Masala Bread with curry leaves and turmeric

Flavor in Indian cooking comes from the tadka, when oil is infused with dried spices. This oil carries the flavor to the vegetables, dals, rice. This masala bread uses the same technique. The flavor really comes through and the bread is a lovely bright yellow. This is delicious with regular tomato soup and in a grilled cheese sandwich.  I’ve modified my favorite bread recipe (Olive oil dough) in my favorite baking book- the New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. If you want to understand bread, I’d suggest you start with this book. Here is how I made this bread.

This is enough for two 1 lb loaves approximately.

Step 1: heat 2 tbsp of olive oil or regular oil- add 1 tsp of mustard seeds and wait for them to sputter, then add 1 tsp of cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp of turmeric, a pinch of asafetida and 1 tbsp of chopped kadipatta leaves (curry leaves). This is the tadka that will flavor the bread- let it cool

Step 2: make your no-knead dough. Mix wet ingredients (oil, 1 1/3 cup of lukewarm water, 1/2 tbsp of sugar, 1/2 tbsp of kosher salt and 1/2 tbsp of instant yeast) to 3 cups of bread flour (if you use all purpose- it comes to 31/4). I use a danish whisk- the idea is to make sure all the flour is moistened, do not knead- this will be a shaggy dough.

Step 3: Rest at room temperature till the dough rises and falls- this took much longer than the routine 2 hours – my first rise took 4 hours or so

Step 4: Refrigerate for at least 2 days – this is important for the sourdough flavor to develop. The dough can be used within the next 10 days or so

Step 5: Baking day!! Remove half of the dough and shape. Shaping is critical and should be done gently. I baked one loaf in a loaf pan and one free form boule. Both are shaped differently. For the loaf- grease a 1 lb loaf pan (8 inch), remove half the dough on a floured surface- flatten into a rectangle with 8 inch length and then tightly roll and seal seam. For the boule, flatten slightly and then pinch each end to the center to form a tight ball- roll it slightly. The dough should be covered with a thin film of flour and the top should be smooth.

Step 5: final rise- room temperature for 1-2 hours till the dough is well proofed- when you poke it with a floured finger- if the indentation comes up slowly but not completely- it is well proofed. If it comes straight back- you need more proofing, if it stays deep- it is over proofed and likely a loss- still tasty most of the time.

Step 6: Bake in a 450 F oven with steam. I use a dutch oven or a cloche to do this covered for 15 minutes and then remove the cover for the last 10 minutes. Cool the bread for at least 2 hours before slicing.

Chocolate Dump it Cake

When your lovely neighbor brings you 10lbs of flour from Costco and leaves it on your porch – you bake a chocolate cake.

This is my go-to chocolate cake recipe modified from Amanda Hesser’s NYT recipe. This cake does not need a mixer- just a wooden spoon. The frosting is outstanding. Feel free to use milk chocolate or add some sugar to the frosting if it is too intense for you.

The recipe just has 3 steps. Well 4 if you count- preheat oven to 375 F as a step. Step 1: Heat 1 stick of butter (8 tbsp), 2 cups of sugar, 1tsp of salt, 4 oz of unsweetened chocolate and 1 cup of coffee or water in a pan till the butter is just melted. Cool to room temperature-ish.  Step 2: Add 1 cup of milk, 1 tsp of vinegar, 1 tsp of vanilla and 2 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk till smooth. Step 3: Add to dry ingredients (2 cups all purpose flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder) and mix till all the flour is incorporated. Once it comes together- stop, overmixing will make this cake tough.

Butter and flour a bundt pan and cook for 35 minutes. Cool for 10 and invert. For the frosting, melt about 3/4 cup of semisweet chocolate chips in the microwave in 30 second increments, add 3/4 cup of sour cream (or greek yogurt). I slice the cake in half and fill it and smear the rest on topics .



Cannellini beans and pasta with miso and fennel

This is a time for luxurious and delicious food. This one is comforting and the sauce comes while the pasta boils. I do like fennel with white beans, the flavor combination works well with the butter and cream. This is a no recipe recipe. Boil water, cook pasta. While that’s going on – make sauce. In 2-3 tbsp of butter, add a tsp of fennel seeds and 1-2 tbsp of chopped garlic and a tsp or so of crushed red pepper flakes. After a few minutes- add a rinsed can of cannellini beans. Cook till the beans brown slightly, add about a 1/4 cup of heavy cream, half a tsp of miso and half a tsp of vegetable base (I use better than bouillon). Add pasta and Parmesan. Enjoy

Quarantine pesto : arugula and peanuts

Pesto is a delicious and extremely quarantine friendly sauce – no basil? But you have that arugula from 2 weeks ago- half of it is just fine, oh here is some parsley too. No pine nuts? Well- I found a jar of cocktail peanuts. No pecorino? That pre-grated Parmesan will work. It’s the sharpness of the garlic with copious amounts of olive oil that is the main flavor of this sauce- anything green and anything nutty and anything cheesy will work

In a food processor – add 4 cups of greens (I added 3 cups arugula and 1 cup parsley), add 1/2-3/4 cup nuts (I used cocktail peanuts), 2-5 cloves of garlic (I like the spice of raw garlic) . Whiz till smooth. Add a cupful or so of grated Parmesan and a half cup or so of good olive oil and salt. Taste and use

I plan to toss this pesto with some pasta for dinner and roasted potatoes for crunch and perhaps some fried up veggie dogs for protein