Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls with Matcha Frosting

Imagine a morning when sweet, intoxicating wafts of cinnamon pervade your home, perhaps a pot of coffee brewing on the side, an instrumental rendition of La vie en rose gliding through the air and a flood of sunshine complete with floating specks of fairy dust. The magic I share with you today may not guarantee the full picture I’ve painted but promises to fulfill at least a portion of it, one that is most delicious. These are Sourdough Cinnamon Buns slathered with an earthy Matcha Cream Cheese Frosting. Before we head to the recipe, allow me share a little backstory.
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Little did I know that yeast, water, flour and salt can conjure magic; harmonize to create beautiful joys together. Bread and all its fluffier and denser cousins have been making their presence in my hardworking oven for a while now.The journey began a year and a half ago and the entailed learning has me bewitched in its charm. Baking bread lets me satiate the mad desire to bake; it tells me to revere & revel in the little things: watch that dough majestically rise, inhale evanescent aromas and listen in silence as the knife through a crackling crust; it indulges the insomniac in me and well, it brings the husband many smiles. More importantly, it slows me down.
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In the midst of this delicious journey, I stumbled upon a whole other dimension of bread that had forever piqued my curiosity: Sourdough. After umpteen patient trials, tear jerking failures and finally squeal worthy successes, I can safely say that nothing has challenged and enamored me more than the process of baking and finally slicing into a boule of sourdough bread.

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The ‘mother’ aka the sourdough starter

I’m only gracing the surface here but in technical terms sourdough bread is essentially bread that arises from naturally occurring yeast and bacteria as opposed to ones where we employ commercially occurring yeast products. While the latter works just fine, the benefits of sourdough are plenty including several that are health related since increased proofing times lead to better digestion of grains. The taste takes on a variation too and these breads possess a slight sour taste which again depends from starter to starter. However, the main ingredient this bread calls for is patience since the ‘mother’ aka the sourdough starter takes a couple of weeks to come to life and the bread itself takes anywhere between 12-24 hours to conjure. But, mind you, once she does(the starter),she won’t leave you unless you want her to. If you want to explore my journey in sourdough and other breads alike, please to stop by my page on Instagram, La Vie Of A Baker . I hope you will enjoy exploring through crumbs and crusts.
A fun side note, I have named my sourdough starter, Khaleesi and yes, it is inspired y Game of Thrones!
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Before I go any further, I have to mention that this recipe requires one to have a 100% hydration sourdough starter. (I hope to share the recipe for that too sometime in the near future). I would also like to recommend certain books that only helped introduce me to sourdough but also gave me an experience very similar to a private class. Sarah Owen’s ‘Sourdough’ is one such. The other one is Emilie Raffa’s, ‘Artisan Sourdough Made Simple’. Both these books assist in creating the Sourdough Starter and breads employing the starter.
Now, the recipe. Like I mentioned earlier, these buns will ensure a beautiful morning owing to the presence of cinnamon in the filling. The bread itself is soft and fluffy, perfect to tear away whilst indulging in pinched sips of coffee or tea. To jazz them up further, I paired them with a decadent Matcha Cream Cheese Frosting. The aromatic, sweet flavours of Matcha take these humble breakfast quintessentials to a whole new level but the frosting’s creamy nature shouldn’t be ignored either. Hope you like this one!

RECIPE FOR EGGFREE SOURDOUGH CINNAMON BUNS WITH A MATCHA FROSTING
Please note: This recipe requires 100% hydration sourdough starter

Makes 9 cinnamon rolls
Equipment needed- Food Scale
Stand Mixer
INGREDIENTS
For the Dough
100 gms active Sourdough Starter
160 gms Whole Milk
42 gms unsalted butter
1 tsp egg replacer plus 2tbsp water( I used Pane Riso, please see notes)
24 gms Sugar
300 gms Unbleached All purpose flour
3 gms sea salt
Oil for coating
For the Filling
1 cup light brown sugar
1.5 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter, softened at room temperature

METHOD
-First we prepare the sweet dough and this is best to make at night since it can rise overnight and be ready in the morning.
-Warm the milk and butter in a pan until butter has completely melted. Cool slightly.
-In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachement, add the sourdough starter along with the egg replacer and water. Whisk at low speed to ensure that it is mixed. Add the warm milk and butter mixture. Then add the flour and salt and mix just until the dough comes together and no dry bits are lift, approximately 1 minute.Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
-After the dough has rested, change to a hook attachment and continue to knead at medium speed for about 6 to 8 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
-Take another bowl, and grease it with a little olive oil and place the dough in it. Let it rise at room temperature for 8-10 hours.(the recommended room temperature is around 70F).
-Next morning, once it has doubled in size, carefully tip the dough onto a lightly oiled counter and let it rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the filling.
-In a bowl, mix together light brown sugar, cinnamon and salt and keep aside.
-On a large cookie sheet with edges, place a sheet of parchment.
-After the dough has rested, using a rolling pin, stretch the dough to a rectangle measuring 22inches x 16inches, taking care that the longer side is facing you.
-Spread the 4 tbsp of butter on the rectangle using an offset spatula ensuring that the about 1 inch of the border are not touched. Sprinkle the filling and spread evenly
-Next roll the rectangle into a cylinder, slowly and gently, making sure that it is taut. The tighter you roll, the more layers you’ll have.
-Place this log gently on the cookie sheet, cover with a damp cloth and refrigerate for 30 minutes.(If the weather gets a little warm, I also cover the cookie sheet completely in plastic wrap and freeze additionally for 5-7 minutes).
-Remove the chilled dough and cut off the edges .Then cut into 2 inch cylinders.
-Place these in a 3×3 fashion on the same cookie sheet and cover lightly with plastic wrap for 1-1.5 hours until the rolls are puffy.(Alternatively, they can be baked in a square or round cake pan).
-Meanwhile preheat your oven to 425F. Brush the rolls with some melted butter
and bake the cinnamon rolls for 25-30 minutes or until they turn a light golden brown.
-When they are getting baked, the frosting can be made. In a bowl, add the cream cheese and butter and beat with a hand mixer until fluffy. Add the icing sugar and incorporate it into the butter and cream cheese by whisking it for a few minutes. Then add the sour cream and matcha and mix again. Cover and refrigerate until use.
-Spread the matcha cream cheese frosting on the warm cinnamon rolls and enjoy!

Notes:
The egg replacer that I used(Pane Riso) demands 1tsp of it plus 2 tbsp of water. But, this can vary from brand to brand. Please see the directions on the product that you choose to use.

Spring laden Pasta in a Basil Pesto

Many of our Saturday mornings, winter or warmer, have adopted a little ritual. A sanctimonious one, demanding equal parts worship and sacrifice. The sacrifice involves rejecting the few extra precious hours of weekend sleep and beginning the morning a tad earlier than usual. The worship comprises a prayer to the Transit Gods of Toronto, hoping for a bus that arrives on schedule. And finally, the ritual in question implies a rejuvenating escape to the St.Lawrence Farmer’s Market.
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Thriving amid fresh,seasonal produce, strolling along the aisles encompassed by the profusion of vegetables and fruits, their vibrant skins dappled with shimmering droplets of water, is admittedly my kind of meditation, my panacea, my prayer. St. Lawrence Market offers just that and appeases my soul whilst simultaneously exciting and enthralling my creative side of the brain.
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The saturday market is huddled within a white tent and the vendors entice customers who are still warding off the sleep bug with, little cups of apple cider,swigs of fermented yogurt, fresh cut apple slices, trimmings of cheese and spoonfuls of olive tapenade. If that doesn’t entail enough enlivening, then rows of neatly lined herbs in a deep, verdant green, stacks of colour coded bell peppers, mountains of earthy potatoes, minuscule baskets heaped with tomatoes in a variety of sizes, each one more darling than the other, buckets plopped with lovely, seasonal flowers, these definitely do the trick.

Sticklers to our timetable, we headed there one spring morning. As suspected, the market was alive with its usual hustle-bustle, brimming with the bounty of spring. Tall stems of tulips, towering pyramids of asparagus, bunches of seasonal ramp, bouquets of rhubarb; it was verily a festival, one that pleased the soul, the eyes and the belly.
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As you can imagine, there is no dearth of inspiration here and we hauled back fresh basil, bunches of ramp, asparagus stalks, cherry tomatoes and a carton of pasta. I decided to pour this bounty into a dish, a new adventure considering I had never tasted ramp and asparagus, both harbingers of spring.
The culmination of that inspiration is what you see here: A Strozzapreti pasta slathered unrestrainedly with a Basil-Walnut Pesto mingling with peas and ramp leaves and a side of asparagus and cherry tomatoes. This is my  tribute to the languid breeze of spring, my gratitude to Mother Nature’s fresh bounty.
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Before we head to the recipe, a little more about the ingredients-
Ramp is essentially a wild onion, rather pungent and taste like a mixture of  onion and garlic. I employed all the leaves but only used a few of the bulbs in this pasta since their aroma was a little too strong for us.
Asparagus spears are described to have earthy undertones and they can be grilled, boiled or fried. Here, I’ve just stir fried them with some oil and salt.
Common to the Emilia-Romagna, Umbria, Marche, and Tuscany regions of Italy, the Strozzapreti is a hand-rolled pasta that is similar to cavatelli but it is slightly more elongated, and features a light twist. A little Italian store in the heart of St. Lawrence Market has a wall dedicated to pastas in all shapes and sizes. The owner always treats to a few drops of aged balsamic vinegar before fixing up our usual cup of joe. Bellissimo!

RECIPE FOR PASTA IN A BASIL PESTO AND SPRING VEGETABLES
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
250 gms Strozzapreti pasta or any other kind
2.5 litres water
2 tbsp of salt
For the Basil Walnut Pesto:-
2 cups loose basil
12 walnuts
1/3 cup oil 
Freshly cracked pepper and salt to taste
Other vegetables:
2 bunches ramp- 25 leaves
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup heaped cherry tomatoes
10 stems of asparagus
Salt to taste
2 tbsp oil

METHOD
-Place the water in a large vessel and bring to boil. Once it’s boiling, add the salt and pasta. Cook until al dente according to the directions on the carton. Then drain(Tip: keep about 1/3 cup of pasta water aside before draining) and pour cold water on the pasta to stop it from getting cooked any further.
-To make the pesto: In a blender/food processor, blend the fresh basil, walnuts, oil, salt and pepper until a coarse paste is achieved. Keep aside.
-Prepare the vegetables. Wash them all clean.
Cut off the bulbs from the ramp leaves. The bulbs can be chopped and used. (I used about 2-3 of them). Chop off the woody portion of the asparagus stems.
-Heat a large saucepan and add some oil. Once it is heated add the cleaned asparagus and sprinkle some salt. Stir fry until softened. Keep aside once cooked.
Do the same with the cherry tomatoes and keep aside.
-Heat a teaspoon of oil and add the chopped bulbs of the ramp, saute until they brown and then add the leaves, sprinkle some salt. Stir fry until they wilt an soften.
-To this, add the pesto, frozen peas and the drained pasta.Add the pasta water which had been kept aside if you feel the need to make a thinner sauce. Let the dish heat up for a few minutes.
-Serve hot with a the cherry tomatoes and asparagus on the side and perhaps a grating of parmesan.

Edible Flower Cookies

I reminisce the summer of 2017. It was a rather sultry one, the roaring flood of sunshine almost inciting in me a particularly intense pining for winter & it’s entourage. The sun blazed fiercely, as if compensating for its absence in the coming months. Walking, an activity that normally takes precedence for the husband & me, was shunned without second thought. We hopped into Toronto’s streetcars in temptations of the slightest respite.
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One such morning, I stood amid parallel seats,one hand desperately clasping the overhead strap, gazing out the window as scenes hurried by like a movie in fast forward. One scene however, stood still; a signpost reading , ‘Toronto Flower Market’. The duration of the halt hardly amounted to anything but  it was ample enough for me to peer out the window and spot happy Torontonians, each one gently clutching a bouquet of blooms and behind them, a sea of flowers.  I vowed to return the next day.
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And return we did  the next morning, spending a couple of hours strolling the bylanes of this little market, acquainting ourselves with unfamiliar flowers, chatting up with vendors and being stunned by the gamut of freshness. We carried wrapped bouquets of hydrangeas in a matte magenta, a gigantic bloom of Dahlia in ivory and wonder of wonders, mini pumpkins on a stick! Aside from this haul, we met a friendly and talented florist who introduced me to the Nasturtium, an edible flower in bright warm hues. She explained that they would blend brilliantly in salads. I  purchased them instantly and employed their vibrancy to decorate a salad and a simple Maple-Pecan cake. Thanks to the flower market and a kind florist, Allison, since then, I’ve always been on the lookout for edible flowers and Toronto’s farmers markets are kind enough to treat us to them especially when the weather turns warm. This time, instead of just plopping them on a cake, I’ve attempted to incorporate the magic of Nasturtium into cookies.


The cookies I’ve shared with you today are simplistic and highlight the presence of these beautiful edible blooms. Nasturtium literally means ‘nose twist’ and are known to have a peppery taste. The cookies are delicate, light, eggfree as always, savory and easy to put together. You can choose to add other herbs as well; I’ve added a sprinkle of thyme and lavender.
Let’s get to the recipe.
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RECIPE FOR EDIBLE FLOWER COOKIES(EGGFREE)
Makes 20 cookies

INGREDIENTS
1/4 th cup unsalted butter(softened at room temperature)

1.5 tsp sugar
2 tbsp plain yogurt( extra tablespoon only if necessary)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup all purpose flour/sifted whole wheat flour
A large handful of organic Nasturtium flower petals or more(feel free to experiment with other organic flower petals as well)
A sprinkle of Thyme and Lavender

Method
– In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar using a hand whisk.

– Then add the flour, salt, thyme leaves, lavender & yogurt. Very gently bring all the ingredients together into a dough.(If the dough is dry add just a little more yogurt)
– Transfer the dough into a large sheet of plastic wrap and cover. Refrigerate for an hour.
– In the meantime, preheat oven to 350F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
– Remove the chilled dough from the plastic wrap and roll using a rolling pin to a thickness of a little more than 1/4th inch. Then place the flower petals on top and press very gently. Roll once again(gently) to a thickness of 1/4th inch. (Tip- I place plastic wrap on the dough and then roll to avoid sticking)
-Using a 2 inch cookie cutter, cut and place the individual cookies on a parchment.

-Repeat the process until all the cookie dough is used.
– Bake for around 18-22 minutes and cool completely.(If much time is spent rolling and cutting cookies, and the dough has completely softened, place the cut and arranged cookies in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes before baking)

Bisibelebath: food and emotion

Rice and dal(lentils) mingling oh so gently with each other but emerging into a fiery romance of flavors when emboldened with a coarse crumb of roasted spices. The barrage of vegetables ensues a flawless texture. Oodles of melted ghee lends it a dash of oomph. Forgive me for this dramatization but this blessed dish has inadvertently transpired into an emotion and a delicious one at that. I humbly present to you, Karnataka’s pride and joy, the Bisibelebath.
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The affair began years ago. Amid 3 inch candles, an ornate cake, a ceiling masked by balloons & a slightly untuned rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to you’ , my maternal aunt and her kin unfailingly ensured that their guests returned home content and happy. Cake hardly disappoints but this sweet treat was always trivial in comparison to the pièce de résistance of the said series of evenings aka,  The Bisibelebath. Melted Ghee was poured over a sizzling plate housing the above dish and spicy potato chips tossed in chilli powder (that we bangaloreans fondly call ‘khara chips’) were nestled on the side.

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Mangia Mangia!…Submitting to Pizza Margherita

I’m spooling the tape back to childhood. Do indulge me while I unfold a tiny snippet from the past. Sukh Sagar, the famed eatery’s italic lightbox glimmered under the city’s night sky. Serving meals to patrons parked outside the restaurant while they reclined in the comfort of their cars was quite à la mode in 90’s Bangalore. The 5 of us(the parents, the 2 brothers and me), huddled in our car outside the restaurant while the food was brought and stationed on the bumper. The tray wobbled precariously as it hosted glasses of water and other snacks. For the next hour or so, the brothers and me devoured 4-inch discs of dough studded with bell peppers, onions and smothered with a tomato sauce and topped with visible strands of cheese. This was our first pizza and it has tethered itself unrelentingly to fond childhood memories much like the way mozzarella cements itself unyieldingly to a pizza base.
We’ve come a long way since then. Simplicity has transpired into a labyrinthine experience and I say this bearing no complaints. The thin-crust, the thick crust, the cheese-burst, the white sauce, the red sauce, the neopolitan, the Italian version, the Chicago version, there’s also the Indian version that I bake by splashing the base with a spicy Paneer Tikka Masala. Suffice to say, the options have no end.

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Let there be Dal: Gujarati Dal with Green Pea and Coconut Dumplings

Rewinding to languid Bangalore afternoons, when I was younger in a younger city. The sun washing the sand splashed grounds of college. Amid the frenzied flutter that the final years of college demanded, the one constant was my stainless steel lunch dabba. Plain toor dal, rice, salt, jaggery  and unmeasured quantities of ghee tied together into an epitome of comfort. Tovve anna in Kannada or Dal rice in English. On rare occasions, it would be spiked with raw chilles, coriander and perhaps a splatter of mustard and hing tadka. Those few minutes of lunch break dwindled before I knew it, mostly plagued by a string of worrisome thoughts about the remaining day. But devouring this meal was my present moment, my moment of unfettered, happy calm. I’m as drawn to the simplicity of this dish as I am to the  uncomplicated memories that follow in its trail. Long story short, I love tovve-anna and have never shied away from celebrating Dal and its many avatars.

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A slip of sunshine: Blood Orange Galette

“Dear Mother Nature,
I’m entirely seduced by this shimmering blanket swathing the earth. Barren trees revealing gnarled branches, tangled and peppered with snow, they soar unbounded into grey clouds. Frozen icicles precariously cemented to ledges make for enough drama on mundane days and snow dusted church rooftops make for visions that for years, I’ve only vicariously lived through books. Playful mists of breath, tiny impressions of pigeon feet on unblemished snow, ripples of water vanishing into rock …..may the enthusiasm never temper, may the joy never recede,may the beauty never fade.
However, there are times when I find myself pining for a slip of sunshine, just a sliver. Wishful thinking, I know. Fortunately, that coerces me to navigate into other avenues. Therefore, at the moment, I will resort to the warm rhapsody of the blood orange. Blood Oranges are peeled are laid on a a sourdough galette base, slathered with blood orange marmalade,  baked warm and devoured fresh. This is our slip of sweet sunshine this cold, winter morning. Our golden gild.

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