Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Kadalebele Chutney / Habbada Chutney

Although I am the kind who will be super happy to eat a simple meal of rasam, vegetable and rice, a chutney would take it to another level. A spicy,  fiery one, even better! If you are familiar with the cuisine of North Karnataka, chutneys are common as part of the lunch menu. And when I say chutneys, I don't just mean the kind which are eaten with idli /dosa. The ones which go with rice and chapatis / jowar rottis are another large bunch altogether. Among those commonly made during festivals, functions and community gatherings is Habbada Chutney (translating to festival chutney) or Kadalebele chutney.

One of the reasons why this could be so popular during festivals could be the ease of  preparation. And the fact that the star of the dish, the soaked Bengal gram or chana dal is used in multiple dishes in a typical festival meal. In kosambari ( a salad), in majjige huli ( yogurt based gravy) and of course chutney. This recipe doesn't  involve even sauteing of any ingredient, so is just a matter of grinding everything together. Think of this dish as the festival-stressed lady's way of adding one more easy dish to her habbada adige (the festival menu), one more dish taken care of for the professional cook slaving over an elaborate meal for scores of people

 Kadalebele chutney is a finger-licking good one yes, but only if you like the taste of the uncooked chana dal.  If you can't tolerate spicy food, you are better off not making this one as it will be bland and tasteless. With barely any ingredients, the heat from the chillies, the slight tang of the tamarind and a generous dash of hing are absolutely necessary. Another necessary and welcome addition - a trickle of melted ghee on your rice!


Bengal gram / Chana dal - 5-6 tablespoons (makes almost a cup after it is soaked)
Fresh grated coconut - 3/4 cup to 1 cup ( or lesser, read note)
Green chillies - 8-10
Fresh coriander leaves, chopped - 1/4 cup (measured after cutting)
Tamarind pulp - 1 - 1.5 teaspoons
Turmeric powder - 3/4 teaspoon
Hing / Asafoetida powder - a very generous pinch
Salt to taste

For the tempering

Oil - 1 tablespoon
Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
Curry leaves - a few
Procedure : Wash and soak the Bengal gram in enough water for at least 4 hours. You should be able to pinch it easily with your nails once its soaked. Drain completely. Grind together the soaked Bengal gram, fresh coconut, hing, chillies, salt, turmeric and tamarind. Use very little water to grind, you can add more water later to adjust the consistency. The chutney must be coarse and not completely smooth. Bits of green chillies here and there make the chutney more appealing to the taste buds and the eyes too! Transfer the chutney to a small dish.
Heat the oil, add the mustard, allow to pop, add the curry leaves. Take off the heat. Pour it on the chutney and mix. Serve with hot rice and ghee.
Please note: You could use varying amounts of coconut in the chutney.  Some people prefer lesser than what I have given, so please don't tell my mother. If you add more tamarind, the chutney will be tangy and I would not prefer this as there is no jaggery to balance out the taste.

Kadalebele chutney goes to the 61st edition of My Legume Love Affair, a very popular event started by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook,  Its now being carried forward by Lisa, hosted by Aparna this month. Dishes with fresh or dried beans, lentils, pulses, and/or the sometimes edible pods that contain these seeds, and derivative products like tofu or besan, along with tamarind, fenugreek, carob, peanuts are all acceptable says Aparna. But legumes have to be the star ingredient here.

You may not want to miss this event as there are also three prizes to be won, including a copy of Bong Mom's CookBook! The event is on till 31st July. Please visit Aparna's blog for more details. 

There is another version of this chutney where the Bengal gram and other ingredients including dried red chillies are roasted. Hope to post that sometime.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tartine's Clafoutis - With Plums!

Happens every year. The season of gorgeous cherries, blushing peaches and ravishing plums. Not raving fan of these, I see them, I sigh and I walk away.  If only I loved baking with them!  I am not much of a cooked fruit person, which is why you are very unlikely to see me baking crisps, cobblers, crumbles and other fruity bakes.  But I got lured into buying some plums, blame my new camera and my sudden interest in taking pictures! And then a plum clafoutis happened!

Clafoutis (Kla-foo-tee) is a rustic, pudding kind of French dessert, traditionally made with unpitted fresh cherries, the kernels supposed to release kind of almond flavor into the dish. You could use berries, peaches, plums, nectarines, pears or even apples. The fruit is sometimes sauteed in butter and sugar and put at the bottom of a pie tin or a cast iron skillet or ramekins.

The batter is mostly just whizzing together all ingredients in a food processor or just combining the wet and dry ingredients, making it a snap of a dessert to put together.  And even better - you could make this less or more rich using either just whole milk or half and half or cream. A simple clafoutis for breakfast or an indulgent clafoutis for dessert with a dollop of cream or ice cream. Now you see, why I had to bake one! My family loved their dessert, so more clafoutis its going to be!

I stumbled upon this link on Mark's No Special Effects leading me to Tartine's Cherry Clafoutis. The method here is slightly different, process similar to making a custard, though I will know any difference in the texture only after I bake more clafoutis. 

Serves 8-10
Recipe from Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson

•Whole milk - 480 ml / 2 Cups ( you could use part cream)
•Sugar - 150 grams / 3/4 cup
• Vanilla bean - 1 or Vanilla extract - 1 1/2 teaspoons
• Salt - A pinch
• Eggs - 3 large / 144 grams
• All purpose Flour - 50 grams / 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon
• Plums - 8-10, pitted and sliced ( Recipe used 2 cups cherries)
• 2 tablespoons sugar, for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC / 425ºF. Butter the dish you plan to use. I have used ten to twelve 60 ml / 1/4 cup capacity ramekins. Recipe suggests using a 25cm (10 inch) ceramic quiche mold or pie dish.

2. In a small saucepan, combine milk, sugar, the slit vanilla bean vanilla and salt. Place over a medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar until just under a boil. (At this point, you could allow the flavor to steep for some time, say about 30 minutes, fish out the bean, scrape the seeds into the milk and bring it to a boil again)

3. While the milk mixture is heating, whisk the eggs and flour together in a heatproof bowl until smooth. I had to smoothen a few lumps so better to add flour in 2-3 additions. 

4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and slowly ladle the hot milk, say 1/4 cup at a  time,  into the egg mixture while whisking constantly.  Pour the mixture into the prepared mold and add the plums, making sure they are evenly distributed.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes (30-35 minutes for the 10 '' pie dish, says the recipe), until just set in the center, slightly puffed and browned around the outside. (mine was golden brown and set, did not want to risk over baking)

6. Remove the custard from the oven and turn the temperature up to 260ºC (500ºF). Evenly sprinkle the sugar over the top of the clafoutis. Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes to caramelize the sugar. Watch carefully as it will darken quickly. ( I skipped this step)

6. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature. We liked it better at room temperature when the clafoutis had a creamier set. 

We liked the clafoutis (would have loved it more with ice cream), though can't say the same of the tangy-sweet cooked plums. A recipe and a dessert to be baked again for sure, fruit or no fruit, why ever not when its so easy and a no-fuss dessert idea I would love to play around with!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Common Basic Baking Terms - Part 1

I try to re-surface! I have been like a cat on a hot tin roof as I have shifted most of my baking stuff to my baking kitchen but not everything else is in place yet for me to start baking properly.  But the urge to bake and blog remains - always! A good time perhaps for another post in the series for the beginners about a few terms commonly used in baking. Complied with reference to books and various sources on the internet. Images from the web.

Aerate : Aeration is the process by which air is circulated through, mixed with or dissolved in a liquid or substance - Wikipedia. Optimum aeration (by mechanical or and chemical means) in your cake helps get one with more volume and a better texture. Sifting and creaming (more below) also aerate your batter.

Baking blind : This is basically pre-baking your pie/tart crust fully or partially without the filling in it.  You roll out the chilled crust and  fit it into the pie / tart tin, then prick it all over with a fork to prevent it from puffing up. The crust is then covered with parchment or aluminum foil and weighed down with dried beans or pie weights and baked partially or fully as needed in your recipe. Once the crust is completely cool, you could brush the crust with whisked egg white ( I would bake again for a few minutes if I did this) to prevent it from becoming soggy when its further baked with the filling.

Brush : When we want the top of our bread loaves soft, we brush the top with melted butter or oil. A baked genoise or fatless sponge is brushed with sugar syrup to keep it moist. You use a brush for this as this as it helps use just enough fat or just enough syrup, help spread more evenly to moisten your cake without making it soggy.  You similarly brush whisked egg or egg white or herbed butter. Best to use is a good quality silicon brush.

Bain marie : Pronounced (BAN-mah-REE) this is French term for a water bath.  A method used for using indirect gentle heat for delicate heating / baking, while keeping your bake moist from the steam. A more harsh or direct heat in cases like this may curdle your custard for example or dry out your bake or seize your chocolate. Baked custards, custard based puddings, mousse cakes and cheesecakes are classic examples for using a water bath. Chocolate is often melted in a bain marie but in this case, the bowl of chocolate sits over a pan of simmering water.

You could use a large tray or baking tin with sides about 2-3'' high depending on the height of your ramekin or cake tin. This gives you enough height to pour the hot water in without it spilling out and enough around the ramekin or tin to come halfway through.

 Line your tin with an old kitchen towel uniformly and then place your tin inside. With the tin in the oven, pour the hot water (with a kettle) in the lined tin. The towel helps the ramekins or tin not move around as you bake - more relevant in a convection microwave. In case of longer baking periods, the water level may come down and you would need to replenish it as needed. If using a spring form tin, warp the bottom of the tin on the outside with double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil to prevent seepage into the  tin.

Blend : You blend when you mix 2 or more ingredients to just mix them thoroughly and uniformly, so that the ingredients make a homogenous mixture. The aim here is to just mix ingredients really well and not to achieve volume or aerate. Your tools depending on the ingredients and quantity would be a fork, a tiny whisk or a large whisk. For example, when you need to make muffins, you want to combine the liquid ingredients like egg, oil, vanilla, milk and orange zest. You take them all in a small bowl and blend them with a whisk to combine them well - without wanting or needing to create air.

Beat : Beating is an action much more vigorous than blending. The aim is to achieve volume while beating eggs, to make the sugar and butter light and fluffy when you cream, to activate some amount of gluten in batter breads.

Butter : Coating your tin or pan with butter either lightly or generously as directed in the recipe. You could of course use non-stick spray or even ghee or oil for this. Buttering helps easy release of the baked goods from the pan.

Brûlée : Brûlée means ' burnt'. To brulee something is to burn it, the top specifically as in caramelizing the sugar on top of custard to make a Crème brûlée or for baking a meringue pie. Tool commonly used is a blowtorch . When you top your custard with sugar and burn it with the flames of the torch, the sugar caramelizes giving the creamy smooth custard a crunchy topping. Good that I don't have a blow torch yet or I would be tempted to bake one right away!

Creaming : Creaming is basically beating butter (at room temperature) first on low speed till smooth with a wooden spoon/ spatula/ hand mixer or with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer. The sugar is then added in a stream and both are creamed together. Start on low speed and move to medium high if using a hand mixer. Ideally you have to cream till the mixture is blended together perfectly, is light and fluffy, pale in color and not grainy anymore when rubbed between your fingers. This may take 4-5 minutes or even more on medium high speed of your hand mixer.

The jagged edges of the sugar when beaten with the butter help create air pockets which get trapped in the fat. Creaming increases the volume of the butter though not dramatically. The air bubbles thus trapped expand in the oven heat, give the cake a light texture. The other liquid ingredients, eggs, baking powder/soda work alongside for more leavening (raising and aerating the batter). Be wary of over or under creaming.

The video below will give you an idea.

Cube : To cube butter is to cut butter into chunks of specific size as needed in the recipe. Very important for making pie crust, puff pastry, scones and the kind. You need the butter to be cubed according to the recipe specifications to help achieve even distribution in some cases or to prevent one huge mass of it from turning a greasy mess in the process of creaming. Or for the reason that the butter still needs to remain in largish bits and pieces or tiny pieces at the end of the pre-baking procedure. The chilled butter when in chunks or bits in the pie dough or puff pastry dough melts in the oven giving you a tender or flaky crust.

My favorite way to cube butter is using a metal dough scraper. Its sharpish, very firm and easy to grip, slices right down from the top of the slab to the bottom (mostly!). I like to cube butter when cold but soft enough to cut easily. I cube it (with a scale to be sure) and then refrigerate it again to chill before using for puff and pie crusts.

Cut in : This again is an often used term while making pie crusts and scones. This often means taking the flour mixture (in a large bowl or on your counter), dumping in the chilled cubed butter on it, roughly tossing it to coat the butter with flour. Then you use a pastry blender or two forks or knives or a chilled metal dough scraper to 'cut' or kind of chop the butter into the flour. You are basically working the butter into the dry ingredients to make a rough mixture of largish or small pieces of butter and flour or a sandy mixture as needed.  

The aim at the end is to make a blended mixture which still has cold, unmelted chunks of butter in it, the key is working quickly and gently before the butter melts. A food processor is supposed to make a very easy job of this as well. I was quite pleased with the results my metal dough scraper gave when I made this crust. A good job of cutting in the fat helps get a flaky and tender end product.

Here is a video which shows 'cutting in', jump to the video after 2 minutes to see the technique. Rose Beranbaum uses a pastry cutter here. In this video, David Ogonowski uses a combination of different techniques, see how he uses a dough scraper to 'cut in' the butter. Quick jump to the video after 3.35 seconds to see the technique.

Caramelize :When you heat sugar, it caramelizes and turns a golden liquid or caramel. When you saute onions in fat on low heat for a long time, it turns brown and caramelizes. Great topping for your focaccias, crackers and the kind.

Coat the back of a spoon : Egg based custard recipes often direct you to cook the mixture on the stove top till it 'coats the back of a spoon'. If you dip a spoon in your custard and take it out, run your finger across the back, it will leave a trail. Your finger will form a 'path' and the custard doesn't run through this path. The custard is at the point cooked enough and further cooking may curdle it.

Crumb : Slice a loaf of bread or cake. The inside part of it is called as the crumb. This mainly refers to the texture - as in a moist or tender crumb.

Common Basic Baking Terms Part 2 - Please check this post

Common Basic Baking Terms Part 3 - here

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Whole Wheat Date, Walnut & Coconut Squares

So I get my first DSLR! A Nikon D3200 to start with, general opinion being this is a good one for the complete beginner. Am terribly excited of course, quite intimidated too!  Hope I will learn my way around it in sometime. I have an adept-at-teaching, very ardent photographer for my teacher and guide to help me get started - but for a very short while only ! Therefore the rush to chew on his IIT brains and get a tiny bit of hands on practice before he takes off to start his career.  Thanks tons Ajay for all the guidance, help and patience with me!

While this is happening, I am also in the process of shifting my baking paraphernalia to another kitchen.  A little one again, nevertheless very happy to get the extra space - my little baking kitchen!  A lick of paint and some scrubbing and its ready to occupy.  Organizing, re-organizing, huffing and puffing down the stairs it will be for some days. Good for my expanding waist-line, should help me burn some butter and sugar - now and now on!

Here are some whole wheat date and walnut bars I made. Hubby loves both dates and walnuts and picks them up invariably when we shop. A handful of dates become his dessert quite often, I know who the culprit is when my stash of walnuts diminish from the freezer.  I had wanted to bake these Wheat Date And Walnut Squares from the KAF Whole Grain Baking book for him since long. Not too sweet, softish, relatively healthy, nothing indulgent or dessert-like really, but tasty little bites. Both the hubby and kids liked them, a tray of these with chocolate chips had to be baked too - 'dessert' with the lunch box is always welcome!

The recipe in the book is double the below, baked in a 9''x13'' pan. I have used an 8'' square tin for the recipe below.

Ingredients :
Whole wheat flour ( I use Ashirwad) - 65 grams
Butter, at room temperate - 30 grams / 2 tablespoons
Brown sugar, powdered - 1/3 cup, packed, then powdered (recipe uses 1/2 cup)
Baking soda - HALF of 1/8 teaspoon
Egg - 48 grams / 1 large
Vanilla - 1 teaspoon
Dates, pitted and chopped - 1/2 cup
Walnuts, chopped  - 1/2 cup
Dessicated coconut - 2 tablespoons

  • Procedure : Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F. Line your baking tray with parchment, grease lightly. 
  • Take the butter, sugar, soda and vanilla in a medium sized bowl. Beat (with a large spoon) for about a minute till the mixture is smooth. 
  • Add the egg, beat till well incorporated about 30 seconds. Fold in the flour, till it almost disappears. Stir in the walnuts and dates. 
  • The mixture will be very thick, almost like cookie batter. Dump it into the tray, push it to cover the pan. Wet your hands if needed to smoothen it.  Scatter the coconut on top,  press down lightly. This will make a very thin layer.
  • Bake for 20-22 minutes or till a light golden on top and slightly darker around the edges. Cool the bars in the tin for 1/2 hour. Cut into squares. 
Yes, I took the pictures with the new camera. Am not telling you that Ajay helped me with the settings before he zoomed away as I took the pictures!