Friday, February 5, 2010

Cinnamon raisin walnut swirl bread with a .....

cinnamon sugar swirl and a cinnamon sugar crust. A whole lot of cinnamon in this bread that tasted absolutely fantastic. I loved how the plump raisins and crunchy walnuts made this bread almost dessert-like. The bread itself was pleasantly sweet, the crust was slightly chewy and the innards were soft and perfect with gorgeous, large swirls of melted cinnamon sugar. And it smelled soooo good. We sliced off thick slices and some of us had it toasted (with butter of course) and I smothered mine with peanut butter for an experience that took me right back to sitting down to an all American breakfast. Miles and miles away from where my fast depleting bottle of cinnamon sugar was actually made. Sniff.


I think it would be safe to say that cinnamon is a much loved spice in America. When I first got there I just couldn't understand why there was cinnamon everywhere and in everything. Cinnamon buns, cinnamon scented candles, cinnamon body wash and lip balm, cinnamon spice lattes, cinnamon in pies, oatmeal and cookies. It was magically there in all kinds of food. Especially during the holiday season where it smelled like cinnamon was just suspended in the air. And if you've eaten it all your life - I guess it doesn't surprise you all that much but for me it was wonderful - how a little dash of cinnamon made everything taste so homemade, warm and toasty. In fact whenever I got back from a vacation to India, the familiar smell of cinnamon baking away all rolled up inside a Cinnabon at the airport never failed to make me smile.


Very much like how cardamom is to Indian cooking. Ground cardamom is used extensively as a final flourish in Indian desserts and we use them as a whole spice to flavor curries,pulaos and other savory food. If you've just been introduced to Indian food - you can detect it even in the slightest form. But for someone who has eaten Indian food all their life - you can't expect them to say "Oooooh I can the taste cardamom in there", but if you've forgotten to add the cardamom in there - then expect to hear "Some thing's missing".


This is a another classic from the exceptional book "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart. If you love to bake - this is a must have. After achieving much success with Reinhart's amazing pizza dough - this recipe reinforces the fact that this book is incredible. It really works. It's amazing how someone who hasn't baked a whole lot of bread before can make loaves that taste so homemade with an artisan touch.

For the recipe, it's 3 a.m and I can barely keep my eyes open and the pictures are making me hungry again, so I figured why not reuse? I'm leaving you with two links to more descriptive and very well written posts on how to make this bread Arundathi's Food Blog. And another post from A tiger in the kitchen with pictures and notes. The recipe makes two loaves - and it's perfect for sharing.


As an added note, your home smells so good while these loaves are baking. You want to skip with joy. Nothing compares to the smell of freshly baked bread. Happy baking!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rustic apple galette

Warm cinnamon and orange zest spiced apples in a golden flaky pastry served with creamy butterscotch ice cream. Sounds delicious but never would I have bet on it being my new favourite comfort-food-dessert. Chocolate cake.......would you step down please?


I've always looked at apple pie on dessert menus and wondered why anyone would even think of ordering it over chocolate cake. Well this is why. Tart apples that are just perfectly sweet without being overwhelming, a light dusting of cinnamon sugar and the citrusy zest of a lemon and an orange to round off all the flavors, and oh the crust - the crust mind you is the star here. Ever so butter-y without being greasy, soggy or leaden.

I'll let you in on a little secret here - I had a little accident with the crust. A HUGE one at that. Unsalted butter is the default in baking. It's the golden rule so whatever was I thinking when I was cutting salted butter into the flour? Maybe I was distracted with the delicious spice filled aromas that were wafting out of the apple filling that I'd already prepped(and eaten a fair bit as well). The best chefs out there always recommend adding a tiny pinch of salt in everything but I wasn't sure if they were going to approve of using this much of it. But this was an accident that was very welcome cause it made the best crust I've ever had and people were seconding me on it as well! But I leave it to you to decide whether you want to go the unsalted or salted route!


This dessert is ridiculously easy to make and it tastes so good with just a tiny little scoop of butterscotch ice cream. I was a little scared at first when I saw my husband closing his eyes after taking a tiny bite. Is it frightfully salty? No answer, just more smiling and closing of the eyes. Okay me do it....I grabbed the fork and that's when my eyes closed too. Then came the smiling. Next time around I'm going to make some butterscotch sauce to top the galette slices.....I know it sounds evil but it's not all butter and flour here. There is fruit in here people and it tastes divine as well.

If you've looked at granny smith apples here in Indian markets and weren't sure about what to do with them..... you've hit the jackpot. Henceforth my eyes will always be on the lookout for these fresh neon green apples that are quite tart but are wonderful when baked in pie. These apples are the best bet for baking as they are firmer( hence don't turn into apple sauce) and also sweeten and intensify in flavor when baked.


I googled my heart out looking for the best pie crust recipe and eventually settled down on using Martha Stewart's recipe as a base..... and then ended up mucking it up a bit - all for good. For the filling I've used Ina Garten's super good recipe. It's the best of two recipes. If you've never made pate brisee or pastry dough before be sure to take a look at Shaheen's wonderful tips on how you can get it right. And this is how you end up with something so good that you'll want it everyday.




For the pie crust
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Perfect Pate Brisee recipe

1 1/2 cup flour, chilled
1/2 tsp salt ( leave this out if you're using salted butter)
1 tsp of sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter, very very cold and cubed into small pieces
1/4 cup of ice water (really really cold)

For the filling
Adapted from Ina Garten's recipe for Deep dish apple pie

3 granny smith apples, peeled and sliced thinly
1/2 lemon(I used lime), zested
1/2 orange, zested
1/4 tsp lime juice
2 tbsp orange juice
3 tbsps sugar
1 1/2 tbsps flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg, grated
a pinch of salt


For the pie crust
Ensure that all the ingredients are cold, stick them in the fridge if you have to.
In a wide bowl combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter and using the tips of your fingers gently but swiftly rub the butter into the flour,until the mixture resembles coarse meal or you have pea sized crumbles.
Add ice water in a slow, steady stream until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to overwork the dough. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Shape the dough into a ball,flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.

For the filling
Gently toss all the ingredients listed under filling, ensuring that the spices and sugar are evenly distributed; take care not to break the slices.

To assemble the galette
Preheat the oven at 160 C for at least 15 mins before baking.

Roll the dough out into 1/8 inch thick circle. Pile the filling onto the circle and gather the edges , fold and press them together in an attractive manner. Brush the crust with beaten egg or milk to help the pie bake to a golden color ( this step is optional). Sprinkle some sugar on the pie for a crisp crust. Bake in a 160 C oven until golden brown all over, about 30 - 40 mins. Remove and cool for 5 mins before cutting or serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A tale of two pizzas

You have a plan - you want to make pizza that rivals your favorite pizzeria right at home. Forget the sorry looking and tasting pre-made pizza bases that have no flavor whatsoever. If you want a decent slice of pizza, then this recipe delivers what it promises. The flavor and texture of the pizza will knock your socks off! I halved this recipe and made two very different pizzas with one dough. One, was the classic pizza with tomato sauce and all the works. The other I turned into a three cheese pizza. Both versions taste delicious.


This is the first recipe that I tried from Peter Reinhart's fantastic book titled The Bread Baker's Apprentice . When the book arrived, I simply ogled at the beautiful beautiful bread pictures and since I was taking a flight back home in a couple of hours I couldn't read all that I wanted to.


Now that the book has safely sailed all over the world and is in my hands, I can't wait to bake from it. It's an absolute encyclopedia for newbie bread bakers, filled with interesting bread recipes. Every recipe is thoughtfully written out. It doesn't read like the usual "recipe" book. This one is truly different and has completely won me over. I cannot imagine how wonderful it would be to actually train under Mr.Reinhar when he is able to convey so much precise knowledge to the reader through just words. He never assumes that you would know or it's already been printed in the previous chapter. There are notes everywhere with reminders and references, so you don't go crazy trying to figure where you read how to do the "window pane test".


I just LOVE the book. Not just for the recipes - it's probably the best written food related book that I've read. And Mr.Reinhart is a kind man, he shares his knowledge willingly and freely with an eagerness to ensure that his pupil exceeds in bread making. I can safely say this after buying innumerable number of books with gorgeous pictures but the recipes? aaargh! Bake in the oven till done. I hate that one. For how long lady? And at what temperature? Another one that I love(hate) is when they say use store bought fondant/cake mix/whatever. Why did I buy the book when I'm running to the grocery store more than actually baking from it? I am now an educated and wary book buyer. I always read at least five random recipes to see if they make sense and if they'll actually work. No more eye candy influenced impulse buys.


It's been a very busy last few months for me and I haven't had the chance to blog and bake as much as I would like to. And since this recipe has been out there in the food blog sphere for quite some time now I'm going to leave you with a link to the pizza dough recipe. Heidi, who authors the famed 101 Cookbooks has done a great job of condensing the recipe without losing important details. For the pizza sauce, I used the Basic ,Awesome Tomato sauce recipe .


Toppings can vary based on what you choose to have on your pizza. Don't overcrowd your pizza and go nuts with the toppings though. A little goes a long way. Here I've used grape tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella and black olives on one pizza. The three cheese pizza has 1 part cheddar, 1 part Parmesan and 2 parts mozzarella. For a little kick add some finely chopped green chillies with a dash of oregano. I've used fresh jalapeno before and they seemed to work better than the chillies. If you can find them, use them instead.

P.S - excuse the excessive usage of pictures in this post. I just couldn't make up mind. They all looked good to me!