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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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 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Mocha Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Candied Ginger…. and a Blog Award

I made it! 

Day 3 of my Cookie Weekend and I’m happy to be actually posting three recipes on the trot.

I love oatmeal, and I love chocolate… chunks, and then I went shopping and saw a bag of candied ginger, and my final cookie for this weekend took shape.

I’m also a huge coffee drinker, and no I don’t do decaf. Thankfully my coffee intake has reduced drastically from the time when I was in my 20s and used to average between 6 to 8 cups on any given day, most of it instant. And then I quit that line of work and hit the meditation trail for a while and my coffee drinking went down to nothing, though I did occasionally have a nice mugful every now and then. I’m up to around 2 to 3 cups a day now, at times grinding my own coffee, at times sampling blends I pick up and at times good old Nescafé for that instant buzz. A combination of instant and freshly ground coffee.

So coffee it was going to be. A nice mocha-chocolata melange. Nothing brings chocolate to life more than coffee does, more so when it’s spiked with a bit of rum.

Good stuff eh?

So here it is –

The Mocha Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookie with Candied Ginger

1 1/4 cups instant oats

1/3 cup A.P. Flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1 medium sized egg

1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)

1/2 cup packed demerara sugar (+ extra for sprinkling on cookies b4 baking)

3/4 cup chocolate chunks (I used a little more)

3 heaped tablespoons candied ginger (julienned)

Juice of 1/2 an orange

2 heaped teaspoons instant coffee

2 tablespoons dark rum

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder

Pinch of clove powder

Start by creaming the butter and sugar, then add the egg and mix well. Meanwhile mix the coffee with the rum, the orange juice and the spices and let it sit covered for a while. Sieve the flour with the baking soda, add the oats and the salt and fold it all in till well mixed. Add the oat and flour mix to the butter-sugar-egg mix.

Now mix in the coffee-rum-orange juice to the batter, and finally fold in the chocolate chunks (be careful to separate them so they don’t clump together) and the candied ginger.

Refrigerate the mix till you are ready to use. It’s rather hot and humid now so I kept popping the bowl back into the fridge after every batch went into the oven. I used a large ice-cream scoop so the cookies turned out quite large. Sprinkle the cookies with some extra sugar before baking and bake them in a pre-heated oven at 160 degrees C for 20 minutes, turning the tray at least once during the process, till the bottom of the cookies turns brown.

Let them cool completely on the trays before transferring them to your cooling racks.

Decadent!

And on to the Part 2 of this post…

And the Fabulous Blogger Award that was passed on to me by the incredibly talented Ramona from http://curryandcomfort.blogspot.in/ way back in February.

 

Somehow the bit on news either got into the spam dock or went awry in the midst of house-painting and those internet problems I’ve been yammerin’ on about for the last three months. Ramona’s blog is a real treasure trove and you’ve simply got to pay it a visit, if you haven’t already. 

And in the tradition of passing on Awards, I would like to nominate –

Jenn and Sethhttp://hskillet.blogspot.in/

Joshi Daniel … http://joshidaniel.com/

Vered Simonshttp://eatnowtalklater.wordpress.com/

Jen Duncanhttp://lovefoodcookfood.com/ 

and…

http://bellacorea.wordpress.com/

Do check out their blogs because they are all so incredible. An extremely gifted photographer, and five passionate cooks.

Once again a huge ‘Thank You’ to Ramona :-).

I hope you enjoyed my trio of Cookies and here’s to a great new week!

🙂

Cookies, Crackers and Conundrums – The Cookie Weekend (Day 2)

Is a Cracker a Cookie?

I would like to think so, though purists might argue vociferously against the notion, and many others may dither. I too, for the sake of clarity have often classified them as distinctly varied from the cookie, even though I subscribe to both the sweet and savoury versions of the latter.

Why, for that matter aren’t Animal Crackers actually cookies? I suppose I should rest my case here without much ado. It is the weekend after all, and though many of my friends agree that I can argue a point till the cows come home, I happen to live in an apartment building that discriminates against bovine animals on four legs moving in.

So it’s Day 2 of my Cookie Weekend and I decided to go Crackers… 😛

Olive and Sweetcorn Crackers with Red Chilli Flakes.

I used canned sweetcorn niblets and green pimento olives, giving them a rough chop.

Here’s a list of the ingredients –

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons A.P. Flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 small egg (whipped)

1/4 cup butter + 2 tablespoons EVOO (microwave for 10 seconds)

2 heaped tablespoons sweetcorn niblets (canned)

10 green olives with pimentos

1 teaspoon red chilli flakes

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 heaped teaspoon demerara sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon orange zest

2 heaped tablespoons rice flour

Melt the olive oil and butter and let it cool before adding in the sugar. Mix it well and add the whipped egg. Beat the mixture, before incorporating the orange zest, red chilli flakes, pepper, chopped olives and corn.

In a separate bowl, sieve together the flour (3/4 cup) and the baking powder. Add the salt and fold in the buttery corn and olive mix into the dough. You will need to add the extra 2 tablespoons of flour  (perhaps a little more) at this stage. The dough will be quite soft. Refrigerate it covered for an hour.

Remove the dough from the fridge and mix in the rice flour before rolling out the dough to a thickness of about 1 – 2mm. I used a pizza cutter to cut out squares 2″ x 2″. Placing them onto parchment lined trays. Using a fork, crimp the edges and prick holes into the centre of each cookie, before baking them in a 200°C preheated oven for 25 minutes.

You may need to turn the trays halfway during the baking process to ensure that the crackers get evenly baked and crisp. Allow the crackers to cool completely on the trays before transferring them to the cooling trays for them to crisp up further.

This is the first time I used this sweet and salty flavour combination of sweetcorn and pimento olives in crackers and I must say I was quite pleased with the result. The red chilli flakes give it just that extra bit of zing.

So… if crackers are cookies, are cookies crackers? ;-D

The Cookie Weekend… Fig and Pistachio Cookies

I decided to dedicate this weekend (Friday through to Sunday) to… Cookies! And hopefully I’ll make it through all three days. Speaking of cookies, I’m a bit of a finicky cookie eater. I don’t like them too sugary, and I often prefer savoury to sweet. So lets see how the weekend pans out.

I decided to start with one of my favourite combinations. Fig and Pistachio.

You can never really go wrong with Fig and Pistachio, especially when you combine them with paprika, cinnamon and a bit of powdered ginger. The perfect spice combination, offset with just the right amount of demerara sugar, the spices, all powdered, bring out the natural sweetness and all the flavour of the dried figs and lightly toasted pistachios.

Here are the ingredients –

3/4 cup A.P. Flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup butter (cold – cut into cubes)

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

1 – 2 tablespoons ice water

2 tablespoons toasted, chopped pistachios

2 tablespoons chopped, dried figs

1 small whipped egg

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1/4 teaspoon ginger powder

It’s quite a simple method to making these cookies –

Crumble the cold butter into the flour which has been sieved with baking powder till it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, chopped figs and pistachios and crumble them all together.  Finally add in the spices, the whipped egg and the ice water to form a dough. Cover the dough with cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour (I had a couple of things to attend to so I kept the dough in the fridge for almost 2 1/2 hours).

Take the dough ball out at least 10 minutes before you roll it out on a lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough to a 2 – 3mm thickness and use whatever cookie cutter shape you like. This is what I chose :-).

Place the cookies on a parchment lined tray an inch or so apart, prick them with a fork (this will prevent them from puffing up) and bake them in a preheated oven @ 190°C for 20 minutes.

The aroma of the figs and the pistachios, with all those spices filled my kitchen as the cookies baked. What a truly amazing start to the cookie weekend, with the green of the pistachios and the brown of the figs coming up nicely against the pale blondness of the cookies. 

Cool the cookies on the baking trays before transferring them to the cooling racks.

They tasted wonderful with my cup of coffee this evening and would be sensational with a cold glass of milk.

Have a great weekend 🙂

 

Spinach Feta and Toasted Pinenut Pinwheels

What is it about the beach that kids love? For me, it was gathering seashells, building sandcastles and feeling the squidgy sand under my feet, though I didn’t venture too far into the water. Some past life fear of drowning I suppose, though I love to think of it as a Virginia Woolf hangover. And of course the pink cotton candy, speckled with stray grains of sand, which somehow made it taste sweeter, and balloons and pinwheels from the men who walked along the beach hawking their wares. When I grew older I changed into a hills and mountains person. In preparation for the long walk beyond I suppose. Or perhaps my lungs had just had enough of city dwelling, and my eyes had tired of seeing buildings and cars and people and wanted a respite. Well, whatever it was that prompted the change, the beach was one of my favourite places as a child.

But that was a long time ago and times have changed. And walking along the beach the other day, it suddenly struck me that there was something amiss.

You don’t get pinwheels out there any more!

Nothing whirly which you can hold up and run along the beach with, or stick out the window on the ride home, with mother screaming at you, threats of a severed head urging you to stick your neck out just that bit more, as though daring the forces that be to just try.

So I looked around, and it wasn’t like the kids had all disappeared in Wonkaesque fashion. they were still pretty much all around. Sure, Xboxes, Ps3s and iPads seem to have replaced the good old notion of fun-times… but if I saw a guy selling pinwheels I’d probably pick one up myself. Just for old times sake.

So you can say that the walk to the beach inspired these.

Spinach, Feta and Toasted Pine-nut Pinwheels.

Whirrrr….

The dough for these pinwheels is basic. 2 1/2 cups flour, about a heaped teaspoonful fresh yeast (11/12gms), 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 3 tablespoons olive oil and about a 3/4 cup of tepid water… and you have your dough ready. Knead it well, leave it to prove (1 1/2 to 2 hours should be good), and while your dough is proving, prepare the filling.

You can fill the pinwheels with just about anything, sweet or savoury, but I was in the mood for spinach. 3 1/2 cups of big leaf or baby spinach, washed (use a salad spinner to drain out the excess water). Then chop and sauté in a tablespoon of olive oil with a clove or two of minced garlic. Cook on high, stirring constantly till all the water evaporates, turn off the flame and stir in 3/4 to a cup of crumbled feta and 1/3 cup toasted pinenuts, roughly chopped.

Let the filling cool completely.

Once the dough has doubled, knock it back and knead for a minute on a floured surface before rolling it out into a rectangle. Spread the filling onto the dough with a spatula, and roll the dough up into a log. Slice it into 1/2″ circles and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Drizzle the pinwheels with olive oil and bake in a 200 degrees C preheated oven for 20 minutes. I suppose I could have kept them in the oven a bit longer to brown, but I didn’t want to risk overdoing the bread.

I’m glad I didn’t. They were soft and packed with flavour, the chopped pinenuts the perfect little add-on… for that surprise crunch.

A trip to YeastSpotting perhaps?

So I finally got my pinwheels.

And they were yummy 🙂


Onion Crusty Bread

There’s nothing as heavenly as the aroma of bread baking in the oven… except perhaps for the scent of wet earth when the skies open to bring forth the first rains of the monsoon in India…but then again, with bread, you get to take in not just the aroma, but the first bite of warm goodness, slathered in butter… or even on its own. It doesn’t really matter when it’s fresh off the oven. It tastes divine any way.

I’ve been dying to bake crusty bread for ages but was a bit apprehensive about it turning out right. The ‘what ifs’ started invading my thoughts and managed to put a damper on my usual enthusiasm till I finally decided to shrug it off. What’s the worst that could happen I though when the braves revisited… a clump of yeasty smelling raw dough or perhaps a big hunk of rock… and then I would start again.

So I got right down to it and decided to go all out and not just make Crusty Bread but an Onion Crusty Bread with fried onions. I had a packet of fried onions in my refrigerator and figured I’d use them instead of going through the entire chop, fry, drain n dry process.

It’s also important when baking bread to use yeast that is isn’t outdated, whether you’re using instant dry yeast or fresh yeast (I used fresh yeast).

All it takes is flour, yeast and salt (1 teaspoon salt should be good for 2 1/2 cups of flour… I also added in a pinch of sugar to get things moving)

Proving the dough is an important process… so don’t skimp on the time. I left the dough sitting for about 5 hours before kneading it again and shaping it into loaves…

Then left the loaves to sit for an a couple of hours before baking them in a 220 – 230 degree Celsius oven for approximately 30 minutes covered… and 15 – 20 minutes uncovered.Removed the loaves from the oven… placed them on a wire rack to cool a bit… brushed off the excess flour…

And cut myself a nice slice… slathered on the butter while it was still warm… And… It was heavenly!

I suppose fortune does favour the brave!