Saturday, April 27, 2013

Happy bread

Having an  online cooking journal for the whole wide web to view, share, remark and debate on can be a very intimidating experience, an online show with an audience of anyone and everyone, on a given, often rendering guilttrips  so hard to shoo off when you don't speak enough. This is common occurrence  in my life these days. I realize that to have a spiel that delivers, one must generate in the audience ( translates to you, fine people) a do-it-now intent, all the while reeling them in to the day's recipespeak. But what do you do if you don't have that level of Fantastic springing from the edges of your brain? A day or several that lacks a food story, the kind that yields a head- in- clouds feeling where words and thoughts package and purpose themselves into a kitchen song and dance. 

Sometimes there are those weeks, seemingly endless, yet not. You know, the kind that drag you in with a pull, gentle, but fierce and you're left with a listless, swept through afterthought, and energy amounting to zilch. It's then that doing everything (read: dirty laundry, trash sorting and shelf dusting) conveys almost next to nothing. Especially when contemplating an update for the now 87 page webjournal one intentionally commits to, in hopes to inspire all, even those yet- to- be born grandchildren (lofty thinking drives far, doesn't it?). It is this dry spell that must run its own course. In its midst, I occupy my mind and bookshelves with hulking manuals termed cooking bibles (blasphemy!), renewals on Cooks Country subscriptions, pressing forward on endless recordings of reality FoodTV.

No, I'm not twiddling my thumbs, waiting for inspiration gusts while Bobby Flay hosts another throwdown. My everyday workplace is a busy one, where several freezer-depleting meals are made and plated. You see, the common ho-hum and our weeks-on rotation are those blurbs I prefer not to sell here, these that are often not qualifed for the pretty photo op, you know, the ones that have you openmouthed and clawing at the screen.  

The preoccupation for finding a noteworthy reveal was having effects even on my child, who went on a foodgawking spree for me. It's then she found the header that only a young mind couldn't miss. "I want happy bread",her remark, and my answer to this week long performance drought. "What?", glancing onto the screen that held the suspense. Noted, sweet child. Your wish is my command. Happy bread it shall be. It was then that I became the bestest mother in the world. 
The first thing that you fail to miss is that this Happy is outright gorgeous. No matter how your layers, cuts, turns and twists turn out, endproduct will certainly elicit a fair amount of oohs(!) and ahhs(!). It was of course a win-win for my gluten loving firstborn who revels in all things edibly white and starchy. 

The beastmachine, mybreadmaker that's always churns out lovely breadforms, is not the one I consulted for my happy bread. Instead, its the elbow grease (and preacher curls) that cannot be understated here, my two hands that helped me fashion smooth, pliable and perfectly taut dough. A form that turned pillowy on proofing and rolled out smoothly without curling back into a snail, as most yeastly things do.
And that's how the stress of a toiled-out- nothing- to- show week- came to good end. My pound and a half of happy bread was beaming and beautifully so. Add to that, the madefromscratchbreadaroma lingering still in our vents and hallway . 

In all the stages of Happy making, what with leavening, mixing, kneading, rising, cutting, tucking and swirling, you will engage in a sense of utter joy, and deep satisfaction. These salient features of fancy breadmaking further into the final ta-da, thoroughly worth a standing ovation, even if it be your own.  

Once the coils and layers are said and done, getting beyond the chewy crust forces you to pull apart at well looped rounds, wherein you notice the delicate and airy structure of perfection created, waiting for you to break into that first bite.  

I say you sing. Oh happy day!

(The recipe is from Foodiva Kitchen's . I thank her for google translating it and making adjustments from the original Bulgarian blueprint. Everything is measured in metric units, which I left as is and I did top mine with sesame seeds.)
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar or honey
  • 100 ml warm milk or a little less than half a cup
  • 500g all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading and flouring
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 150 ml warm milk (extra)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp vinegar or lemon juice
  • 100 g butter, melted and cooled
Glaze Ingredients:
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • ½ c sesame seeds
  • Combine yeast and sugar in the milk, cover and let stand until yeast is fully dissolved and slightly foamy, about 7-10 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, sift the flour and salt together. Make a well in the middle and add beaten eggs into it, the remaining warm milk, olive oil, vinegar and yeast mixture. Mix all ingredients in the bowl using a large wooden spoon. Once it is somewhat combined, turn dough out onto a floured counter until all parts of the dough become smooth and elastic and knead. Clean out and dry the same bowl. Lightly oil or coat with cooking spray.
  • Place your dough in it and cover with clingfilm or clean towel to leave to rise and double in volume - about an hour.
Push through that soft dough belly. If your fingers leave an impression that stays,  leavened it is. 
  • With hands gently push down the inflated belly of the dough. Knead through once to smoothen and transfer onto a floured surface, divide dough into 2 equal parts and then those 2 into 4, where there will be 8 pieces of dough altogether.
  • Roll each piece of dough out into a oblong, rectangular shape (doesn't have to be perfect) with a thickness, almost ¼". Brush cooled, melted butter over pieces. Save remaining butter for later.
  • Place one piece of rectangular dough over another one and start to roll into a cylinder. Repeat with the rest of the dough; you will end up with 4 tube shaped rolls altogether.
  • Slice at both ends of the roll about 1 1/2' long each, and set aside these two pieces. Cut middle part of the dough tubes nto 4 equal, side- by -side triangles. Repeat with all the cylinders.
  • Grease or spraycoat a 9 "or larger deep, round baking pan.  In the middle of the tray, arrange the ends of the rolls around each other to form a circle, placing cut sides down. Arrange the cut triangles in concentrically, to completely surround the middle circle. Cover with clingfilm or dishcloth and leave the dough to rise in a warm place for additional half hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Whisk yolk and milk to for glaze and brush top of the bread with the glaze. (You can sprinkle with sesame seeds or other dry toppings at this point.) 
  • Bake bread for 10 minutes at 350° F, thereafter reduce heat to 325° F for remaining 30-40 minutes, until bread is done and top is slightly browned.
  • Brush bread with melted butter right after it comes out of the oven. Cover and let cool or do as we did and start deconstructing once out, being mindful not to burn hands and tongues..
Notes~ You can very well do this using a stand mixer or food processor and dough attachments/blade, If so, set speed to medium- low until dough pulls together, separating from the sides of the mixer/ f.p. bowl.
The structure quite easily breaks apart at the seams of the individual shapes. I suggest you grab two, three, maybe five before the rest disappear. 

"My body and mind may fail, but God is my strength and my portion forever." Psalm 73:26 (ISV)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fish Tacos, Purple Cabbage Slaw and My First Guest Post

Just last week I said "yes" to an interview and guest post for the very first time. Frankly, fearful me wanted to run and hide. I didn't and I wouldn't, especially since the person who asked was the exceptionally gifted Rafeeda Rahman, who I'm fortunate to call one of my BBF's (best bloggie friend) Ms. Rafeeda possesses some unmatchable qualities that she effortlessly displays at her immensely popular "The Big Sweet Tooth". Really though, after working through my one-minute phobia I was honored and elated (AHHH!) to bring my teeny bit to her party. And what happened after? Fish. Seasoned, baked and tucked in a warm corn tortilla. It is the fish taco, all set and partnered with a crunchy slather of cabbage slaw. Sound good? Take a look. Except not here. Further on and I will tell you exactly where.

Fish tacos, are the answer to respectably healthful, yet absurdly delicious Mexican fare. It satisfies a seriously intense, sometimes indescribable craving for this heresaid popular cuisine. People, it's time to get your mojo on, La Bamba style!

So, shall we then pause for an interval here? A mini- break that takes us over to Raf's world, where the rest of this conversation and my fish taco/ slaw recipes await your visit.  Ready? Set? Click right here. 

My hostess and fellow Kerala neighbor is a notoriously gracious hostess, proof in her Saturdays only event "Be My Guest", the happening place to hang for some mindblowingly fresh ideas .

I urge don't just stop there! Check out her nutella pops, seriously worth a swoon or two and chicken pulao biriyani, Rafeeda's answer to the utmost two- for- one Indian casserole. 

After knowing Christ, your new nature is one that is rooted in Him, where it takes you to a higher, and richer identity, one that is eternal and God endowed. Transformed from the inside out, you will be made brand new, born again of His spirit and His strength~

But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:20-24 (NLT)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Quatro leches (Four milk) pudding

Would you ever be able to guess what it's like to have too many cans of condensed milk? All stockpiled on pantry shelves, neat tucked in spice cupboards, even taking up that useless space under a stairwell closet, and occupying more real estate in your life than needed? Can you fathom that to ease the ordeal the thought of a special room dedicated for their housing needs, enters your head more than once? Of course not! Because maybe you don't know the sale banner stories in that canned aisle and bright red sticker tops that bring out the compulsive in me, to where I overbuy, often wiping out a shelf, maybe two. Needless to say there will always be more cans than I can use, lest fear grip me on losing control of my existing and very secret supply (Shhh!). Hello again and welcome to my world.

Condensed milk. My best friend before the inevitable JZ era (possibly still so, though lack of that knowledge won't hurt him) and in those dorm and college days of lore, it was my partner in sweet crime, half cupfuls made base for some astoundingly yum, syruped up coffee, with the "extra spill" spooned directly into this very happy mouth. For quite the time, even a glass of milk wasn't spared, for it was the wee spoon of The Sweetened One that would awaken Regular's almost milky taste. Sounds fanatical? It was and obsessively so. Until I woke up and learned of Condensed's other features, and could not limit the potential and go further at such a one dimensional rate ( though it was good, while it lasted). After setting it free, it beckons greatness and glory, shining through and beyond in countless desserts, my favorite go- to of all tinned sweet makers.

For it is a good day, where I'm one out on my knows- no- end pantry staple after this here dialogue, and a recipe that leaps straight from the pages of my confessional, The C. Milk Hoarder 's Written Manual. No worries though, this single note changes, henceforth, and the ode does not end on the sweetened, condensed version alone. Our tune today is amped several fold, that too by more purist-friendly dairy inclusions. It is the most epic combination of the calcium endowed, four times worth, thus creating the splendor of the day's dessert conclusion.

This no-bake, soft-set treat happens with almost equal portions skim and condensed (I pair them together in hopes of the wholesome note spreading from the one to the other), heavy cream, and final do- a- dollop of dulce de leche ( forgive the tongue twister hopeful). Then there is that one that distincts itself, the layer not be left out, the FFC (Factor of Fantastic Crunch), given here in the smashed and buttered forms of more than 20 arrowroot cookies. Fantastically simple. I hope you are impressed.

This is a conglomeration of tastes and styles of the wet type pudding, served over and again, in many parts of Kerala. It shares close proximity to the signature creamed pineapple custard, dainty dished, and plattered at socials, weddings, and "must-be-seens" that require event planning. But in spite of my shameless wannabe riff, this is not a custard. Not even be my feeble replication of  the take- out moss pudding types, purchased at the local bakehouse, and popularized by my father- in- law on the nights he "took on" desserts. Nostalgia can take me thus far.

Let me tell you, this four milk pudding has more than quatro scope. It is the save-or-scream blueprint for many swapins/outs which could yield you advantageous results. I'm already envisioning Oreo cookie crusts, seasonal summer fruits, hints of ginger, maybe even a lemon/lime twist all in its future. A pudding to take the rest to task, with scores of possibilities, not having you ever counter the thought that it will be anything short of abundantly delicious.

Pudding ~
  • 1 c skim milk
  • 1 c heavy whipping cream
  • 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ⅓ c cold water
  • 2 ¼ tsp or 1 pkt gelatin 
  • 1 14 oz. can crushed pineapple
  • In heavy bottomed saucepan, heat through milk and whipping cream until near rolling boil. Add condensed milk and allow the three to combine and heat thoroughly with the rest.
  • Turn off heat. Mix in vanilla. Set aside.
  • Take cold water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over it. Allow to bloom and gelatin crystals to fully dissolve.
  • Blend gelatine into milk mixture. Pour in crushed pineapple and combine all ingredients well.
  • Spoon into cups or pudding molds a little over halfway in each one.
  • Allow to chill for about 15 minutes until semi set.
Biscuit topping~
  • 1 pkt Britannia Arrowroot cookies( also known as Marie/Maria biscuits)
  • 6 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • Roughly crush up the Marie biscuits in processor. Don't let it powder though, there needs to be enough crunch texture. Take out and add butter, and sugar. Blend with fingers until thoroughly moistend.
  • Keep aside.
  • 1 14 oz. can dulce de leche
  • ½ pint strawberries, chopped
Pudding Assembly~
  • Take out chilled and set pudding ( it should be set on sides with a slight wobble).
  • Spoon a tablespoon or two of dulce de leche on top of pudding. (if too thick, microwave at 70% power for 10 seconds).
  • Sprinkle 2-3 tbsp of crushed cookies over dulce.
  • Refrigerate and serve cold.
  • Top with  chopped strawberries when ready to serve.
Notes~ Layer this any way you want. I feel the above to be best because you get the distinct texture of the crumbs to stand out against the silkiness of pudding. You can even repeat and do layers in a large trifle like bowl.
Don't have dulce? Don't worry! Here are some ways to make it at home.

This pudding has been refashioned and made over and again, with likeminded ingredients added in and taken out, but never forsaking my can of Condensed. The trial runs would result in different equations, each and every time. I've accompanied cream cheese with the others, for custard sauce in fruit salad, and I thought it so good, it was my entry in the little cooking competition I briefed in more than a few years ago.

Like condensed milk? So do I! See for yourself-  here,  herehere,  here and here.

A visit back, same time, last year, almost~ Cauliflower Egg Rolls.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;  your rod and your staff,  they comfort me." Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)

Monday, April 8, 2013


About 74 meetings (and a trillion words ago), we discussed appam. One of my first updates complete with an introduction into the cuisine of the ultimate Malayali, is where that song and dance began and where you met Kerala's very own pancake. One that took India's staple, rice, to one of the many dimensions it can transform its superhero self into. Ground and battered up to reach a very creamed, tad liquidy consistency, thus it takes you to this griddled hopper form. Transfer that philosophy to the rightnow, where I show you a much different appam, the palappam, amped up with not much more, yet its very preparation and the vessel in which that happens gift The One a uniquely magnificent form. The pal in appam translates to milk in my native (hear that, Rosetta Stone?) and in this case that pal is the milk from coconuts, velveting in a richer appam experience.

Some argue it is the one up on the traditional  hopper and many favor just this one. In my family its place in importance rests solely on condition and occasion, that is when the condition of my gracious self lines up with an occasion where I can hold fort in front of a heated stovetop, to create several sets of these laced up lovelies. Bonus points that make up for this heat instilled penance: it requires only three major components( presuming water, salt and sugar are givens in a kitchen and therefore require no effort of additional purchase). Other than blender, bowl and a specialized pan, there is no monster equipment, not even the- heavier- than- a- ten- pound- baby "ultraslim" counter grinder that takes the joy out of the whole ordeal. No, here I will not ask you to grind rice. Instead, rice flour and canned coconut milk that's readily available is what will star in this debut audition of The Easiest Palappam Production. Ever and after.

Besides being just about the greatest food item a Keralite's mouth has ever known, and especially those of the Central part, it is catered from dozens of home kitchens, made ungrudgingly available to travellers at roadside stalls and often the piece de resistance highlighted on countless five star menus. The crepe-laced Kerala palappam has clearly bloomed beyond its original borders. You see, even 5 years prior, the web didn't render much in terms of a decent recipe. But with the passing of that time and the love of Blogger, everyone and their rss feeds seem to know a thing or two about producing perfect palappam. It is the flavor of the month, reading fashion into tradition, all with home cooks and citizens of the foodosphere fueling the new, improved appam mania. Enough so, that my head reads the new destiny of the Kerala palappam in hashtag rant. Clearly a hapless stance, since I am so not the twitter trender. Fair warning hashtag haters: hold your ears. Because, hands down #keralalaceappams is the #breakfastofchampions, but of course #hoppersrockandrule anytime, everywhere, amirite? Know it, #traditionistrend. Enough twitspeak? Me, too. 

Keep in mind, people, the batter here yields approximately 30- 35 regular size palappams. Make half and save for another day. All for one show? On average it feeds 6-8, far from our normal, where the whole whets the horselike appetites of we four, in one sitting. Once out, its all gone
  • In medium saucepan, over medium heat, make a "roux" by mixing ¼ c rice flour and ½ c water to almost boil, where it comes together like thick porridge. Turn off heat.
  • With the blender on a medium setting, drop yeast, then half cupfuls rice flour alternatively with the coconut milk. Stop at intervals and use a rubber spatula to help you blend the ingredients that stick to the sides. Add enough water from the can of the coconut milk for measure, only until it reaches a pancake batter consistency, not too thick.
  • Add rice powder roux, salt, sugar, and blend for a few more minutes until all ingredients are incorporated well.
  • Pour into a bowl, large enough to let it bloom and"grow".Cover and keep aside in a closed, warm, dry place, preferably an oven ( turned off), undisturbed for a minimum of 6 hours, even overnight. 
  • Mix fermented batter well. Take out as much as you need in a smaller bowl. Leave remainder in refrigerator. If using at once, still do batches. It is easier to hold and ladle. Heat your pan on medium- low heat, ladle a little less than ¼ cup of the batter into the center of the heated pan .
  • Lift the pan off heat. Hold both sides firmly (use a heat proof towel or potholders when doing this) and using your wrists, swirl the batter around in a clockwise motion, so that it lightly coats the outer circumference of the middle of the pan, and nearing its edge.(Almost like hula hooping your pan once around). The center batter should be thicker, in a puddle. Return to heat. Lid your appam.
  • Allow to cook for a minute and then check on it. The center will puff up, the edges left like frilly lace. Leave it covered and cook further for browner, crisper ends. 
  • Lift out with spatula.
  • Repeat with remaining batter.
Notes~ Once batter has risen, you can thin it with a wee bit of water so that that it can twirl effortlessly in the pan but not appear too drippy. Think crepes.
No palappam pan? Try using a smallish medium (about 5-6" in diameter) wok, preferably nonstick. Else you can dab oil at intervals to keep it from sticking to the pan.

Pairing two, three maybe 5 with beef, porkchicken, even the eggs used here is very right and all good.
An option would be to test the yeast with ¼c of water, before it goes into the blender. My exception is that if I know my yeast is new and good to go, I skip that step.
If you notice,  the palappam pan is molded to form a perfect middle dome. You can find these at Indian specialty stores, even the online ones.
Another name for this is lace appam. You don't need a translator to guess why.

Two stations makes palappam production swifter and smoother.

Scalloped edges and a soft, over endowed center, there are no two that are alike.

"When your mind is occupied with thanking Me, you have no time for worrying or complaining. If you practice thankfulness consistently, negative thought patterns will grow weaker and weaker. Draw near to Me with a grateful heart, and My Presence will fill you with joy and peace." from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young