New recipe development

Chai-spiced pumpkin muffins with chocolate chips. They are very delicious, and my kids have been devouring them, but I forgot the baking soda, oops! So they didn’t rise properly.

I’m going to make another batch soon, I think, so will post photos & recipe then – the next batch will go in the autumn treat boxes, which I’m hoping to ship out next week. Lots of sweets-making in the days to come. Watch this space. 🙂

(Autumn treat boxes are closed, sign up now for winter! A great holiday gift….)

Was really happy that people seemed to love the food; I got a lot of compliments. 🙂

Someone asked me what my signature dish was last night, and I was totally stumped. I don’t actually have one! But I do like all of these.

I wanted to keep this event vegetarian for the South Asia Institute, so I skipped some of the classic Sri Lankan short-eats – if it weren’t vegetarian, maybe mutton rolls would be the signature dish. I don’t like the typical vegetarian version nearly as well, though. Maybe I should try making it with jackfruit…hmm.

This layout worked pretty well for an event, so noting for the future:

• three kinds of frozen samosas – these I just baked / fried as instructed. Pumpkin samosas from TJ’s (which I haven’t tasted yet, so not sure if they’re any good), paneer-chili samosas (don’t remember the brand, but spicy, good), and potato & pea Punjabi samosas (Swad). I’m really glad I got a deep fryer, because it makes this kind of thing SO MUCH easier.

Set the temp. to 350F (or whatever is appropriate), and then it’s just popping them in, waiting five minutes, popping them out to a paper-towel-lined plate. Transfer to foil pans, pop in warm (low) oven to keep warm until ready to transport / serve. Easy-peasy. Would’ve been nice to serve hot, but they work fine at room temperature, served with tamarind chutney and coriander chutney (decanted from store-bought jars).

• ribbon sandwiches (beet / carrot / spinach) — Pepperidge Farm Very Thin bread is key

• mini naan rounds (quartered) from the grocery store, with four dipping spreads: jackfruit curry, potato curry, eggplant pickle, mango-ginger chutney

I forgot to bring cheddar cheese cubes, which go great with the mango-ginger chutney and naan, but otherwise, happy with the savory options.

SAI provided beverages, which made my life simpler!

Kurakkan Roti (Millet Roti, with Coconut and Jaggery)

Ready to up your roti game? Try making it with millet flour (you can buy whole grain millet and quickly grind it to flour yourself in a blender), mixed with coconut and jaggery; the sweetness pairs beautifully with a spicy curry or earthy dal. Finger millet is traditional, but other common varieties of millet will also work well for this; I use proso millet, which is easily found at my local grocery.

For a gluten-free version, you can make this entirely with millet flour (as was typical in ancient Sri Lanka), but it will be more brittle; white wheat flour adds softness.

1 c. millet flour
1/2 c. white flour
1/2 t. fine salt
1 c. grated coconut
1/2 c. jaggery (or brown sugar)
hot water (as required, around 1/2 – 3/4 c.)

1 c. vegetable oil (enough to submerge rotis)

1. Combine first five ingredients in a bowl.

2. Add hot water slowly, mixing to make smooth dough.

3. Turn onto a board, oil your hands, and knead about 10 minutes (the dough will likely be a little sticky). Divide into sixteen portions and form little balls with the dough.

4. Pour oil into a flat tray; submerge balls in oil. (It’s a lot of oil, but if you make roti regularly, you can save it and re-use it time after time.)

5. Heat a frying pan (either nonstick, or plan to drizzle a little oil in the pan as needed to prevent sticking). Take a ball of dough, flatten into a circle, and roll out (or use the heel of your hand to flatten) until fairly thin — as thin as you can get it without tearing. This requires a gentle touch, as millet dough is more prone to tearing than wheat dough.

6. Cook each roti separately on high, turning over after about thirty seconds to cook the other side. They will brown slightly. Remove to a plate, covering them each time with a clean dishtowel, to keep warm. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

Thank god for banana bread

Anand came downstairs saying, “I came down because it smells so good!” Another round of chai-spiced banana bread, with dried cranberries stirred in. I’ve finally cleared the rather immense backlog of overripe bananas, which is good, because we are about to have some more to toss in the freezer. The kids go through phases of banana eating — sometimes we can’t keep up with the demand, and sometimes, they’ll just stop, for no real reason, for a few weeks. Thank god for banana bread.

Banana Bread Recipe Link

Chai-Spiced Banana Bread Recipe

Chai-Spiced Banana Bread
(serves 12, 45-75 minutes)

(for gluten-free option, use Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free 1 to 1 baking flour; used for snowflake-shaped breads below)

We are perpetually throwing overripe bananas in the freezer around here, and when they start squeezing out the other items, we know it’s time to spend a Saturday morning baking banana bread. This is based on a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. Adding in the spices we’d use for chai, along with dried fruit / ginger, makes for a festive and hearty holiday loaf. Makes 1 loaf, or several mini loaves (nice for gifting).

2 c. flour
3/4 t. baking soda
3 very ripe bananas, mashed well
1/4 c. plain yogurt
2 eggs, beaten lightly
3/4 c. sugar
6 T butter, melted and cooled
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. cloves
1/4 t. cardamom
1/4 t. black pepper

Optional add-ins (1 c. total): dried cherries, dried cranberries, crystallized ginger, chocolate chips, chopped cashews…

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour pan(s).

2. Mix flour and baking soda in a large bowl; set aside.

3. Combine remaining ingredients (except for optional add-ins) in medium bowl with a wooden spoon.

4. Fold banana mixture into flour mixture with a spatula until just combined. If adding in dried fruit, ginger, chocolate chips or nuts, fold in now.

5. Scrape batter into prepared pan(s) until loaf is golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hr for a loaf, 25-35 minutes for mini loaves.

6. Serve hot, slathered with salted butter.

Mission accomplished. :-) Chai spice banana bread

Mission accomplished. 🙂 Chai spice banana bread; the kids said it was better than all the banana bread I’ve made before (from standard recipes), which was very satisfying. Will post recipe shortly.

I’m going to freeze a few loaves to sell at the Colorful Holiday fair on the 21st, and I think make another batch soon, because we have just THAT MANY frozen bananas in the freezer, and I am going to clear space, dammit.


Current favorite sandwich

Current favorite sandwich (‘favorite’ changes regularly, but I’m a little stuck on these right now) — open faced on multigrain toast, with Harry & David sesame honey mustard, beautiful tomatoes on the vine, and aged white cheddar. Mmm….I’m going to go make another one right now.

What’s your current favorite sandwich? (Is a wrap a sandwich? What about a lettuce wrap? Is some form of bread a necessary component? Hmm….)


Final Thoughts on Croissants

Croissant dough looks like marble.  Lovely veining.

Triangles. I don’t know who figured out that croissants would look pretty if you made triangles and rolled them up, but good call, yo.

These actually look exactly like the Pillsbury crescent rolls that I usually make, but they are, in fact, baker’s croissants, that I made with my own two little hands and lots and lots and lots of butter.

Pretty pretty croissants. Some of them do look a little thick; I could’ve rolled them more evenly. But they will taste good regardless.

The kids wanted to try the croissants before bedtime last night, so even though they hadn’t had time to rise, and I hadn’t had a chance to brush them with egg, I tossed a few in the toaster oven. Just as well I did, because the temp suggested (425 for 15 minutes, drop to 350 for 10-15) was too high for my oven — these burnt just a bit. Without rising, they were pretty dense too!

The kids ate them anyway, but a) protested the dark chocolate in some of them, and b) like the Pillsbury crescent rolls better. I promised to make them some of those today, stuffed with apple and cheddar, and some milk chocolate ones too, once I pick up some milk chocolate. I think Kavi and Anand felt quite sorry for Mommy after all the work they’d seen me putting into these; they were very apologetic about not finishing their croissants!

This batch had enough time to rise properly. Now that’s a better color. Please note the literal POOL OF BUTTER.

Lamination, baby. Eat that, Paul Hollywood!

Kevin looked at the recipe, and says that I managed to get 81 layers in there. Roll out, fold into thirds (3 layers), roll out, fold into thirds (9 layers), chill, roll out, fold into thirds (27 layers), roll out, fold into thirds (81 layers).

It doesn’t look like 81 layers, but it’s certainly a lot of layers.

Look, I’m not saying I’d win the technical challenge, as these are not PERFECTLY the same size, but for a first pass at croissants, they’re not terrible. I wouldn’t be embarassed to have these at my station for the judging. I lowered the heat to 400 for the first 15 minutes, 350 for the next 15, which I think is about right for my oven.

(And I think the bigger ones at the bottom are stuffed with chocolate and cheese, respectively, in my defense.)

Final croissant-making notes — they’re good, but not perfect. The exterior is MUCH flakier than a Pillsbury crescent roll, which makes them somewhat messy to eat, but quite satisfying — I believe the King Arthur flour recipe described these as ‘shatteringly crisp,’ which is about right.

The interior is rich and buttery and I did very happily just eat an entire croissant. But my complaint is that they did not come out as light and airy as the ones I ate in Paris, or at Léa, the French cafe two blocks away from me. Kev and I spent a while trying to diagnose what went wrong, and I’m not sure I’ve convinced him, but I *think* I overworked the dough.

When I first started mixing it, I mixed it in the stand mixer with a dough hook, and it wasn’t coming together well, so then I turned it out and started kneading it, but after five minutes of kneading, it still wasn’t holding together, so then I added a little water and it finally came together, and then I kneaded it some more. I think all of that probably doubled the working time on it (from 5 minutes to 10 minutes) and made it tougher than it should’ve been.

And then THAT may have led to it being SO HARD to roll them out. I mean, I was seriously feeling like a wimp — after two turns and roll outs, both times, I broke a sweat and felt a little shaky, even though I was working in a cool kitchen. If the dough was tougher than it was meant to be, maybe it made rolling out harder than it should’ve been?

I hope so, because that is the ONLY possibility that makes me even think about attempting these again some day. And even so, if I do them again, I plan to have Kevin ready and waiting to help with the roll outs, in case that wasn’t the issue, and the dough is just normally that difficult to roll.

Ah well. All that said, I have several croissants to eat and feed people in the next day or two, and they are yummy, and I have half a batch of rolled out dough in the freezer, and in a few weeks (after the intense rush of finishing all the sweet & curry powder prep for the Kickstarter ship out of Feast), I’ll pull it out and experiment with some Sri Lankan-inspired fillings for croissants. Suggestions welcome! My first thought was seeni sambol, but that actually seems like it’d be too much oil in a croissant. Passionfruit chocolate, though….

As for whether I’ll ever make croissants from scratch again — we’ll see! Thanks (?) to Pooja Makhijani, food inspiration, for the challenge.