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Thursday, 25 May 2017

Vanilla Biscotti





Photo Courtesy: Dr. Debarshi Chatterji


As you know I have been experimenting with Biscotti for some time now. I feel that the best way to understand a new recipe is to try it again and again. I continue to improvise the recipe till I feel confident that this is the one I would like to share with everyone. The ingredients below will make only a couple of servings which is perfect when you are trying this for the first time. Hopefully you will like these yummy crunchy biscuits as much as I like baking and sharing them.

So, what is a Biscotti?
Biscotti is an Italian biscuit (or cookie) which is baked twice. So, once the dough is kneaded, it is baked till it gets firm. It is then removed from the oven and cut into oblong shaped pieces. It is then baked again which creates that dry, crunchy texture on them. Just like cookies, biscotti can also be prepared with various ingredients like almonds, cranberries, pistachios, chocolate and even lemon or orange zests and because they are dry you can easily store them for a long period of time. 

Biscotti and Cake rusk:
As I have told you before, there are quite a few items in our Indian bakeries which bear a remarkable similarity to the French or Italian baked products. We have a biscuit in India which we call Cake Rusk and it tastes very similar to the Vanilla Biscottis. I matched the ingredients of the cake rusk and biscotti and found them to be alike.  However, when we proceed to baking, the methods are different. Biscottis are baked by shaping the dough in the form of a log whereas a cake rusk is baked in the form of a cake by pouring the batter inside a baking tray. After the initial baking both the biscotti and cake rusk are cut into pieces and toasted which brings that crunchy texture. 

How to enjoy this delicious biscuit?
Since biscotti is dry, it is best to pair it with a beverage. I read that the traditional pair of biscotti is a sweet wine called Vin Santo. However, personally I love to enjoy it with a cup of coffee. Debarshi likes to eat his biscotti by dunking it in his tea and I am sure kids will enjoy this crunchy biscuit with a glass of milk. Pair this with whatever you like best, this yummy crunchy biscuit goes well with everything.






Ingredients:
  • Butter – 4 tablespoons
  • White Sugar – ¼ cup and 2 teaspoons 
  • Egg - 1 
  • Vanilla Extract – ¼ teaspoon 
  • All Purpose Flour - 1 cup 
  • Salt - 1/8 teaspoon 
  • Baking Powder – ¼ teaspoon 


Let’s Prep:
  • Keep the butter and the egg on the kitchen counter. This will help to bring the egg to the room temperature and soften the butter. Leave them out for about half an hour.
  • Line a baking pan with foil. Grease it lightly with oil.
  • Keep a piece of parchment paper handy.


Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl, cream the Butter and Sugar together. If using stand mixer, use the whisk. 
  • Once it looks all mixed up and creamy, add the Egg and beat until fluffy. The batter may look slightly curdled, but it’s ok.
  • Stir in the Vanilla Extract. 
  • Sift together the Flour, Baking Powder and Salt.
  • Now this step is very important. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir with a spoon or spatula until the dough comes together. Don’t over mix it or the dough can become tough and dense. I never use my stand mixer for this step as it can easily over knead the dough.
  • Wet your hands with water or vegetable oil, this will help to work with the dough. 
  • Roll the dough into a log about 15 inches long. 
  • Place the log onto the baking pan lined with foil. 
  • Flatten the log out until it is about 3 inches wide with a slight hump going down the middle. 
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, loaf should be firm. 
  • Remove the loaf from the oven. 
  • You may switch off the oven at this time.
  • Transfer to a cooling rack and let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes, but not much longer. Set a timer for 10 minutes that should give you a buffer to pre heat the oven again and cut the loaf.
  • Turn the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. 
  • Transfer the loaf to a cutting board and using a serrated bread knife, start cutting the slices. They should not be too thin, about half inch thickness is good. Cut them at an angle.
  • Place the cookies on the baking pan lined with the parchment paper. Lay them on one side with one to two inches of space in between each cookie.
  • Place the pan in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. 
  • Take out the pan carefully and turn all the cookies using a kitchen tong.
  • Return to the oven and bake the other side for another 10 minutes.
  • Switch off the oven and take out the baking pan.
  • Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and cool for about 30 minutes. 
  • Store in an airtight container for 3-4 weeks.


Tips:
  • Substitute the sugar with a zero calorie sugar like Truvia.
  • If the room is cold it may take longer for the butter to melt, you can microwave it for about 30 seconds to melt it.
  • Make sure you are not dropping any egg shells in the mixing bowl. If you are having trouble, use a small bowl. Crack each egg into the bowl, check for shell fragments, then pour it into the mixing bowl. This is also a great way to make sure that we are not using any rotten eggs.
  • If you want to increase the number of servings, the amount of all the ingredients will increase accordingly. The number of eggs will also increase. Now, whenever you are adding more than one egg, make sure to beat each egg well into the mixture before adding the next.
  • The reason I used foil during my first bake is to prevent the loaf from getting over baked. I had been trying this recipe with parchment paper and every time after 15 minutes, the loaf would get so brown on the bottom that I had to take it out. The foil gave me enough time to get a proper bake on the loaf.
  • Don’t forget to line the baking pan with an aluminum foil for the initial baking, this will help a quick clean up.
  • Use a spray or brush to grease the foil. 
  • After the first baking, we are letting the biscotti cool down a bit so that we can get clean slices. Now this waiting time is crucial, if you don’t wait and cut too soon, you will not get clean slices, on the other hand, if you wait too long then the dough will harden, making it difficult to cut. Touch the loaf cautiously to check if it has cooled down a bit. If its too hot, it is not yet ready to be cut. 
  • A serrated knife allows you to slice the loaf neatly without putting any pressure on it. Cut the loaf in a sawing motion.



  • You may cut the slices straight that will yield small biscottis. If you want long and elegant slices, then you need to cut the logs at an angle.
  • Don’t forget to transfer the biscottis to a cooling rack as soon as they have finished the second bake. This will make them crisper as they cool.
  • Biscotti stays crisp at room temperature. I always store it in an airtight container.


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Kabiraji Paratha (Fried bread stuffed with Potatoes and Egg)





Photo and Recipe courtesy: Dr. Debarshi Chatterji

Kabiraji means frying fish or chicken cutlets (thin slices of meat) in a batter of egg. This recipe is however, a different version of Kabiraji. You see, a few weeks ago, I asked Debarshi for some simple Alu Paratha but when he boiled the potatoes, he asked me if I would like to try something new. I said, yes! why not? and hence he came up with this recipe. 

Debarshi prepared Potatoes and Egg Paratha and named it Kabiraji. The preparation is very similar to the French Parathas but the part where we cook the eggs is different so I will recommend you to read the entire recipe before starting.

Also, once you prepare and enjoy the yummy Parathas don’t forget to use the leftover Pur (stuffing) to prepare the yummy Pakoras (fritters).



Ingredients for the Pur (stuffing):
  • Potato –1 big russet potato, cut in half
  • Salt – about 2 pinches for boiling the potatoes + ¼ teaspoon for frying the eggs + about ½ teaspoon for making the Pur
  • Eggs – 3, large
  • Oil – 2-3 teaspoons (for frying the eggs) + 4 tablespoons (for making the Pur)
  • Onion – ½ cup, finely chopped
  • Green Chilies - 2-4
  • Cumin Seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Cilantro – about ½ cup chopped
  • Cumin Powder – ½ teaspoon
  • Red Chili Powder – ¼ teaspoon
  • Coriander Powder – ½ teaspoon
  • Garam Masala – ½ teaspoon
  • Amchur – ½ teaspoon


Ingredients for the dough:
  • Whole Wheat Flour – 1 cup
  • All Purpose Flour – 1 cup
  • Salt - ½ teaspoon 
  • Oil – 4 tablespoons (to be used while kneading the dough) + plus 2-3 tablespoons for frying the Parathas


Let’s do a little prep:
  • It’s time to take out the pressure cooker. Wash the potato and put it in the pressure cooker with enough water to cover it.
  • Add 2 pinches of Salt in it.
  • Attach the rubber and the whistle on the lid and cover the cooker.
  • Heat the cooker on medium heat and wait for 2-3 whistles.
  • Turn off the heat and let it cool down.
  • Once the pressure drops and the lid opens, remove the potato from the cooker and place it in a bowl filled with ice.
  • Allow 5-10 minutes then touch cautiously to check if the potato is cool enough to handle.
  • Peel the potato (carefully certain spots may still be hot).


Let’s fry the eggs:
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat and add 2-3 teaspoons of oil in it.
  • Add the eggs in it one by one.
  • When the eggs begin to set, sprinkle the Salt (¼ teaspoon) and gently pull the eggs across the pan with an inverted spatula, forming large soft curds. Continue cooking – pulling, lifting and folding eggs – until it is thickened and no visible liquid egg remains. Do not stir constantly. 
  • Remove from heat and transfer to a plate.


Tips: 
  • Keep the eggs soft, do not over fry them. See the below photo? This is how they should look.
  • Make sure you are not dropping any egg shells in the skillet. If you are having trouble, use a small bowl. Crack each egg into the bowl, check for shell fragments, then pour it into the pan. This is also a great way to make sure that we are not using any rotten eggs.




Directions for kneading the dough:
  • Add the Whole Wheat Flour, All Purpose Flour, Salt and Oil (4 tablespoons) in the bowl.
  • Give them a whir on the lowest speed until well blended.
  • Now we start the kneading, attach the hook and start the mixer on the lowest speed and slowly start adding half a cup of water in the flour. I give it time to knead and form the dough. If the sides are sticking with the bowl too much I switch off the mixer and clean the sides using a spatula.
  • I keep it running until the dough begins to come together adding a tablespoon of water at a time.
  • At this stage it will look dry, normally for 2 cups of flour 1 cup of water will be sufficient so make sure not to add too much water at this stage. Keep running the mixer.
  • Now sometimes the dough turns out a bit stickier, I usually add a little flour and keep kneading it until its smooth and almost non sticky.
  • Remove the hook and cover the bowl. Let the dough rest while we prepare the Pur (stuffing).


Tip: 
  • Use lukewarm water for a smooth soft dough.


Let’s prepare the Pur (Stuffing):
  • Mash the boiled potato and the egg together. You can use your hands to remove any lumps (let it cool down before using your hands).




  • Heat a wok over medium high heat.
  • Add about 4 tablespoons of Oil in it.
  • Add the Cumin Seeds and let them sputter.
  • Add the Onion and Green Chili in the wok and fry them till they are golden brown in color (caramelizing the onion ensures that it mixes well with the mashed potato and egg).
  • Add the mashed Potato and egg in it and mix well.
  • Fry the mixture for a while then start adding the spices (Salt, Cumin Powder, Red Chili Powder, Coriander Powder, Garam Masala and Amchur). Mix everything well and fry the whole mixture on medium heat for about 15 minutes. 
  • Add the Cilantro, mix well and fry for another 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Allow the Pur to cool down a bit.
  • The prepared Pur will look like below. Now lets’ fry the Parathas.




Let’s do a little prep:
  • Re-knead the dough for a few seconds. Then divide the dough into two equal parts. Roll each part into a log like a thick breadstick. Divide both the logs into 6 equal pieces. 
  • Now these 6 pieces will make 6 Parathas. Take a piece of dough between your palms and roll it into a ball. Put all the other balls of dough back in the bowl and cover it. This will prevent the dough from drying out. This stuffed Paratha will be thicker than the Methi Saag Paratha or Plain Paratha so there should be enough dough in each piece to form a cup so that we can fill the Pur inside it. 




  • Now take a piece of dough and roll it with both your palms. Press the dough roll with both your palms and start flattening the edges, the trick is to keep the edges thin and the center thick. Put about 2 tablespoons of the Pur in the center of this dough cup. 



  • Carefully pull the edges together to close it and make a crown on top, it will look like a garlic head.




  • Press the ball between your palms lightly to flatten it a little like a disc. Do the same with all the dough balls. Fill them up with the Pur and close the edges and flatten them like discs.



  • Dip that disc of dough lightly into the All Purpose Flour. This will give it a smoother texture. Place the disc on the rolling board and start rolling it.
  • I usually spread a little flour whenever the dough starts to stick on the board and roll it into a round shape with even thickness on all sides. 
  • Roll the Parathas very gently so that the stuffing does not break out.
  • It takes some time and experience to measure the stuffing. It may break out or not spread evenly. Have patience, it will still taste good. 


Tip: 
  • Start from the center and roll the rolling pin over the dough using a light but even pressure. Turn the dough over and add more flour whenever necessary. Try to smooth all the edges and maintain an even thickness.


Now let’s fry the Paratha:
  • Heat a big skillet over medium high heat. Transfer the rolled out Paratha to the pan and do this carefully. Lift the Paratha with both hands and place it on the skillet. If it folds while placing, carefully straighten it using a spatula. 
  • After a couple of seconds, you will see bubbles forming on the Paratha. The texture will look dry this means that the underside of the Paratha is now cooked and ready to be flipped. Flip it using a flat spatula and use a brush to apply Oil on the Paratha. Flip it again and let it cook for about 30 seconds. 



  • In the meantime, apply oil on the other side as well and flip it again. The Paratha will start puffing up. If it doesn’t, press onto the Paratha with your spatula on different places for 5-10 seconds.
  • Flip the Paratha back over and press the other side with your spatula for a few seconds.
  • Turn the heat down to medium low.
  • Transfer the cooked Paratha on a plate lined with paper towel or aluminum foil.
  • Serve the Paratha hot with Pickles, Onion Rings and a dollop of butter.




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Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Luchi – Deep Fried Puffed Bread






Photo features: Luchi and Alu Kumror torkari (Deep fried puffed breads with a Potatoes and Pumpkin stir fry).


Photo courtesy: Dr. Debarshi Chatterji
Recipe courtesy: Monima


The thought of gaining a few hundred calories over brunch is not going to stop me from enjoying a crusty hot Luchi.

Luchi or Puri as we call it in Hindi is one of the most loved and eaten breads in almost every Indian home. Kids love its crusty puff and eat it first to enjoy the crunch. Be it a weekend brunch, fasting day or a special meal for the guests Luchi is always there. The Luchi dough is kneaded with oil or ghee and a little salt which creates that nice crust on it and brings a savory taste in it. Luchi can be enjoyed with any stir fry or curry of your choice.

Now although I have eaten Luchi hundreds of times at my parents’ home, I actually took the recipe from my mother in law while writing down another of her special recipes- Alur dom. Debarshi loves Luchi and Alur Dom and I try to prepare this whenever I can. Since Luchi is deep fried, it’s loaded with calories and I will suggest you to limit this for special occasions only like I do. If you love fried bread, then a good alternative to Luchi is Paratha which is prepared by shallow frying the rolled out dough on a skillet. It is easier to prepare and is comparatively a healthier option.

Now let’s talk about the preparation and techniques. Luchi dough will not have any leavening agent in it like baking powder or soda and hence we will be adding a good amount of oil which we call moen in Bengali. This helps to make the Luchis crisp and puff up while frying. I love adding some carom seeds as well. They not only inculcate a complex aroma in the Luchis but also help prevent any stomach disorders. While kneading the Luchi dough pay special attention, if it starts getting sticky then don’t be afraid, continue kneading so that the dough absorbs all the extra water. I always use lukewarm water to knead the dough and once it turns smooth, I leave it to rest for at least 15 minutes. A Luchi will be smaller than your palm almost the size of a small round bread roll. So you will have to roll a few extra Luchis per head because everyone will be eating a few more. I always transfer the hot Luchis in a colander lined with a paper towel so that it can absorb the extra oil and the steam can escape.

Luchi goes great with any Sabji or curry but I just love it with a Bhaja like Begun Bhaja or Bhindi Bhaja (deep fried Eggplant or Okra with turmeric and salt). Luchis are temperamental so even after doing all the steps correctly it’s possible they wont puff up. Don’t worry they will still taste great. However, do check the correct temperature of the oil by doing the test and do read the frying tips.

So this weekend how about some Luchi Torkari? Try it and let me know.

Bon Appetit!





Photo features: Luchi and Alur Dom (Potatoes with gravy)


Ingredients:
  • All Purpose Flour – 2 cups
  • Oil – 6 teaspoons (used while kneading the dough) + 2 cups for frying
  • Water – about 8 tablespoons (add more if required), lukewarm
  • Salt – about ½ teaspoon
  • Carom Seeds – about 1 teaspoon (optional)

Directions for Kneading the Dough:
  • Wash your hands, you will be using them a lot. If using stand mixer, attach the Bowl and Hook to your Stand Mixer and connect it.
  • In a large bowl mix the All Purpose Flour, Carom Seeds (if adding) and Salt together. Mix using either your fingers or a whisk or run the mixer on the lowest speed until its all well mixed.
  • Now add the Oil. Mix with your fingers until you get a sandy texture or run the mixer again for a minute or two.
  • Add water, a little at a time, and knead into a dough. You may need a few extra tablespoons of water if the dough feels tough. We need a tight dough so do not add a lot of water otherwise it will become gooey and too soft. Keep kneading it for another minute or two. 
  • For stand mixer - start the mixer on lowest speed and slowly add a little water in the flour. I give it time to knead and form the dough. If the sides are sticking with the bowl too much I switch off the mixer and clean the sides using a spatula. I keep it running until the dough begins to come together adding a teaspoon of water at a time. At this stage it will look dry, make sure not to add too much water at this stage. We need a tight dough so do not add too much water. Keep running the mixer. 
  • Now sometimes the dough turns out a bit stickier I usually add a little flour or a tablespoon of oil and keep it kneading until it's smooth and almost non sticky. 
  • When the dough feels smooth, remove the hook and cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or a plastic wrap and let the dough rest for at least 15 minutes. 

Directions to roll the Luchis:
  • Once the dough has rested, re-knead the dough for a few seconds. Then divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each part into a log like a thick breadstick. Divide both the logs into 14 equal pieces. 
  • Now these 14 pieces will make 14 Luchis. Take a piece of dough between your palms and roll it into a ball. Press the ball between your palms lightly to flatten it a little like a disc. Put all the other balls of dough back in the bowl and cover it. This will prevent the dough from drying out.
  • Now let’s roll the Luchi, if we have added the correct amount of oil (moen) while kneading the dough, then the dough will roll smoothly and you will not need any flour for dusting. This will also bring a smoother texture and make the Luchis flaky. However, if you find it difficult to roll, you can always use a little All Purpose Flour.
  • Place the disc on the rolling board and start rolling it. It should be small and round and not too thick. A little unevenness in shape is ok. 
  • Now we are ready to start frying the Luchis. You may want to roll a few extra Luchis before starting the first batch. Make sure you are not putting the rolled out Luchis on top of each other. Keep them on a cookie sheet or a big platter on a single layer and cover them with a kitchen towel.

Directions for frying the Luchi:
  • Heat oil in a deep frying pan or wok over medium- medium high heat.
  • Test the temperature of the oil by dropping a small ball of dough into the oil. If there isn’t any bubbling, then the oil isn’t ready. If it’s furiously bubbling and there is smoke, that’s too hot. If the temperature is perfect the dough ball will take a dip and immediately float to the surface of the oil and start changing color.
  • At this perfect temperature, add one Luchi at a time and do this very carefully. Fry the Luchi by gently pressing it down with the frying spoon at different places.
  • Turn over when puffed up (or after a couple of seconds) and fry the Luchi till golden brown.
  • Transfer the fried Luchi on a paper towel or napkin to absorb the excess oil.
  • Serve the Luchi hot with Alur Dom or any other Torkari or curry.

Tips:
  • Switch on the exhaust fan.
  • I find it ok to multi task for this recipe but if at any point you find it overwhelming you may want to do one step at a time. If you do want to multitask, here is an easy tip: roll out a few Luchis then fry them one by one on medium high heat. This will help you to pay proper attention while frying the Luchis. Then lower the temperature and start rolling out the next batch. When you have rolled out 4-5 Luchis, increase the temperature again and repeat.
  • The perfect frying temperature is very important for making puffy Luchis. So, keep checking the temperature.
  • If you are not able to fry a perfect puffy Luchi, it maybe due to the oil temperature, so, try to maintain an even temperature. Remember, preparing deep fried bread is a difficult task which needs patience and experience.
  • Even if your Luchis do not puff up, they will still taste great so do not throw them out.
  • Make sure not to use a lot of flour while rolling the Luchis, this will leave a lot of burnt flour in the oil and you will not be able to re use this oil for the next batches.
  • I usually line a Colander with two paper towels and keep the fried Luchis in it. The holes of the Colander allow the steam of the hot Luchis to pass through thus maintaining the crispiness.
  • Finally, as I said earlier do not pile the rolled out Luchis on top of each other as the uncooked flour will stick together. Keep them on a single layer.
  • While the dough is resting, use that time to prepare the torkari or set the table.


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