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 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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Supremely Cheesy Garlic Chive Crackers and the Buddha who lost his head

My Buddha lost his head the other day. 

He’s been with me for well over a decade my little stone Buddha. Surviving treks and trips across the country, being carted around in haversacks dumped on dirty railway platforms and in the cargo hold of planes, and through weeks of silent meditation… not to mention a Labrador named Shanti who hid him deep within the recesses of her ripped-apart bed one day when she wanted to vent at being left alone at home for too long. I honestly expected him to emerge on her walk the next morning thinking of how she would get him out of her system. We’re talking stone here… But silly me, because it was Shanti who had the last bark and a change of heart and led me to where she had sequestered him. It was all so funny, I cracked up, hugged her and I swear I could hear her give a little doggie-giggle in glee when I turned my head away. So yeah my Buddha’s been a constant companion over the last decade.

And then quite unexpectedly he loses his head.

Incidentally I’m all for venting. I believe it to be good for digestion, though I fully subscribe to the Buddhist notion of it being devoid of any trace of anger… crazy, huh? So now you think I’m nuts, or on something. Seriously people, I haven’t even tried weed, let alone other more potent stuff and now that I’m stepping into the mid 40s I doubt I’m going to start. Though I understand that menopause can get you to do really crazy things.

But getting back on track I suppose you’re wondering if it’s even possible to vent without anger. After all, isn’t the purpose of venting just that, to express anger towards…???  Someone. But it isn’t… and I’m not talking some cockamamie bs here. Anger is self-destructive. Corrosive, it eats away at our insides burning holes in our bodies, minds and souls if you believe in them, while the person whom you thought your anger was directed at walks away without a care in the world. Stick n stones…

But that doesn’t mean that you ignore a situation gone bad, address it by all means but with a measure of calm. It is truly okay when we’re overrun to look for avenues to express the feelings that arise within us but with the least possible damage to ourselves. While some may choose to pray or meditate and by observing their anger watch it dissipate, others may walk or run till their legs ache and sheer exhaustion distracts them from their previous state of being. I also believe that you won’t quite qualify for the loony bin if you choose to look up at the sky and just scream or better still make sure no one’s watching you do it unless it’s your best friend who knows what a nut-job you are anyway. Venting can be quite therapeutic when it’s directed at no one in particular.

Which of course brings me to comfort food and crackers. I absolutely love crackers and I’ve never baked them. Silly, huh??? And its not just any old cracker I’m talking about here. I’ve been craving cheesy crackers. It was this huge bunch of garlic chives that I saw at the supermarket and promptly picked up on which I squarely lay the blame. But having never baked crackers before I was a bit worried about proportions and then I came across this recipe for Cornmeal and Chive Crackers from Pitchfork diaries and adapted it, omitting the cornmeal component entirely and using two different kinds of cheese, a sharp aged yellow Cheddar and Gouda. The result was a flaky and delicately crisp, but oh so cheesy cracker with the flavour of the garlic chives coming through all the way. I added white and black sesame seeds for a bit of nuttiness and that extra crunch.

Here are the ingredients –

¾ cup all purpose flour (extra while kneading and for dusting as required)

3 tablespoons butter – melted (microwave for 15 seconds)

3 tablespoons each – Sharp Cheddar and Gouda Cheese

4 tablespoons garlic chives – chopped

Pinch of salt (you can omit this as I discovered later)

½ teaspoon black pepper (crushed) 

1 tablespoon each – lightly toasted (cooled) white and black sesame seeds

Start by microwaving the butter so it begins to melt, then add the cheese and stir to incorporate. Once the cheese is all mixed in, stir in the chives and mix well. Sift the flour onto the butter-cheese-chive mix, add the pepper (you can omit the salt) and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the dough. Knead till all the ingredients are well assimilated to a soft dough.

Divide the dough into three balls. Cut out two strips of parchment paper and after dusting one of them with flour, place one of the dough balls onto the parchment and press down to flatten. Sprinkle the dough with flour and cover with the second sheet of parchment. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough as thin as you can possibly roll it.

Make sure that you roll the dough out from the centre to the edges since you want even thickness throughout.

Lift the top parchment off carefully and cut into shapes using cookie cutters or a steel ruler and pizza cutter like I did and prick the rectangles with a fork or a skewer to prevent them from puffing up while baking. Repeat the process for the rest of the dough balls.

Lift the rectangles carefully off the parchment paper onto a parchment lined baking tray with a spatula and bake them in a 180° C preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes or till they turn a light golden brown.

Cool the crackers on the baking trays itself once you take them out of the oven, before transferring them onto a cooling rack. I had some with ricotta… Cheese all the way! And they’re great on their own, especially with a hot cup of tea. 

I even had some at dinner with curried black-eyed beans, and they were delicious.

And I had some for dessert the next day with a lychee ice-cream.

Well, to get back to the Buddha I must say that I was a bit disheartened when he went over the edge and lost his head, but I managed to glue it back on, and he looks none the worse for wear.

And yes a dear friend ordered me another from Amazon which is en route 🙂

Enjoy your Sunday and have a great new week!

 

 

Spicy Minced Chicken Buns

I made my first submissions to YeastSpotting last week and it’s got me pretty fired up. Which basically means that on any given day after all my other work is done, I’m hands deep in flour. Which also means that I probably need to invest in a bread-machine. But then I don’t want to lose the thrill of kneading the dough, working it, while it clings to your fingers at first and then lets go… that’s something which will be hard to pass up.

So no bread-machine… well at least for now. At least not until I decide to open a little bakery or follow my heart and head to the hills and open my little café.

I heard raucous shouts this morning while I was fixing my mug of coffee. There’s work going on in the building complex next door, and the migrant labourers the contractor has employed all sleep in the stilt parking space on the ground floor of the building facing mine. They’ve mosquito netted their sleep area, wise in this season, where despite the repellents the critters still manage to sneak in. Anyway, today’s raucousness was the result of a rather exuberant lot of the younger men, boys really, playing football (soccer), with an old pretty beat-up and tattered ball. But that didn’t stifle their enthusiasm. They played with such abandon, shouting out at each other to pass the ball, then deftly manoeuvring it through the obstacle-course of bamboo poles, clumps of rope and pipes.

Goal! one of them yelled, as he shot the ball into what was apparently the goal, and his team converged on him, the opposing goalie looking crestfallen for a second and then joining in the cheering.

What joy. I almost forgot I had other things to do.

Which brings me to some of my favourite things and that includes, stuffed buns or bread-rolls. My favourites, the minced meat ones, the spicier the better.

Spicy Minced Chicken Buns

The dough for these is a very simple one. 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, a teaspoon of sugar, about 12gms fresh yeast, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 3/4 to a cup of warm water, and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Activate the yeast (with warm water and sugar), then add the flour, salt and olive oil. Knead for 12 – 15 minutes till the dough is soft and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to prove for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or till slightly more than doubled.

In the meantime get your filling ready. I filled the buns with spicy minced chicken. So for about 400gms chicken, use 2 scallions, 4 large pods of garlic, a 1″ piece of ginger (more if you like), and 2 green chillies – all minced. Sautéing them in 2 tablespoons sunflower oil, with salt to taste, a large pinch of pepper, a teaspoon each of cumin and coriander powder, a 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, paprika and garam masala, and a pinch of clove powder. Do not add any water while cooking the mince. Keep it covered and on a low flame, breaking down the meat and separating it with a fork to prevent it from clumping together. Finish with a squeeze of lime, a sprinkling of garam masala (another 1/2 teaspoon) and two tablespoons chopped fresh coriander. Cook till all the moisture evaporates and set it aside to cool.

Spicy Minced Chicken

Now return to the dough…

Once your dough has risen (1 1/2 to 2 hours), knock it back and knead lightly, then roll it out into a log and cut out 12 pieces. Knead each piece for a bit, then using your fingers stretch out the dough to make a cup for the mince and spoon in 3 teaspoonfuls of the spicy meat.

Pinch the dough together to close and work it for a bit to shape till round. Place on a cornmeal dusted baking tray. Allow to rise for about 30 – 40 minutes.

Preheat your oven at 230 degrees C. Brush the top of the buns with an eggwash, and sprinkle with seeds or herbs of your choice. I used poppy seeds and paprika for one lot and sesame seeds and ground cumin for the other… just coz they looked so pretty.

Poppy seed and Paprika

Sesame and Cumin sprinkled

And baked them for 20 minutes at 200 degrees C.

Two for One...

They were just a bit spicy (the chillies were hot and I didn’t remove the seeds), but the bread around it provided the perfect foil to the spiciness of the mince. And they turned out refreshingly light. I ate three at a go. I really mustn’t.

Off to YeastSpotting they go!

Honey Rye Bread with Mixed Seeds

Who doesn’t love a seed bread… with sunflower or pumpkin seeds, or even some sesame or flax seeds. And what better way to do them justice than to let them mix n mingle with each other in keeping with the season… letting them all come together in a delicious loaf using wholegrain rye flour and honey. I also love the flavour of aniseed, so I put in a spoonful… lightly toasting the mélange of seeds.

This bread is really versatile, with the rye flour and seeds, and the honey and brown sugar coming together to make this loaf truly delicious and nutritious.

Here are the ingredients –

1 cup wholegrain rye flour

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

3 teaspoons packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons fresh yeast

1 ½ cups warm water

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons honey (you can add an additional tablespoon or two if you like)

Assorted seed mix –

{2 tablespoons – assorted mix of sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds

2 tablespoons – flax seeds

1 tablespoon – aniseed}

So yeah as always when you’re making a yeast bread – activate the yeast with some sugar and warm water and allow to stand for 15 minutes. Adding in the oil and the honey and stir to blend.

Toast the mixed seeds in a pan for 4 – 5 minutes, tossing them constantly to ensure even toasting. Then remove the seeds from the pan and transfer to a kitchen towel to cool, and get back to the yeast mix. Adding in the all purpose and rye flour, and the salt, and mixing them, before adding in the cooled seed mix towards the end.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Then transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and leave to prove for 4 – 6 hours or till the dough has more than doubled in size.

Turn the dough, which should be fully aerated and light and puffy onto a lightly floured work surface…

Knead for 5 minutes, then cut the dough into 2 portions and shape into loaves or place into a cornmeal dusted bread-pan. Leave standing for an additional hour or two to prove again.

Take a sharp knife or a blade and score the top of the loaf down the middle and bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees C for 25 – 30 minutes or till done. You can cover the top with a tented piece of aluminium foil halfway through the baking process to prevent the top from getting brown and crusty too soon. Brush the top of the loaf with olive oil and bake for an additional 5 minutes uncovered to allow the top of the loaf to brown and develop a nice crust.

I used half the dough to make the loaf and saved the other half to make some Figgy Rye Rolls – using a fig preserve I made… I just had to make something figgy for Christmas.

And as I said earlier this bread is so versatile you can eat it with a pat of butter, or with something sweet… some of that fig preserve perhaps.

Or even with something savoury… like these red wine braised chicken livers.

Either way… it’s a winner.