August 28, 2013

Masala Biscuits (Spicy Savoury Indian Cookies): Daring Bakers Challenge August 2013 (A Cake & Two Cookies Part 3)

T
his August I’ve had the pleasure of hosting my second Daring Bakers challenge. Since we madeTiramisu from scratch the first time I hosted the challenge, this time I wanted to present some uniquely Indian recipes for my fellow Daring Bakers to try out. I decided to put up three different recipes. The first two were a Mawa Cake which is a speciality of the Irani community in India and the second one was Portuguese influenced Goan biscuits/ cookies called Bolinhas de Coco.
For the third recipe, I chose something that’s savoury, a little spicy and full of Indian flavours and spices – Masala Biscuits/ Cookies. As I have mentioned before, having been a former British colony, we in India call biscuits what the Americans would say are cookies.



 
The word “Masala” means “spice mix” and Masala Biscuits/ cookies are a savoury and spicy Indian tea/ coffee-time snack that are quite popular in some of the Southern Indian states. I remember seeing these stacked in huge glass jars at the small local bakeries in my childhood, and they seem to be less common these days.

The Masala Biscuits/ Cookies of my childhood also had quite a bit of “heat” from the chilli peppers that went into them, making them more of an adult treat. In fact, I remember my father, who had a love for very spicy food, bringing this home often, from the local bakery. Those biscuits/ cookies would be full of chopped green chillies, seeds and all, and to mind seemed more of chilli than biscuit/ cookie.
Much as I enjoy savoury, crunchy and spicy biscuits/ cookies, my memories of those Masala Biscuits/ Cookies seem to be tied up with watering eyes and a mouth on fire! Many Indians like a lot of “fire” in their food and I’m not one of them, though I do like a bit of spice. I can promise my recipe is definitely on the milder side, but feel free to make adjustments or reduce the “spicier” spices on the ingredient list to suit your taste.



 
The recipe below is something I have come up with while trying to capture the flavours in my memory. These are thinner in size and not as “hot” as the originals, but please feel free to tweak the flavours to suit your taste. These Biscuits/ Cookies should be crisp/ crunchy on the outside and flaky on the inside.
Indian Masala Biscuits
 

Ingredients: 

1 3/4 all-purpose flour
2 tbsp fine white or brown rice flour (optional)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (or according to your taste)
115gm chilled butter, cut into small pieces
3 green chillies, deseeded and chopped
3/4" piece of ginger, finely grated
1 1/2 tsp whole peppercorn, crushed coarsely
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and crushed coarsely
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped curry leaves
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander/ cilantro
3 to 4 tbsp cold yogurt
1 1/2 tbsp black sesame seeds (or white sesame seeds)
A little oil to brush the tops of the biscuits/ cookies
 

Method:  

You can do this by hand also, but I prefer to use my food processor. The advantage with using the processor is that the warmth of one’s palms/ fingers doesn’t warm up the dough and melt the butter.
 
          
Put both flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda into the bowl and add the pieces of chilled butter. Pulse until the mixture takes on the texture of breadcrumbs. 

Now add the chopped green chillies, finely grated ginger, crushed peppercorn and cumin, sugar, the chopped curry leaves and coriander leaves. Pulse a couple of times to mix well.
 Then add 2 tablespoons of yogurt and pulse again. Add one more tbsp of yogurt (or two, as much as needed), and pulse again until the dough just comes together and clumps together. You want a moist dough, not a wet one – somewhat like pie dough.
Do not over process or knead. The dough should be just moist enough for you to use your hands and bring everything together to shape into a ball. Flatten it into a disc and cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least hour. You can also leave it overnight (up to about 24 hours) and work on it the next day.
 
Pre-heat your oven to 180C (350F) and line your baking trays with parchment or grease them with oil. Lightly dust your working surface and roll out the dough to 1/8”(3 mm) thickness, not more or your biscuits/ cookies will not be crisp. Sprinkle the sesame seeds uniformly over the dough and use your rolling pin, very lightly, to press them in. 
Using cutters of your choice (about 2-1/4 inch (55 mm) to 2½ inch (65 mm) in size), cut out biscuits/ cookies and place them on lightly greased baking trays. Brush a very thin coat of oil over them. This will help them brown while baking.
Bake them in a preheated moderate oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or till they’re done and golden brown on the top. Remember the baking time will depend on the thickness and shape of your biscuits/ cookies. Let them cool on the trays for about 5 minutes and then cool them on racks. Once they’re completely cool, they should be a bit crunchy and not chewy.
Store them in airtight containers. They should keep for about 4 to 5 days at room temperature in a cool place.

Note:

The measurements given for the spices in the recipes are a guideline and not absolute. These result in a mildly spicy biscuit/ cookie, but feel free to adjust quantities to suit your taste.
The baking time would depend on the how thin you roll out your dough and the size of your cookies.

The other recipes that are a part of this Daring Bakers challenge:

Read full post.....

August 27, 2013

Bolinhas de Coco (Goan Cardamom Flavoured Coconut Cookies) : Daring Bakers Challenge August, 2013 (A Cake & Two Cookies Part 2)

G
oa, being a former Portuguese colony, has been heavily influenced by the Portuguese way of life in various aspects of Goan life. This is most apparent in the cuisine of Goa, especially the Catholic cuisine. Whether it is in every day cooking, festive or celebratory fare or dessert you can see the Portuguese flavour in the dishes not just in their names but also the fusion of Portuguese origin dishes cooked with local flavour and spices. Yet these are uniquely Goan (and so Indian) in nature.



 
So when I was looking for recipes to present as a host of this month’s Daring Bakers challenge, other than the Mawa Cake and Masala Biscuits, I decided to pick a recipe from Goa as the Catholic cuisine here has a very wide variety of baked food.

My choice fell on the Bolinhas de Coco. Bolinhas are cardamom flavoured coconut and semolina biscuits (In India we call them biscuits and not cookies), and they contain no flour at all. They are a little crisp/ crunchy on the outside and soft and have a melt-in-the-mouth texture on the inside. The word “Bolinhas” comes from Portuguese and translates as “cakelets” but they are more of biscuits/ cookies than cakes. 

I chose this recipe for two reasons. While this is a biscuit/ cookie that is not particularly challenging to make, it uses ingredients that are not normally found in the average biscuit/ cookie. Also, baking Bolinhas de Coco involves a procedure for the dough which is very unusual and fdfferent from that of any biscuit/ cookie that I’ve ever seen.
Instead of flour that's ususally found in most biscuits/ cookies, these biscuits/ cookies are made entirely with semolina  (the coarse and gritty kind and not the flour)and fresh grated coconut. Also, the batter involves an overnight rest of at least 8 hours so that the semolina can soak up liquids and become really soft. Only then are the eggs added and the biscuits/ cookies shaped and baked.


 
Nowadays these biscuits/ cookies are rarely made at home because you can easily find them in small bakeries everywhere in Goa, and they're available all the year around. However, Bolinhas de Coco is a Christmas-time treat and a Goan Christmas sweet platter would be incomplete without them.
Bolinhas de Coco
 

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh grated coconut, packed
1 1/2 cups semolina (the coarse kind, not the flour)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
A pinch of salt
2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or melted unsalted butter
2 eggs
8 to 10 pods cardamom, powdered
 

Method: 

Run the grated coconut in your processor or the small jar of your blender a couple of times so that the flakes are smaller and uniform in texture. Do not grind into a paste. Keep aside.

 
Put the semolina in a pan and toast/ roast it, over low to medium heat, until it starts giving off an aroma, and looks like it’s about to start changing colour. This should take a couple of minutes. Do not brown. Transfer the semolina into a bowl and keep aside.                                              

In the same pan, pour the water and add the sugar to it. Place it on medium heat and keep stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Once the sugar has dissolved, keep stirring the solution and let it cook for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. The sugar solution should just begin to start forming a syrup but is still watery. Do not cook until it forms a thick syrup.
Add the toasted/ roasted semolina and mix well. Then add the coconut, salt and ghee (or melted butter) and mix well. Put the pan back on the stove, and over medium heat stir the coconut mixture until it is really hot and easily forms a thick clump. This should take about 2 to 3 minutes.


Take the pan off the heat and let the semolina coconut mixture cool to room temperature. Transfer this into a bowl or container, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, ideally overnight. For really fluffy biscuits/ cookies, the overnight rest is recommended. 
 
 
The next day, take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Separate the yolks from the egg whites. Lightly beat the yolks with a fork to break them and add to the dough. Also add the powdered cardamom and mix well with a wooden spoon or fork.  

 
Whisk the egg whites by hand until frothy and add to the dough. Mix well till incorporated. You will now have a slightly moist and sticky dough. Refrigerate this dough for about half an hour so it firms up a bit.

Pre-heat your oven to moderate 180 C(350F). Line your baking trays with parchment or grease them well with some ghee or melted butter.
Take the dough out and pinch off walnut sized bits of dough. The dough should be firm enough to handle without difficulty. If the dough is sticking to your palms, lightly dust your palms with flour before shaping the dough. Roll the bits of dough into balls and then flatten them very slightly.  
Decorate the top by marking criss-crosses (3 equidistant lines one way and another 3 crossing them at right angles), with a table knife. Press down a bit but not too deep or right through the biscuit/ cookie. Use up all the dough this way.
Place the shaped dough on the baking trays leaving a little space between them. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 20 to 25 minutes until they’re a golden brown and done. Let them cool on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then transfer to racks to cool completely.
Store the biscuits/ cookies in airtight containers. They should keep for about 4 to 5 days at room temperature in a cool place. This recipe makes about 4 dozen Bolinhas de Coco.
 

Notes:

Once the first part of the dough has been made it must be refrigerated for at least 8 hours. About 10 hours to overnight is even better, because this allows the semolina to absorb moisture and become soft. It also produces fluffier cookies.
If you can find fresh grated coconut, please use that as it gives you the best taste and texture. If you’re using frozen grated coconut let it come to room temperature before using it.
If using dehydrated shredded coconut or desiccated coconut, please look for the unsweetened kind.  Also rehydrate your coconut by adding about 1/2 cup warm water to 2 cups of dehydrated/ desiccated coconut and let it sit for about half an hour. After half an hour, drain off any excess water, if any and then use in the recipe. You should have moist coconut not wet coconut.


The other recipes that are a part of this Daring Bakers challenge:



 
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Mawa Cake – A Cardamom Flavoured Milk Cake (Version 2) : Daring Bakers Challenge August, 2013 (A Cake & Two Cookies Part 1)

A
ugust has been a special month in many ways. Apart from the fact that we celebrate my husband’s birthday and our anniversary in August, this was also the first time I participated in a photography competition and my photograph won me the third prize! I also hosted my second Daring Bakers Challenge this month.
The last time I hosted a Daring Baker Challenge, we all made a Tiramisu from scratch which meant making our own Savoiardi biscuits and Mascarpone cheese. This time it seemed only fair to introduce the Daring Bakers to some typically Indian bakes. So I chose to have them bake not one, but three recipes – the Mawa Cake, some Goan coconut cookies known as Bolinhas de Coco and savoury and spicy Indian Masala Biscuits/ Cookies.



 
It seems a bit silly to put in these “blog checking lines” when I’m hosting this challenge, but what needs to be done must be done! So here goes - Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen was our August 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to make some amazing regional Indian desserts.  The Mawa Cake, the Bolinhas de Coco cookies and the Masala cookies – beautifully spiced and delicious!

I shall be presenting each recipe as a separate post for ease of posting and for your reading as well. I’ll start with the post pon the Mawa Cake. But, first a little bit of Mawa Cake history.



 
Mawa Cakes are a specialty cake that is the hallmark of Irani cafés in India. The Iranis are Zoroastrians who left Persia/ Iran in the 19th and early 20th centuries to escape persecution of non-Muslims, and settled down and thrived here mostly in the cities of Mumbai, Hyderabad and Pune. They’re most famous in India for their friendly informal cafés/ restaurants that serve the most awesome food. The brun pav or maska pav(kinds of bread) with Irani chai (thick, strong, sweet and milky cardamom flavoured tea), their Shrewsbury biscuits and Mawa cakes are but a few of them.

Mawa (also known as Khoya/ Khoa) is made by slowly reducing milk (usually full-fat) until all that remain is a mass of slightly caramelized granular dough-like milk solids. Mawa is used in a wide variety of Indian sweets like Gulab Jamun and Peda, to mention just two.  Mawa is pronounced as Maa-vaa; Khoya is pronounced as KhOh-yaa.


 
In this cake, the Mawa lends a rich and a caramelized milky taste to this cake which is slightly dense and reminiscent of a pound cake. Cardamom and cashewnuts are typical of a Mawa Cake, though blanched almonds are also used instead of the cashewnuts . Mawa Cakes are usually baked as small loaves, round cakes and also as cupcakes. They’re served as they are, plain with tea or coffee.
The cake itself is not much of a challenge and very easy to make so what makes this challenge interesting is that the Daring Bakers had to start the cake from scratch, which was by making their own Mawa.  Mawa is not too difficult to make, it just requires some time, patience and a lot of stirring!
Mawa Cake – A Cardamom Flavoured Milk Cake
 

Ingredients:

For the Mawa:

1 litre full fat milk (6% fat)
 

For the cake:

115gm unsalted butter (soft at room temperature)
3/4 cup packed crumbled mawa
1-1/4 cups castor sugar
3 eggs
5 to 6 cardamom pods, powdered
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
Cashewnuts (or blanched almonds) to decorate (about 18 to 20)
 

Method:

First make the “Mawa”. Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan, preferably a non-stick one. Bring the milk to a boil, stirring it on and off, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.  
Turn down the heat to medium and keep cooking the milk until reduces to about a quarter of its original volume. This should take about an hour to an hour and a half. 
 
 
The important thing during this process is to watch the milk and stir it frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick to the sides or bottom of the pan and get burnt. The danger of this happening increases as the milk reduces and gets thicker.
Once the milk it has reduced to about one fourth, 1/4 quantity, lower the heat to low and let cook for a little while longer. Keep stirring regularly, until the milk solids (mawa) take on a lumpy appearance.  There should be no visible liquid left in the pan, but the mawa should be moist and not stick to the sides of the pan.
 
 
 Remove the pan from heat and transfer the mawa to a bowl and let it cool completely. Then cover and refrigerate it for a day or two (not more) till you’re ready to make the cake. It will harden in the fridge so let it come to room temperature before using it.
You should get about 3/4 to 1 cup of mawa from 1 litre of full-fat milk. 
 
 
Now start preparations for the cake by pre-heating your oven to moderate 180C (350F). Beat the butter, the crumbled mawa and the sugar in a largish bowl, using a hand held electric beater, on high speed until soft and fluffy.                                             
Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat on medium speed till well incorporated. Add the milk and beat till mixed well.

Sift the cake flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt onto the batter and beat at medium speed and well blended. If you cannot find cake flour, place 2 tablespoon of cornstarch in the bottom of your 1-cup measure and then fill it with all-purpose (plain) flour to make up to 1 cup. 
 
 
Grease and line only the bottom of an 8 inch (20 cm) spring form pan. Pour the batter into this and lightly smooth the top. Place the cashew nuts (or blanched almonds) on top of the batter randomly. Do not press the nuts down into the batter. A Mawa Cake always has a rustic finished look rather than a decorated look. 

Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 1 hour until the cake is a golden brown and a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. Do not over bake the cake or it will dry out. If the cake seems to be browning too quickly, cover it will aluminium foil hallway through the baking time.
Remove from oven and allow it to cool for 10 min in the tin. Release the cake, peel off the parchment from the base and let it cool completely.
This recipe serves 8 to 10.

Notes:

You can make the “Mawa” a day or two ahead of making the cake and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. When you take it out, it will look dry and a little lumpy because of the fat in the milk solids, which is normal. Just let it come to room temperature before you use it to make the cake.
You may use blanched almonds instead of cashew nuts for the Mawa Cake. You may also substitute nutmeg for cardamom if using almonds, though almonds pair up wonderfully with cardamom in this cake.
If you have never powdered cardamom, then crush the seeds after discarding the pods. The pods do not need to be roasted before using the cardamom.
In India, the Mawa Cake is usually served as it is, without any other accompaniment, with coffee or tea.


The other recipes that are a part of this Daring Bakers challenge:

Read full post.....

August 24, 2013

We Knead To Bake #8: Crunchy Hard Pretzels With Spicy Garlic & Herb Cheese Sauce & Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce

I
’m always looking for interesting or unusual breads to bake, and this time the We Knead To Bake group is baking Pretzels. Having baked Soft Pretzels/ Laugenbrezhen before, I chose to try my hand the crisper and crunchier version of Pretzels. We all had the option of choosing to bake either soft ones or the crunchier ones, and most of the bread bakers in the group chose to bake Laughenbrezel, the softer ones.
What’s really interesting about the Pretzel, whether hard or soft, is that it gets cooked twice. First the Pretzel dough is shaped and boiled in a soda bath and then baked in the oven till it turns a beautiful brown. 


 
Traditionally, Pretzels were boiled in a lye bath (sodium hydroxide and water) which is what causes the browning and the distinctive taste, but working with lye is dangerous and requires safety precautions like wearing goggles and rubber gloves to prevent contact with the solution!
That’s a scary thought and a soda bath (2 tablespoon baking soda for 6 cups of water) is less dangerous, easier to work with and produces much the same result. An added bonus is that after the Pretzels have been boiled, the hot solution is a good drain cleaner if poured down your kitchen sink!



 

Pretzels are usually topped with flaked or coarse salt, but sesame seeds and poppy seeds are also used. The ideal German Pretzel has a dark brown, crispy, salty crust, and a soft bready interior. The top of the Pretzel (where the “arms” cross/ twist) is thinner while the bottom is usually plump.
Hard pretzels are not German but an American creation. The Laugenbrezel is supposedly Bavarian in origin and thought to have been created by accident.
Apparently, one morning sometime in the early 1800s, one Anton Pfanenbrenner who was a baker at the Munich Royal Café, was making sweet Pretzels. Instead of using a sugar solution to brush the dough, he accidentally brushed them with a sodium hydroxide solution used to clean and disinfect the bakery countertops! He decided to bake the pretzels anyway.
The Pretzels came out of the oven with a lovely brown crust and delighted his customers. I hate to think what would have happened if ended up poisoning his customers and killing them instead! One does not expect kitchen cleaners and disinfectants to be edible….



 

As for the reason why Pretzels are shaped the way they are, there are a few theories. Some say the shape comes from the Roman ring-bread which was a small, circular-shaped bread, while others believe that Pretzels were shaped to resemble a praying monk (back then the praying position was arms crossed with the hands on the shoulders).
All across Germany, Pretzels vary slightly in shape. In Bavaria, the arms of the Pretzel are shorter and attached closer to the top (thin part) of the pretzel and in Schwaben, the arms of the Pretzel sit very low on the body.

There are different types of German Pretzels like the Wiesnzeit/Oktoberfest Pretzel (made for the Munich Oktoberfest - larger, not so brown and more like bread), Neujahrsbrezel/ New Year Pretzels made in Baden and Schwaben (with milk dough or sweet yeasted dough and no boiling in lye bath), Nussbrezel/ Nut-Pretzel (sweet and made from flaky puff pastry), and the Fastenbrezeln/ Lent Pretzel (made during Lent, light coloured and boiled in water only before baking).



 

There are also other breads made in Germany using the same dough as Pretzel dough and the lye/ soda bath technique and these breads are collectively referred to as Laugengebäck. Some of these include Laugenstangen (Pretzel Bread Sticks), Laugenbrötchen (Pretzel Rolls), and the Käse-Brezel (Cheese Pretzel).   
This recipe is for hard/ crunchy pretzels and the dough can be shaped to make Pretzel Bites, Sticks or the regular shaped Pretzels. The pretzels will be rather crunchy on the outside with a slightly bready middle. The important thing here is to make sure the dough is rolled out quite thin if you want them really crunchy. Serve them with dipping sauces for an enjoyable snack.
If you should like the idea of the shape of the Pretzel but don't want the bother of dunking your dough in soda baths you could always try making this Cheese & Onion Pretzel Bread. Of course, you wouldn't find the distinctive taste of the Pretzel in this one, but its a pretty good bread!
Pretzels are not too difficult to make and it’s probably the shaping that will take your time, unless you are already quite good at it. These videos on shaping Pretzels and making them are quite self-explanatory and will be a great help if this is your first attempt at making them. You will find that my Pretzels look rather plain and a bit dull. That’s because I didn’t have coarse salt to sprinkle on them, and I didn’t use an egg wash on my Pretzels.
Crunchy/ Hard Pretzels
(Adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe)
 

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups warm water (about 40C or 110F)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tsp active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (a little more if necessary)
2 tsp salt*
6 cups water
2 tbsp baking soda
Egg wash (1 yolk + 2 tbsp water whisked together) - optional
Pretzel salt or coarse salt crystals 

*You might want to cut down on the salt a bit if you’re going to sprinkle salt on the pretzels while baking.


Method:

You can knead by hand but it is easier with a machine. As always, I used the food processor. Put the warm ware, sugar and yeast in a bowl and mix. Keep aside for about 5 minutes or so until the yeast activates and becomes “frothy”.
Put this, the flour and the salt in the processor bowl and knead until you have a soft, smooth and elastic dough that is slightly sticky to touch, but pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If your dough feels too wet add a couple of tablespoons of flour to get the required consistency.
Shape the dough into a ball and pace it in an oiled bowl, turning it to coat it well. Cover and let it double in volume. This should take about an hour or so.
Deflate the dough, so that almost all the air is removed. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough out into a 12” by 12” square. Then using a pizza cutter divide the square into 36 smaller equal sized squares by cutting into six 2” wide strips both vertically and horizontally. The purpose of this exercise is to get 36 equal sized bits of dough!
Now lightly oil your palms and your work surface. If you add too much of oil you will not be able to roll out the dough into “ropes”. Flatten each square of dough and then roll it up as tightly as you can. Now place the “rolled” bit of dough on your work surface and using your hands, roll it out into a uniform “rope” of about 15” length. It will be thinner than a pencil.

 
You can leave them as “sticks” instead of shaping them into pretzels. If you want them shorter, you can halve them. Remember baking time will differ depending on the shape of your pretzels. The baking temperature is the same whether you shape them into sticks or pretzels.
If you would prefer to make pretzel bites then do not roll the dough out into a square. Just divide it into 4 portions and then roll each portion into a “rope that is about 1” in diameter. Cut each rope into 1 1/2" bits. Roll each ball into a long rope about 1” in diameter. Cut each rope into 1 1/2" bits.  Then proceed to boil them as given in the instructions below. Bake the pretzel bites at 210C (425F) for about 15 minutes.

 
Shape it into a pretzel and place it on a greased plate or sheet. Working as quickly as you can, repeat with as many pieces of dough that you can bake as one batch while keeping the other bits of dough covered with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out. It is better to work in batches to get better results. Place the shaped dough on the greased plate/ sheet leaving about 1/2" space between them.
First prepare your baking sheets. It is a good idea to line them with parchment paper which is lightly brushed with oil. This makes them easy to remove after baking and also protects your baking sheets from the soda solution.
Now prepare the soda bath. Bring 6 cups of water to boil in a deep pan/ pot. Add the baking soda carefully. It will bubble up and froth a bit and then settle down. Using a slotted spoon or a spatula, gently slide about 5 to 6 pretzels, one at a time, into the bath. Let them cook on one side for 10 seconds. Flip them over and cook them for another 10 seconds. Do not cook them for more than 30 seconds in total, or your dough will become slimy.

 
Remove the boiled pretzels with a slotted spoon and place them on the parchment lined baking sheets. If using the egg wash, brush it over the pretzels, and then sprinkle it with the salt.
Bake them at 180C (335F) for 40 to 50 minutes until they’re deep golden brown in colour and hard. Cool them on a rack and store them in airtight containers or they will become soft and chewy.
This recipe makes 36 hard pretzels.
 

Spicy Garlic & Herb Cheese Sauce
 

 

Ingredients:

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp finely grated garlic or paste
1 jtsp red chilli flakes
1/3 cup grated Cheddar cheese
1 tsp mixed dried herbs of your choice (I used oregano and basil)
 

Method:

Melt the butter over low heat, in a small sauce pan. Add the flour and whisk to combine and cook for about a minute. Add the milk, while whisking, till you have a smooth sauce with no lumps. Now add the grated cheese and whisk till its melted and completely incorporated into the sauce.
Add the garlic, chilli flakes and herbs. Season the sauce with a little salt if you need it. Let it cool. Stir occasionally to keep it smooth. Serve with the Pretzels.
 

Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce


 

Ingredients:

 1/4 cup American yellow mustard
1/4 cup honey
 

Method:

Put both the mustard and the honey in a small bowl and whisk together till smooth. Serve with the Pretzels. 

 
These Hard/ Crunchy Pretzels are being YeastSpotted too!

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August 21, 2013

My Kind Of Chocolate Chip/ Chunk Cookies(Whole Wheat)!

I
make chocolate chip or chocolate chunk cookies on and off for my daughter who likes them. They make great after school snacks and even excellent stuff for her to carry to school for her mid-morning break. I always pack quite a few for these because she likes sharing them with her friends. I have tried different recipes for them, and some have been better than others. Yet, I haven’t blogged a single chocolate chip cookie here so far. I don’t know why, and it certainly isn’t because I’ve never made really good chocolate chip cookies. I have!
Then I discovered these chocolate chip cookies and didn’t have any great expectations from them because they are made with whole wheat flour. If you’ve baked stuff with whole wheat flour, especially cakes and breads, you know that you don’t always get the texture that all-purpose flour produces. Sure you can be open minded and say that whole wheat bakes are pretty good but you will find that a lot of people will not agree with you, and will even give the “healthier” bakes a wide berth!
 


But these Wholewheat Chocolate Chip Cookies turned out so good that I knew I was definitely sharing them with you. No one even asked what was in the cookies, because I suspect they didn’t even realise it wasn’t good old white flour in them!
So why would someone resort to baking chocolate chip cookies with whole wheat flour?  I won’t tell you that it’s because whole wheat flour is a healthier option. I’ll be honest and upfront and confess that it was because I ran out of all-purpose flour!
Whole wheat flour can be a healthier option than plain white flour in various other recipes but it would be stretching things beyond belief to claim that here given that these cookies contain quite a bit of butter and sugar (both of which I cut down a bit in my version). Add the chocolate chips to the mix and “healthy” flies out of your window!  But the whole wheat flour gives these cookies a very nice flavour that’s not there in the regular kind.



 
I’m not much of a cookie eater and rarely eat the sweet ones. Savoury ones are more my thing. Most of the sweet cookies that I bake are for my daughter and her friends, our family, friends and neighbours. I would reach out for the occasional chocolate chip cookie and that too because they have chocolate in them. So when I tell you that these cookies are good, maybe you should take me seriously. Apparently there was a time not too long ago, when these cookies were all the rage on food blogs but I never saw them then. It was only when I needed to bake some cookies and had run out of regular flour that I went looking for a whole wheat chocolate cookie recipe.  
The whole wheat flour gives it a nice taste and colour and if you like thick chewy chocolate chip cookies that hint at crispness around the edge, then these are for you. I would suggest using chopped chocolate chunks if you like largish chocolate bits in your bite of cookie. No one would even realise these are whole wheat cookies and you can watch the surprise on peoples’ faces when you reveal the “truth” after they’ve eaten them.

 

 
I’ll just mention a couple of things before I get to the recipe. The original recipe suggests using cold butter chunks but I let my butter become a little at room temperature (soft enough that when I pushed my finger into the still cold butter, it gave a bit). I just wanted to be a bit gentle and caring on the beaters of my hand held mixer.  I did however chill the shaped cookie dough for a couple of hours before baking them, so that made up for it.
Chilling cookie dough gives them a better flavour and also produces thicker and chewy cookies. You can even freeze the shaped dough and bring out as many as you want to bake so you always can bake these cookies on demand!
I halved the original recipe and dec ided to substitute a little of the whole wheat flour with some cornstarch (1/8cup) for a better texture. An easy way to do this is by putting 1/8 cup cornstarch in your 1 1/2 cup measure and then making up the 1 1/2 cups by adding whole wheat flour. If you want make these egg-free, leave out the egg and add 1 1/2 tbsp water if the dough feels dry.  Ideally, these cookies are best made with milled whole wheat flour, but I have made them successfully with atta/ whole wheat chapathi flour (Aashirvaad brand) as well.
Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups minus 1/8 cup whole wheat flour
1/8 cup corn starch
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
100 gm salted butter slightly soft at room temperature
1/3 cup golden brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate chunks or a mix of white and dark chocolate chips/ chunks)
 
 Method:
Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, and whisk to blend.
In a larger bowl put the soft butter and sugars and beat with a hand held electric mixer for about 2 to 3 minutes, on low speed. Scrape down the sides, and add the egg. Beat well and then add the vanilla and beat it in.
Add the whisked flour to this and beat on low speed until it is just incorporated. Do not beat longer than necessary for this. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and add the chocolate chips or chunks. Beat on the lowest speed possible until the chips/ chunks are slightly mixed in.
Now use your hands to to turn and lightly knead/ massage the dough making sure all the flour has been incorporated. Pinch off bits of dough about the size of a large walnut, roll them into balls and flatten slightly. Place them parchment lined or lightly greased baking sheets, about 2 1/2” apart. Refrigerate them for about 2 hours.
Take the cookie sheets out of the fridge and leave them on your counter for about 5 minutes (not longer or they will spread out when baking).
Bake them at 180C (350F) for about 15 to 20 minutes or until they’re starting to turn golden brown at the edges.  The cookies might seem a bit soft to touch but they should be set. They will harden a little once they cool.
Cool the cookies on racks and store them in an airtight container. This recipe makes about 2 dozen 2” diameter cookies.
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August 14, 2013

Tri-Coloured Flag Cookies for Independence Day!

I
t has been 66 years since India gained Independence from British rule and it has been a long journey for her, but one that’s from over.  Our history lessons in school have taught us much about the struggle and sacrifices of great men and women, some well documented but most never known, that led us to freedom – a freedom that we take for granted and enjoy today without much thought to how it came about. Like Dick Cheney said, “It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you.”
While we may not fully appreciate the freedom we do have, not having known a situation when it wasn’t so, it is important that we do not forget that things could have perhaps been different and not so good. We only have to look in other parts of the world to realise just how lucky we are. One way of ensuring that we continue to keep this freedom for future generations comes with our own thoughts and decisions however small. To quote Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, and the spirit of men... “



 
A great way to remember or commemorate any occasion is to celebrate it, and if you were like me and blogged food, then food has to be a part of the celebration. And if there was food featuring the three colours of the Indian flag (tiranga meaning three coloured) would be the ideal way to go. My previous tri-coloured celebratory fare has included Tri-Coloured Cookie Bars and Tri-Coloured SpicedRice (Tiranga Chawal).

This year I decided to make Tri-Coloured Flag Cookies to celebrate Independence Day. There’s nothing particularly fancy about these cookies and you will find them everywhere in some form or the other. They’re just your average butter cookies of the ice-box/ refrigerator variety though most people will agree with me that there is nothing average about a good butter cookie!
In case you are new to ice-box or refrigerator cookies, they’re butter-rich cookies where the dough is shaped (typically into a log) and refrigerated long enough for it to harden. This makes it easy to slice the cold dough and then bake it. The cold dough also prevents the cookie dough from spreading as it bakes. 



 
The nice thing about shaping and refrigerating dough is that cookies can be made as a two-step process. This means that you can make the dough ahead of time, and baking the cookies  takes very little time or effort. This makes them great when you have to bake in large quantities especially for occasions or festivities.

Since the dough is refrigerated, it also means you can slice off as many as you want and bake them on demand. There is also less work in terms of making the cookies (no rolling out, cutting shapes, rolling again, etc) and there are never any scraps so it’s not a messy affair either. It’s a win-win situation whichever way you look at it!
 


Ice-box or refrigerator cookies are usually a little crisp with a bit of a chewy centre though this depends entirely on how thin (or thick) you slice your dough. The dough can be refrigerated for 3 days after shaping into a log or be frozen for about a month and be baked straight away.

Here, I mixed up my butter cookie dough and divided it into 3 portions. One was left as it was, and the other portions were coloured orange and green for the colours of the Indian flag. I rolled out thick “ropes” of each colour, shaped them into rectangular logs and then stacked them on each other with frequent resting periods for the dough in the fridge. The rains are starting to become irregular out here which means my days are getting warmer hence the cold rests for the dough.



 
An overnight rest in the fridge made the dough really easy to slice it thin and about 12 minutes per batch in the oven and I had my tri-coloured cookies! I used some blue coloured Royal Icing to pipe the “Ashoka Chakra” in the middle of each cookie for a more realistic look and my edible “flags were ready. The recipe for the Royal Icing follows but if you prefer an egg-free icing then you can find it here.
Tri-Coloured Flag Cookies
 

Ingredients:

200 gm butter, soft at room temperature
 1 1/4 cups sugar
 2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
About 8 pods cardamom (2tsp powdered cardamom)
A few drops orange food colouring
A few drops green food colouring
Royal icing coloured blue (see recipe below)
 

Method:

In a large bowl, put the butter and the sugar and beat, using a hand held mixer, until it is soft and fluffy (should take about 3 to 4 minutes). Beat in the eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla extract.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add it to the bigger bowl. Beat on slow speed until the flour has just mixed in. If the dough seems a little soft and sticky, refrigerate it for about half an hour so that it becomes easier to handle.
Divide the dough into three equal portions. Leave one portion plain. Add enough orange food colour to the second portion and green food colour to the third portion to get the shade you want. Knead the colour in so there are no streaks and the colour is uniform. If you’re using liquid colour you might need to add about a tbsp. of flour to each portion (not more) while kneading. Shape each portion into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for about an hour till firm again.
 
 
Now take each portion and roll it out, using your palms, into a thick log that is about 1 1/2" in diameter. All the three logs should be more or less of the same length. If they’re not, you can trim the lengths to make them equal later. Refrigerate again, if necessary.
Now, using a rolling pin, gently flatten each log lengthwise until it is about 2” to 2 1/2" in width and about 1” to 1 1/4" in height. 
Stack the uncoloured portion on the green coloured dough and the orange coloured dough over this. Gently press/ roll along the length of the stack so that the three layers stick together without flattening it out any more. If you don’t the layers will separate out when the cookies bake. Also make sure your layers are even and the same thickness or your finished cookie will have uneven layers!
You can cut the stack into two halves (along the length) to make it easy to store in the fridge. Wrap the cookie dough stacks in cling film and refrigerate for at least 6 to 8 hours or upto 3 days. You can also freeze them if want to store it for longer. If you freeze them, you can let them “thaw” in the fridge overnight before slicing them.
 
 
When you’re ready to bake the cookies, take the stacks out and slice them with a sharp knife into 1/4" slices. Place the slices on ungreased cookie sheets or sheets lined with parchment. Leave about 2” between cookies as they will spread out during baking. Return the cookie sheets to the fridge for half an hour. This will ensure that they do not spread too much.

Bake them at 180C (350F) for 10 to 12 minutes till they’re pale golden. Do not let them brown. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for about 5 minutes, then carefully lift them off and cool completely on racks.
Once they are cool, pipe a small wheel with spokes in the centre using blue coloured Royal Icing. Let the icing dry completely, then stack the cookies in an airtight tin.
This recipe makes 4 dozen Flag Cookies
 

Royal Icing
 

Ingredients:

 1 egg white
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or lemon juice)
1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted ( a little more, if necessary)
A few drops blue food colour
 

Method:

Put the egg white in a clean bowl and beat with a hand held mixer till it is quite frothy. Add the vanilla extract (or lemon juice) and add about 1 cup of the icing sugar and beat on low speed until well mixed and shiny.
 Add the remaining icing sugar and beat on high speed (about 5 minutes) until the icing forms stiff and glossy peaks. Add the colour and beat till well mixed. If using immediately, transfer this to a piping bag. Otherwise transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. It should keep for about 3 days.
This amount of icing is a lot more than is required for this cookie. So you can store about 2/3rd of it in the fridge before adding the colour, for some other use. Add colour only to about 1/3rd of the icing. 

Let me leave you all with best wishes for yet another happy and peaceful Independence Day and these words from Rabindranath Tagore.

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by domestic walls;
 Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.”
 
 
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