The Sourdough Starter

Recently my new found love is baking bread. Bread is such a simple yet a complex thing to bake. But I am not talking about your regular commercial yeast leavened bread. I am talking about the ancient old technique but tastes out of this world bread. The process is long and time consuming. But once you harness it, then the long and time consuming process becomes therapeutic. The results are mind blowing. A slice of bread wont taste the same again. From the bland and no flavor regular loaves that we regularly eat to this wonderful, rustic looking, packed with immense flavors bread is what you will crave everyday. So how do you get this bread – the main ingredient – Sourdough Starter.

Sourdough Starter is a starter with wild yeasts which are already present in the environment. They enter the starter and start producing the wonderful flavors that blow your mind when you eat the bread. I wont go in the scientific reasoning as even I don’t know much about it. But I am learning. I will begin with the most basic know-how. How to start the starter, how to continue feeding it – yes feeding it because it is a living breathing organism that you are giving birth to (well not literally giving birth, but you get the idea). You will have to take care of it every day, well almost.

Here how it goes –

Ingredients –

All purpose Flour

Whole Wheat Flour

Water

Method –

To begin first you need to understand the ratio of the starter which will be constant throughout – 1 : 1

Equal amount of Flour and Water. So if you are taking 100 gms of flour, you mix 100 gms of water. I tend to divide the flour to a ratio of 70:30, between all purpose flour and whole wheat flour. You can go ahead with 100% all purpose flour also. But the whole wheat works for me better. So I take 70 – 75 gms all purpose flour and 30 – 25 gms of whole wheat flour.

Second take a good clean plastic/glass medium to large size container with a lid, which will also fit in your refrigerator.

Day 1 – In a bowl you take 100 gms of flour 70:30 all purpose flour : whole wheat flour. Add 100 gms of water. Mix. Cover and leave it aside for 24 – 48 hours at room temperature. Mostly you will see some activity within 24 hours thanks to our Mumbai weather. As the wild yeast start accumulating in the starter, it will show tiny bubbles and will have a vinegar-y smell.

Day 2 – First feed – As the yeast are living organisms, and as all living organisms need food, so you know what needs to be done. Yeast feeds on the sugars in the flour and release carbon dioxide, which makes the starter or dough rise and create beautiful air holes or webs in the bread. If you don’t feed the starter enough, the yeast will die and so will all your efforts. So it is extremely important to feed your starter everyday.

For the Feed – Take the starter and discard 3/4 of it away. Add 100 gms of 70:30 Flour and 100 gms of water and mix, cover, and leave it at room temperature.

Now you will ask why do you discard 3/4 of it away. Because if you don’t, then you will keep feeding 200 gms of flour and water everyday, and then at the end of the week you will have more than a kilo of starter, and end of the month more than 5 kilos. So to keep it in a decent quantity, you discard at least half of the starter every time you feed it.

Day 3 – Feed – Same drill – Discard 3/4 – Add 100 gms of 70:30 Flour and 100 gms of Water. Cover.

Day 4 – Feed.

Day 5 – Feed.

Keep feeding till you notice the starter to double in size in six hours. Then you can use the starter.

How to use the starter – Feed the starter the previous night and use it in the morning. And make sure you have some starter left to continue feeding it.

What to do when you are not using the starter – Feed it, keep it for an hour at room temperature and then leave it in the refrigerator.

Few points here –  In cold temperature the yeast becomes dormant. It doesn’t die but the activity levels are really low. You do have to feed it once a week, to make sure it stays alive.

For that you remove it from the refrigerator, after 1 hour, don’t discard the starter just add the feed. Let it do its work. Then from second day onward, discard and feed, leave for an hour and store it again in the refrigerator.

After being dormant, I don’t use the starter immediately. I feed it a few times to get it really active.

Smell –

The smell of your starter is really important.

It will be smelling vinegar-y, alcoholic and probably really bad. Eventually it should subside with regular feedings.

Ideally the starter should smell milky and flowery especially after you feed it. But it should smell the same when you add it to the dough. A little sour smell is fine, cause it is supposed to be a sourdough. But very little.

Feed the starter for at least 10 days before using it. If the temperature is too warm and you see a skin forming on the starter or the smell getting bad. Feed it every 12 hours or maybe more.

For reference please see YouTube videos to get an idea on the process.

I assure you once you start this process, you are going to love it. You will see a whole new side to the bread world that you probably knew existed but being a part of it is a different feeling altogether.

So start your starter and I will post a bread recipe within ten days so you can use it.

Just to let you know my starter is now 6 months old. There is a bakery in USA whose starter is 67 years old. So I hope you understand the commitment you are getting yourself into. Nevertheless if you are an ardent baker especially if you love to bake breads, I think this is something you need to have in your pantry.

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Gingerbread Doughnuts

Recently I was one of the few chefs who was talked about it in the article by Mid-day regarding baking Christmas goodies. They wanted something revolving around Gingerbread and hence I told them about Gingerbread Doughnuts. While we were talking about Gingerbread, a very good question was asked and that was – What makes the dish – Gingerbread. I realized the concept was very simple – to anything if you add ginger powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice. Replace the castor sugar with brown sugar to add in a little bit of nutty flavor. And oh! you have a gingerbread dessert. It is pretty simple. Honey or molasses is also added to enhance the flavor.

I absolutely love anything Gingerbread, cause I love spiced up dishes. Gingerbread somehow brings out a different taste altogether. This year, I thought lets change things a bit and not bake the regular cookies that I make and go for Gingerbread Doughnuts. They are very easy and takes a little bit of time, as I am doing yeast – leavened doughnuts. But other than that they are a perfect treat for this festive season.

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Gingerbread Doughnuts

Makes at least 2 dozen of regular size doughnuts

Ingredients –

  • 2.5 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/3 cup castor sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/3 teaspoon all spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups flour
  • 55 grams butter, room temperature
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Oil, for frying

Coating –

  • 1/2 cup castor sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

Method –

  • In a stand mixer bowl – take the warm water, add 1 tablespoon of sugar and the yeast and mix until the yeast is dissolved. Keep it aside for 5 – 7 minutes.
  • Meanwhile in a bowl mix – flour, both the sugars, baking powder, salt, ginger powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice.
  • When the yeast is active, it will become foamy, add the yolks, butter, and vanilla. Mix with the paddle attachment for 1 minute.
  • Keeping the speed on low, keep adding the flour with a big spoon. After adding half of the flour, shift to hook/dough attachment and add the remaining flour. Mix for 3 – 5 minutes on medium high.
  • Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 1 hour or until it doubles in size.
  • After 1 hour, knead the dough and roll it to an 1/2 inch thick height.
  • If you want small bite size pieces, cut them with 1 inch round cookie cutter. If you want the original doughnut shape – cut it with one 3 inch cookie cutter and then 1 inch cookie cutter to cut the centers. If you have a doughnut cutter, then you know what to do.
  • You can re – roll the remaining dough and cut them.
  • Let the doughnuts rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • In a frying pan, heat the oil till its 180 C. Fry the doughnuts for 30 – 45 seconds on each side or until brown.
  • After removing, let them sit for 2 minutes on tissue papers and then coat them in cinnamon sugar.
  • Serve warm.

Notes –

  • You can add / delete the amount of spices in the dough according to your taste.
  • If you don’t like too much cinnamon in your dessert avoid the coating of cinnamon sugar and just coat them in plain sugar.

Christmas Star Cinnamon Bread

As I have mentioned in the previous post – I am in the holiday mood and I absolutely love baking during this time. So mixing my current obsession bread and my long lasting obsession of baking Christmas-y goodies, I have made Christmas Star Cinnamon Bread – which is a cross between cinnamon roll and bread. It looks amazing. The major reason I wanted to make this was because I love the way it looks. It looks complicated but it is extremely easy and takes very little time.

Christmas Star Cinnamon Bread

Bread

Ingredients –

  • 3 1/2 cup flour
  • 40 gms butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup castor sugar
  • 3/4 cup slightly warm milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast

Filling –

  • 2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar
  • 30 gms butter, softened

Method –

  • Warm 1/4 cup water in a cup, make sure it is not hot. Add a tiny pinch of sugar, and the instant yeast (instant yeast and dry active yeast are different, please check the package). Mix until yeast is dissolved and leave it aside for 10 – 15 minutes till it is foamy.
  • Using a stand mixer with dough hook attachment combine 40 gms butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Mix for 1 minute. Add the yeast and then the flour. Mix for 5 – 7 minutes till the dough is elastic and check the gluten development by doing the window pane test.
  • If you are kneading by hand, then mix in the same format but knead with your hand for 10 – 15 minutes.
  • Window pane test – take a small piece of dough and stretch it. It should stretch without tearing, forming a thin layer and if you see it against the light it should feel like you are looking through a fogged glass.
  • After the test, rest the dough in a bowl for 1 hour or until double in size covered with plastic wrap.
  • In a small bowl mix the cinnamon and sugar, and keep it aside.
  • After an hour, shape the dough again, weigh and divide it in to four portions.
  • Take the 1st portion, roll the dough until its thin and place it in a greased cookie sheet.
  • Brush soft butter on it and generously sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top.
  • Roll the 2nd portion of the dough, and place it on top on the 1st. Repeat the butter and cinnamon sugar. Continue layering by rolling the 3rd and repeat butter and cinnamon sugar. Roll the 4th and place it on top.
  • Taking a plate or a big bowl, lightly place the round side on it, to indent a large round, so you can cut the excess dough and make a proper circle with a knife.
  • Taking a 1 – 2 inch cookie cutter, make a slight indent in the center but make sure you do it lightly.
  • With a knife cut equal 16 portions, starting from the outside of the indent line till the outer end, leaving the 2 inch round center as it is. Take two portions and twist them outward individually, joining them at the end.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 C. Bake for 20 minutes.
  • Melt the remaining butter of the filling and as soon as the bread is baked, brush the top lightly with butter.
  • Serve warm.

 

Cappuccino Snickerdoodle

Its Christmas time! My obsession of baking delicious winter-y goods is on an all time high. This is my time to experiment and try all the new dishes that I have in mind. I made these cookies in October for Halloween, but I had made a huge batch and right now its frozen in my freezer. So I am ready with these delicious treats whenever I want them.

I know the last recipe was also coffee related, but I am not sorry – I love coffee and as I said before coffee in desserts is just perfect.

According to me Cappuccino Snickerdoodle is the best version of Snickerdoodle. Snickerdoodle is basically – Cinnamon cookies. As you all know cinnamon and coffee compliment each other very well. So this mingle was bound to create great flavors.

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Cappuccino Snickerdoodle

Ingredients –

  • 200 gms butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup instant coffee powder
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Method –

  • Preheat the oven to 175 C.
  • Sift flour, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a bowl.
  • In a small bowl mix 3 tablespoon of castor sugar and 3/4 tablespoon of cinnamon and keep aside.
  • Using the paddle attachment of the stand mixer / hand mixer, cream butter and the remaining castor sugar, and brown sugar till light and fluffy, for about 4 -5 minutes on medium speed.
  • Add eggs, vanilla, and instant coffee powder in the butter – sugar mixture. Mix for 1 – 2 minutes until combined.
  • Add the flour mixture. Add the vinegar. Mix until everything is combined.
  • Scoop the batter with a tablespoon on your hands and roll it into a ball. Coat them in the cinnamon sugar prepared before. Place them on a cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake them for 12 – 15 minutes or until brown.

Tips –

  • Make ahead  – You can wrap the batter in a plastic wrap and store it in the freezer. When needed, remove it from the freezer. Let it thaw till its soft, and continue with scooping, rolling and coating.
  • You can substitute the brown sugar with castor sugar. Though I feel the brown sugar brings in a subtle nutty flavor.

 

Why Do I Blog?

A blog (a truncation of the expression weblog)[1] is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first).

– – Definition from Wikipedia.

I just received an email saying domain registration fees will be charged on my card soon. Which made me realize that in about 3 months time, my 3rd year of blogging will be complete. And it makes me wonder should I renew my membership? Why am I thinking that, is blogging a task? Does it not make me happy? The three years were so bad?

Definitely not! Initially when I started blogging, I was highly inspired by the movie Julie and Julia. I thought I would do something like what Julie did. I even wrote a few posts regarding that idea. But soon I joined the circle of restaurant reviewers and meets. Discussing food and writing about restaurants. I was getting invited to new restaurant openings, I was meeting new people. The restaurants I went to, would give us goodie bags in the end. Treat us like celebrities. I felt special. Caveat to all this treatment was to write a blog. And most of the time I didn’t want to. But I did. Though it wasn’t my best work. If you look at a blog you love, you will notice one thing and that is he/she is writing something that she loves to do.

The term blogger is very loosely used by everyone today. As there is too much confusion between microbloggers and bloggers. The game of likes and followers have led to people to an all time low. Where the last I heard,  people were having fights over copied hashtags. Meanwhile PR people are on a different level with people related who write/post about food. This post is not a rant or putting anyone down. It is just my views on the world that blogging has become.

Initially when I started, senior bloggers/journalists did not like the new set of bloggers. That is understandable. That cycle works in every industry. What is sad is that, after three years in the blogging world. Right now if you ask anyone/everyone – they do not like food bloggers at all. So the hatred that was only contained within this industry has spread to most part of the world. Ever wonder why is that?

The thing which started for the love of food, the thrill of writing and the ambition to learn something new with every new post, is all about how many views, how many followers and how many likes you have. Content is thrown out of the window. Knowledge about food or certain topic is basically pointless. Blogging is not about how many views, likes, comments or people are following you. Those stats are for the PR people to profit their pockets. A lure of a certain five star meal is leading us to do things, which are not appropriate. I am not pointing fingers, I did the same things. In fact if you look at my last ten posts you will see a brunch review. When I look back, I was too bored to write about it. I kept wondering that writing a post should be exciting and talking about something new you tried/cooked/experienced. When did it become a task for me, that too an annoying one.

It needed to stop. Because a blog is about you, what opinions you have, what you think about food that made you write at the first place. It is your food journal that you share with the world. Everyone who has a blog, is surely passionate about food. No one would go to such lengths for free food. But then again people surprise me all the time. Back to the point – my point is write what you want to write, not what certain people want you to write. Every meal doesn’t need to be sponsored. Every post doesn’t need to be about how this buffet at a five star is amazing. You can also write about the wonderful food your mom cooks, probably that was the reason you started enjoying food at the first place.

I am not here to give gyaan. My basic point is – probably I am telling this to myself more than to you is that – write something that you will enjoy writing and when you look back at your blog after 10 years, you shouldn’t be like what the hell was I thinking.

Blogging is a fantastic platform, don’t waste it on what the PR team wants you to write. Even if we are abused or demonized. Lets be honest, blogging has lead to us to have some fantastic experiences, wonderful friends and a growth which was essential. It is in some weird way a very fun community to be a part of. Let us not lower our selves for weird virtual-istic approval of followers and likes. Let the essence of blogging remain pure. I always think working with clear and honest intentions will pass the test of time, and progress will follow.

 

 

 

 

 

Espresso Cupcakes

Coffee and desserts have a long loving relationship. Who doesn’t love coffee in their desserts. Rather who doesn’t love coffee! I love coffee. And I love it more in my desserts. It gives the dish a perfect bitter note, with a hint of its wonderful aroma. We all have added coffee to our chocolate cake and the obvious tiramisu. But making coffee the hero flavor in a cake is something totally different. Also if you are craving for a caffeine kick and sugar rush at the same time, this is the path to follow.

A few suggestions –

Please use good quality coffee for perfect results.

This batch can also make a two layer 6 inch cake.

Espresso Cupcakes

Makes about 10 cupcakes.

Ingredients –

Cupcake –

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 45 grams butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon coffee

Buttercream –

  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 85 grams butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon coffee

Method –

  • Brew the coffee with milk for the batter and icing. Strain and let it come to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 170 C.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder.
  • In a stand mixer/hand mixer cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Strain 1/2 cup coffee and add to the mixture.  Mix until combined.
  • Add the flour and mix. Do not over mix the batter.
  • Line the cupcake pan with liners. Fill the liners 2/3 with the batter. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  • For the buttercream – In a stand mixer/hand mixer cream the sugar and butter for about 2 minutes.
  • Strain the 1/3 cup of the brewed coffee in a small bowl.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of the coffee at a time to the sugar mixture. Keep mixing after every addition. Whip until the mixture is soft but can hold stiff peaks. This should take around 5 to 7 minutes.
  • If the mixture is too soft add more sugar. If it is too stiff add more coffee.
  • Let the cupcakes cool completely before piping the buttercream.

 

Humble Apple Pie Recipe

The rains have arrived. So hence our frying pans are out and the fragrance of fresh bhajyas is wafting through our houses. We all have eaten all the yummy fritters that go with our hot masala chai. How about we do something different and go with a warm goey delicious slice of an Apple Pie. I love hot desserts in this weather. Just imagine yourself with a cup of hot tea and a slice of an apple pie, sitting by your window, watching the beautiful rain pouring down. So romantic!

Want that moment – go make this pie now!

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Apple Pie

Ingredients –

Pastry –

  • 2 cups flour
  • 150 grams salted butter, cold
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoon cold water

Filling –

  • 5 Apples, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 3/4 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/3 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Directions –

  • Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Add pieces of cold butter. Rub the butter and flour with your hands or pastry cutter. Do not over mix, as we do not want to melt the butter.
  • Add one tablespoon of water at a time and mix till the dough forms a ball. Wrap and refrigerate for 40 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven 200 C
  • Grease a 8 inch pie pan. Remove the pastry dough from the fridge. Divide it in half.
  • Roll the dough in a 9 inch circle. Place it on the pie pan and lightly press on the edges.
  • In a large bowl, mix sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour. Add the apples and coat it with the mixture. Transfer the apple mixture in to the pie pan. Take smaller chunks of the butter and lay it randomly on top.
  • Roll the remaining half of the dough and cover the pie. Press the edges. Score the top lightly.
  • Bake on 200 C for 15 minutes. Then 190 C for 40 minutes or till the top is golden brown and the apples are soft inside. If top tends to burn, cover with foil.
  • Let the pie cool down for at least 1 hour before serving.