Baking my first bread & one of a kind cooking studio

I bought my first oven  and  it was lying in the box for close to a month! While travel kept me busy, I was wondering where to place it for the perfect hot spot. The thought of handling a new gadget and not having worked with it before made me a little nervous and excited at the same time.

I’ve always been fascinated with bread baking but never had an oven to bake one. A lot of bloggers used to write about how bread baking can be soothing and indulging. I always wondered why and wanted to experience it myself. I got an opportunity to go for the bread baking class at the APB Cookstudio, one of a kind cook studio in India started by Rushina of  A perfect Bite and her husband Shekar. The studio has individual work stations with high end kitchen equipment, a dream kitchen for anyone who loves to cook. My friend Saee from My Jhola was taking an intensive class on bread baking at the studio. Also note with no clue about baking and my oven still lying in the box, I registered for the bread baking class. With a hands on experience and we made different types of breads like white loaf, whole wheat dinner rolls,chocolate rolls etc. After the class, I gained a little confidence at dealing with ‘yeast’.

The next day, my husband helped me instal the oven and I was set to start my journey in “baking”. I couldn’t resist and had to kick start  my new mission immediately. I chose to bake whole wheat bread over the all purpose or maida because I like the nutty taste of the wheat breads. However, no first timer will attempt at whole wheat bread; the reason being – whole wheat breads have a reputation for difficulty because it contains gluten, which doesn’t allow it to rise like the white flour or maida breads.

I enjoyed the process of kneading and waiting for the dough to rise. I cannot account how nervous I must have been going like a million times to check if my bread is browning well. I loved the aroma lingering in my house and for some reason I felt satisfied. Bread baking can lead to short lived simple pleasures of life. Do I sound addicted?  I’ve only  baked twice and on a mission in exploring more variations.

Homemade organic whole wheat bread tastes MUCH BETTER than the store bought one

**The recipe is adapted from Saee’s recipe for whole wheat bread rolls, from the APB class with slight modifications. I used fresh wheat flour instead of packaged ones. If you’re using packaged flour, Saee suggests to add some wheat bran to give your bread a nutty texture. I used fresh/wet yeast, bought from the local bakery for 10 rupees, which will last you for 3-4 bread making sessions. You can freeze rest of the yeast for six months. I used raw sugar the first time and jaggery the second time – I found the one with jaggery better, but  its a personal choice.

Ingredients:

350gms whole wheat flour (use the chakki atta and not processed ones for better results)

2tbs wheat bran (**see note above)

1tbs (15gms) dry active yeast or fresh yeast (**see note above)

1 glass luke warm water

2tsp (10gms)  sugar or jaggery (**see note above)

2tsp ghee/oil/butter ( I used ghee) & some for greasing

2tsp rock salt

for topping – sunflower seeds/sesame seeds/ poppy seeds etc

  1. In a glass of lukewarm water, dissolve sugar/jaggery and yeast.Allow it to stand for 10 minutes until frothy.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix the measured flour, yeast mixture and form a soft dough, adding more water if necessary.
  3. Cream the fat and salt separately and work into the dough. Tip onto a floured work surface and knead for 3-4 minutes until elastic.
  4. Form into a ball and return to the mixing bowl. Cover with cling wrap and leave to rest for 20 minutes or double in size.
  5. Knock back the dough (punch it in the middle and let all the air escape) and knead again for 3-4 minutes,
  6. Shape the dough in desired shape and place the dough on the greased tray.
  7. Leave it in a warm spot for 20 minutes or double in size.
  8. Preheat the oven and sprinkle some water on top and top with the desired toppings.
  9. Bake at 200 degrees centigrade for 20 minutes or until the surface is browned.
  10. The bread sounds hollow when done. Brush with some olive oil and cool on a wire rack.

Store in an air tight container or you could freeze it wrapped in a foil for 3 months.

APB Cookstudio conducts cooking classes regularly. Sharing some of the bread baking class pictures.

Individual work stations at the APB studio

Basic white loaf

Focaccia

Whole wheat bread rolls

Chocolate rolls

We also made some donuts!


Cooking like an Italian

“A new day and a new theme”

Of late I’ve been feeling a little negative and my last post said it all. This month is almost closing on me and here I am again back logged with things to do, which kept me away from posting about i2cook’s second cooking class, which happened early this month.

I recently received an email from a customer who had ordered few bottles of  shahi tukra during rakhi and appreciating the sweet so much that all the negativity that I’ve been feeling began to fade. She attempted twice to tell me how much she liked it – once when I was traveling and couldn’t return her call back and the second time by writing  an email to me. She also checked with me about the class and that’s when I realized that my post for the second one is long overdue.

i2cook cooking class is slowly catching up in its own special way and I’m glad that its appreciated. I always enjoy interacting with people and this time we had two men in our class ;). I like it when men come forth and show their interest in cooking. We cooked, we ate and laughed together. It was an afternoon well spent gaining and imparting knowledge and tasting various ingredients like nutritional yeast, black rice pasta, spaghetti pasta, rock salt etc.  Italian being the theme of the class the recipe card and the setting was all themed by Groovy Two Shoes.

Recipe cards from Italy!

Ricotta Cheese Spread

Ricotta is Italian for “twice cooked” or “to cook again” and is traditionally made with the whey byproduct of making another cheese, such as mozzarella or a hard cheese. The whey is heated, with or without additional vinegar, and the new ricotta is strained and seasoned.

Since we aren’t cheese makers and don’t have any whey with us, we will make ricotta in a more contemporary way and creamy like a cream cheese. The fresh ricotta goes well on a baguette or toast drizzled with some olive oil or balsamic.

3 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

Juice of 3 freshly squeezed lemons

1/2tsp sea salt

(Makes 1 cup)

Pour milk, cream and salt in a non-reactive pot. Heat the milk lightly until you see the cream formation. Turn off the stove and pour in the lemon juice. Allow it to stand for five minutes.

Line a colander with a few layers of cheese cloth and place it over a large bowl. Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least an hour. At an hour, you’ll have a tender, spreadable ricotta. At two hours, it will be spreadable but a bit firmer, almost like cream cheese. (It will firm as it cools, so do not judge its final texture by what you have in your cheesecloth.) Discard the whey. Eat the ricotta right away or transfer it to an airtight container and can be refrigerated upto 3 days.

Ricotta cheese spread

Pasta Sauce

An Italian will always say that “his” sauce is the best. How do you know which recipe to follow? After a lot of research we realized that you don’t need to add too many things into your sauce to make it taste good. Some onions, not finely chopped dropped into a pot full of tomatoes to infuse can do wonders to your pasta sauce.

500gms plum tomatoes

1 halved medium sized onion

2tbs olive oil

1/2tsp sugar

1/2tbs lemon juice

salt to taste

(Makes approx. 250gms of pasta sauce)

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cut a small X at the bottom of each tomato. Blanch the tomatoes in the boiling water for 10 to 30 seconds, then either rinse under cold water or shock in an ice water bath. Peeling the tomatoes should now be a cinch. Discard the skins.

Cut each of your tomatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with your fingertips into a small strainer set over a bowl. Ditch the seeds, reserve the juices. Chop the tomatoes roughly.

Put the tomatoes, onion and olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes.  Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, add salt and sugar to taste. Turn off the stove and add lemon juice. Serve immediately on your favourite pasta with some fresh basil or precede further to preserve the sauce.

Preserving pasta sauce

You can either freeze the pasta sauce for 6 months or can preserve through canning at room temperature.

You can make pasta sauce in bulk and store in your kitchen cabinet for months by canning. Canning is a process where the sealed sauce bottles are heated in a hot water bath to build pressure and seal the bottle. This helps to negate the bacteria and avoid botulism (can lead to paralysis)

Canning at home doesn’t require any special equipment and can be done with the stuff available at home –

towel
deep saucepan or stock pot
tongs
rubber bands

Wipe the rim of the jar with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel to remove any sauce on there. Anything left on the rim could spoil your sauce. Place the lid on top, and screw the rings in place.

Fill the pot with water and place the towel at the bottom. Submerge the warm jars in the entirely with water 2 to 3 inch above the lids and bring it to boil. Maintain the temperature of the stove at medium high and process for 45 minutes. Check periodically to see that the water level is still above the tops of the jars and add water if necessary.

Meanwhile tie rubber bands to the tongs to avoid any slippage. After 45 minutes, slowly remove the jars with the help of the tongs and place them somewhere no one will bump or touch them. Let them sit to cool, overnight is good. You may hear hissing when you take them out of the water – that’s totally fine. The jars’ seals will still be up at this point, they will suck in as the jars cool.

Your homemade pasta jar is ready to store for 12 months without refrigeration.

Please check your jars. Are the seals down? Any leaks? If not, you’re all clear. If you still hear hissing, have jars with the lids still up, or see any leaks, stick them in the refrigerator and use them within a couple of days. Do not try to can them again.

Pasta sauce

Fig & Olive Tapenade

Traditionally, tapenade is a pounded paste made of olives and capers, slick with olive oil. It is not only economical to make your own tapenade but it is so darn easy. We found some gorgeous figs from Turkey and couldn’t help but mix it in our tapenade.

1/2cup dried figs

1 cup black olives

1/2tbs capers

1 small garlic clove

1/2tbs lemon juice

1tsp dried or finely chopped fresh rosemary

½ cup olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Soak the figs in water for an hour or so. Chop and keep aside.

Blend in all the ingredients in a processor and season with salt and pepper. If you have the patience  you could make the tapenade in mortar and pestle…

Fig & olive tapenade

The class was wrapped up with  sauce and spreads prepared by us for lunch and finished with some Italian custard served with caramelized pears made by me. To know when my next class is  scheduled – 1. LIKE our FB page for constant updates or 2. email me at itoocook@gmail.com, so that I can send you an email once the event is up! More pictures of the class on our FB page.

You might want to read my previous post on i2cook cooking class.

They came, they made and ate it all too…

Networking after class


Being an entrepreneur (part 2)

I’m angry today. Angry because people sometimes  don’t act professional. Please note that I’m not blaming anyone here. It is something that I’m getting used to…..

Coming from a small enterprise and I don’t think I haven’t even come close to what I would want to achieve. My journey seems to have become more and more difficult and I have found that “people” are the most difficult hurdle of any enterprise.

Your delivery boy decides to take a break suddenly and your client or vendor realizes that you need to be a bit more squeezed cause you are after all a “small enterprise”. Well, Infosys started from a garage and most of the pickle brands have started from a small kitchen. Why are we not trained to believe that even a small enterprise can think BIG. Being an entrepreneur may sound fancy but as an entrepreneur we are expected to think out of the box perennially. How do we deal with the daily chaotic mess that ends up taking your entire day. How do we deal with something as simple as a phone call ruining your mood because the other person decided not to think and talk without reason.

We fret, fume and frustrate over it but beyond that are we expected to keep thinking productive while others dont believe in you? I don’t think so…

Frustration and anger can grow on you and can also make you stop thinking. I felt it a few days back and sometimes feel it even now. Am I doing the right thing; we all go through this question a million times in our head, don’t we?!

I don’t want to impart any negative feelings. I’m pouring out and this is the best way I can :). I think the best way to deal with “people” is to stay calm, eat and then speak. Stay calm and listen, take a bite into that dark chocolate you’ve been hiding and speak up, clear any misunderstanding or confusion till it clears. At best laugh it off and make peace. You don’t want to treat or rather hurt the other person. After all we all need each other to build a community of our own.

My previous thoughts – Being an entrepreneur(part 1)


Organic Haus in Mumbai

From what I see, organic food has only increased its influence since 2010 in Mumbai. We had only a handful of stores, selling a few products and one would have to treasure hunt even for a simple ingredient. Things are changing for the better; now most of the big super markets stock, not just one full row but dedicate a few racks for organic food. I believe this is a start to bigger sections in future; a start of being conscience of our health.

Organic farming is not a new concept our farmer’s grand fathers did it before us when pesticides and genetic modifications were unheard of. More and more people across the world are realizing the benefits that organic food offers. But why is it that we don’t see organic food selling in every other store or super market? Why is it catering only to niche audience? I agree that organic products tend to be more expensive in comparison to their the inorganic counterparts as they are not yet mass produced and also come with a label to ratify their genuineness.

One such store that I came across is “Organic Haus”, a premium store, owned by Dilip joshi, former Indian cricketer. He pursued his passion for good organic vegetarian food and opened one of India’s first all organic store in Ahmedabad and Mumbai. The store retails a wide range of organic products that are certified on the basis of strict European standards. The products are sourced from Germany, Austria and Northen Europe. From Europe you say, so what about “food miles”?  Consciously I try to buy all things local but what do you do if you want to cook  western cuisine. We all belong to a generation of gourmet food and molecular  gastronomy. Each of us are always on a look out for something new to try or experiment with. Here are some views of Dilip Joshi, interviewed by Mint.
Walking into the store, transformed me into a space not from India. The wood, interiors and the products nothing seemed Indian to me. I haven’t come across any store in India selling such a large range of organic ingredients. You even get organic toothpaste here!

I believe a lot in pure taste while addition of least number of uncomplicated ingredients on my bottle assure me of safe food. The store people are friendly and give you a taste of everything that you ask for. If they don’t have tasters, they even open a fresh one for you to taste, making sure that you are satisfied with the product before buying. Most of the labels are mostly in German, but I was assured that the new consignment will be coming with “English” labels. If you’re having any trouble with the label or expiry, it is always best to check with the store keeper/Manager.

I have tasted most of the products at the store and here are some of my selections:

The whole fruit – Beutelsbacher

The delicious juices are pure, natural and provide healthy and balanced nutrients. The vegetable/fruit are freshly harvested, extracted and bottled without added sugar.

Pure refreshment – Bionade

An amazing product made with expertise. Fermentation using natural processes normally creates alcohol when sugar is part of the mix. However, this drink is brewed by turning the sugar into a natural energizer that is also present in honey. The drink is available in flavors such as elderberry, ginger-orange, herbs and lychee. My favorite pick would be herbs.

The magic of perfection – all i need

Tea cannot taste more perfect! Combined with berries and ginger, the tea unfolds its long-lasting invigorating effect. The aromatic tone of jasmine and the mild sweetness of agave juice add the finishing touch to the delicate taste of all i need. I consider it a premium energy drink and helps you ease tiredness and work long hours.

Fabulously Delicious – Rapunzel

The wide range of products includes nut butters,  spreads, sauces, soups, museli, coffee, oil, vinegar and many more. This company is considered the pioneer in processing of organic vegetarian foods with high quality.

Health Matters – Salus, Schoenenberger

A healthy composition with vitamins and essential minerals make Salus tonics a good source for adults and kids.

For those who are conscience of their body, Schoenenberger has a slimming kit which also helps in ailments. A cocktail of pure and organic medicinal plant juices.

They have a good range of pastas, pesto and pate (vegetarian). They also have breads, crackers which comes in fresh with their consignment and gets over in no time. Most baked products are made keeping in mind people with food sensitivities and allergies. The list of products can go on and on and I would stop at this point. I think its a good idea to visit the store yourself and have a look at what its got in store for you.

Organic Haus is located at kemps Corner, Mumbai.


My new obsession and a recipe for pickled onions

I have a confession to make –  I’m obsessed with jars, bottles and all things glass. I adore all shapes and sizes and can never get enough of them. I look at the jars first and the product inside it later. I wonder if I’m getting materialistic? But hey! I’m also thinking about nature and cutting down on the use of plastic 🙂

I recently received some glassware from Urbandazzle. Yes, yes the new website which sells crockery and other funky stuff . Urbandazzle sent me these lovely Italian made jars. I held them and felt the shape of the jars. The  grip and the smooth finish lead me to realize that I was holding, fine crafted glassware from a factory in Italy. Few years back I wouldn’t have imagined receiving glass in a courier. I was impressed that the jars were neatly packed and reached me without any scratch!

Coming back to my obsession, I store most of my sauces, pastes in glass jars for home use. I like to see variety in my kitchen and I’m always hunting for something new. I like to serve my sauces directly off the jars and found these jars to be  perfect for any table setting. First use for the new jars was preservation of my pickled onions off-course. They not only make any dish give a pink tinge but also gives a different flavour to my dishes. I recently topped my quinoa cutlets with pickled onions to give it a different twist!

Ingredients for Pickled Onions

500gms of onions, cut in rings

1 cup good quality vinegar, I used green apple vinegar

6tbs sugar

pinch of salt

1 bay leaf

2-3 star anise

6-7 cloves

2inch cinnamon stick

5-6 black pepper corns

In a small non-reactive pan bring all the ingredients excepts onions to a light boil. Add the onions and allow it to simmer for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let it stand to cool. Once cool, bottle and refrigerate. The pickled onions should be able serve two people for upto a year.

I  found several ways to use the jars  – to store date & tamarind chutney left overs from my July cooking class. I also stored i2cook pesto for personal consumption and recently stored some pasta sauce for September cooking class.

You can buy these jars online and Urbandazzle can ship them anywhere in India.

And my obsession continues at pinterest….