Thursday, September 27, 2012

Daring Bakers' September 2012 Challenge: Empanada Gallega

Patri of the blog, Asi Son Los Cosas, was our September 2012 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she decided to tempt us with one of her family’s favorite recipes for empanadas! We were given two dough recipes to choose from and encouraged to fill our empanadas as creatively as we wished!

When I first read of this challenge I thought empanadas were only the sweet kind, since the ones my mouth knew were the cinnamon sugar packets laden with apple pie filling eaten from authentic (?) Mexican restaurants. Oh how limited my life is!

After an actual bite of this savory, filled pastry, it reminded me of an appetizer rather cozy to my own domestic tastes. My faithful friend (Wiki) failed me not in bringing me up to speed on empanada history. This is what he had to say, "Empanadas trace their origins to Galicia and Portugal.  In turn, empanadas and the similar calzones are both believed to be derived from the Indian meat-filled pies, samosa." (a-ha, I knew it). Wiki goes on to state, "all these pastries, in turn have common origins in the Middle East and Central Asia". So you see, the whole wide world isn't as wide and spread across as we think. Because if you eat what I eat, essentially we live in one big, globally blended kitchen. Sounds fantastic, huh?

While the samosa is fried and made without yeast, empanadas are a baked appetizer. Though, with the bake off of my last batch, I just could not resist finishing up the imperfect five  few which made for today's dandy lunch. So yes, you could healthily plate one or two, along with a side of salad, rounding it off as a significant meal.
Traditionally, this assumes the likeness of a giant pie with the full amount of filling tucked between two large sheets of dough. I decided it would be a time saving move and cuter option to form several mini-pies from my dough rectangles. With leftover ground turkey in my freezer, and a pack of mushrooms that has seen better days, I whipped up my seasoned filling. Hence the debut of my spiced turkey and mushroom empanada.
I must say these were fantastic, where eating just the one could be outright impossible. The bread pastry was sturdy firm, having the give of a nice flaked crunch. And with no dearth for filling elements, I see gleeful empanada making opportunities cast for my future.

( Dough recipe adapted from the Daring Bakers' Challenge Page; Filling recipe, my own.)

  • 5 ⅓ c bread flour
  • 2 c of lukewarm water (about 85°F), approximately
  • 1 tbsp dry yeast or fresh yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oil( to oil the bowl) 
  • 1 large egg, for egg wash
My artwork turned a bit wayward here :) Those were supposed to be the initials of we four, though with holes poked and juices oozing, they just look like sticks glued together.

  • Sift the flour into a big bowl and make a well in the middle. Rub the yeast in with your fingers. In a small bowl, mix the water and the salt.
  • Now, using your fingers or a wooden spoon, start adding the water and mixing it with the flour-yeast mixture. Keep on working with your fingers or spoon until you have added enough water and all the flour has been incorporated and you have a shaggy ball of dough.
  • On a clean counter top, knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes
  • You could do all the above using a stand mixer, in that case, mix the ingredients with the paddle attachment until mixed and then switch to a dough hook and knead on low for about 6 minutes.
  • Clean and oil the big bowl you used for mixing and place the kneaded dough in it. Cover it with a napkin or piece of linen and keep it in a warm, draught-free place for approximately 40 to 50 minutes.
  • Once risen, turn the dough back into a floured counter and cut it in half. Cover one half with the napkin to prevent drying.
  • Spread the other half of the dough using a rolling pin. You can use a piece of wax paper over the counter, it will make it easier to move the dough around. Depending on the shape of your oven pan or cookie sheet, you will make a rectangle or a round.
  • Roll it to about 1/10th of an inch.

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 medium onion, chopped 
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 jalapenos, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp cumin 
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • ½ c sliced button mushrooms, halved lengthwise
  • 1 tsp salt or enough to flavor
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • ¼ c crumbled feta cheese
  • In the meanwhile, when waiting for dough to rise, heat oil in a large skillet and saute onions, garlic over medium heat until onions are limp, not brown and both ingredients are cooked through, about 3- 5 minutes.
  • Add jalapenos, red chili flakes, coriander powder, cumin and ground turkey. Stir to combine well. 
  • Stir in mushrooms.
  • Allow meat mixture to simmer on medium- high heat, uncovered for about 3-4 minutes( the meat and the mushrooms will release some liquid for the meat to cook in). 
  • After the moisture is nearly all evaporated, let it fry itself in its own rendered fat till done .
  • Add salt and pepper. Stir in feta and combine.
  • Allow to cool completely.
Assembling the Empanada~
    • Preheat oven to 400°F.
    • Prepare pan by ightly dusting with flour your pan or baking tray. If you're using wax paper, line the baking sheet with it.
    • Cover the base and sides with the dough. Using the rolling pin or a knife, cut the extra dough.
    • Place the filling, making sure all the base is covered. 
    • Take the other half of the dough and spread it out to the same or less thinness of the base. You can use a piece of wax paper for this too. Take into account that this “top” dough needs to be smaller around than the bottom, as it only needs to cover the filling.
    • If not using wax paper, move carefully the top to cover the filling. If using wax paper, transfer the dough, turn upside down, cover the filling and gently peel off the wax paper.
    • Using your fingers, join bottom and top dough, when you have gone all the way around, start pinching top and bottom together with your thumb and index finger and turning them half way in, that way you end up with a rope-like border.
    • When you are finished, make a 1 inch hole in the middle of the top layer. This will help hot air exit the empanada while it’s baking without breaking the cover.
    • You can use left-over dough to decorate the empanada, using rounds, bows, lines… let your imagination flow and make it pretty.
    • Using a fork, prick the top layer or, using scissors, make snips that go all the way through the top layer.
    • In a small bowl, beat an egg and add a tbsp of cold water. With the pastry brush, paint the top of the empanada with the egg wash. 
    • Place the empanada in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Check that the bottom part is done.
    Patri's note ~ Using a hot filling will make the bottom layer of the empanada become soggy. Be careful to avoid adding too much oil from the filling, try to make it as “dry” as possible.

    My notes~

    *As mentioned above I made several small empanadas. I rolled out my dough to 1/8" thick and cut out several 4 inch circles. I then placed a tablespoonful of the filling on one side of a circle. Finally I folded the dough over the filling to make a half moon shape and pinched the edges together to seal tightly.

    *I switched the position of my baking trays, halfway though and then let bake for 20-25 minutes till golden brown.

    Especial with this recipe is the culinary elbowroom it affords. You can get as creative as you want with  filling ingredients, preparation of dough, even the flour you use in making the pastry. 

    Through this, I see clearly that food like music is beyond limitless, carrying in its flavorful flow, cultures, traditions and tastes. Through these Daring Challenges, I am so grateful for the fun opportunities to make the food of so many diverse cultures, which makes foodspeak a most unifying language. The creating of cuisine curiosity breeds interest in our hearts, and  the love of food keeps our hands busy, our mouths happy and our tummies well satisfied. 

    Thank you Patri for this very special challenge. Not only was I wowed by the truly good savory empanada, but also it's kinship to India's beloved samosa.

    "as far as the east is from the west,
        so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:12

    Wednesday, September 26, 2012

    Orange Peach Pudding

    Some days, I am just clear empty. On what to make, frantically juggling each week's menus, acquiring the ingredients for those (so that my family doesn't starve) and trying to sync it with appealing, blogworthy recipes. All this, combined with the energy (supersized) to further stage and photograph the same sometimes seem way out of my mind's reach. Where even marathon viewing of FoodTV can take me nowhere in my food vision, and my inclination level to just get up and do is zero. In the wake of those moments, life tends to get seriously exhausting and quite frankly, very dull.

    And then there are days like today. When my mind is revived and races for words to describe the flavor experiences of a new discovery. The instance my fingers can't wait to be at this same keyboard typing away, after an inspiring and enterprising day at my kitchen counter. Oh, beautiful day! 

    Stumbling upon this delicious, delightful discovery (my 8 year old's expansive vocab after trying one bite of this good as gold find), is agreeably one of the best happenings of the week, thus far for me and and here it's being tossed to you. Brace yourself and behold, you are in the presence of greatness.

    A search was taking place too, an undertaking to well resource my need to eat sweet, and not just of the ho-hum-cookie-candy bar variety. Maybe a fudge tart? Love it, but this time I wanted different, new to mine and the family's tastebuds, and uncommon to everyday dessert nosh. With a popular Kerala news website's cooking edition providing me the goods, respite came, delivering those goods in step upon step of awesomeness. Orange peach pudding was ready to be found.

    The pudding comes from a rarefied breed of stylishly elegant, yet surprisingly uncomplicated sweet fares. It is dessert done right, although laden with creamy custard and a glug of cream, the whole thing is surprisingly light. 

    Having an almost similar take on the trifle and other layered puddings it is one of those cake, custard and cream inventions that may singlehandedly be the most refreshing and compelling things you ever put in your mouth.

    Another best about it? A premade cake, whether by you or a nearby bakery, shortcuts the pudding prep and multiple textured assembly, breaking in through all of 30 minutes. 

    An additional note to those of you from my part of the world- by that I mean the Kerala, India one (since I've adapted so many patches of the world as "my own") scroll down  to the recipe adaptation line, and if you're a fan of the Kerala movie industry (which I proudly am) you will see the name of Kunchacko Boban, popular actor, heartful sweet eyed hero, and darling of the  Mallu big screen. Whether it is the one or random same name person who happened to submit a recipe, thus baffling fools like me, I know not. What I do know and choose to believe, is if in all possibility it is the same Kunchacko, how cool indeed, that to add along to his acting resume, he possesses some marvelous culinary skills, to boot. Which makes me a fan of his brilliant self all the more. Thank you, Chackochen.

    Recipe adapted from Kunchako Boban, via Malayalam Manorama online
    • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk 
    • 1 c heavy whipping cream
    • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
    • 1 tbsp gelatin
    • 1 tbsp water
    • 4 tbsp orange juice
    • 1 15 oz. can sliced peaches in juice, cut into ½" pieces
    • ½ c sugar
    • ½ c water
    • ½ " piece ginger, slightly crushed
    • ¼ c juice from canned peaches
    • 2 tbsp rum
    • 1 premade sponge cake, cut horizontally through the middle, making 2 pieces of cake
    • 1 ½ c heavy whipping cream
    • 3 tbsp sugar
    • 1 4.5 oz can mandarin oranges or 1 fresh orange, peeled and segmented

    • Over, medium flame in a double boiler combine condensed milk, cream and egg. Whisk continuously until  thickened to custard consistence, when thermometer registers 170° F.
    • Sprinkle gelatin over water, stir until it dissolves and add to custard mixture. Keep aside to let cool.
    • Stir in the orange juice and cut up peach pieces and combine well with the custard.
    • In a separate sauce pan over medium high heat, melt sugar in water. Add the ginger piece. 
    • Boil sugar/water with ginger and bring it to a light syrup consistency, about 3 minutes. Allow it to cool.
    • Take out the ginger piece.
    • Pour in rum and reserved juice from peaches and mix into the sugar syrup.
    • Poke holes ,with a fork or skewer, along top of cake layers, piercing all the way to the bottom.
    • Place first layer of sponge onto a glass dish large enough to accommodate the length and breadth of cake. It could be cut up to perfectly fill and line the bottom of the dish.
    • Sprinkle ½ of the sugar syrup over the cake, allowing it to go through and be absorbed in the cake.
    • Pour ½ the custard mixture over the first cake layer. Top with the second layer of cake. Repeat with the remaining syrup- soak, custard and peaches. 
    • In the stand mixer, place cream and beat on high, about 3-4 minutes until soft peaks form. Spoon in the sugar and beat until incorporated.
    • Spread the cream over the final layer of custard.
    • Drain the mandarin oranges and arrange over the assembled pudding. Likewise if using fresh oranges, make sure sure of no seeds and place on top the cream layer.
    • Allow to cool in the refrigerator and serve well chilled. 
    Though I've liberally adapted from the method of ingredient components, I did restyle this, here and there. Like using sponge cake instead of tea cake and slicing it into two for multiple layers and replacing Tang for orange juice, (making it a teensy healthier). I added ginger/ rum and peach juice to the sugar syrup.
    For my sponge layer, I used the Martha Stewart recipe here, sans vanilla extract, but adding in 1 tsp orange rind. Though, store bought pound cake and angel food cake work as wonderful, quick substitutes.
    Substitute rum with rum extract or omit altogether.

    Working through to the end of this post, I have happily eaten away my fourth serving of orange peach pudding. I guess I'll just have to welcome in tomorrow with some serious quality time... hello Mr. Treadmill!

    Weakness made strong~
    Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees. Tell fearful souls, "Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here, on his way to put things right and redress all wrongs. He's on his way! He'll save you!" Isaiah 35:3-4 ( Message translation)

    Friday, September 21, 2012

    Chicken Pot Pie

    You know the tastes of your family by the weekly or monthly rotation of foods that you cook and present at the dinner table. This concept could work the other way around too. You could actually influence those tastes by what you put on that same table each night, forcing about a sole favorite or multiple well-favored meals.

    Indian food tops a fixed dinner rotation in our house with a whopping 4 dish per week spin, leaving the remaining days for either experimental culinary ventures and/or ambitious blogging projects, perhaps figuring in a spread from a preferred list of sumptuous repasts. Not forgetting the regular, much needed weekend nights out.

    It is on that roll, that my children wax lyrical of chicken pot pie and lobby to add it into our regular cycle, so it would make for 4 IM's (Indian meals) + 1 day pot pie, thereby decreeing it a definite part of the weekly home menu.

    I'll admit, though that I hold a strong infatuation towards it too. So if you asked the question, maybe  4 years ago of whether I'd ever tried my hand at chicken pot pie , the answer most definitely would not have been "yes".

    Honestly, I don't know why it had taken me so long to learn such a really nice thing. Owe it to extreme intimidation leveled in with  some slight trepidation.

    As you probably know there is more than one right way to nail pot pie. I stumbled through hundreds, trying and never really liking. Chicken, vegetables, white sauce- no, none of that daunts me. It's the pastry that makes me buckle. That after all the roasting, mixing, and white sauce stirring, which actually is quite a breeze, I'd have to pull together an all dough pie crust. I wasn't going to sweat over pastry dough after what I thought was the culmination of a dish well done. All I needed was to surface the whole thing. And so, for the first few years, I proceeded to top my pot pies with bread, which worked, until the whole bread boat would sink mid- bake in the oven.

    Then, one day I came to know the multipurpose use of puff pastry, which could be a tastier and, of course, easier option in topping those pot pies, courtesy the loyal freezers of my local grocery. And how easy it became,  this lipsmacking savory tart glutted with moist elements, swimming together in a saucy smother of creamy bechamel. Top this luscious medley with the crispy puff pastry, and you have a dish done right,  effortless and extraordinarily satisfying.

    Easy as pie, it is indeed. Chicken breasts, roasted to juicy, just rightly seasoned perfection and soft vegetables, blend beautifully, bite by bite with the buttery flaked dough, commanding every second of your tastebuds' attention. A properly vented crust, allows for the slight oozing of gravy to creep atop flaky crevices, and here the gorgeous factor plays into the scene, so, so well.

    Swelled to golden beauteousness, it is the show stopper of all comfort foods. Four mini pots of awesomeness will wow even the most picky eaters. Though, when serving all of four, I strongly urge you to double or possibly quadruple your ingredients since you absolutely, positively might go about tucking in more than your fair share of pie.

    • 2 tablespoons oil, divided
    • 2 tsp cayenne or paprika
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • ½ tsp dried thyme
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1- 1 ½ lbs)
    • 1 large yellow onion, diced
    • 1 ½ c frozen carrot coins or diced
    • 2 celery stalks, cut into ¼ inch pieces
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • ½ teaspoon cayenne 
    • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
    • ¼ c all purpose flour
    • 1 ¾ c low-sodium chicken broth
    • ½ c milk (full fat)
    • ½ c heavy cream
    • ½ teaspoon black pepper
    • ½ tsp salt or enough to flavor
    • 1 c frozen green peas
    • Puff pastry sheet, thawed
    • 1 egg, beaten lightly
    • Preheat oven to 375° F.
    • Place 1 tablespoon vegetable oil into a greased baking pan and combine into it cayenne, garlic powder thyme and salt. Coat chicken breasts in the spice mixture. Loosely cover with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes or until done. When cooled, shred or piece with knife into bite size pieces. Set aside.
    • In a large deep skillet on medium- high, heat the remaining tablespoon vegetable oil. Add the onions, carrots, celery
    • Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and vegetables have softened, about 2-3 minutes. 
    • Stir in garlic and cayenne.
    • Reduce heat to medium. Add the butter and melt. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually stir in the chicken broth, milk and cream. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. 
    • Add pepper and salt.
    • Remove the skillet from the heat and sprinkle in peas and reserved chicken. 
    • Unfold thawed pastry sheet and gently roll out with a rolling pin.
    • Cut the sheets into four squares or circles large enough to cover the tops of six bowls.
    • Divide the chicken mixture equally among the four  bowls. 
    • Place a pastry square over the top of each bowl, pressing down around the rim to secure.
    • Brush with the beaten egg.
    • Cut a small X on top of each pastry top with a knife to vent.
    • Put the bowls on a baking sheet and place in oven.
    • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry puff is a uniform golden brown and completely done.
    • Allow to rest a few minutes before serving.

    Simplify and make a giant pot of chicken pie using the whole pastry sheet for cover.

    Don't throw away those leftovers! Make pot pies with turkey and ham, even curry meat -it's all good under the pastry hood.

    Veggie possibilities are endless. Cauliflower, mushrooms, and hearty potatoes can make for a very versatile pie.

    My first born who was delivered with a fiery Indian palate, absolutely claims this pot pie as her second favorite meal.

    I just wanted to end on quite a different note. About a couple of weeks ago, when travelling in our minivan through unknown lands, we encountered a flooded road and instead of making the smart choice of turning around, JZ attempted to drive through the wash, heading on to the side end of the road. With that, our vehicle, with us in it, settled tire deep, not only in water but swampy, impassable mud. The tail end of our car couldn't be seen and there was no way to steer it to dry ground. A few minutes went by, when 2 passerby pickups stopped just ahead, got out of their trucks to enquire on what happened. One truck had in it a family of five, where the children jumped out to help their dad and the other driver, aid us in guiding our sizable vehicle out of the deep water and mud. In the sizzling triple digit heat, with combined effort, they were able to pull our sinking vehicle from the thick sludge and onto dry road. Not only did these people bring us through a situation we never would've been able to get out of on our own, but they saved us from a fairly large State fine imposed on violating the Stupid Motorist Law .

    When we offered to do something for them in return, the answer from one went something like this, "Remember just to make sure you turn around and do the same for someone else, one day." And for certain, we will, kind sir.

    Although I am quite sure they will never read this, I felt the need to thank all those wonderful folk. We were swept off our feet by their bigheartedness, in it experiencing the loving goodness of a great God, through those obliging hands and feet.

    "Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
        Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you and help you
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand." Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

    We will ever be grateful for you, sweet Samaritans, being our blessing and grace on that hot September day. May the Lord watch and keep over you, mightily blessing you all, through and through. 


    Sunday, September 16, 2012

    Daring Cooks Challenge September, 2012- Make Paella!

    Our Daring Cooks’ September 2012 hostess was Inma of la Galletika. Inma brought us a taste of Spain and challenged us to make our very own delicious Paella!

    Valencia, Spain is the city that brought paella to the world. The dish takes its name from the large, round pan in which it is cooked. Actual Valencian paella features an interesting ingredient list consisting of rabbit, duck, and land snails and was originally simmered over an open fire, fueled by orange branches and pine conesThe protein ingredients coalesced with saffron colored rice resulting in a smoky, aromatic infusion. 

    Paella mixta is the popular Spanish adaptation where seafood, yoked with various meats, cooks together with short grain rice. Numerous variations exist, each boasting flavorfully unique ingredients which lend to slight differences in paella making. The possibilities are endless, but uniform, all with the aim of bringing forth an extravagant Spanish rice casserole.

    I actually made paella mixta for the first time, several years ago as per a recipe I saw on Food Network. Over the years that recipe has been added on to and experimented with, and a new one emerged no longer bearing resemblance to its FoodTV counterpart . With that, I now know The Paella that works well with my family and delivers impressive results without spending much time in front of the stovetop.

    When I heard this month's DC challenge was paella, I was in a Catch-22 sort of moment. Was it my best option to use the recipe on the challenge page or maybe go with one of the many tried, tested and traditional types? Should I commence with my cop-out and face possible paella sacrilege? Dilemma mania ensued resulting in very delayed decision making. Decision making that led to a challenge post two days past due.
    So here I was, pressed for time, deciding to run to the recipe I've fiddled with and tweaked through the years, The Trustworthy One, that saved me on countless occasions and is easier than pie (yes, definitely).
    In a concise amount of time, it emerges in all  it's intoxicating glory. This, mightily owing to the rice I use; unconventional, quick basmati, which replaces its parboiled, fluffier and longer cooking Spanish cousin, bomba. 

    With flavors kept to my liking, alongside ingredients accurate to paella nature, I was able to maintain the integrity of my plentifully studded rice subject. Spice and saffron infused seafood paella with chicken and ground chorizo could very well be a version of the traditional Spanish sustenance guided a tiny bit by my Indian palate, evocative of my native biriyani.

    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • ½ c chopped medium onion
    • 3 tbsp minced garlic
    • ½ lb chorizo sausage, pieced and cut free of the sausage skin
    • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts diced 
    • 1 c chopped bell pepper
    • 2 medium tomatoes chopped
    • 3 c. basmati
    • 3 cups chicken broth (warmed)
    • 2 ¾ c water (warmed)
    • juice of 1 lemon
    • salt to flavor
    • 2-3 saffron threads *
    • 1 lb  jumbo shrimp (prawns), cleaned & deveined
    •  3-4 medium lobster tails, cut into thirds
    • ½ lb pound little neck clams, scrubbed
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 1 tsp pepper
    • 1 tsp red chili powder(cayenne)
    • 2 tbsp oil
    • ½ c frozen peas, thawed
    • 3 springs of parsley
    • lemon wedges
    To make a good picture I threw in my cooked clams with raw lobster tails- oops! 

    • In a paella pan or wide, metal  pan, heat oil,  add onions, garlic, sausage and chicken. Saute until meats are done.
    • Add bell peppers and fry a minute.
    • Mix in tomatoes.
    • Add in rice, lightly fry with ingredients. 
    • With heat on high, pour in broth, water, lemon juice and salt.
    • Bring rice mixture to a rolling boil. Stir in saffron.
    • Reduce heat to medium- low, cover and allow to cook.
    • In the meantime, season shrimp, lobster, and clams with salt, pepper, chili powder.
    • In a separate skillet, over high heat, fry shrimp in oil for 5-6 minutes, per side. Take out and keep aside.
    • Sear lobster pieces on both sides, 4-5 minutes. Keep aside.
    • Lower to medium heat and stir in clams and cover with lid, until they open up in their own steam (discard unopened clams).
    • Take off heat.
    • Once rice mixture has absorbed all liquid, sprinkle in peas and mix once more. 
    • Top with shrimp, lobster pieces and clams.
    • Increase heat to high and cover paella for 2-3 minutes, careful not to burn, but to brown the bottom for a golden rice crust, commonly known as socarrat.
    • Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.
    For saffron, I mix in strands with a tablespoon of warm milk to extract the flavor and color, and then stir in.
    Though Spanish bomba or other short grained, parboiled rice varieties are used in paella, I am partial to the flavor and vibrant aroma of basmati rice, a brilliant and quicker alternative, in my opinion.

    Paella purists' may argue on the authenticity of the paella I've composed here, which probably won't hold bona fide legal in the most obscure competion. Though, I did make right in keeping with tradition at the conclusion of the meal. Even before it hit the dinner table, our paella was duly devoured straight from the pan, with four greedy forks doving deep in, trying to piece off some exquisite socarrat. Which if I have my facts straight, is the only way to eat it.

    Behind time again on my September challenge post- to my fellow Daring Cooks, I truly apologize.

    Thanks Inma for this fun challenge, enabling us to transport the bright, bold and beautiful flavors of Spain to our kitchens.
     Keep your eyes fixed on Him and your faith will hold strong ~
    "And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”Matthew 21:22 (ESV)

    Sunday, September 9, 2012

    Vegetable Curry Bun

    The Curry Bun. A clever invention made popular to meet a region's need for curry and starch. It satisfies the Indian's fierce appetite for spicy along with a fair share of grain. With more than half the population of India favoring rice as their number one staple, a good many would very well claim bread as a well standing second. Carbs are delicious, no doubt and when they're dished up with a pool of curry, it becomes a desirable meal. Served on occasion, in Kerala households, it is the lazy man's solution for quick, semi-traditional and oft-sustaining fare.

    So, here we have a bun or roll, kneaded and shaped more like an edible cave making room for lightly seasoned ingredients. Rolling dry curry into dough bun seems a technique too complex for layman, but not so . This recipe requires no Master Chef skill, nor much fanfare. Curried vegetables come together in all of 10 minutes and breadmaker meticulously churns out a blooming good dough. Assembly is effortless, and bundles rest a bit before their entrance into the oven. 

    A base of of black eyed peas, a throw- in of mushrooms, the usual mix of onions, garlic and ginger give in to a beautiful bun stuffer. But only after being the side to our dinner plates the night before (hence, we experience leftover magic). With the background elements of fragrant masala and tangy lemon doing their thing, black eyed pea/ mushroom curry becomes the exceptional end product to dressing a superior and satisfying bun. 

    The breadmaker's dinner roll dough turned out to be fantastically sturdy, with just enough pull to envelope an oversized tablespoon of vegetable curry. Not to mention it's so round and cute, an impressive dough giftwrap packaging a blissful and savory surprise. 

    Curry buns can pretty much be served any time of day.  It makes for a great breakfast shortcut when heading out the door in the morning, a meal held in the palm of your hand and possibly one stuffed between both cheeks.

    For the Bun ~
    • 3 tbsp sugar
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 2 ¾ c bread flour
    • 2 tsp active dry yeast
    • ¼ c water
    • 1 egg
    • ⅞ c milk, 
    • ¼ c butter
    • Measure all ingredients into bread pan.
    • Select dough setting
    • Press start
    • When finished and unit signals 0:00, take dough and turn out on counter.
    • Punch down and divide dough into 12-16 equal sized balls.

    All ingredients should be at room temperature when preparing dough in a breadmaker.
    Don't have breadmaker?  I'd try the dinner recipe roll here, it provides a yield close to the one above.

    For the Curry Stuffing~
    • 2 tbs cooking oil
    • ½ tsp mustard seeds
    • ½ medium onion
    • 1-2 jalapenos, chopped fine (deseed, if preferred)
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
    • ¼" piece ginger, minced or grated
    • 1 tsp coriander powder
    • 1-2 dried, crushed red  chili(optional)
    • ½ tsp cumin
    • ½ c sliced button mushrooms
    • 1 c softened and cooked black eyed peas or ¾ of 15 oz. can of black eyed peas, strained and rinsed
    • juice of ½ lemon
    • 1 tsp salt or more, according to taste
    • few sprigs of cilantro, chopped
    • Heat oil in a medium skillet  and temper mustard seeds until they pop.
    • Add onions and fry until soft and translucent.
    • Add jalapeno(s), garlic, ginger and saute for a minute until cooked.
    • Stir in the spices from coriander to cumin, cook an additional minute or so, until oil lightly separates from the ingredients, (when you get a good whiff of the spices).
    • Put in the mushrooms, fry until brown and cooked.
    • Stir in the black eyed peas. Combine.
    • Pour in lemon juice, stir an additional minute until all moisture is absorbed. 
    • Add in salt, stir. 
    • Sprinkle with cilantro.
    • Take off heat and set aside to cool.

    Ingredient needed: 1 egg, beaten
    • Preheat oven to 350° F.
    • Flatten or roll out each ball with rolling pin into a 5 -6 inch disc.
    • Place 1 generous tablespoon of filling onto center of the round.
    • Take up the sides up and over the filling, closing dough and pinching ends together smoothing seam. Repeat with remaining.
    • Place seam side down on lined baking tray(s) and leave to proof 10 minutes.
    • Brush top and sides of buns with the egg wash. 
    • Place in oven on middle rack and bake for 25-30 minutes.

    Meat and seafood make for perfect bun fillers. Use rotisserie for easy Tandoori chicken buns/ chili chicken buns.

    I had my first bite of curry bun at Hot Breads after moving straight out of college and to the city where I got my first job, when plentiful rolls and croissants were becoming a common item on menus throughout  Kerala. My best friend and I would frequent the famous bakeshop and gully away stuffed flatbreads, curry buns and taco rolls. Because back in the day, metabolism was on my side.

    Sidenote~ No, it's not your eyes. The font has a mind of it's own today. I'm sorry for the crazy appearance of script on the page. Blogger has been acting up and for some reason has decided not to straighten out, hopefully it stops with just this post. 

    “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16

    Let it sparkle, let it glow, Let It Shine!

    Monday, September 3, 2012

    Spiced Chai Creme Brulee

    I know time's been lagging between our meetings and my posts are not as recurring as I'd like them to be. If you ask me, I can't really pinpoint it on A One Thing. It could be a hot spell, delirium- induced procrastination, of sorts, on reaching the near end to multiple 110+ degree days of muggy, near heat wave existence. Maybe just blame it on a brand new school year accompanied by numerous extracurriculars, oft- maddening driving routes and schedules. Add to that, a most fascinating role as entrant mom to a brand new middleschooler. Though, possibly the sluggish, beyond- me existence could be attributed to just plain lazy-me attitude; lazy to type, lazy to photograph and lazy to write all this out. ( The cooking part is exempt from lazy-me status, since that's what I do most often, everyday.)

    Before I admit to any (or all) of the three, one confession I can for sure make- during these lags and small breaks, I do miss you all. In true sincerity, yes I do. So, please do me the pardon and perchance, allow me to redeem myself?  Because I have today something that could  will completely win you over.

    Curious? Does creme brulee need an introduction? Really, the super-luscious, indulgent pudding that sounds as good as it tastes? Well, maybe so and below I'll give you a brief one.

    Translated from the French, this popular dessert means "burnt cream," referring to its' caramelized finish. The origins of creme brulee are unknown. History has it that a certain well known University house presented this tasty dish at their well known tables in the late 19th century. Adding further  popularity to the dessert was a dramatic heat-brandishing of the college arms over the custard. Whatever the cradle source maybe, it was indeed genius embodied in a creamy pudding form.

    So on to today's sensation: The genius creation gets saturated with caffeine packed fabulousness,  sending ordinary creme brulee to a novel, very dazzling chai destiny. 

    Unique in taste, it is chai steeped cream, laced with aromatic cardamom, cloves and perfused with a touch of ginger. Well rounded, the velvety smooth body is similar to a perfectly blended cup of masala chaithe ultimate tea pudding. This, my sweets, is dessert refinement, all in a 3 ounce porcelain dish. Future bliss is achieved in the scant sugar sprinklings above these individually served, over- the -top lovelies. 

    With the aid of a kitchen blowtorch, which I might add is the best invention known to man after electricity, the plain white sugar transforms into horizontal plates of hardened caramel glass - dangerously good stuff in that after trying the burnt version of sugar  you may never have a pining for the white stuff ever again. With the nearest proximity between torch and sugar, you burn away, swiftly throughout the upper sanded surface, searing the custards to utter crisped perfection. 

    A wonderful, easy way to have a swanky, most magnificent dessert, from start to finish. And with a no bake custard to boot, what more could you ask for? 

    A cup of tea to go with? Included in the recipe, as well. Thank you very much. 

    (Inspired and loosely adapted from Hari Nayak's "My Indian Kitchen")
    • 2 ¼ c heavy cream
    • 2 tbsp loose black tea leaves (Assam or Darjeeling teas work well) or 2 tea bags
    • pinch of salt
    • 2  whole green cardamom
    • 2 whole cloves
    • ¼ tsp ginger powder
    • 4 large egg yolks
    • ½ c sugar, divided 
    • ½ tsp vanilla extract

    • Place the cream, tea, cardamom, cloves, ginger powder and salt into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. 
    • Once boiled, bring heat to medium and allow to simmer for an additional 2-4 minutes until liquid becomes slightly reduced. Remove from the heat, cover and keep aside. Strain and discard leaves, and spices.
    • Over a double boiler, or a deep pan set over simmering water on heat whisk egg yolks, together with ¼ cup sugar.
    • Whisk steadily until mixture turns light in color and thickens (175 °F on an instant-read kitchen thermometer). 
    • Add the chai cream a little at a time into the egg mixture, gradually stirring all the while.
    • Once cream and egg mixture are incorporated, cook over medium-low heat, stirring at intervals, until mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden ladle. 
    • Take off heat and stir in vanilla. (At this point, if you find it lumpy, strain once more)
    • Pour the liquid into 6 ramekins or custard pan large enough to hold full mixture.
    • Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight.
    • Remove the creme brulee molds from the refrigerator.
    • Divide the remaining ¼ cup sugar equally among the 6 dishes and tap to spread evenly (if not made into individual servings, pour evenly over the top of one large brulee). Using a torch, melt the sugar to form a nicely browned, crispy top. 
    • If browning has warmed custard below, refrigerate for 10-15 minutes before serving. Don't leave to chill for an extended time as the top might go soggy.

    The custard flavor betters, the more it sits- upto a few days, but prepare the sugar crust the day of serving.

    Sidenote ~ Unless you're up for an all night TV view-a-thon (or in other cases, nocturnal updating of a foodblog) use caution when serving this after dinner. Because a small 3 ounce dish of chai creme brulee contains as much caffeine as does a cup of chai itself. So enjoy before sun sets -yes, you can trust me on this one. 

    No worries if your kitchen lacks a blow torch. An ever-watchful eye and a good kitchen broiler can also bring about a browned top. Might not be as fun.
    On breaking this beauty you will be pleasantly surprised at the burnt shell cracking away like glass on contact with your spoon's edge.

     A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might.

    Proverbs 24:5 (ESV)
    "The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are." ~C.S. Lewis