Category Archives: Bread

Autumn Soup and Feta Bread

Here are two vegetarian recipes that I adapted from a cookbook borrowed from my co-worker – Bulgarian Rhapsody by Linda Forristal. A simple pea and cabbage soup called “Autumn Soup” is flavored with paprika, parsley and just a bit of vinegar.  And a quickbread called Tutmanik is studded with feta cheese crumbles and garnished with paprika. 

The soup is a simple vegetable soup, but satisfying. The touch of vinegar at the end reminds me of the way my mom would make chicken soup where we would add a few drops of lemon juice right before eating. That bit of sour just generally brightens the flavors in the rest of the soup.

Autumn Soup
1 Tbsp. oil
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
7 c. water
1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
3 c. shredded green cabbage
3 c. potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 c. frozen green peas
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. sweet Hungarian paprika
2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. vinegar

Saute onion and celery in oil over medium heat until translucent and just starting to brown. Add water and 1 tsp. salt and bring to a simmer. Add cabbage and potatoes and bring to simmer again. Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, thaw and puree peas in a blender or food processor. You may need to add a bit of broth to fully puree the peas. Add peas to the soup.

Melt the butter in a small pan, add flour and stir to make a roux. After it is all incorporated, remove from heat and stir in paprika. Transfer about 1 c. of soup broth to the roux and mix in gently, gradually adding more broth to try and prevent clumping. Add roux back to the soup to help thicken it a bit. Stir well and take soup off heat. Add parsley and vinegar, serve.

Tutmanik – Feta Cheese bread
2 eggs
1/4 c. oil
1 c. yogurt
1/2 lb. feta
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
paprika to garnish

Preheat oven to 400F. Mix together the eggs, oil, yogurt, feta, and salt.  Sift together flour and baking powder, and stir in gently to the egg mixture. Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan. Pour the batter into this pan, and garnish with sprinkles of paprika.

Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, or just until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve with a dollop of yogurt as shown in picture.  This bread is supposed to be served for breakfast, but it did make a nice accompaniment for the soup. I halved the recipe and baked it in a smaller oblong baking dish. It was like a moist feta cheese biscuit!

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Mooli Paratha

My friend Garima’s parents are visiting from India, and I was very excited to get an invitation to cook with her mother this week! Garima and I used to work together, and we still get together occasionally to cook and bake, and to watch Hindi movies at the Galaxy theater. A few times, I have taught her to bake something, but mostly she teaches me to cook Indian dishes. 

This time, the lesson was mooli paratha, shown here. If you’ve eaten at Indian restaurants, you may know that paratha is a type of filled flatbread. It can be filled with different vegetables – in fact Garima and I made cauliflower paratha in a previous session. But for this meal, we filled them with mooli, or daikon radish. I had previously run into the daikon radish mainly in Asian cuisine, particularly Japanese and Korean cooking. I didn’t know until now that it is also grown and used as an ingredient in India. It’s a long white radish, often with just a tinge of green at the top where it has been exposed to the sun above the soil.

This recipe is fairly time-intensive, but the end result was very worth it! The first step is to peel and shred the mooli for the filling.

Next, Garima squeezed the juice from the radish into another bowl. Be careful with this step, the radish juice can be irritating to sensitive  or chapped skin (as we found out the hard way!). This radish juice was then used to make the dough, while the squeeze-dried radish was cooked for the filling.

To make the filling, the shredded radish was sauteed with anise seed, finely minced green chiles, ground red pepper, asafetida, and salt. This was stir-fried for about 5 minutes until well-mixed and slightly softened. The filling was removed from the heat, and chopped cilantro was stirred in. The filling was then spread out on a larger plate to cool quickly before filling the paratha.

The dough, which you can see in the larger square container above, was made from an Indian whole wheat flour called atta, which is much lighter than our typical whole wheat flour. You should be able to find this in any Indian grocery store, it looks similar to semolina in color, and I imagine if you tell someone you’re making paratha they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.

Unfortunately, I can’t really give you the amounts because this is one of those recipes that is done by feel, until it’s “right”….  But basically, Garima’s mom made the dough by mixing together the atta flour with a large pinch of salt, and adding strained radish juice, plus water as needed, to achieve the appropriate dough texture. She kneaded the dough for a minute or two in the bowl and set it aside to rest briefly until the filling was ready. It was stiff enough to knead, but very soft dough – one of those things that you have to try until you figure out the perfect consistency, I’m afraid! But it seems from our discussion that the softer the dough is, the better it will actually work in this recipe, stiffer dough might tear more easily rather than stretching to accomodate the filling.

She oiled her fingers a bit to grab off a small piece of dough, so that it wouldn’t stick. The dough was then worked into a small disc, dipping it in extra atta flour as needed to work it and then roll it into a circle about 5-6 inches in diameter. A large spoonful of the filling was placed in the middle as shown above, and then the edges all brought together above to seal in the filling (shown below).

This is the really tricky part, because then you need to roll the filled dough ball out into a thin paratha, more like 8 inches diameter, preferably without breaking through the dough and letting the filling spill out. I had tried this with the cauliflower paratha and knew that I’d make a mess of it, so I left that to the experts [plus, I was too busy eating the delicious paratha as they came off the griddle!]

The flattened, filled paratha is fried on one side on a griddle. After flipping to the second side, either vegetable oil, or ghee (clarified butter) is lightly spread on the top with the back of a spoon. This motion makes it puff up like this, if you’re an expert paratha maker, anyway…  And that’s how you make mooli paratha.

Now for how you EAT mooli paratha, I became an expert on that after eating my 4 for the evening :)  We made a simple raita of yogurt, toasted and coarsely ground cumin seeds, and black salt (you can use regular salt, but black salt has a unique sulfurous flavor that’s recommended if you can get it).

The paratha are eaten with the fingers, tearing off a small piece and eating it with this raita, tamarind chutney, and other spicy additions like spicy mango pickles or hot sauce. Delicious! It was a great evening of cooking, eating and chatting, as a couple of other folks dropped in to help eat the mooli paratha. I’m already looking forward to the return trip of Garima’s mom in March so we can cook again!

Scandinavian baking

Whatever you might say about the rest of their food, the Scandinavians can definitely bake! Just think, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say the word “danish”? Here are two baked goods that I’ve tried recently, Kanelkakor (cinnamon walnut cookies) and Birkes (Danish rye buns).

First, this cookie is very much like a snickerdoodle, except with the addition of walnuts. A simple sugar cookie is rolled in cinnamon, sugar and walnuts and baked. Called Kanelkakor in Swedish, I got the recipe from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, by Beatrice Ojakangas.

Rye bread, rolls and flatbread made with rye flour are also popular in this part of the world. I normally think of rye breads as very crusty or heavy breads, but this recipe for rye rolls also involves a lot of butter to keep the rolls light and flaky. Guess that makes sense, as the recipe is attributed to the Danish, who just love to roll butter into anything!

Danish Rye Rolls (Birkes)
1 package yeast (active dry yeast)
1/4 cup warm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup warm milk
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 Tbsp.), melted
1 cup rye flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks butter, cold

Whisk together the yeast, warm water and sugar, and let stand for 5 minutes. Add warm milk, salt, egg, melted butter and 1 cup rye flour and stir well. Cut the cold butter into the all-purpose flour until the butter is in small pea-sized pieces. Stir this flour mixture into the yeast mixture until flour is just moistened. Cover with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, take out the dough and divide it in two equal portions. Roll one portion out into a 15-inch round circle and spread it with 1 Tbsp. softened butter. Fold two edges over 1/3 of the way, so that it makes a rectangular strip in the middle (like folding a piece of paper to fit in an envelope). Roll this lengthwise to extend the strip to about 24 inches long.  Then fold that strip in thirds to make it shorter. Roll that rectangle into a 15-inch square, and spread with another 1 Tbsp. softened butter.  Roll up the square like a jelly roll and cut into 8 equal portions.  Place onto a greased cookie sheet, seam side down, and press down to flatten slightly.

Repeat with the second portion of dough.  Cover all rolls with a clean dish towel, and let them rest for about 1.5-2 hours in a warm place until about doubled in size.  Brush with a beaten egg, and sprinkle with caraway, poppy seeds and/or sea salt.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 12-15 minutes, or until nicely browned and puffed.

Adapted from Scandinavian Feasts, by Beatrice Ojakangas

Fainá

My mom (who grew up in Uruguay) has fond childhood memories of a flat bread called fainá.  Fainá is made of garbanzo flour, and is closely related to an obscure Italian dish called farinata, found mainly in the region of Liguria/Genoa. There are variations of the dish in other pockets of the Mediterranean. According to an online article, the immigrant Guido family introduced fainá to Uruguay when they started their first local garbanzo milling business in 1915.

Fainá is commonly served by pizzerias in Uruguay. In “pizza a caballo” (pizza on horseback), a thin slice of fainá is placed on top of a regular slice of pizza, making a kind of pizza ‘sandwich’. Fainá can also be served as an appetizer, and some even top it with sugar, chocolate or dulce de leche for dessert. Check out this blog post for more details and pictures of the real deal from someone who lived in Uruguay for awhile.

At my parents’ bakery in Virginia this week, my mom and I decided to make some fainá together. The resulting product was very similar to her recollections of the bread, but not at all what I had expected from hearing it described. It’s not really much of a bread at all, but even better – more the texture of a thin fried polenta. The black pepper and cheese was a nice complement to the garbanzo-flavored fainá, which was crispy on the edges and soft in the middle. It’s not really like anything I have previously eaten, so it’s difficult to describe – but very easy to make, and delicious – so I encourage you to try it for yourself!

Fainá
2 1/2 cups garbanzo (chick pea) flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
1 tsp. ground black pepper (or more, to taste)
1 3/4 cup water

Whisk these ingredients together, and let the batter sit for at least 30 minutes to absorb the water and thicken. [At this point, our recipe mentioned adding another 3/4 cup of water. But the batter was already easily pourable without the additional water, so we chose not to add any more. Might depend on the climate, altitude, how coarsely ground the flour is, etc. – so if it looks like you need more water, add it. It should be about the consistency of a pancake batter.]

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. For this batch, we used a 9-inch cast-iron skillet and a 9×13 cake pan. Use cast-iron or metal pans with sides, drizzle the pans with a couple of Tbsp. olive oil and heat in the preheated oven for 5 minutes until pans and oil are sizzling hot.

Remove the pans from the oven and pour the batter thinly in the heated pans (one recipe said about 1/4-inch thick), jiggle to spread evenly and place back in the oven. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until crispy on the edges and nicely browned on the bottom. Cut into pieces, garnish with additional Parmesan or other toppings, and serve warm. Delicious!!