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News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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cookingbyheart's picture
cookingbyheart

Vishwani Agrawal teaches his daughter, Chitra, to make traditional North Indian flatbread known as chapati or roti.

http://vimeo.com/30384978

It was a treat to spend the day with Chitra and her dad while we shot this piece and learned from a master. Chitra’s father, Vishwani, shares his method of making chapati, also known as roti, a flat bread most commonly prepared in northern India. Vishwani grew up in Allahabad, one of India’s oldest cities, where he learned to prepare chapatis by watching his mother and then as time went on, by refining his own technique. On the shoot, Vishwani told us about leaving home for college, which is when he first began making chapati. Later, when he met his wife, Prathima, he continued to make chapati. Prathima is from south India, where rice is more commonly served as a staple. To this day, Vishwani remains the primary chapati-maker of the house. And since Vishwani and Prathima make chapatis weekly, they’ve become masters. It seems like making any kind of bread dough takes some experimentation to get it right.

When I asked Vishwani about the importance of passing down the tradition, I was excited by his response. He pointed out that traditions are not a one way street. They aren’t blindly passed on and can’t be forced onto the next generation, but rather they are actively accepted, practiced and kept alive by the younger generation. It’s refreshing to hear a different perspective and to consider that we are not just vessels but we are active participants in creating new traditions and keeping old traditions alive. Vishwani can teach what he knows, but it’s up to Chitra to keep it going, if she so chooses. As he tells Chitra, he teaches procedure, technique is what you figure out on your own.

Vishwani and Prathima reside in Alabama, where they both work in the Computer and Electrical Engineering Department at Auburn University.
Chapati

Ingredients (makes 6 rotis)
1 cup of flour
~1/2 cup lukewarm water
extra flour for rolling

Method
Sift the flour into a bowl and slowly add water while kneading until you get to a dough that is soft, smooth and pliable. The longer you knead the dough the better but 5 minutes of heavy kneading will do.

Take the dough ball and cover with a damp cloth for a minimum of 30 minutes (you can also make the dough and put in your fridge for making another day).

Divide the dough into 6 dough balls or loee and roll them in flour.

Flatten each each dough ball with your palm and roll out to a 6 inch diameter, using extra flour so it does not stick.

Heat an iron skillet on medium heat. When it is hot (water drops should sizzle immediately), place roti on.

Let it cook and when you start to see bubbles form in many places, flip it over and cook until the other side does the same.

Over a medium flame, with flat tongs or chimta place the roti until it blows up or browns on both sides. (If you are cooking on an electric stove, you can press the roti in different places with a cloth to make it blow up a bit right on the skillet)

With the tongs, hit the roti against a surface to shake off any excess flour.

Butter one side with ghee and place in an airtight container lined with paper towel.

Music: Boss City by Wes Montgomery; Evelyn by Dabrye; Pacific Theme by Broken Social Scene; Cause=Time by Broken Social Scene; Little Chin by Tommy Guererro

Vishwani and Chitra, thank you for sharing. Franny & John, Thank you for letting us take over your apt for the day! Sintalentos, thank you for your musical consultation. Michael Legume, thanks for the audio equip. Paul, you’re the best.

ph_kosel's picture
ph_kosel

I had a hand at making spice rolls using the recipe in Peter Reinhart's book "Crust and Crumb"

Ingredients (per Reinhart)

454 grams un-bleached all purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon instant yeast (see below)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup butter

8 ounces (227g) buttermilk at room temperature (see below)

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 cups raisins

 

Procedure

Mix all ingredients except the raisins into a dough, then knead in the raisins.  Form into two-ounce balls and let rise about 90 minutes.  Bake 20 minutes at 350F.

 

Results

I found that the dough seemed too dry to come together well so I added another slosh of buttermilk, maybe a tablespoon or two.  I weighed two cups of loose raisins and measured 270g; this seems a bit excessive and 200g might be more reasonable.  I popped the rolls in the oven at 350F with steam and set the timer for 20 minutes; after checking at 20 minutes I gave them another 2 minutes or so to brown up a bit.

The recipe made 18 2-ounce rolls.  I think next time I'll make the rolls larger, maybe 12 rolls per batch. 

The taste is OK:  nice sweetness, moderately spicy and rather yeasty.  I've that found recently that similar coffeecake recipes that called for similarly large yeast percentages also tasted yeasty to me.  I'm not sure if this is due to the initial yeast added or possibly to yeast propagation fed by the sugar. I may reduce yeast by half  in my next batch, to something comparable to typical bread recipes.

I found the texture a bit dry and dense.  The Reinhart recipe calls for surprisingly little liquid, and the results reflect this.

Overall, an interesting bake but something I think perhaps I can improve on - bigger, moister, less yeasty rolls, would be nice, and perhaps some cinnamon and a pinch of cardamom.

 

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

My grandfather often tells the story of how during the war, when Helsinki was being bombed, his mother had to leave the pulla dough as the family fled to the nearby bomb shelter. After many hours, when they came back home, there was a surprise waiting for them: pulla dough all over the place -- apparently it had raised rather well!

Pulla, or Nisu as it's known in the United States (in old Finnish, nisu was the word for wheat, nowadays we call it vehnä) is the most common sweet bread in Finland and very popular with coffee -- so popular that it's also known as "kahvileipä", coffee bread.

In this recipe, which I wrote about a year ago, I have tried to combine some of the things I have learned about bread with the best of Finnish pulla.

Most pulla recipes tell you to start from the milk and then slowly add flour until the dough feels right. Because of this, the recipes are not that exact. I go the opposite way and start from flour. I also use less yeast and allow the dough to rest a bit longer. Other than that, this is very traditional pulla.

--

  • 500 g full milk
  • 8 g cardamom
  • 1 egg (shelled weight about 60 g)
  • 150 g sugar
  • 10 g salt
  • 800 g all-purpose flour
  • 11 g instant yeast
  • 180 g butter
     
  • For cinnamon rolls, you will also need additional cinnamon and sugar as well as a little melted butter. I didn't measure these, but I hope you can get the amounts by looking at the photos below...

Instructions:

  1. Mix all dry ingredients together.
     
  2. Heat the milk to 42 degrees celcius to wake up the instant yeast and pour over the dry ingredients. Add the egg.
     
  3. Mix the dough. I worked the dough for about 10 minutes by hand, using the technique taught by Richard Bertinet.
     
  4. Add the butter, at room temperature, and continue working the dough until everything is smooth and nice.
     
  5. Let the dough rest until it's almost doubled in size. I did a stretch and fold sequence after 45 minutes of rest and then let the dough rest for a total of 1.5 hours, or maybe a little more.
     
  6. To make buns, shape the dough into small balls and let them rest for about 45 minutes before baking. Just before putting them in the oven, coat with egg and some pearl sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes in 225 degrees Celcius.
     
  7. To make cinnamon rolls, use a rolling pin to form the dough into a rectangle with roughly the shape of a wide-screen television screen and thickness of about 5 millimeters or so. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
     
  8. Starting from the further wide end, roll towards yourself until you have a nice, tight roll.
     
  9. Using a sharp knife, cut the left side of the roll so that you have a clean corner at about a 45 degree angle. I like to eat the dough that was cut away, and so do my kids.

  10. Continue from there, cutting to the opposite direction at the same angle, until you reach the end of the roll and can eat some dough again. You should now have a bunch of nice triangles.
     
  11. Move your triangles on a baking sheet, the tip of the triangle pointing up. Gently press the top down with one finger and leave to rest for 45 minutes or so. 
     
  12. Bake the same way as the buns.

Fresh pulla is best enjoyed with a glass of cold milk.

And finally, here's my four-year-old's work of art. It has a lot of added sugar and butter!

awloescher's picture
awloescher

About two months ago, I decided I wanted to try baking bread.  I began perusing allrecipes.com, a site I have begun using quite extensively since I really began cooking a lot a half year ago.  I found a recipe for "Amish White Bread", and as it had good reviews, I decided to try it, just for a sandwhich bread.  It went very well, considering the fact that I hadn't really taken much time to learn about bread baking.  After the bread had undergone its first rise, I discovered that the outside of the risen dough was a little dry.  After it had proofed, the outside of the dough was again just a little dried out.  I formed the two loaves, popped them in the oven, and had to take them out about ten minutes prior to the end of the prescribed baking time. 

The two problems I encountered came from me allowing the dough to dry out, I believe.  The loaves both had an enormous crack along the side and top, and as I found out when cutting and eating, there was a little portion inside each loaf that was not quite done. 

Now, these didn't prove to be too big of problems, however.  My wife LOVED the bread, despite the very small vein of almost-baked dough.   As for the cracks, although they were more accidental and pronounced than the natural cracking that (often purposely) occurs from the oven spring, they weren't a big deal.

Needless to say, I was hooked, and had to learn more about this (then) mysterious process of baking.  So the next day I went to the local bookstore, bought their only book on bread baking (The Art of Baking), and checked out two books from the library (Daily Bread and Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads).  Within about a week I had read through all three, and here I am...baking away! :)

 

amy bassett's picture
amy bassett

I just love this recipe, thanks to Floyd for posting it!  It is just sweet enough and soft enough that you can't stop eating them!  I made these to go with my blackened salmon burgers............YUM!!  The sweetness of the roll was just a delicious combo!

Stephanie Brim's picture

Brainstorming: interesting breakfast loaves.

June 20, 2011 - 5:03pm -- Stephanie Brim
Forums: 

I need new bread for toast. Horribly so.

When I was last here I had just had my second child. So...not much baking went on. He's over a year and a half old now, and I was getting sick of store bought bread. So...back to it. My kids are getting sick of it, too, though, and last night was the first time they touched bread in a long time: I made asiago cheese loaves and...er...they're almost gone now. Two more are in the dough stage as we speak.

Terrell's picture
Terrell

Back in the fall I promised my niece-in-law that I would make kolaches for her birthday at the end of November. Which I did, using the recipe from the point of departure. They were OK, but not quite right. Too dry, a little doughy and the flavor was not quite the same. Wait a minute, you say, not the same as what? What the heck are these kolaches of which you write?


 Apricot Kolaches       Apricot Kolaches


Right smack in the middle of Texas there's an area that was populated by people of Czech descent. Well, a bunch of Germans, too, but right now we're interested in the Czechs. They brought a number of traditions from the home country that have worked their way into local culture, most prominently the sweet roll that makes a true Texan's heart do a little extra thump---the kolache. When I was little, the ladies from the Catholic church in Ennis would come up to our church in Dallas to fundraise by selling home-baked kolaches to the big city folks. We didn't get quite as excited as we would for Christmas that weekend but it was right up there with, say, Easter. Mom would buy six dozen and freeze five of them to be brought out for special occasions during the year. We got to eat one box that morning. Now, you have to realize that there are nine kids in my family. Add two parents and that meant that we each only got one kolache. And I still remember those five or six bites as a highlight of my year.


After a couple of my brothers moved to Austin to go to the University (no need to qualify which university in Texas) our kolache supply got a little steadier. Anyone who made the drive between Dallas and Austin was required to stop in West, Texas (the name of a town, not a region that is in central, not west, Texas) and pick up a couple dozen. It was a regular enough occurrence that we could request certain fillings instead of just grabbing whatever was available. I always went for apricot first, cream cheese second. Or maybe prune. And then, I grew up. Moved away. Lost my source and only ever got a kolache fix if my visits to Dallas happened to coincide with an Austinite's. Joined that community of expat Texans who could only dream. Now and then I'd find a bakery that claimed to make them but they were never anything close to what I remembered. You know, if it's not right, it's just not right.


Now you probably think I'm crazy, just wierd to feel this way about a pastry, but I am not alone. My niece who requested them for her birthday isn't even a Texan, just married to one. When I went looking for a recipe on the internet, the passionate postings about dough and fillings were everywhere. They all seemed to point one direction, however. The recipe posted on The Homesick Texan blog seemed to be the place to go for the real thing. There were 138 comments on the post that all say pretty much the same thing, "Oh my god these are amazing, just the way I remember them." So I used her dough recipe exactly. I subbed in some other fillings since I was out of apricots but that's not important. It's the bread that matters. And now there are 139 comments on that post including mine which says, "Oh my god these are amazing, just the way I remember them."


I'm not going to reprint her recipe. You can go see it for yourself. I will just tell you that I found I had to bake them a little longer than her timing states, more like 20-25 minutes. It may just be that I need to check my oven temp. There are some tiny details that she leaves out that make them even more perfect like you should put them close enough together on the baking sheet so that the oven spring makes them just kiss each other and you wind up with a slightly squared off, not perfectly round finished product. I found the Posypka recipe needs either more butter or less flour/sugar to make it clump properly. She only includes a recipe for apricot filling but it seems more authentic to have a variety so I made three kinds. I used some Trader Joe organic strawberry preserves for some which, while cheating, still came out well. I took some plum conserve my brother made from his home-grown red plums, drained out most of the liquid and mashed up the plum bits. Those, too, were pretty successful. And I really wanted some raspberry ones so I just tried some raspberry jam I had in the fridge. This was way too watery and made a mess on the cookie sheet. They also got the 'best taste' vote from all my testers so I'm going to work on how to make a drier version next time. I also have a request for the cottage cheese/cream cheese filling from my nephew. Can't wait to try it.


Homesick Texan Kolaches

AnnaInMD's picture

Holiday baking

December 10, 2010 - 4:13am -- AnnaInMD

I have been brought up on Stollen during the Christmas Holidays and to be honest, the best part was the crust of melted butter and powdered sugar.


The dough itself always tasted a bit dry - ok, the last time I ate Stollen was while East Germany was still behind the wall and Grandma might not have had all the good ingredients. 

Terrell's picture
Terrell

Greetings, bakers!


It's been a pretty good week in Portland. After months of being out of work, I have two jobs, seem to be on track for a third and I'm pretty sure at least one of those will continue post-Christmas. I know it's just seasonal work, but I'm really feeling like this Portland experiment has just taken a decided turn for the better. To celebrate, I decided to do a sweet bread this week. Thumbing through the Point of Departure, the bread book I've been baking my way through, I came across a recipe for a Cardamom Braid. That fit the sweet bread criteria and seemed appropriate for the seasonal nature of the new job. My brother married a woman who is half Swedish and cardamom braid is mandatory at their Christmas morning celebrations. She won't open a present until the braid is sliced and ready to eat. It's always delicious so I decided to see how close this recipe would be to theirs. Turns out, it's not quite the same. Lydia's version is flatter and sweeter, probably uses a softer dough and more sugar. I also seem to remember a bright yellow color, possibly saffron, that this one doesn't have. And my crust was way browner, partly my fault from letting it bake a few minutes too long, but also inherent in the recipe. Hers is barely golden and very soft, definitely not the crispy crust I got. On the other hand, the taste of my loaf was excellent, slightly sweet with a spicy cardamom flavor. I also liked the moist, chewy texture. I'm thinking next time a lower oven temperature, a slightly softer dough and brushing with something other than milk might get me exactly what I want.


Cardamom Braid from The Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Bread Cook Book

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 package active dry yeast

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 3/4 cup milk

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup butter

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

  • 1 3/4 to 2 cups all purpose flour (I substituted white whole wheat flour here with excellent results)

  • small amounts of milk and sugar for brushing and sprinkling


In a large bowl combine one cup of all-purpose flour, the yeast and the cardamom. In a small saucepan heat the milk, sugar, butter and salt until warm, stirring frequently to melt the butter. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients. Add the egg. Beat the mixture well for several minutes. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough. (I used almost all of the two cups but I think I will back that off slightly next time.) Turn out onto a floured surface and knead till smooth, about 5 or 6 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning once to coat and let rise, covered, until double, about an hour and a half.


Braided    Risen


When double, punch down and divide in thirds. Let rest while you prepare a pan. I use two nested jelly roll pans lined with parchment paper but you can grease if you prefer. Roll each third into a 16-inch rope and place about one inch apart on prepared pan. Braid loosely, pinching the ends together and tucking them under. Cover and let rise until double, about 45 minutes.


Preheat oven to 375. (Next time, I'll try it at 325, I think.) Brush with milk and sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar. (I plan to look for some decorative sugar for this step.) Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. (I got distracted and let it go almost 30 which was too long.) Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.


Baked


I'm looking forward to making this for Christmas morning with the great-nephews. I think it will be a hit. Any of you Scandahoovians out there want to give me tips for making this perfect?


 Sliced

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