Say Cheese! … Goan Pao Bread goes Cheddar

039It’s good to be back where it all began, here at ‘The Cook, The Baker and The Clay Boy Maker’.

I’m the laid back sort. I think I’ve said it before. Frankly, I tend to say it every now and then just in case someone out there hasn’t heard it yet and mistakes me for one of those hyperactive, eager-beaver sorts. But then, it’s what I received as part of my heritage, being a good Goan that is (read: person from the beautiful, sunny, beach-kissed land of swaying palm trees known as Goa or “amche Goi” as we like to refer to the motherland, or simply, “our Goa”). The only difference between me and the local ‘poder’ (pronounced po-dere) or baker from Goa is that I would most definitely swap the ubiquitous bottle of fiery Feni that they swig down without batting an eye or twitching a muscle, for dainty sips of a good Merlot or Reisling.

But then, I did pick up a bottle of Feni the last time I visited Goa, only because the bottle was ceramic and had that lovely old-fashioned look to it, and because it would make a nice addition to the pots and bottles sitting in my little balcony garden, probably with a nice money plant growing out of it. The only problem is I haven’t got down to drinking the Feni yet. Perhaps I shouldn’t talk about drinking, given that it’s Lent and the very least I can do is not talk about alcohol even though I did have a glass of wine recently. But then so did my priest at mass.  

So back to the good old pao which we Goans so love and cannot do without, that Goan Christians in particular have come to be named after it. So we’re referred to as ‘Macs’ by all and sundry, which comes from the Konkani “maka pao di re” or “give me bread”.

Pao is nothing more that a pillowy soft and fluffy, pull apart bread. In the old days when I was very young and Goa was on the family annual holiday list., toddy (sap which is tapped from palm trees) was used to ferment the dough and give it that lovely aroma and flavour which is missing from the pao you get in the market today. I haven’t used it in my recipe either but I decided to elevate the humble pao in my own way and used a lavish sprinkling of Sharp Cheddar both in the dough and on top of the bread just before baking.

Flavour??? Yup!!! There was loads of it.

017So here’s the list of ingredients –

3 cups AP Flour (+ extra for dusting etc)

2 tsps active dry yeast

1/2 cup tepid water (+ extra if required to form a smooth and elastic dough)

1/2 cup milk

1tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup Evoo (+ extra to line your bowl etc)

1 cup grated sharp Cheddar (+ extra for grating on top after brushing the loaves with milk)

2 tbsps full cream milk for brushing the loaves

Make sure you prove the yeast for 10 mins in the water along with the teaspoon of sugar. Add the frothy yeast mix to the flour to which you’ve added in the salt. Add in the milk and knead the dough well for at least 12 – 15 minutes. Leave it to prove in a dry place for at least 2 hours. Once the dough has more than doubled in size, remove it from the bowl and knead it lightly. Roll it out and sprinkle on the grated cheese, bringing the dough over in the folding motion. Sprinkle over the balance cheese, ensuring that the dough has been evenly dotted with cheese throughout. Shape into even sized balls and either place on a prepared baking tray or in a baking dish. about an inch to an inch and a half apart. Cover and leave the loaves of pao to prove again for at;least another hour to an hour and a half.

Preheat your oven for at least 20 – 30 minutes at 220º C. Once the dough has doubled or trebled in size, brush the tops with milk and grate on some more cheese, as liberally or sparingly as you like. You could also do an egg-wash instead on the milk, but then the cheese gives the top of the pao such a lovely golden hue when baked, that the egg-wash seems quite unnecessary.

Bake the loaves for about 30 minutes… allow them to cool in the pan for a couple of minutes…

020021… before turning the loaves out onto a cooling rack for an additional 5 to 7 minutes…

024… and go pao crazy.

Cut into it and slather on some butter. Or just tear it apart and dunk glorious fragrant, warm chunks of luscious cheddar pao bread into your favourite gravy or curry. Believe me, it does go with everything.

037Enjoy!

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A B(r)unch of Leftovers… Cheesy Foccacia Bites and a Rotizza

I should have posted this a while ago but I was away travelling and access to the internet was quite iffy… but well, but late than…

So here they are, a 2-in-1 recipe bonanza on… Leftovers!

Yes, apparently leftovers can make really tasty meals. Or so someone once told me many years ago and I yawned and said boo hoo and bah humbug or something to that effect.

I’ve got to come clean though you’ve probably guessed it by now. I’m not big on leftovers. I simply worked on perfecting the small meal mantra till I got it down to a pat. Or I would pray that a friend would call and say they were coming over and then I’d tell them to stay to dinner, which could be construed as deviousness on my part except that the meals were generally good and went down well with my guests 🙂

But what do you do when it comes to something like bread which you’ve baked and couldn’t quite finish and it’s been a couple of days heading into being a week old and it’s still sitting in your fridge with a look that says “You made me and enjoyed me but now that I’m old and not quite finished you’re going to throw me away…” … (gulp!)

Now if you’ve been following this space you’ll know that I baked a Feta and Olive Herb Foccacia  recently, and it was really delicious. So I squirrelled away a bit and hid it away in the fridge thinking that I would eat it the next day and forgot all about it until 3 days had passed and I was foraging around looking for something to whip up real quick for brunch… and then I saw it and voilà my ‘Cheesy Foccacia Bites‘ look shape.

This was a super simple, easy to whip up dish which brought out all the flavour and goodness of the lovely foccacia I had baked earlier and took it up a notch into a realm all its own.

All you need is –

approx 2 cups of cubed leftover foccacia

bulb of one spring onion (minced)

green stalks of 2 small spring onions (minced)

2 small green chillies (de-seeded and chopped fine)

1 tomato (blanched, de-seeded and chopped fine)

6 button mushrooms (sliced fine)

1 tablespoon EVOO

1/4 cup shredded mozarella

squeeze of lime juice (optional)

Start by sautéing the chopped up spring onion bulb, green chillies and tomato in the olive oil till softened (3 – 4 mins). Add the sliced mushrooms and the spring onion greens (reserve some for garnishing) and cook them down till the mushrooms are soft. Add a pinch of salt at this point (you don’t need more than just an itsy-bitsy pinch). Now add the cubed foccacia and toss well.

Finish by adding the shredded mozarella. Cover and turn off the flame. The mozarella should melt into the bread. 

Serve the Cheesy Foccacia Bites hot, garnished with spring onion greens and a squeeze of lime juice (optional). 

P.s. This recipe also works well with any other left over bread (except for fruit or sweet bread varieties). Just add in some zataar, or if you don’t have any zataar some mixed dried herbs with a squeeze of lemon and some freshly pounded cumin should work quite well.

And now to the 2nd part of the double leftover brunch bonanza and the… ‘Rotizza’.

I sometimes find myself stuck with a few leftover rotis/chapatis (Indian flat bread) from an Indian meal made the previous day and try and use them in different ways to freshen them up and excite my palate. Now if you’ve been following this space for a while you’ll probably know that eggs are one of my all time favourite foods and I can eat them at breakfast, lunch (that includes brunch) and dinner… and yeah, as part of dessert as well. So it really didn’t take too much for me to come up with this Egg-Roti recipe… in fact I went to town with it and came up with a pizza of sorts and decided to name it just that… a Rotizza. My version of an Indian style pan fried pizza using leftover or even fresh roti/chapati.

For a single serving you’ll need –

2 rotis

3 eggs

6 – 7″ piece of leek (sliced fine)

1 cup of thinly sliced zucchini

1 large bell pepper (thinly sliced)

salt (to taste)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil (1 tablespoon per roti)

2 tomatoes (for grilling)

Sauté half the leek in a tablespoon of olive oil, spreading it out evenly across the pan as it cooks down and softens. Layer half the zucchini over the cooked leeks and top with half the thinly sliced rounds of bell pepper. I only had the green variety (aka capsicum) on hand but a combination of green, yellow and red works even better visually. Sprinkle over a little salt and allow the veggies to cook down a bit.

Meanwhile whisk the eggs, adding a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. You could add a splash of cream if you like into the egg mix (I didn’t) and pour half the egg over the veggies. Let the eggs cook for about 2 minutes on low. Do not cover the eggs… so the top remains a bit runny. Place the roti over the egg and gently press it down with a spatula. Cook for about a minute, then flip the rotizza over and fry it on the other side (roti side down) for a minute.

Remove the rotizza from the pan and repeat the procedure for the second roti. Plate up and serve garnished with grilled tomatoes and bell peppers.

Saturday Night Treats (Part 2 of 3)… Feta and Olive Herb Focaccia

… to continue where I left off from my previous post (Skewered Prawns with Zataar, Cumin and Red Chilli) I’ll move on to part 2 of my dinner…

A Feta and Olive Herb Focaccia

The baker’s wage… a mini focaccia… all to myself.

I spread out the dough a bit thinner than I normally would (do take a look at my earlier post on Cheesy Herbed Focaccia with Sun-dried Tomatoes) and I spritzed the oven with water just to get that crusty finish to the top and sides of the bread.

Look at these plump olives… delicious!

Here’s a list of ingredients for the focaccia –

3 cups A.P. Flour

12gms fresh yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup + 2 tablespoons tepid water

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon (+ extra for sprinkling over the focaccia b4 baking) dried parsley

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1/4 cup olive oil (+ extra for lining the bowl and brushing over the top of the focaccia)

3/4 cup chopped olives

3/4 cup feta (cubed)

pinch of sea salt (for sprinkling over the focaccia… not too much as the olives and feta are both salty… you can omit the salt too coz it’s not necessary in this recipe. But I love salt… and I have low blood pressure, so salt is often my best friend.)

Prepare the yeast the usual way (I used fresh yeast) … water, sugar and leave it for 15 minutes till it gets nice n foamy.

In a separate bowl sift the flour and add salt and the dried herbs. Mix it with the yeast, adding the 1/4 cup of olive oil and knead to form a soft dough. Leave the dough to prove for about 2 hours then knock back and knead again, dividing the dough into half. Using your hands shape the focaccia into the basic shape you like before transferring it onto a parchment lined baking tray. I made one oblong, one rectangular focaccia and a mini focaccia (I call it the baker’s wage :-)). Then using your fingertips punch and jab the dough to give it its dimpled look.

Generously sprinkle on the olives and dot the focaccia with feta, before leaving it to prove for another 1 1/2 hour, covered with a towel. Once the focaccia has risen, brush the top with olive oil, and sprinkle on some dried parsley and whole sea salt (optional).

Bake the bread in an oven pre-heated to 200°C for about 20 – 25 minutes…

Allow the focaccia to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing into it. I used a pizza cutter and we ate almost an entire focaccia right then and there… dipping it into some extra virgin olive oil mixed with a combination of zataar, parsley, oregano and whole salt. I should send this over to YeastSpotting

And served the rest with my platter of skewered prawns and potato salad…

Basil and Seed Loaf and a BLT

In one of her letters to Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf wrote:

“… does it strike you that one’s friendships are long conversations, perpetually broken off, but always about the same thing with the same person?”

The beauty of friendships is just that. That despite the ebb and flow of life taking it places, crashing it over rocks, battering it against embankments, and sucking it into whirlpools, there’s always that unseen thread, that one stray link that binds friends together, whether it’s a common interest or a pet peeve. And so we banter, we fill our lives with words, with conversation… but as Virginia said, it’s “about the same thing with the same person”.

Which makes me grateful for all my friends and acquaintances, people I’ve had the good fortune to have encountered, who’ve filled my life with their presence, for howsoever short or long a time it may be or have been. People I’ve known for much of my life, and those I’ve only just met or have only encountered in virtual space… I’m grateful for all, for everything… and for Virginia Woolf who made me fall in love with books and reading, and expanded my mind and heart in ways I never thought possible. And who made me realize that it’s okay to be a maverick, and a non-conformist and to cock a snoot at the world, and cook and bake and clay boy make, and paint cartons because I’m falling short of storage, and if I have to keep them around for a little while longer they may as well look pretty.

Speaking of all things nice, I just baked a loaf of bread, a seed loaf, a Basil and Seed Loaf that I’ll be sending across to Susan at YeastSpotting.

Packed full of goodness, this loaf is nutritious and makes fantastic sandwiches, which is great because summer brunch on most days ends up being a sandwich, open or closed, with or without a salad on the side. These sandwich loaves are wonderful sliced thin or thick, or even cut into croutons and toasted to be tossed into a salad or as a garnish for a cold or hot soup. I love the crust on this loaf and that happened because I placed a tray full of water on the lower shelf of the oven and sprayed the inside walls to create steam.

I used a variety of seeds in this loaf, sunflower, melon, black and white sesame and flax seeds, toasting them a bit, and then cooling them completely before adding them to the dough.

Here’s what you’ll need –

2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

12gms fresh yeast

3/4 cup warm water

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup powdered milk

1/3 cup mixed toasted seeds  

2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

3 tablespoon sun-dried tomato flavoured Extra Virgin Olive Oil (aka evoo + extra for lining the bowl, coating the bread pan and for brushing the loaf before baking)

All you have to do is activate the yeast with the sugar and water, before adding the flour, powdered milk, evoo and salt. Mix to form a rough dough. Now add the toasted seeds and chopped basil, making sure that it is well distributed throughout the dough. Knead for a good 10 – 12 minutes. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave the dough to prove for 2 hours.

Post first prove

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead after the first proving, then shape and transfer the loaf into an oiled and cornmeal dusted bread pan. I rolled up the loaf, just for fun and left it to prove for 1 ½ hours.

Rolled up… Just like that!

Made a couple of slashes into the loaf when it had risen with a sharp knife, brushed the top with some evoo and placed the loaf into a pre-heated oven into which I had placed a tray on the lower shelf.

I wanted to create a lot of steam for this loaf in order for it to get a lovely crust, so I poured some water into the hot tray, sprayed the inner walls of the oven with water and shut the door. You’ll need to spray the walls of the oven a couple of times during the baking process, but be quick and don’t open the door too much. Bake the loaf for 35 minutes at 190°C.

I turned on the grill element for a bit right at the end (5 minutes or so) to brown the top of the loaf, keeping an eye out to ensure that it got evenly browned.

Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing into it.

All rolled up…

Look at that!

This loaf is great eaten with loads of butter…

But it also made an excellent Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich… An open-faced BLT I dished up at brunch the next day with a Lettuce, Bocconcini and Cranberry Salad.

Now… If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that I always say that everything tastes better with bacon and booze, not necessarily in that order and not necessarily together. This recipe uses just one of my favourites… Bacon, marinaded in Barbeque sauce, Dijon mustard and honey with a couple of twists of the pepper mill and then pan fried…

Bacon!

I then paired my BLT with a light and refreshing salad with a dressing that used some of the same marinade that I coated the bacon with.

I may as well give you all the ingredients at once just to make it a bit easier… have all the ingredients in place… mise-en-place. 

For the Sandwich you’ll need –

2 slices Bread (I used my Basil and Seed Loaf… sliced 1/2″ thick, and toasted with a drizzle of evoo)

3 – 4 rashers back bacon (marinaded and pan-fried or oven roasted)

2 medium tomatoes (blanched, quartered and deseeded – marinaded in 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar + 1 tablespoon evoo with a pinch of black pepper)

2 large chillies – roasted, skinned, deseeded and drizzled with 2 teaspoons of the Salad Marinade

(I used a local variety of fat green chillies called Bhavnagri Chillies which had a fair amount of bite to them, perfect for my sandwich)

a small handful of Rocket leaves

1 – 2 large leaves of Iceberg lettuce (torn up)

For the Salad –

a large handful of Rocket leaves

a large handful of Iceberg lettuce (torn up)

3 – 4 pieces of Bocconcini

a handful of dried cranberries

large pinch of black pepper

1 teaspoon Orange zest

For the Bacon Marinade –

2 tablespoons Barbeque sauce

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey

(You’ll need less than half the marinade to coat the bacon. Reserve the rest for the salad dressing)

large pinch of freshly milled black pepper while frying the bacon

For the Salad Dressing –

the rest of the bacon marinade

juice of 1/2 lemon

juice of 1/2 orange

pinch of black pepper

1 tablespoon evoo

(Mix the dressing well and chill till required)

To construct the sandwich lets get started with pan frying the bacon, for which I brushed the pan with just a wee bit of oil, then lowered in the slices of marinaded bacon and cooked them on a medium to low flame till the fat melts and the bacon starts to get gorgeously caramelised. I love those little burnt looking bits on top… and I’ve got to admit that I started with 4 rashers and was left with 3 to make my sandwich. The one found its way into my stomach as soon as it was out of the pan and it was delicious 🙂

So once the bacon’s done, keep it aside and get started on the bread, slicing and then pan- toasting the slices with a drizzle of evoo. Let the bread cool down a bit before you start assembling.

First to go onto the gorgeous bread is the lettuce which I tossed in some of the salad marinade. Followed by a layer of tomato, then topped with a layer of green chillies and finally topped with the bacon…

Rocket and Iceberg Lettuce

Plum Tomatoes

Roasted Large Bhavnagri Chillies

Now that’s a BLT!

For the Lettuce, Bocconcini and Cranberry Salad – start by tearing up the lettuce into a bowl, toss in the cranberries and zest the orange. Then tear up the Bocconcini and add it to the salad, spoon over the chilled salad dressing. Toss and serve immediately.

Now drizzle some of that salad dressing (if there’s any left over over your BLT and enjoy…

Spinach, Sundried Tomato, Cheddar and Oat Loaf and a cheer for Barack Obama

Finally!

Yes finally there’s a political leader with more to him than just talk. Coming from a country which still clings on to a relic left behind by its erstwhile colonial rulers who back in the day were known for their prudishness, I’m ashamed to say that we in India still largely follow many of the laws laid down by the British who ruled us more than a century ago. And even though the British themselves have evolved and moved on with the times, we haven’t kept pace. One of those archaic laws is the one that criminalises homosexuality, making it an offence punishable with imprisonment. That this law exists, even though it’s largely on paper, is often used by greedy cops to extort money from young men seen roaming together or sitting in close proximity, whether straight or gay, or by parents of gay men or women who refuse to bow to extreme societal pressure by getting married to persons of the opposite sex and chose to come out instead. A 2 judge bench of the High Court in Delhi sought to decriminalise section 377 of the Indian Penal Code a couple of years ago, a step in the right direction. But the law still exists in the statute books as of date. The matter now before the Supreme Court of India, with various individuals and religious organisations coming together in opposition.

Which brings me to North Carolina’s anti gay marriage stance and the Constitutional Amendment which effectively denies any and all legal rights to same-sex couples, and the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, sticking his neck out in an election year and making clear his support for equal rights to all people, including marriage for same-sex couples.

Whether it was Joe Biden’s earlier endorsement of the same which compelled him to take a stand as some may say, or whether he as a father of two young children growing up in a world which sees hatred and bigotry growing by the day, chose to lead by example rather than sit atop a fence, Barack Obama came good and stood up to be counted.

Jesus, I believe my dear Mr. Obama, would certainly approve.

To all those right wing red-necks who believe that Jesus was western, white, and vindictive, I’d simple like to point out that they are wrong. Jesus came from the Middle East, was probably olive-skinned and had dark brown hair, was born and died Jewish. There is no record of him celebrating his birthday, though he faithfully celebrated the Passover in keeping with his Jewish roots, and to all accounts he was forgiving, kind and loving. A man who didn’t cast stones, embraced ‘harlots’ and ate at everyone’s table. Yes, I am a Christian, and that is the Jesus I believe in.

And continuing with all things wholesome… here’s my bread for this week… A Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato, Cheddar and Oat Loaf

I haven’t baked a loaf of bread in a while and I seem to have developed a fondness for bread which is chock-full of things that are… good for ya!

This is a pretty dense loaf and I was worried that all the water in the bread, including whatever was in the spinach (though I did squeeze it out dry) may cause the loaf to collapse, but it held its own and I was quite pleased with the end result.

I would ideally have preferred to use Feta in this recipe instead of the Cheddar cheese I ended up using, but I couldn’t find any on the day, so…

Here are the ingredients –

Step 1 –

3/4 cup instant oats

1/2 cup AP flour

1 cup hot water

1 teaspoon salt

(Mix these ingredients well and leave standing for 20 minutes)

Step 2 –

1 cup + washed and finely chopped spinach

3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes (bottled in olive oil and garlic)

3 tablespoons EVOO

1/3 cup grated Cheddar

4 cloves of garlic (minced)

Step 3 –

15gm fresh yeast

3/4 cup warm water

1/2 teaspoon sugar

3 1/2 cups AP flour + extra for dusting, kneading etc

3 tablespoons instant oats for topping

1 egg mixed with a tablespoon of milk (for brushing over the loaf)

Activate the yeast and add to the Oat mixture (from Step 1).

Slowly add in the AP flour, a little at a time, mixing well as you go. Finally add the spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, cheese and the EVOO and mix well, so that the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the dough. Knead for about 10 minutes until a smooth dough forms.

Place the dough in a well oiled bowl, and cover with cling film or a damp towel. Allow the dough to rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Mine more than doubled in 1 1/2 hour.

Knead the dough again on a well floured surface, shape into a loaf and place it into the loaf pan. I pinched the top a little bit. I still had a little bit of dough left, enough to make 4 Buns.

Allow the dough to rise again for an hour, slash the top of the loaf with a sharp knife, brush on the egg-wash and sprinkle on some instant oats. Preheat your oven for 20 mins at 230° C. Once the oven is hot, reduce the temperature to 200°C, place the loaf in the centre of the oven and bake for about 40 minutes.  Let the Loaf cool in the pan before turning it out on to a wire mesh to cool completely. Slice into it only when the bread has cooled thoroughly (about 40minutes to n hour after you take it out of the oven).

The buns I baked at 230°C for 25 minutes.

This bread makes a great sandwich with some ham and cheese. And is a wonderful accompaniment to a big bowl of soup or a delicate stew.

Have a wonderful and enlightened weekend! 🙂

The Ultimate Brunch Bread

What do you call bread that’s packed with veggies, cheese and ham?

And no the answer I’m looking for isn’t… ‘A Sandwich’ 😉

It’s the ‘Ultimate Brunch Bread’

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but unless I’m at a meditation centre on one of those silent meditation courses where you get breakfast at 6, lunch at 11am and lemon water at 5 in the evening, I’m not too much of a breakfast person. For me, that distinction goes to brunch especially on days when I’m at home and can pace my mornings out the way I’d like them to be. Breakfast is then just a mugful of coffee or perhaps two, and on occasion a fruit or some muesli with yoghurt. Just a little… But come 11am and I’m seriously hungry. It’s become such a pattern now that even when I do eat a proper breakfast, I start craving brunch at 11 and end up overeating.

So I’ve been dreaming up this loaf, bread rolls really, that would give me that feeling of a complete meal in a couple of bites. The Ultimate Brunch Bread which is what I decided to name it, with everything in it. What’s amazing about this bread is that it doesn’t just taste delicious, it’s such a feast for the eyes and the aroma is so intoxicating while it bakes and especially once it’s out of the oven, that you really don’t need an alarm clock or a gong to announce that it’s brunch time. With all those assorted vegetables, the Gouda and the smoked ham doing its thing, I was dancing around my kitchen in such glee you’d think I won the grand lottery. 

I went two ways with the ingredients, making two kinds of bread. A stuffed ‘Daisy Pull-apart Loaf‘ and ‘Mini Muffins Bread Rolls‘ with all those veggies and ham mixed in with the dough and baked in muffin trays.

Daisy Pull-apart Loaf

Mini Muffin Bread Rolls

It’s also a great way to get kids to eat their veggies. Do eliminate the lone chilli that I’ve used if you’re baking this for the kids, or simply remove the seeds and membranes so that the chilli loses its punch but retains all its flavour and goodness.

Here are the ingredients –

(This is for the dough)

3 cups A.P. flour

11gms fresh yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 to a cup of warm water

1/3 cup grated Gouda

2 tablespoons dried parsley

1/4 cup EVOO (extra to oil bowl etc)

 (For the filling)

1/2 red onion (minced)

 10 curry leaves (chopped)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1 green chilli (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Large pinch of black pepper

1 tablespoon EVOO

1 cup carrots (blanched and diced)

3/4 cup corn niblets (canned)

1/2 cup red bell peppers (diced)

1/2 cup french beans (parboiled for 30 – 40 seconds and dice)

3/4 cup smoked ham (chopped – reserve the fat of the ham separately – you’ll need about 2 tablespoons)

(And finally the toppings)  –

I egg + 1 tablespoon milk for the eggwash

1 1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds (for the pull-apart loaf)

1 tablespoon each of white and black sesame seeds for the mini muffins

And now we come to the two-pronged method for two deliciously similar and yet different shapes of bread –

Prepare the dough the usual way, activating the yeast, then adding the flour and salt, before sprinkling over the dried parsley and the cheese and kneading it well. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and leave to prove for a minimum of 2 hours.

In the meantime prepare the filling, by melting the fat from the ham in a tablespoon of EVOO on medium heat till the fat rends and crisps up (but does not burn). Sauté the garlic, onions, chilli and curry leaves in the fat and EVOO, then add in the pepper and the salt and immediately add in the ham and the veggies, tossing them on high for 15 – 20 seconds. Keep the filling aside to cool (Do not cover the pan or the veggies will overcook and lose their crispness and colour).

Once the dough has risen, knock it back and give it a good, quick knead before dividing it into two halves. Prepare the loaf tin (I used a round sandwich tin) and the muffin tray.

For the mini muffin rolls –

Mix in about 1 1/4 cup of the filling to one half of the dough, adding it a little at a time until it’s evenly distributed throughout the dough.Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and shape them. Place them into the muffin trays, cover and leave the dough to prove.

For the Daisy pull-apart bread –

Meanwhile divide the other half of the dough into 9 equal portions. Roll them into spheres before flattening them out with your fingertips. You can use a rolling pin if you like. Fill each disc with about 1 heaped tablespoon of the filling and pinch the dough shut. Shape it and place it into the round loaf pan so that it looks like a daisy. Leave the dough to prove once the entire pan is filled.

Brush the tops with an egg-wash and sprinkle on any seeds of your choice. I used toasted poppy seeds for the daisy pull-apart bread and white and black sesame seeds for the mini muffins.

Bake the Daisy Pull-apart Bread for 35 minutes @ 210° C and the Mini Muffin Rolls @ 220° C for about 25 minutes.

The ‘Daisy pull-apart bread’ looked so pretty I almost didn’t want to take it apart, but then the aroma of the bread was so intoxicating I just had to try it out. And it was delicious. Just that perfect amount of bread to encase the colourful and tasty filling inside. It needs nothing more than your appetite.

I honestly thought the filling would be too much when I saw it in the pan, but in the end there was just a ½ cup left over.

As for the Mini Muffin Rolls, all you need is to slice them down the middle and slather on some butter.

I poured myself a mugful of coffee, sliced into one of those muffins while it was still warm, added a pat of butter, watched it melt into the bread… and took a bite.

Heavenly!

I think I should call them the Meal-in-a-bite Daisy and Mini Muffin Bread Rolls but it’s quite a mouthful, so I’ll stay with the Ultimate Brunch Bread and send it off to Susan at YeastSpotting.

I had the mini muffins with my coffee, and with some fried chicken at dinner. And I had some of the Pull apart stuffed bread at brunch this morning. And I’m Content 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Palm Sunday and a Red Chilli and Sweet Caramelised Onion Loaf

My dad’s sitting across from me as I type out this post, fashioning crosses out of the palms he collected at church yesterday. Palm Sunday signals the start of Holy Week and I try and make it to the services at the parish I grew up in. One of the most beautiful churches in the suburb of Bandra in Mumbai, St. Peter’s Church still conducts the best Holy Week services in this part of the city dotted with Catholic Churches in an otherwise predominantly Hindu country with a growing but relatively smaller Muslim population.

Bandra used to be a quaint little suburb when I was growing up, with tiny cottages and a few 3 storey buildings. Where weekends meant friends, games, parties and deserted streets. Where everyone knew everyone, at least on a head-nodding basis, and where it was safe to stay out late. But now the streets are lined with hawkers selling knock-offs of branded goods and imitation jewellery, and cheap Chinese imports, making an evening walk down the street impossible and a drive down to the seafront a nightmare. With the patronage of persons in high political office these hawkers have multiplied over the years and any attempt to relocate them to a designated hawking zone are met with threats. For most of the old timers with their children scattered around the globe this is a terrible situation, and it’s often easier for them to just turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the goings-on.  They prefer to live in peace, or just live, even if it’s no longer that peaceful anymore.

So I’ve come to visit my parents. God and home were how we were raised. Morning prayers and night prayers and grace before and after meals and the rosary prayed together as a family during the months of May and October. And the Lenten Season with the Stations of the Cross leading up to Holy Week with its church services which culminated in Easter with all its glory.

I wanted to bake something for Mum and Dad since I’m visiting, and because breaking bread with the family is specially significant at this time of year, it was my first choice. My dad had just picked up a vibrant lot of red chillies from the market. Available only around this time, these chillies are plump and have a strange combination of sweet and hot spiciness trapped in every fibre. Not wanting to take a chance with the chillies since my mum cannot handle too much heat, I made sure I removed all the seeds and the membranes and sliced them thin, sprinkling over some granulated brown sugar and a good squeeze of lime and refrigerating the lot till it was time to use.

Here are the Ingredients –

2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

11 – 12gms fresh yeast (I didn’t measure… just used the good ol’ eye measuring method)

2 teaspoons granulated brown sugar

1/3 cup sliced red chillies

1 large or 2 small onions

3 tablespoons EVOO

3/4 to a cup of warm water

After the chillies have been prepared and are chilling out in the fridge, chop/mince the onions and caramelise them with a tablespoon of olive oil and a heaped teaspoon of granulated brown sugar.

Once the onions have caramelised keep them aside to cool and activate the yeast. Add in the flour which has been mixed with a teaspoonful of salt and extra water as may be required, kneading lightly.

Sprinkle over the onions and the sliced chillies (do not add the water that has leached out of the chillies as it contains all the heat from the chillies) and knead well. Add extra water as required and a tablespoon or so of the oil.

Place the dough in a well oiled bowl and drizzle over a 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil. Leave the dough to prove for about 2 hours till it more than doubles in size.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, punch it back and knead for a couple of minutes before transferring the dough into a loaf pan for its 2nd prove (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours). I worked the loaf with my fingertips after transferring it into the pan to give it that uneven, bumpy, rustic, artisan bread look (which it is!)

Once the loaf has risen, score the loaf with a sharp knife and you can either use an eggwash or brush with olive oil (like I did) and sprinkle on a few poppy seeds.

My parents have a large gas oven so I baked the loaf for about 50 – 55 minutes at 210°C. But if you have an electric oven (like the one I usually use) 40 minutes at 200°C should be good.

The loaf developed a lovely crust with a nice bite to it and the inside remained soft, with the onions melting into the bread, leaving its heady sweetness in every mouthful.

Delicious even on its own, this loaf is best eaten warm with a liberal helping of butter.

Time for a trip to Yeastspotting I suppose.

Wishing you all a reflective and peace-filled Holy Week.