Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Creamy, Cheesy Savory Pot Pie - A Daring Bakers Challenge



When winter starts knocking on the doors, a convenient, filling, savory one pot meal bake is just the thing you need! The Daring Bakers went savory this month challenging us to bake pot-pies. Though savory pies, tarts and galettes now are quite familiar, at least by sight, name and recipe if not taste, pies with gravy are indeed  new to me. Says Hannah our hostess this month, 'An American pot pie typically has a top and bottom crust with a filling of meat, mixed vegetables and gravy. In the US, a single crusted savory pie would be closer to what we call a casserole, and in parts of the world what we call a “pot pie” would simply be known as a “pie” with many variations.'

Hannah of Rise and Shine was our October 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to bake our own double crusted savory pot pies. Using any from-scratch crust and filling we choose, we were allowed to get completely creative with our recipe, showing off the savory flavors and fillings from our own home or region. Any kind of savory filling, but with gravy!


The from-scratch crust could be pie-crust, puff pastry, filo, biscuit dough or yeast dough. Pot pies can be large enough to serve many, think cozy dinners on lazy cold winter evenings or small single serve portions with a rich filling, a nice appetizer. I fear sogginess with the other crusts, so a yeast crust was my choice. If baking this with a yeast dough  be sure it is one which bakes into a tender bread, so that you can easily cut through it or dig with your fork. Since potato flakes in the dough makes it tender, I baked with the dough for the Potato Rolls I had baked earlier.

The funny part when I made the pot pie - since I had used much more sauce and lesser veggies,  it leaked out of the dough while it baked as I watched in horror! The bread part floated right to the top later. Not exactly what our hostess had in mind, but it can't be bad really when you still have tender golden bread  floating on top of some warm, cheesy sauce, can it? The filling can be made ahead and refrigerated, the dough is hardly anything if I use my bread machine. So, isn't this a dish to play around and make often?


I made a small portion of this to fit my 2.5 cup capacity Borosil pie dish. I wasn't sure if it would stay good enough till evening, but it surprisingly was still good after a couple of hours at room temperature. 

Ingredients
1/4 recipe - of the dough here.  (make the full portion, freeze remaining dough once you knead) 

The amount of dough you will need depends on the size of your pie dish, or the number of servings you need. Or whether you want to make it a double crust or just a single top crust. Just roll the dough thin, 2-3mm and you should be fine. Sorry, find it hard to be specific here!

For the filling:

Vary the amounts of vegetables, cheese and sauce according to your preference. I would not use any vegetable which would leave a lot of liquid, like mushrooms or tomatoes. Less sauce, more veggies and cheese should give you a pot pie you could slice. The other way round may make for floating bread as in my case. Either ways, it should taste just fine, so don't lose sleep over it. Do check Hannah's recipe to get a better idea, with special attention to the proportion of sauce to the vegetables.

For the sauce - This makes a little more than a cup, make more rather than less, use any extra for pasta. I have used the recipe for the white sauce I make for my pasta, but thicker with more flour and cheese. You could use your recipe with your choice of cheese, use milk or part milk and part cream depending on how rich you want it to be, the portion size, the amount of cheese you will be using. The sauce needs to be thick, it gets thicker when you refrigerate, but I would not like it too floury.

All purpose flour - 1.5 tablespoons (recipe uses 3 tablespoons)
Butter - 1 tablespoon (recipe uses 3 tbsp)
Garlic, grated - 2 cloves
Cool milk (or part milk and part cream) - 240 ml / 1 cup
Cheese - 2 slices ( I used low fat Britannia processed cheese)
Dried thyme - 1/4 tsp
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter on low heat in a heavy bottomed pan, add the grated garlic. Saute. Tip in the flour. Whisk to blend. Cook till it turns golden and the raw smell is gone. Whisk in the milk, ensuring there are no lumps. Simmer for a couple of minutes or till thick and creamy. Take off the heat. Push through a strainer if needed. Stir in the salt, pepper, herbs and cheese. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

To assemble I have used :

Sauce (above) - 3/4 cup
Colored capsicum, chopped - 3/4 cup
Cottage cheese, cubed -  1/2 cup
Extra seasoning and herbs to taste

Make the bread dough as directed here. Let it rest till double in volume. Flour your counter or the dough will stick. Grease your pie pan generously. Deflate it and take a small orange sized ball of the dough, the amount depends on the size of your pan. Roll the dough very thin about 2 -3 mm into a big circle. The idea is to put it in the pan to line the sides, leaving lots of overhang around, dump the filling in and enclose the filling with the overhang. Paratha style. Tightly twist and snip off the excess dough. I meant to snip the top to allow the steam to escape, but forgot. I have brushed the top with egg wash. Best and safest would be to put the filling directly in the pie dish or ramekin, grease the edges of the dish in and out thoroughly and then seal the top with the rolled dough.

Decorate if you wish with the bits of dough. You could bake immediately as Hannah does or let it rest - I let it rest for about 15 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 220 C / 425°F/gas mark 7.  Bake for about 30-35 minutes or till the top is a very good golden brown. Watch carefully as the baking temperature is high and the dough thin. Brush the top with melted butter to keep it soft. Let cool for a few minutes and serve.


Very obviously, I did not get this as its intended to be. I know I could have done a better job of the filling, used better cheese (the cottage cheese and peppers are a fav combo of mine). I could have used more veggies, more cheese, lesser sauce and got a more luxurious pie out as a whole. But we loved this as it turned out, rich enough, floating bread, sauce at the bottom and all! The egg wash added an eggy taste complimenting the dish really well. Kind of easy savory bread pudding. Thanks Hannah, this is an idea I absolutely am going to be trying again, may be also hope the dough tears - again!! 

Variations : You could try a tomato basil cheese sauce (with ready tomato puree as its thick) or with creamy basil pesto sauce, brush garlic herb butter on top. Or a rich Indian style paneer gravy or may be even pav-bhaji in a pot...oops ramekin or pie-tin! If you do not want the filling coming out, be sure that you use less sauce, more vegetables and cheese. Do not roll the dough thicker as it will be too bread-y.

Play around, this is a recipe good to have. I see this going to school this week with my kids!

The pot-pie is Yeast-spotted!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Best Way To Melt Chocolate Over The Stove-top! How To Melt Chocolate (Video Post)



Best Way To Melt Chocolate Over The Stove-top! How To Melt Chocolate / Easy Way to Melt Chocolate. Watch my video! Please follow my page on Facebook for updates on new videos for beginners in baking, every Monday! Click here to subscribe to my You Tube Channel. Click to subscribe now!

Melting chocolate is a big deal for some and isn't really for some others.  I have messed this up a few times, a couple of times during my first few attempts at melting chocolate and then later too. Specially while trying to melt small quantities of it. Well melted, smooth chocolate can make a difference to the texture of your bakes and desserts, so its helpful to know how.

The microwave has been my method all along, I have been fairly successful mostly. Its quite simple, but not always. Just chop your chocolate coarsely and heat it in a microwave safe container on MEDIUM (50% power, am guilty of doing it on HIGH mostly) for dark chocolate and LOW (30% power) for milk and white chocolate, stirring in between till the chocolate is mostly melted.  The remaining heat melts the rest of the chocolate. Disadvantage is, its not always possible to estimate the time accurately as it depends on the wattage of your microwave, the quality of chocolate, voltage fluctuations etc. You risk scorching the chocolate if you microwave it for longer than necessary. You can't see what's happening in the bowl as you heat. Checking the progress more often has ruined the smoothness of the melted chocolate for me a few times.

And then, since I use the microwave for baking too, I sometimes need to remember to melt the chocolate before I pre-heat it and make sure it stays liquid till the stage I need it that way. I do not use a double boiler as I do not have one, I don't always have the right sized utensils for the amount of chocolate I need to melt. The bowl with the chocolate has to sit on top of a larger bowl containing barely simmering water, without the water actually touching the bowl. You can't see the water level underneath the bowl as you heat.
Then I came across this method of melting chocolate wherein the bowl with the chopped chocolate is placed  right  in a skillet of barely simmering water. What??? This is exactly what you have been warned not to do!! But then, when the person who is recommending this method is none other than Alice Medrich, you sit up and take notice. I tried it, it worked and I had to share it with you!
  
No matter which method of melting chocolate you choose, you must remember
  • Chocolate should be melted uncovered at low temperatures always.
  • The chocolate must not come in contact with moisture. Make sure the container, the knife, the cutting board, the bowl, the spoon, the spatula (Gawd!) everything is dry. I prefer to chop it fine so that it melts faster.
  • Any moisture (unless specified in the recipe) will cause the chocolate to seize up and turn into one lumpy mass of it. If that happens, start with fresh chocolate. Unless the chocolate tastes burnt, take heart, you could still use it where you need to heat it with cream or milk to make ganache or chocolate sauce.  
  • At least one tablespoon of liquid for 2 ounce or 56 grams (aprox) of chocolate is compatible when your recipe directs you to melt both together.
  • The objective is to melt the chocolate to make it warm, never hot.
  
So here is how to do it the skillet way

Place the chocolate in a dry stainless steel bowl or saucepan (with a handle will help). Of course one of a suitable size which will allow you to stir the chocolate comfortably with out it spilling out. A larger one would be better than a smaller one. Only may be you will have more chocolate on the bowl than you could scrape out and actually use.

Have your spatula ready.

Take a wide skillet ( if it is not wide enough, you can't see the simmer and adjust the heat as needed) with some water in it on your gas stove. Induction stove is tricky,  can't sustain the bare simmer long enough. If you keep the bowl with the chocolate in it, the water should come up may be half an inch or so. (watch the video) Make sure the water level is not too high up the sides of the bowl as the water may get into the bowl (and cause the chocolate to seize) as you stir and move the bowl or lift it out.
Bring the water to a bare simmer, reduce the heat to low. Place the bowl with the chocolate in the water. The bowl must sit in the water. Do it! the pool of chocolate favors the brave here!

Keep stirring the chocolate with the spatula, you are mixing the warmest pieces of melted chocolate with the unmelted pieces.
When most of the chocolate is melted, carefully take the bowl out of the skillet. Stir to melt the rest. The water under the skillet forms a thin film preventing the chocolate from getting scorched says Alice. The best part is here you can see the level of the water, can see the chocolate melting (and take it off the heat immediately) and can control the heat level better.

Medrich cautions that white and milk chocolate are more delicate and hence you need to turn off the heat under the skillet for 30 seconds before placing the bowl in, then stir almost constantly, the book doesn't mention anymore.  Melted white and milk chocolate should fee barely warm to the touch, dark chocolate warm to very warm, but not hot.
You could use the same methods as above when you need to melt chocolate with butter or other liquids in adequate quantities. The above information has been compiled from Alice Medrich's Chocolate Holidays.

Watch Alice Medrich doing this here, the video is titled the ' The Best Way To Melt Chocolate'

If you are a beginner, this is one method way safer than the others. Try it and then chose the microwave way or double boiler down the line if that's more convenient. As with most things, you will get better with practice. Then there is no stopping you from baking those perfect moist brownies or that simple Eggless Chocolate Mousse!



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Almond & Ricotta Brioche Danish - For World Bread Day!


So, we celebrate another World Bread Day! October 16th was declared as the World Bread Day by the International Union of Bakers and Bakers-Confectioners (IUB). Zorra at Kochtopf  hosts this day as an event on food blogs. This is the 8th edition and I am glad to baking my bit of bread for this!

Very predictably, staying true to my indecisive nature, I contemplated a whole bunch of grand recipes and then finally decided to be lazy. Baked Brioche Danish with an almond and ricotta filling dressed them up with some glaze. Brioche made dainty and taken to the next level really! This is not danish as in the laminated yeasted pastry, though you could use Danish pastry to make an extremely luxurious and super delectable version of this recipe. These are far less luxurious, but very tasty nonetheless.  Danish pastry shapes like these are called as spandauer I gather, but I guess I will just call them brioche danish as bakes like these are commonly called. Ahem. I expect you to either be fine with the name or tell me the right one!


With passing time, I realize how valuable it is to learn and be comfortable with some basic recipes like pie crusts, puff pastry, bread doughs, sponges and the kind. Am getting greedier for such recipes and techniques as they are amazingly versatile and you could churn out so much out of these!  Like this brioche dough here. An enriched dough, but not a whole lot of butter or eggs, allowing you to get away with a rich filling as your indulgence. As compulsive, obsessed bakers, we sometimes do need to divide the fat between bakes!
Here is a recipe for a small batch of about 10-12 danish. These are best eaten warm and fresh, as they tend to dry out rather quickly like small rolls always do. So better to bake only as much as you need for the day, though leftovers do not taste bad, just a bit dry.


Get the filling ready before you do anything else. Line your baking sheets with parchment. 

Almond filling 
From Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess . This can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for up to a week.
Blanched almonds, toasted (I have used some blanched and some with skin) - 150 grams
Icing sugar - 80 grams
Egg White - 2 tablespoons
Almond extract - 1/2 teaspoon
Unsalted butter, at room temperature -  2 tablespoons / 30 grams
If using whole almonds with skin, put them in a ziplock bag and bash them into large pieces. Process the almonds with the sugar till finely ground.  Add the butter, almond extract and egg and process again. You can make this ahead and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Fresh Ricotta : 1/2 cup, well drained ( not wrung dry), but moist. 
You could use just the almond filling (found this a bit dry on its own) or mix equal parts of the ricotta and almond. In this case, taste and add extra powdered sugar to taste.

For the Brioche dough

All purpose flour -172 grams
Salt - 1/4 teaspoon
Sugar, granulated - 3 tablespoons
Instant yeast - 1 1/4 teaspoon
Milk, lukewarm - 45 ml / 3 tablespoons
Egg - 48 grams / 1, large
Unsalted butter - 30 grams / 2 tablespoons, melted and cooled
Orange zest - 1 teaspoon
Vanilla - 1/2 a bean scraped
1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water for the egg wash.

For the glaze
Icing sugar - 50 grams
Orange juice -1/2 to 1 tbsp orange juice
  • Whisk the zest and the vanilla caviar into the egg and the melted butter ensuring there are no clumps. Mix the yeast in the milk, add it to the egg and butter.
  •  Dump in the flour, salt and sugar. Mix to bring it all together. This will be sticky, but will get easier to handle as you knead. This is where I appreciate having a bread machine to knead more than ever! You can knead a sticky dough without having to add more flour, whereas with your hands you would find it very difficult to do the same. If kneading with your hands, oil your counter and hands, try not to add more than 1 1/2 to 3 teaspoons flour at the most. It really does make a difference.
  • The dough must be smooth, silky and tacky (sticks to your hands but peels off easily). If you add too much flour, the bread will be dry-ish. Put the dough in a dough rising bucket and let it double at room temperature. This will take about an hour or more. Note down how long it takes to double. 
  • Once the dough doubles, deflate it gently. (If your tray is small, use half dough at a time, cover the other half, let double again, continue the process) 
  • Dust your counter lightly with flour. Roll the dough into a 3 mm thick approximately 10/10'' square. ( I have given the dough 'turns' as in puff pastry, that's why you see layers here. Silly of me not to note down the details properly but you could try brushing a teaspoon of soft butter and folding the dough into three as in a business letter, roll again , brush with butter, repeat 2 more times, before rolling it 3 mm thick again. If the dough is resistant, allow to rest covered for a few minutes before rolling . You will get a slightly flaky dough, not exactly Danish pastry) Using a pizza cutter or a dough scraper, mark and cut it into 3'' squares. This works fine too.
  • Slightly elongate two opposite ends of the square. Take a tablespoon of the filling, shape into a log, place it in the middle of the square. Dab a tiny bit of egg on the elongated ends and close to cover the filling, with a little of it peeking out. Press gently but firmly to seal. Be sure you do a good job of this or it will come loose later.  Not totally disastrous, but not pretty and the filling will dry during baking.
  • Place the danish on the lined baking sheet and let rise again for approximately the same time as the first rise, 45 minutes to an hour works well for me. Since the dough is not very thick, its tough to make out when they double. 
  • Towards the end of the rise period, pre-heat oven to 190 degrees C / 375 degree F. Gently brush the Danish with the egg wash. 
  • Bake for about 12-15 minutes or till a nice golden brown. The time varies depending on the thickness of the dough. Do not over over-bake. These bake up quite fast, so better to check at 12 minutes. Even if you do over bake, they will still taste good. But under cooked doughy bread is ugghh!
  • Combine the juice and sugar to make the glaze.
  • Drizzle the icing when the danish cools slightly. Serve immediately.

These little sweet treats are Yeast-spotted!!

Please note : You could use your favorite sweet roll recipe (or laminated yeasted pastry or puff pastry) in place of the brioche dough here. Filling could be a brownie filling or zesty cream cheese or almond or ricotta or just about anything you please as long as it will cook in 15 minutes or needs no cooking.