper powder- 1 teaspoon

Turmeric powder(optional)- 1/2 teaspoon

salt

2 coconut grated –  1 and 1/2 cups

green chillies –  4-5

3 sour yogurt –  1 cup

4 mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon

fenugreek seeds- 1/2 teaspoon

dried red chilly- 2

curry leaves

Preparation

1. Cook the vegetables in water with salt, pepper and turmeric powder items together with little water. Evaporate excess water by heating.

2.Beat the yogurt and add to the cooked veggies. Boil and stir continuously so that it won’t curdle.

3. grind grated coconut and green chillies and keep aside.

4. When the gravy gets reduced add the ground coconut – green chilly mixture to it. When it starts boiling, remove from heat.

5. Heat oil or ghee in a pan and splutter mustard seeds. Add fenugreek seeds,red chillies and curry leaves. Pour the tempering on top of kalan prepared and mix well.

Recipe for Paal Payasam ( Rice Pudding)

Ingredients

milk- 2 litres

broken raw rice – 1/2 cup ( alternately you can use basmati but run it ever so slightly in the blender to break it)

ghee – 3 teaspoons

sugar….1/2 kg ( to make it less sweet, reduce the sugar)

1 glass of water

Preparation

1. Take a thick bottomed vessel and add little ghee. To it add milk and one glass of water together to it and boil. stir well.

2. When the water contents gets evaporated add rice and boil. When the rice gets cooked almost three fourth add sugar and stir continuously.

3. Let the rice gets cooked completely and allow the  payasam to reach the desired consistency, Remove from heat. Serve hot or cold.

This is one long recipe post but I am glad that I got it all down. Thanks Amma for all your help.