Baking| Ottolenghis Brilliant Focaccia … doesn’t get better than this!

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.”
M.F.K. Fisher

Ottolenghis FocacciaIt was bread baking day. Sometime days are like that, now rather rare, and with a relatively ‘free’ day comes the urge to make bread. Chatting with Sangeeta on FB, she was sipping her morning tea, me already on my second coffee and the laundry whirring annoyingly, I was hit with a ‘bread baking feeling . By afternoon I had a brilliant Focaccia bursting with flavour yelling to get out of the oven!Ottolenghis FocacciaThe bread recipe caught me by surprise. In my head I had a slightly quicker bread, something which would just do a single rise, yeast & all. I turned to one of my all time favourite books, Ottolenghi, The Cookbook but didn’t read the recipe thoroughly though …Ottolenghis Focaccia I always heel ‘happy’ when I read the book – so much quality food, fresh produce holding the key to the end result, recipes from the heart, colours and flavours that leap out of the pages … and photographs that tantalise the tastebuds! Even if I don’t cook / bake out of it, it keeps me strangely satisfied!Ottolenghis Focaccia I weighed the ingredients, added the water … and took a double take! This was just the starter, or a preferment! There was going to be LOTS of bread! For some reason the elder teen rejects bread these days because of her diet, cutting back carbs etc, yet the rainy weather had me in a bread baking frame of mind!! I wanted to bake real bread, slow bread … not a quick, non yeast bread!Ottolenghis Focaccia Thankfully the trusted Thermomix is always at hand and takes the work out of kneading. There was plenty of rising to happen. First the preferment, then the 1st rise, then some folding {almost like rough puff pastry}, then some more rise. All this folding and rising resulted in a delightfully nice dough… and in turn, a delightfully nice bread!Ottolenghis Focaccia I baked half on day one and punched down the other half and refrigerated it for day two. NICE!! It was even better the next day with a third slow rise in the fridge … and ‘bubbly and squeaky‘ as Dorie Greenspan would call it! It’s a beautiful dough to have in the fridge. Both days the bread didn’t last long… quite an addictive bake!Ottolenghis Focaccia Even the dieting diva loved it and couldn’t stop nibbling. It’s no nice and chewy she declared! That’s the beauty of Ottolenghis recipes…they ALWAYS deliver. The kids had focaccia sandwiches for dinner that night with chicken salami, homemade pesto and mozzarella. The verdict – ♥♥♥!Ottolenghis FocacciaThe dehydrated tomatoes from Fab India were SO disappointing; I’m not going back there in a hurry! On the other hand, the queen olives stuffed with pimento from Leonardo are absolute winners. That jar’s not safe once it’s open … you cannot keep away from it … delectable! So is the Leonardo Gold Olive Oil that I slathered on top … it just made the bread sing!!Ottolenghis FocacciaIt’s a bread I am going to make often. I like that it baked even better the next day, so maybe the next time I leave it in the fridge for a slow overnight rise. Bread baking days are here again … and I’m loving it!! I am also excited as I have a sourdough starter from Sangeeta on my counter {it’s alive and bubbling I think} and I can see more bread in the coming days!

Other recipes from Ottolenghi on PAB

Ricotta and Spinach Roulade
Dried Cranberry & Walnut Bread
Chargrilled Broccoli Salad
Carrot Walnut Cake with Mascarpone Frosting
Olive Oil Crackers
Preserved Limes
Milled Nut Flour Macarons with Dark Chocolate Ganache
Individual Cherry & Plum Clafoutis

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

Baking| Ottolenghi’s Olive Oil Crackers … catering to the dieting diva!

“I have never gone to the bathroom in my life that a small voice on the other side of the door hasn’t whined, “Are you saving the bananas for anything?”
Erma Bombeck

Olive Oil Crackers“I’m on a diet!!” she declared yet again, perhaps trying to convince herself more than anyone else. It was the typical troubling tiresome teen time all over again. The diet drama is into its second week, but is wildly swinging, and so is the mood!Olive Oil CrackersMost discussion takes place over the after school snack. Much to his delight, junior happily tries to grab the cookies off her plate. “I’ll take it if she doesn’t want it,” he charmingly whispers. One withering look from me, and the cookie is left alone, under her nose, tempting her, yet not quite. Then I sit and try and get her attention. “I haven’t eaten anything all day,” she mumbles. Do I sense self pity?  Low fat food

Then the Mama begins to talk, maybe preach. “Eat sensibly. These cookies have oats and whole wheat. These are healthy, eat them”. Home made fresh lime juice is grabbed out of the fridge and guzzled. How long can we stay hungry? Milk is given a withering look, yet its arrival in the garb of a strawberry banana  smoothie {banana not disclosed} meets sweet surrender. Slurrrp!! Game on! Next day… “Will you have some chocolate granola? It’s got complex carbs, no butter, well almost none”. “Yes please.” An orange is always eaten without a whine…she loves it! Vary the platter is my inner call, so it’s Orange Marmalade Oats Energy Bars on offer another day … always a winner!Olive Oil CrackersAll this drama got me thinking, and reminded me of these olive oil crackers. A sweet charming Delhi foodie called me a few days ago, was between jobs, and wondered if I would teach her to decorate a cake. ‘Of course’, I said. She was over a few days later. We talked non stop for the 3 hours that she was here. While the banter hung around cookbooks for a longtime, we discussed Ottolenghi The Cookbook, and she mentioned making the olive oil crackers from an Ottolenghi recipe off the net. She was determined to get herself a copy of the book as she leafed through mine. {I ♥ that book that Hilda gave me}.Cake deco demoWe had a great morning decorating her home baked cake. Nidhi is a quick learner and a wonderful person. She brought an eggless cake {she’s severely allergic to eggs}, and we gave it a dark chocolate ganache, a spiderweb on top, made a chocolate lace border and topped it with a fanned out strawberry… all in the span of an hour. She loved it!!The cracker conversationcame back to me a few days later when the teen said she was ‘still’ on a diet. Ottolenghi time again,  a cookbook I love to use. I’m surprised I never did these crackers before! They’ve become a staple at home. I’ve made them over and over again with different toppings. I substituted a little plain flour with whole wheat flour, and they were very very good indeed.  Toppings I used were sea salt, Tuscan dried herbs, minced garlic, pepper, sesame, poppy seeds. The next batch included garlic paste added to the dough … yes, we love garlic! Did I tell you I finally got my Thermomix? Santa got here late,  but in many ways, better late than never is great!! Making this dough is an absolute cinch in the machine!Olive Oil CrackersMade a roasted red bell pepper garlic dip to go with the crackers, spiced by a dash of home made sriracha type sweet chili garlic sauce which was finger licking good. For another batch I made a home made quark dip - tangy, garlicky and ever so creamy! Ottolenghi has the dough divided into 25 walnut shaped balls, and each rolled as thin as possible into ‘witches tongue‘ like shapes! I just divided the dough into 4, rolled it out as thin as possible, splashed it with EVOO, sprinkled the toppings and cut rectangles with a pastry wheel. I think this is a lot easier than rolling individual crackers, though the witches tongues sound wickedly enticing! You must try whichever grabs your fancy, and if you like crisp savoury crackers then these are for you! Healthy and addictive!!

Olive Oil Crackers

Olive Oil Crackers
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50gm whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
115ml water
25ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Maldon flaky salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, minced garlic etc for sprinkling/topping

Olive Oil CrackersMethod:
Combine all the ingredients except the sea salt in a large bowl. Bring it together, and then turn onto a work surface and knead briefly until smooth. Wrap in cling film and leave it to rest for an hour in the fridge. {I kept a batch overnight as well, and it worked just fine}.
Line 2-3 trays with baking parchment.
Preheat the oven to 220°C . On a well floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll a quarter of the dough at a time, as thin as possible. {or you can divide the dough into 25 pieces and roll out thin tongues as described by Ottolenghi.}
Use lots of flour to ensure the dough doesn’t stick to the surface. Brush the top generously with olive oil, then sprinkle on the sea salt, or topping of your choice. Cut into rectangles with a pastry cutter.
Place the crackers on the prepared tray. Bake for 6 – 7 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. Store in an airtight container.
Olive Oil CrackersThank you for stopping by

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Featured as the Food News Journal Daily Recipe for March 28th, 2011

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

Baking| Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd Napoleans … ♥Happy V Day♥

“Gastronomy is and always has been connected with its sister…
…art of love.”

M.F.K. Fisher

Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd Napoleans14th morning is always an action replay of the days gone by. He will come and announce {without fail} that we first met on the 13th of Feb many years ago. 21 years!! Can’t believe it’s been that long. Mr PAB has a memory that astounds me,  and in many ways is my personal journal – birthdays, anniversaries, who died when etc, each day with marked by an event significant to the time elapsed. He offers me time-lines whether I want it or not, often a balm to my cluttered mind. I do the more mundane practical stuff -  insurances, bank work, bills, payday for Man Friday, the gardener etc!Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd NapoleansRed is the colour of passion or so they say. IMHO, V Day is much over-hyped and a commercial oversell for new lovers! Me? Give me the vibrant colours of nature and I’m inspired. Roasted red bell pepper sauce, a fiery yet sweet Sriracha {finally made it and it’s yum!}, strawberries … all colour my world. {Daughters red painting too!}redI am far from a mushy V Day person, yet there’s something magnetic about all the red one sees around this time of the year. It tends to get to me, making me obsess about a Valentine Day special, for PAB though. Blogs are resplendent with sweetheart desserts, one more charming than the other,  often more amazing than any you’ve ever seen, and they egg me on to post some love on V Day too.Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd NapoleansI fell for the trap of this love filled or rather love-fueled day. More red & more lv after the heart shaped Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer Cake. The bazaar is still flooded with the most gorgeous red strawberries, the second annual wave in India every year. The fruit & veggie vendor, or fruitwala, is a persuasive fellow, charming me with the shiny red berry. Knocks off a fraction of the price. ‘Specially for you,‘ he says. In my heart I know he says this to many regulars, but I get talked into it and come back in a gleeful mood.Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd NapoleansWhat shall I make is the eternal question? Waffles are really on top of my list since I saw El’s gorgeous Belgian Waffles post, but after a headless chicken dance on soccer Saturday, a Sunday morning waffle exercise falls flat. By the time we get our act together, it’s almost time for lunch. The teen has been up doing art work since 5am and at 8am decides its time for nap number 2. Wild horses can’t drag the dieting diva out of bed … so dessert it has to be!Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd NapoleansRough puff pastry in the freezer is a bad thing, possibly worse than I ever thought it would be. Do you think so too? It has hypnotizing powers and is the easiest thing to have in the freezer. Did me in for World Nutella Day when I made Nutella Strawberry Puff Pastry Hearts. It threw me a line of temptation yesterday too. Quick check of the fridge revealed low fat cream, home made easy lemon curd, strawberries and of course rough puff pastry! Time for mille fueille, the classic French dessert which holds endless charm, and one I’ve never baked before. Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd NapoleansIf you have puff pastry on hand, this is an indulgent dessert on fast track. I used whipped lemon curd cream instead of pastry cream, the latter I think is quintessential to the classic version. Also cut out a few hearts on top to go with the V Day theme, gave the tops a brushing of egg yolk, and sprinkled some vanilla sugar on top {which you can see got caramelised}. I suppose regular puff pastry would yield a more layered Napoleon vis-a-vis rough puff pastry, but the later is simpler to make at home and is fine with me.Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd Napoleans

The Napoleon is a pastry made of many layers of puff pastry with filling alternating the layers. It can be eaten as a dessert, or even as a decadent meal. As a French pastry it is called mille-feuilles, or thousand leaves, and it is usually filled with whipped cream, pastry cream, and fruit preserves – most often raspberry jam. The topping may be simply powdered sugar, or a layer of fondant, often with strings of chocolate drawn into a chevron design. In Italy, where the pastry is thought to have originated in Naples, it is called mille foglie (again, thousand leaves), and contains a similar layering like the mille-feuilles of cream, pastry cream, and fruit preserves. A traditional napoleon is filled with plain pastry cream but if desired you may add a thin layer of fruit preserves such as seedless raspberry or strawberry jam or preserves to the filling.

Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd NapoleansStrawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd Napoleans
200ml low fat cream
200gms strawberries, sliced
1 egg yolk lightly whisked with a fork for glaze

Vanilla sugar for sprinkling {optional}

Method:
Roll out the puff pastry to a 1/4″ height, trim the edges, and cut into 9 equal rectangles. Cut out hearts in 3 of them if you like, and place rectangles and cut out hearts on a baking tray.
Place tray in the freezer while you preheat the oven to 225C.
Brush the pastry with the glaze, sprinkle with vanilla sugar if using, and bake for 20-25 minutes till puffy and golden.
Cool on racks, and then carefully split each horizontally into 2 with a sharp knife. or the tines of a fork. {You can get 3 layers if you use regular and not rough puff pastry}
Whip the cream to medium peak, and then gently but thoroughly fold in the lemon curd. The cream should thicken quite well now. {You won’t need to add sugar as the lemon curd is quite sweet on it’s own.}
Reserve the heart cut out layers for the pastry tops. {I used the tops and bottoms to give me ♥ cut out tops}
Spread about 1 1/2 tbsp of the whipped lemon curd cream on the bottom layer, and layer with strawberry slices. Top with a middle layer of pastry. Repeat and finally top with remaining pastry layers. Garnish with sliced strawberries if you like. Chill up to 1 hour.Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd Napoleans

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥

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