Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Eggless Baking : Home made Soft Pretzel and Diwali Wishes to All my Readers

Wishing all my Readers "A Very Very Happy Deepavali" the Indian festival of lights.
These were her words when R came back from her school the other day : "Wow! U made them?? I knew U made something like bread I could smell it. Do U have Cheese sauce/dip with it???? And in reply to her Cheese dip question when I said sorry I didn't had any yellow cheese in the fridge, in the mean while she had her first bite, she goes "these are good BUT Aunt A's are better. YES! Auntie Anne's from the mall, we all have eaten it some or the other point and O'course they come with the DIP, and I didn't had any. BUT wait, the moment she had few more bites and she goes but I love the salt part, actually these are REALLY GOOD. She polished off two. I did melted a cheese slice for her, as on the name of yellow cheese that was the only thing I had but the moment it got off the heat it kind of got hard & not melted any more. So note to myself : next time I make these make sure cheese dip is ready first & I'm sure then Mom's Pretzels will be best and not next to the best.

Now before jumping to the recipe, few days back I found this blog called applecrumbles & the post I landed up on was about summer rolls, yes ! the kind U make using rice paper wrappers, I read it because it was a good co-incidence that couple of days back only I had bought a pack of rice paper rolls & since then they were are sitting on my counter top. No, I didn't made those but instead at the end of the post she had mentioned that Next Week "we will be making pretzels, want to make pretzels with us ?" At that moment itself I emailed her & by the night she emailed me the recipe. She and one of her friend are following a book called "Fusion of Food + Friends" and every week they make one recipe from that book. Now, I got the recipe and before jumping to baking I did little online search, and it was little as I checked first two links of the search result & I was set to go. Plus one more thing I did do little extra search about Yeast also but that's a topic for some other day.

Original recipe was using 4 cups of flour that means lot of pretzels. Now my main problem while baking is,  that most of the recipes are for big batches, so I spent some time to 1/4th it. I wrote everything on paper & while getting the dough ready I messed up(4 calls in time span of 20 minutes, all imp. plus a toddler keep coming back to remind me I no like pretzel, Didi(big sis) like it) and pour half cup of extra water to the dough. Added more flour etc. to fix it. So, my messed up recipe yielded me 5 pretzels of around 5" radius. Now to the recipe...

Here's what I used :
for dough :
  • 1 tsp. Rapid Rise Yeast/Instant Active Dry Yeast
  • 3 tsp. Honey
  • 5 TBSP. Warm Milk
  • 1/2 cup Warm Water
  • 1 cup + 6 TBSP. Bread Flour
  • 1/4 Cup whole wheat flour(atta)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1&1/2 TBSP. EVOO(extra virgin olive oil)
for water bath :
  • 4 TBSP. Baking Soda
  • 2 Cup hot water
for topping(optional) :
  • Coarse Sea Salt
  • Melted Butter
What I did :
  1. I used kitchen aid stand mixer to make the dough but one can easily do it with hands.
  2. Mix salt flour & yeast together. Add rest of the ingredients from the dough list. Knead it to the consistency where the dough is no more sticky.
  3. Rub some oil on the dough ball & keep it in some big oiled bowl. Cover & let it sit in some warm area of your kitchen for at least 1 & 1/2 hour or until it get almost double in size. Mine was sitting for almost two hours & it was more than double after rising.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degree. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper & lightly spray it with cooking oil/spray.
  5. Getting water bath ready : Heat the water  & dissolve baking soda in it. Be careful when U add soda to the hot water, it gonna get all bubbly & sprinkly.
  6. Take the dough on a lightly floured surface divide it into 5 equal parts.
  7. Now take one dough ball & roll it into a big rope and shape it like a pretzel. Here on this blog U can see step by step pictures or I'm sure U can find many videos about how to roll a pretzel on U Tube or learn it from the experts : make a trip to your local mall & have a live demo of how to roll a pretzel in Auntie Anne's shop.
  8. Once the pretzels are shaped take them one by one & give them a hot soda bath. Gently drop one pretzel at a time into the bath, count to 10 & using slotted spoon take it out & place it on the ready baking sheet.
  9. Sprinkle some coarse sea salt if U wish.
  10. Bake them for around 10 minutes or till they get brown on the top. Mine took good 15 minutes.
  11. When come out brush them with some melted butter.

Note : I used 1 qt. small pot for soda bath, if using big pot double the quantity of water & soda so that there is enough water for pretzels to float in.

These were good look wise and taste wise, very soft from inside, but they were not as chewy as store bought ones are. That could be because of I used milk & olive oil in it but I'm not sure. But as the overall result was so good I think it's a keeper recipe.

Now coming back to the original recipe it used :
  • water only & no milk,
  • active dry yeast (so proofing is required)
  • white sugar instead of honey
  • melted butter instead of EVOO
  • all purpose flour instead of bread flour & whole wheat flour
  • Kosher salt instead of sea salt
Idea of using milk & honey instead of water & white sugar was an inspiration from this & this blog.

These delicious Pretzels are on their way to Susan's Yeastspotting.

And yes! I just noticed that  's  is missing :-( from the tag which I made at the last moment in hurry. So, please put an imaginary 's to read it as Mom's Pretzel & not Mom Pretzel.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Punjabi Mathi/ welcome the festival Season

With the onset of autumn, festival season starts in India and along with it starts Wedding Season too. Yes ! it's a season in itself, Navratri marks the beginning of auspicious period in Indian calender(Lunar calender is followed to calculate dates of most of the Indian festivals), followed by a list of festivals. Weather is perfect, time is auspicious so most of the weddings in India take place in Oct.-Dec. Though Jan. & Feb. also come under the category of auspicious time for weddings but it gets really cold during those months specially in North.

Festivals & Weddings means sweets & more sweets. But eating too many sweets can make you crave for savoury goodies, that's why savoury snacks are also part of gift/goodie bags which are exchanged during the festival season. One of such snack is Mathi/Mathiyan, it's an  all time favourite snack any time of the year. Festival & Wedding season in a Punjabi household is never complete without this snack. I don't make too many sweets for the festival season but mathi is must. This time it was special because "I MEASURED THE INGREDIENTS ", yes, I write a food blog & I don't measure the ingredients every time I cook(another excuse for not blogging so regularly). That's how I learned it, that's how I passed the recipe to so many friends & luckily everyone got the good results, but this time I had to measure it so that I can blog about it. Here's the recipe I learned from my MIL over the phone some 11 yrs. back but now with measurements, please do not skip the notes :

Note : Whole process of making Mathis will take around 1 hr. So, make sure U have that much time before U start with it. Usually for weddings & festivals these are fried in desi ghee/clarified butter, but I don't have guts to do that so I stick with canola oil only.

What I used :
2 cup - All purpose flour(i use Maida)
1 tsp. - Salt(adjust as per your taste but I find this much is just right)
1/2 tablespoon - ajwain/carom seeds
3 tablespoon - melted Desi ghee/clarified butter at room temp.  (might need little less or extra)
1/2 cup + 2 or 3 tablespoon  - Water
oil to deep fry (i use canola)

What I did :
NOTES FOR THE DOUGH : To get the best result which in a lay man language means "Khasta Mathi", make sure dough is tight/hard. Khasta means when U break these cracker kind of Indian snack, it breaks but with little flakes. To achieve that result we don't need soft dough, so use only little water at a time as each flour have different water absorbency capacity so U might not use the whole water mentioned above or U might need 1 tsp. or so more.

To check if it's hard enough, insert a finger inside the dough once it's kneaded, if the hole made by your finger stays as is, you are good to go. Also, once the dough is done it won't look like very smooth dough. Always keep the dough covered.

Now, coming to the process :
First of all take some big mixing bowl or better if you have Indian style Paraat(a shallow pan with 4-5 inches high sloppy edges). Transfer 2 cups flour, salt and ajwain  in it & mix it with your hands.

Next come ghee, make sure it's cool before you pour it over the flour. Rub the ghee into the flour using your hands. Once rubbed nicely, take handful of flour & make a fist, open it if the flour maintain the shape of your fist when U open the fist means it's good. If it's too crumbly add little bit more ghee.

Now using only little water at a time knead it into a hard dough, it might feel crumbly in the beg. but don't loose your patience here. Keep working on it & it will come together, it might not look very smooth dough but that's what we want, a hard dough. Cover it with a plastic wrap or wet(squeezed) towel & let it rest for 10-15 minutes.

When ready to fry start heating the oil in a karahi/wok or deep pot on med. to med. high heat, do not use high heat. While it's getting hot take a fist full of dough, roll it into a snake/log of not more than 1 inch thickness. Cut around 1/2 inch length disc from that log.

Now take one disc flatten it & using rolling pin roll it(not too thin around 1/4 of a cm.). Repeat it with all the disc. Using a knife make 1-2 small cuts on the flat disc or alternatively use fork to prick the disc, this step ensures that when you fry the mathis they don't fluff up like poori or bhaturas. Also when U roll the mathis/disc if dough is of right consistency U will never get the smooth edges they will be little broken or kind of fray looking which is perfectly normal.

Check the oil temp. by dropping a tiny piece of dough, if it gets all the bubbles around it and goes to bottom & come back to the top quickly means oil is ready(sorry no oil thermometer in Indian kitchen, but this trick works like a charm). If it stays at the bottom it's not hot enough. If the piece of dough gets too brown very quickly means oil is little too hot U might wanna turn the gas off for few minutes.

Once the oil is ready drop rolled disc one by one into the hot oil (do not over crowd them in oil bath) & deep fry them till they are light brown in color, turn them & let other side also get cook & get the light brown color. DO NOT FRY ON HIGH HEAT, as that will make outside to cook quickly & inside will remain still soft.

While first batch is frying roll the second batch & so on. Repeat the process till U are finished with the dough.

Once they are completely cool store them in air tight container, preferably not transparent type. WHY ? because otherwise they will be gone in a day :-) everyone likes to munch on these before after & in between meals.

NOTES : If U are not comfortable rolling & frying side by side, in that case either call your husband to do the frying part OR otherwise roll all the disc/mathis first and keep them covered away from gas & fry them in batches.

VARIATIONS : I usually make two batches, the one given above. Other one is with extra virgin olive oil instead of ghee and with few more spices : coarsely crushed black peppers + dry methi leaves crushed(Kasuri methi)  + garam masala. If U prefer you can put whole black peppers, that's what normally Punjabi mathis have but my kids will take that black stuff out from each mathi they eat so I started to put coarsely crushed & they don't mind that at all.

To get the perfect rounds U can also roll one big disc & then cut small circles out of it using cookie cutter or just right size(1.5-2 inch) cap of some bottle etc. but I like the organic look of rough edges. Instead of making round mathis if U want you can make them into diamond shape known as nimki in some parts of India or long strips which are called namakpare(common in Delhi) or sankhein (i heard this term after my marriage from my MIL who lived in Rajasthan after her marriage). For these make one big disc & then cut them into strips & further into small around 2-3inch pieces(picture above will give you more clear idea).

Enjoy them as is or with a hot cup of tea. Make an extra batch, pack in a nice box & take with you, next time you visit your family or friends.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Knock Knock....It's me, I'm Back... Hello Everyone

I'm Back, with hope to blog regularly. More than 3 months have been passed since I posted any recipe here. Time flies, I totally believe in that. Back in June I was writing about our strawberry picking experience(never posted) and sudden plans of vacation to India kept me busy for a while and it's already pumpkin & apple picking season now. Even after coming back every single day I blogged but only in my thoughts, with every new day clicks of new dishes and still they didn't get to see face of this blog. Finally, today I decided to share with U guys, little bit of  what I captured in my camera in the past three months to get out of this break and hopefully to regular blogging as I do miss reading wonderful posts by my favourite bloggers and O'course I'm missing, reading comments by all you wonderful bloggers.

I clicked so many pics but didn't got a chance to post about them, I even managed to click the salad(right bottom corner) which I ate the night before we left for our trip to India. It was just to finish whatever I had left with of fresh produce : apples, tomatoes, onion, pears, paneer(Indian cheese) with generous amount of green chutney(a common & must have condiment in any Indian kitchen). It was good & filling.

I love baking, you see those big trays of cupcakes & mini bundt cakes those were baked for some celebration at our Gurudwara(Sikh Temple)  back in May and it was all eggless. First time I baked in such a large quantity, 72 cupcakes + 44 mini bundt cakes + one round of 12 cupcakes which was gobbled by kiddos & their friends as house was smelling so good they kept roaming around the kitchen.

Monsoon in Dilli(Delhi, capital of India) welcomed us by coming 4 days early, to match with our arrival day. It was so perfect timings, drizzling all the time till we reached home, at airport my 9 yr. old was complaining : great it's raining we won't be able to play outside and just after couple of hours she had best time of her life soaking in those downpours. First showers of first Indian Monsoon for Kiddos, as this was the first time we went in summers. There is something special about the Indian monsoon it seems perfect to soak in those rains( i think some of the credit also goes to Bollywood movies, for giving us some classic rainy songs) and later enjoy some hot pakoras & samosas. Yes, Samosas were eaten every single day rain or shine during our stay in Dilli and Kachoris, Mirchi wada & Jalebi were our everyday breakfast while we were in Rajasthan.

Kiddos enjoyed monkeying around the same Bargad ka ped(Banyan tree) which their dad use to climb as a young boy over 3 decades ago and  mom also climbed a decade ago as a newly wed. I feel climbing trees is a common interest which runs in the family ;-)

Some time we don't need lot of technical stuff like DS, Wii, iPad or some other hi fi toys to amuse kids. Mouse caught in a cage overnight, can really provide U with hour of fun before your kind heart go out and leave that mouse free 2-3 streets away from your house, to be caught by some one else if he dares to enter their house. OR if that's not your kind of fun than I'm sure U would love to feed food to birds, in our case it's a parrot who for some reason decided he like our terrace for his early morning lazy time, it may be the kids or hari mirchi(green chili).

After 12 years, I not only saw Indian Monsoon but also saw dilli flooded with Kanwarias once again. Ask any dilli wala and U will know during the shravan month acc. to Hindu Calender which usually falls in rainy season between July august, roads will be blocked, traffic will be diverted & some roads will be even closed for this whole period.  Because this is the time when these Saffron-clad Kanwarias start their journey back to their home town, barefoot with pots of ganga-jal(holy water) carried on their shoulders, filled from holy river Ganges in Haridwar. They take ganga-jal to offer to Lord Shiva in their village These people come from all the northern states of India and cross dilli on their way to Haridwar. As per the tradition water should not touch to the ground, so thru out the city there are camps for their rest & stands are made to kept the kanwars(pots). In top picture one of the decorated kanwar carrier is resting on street vendors cart. What was new this time for me, that on a very busy ring road(call it a life line of dilli), section of good few kilometers had a dedicated line for Kanwarias. Govt. tries to keep accidents & mishaps at minimum. It might be a good amusement for first timer to see all this but it really slow down the city and even stop it sometime.

What's your favourite thing when U go on road trips & you are not driving. Mine is to take pictures & lots of them. U really need to take lots of them because when U r trying to take a picture from moving car, holding your toddler with one hand, at least 60-70% of photos are not going to be of good quality, then in some U gonna miss the object U were trying to catch. But if U are lucky like me who have a husband, who manages to overtake the truck after doing lot of zig zag & rather than speeding back to 130 km/per hour, just adjust the speed so that I can take the picture of that same truck which we just overtook. Why ? because how many times U see a panel of windmill travelling on a truck, well for me I had seen windmill farm, but windmill panel travelling on a truck was first time and it was huge. I love to take pictures of highway nos. & signs, I'm clever no need to write anything when after few years kiddos will look at the pics they will know which place that trip was for. And most important is the scenery, no matter how many times I have travelled this region, the Aravalli mountain range has such a charm in it I always find it beautiful, surrounded by those beautiful mountain peaks journey is never tiring.

Thanks, to all of you, who stopped at this space while I was away.  I'll be back soon with some yummy recipe from my kitchen.