Challah Bread- And why bread means so much to the world.

 

The genesis of this post lies in a very vociferous, yet intriguing discussion my friends and me had over lunch a few days ago. Here is what happened.

A few of us friends decided to catch up for lunch. After the first round of tipple and starters , we ordered the main course, Now that order was to take a while and so the manager courteously brought us a bread basket and some house dips. The basket had a nice selection; slices of baguettes, a focaccia, a nice spunky garlic bread and some herbed bread. And while I immersed myself in the combination of breads and dips, my friends got into a discussion on the virtues of bread; so everything from the evolution of bread to which (bread)goes well with what sort of curries and so on. The discussion was getting intense just to be interrupted by the arrival of the mains.As I made my way home I couldn’t but help reminiscing the breads discussion and ended up getting a bit philosophical about breads.

I have always been a breads person ever since I remember. Bandra, where I spent some part of my childhood, has plenty of bakeries that churn out bread 24/7. Even today, nothing excites me more than that heady, soul fulfilling aroma of freshly baked bread that permeates from a bakery. Its very difficult not to take notice. Personally, I love white breads, and I think that is how breads should be. Buttery, crumbly, chewy and sometimes enhanced with the goodness of eggs. Bread that draws it self to you, speaks to you. Yes, the virtues of wholewheat, multi grain are well chronicled but it would never match up to how soul satisfying a simple white loaf can be.

I have made breads earlier and I thought I must give it a hit again. The heart yearned for something more than just a simple loaf. I wanted to go through the process again and come up with something fancier. I went back and scoured the archives when I came across this recipe for Jewish Challah Bread by my good friend and food blogger Saee Koranne Khandekar. I knew this was the one. Now, I am told Jewish cuisine is sacrosanct and conforms to very strict laws on what can be done and what cant. However, I decided to play around a bit and add some garlic just to up the glam a bit. Saee cautioned me that it may not be Kosher once i added the garlic. But my heart was on it and I went ahead.

The entire process of kneading, proofing went off smooth and when the oven timer went off I almost had tears of joy.The dark tan telling me that it was done well on the outside and the hollow sound signalling that all was well on the inside. I couldn’t have been happier.

Isnt it true that the simplest thing give you the most joy in life.

 

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Before the second proof

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Challah Bread (This recipe will yield one large and one small loaf)

 

Ingredients:

  • 750 grams flour
  • 15-20 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast.
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 25 grams butter
  • approx 500 mls water for kneading and some more for the yeast.
  • black sesame seeds, for garnishing.
  • Salt – to taste

Method:

  • Activate the yeast, by dissolving it in the warm water  along with the sugar. Leave aside for 5-7 minutes till frothy.
  • In a sufficiently large vessel, combine the flour, salt and butter and combine gently
  • Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture, 1 whole egg and another yolk and knead till you have dough that is pliable and not sticky. You may need to add flour or water in the kneading process so go by the eye
  • Place this dough in a bowl and cover it with a moist cloth to rise. this should take approximately 40 odd minutes.
  • Once the dough has risen, give it a gentle knock. Add the garlic and knead again for 10 minutes.
  • Make 3 equal parts of the dough and braid them to resemble a plait.
  • Once done, leave it again for the second proofing. Approximately 20 odd minutes.
  • Brush with the egg white and sprinkle the sesame seeds on the loaves and bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  • If you want to indulge, slather a generous amount of butter while the loaf is still warm..

 

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Braided Beauty

Brioche Buns- When I bake and it comes of well!

Considering how busy professional life is these days, my daily routine is more or less fixed.  I am happy to say that more recently, exercise has found its way into my daily regime.  But from the earliest time, there part of my routine that is non negotiable and that is breakfast. So, whether it is the simple soul saving South Indian Idli/ dosa and Chutney or the lavish emperor style, bread, ham eggs and beans. I am a self confessed breakfast addict. Safely, I can say it is my fuel for the day.

Another memory that I have is of my Sunday breakfast as a kid in Bandra. After being woken up or almost being kicked out bed for the early childrens mass and the catechism class, the eldest sibling would be handed a crisp 10 rupee note (yes! 10 was a lot in those days) to buy bread from the family’s favorite bakery; usually Jude or A1. Once home, these would be slathered generously with butter or if some uncle was on holiday from the gulf, the triangular cubes of Kraft’s cheese would be consumed with tea.

Today’s post is about two of my favorite things. Breakfast and buns. Now, if you have followed the blog you will know how much of a bugbear baking is for me. While cakes yet remain the final frontier, thankfully, breads have behaved fairly well. After the focaccia, i was a bit enthused and decided to go a step further and experimented with enriched bread. The process if making these buns is similar to making breads, but the inner texture is richer and more cake like. This is due to the addition of enriching agents eggs and butter. When I decided to make brioche, I searched the internet and came up with almost a 1000 recipes. The novice baker in me was confused, almost demotivated. Then, i picked and chose a few recipes which seemed convincing. I studied the proportions and worked up a recipe that seemed workable. In that sense, this may not be the most authentic brioche recipe; but it is something i am convinced about. The test batch came out successful. Then, last Sunday, I experimented full scale. Once again, the outcome was brilliant, crisp crumb on the outside and a soft as a baby’s bum inner texture. As if by divine connivance, we skipped tea and opted for a coffee that Sunday and the butter made way for a delicious strawberry jam.  Perfect, almost the best sunday breakfast.

That was followed by a super lunch which I will tell you in the coming post.

Till then, enjoy have the buns and make sure not to ever skip breakfast.

Brioche Buns

 

Brioche Buns

Ingredients:

  • 800 grams All purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons Active dry yeast + 1 teaspoon sugar + 100 ml warm water.
  • 3 eggs+ 1 egg egg white mixed with water for brushing.
  • 60 grams butter
  • some milk
  • Salt to taste

Procedure:

  • Activate the yeast by combining it with the sugar and warm water. Leave aside for 15 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt together. Now make a well in the center and add the yeast solution and milk. Knead  till it just about comes together. Add water little by little.
  • Add in eggs, one by one and bring it together. It will be a soft but workable dough.
  • Now add in the butter and knead. At this point, your dough will start to snap into pieces. Its absolutely fine. Keep kneading till you form a nice pliable dough.
  • Once done, cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave it in a warm place to prove. This will need about and hour to an hour and half.
  • Once the dough has risen, knock it back gently, and deflate it. Then, give it a knead for about 10-12 mins. Meanwhile preheat the oven for 15 mins.
  • Once kneaded, form about 12 even sized balls of the dough. Pinch a small piece of each ball and place it aside.
  • Carefully lay each piece into a brioche mould and place the small piece on the top.
  • Lay these aside for a while and allow them to rise for about 30 mins. They should be double in size.
  • Now use a brush and brush the breads with the mixture of egg white and water.
  • Bake for 25 -30 mins at 150 C
  • Once done, demould and set on a wire rack to cool for another hour or so.
  • Now, dont wait any longer. Have with coffee and jam.

{How to} Bake- Guest Post by Riddhi Sharma

My good friend Riddhi Sharma (twitter: @cookbybook ) has threatened to pull my ears if I address her as ‘Bake Queen’. Each time she publishes one of her awesome baked recipes, I offer her the title and she politely declines 🙂 ; but one look her blog (http://cookbybook.wordpress.com) and you’ll know what I’m saying. Riddhi is a dentist  based in Bangalore and is a baking enthusiast. Personally, I have drooled over some of her bakes and tried a recipe that had me asking for more. No surprises then that I invited her to guest blog on ‘how to bake’. I’m sure you will all be pre- heating your ovens much before you finish of reading the post.
Caveat: Please do take a look at her lovely blog; but i will not be responsible for the calories you pile on only ogling at the pictures :p
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Raspberry Banana Bread_edited
Hello new readers!!

For many of you, baking can be quite overwhelming at first. A lot of beginners will burn a few (or a lot) of cookies, flatten some cakes or over bake brownies. So when Elson asked me if I could do a post on baking basics, I was anxious (this post is my attempt!) and excited. If you spend enough time in the kitchen baking, you quickly begin to pick up the dos and don’ts. I am far from a professional pastry chef or even an expert baker but with these tips and tricks, I’m hoping to make baking an easier, more enjoyable experience for you all.

1. Take your time and read the recipe thoroughly from beginning to end before you start. Many baking failures come from not reading and understanding the recipe, not from poor recipes! Remember, cookbook authors and bloggers REALLY want to help you bake masterpieces. They know and understand the limitations of home kitchens. So have faith in the recipe and read the notes.

2. Get your mise en place started. Measure out all the ingredients mentioned in the recipe to exact amounts first before you proceed further. There is nothing worse than reaching halfway and realizing you’re out of an important ingredient. Prepping is very very important.

3. Unless otherwise stated, use ingredients at room temperature. If something is meant to be used cold then a recipe should state that, otherwise make sure your eggs, butter, yogurt etc. are at room temperature.

4. Buy salted butter for your toast but unsalted butter is what you need for all the baking you plan on doing. You want to control the amount of salt going in your baked goods. So unsalted is the way to go!

5. Always preheat the oven. This might sound amusing to some of you but this step is of utmost importance.

6. Preparing baking pan – Grease and/or line your baking tin. Use paper liners for muffin tins (unless stated otherwise). Always grease a Bundt pan with butter and dust the insides with flour. Do not grease the cookie sheet unless the recipe states you should; just line it with parchment paper.

7. It is always better to sift the dry ingredients to avoid lumps. This step will ensure that baking powder, baking soda or salt are equally dispersed among flour. Also, measure the flour after it’s been fluffed up a bit with the help of a fork. Lightly spoon it into the measuring cup and level it off (weighing flour is of course more accurate but I’m more accustomed to cup-method).

8. Use baking powder and baking soda no more than 5-6 months old. Dud ingredients will make your recipe dud. Also, baking powder and baking soda are different ingredients and not interchangeable! So pay attention. They serve the same purpose but do not react the same way in baked goods.

9. When baking cakes, cupcakes and cookies, take your time creaming the butter. Beat/cream for at least 3-5 minutes (preferably with the electric mixer’s paddle attachment) to aerate the butter.

Check if the recipe calls for any herb or fruit zest. If so then rub the herb/fruit zest into the sugar which will release the essential oils and then add this sugar to butter and beat/cream really well again. A trick I have learnt recently from Joy The Baker is beating the spices along with the butter and sugar to enhance the flavor much more.

10. When mixing the batter, gently fold the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients – you don’t want to lose all the air. Over-mixing will especially ruin your muffins and makes them tough and rubbery.

11. Keep in mind that all ovens are different. Do not rely on the time in the recipe to work for your oven. It is usually provided by a time range which is just an estimate for you. Set your timer for several minutes before it says it will be done just to make sure you don’t overcook. Check the doneness by inserting toothpick in the center of the baked goods. Trust the process and trust yourself.

12. Make it your own! Just because baking is all about science doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with the ingredients that only affect the flavor. Change up the extracts, spices, and other add- ins that only affect the flavor of the baked goods to make it your own. Have fun in the kitchen and it will all turn out amazing!

The more you bake, the better you will become. But remember… “When baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste.” – Laiko Bahrs J

*Recipe*

This recipe is a no fuss, too easy even for beginners sort. So after reading the tips and tricks mentioned above, get your baking mojo on and try this basic, classic banana bread made a tad bit healthier. Vegetarians and vegans are going to be much much happy.

This recipe is eggfree and oil/butterfree. Yes! Can you believe?!! For sweetness, I have used date syrup in part which lends a beautiful depth of flavor to the bread. The other part comprises of brown sugar. Brown sugar + banana = a match made in heaven! Brown sugar gives a caramelized flavor but you can make the bread refined sugar-free too by using coconut sugar in place of the brown sugar. It would be wonderful too! The bread is light, airy and moist (in a good way). Yes! Not a crumb in sight, my friends. Perfect for toasting and if you’re not skinny-minny types then slathering it with some butter. If you are not into healthy baking then feel free to use all-purpose flour completely. Don’t have date syrup? Use liquid jaggery or maple syrup or honey. All works brilliantly. Don’t have raspberries? Use strawberries or may be toasted walnuts. Change the ingredients as per your convenience and make the recipe yours. Add a dash of cinnamon if you like. Just have fun! So brew yourself a cup of coffee, preheat the oven and get baking. Your quest for that perfect banana bread ends here.

Enjoy!

Raspberry Banana Bread Edited

Healthier Raspberry Banana Bread – Eggfree & Oil/Butterfree {can be made refined sugar-free too!}

Yields: 1 8×4-inch loaf, about 10 slices | Prep time: 10 minutes | Bake time: 60 minutes | Total time: 70 minutes

Ingredients:

• 1 cup whole wheat flour

• 1/2 cup all purpose flour

• 1 tsp baking soda

• 1 tsp salt

• 1/3 cup yogurt

• 1/3 cup date syrup (or liquid jaggery or maple syrup or honey)

• 1/3 cup brown sugar (to make it refined sugar-free use coconut sugar)

• 3 large over-ripe bananas, mashed (I used heaping 1 & 1/2 cups purée)

• 1 tsp vanilla extract

• 1 cup chopped raspberries (fresh or frozen)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven at 170°C/350°F. Grease the 8×4-inch loaf pan with oil and set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, date syrup and brown sugar until completely incorporated. Whisk in banana purée and vanilla extract.

4. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and slowly stir in wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir until no flour pockets remain. Do not over-mix. Fold in chopped raspberries.

5. Pour the batter in your prepared loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with few moist crumbs. Let the bread rest in the loaf pan for about 10 minutes before inverting it on a cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing. Serve warm as is or slathered with butter. You may toast the slices too.

Store the bread in an airtight container up to 1 week in refrigerator. It freezes well for up to 3 months.

*For a more classic twist, substitute raspberries with toasted walnuts.