Raisin Pull Apart Bread – Part 1

I’ve got a cold and a fever. It’s the weather, unusually cold for Mumbai which doesn’t normally have a winter. Not that I’m complaining. I love cooler weather. The only problem is that the weather’s been yo-yoing, and the weather reporters on the news need to be re-schooled.

Broadcast meteorologists… is that what they call them?

Though if you’ve been following Al Gore and are aware of  global warming, the depleted ozone layer and climate change you’ll know that it isn’t their fault any more. It’s getting seriously impossible to predict the weather from year to year. And this time around it’s not just the Himalayas and its foothills that are completely snowed under but it even snowed in the lower hilly regions in Punjab. The first time in 40 years… Go figure!

Which makes me glad that I’m a plains dweller… for at least these three months of the year. That way I can still keep my dreams of packing my bags and heading northwards alive. Dreaming of clear blue skies, clean air, chirping birds and gentle frost on leaves.

These are a few photos from a trip I took to Ramgarh, in the Kumaon foothills…

Good Afternoon!

Smiling at the sun

Look to the right

Now look to the left

Blades of... Frost

So till the sun comes out again, and the snow thaws, I’ll stay in my part of the world, and settle for the aroma of freshly baked bread in my kitchen.

When you’re city bound you’ve got to do the best you can.

I came across this recipe for raisin yeast water the other day, and I was thrilled. Fancy doing everything from scratch, right from making your own yeast. Now that’s definitely something. So I took a shot at it and it wasn’t too much of a bother, other than baking the loaf, which took a bit of preparation. But at the end, it was well worth the time and effort.

All the yeast water took was, well… water, along with raisins, and of course a clean bottle… and three to four days of letting the raisins ferment at room temperature (between 35 to 40 degrees C). It may take longer in cooler climatic conditions. I kept it out in the sun occasionally…

Raisin Yeast Water

When the fruit has broken down and the water looks like the picture above with plenty of little bubbles on the surface (after 3 – 4 days of letting it stand at room temperature) it’s time to refrigerate the bottle to prevent the water from going too sour. The yeast water can now be used whenever you’re ready to bake… usually sooner than later. Just make sure that you allow the water to come to room temperature before you use it.

I used the water after five days, making a pre-ferment with 1 1/4 cups of the raisin yeast water to 1 1/2 cups of flour. Mixed it well and kept it in an airtight container for 10 hours till it doubled (trebled actually) in volume.

Raisin Yeast Water mixed with Flour
Doubled… almost trebled
All nice and bubbly and ready for the next step

When the pre-ferment is ready, you’re ready for the next step. Kneading the dough for the Loaf you have in mind.

The pre-ferment isn’t sweet but all those raisins got me in the mood for raisin bread. I used fresh raisins (not those from the raisin water) and for added flavour steeped them in rum, cooking them down till the liquor evaporated and the raisins looked nice and plump.

Rummy Raisins

Coming up… a Raisin Pull Apart Loaf liberally dusted with cinnamon, cardamom and powdered sugar.

Strawberry Tarts

I love pastry, especially flaky pastry… never mind the loads of butter and the the griping about the hips. Because as my grandma once said, “they’re family hips child”. So if anyone wants to know… I got hips in my legacy. And I’ve learned to live with it.

But getting right back to pastry, I’ve been dying to make puff pastry ever since I could say… Julia Child. But making a pâté feuilletée from scratch is no small task. In fact if you follow Julia’s directives, a regular pâté feuilletée should have 73 layers and a pâté feuilletée fine 730 layers.

Merde!

Now pardon my French, s’il vous plait, but I honestly got intimidated by the prospect of 73 layers, let alone 730. Here I am, standing 5′ 3″ and no where near the build of that great dame. I mean seriously, think of all the muscle that has to go into rolling out pastry dough. And before I cuss again I think I should get on with letting you in on how I finally managed to crack the code. All with the help of a young man named Kamran Siddiqi and his website, the sophisticated gourmet.

“Thanks Kam for the easy puff pastry recipe”… because voilà, suddenly the ghost of Julia lifted and I was hands deeps in mounds of fine white flour and yellow knobs of frozen butter. And life was looking up.

So here’s my modest attempt at a Strawberry Tart. I had planned to put in a splash of balsamic, but since I was going to take some across for my mother who cannot have anything tart at the moment (and no… that doesn’t include tarts… oh! never mind!) I decided to go without either balsamic or lemon juice and simply dredged the fruit in icing sugar, topping the strawberries with fresh rosemary.

I was so wrapped up in making the dough that I forgot to take any pictures, but my camera happy finger got back into action once it was time to roll out the pastry

Doesn’t everything look lovely with icing sugar?