How to make a Sourdough Starter

There was never a better time to get started on your sourdough adventures. As we are forced into taking it slow by a tiny micro-organism, we can cultivate our own community of beneficial micro-organisms to bake delicious breads and ponder upon what might have been in a world more mindful of how we ate and lived.

Most of you have probably been following my sourdough journey for the last couple of years. But this is the second round. I made my first sourdough starter in 2010. I was way ahead of the trend and it was a lonely journey that ended as might be expected. After a year of maintaining it, it was laid to rest in a final batch of pancakes. That’s what happens when you forget to name your starter and think of it as a pet. Do give this a thought and think of an appropriate name for this new pet that you are going to soon have.

Sourdough is dough that has been allowed to ferment or go sour. Wild yeast are floating all around us. They are on everything, fruits, grains, and vegetables, on every surface except highly processed foods. Given suitable conditions they start growing and dividing, a process we know as fermentation. To make your own starter from scratch all you need to do is harness this process in a medium of your choice – a mix of flour and water.

A good starter is the foundation of good bread. Other than to bake bread it can replace commercial yeast in any recipe. My starter Frothy is almost 4 years old. Over this time she has developed into a lively dependable starter that gives me consistently great bread.

Here is my method updated to include all that I have learned through maintaining it for over three years. You do not need a kitchen scale to get your starter going but invest in one if you want to replace yeast in your other bakes with sourdough.

Making your own sourdough starter from scratch

You will need the following:

500-750ml capacity wide mouth glass jar with lid
whole wheat flour (atta)
filtered water
a tsp of gud (jaggery), preferably organic (optional)
a cup, to measure flour
a spoon to mix Continue reading “How to make a Sourdough Starter”

Whole Wheat Spinach Burger Buns

Spinach Buns 07

Time for another tested recipe. If you try these once you will never go back to the industrial kind. That’s the thing with home-baked bread, even when made with only maida, it ruins you for the mass-produced bread. Thankfully, when made in small quantities, it is easier than cooking roti which we do as a matter of daily routine.

Mom had given me a load of blanched spinach from her garden. At first I wanted to make palak-panir. But I was hoping to send along some bread when the son left after Diwali holidays and decided to use the spinach in the bread instead. I love the spinach pavs served at Cafe Lota and this recipe is inspired by those really-green buns. It’s a different matter that the spinach made the bread seem too healthy to the son and he would have none of them. This when he doesn’t like the bread he gets in Pune!

Thanks to my smart phone I’m losing fewer recipes these days. Instead of committing my experiments and their results to memory I now jot down the ingredients into ‘notes’ on the phone right away. I had noted down exact measurements for the ingredients as well as the yield and there they were for my easy reference.

Here, then, from the phone archives, is the recipe for the spinach buns I baked last month and shared pictures of on Instagram. Notes and pictures from my very smart and handy Mi4. Continue reading “Whole Wheat Spinach Burger Buns”

Foolproof Coffee Cake: Welcome 2015

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Welcome 2015, with a quick coffee-flavoured cake.

All in all, 2014 was a good year. Ani was home for some time. When he left, it was to find his feet and spread his wings with more confidence – he got his first job! I am now the mother of a gainfully employed young man. We traveled a little. The road-trip to Ladakh, a long time in planning, finally happened. Vijay and I crossed another milestone together – we have been married 25 years now. All of us, the extended family included, kept good health, which is the greatest blessing of all.

Ani Vijay 1992-93
The Boys – 1992
October 1989
October 1989

Now that I think about it, nothing much out of the ordinary happened in 2014! And that’s what makes it a wonderful year – everything in moderation, no sharp dips or sudden spikes. I wish I could say that I started exercising regularly, but I haven’t. The rest, I’m pretty pleased about.

Sometime, mid-year, I and a friend decided that we ought to eat out more. Heck, I don’t even have that one kid to worry about now! The intent is to try new places and make new favourites. We tried Pot Belly, a small restaurant serving Bihari food in Shahput Jat. It gets a big thumbs up – everything we tried was fabulous. This was followed up with The Pop Up, a pop-up, at Asian Games Village complex, that got a thumbs-down. This was a strange experience. We were the only ones there still the service lacked shine. We might have made unsuitable choices but they left us wondering whether they were a pop-up for another reason.

Towards the end of 2014, I even started blogging at a better rate! Through the year I also discovered some food blogs that I want to share with you; they are refreshingly unique.

Delicious Istanbul

Hiroyuki’s Blog On Japanese Cooking

Heron Earth

The Silk Road Gourmet

Yes, I notice too there’s a theme here! It is interesting to learn about the cultural and historical links of how we eat, and these blogs offer that.

I was a little upset that blogs/websites that essentially gather everyone else’s recipes were getting all the traffic. Some of them had my recipes! That included, among others, Tarla Dalal’s site that took down the picture, after I complained, but still retains the recipe, verbatim, for my Green Chili Pickle! Search for “Carrot Kanji” and you will find the web flooded with pictures from my post with hardly any attributed to me.

For a brief moment I did consider Googling “how to get more traffic to your blog” and then stopped. I wasn’t going to let how Google reads dictate how I write! You, who are still reading, are the ones that I want! The quiet comments section though, is a bit disheartening. What’s up with that? In the time of Insta-everything leaving comments does get a bit tedious, I agree, usually requiring some kind of verification – an extra step most of us don’t have the time for. Won’t you, every now and then, leave a note? I am not offering any giveaway, and yet hoping you will outgrow being The Very Quiet Cricket.

2015 has begun well with my new passport finally arriving in the first few days of the New Year. It did entail a fourth and final visit to the Passport Office just before the year was out, and took 9 months from the time of application. The US Visa on the old passport is valid till September 2015, so…who knows!

I was going to start the year off with another pickle (red chilli) but what with it being festive season yet again, Makarsankranti, Pongal, Bihu, and what have you, I decided I should re-post an old recipe. Better I than someone else! 😀 This time, with pictures (err… cell-phone pictures for now). I baked it last weekend to take it to a friend’s tea party which ended in dinner!

cake 07

Teatime Coffee Cake

1C + 1T maida (all purpose flour)
1t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 medium sized eggs
3/5 C oil
3/4 C granulated sugar
1 heaped T instant coffee powder (optional)
3-4 T cold milk
1t vanilla essence
1/3 C slivered almonds

Sift flour and baking powder. Mix in salt. Oil a 9″ cake tin, dust with flour; tap upside down to remove excess flour. Dissolve the coffee powder in the milk.

Turn oven on to Gas Mark 6.

In a mixing bowl whisk together eggs, oil and sugar with a hand-held mixer (not a hand-blender) till the sugar has dissolved completely. This takes a few minutes because our sugar here comes in large grain size.

Add the coffee-flavoured milk, and vanilla essence. Mix till combined. Keeping the mixer on the lowest speed add in the flour. Beat till combined. Pour into the prepared tin. Sprinkle evenly with slivered almonds. Bake in the center of the oven for 40-50 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool (if you have the time). Slice and serve with tea or coffee.

Lime Cake for the Party

I sure botched up the invitation to the annual Party this time.  I published the announcement as a page and some of you missed it.  At least, that is the face-saving escape route I am taking.  It has been six years of blogging here.  In August.  Here I am updating an anniversary post more than a month late.  Like the White Rabbit in Alice, I am always rushing to wherever I’ve got to be.  As far as the blog in concerned, in any case.  I am never late for professional meetings or for my class.  Perhaps, I ought to set myself deadlines here as well.  But, won’t that make the blog more like work?  This is my space away from work.  Let’s keep it that way.  No deadlines; no stress.

lime cake with lime glaze

Even though I have slowed down here, the blog still manages between 800-1000 hits a day.  Some of those are from old-time readers and I cherish them.  New ones get added, some old ones drop out.  But, some, the really mad ones, stick.  And, this Party really is a celebration of that madness.  A welcome to new readers and a big thank you to the old ones – it wouldn’t be fun without you!

When the deadline for the event was extended for the late-comers (Manisha usually brings in the tail, and this time quite the tale she has!), I thought I ought to cook some more for the party.

September 28 was TH’s birthday and my sister urged me to not be my lazy self and bake a cake.  I too felt I ought to.  So after wrapping up a full day’s work in the office, I came downstairs determined to do something special for dinner where we would eat cake because I had no inclination to roll rotis. Continue reading “Lime Cake for the Party”