Saturday, January 31, 2015

Pane Siciliano - Sicilian Semolina Bread | We Knead to Bake

There was a time I believed semolina /rava was a thing used only in South India. I was surprised to know that semolina is also used in other parts of India. Doubly surprised to know its existence outside India as well. Semolina made by milling the grains usually wheat is known under various names worldwide and used across continents for sweet and savoury dishes. I too have tried few international semolina dishes. But a bread made mostly of semolina is something I have rarely heard. Mix of semolina with majorly all purpose flour that is the common norm isn't it? 

So when Aparna suggested Pane Siciliano for this months We Knead to Bake. I definitely wanted to see how the bread turns out.

Pane siciliano is a semolina based bread from Sicily which is traditionally baked on December 13th every year to celebrate the bravery of St. Lucia. There are several versions or recipes for this but the one given below uses a biga/crescuita which inturns gives it a good texture and taste.


Cresciuta/Biga/ Pate Fermentee :

Water: 4 tbsp lukewarm
Instant Yeast: 1/4 tsp
All Purpose Flour: 1/4 cup

Warm Water: 1 cup
Honey: 2 tsp
Instant Yeast: 1/2 tsp

All the prepared biga

Vital Wheat Gluten: 1/2 tsp
Semolina Flour: :2 to 2.75 cups
Salt: 1 tsp

Olive Oil: 1 tbsp

Sesame Seeds: handfuls


In a bowl, sprinkle yeast over lukewarm water and let it sit until frothy for about 5-10 minutes.  Mix in the all purpose flour to obtain a messy batter/dough and let it sit overnight or atleast 4 hours covered loosely with a plastic wrap.

Next day in another big bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water to which honey and been added and let it sit until frothy. 

In another bowl mix in 2 cups semolina flour, gluten if using and salt. If you dont have semolina flour, just run the grainy semolina -that in easily available in the market- in a mixer to get the flour.

To the yeast bowl, add all the bigs prepared earlier and mix well. To this add the semolina mix along with olive oil and mix in to get a liquidy mass. Add more semolina flour as needed to knead it into a non sticky dough. 

Transfer the dough an oiled/greased container turning once to coat and let it sited covered with a plastic wrap until doubled in volume for about 1.5 hours.

Once the dough is doubled, gently punch it down and transfer it to a counter. Roll it out into a long rope and then transfer it to a lined and lightly greased baking tray. Curl the dough back and forth on itself to get a trailing 7 inch tail. Fold the tail over the shaped loaf. 

Loosely cover the dough and let it sit until doubled in size about 1-2 hours. 

Brush the top of the dough with water and sprinkle white sesame seeds on it. Lightly press in the seeds with your fingers so that they don't fall off.

Preheat the oven at 190C/375F with a baking tray placed upside down. Place the dough baking tray on top of the hot baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes until the bread is browned. The bread should sound hollow when tapped at the bottom.

Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

The bread is crust and goes well with a salad or soup. It is a guilt free bread . Normally bread has carbs but this one made with semolina and just 4 tbsp refined flour is as simple and healthy as you can get. So if you enjoy your rava dosa or rava upma in the mornings then this can go very well with you for evening tiffin/tea or even supper along with a heavy side.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Point Pedro Vadai - ParuthithuraiVadai | Sri Lankan Festive Fritters

January, the first month of the year also brings in the harvesting season. Almost entire India celebrates the beginning of harvesting season which falls in the middle of the month as Lohri, Sankranthi, and Pongal. This is actually a celebration of the Sun God- which provides the energy needed for agriculture -as it starts its journey northwards.  Pongal which is a Tamil harvest festival is celebrated not just in Tamil Nadu, India but also in our neighbouring country Sri Lanka. It is Sri Lanks'a national festival celebrated with the offerings of Pongal and variety of snacks one of them being PointPedro Vadai or Paruthithurai Vadai. 

A little googling on Lankan Cuisine gave me this name and led me to a few sites that had the recipe. I was under the impression that it is same as our 'Vada /Vadai'- savoury ground & deep fried  lentil dumplings that are very common here. But I  was surprised by the recipe from Ahila's site which involved no grinding and used wheat flour for the dough. 

The vadais are  a speciality from the town of Paruthithurai or Point Pedro  - anglicised name for the same.or Peduru Thuduwa in Sanhala - in Jaffna. They are also known as Jaffna Vadai. 

 Skinless Split Urad Dal : 1 cup
Steamed Wheat flour: 1 cup 
Regular Wheat Flour: 1 cup + as needed 

Salt: as per taste
Onion: 1/2- 1 cup minced
Green Chillies: 1-2 minced  (as per taste)
Fennel Seeds: 1 tbsp
Curry Leaves: few chopped finely

Water: just little as needed to form a dough
Oil: for deep frying

Soak the dal in enough water for 6 hours or overnight. 

Mix together drained dal and all the other ingredients except oil with just enough water to form a little tight dough. You can take regular wheat flour and steam it or use wheat puttu flour available in market.Steaming regular wheat flour may involve extra steps and time and I went for the wheat puttu flour which is already steamed, sifted and ready to use.

Divide the dough into small balls - it comes around 60 or more. And flatten each piece into a thin circle. This is the traditional way of making them. 

Else divide the dough into half or quarter. And roll out each piece into a rectangle as thin as possible.The dough is little drier compared to the Indian medu vadai. Use cookie cutters and cut the dough into circles. This was the technique I followed as it gave same shape and thinness to most of the pieces. Thinner the vadas crunchier they are.

While the vadas are getting ready, heat the oil for deep frying. Once the vadais are ready make sure they don't sit out a long time before frying. 

Deep fry the vadai few at a time until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve with your choice of dip/chutney.

The texture is very crunchy ie the thinner you roll out/flatten crunchier they will be. The texture is similar to thattai vadai  for those who are familiar with the Tamil cuisine. 

If slightly thick in width then they turn softer after sometime. Both ways they tasted perfect with a cuppa.

Friday, January 16, 2015

NeujahrsPretzel - New Years Pretzel | Baking Partners Jan 2015

New Year is celebrated across the world in different ways. Each country has its own traditions or otherwise People even add their own twist which inturn becomes a new ritual/tradition. The idea of celebration is bring together people or family and friends. Celebrating with family and friends definitely enhances our moods and then makes us positive as the the new year dawns. This definitely brings good luck and happiness throughout the year. 

Different traditions are associated with New Year and each one is supposed to bring good luck to our lives. This includes even in some food items consumed during the beginning of the new year or rather even as the clock strikes 12. One of them is New Year Pretzels.These are a speciality in Germany and are supposed to bring goodluck and prosperity if consumed at midnight or before breakfast on New Years' Day. 

In Germany or other German speaking and even other pretzel baking areas, on Jan 1st lightly sweetened yeasted pretzel is gifted among friends and family for good fortune. Sometimes young kids visits grandparents to get their share of pretzels. In fact pretzel is supposed to have got the shape from the German monks who used to pray for peace and prosperity. Whatever the story behind the bread, the New Years pretzels are the perfect option to snack on when you come tired after the celebrations and even during the celebrations

This time around for Baking Partners yours truly got the chance to choose the recipe thanks to Swathy. And yup the breads came wonderful and perfect. I went for one fourth (quarter) of the recipe adapted from  Pittsburgh Magazine given below. 


Warm Milk: 1 ½ cups

Sugar: ½ cup

Butter: ½ cup

Warm Water: ½ cup

Yeast: 1 tbsp yeast (along with 1 tsp of sugar)

Bread Flour/ Apf: 6-7 cups

(You can make your own bread flour by adding 1 tsp of vital wheat gluten to 1 cup of all purpose flour.)

Salt: 1 tbsp

Egg: 2 OR Ener G Egg = 1 tbsp EnerG + 6-8  tbsp of water


Confectioners Sugar: 2.5 cups

Almond/Vanilla extract: 1 tsp

Water : as much as needed


Toasted Sliced Almonds

Candied cherrries

Confectioners/Powdered Sugar


In a bowl mix together warm milk, sugar and butter and stir until the butter and sugar are dissolved.


In another bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water with few sugar grains. and let it sit until foamy.

I didn’t have bread flour and added vital wheat gluten to my all purpose flour. In the small steel plate in the pic is vital wheat gluten ready to be mixed in.

To the milk bowl, add in the 5 cups of flour, salt, yeast mix and egg .


Mix until you get a soft batter. Add in more flour ½ cup at a time until a soft dough forms. Continue knead until the  dough leaves the sides of the bowl.

Take the dough onto a floured counter and knead it to form a smooth ball.


Put it into a greased bowl and let it rise until doubled in size.


Turn onto the counter, divide into half.

Roll each half into a long rope and shape into a pretzel.

You can refer this video for shaping the pretzel.

Lay the pretzel into a parchment lined baking sheet and let it rise for another hour,


I made one big pretzel with one half of the dough. Other half I divided into smaller pieces and made smaller pretzels.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375F/175C for about 20 minutes until golden brown.

The bigger pretzel came out like this

The smaller one ..

Garnish with powdered sugar.

Else mix together the confectioners sugar with vanilla/almond extract with as much water as needed to get a spreadable icing. Pour the icing over the bread and decorate with toasted almonds and candied cherries.

The bread is soft and light right out of the oven. It is similar to any soft sandwich bread that we make or buy. But once you decorate then it looks regal.. Its all the love and hope and positive that makes the simple pretzel superb centre piece in the New Year menu and gives a p
erfect start for the New Year .

Lets hop across to Swathi's and check what other partners baked for New Year.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

California Walnuts | For a Healthy 2015 & a Fitter You

Its the season for resolutions. After the festive season and especially on New Year it has become a trend to make resolutions and break them as the year goes by. Most of  the times it will be related to good health and nutritious food especially after the rich, calorie loaded festive food. But sticking to the plan and leading a healthy life looks dicey as the year moves forward.

Now if you are one of those trendy people who has promised themselves a healthy body and active mind by following a nutritious diet then this article is for you. 

You must have also heard of nuts being good for health.You must have also wondered how much nutrition is stored in the tiny nuts and also must have been put off by some nuts as well. Before you think its all bullshit and go nuts on me read ahead.

Its definitely true that nuts play an important role in providing protein, fibre and essential fats. Especially the king of nuts - Walnuts. 

Walnuts are known to be heart friendly as they help in reducing cholestrol. 

They are richer than any other dry fruit in folic acid and Vitamin E. So they help your skin too.

They are known to raise melatonin levels about 3 times and thus help reduce sleeplessness or insomnia.

This makes the walnuts the ultimate superfood 

Look onto the walnut closely and you can see it resembles a brain. 

Its also called "brain food" or the King of nuts

I was invited to attend the California Walnut Italian MasterClass conducted at Hilton Bangalore courtesy BBCGoodFood Magazine in association with FBAI & Hilton. The event which was well attended also included expert nutritionist Geetu Amarnani  who enlightened the audience about the health benefits of walnuts and also helped clear doubts on diets, cholestrols and nutrition in general.

The masterclass by Chef Roshan Mendonsa saw dishes like Ajo Blanco with walnut and Anchovies Tostada, tagliatelle with walnut pesto and also scrumptious walnut & cranberry torte.

The chef also gave helpul hints on cooking- especially with nuts- while he whipped up the excellent food.

Did you know 

a)Walnut on sitting exposed to air can turn bitter?

  In other words, the fat in walnut are oxidised when exposed to air. This makes it bitter or rancid. 

b)A walnut can be shelled/ peeled like an almond?!.

 Its a tedious work but thats what the chefs do in restaurant while turning it into soups especially.This gives final dish a lighter colour or "less brownish". The ajo blanco or the Spanish white (almond ) soup made with shelled walnuts looked and tasted superb.

Studies have shown that around 1.5 oz of walnuts a day help in reducing the risk of coronary heart diseases.

An ounce of walnut provides 18g of total fat including the 2.5g of alpha linolenic acid common known as omega3. 

Omega3: Omega 3 fatty acids are needed for the brain to continue functioning normally. Low omega3 can lead to depression and cognitive degeneration.

The brain shaped nuts which originated in Persia have the strongest anti oxidant properties  among dry fruits.

They are naturally sodium, cholestrol and gluten free

They provide around 11% of daily needed magnesium and phosphorus 

What are you waiting for?

Grab a handful of California Walnuts as a snack or  add them to your oatmeals and salad or turn them into scrumptious desserts.You can get more information in California Walnuts. You can also check out the Indian recipes that are walnut -ised. 

Now you can definitely stick to your plan for a healthy 2015 and be a fitter you at the end. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Joans Rainbow Cake | Baking Partners Rainbow of Happiness

The Malayalam movie salt n pepper showed us the relation between food and love/romance. The superhit movie with expert actors also introduced Joan's Rainbow cake where the hero tries teaching the heroine the secrets of baking via phone. 

The cake got its name supposedly from the story of a French lady called Juan/Joan who bakes three different cakes, one on each day waiting for her love of life who's returning from war front. At last when he shows up on fourth day with a bag of chocolates, she joins/layers the cakes with whipping cream and decorates it with melted chocolate. The story ends happily with both enjoying the cake.

This time or actually for December 2014, the rainbow cake was suggested by Julie of ErivumPuliyum for Swathi's Baking Partners Challenge. The recipe is adapted from Anzz Cafe. The cake turned out good and was enjoyed though of course thanks to my break I am posting late. :). I halved the recipe as given below.

Strawberry Cake:


Cake Flour : 1/2 cup (7 tbsp APF + 1 tbsp cornstrach)
Baking powder: 1 tsp (+0.5 chk fb)

Strawberry :100 g or 1/2 cup chopped
Sugar: 1 tbsp  + 4tbsp
Water: 8 tsp

Egg: 1/2 or 3/4 pkd tsp of EnerG + 2 tbsp of water
Butter: 2 tbsp
Red Food colour: 1 drop(optional, I omitted)

Preheat oven to 350F/ 175C. Line and greased a pan with parchment paper.Sift flour and baking powder twice atleast. Keep aside.

Chop the strawberries. Combine the strawberries, 1 tbsp sugar and water in a saucepan. Cook till soft and then puree when cool.

Beat butter and 4 tbsp sugar. Add egg and mix well.Add the flour mixed with baking powder  and puree alternately and mix until combined. Pour this in the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes clean. Cool completley on a wirerack.

Pistachio cake

Cake Flour: 1/2 cup (7tbsp apf + 1 tbsp cornstarch)
Baking Powder: 1 tsp

Pista: 1/2 cup
Milk: 4 tbsp

Sugar : 4 tbsp
Butter: 2 tbsp

Egg: 3/4 tsp of EnerG + 2 tbsp water

Green foodcolour: 1 drop (I omitted)


Preheat oven to 350F/ 175C. Line and greased a pan with parchment paper. Keep aside.

Sift flour and baking powder atleast twice and keep aside.

Soak pistachios in milk for two hours and blend into a smooth paste.

Beat butter and 4 tbsp sugar. Add egg and mix well.Add the flour mixed with baking powder and pista puree alternately and mix until combined. Pour this in the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes clean. Cool completley on a wirerack.

Orange Cake:

Cake Flour: 1/2 cup (7tbsp apf + 1 tbsp cornstarch)
Baking Powder: 1 tsp
Orange Zest: 1/2-1 tsp

Fresh Orange Juice: 1/4-1/2 cup

Sugar : 4 tbsp
Butter: 2 tbsp

Egg: 3/4 tsp of EnerG + 2 tbsp water
Orange Extract: 1/4 tsp

Preheat oven to 350F. Keep aside a lined and greased baking dish.
Sift together flour and baking powder aatleast twice.Mix it with orange zest and keep aside. 

Beat butter and sugar. Add egg and orange extract and  mix well.Add the flour mixed with baking powder  and fresh orange juice alternately and mix until combined. Pour this in the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Whipping Cream: 125 ml
Confectioners Sugar: as needed

Garnish and sprinkles of your choice.

Layer the cake one on top of the other with whipped cream between the layers. Frost the cake with the remaining cream and then decorate as per wish.

Lets check out Swathi's post and know who all baked a cake for Christmas.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Zhito- Christmassy Serbian Wheat Pudding | Welcome 2015

Christmas is celebrated worldwide on Dec 25. Thats what I thought till I heard that Serbia celebrates Christmas on January 7. This is because the Orthodox Christian Church in Serbia and Montenegro follows the Julian Calendar which is slightly different from the general Gregarian Calendar used worldwide. Well whatever it is, now that today Serbia is celebrating Christmas while we are in New Year 2015, I thought of trying an interesting Serbian festive pudding.

Zhito or Zito or Koljivo as is it also known is made from wheat berries which are pretty common in Eastern European countries. In fact even Poland has a wheat berry pudding as a part of Christmas traditions. Coming back to Serbian pudding, this is a traditional pudding served during Christmas,Slava (Patron Saints Day) and even a funeral. The recipe varies from house house but has commonly boiled wheat berries, sugar/honey and walnuts. In case of a funeral then the pudding is decorated containing a cross made of nuts or currants.What's also interesting is the way in which the pudding is made.

Wheat berries are soaked in water and then washed and this process is repeated seven times or so before cooking the berries. The intention I suppose is to remove the chewiness of wheat berries. Well. I didn't wash exactly seven times, instead pressure cooked for atleast 2 whistles and then also cooked on stovetop adding more water, till the wheat berries were fully cooked.


Wheat berries: 1/2 cup
Walnuts: 1/2 cup+
Powdered Sugar: 1/2 cup +/-

Coloured sugar , currants, black raisins or nuts or anything of your choice.

Soak wheat berries in water overnight. Next day soak it again in hot boiling water for an hour atleast 2 times. I just went for one time and that too under an hour. Cook the wheat berries stove top adding enough water - atleast double the quantity of berries- and also a small pinch of salt. Else you can pressure cook for three whistles adding enough water and salt.

Even after pressure cooking, they were cooked but not mash-able consistency. So I cooked the berries for about 20 minutes till they were like falling apart.

Strain the wheat berries over a bowl and let it drain overnight.

Next day grind the berries to a fine consistency. Also grind the nuts and powdered sugar along with sspices or flavours if using. Mix in /grind together the ground berries and nut-sugar mix

Spoon in serving dishes and garnish as per taste.

The pudding tasted good and ofcourse we could compare it with the wheat rava sweets we cook in India.It was very filling thanks to the nuts and obviously festive. I have adapted my recipe from How-to-cook-with-Vesna. The site also gives an insight into the Serbian traditions and cooking.

You can leave aside the grinding the berries if feeling lazy and simply mix the ground nuts and powdered sugar to berries which are cooked as per taste- tender or falling apart. This is mentioned in this recipe from 

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