“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


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

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“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
Martin Luther
Apple Cinnamon Walnut Puff Pastry Parcels

Day before yesterday did not begin in a good way. I woke up to find the fridge wasn’t as cold as it was supposed to be.  Big S I G H … what an arduous task when I had my hands full with so much already. Transfer, spring clean, clear and stuff the other fridge to the gills. The upside of course was the urgency to use up my frozen puff pastry which was saved up for a rainy day! Another positive was that the fridge repair man showed up within 6 hours, was a gem, fixed the fault in 10 minutes … Woot!!

I had made the puff pastry from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook a couple of weeks ago, and it was time I used it up, so I was back to Google for  ideas. Saw turnovers, pop tarts, pies … and so much sweet and savoury ‘puff pastry deliciousness’ online. Also found Tarte Tatins that the boy has been on my case to make ever since he saw Meryl Streep making it in Julie & Julia! But then I saw a Dorie GreenspanFlaky Apple Turnovers‘ recipe on Cream Puffs in Venice, and I knew this is just what I wanted to make…

Dorie Greenspans adapted apple filling would happily be parceled into the Ottolenghis puff pastry. What a great meeting of 2 great cookbooks, and authors I admire. If you have the pastry ready, the rest is done in a matter of minutes. The filling is simply tossed together so that the apples are nicely coated with the flour mix.  There was some butter in Dories recipe, which I completely forgot about, but we didn’t miss it in these classic and quintessential parcels. This is a simple, yet delicious sweet vegetarian pastry, good for breakfast, good for a snack … and also great for dessert. I gave it a low fat cream glaze… you can give it an egg white or yolk glaze, or maybe a milk glaze.Apple Cinnamon Walnut ParcelsPuff pastry is a very versatile pastry to have on hand. A quick search online throws up infinite ways in which to use this delightful pastry. making it at home is a breeze. Do bear in mind the weather has to be cool, or cold. Summer heat and the butter will ooze out leaving you in a puddle of despair, crying copious tears. I’ve been there, so I know. For me here in North India, this is a winter pastry, indulgent and full of promise.

Apple Cinnamon Walnut Parcels I did some puff pastry savoury swirls  for someone yesterday, and they were winners. That post will be here soon too.  Am already missing the luxury of puff pastry sitting in the fridge/freezer, and can see myself making another batch pretty soon. Yay winter, and yay Ottolenghi! Do you make your own puff pastry, or do you buy ready-made? Just curious.  I have no choice but to make it; yet it isn’t as daunting as I thought it was!Apple Cinnamon Walnut Parcels

More ‘Fruit in Baking‘, a passion for me as you might know, so this is also headed for this months Monthly Mingle that I am guest hosting for my spicy-sweet friend Meeta. If you are BAKING WITH FRUIT this month, do send it in to Monthly Mingle posted HERE.

Apple Cinnamon Walnut Parcels
1/2 quantity puff pastry {recipe follows}
Apple Filling {recipe follows}
Milk/Cream for glazing
Rough Puff Pastry
from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, pg 281
{I used half portion of pastry for this recipe. I’ve used it previously in peach galettes this past summer}
300gm plain flour
1 tsp salt
180g unsalted butter, frozen
140ml ice cold water
Method for pastry:
Sift the flour and salt. Grate 80g of the frozen butter into this and mix lightly.Add the cold water, using a knife, stir the flour and water together until a dough begins to form. Now use your hands to bring it into a ball {You might need a little more water}. Press into a neat square, wrap it in cling film, and chill for 30 minutes.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle with a long edge 3 times its width. Grate the remaining butter and spread it evenly over 2/3rds of the rectangle.Take the third which is not sprinkled, and fold it over the middle of the buttered part, then fold the two layers over the remaining single layer. You will be left with 3 layers of pastry and 2 layers of butter separating them.
Turn the pastry by 90 degrees. Dust with flour and roll out into same proportions as first rectangle.Take one of the short sides and fold it over to reach the middle of the remaining part of the pastry. Fold the remaining third on top of the first one to get 3 layers on top of each other. Wrap pastry in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
Repeat again 2 more times, and chill for at least an hour. The pastry will keep in the fridge for 4 days, and in the freezer for a month.
Adapted from Baking:From My Home to Yours, Dorie Greenspan.
2 apples, chopped apples
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries/raisins
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp flour
Toss all the ingredients together and make sure the apples pieces are well coated with the flour.
Making the parcels:
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Roll out the puff pastry thin, trim the edges, and cut into 6 equal squares.
Place about 1-2 tbsp of the apple filling in the centre of each. Draw the four edges up to the centre, using a drop of cream to seal the corners when they meet. Place the trimmings on top of each other, gently press together, and cut out small hearts if you like. Stick the heart to the top with a drop of cream. {Don’t over stuff the parcels or they might pop open while baking}
Brush the tops of th pastry with milk/light cream, sprinkle with vanilla sugar, and bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and puffy. Transfer onto a cooling rack.
Serve warm maybe with a drizzle of unsweetened light cream.Apple Cinnamon Walnut Parcels
♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥

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“The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.”
Erma Bombeck

Ricotta & Spinach RouladeThe word Roulade originates from the French word “rouler” meaning “to roll”. Often more popular in the sweet version as a Swiss roll etc, I find a savoury version absolutely enticing. I found this recipe on  Design Sponge, whose post feed  I eagerly wait for. There is always something to grab the eyeballs – food, amazing DIY, sneak peeks, and creative ‘before and afters’ – always a mixed bag, and immensely inspiring.  Imagine my glee when I saw the Yotam Ottolenghi recipe on their list that day!

I ♥ the Ottolenghi philosophy – it’s refreshing!

Ricotta & Spinach RouladeOur food is familiar and straight forward, yet highly innovative. It is familiar because it is personal. It is made and served by a group of people who love preparing food as well as indulging in it, gorging on it, chatting about it endlessly. It is a way of life, somewhere between a healthy obsession and a bad habit we can’t kick.

YES indeed, Ottolenghi continues to charm. I hadn’t had enough of their first book, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, and along came the second – Plenty! Plenty is plenty full of savoury stuff, no sweetness, yet has met with rave reviews everywhere. The book’s on my wishlist, though I am yet to bake through the first one. It’s a dream to visit one of the Ottolenghi eateries in the London.

Ricotta & Spinach RouladeMade the ricotta 2 days in advance. I always make it at home from a simple Levobitz recipe that works with success each time. The bell peppers were roasted a day before as well, so there wasn’t much to do on ‘roulade day‘!  Was I pleased to see shiny and smooth dough? Oh yes I was. I don’t have a sturdy Kitchen Aid {sigh, another dream}, but  recently bought an electric hand beater which seems to be made of sterner stuff than my previous one that died. It came with dough hooks, so dough making is slightly simpler, and I almost got knocked off my perch when my eyes met ‘smooth and shiny’ dough. I kneaded it for a few minutes just in case! You can never be too sure of dough, can you?

Ricotta & Spinach Roulade - OttolenghiI like to use fresh yeast, and the dough had doubled in less than 30 minutes. Must be the yeast because the weather has really begun to cool down, so it certainly wasn’t the room temperature. It’s a HUGE relief when the yeast does its work! Rolling the dough was simple as can be too. Smooth and shiny is a lovely dough to work with. Tray lined with dough, and the layering and rolling was great fun too! Maybe I am finally getting the hang of rolling along length and breath! Maybe!!

Ricotta & Spinach Roulade - OttolenghiI divided the dough into thirds. Made a bigger roulade with 2/3rd dough, and a second one that was smaller. We are a family that loves our bread, and I thought one big loaf might not be enough, so I made a smaller one for the kids, which I baked for dinner. The Ottolenghi loaf on Design Sponge is more bready in the picture, more dough in the roulade. Mine was a much thinner lot of dough in the bread, but I think I prefer it like this. Very very nice.

Ricotta & Spinach Roulade - OttolenghiThe possibilities are endless. Ricotta and spinach {and mozzarella} were really really nice, though I passed the greens off as basil to the kids who still balk at spinach!! Above all, a great vegetarian option {if you don’t take into account the egg in the dough}. We had a little bit left over, and the kids had cold slices with dinner the next night … happily so! I daresay that the roulade will taste very nice with a chicken, mushroom and cheese filling too.

Ricotta & Spinach Roulade-Ottolenghi

On the side, I made French beans flavoured with garlic and chili oil. These beans are  inspired by  Chargrilled Brocolli with Chili & Garlic from the Ottolenghi cookbook. I julienned some red and yellow bell peppers, placed them in a big bowl, and threw the freshly blanched, drained French beans over them. Poured some garlic and red chili flake flavoured EVOO over this, added a dash of vinegar and tossed it all together! Made for a quick, nice side put together once the bread was baked and resting a while.

Ricotta & Spinach RouladeThat wasn’t enough, so I also made a warm potato salad, again an Ottolenghi recipe, this one from Plenty.  I don’t have the book, but I found the recipe on the Wednesday Chef. It’s a rather fetching salad, made with gently breaking freshly boiled potatoes, and adding regular yogurt, EVOO and a few others ingredient’. I skipped the horse radish, added some sea salt,  freshly minced garlic and a squeeze of lime. Mmmm… NICE!! I’ve made it before where I’ve added some chopped red onion, bell peppers and fresh basil. The whole lunch had very trademark Ottolenghi flavours!

Ricotta & Spinach Roulade-OttolenghiRicotta and Spinach Roulade
(serves 6)
Recipe from Design*Sponge
Adapted minimally from a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe
Dough Ingredients
160 ml (2/3 cup) full-fat milk
20 gm fresh yeast {or 2 tsp dried active yeast}
1 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 whole medium egg
½ tsp salt
350 g {3 cups minus one tablespoon} plain flour
200gms homemade ricotta, well drained, grated
½ tsp salt
100 g spinach leaves
10-15  basil leaves
200 g mozzarella
3-4 red bell peppers, chargrilled, strips { tossed in 2 tbsp EVOO, and 3 cloves chopped garlic}
To Finish
2 tbsp milk {or 1 egg, beaten}
1 handful of poppy seeds
In a small saucepan, warm up the milk very slightly, just to about 30°C {barely warm}. Add the yeast and stir to dissolve. Set aside for about 10 minutes to activate the yeast. Add the melted butter, oil, and beaten egg to this and stir to mix.
Place the rest of the dough ingredients in a large bowl {or the bowl of an electric mixer}. Add the yeast and milk  mixture and work with a dough hook on slow speed for about 2 minutes. Increase to high speed and knead for another 7 minutes, by which point the dough should become a smooth, shiny ball { I did this with an electric hand blender with dough hooks for about 3 minutes, and was thrilled to see it come together smooth and shiny. I did knead for an extra minute by hand}.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl brushed with a little oil. Cover the bowl with a wet cloth and put it somewhere warm. After about 45 minutes, once the dough has doubled in size, line an oven tray 30 cm x 40 cm (roughly 12 in. x 16 in.) with baking parchment. {You can make one roulade, or two as I did}
Ricotta & Spinach RouladeRoulade
Transfer the dough to a work surface dusted very lightly with flour and roll it out thinly so it reaches the size of the tray. Line the tray with the dough, pulling it right out into the corners. Cover with the tea towel again and leave for 30 minutes.
Once the rolled-out dough has risen significantly, cover it with the filling. Use a palette knife to spread the grated ricotta all over the surface, sprinkle salt and then scatter the spinach, red bell pepper strips, basil and mozzarella.
Carefully pick up one of the longer sides of the dough and roll and push it all up into a neat spiral log shape. Stand the log on the seam so it doesn’t unravel when baked. Cover the tray in the tea towel again and leave for another 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C
Brush the roulade’s surface gently with the milk and then scatter on the poppy seeds. Make sure the oven has reached 200°C and then put the tray inside. After 10 minutes, reduce the temperature to 160°C.
Continue baking for roughly 25 minutes. Don’t worry if the roulade breaks or cracks a little. When ready, it should have taken on a nice dark brown color. Stick a sharp knife inside to check. It should come out with some melted cheese but no dough.
Remove the roulade from the oven, allow it to cool down a little {or completely} and cut into thick slices. Serve immediately with a salad.

Ricotta & Spinach Roulade ♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥

More savoury breads from my friends you might enjoy:
Olive Oil Bread with Rosemary and Walnuts
Stuffed Bread Braid with Feta, Fresh Dill, and Black Olives
Ciabatta ai Funghi
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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

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