Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Fat King - Coffee Buns aka Papparoti

We often talk about how our lives, as kids, were so simple and carefree...But then again, as I watch my toddler grow and develop his own opinions, feelings and fears, I realize a child's mind is SO much more complex!

How else does one explain his strategies for managing his fear of the Fat King Chair? - a name he coined - having associated the chair with one of our bedtime reads - Fat King, Thin Dog.  It is a simple illustrated book in which a Fat King becomes thin after running after his Thin Dog "for many days".  
Now the Fat King Chair refers to two fairly large wooden chairs which are placed near our dining table at home.  There is absolutely no resemblance to anything in the book, yet my son has managed to create some form of an association.  Nothing intimidating about the chair - yet he has managed to develop a fear of it.  

So much, that he would much rather take the longer route around the dining table than walk past these chairs. If he has no choice but to go near the Fat King Chair, he makes sure I am seated on it. 

And this happens every single day, much to our amusement. The most endearing part, though, is that he has not one, but two strategies to deal with the chair!

As I write this, I realize, we grown ups, too have our Fat King Chair moments - moments when for no apparent reason, we tend get intimidated by situations and our surroundings.  

This was my case with these amazing Coffee Buns, popularized by  Papparoti across the world.  I was so fascinated the first time I tried these buns, that I got my hands on the recipe almost immediately....and carried it around for almost a year because I was too nervous to even try!

For those of you haven't tried Papparoti as yet. it's an amazing mastery of bread and butter - served with a crisp exterior while soft and warm with a  melting blob of butter on the inside!

This recipe is quite long and time consuming.  So attempt this recipe on a day you have time for yourself.  The original recipe says it yields 22, but I got 20 decently sized buns.  You don't need to bake all of them at once.  Once the buns are shaped and ready for the final rise, keep aside the buns you want to bake and freeze the rest.

The final result was a proud moment of success! The buns were not as sweet as the original, yet they tasted great and had the perfect texture.

So make, eat and enjoy - don't complain about the calories of this one - take a lesson from the Fat King...and RUN!

Coffee Buns 
by Ameera


For the Pre-dough 
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup bread flour

For the sponge dough
2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons caster sugar
3/4-1 cup warm water

For the final dough
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter ( room temp)
1/2 teaspoon vital wheat gluten – I omitted this 
1 1/2 eggs
2 crushed ice cubes
1 3/4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon liquid honey
4 tablespoons powdered milk or 4 tablespoons dry buttermilk
For the filling
170 g salted butter, cut into 22 pieces 
Place the cut pieces in freezer until needed
For the topping
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temp)
1 cup minus 2 tbs icing sugar
4 teaspoons instant coffee
1 tablespoon hot water
1 1/2 eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons powdered milk


Pre Dough
  • Heat Water on stove over high heat until hot (does not have to be boiling, just close to it).
  • Turn heat down to low and add flour and stir till well combined.
  • Place in bowl, covered with plastic wrap and leave in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
Sponge Dough
  • Add all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and knead for 6 minutes. The dough should be a very soft dough--it is ok if it is sticky.
  • Shape into a ball, and cover bowl with plastic wrap or damp kitchen towel and leave to rest in a warm place for 90 minutes to rise
Final Dough
  • Add the caster sugar, salt, milk powder, and vital wheat gluten and knead another 30 seconds.
  • Add the eggs, honey, and crushed ice and knead for a minute.
  • Add the bread flour and knead for a minute. 
  • Add the butter and knead for about 10 minutes until elastic--you may need to add bread flour if it is too sticky.  If you are kneading using your standing mixer, then use your hands to do the final kneading.  Alternate between kneading and throwing the dough down on to the work surface to get an elastic and less sticky dough.
  • Shape into a ball, place back into the mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap or damp towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  • Grease your hands with some butter or oil, and divide the dough into 20 -22 pieces. Tip: Weigh each portion to ensure you get similar sized buns approx. 55 g each
  • Shape a piece into a ball, flatten a bit, and add a piece of butter.
  • Pinch the dough over the butter and roll back into a ball.
  • Flatten to 1/2 inch and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper (place the side that you pinch up over the butter facing down).  Tip: At this point, you can freeze the buns to be baked later.  You will need to thaw the frozen buns completely at room temperature and let them rise – this may take around 2-3 hours. 
  • Cover with damp kitchen towel and leave to rest/rise for 45-50 minutes.
  • About 15 minutes before it is done resting/rising, pre-heat your oven to 180 C. 
  • Dissolve the instant coffee with the hot water.
  • With an electric mixer on low, beat the butter, icing sugar and coffee for 30 seconds to a minute till mixed and smooth.
  • Add the eggs and beat for another 30 seconds.
  • Add the flour and milk powder slowly and beat on low for 30 seconds and then on high for another minute or so until mixed well.
  • Take a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle and fill with the topping mixture.
  • Pipe the filling on top of each bun in a twirly circular pattern starting from the outer edge of the bun so that it coats the bun completely upon baking. Ideally only the golden topping should be seen - my frosting was not perfect which is why you can see some white spots - lesson learned for next time!.  Tip: Do not go overboard with the topping – else the outside will not become crisp after baking. 
  • Bake for around 18 min, or until lightly golden brown.
  • Take out and place on cooling rack -- but you only need to let them rest there for a minute or two -- the topping will still be slightly soft, but will get more crisp as it sits outside the oven.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

When Love Wanes - Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

My 2.5 year old son's love for oatmeal has simply amused me over the last few months.  He needs it like an adult needs coffee to start his morning!   It need not be laden with sugar - even though he has a kind of sweet tooth previously unknown to man - all he needs is a teeny weeny drizzle of honey - to satisfy his view on food aesthetics I guess?

Many say I am lucky to have such an easy child - but mind you, I have to be prepared for the day my son flings the bowl of oatmeal right back at me!

Luckily, oatmeal transforms itself into a desirable ingredient as it does in these wonderfully soft and chewy cookies.

I have tried many recipes looking for the perfect chocolate chip cookies but most end up being either too hard or too cake-like.  This recipe, however turns out perfect each time - it does not leave me wanting to try some mass produced cookies from a box - nor does it leave me wishing I had bought cookie dough from the store!

I sometimes roll the dough into a log, cover it in some cling wrap and freeze it.  When I am ready to bake, I just cut even 1/2 inch slices and place on the cookie sheet to bake.

You could have a lot of fun with this recipe - try a cranberry and white chocolate combo, throw in some raisins instead of the chocolate chips - add some walnuts for some crunch...

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt - omit if using salted butter
2 cups oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • Preheat the oven to 180 C
  • In a standing mixer, using the paddle attachment mix together the butter and sugar until light an fluffy
  • Add the egg and mix for until the mixture becomes pale
  • Add in the flour, baking soda and salt and mix until well combined
  • Fold in the oats and chocolate chips.  (I choose to do this step using my hands or the mixer to ensure the ingredients are evenly distributed.  Use the chocolate chips straight out of the fridge or freezer so they don't melt while being mixed around!)
  • Use a teaspoon (yields around 50) or a tablespoon (yields around 24) to measure out the cookie dough and shape into balls.  
  • Place them on the cookie sheet with sufficient space apart
  • Bake for 10-12 minute until the edges are golden
  • Let the cookies cool completely before transferring them out of the sheet
  • moderation of course!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Little Ambitions - Goan Recheado Paste

Red Snapper in Recheado Paste
My signature dish as a young child was December, commonly known as kachumber or raita….yes, the plain old yoghurt salad with cut vegetables.  Don’t ask me why I referred to it as December – but the name has been etched in so many people’s memories that this story is blog worthy! 
I used to spend the large part of my summer in my grandmother’s kitchen, making december - my contribution for the day’s meal. I was all of seven years old then, but, I insisted on sitting on the palaka, a low stool,  and chopping all the veggies – including fiery green chillies.

 My december making obsession ended, however, after an unfortunate encounter with the chilli.  Pretending to wipe non-existent sweat off my brow, my chilli laden fingers grazed over my eye.  No words can describe the pain I experienced that day – but there was lots of screaming and crying.

For many, this incident (sadly) brought about the end of having december with every meal.  For me, it was a lesson learned – but the curiosity and love for food remained – everything about it – its flavours, colours and aromas.

So while I had a lovely relaxing holiday in Goa with my family last month – there was a deep sense of urgency to return home – because I wanted to whip up my version of recheado masala we had at Mum's Kitchen in Panjim.  To my sheer delight, I had the recipe waiting for me in the August edition of BBC’s GoodFood magazine!

Recheado paste is so flavourful and vibrant that one tends to forget it is made with a whole lot of chillies!  This recipe makes approximately 350 g of the paste and can be stored in the refrigerator in a lidded jar.  I used Kashmiri dried red chillies – as they lend a more vibrant colour with less heat.   I tweaked the recipe – and added a little more ginger, garlic and pepper.  You could play around with the proportions – but as you will see the true stars of the recipe are the chillies and vinegar.

I pan fried a slice of red snapper that had been rubbed with salt and coated in the recheado paste with a squeeze of lime at the end.  How much of the paste you use is really up to you – the Goans are more liberal with the paste and serve up a dish which has more sauce.  As with most pastes and sauces, get creative with recheado and make your signature dish!

Goan Recheado Paste
Adapted from a recipe by Fatima Da Silva Gracias

Dried Red Chillies 50 g
Garlic paste  1 tsp  or approx. 5 cloves of garlic cloves
Ginger Paste 1 tsp  or approx 2 inch piece of ginger
Cloves   4
Cinammon Powder 1 tsp or 1 inch stick cinnamon
Pepper Powder   1 tsp  or 7-8 whole peppercorns
Cumin Seeds 1 tsp
Turmeric  ½ tsp
Sugar     1 tbsp
Vinegar  200 ml

Grind all the ingredients together until a smooth paste is formed.
Refrigerate and store in a lidded jar.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Indulgence - Baked Oreo Cheesecake

Managing a food blog while fasting is quite a tough task I tell you.  Especially for someone like me who does taste tests during every stage of cooking.  I could do a blog post on pasta and its various stages of "doneness".  And yes, I will be the first to admit, I taste cake and cookie batters too.

So you can imagine my nervousness when I brought out dessert to end the sumptuous lunch we had on Eid day.  A fabulous looking Baked Oreo Cheesecake it was.  I had to wait a whole day to find out how it tasted!

I have wanted to bake an Oreo Cheesecake for a really long time.  I have some fond memories of spending a summer with my sisters in Boston back in 1997, when for the first time I got to experience the excesses of American food portions.  A sweltering summer afternoon found my sister and me at an ice cream shop ordering the largest scoop size the store had to offer – in a cone. Summer was not as generous as the store – the ice creams melted before we could finish them, and trailed behind us as we walked home :).  That Boston summer saw many firsts for my palate -  bagels, pizzas topped with pineapple, molten chocolate cakes and of course that strange dessert made using cheese and cookies!

Coming back to the recipe for my Baked Oreo Cheesecake, I will be very honest – this is not your everyday dessert – certainly not compatible with the calorie conscious – and insists on having many people to devour it (16 as per the recipe).
The recipe is pretty straightforward.  The only thing I substituted was the sour cream -  I used hung yoghurt instead. This cheesecake needs to be refrigerated for at least 24 hours before serving – so plan to make this the day before your party. 

The verdict?  A cheesecake that tasted as fabulous as it looked! It had the perfect creamy texture, the right level of sweetness and sure was a crowd pleaser! 

Baked Oreo Cheesecake
Adapted from recipe by Stephanie Manley

23 Oreo cookies
2 tbsp butter, melted

3 X 225g packages cream cheese (I used Philadelphia cream cheese)
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup all purpose flour
1 cup sour cream or hung yoghurt
14 Oreo cookies, roughly broken into small pieces

Using a food processor or a rolling pin, crush the Oreo cookies into crumbs.

Mix melted butter with Oreo crumbs and press in the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Keep mixer on a low setting during the mixing and beating process.

Add sugar gradually and continue beating cream cheese until mixed through.

Add eggs one at a time and continue to beat until blended.

Stir vanilla, salt and flour into cream cheese and egg mixture.

Add the hung yoghurt

Turn off the mixer. If at this stage, the mixture still seems lumpy, run it through a sieve. 

Gently stir in the 5 coarsely chopped Oreo cookies with a spoon.

Pour mixture into the springform pan; top with the 7-9 remaining coarsely chopped cookies.

Place pan in a preheated oven at 160 degrees and bake for 60- 75 minutes or until it jiggles slightly in the middle when the pan is gently shaken. (I baked mine at 170 C – and my cheesecake cracked despite following the recipe – hence, I suggest trying a lower temperature setting). 

Turn off the oven, prop the door open several inches and let the cheese cake stay in the oven for one hour.

Cool on wire rack. When cooled completely, refrigerate for 24 hours

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Who Kneads Bread? - Stuffed Rolls

Contrary to what my absence from this blog may suggest,  I have been cooking quite a lot these past few weeks.  Fact is, I have the misfortune of owning a camera, which can be best described as temperamental! Nonetheless, I did finally manage to get a few clicks of these wonderful Stuffed Rolls.

I used to be very wary about any recipe that involved kneading.  Trust me, I have had my share of disasters!  But if one doesn't try, one will never learn! As Julia Child once wrote - "No one is born a great cook - one learns by doing".  

I made these rolls in preparation for Ramadan (the Muslim month of fasting) and had planned on freezing them and reheating however many I needed at the time of breaking our fast.  That didn't go quite as these rolls got polished off even before they hit the freezer! :)

So yes, these are bound to be a family favourite!  Don't be intimidated by the many steps in the recipe. It does take a bit of patience - but invites a whole a lot of creativity!  

For the dough
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 20 g salted butter, cut into small cubes (if using unsalted butter - add 1 tsp salt)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1  beaten egg yolk
Rub the butter into the flour until it is evenly combined
Dissolve the yeast in warm water.
Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture, sugar, milk and whole egg.
Knead till it forms a soft dough.

Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for approx 1 1/2 hours or until double in size. 

Punch down the dough and knead again.  If the dough is too sticky to work with, add a little flour on to the work surface and knead. 

Divide into equal portions and shape into balls

Flatten ball into a disc, add 1 tsp of filling of your choice in the center.  Gather the edges around the filling.  Pinch the center and turn the ball to remove excess dough and to ensure the filling is sealed inside.

Allow for the stuffed dough to rest for another 20 mins.  Place the rolls in a baking dish with enough distance among them (they will rise again).  Brush the rolls with egg yolk and bake in a preheated oven at 200 C for 20 - 25 mins.  

The Filling
  • 250 g minced lamb
  • 2 onions, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 2 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tomato, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tsp lime juice
Heat oil in a pan.  Add cumin seeds.  As they start spluttering, add the chopped onions and saute until golden brown.
Add ginger and garlic pastes and saute for another 2 - 3 mins.
Add the minced meat and cook until browned.
Add salt and spices and cook until well combined
Add the chopped tomatoes.  Cover and cook until the tomatoes have softened and melted into meat mixture.
Take off heat.  Add juice of lime and mix well.
Allow for the mixture to cool before using it as a filling

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Going Green - Methi & Corn Kababs

One of my favourite scenes from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding is when Toula tries to tell Aunt that her fiance is a vegetarian.  She responds in utter  disbelief - What do you mean he don't eat no meat? - pauses and then smiles as she discovers a solution - Oh, that's okay. I make lamb.

I love this scene because it mirrors the predicament many of us face.  In my culture, where serving meat  is a way of respecting and honouring the guest, how does one that same honour and respect into vegetarian fare?  Tough one I tell you.  Even tougher - catering to a vegetarian who is choosy about his/her veggies!

This takes me back to the time my father invited a Jain couple to our home for lunch.  The wife followed the Jain diet strictly. Not only was she vegetarian, but she didn't eat onions, ginger, garlic, carrots, potatoes or any other root vegetables.  I don't think I have ever seen my mother as stressed over serving up a meal than I did on that day!  Yet, we managed to have a great spread on the table! :)

While these Methi & Corn Kababs certainly do not substantiate a vegetarian meal, they are a great snack - healthy, nutritious and freeze well.  I love the contrast of flavours in these kababs- the sweetness of the corn against the mild bitterness of the fenugreek leaves.  

The best part is you can make these kababs as healthy as you like.  Whether you cook these in 1 tsp of oil  or deep fry them, they turn out just great!  

Methi & Corn Kababs
Recipe by Tarla Dalal

1 cup corn kernels, boiled and ground coarsely
1/2 cup fenugreek (methi) leaves chopped
2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
1 green chilli, chopped finely
1/2 cup potato, boiled and mashed
2 tbsp rice flour
Salt to taste

  • Mix all the ingredients together until well combined.  I like to whizz everything in the food processor.
  • Grease your hands lightly and divide the mixture into equal portions - approx 2 tbsp per portion - and shape into patties
  • Heat 1 - 2 tsp of oil and cook the kababs until they are browned on both sides. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tall, Dark and Handsome - Devil's Food Cake

My earliest memory of Devil's Food Cake is that from a blue box - Pilsbury's Devil's Food Cake Mix - to be precise. And the frosting that came in the plastic tub - only half of which was used to frost the cake.  The other half was unknowingly shared among four siblings, during secret refrigerator raids.

I had to move on from cake mixes though.  I could not justify baking from a box in the same kitchen as my mother - who spent hours planning, baking and decorating our birthday cakes and desserts.  Mind you, cake mixes are great - but baking from scratch is simple too - and it helps to know what ACTUALLY goes into making a cake! 

So, in my efforts to reconstitute the contents of a blue box and a plastic tub, I began my quest for a tall, dark and handsome cake - David Lebovitz's Devil's Food Cake.  

The original recipe calls for 2 cakes to be baked in 9"x 2" sandwich tins. I used one 8" inch tin instead. As a result, baking time went from 25 mins to 1h 20 mins! I had anticipated it to be more than 25 mins but still be within the duration of my son's afternoon nap. Definitely went way beyond that!

This recipe demands a LOT of patience - bringing all the ingredients to room temperature, allowing the frosting to set, cooling the cake completely before frosting it...

I decided to stick to a simple single layer cake as I was a little too apprehensive about slicing the cake crosswise to make layers.  I hope to find the confidence to do that some day!

For the cake, I omitted the salt as I chose to go with the locally available Amul butter, which is salted.  I used the same butter for the frosting, which gave the frosting a mild salty taste - it helps cut through the sweetness of the rest of the cake.  My husband wasn't a huge fan of the saltiness - but I quite enjoyed it as did my 20 month old son (does that count?)  For universal appeal, I suggest using unsalted butter.
For the frosting, I melted the chocolate in water as opposed to cream - but I am sure cream would lend  a richer feel to the cake - perhaps closer to what one gets from the plastic tub! :)

As chocolate is the main component of this cake, I suggest going for the best cocoa powder and chocolate available.   Even if you achieve the tall, dark and handsome look - taste does matter too!

Devil's Food Cake
David Lebovitz

For the cake:
9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
113 g butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup strong coffee
½ cup whole milk

For the ganache frosting:
300 g bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup water
¾ cup unsalted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
2. Butter two 9″ x 2″ cake pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper.
3. Sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl.
4. Using an electric mixer, or by hand, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.
5. Mix together the coffee and milk. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, the add the coffee and milk. Finally stir in the other half of the dry ingredients.
6. Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
7.  Release the cakes from the pan.  Spread a good amount of icing over the one cake.  Top with the second cake and spread the frosting to cover the entire cake.  


Melt the chopped chocolate with the water (or cream) in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.
Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk them into the chocolate until completely melted and the ganache is smooth and glossy. Cool at room temperature, till it achieves a spreadable consistency.