Warning : Long post ahead
I am going to jump from one subject to another with such speed that you might want to hold on to your seats! This post may not make a whole lot of sense, but at the moment there is this violent vortex of thoughts churning in my head and I have to vent it out. It contains extracts of my thoughts on an impending wedding, parenting, the changing seasons and Bahrain.
And here it comes—
1. In 4 days time I will be in India attending my brother’s wedding. The entire family has been excitedly looking forward to this event and we all feel such joy to welcome a new member ( my sister-in-law) into our family. It is a Gujarati wedding and hence the rituals will be in Bhavnagar where my would be sister-in-law and her family live. I cannot wait to get there and enjoy all the wonderful Gujarati food, music and their traditional dance ( Raas and garba). I am hoping to dig into the authentic Gujarati cuisine that includes Undhiyu, Kadhi, Shrikhand etc. Dressing up, putting on make up, jewellery and meeting family and friends is going to be the norm of the next 10 days. The Reception programme is to be held at my dad’s native in Kerala and that would mean onslaught of good food, again. I can barely wait to be on that flight to India.
2. I have been homeschooling Mimi for the last 3 weeks now. It all started when I joined a Homeschooling group that had mums who home schooled their children seriously and didn’t have any intention of sending them to school. Ever. So I joined them and realized their enthusiasm about this informal system of education and what it was doing to their children. I was profoundly impressed. So that the child doesn’t miss interacting with children his /her age, they meet once a week at a mum’s place ( A group is allowed 5 mums and max of 7-8 children). The host -mum decides the topic for that day and prepares fun activities, games, study material and craft around it for 2 whole hours which also includes 10 minutes of snack time. It is a hectic, fun-filled 2 hours with plenty to do and learn. I have gone for 4 such sessions at different mums’ homes and the 5th one was hosted at my place. It was such an interesting one week, planning for lessons and activities and craft around Sea Animals. Other varied topics that other mums hosted were ‘Patterns and finding them in the world around you”, ” Farm animals”, ” Your favourite books”, ” Cars and car safety”. So in order to orient Mimi to this new system of fun and study, I decided to do it on a daily basis barring the weekends when my hubby distracts both of us with lot of cuddles. I am enjoying this experience so much that I do not seem to have any time to do anything else. Only weekends are reserved for some baking and me- time. I hope to keep up with this since it has helped me know Mimi even better and this is such a great opportunity for us to bond. It makes such incredible use of my time and secretly I enjoy doing all her craft.
3. It is that time of the year when Bahrain doesn’t revel in the magic of Valentine’s day like the rest of the World. It is that time when tension is brewing underground and you can feel it in the air, the conversations between absolute strangers standing at the super market billing counter waiting their turn and the lack of Valentine Day’s celebrations advertisements in the newspapers and magazines. Last year, this time, Bahrain was midst a lot of Political turmoil and for locals and expats alike, it was something they wouldn’t forget in a hurry. The sights of the army pulling in the residential areas with their tanks, the security personnel stopping every single car for thorough scrutiny and the mass exodus from the island are still fresh in everybody’s mind. While I would be away for my brother’s wedding celebrations during this time, I hope and pray that Bahrain stays peaceful.
4. Bahrain has experienced its share of glorious weather this winter season. The most pleasant of all months, we have the pleasant, more pleasant and most pleasant climes, these last 3 months. It has been both joyous and inspiring to write, to cook, to bake, to go out, to visit friends and to generally laze around at home with hot soups and crispy snacks. This is the time that we visited different places, different events like the (not-so) grand air show, some beaches and new restaurants. When the weather is great, then everybody you meet or see is either smiling or being nice to the other. Recently we have had a cold wave that has had us shivering to our bones but I love it. It gives me the liberty to experiment with different soups when the markets are inundated with the freshest of produce.
That is when I felt I needed to bake some home-made bread to go with the soups. I am addicted to flipping through Peter Reinhart’s, “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”. It makes such a good read that often times I find myself kneading dough in my head, following the master’s instructions carefully. Sometimes I feel, I might as well bake through the book since it has always exceeded expectations. So with that thought in mind, I set out to make some Rosemary and Potato dinner rolls that looked so appetizing in the photographs. It took me 2 days to get my act together. I needed fresh rosemary and I needed to make biga. I made the biga and kept it in the refrigerator to rest overnight and the same evening I bought fresh rosemary from the supermarket. Rosemary has such a strong scent that rubbing some between your fingers can have you smelling for a long time.
To Make the Biga
It makes about 500 gm biga , out of which only 200 gm will be used for the dinner rolls.
Unbleached Bread Flour – 2 1/2 cups
Instant yeast – 1/2 tsp
Water ( at room temp) – 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp. I had to use some more to get the kind of dough that felt ‘right’.
1. Stir in flour, instant yeast, water and combine well. Knead till the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff.
2. Transfer it to a floured surface and knead well for 4-6 minutes
3. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough, coating it well with oil and keep it covered in a warm place. Let it rise for 2-4 hours or until it doubles in size
4. Remove the dough and degas it and return it to the bowl and refrigerate it covered overnight. It can stay in the refrigerator for 3 days and can freeze upto 3 months.
Recipe for Rosemary and Potato Dinner Rolls
It makes 18 dinner rolls but it gave me 19!!
biga – 200 gms
Unbleached bread flour – 3 cups plus 2 tbsp
salt – 1 1/2 tsp
Black pepper , coarsely ground – 1 tsp
instant yeast – 1 1/4 tsp
mashed potatoes – 1 cup
Olive oil- 1 tbsp
Coarsely chopped rosemary, fresh- 2 tbsp ( A little goes a long way)
water, at room temp- 3/4 cups pluse 2 tbsp. I had to use about 1 cup plus 4 tbsp
roasted garlic – 4 tbsp
semolina flour /cornmeal for dusting
Olive oil for brushing on top
1. Remove the Biga from the refrigerator 1 hour before you plan to bake and cut it into pieces. Use 200 gms of it and let that sit for 1 hour to take off the chill. Keep the rest covered, back into the refrigerator or the freezer.
2. Stir together the flour, salt, black pepper and yeast in a bowl and add biga pieces, mashed potatoes, oil, rosemary and water. Combine everything together very well. May knead some patience to do it.
3. Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough and continue to knead for 10-20 minutes. Add more flour or water as required to have the dough soft and supple in your hands. It should also pass the window pane test to see the gluten development. If the stretched dough breaks then it needs more kneading.
4. Flatten the dough and spread roasted garlic. Gather the dough into a ball and knead it for about 1-2 minutes . Transfer it into a well oiled bowl and coat it with oil and let it rest for about 2 hours. It should double in size by then
5. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 18 equal pieces ( Strangely I got 19) and shape them into dinner rolls. Line a pan with baking parchment and dust lightly with semolina or cornmeal. Place the dinner rolls touching each other so that they have the pull-apart effect. Mist it with olive oil and then cover it with a plastic wrap. Let it proof at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
6. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/ 400 F/ 200 C and place the oven rack in the middle. Remove the plastic wrap and brush the rolls with more olive oil and score them if you like. I scored them using a scissor and that is how I got the design on top of my dinner rolls.
7. Bake it for 20 minutes and then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking. In total, it will take about 35-40 minutes to bake completely. They will be golden brown all over and will sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Cool well before serving with hot soup.
I loved the flavour from the Rosemary and the pepper which I found to be more prominent. They make for a good snack all by themselves and even with some butter.
I did feel they were hard(er) on the outside but full of flavour on the inside. I like my dinner rolls soft, both sides. So somewhere, something was amiss and but couldn’t place a finger on what I didn’t do right. Overall, I am not entirely satisfied with the endeavour but I have fallen hard for the flavour.
If anybody does make this, I would love to know how it turned out.