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.

Easy Whole Wheat Focaccia

Whole Wheat Focaccia

Life is made up of experiences; some sweet, some not so good, some which you just want to lock up in a treasure chest and keep close to your heart and some you wouldn’t want to touch even with a barge pole. These little and large, bitter and sweet memories come together and form the screenplay of life. We may not remember every one of our experiences but most of us have pretty vivid memories of the various ‘firsts’ in our life… the first crush, our first job/ paycheck, our first drive may be. Only the thought of them is enough to make you smile. This post is about one of my first experiences, my first attempt at baking bread.

I have always been a breads person. Give me bread and butter for breakfast and I’m sold. Bandra, where I grew up is famous for numerous bakeries where freshly baked bread is available round-the-clock. So, for all this self-professed affinity to bread, I never attempted to bake it. The reason?  Baking, my Achilles heel. Somehow, my baking attempts have not been satisfactory. I have a pretty decent oven who behaves himself most of the times, I grill, I toast, I even managed to get the perfect roast chicken but when it came to baking, a cake or muffin was only as far as I got. So baking bread which I was told was an experts domain, remained a distant dream. I always wanted to bake bread but somehow never got myself to do it. Much like the shy, introverted good guy in college who secretly aspires to ask his lady love for a date, but doesn’t have the courage to do so. Not that I didn’t try, I did make the occasional prep but backed at the end moment; just like the shy guy in college would have his fears what if she snubbed me? What if she refused? I had my doubts, what if it didn’t come up as well as it should?  What if it didn’t sound hollow when knocked. Amongst all this one thing was for sure, she was his lady love and he had to win her over.

The moment of truth came in when on a very lazy Saturday when I happened to walk to my kitchen and began to scan the cabinets to search something. There it was, yeast and flour cheekily peeping at me. Which One? Focaccia was the easiest to make. That was it. I will make bread I thought. I started kneading the dough; gently cajoling and caressing it. With each gentle caress, she responded more eagerly. I learnt to handle her. Handle her well. She moved from being a powdered mess to a a gentle dough. First part done. I was happy. Now it was time for her to respond. I gave her the space and time she needed. She responded by doubling in size. A few more gentle caresses later, she was ready for another rest, before the final test of fire. Literally. I gently laid her in the tin drizzled her with olive oil and Salt. Then, with a prayer on my lips, adjusted the settings of the oven. The wait would  be a good 35 minutes. I picked up a book from the shelf and started to read. The oven timer went off after almost an eternity. I rushed to the kitchen and there she was; resplendent in all her glory. Shiny crust, nicely risen and a very satisfying hollow sound when tapped at the bottom. I was ecstatic. My joy knew no bounds. That evening we had bread and chicken stew for dinner.  Pure sensory delight.

That night, I went to bed a very satisfied man. After a lot of time and effort, I had mustered the courage to approach my lady love. To my surprise, I got to know that she loved me back. We confessed our love and promised to be together. Forever.

Easy Whole Wheat Focaccia

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams, whole wheat flour (You could even use all purpose flour) + some more for dusting
  • 5 grams yeast (+ 2 teaspoons sugar and some lukewarm water)
  • 150 ml, extra virgin olive oil (please don’t use any other oil) + some more to sprinkle on top of the bread.
  • 5-6 cherry tomatoes
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • A generous helping of rosemary
  • salt to taste

Procedure:

  • Active 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. Knead till it just about comes together.
  • Add the olive oil bit by bit and knead in stretching motions till the dough has formed a single smooth mass.
  • Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave it in a warm place to prove. This will need about 45 minutes to an hour.
  • One the dough has risen, knock it back gently, and deflate it. Then, give it a knead for about 8 minutes.
  • Grease a square or rectangular baking tin and put in the dough.
  • Gently create small dents in the dough and put in the tomatoes, garlic and sprinkle the rosemary.
  • Once again leave it in a warm place to prove for about 30 minutes. Your dough should have doubled by now. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven for 10 minutes at 150 C
  • Sprinkle salt and olive oil in on the dough and bake at 180 C for 35 minutes.

Stollen Bread (Germany)- The World on my Plate series!

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In the concluding part of “The world on my plate series”, we travel to a land far, far away from India. Germany. What do I make? Stollen Bread. Let me tell you a little bit more about my fascination for breads.

If you have been reading my blog; you would know that I don’t bake much. I did try a butter cake sometime back but that was it.  Baking breads, seemed a distant dream. I was told its only for the professionals. But, I always loved eating breads, perhaps because I’m a Bandra boy;  and we all know how famous bakeries in Bandra are across Mumbai.  But I was wanted to make (or should I say bake) my own bread. It  was  very therapeutic I was told.  Sigghhh.. Didn’t work with me.. But, I knew I wanted to culminate the series with something sweet. Something that we all could cherish.

I happened to be reading on various breads made in different parts of the world which was when I came across the ‘Stollen’ made in faraway Germany. This bread bears an uncanny resemblance to the Christmas cake. The difference being this is Stollen is leavened with yeast, stuffed with candied fruit and baked. The bread is shaped to look like the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. I had found the bread I’ve always wanted to make. I decided to jump into the battle field and tame the proverbial yeast monster. It yielded quite easily. After a while the yeast did the trick and the dough had risen…first part of the mission accomplished. Next step followed suit and my confidence grew.. I knew this was going to be something good. Second proof too passed the test and then it was time to test by fire. Off she went into the oven to be baked. She was out after some 40 minutes. steaming hot like a lady fresh out of a sauna ;). Almost seducing you to have a peck :).  What did she taste like? Ummm… delight in every bite.. the soft dough provided a solid base to the candied peels and slight nudge from the spices right the down your throat. An experience that you need to have.

All through, I have thoroughly enjoyed bringing you this series. There has been much learning about the different cultures of the world and food. As you would have seen, there is no other universal language than the language of food. I hope you enjoyed this series as much as I did bringing it to you.

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Stollen Bread

Ingredients:

  • 250 grams all purpose flour
  • 150 grams (I used a mixture of Tutti –fruity, finely chopped glazed cherries, finely chopped dates, raisins) + some almonds hazelnuts and almonds for garnishing
  • 7 grams fresh yeast + some warm water and 1 and 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 125 ml warm milk
  • 80 grams caster sugar
  • 60 grams butter
  • 2 large tablespoons icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Marzipan for garnish (optional, i skipped this)

Procedure:

  • Activate the yeast, by dissolving it in the warm water  along with the sugar. Leave aside for 15 minutes till frothy.
  • In a sufficiently large vessel, combine the flour, caster sugar, salt and butter and combine gently.
  • Now make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture. Knead with the milk to form a smooth, but pliable dough. Knead for some more time till the dough is slightly more softer and you are comfortable working with it.
  • Place the dough in lightly oiled vessel and allow it to rest till it has doubled in size. This should take approximately 40-50 minutes.
  • Once the dough has risen well, gently deflate it b y knocking it with your fist lightly.
  • Give it a another knead for about 5 minutes.
  • Roll out the dough to about 1 inch thick square
  • Place the mixed fruit in the center and roll up the sides and fold the dough to cover it. Seal the ends by pinching it.
  • Leave it for another 30 minutes to rise until it is double in size.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven for 10 minutes at 100 C
  • Bake at 170 C for 35 minutes or till it has a golden crust.
  • Once done allow it to cool for a while. When cooled, roll out the marzipan (if using) on the bread.
  • Else, sprinkle with icing sugar and garnish with almond and hazelnuts.