Monday, March 30, 2015

White Sandwich Bread

A well fermented batter or well proofed bread dough is the simple joy that thrills me.  I feel that the exertion of cooking and patience is rewarded at those special moments.  Seriously the joy is unexplainable; you have to experience it yourself.  It means a lot when you are living in a place where more than half of the year is cold.  You will find all the means to ferment an idli batter.  The furnace vent in our old house was a great alleviation for me to get the perfectly fermented batter.  But few mishaps had happened which surely ticked off my hubby where the overly fermented batter got out of the bowl and fell through the vent into the furnace.  That was really a nightmare to clean up all the crusted batter inside the furnace.  Luckily it didn't break the furnace.  Later on I used to take precaution by placing the batter bowl in another big container to avoid the spill into the furnace.  Now I rely on my oven for fermentation.  It works and few spillages have occurred too.  But I always get thrilled to see the perfectly fermented batter or well proofed dough.  My kids ask me ‘Why you are so happy Mommy?’  I am not sure if I could convey it to them till they start cooking their own.  You know what I mean :).

Several trials of perfect whole wheat sandwich bread have failed in my kitchen due to many reasons.  The honey oats bread was a great success.  But my quest to find the perfect recipe for plain sandwich bread kept going on.  Finally I decided to try a white bread first and see the results, so that I can improvise it and develop a whole wheat sandwich bread recipe.  It’s been ages I had used white bread, but I had to give it a try to get a step closer to the recipe for the wheat bread.  I was over cloud 9 now when I sliced the first piece out of the White bread I made.  It was soft and firm enough to cut through each slices just like the store bought sandwich bread, I would say even better than the store bought bread because there are no preservatives in this bread and it’s freshly made and it tasted delicious.  It was an instant hit.  My home smelled like a bakery.  Kids approved both the texture and the taste of this bread and it was all gone within 2 days.  They enjoyed it for their weekday breakfast with homemade mixed berry jam.

If you had trouble making your bread in the past, I bring you the good news.  This is the recipe for you.  Now that I am so happy with the outcome of my homemade white bread, I am excited to try the wheat bread pretty soon.  Meantime I will share this recipe with you so that you can try your own and I am sure you will do a happy dance just like me :)

1 1/2 tsp. - active dry yeast
1 tsp. - sugar
1/4 cup - luke warm water
4 1/2 cup - all purpose flour
1/2 tsp - salt
1/4 cup - sugar
1 1/2 cup - luke warm milk
1 tbsp. - honey
4 tbsp. or 1/4 cup - melted butter

3 to 4 tbsp. - all purpose flour for dusting the surface
2 tbsp. - milk for brushing the top of the bread

  • In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup luke warm water, yeast and 1 tsp. sugar.  Keep it aside for 10 minutes or more in a warm place to activate the yeast.  The mix should be frothy.
  • In a mixing bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, luke warm milk, yeast mixture, salt and honey.  Attach the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes.  The dough will be very sticky and loose.  Now add the melted butter and knead for another minutes.  Scrape the sticky dough in to a greased bowl or you can leave it in the mixing bowl.  You shouldn't be able to make a ball and it will be sticky.  But that's how we want it to be. Cover and keep it in a warm place for the dough to proof or till it gets double or triple the size.  I kept mine for 1 hour and came all the way up to the rim of my mixing bowl.  Alternately you can knead the dough using greased hand to form and sticky dough. 
  • Grease a standard loaf pan.  Transfer the proofed dough into a generously floured surface.  Punch down the air bubbles.  Use 2 to 3 tbsp. of the four to knead the dough for 30 seconds so that they are not sticky, but still very elastic and loose.  Using your hands stretch the dough into a rectangle.  Roll the longer side to the other to form a log and pinch the sides.  Place the rolled log shaped dough into the greased pan with seem side down.  Cover with a kitchen towel and keep in warm place for 30 to 40 minutes for the dough to proof the second time.  This time the dough should rise above the rims of the loaf pan.  If it is not risen enough, keep it for another 20 minutes.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.
  • Brush the top of the proofed dough with milk.  Bake the bread in the middle rack of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes.  The top of the bread should be golden brown and it will be in dome shape.  Let the bread  sit in the pan for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  • Slice them and enjoy as you like.
  • The dough should be very loose.  While kneading the dough will be very sticky.  The sticky and lose the dough is the softer the bread will be.  So don't try to add more flour than what is needed.  The extra flour should be added only during the time when the dough is shaped to log.
  • Brushing the top of the bread with milk/melted butter gives the bread the nice color.
  • This bread is similar to the white sandwich bread and you can use it for sandwiches, French toast or simply toast it and enjoy with your favorite fruit preserve.
  • Wrap the bread with aluminum foil and you can keep it outside if it is not too humid for 2 to 3 days.  Otherwise wrap and store in the refrigerator for a week.
  • The key to a soft bread is that it should have enough moisture and fat to get the right texture without over drying.  The milk and the butter surely worked out in this recipe.
  • You can increase the amount of sugar to make it as a sweet milk bread like Wonder bread.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Kerala Style Stewed Bottle Gourd And Green Gram In Coconut Gravy / Lauki Moong Dal Curry

A basket of washed laundry is sitting in my closet for one week.  Daily I am getting into the closet and pulling out clothes to wear at work and simply ignoring the full basket of washed clothes which is staring at me since last week it was placed there.  Am I the same person?  How did I change so much?  I was not like this, years ago.  Huh…. good old memories of school and college days...It was well organized and things had its place and no pile up of anything.  Well ironed clothes and perfectly organized closets and speck free study table.  Wait a minute, the only thing I had to do was to study, nothing else to worry.  Let me come back to the current scene.  I am a Mom.  Of course the priorities have drastically changed now.  Before you never had to worry about what comes on the dining table, you just had to sit there when the meal was ready, but now you are responsible for getting the meal to the table accompanied with lots of chores and responsibilities.  Oh yeah, that's a pretty good excuse to ignore the pile of clothes.   My excuse seems to be reasonable and it is trying to convince my conscience. But still a tiny bit of guilt is poking me from inside when I see the full basket every day.  I have to get it folded tonight, period.  NO MORE EXCUSE!!!

I am sure all Moms had gone through this dilemma of prioritizing things or there are some chores she wish to completely skip or hate to do.  She never finds enough time.  I wish the day was extended little more.  Hope I am not the only one who thinks this way!!

Today I am sharing a recipe that I have been making for years.  I am not sure why I didn't post this earlier.  This is a simple yet nutritious and delicious curry that can be served with rice or Indian flat bread like Roti.  The ingredients of this recipe are similar to the traditional Kerala Erriserry, which is simply a thick coconut based curry made with beans and a vegetable.  The traditional Erriserry uses either pumpkin or green plantain. This recipe uses protein rich green grams and bottle gourd; this curry is not as thick as the traditional Erriserry.  It takes long time to cook the beans and vegetable to get the desired consistency when made in earthen pots in those days.  But now with the use of pressure cooker, this curry can be prepared in a jiffy.  Give this recipe a try and let me know how it turns out for you.

1 1/2 cup - green gram / Moong dal
3 1/2 cups - water

1 1/2 cup - peeled & chopped lauki / bottle gourd
1 - medium size tomato chopped
3 - medium size green chili splits
1 - garlic clove
1/2 tsp. - turmeric powder
3 cups - water
salt to taste

To grind
3/4 cup - grated coconut
1/2 tsp. - cumin seeds/ jerra
1/4 tsp. - turmeric powder
2 - small shallots peeled and sliced
1/2 cup - water

2 tbsp. - grated coconut
1/2 tsp. - black mustard seeds
1 tbsp. - coconut oil
2 - dry red chili broken into half
1 tbsp. - shallots thinly sliced
2 sprigs - fresh curry leaves
1 tbsp. - oil (preferably coconut oil )

  • Soak the Moong dal/ green gram in water for overnight.  Add 3 1/2 cups water and soaked Moong dal into a pressure cooker and cook till 4 whistle blows.  If you forgot to soak the moong dal, don't fret.  Cook the washed Moong dal with 3 1/2 cups of water till 8 whistle blows.  Turn off the stove and let the beans cool down completely.  Use a ladle or potato masher to mash the moong dal.
  • Add the chopped bottle gourd/lauki, turmeric powder, tomato, green chili, garlic clove, salt and 3 cups of water.  Pressure cook again till 3 whistle blows.  Turn off the flame and let the pressure subside.
  • Meantime grind all the ingredients from the 'To grind' list into a very smooth paste.
  • Open the pressure cooker after all the pressure is gone.  Add the ground coconut paste and cook for 5 minutes or till the curry comes to rolling boil.  Adjust the amount of water and salt during this time.  Turn off the flame.  Transfer the curry into a serving bowl.
  • Prepare tadka in a non stick pan by spluttering the mustard seeds in 1 tbsp. of oil.  Lower the flame and add the sliced shallots, red chili and grated coconut. Cook till it gets light golden brown color.  Turn off the flame and add the curry leaves.
  • Pour the tadka over the Lauki Moong Dal curry and serve with steamed plain rice or Indian flat bread like Roti/Chapathi.
  • The curry gets thicker as it sits.  So adjust the amount of water per desired consistency.  I like this curry to be very thick when serving with rice.
  • You can increase or decrease the amount of green chili in this recipe per your taste.  Sometimes I skip the green chili and grind fire roasted red chili.  This adds a nice flavor to the curry.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Eggless Whole Wheat Sweet Potato PanCakes

There are a handful of easy breakfast recipes I rely on to make my weekday morning’s fuzz free for both kids and me.  If I can get them a proper breakfast in the morning, I am little worried if they skip eating few things from their lunch box.  My daughter is not a big fan of cereal.  Recently my kids started to enjoy steel cut oats after a long time of persistent trial.  My little one always loved oat in any form.  He is the one who will eat any veggie as raw.  He is not too fond of spicy or sugary food. 

Herbed and spiced baked sweet potatoes in salad are something my family likes.  I baked some plain sweet potatoes other day; cubed and thread into a skewer and paced as a snack in my kids' lunch box.
I noticed the untouched sweet potato kebab in my little one's lunch box and inquired.  His reasoning was 'Mommy, sweet potato was sweet!!’  I managed to control my chuckle and told him not to waste food.  I was ardent to use all the plain baked potatoes I had baked as everyone seemed to like the spiced version.  It was rational to use them in something my kids would like to have when they are hungry.  Without much thinking I knew how I could disguise the baked sweet potatoes in their meal.  But my zeal for the new experiment didn't stay calm in me and I accidentally announced that I am going to make some sweet potato pancakes.  There came my elder one pleading not to use it in the pancakes, because he didn't want to spoil his pancake breakfast by Mom's egg-less experiment.  Let me remind you, he is the one with the most sensitive taste buds.   He could detect any taste difference.  Anyway, I went with my guts and thought to give it a try.  Since we are observing lent and cannot use eggs, I knew that sweet potato will be a good substitute to give the softness to the pancakes.  Besides this vegetable have many health benefits too.  The first pancake was taste tested by my elder one.  The gesture that reflected on his face after the first bite conveyed that he loved it so much.  He kept asking for more straight from the griddle.  Well who could deny a stack of warm soft and fluffy pancakes with a drizzle of pure maple syrup topped with homemade mixed berry jam and a dollop of whipped cream!!  I really liked the soft and fluffy texture of the pancakes and it was indeed a great egg-less breakfast.

Following are the health benefits of sweet potatoes:
  • Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, vitamin B5, B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and, due to their orange color, are high in carotenoids.
  • The vitamin B6 vegetable helps to lower the risk of blood vessel and arteries hardening.  Their potassium content helps to lower blood pressure by maintaining fluid balance.  It is a heart healthy vegetable.
  • Sweet potatoes have low glycemic index which helps to control blood sugar and maintain energy.
  • The Magnesium content in sweet potato promotes relaxation, calmness and a good mood, as well as artery, blood, bone, muscle and nerve health.
  • Due to the color-pigmented vitamins, sweet potatoes are high in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
  • They provide excellent skin and hair care.  Their high fiber content regulates digestion.

Yields - 12 pancakes

1 1/2 cup - sweet potato cooked/puree (refer directions)
1 1/2 cup - milk (refer notes)
1/4 cup - plain yogurt
2 tsp. - oil
1 cup - whole wheat flour
1/2 cup - all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. - baking powder
1/4 tsp. - ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. - pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp. - salt


I used fresh sweet potato in this recipe instead of canned ones.  If using fresh sweet potatoes follow this directions:

Cooking Sweet Potato
  • Pre heat oven to 450 F.  Wash 3 medium size sweet potatoes and poke them with a fork.  Wrap them in a aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet and cook for 30 - 35 minutes.  Let them cool.  Unwrap the foil and use a knife to cut open the sweet potatoes.  Using a spoon scoop out the flesh and roughly measure up to 1 cup.
Pan Cakes
  • Place the cooked sweet potatoes pieces in a blender or the puree in the blender.  Add milk, yogurt, oil and maple syrup and blend for 30 seconds.  Now add all the dry ingredients to it and blend for a minute or till everything is incorporated well to form the batter which is appropriate for pancakes.  The batter shouldn't be too thin.  If too thick, add more milk to get the desired consistency.
  • Apply some butter/oil on a non stick pan/griddle and rub with a paper towel.  When the pan is hot, lower the flame to stay between low to medium; pour a medium size ladle of batter on the pan and spread to form a small circle.  Wait till small bubbles start to appear.  Flip the side and cook till both sides gets golden yellow brown color.  Make pancakes with rest of the batter.
  • Serve them with your desired toppings.  I usually serve pancakes with some whipped cream, pure maple syrup and homemade jelly.  You can top them with fresh cut fruits and honey or fruit compote too.
  • Make sure to cook the pancakes on low flame to avoid burning and cook all the way through.
  • Depending on the texture of the wheat flour you are using, you may have to adjust the amount of milk in this recipe.  Start with 1 cup of milk and then adjust by adding 1/4 cup at a time to get the desired consistency.
  • The sweet potatoes gives the nice soft fluffy texture for this pancakes.  So try not to avoid them when you are not using eggs. 
  • You can substitute the sweet potato puree with pumpkin puree.
  • You can bake the sweet potatoes a day ahead to make an easy breakfast in the morning. 
  • You can also make the sweet potato puree ahead and store in an air tight container in the fridge for a week.  They can stay fresh for few months in the freezer.
  • You can flavor the pancakes with some nutmeg along with cinnamon.

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