Archive | February, 2012

Bagels for Fresh From the Oven – February Challenge

27 Feb

It is Bagels this month for Fresh From the Oven – the incredible bread baking community. This month’s challenge was hosted by Claire of Purely Food. I couldn’t let this opportunity pass. Bagels are my absolute favourite but I keep away from them because it invariably means I will have to slather it with plenty of cream cheese and then chomp-chomp it down with some hot coffee. It is my ideal breakfast, after eggs on toast. Okay, bagels fight for a second position with Granola, fruit and yogurt in my list of favourite breakfasts.

The first time I sampled bagels was in London and it was a close friend who bought my first bagel-cream cheese breakfast for me. From then on I was hooked. I ran an extra mile just so that I could have a bagel with cream cheese. It was like I had found manna. The only other time I felt like that was when I discovered Hummus. Love that thing!

I had a favourite coffee shop in Cambridge ( I was there in 2006 for a company project) and they had the most amazing bagels. I would have them just fresh out of the oven. The cafe owner told me that bagels taste better 5-6 hours after they have been brought out of the oven. I thought, fresh out of the oven they tasted nothing short of divine. The other tiny tidbids he shared with me were – Bagels taste the best when toasted and they have to be golden brown all over to taste the best. If the bagels are  blondish in colour it means they haven’t made the ‘great bagel mark’. I remember all that so well. It didn’t mean much to me as my only concern was how much cream cheese was I getting in my bagel. I guess he must have noticed that my liking for bagels was bordering on obsession and thought I might be interested in such trivia.

Bringing my batch of freshly baked bagels out of my gas -fired oven made me dizzy with nostalgia. They didn’t wear a golden brown that the cafe owner would have approved of but I knew that once toasted they would gain a beautiful colour. I am so happy that Fresh from the Oven made this possible and sent me down a wonderful memory lane.

Recipe for Bagels

Makes 7 

Ingredients

Strong white flour -450g
Fast acting yeast -7g
Salt -2 tsp
Warm water -250ml
Honey -2 tbsp
Vegetable oil -1 tbsp
Egg, beaten – 1
Your choice of topping – I used roasted pumpkin seeds, sesame – black and white, caraway seeds

Preparation

1. In a large bowl add the salt to the flour and then the yeast (I usually put the yeast in a small well in the centre to keep it a way from the salt).

2. Measure the warm water and then stir in the oil and honey.

3. If kneading by hand, make a well in the centre of the flour and pour the liquid in gradually, bringing the dough together with your hands. Turn the dough on to a clean, dry and floured work surface. Start kneading the dough by stretching it away with the palm of one hand and folding it back again with the other. Knead the dough for 10 minutes. You may need to add more flour as you go if the dough is too sticky.

4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl and turn to coat in the oil. Cover with cling film or a plastic bag to create a draught-free environment and put in a warm place (not hot) for between 1-3 hours or until doubled in size.

5. Lightly oil two baking trays.

6. Remove the dough from the bowl, punch it down to knock the air out and knead briefly.

7. Roll in to a sausage shape and divide into 7 chunks. As you work one, keep the others covered with a clean tea towel.

8. There are two ways to shape the bagels. One is to firmly roll out each chunk in to a long sausage shape, then form a ring and seal the ends together with a tiny splash of water and squeezing. The other method (my prefered method) is to roll each chunk into a ball. Piercing a hole in the centre with your finger, pull the dough open wide by twirling it round your index fingers (wider than you think you need as the hole will shrink when the dough proves, is poached and then baked).Place on the prepared baking tray and repeat with remaining dough.

9. Cover and allow to rise for a further 10-20 minutes.

10. Preheat the oven to 220C  (200C fan), gas 7. Fill a large sauce pan with boiling water (from the kettle) and return to a simmer. Gently lift each bagel into the water to poach (do not try to put too many bagels in at once as they will expand slightly). Poach for about 90 seconds on each side, turning gently with a slotted spoon.

11. Remove the bagels from the water, allowing them to drain first and place on the prepared baking trays spacing them about 3-4cm apart.

12. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with your choice of topping. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn upside down for a further 10 minutes to cook the bases. Cool on a wire rack.

The recipe instructions were so easy to follow and I felt no need to refer to any other source for further explanation. The largest chunk of time went in poaching the bagels. I have to admit I was pretty bored by the time I was on my 3rd bagel. Rest of the steps take no time at all.

Toasted, these bagels were an instant hit with my daughter, my hubby and my friends. With cream cheese they were already addicted. I have only 3  left and I baked them last night.  I know I will be baking these again for sure.

A Guest Post for Gayathri Ramdas – Taking Sides with a Couscous Side

26 Feb

Today I have been given this wonderful opportunity to write a Guest Post ( a rare honour as far as I am concerned) for my friend Gayathri. I have known Gayathri for some time now and we are constantly in touch over Facebook and bbm. During one such random conversations she asked me to do guest post for her blog.  I love visiting her blog because her posts not only talk about the wonderful food that she makes for her family,  but also about the latest trends in music, books and life as such. She always makes sure that there is a conversation going on rather than a monologue.

In this post I talk about how a brief meeting with Gayathri made such a huge impact on my confidence and how her sweet words will always resonate whenever I feel under valued in life.

Today’s guest post for Gayathri also features a very tempting, flavoursome Couscous side which is so easy to put together. I found this recipe from the BBC GoodFood Magazine that I am so hopelessly addicted to. To read the rest of the entry hop on to Gayathri’s blog .

 

Happy 2nd Blog Anniversary

25 Feb

This comes 2 days too late. I was so disappointed about why I didn’t plan it better. I flipped through many a books to see if I could do something spectacular for this day or run a giveaway but nothing materialized. I ranted on twitter and to all my friends who listened.

But ultimately I felt I could do a post without any food in it. It is allowed,isn’t it? My blog wouldn’t mind either, I am sure.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BLOG

2 whole years of blogging, eating, feeding, baking, cooking, thinking, photographing and writing has been a mean adventure. I feel like my toddler of 29 months and this blog were the sole reasons why I maintained my sanity all this time. I realized so many new things about myself and met so many wonderful people – bloggers and non-bloggers alike.

On my blog anniversary when I was worrying about how I completely missed baking something incredible, I was actually walking a Walkathon for Cancer Awareness, here in Bahrain. It was so much fun and at the same time important. It meant this fantastic cause was supported by so many individuals and Corporate alike to fund treatment and research for Cancer. The walk happened early evening when there was a nip in the air but that did nothing to quell the excitement of the huge crowd that generously donated and walked their way to finish the 3.5 km mark.

This was the first time I had participated and I enjoyed it a lot.

I hope the next time there is a run so that would really help me start preparing for my long haul (half marathon) end of this year.

For now I have photos of the walk which appeared in the newspaper today. The hunk in the black tshirt is my dear hubby.

Ahmedabad Memoirs

22 Feb

I am back from my short trip to India. In 10 days I have traveled plenty and hogged on more food than my system could take. It was an opportunity I wasn’t ready to miss. I feel sad that it ended so quickly but that is how vacations are. They end so that you can think about them and feel good later. I also feel sad that in my gluttonous avataar, I forgot to capture a lot of pictures that I could share over here. Midst all the hogging, my dearest hubby managed to click a few which I am going to share here.  For the uninitiated, I was in Ahmedabad for my lil brother’s ( not so little anymore) wedding to a Gujarati girl. I couldn’t be happier. I love Gujarat, its culture, the food, the people, the shopping and everything about it. I was brought up in Gujarat and had most of my education in Mithapur & Ahmedabad. I was so eager to go back atleast once to see my favourite city and re-live the wonderful college memories. Engineering, unlike other courses demands 4 years out a student’s life. I have had the most amazing time at college with my gang of friends. I am so sure when they read this post, they are gonna do that walk-down-the-memory-lane bit for quite some time.

Thats my Engineering Institute

My friend and now a professor, Poonam Modi. Bumped into her and it was such a pleasant surprise.

We landed in Ahmedabad after an entire night of no sleep on a very uncomfortable flight. My parent’s reached Ahmedabad the same day and the first thing we did was to transfer our luggage along with Mimi to my mother so they could carry on to their destination ( To the wedding place – Bhavanagar).  From then on, my hubby and I were free birds to do what we wanted to. Not having tonnes of luggage to lug around and a baby to run after can be liberating. We walked, hand in hand ( after two whole years), breathing in the crisp and very polluted Ahmedabad air. I was so eager to show my hubby all my favourite hot spots and I wishfully desired that the city wouldn’t have changed in 10 years.

The "Boys' canteen at our engg. institute

The "girls" Canteen

I quickly made some phone calls to my Engineering friends to see if anybody was free or in town. I planned the day with a few friends who were in the city and boy! what fun we had. It was certain that it was going to be mostly about food. Correction- It was all about food with a little shopping thrown in between. But I am sure my husband would think otherwise. I met up with one of my best friends from college, Dhara and one of my room mates from my hostel, Nandini. We had the giggliest time together that annoyed my hubby so much. He pretended he wasn’t with us. It was refreshing to talk about old times with my old buddies. They told me stuff about me that I never actually knew but I am not going to write about it here.

The first stop from the airport had to be the University area where I had to visit by Alma Matar – L. D. College of Engineering. It felt surreal to be there after 10 long years. But it doesn’t feel that long. Time can make you fuzzy and make you feel it was just yesterday. To see a new batch of students clambering down the institute’s stairs with a sense of purpose and books in tow, I felt nostalgic to the point of shedding a few tears. I didn’t , else my hubby would have completely given up on me. Loitering aimlessly in the corridors I had the most fantastic moment when I bumped into another classmate, Poonam,who’s now a professor at the institute. I was overwhelmed and there are no words to describe how amazing it felt to meet her. It was probably the best- est day after the birth of my daughter. No I am not exaggerating. I mean it. I was truly happy.

Now the University area is inundated with food stalls and hawkers selling all kinds of heavenly delights. Famished from our night long journey, it was only just to fill our rumbling bellies with all the goodies. It was so difficult to stop at a particular food stall and greed got better of us. We scanned the whole row before settling for some steaming hot, laden – with- goodies, Poha. The guy even scraped a tonne of cheese on it. I did not stop him. I knew my soul needed that cheese.  The poha was spiced just right and garnished with sparkling pomegranate seeds, plenty of sev, boondi, peanuts and other spices, I couldn’t identify. My pictures do not do any justice to the fantastic dish. I was too busy gobbling it down when my hubby suggested that I  may like to click a picture for the blog. This is one of the reasons why I married my man.

Poha with cheese at the University

Boondi "spice bomb" chat

My hubby had his Poha plate without the frills then realized mine was the one to go for. We also had a boondi chat which was such a spice-bomb. I enjoyed it but could not finish it. My hubby then scavenged for some tea with Maska ( buttered) buns. He wasn’t too happy with both. Morever he felt the tea cost too much. I needed to save some space for other goodies I wanted devour later during the day so I gave the buttered bun a skip after a single bite. My friend, hubby and me made our way to our college canteen. Back in those days, we had a weird system where girls and boys sections were separate. We, girls, were made to sit under a make shift roof with no fans and the boys under the cool concrete with fans in the hot summers. It wasn’t fair at all but we didn’t care. We stuffed our faces with as much food the canteen wala could possibly make. Personally my favourites were Vada pav, samosa and maggi. I am slurping as I type this 🙂

For now, we were content sipping on some hot tea, talking and reliving some of the past again. From there we took off to the famous Janta Cold Coco with Ice cream seller, right behind the boys hostel. I noticed so many boys peeping out to see the visitors walking down the road and it was flashback once again. Sigh!

Janta was closed because they were renovating. I was heart broken. We moved out of the University circle talking about what other food joints we had to hit before my day ended.

For all who have never been to Ahmedabad, there is one thing that you shouldn’t miss doing while you are here. SHOPPING. It is cheap and the variety is staggering. I wanted to go and shop at all my favourite joints on Ashram Road, Satellite and C G Road but time was a constraint. I managed to go to my favourite store called ASOPALAV which is wonderful for ethnic wear and jewellery. Since I was heading for a wedding, some jazzy jewellery was in order. It was way cheaper than I would ever hope to pay in Delhi.

my loot from my shopping escapades

After a generous stint of shopping where all my hubby did was snooze, only to wake up when it was time to foot the bill, we headed to have a sumptuous Gujarati thali at a restaurant named DadiMa ( meaning Grandmother). The sight of the huge Thali ( plate) with numerous katoris ( small bowls) was so heartening that we impatiently waited for the servers to begin their job. With every passing second our heavenly plate was being filled with divine tasting Gujarati food. There was no time to take pictures or conversation. Each one of us was in the world of our own  savouring the delicacies. Puris, tiny rotis, with potatoes in gravy, dal, kadhi, black gram gravy, dhokla, basket chats, all kinds of salad, gulab jamun, khichdi, and so much more. After finishing the meal, I was certain that if I tried moving even an inch, I was going to explode. We sat outside the restaurant because we couldn’t lift ourselves up.

My hostel room mate, Nandini came along to see me and I felt I had  new found energy and appetite. We headed for some more shopping and by early evening decided to finish of the expedition by having some coffee at a barista. That was the day I understood why westerners drink coffee after their meal. I had some hot black coffee and instantly felt revived, ready for some more scrummy food. My hubby, who knows how completely ruthless I can be when it comes to food, dragged me out of the coffee shop and I found myself saying my goodbyes to my friends from the cab windows. 😦

It was such a wonderful day spent in the company of food and friends. There couldn’t be a better combination. We made our way to Bhavnagar which was the wedding venue. There we were greeted with more fabulous food and hospitality. I have to say this- The hospitality that Gujarati’s show their guests is incomparable. They go beyond and above to see that their guests are treated like nothing less than Gods. With that kind of treatment, one can only have fond and fonder memories of wonderful food and courteous people.

My Hostel Room mate Nandini

My dearest friend Dhara

I hope to re create the poha or the dhokla on my blog to relive the superb time in Ahmedabad.

Here are some photos from the wedding.

The Bride and the Groom

Mimi @ Sangeet night

The Ganesh Puja

The Band , Baja & Baarat just starting out

The mandap being set

Fruit & Nut Mini Lo(a)ves for Valentines

14 Feb

When I started writing this blog, food was not the center of its universe at all. I wrote my first post just after the Valentines of 2010.  My hubby was away for work and I missed him terribly. It is not your typical lovey-dovey post but just a sit-back-analyse kind of post. I enjoyed writing it so much. But since it was my first post, not many really read it except for my hubby, my mum and a few close friends. Nobody said much after they read it but I knew it made them sit-back-analyse their life and love through different ages.  Here it goes, hope you like it.

Reposting it!

“Its past Valentines and I’m still not able to shake off the feeling… that mushy, tingly, happy feeling. Even after four years of my marriage and a baby, my husband still feels that he needs to surprise me on this day. He sent me a beautiful bouquet of roses and chocolates. So typical, yet so touching. Everything about this day is a cliché and love too, I feel. Yet, its such a difficult feeling to shake off, when you’re feeling it.  While I was arranging those beautiful roses on my centre table, I was reminded of the rose day of my college and also the time someone gave me a rose for the very first time. All those times I felt the same tingly feeling. So is all the love same? It can’t be,  can it.

Just to explore that thought, I tried to dissect the feeling in different ages, when and how I felt it. A true account of it all should be able to help me understand whether all that love at different ages was the same or not.

Love  in  the 10s…

or a little older perhaps. I remember, I was in seventh class, a rebel and a tomboy. I had a group of friends who believed in delivering justice on the spot. Our “targets” used to be mainly boys who misbehaved. One such boy who was in 6th class had come to annoy us a bit.  He would make fun of one of our friends, a girl in my class ( apparently, this girl used to snort whenever she laughed!! ). So once after school hours we rounded this guy up and I pulled at his collar. He just looked straight at me and I kinda felt uneasy. He then gave me a crooked smile and that made me mad and I pushed him to the floor where he skid and scraped his elbow. I turned and I left. The next week was a the sports week in our school and I used to be in the athletics group. I was practising hard and focussing on bettering my timing. Once or twice I caught this guy staring at me from his basketball practice.  It felt strange to be looked at like “THAT”! It felt strange and I was angry at myself for being distracted. Our group won the athletics event and just as we were being awarded the trophies, this guy comes up to me and hands me a ROSE!! I was embarrassed, flustered, angry and PLEASED!! Why was I pleased and I kinda liked it in a weird way. I took the rose and rushed to collect my trophy. My friends looked at me with disgust, so just as to not annoy them, I flicked the rose away into the closest bin. I looked back to see his reaction and there he was with the crooked smile on his face. After that, every time I saw him in school or the ground, I felt my heart flutter and his smile just made me all awkward and tingly. That was love, so much fun, so much curiosity, so naive, so fresh.

(He then changed schools and I never saw him again,but I still remember his crooked smile)

Love in the 20s

Background setup: A Govt. Engineering college, early morning, Mechanical engineering department, new session for the fourth year students, 150 students waiting outside to hear their names being called to get sorted according to the specialization. The peon comes with a trail of paper( 150 students.. what did you expect!!) He calls out Section A Operations X,Y,Z, . . my name’s called too and a name after that. (Now I know who’s name that was, not then).  Then a tap on my shoulder, I look back, a scrawny  boy , barely my height ( and I am not tall, just average), fair and inquisitive black eyes looking at me.  I ask him what was the matter? ( and mind you all this was a non-verbal communication). He asks me for a pen and notebook, and I hand him that( I don’t know why I had any of that spare on me. Maybe it was destiny). He thanks me with a nod of his head and walks off. The next day, he comes to me after class and says he wants my notes and walks of with my book. One pencil led to another, one note led to another and we were talking, chatting and spending a lot of time together and officially we were in love before even we knew we were in love cause the entire college had branded us being the nerd-weird couple ( nerd- me, weird – him). I remember the rose he gave me on rose day, the only one to ( nobody else would, cause I was taken) and how I preserved that rose for so many days in my books. The same tingly feeling when I waited for him to pick me up after college hours, and when we shared a vada pau together, when we selected cards for each other on Valentines, when we studied together for exams in the library. And yes, he used to sketch beautifully and he made me pose for his sketches…some breathtakingly beautiful sketches and some caricatures. I loved them all. He made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the whole wide world. Sigh!! That was love, so mushy, so like in the movies, so transient, so volatile.

(But it ended in a bitter note, so bitter that at times it feels like a mistake)

Love in the 30s

My 5 month old daughter smiles her toothless smile and I forget my tiff with my husband. She resembles my husband. Her nose, her cheeks, her  eyes, everything says  she is her daddy’s girl.  We have been fighting a lot these days which only goes to say how much we miss each other. He is out of the country for some work and am at home desperately wishing him to come back soon. We met at a party, got around talking and the first thing I notice about him is “O! God. He has such a big nose!” But the big nosed guy swept me off my feet and we got married. Everything was so fast that we didn’t even realize we were in love because before that, we realized we were perfect for each other. Guided by our intuition that this will work,we embarked on this lovely, beautiful, tumultuous at times, fun journey together. Its been tough and at times but there were more highs than lows.  Every morning when he plants a kiss on the nape of my neck while I cook in the kitchen, I realize and thank my stars for such a wonderful life. With the birth of my daughter, its picture perfect.  I feel that we kept falling more for each other every single day. More on some day than others! This is love;  so stable, so lasting, so much like I want it.

( Four years and going, I wish that the stars bless us and keep the love forever)

So this has been my journey from a rose to a pose and finally ending with the nose. I always believed in love but the belief kept changing from time to time. Maybe the different people in my life made it seem different but the core, the essence remains the same. The good old LOVE.

This has been my experience with love, do let me know how your journey started and how love has evolved for you”

Sigh!! Whenever I read this post, I feel this overwhelming affection for my husband 🙂 and I know how much he likes his fruit cakes that are mildly sweet but full of flavour from the dry fruits and nuts.  On this Valentine’s there are no heart-shaped chips, cookies or cakes on this blog;  just some old-fashioned fruit cake from The Australian Women’s Weekly.

The Batter

 The Recipe for Fruit and Nut Mini Loaves

Ingredients

Butter – 125 gm ( After making these loaves I feel I could lower the butter content to 115 gm)

Mixed fruit and nut like dried cranberries, golden raisins, walnuts, black raisins and chocolate buttons – 375 gm or 2 1/3 cups

Caster sugar – 150 gm or 2/3 rd cups

Eggs- 2 nos.

Buttermilk – 1/3rd cup 180 ml ( but I had to use 200ml to make the batter of pouring consistency)

Plain flour – 1/2 cup or 75 gm

Self raising flour – 3/4th cup or 110 gm

Nutella for nutella glaze (optional)

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 160 C- 140 C or gas mark 3 – 4

2. Grease 8 hole petite loaf pan

3. Stir in all the dry ingredients like flours, sugar, nuts & fruits & chocolate buttons in a bowl.

4. Melt the butter in a sauce pan and then crack open both the eggs and add buttermilk. Stir well.

5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and combine well. Do not over work it.

6. Divide the mixture into pan holes, smooth the tops; bake about 30 minutes but it took 45 minutes for the toothpick inserted to come out clean in my case.

7. Then let the mini loaves cool in the pan after you get them out of the oven.

8. Drizzle melted nutella on top (optional)

The recipe promised 8 but I had only 6 cakes. The depth of the pan making the difference here. Also the butter milk quantity fell short as the batter was too dry to plop into the pans. The original recipe called for lemon glaze icing but I had no icing sugar to use, so I used Nutella instead. It was simply wonderful. My hubby likes them without glaze and I am a glaze/icing person. So I topped 2 of them with a thin Nutella glaze ( almost watery) just for the flavour; while the rest were left as they were.

I wish you all a brilliant Valentine’s Day full of love and laughter!

I am sending this entry to Anzz’s Valentine special event.

Rosemary and Potato Dinner Rolls & So Many Thoughts

6 Feb

Warning : Long post ahead

I am going to jump from one subject to another with such speed that you might want to hold on to your seats! This post may not make a whole lot of sense, but at the moment there is this violent vortex of thoughts churning in my head and I have to vent it out. It contains extracts of my thoughts on an impending wedding, parenting, the changing seasons and Bahrain.

And here it comes—

1. In  4 days time I will be in India attending my brother’s wedding.  The entire family has been excitedly looking forward to this event and we all feel such joy to welcome a new member  ( my sister-in-law) into our family. It is a Gujarati wedding and hence the rituals will be in Bhavnagar where my  would be sister-in-law and her family live. I cannot wait to get there and enjoy all the wonderful Gujarati food, music and their traditional dance ( Raas and garba). I am hoping to dig into the authentic Gujarati cuisine that includes Undhiyu, Kadhi, Shrikhand etc. Dressing up, putting on make up, jewellery and meeting family and friends is going to be the norm of the next 10 days. The Reception programme is to be held at my dad’s native in Kerala and that would mean onslaught of good food, again.  I can barely wait to be on that flight to India.

2. I have been homeschooling Mimi for the last 3 weeks now. It all started when I joined a Homeschooling group that had mums who home schooled their children seriously and didn’t have any intention of sending them to school. Ever. So I joined them and realized their enthusiasm about this informal system of education and what it was doing to their children. I was profoundly impressed. So that the child doesn’t miss interacting with children his /her age, they meet once a week at a mum’s place ( A group is allowed 5 mums and max of 7-8 children). The host -mum decides the topic for that day and prepares fun activities, games, study material and craft around it for 2 whole hours which also includes 10 minutes of snack time. It is a hectic, fun-filled 2 hours with plenty to do and learn. I have gone for 4 such sessions at different mums’ homes and the 5th one was hosted at my place. It was such an interesting one week, planning for lessons and activities and craft around Sea Animals. Other varied topics that other mums hosted were ‘Patterns and finding them in the world around you”, ” Farm animals”, ” Your favourite books”, ” Cars and car safety”.  So in order to orient Mimi to this new system of fun and study, I decided to do it on a daily basis barring the weekends when my hubby distracts both of us with lot of cuddles. I am enjoying this experience so much that I do not seem to have any time to do anything else. Only weekends are reserved for some baking and me- time. I hope to keep up with this since it has helped me know Mimi even better and this is such a great opportunity for us to bond. It makes such incredible use of my time and secretly I enjoy doing all her craft.

The Sea in the box - Prototype by yours truly

 

sea-in-a-box by Mimi

 

Farm Animals - The sheep building project

3. It is that time of the year when Bahrain doesn’t revel in the magic of Valentine’s day like the rest of the World. It is that time when tension is brewing underground and you can feel it in the air, the conversations between absolute strangers standing at the super market billing counter waiting their turn and the lack of Valentine Day’s celebrations advertisements in the newspapers and magazines. Last year, this time, Bahrain was midst a lot of Political turmoil and for locals and expats alike, it was something they wouldn’t forget in a hurry. The sights of the army pulling in the residential areas with their tanks, the security personnel stopping every single car for thorough scrutiny and the mass exodus from the island are still fresh in everybody’s mind. While I would be away for my brother’s wedding celebrations during this time, I hope and pray that Bahrain stays peaceful.

4. Bahrain has experienced its share of glorious weather this winter season. The most pleasant of all months, we have the pleasant, more pleasant and most pleasant climes, these last 3 months. It has been both joyous and inspiring to write, to cook, to bake, to go out, to visit friends and to generally laze around at home with hot soups and crispy snacks. This is  the time that we visited different places, different events like the (not-so) grand air show, some beaches and new restaurants. When the weather is great, then everybody you meet or see is either smiling or being nice to the other. Recently we have had a cold wave that has had us shivering to our bones but I love it. It gives me the liberty to experiment with different soups when the markets are inundated with the freshest of produce.

That is when I felt I needed to bake some home-made bread to go with the soups. I am addicted to flipping through Peter Reinhart’s, “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”. It makes such a good read that often times I find myself kneading dough in my head, following the master’s instructions carefully. Sometimes I feel, I might as well bake through the book since it has always exceeded expectations. So with that thought in mind, I set out to make some Rosemary and Potato dinner rolls that looked so appetizing in the photographs.  It took me 2 days to get my act together. I needed fresh rosemary and I needed to make biga. I made the biga and kept it in the refrigerator to rest overnight and the same evening I bought fresh rosemary from the supermarket. Rosemary has such a strong scent that rubbing some between your fingers can have you smelling for a long time.

To Make the Biga

The biga, after the overnight rest in the refrigerator

It makes about 500 gm biga , out of which only 200 gm will be used for the dinner rolls.

Ingredients 

Unbleached Bread Flour – 2 1/2 cups

Instant yeast – 1/2 tsp

Water ( at room temp) – 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp. I had to use some more to get the kind of dough that felt ‘right’.

Preparation

1. Stir in flour, instant yeast, water and combine well.  Knead till the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff.

2. Transfer it to a floured surface and knead well for 4-6 minutes

3. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough, coating it well with oil and keep it covered in a warm place. Let it rise for 2-4 hours or until it doubles in size

4. Remove the dough and degas it and return it to the bowl and refrigerate it covered overnight. It can stay in the refrigerator for 3 days and can freeze upto 3 months.

Recipe for Rosemary and Potato Dinner Rolls

It makes 18 dinner rolls but it gave me 19!!

Ingredients

biga – 200 gms

Unbleached bread flour – 3 cups plus 2 tbsp

salt – 1 1/2 tsp

Black pepper , coarsely ground – 1 tsp

instant yeast – 1 1/4 tsp

mashed potatoes – 1 cup

Olive oil- 1 tbsp

Coarsely chopped rosemary, fresh- 2 tbsp ( A little goes a long way)

water, at room temp- 3/4 cups pluse 2 tbsp. I had to use about 1 cup plus 4 tbsp

roasted garlic – 4 tbsp

semolina flour /cornmeal for dusting

Olive oil for brushing on top

Preparation

1. Remove the Biga from the refrigerator 1 hour before you plan to bake and cut it into pieces. Use 200 gms of it and let that sit for 1 hour to take off the chill. Keep the rest covered, back into the refrigerator or the freezer.

top left - biga; top right - biga, cut into pieces; bottom left- after mixing all ingredients together; bottom right- after kneading for 10 minutes

2. Stir together the flour, salt, black pepper and yeast in a bowl and add biga pieces, mashed potatoes, oil, rosemary and water. Combine everything together very well. May knead some patience to do it.

3. Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough and continue to knead for 10-20 minutes. Add more flour or water as required to have the dough soft and supple in your hands. It should also pass the window pane test to see the gluten development. If the stretched dough breaks then it needs more kneading.

Top left- window pane test to see gluten development; top right - adding roasted garlic; bottom left - after the first rise; bottom right - dinner rolls shaped.

4. Flatten the dough and spread roasted garlic. Gather the dough into a ball and knead it for about 1-2 minutes . Transfer it into a well oiled bowl and coat it with oil and let it rest for about 2 hours. It should double in size by then

5. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 18 equal pieces ( Strangely I got 19)  and shape them into dinner rolls. Line a pan with baking parchment and dust lightly with semolina or cornmeal. Place the dinner rolls touching each other so that they have the pull-apart effect. Mist it with olive oil and then cover it with a plastic wrap. Let it proof at room temperature for 1-2 hours.

Fresh from the oven

6. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/ 400 F/ 200 C and place the oven rack in the middle. Remove the plastic wrap and brush the rolls with more olive oil and score them if you like. I scored them using a scissor and that is how I got the design on top of my dinner rolls.

7. Bake it for 20 minutes and then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking.  In total, it will take about 35-40 minutes to bake completely. They will be golden brown all over and will sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Cool well before serving with hot soup.

I loved the flavour from the Rosemary and the pepper which I found to be more prominent. They make for a good snack all by themselves and even with some butter.

I did feel they were hard(er) on the outside but full of flavour on the inside. I like my dinner rolls soft, both sides. So somewhere, something was amiss and but couldn’t place a finger on what I didn’t do right. Overall, I am not entirely satisfied with the endeavour but I have fallen hard for the flavour.

If anybody does make this, I would love to know how it turned out.

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