Saturday, May 25, 2013

Chewy Bialys | We Knead to Bake #5

There was a time when onions were not a part of the daily diet of orthodox Indians especially SouthIndians. Even now in some households it is  a taboo along with garlic. The reason given was they were 'taamasic' products - hot for the body and inturn increase anger and also passion.Even now this policy of abstaining from onion and garlic is followed during fasts and Navaratri festival. 

 There are also good  reasons to include them in the diet. Onion is known for its cooling and digestive properties.A roti with a slice of onion and green chili is a staple lunch in Northern India as well.

But each to his own.I grew up in a household where elders even now don't prefer onions or garlic, but I can't  make without them.Once I started cooking they became a unavoidable part of it and now a week never goes without me polishing off atleast 1 kilo of these in several forms. You can even see these in my breads and recently thanks to We Knead to Bake I tried out Bialys (bee-aah-lees) and it came out excellent.

Bialy is a chewy soft bread roll topped with caramelised onions. Originally from Bialystok, a city in Poland, it spread to other areas like America where Polish or Jews migrated and flourished. 

It can be consumed with creamcheese or butter or as such as I prefer. Believe me, it is best as such. 

I had exactly followed Aparna's recipe and only regret was why I didn't make more. They were over faster than the time it took to make them.

Instant Yeast: 1 tsp
Sugar: 1 tbsp
Water: 1and 1/4 cup or lesser 
All Purpose Flour: 3 cups
Salt: 1 tsp

Milk for brushing the dough

Oil:1 tbsp
Onion: 2 big finely chopped
Cumin seeds: 1.5 tsp
Garam masala: 3/4 -1 tsp 
Salt: as per taste

Put yeast,sugar, salt and flour in the bowl of a food processor.Pulse a few times so that they are well mixed.
Add water in a steady stream -don't add all the quantity- and blend till the dough comes together as a mass. Take out and let the dough /mass rest for atleast 10 minutes.Knead again for few minutes or so adding more flour or water as needed to get a smooth elastic and nonsticky dough.

I had used all the water mentioned and mine turned out sticky.I had to add more flour to get a nonsticky smooth dough.

Shape into a ball and keep it covered in a greased bowl, turning once to coat with oil and let it double. This will take about 2 hours.

If you are not baking bialys straightaway, you can refrigerate the dough after the first rise. This will also make the bialys chewy especially if you are using all purpose flour.

 Traditionally bread flour gives the rolls the chewy texture. If you don't have bread flour, then you can add 1 tsp of vital wheat gluten to 1 cup of all purpose flour to get 1 cup of bread flour.

Anyways, chilling overnight or atleast for an hour gives chewy texture as well. Just keep it out for half an hour in room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.

Divide the dough into eight equal pieces on a lightly dusted countertop and shape each one by flattening it in the middle.

Place the rolls on a lightly greased /lined baking sheet and let them rise for about 1.5 -2 hours especially for chilled dough, till a finger pressed on the top leaves a dent.

Meanwhile prepare the filling. Heat oil in a wide deep pan and add cumin seeds.Once they sizzle add finely chopped onion along with little salt. Saute on low fire till they caramelize.Adjust the salt and add garam masala and mix well.Keep it aside.

Once the rolls are ready,work with one piece at a time keeping others covered so that they don't dry out.Pick a piece  and  make a depression in the middle. Hold a piece within both hands like you are holding a steering wheel of your car-thumbs in the middle,finger around the edges.Pinch the dough between your thumb and fingers, rotating as you go  and deepening the middle without actually tearing the piece. This video (part 1 & part 2) is really helpful in shaping and baking bialys.

Make sure not to press on the edges or else they will flatten out.Prick the centre with a fork so that it doesnt rise while baking. Your bialy will be about 4-5 ' in diameter with 1 inch of puffy dough outside and 3' if depression.

Place the shaped bialy on a lined/greased baking sheet with a 2 inches gap between each bialy.Place the onion filling on depression of each bialy. Brush the outer edges with milk.

Bake the bialys at 230C/ 450F for about 15 minutes till golden brown in colour. Cool them on a rack and enjoy them.

I was wondering how they will turn out. The outer crust looked too crispy for me. But one bite, it was heaven. It was soft, chewy and perfect.The recipe gives 8 large bialys or more depending on how you cut and shaped.

Lets see how other Bialys turned out. Hope over to Aparnas while taking a bite from here. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cucumber Mint Yogurt Soup | Be a Cool Cucumber

Soups for me meant tomato soup. Warm creamy tomato soup seasoned perfectly was the first thing I looked forward/ ordered whenever I went to a restaurant.Based on the taste and texture I used to like or dislike the restaurant. And this was before my blogging and even food review days. 

Ofcourse the preference still continues. Even when it hot outside, I still prefer my warm tomato soup sitting under a high speed fan or air conditioner. :)

But jokes apart, I was at first surprised to learn about cold soups.There are ofcourse a wide range of these cold soup and these days I have taken a liking for these as well.

Recently I tried a simple minty cucumber yogurt soup and it was much better and appetizing. There are several version for these and given below is my simple version.


Cucumber: 1 big or 2 medium lightly peeled and coarsely chopped
Shallots/ Small onion: few (4 or 5) (OR) Red onion: 1/2 of a small
Fresh Mint Leaves: a handful
Yogurt: 1/2 cup medium thick
Water: 4 tbsp +/- as needed to get choice of consistency

Salt & Pepper: as per taste

Extr Virgin Olive Oil: for garnish (optional)
Fresh Mint: for garnish


Blend together lightly peeled and coarsely chopped cucumber along with other ingredients except those for garnish and even pepper. Do the taste test and adjust the salt. You can also add other spices like coriander or cumin to make it spicy as per your taste.Even you can add fresh dill instead or along with mint to make it more herby and different. Also adjust the thickness of the soup by adding more water or even thick yogurt.

Chill in fridge and serve in small cups as appetizer soups garnishing with pepper, mint leaves and drizzling with olive oil.

The soup is really light and appetizing and is perfect for parties as well And you can play with ingredients a bit as well.I didn't go for oil while taking pics. But it definitely adds flavour and look to the soup.

The soup is perfect not just for summer but also for NCR: starter soups/ salads at Lisas. Do hop there and take a look at the appetizing entries and do vote for your favourite.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New York Style Pizza | Baking Partners #10 - I ♥ NY

Pizzas are one of my favourite. I love eating them though I don't always  bake them. Sometimes I think if we could pinpoint something that mobilised India to modernise or grow or urbanise pizzas would have an imporrtant place along with or slightly lower than internet and cell phones. 

My association with pizza started in my late teens. A Pizza Corner franchisee had started near college and I had been there once or twice for a treat with friends or cousins. Within a year or two they started mushrooming everywhere and now wherever you go you can be assured your slice of pizza will be waiting for you with the same taste,same quality etc. 

The pizza craze had reached such an extent that I laughed my head off when I heard of "Idly Pizza" which was nothing but pizza sauce and topping on an idly and steamed again. Ofcourse it might be good and we can definitely try fusion cuisine but somehow on hearing such name my impulse is to laugh. 

Anyway later my knowledge about pizzas increased and I started baking them first through mixes and then from scratch.And thanks to Baking Partners this time I found my favourite and the best one - NY Style Pizza.I have tried the second recipe suggested by Archana of TangyMinds from Serious Eats.

New York Style Pizza is an American version of the Italian pizza and is generally large/wide, thin crusted foldable and crispy. There are other American versions also but this one is popular in East coast. Being Large it is usually sold as slice and have only sauce and mozzarella as the toppings. Though ofcourse we can keep these as the base and add our own topping. I had halved the recipe and had tried working with only two portions of  dough while freezing others. I went for a tradtional sauce and cheese topping for one and with the other it was gourmet with pineapples,black olives and onions.


Bread Flour /All purpose Flour: 4.5 cups
Sugar: 1.5 tbsp
Salt: 3tsp
Instant Yeast: 2 tsp
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: 3 tbsp
Water: 15 oz or 30 tbsp

Whole Peeled Tomatoes: roughly 3-3.5 cups
EVOO: 1 tbsp
Unsalted Butter: 1 tbsp
Garlic: 2 medium cloves minced
Dried Oregano: 1 tsp
Red chilli flakes: a pinch
Sugar: 1 tsp
Onion (preferably yellow): peeled and slit in half : 1 medium
Fresh Basil: 2 6inch sprigs attached
Salt : as per taste

Mozzarella : grated as much as you want along with other preferences


I blanched the tomatoes and peeled them. You can also use fresh ones though cooking time will increase.

Puree the tomatoes in a blender leaving occasional mini chunks.

Meanwhile, heat oil and butter in a deep saucepan. Add garlic,oregano,pepperflakes and  a pinch of salt and saute till garlic cooks but not brown. Add in tomato puree, onion, basil and sugar. Bring to a simmer on lowest possible heat and let it cook for another hour or so till it is reduced to half.

Remove from heat, adjust salt and let it cool.Then it can be stored in hte fridge in a covered container for upto about 2 weeks.

Combine flour,sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of the food processor or if kneading by hand then in a wide,deep bowl. Pulse/Mix together for 3-4 times till well incorporated.

Add EVOO and water. Pulse/Mix for few more times till you get a dough ball.Transfer the ball to a floured surface and knead once or twice to get a smooth dough ball.

Divide the dough into 3 equal parts and store covered in a ziploc bag or container in the fridge for atleast overnight or upto 5 days. I divided into two equal parts and chilled these. I worked with only one piece and the other after two days I transferred to the freezer. 

In the fridge, definitely the dough doubles up and you can take it out of the fridge 2 hours prior to baking atleast.

Gently shape the dough ball into a circular/round shape in a lightly dusted surface - the dough will be slightly sticky at this point.So flour is needed to shape these. Keep the round dough ball tightly covered in separate dishes.

I divided my dough piece into two, shaped each and  let each rise separately till doubled for another hour or so.

Transfer the dough ball onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into an 8' circle leaving the outer 1' higher than the rest. Gently stretch by draping the dough over the knuckles into a 12-14' circle about 1/4' thick.Transfer to a lined baking sheet sprinkled with semolina/cornmeal.

My shaping is not perfect. By the time I draped over my knuckles and placed in a pan the shape became something else. You can see this video also for stretching the pizza and also the tips from this site.

Spread a thin layer of sauce followed by sprinkling of fresh grated mozzarella.

Bake the pizza in a preheated oven at 400F/200C for about 10-15 minutes until it is golden brown and the cheese melts and the crust puffs up.

Enjoy the best pizza with your family not store bought, but from scratch. Thanks Swati & Archana for the excellent pizza recipe.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Best Premium Basmati | Real Best Basmati

Rice or Anna has been a major part of Indian food and in general Indian Culture. Though Anna generally refers to food, it also refers to rice or the maincourse. Rice or Oryza Sativa (Asian Rice) or Oryza Glaberrima (African Rice) has been respected by one and all and this is true not just in India but worldwide. And ofcourse there have been several varieties of rice and hundreds of rice preparations and obviously hundreds of rice brands.

A popular type of rice is Basmati. Though originally part of North Indian cuisine, these days you can see it in South Indian households as well. The word Basmati means "Full of aroma " with "bas' standing for aroma.We can actually divide the rice types as basmati and non basmati. It is said that Basmati is a perfect rice even for diabetic as it has a lower glycemic index than other rice types. 

Recently I got a sample of Best brand Premium Basmati and tried it. I had heard about the brand in television and news papers and have seen their products in supermarkets and sometimes even smaller convenience stores here in Bangalore. I am not an expert with rice though I can definitely differentiate between some  or few varieties thanks to the daily use. And I prefer basmati for my pulavs, biryanis and sometimes even few desserts.

It is said that a basmati can be identified by flavour and texture.While I am not sure how to find the age of basmati and all, I love the aroma of basmati, before and after its cooked. Now coming to Best Premium basmati,the aroma was there -not over the top as I expected and I was a bit hesistant to try it out till I saw the long thin grains.

Cooking revealed the non sticky, extra long texture of the basmati. And I was definitely floored Of course  I must add here that the aroma did increase and the extra long and thin 'size zero'  rice grain definitely makes your day and elevates your main course.

 The rice can be used for a variety of preparation with or without veggies/meat. The rice can be cooked stovetop or in a microwave. The pack gives the exact cooking time in each and also doubles as a resealable container. So that definitely takes care of storing the rice in another airtight container.

 I would definitely recommend this based on my experience. The Best Food Group has a variety of basmati and non basmati items including brown basmati. Brown basmati is has lower glycemic index than the regular basmati and is definitely much more healthier option.

Out of ten, if I am to rank Best Foods Basmati, I will give a 8 to it. I felt (may be my olfactory nerves are not working ! :) ) the aroma was slightly less though it was there. Apart from this factor I find it perfect for all your variety rice preparations and a perfect partner for your culinary skills. It comes in 1kg, 5 kg, 10kg and even 25 kg packages.

1 kg pack of  premium basmati is sold at an mrp of Rs.180/-.

Its a bit on the high side I felt but seriously, its definitely worth it. The rice is of high quality and the company also guarantees the same. The rice comes from prime rice growing areas in India including Himalayas and is aged for atleast an year as needed for basmati. In general BEST Food gives you the BEST rice.

The company is based in Delhi and has locations in other metros as well. You can check out the official  website for getting more information on your daily staple and also try out the various recipes that are a part of the website.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Simit - Turkish Sesame Ring | Enjoy your cuppa

I love the months of March, April and May. March as its my daughters Birthday month and April and May being the vacation months here. I love being lazy on April and May. No schools, can travel to my mom's place, simply laze around I can give several reasons of  doing no or less work in April and May. 

But once I started blogging, I find this urge to continue in April and May. Ofcourse these days my blogging is almost nil but I still try out items and sometimes drafts are ready and I have to push myself to click publish. :) But still I do try.Especially I love baking breads in these months. I know the dough will double faster and I can finish baking and clicking by teatime and enjoy the bread almost warm from the oven. One such bread I recently tried was the Turkish Simit.

Simit is sesame crusted crisp circular bread originally from Turkey, but common is Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia and other parts of Middle East.There are several versions or regional differences and the chewiness/crispiness of the bread varies accordingly. 

Simit is called Turkish Bagels in USA. They are made in Turkey by dipping into molasses syrup rather than boiling in water as bagels though. I have adapted the recipe for simit from Farida's AZCookbook and it is originally from Ayla Agar's "Classical Turkish Cooking".I have just made one-fourth of the recipe and given below is my estimates. but feel free to do the original.

All Purpose Flour: 1 cup
Salt: 3/8 tsp

Water: 1+ 4 tbsp
Instant Yeast: 1/2 tsp
Sugar: 1 pinch

Molasses: 2 tbsp
Water: 2 tbsp

Sesame Seeds


In a small bowl, mix together yeast, sugar and 1 tbsp of water. Let stand for about 5-10 minutes until frothy.

This is to be followed especially with active dry yeast and is optional for instant yeast. In case of active dry yeast add another 1/4 tsp more to the quantity mentioned. I had tried adding instant yeast directly and this manner also and both has worked.

In a big bowl or counter top. mix together flour and salt and make a well in the centre, add in the yeast mix  (or yeast itself) and remaining water and work/knead  in to get to tight,stiff,elastic and smooth dough.

 Place it in a greased bowl, turning once to get coated with oil/butter and let it rest until doubled for about 1-2 hours. Mine took barely an hour to double.

Once doubled, knead it few more times and turn into a roll. Divide the roll into equal size pieces. I tried dividing equally but still ended up with 6 pieces. But thats ok. It doesn't affect the taste or texture anyways.

Roll each piece into a round ball and let it rest under a plastic wrap or damp towel for about 30 minutes until puffy.

Roll out each round ball into a long rope of say 5 inches. Then hold down one end of the rope with one hand and twist the rope with the other. Form a long ring by pressing and overlapping the ends togehter on the workspace or countertop.

 I went for a medium thick rope of 5 inches which after twisting becaome another 2 inches long. The original recipe with the exact measurements goes for 14 inch long rope. But when I tried to match it or ttried for a long rope, I found the ends breaking and 5 inches worked well for me with an addition 2 more inches after twisting.

Place the rings on a greased baking sheet/counter top  and let it rest for another hour when it turns puffy or  almost doubled.Meanwhile dust another bakign sheet with semolina/ cornmeal and keep aside. 
Also prepare a dipping solution by mixing molases and water. Keep your sesame seeds ready in a wide bowl/plate.

Once rested, take each simit and dip into the molasses water solution then dip in the sesame seeds and make sure it gets coated on all sides thickly with sesame. Place in the semolina dusted baking sheet and try elongating the simits by stretching it out on the baking sheet. place the simits a few inches apart from one another and use another baking sheet if needed.

Let the simits rest for another 30 minutes or until well puffed.

Preheat the oven to 390F (198.9 ~ 200 C). I went for 190C only and few minutes of longer baking time
Bake the simits in oven for about 15-20 minutes (or few minutes more depending on baking temperature) until rich brown in colour.

Take out and enjoy warm simits with tea or coffee or your choice of beverage. You will not be disappointed.

Thanks for visiting my Blog

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