November 24, 2015

We Knead To Bake #33 : Spiced Pumpkin Bread Rolls For Thanksgiving

t’s almost Thanksgiving and it seems nothing quite says autumn/ fall in the U.S. without pumpkin. It’s the season for this vegetable (fruit actually) and it’s not surprising that their holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving are incomplete without the pumpkin.
Thanksgiving in the U.S. is incomplete without pumpkin pie and the use of pumpkins in Thanksgiving meals in the U.S. goes back to the 1600s when early immigrants to America celebrated Thanksgiving though their version of pumpkin pies were probably nothing like they are today.

Native American tribes in the north-eastern part of America grew squash and pumpkins, and ate them after roasting or boiling them. The early European settlers to America though not particularly impressed with the pumpkin, learnt to cook with them under duress and it is thought that the precursor to the first pumpkin pie was made without a crust because they had no ovens in those days. What the probably did was to stew pumpkins or fill a hollowed out shell with milk, honey and spices, and then bake it in hot ashes.

The name pumpkin has its origins in the Greek word "pepon which means “large melon”. This slowly got corrupted in French to "pompon” and then “pumpion/ pompion” in English and later become the pumpkin as we know it now.

We at “We Knead To Bake” decided to celebrate the spirit of the season and the pumpkin by making some Spiced Pumpkin Bread Rolls. These very attractive rolls not only look like pumpkins but also incorporate some pumpkin purée as one of the ingredients. If you’re looking for a bread to serve at Thanksgiving this is the perfect one. Actually, it’s pretty good to serve at any time of the year.

I’ve never seen canned pumpkin of any sort here in India. This is probably because fresh pumpkin is available in our markets all year round, and Indians traditionally have a preference for using fresh vegetables and fruit whenever possible. While it may be a little more work than opening a can, I would suggest making one’s own purée for the best taste and flavour.

I prefer my bread a little less on the sweeter side so if you would like sweeter rolls, replace the 2 tbsp of honey in the recipe below with 1/8 to 1/4 cup of sugar depending on how sweet you want them. If you don’t use eggs just leave the egg out. You can use canned pumpkin purée if you find that easier but I’d pick freshly made purée every time for the taste.  You can also leave out the spices if you don’t want them in your rolls.

To make pumpkin purée from scratch, peel the pumpkin and clean out the middle, then cut it into cubes. Steam cook the pumpkin till soft, drain any liquid that might have collected and let it cool. Then blend it to a fine paste. Mashing it will not give you the fine texture of a purée.  
If by some chance you have a pale coloured pumpkin, you can add a pinch of turmeric to your pumpkin while steam cooking it to give your purée a deeper colour.
These rolls are very easy to make, and all you need are a pair of scissors to shape the dough into pumpkins. If you divide the dough into six portions you will have slightly larger rolls. I divided the dough into 8 for slightly smaller rolls.
Spiced Pumpkin Bread Rolls

(Adapted from Beyond Kimchee)


1/3 cup warm milk

2 tbsp honey

2 tsp instant yeast

1/2 cup puréed pumpkin (unsweetened)

40gm butter, melted

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp powdered dry ginger

1/2 tsp allspice

5 to 6 pecans, sliced into 3 vertical sections


I use a processor to knead my dough, but you may use your kitchen mixer or do it by hand. Pour the warm milk into a bowl. Add the honey and yeast and mix well and leave aside for about 5 minutes until the mixture is starting to look “frothy”.  You don’t have to do this with instant yeast and can add it directly, but I do just to make sure my yeast is still active.

Put the flour, the salt and the spice powders into the processor bowl and run a couple of times to mix them well. Then add the yeast mixture, the pumpkin purée, the melted butter and the egg to the processor bowl.

Knead until you have a smooth and elastic dough that will be somewhat sticky. It should pull from the side of the bowl. Add a little more flour (or milk) if required, to obtain this consistency of dough.

Turn the dough out to a wooden board dusted with a little flour and knead by hand for a minute. Shape it into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl, turning it around to coat it well. Loosely cover and let the dough rise for about an hour or so, until double in volume.

Deflate the risen dough gently to remove large pockets of air and divide it into about 8 (or 10 for smaller rolls) equal sized portions. Shape each portion into a ball. Flatten each ball slightly and using a sharp knife or a pair of scissors make 8 cuts at equal distance from each other, from the edge of the ball towards the centre but leaving the centre uncut – like a flower.

Place the dough “flowers” 2” apart on a lightly oiled or parchment lined baking sheet. Loosely cover and let them rise for about 45 minutes. Use your fore finger or the round end of a wooden spoon (dip it in a little oil or flour so the dough doesn’t stick to it) and poke a deep hole in the centre of each “flower” for the pecan “stem”. Brush them with milk (or egg wash if you use it).

Bake the rolls at 180C (350F) for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Take them out of the oven and brush the rolls with melted butter or a little honey diluted with water for a shine, if you like that.

Let them cool and then place a sliced pecan piece for the “stem”into the indentation of each roll. You can also celery stalks, chives or the stalks of small bell peppers for the “stems”.
Read full post.....

November 10, 2015

Quick & Easy Doodh Pedas (Indian Milk Fudge)

he Peda is an Indian sweet of North Indian origin but is popular all over the country. It is made by reducing milk to its milk solids and then cooking it with sugar into a soft dough like consistency and then shaped into small slightly flat rounds. Pedas, a sweet with a soft fudge-like consistency are usually flavoured with cardamom and other ingredients like saffron, chopped nuts, etc depending on the type of Peda. 
There are a huge variety of Pedas made in India, and they can range from white to cream through brown in colour. Depending on the variety they may be decorated differently, and sometimes are also stamped with special stamping tools to create a pattern on the top. In Taste, they’re quite “milky” and range from barely there sweetness to tooth tingling sweet.

It is believed that the Peda had its origin in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh where the Mathura Peda in particular, a caramel coloured melt-in-your-mouth variety of the sweet, is very famous. Others believe the Peda was first made in Gujarat where there’s a history of making Pedas that goes back to the late 19th century.

Other very famous varieties of the Peda include the Dharwad Peda brought to Dharwad in Karnataka by Ram Ratan Singh Thakur when his family migrated from Uttar Pradesh, the Lal/ Red Peda from Varanasi where the milk solids are cooked till reddish brown and the Pedas are dusted with semolina and chopped pistachios, the Satara Kandhi Peda from the Indian state of Maharashtra and inspired by the Mathura Peda, the Rajkot Peda mde with just milk and sugar, and the South Indian Atcor Makkan Peda which is filled with chopped dried fruit and nuts and then deep fried and soaked in sugar syrup!
The Peda has even travelled beyond Indian borders and can be found in Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan where it is called Badayuni Pera. These are just a few examples of Pedas and there are at least a couple of hundred more varieties found along the length and breadth of the country.

In Hinduism, sweets made of milk have long been used as “Prasad” or offerings to God during “Puja” and are then distributed among the devotees. I my part of the country, we don’t traditionally make Pedas, but I doubt if there’s anyone who doesn’t know what this sweet is. I’ve never tried making Pedas at home for some reason, and right now with Diwali here seems as good a time as any to make a start. 
As I’m running short on time with lots of other stuff to see to, I’ve decided to use a shortcut method of making Pedas. I had wanted to post this recipe a few days back demands on my time meant I’m posting it today instead. 
So instead of spending the time which I don’t’ have to spare right now, boiling and reducing milk down to milk solids, I’m using sweetened condensed milk and powdered milk. I would suggest avoiding skimmed powdered milk because that extra fat in whole powdered milk makes all the difference in taste. All it takes is about 5 to 10 minutes on the stove and the mixture is ready to be shaped into Pedas.
Quick & Easy Doodh Pedas (Indian Milk Fudge)


1 tin (400 gm) sweetened condensed milk

2 cups whole powdered milk

4 or 5 cardamom pods, powdered

A few strands of saffron (optional)

1 tsp corn-starch

1 tbsp lime juice

1 1/2 tbsp ghee

2 tbsp finely chopped pistachios

2 tbsp finely chopped almonds (badam)


Put all the ingredients, except the chopped almonds and pistachios, in a heavy bottomed or non-stick pan, and stir together to mix. You'll have a very thick mixture.

Over low to medium heat, cook the mixture while constantly stirring to make sure it doesn’t stick to pan. Cook till thick and the mixture starts leaving the sides of the pan, and rolling up into a ball in the centre. Do not cook it beyond this point.

Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool. Pinch of small walnut sized portions and shape them into small balls. Flatten slightly and press a little bit of the mixture of chopped almonds and pistachios on the top centre of each Peda. Store them in an airtight container. 
This recipe makes about 35 Doodh Pedas.
Read full post.....

November 4, 2015

Vegetarian Peublan Style Cemita Sandwich With Green Tomato Salsa Verde

pparently yesterday, the 3rd of November was National Sandwich Day. The National refers to the U.S. naturally, but that doesn’t mean you can’t honour and celebrate the sandwich if you aren’t in the U.S, especially if you love sandwiches. 
I do and I’m sure that it’s still the 3rd of November somewhere in the world so here’s my humble offering for celebrating the food that’s a sandwich – a vegetarian Cemita Peublan Style Sandwich with Green Tomato Salsa Verde.

That might seem like a mouth full (in more ways than one) but it’s a very simple sandwich made out of home-made Mexican Cemita Buns. These buns are really good and you should try making them if you can. If you can’t be bothered with Cemita buns, use sesame topped burger buns instead for an awesome sandwich.  

Mexican Cemita Buns are used to make a sandwich which is very popular in the Puebla region of the country. I understand that some people even call the Cemita Sandwich the “King of Mexican sandwiches”! There they make the Cemitas Poblana, which is a sandwich is filled with sliced avocado, meat, Queso Oaxaca or Quesillo (a string cheese sold as balls) or Panela cheese (fresh cow’s milk cheese), onions, a strongly flavoured almost floral herb called pápalo (supposedly a cross between arugula and coriander in flavour) and a red Chipotle sauce.

If you went to Puebla and talked about a Cemita without meat, I’m assuming they would probably wonder what you were talking about. At least, that’s the reaction I’ve encountered many times when I’m in a predominantly non-vegetarian culture and I mention I’m vegetarian!

I wanted to make a vegetarian Cemita Sandwich but strike a balance between being vegetarian, and keeping as close to the spirit of a Pueblan Cemita as I could in my sandwich while dealing with the reality of not being able to source many of the essential ingredients.
I was inspired by this detailed article on Serious Eats about Publan Cemitas where Daniel Gritzer declares his love for the Cemita Sandwich and I quote, “the New York cemita and I are not in an exclusive, forever-happily-ever-after relationship. No, we have a more unorthodox thing going, because I also share my emotions and loyalty with the Pueblan cemita. That's right, I'm in an open cemita relationship, and I am not ashamed to admit it.”

So I picked out a few ingredients that I could find and knew we liked, to put into my Cemita Sandwich. A lot of people often use mushroom or tofu as a replacement for meat when making something vegetarian, but we don’t really like mushrooms much and are happy to give tofu a miss.

I went with pickled jalapeno peppers instead of chipotles, avocado which is apparently a must here, fresh coriander/ cilantro instead of the Mexican herb pápalo, red onions, and Mozarella instead of Mexican string cheese. I also added some sliced red bell pepper for colour and flavour, though it’s not something you’d normally find in a Cemita Sandwich.

It seems that Cemita Sandwich makers in New York like to toast the two halves of the bun on a griddle or pan and though that’s not the Pueblan way of doing it, I thought I’d try that out. 
I also decided to add a little more “freshness” to my Cemita Sandwich with a Green Tomato Salsa Verde as a sauce. “Verde” means green and that is what this particular Salsa is. This is the season for green tomatoes here and I love to use them however I can. 
Some people prefer not to use green tomatoes raw and if you have similar concerns, you can always use cooked green tomatoes to make this Salsa Verde. You can use the Salsa Verde as a sauce in the Cemita Sandwich or serve it on the side. The recipe, which is more of a guideline really, is for 2 Cemita Sandwiches.   
Vegetarian Peublan Style Cemita Sandwich With Green Tomato Salsa Verde


For the Sandwiches:

2 Mexican Cemita Buns (or sesame topped buns)

1 large avocado

1 large red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise

Salt and freshly crushed black pepper to taste

2 small red onions, sliced into thin rounds

Pickled jalapeños to taste

Fresh coriander/ cilantro leaves

1 cup grated/ shredded Mozarella cheese

A little olive oil

For the Green Tomato Salsa Verde:

4 green tomatoes, chopped

1 green chilli

1 small onion, chopped

1 small handful fresh coriander leaves and tender stems

1 tbsp fresh lime juice

Salt to taste


To make the sandwiches, cut through the Cemita/ sesame topped buns.  Toast both halves of the bun if you would like your's that way. Otherwise, start building your sandwiches. 

Then build them from bottom upwards with the following ingredients in the order given. First sliced avocado and lots of it, then slices of the red bell pepper and a little salt and crushed pepper if you want it. You can add a little of the cheese here if you want or not at this point. 
Next layer the onion rings, then the pickled jalapeños, and coriander leaves.  Add some of the Salsa Verde over this and top with a generous amount of the cheese and then a light drizzle of some olive oil over this. 
Close the sandwich with the top half of the bun and serve with more Salsa Verde on the side.

To make the Green Tomato Salsa Verde, just put all the ingredients in your blender and run it till you have a slightly chunky mixture. Adjust for taste with more salt and lime juice if necessary and refrigerate till needed. This Salsa is best consumed not long after it is made.

If you do not like the idea of consuming raw green tomatoes, please cook them and then add them to the other ingredients in the blender. This recipe makes about 1 cup of the Salsa Verde.

This recipe makes 2 vegetarian Peublan Style Cemita Sandwiches.
Read full post.....

October 27, 2015

Herbed “Boo/ Ghost” Breads For Halloween & The Winners Of The 500 Cookies Cookbook Giveaway!

e don't traditionally celebrate Halloween in India and while the US is all busy with fall decorations and preparations to celebrate it, we’re looking forward to celebrating Diwali. However, Halloween seems to have arrived in certain quarters in India with a vengeance, and throwing a Halloween themed party apparently is the thing to do in certain circles.  Many restaurants, pubs and clubs too, especially in the bigger/ metro cities of India have jumped onto the wagon throwing open their doors with “Halloween specials” with food and drinks menu to cater to the mood.

Though I had an inkling of Halloween as a celebration from the books I used to read as a child, it was only when I started blogging that I realized just how big an occasion Halloween was in the US. A few weeks to Halloween and every other American food blog and food site is all about the colours of fall and Halloween themed food and decor.
There’s no way to escape it all, and while I cannot understand the rationale behind gory, bloody and almost nausea inducing visuals that some people seem to embrace with food for Halloween or how that could be enjoyable or fun.

There is however a lot of fun and cute Halloween themed food out there that is almost irresistible.  When my daughter was still at home, I used to get into the spirit of things with her and bake Halloween themed food on demand for her to share with her friends at school, or if they came home for tea.

I never realized just how much I had thrown myself into baking at Halloween until I went through my blog archives and came across these Spider Web Cookies, Mummy Cupcakes, Owl Cupcakes & Tombstone/Graveyard Cupcakes, Blood/ Red Spattered Almond-Vanilla Sugar Cookies, Hoot OwlCookies And Eggless Spider Cupcakes and a Ganache Covered Chocolate Cake WithMeringue Ghosts! Yep, that’s a lot of Halloween baking over the years for someone who doesn’t celebrate Halloween.

Now that the daughter is away at college, the amount of baking I do especially of cake, cookies and other sweet stuff has come down. The fact that she’s not around also means the excitement of baking with her just isn’t there so I wasn’t planning on baking anything remotely Halloween like.

That was until I came across these ghostly little “Boo” breads or bread ghosts on Pinterest. I’m generally game to bake bread, and something as attractive as these were just asking to be baked to my mind. While the pictures did not lead to recipes in particular, one mentioned making them out of Pizza dough. I thought plain Pizza dough would be too bland, so I decided to make them more interesting by adding some herbs and red chilli flakes to it.

You can find one of the Pizza dough recipes I use often in the recipe below, but feel free to go with your favourite recipe. Knead the dough, roll it out thin, make three holes for the eyes and the mouth and then stretch it a little to create a “ghostly” figure.
Herbed “Boo/ Ghost” Breads


2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp instant yeast

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp red chilli flakes

1 tsp Herbs de Provence/ Italian Seasoning (or herbs of your choice)


You can knead the dough by hand or by machine. Put all the ingredients in a bowl/ processor bowl and add enough water to knead to a soft and elastic dough.

Shape the dough into a  round and put the dough in an oiled bowl, turning it over to coat with the oil. Cover loosely and let the dough rise till double in volume.

Gently deflate the dough and pinch off into small balls. Roll out each ball into reall thin rounds about 4” diameter. Using a sharp knife make three small slits in the dough (for two eyes and a mouth). Now gently stretch the slits open and also stretch the round a little so tit looks like a “ghostly” face.

Place the “ghost” on a lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. I would suggest making as many as will fit on your baking sheet for one batch at a time as you don’t need the dough to rise again before baking it. Dock (prick well with a fork) the breads so they don't puff up in the oven.

Bake the “ghosts” at 200C (400F) for about 10 to 15 minutes until they’re golden brown and crisp. Let them cool and then store in an airtight container if not using them immediately. Serve with soup.

This recipe makes about 12 flatbreads about 4” to 5” in size.

Sometime last month I had announced the giveaway of a copy of Philippa Vanstone and Carol Beckerman's book 500 Cookies: The Only Cookie Compendium You'll Ever Need from Sellers Publishing.

The randomly picked winner of the cookbook is Soumya Ramanujam. Congratulations and watch out for the e-ail from me.

A big thank you to all who participated. Do keep a look out for the next giveaway on this blog which will be announced in a few days from now.
Read full post.....

October 24, 2015

We Knead To Bake #32 :Barmbrack or Speckled Bread (Báirín Breac) – Irish Halloween Fruit Bread/ Cake

armbrack is a bread made with dried fruit that has been soaked in hot tea. It is traditionally served at Halloween in Ireland, but also makes for an excellent tea time treat, especially when tasted and generously slathered with butter! The Irish also call it Báirín Breac or “Speckled Bread”. Speckled because of the rains in the bread and that name comes from the Irish words “báirín” for loaf and “breac” for speckled.

The origin of Halloween goes back to the Celtic festival of "Samhain" which is derived from Old Irish and supposedly roughly translates to "Summer's End." The Barmbrack is very much a part of a traditional Irish Halloween custom that involved baking various objects or “fortunes” into the fruit bread. When the bread was cut and served, if you found one of the objects in your portion then that would tell your fortune.

So if you got a thimble in your portion of Barmbrack then spinsterhood was predicted, whereas a button (or a pea) meant you would remain a bachelor. Don’t ask me what would happen if a man got the thimble and a woman got a button. I guess either way, it pretty much that you were doomed to a future without a spouse! If you got a bean or a piece of rag then you could look forward to a life of misfortune or poverty, but a silver coin prophesied wealth. A ring meant the promise of marriage while a stick meant a quarrelsome or unhappy marriage.

The good old days of Irish Halloween seem a far cry from the modern day version of it that we know and must have been rather gloomy. Apart from the thought of souls and scary spirits wandering around, even the Barmbrack predictions weren’t particularly cheerful except for the person that got the silver coin! Luckily, the modern day bakers invariably limit themselves to baking only a ring into Barmbracks.
There are yeasted versions of this recipe as well those that use baking powder to leaven it. This is the yeasted version.
Barmbrack or Speckled Bread – Irish Halloween Fruit Bread/ Cake


1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup sultanas

1/8 cup dried chopped apricots

1/8 cup dried cranberries

1 1/2 cups strong, hot black tea

3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp instant yeast

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

30gm unsalted butter, soft at room temperature

1 lightly beaten egg

1/2 to 3/4 cup warm milk for 1 cup of "milk + tea" mixture* (see below in the method)

1 tbsp caster sugar + 1 tbsp boiling water mixed to glaze the top of the bread (optional)


Put the dried fruit into a bowl. Cover them with the hot tea and leave overnight or for at least 3 to 4 hours so they plump up. Once they have plumped up, drain the liquid and reserve it to be used later. Also set the fruit aside. Make sure the fruit has drained well, otherwise it will make the dough wet when you add it later.

You may knead by machine or by hand. I chose to use my processor. Put the flour, instant yeast, sugar, spices, and salt into a large mixing bowl or bowl of your machine and whisk (or run machine) to mix them together. Add the beaten egg and the butter and pulse a couple of times.

*Now put the reserved soaking liquid into a 1 cup measure and top up with enough warm milk to make 1 cup. The milk should be warm enough to make a warm “milk + tea” mixture to make the yeast proof and the dough to rise.

Add this “milk + tea” mixture to the dry ingredients in the bowl and knead into a just-sticky-to-touch and elastic dough, adding a little more flour if necessary. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and flatten it out. Sprinkle the drained fruit over this and fold in half and fold once again. Then gently knead the dough so the fruit is evenly dispersed within the dough.

Shape into a ball and place the dough in an oiled bowl.  Turn it to coat it well with oil and then let it rise, covered, until it has doubled in volume (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours).

Gently knead the risen dough and divide it into 2 equal portions. Shape each into a round and place on greased baking trays or into a loaf and place in greased 5” x 8" loaf tins as you prefer. Place the ring and trinkets (if you’re using them) into the bread while shaping them.

Let the shaped breads rise for another 45 minutes to an hour, covered, until they have puffed up. Bake at 180C (350F) for about 35 to 45 minutes until the breads are golden brown and done. Cover the breads with foil if they’re browning too quickly.

About 5 minutes before finally taking the breads out of the oven, brush the tops of them with the sugar glaze (if using) and return to the oven for 3 to 4 minutes for a sticky and shiny finish. Cool the breads on a wire rack.  Cut into thick slices and serve with butter, as they are.

This recipe makes 2 medium loaves or rounds.
Read full post.....