Monday, April 29, 2019

Fluffy Dinner Rolls

Yes they are exactly what the title says. Fluffy and roly-poly. And I am addicted. Carbs equate comfort, at least to me. If I had to give up bread, I will turn into a very cranky person. I try to keep the carb-craving to a minimum, but this recipe grabs me. Cooks Illustrated and Andrea Geary lures me into trying a 'new' version of an old classic.

I find this compendium of Cooks Illustrated Revolutionary Recipes very interesting.This is dinner roll 101, with a few twists. You need flour, eggs, yeast and milk and large bowl of patience. Bread is worth the wait when you can step away from the dough. As impatient as I am, I follow instructions to a tee.  Dinner rolls start with a warm, thick paste of flour and water, which is whisked with cold milk and an egg. Bread flour is added, along with yeast, salt, sugar and softened butter. I've exchanged bread flour for regular all purpose flour. Then comes the patience part. The dough has to rest. It has to proof for an hour the first time. Squares of dough are stretched and rolled to form logs. These logs then proof again for the good part of an hour. Please refer to NOTES for proofing methods. Baked in a hot oven, the rolls promise the intoxicating aroma of baking bread. If ever there was a perfume I would like to bottle, it is this one!

Brush the rolls with melted butter and tear into them. They come apart in in flaky strips. No butter needed!

Marginally Adapted from Andrea Geary in Cooks Illustrated Revolutionary Recipes

Flour Paste
1/2 cup Water
3 tablespoons all purpose Flour

1/2 cup cold Milk
1 large Egg
2 cups all purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise Yeast
2 tablespoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
4 tablespoons Butter, softened
1/2 tablespoon Butter, melted

Make the paste by putting flour and water in a microwave safe bowl. Whisk to combine.

Microwave paste for 20 seconds. The edges will have thickened. Whisk paste well. Microwave again for 20 seconds. Whisk well again. Microwave for 10 seconds. The paste should be thick and pudding like.

Start the dough by scraping the paste into the bowl of a stand mixer. 

Use a whisk hook. Add cold milk and whisk till smooth.

Add egg and whisk again till dough is smooth and egg is incorporated.

Change to a dough hook.

Add flour, yeast, salt and sugar to dough. Mix on low speed for a couple of minutes.

Let dough stand for 15 minutes.

Cut butter into 4 portions.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Let dough go for about 5 minutes, until all the butter is mixed into the dough. The dough will look shaggy and wet at this time.

Transfer dough onto a lightly floured counter. Knead for a bit to form a smooth ball.

Lightly butter a glass bowl. 

Place dough in bowl. Spray top of dough with oil spray.

Cover with a cloth towel and keep in warm place for 1 hour or till dough has doubled.

Grease a 13x8 baking dish.

Lightly flour a counter. Scrape dough onto floured surface.

Press dough gently into a 9x9 square. 

Cut dough into 12 even squares.

Take one square of dough and stretch it vertically about 9-10 inches. Lay it flat on the counter. Start rolling the dough from the top. Place the roll seam side down on prepared baking dish.

Finish all squares the same way.

Cover rolls with a cloth towel and place in a warm area for 1 hour to double. 

Heat the oven to 375F.

Bake rolls for 25-30 minutes till the tops are golden brown.

Brush rolls with melted butter and serve.

The rolls could be refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to a week. Reheat at 250F for 10 minutes.


Proofing Methods

There are many proofing methods. I have used all of the ones below at different times of the year.
#The best one is to proof at room temperature on a warm day. Place dough in a sunny spot.
#I had a covered pot of hot stock on which I placed the rolls. The residual heat from the hot stock allowed the rolls to proof in 45 minutes. Use hot water in place of stock.
#Another method I use is to light the oven to 250F and then shut it off. Put the covered dough in the oven till doubled.
#Try placing the dough in a cold oven with a large bowl or dish of boiling water under the dough. 

The recipe says to wait for twenty minutes till the rolls cool. With the aroma in kitchen I will go mad if I have to wait that long. I tear into a roll. And another.They are soft, fluffy, warm....small buns of sheer delight.  Reason prevails or else carb overload will consume me.  

Friday, April 26, 2019

Eggplant Bharit

Not this isn't an eggplant bharta, though bharit is made along the similar lines. You have a raita like consistency, with a unique taste. The Pathare Prabhu community have some choice recipes. This one is a family favorite.

Eggplants are flame-grilled, peeled and pulped. There are a few other ways to achieve pulp status. You could easily broil them or roast then over an open flame. I'm told you can buy roasted pulp in Turkish grocery stores, but I haven't tried that approach.The char that results is the first part of the magic. This charred pulp is but a platform, a step to elevated status. Additions are plenty. Tahini is the standard Mediterranean flavor. Yogurt makes the best raita or dip. This Pathare Prabhu recipe calls for coconut milk. And a puree of onion, green chiles, ginger and cilantro. Whisk it well. Chill it for a bit. Ladle it onto hot cooked rice, which is my road taken. I am thus transported to my grandmum's kitchen. I am sitting at my mum's table. Bharit is versatile, as part of an Indian meal. Or as a dip with crackers or pita bread. Anyway you eat it, it is delicious.

Serves 4

1 large Eggplant
1/2 red or white Onion
1 green Chile
2 Ginger coins
1/2 cup Cilantro
3/4 cup Coconut Milk
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 tablespoons Cilantro, minced finely

There are a few ways to char the eggplant.

Light a gas grill. 

Place eggplant on grate and grill for 20 minutes, turning frequently.

OR roast eggplant over an open flame indoors. Turn frequently. This is rather messy. 

OR preheat your broiler. Broil eggplant, turning frequently. Watch carefully as eggplant might burn.

Cool eggplant. Peel. The skin should flake off. Do not wash the eggplant or you will lose the charred flavor.

Use a fork to mash the pulp. Place pulp in a bowl.

Chop onion roughly.

Cut chile into small pieces.

Puree onion, chile, ginger and cilantro in a blender.

Add puree to eggplant.

Add coconut milk, salt and finely minced cilantro as well. 

Whisk well to blend all spices.

Refrigerate for 1/2 hour to let flavors develop.

Serve with hot rice. Or as a dip with pita bread. 

Each mouthful is comforting, the hot rice and cool eggplant combining to create magic on my palate and in my mind.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Lemon Brulee Tarts

Spring is a riot of color. Fresh greens and lemon yellow are resplendent in hedges, daffodils and budding trees. So a lemon yellow tart for Easter should be rather appropriate. A tart with a burnt crust might just intrigue the palate. 

Small tarts shells are lined with pate sucre and baked blind. A rich, buttery lemon curd is whisked, cooled and spooned into baked tart shells. The cooled filling is then covered with demerara sugar and broiled till golden. But if you have a hand held torch you would have better results. The broiler is a little tricky, but suffices if that is your only option. 

The resulting bite is a crunchy, sweet, lemony bite. Delicious!

Makes 15 mini tarts

Pate Sucre/ Shortcrust Pastry
1 1/4 cup all purpose Flour
1 tablespoon Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 cup Butter
1/4 cup Crisco or Vegetable Shortening
3-5 tablespoons Cold Water

Lemon Filling
1/2 cup Sugar
2 Eggs, at room temperature
2 Lemons, zested
1/3 cup Lemon Juice
5 tablespoons Butter
Pinch of Salt

12-15 teaspoons Demerara Sugar

Make the pastry by placing flour, sugar, salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times.

Cut butter and Crisco into small pieces. Add to flour and pulse till mix looks like small peas.

Spoon water over flour and pulse again till mix comes together.

Gather dough together on a plate. Make a flat disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Prepare mini fluted tart tins.

Cut aluminum foil into 15 3x3 inch squares. 

Heat oven to 350F.

Pinch off a walnut sized ball of pastry. Place it in the center of the tart tin. Use your thumb to flatten the pastry so that it lines the tin. Keep on a baking tray.

Place one square of foil over tart tin. Press down to cover pastry. Add a couple of tablespoons of dried beans or pie weights in the center. 

Repeat with the rest of the tins.

Bake tarts for 20 minutes. 

Take them out of the oven and cool. 

Remove foil and beans. The beans could be saved as baking beans. 

Make the filling while the tarts bake.

Beat sugar, eggs, lemon zest and juice in a non reactive bowl. (Stainless steel works best)

Cook over low heat till thick and bubbly.

Cut butter into small pieces. Whisk into hot lemon curd. 

When lemon curd cools, spoon it into baked tarts. 

Refrigerate until ready to broil.

Start broiler on high.

Spoon a heaped teaspoon of demerara sugar over the lemon curd.

Broil till sugar is bubbling.

Remove from oven. 

Cool for a few minutes and serve. 

Easter is about celebrating with family. That our table is laden is a blessing. A tart ending to a sweet gathering.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Tandoori Sweet Potatoes

I've eaten an ethereal version of tandoori sweet potatoes at Pali Bhavan in Mumbai. A whole plate of chaat dusted, charred cylinders of starch, scarfed down in seconds. Deliciousness personified! So this is an attempt to fulfill that food itch. These are not made with American sweet potatoes or yams. I've used Indian sweet potatoes, with pink and white mottled skins and white insides. As sweet as yams and go by the name of batata in Spanish stores. Not to be confused with the traditional Indian name for potatoes, which is also batata! 

Boiled and peeled, they are cut into thick slabs and marinated in tandoori masala. The grill gives them sear marks. A dusting of chaat masala drives them to a higher plane. And we indulge!

Serves 4

4 Indian Sweet Potatoes or Batatas
1 tablespoon Tandoori Paste or Powder
3 tablespoons thick Yogurt
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Canola Oil Spray
Chaat Masala

Wash potatoes well.

Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Boil till the knife slides in easily, about 15-20 minutes.

Drain potatoes, cool and peel. 

Cut potatoes into 3/4 inch thick slices. 

Whisk tandoori paste or powder, yogurt and salt in a bowl.

Drop potatoes gently into the yogurt. Mix well so marinade covers potatoes. Keep aside for an hour.

Heat the gas grill. 

Spray potatoes with canola oil.

Lay potato slices carefully on grates. 

Cook covered on one side for 4-5 minutes till you have sear marks. Flip and cook the other side for a few minutes more.

You can grill these on an indoor grill as well. Follow the same steps as above.

Heap potatoes on a plate. 

Dust with chaat masala. 

Eat them hot!

Potatoes disappear as fast as they appear! Satisfying the itch means taking a plane to Mumbai. This is a cheaper option and an equally satisfying one.