July 31, 2013

Afghani Bolani/ Boulanee e Katchaloo (Potato Spring Onion Turnovers or Stuffed Flatbread) with Chatni Gazneesh (Coriander Chutney) & A Minty Chakkah (Yogurt Sauce)

olani (also spelled as Bulani or Boulanee sometimes) is the Farsi word for “filled bread” and is an unleavened and stuffed turnover style flatbread from Afghanistan. It is vegan and can be either savory or sweet, and commonly used fillings include fillings spinach, red lentils, pumpkin, chives (gandana) potato and onions or potato and chives or spring onions/ scallion.
Afghanistan being geographically located on the historically important trade route called the Silk Route/ Silk Road meant that Afghani cuisine shows influence of other presences on that trade route including Iran, Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and China.
So it is not surprising that there is a lot that Afghani cuisine has with North Indian cuisine in the spices that are used as well as many of the dishes including the Naan. Yet Afghani food is distinct in its personality.

The Bolani is unique to Afghanistan, and is not only a much loved streetfood but also served in homes as an appetizer or as a side dish at special events and parties. Bolani is typically served with a green coriander/ cilantro chutney called Chatni Gazneesh and a mint flavoured thick yogurt (Chakkah) sauce/ dip.
Bolani e Katchaloo is the version of the flatbread that is filled with mashed and seasoned potato. Sometimes the potato filling includes chives or spring onions and sometimes it doesn’t. The Bolani is somewhat like the Indian stuffed flat bread called paratha, and the Bolani e Katchaloo in particular is similar to the Indian Aloo Paratha. So you might be forgiven for thinking that both are probably two versions of the same food, but it is not so.
Though both are filled with mashed potato, the taste of the filling and so the flatbreads are distinctly different. For one, Indian parathas are made with wholewheat flour while the Afghani Bolani is made with plain/ all-purpose flour. The seasoning in the filling makes the Bolani much milder in taste than the Paratha.

Aloo Parathas are usually round in shape because the outer whole wheat wrapper is enclosed around the filling, then the flatbread is rolled out and then pan-fried to cook. The Bolani on the other hand is shaped like a turnover by folding the dough over the filling into a half-moon shape and sealed. It is then pan-fried as well, but flattened out some more in the pan while it cooks.

I never knew about the Afghani Bolani until a discussion on Facebook (where else?) about something brought a comment from my cousin-in-law mentioning the Bolani as a stuffed flatbread somewhat like the Aloo Paratha yet different.
That had me looking into what it was and how to make it. The next thing my family knew was that they were having it for lunch and enjoying it very much too. While the Bolani itself is a very tasty flatbread, it is the combination of the Bolani with the spicy green coriander chutney and cool soothing yogurt dip/ sauce that makes this so satisfying.
So if you are looking for a stuffed flatbread that isn’t very strong on spices yet not bland, filling and not requiring too much effort or time in the kitchen then this one should satisfy those criteria. Most people are sure to like it, and who doesn’t like the potato however disguised it comes? I must also mention that Bolanis make for an excellent alternative to a sandwich or a lunchbox item.
If you are new to the world of filled flatbreads or just want a more visual explanation, this video on how Bolanis are made should be useful. My recipe below has been adapted from various sources, too many to mention or credit. 
Afghani Bolani/ Boulanee e Katchaloo (Potato Spring Onion Turnovers or Stuffed Flatbread


For the dough:

 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
 1 1/2 cups or so of water ( more or less as you require)
 1 tsp salt
 1 tsp oil (preferably olive oil) 

For the filling:

2 medium to large potatoes
2 tbsp oil (preferably olive oil)
 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
 1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp coriander powder
 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh coriander leaves/ cilantro
 1/2 c finely chopped scallions (both the white and green parts) 

About 1/4 cup oil for pan frying the Boulanee/ Bolani


Make the filling first. Boil the potatoes with a bit of salt until they’re done and soft. Put them in a largish bowl and aad the salt, oil, black pepper and coriander powders. Mash the potatoes really well, so no lumps remain.

Add the chopped coriander and the spring onions and mix well. Keep aside.
Now make the dough. Do this by hand or machine. Put the flour salt and oil in the processor bowl. Slowly add 1 cup of water and knead until you have a smooth and elastic dough, adding as much more of water as required.
Shape the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, cover with a cloth and let it rest for about an hour.
Now make the Bolani. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Work with one portion at a time, keeping the others covered so they do not dry out. Take one portion and roll into a smooth ball. Flour your working surface lightly and roll out the ball of dough into a round (like a tortilla) of about 10” to 12” in diameter. A thinner round of dough is desirable.
Dvide your filling into 8 portions and place one portion of the filling on one half of the round (forming a semi-circle of filling) leaving about 1/4” at the edge for sealing. Fold the dough over the filling to form a half-moon shape and press the edges with your fingers, to seal well. I used the tines of a fork to make the edges look pretty but this is not usual.
Repeat this with the rest of the dough and filling to make 8 Bolani. Pour about 1/8th the oil in a shallow frying pan. When it is hot enough place one Bolani in it. The oil around the Bolani should sizzle. Turn the heat down to medium, and cook the Bolani on both sides by pressing down with a spatula on and off so that it flattens a little more.
When done (should take about a couple of minutes), the Bolani should a golden brown on both sides. Let the Bolani drain on paper towels.
Add more oil when necessary and repeat this with the other 7. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with the Chatni Gazneesh and some Mint Chakkah (the recipes follow). This recipe makes 8 Bolani/ Boulanee.

Chantni Gazneesh (Afghan Fresh Coriander/ Cilantro Chutney)

This Chatni/ Chutney is nothing but a slightly tangy and spicy green chutney made from fresh coriander/ cilantro and pairs up beautifully with the Bolani.

 It is somewhat  like the Indian Green Chutney which tends to be very popular as a dip for deep-fried snacks, in crunchy street food called “Chaat” and the Indian Chutney Sandwiches.
The difference is that the Indian version also uses mint and lemon juice instead of vinegar, but no garlic or nuts, and green chillies instead of black pepper. 
Chantni Gazneesh (Afghan Fresh Coriander/ Cilantro Chutney)


1 1/2 cups packed, chopped fresh coriander/ cilantro leaves (also include tender stems)
1 clove of garlic
1/3 cup walnuts
2 to 3 tbsp lime juice ( or 1 to 2 tbsp white vinegar if you prefer)
1/2 to 1 tsp freshly crushed black pepper (according to taste)
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp sugar
Salt to taste
A couple of tbsps of water, just enough to grind/ blend the Chatni


Put all the ingredients in the jar of your blender and process to a fine purée. Add only as much water as is required for a thick purée as you don’t want a watery one. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve. This should serve about 4.

Minty Chakkah (Yogurt Sauce)

Chakkah is really nothing but a thick and creamy strained yogurt that is frequently served in Afghanistan either as a dip or a sauce. Chakkah is also used as an ingredient in many Afghani dishes, and sometimes stireed into certain soups, stews and Kurma for its creamy texture.

Chakkah can be made at home and the process is very simple. It just involves straining yogurt through cheesecloth for a few hours, so that what you’re left is a very thick and creamy residue. Depending on where it is being used, it is either very thick (like dollops of heavy cream/ Greek yogurt) or else a little thinner, but never very liquid.
The recipe below is more of a set of directions, like the one above and both are open to adjustments to suit one’s personal tastes.
Minty Chakkah (Yogurt Sauce)
1 cup hung yogurt or Greek yogurt
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Mix the yogurt and the garlic in a bowl. Do not beat. Cover and refrigerate till required.  ThhisChakkah should have a nice but not too strong, flavour of garlic so add as much garlic you need to get that.
Just before serving, stir in the salt and half the chopped mint. Garnish with the remaining mint and serve. This makes 1 cup of Minty Chakkah, and should serve 4 with the Chatni Gazneesh.

The Afghani Bolani is my submission to Zorra’s Bread Baking Day whose 61st edition is being hosted this month by Anusha Praveen at Tomato Blues with the theme “Stuffed Breads”.
It’s also being YeastSpotted!
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July 27, 2013

Baking Baklava With Home-Made Phyllo Pastry - Daring Bakers Challenge July 2013

ime for yet another Daring Bakers challenge but this one’s a bit different. The DB designated hostess could not present and host this month’s challenge due to a wrist injury. So in a "celebration" of past Daring Baker and Daring Cook challenges, Lisa challenged all of us to search through the Daring Kitchen archives (both baking and cooking recipes) and pick any one we'd like! The REAL challenge was picking which delicious recipe(s) to try!
Going back in Daring Baker challenge history to revist a past challenge seemed like a good idea to me. Most especially because there have been a couple of challenges that I wanted to do but missed them for some reason or the other. I picked the “Home-Made Phyllo from Scratch & Baklava” challenge from June 2011 (hosted by Erica of Erica’s Edibles) as I have always wanted to try making Phyllo pastry at home, for the simple reason that I cannot find it in the stores here and I have always wanted to try Baklava.
Baklava (and to some Turkish Delight) has always conjured up the magic and mystery of the Middle East of the past, some of it real and some imagined. So in my mind all of these would exist side by side in perfect harmony - beautiful women with dark kohl lined eyes, street shops crammed with delightful trinkets and other ware, magic carpets and genies, and of course tea shops selling mint tea and a variety of sticky sweetmeats suggestive of warm and exotic spices.

So what is Baklava? It is a sticky sweetmeat made by layering coarsely chopped nuts and spices between layers of thin Phyllo pastry which is then baked and drenched in a spiced citrusy syrup of sugar and honey. The name “Baklava” comes from Farsi meaning “many leaves” referring to the layers of pastry in this sweetmeat.
Phyllo, which means "leaf" in Greek, is tissue paper-thin like sheets of dough that is used to make a lot of dishes both sweet and savoury. Phyllo is not difficult to make at home but involves a bit of work when it comes to rolling out the dough as it involves rolling and stretching dough until it is thin enough to almost see through. Most people think Phyllo pastry is Greek but it actually is Turkish in origin but the Greeks can probably be credited with turning it into the extremely thin version that is characteristic of Phyllo today.
Most people think that Baklava is a Greek dish. The truth however, is that almost everybody country from the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean to the Balkans, including the Turks, Arabs, Jews, Greeks, Armenians and Bulgarians will tell you that Baklava is a dessert from their country! The reason for this is that all these countries were once part of the huge Ottoman Empire where Baklava can be traced to.

If one goes back a little further in history, as far back as the 8th century, the origins of Baklava can be traced to the Assyrians who from where it travelled taking on local flavour wherever it was adopted. The Assyrians made Baklava by layering nuts between unleavened flatbread and then drenched this with honey. With time and adaptation, the flatbread gave way to paper thin Phyllo pastry, the choice of nuts would depend on what was locally available and the syrup was flavoured with spices. So the filling and the spices in the syrup would depend on which country the Baklava was made in.
Traditionally, only the wealthy ate Baklava as the common man could not afford the ingredients. This sweetmeat was considered a very special dessert fit only for kings, queens and people belonging to that strata of society until mid-19th century. So much so that even today, it apparently is a common phrase in Turkey to describe oneself saying, "I am not rich enough to eat Baklava every day"!
I adapted the challenge recipe slightly to suit or taste and fit my 6” by 6” baking dish. I reduced the sugar in the recipe a bit because to my mind, Baklava should be sweet enough yet let the flavours of the nuts and spices come through.  This dough can be made, rolled out ahead of time and be frozen until required making the business of making Baklava easier. Just make sure it is completely thawed before using it.
Also use ghee (or clarified butter) instead of melted butter if you can. The solids in melted butter will make your Phyllo layers soggy while ghee/ clarified butter will keep them crisp.
Baklava With Home-Made Phyllo Pastry

For the dough:

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup less 1 tbsp water, plus more if needed
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar 

For the syrup:

1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2 1” pieces of cinnamon
5 to 6 cloves
1 2” piece fresh orange peel 

For the filling:

1 tsp powdered cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice powder
1/3 cup coarsely powdered almonds
1/3 cup coarsely powdered walnuts
1/3 cup coarsely powdered pistachios
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup ghee/ clarified butter (more if you need it)


Make the Phyllo dough. You can knead the dough by hand or using the food processor as I did.  Put the flour and salt in the processor bowl and pulse a couple of times to mix. Then combine the water, oil and apple cider vinegar ina small bowl and add to the flour.
Knead until it comes together as a dough that’s sticks together initially and then becomes a smooth and elastic dough. Add a a tablespoon or so of water if your dough seems a little on the drier side.
Shape the dough into a ball and place in a bowl coated with oil. Roll the dough till it is well coated with the oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let it rest for about 2 hours or longer. I ended letting my dough rest for about 6 hours before I started rolling it out!
Now its time to start rolling out the dough as thin as you can. Divide the dough into 4 or 5 portions of equal size. Work with one portion at a time keeping the others covered so they don’t dry out.
Place the dough on a well-floured surface and keep rolling out, dusting with flour whenever necessary, until you have rolled it out as thin as you can. Remember to also dust your palms and the rolling pin with flour. Lift the rolled out dough and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Otherwise just lift it up and carefully stretch it using your fingers without tearing it. Your dough should be thin enough to be almost transparent.
Set aside the rolled out dough sheets on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Flour well between each sheet so they do not stick to one another. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out. If you can make your Phyllo about the thickness of 2 sheets of copy paper and evenly rolled then that’s perfect.
I divided my dough into 4 equal portions and then rolled each portion out into a square about 12” by 12”. Then I cut it into 4 equal squares. This gave me a total of 16 layers (each 6” by 6”) which I used as 4 layers of 4 sheets each for my Baklava.
You can make the syrup and the filling while the dough rests. To make the syrup, combine all the ingredients for the syrup in a medium sized pan/ pot and bring it to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat to medium and let the syrup boil for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Take it off the heat and strain out the solids. Keep the syrup aside until required. Do not chill but let is stay slightly warm.
Now make the filling. Keep aside about 2 to 3 tbsp of the powdered pistachios and then mix together all the ingredients for the filling in a bowl, except the ghee/ clarified butter.
Assemble the Baklava. Warm the ghee/ clarified butter slightly to make it easier to brush on. Brush the bottom and sides of your baking dish with ghee/ clarified butter. Place one sheet of Phyllo dough in the bottom of your baking dish. Brush it lightly (but well) with the ghee/ clarified butter. Place another sheet of Phyllo and brush with the ghee/ clarified butter again. Repeat this with three more Phyllo sheets and brush each layer with the ghee/ clarified butter.
Spread one third the nut-spice mixture in a uniform layer. Then once again layer 4 sheets of Phyllo like before. Spread another one third portion of the nut-spice mixture. Once again layer another 4 sheets of Phyllo and then layer the remaining third of the nut-spice mixture. Top with 5 layers of Phyllo and finish off by brushing the top most layer of Phyllo well with the ghee/ clarified butter.
You should have a 5-4-4-5 construction of Phyllo pastry layers (I used 4 sheets in every layer), though you can use as many layers as you want. Tuck the edges neatly suing a knife or spatula. Using a very sharp knife, cut the Baklava from the top through to the bottom, into desired shape and number of pieces. I cut mine into 16 squares.
Now bake this at 180C (350F) for about 30 minutes and then take it out. Cut through the Baklava once again to make sure the cuts go all the way down to the bottom of your pan. Return the Baklava to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes or until the top is a beautiful golden brown.
Once the Baklava is done, take it out and gently pour the syrup evenly on the top of the hot Baklava making sure it goes through all the cuts. Pour as much as you can without letting the Baklava float in the syrup (I poured almost all the syrup I made, less about 2 to 3 tbsp of it). The syrup will soak into the Baklava during its overnight rest making it moist and juicy.
Let the Baklava cool and then cover it. Let it sit at room temperature overnight. The Baklava will have soaked up the syrup. Store and serve at room temperature, after dusting the top of each piece with the reserved powdered pistachios. You can warm it very slightly before serving if you prefer.
The Baklava will keep at room temperature for about a week in an airtight container. It can also be stored in the fridge but warm it up before serving or it will be very hard. Serve the Baklava with coffee as a snack or as dessert.
This recipe makes 16 small pieces.
Some tips which might make your Baklava making experience a little easier.

1.       Remove all your rings, bangles and bracelets or any jewelry that might snag the dough before you start working on it. The dough becomes very fragile as you roll it out and you want it to tear as little as possible, preferably not at all.

2.      Check that you cut out your Phyllo to the exact measurement of your baking dish. A pizza cutter is less likely to tear the Phyllo than a knife while cutting it.

3.      Small tears in your Phyllo are ok, and your dough will roll out thinner and easier with practise. Just try to keep a couple of “unblemished/ not-torn” sheets for the top most layers for a good finish to your Baklava.

4.      Use a wooden dowel or a thin wooden rolling pin to roll out the dough. This makes rolling out much easier and you will be able to roll out the dough quite thin.

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July 24, 2013

WE KNEAD TO BAKE #7 : A Savoury Kugelhopf

Kugelhopf (also spelt as Kugelhupf, Gugelhupf, Gougelhof, Kugelhoph, Kugloff Kuelopf, Kouklouf, Köjlhopf, Koejelhopf, Koïlopf, Köjhupf!) is a yeasted sweet cake well known in the Alsace region of France, as well as in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, and variations of this are also found in some countries of Eastern Europe.

Though this yeasted cake is really thought to be Austrian in origin, it is more known as Alsatian. The most commonly told story about the Kugelhopf is that Marie Antoinette (the same lady of the “let them eat cake” fame!) brought it from her home country Austria, to France upon her marriage to King Louis XVI. 
There are others who think that the Kugelhopf was brough over from Poland to France by the Polish king Stanisław Leszczyn´ski when he came to live in Alsace in the early 1700s.

There are always stories, some believable, others not so believable and some true, about a lot of food and it’s the same with the Kugelhopf. Here’s one.
There used to be a potter called Kugel who lived  in a village in Alsace (France). One morning at work, he created a deep round and fluted ceramic cake mould with curving sides and a tube in the middle. That evening, three strangers knocked on his door looking for a place to stay the night. Kugel shared whatever little food he had, and gave them some place to sleep.

Apparently, the three guests were actually the Three Magi on their way from paying homage to bay Jesus at Bethlehem! To thank him for his generosity to them, the three men baked him a cake in his new mould and left before he got up. That tall golden cake is said to have become the Kugelhopf that the Alsace region of France is famous for.
Here’s another story. This one contends that the turban-shaped cakes signify the turbans that Ottomans wore, and were first baked by Viennese bakers to celebrate victory in 1683 over the Ottoman Turks at the gates of Vienna.
And then there the one that suggests that the first Kugelhopf was made when Monsieur Eugene the chef of the Austrian Ambassador Prince Schwartzenberg, gave to the well-known French pastry chef Carême.

And why is this yeasted cake called a Kugelhopf? Is there a story there too? No one seems to know for sure but some say the name comes from the German word “Kugel” for ball referring to its round shape, and “Hopfen” meaning “to brew up/ up or rise up under the influence of yeast.”  Another thought is that it is from the Alsatian (German) word Gugelhut/Gugehüet, which refers to a kind of medieval round formal hat worn by members of the Strasbourg Sénat that governed that city.
Whether the origins of the name or the recipe/ dish are true or not, it makes for interesting reading and also tells you that the people to whom this yeasted cake is traditional, are pretty passionate about it.
The Kugelhopf is baked not just as an everyday food but also for special occasions and festivities and the shape of the mould and the Kugelhopf is decided by what the occasion is.

As mentioned in the story of Kugel the potter, the Kugelhopf is typically baked in a special pan that that is round with a hole in the centre, somewhat like a bundt pan but heavier. Since it is a yeasted cake, the Kugelhopf has a dense bread-like texture and is made from a somewhat enriched dough like brioche but is not as rich. It is considered similar to a coffee cake that might be eaten for or with breakfast, or could be part of an afternoon snack with coffee.
A lesser known version of the Kugelhopf is its savoury Alsatian version called the Kugelhopf aux Lardons. “Lardons” is the French word for bacon, and this version is typically made with onions, ham/ bacon, walnuts and herbs.


Since it is the sweet version of the Kugelhopf that’s very well-known and popular, I was attracted to the idea of baking the less known savoury version. It also helps that I like savoury more than sweet, generally speaking. I also wanted to bake something to serve with soup for dinner, but was looking for something different from the usual bread thing.
And after last month’s sweet doughnuts it seemed to be a nice idea to bake a savoury recipe.  The recipe below is one that I have cobbled together after some thought and is much like a sweeter Kugelhopf but with savoury additions. Being a vegetarian, I have substituted for the ham/ bacon but if you are non-vegetarian feel free to bake the “Kugelhopf aux Lardons”.
This bread/ cake contains eggs because they are a characteristic part of this bake, but feel free to substitute powdered flax seed for the eggs if you don’t eat them. You may also use sun-dried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts instead of the tomatoes/ bell pepper and walnuts. I used Cheddar because that’s what I had, but use a cheese of your choice if you prefer. A sharper cheese will taste better.

This Kugelhopf bakes in an 8” Kugelhopf pan, but you should also be ableto bake it in an 8” Bundt pan, a regular loaf tin (or 2 small ones), smaller Brioche tins or even muffin tins. If you’re baking this in muffin tins you might want to use half the recipe, though I understand that this bread freezes well. 
Savoury Kugelhopf


3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
75gm butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 tsp oil
1/3 cup chopped green bell peppers
1/3 cup deseeded, pulp-free and chopped tomatoes
1 cup onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup diced cheddar cheese (preferably sharp)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 tsp coarsely crushed black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme


Once again I used the processor. This can be done by hand but it will be a bit sticky to handle. Put 3 cups of flour, yeast, and salt in the bowl of the processor. Pulse a couple of times to mix. The add the butter, a little at a time, and process till incorporated.
Add the warm milk and process till mixed. Now add the eggs and process till mixed. You will now have a soft and sticky dough. Knead some more, adding more flour, a little at a time and just enough till the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Do not be tempted to add more flour than absolutely necessary.
Your dough will be very soft, elastic and just short of sticky. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let it rise until double in volume. This can take from 1 1/2 hours to 2 1/2 hours!
In the meanwhile, heat 1/2 a tsp oil in a pan. Add the chopped green bell pepper, the tomato and a pinch of salt and stir-fry till the raw smell disappears but the vegetables are still crisp/ crunchy. Remove and keep aside. To the same pan, add the remaining 1/2 tsp oil and sauté the onions with a pinch of salt till they turn golden brown. Remove and add to the bell peppers and keep aside.
Grease an 8” kugelhopf mould or bundt pan well especially around the centre (or whatever pan/ tin you plan to use). Place some of the chopped walnuts in the bottom of the mould. If you’re using a loaf tin or brioche moulds, then don’t do this. Instead press in the walnuts on top of the dough after the second rise, just before baking.

Once the dough has risen, deflate it. Then work the cheese, stir-fried onions, bell pepper and tomato, the remaining walnuts, black pepper and thyme into the dough. The best way to do this is to flatten the dough out and spread all this over the surface, fold the dough over and then knead it. This will ensure a more uniform incorporation of the “filling”. The dough will be a bit sticky, so use a scraper to help you with the kneading. Do not add more flour!
Roll the dough into a longish log, long enough to fit into the mould comfortably. Lift the “log” of dough and place it in the mould in a circular fashion and pinch the two ends together to close the “circle” of dough. Cover and let the dough rise for about an hour or so, until it reaches the edge/ rim of the mould.
Bake the Kugelhopf at 200C (400F) Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and sounds hollow when it is tapped.
Unmould the Kugelhopf and let it cool on a rack. Slice and serve. This Kugelhopf should serve about 10 people and is also good for breakfast, as a snack or served with a simple soup.
 This Savoury Kugelhopf is being YeastSpotted!

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July 21, 2013

A Fresh Plum & Almond Buckle That Didn’t (Buckle, I Mean)!

he monsoons are here with a vengeance and I’m suddenly reminded of the song “Raindrops keep falling on my head” where the singer takes the sun to task for “sleeping on the job”. It’s been pouring so heavily here this past week that as much as I love the rains, I’m seriously wishing there was some way to appeal to the sun to put in a guest appearance once every couple of days.
The monsoons signify the end of the year’s bounty of mangoes, but it also means that it’s the season for fresh corn, delightfully juice Indian Himachali pears and stone fruit like cherries, peaches and plums. And the best thing is that they’re not the imported variety but all locally grown.

I tend to give the plums a miss because we usually get rather tart ones locally, and if we want sweet ones then we have to buy the exhorbitantly priced and rather huge ones that are imported from the US. I’m by nature suspicious of large sized, perfectly proportioned fruit that seems to keep for ever on the shelves. Nature did not intend fruit and vegetables to grow to a pre-determined shape, size and perfect colour and I also find such fruit generally to be lacking in taste/ flavour.

But getting back to the subject of plums, I found this season’s fruit to be quite sweet with a just a hint of tang. They tend to get ripe and soft and mushy rather quickly so if one doesn’t eat them up, then the best bet is turn them in jam/ preserves with really tender ginger which is also coincidentally in season. Otherwise, there are lots of other things to make with them.

Asking for suggestions from friends on Facebook guaranteed a whole host of suggestions some of which I am going to try out. I thought I would start out with a Buckle. Just in case you used to be like me and thought that a buckle belonged on a belt and not on a dessert plate, a Buckle is also a dessert that combines fresh seasonal fruit with a rich cake batter, and mostly, a streusel topping.

Apparently, the most popular fruit to make a Buckle with used to be blueberries but virtually any seasonal fruit can be used. There are a couple of ways of making a fruit Buckle. Some people layer fruit on a base of cake batter and bake it. Others divide the batter into two, layering one half in the bottom of the pan and mixing the other half with the fruit before pouring it in.

Usually, this is topped with a streusel mixture. While this cake bakes, the cake batter rises up around the fruit, and causes the streusel to buckle giving it  a crinkly appearance. This is what gives this cake/ dessert the name “Buckle”!
I chose to leave out the streusel and just sprinkled a couple of tablespoons of granulated sugar instead, and I guess that’s probably why my Buckle didn’t quite buckle. Not that it mattered much to us because the proof of all this was not in the buckling but definitely in the Buckle, the eating of it, and the crumbs that were left on the plates!

You can substitute any other fruit of your choice and use this recipe to make a Buckle. Serve this Plum And Almond Buckle plain with coffee/ tea or as dessert with cream, ice-cream, thick yogurt or vanilla custard.
Fresh Plum & Almond Buckle  
(Adapted from Martha Stewart)


60gm unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup coarsely powdered almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
1 1/2 to 2 cups 1/2-inch-thick plum wedges
2 tbsp granulated sugar


Brush a 9” square or round pan (I used a 11” by 7” rectangular pan) really well with butter and keep aside.
Put the melted butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well, scraping the sides down. Beat in the vanilla extract as well till mixed well.
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, allspice and the powdered almonds. Now add this mixture in two lots, alternating with the milk also in two lots, beating enough to combine everything together.
Scrape the batter into the buttered baking tin and lightly smooth the top. Arrange all the plum wedges randomly on the top (do not press them down) and then evenly sprinkle the 2 tbsp granulated sugar over this.
Bake at 180C (350F) for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the top starts turning golden at the edges and a skewer pushed through the centre comes out clean or with moist crumbs. Let the Buckle cool in the pan for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then unmould carefully and cool on a rack. Cut into 10 rectangular pieces and serve.
This recipe serves 8 to 10.
The monchrome image of plums is my submission to Susan's and Cinzia's Black & White Wednesdays edition #93 that's being hosted by Satsuki at Stregatto Cuciniero.
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July 18, 2013

The Inspired Photographer - 20 Ways To Seek Inspiration & Ignite Creativity by Nicole S. Young : A Review

’m sure most of you know Nicole Young through her blog, Nicolesy and especially her book on food photography, Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots. She has written other books on photography and I have her books, one on food photography as well as the guide to the Canon 60D which is the camera I use. I have found them to be excellent reads, easy to understand and follow and quite useful.
If you’re new to Nicole Young’s work you can view examples of her work at 500px. It’s easy to see that she loves what she does and that she knows it well. So when I got an opportunity to review her latest e-book The Inspired Photographer - 20 Ways To Seek Inspiration & Ignite Creativity, I was quite happy to do it.

Now some of you might wonder why I’m reviewing a photography book that’s not about food per se, on a blog that’s dedicated to food and food photography. That’s because I don’t really see food photography as a very separate thing from photography as a whole.
Food photography is just a specialised area of photography to which most stuff relating to photography in general applies.

Most of us, at one time or the other, go through periods when inspiration and creativity desert us, a sort of a writer’s block equivalent in photography. As Nicole says in her book, “Inspiration - It’s the driving force that spurs people to do great things, create beautiful works of art, build miraculous architectural wonders, and strive to victory and success. The thing is, you can’t just pull inspiration out of thin air whenever you want to, but you can search for it.”

Inspiration can come from anywhere but how exactly does one go about this and where? That is exactly what Nicole’s new 145 page e-book deals with.
There is no “one-size-fits-it-all” answer to finding inspiration nor will it happen overnight, but there are ways of getting the process started. As the title of the book suggests, Nicole shares 20 different ways to go about finding the inspiration that gets your creativity back in your photography.

I can vouch for quite a bit of what she has suggested, as they are what I often do to find inspiration afresh when I get stuck in a photography rut, or feel my photography is getting very mechanical and am dissatisfied with what I’m doing. I'm also going to try her other suggestions the next time the dreaded "block" strikes!

Each one of the 20 chapters deals with one idea to seek out inspiration, and the book also features many of her beautiful photographs as examples. Some of her suggestions include “Limit Yourself (to your camera and one lens only, or pick a particular theme or technique to try out)”, “Create A Personal Project” and “Try Something New (photograph something that you normally would not)”. She even says “Forget Photography”, but I’ll not spoil the fun and let you discover that for yourself when you get her book.

The nice thing about this book is that apart from the suggestions on how to find inspiration once again, Nicole also shares details of hows, and wheres of each one, making them very doable. She also provides links to resources that are helpful in this search.

About the Author:
Nicole S. Young is a professional photographer who specializes in food photography, but also enjoys traveling and photographing both landscapes and people.
Many of her images are licensed through iStockphoto and Getty Images.
She is also an accredited Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) in Photoshop and a Help Desk Specialist with the National Association of Photoshop Professionals.
Nicole Young's latest e-book is available for purchase on her blog and at Flatbooks.

Please note : All images in this post are courtesy Nicole Young from her book - The Inspired Photographer.

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