Sourdough bread

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Growing up in India has a lot of perks: plethora of cousins to play with, grandparents who fuss over you, flying kites with the neighbour's kids, aunts and uncles who bribe you with sweets just to keep your mouth shut, street cricket and incredible food. But what we don't grow up with is good bread. And frankly, that's fine. Because we are a culture that has fantastic local breads which make me go weak in the knees even today. But all we had available for toast every morning was the sad white, limp bread in multicoloured plastic bags that were readily available at every corner grocery store of our little town. I thought they were pretty great toasted and golden brown with a layer of really sweet Kissan mixed fruit jam. That was until I had my first taste of real sourdough bread which happened when I was 15 years old. 

We were on a family vacation in Italy and went to a local trattoria( my foodie uncle picked the place because left to the rest of my family, we would  have ended up with pizza or Chinese food) for lunch in Rome. It was a bustling place, packed with locals speaking in Italian and gesticulating a lot. Our waiter placed down a basket of bread even before handing us the menu. This bread looked very different than the white bread I was used to. This bread had character with a hard crust and soft, chewy interior and an unusually large crumb. Large enough that all my cousins and I took turns looking through it much to the dismay of my sophisticated uncle. My brother was the first one to have a taste. He followed the locals and tipped some olive oil on to his plate followed by a few drops of balsamic vinegar (two gleaming bottles were present at very table) and mopped up the leopard print concoction with a slice of bread. He proceeded to close his eyes and moan grossly. I was intrigued and imitated my brother and ohmygod it had so much flavour and texture- soft, chewy with a touch of sourness but which was pleasing to the palette and rounded with excellent olive oil and sweetness from the balsamic. We were hooked and inhaled two bread baskets before even ordering lunch.

Its been several years since and I regularly bake my own sourdough with a starter I have managed to keep alive for a few months ( I have also killed over 10 of them so fingers crossed!). Sourdough bread is made from dough that has been leavened naturally using active yeast instead of store bought commercial ones and is a labour of love like anything worth doing in life should be. You make a starter with flour, water, few drops of honey and couple of unwashed grapes. You let it sit for a day and then discard half the starter with the grapes and feed it with equal amounts of water and flour. You repeat the steps for a week before your starter is alive and healthy and you can use it to bake bread. Here is a great resource and recipe for you to get started on your first loaf of bread. Fair warning, its hard to go back to white bread once you have tasted your first slice of sourdough.

 

Pear oatmeal scones

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Whenever I feel crappy, I bake. The concentration and effort helps me take my mind off whatever I am stressing about and I feel infinitely better when I am stuffing my face with something warm and delicious afterwards. This morning we lost the house we were hoping to rent in Goa. It had four bedrooms, a garden, a balcony and a terrace! For someone living in a teeny apartment in Bombay, it was perfect! I was already daydreaming about baking in the kitchen and watching my dogs run around the garden. We were flying at the end of the month to close the deal. So fucking close. Gaah!

So I baked instead of yelling at my broker or snapping at my better half. There were pears in the kitchen, some oat flour and a handful of pecans. I threw in the odds and ends together but ended up with a surprisingly tender scone, not too sweet and gently spiced.

Armed with these and coffee, I am going back to find myself a dreamy little house.

 


Spiced pear oatmeal scones

Yields 8 scones

2 cups oat flour
100 grams granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
90 grams butter, cut into small pieces
3 large ripe pears, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
1/2 cup pecans,chopped
1/3 cup full fat milk

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oat flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt. Cut in butter with pastry blender or your hands until mixture resembles coarse sand. Stir in pecans and pear chunks. Set aside.

In a small bowl, beat together egg, vanilla, and cream. Pour over the scone batter and lightly mix until the dough comes together. The dough will be sticky.

Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface, form a circle, and flatten it until it is about 1-inch thick. Using a sharp knife dipped in flour, cut 8 equal pie wedges (the dough will be slightly unmanageable, but not adding additional flour results in tender scones). Transfer scones to a baking sheet using a flat spatula and sprinkle the tops of the scones with a little granulated sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Kindred's milk bread

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I love Food52 like scores of other people because its such a treasure trove of recipes, articles, trends and gorgeous kitchenware! I came across this recipe and wanted to make it almost immediately. I am a sucker for brioche like doughs with their rich, buttery crumb and wanted to give it a spin with the addition of cream and milk powder. This loaf of bread was so easy to pull together and is infinitely versatile, just like a brioche. You can make sandwiches, french toast, bread pudding, doughnuts, burger buns and much more. 

I toasted mine and paired with some butter and homemade marmalade, a gift from my sweet brother who knows I'm addicted to his jams and preserves. The bread was so damn good that I gave away the rest of the loaf to stop my thighs from expanding. 

Plum almond galette and hello!

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I am a baker, live in Bombay with my husband and his family plus two beagles and run a small food brand that I hope one day will be world famous. I have been reading food blogs for over a decade now and in the past few years have tried to start one several times only to fail repeatedly due to lack of commitment. This year I want it to be different. Simply because I only made one resolution for 2018- to be consistent. So, I think this blog will be a good yardstick to measure whether I stayed true to it or not. I have also been meaning to improve my food styling + photography skills and I figured this will be a good spot to check my progress. I will also share good recipes so that the few of you who do stop by, don’t do it in vain.

And now as promised, a great recipe to start us off. If you are a lazy person like me, you are going to love baking galettes instead of pies. Galettes are the down to earth and laid back cousins of the more elegant, high maintenance pies. They are rustic, simple and beautiful in their haphazard appearance. 

I had a bag of plums withering away on the kitchen counter so I decided to bake a simple galette  paired with almond frangipane and rosemary. I found a great recipe and only swapped the thyme with rosemary because that's what I had decaying in the back of my fridge (clearly I need to get better at managing my kitchen produce). The pastry was flaky with a rich, buttery almond frangipane serving as the perfect foil for the little mountain of tart, sweet plums.

I ate three slices(not even a little sorry) while laying in bed in my pyjamas watching episodes of The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel (seriously in love with this show) and couldn't think of a better way to spend Saturday night.