Saturday, April 9, 2011

A queen called 'Ciabatta'

I knew that I was going to face it one day, I did not know from which way though.

While returning to India I was feeling so glutton to the good old samosas (need no definition), pani puri (Fuchka-famous Indian crunchy, sour water filled snack), Dosa (Indian version of pancake-not sweet), Chaats (mix of potato pattie with several other condiments, hot and spicy), Lassi (Famous yoghurt drink), chow-mein (though from china but they have got an Indian identity in India), sweat meats etc.

During my last days in Europe I was wondering will I ever miss Broetchens (small baked breads from Germany), Frikadelle (Fried Meat balls), Pasta bolognse or Pasta Arrabiata, Haenchen Schnitzel (Breaded Chicken breast), Kartofeltashe (Potato bags), Sticky toffee pudding, Haggies, nips and Tatties (Scotland delicacies), Cheese sandwiches and so on.
Yes! a teeny- weeny voice came out from me.

I consoled my heart saying, "India is globalizing, so don't worry we will manage to eat some continental cuisine time to time." My heart was not very sure but kept silent.

And then upon landing to India, for months I went to re-discover the tastes I left here before leaving. Umm! I loved them again. Holding a crisp piece of Masala dosa with some spiced potatoes inside it, dipped in coconut chutney and sambar,  one after one and then with  my fingers transferring the whole into my mouth. Heavenly! And similarly went the haunt for and capture of other delicacies- golgappas and samosa.

I was politely avoiding the offers by 'J's Papa about going to any continental joint,
first - no desire felt,
second - boy! they are expensive.

Why not enjoy Indian tadka in half price and save some money to buy books! 

After all we know that European cuisine they are selling here are; well, twisted for Indian palates!
during all these days I also cooked a lot with the fresh Indian ingredients in my own kitchen with null worry for splutters and yellow strains specific to Indian cuisine due to use of turmeric/Kurkurma getting on to the kitchen walls. This used to be a great concern in Europe for me. I don't know about the luxury villas cropping up on Indian soil, but the kitchen in a Government quarter is same as is used to be 10 years ago i.e., not so posh and plus of that is you can cook without bothering the mess.  Stone counters and tiled walls gets clear with a some soap water rubbing afterwards.

So life was nice, passing through the by lanes of Indian cuisine and suddenly I felt that my poor little heart is aching to say something.
He was whispering the word 'bread' in my ears, constantly every day.

We have lots of non yeast breads in India, and we do have buns, toast breads available in plenty here as a result of being an English colony int he past. Some bakers of today are selling croissant and other fresh loafs too. But mostly they are again little customized for Indian clientele, softer in texture with flavors of jeera (Cumin) or onion seed  but somehow my heart did not want to settle down anything less than those yeast soaked, white, hard crust,  freshly baked bread as we used to get from bakery in the evening or in the restaurant as a accompaniment to pasta, or as a sandwich.

Although it started as a mild thumping, but day by day my heart was going crazy for a oven fresh European kind of bread!

On telling this to 'J' and her papa they chorused that they wish for the same. But they were keeping quite because they were afraid of getting a big lecture of variety of Indian cuisine, its history and so on from me! As I was in that mode from the time I have returned to India.

What? Am I so cruel with my family?
They nodded and dared to say that from the day I have returned I am all into Indian food only.

Guilty I tried to explained to them that I was just enjoying my own Indian food in Indian way (not in German or British way) after a long time, but that does not mean that we can not some fresh bread at least.

One clever thing 'J's papa has done before we arrived here that he has bought a medium sized backing oven. Good for us and he got some brownie points for that for being a thoughtful man. So we at least have the instrument ready, only we need are the ingredients and methodology of making any bread.

So there sat I with a book called 'Bread' (my possession from Europe) and then seeing the picture of Ciabatta lying like a queen on a page of the book, my heart said, "Yes, that's it."
Although the literal meaning of Ciabatta is a carpet slipper because of the irregular shape it attains on no kneading.
My hungry heart was already transferred into Tuscan fields!
So we all went forward and got messy, started our home adventure in bread making. Only worry was whether it will work?
Well no risk no gain, isn't it?

After waiting for almost 12 hours we saw the dough raised enough than in 40 minutes we saw it browning perfectly inside the oven, 'J' was clapping, and on bringing it out we heard the perfect tap - tap sound on knocking it gently, we smelled the freshness and on cutting it we could see the big bubbly holes which those yeast has made specially for us.
Ciabatta, first timer in my kitchen became a queen of my heart.

We crowned her with butter or garlic butter, we jeweled her with hummus (three different types-plain, red-with dried tomato, green-with chilli) and then we savored her slowly bite by bite. Heavenly!

So here goes the recipe for my friends and their families. Although the basic of the recipe is followed from the book but I have done some changes according to Indian weather and my own convenience.
Go on, bake a queen in your oven, make your life rich and fine!

Ingredients (For two loafs)

1 tsp dried yeast
3 tbsp tepid milk
1 tsp granulated sugar or honey
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1and 1/2 tsp salt
500 g strong white flour
400 ml water

1. Sprinkle the yeast into 150 ml water and milk in  a large preferably glass bowl. Leave for few minutes (5-7) and then add the honey/sugar. Stir to dissolve.

2. Add flour, slowly mix with a wooden spatula.

2. Add rest of the water, salt and olive oil.

3. Mix until a smooth, wet and sticky dough is formed.

4. Cover the dough with a tea towel and let it rise for 12-18 hours (ideally overnight). Do not knock the dough back at any rate.

5. When the dough is ready, set the oven temperature to 220 °C or 425 °F.

6. Generously sprinkle flour on a baking sheet, use a dough scarper to divide the dough in half. Scoop the dough carefully (without bursting the precious bubbles created by hard working yeasts) in two portions.  

7. Give a long rectangular shape, dust the loaf with flour.

8. Neaten and plump up the loaf by tucking the the edges of the dough under (almost like tucking bedsheets neatly)

9. Leave the dough to prove, for 20 minutes, the loaves should spread out and rise up.

10. Repeat for the other loaf.

11. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until risen (this can vary few minutes for different ovens).

To check: The bread will get golden on the top and will sound hollow when tapped underneath. Leave it to cool before eating.

Here is the video too!

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