Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Besan (chickpea/garbanzo bean flour) laddoo

My appreciation for the sweetmeat far exceeds any other, a food boast I shamelessly proclaim, over and over on these pages. Be it dashed liberally with cocoa, caramel fudged into quaint tarts, creamed, flamed, fruited , it is the dessert species that manages to captivate not only the content writer, in this case myself, but also her sugarrushed readers, proof when reports along this ranking reach louder than most. Oh, I hear you. And I really don't think we could deplete the number of ingenious ways in which to showcase sugar.

So when dulcet delicacies level in charming presentation, tipping even with stupendously good flavor, I volunteer myself to bring those cases on. Take for example my past weekend, where I was mass producing 2 batches of specialed up morsels, most favorable to Indian palates, on my kitchen counter.

It was a few decades ago that mithai (mee-ttie)became a part of my vernacular. Indian for candy, this has probably been the most enamoring word in my native culinary vocab, one which I can't attach a single bad memory to.

Where encounters with honied confections, laced with edible silver and gold, dripping in ghee, tastefully arranged in just the right amount of sugared dozens, made my mouth water and waistline increase at alarmingly fast rates. This was my once upon a time, though, when I was fortunate to live within walk distance of the bakery that housed suchmentioned delights. The ten minute stroll combined with a decades-younger metabolism balanced perfect to my grazing through a few couple rows of roundbite desserts that I will introduce to you today. How time changes *sigh* These days  stealtheating is accompanied with stipulations like "cutting down carbs", "sweets in moderation", things I am highly incapable of doing. Thus, life goes on.*and sigh again* 
Having never even half attempted  Indian mithai, my feelings were that this type of perfecton should not be tampered with and left to suffer at amateur hands. It's when  pinterest had me glance over  the few 100 10 boards,  that I could finally wrap my my dense head around a possible desi confectionmaking future(?). The visual forcing had me dream my part in playing the fierce laddoo whisperer.

Anytime, before this sequence and you had told me you've never tried laddoo, I'd  head you on out to the nearest Indian grocer/baker/cafe/grandma to try a first bite. But now, since we're here, and  you've never experienced the luxury, and myself being the generous host I shall ever be, this very discourse will be your source shining light onto one of India's most highly favored indulgences, something you will thank me for later.

Laddoos are round sweet desserts. Mithai made from grains, grams, fruits or flours familiar to the Indian's daily speak, varied and colorful as the region's imagination. Oftentimes these are roasted, fried or steamed, and mixed with ghee and sugar, wheeled in with flavorings/seasonings, all needed in its uncomplicated coming together. A roll here,  a roll there, with  the combination of any these will bring about fantastic forms of spherical love. 

Today's ball of confection is of a more traditional realm, a stalwart laddoo, used for national celebrations as well as welcoming babies into the world. Besan laddoo, is basically made with  groundbesan, better known as flour of the garbanzo bean. Many recipes suggest this be the coarser type flour, a variety harder to find here in these Southwest U.S parts. And since I had not the slightest inclination to disregard the 5 lb "regular" fine yellow-powder-in-a-bag, from the pantry, my laddoo assembly would rely on just that. 

A swift four steps are probably what will entice you into beginning this simplest fix to satisfying your sweet tooth. A teeny offset to this here effortless layout is an inevitable 15 minute penance in front of a heated stove. Hence, a nopainnogain philosophy will help you stand ground as you slow roast and transform yellow dust into beautifully dotted amberlush grain, the finale that signals in the best airperfume, guaranteed to last for a solid 2 hours. 

A flow of an ample amount of sugar is followed by the clarified butter that lends these charming nuggets their binding fudginess, as well as the addictive melt-in-your-mouth smoothness. Take into account that not dropping a few finished miniglobes into your mouth within the time you clear through a whole batch will be quite an impossible task. 

Finally, the grace note that  lovely laddoo ends on? Not that it needs further gilding, but being free of gluten, and a fantastic energy snack pulls in several bonus points to paleo/pure/healthful arguments. Surely, it puts my mind to ease, as I powerfeed myself the last few, running through end sentences of this enoughsaid laddoo editorial.
Rolled to half inch. Could be taken to exactly an inch. Liked the smaller version better. They resemble mini pumpkins, don't they?

(Adapted from here. Thanks Turmeric n Spice!)
  • 1 cup besan/chickpea flour/garbanzo bean flour
  • ¾ cup raw cane sugar or granulated sugar
  • a pinch cardamom powder
  • ¼-¾ cup ghee/clarified butter
  • ¼ c pistachios/ cashews/almonds for garnish
  • Place flour into a large nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat.
  • Using a wooden spatula/spoon continuously stir flour around the insides of pan so each grain cooks through and reaches a light amber (not dark brown), giving off a real nutty scent.  (I had flame on low and it took me 20 minutes).
  • Stir in sugar. Mix together with the cooked flour for a minute. Take off heat. Add cardamom powder and combine all ingredients well.
  • Add 1/4 c ghee,  stir and combine, adding in more, up to triple the amount until the ingredients are moistened and bind well, without being greasy. 
  • Wait until besan mixture is cooled and roll into 1/2 to 1 inch balls.
  • Garnish with either crushed or whole pistachios, cashew, almonds.
There was nothing meaningful in using organic raw sugar, just that I happened to have a 2 lb bag ready to use for such an occasion. You could make adjustments on the sugar quantity to personal taste. Also the raw cane sugar can be swapped out for superfine sugar if a smoother texture is desired.
We all know free time is priceless. A calendar's blank spot, the afternoon free of phone alerts, clean floors and an empty laundry basket*aahhh* are the rarest of treats. These welcome breaks are my cherished interludes where relaxation/ refreshment, that which a million spas together can't assure, come from the Giver of Rest.  His company is nourishment and energy, granting a tired body respite, breathing peace to an anxietyburdened mind and shoring restoration to the very wearied soul. In this quietness, with confidence, I can let it be. All is well within me.
“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Exodus 33:14 

Monday, September 29, 2014

The breadmaker's rustic loaf

I suppose when you take hiatuses for as long as I do, you kind of lose any existing writer's edge, while veering in and out of funks, even if your aim be not such. Here and there, you nod off at the keyboard, eating whole bags of potato chips (no frets, they're the baked ones) counterproductive to this whole eat and tell show. The monologue that was supposed to have seen light two and half weeks ago, gets deferred in publishing because one completely forgets how to form sentences. Ahh, where is the quality editorial I strive for?

Anyhoo, I needed my prompt, maybe some boosting inspiration. By the way, repetitive watching of Rocky's motivational training circuit will never get old, a must-mention after powering through my ten year old's seven disc La Saga Completa. I was ready to fly.

So, I shall cut to the day's chase. Which involves the following true story and the above visual. Yes, that overbearing easilyfeeds10people loaf sessioning on your technicolor screen was over 80% diminished 2 hours into a particular home-from-school racket. I think I've mentioned a few sequences ago the enticement starch holds over this household, so it should by no means knock your socks off when hearing that my two junior people eat their weight in leavened flour. 

Further, I must make mention a few salient features of making bread. Not only is it the best air freshener ever; there is The Calm, a preciously therapeutic something that  happens on encountering scattered singular elements inputting together to be part of an expanded, delicious smelling whole. In our kitchen it is a recurring theme, featuring more than any other in BFMK chronicles, page after page of elastic gluten being twistedknottedflattenedstuffed, weaved, and fried. Clearly, I do spend more time with thoughts of flour and yeast conclusions. But really, when life gives you a bread maker, what else do you do?

Which brings me to Collosas, my fail-me-knot beast companion. He entertains me endlessly with more than twenty options and several preprogrammed settings, assembling the perfect loaf each and everytime. His no-fail track record for kneading, beating and leavening liquid and dry agents into glorious forms of dough is impressive, all done with zero complaints. Ahem, this is in no way a setup for unfair and biased machine- human comparisons. Though, one can wish.

I learned 4 years and about 60 recipes ago that it is a solid, standard source for good recipe building. With a database of mostly home cooks, there is treasure amidst those no-nonsense pages and pictures that desire possibly more light. It impressed me deeply that this particular contribution ranked beyond all others, numbering one on wikisearch, a solid five stars decorated to its page, complete with a whopping 151 reviewers. 

Novice bakers and those minus a loafcrafting kitchen appliance, the sequence should in no way intimidate you. According to Commenters One, Two and Three, the same blueprint, with very few tweaks can be pulled and formed in regular stand mixers. Identical results may also happen with diligent hands and a bit of elbow grease if you're ambitious.

To classify this as mere bread would be grave injustice. Possessing all the attributes of Spectacular Leavened Glory, moreso as it shines further, having the bakerystyle rugged-encrusting that satisfyingly plays into an airy softerthansclouds midsection. 

So what makes and why is this so fantastic? Possibly the cornmeal dust ensuring a stonehearth texture. Just about here I'll ask you to peek down to last point on our ingredient list. Spritzing water from a bottle over the top entirety of the loaf might be what secures that much envied crisp, a legendary outcome from great bakehouse ovens. The science behind will fascinate, though my Artsmajor head barely muffled over the whole mist to vapor spiel. Summarised, it goes like this; waterspritzing  mid bake will and should delay the cooking process, and its steam allows for a porous, gorgeously beaming and crackly crust. The excellent form, with an impressively light, springychew will be this wonderful loaf's endnote.

Country style. Artisan. Rustic. Italian. So it shall be whatever fits right with you.

Get ready to pat yourself on the back. With floured hands.

(Adapted from
  • 1 c warm water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 c bread flour
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp bread machine yeast
  • handful cornmeal to sprinkle on baking sheet
  • 1 egg white, slightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp oats to sprinkle over loaf
  • clean water in a clean spray bottle
  • Add the water, oil, flour, sugar, salt and yeast into the order suggested by the bread maker manual.
  • Program the machine for dough and  press start.
  • When the cycle is complete, the dough should form a soft ball, not too sticky or stiff. If not hand knead with additional flour or water, as necessary.
  • Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes. If you plan to leave it longer than 30, turn dough out into an oiled bowl, keep covered and refrigerate for upto half a day. Warning:it may ferment to more than triple size.
  • After its rest period, deflate dough, form into an elongated loaf or round ball. Place seam side down on cornmeal dusted baking sheet. Cover lightly with the towel and allow to rise for another 25 minutes.
  • In the meantime, preheat oven to 375° F.
  • After the second rise, gently create 2 or 3 crosshatch/slashes over the top of the loaf with a sharp knife or pizza wheel. Might deflate the loaf a bit, but the oven's heat should spring it back to life :-D
  • Brush with the egg white and sprinkle oats over the loaf's top.
  • Bake at 30-35 minutes, opening the oven 2 times midbake to lightly spritz water over loaf's top and oven sides. Don't overdo it with a heavy hand. All you need are a few quick sprays.
  • Remove from oven and cool on wire rack. 
Sidenote~ I'm all for slicing once cooled, but really the luxury of tearing off chunks of just-from-the-oven bread can't be beat.

School's in routine, and this year the two are driven to an actual building instead of being present at our kitchen table. So, with those spare bits of free time, I intend to work at clocking in, with regular intervals of my editorial bits, hopefully my own definition of regular will ride along the same lines as yours;-D Thank you.
"Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." Psalm 55:22
Give it to Jesus. Only He redeems, recharges, restores, renews. I should know. He dazzles me time and again with His amazing grace, healing power and kind compassion. So much so, that as I fretted on how, He abled me to sit through and type the very words that fill this end of September post.