Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cheesy Baked Custards - With Mark Bittman's Basic Savory Custard Recipe

Winters call for more time under your duvets, snoozing your alarm every 10 minutes till you literally have to jump out of bed, good filter coffee and of course some warm bakes. Quick, fuss free ones, which support the lethargy get more votes! Thought will  tempt you with an easy, cheesy bake for one of these cold winter evenings. Oh, did I tell you that its smooth and silky, with a hint of pepper, garlic and thyme? Quick to put together but uh, you have to wait a bit for it to bake. Good things can't always come so very quick!   Sheepishly I would like to present before you another baked custard! Its savory this time around, so there I have the perfect excuse for this one!

Mark Bittman's savory custard recipe is very basic as he puts it, the variations many. You could make it less or more rich using only milk or only cream or half of both. Throw in some grated cheese and you have a cheesy version. Add some sauteed veggies for some more goodness and for a little bit of texture. Make it rich with cream or half and a half and cheese, you have an appetizer. Richer versions are better served in small portions in ramekins, the less rich versions can be made in a big dish as a nice addition to your meal of bread, soup and salad. 

 I made these savory custards with milk and some low fat cheese, garlic, caramelized onion and yellow peppers. We liked it! The kids licked their ramekins clean (though the son kept insisting that he would like plain cheese and no veggies please! Come to think of it, even I seem to think so - hope my kids don't read this!)! But I so want to try this with sauteed mushrooms and spinach and use this in other bakes as well!

As with all baked custards, you only need to learn to temper the eggs (adding the hot liquid very slowly while whisking, so as to get the eggs to a hotter temperature very gradually) and get comfortable baking in a water-bath / bain-marie. Not to forget, gauging when the custard is baked, as over-baking this can make them rubbery and you may miss the smooth velvety-ness. So do not shy away from baking custards, its really easy!

If using the water bath technique for the first time, watch this video.

Recipe from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian (love the previews!)

Milk / Cream / Half and half - 2 cups / 480 ml ( I used only milk, 3% fat )
Herbs - Dried or fresh( I used 1/4 tsp dried thyme)
Salt - 1/2 teaspoon (more or less depending on use of cheese and its saltiness)
Pinch of cayenne or crushed black pepper
Eggs, whole - 2 ( 96 grams)
Egg Yolks - 2 (36 grams)
Cheese - 1/2 cup grated. Any cheese that melts easily, suggestions are cheddar, Parmesan, Emmental, goat cheese, jack or Gruyère suggests Bittman ( I have used 3 slices of Britannia Low fat cheese)

  • Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees C / 350 degrees F. Assemble a medium sized heavy bottomed saucepan with a handle (you should be able to easily pour out the milk from it), another medium sized heatproof bowl of about 3 cups capacity at least, small oven proof bowls (I used  capacity ramekins)  , a whisk, a spatula, a couple of kitchen towels. Have some water just under boiling point (better more water than less) ready on your stove on simmer,  you will be pouring the hot water into the baking tin to surround the ramekins. A baking tin, (I used an 8'' square tin and another smaller tin which I baked in my OTG) Place the ramekins in the baking tin. Have on hand a pair of mittens or thick kitchen towels, to help you lift the tray with the hot water in it. (You are supposed to first place the baking tin the oven and then pour the hot water, but this is not possible in my small oven or even the microwave, the rack may tilt in the process).
  •  If using sauteed vegetables or spinach, distribute the sauteed vegetables in all the ramekins equally, the quantity depending on the size of the ramekins. Say about a teaspoon and a half in each one.. Do not add the sauteed vegetables directly to the milk mixture before pouring it in the ramekins as the vegetables will tend to remain at the bottom as you pour. And you will need to huff and puff, get all worked up about the mixture getting cold and re-distribute. 
  • Place the eggs, egg yolks, salt, pepper and herbs in the medium sized bowl. Whisk to blend well, no need to whisk to a volume, leave the whisk in the bowl. Heat the milk (or cream or half and half), stir in the cheese, stir to melt completely. Heat till the milk begins to come to a boil. Take about 1/4 cup of the milk-cheese mixture and dribble into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Be sure to dribble it in very slowly, keep whisking. Do not rush this process. Slowly dribble in the rest of the milk, keep whisking. Pour the egg milk mixture into the ramekins, you can pour up to just below the rim ( doesn't rise in the oven, just sets).
  • Pour the hot water into the baking tin to come halfway to the sides of the ramekins. Open the door of the oven, carefully lift the tray and place it in. Bake the custard in the water bath for about 20-25 minutes (for small ramekins, read note) or until the center appears set, but jiggly when you shake the ramekins). Do not over bake or your custard may turn rubbery. 
  • I normally remove the ramekins from the hot water soon after they are baked. Allow them to cool and serve when they are warm, (not hot ) almost at room temperature or at room temperature within a few hours of baking. Keep them wrapped in clingfilm.

  • Baked Roasted Garlic Custard: Add 4-8 cloves of roasted mashed garlic to the egg mixture.
  • Baked Spinach Custards: 1/2 cup of very finely chopped cooked spinach, with the excess water squeezed out. I will try 1/4 cup chopped spinach and 1/4 cup cooked mushrooms, love the combo! 
  • Sauteed vegetables - My addition to the basic custard 1/3 cup finely chopped yellow bell peppers, 5-6 cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup finely chopped onions, 1 tablespoon oil . Heat the oil in a pan. Add the chopped garlic, then the onions, add a tiny pinch of sugar and let the onions caramelize. Add the bell peppers at the end of the cooking time, with time just enough time to slightly soften them. Season very lightly with salt (if using cheese it will add to the saltiness), helps draw out excess moisture too.  Make sure all the juices have evaporated. Set aside to cool. 
  • Do not use too much of sweetish veggies such as white onions or colored capsicum together as your custards will taste sweetish unless you will add enough pepper or cayenne or use roasted tomatoes to balance out the sweetness. 
  • Please note: The baking time depends on the size of your ramekins or baking dish. It also depends on whether you use only milk (part skim or whole milk) or cream or half and half, with or without cream. With cream and cheese or either of them, it will set faster. If using cream only, I would not use the cheese or use just a tiny bit of it as a topping before baking or it will taste too rich. If making this rich, its better to bake and serve the custards in small ramekins. 
  • If using fresh herbs, you will need to use more, you could heat the milk, drop the herbs in, let the flavor infuse for about half an hour and then re-heat to continue. Yes, fish out the herbs before you use! 
  • Again, try these and experiment  to see what you like best, if you love baked custards, this will be a great recipe to have on hand!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Grissini - And The Winner Of The Giveaway!

One of the things I do enjoy, but pay relatively less attention to while eating out are the humble bread sticks. I am sure I am not the only one who is guilty on this count. Well, not really anyone's fault as they are mostly placed quite inconspicuously on your table along with breads and dips. You would have savored barely a couple of these and your choice of appetizers land, shifting focus. Not fair at all, I think. They are just bread sticks but are surely meant to be savored with all the due attention things as crispy and crunchy as these deserve?

I have made these earlier, a chewy version with onions and another with part whole wheat  which were really good too, but the latter need prior planning with a pre-ferment in the picture. Now it can't really hurt to have a quicker, equally good version in your repertoire...for all those emergency or spur-of-the moment needs for some nice bread sticks.

These thin bread sticks or Grissini come from Susan's inspiring blog Wild Yeast.  Apart from making a great make-ahead appetizer, a bouquet of these add visual panache to your dinner table says Susan - indeed! One word of caution though, have plenty on hand, put them on the table only at the last moment as these break quite easily. Don't underestimate the ability of these sticks to disappear quickly as you may tend to grab one (even as you chide your hubby or child not to do exactly that) each time you pass by...

A really simple recipe made with a simple pizza dough, which will take 90 seconds to make in a food processor or with about 8-10 minutes of kneading by hand. The recipe uses water at room temperature and less yeast for a slower rise, meaning better flavor. You could get creative with the toppings and make a variety of these. But be sure to use enough salt in the dough (specially if not using salt as a topping) as inadequate salt may make your grissini taste flat.

Sea salt, chilli flakes, zatar, ground pepper, mixed Italian herbs could be a few you can use by way of toppings. The original recipe makes a whole lot of them, I have halved the recipe and saved half of the dough in my freezer to bake a small pizza or more grissini. Though grissini is not difficult to make, it does take some time and patience to roll, cut and shape, then bake multiple batches if using the average Indian home size oven.

Ingredients: (for half the recipe on Susan's blog, original recipe from Baking Illustrated)
  • Flour - 312 grams
  • Water at room temperature - 198 grams (aprox 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  • Instant yeast - 1 teaspoon
  • Salt - heaping 3/4 teaspoon (will use a tiny bit more next time)
  • Olive oil or any neutral tasting oil such as sunflower - 1 tablespoon
  • Topping of your choice (suggestion - a mixture of coarse Kosher salt, coarsely-ground pepper, and chopped fennel seed as suggested by the original recipe, or just salt and pepper or salt and Italian herbs)
  • More oil for brushing
  1. Sift the flour, yeast, and salt to make sure the salt is evenly distributed.(Or place in the bowl the food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.)
  2. Add the water and oil, mix till the dough comes together. (Combine the water and olive oil in a liquid measuring cup. With the processor running, add the liquid to the dry ingredients in a steady stream)
  3. Knead on a lightly floured surface till smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes( If using a food processor, process until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 90 seconds.)
  4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container or dough rising bucket. Cover the container and let the dough ferment at room temperature until doubled in volume, about an hour or so ( the time may vary, so go by the level of the dough as the correct indicator)
  5. While the dough rises, prepare your baking sheets, line them with parchment. Keep the toppings, some oil, a silicon brush and a pizza cutter ready.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / 350F.
  7. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Take one piece of dough, keep the other covered.
  8. On a floured counter, roll the dough out into a rectangle to suit the size of your baking tray. I have rolled the dough about 3-4 mm thick, rectangle about 10''/7'', cut into 1.5 cm wide strips. ( Susan makes each of  them about 12 x 8 inches, cut into 16 equal strips). As Susan says, the exact dimensions are not critical, but be sure to cut and roll each piece into strips approximately the same thickness and width for uniformity in baking and to help you approximate the baking time for the next batch.
  9. Using a pizza cutter, cut the rolled dough into strips of equal width. Remove each strip, place slightly apart. Fold each strip over itself (according to Baking Illustrated, this makes it stronger). On an unfloured surface, roll the strip into a long snake, try to keep the thickness uniform again.
  10. Place the snakes evenly spaced across the width of the parchment-lined baking sheet. They won't very dramatically increase in size as you bake, but do not place too close or the sticks will grow into each other, have softish sides.
  11. Lightly spray or brush the grissini with olive oil and sprinkle on the topping. 
  12. Bake at 350F for 25 – 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Do not let them brown too much.
  13. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.
Serve them as is or with your favorite olive oil dip or even marinara sauce.

So these grissini from Susan's blog go to Susan's weekly Yeast Spotting!  Thanks Susan, you are an inspiration!

On to the giveaway results for the announcement made here. Thanks to everyone who left a comment and for all your wishes! The randomly chosen winner for the giveaway of Alice Medrich's Chocolate Holidays  is......

Nilanjana Majumdar!

Congratulations Nilanjana and here's wishing lots of chocolate happiness and fun trying out recipes from the book! Please email me your mailing address to sumadotrowjeeatgmaildotcom. The book will soon be on its way!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Classic Tiramisu - For 3 Years Of Blogging!

And we turn 3! Time sure does fly! Wasn't it just recently that I celebrated Cakes And More turning one with Dorie Greenspan's Tiramisu cake? Being the coffee lover that I am, the coffee mascarpone filling sure wasn't going to be forgotten in a hurry...meaning more Tiramisu in my kitchen! The famous Italian dessert Tiramisu (pronounced 'tih-ruh-mee-soo'') literally means 'pick me up' (metaphorically, 'make me happy') - Wikipedia.

Dorie's Tiramisu cake is a modern take on the old classic, the classic one being made in a different way altogether. Most versions of the classic recipe have ladyfingers or savoiardi, zabaglione, pastry cream, mascarpone, whipped cream and coffee liquor /coffee /marsala/ rum for dipping as the components. The zabaglione, pastry cream, mascarpone and whipped cream are mixed together, the ladyfingers are dipped in a coffee or marsala laced syrup. The soaked fingers and the cream are layered in a dish and chilled to set the dessert and allow the flavors to mature as well. Yes, quite some amount of time and effort, but then I had to make it at least once - just for the fun and high of putting together a dessert with so many components - all made from scratch!

This was the recipe for Tiramisu for a DB challenge hosted by Aparna and Deeba. Original recipe from Baltimore pastry chef Carminantonio from  The Washington Post.

Here are the components and the recipe. Planning ahead is important for this dessert. You would need to make all the components, assemble them and then allow the flavors about a day or more (if you ask me) to mature in the fridge.

Ladyfingers: I have used the recipe from Joy Of Baking, my post here, worked well for me in terms of the texture. (Now you know, why I chose to make ladyfingers for the DB challenge). Plan ahead and bake these maybe a week or two before you make Tiramisu and freeze them (or refrigerate if making just a day or two ahead). Trust me, you will be so glad you don't have to make these along with the rest of the components!

The zabaglione /sabayon: An Italian custard, sometimes made with raw yolks. A lighter textured, frothy version is often served spooned over berries. This recipe thankfully has no uncooked eggs in it. The yield was a scant 1/2 cup of zabaglione.

        Egg yolks - 2 large - 36 grams
        Sugar - 3 tablespoons / 45 grams
       Marsala wine (or port or coffee) - 1/4 cup/ 60ml ( I used 1.5 teaspoons instant coffee with 1/4 cup   warm water)
        Pure Vanilla extract - 1/2 teaspoon (recipe has 1/4 teaspoon / 1.25ml)
        Finely grated lemon zest - 1/2 teaspoon ( I skipped this, so more vanilla above)
  • Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot(with a wide stable base or it will keep threatening to fall off the stove as u whisk away) with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl (I used steel) in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water. 
  • In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth. Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. 
  • Cook the egg mixture over low heat, whisking constantly,(do not stop unless you don't mind scrambled bits of egg) for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
  • Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. (I strained it to make doubly sure there weren't any bits of egg) Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled. This tasted very sweet and strongly flavored with coffee, but it was fine when added to the rest of the things, so that was fine.

For the vanilla pastry cream: Basically egg based custard with cornstarch added to it. This recipe uses only one egg yolk and only a tablespoon of cornstarch which was good for me!

        Ingredients :
        Sugar - 3 tablespoons /45 grams (recipe uses 1/4 cup/55gms)
        All purpose flour -1 tablespoon/8gms
        Finely grated lemon zest -  1/2 teaspoon ( I did not use this)
        Vanilla extract - 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon (recipe uses1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml)
        Egg yolk - 18 grams /1 large
        Whole milk - 3/4 cup /180 ml

  • Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
  • Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling. Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
  • Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

Mascarpone:Recipe here. The recipe here calls for 75 grams of mascarpone. I tried making a small portion of mascarpone with lesser cream but it did not work all that well (too little cream to heat up well enough?). So I would suggest you make the entire quantity and reserve the remaining mascarpone for another use.

For the whipped cream:
Sweetened non-diary whipping cream (recipe uses chilled heavy cream) - 1 cup/240ml 
Sugar - 1/4 cup/55gms (I did not add any, use only if using unsweetened cream)
Vanilla extract- 1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml

Chill the cream atleast 8 hours. Chill the bowl and beaters for at least 15 minutes. Place the chilled bowl with the cream and vanilla in it over a larger bowl filled with ice. Beat first on low and then move to medium high speed and whip till soft peaks form.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Brewed espresso, warmed - 2 cups/480ml . I used 2 cups warm water plus 1/2 heaping tablespoon instant coffee. (There will be quite some leftover, but do not reduce too much or u can't dip the ladyfingers properly)
Rum extract (optional) - 1 teaspoon/5ml ( I used vanilla)
Sugar - 4 tablespoons (recipe uses 1/2 cup / 8 tablespoons, go by your taste)
Mascarpone cheese - 1/3 cup/75gms
Savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits - 36 (you may use less)
Unsweetened cocoa powder - 2 tablespoons/30gms or a bit more as needed.

  •  Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8″ by 8″ should do) or one of your choice. I used 2 tins, one small 6'' round and one 4'' square. ( I have used clingfilm to line the tin, left an overhang on all sides to help lift the whole thing out)
  • Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
  • In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.
  • Now to start assembling the tiramisu.Working quickly, dip12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. (I over did I guess, but it was still perfect, not soggy!) As you dip each ladyfinger, immediately transfer each one to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered. I have made 2 layers of ladyfingers and 2 of cream. i.e. ladyfingers at the bottom and cream on the top layer.
  • (Original recipe says Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges. Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer). Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight. I liked the taste and texture best after about more than a day and half in the fridge. 
  • Carefully lift the dessert out of the tin, or invert and then re-invert onto the serving platter. (May be messy and if not set properly, you may not have a pretty piece, so I inverted and then cut away the clingfilm, but careful not to leave any pieces)
  • Dust the top generously with cocoa, decorate with coffee beans and chocolate curls. If you leave the cocoa dusted dessert in the fridge, it will turn a beautiful darker color gradually. Be sure to keep the Tiramisu covered airtight - a cake caddy works best. Cut into wedges and serve. Save some to eat the next day too!

Whew! So I made the real Tiramisu for the high of making it. It was indeed good, a lovely treat for coffee lovers. Moist, but not in the least soggy coffee flavored ladyfingers and coffee mascarpone can't really taste anything but good together! Given the amount of effort and time for this, I may not make it again very soon, but may be I will cheat next time, make a easier version with ladyfingers and Dorie's coffee mascarpone cream?

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for being a source of inspiration for me via your mails and comments, thanks so much for being part of my blogging journey.  Its been an eminently enjoyable and gratifying one!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Chocolate Latkes - And A Giveaway!

 ''Chocolate is the answer - who really cares what the question is?''

Temptation comes in so many ways - quick, easy, chocolaty, fudgy just to name a few.  And when you put all of these together, temptation is irresistible! All the more so when you are just recovering from the languor of having shopped and traveled for a family wedding and there is a sudden need to bake something quick, easy and good. Alice's Merdich's Chocolate Latkes aka Chocolate Coconut Macaroons are as easy and quick as macaroons can get . If I have understood this right, latkes are basically pancakes which are mostly (but not necessarily) made with shredded potatoes, traditionally eaten during the Jewish festival Hanukkah. Fear not, the latkes here are in no way related to the potato latkes, except in their appearance.

I admit, my latkes here don't look like latkes  - with the long, thin shreds of potato (coconut in this case) making them look so very appealing. Blame it on shredding coconut at home with the safest (and most easily accessible) grater you can lay your hands on. But these are indeed tasty, quite chocolaty, go from your pantry to the oven in no time at all! Crisp-ish exteriors, chewy within, coconut and chocolate flavors in each bite. A burst of dark chocolate here and there add to the chocolatey-ness. Perfect to bake for that emergency need for a chocolaty something! 

 On the side, Cakes And More turns 3 shortly! I am happy to give-away a copy of Alice Medrich's Chocolate Holidays - Desserts For Every Season!

Chocolate answers and cures for winter, spring, summer and fall, some of the very tempting recipes include Chocolate Hazelnut Roulade, Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles, Irish Coffee Chocolate Mousse, The Ultimate Flourless Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Pound Cake, Broadwalk Bananas, Chocolate Pecan Pie, Chocolate Cream Puffs With Spun Sugar and more!

To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment here on or before 17th January midnight India time. The book will be shipped to any address in India. The winner shall be announced shortly...hope you will participate!!

Chocolate Latkes.

Makes about 40 2-inch cookies( I have halved the below recipe)
  • Egg whites - 4 / 120 grams
  • Sweetened shredded coconut - 3 cups, ( I have used used unsweetened coconut, weight approximately 180 grams, pls read note)
  • Semisweet or bittersweet chocolate - 98 grams / 3 ½ oz , finely chopped ( I have used Morde, dark)
  • Sugar, fine - 12 tbsp / 180 grams approximately - (Recipe uses 6 tablespoons, have added more as the coconut is unsweetened)
  • Pure vanilla extract - 2 tsp
  • Scant ¼ tsp salt
  • Bittersweet chocolate - chopped coarsely - about 1/4 cup (my addition)
Procedure : Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / 350F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Set aside.

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a large heatproof mixing bowl, preferably stainless steel (make sure it has high sides to prevent water from the skillet spilling into it). The mixture will just come together and look like wet coconut.  Set the bowl in a skillet of barely simmering water, the heat on low, and stir the mixture, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, until it is sticky and hot to the touch. This will take about 2 minutes or so depending on the kind of bowl you use and the quantity you are making. Just be sure to keep stirring constantly and touch the mixture often. 
  • Scoop rounded tablespoons of the mixture about 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets. Flatten each cookie slightly with a damp finger to resemble miniature potato pancakes. Stick some chopped chocolate bits here and there.  Bake, in batches, until the cookies feel dry on the surface and the protruding coconut shreds are dark golden brown (this is difficult to make out really!) and the interior still looks like melted chocolate, about 14 minutes ( I baked for 16 minutes ). Bake a tiny test batch to determine the right baking time in your oven.
  •  Slide the parchment onto a cooling rack and cool the cookies completely before removing them from the parchment. Or, if using the silicone mats, cool the cookies on the sheets on the rack, and then, using an offset spatula, transfer the cookies from the mats onto the cooling rack to cool completely.

The cookies are most delicious, crisp-ish on the day they are baked. They do taste good later too, but more chewier. These can be stored in an airtight container, for 4 to 5 days.

Please note : I have grated the outer darker layer of dried coconut (copra) first, discarded it and then grated the rest before measuring. I find the darker portion makes cookies even chewier. If you find ready shredded  dried coconut, use it.  Do not reduce the quantity of sugar as the taste of the chocolate and coconut will come through only with enough sugar. Quarter the recipe and see how sweet you would like them. And absolutely, better chocolate will give you better taste!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Daring Bakers Say Panettone! - A Lower Fat, Quick Version.

Whew!! Just back from the (no-longer-little!) little brother's wedding celebrations, tired but very happy to welcome the newest member into the family! To say its been a hectic December would be an understatement. The flurry of activity in the month just made me realize how different it is to be married with two school-going kids, run a household, do all the never-ending wedding shopping for myself, the kids and hubby, and pitch in for help for the wedding. Thankfully my parents live in the same city, though quite a distance from my place. For once I was thankful for the Christmas vacations as the kids would not have to miss school to attend the wedding. The wedding finally, then back to the parents', then back home for some quick unpacking and re-packing for the wedding reception at my home-town. Groan! I never really got around to write the post for the Daring Bakers this month...had to write the post before I boarded the train!

The December 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread!

Panettone, popularly made during Christmas in Italy, is a very rich, sweet bread traditionally made with wild yeast. Dried fruit, candied peel, orange/lemon zest or even chocolate is used as filling. Marcellina's favorite recipe for the panettone was a very tempting one to try, promising to be rich, fruit studded deliciousness in every bite. The recipe involves making a sponge, followed by more proofing steps, translating to more time and undoubtedly great results too! The original recipe also has more than a substantial amount of butter in it, 1 1/2 cups to be precise!! Since I am currently on a restricted diet this was off-limits for me. The logistics with the time involved in baking the bread seemed impossible too with all the running around I did. I finally thought - my choices - bake a panettone with less fat, a quicker one, or none at all! But I so wanted to bake a panettone even if it wasn't the most authentic one ever! Marcellina very kindly allowed this change and my bread was baked with 1/4 cup of butter and in about 3 hours!

I had so loved the brioche I had tried last year and there wasn't any reason it shouldn't taste good with candied orange peel, dried cranberries, nuts and orange zest in it. Making a traditional panettone involves baking it in a panettone mold, store bought or home-made.  I baked mine in these molds I got from Spar recently, the left over dough went into smaller molds.

Panettone made with Champa's brioche recipe as the base.


  • All Purpose Flour - 328 grams plus 1 or 2 tablespoons if /as needed (please refer note)
  • Vital Wheat Gluten - 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons , 25 grams approximately
  • Salt - 1/2 tsp
  • Sugar - 6 tablespoons
  • Instant yeast - 2 1/2 teaspoons
  • Butter - 56 grams /  4 tablespoons / 1/2 a stick , melted and cooled
  • Warm water - 6 tablespoons (start with 5 tablespoons)
  • 2 extra-large eggs, refer note (or Silken tofu blended and measured - 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon )
  • Vanilla - 1 teaspoon
  • Grated orange zest - 1 teaspoon
  • 1 whisked egg for brushing on top ( you will not need all of it)
  • Some butter for brushing the loaf after baking
       For the filling : About 1 1/2 cups of fruit, peel and nuts put together. I have used dried cranberries (which I soaked in water overnight, pressed them til well drained, then wiped dry), candied orange peel, toasted, chopped walnuts and almonds. I have used about 3/4 cup in all, seemed like a lot when I kneaded it in, but, I could have used double this quantity)

      Sugar glaze or a luxurious almond glaze - Optional.

Procedure : Sift together the flour, gluten and salt very well. Keep aside. Whisk the eggs lightly (just enough, no need to whip up a volume), add the vanilla . Set aside. Mix in yeast with warm water and sugar.  Add melted butter and egg mixture. Slowly add flour and make the dough. Add the remaining one tablespoon of water gradually if needed.  The dough must be soft and silky, but not sticky. Knead the dough for 10 minutes and place in a well oiled bowl or dough rising bucket, turn the dough once and cover it. Let it rise till double in volume. This took about an hour. This time may vary.

In the meantime, prepare your pan /pans. I greased and lined mine with parchment as it has -- edges.

Deflate the dough. Gently knead in the dried fruit and nuts. The fruit kept falling out and I had to knead them in again, guess I over did this bit. Next time, I shall try the procedure suggested in the recipe (Press out one portion of dough into an oval shape. Sprinkle over one quarter of the filling and roll up the dough into a log. Press out again into an oval shape and sprinkle over another quarter of the filling. Roll into a log shape again. Repeat with the second portion of dough. Shape into a ball/balls and slip into your prepared pans or tins or panettone molds) Let rise in a warm place till double again.

Towards the end of the rise time, preheat the oven to 190 degrees C / 375 F. Just before placing the pan in the oven, being careful to not let it drip down the sides as it will glue the bread to the tin/tins, brush the tops with the the whisked egg. A silicon brush works really well here.  Place it in the oven and bake for 15 - 20 or more (depending on the size of the bread) minutes. Stick around and watch how beautiful and high it rises!  Remove from the oven and tent with aluminum foil to prevent too much browning. The aluminum foil will keep slipping if baking in a microwave, so give up!! Reduce the temperature to 180 degrees C / 350 F and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or more depending on the size of the portions you bake.  The temperature on the instant read thermometer must read 200 F. In case you don't have an instant read thermometer it should sound hollow when tapped and should have a beautiful golden light brown crust. Do not over bake (notice the difference in the color and thickness of the crust here and my brioche, this one is over-baked). If baking in a 9''x 5'' loaf pan, bake for 20 minutes at 190 degrees C and 15 minutes at 180 C.   Remove from the oven and brush the top with butter. Remove to wire rack after 5 minutes and let it cool completely before slicing. You could top with a simple sugar glaze if you wish to.

I made an error of judgment in approximating the baking time, over-baked it a bit,  but enough to dry out the bread slightly. I could have kicked, kicked myself for this!! So be careful with the baking time, check 5 minutes earlier than later. And tell me if you know of a gadget that can help approximate the right baking time for different tin sizes.

So it was still a tasty bread, just about sweet, wonderful toasted lightly ( I prefer doing this on a tawa with a light smear of butter). So if you need a quick enriched bread dough without a whole lot of fat, try this recipe!

Thanks so much Marcellina for this treat, I do hope to try your recipe sometime!

Flour : Champa uses 2 2/3 cup of bread flour. One cup of bread flour is one cup APF plus 1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten. I have used  328 grams grams of APF plus 25 grams of vital wheat gluten to make the bread flour. One cup of APF measured by scoop flour into the cup and level method weighs 130 grams. I have weighed 2 2/3 cups taken out 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons flour and replaced it with 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of gluten. Whew!

Eggs: The recipe specifies 2 extra large eggs, one large egg weighs 48 grams without shell. I have approximately taken 120 grams of egg (without shell) as 2 extra large eggs. Your aim would be to get a soft silky, non-sticky dough. I would suggest starting with lesser water (mentioned above) and add more if needed. I guess adding too much flour to adjust the consistency will change the texture of the bread, so would be safer to start off with lesser liquid.  Champa has used 1/2 cup plus one tablespoon pureed silken tofu in place of the eggs. She has used a mixture of 1 tsp milk and 1 tsp olive oil  in place of the egg wash for brushing before baking.

The low fat, quick version panettone is Yeast-spotted!