Sunday, February 24, 2013

Classic Croissants & Pain Au Chocolat | We knead to Bake # 2

Sometime back,while crossing the road a kid stomped on my feet and bang,my toe nail got bruised and was in an upright position,which later had to be uprooted.I know,it is a very strange,pathetic even,way to start a post but I do have a point here and I am coming to it.I wasn't worried about the pain I was going through,but was scared how it will be when the guys at the hospital start treating it.As always,Ajay gave me all the confidence and ego boost and asked me to be bold and brave and voila,in under 20 minutes I was out of the hospital with a big dressing on my toe nail and pictures of it for sympathy from folks,yeah I am mean that way:)
Classic Croissants
Soon after I was on a train to Ernakulam and forgot all about it.I even forgot it was 2nd of the month and Aparna had posted the Bread bake for February in the WKTB facebook group page.A week later when I checked the page,it was chock-a-block of posts from the members-some scary stories,some successful ones and some more gorgeous pictures.I checked the recipe and it seemed way too long and I did the best thing.Shut it off my mind until I reached Chennai and stopped thinking about it.
I hadn't tasted a Croissant yet and I didn't know it was a laborious process which could go horribly wrong and most important I had absolutely no clue how I am supposed to do it all.I decided to be bold and brave(get the point now?)and take it one step at a time.Remember my apprehension when it comes to the quantity of butter added to a recipe,well I sat over it for a long time since this recipe calls for 250 grams of butter,I kid you not.
Classic Croissants
So what is a Croissant?It is a buttery,flaky bread roll known for its crescent shape,made of a yeast-leavened dough.The dough is layered with butter,rolled and folded several times in succession,then rolled into a sheet,in a technique called laminating.The process results in a layered,flaky texture,similar to a puff pastry.Croissant can also be made by wrapping uncooked croissant sheets around chocolate which is known as Pain au chocolat,which has a different,non-crescent shape.(source)
Classic Croissants I think by far,this has got to be the most time-consuming recipe I've ever tried.All along,I was in two minds whether to try making this or not.Several factors kept me from NOT doing it.Fear of failure(the most pressing one),fear of wasting the ingredients if the recipe didn't come out right and apprehension of adding so much butter into one recipe.
Pain Au Chocolat
When I decided to join WKTB,the only thing which made me jump into the group was the love of baking bread.Though I have baked a few yeast breads,I was yet a beginner-yeast-baker and I wanted to improve that.As my amma would say,'dwitiya' should not be missed.Whenever we start doing something new,if we miss doing it the second time(dwitiya)chances are we might not continue doing it,I definitely didn't want my bread baking venture to meet that fate for sure:)
Classic Croissants
One thing I'd tell anyone who'd want to try baking Croissants is,it is a time-consuming process,but do not worry too much about not rolling it right,or butter leaks or anything at all.Take it one step at a time and you will be fine.I So here's how I went about making mine,step by step.
Classic Croissants
Classic Croissants
Recipe source Aparna;Original recipe Fine Cooking


For the dough:
4 cups all-purpose flour, and a little more for dusting/ rolling out dough
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp cold water
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp cold milk (I used 2%)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
40gm soft unsalted butter
1 tbsp plus scant 1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp salt

For the butter layer:
250 gm cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup of cold milk (or 1/8 cup of cream + 1/8 cup cream) to brush the dough
Or 1 egg for egg wash


Day 1:

Make the dough (and refrigerate overnight)

Classic Croissants-step1 
Combine all the ingredients for the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. You can also use a food processor with the plastic blade, or do this by hand.
Classic Croissants-step2 
Mix everything on low speed for 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl once if necessary. Then mix further on medium speed for 3 minutes. Lightly flour a 10-inch pie pan or a dinner plate. And place the ball of dough on this.
Classic Croissants-step3 
Gently shape the dough into a flat ball by pressing it down before storing it in the fridge, this makes rolling out next morning easier. Making a tight ball will strengthen the gluten which you do not need. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and wrap well with plastic so it doesn’t dry out. Refrigerate overnight.

Day 2:

Make the butter layer

Classic Croissants-step4 
The next day, cut out 2 pieces of parchment or waxed paper into 10” squares each. Cut the cold butter into 1/2-inch-thick slabs. Place these pieces on one piece of parchment/ waxed paper so they form a 5- to 6-inch square. Cut the butter further into pieces as required to fit the square. Top with the other piece of parchment/ waxed paper.
Classic Croissants-step5 
Using a rolling pin, pound the butter with light, even strokes. As the pieces begin to stick together, use more force. Pound the butter until it flattens out evenly into a square that’s approximately 7-1/2”. Trim the edges of the butter to make a neat square. Put the trimmings on top of the square and pound them in lightly with the rolling pin. Refrigerate this while you roll out the dough.

Laminate the dough

Classic Croissants-step6 
Unwrap and lay the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll it out to a 10-1/2-inch square, and brush off the excess flour. Take the butter out from the refrigerator —it should be cold but pliable. If it isn’t refrigerate it till it is. This so that when you roll out the dough with the butter in it, neither should it be soft enough to melt, or hard enough to break. Unwrap the butter and place it on the square of dough in the centre, so that it forms a “diamond” shape on the dough.
Classic Croissants-step7 
Fold one flap of dough over the butter toward you, stretching it slightly so that the point just reaches the middle of the butter square. Bring the opposite flap to the middle, slightly overlapping the previous one. Similarly repeat with the other two so that the dough forms an envelope around the butter. 
Classic Croissants-step8 
Lightly press the edges together to completely seal the butter inside the dough to ensure the butter doesn’t escape when you roll out the dough later.
Classic Croissants-step9 
Lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. With the rolling pin, firmly press along the dough uniformly to elongate it slightly. Now begin rolling instead of pressing, focusing on lengthening rather than widening the dough and keeping the edges straight.
Classic Croissants-step10 
Roll the dough into an 8” by 24” rectangle. If the ends lose their square shape, gently reshape the corners with your hands. Brush off the excess flour. Mark the dough lightly equally into three along the long side. Using this as a guideline, pick up one short end of the dough and fold 1/3rd of it back over the dough, so that 1/3rd of the other end of dough is exposed. Now fold the 1/3rd exposed dough over the folded side. Basically, the dough is folded like 3-fold letter before it goes into an envelope (letter fold). Put the folded dough on a floured baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 15 to 20 minutes to relax and chill the dough.
Repeat the rolling and folding, this time rolling in the direction of the two open ends (from the shorter sides to lengthen the longer sides) until the dough is about 8” by 24”. Once again fold the dough in thirds, brushing off excess flour and turning under any rounded edges or short ends with exposed or smeared layers. Cover once again with plastic wrap and freeze for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Classic Croissants-step11 
Roll and fold the dough exactly in the same way for the third time and put it baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap, tucking the plastic under all four sides and refrigerate overnight.

Day 3:

Divide the dough

Classic Croissants-step12 
The next day, unwrap and lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. Cut the dough along the longer side into halves. Cover one half with plastic wrap and refrigerate it while working on the other half.
Classic Croissants-step13 
“Wake up the dough up” by pressing firmly along its length with the rolling pin. Don’t widen the dough but simply begin to lengthen it with these first strokes. Slowly roll the dough into a long and narrow strip, approximately 8” by 22”. If the dough sticks as you roll, sprinkle with flour.
Once the dough is about half to two-thirds of its final length, it may start to resist rolling and even shrink back. If this happens, fold the dough in thirds, cover, and refrigerate for about 10 minutes; then unfold the dough and finish rolling.
Lift the dough an inch or so off the table at its midpoint and allow it to shrink from both sides and prevent the dough from shrinking when it’s cut. Check that there’s enough excess dough on either end so that when you trim the edges to straighten them, you have a strip of dough that is 20’ inches long. Now trim the edges so they’re straight.
Classic Croissants-step14 
If you’re good at “eyeballing” and cutting the dough into triangles, then forget the measuring rule, marking and cutting instructions. Otherwise, lay a measuring rule or tape measure lengthwise along the top length of the dough. With a knife, mark the top of the dough at 5-inch intervals along the length (there will be 3 marks in all). Now place the rule or tape measure along the bottom length of the dough. Make a mark 2-1/2 inches in from the end of the dough. Make marks at 5-inch intervals from this point all along the bottom of the dough. You’ll have 4 marks that fall halfway between the marks at the top.
Make diagonal cuts by positioning the yardstick at the top corner and the first bottom mark. Use a pizza wheel/ pie wheel or a bench scraper and cut the dough along this line which connects each top mark to the next bottom mark and then back to the next top mark and so on. This way you will have 7 triangles and a scrap of dough at each end.

Shape the croissants

Classic Croissants-step15 
Now work with one piece of triangular dough at a time. Using your rolling pin, very lightly roll (do not make it thin but only stretch it slightly) the triangle to stretch it a little, until it is about 10” long. This will give your croissants height and layers. You can stretch it by hand too, but if you don’t have the practise, your stretching could be uneven.
Using a sharp small knife, make a 1/2- to 3/4-inch-long notch in the centre of the short side of each triangle. The notch helps the rolled croissant curl into a crescent.
Place the triangle on the work surface with the notched side closest to you. With one hand on each side of the notch, begin to roll the dough away from you, towards the pointed end.
Flare your hands outward as you roll so that the notched “legs” become longer. Roll the triangle tight enough but not too tight to compress it, until you reach the “pointy” end which should be under the croissant.
Now bend the two legs towards you to form a tight crescent shape and gently press the tips of the legs together (they’ll come apart while proofing but keep their crescent shape).
Shape all the triangles like this into croissants and place them on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet leaving as much space between them as they will rise quite a bit.

Proof the croissants

Classic Croissants-step16 
Brush the croissants with milk (or a mix of milk and cream). If you use eggs, make an egg wash by whisking one egg with 1 tsp water in a small bowl until very smooth. Lightly brush this on each croissant.
Refrigerate the remaining milk/ milk+cream (or egg wash) for brushing the croissants again later. Place the croissants in a cool and draft-free place (the butter should not melt) for proofing/ rising for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. They might need longer than 2 hours to proof, maybe as much as 3 hours, so make sure to let croissants take the time to proof. The croissants will be distinctly larger but not doubled in size. They’re ready if you can see the layers of dough from the side, and if you lightly shake the sheets, the croissants will wiggle.

Bake the croissants

Classic Croissants 
Just before the croissants are fully proofed, pre-heat your oven to 200C (400F) in a convection oven or 220C (425F) in a regular oven. Brush the croissants with milk/ milk+cream (or egg wash) a second time, and place your baking sheets on the top and lower thirds of your oven (if regular) or bake one tray at a time in the convection oven.
Bake them for about 15 to 20 minutes till they’re done and golden brown on top and just beginning to brown at the sides. In a regular oven, remember to turn your baking sheets halfway through. If they seem to be darkening too quickly during baking, lower the oven temperature by 10C (25F). Cool the croissants on the baking sheets on racks.
Serve warm. This recipe makes 15 croissants.

Pain Au Chocolat1
Pain Au Chocolat

I made one half of the dough into Croissants and the other half went into making these chocolate beauties.
Pain Au Chocolat-step1 
For Pain Au Chocolat,cut the dough into long strips.Place chocolate on one end and roll it tightly keeping the seam at the bottom.
Pain Au Chocolat-step2 
Proofing and baking the same way as you would for the croissants.

Classic Croissants
 Some useful tips to keep in mind
  • Make sure that everything is cold,especially butter.If at any point you feel the dough is not rolling right or butter is leaking,roll the dough and keep in the freezer for 10-15 minutes,that would help heaps.
  • Do not worry or fret.At one point my dough had so many butter leaks that I stopped counting.I just patted the dough with flour and kept rolling and it turned out just fine.
  • The dough,according to me was dry when kneaded.But do not over work the dough or knead it since it would develop gluten and that would not help during the lamination process.
  • Do not fold the dough more than three times,that would give more layers yes,but thinner butter layers between them and the croissants wouldn't puff as much too.
  • The recipe looks quite long and detailed,so take your time and read through it first before attempting to make it.This video is a very useful one,check it out.

Classic Croissants and Pain Au Chocolat was the chosen bread of the month by Aparna who initiated the We Knead to Bake group on facebook.Last month we baked 
Herb and Cheese Pull-apart Bread
Herb & Cheese Pull-apart Loaf

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cucumber Mint Raita

Once,while we were at a friend's place for dinner,I noticed the raita tasted different from the regular onion-raita.It looked just like a normal raita,onions and tomatoes with curd but yet something was different.When I knew what the reason was I had a grin on my face,now why didn't I think of it before?The very things I used to pick out and remove-coriander leaves and green chillies-were ground into a paste and mixed with curd which made the raita delicious in its own way.
Cucumber Mint Raita
Ever since I've been making raita that way.Remember my garden with fresh mint leaves sprouting?Well,I harvested those and they were threatening to wilt and how could I let my fruit of labour go waste,so mint raita was whipped up.This uses the same method,without coriander.You can of course serve this raita plain or add onions,tomatoes or cucumbers into it.Tastes great with a biryani or pulao.

Cucumber Mint Raita


Mint leaves - 1 cup loosely packed
Green chilly - 1
Yogurt/Curd - 2 cups
Roasted Jeera powder - 1/4 tsp
Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Cucumber - 1,chopped finely


Cucumber Mint Raita-step1 
Grind together mint leaves with green chilly,using 1-2 tbsp of curd to a smooth paste.
Cucumber Mint Raita-step2 
Add jeera powder,sugar and salt to the curd and whip well.
Cucumber Mint Raita-step3 
Mix in the mint paste and the chopped cucumber.
Serve with Pulao/Biryani.
Cucumber Mint Raita-1

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My Great India Cookbook - Vikas Khanna | Cookbook Review & Pachapattani Thoran Recipe

Like everyone else I know,we were hooked to the television watching Masterchef Australlia whenever it was aired,even the recaps were not missed.It was with the same enthusiasm we watched the Indian version,but we were disappointed,we felt there was too much drama and it looked so scripted that we stopped watching after the first episode.
My Great India Cookbook
Why I am mentioning Masterchef India here is because of the charming Michelin star chef who hosted the second season of the show which according to many was way better than the first season.I wasn't much familiar with the celebrity-chef,so I google'd.People Magazine named Khanna in the list of Sexiest Man Alive and also referred to as The Hottest Chef in the world.Khanna was awarded a Michelin star for his restaurant Junoon by Michelin Guide for 2012 and 2013.

I received his latest cookbook My Great India Cookbook as part of a book review program by MySmartPrice,a price comparison engine that helps users find the best price for Books, Mobiles, Cameras and lots more. 

As I was leaving for my hometown the very same day,I carried the book along with me.I sure caught a few glances in my direction in the train as I was reading a cookbook with such interest and concentration none might have seen before:)
My Great India Cookbook-1
I love cookbooks which have pictures,and lots of them.Almost every recipe is accompanied by a gorgeous picture and you cannot expect anything lesser when the food styling and pictures are by Michael Swamy.

The recipes are neatly indexed. Soups,starters,vegetables,dals,fish&seafood,poultry,meats,rice,breads,chutneys&more,desserts&sweets.The book is named so for a reason and has recipes ranging from almost all Indian cuisines which the author collected on his travels through the length and breadth of India.
My Great India Cookbook-2
Some recipes which caught my attention were Bylakuppe Thukpa,a Tibetan noodle soup made with a typical Tibetan masala called the kopan masala.Kerala special Pulisheri is made as a soup with cucumbers,which I am planning to try since we always have it as a side-dish.There is also a Kanji soup with fried fish.Raavan Bhaat,which has nothing to do with the mythological character but is named so because of the spice level in the recipe.Aloo achar,now that is something new,a pickle with potatoes?

There are quite a number of Kerala and Konkani recipes which I must say made me very happy.Special mention goes to Karare Karele-spicy bittergourd chips,Kajuchi Usal-fresh cashewnuts in coconut,Fanasachi bhaaji-jackfruit curry,Goan Coconut rice,Kokum rice and many more.
My Great India Cookbook-3 
I loved the Dals and Rice sections as well with interesting recipes like Sultani Dal-Royal lentils which uses milk,cream and yogurt with toor dal and is given a smoked flavor with betel leaf.Bishambar's Rajmah,a recipe which is so simple and looks gorgeous.Tapeliya Dal Bhaat,a Gujarati rice recipe uses Dal and a spiced masala-definitely a must-try in my list,Kanika Bhog,a dish made in Marwar as an offering to the Gods.

Khoba Roti,a patterned flatbread made in Rajasthan,too deserves a special mention,how can something look so pretty that eating it would make you feel cruel!

The dessert section,though small is packed with variety.There is a Khubani ka Meetha from Hyderabad,Chena Poda from Orissa,Daulat ki Chaat from UP and Pithagurir Payas from Assam along with a few others.
pachapattani thoran
It was indeed a difficult choice for me too cook up something from this book as I was confused which one to try first.I haven't cooked much from other cuisines in India save for those so-called North Indian dishes,so I stuck with a recipe from my roots-Pacha pattani thoran,a simple side dish with green peas made in a Kerala style.

Pachapattani Thoran - Green Peas Thoran


Fresh/Frozen Green peas - 200 gms

For the spice paste

Grated coconut - 3 tbsp
Small onions/shallots - 3-4
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Green Chilly - 1 small
Cumin seeds/jeera - 1/2 tsp
Red chilly powder - ¼ tsp
Haldi - ¼ tsp

For tempering

Coconut oil - 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds -  ¼ tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Red chilly - 1,broken into 2
Onion - ½ of a small onion,chopped
Salt to taste


pachapattani thoran-ingredients 
Blanch green peas in boiling hot water for 1 minute.I skipped this step as I was using frozen green peas which is already blanched.
Make a smooth paste using the ingredients mentioned under the spice paste.
pachapattani thoran-step1 
In a kadai add oil and splutter mustard seeds.Mix in curry leaves and red chilly bits and saute the onions till golden brown.
pachapattani thoran-step2 
Add the spice paste and about 1- 1½ cups of water and salt to taste.Let it boil and then mix in the thawed and drained(or fresh)green peas.Close with a lid and let it cook till soft.
Serve with rice and rasam/sambhar.
pachapattani thoran

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Pappada Vada - Deep fried Masala Pappad

Pappada Vada is a typical street side snack food.The one which you may not find in high end snack shops/bakeries but you can spot these in big fat glass bottles,stacked neatly on top of one another in road side thattukadas.But I admit,I haven't tasted those so I am not sure if they use the same recipe or if it is indeed an 'authentic' recipe,this is how amma has been making it for years and one which gets over in no time.

Usually amma made this during summer primarily to satisfy us,perennially hungry kids and secondarily because the scorching sun ensured the papads crisped up quite fast and according to her that is what makes the pappadavada crispy and tasty.

The recipe does sound quite daunting and time consuming but there are basically just three steps-drying the pappads in the sun till crisp,making the batter and deep frying the pappads,that doesn't sound like too much work,does it;)
Pappadavada Pappada Vada - Deep Fried Masala Pappad


Pappadam/Pappad - 25
Raw rice - 1 cup
Red chilly - 10-12
Haldi - 1/2 tsp
Hing - 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Besan/Chickpea Flour - 1/4 cup
White Til/Sesame seeds - 1 tbsp
Water as required
Oil to deep fry


Make the batter - In a mixer/grinder grind together rice(soaked for 1/2 an hour),red chilly,haldi to a smooth paste.Add enough water as required-the consistency should be slightly thinner than dosa batter.
Mix in hing,besan and salt to taste.Add the til seeds too.
Dry the pappads in the sun for 15-20 minutes or until the pappads are completely dry and start to curl up from the sides.
Keep a kadai with oil on flame and let it come to a smoking hot temperature.
Dip the crisped up pappads into the batter,one at a time and put into the hot oil.You can fry up to 5-6 pappads at a time(if you have a big kadai with required oil).
Let it cook on both sides till golden brown,remove from the oil using a slotted spoon and keep in a colander.
Cool and store in airtight containers.
  • It is very important to dry the pappads in the sun,if you use fresh pappads,it will puff up in the oil and would not be as crisp.The shelf life would be very short too.
  • You can of course double the recipe to make a big batch-since this will stay fresh for a long time,it makes for a great store-ahead snack.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Besan Laddoo /Chickpea Flour Laddoo | Indian Sweets

Besan Laddoo
Come February,sometimes late January,preparations started at home for the festival season.Our temple festival with all its pomp and glory lasts for eight days and it was a fun riot for us during childhood.It has been a while since I attended any of these functions but am glad to be home during this time and enjoying the festivities to the maximum.

Years back we had cooks coming over to prepare sweets and savories which were later distributed to family and friends.My friends waited anxiously for the sweet dabba I took to school and one sweet in particular was much in demand-Besan ladoo,they even named it Konkani laddoo:)
Besan Laddoo
Now of course,amma makes everything on her own since we only make a small batch.But when it comes to making this delicious sweet,appa takes over.I remember when I tried making this once and complained it didn't come out great,he just said one thing - don't skimp on adding ghee and sugar,that is what makes the difference.So diet watchers,eat in moderation:)

Besan Laddoo/Chickpea flour Laddoo

Besan Laddoo-ingredients 

Ingredients {makes 90 small laddoos}

Cashewnuts & Raisins - 100 gms each
Ghee,melted - 250 ml
Besan - 500 gms
Sugar,powdered - 1 kg
Cardamom powder - 1 tsp


Besan Laddoo-step1 
In a thick bottomed kadai/pan add the besan and 3-4 tbsps of ghee and mix together with your fingertips till the besan turns into a wet sand texture-this is mainly done so that when you add the ghee later on,the besan doesn't turn clumpy.
Besan Laddoo-step2 
Keep the pan on high flame and keep stirring.Add 1 tbsp ghee at regular intervals till you finish all the ghee-it will take anywhere between 10-15 minutes on a controlled flame(medium-high).
The besan should smell nutty and become a golden brown colour.
Besan Laddoo-step3 
During the last 5 minutes,add the nuts and raisins and mix well.Mix in the cardamom powder.
Besan Laddoo-step4 
Switch off the flame.Add half of the powdered sugar and mix with the roasted besan with the back of a spoon so that it mixes evenly.Mix in the rest of the sugar.
Besan Laddoo-step5 
Press the mixture with the bottom of a spoon to one side of the pan and let it rest for 5-7 minutes.
Besan Laddoo 
Take a tablespoonful besan mixture in your hands and roll into laddoos.
Besan Laddoo
  • The recipe can be easily doubled or halved.The measurement should depend on the amount of besan used-double the amount sugar and half the amount ghee.
  • If you feel the laddoos are not binding together,add a tsp or so ghee and then bind.
  • Keep stirring the besan-ghee mixture till it starts turning golden brown in colour.Control the flame throughout cooking.
  • When roasted well and kept in an airtight container,these laddoos will keep well for up to 6 months.
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