Friday, November 07, 2008

Baking Bread - From scratch !

When I have time to indulge in , all I like to do is hop , from one fabulous blog to another.
In doing so, I have come to one conclusion - food bloggers out there are extremely talented !!!
To get fussy kids to eat and more importantly like what they eat, takes creativity of an entirely new level.Each blog that I visit, adds so many more recipes to my repertoire and more importantly stretches my mind just that bit, allowing me to see how much I can let my fledgling imagination soar and work wonders in the kitchen.
Well...I have miles to go before I reach that level of expertise, but every journey must begin with a single step. And every goal of becoming an experienced bread baker must begin with the first loaf of bread ! With such an exalted aspiration, I began scouring the virtual kitchens for easy sounding bread recipes. Most of them sounded either too intimidating or too time consuming..Eventually I stumbled upon this recipe ..
I decided to try it out and was nothing short of stupefied at the result !!!

I couldn't believe at the delicious looking and smelling loaf that came out of my oven and sat alluringly on my counter top ! When it finally cooled and let itself be sliced into generous sized slices, I was more than glad that I had embarked on this quest to try my hands at making bread from scratch ! It was crusty and crispy on the outside and tender inside...perfect !

I followed Trent's recipe to the letter, so I will not bother writing it up again, until I have enough courage to tweak it and make it my recipe ! I have already made this loaf twice now and anticipate making it again and again with different flours and flavours !
Will keep you posted !

  • I do not own a stand mixer and did the kneading by hand. For the dough that is required for a couple of loaves' worth, I didnt find it too hard to do the kneading. As has been mentioned in scores of blogs, it is indeed therapeutic to get your CLEAN hands into the dough and knead it until it goes from a sticky messy mass to a smooth, round , impressive looking ball of dough.
  • I have only used white unbleached bread flour. I intend foraying into whole wheat and whole grain breads, because I am not too fond of including white bread in our diets.
  • Temperature of water, freshness of yeast and allowing the dough to rise are very important to the end result !

I will leave you with some pictures and some links to expert bakers who can explain thge process so much cleary than I can !

No doubt there are loads of helpful and expert resources available on the internet as well as in your local public libraries.I am just listing a few that make me drool every time I see the pictures!

Do you have any bread recipes that you rely on ? Do you have any tips and tricks that would make it easier for novice bakers to attempt this wonderful art ? Do share !

Green Thumb Series:Enthralling Flowers !

This is a continuation of my previous post in the same series.
This year being our first attempt at gardening, TH and I tentatively began with only a few flowering shrubs. One of the first ones that we purchased was a hibiscus plant (actually two). Hibiscus shrubs are very common in India and almost every backyard is home to at least one plant, if not more. The hibiscus flowers come in various colours, each more brilliant and enthralling than the previous one !
Although short lived ( they stay fresh on the plant for only a day), they provide a burst of blooming freshness and colour throughout their flowering season.
The hibiscus is not planted for only aesthetic purposes, however. The entire plant can be used in a variety of ways.
  • The seeds are used for their oil .
  • The leaves and fruits have diuretic properties.
  • Leaves are also used in some parts of the world as a soothing cough remedy.
  • Hibiscus flower extract is also used for liver disorders and high blood pressure.
There are recorded culinary uses as well !
  • Tender leaves and stalks are eaten in salads.
  • The flowers are also used in jams, jellies and the like.
  • A good friend has also posted a very delicious sounding idli recipe made with the leaves of the white hibiscus plant.

People familiar with Indian deities should also note that hibiscus flowers, especially red ones, are considered to be the favourite flower of Lord Ganesh.

That done, here are a few pictures of my thriving hibiscus plants. The only problem being, these are not tropical hardy hibiscus, which means that in all probability, these beauties will not survive the winter here. That would really be a shame.
Had I known in advance, I would have either opted to plant these in big containers or would have gone for the hardy variety.I guess all I can do now is take some cuttings from these plants, mulch them heavily, and pray for a tiny gardening miracle !

How can any self respecting aspiring gardener not have roses ? With hundreds of varieties to choose from, getting a few is that much easier (or that much harder, depending on how you look at it :-) )
These are the fragrant flora that bloomed in my front yard !

I couldnt resist taking a picture of this okra bud in my vegetable garden !

I will leave you for the moment with these few peeks into my humble garden. Hopefully I will have more pictures to share!
Until then, may the grass be always greener on your side of the fence !

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Green Thumb Series:Summer Rolls into Fall....

As the growing season here in Texas comes to an end, I realize that I have not posted any updates on my
gardening ventures lately. Now that I am done with the vegetable bed for the year, its time I have a few pictures in my blog !

The most successfully grown plant this season was the bottle gourd...aka sorekaayi (in Kannada), dudhi bhopLa (Marathi), lauki (Hindi)..
A mere three plants provided me with at least 20 gourds, which I happily shared with friends ! ...I am sure that if the plants had been given the support they deserved, they would have produced even more...In any event, even without the support, they did perform extremely well...taking over almost my entire vegetable patch very aggressively ...they even strangled my precious tomato plants (sob ...sob...) ..

The patch was also graced by a lone okra plant that also did well..turned into a very healthy and very tall plant ( growing to almost 6 feet)..producing several okras, although only a couple at a time..I have plans to plant many more next spring, since these plants don't require too much care, do not take up a lot of space ( this is aimed as a special dig at the bottle gourd plant).

I had very high hopes from another plant that had I had lovingly tended from seed...Its called the Mangalore cucumber ( at home we also called it as the mogekai ) ...its available in most Indian groceries as the dosekayi. The plant did well initially and also gave one big squash..but later withered away dramatically...probably did not get enough water ( blush.. blush ) in the hot weather ...I have preserved some seeds and hope to do better by it next spring !

Basil and bell peppers also deserve some mention because they did reasonably well under the circumstances.

This was my first attempt at tending a vegetable garden and I know that it is not a venture to be taken lightly...It does need a lot of work and patience.....I am too much of an amateur to pretend that I know all about it ...but I will say this...whatever the efforts, the rewards are amazing ! To be able to step into your backyard and come back into the kitchen with the makings of a healthy delicious meal is such an exhilarating feeling..I am already planning my spring bed !!!
What did you grow in your garden this year ?

Until the next post, may the grass always be greener on your side of the fence !