Friday, January 28, 2011

Khrushchev Dough for Fresh From the Oven

One of the many things that prompted the evolution of The Black Ladle were the numerous food blog events and challenges. But having started this saga, I found Fresh from the Oven  FFTO) and promptly joined them.... And have even managed to do this month's challenge. You can look up FFTO's public blog here.

This month's challenge the Khrushchev Dough was proposed by Silvia and Ivan of mushitza. Wikipedia has an entry for our challenge which simply states that the dough was a result of introducing flour rationing and also that the dough may have been long lasting - in terms of shelf-life, I guess. Non-wikipedia sources claim it to have been a favourite of the Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev.

History lessons apart, the challenge this time was not the process but in shifting your mindset. To quote Silvia and Ivan: 

"There are two key factors about achieving a good dough that do NOT apply here:
  1. Never mix yeast directly with the salt. Exactly the opposite is what you have to do here. Since the salt kills the yeast when in direct contact we are using double amount of the yeast than we would usually use for this amount of flour.
  2. Leave the dough to temper for an hour or two after taking out of the fridge. Not here. Work with the dough directly when out of the fridge. It's essential for the dough to be cold, otherwise the butter will start to melt and absorb more flour which isn't desired."
See what I mean? I remember reading these two points many times before it actually sunk in. But the results were worth the effort :)


Yeast - 40 gms fresh yeast (or 10 gms dry yeast in 30 gms/ml of water)
Salt - 10 gms
Milk - 250 ml; cold
Butter - 150 gms; unsalted (cut into cubes)
Sugar - 1 tbsp
All purpose flour - 500gms

Silvia and Ivan's instructions :
If using fresh yeast: Using an ordinary tablespoon rub the salt through the yeast block till it becomes liquid.
If using dry yeast: Mix salt and dry yeast, then add the water.

Mix the yeast and salt, add in milk butter, sugar and sift flour on top. Mix using an electric mixer with dough hook or a wooden spoon. Transfer to airtight container and keep in refrigerator overnight. The dough hardens in the fridge (butter) but does rise  a bit. Next morning, dust counter, place dough, work it minimally and shape it as you please. 

Ivan and Silvia showed us what all the dough could be metamorphosed into....look here for inspiration. The dough can be used to make almost anything - bread, donuts, rolls, sweet, savoury....whatever :)

What happened to my dough?

Well after memorizing the two cardinal rules for this dough, my immediate stumbling block was the yeast and salt (surprise! surprise!). I tried but couldn't locate instant yeast. So  had to resort to active dry yeast. Then came to phase two of the problem: weighing out 10 gms of yeast and 10 gms of salt. The only place with a fine balance for this was the jewelery store somewhere in the vicinity and I'm not sure my earnest request would have been obliged. I had to resort to some vagueness in the measuring of these two ingredients. 

The active dry yeast comes in 25 gm packet. It measured about 5 tablespoons with some left. Simple math - used 2 tablespoons and the leftover as well. I googled for weight to volume conversion with respect to salt and 1 tablespoon table salt  = 18.25 gms. I ignored the 0.25 gms and used one and half teaspoons of salt. There end of yeast and salt ordeal.

I proceeded as instructed and tucked the bread away in the fridge. The next evening, I opened the container and wasn't sure if the dough had risen, but it sure smelled yeasty :) I didn't have the time to get too fancy (and it may not have been fancy even if I'd tried) and used the dough as it was. I made spirals and buns and used the kitchen scissors to snip them here and there - my attempt at decoration. Oh! I preheated oven to 180C.
Put the dough and started peeking into the oven every 10 minutes. My spirals and buns were small and so were nicely browned and ready in less than 15 minutes. Left them to cool on the wire rack and totally forgot about photographing them and managed to salvage only a few. 

The bread was delicious, especially when warm. Soft, buttery and absolute heaven when had with honey or jam! 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Choccy Melts

There's a new bookstore in my neighbourhood and being a bookaholic I had to visit....again and again and again. There was a time, not long ago (less than 2 years) when I would home in on the fantasy literature section, murmur a spell, make money disappear and the book/s appear. I'd amble towards the culinary division, gaze fondly at the dessert recipes and saunter back home. Now, I head first to the underage section, find something to occupy my daughter and head to the culinary section....they're on the same level ;) I've resorted to online shopping for fantasy fiction. (sigh!)
On one of those 'new-bookshop-has-to-be-visited' jaunts, I saw a new addition in the desserts section. I, It was titled 'cookie magic'. Obviously, I fell for the title, and the book was good too. Pages of simple recipes :)
Using the 'try-before-you-buy' axiom, I noted down the recipe for the cookie titled 'Choccy melts'.
I baked the biscuits and left out the chocolate drizzle. The cookies were a nice dark brown and crisp. Some of them were a bit hard....the thinner ones got a bit over-baked... thankfully, they didn't burn (phew!)

Butter - 9 tbsp; room temperature
Icing sugar - 1/2 cup
Cornflour (cornstarch) - 1/2 cup
Cocoa powder - 1/4 cup (I used Cadbury's)
All purpose flour - (3/4 cup

I also added one tablespoon of Bournvita. This wasn't a part of the original recipe and you can definitely omit this.

Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celcius.
Beat butter till very soft and add all ingredients till it forms a dough. Used my hands towards the end to get the dough together and form a log or sorts. I chilled it for thirty minutes and cut the 'log' into discs, placed them on a cookie tray and baked for about 5 to 6 minutes. My biscuits were about an inch in diameter and I got lots of them...bite-sized snacks :)

For the 'melts', author recommends that you melt some chocolate (100gms) in a heatproof bowl set over a vessel with boiling water or use a double boiler (a 'milk cooker' with lots  of water does the trick) and drizzle over the cookies. 

Source: Cookie Magic by Kate Shirazi

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

5 Minute Bread Re-visited - 'Holey' Bread!

This is probably 'Part 2' of the 'Saga of Bread Baking at The Black Ladle' or maybe 'The Chronicles in Bread Baking at The Black Ladle' or even better 'Holey Bread - Bread Baking Cycle (Part 2) in the Canticles of The Black Ladle' ...... Yes! Yes! Sounds impressively long and provides sufficient leeway for introducing more 'cycles' :).... After all, there's more than just bread being served here.
I adore the genre of fantasy literature/ fiction and am especially partial to ones with dragon in them or ones with interesting titles.... If they have them both, I'm doubly overjoyed.  
About the titles though - you  should check them out sometime.
This post is a tad late and continues the bread trail/ tale from the earlier post - Whole Wheat Bread – only 5 minutes away! Boule and Baguette. So I left the dough in the refrigerator and then one day I made a couple of pita breads (disappeared before I could shoot them) and then I made bread again, with what was left of the dough.
I removed the dough from the fridge and let it rest in a lightly greased small loaf tin. And baked as usual.
This bread was the best of the batch. It was super soft inside, and nice chewy crust and it was 'holey'!!!!
Not large ones, but small polymorphic, well dispersed holes!!
So will be making bread at home again :D

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Whole Wheat Bread – only 5 minutes away! Boule and Baguette

Baking – the idea and process, has always held me in thrall. I don’t know when I actually had my first cake, but the first home baked and the first ever baked at my home coincided with Asian games at Seoul, (N.Korea) 1986. It was my mother’s first baking venture and I remember watching with fascination as she separated the eggs, created white foam out of egg whites (total magic, I say) and incorporated it ever so carefully into the other batter. I remember tasting the batter and doubting, but politely kept the doubts to myself….batter was sweet, but nothing ‘cakey’ about it. And then the heady aroma the permeated our home………Ooooh! I get transported in time - every time, I use vanilla in my baking. ‘Twas a good thing, I kept those doubts to myself….the cake was heavenly, and even had a smattering of butter-cream frosting! Also, the stand mixer, egg separator and weighing scales, having served my mother faithfully are, I’m happy to say, serving me just as well!!

But I digress; this post isn’t about cake at all, but about bread. got carried away with reminiscences. I went book hopping – virtually. And started looking at books on baking, and I saw a book titled ‘Artisan Bread in Five Minutes’ by Zoe Francois and Jeff Herzberg.……Now, I know that impossible so looked round for reviews of the book and finally found one with a ‘spoiler’! The spoiler sent me here for the recipe. The idea is to make a large batch of dough and refrigerate after the initial rise. And use required amount of dough at each installment to bake bread. Apparently no kneading is needed. Just shape, rest the dough and pop into the oven. The five minutes is the shaping part, does not include the baking time…..

I used ‘atta’ flour (whole wheat flour). I mixed a batch the previous night and used some to bake a boule the next day. I also used the dough to make a small baguette. The recipe calls for 1.5 Tbsp for salt, I reduced it to 1.5 tsp based on the reviews I’d read.

The yeasty aroma of baking bread is incomparable. It’s cheerful and heartening and an appetizer in itself.

I made a boule (French for ball) and a mini baguette. The crust was thick and chewy and the crumb was moist and a bit dense – as expected in whole wheat breads, but not gummy. The dough was a bit wet and I was worried that I was going to land up with a gummy crumb.

We had the boule with a bit of honey (me) and peanut butter (the Mr.) for a late breakfast and have hidden away the baguette for later. It was very filling and a little seemed to go a long way!

The process was simple. The initial mixing of a large batch of dough, store in refrigerator and use as needed. The dough apparently takes on sourdough characteristics as it ages in the fridge. I’ll repost once I’ve verified this.

Sending this to Wholesome Wholegrain Cooking (WWC) event initiated and hosted by Sanjeeta of Lite Bite.

Source: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.

I think, I’ll get this book!! 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year with Cottage Cheese and Vegetable Manicotti

Happy New Year and hope all of us have a year generously seasoned with health, wealth and happiness.
We spent New Year's eve at home. The next day began with a stream of calls and exchange of 'Happy New Years' and my daughter  learned the word 'happy'!

I don't know how I came across the terms Manicotti or Crespelle......definitely not a regular byword round here. I don't ever recall seeing it on any restaurant menu and I just saw the movie Inception recently.....hmmmm! Not too comforting, this line of thought.... Anyways what I read  seemed simple enough and so I decided to try my hand at making a Manicotti.

Manicotti is an Italian lasagna-style pasta made with crespelle or Italian crepes (crespella - singular). The crepes are stuffed with fillings of choice, rolled or folded into triangular shapes and baked. The Marinara or Bechamel (white) sauce is usually served in this recipe, but I replaced the suggested sauce  with one I usually serve with my pasta. Most crespelle recipes I found contained eggs and I resorted to searching for vegetarian options and I finally found one here. I made some changes to the recipe and will list them as well. The list may appear very long and therefore laborious, but it isn't.

Serves 4 
Components: Stuffing, Sauce and Crespelle

Paneer/ Cottage cheese - 100 gms (half a packet; shredded)
Spinach - 1 cup (cleaned, cooked, squeezed and chopped)
Carrot - 1 medium sized (shredded and cooked)
Cauliflower - 1 small (small florets, cooked)
Salt and pepper - to taste

Toss all the stuffing ingredients in a large bowl, season to taste; cover and refrigerate.

(My version adapted from Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen)

Onion - 2 large (chopped)
Tomato - 3 large (blanched, peeled and pureed)
Capsicum/ Green bell peppers - 2 large (cleaned and cut into large pieces)
Garlic - 1-2 cloves
Oil - 1 tbsp
Milk - 1/4 cup*
Cornstarch/ Cornflour - 1 tbsp* (dissolve in milk)
Salt -  to taste
Italian herbs (mixed) - 1tbsp

(*For a richer version use shredded processed or Parmesan or cottage cheese instead of the milk and cornstarch, about 3/4 to 1 cup)

Heat oil in a wok/ kadai and add the garlic. When the garlic just starts turning colour, add the other vegetables, toss till coated with oil, cover and cook on medium flame till vegetables are tender. Allow to cool and puree in a blender. Transfer back to the wok/ kadai and stir in the milk-cornstarch mixture, add salt and spices till it bubbles merrily. Take off heat and keep ready. The sauce had a mustard-ish colour from the bell peppers. Also, a green chilli or two wouldn't be amiss if you wish to spice things up a bit.

Crespelle/ Crepes:
(Recipe by Bryanna Clark Grogan from here.)

Powdered egg replacer - 1 tbsp  (Ener-G and Orgran are the preferred brands) [I didn't use this, because I didn't have it and am not really sure you get it here.] 
Water - 1/4 cup plus 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon [Used all the water at once, Bryanna's recipe calls for blending the egg replacer with water]
White flour or wholewheat pastry flour - 1 cup [Used White flour]
Non-diary milk - 1/2 cup [Used milk]
Chickpea flour or soy flour - 1/4 cup [Used tapioca flour]
Nutritional yeast flakes - 2 tbsp [Didn't use it]
Sugar - 2 tsp
Baking powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
White pepper and freshly ground nutmeg - a pinch each

Put all ingredients in the blender and mix till you get a batter of heavy cream consistency, adding milk in teaspoons till this is achieved. Heat a non-stick skillet/ tava and pour about 3-4 table spoons of batter and gently spread it to about 5" to 6". Wait for the surface to appear dry and flip to cook the other side. Do this till all the batter is used up. I got about 12 crespelle. It was recommended that the crespelle be stacked with wax paper separators to keep them from sticking. I let the crepes cool before I stacked them and didn't have any issues with them sticking to each other. Keep them covered after stacking, lest they become too dry.

Assembling the Manicotti:

Preheat over to 200 C.

Spoon a bit of the sauce on to the baking dish till it just covers the bottom. Add a tablespoon (more or less) of the stuffing in a crepe and roll it up. Place it in the baking dish. Repeat the process with all the crepes. Ideally, the dish should accommodate the stuffed crepes in a single layer or use multiple baking dishes. Since I didn't have the former and wasn't inclined to do the latter, I ended up with two layers, with generous amounts of sauce in the dish. I topped it with a light sprinkling of shredded cheese and popped it into the oven. Give it about 15 to 20 minutes, till the sauce appears to bubble and the cheese browns a bit. (I went by the bubbling sauce, since I didn't use much cheese).

Get it out of the oven and serve with more sauce.
This was a very light dinner and can be substantiated with a salad and some starters. It tasted very good. The crespelle did absorb some flavour from the sauce without getting soggy.