Posts Tagged ‘ bread ’

Back to Bread….

Well, I’ve had a rather long hiatus. Mostly due to my own laziness. I blame it on the heat. I’ve skipped continents again, and am now writing from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Yes, that’s in Asia.

My location has a lot to do with the theme of this entry. Having spent considerable amounts of time in two different Asian countries, and conversed with many an expat, I’ve come to the conclusion that proper whole wheat bread is really hard to find in this corner of the globe. The whole concept of eating bread, as opposed to rice or noodles or root veggies is still relatively new to  Cambodians, and so the selection around town is pretty dire.

Most Cambodian bakeries I have frequented don’t bake anything remotely similar to whole wheat bread. Some expat-minded grocery stores have what we’d call in North America 60-40… a mix of white and whole wheat flour. So, unless you are willing to cross town and dish out an extra dollar or two for a whole wheat loaf at a European bakery, you’re more or less stuck.

Enter our breadmaker. Now, we’ve had this little Panasonic bread maker for a couple of years, ever since a family friend moving back to the U.S. gave it to us, as they could no longer use it because of the difference in electric current. Despite my mother’s excitement, it sat unused in a pantry under our stairs for two years. Who could blame her? We were spoiled in Europe, as good fresh bread was basically a staple at our local grocery store.

Our move to Cambodia finally put us in such a desperate, breadless situation that I decided to see what this whole breadmaker thing was about. I’m still experimenting a lot with bread, and trying to understand the relationship between salt, sugar and yeast, so I’m not quite ready to start inventing my own stuff. I’m not quite ready for the heartbreak of an unleavened loaf just yet.

I found this great basic recipe on allrecipes.com, and tweaked it a little. I bought wholemeal grains… basically the ‘wheat’ part of whole wheat flour that you would usually buy in the west, and mixed it in with white flour to create whole wheat flour. I put in about 1.5 cups of wholemeal and then add in white flour until I have 3 cups of the mix. This usually comes to about 425-450g, which is important because you need to have the right amount of yeast, and because breadmakers usually have a maximum amount of flour you can put in. Ours has a max of 500g.

Anyway, the bread was a success! It’s very soft, slices well, and is great as sandwich bread. I usually make a loaf or two a week, depending on how fast my family eats it. I have to say, as a foodie, the most exciting part of baking the bread is the smell that fills the kitchen… and of course, cutting that first slice of the loaf. Yum yum!

In time, I want to try my hand at brioche and foccacia. Stay tuned for more breads soon, I hope.

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Indian Feast…

A few times a year, I like to make a good Indian meal. I find having a good Indian food experience in a restaurant is very expensive. It can easily set you back €200 for four people, without dessert, and without drinks. So I’ve resorted to making the food myself.

I cooked Indian food every couple months  while I was in Korea, although on a much smaller scale. I would make my own naan, but as far as the tandoori chicken or the butter chicken went, I would buy a spice pack. Thank you, Asian Kitchen!

Needless to say, a good home-made Indian meal has been a long time coming at my house, so here it is!

I started off by making my own garam masala. We didn’t have any in the house, and I couldn’t find any in Wassenaar. Fortunately for me, I had all the ingredients needed to make it. What a fluke!

Next, I made my own paneer, or cheese, for my veggie dish, palak paneer, which is basically spinach cooked in a cream and tomato sauce. The hardest part of making the paneer was tracking down cheesecloth. At one point, I decided I was going to use my sister’s (unworn) pantyhose, but then I managed to find some cheese cloth at the kitchen store in our little town. It set me back 6 euros, which I’m sure is way more than you’d pay in Canada, but I didn’t mind too much because it’s reusable and can be washed at a really high temperature.

Most recipes say to use homogenized milk, or milk with a fat content of at least 3.25%. I decided to use volle melk, which is as close as you can get to that in Holland. I googled and found that volle melk is in that same ballpark when it comes to fat content, but my experience making the milk taught me a little different. From 2 litres of volle melk, my yield was just shy of 150g worth of cheese. For anyone who plans to make their own paneer in Holland, you might be wise to use more milk than most recipes call for.

I didn’t take a picture of the paneer, but here it is in the palak paneer:

Next, I made the butter chicken…. Rather than suffering in an effort to make tandoori masala, I just added in a little more garam masala and then threw in the ingredients that were missing. The butter chicken turned out great–my only gaffe was to use a bit of ghee in an effort to sweeten the butter chicken. I ended up with an odd kind of sweet taste that was too strong, so I balanced that out with some more fenugreek, which kind of has a bitter taste.

I added a 1/4 cup of cashews to the recipe, just because it’s something I’ve seen being done in Indian restaurants, and a few other recipes recommended it. I also threw in a bit of madras curry to make the sauce a bit more flavourful. That may well be a faux pas in authentic cooking, but I found that it improved the dish quite a bit.

Most of the butter chicken I’ve tried in restaurants has been on the sweet side, so I also added in some white sugar until it tasted about right. It’s no Bombay Choupati, but I do what I can. The only thing I would do next time to improve on my dish is make it spicier… and not put ghee in it.

Next, the naan. Thanks to my sister for making and rolling out the bread. Pretty straightforward. Since I don’t have a tandoori oven, we use a bbq for the airiest results. About an hour before grilling the naan, I crushed a few cloves of garlic and put it in about a 1/4 cup of ghee. I later brushed this mixture on both sides of the naan as it grilled. It tasted just like in the restaurant!

Since we didn’t have enough yeast in the house to make a triple batch of naan (we love the stuff A LOT), I decided to add saffron rice to our menu. Thanks to my mom for cooking the rice. If you do plan to use this recipe, heed the advice and use chicken broth instead of water, it’ll make all the difference in flavour. Next time, I intend to add cashews and raisins to it for a stronger flavour.

Last but not least, the drinks! Mango lassis. There are probably some great mango lassi recipes out there, but we didn’t use any. Just some full fat yogurt, a couple cans of mangoes, some caradamom, sugar and some mango juice.

Making Indian food is always a half-day trial, but it certainly is worth it in the end. Good food facilitates good conversation 🙂