November 30, 2013

Onion & Rosemary Fougasse

ougasse is a flat bread from the region of Provence in Southern France but one can find regional variations across the country. Fougasse can be either sweet or savoury and is somewhat similar to the Italian Focaccia. Traditionally the sweet version of the leaf-shaped breads was one of the 13 desserts served on a Provençal Christmas Eve, meant to represent Jesus and the twelve apostles.
Fougasse is often shaped to resemble a tree, leaf or wheat stalk. Sometimes, you will find Fougasse shaped into a rectangle with decorative slashes resembling a ladder which is why it is also called ladder bread. The slashes cut into the Fougasse though decorative also ensure that the bread cooks faster.
This design of the bread also makes it easier to break it or pull it apart by hand while eating. Once shaped, the bread is usually brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs before baking it. Occasionally, Fougasse is folded over filling to make a filled bread.

Many people consider the Fougasse to be France’s answer to the Italian Focaccia but the breads are quite different. Fougasse contains much more olive oil in the dough and more is brushed on it before its baked. Apart from the difference in shape, Fougasse is thinner than Focaccia and also has crisp crust and a softer interior unlike Focaccia.  Also Focaccia is often made in a rectangular pan and cut into neat squares, while Fougasse is rolled and shaped and brought to the table whole, so that it can be admired before everyone tears off a piece. Apparently, the Fougasse originated from bits of dough that were baked to check the temperature of ovens. Depending on how soon it baked, the rest of the bread could be loaded.  

On the flip side, because they bake up so quickly, they also tend to dry out and become very hard, which is why it is generally advised to eat Fougasse the same day it’s made.

I like most bread, but I fell in love with the shape of this bread when I first saw it on the cover of Richard Bertinet’s book on baking bread called “Dough”! I went searching for a recipe and found one for an Onion Fougasse in my collection of recipes from old magazines. Those were the days when I hadn’t quite understood the intricacies of baking bread and was just beginning to master baking the most basic breads. I have to confess that the bread I made wasn’t the best looking one.

I later reworked that recipe and turned out a more decent Fougasse with my now better bread shaping and baking skills. This particular recipe makes use of a starter to make the dough which enhances the flavour of the bread.

While looking into baking temperatures for Fougasse, I came across some recipes that suggested baking at 180C (350F) for 30 minutes and others that suggested using the hottest setting your oven has and then bake the Fougasse for about 15 minutes. It makes sense to me to bake these in a really hot oven as the bread is thin, and since we’re looking for a texture where the crust is crisp/ hard with a soft interior.

Fougasse are usually baked as larger flatbreads though they can made as smaller ones too. I chose to bake my Fougasse as 4 smaller breads as they allowed me to experiment with the shapes. These are great breads to serve especially to guests or on special occasions as they’re simple to make and look beautiful too. Fougasse make a good accompaniment to warm or cold soups, salads and stews. They’re also great eaten just as they are, warm from the oven.
You can achieve the distinctive slashes by cutting with a very sharp knife or blade and then stretching the dough so that the slashes open up and bake into very attractive patterns. Please see these videos which explain this process better.
Onion & Rosemary Fougasse


For starter:

1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup all-purpose flour 

For dough:

1 big onion (or 2 small ones), sliced thinly
1/2 to 1 tsp red chilli flakes
A couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary
1/4 cup olive oil (preferably mild and extra virgin)
All the starter
2/3 cup water
2 3/4 to 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (and a little more for kneading)
1 1/4 tsp salt 

For the Topping:

2 tbsp olive oil
 1/2 tsp garlic paste (or finely grated garlic), or more if you prefer
A little fresh rosemary for sprinkling on dough


First make the starter. Stir together sugar and warm water in a large bowl or the bowl of your processor/ mixer. Sprinkle yeast over mixture and let stand for about 5 minutes until it bubbles up into a foam. Add the flour and whisk till combined. Cover loosely and let the starter rise for about 45 minutes to an hour.
In the meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a pan and add the sliced onions. Sauté till they caramelize or turn soft and light brown. Do not burn. Take it off the heat and add the chilli flakes and the rosemary (removed from the stem, not whole sprig), mix a couple of times and let it cool to room temperature.

Now make the dough. To the bowl with the starter, add 2 1/2 cups of flour, salt and the water. Knead well, adding as much more of the flour you need until you have a soft dough. Half way through the kneading add the caramelized onion mixture. Once the kneading is done, you should have a soft, smotth and elastic dough that is a little sticky to the fingers when touched.
Lightly oil your hands and form the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled large bowl, turning dough to coat with oil. Cover bowl and let dough till double in volume. This should take about 1 1/2 hours.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and deflate the dough but don’t knead it. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions (or 2 if you prefer). Lightly roll out each portion to 1/4" thickness and into the shape you want (roughly about 6” long for each if four portions, and 12” long if for 2 portions of dough).
Place the rolled out dough on lightly greased baking sheets. Using a blade, a very sharp knife or a pastry scraper, make a cuts in the rolled out dough according to whatever shape you desire, cutting all the way through the dough and leaving a 1-inch border on each end of cut (do not connect cuts).

Gently pull apart the cuts about 1 1/2” by pulling from the edges to open them out. Open out the cuts with your fingers, if necessary. If they’re not open wide enough the cuts will close up when the dough rises and bakes. Let the dough rises, uncovered, until slightly “puffy” for about 30 minutes.
Brush the dough generously with the garlic flavoured oil, and sprinkle the rosemary over it. Bake the Fougasse at 240C (450F) for about 20 minutes or so, till they’re a deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Transfer the Fougasse to a rack and cool to warm or room temperature. These are best eaten the day they’re made.
This recipe makes 2 Fougasse (about 12” long) or 4 Fougasse (about 6” long).
 This is being YeastSpotted!
P.S. This is a re-worked version of apost on Fougasse which I had done a few years back in 2008. Since this is a better recipe and the one I have been using for a while now, I have deleted the original post.
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November 24, 2013

We Knead To Bake #11 : Kanel Snegle/ Kanelbullar (Swedish Cinnamon Snails/ Rolls)

lot of last month and this one too, have been quite busy and I did end up picking comparatively easier bread this month for the “We Knead To Bake” group to bake. It’s a bread I had marked as one I definitely wanted to make, and easy they might be, but they are very, very good as you will find endorsed by all those who did bake them.
I have made Cinnamon Rolls flavoured with cardamom before, but these rolls are a little different because they involve the use of a refrigerated starter and so take a little longer to make.

This month’s bread is the Kanel Snegle (Cinnamon Snails) or Kanelbullar (Cinnamon Buns) which is the Swedish version (and probably the original version) of the popular American Cinnamon Rolls. The Swedish version are and not sticky like their American counterparts and are also less sweet. They’re are delightfully aromatic, soft and moist, and perfect with a cup of tea/ coffee whether for breakfast or in the evening.
The Swedish Kanel Snegle/ Kanelbullar is less about sugar and more about the spices in it – cardamom in the dough and cinnamon inside the Snails/ Buns. Whether you call them Snails or Rolls (coiled shape) or Buns (twisted and rolled up) depends on how you shape them.
Scandinavian celebratory breads tend to be all about spices and warmth so you will find a lot of their breads scented with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, aniseed, etc.
You will find these rolls/ buns in some form in various countries across Europe, perhaps differently shaped and made with a slightly different recipe.
So they’ll be Franzbrotchen in Germany and Austria, Korvapuusti in Finland, Skillingsbollen in Norway and Brioche/ Pain a la Canelle in France.

Kanel Snegle/ Kanelbullar are traditionally made on the 4th of October every year in Sweden to celebrate “the Day of the Cinnamon Bun” but can be found in bakeries all through the year. There are different ways of shaping this confectionery and I have detailed two types here – the typical “snail” shapes which much like that of the regular Cinnamon Roll, and the “twist”.
Typically the traditional filling in these buns is just butter, sugar and cinnamon, but there are versions that also use almonds with this filling and that’s what I have done here. Kanel Snegle/ kanelbullar usually come baked in white paper cases, and the nice thing about this is that the filling stays in the buns and doesn’t get left behind on the baking sheets!
I found some videos on shaping these rolls quite useful.

One way of shaping is to just roll up the dough with filling like jelly/ swiss roll style and cut them into pieces. This is the typical Kanel Snegle. The other way is to fold the dough over the filling and cut it into strips. Then slightly pull/ elongate strips and twist like a rope and then roll it up, tucking the end underneath the bun.
The third slightly more complicated and prettier bun is made by cutting the strips into half lengthwise leaving one end attached (see pictures and video for details) like “trousers/ pants”. Then each “leg is twisted and then rolled up to form a bun.
The recipe below is adapted and tweaked from a variety of recipes which were more or less the same. Some recipes mention using bread flour, but most use plain flour and that’s the way I went.
As I mentioned before, this recipe involves the preparation of a starter which is refrigerated overnight. It will rise quite a bit so make sure your container has enough of free space to allow the dough to expand.
These Kanel Snegle freeze quite well, so you can make the full batch of twenty and freeze them for later use. Just warm them up in the microwave or the oven whenever you want one or two.
Kanel Snegle/ Kanelbullar (Swedish Cinnamon Snails/ Rolls)


For the Starter:

1 cup warm milk
2 tsp instant yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour 

For the Dough:

All the Starter
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt (if using salted butter, otherwise 1 1/2 tsp)
6 to 8 pods cardamom, powdered
2 tsp lemon zest
1/3 cup caster sugar
60g butter, soft at room temperature 

For the Filling:

75g butter, soft at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed (or 1/3 cup caster sugar)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup coarsely ground almonds 

For the Topping:

1/4 cup milk (or egg wash if you eat eggs)
Pearl sugar or large sugar crystals


Mix together all the ingredients for the Starter into a sticky dough, in a large bowl. Place the Starter dough in an oiled bowl and loosely cover it and then refrigerate it.  Remember the dough will rise quite a bit so use a container that has enough room for this.
The next day, about 30 minutes before you are ready to start on the dough, take the Starter out and leave it at room temperature. As always this can be kneaded by hand or in the processor. I’m giving instructions for using the processor.
Tear the Starter to large pieces and drop into the processor bowl.  Now sift together the flour, cardamom and salt into a bowl. Add this, the lemon zest and sugar to the bowl and run the processor till well mixed.
Now add the soft butter and knead well until you have a smooth and elastic dough. If your dough feels dry, add a little milk or if it feels wet then add a little flour till you have the required consistency of dough.
Now turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and then roll it out into a approximately rectangle about 20” by 12” in size. Make the filling by mixing/ creaming together the soft butter, brown sugar and cinnamon with a fork or spoon into a spreadable paste. Depending on which shape you are going to make your Cinnamon Buns, spread the filling either all over your dough rectangle, or over half of it.
Sprinkle the coarse almond powder over this and then either tightly roll the dough jelly/ Swiss roll style and cut it into 20 equal pieces with a sharp knife. Place these, cut side down on a lightly greased baking sheet leaving space between them, or in white cupcake cases.  (See images 1 through 3)
Otherwise fold the dough over in half and cut into 20 long strips with a sharp knife, twist and shape them as desired. Place these, cut side down on a lightly greased baking sheet leaving space between them, or in white cupcake cases. (See images 4 through 8)
Let them rise for about 10 to 15 minutes till they look a little puffy but not swollen up. Brush the Snails/ Buns with milk (or egg wash) and sprinkle with pearl sugar, large sugar crystals or brown sugar (whatever you have on hand).
Bake them at 200C (400F) for about 15 minutes till they’re cooked, golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. If they’re browning too quickly, turn down the temperature by about 20C (65F) and bake them till done.
Let them cool on wire racks. You can serve them warm or at room temperature. You can freeze these Kanel Snegle for whenever you feel like having one. This recipe makes about 20 Kanel Snegle/ Kanelbullar.

These are being YeastSpotted! 

Just in case you haven’t seen my previous post, I’m giving away a copy of Ricki Heller’s “Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free” and the giveaway is open till the 30th of November, 2013. Please see the post for details.
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November 20, 2013

Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free : A Review, A Giveaway & Banana Oat Bars (Gluten-free, Diary-free, No Butter or Egg)

or a lot of people who are not familiar with certain “restricted” styles of diet (compared to their own) it must seem a little strange that some of us choose to eat a in a “different” way. Many who choose to eat differently do so because certain foods cause hard-to-handle allergies and their health demand it.
My family and I are vegetarian (we occasionally eat egg) because we were brought up that way according to religion and tradition, and have chosen to continue that way. Vegetarianism is no longer a strange concept in most parts of the world, but I still do get questions about being vegetarian even from fellow Indians who don’t seem to be able to grasp that I can eat and be happy without ever experiencing meat or fish!
When I first started baking, I used to try to avoid using eggs if I could, and I still do this a lot. If you bake you would know that eggs are a big part of many bakes and substituting for them wasn’t easy. It took me some time, a lot of patience, going back to my high school science reading and quite some experimenting in the kitchen (which weren’t always a success) before I managed to get quite good at baking without eggs.

So I always admire cooks / bakers out there who are vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and on other restricted diets and come up with baking recipes especially which cater to their special dietary requirements and are good to eat. If you have ever tried “alternative” baking you will know that it is not only difficult to reproduce the texture of regular bakes but also have them taste as good.

There are a few bakers who have managed to do this well and blog about it too. Ricki Heller is one such baker and her blog (you might remember it as Diet Dessert and Dogs) reflects this in her collection of recipes.

Sellers Publishing recently sent me a copy of her latest cookbook “Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free: Allergy friendly vegan desserts” and this was one more chance for me to explore an “alternative” style of cooking/ baking dessert. Ricki Heller’s book is all about showing you that you don’t have do without dessert just because you are trying to stay within a special diet or eating healthy.

All the 100 recipes in Ricki Heller’s book (like those on her blog) are vegan and stay true to her own attempts cook with natural ingredients and avoid processed foods, and also be gluten-free, refined sugar free, and anti-candida. This means these desserts have a lower glycemic index than most “regular” ones and are healthier too. Many of the recipes in this book are also grain-free, soy-free, corn-free and nut-free, or offer options to make them so if they aren’t.

First off, the book has a lovely layout with one recipe per page, well laid out and lots of beautiful photographs. Another plus is that many recipes in her book are, and I quote her, “ healthier versions of traditional favourites” and the ingredients used in them  are available in most health food stores [in the U.S] and do not include what Ricki Heller calls “out there recipes like seaweed cookies, miso frosting, or maitake mushroom pudding”!
Ricki Heller starts her book by telling us why, when and how she became vegan and eventually gluten-free as well. Then she talks about how one can start baking gluten-free, the various flours and other ingredients that can be used in gluten-free baking and how they work. She also provides a recipe for her own All-Purpose Gluten-free Flour Mix which she uses in all her bakes, although she does say other packaged Gluten-free Flour Mixes work just as well.
She also provides a list of natural sweeteners, binders, natural egg substitutes, non-diary alternatives, choices of fats to use in bakes and tips on making your vegetable, fruit purées and nut butters, grinding flours at home and how to best store naturally sweet and gluten-free bakes.
The book also has a section on bake ware and useful tools to have in your kitchen. All the recipes have ingredient amounts given in cup measures as well as in weight or volume measure. This makes me very happy as I’m a “cup measure” girl and my kitchen scales rarely get used.

 The recipes are divided under Breakfast Bakes (and toppings for pancakes and waffles); Cookies, Squares & Bars; Cakes, Cupcakes, Toppings & Frostings; Cheesecakes, Pies, Tarts & Puddings; Raw & No-Bake Treats.
The recipes in the book include Gingered Apple Muffins, Lemon-Blueberry Scones, Grain-free Coconut Flour Biscuits, Sunshine Breakfast Loaf, Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies, Brownies & Blondies, Apple Cake, Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake, Vanilla Cupcakes (these are on the cover of the book, Recipes for Frostings, Ricki Heller’s Mother’s Cheesecake, Chocolate Satin Tart, Marbled Halvah, and Raw Frosted Lemon-Poppy Seed Squares.
Though the book is about eating gluten-free and making dessert with natural sweeteners, please don’t think it’s a book only for people with special diet needs.  It’s for anyone who might want to eat a healthier dessert and who is open minded and willing to try something that’s different.

About the Author:

Ricki Heller is a vegan and a registered holistic nutritionist who cooks with only whole food and natural ingredients as can be seen on her blog which has over 600 gluten-free, allergy-friendly and sugar-free recipes.
She is also the author of the best-selling cookbook “Sweet Freedom” and an associate editor for Simply Gluten-Free Magazine. She has written articles for Clean Eating, Living Without, VegNews and other publications. Ricki Heller lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and two dogs.

I must say that I had a bit of difficulty initially trying to pick recipes to try out. This is because I live in a country where a lot of the ingredients Ricki Heller uses in her book, just aren’t available.
When they are available, they’re imported and extremely expensive. Carob chips/ flour, Chia seeds, Coconut butter, Coconut flour, Coconut nectar, Coconut sugar, Garfava flour, Whole Psyllium husk, Stevia liquid, Xanthan gum, Quinoa/ Quinoa flour, Sweet rice flour, Teff flour,  Potato starch, Agave nectar, Molasses, Brown rice syrup, Maple syrup, Lucuma powder, etc.
But the good news is that we traditionally use a lot of gluten-free grain and flour in Indian cooking like Amaranth, Buckwheat, Millet, Sorghum, White and Brown rice flours, while oat flour is something you can grind at home from rolled oats. So you can always make your own gluten-free flour blend.
And if you’re really not that bound by diet restrictions like being sugar-free or maybe you’re not vegan but vegetarian you can always use alternatives and adapt these recipes to suit your style of cooking/ eating to make healthier desserts.
This is what I did when I chose to make Ricki Heller’s Banana Oats Bars. With this recipe, I couldn’t find some of the ingredients and substituted others while keeping this recipe gluten-free and naturally sweet.
So I substituted the stevia liquid and coconut sugar with powdered jaggery, using 1/2 cup of powdered jaggery which was just right.
I made my own almond butter by grinding raw almonds into a paste, and also ground rolled oats into a fine powder to make my own oat flour. I also used fresh grated coconut in place of unsweetened shredded coconut.
Given that fresh coconut contains a bit of moisture, it would probably be a good idea to reduce the liquid in the given recipe (the soymilk/ almond milk) by just a little for firmer bars.
Refrigerating these Banana Oat Bars after they cool down is a good idea (you can freeze them too) as they keep longer and become firmer.

There is much discussion about whether oats is gluten-free or not, but the verdict is that it is indeed gluten-free provided the oats has not been cross contaminated with gluten during processing. So if you cannot tolerate gluten then make sure that the oats you use is certified as being free from gluten.
One also needs to keep in mind that there are some people who cannot tolerate even gluten-free oats, so then this recipe would not be the one for them.
Ricki Heller describes these Banana Oat Bars as “almost like a homemade granola bar – not too sweet and equally suitable for breakfast, a snack on the go, or dessert. “
Banana Oat Bars


1/2 cup (40 g) coconut sugar
20 to 30 drops pure, plain or vanilla stevia liquid, or to taste
1 tbsp (15 ml) finely ground flax seeds
1/4 cup (60 ml)unsweetened  plain or vanilla soy or almond milk
1/4 cup (60 ml) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp natural smooth almond or sunflower butter, at room temperature
2 medium, very ripe bananas
1/3 cup (40 g) raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
1 1/2 cups (160 g) old fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
1/2 cup (40 g) unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup (30 g) whole oat flour
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) baking powder
1/8 tsp (0.5 ml) fine sea salt


Preheat oven to 180C (350F).  Line an 8” (20 cm) square pan with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut sugar, stevia, flax, soymilk, oil, vanilla and almond butter until the sugar is dissolved. Alternatively, powdr the coconut sugar so it will dissolve quickly.)
Cut the bananas into chunks and add to the bowl. Using a potato masher or large fork, mash the bananas into the mixture, leaving a few little chunks (about the size of peas) here and there. Stir in the raisins, if using. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, shredded coconut, flour, baking powder and salt. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir well to combine. It may seem too wet for a bar dough; this is as it should be.
 Scrape the mixture into the pan and smooth the top. Bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating pan about halfway through, until the top is dry and a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting into bars. May be frozen.
This recipe makes 12 to 16 bars.
And now the really nice part of this post, the giveaway! Sellers Publishing has sent me an extra copy of Ricki Heller’s “Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free” to give away to one lucky reader of this blog.
So if you would like to try your luck for this gorgeous book, all you have to do is to leave a comment at this post telling me why you think you would love to have this book on your shelf and to cook from. That’s all you have to do.
Please also leave behind an e-mail id/ link where I can reach if you should be chosen the winner. Any comment without an e-mail id or a link where I can reach you will automatically be disqualified from this giveaway.
This giveaway is open till the 30th of November, 2013 (a total of 10 days) after which I shall randomly choose a winner from the qualifying comments.
Please also note that this giveaway is open only to commentators with an Indian mailing address. Those who live outside India but have a mailing address within India are most welcome to participate.

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November 15, 2013

Remembering Lis, The Original Daring Baker & Soft Pretzel Sandwich Rolls/ Buns

started blogging towards the end of 2007 and joined the Daring Bakers in January, 2008. In those days, my baking skills were pretty rudimentary and I felt quite "daring" to have asked to joing the group. To say that I was I was intimadated by the the first challenge I ever did was an understatement but the Daring Bakers had some of the most helpful and supportive people I had ever met. Over the years, that group has contributed to my growth as a baker in no small way.

If you are, or have been a Daring Baker, then you would definitely know Lisa Cifelli though perhaps you knew her just as “Lis”. All the Daring Bakers/ Daring Cooks would also be very familiar with the way she always introduced each month’s challenge in her own unique signature style that was full of humour! Lis, a co-founder of the Daring Bakers also used to blog at La Mia Cucina till about 3 years ago.
It was with a sense of shock that I read e-mails and messages from friends in the food blog world, early this week, telling me that Lis was no more. I was aware that she was in a lot of physical discomfort, so much so that she couldn’t sit for extended periods of time because of pain.  She was considering surgery, and I now understand from others that she collapsed after a heart attack on the way to have her blood work done before surgery.

One of the things that stood out about Lis as a Daring Baker was the honesty and humour with which she shared that she wasn’t the most experienced of bakers. Her stories of both her triumphs and the failures with the monthly challenges were guaranteed to at least bring a smile to your face, if they didn’t already have you rolling with laughter.
I did not know Lis personally, but got to know her a little virtually in the way many of us do in the world of food blogdom.  Most of my interaction with Lis was through our e-mails to each other during the two instances when I had hosted Daring Baker challenges.

I hosted my second challenge as recently as August this year and for various reasons beyond my control ended up sending in my challenge draft to Lis pretty much at the last minute. I also had a couple of experiences as a challenge hostess involving a couple of Daring Bakers which weren’t the best and had written to her about that too.
Lis’s e-mails to me were always just what I had come to expect of her –encouraging, funny, supportive and full of cheer. I know she will be missed very much by many, especially by the Daring Bakers.
One of her e-mails to me said, “If you need me for anything at all, don’t hesitate to reach out!  I’m always around. :)”.  And truly, Lis will always be around in spirit and in the memories of her family and friends.
When a lot of Lis's friends and well-wishers in food blogdom decided to pay her a tribute
, it was fitting that we do it through something we all love – food!  The first ever Daring Baker challenge happened when Lis and Ivonne (the founders of the group) got together to bake Pretzelsin November 2006, exactly 7 years ago!
So when someone suggested that it would be a nice idea to go back in time and make Pretzels in Lis’s memory, it seemed to me a good thing to do. Then someone else mentioned that Lis had sent her a recipe for Pretzel Rolls that were to be included as part of a challenge but that never happened, and maybe it would be a good idea to bake those instead. And that’s what I decided to do.

I have previously baked a Pretzel shaped bread, Soft Pretzels and Crunchy Pretzels, and Pretzel shaped cookies so it was definitely the time for me to make Pretzel Rolls/ Buns.
These Pretzel Rolls are have Pretzel like qualities in that they have beautiful golden brown and crusty, crackly tops from being boiled in a soda bath before being baked. They’re also are beautifully soft rolls and make great sandwiches.  
The light coloured slashes on the top also give these rolls/ buns a bit of a “wow” factor making the hard to resist. You could shape this dough into hot dog buns if you prefer.
Soft Pretzel Sandwich Rolls/ Buns
(Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Café)


For the Dough:

1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1 cup warm milk
1 cup warm water
1 tsp salt
4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
For the Soda Bath:

6 cups water
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp baking soda

Coarse salt for sprinkling


Its better to use a machine because the dough can be a it sticky, though it can be done by hand. I used the food processor as usual. Put all the ingredients for the dough into the processor bowl and then add 4 cups of flour and run the processor to knead the dough. Add as more of the flour as you need until you have a dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft, but not loose and just short of sticky. Do not be tempted to add too much flour.
Take the dough out, shape into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl turning the dough to coat it. Cover and let it rise till almost double, for about 1 1/2 hours or so.
Place the dough on a very lightly floured surface and lightly deflate it. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions. Shape each portion into a smooth ball, flatten it very slightly and place it on a lightly greased baking sheet. Let the dough balls rise for about 15 to 20 minutes.
In the meanwhile, put 6 cups of water and the sugar into a a large but deep saucepan or pot and bring it to boil. Add the baking soda, and when the bubbles subside, gently take one ball of risen dough at time taking care not to deflate it, and place about 3 or 4 balls into the boiling water.
Cook them for about 30 seconds on each side (the longer they are in the soda bath, the chewier they become). Take them out using a slotted spoon, allowing the water to drain out and place them on baking sheets/ trays lined with parchment. The tops of the dough balls will look a bit wrinkled and that’s fine.

Using a sharp knife or blade (coating this with a little oil will help make cleaner cuts), make 3 long equidistant cuts about 1/4" deep (but not too deep) across the top of each ball of dough without deflating it. If using coarse salt, sprinkle it over the top while the balls of dough are still wet.
Bake them at 220C (430F) for about 20 minutes till they’re cooked and a lovely golden brown. Let them cool on racks. Use the Pretzel Rolls/ Buns to make sandwiches.
This recipe makes 10 medium sized Pretzel Rolls/ Buns.  They’re best eaten the day they’re made but will be quite good the next day, slightly warmed.
These are being YeastSpotted!
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November 2, 2013

Kalakhand (A Milk & Paneer Fudge) – The Easy Version (Cheat’s Recipe)

elebrations and sweets are so closely tied together, especially in India, and perhaps Diwali/ Deepavali is the one festival that is more about sweets than any other Indian festival I know of. It’s the one occasion when there’s so much sweet stuff going around that it’s enough to send one into a sugar induced coma! It is a festival that’s celebrated almost all over India in Hindu homes, but the way it is celebrated differs from community to community. It can be a half day celebration in some places while some others celebrate it over five days!
Diwali/ Deepavali is also known as the “Festival of Lights”, because people who do celebrate this festival light up their homes with oil lamps at dusk and keep them burning way into the night. Like most other festivals in India, Diwali is one more occasion where the triumph of good over bad is celebrated.

In my community of Palakkad Iyers, Diwali is traditionally celebrated a little differently. For one thing, we don’t light oil lamps so it really isn’t a Festival of Lights for us, though I have adopted the practise of lighting oil lamps as part of our festivities at home. We light oil lamps at dusk only when we celebrate Karthi/ Karthigai Deepam which is our Festival of Lights.

For us Diwali starts with getting up early in the morning and lighting fireworks/ bursting crackers at the break of dawn. Then everyone has a ritual bath that involves anointing oneself with coconut oil and washing it off, leaving one with a silky smooth skin and lustrous hair.
Then we dress up up in new clothes bought especially for Diwali, seek our elders’ blessings and then get down to the business of a heavy festive breakfast of Dosai (savoury, thin and crisp South Indian rice and lentil crepes), Sambhar (a tangy and spicy vegetable and lentil curry), Coconut Chutney and Ukkarai (a sweet made with lentils and jaggery) and then a taste of whatever sweets and savoury items have been prepared for the festivities.
A little later these sweets and savouries are packed and shared with friends and neighbours. That’s about it as far as our Diwali celebrations go, unlike the more festive and colourful Diwalis in the rest of the country.

I have over the years, added several non-traditional (to our community) sweets and savouries to my repertoire of Diwali specialities. What I make every Diwali mostly depends on what I would like to experiment with that year and what my family asks for, apart from the regulars. 
This year we are not celebrating Diwali, but I decided to make something easy to mark the festivities rather than let them pass us by. Not that it’s easy to forget that its Diwali season here in Goa, with cooler and misty mornings, colourful “Aakash Kandils” (Diwali lanterns) decorating porches everywhere and giant sized “Narakasura” effigies in every corner of the neighbourhood waiting to be burnt down early on Diwali morning signifying the triumph over evil.

Many of the sweets and savouries made for festivities tend to require quite a bit of time and effort, so starting on them a day or two ahead is the way to go. Much as I like to cook, one thing about festivities I do not look forward to is spending a lot of time sweating over the stove.  

So I’m a fan of recipes require very little effort but turn out stuff that look like you’ve spent a  lot of time on them. I always have a few such “easy and comparatively quick” recipes on hand that take a lof the grind out of festive cooking. Sometimes, all it takes is some planning and doing some of the stuff ahead. 
This year, my “easy/ quick” recipe is Kalakhand which is a milk based sweet topped with almonds and pistachios. Kalakhand  is soft and fudge-like in texture and made with full fat milk, paneer (Indian fresh milk cheese) and sugar which is cooked until it thickens. Traditionally, it means cooking down and reducing sweetened milk over low heat and this involves a lot of stirring and takes quite a while.  My easy/ cheat’s version does away with all the stirring and reducing the milk by using sweetened condensed milk, milk powder, store bought paneer and takes very little time to make. 

If you want to cook this in even less time then you can cook the Kalakhand in the microwave. I understand it takes about 5 to 6 minutes of microwaving at 100% power, but don’t take my word for it because I have never cooked Kalakhand in the microwave. I prefer to make it on the stove top.
Kalakhand (A Milk & Paneer Fudge)
2 cups finely grated paneer (approx. 400gm)
4 tbsp full cream milk powder
1 can (400gm) sweetened condensed milk
4 to 5 pods cardamom, powdered
1 tsp rose water
About 1 1/2 tbsp each, of slivered almonds and pistachios
Crumble the paneer as fine as possible, leaving still granular and not mashing it completely. Add the milk powder to the crumbled paneer and mix well.

Put this and the condensed milk in a heavy walled/ bottomed or non-stick pan.  Cook it over low heat, stirring frequently, until it becomes thick and starts leaving the sides of the pan. The Kalakhand mixture will burn easily if not attended to constantly.
The mixture will start drying out and coming together in the middle of the pan as it is stirred. This should take about 8 to 10 minutes. When it reaches the finished consistency (it should be dry, not liquid anymore, but moist), add the powdered cardamom and rose water and mix well.

Take the Kalakhand mixture off the heat and transfer it to a greased 8” by 6” tray/ tin or round thali (plate).
Sprinkle the chopped almonds and pistachios evenly on top and lightly press them in. Once the Kalakhand has cooled and set (about 4 to 5 hours; overnight is better) cut it into squares (about 12 large squares or smaller squares if you prefer).
Refrigerate in an airtight container if not serving the same day. This recipe makes about 12 to 16 Kalakhand bars.
May the beauty
Of this festive season
Fill your home with joy,
And may the coming year
Bring you all things
That bring you joy!
Wishing you all
Happy & Prosperous Diwali!
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