Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Apricot Strawberry Mojito for Sparkling Himalayan Mocktail Contest

It has been weeks that we had the gala Indian Food Bloggers Meet, yet there seems no end to possibilities of winning stuff. Some of the sponsors who generously gave away their products to the participants also contributed for prizes for contests held. Some of those contests are yet open to us and we are being tempted to try and win.
One such sponsor Tata Group Sparkling Himalayan announced a contest to recreate their signature mocktails. They had dropped in to the goodies bag, a bottle of  Sparkling Himalayan.

Sparkling Himalayan with its unique, distinct taste is pristine source water with added carbonation.
Have sparkling on the rocks with ice and lemon or mix it up in your own flavour combination!

The contest rules are thus : follow one of the mocktails that Ms. Shatbhi Basu created, give it your own twist and share it. Simple and interesting, isn't it? They also provided us with the few video links to help us.
As part of the above mentioned SPARKLING HIMALAYAN CONTEST, I chose to make the peach apricot mojito. I replaced the peach with fresh strawberries and using fresh apricots to make the juice at home. I added a tiny dash of green chilli and a slice of ginger to give the already sweet, tangy drink a pep with flavours.

It was a dull day with overcast skies that one is not inclined to step out and do any outdoor activity. When the sun made an appearance by mid evening, it was nice to sit out and sip the drink while reading a book.

Apricot strawberry mojito:
Adapted from Ms. Shatbhi Basu's Peach Apricot Mojito

Serves TWO large servings
1 cup Apricot-strawberry juice (I blended the fruits in the blender and strained them)
6 small limes
1 cup sweetened lemonade
2 tablespoons light brown sugar (optional/ if your lime are too sour)
1/2" fresh ginger sliced fine
1 centimeter long piece of green chilli(optional)
1 fist full mint leaves
Lots of crushed ice
1/2 of a bottle of Sparkling Himalayan

For the garnish:
1 sprig fresh mint leaves
Lime rind

To coat the rim of the glasses:
A small wedge of a lime
A few teaspoons powdered sugar

Take two high ball glasses.
Squeeze the wedge of lime over the edges, and dip the rim of the glasses in the powdered sugar. This will coat the rim with sugar. I powdered strawberry flavoured Menthos poppins to coat the rims.
If using fresh fruits, blend them in a blender with some water and strain them. Also squeeze out juice from one lime and mix to the juice. Add sugar to the juice to make it sweet enough. If you happen to use ready and packed juice, this step is not necessary.
Slice the limes in fours.
Slice the ginger thin. And slit the chilli, remove membrane and seeds.We just need a very small slice of it.
Take some wedges of lime in the glass, squeezing the juice and dropping the rind along. This will give that oil and slight bitterness to the drink.
Drop with those half of the ginger and the slice of chilli.
Top this with fresh mint leaves and crush them well using a crusher.
Top the crushed ice all the way up.
Pour into this the fruits juice.
Finally add the Sparkling Himalyan to top it all the way to the rim.

Serve garnished with more mint and a lime rind.
Best served chill and freshly combined. As the ice melts and the flavours dominate, the drink gets more refreshing.
Enjoy adding twists, the possibilities are so many that you will want to try more.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Indian Food Bloggers Meet 2014- what I take back with me

Those of you who follow me on some networking sites would have also seen that I have been actively commenting, liking and retweeting as many posts that show up with the label IFBM 2014.
The first Indian Food Bloggers Meet, in India was an event conceived by four bloggers, Aparna, Arundati, Revatii and Nandita, all of whom have worked hard to make their idea work and have included forty others who write food blogs. The event was held on the 1st and 2nd of August 2014 at the attractive Aloft Bengaluru, Cessna Business Park.
I had already voiced my excitement about being able to attend this Meet. In the same post I had put my thoughts out as to what I looked forward to and what my apprehensions were. Once in the company of those friendly forty others who had registered, my apprehensions were put to rest. Blogging has given me some good friends, a few of whom were also present. The others whom you read about and knew through their blogs and other networking sites were there too. It was great to connect with them face to face and share mutual interests.
There is much to talk about how meticulously the organisers planned this event out. They had put in hours planning and talking to people and sponsors. They had thought it out thoroughly and made each session an experience to nurture. They had hoped to make a recognition for food blogging, what we bloggers as a community look for and strengthen ties.They had planned sessions to help us take what is  hobby bordering on passion to newer levels. I am grateful that they included all of us in that vision.
The first day brought us sessions in food styling by Deeba, whose photographs are something every food blogger wished to present their food. I must admit, though shame faced, that I missed this session stuck in traffic that moved inches while the minutes ran faster. However, there was time enough to catch up and I am looking forward to having a digital copy of her points. Overall, there was an aura of awe soon after, needless to say how the participants felt.
Next session was somewhat familiar to me as I had attended Aparna's basics on food photography. Yet, there was new learning there too with points thrown in from others. Aparna discussed as much as possible in detail, racing against her given 45 minutes and made sure we did not miss anything, however trivial.
This session was followed by KitchenAid India's Masterclass with Chef  Surjan Singh Jolly from JW Marriot. He whipped up two dishes using three KitchenAid appliances. Kitchen Aid India had conducted a contest and prizes were distributed at this point.

Now please allow me to stray a bit and introduce our venue partners, Aloft Bengaluru, Cessna Business Park. As much as our organisers had planned the speeches and interactive sessions, they had put in thought to taking a break and having refreshments. Team Aloft CSB, outdid themselves with each break. We were thoroughly spoilt with choices of refreshments served with a smile. I can only talk about the teas endlessly, for I chose to have servings of all they had to offer, giving up on the food. The lunch on the first day was an array of chaats beautifully laid out giving one the experience of having it somewhere in the corner of a street. I may have well slept through the next session after this meal, but for some more refreshing flavoured tea.

Lunch was followed by Nandita's thoughts on harnessing the power of social media, where she took us through how to make ourselves 'social', what, where and how to go about it. She invited Archana Doshi to share a few of her experiences and give tips on how the tools work.

A wine appreciation and pairing session that Mr. Aneesh Bhasin of Hipcask conducted was next. I sat nursing my tea with no clue of what this was about. For those who know anything about wines that may have been useful when they entertain guests.

It was time for tea and as though the lunch was just a small affair, Aloft brought us along with tea some wonderful Eastern Indian food and flavours.
Deeba interviewed Husna Rahaman on her Spice sorcery a story that is food centric and a family traditional one at that.

Next morning it was one of the most awaited sessions; trapping the SEO. Mr. Asish Verma took us through tools that you may optimise best. A bit more technical than I could quickly follow, he spoke of  plugins, algorithms and such. I apologise for not having much to explain, as I do not intend to make light of such an intense learning opportunity. I am determined to read and take notes from Siri who has so much more insight to it.

Rushina took us through good writing and presentation of your thoughts that can hold the reader captive. She spoke of simple language usage and what is being not followed by many of us. Good writing, use of words to show your connect to the reader are important. Coming from a cookbook author, this point is to be taken well.


Aparna Jain was our next guest speaker who told us how to self publish a book, if you intend to. what to do and what not to expect, how to keep it all within your control and limited capacity were her key thoughts.That she did with some light hearted fun, the session was well received.

The panel discussion that followed was very useful, as one could easily relate to the people on it and their stories. They were ones who started blogging, like me, simple and on a hope of good time pass and hobby, and have successfully nurtured their passion to take it beyond. Sanjeeta, Harini, Ruchira and Ranjini, Rushina, and Kalyan Karmakar,  with Arundati moderating, took us on a discussion on beyond blogging.

Every possibility, and how to turn it to advantage, every hurdle and how to overcome and gain out of it were core topics of this discussion. This session was very participant interactive for there are many of us hoping to make something worthy out of blogging.
A sit down lunch at The Nook was most enjoyable. There was food, food and more food to relish. And if that was not enough we were taken through a Masterclass on Western Cooking by Chef Sameer Luthra.

Team Aloft led by their General Manager Mr. Faiz Alam Ansari, were commendable in their hospitality. A big thanks is due to them.
Many thanks are due to all of the sponsors who generously gave away goodies in form of food and food related stuff that we were overwhelmed. I may be cooking and blogging them in my next few posts. This generosity was quite humbling.

In all, these two days were a  upward trajectory on my learning curve, yet a fun one at that.
I acknowledge with thanks the awesome four people who just made it happen and the other participants who showed much comradeship. The two days were educative with all of us pooling ideas in.  We have evolved as a community, a voice and we are food bloggers.
Our Facebook and Twitter pages have updates that we are losing count of reading and commenting. There are more fun pictures, good pictures (I apologise for some poor quality ones in this post) that of the participants, guest speakers, venue and the food. Check out the Indian Food Bloggers Meet page on facebook for many updates.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gibassier - We Knead to Bake 19

This month's bread that the members of the We Knead to Bake group are baking is a buttery textured, delightfully soft French breakfast bread, that is sweet, shaped somewhat like the Fougasse. I was looking forward to baking a savoury bread and when Aparna sent us the document was somewhat disappointed - that is until I baked this easy to do bread and tasted it.
The document was shared sometime around the fourth of July, and I was leaving for India the next week. So I wanted to give my try before I was caught up with other things. This bread is not particularly difficult, but one needs a bit of preparation ahead, involving the process of making a pre-ferment or the biga.
Now, before I get to the recipe, here I share in Aparna's text, information on the Gibassier. I would normally do a reading and looking up, but this time I was quite pressed for time. Thus, as I am confident that Aparna does a lot of reading before she puts it out to us, I share here what she sent us:

"This month's French pastry bread is Gibassier (pronounced zee-bah-see-ay) from the Provence region, for us to bake. The Gibassier is also the name for large cookie from Lourmarin in particular that’s about a foot long, is made with olive oil and oval shaped like a leaf.


So what is a Gibassier?

The Gibassier is a buttery textured French breakfast bread that is flavoured with candied orange peel, orange blossom water and aniseed, and topped with a sprinkling of plain or vanilla sugar. It is shaped somewhat the way one shapes a fougasse and delightfully soft and delicious. GIbassier can be shaped and made as one big round loaf, or larger or smaller single serve breads. Whatever size they come in, they are slashed/ snipped decoratively before they’re baked and this makes them even more irresistible. 

Gibassier is one of the 13 traditional French Christmas desserts that are traditionally served after Midnight Mass to signify Christ and his 12 aposltels at the Last Supper. Many people refer to the Gibassier as Pompe à Huile (French olive oil bread) while others insist the two are not the same. The Gibassier is somewhat like an Italian Panettone, and it is believed that it must apparently be torn apart with the hands when served to bring good luck in the New Year.

It is thought that the Gibassier is named after a mountain peak in the Luberon Mountains, called Le Gibas. Others suggest that the name comes from the “gibacier” which referred to a flat bag that was used to carry game, somewhat similar to the shape of the pastry."

Gibassier (A French Anise & Orange Flavored Loaf)

There are certain aspects that define this bread and again here is what I have to share from Aparna's document.
  • The use of Orange Blossom Water is important as it gives the Gibassier a distinct flavour that is difficult to replicate with any substitute. So leave it out if you can’t find Orange Blossom Water, or maybe try one of the substitutes mentioned in the recipe section of this post.

  • The other important part of this bread is the candied orange peel. If you do not get or do not like the orange peel, substitute for that with dried apricots chopped and soaked in orange juice.The orange flecked Gibassier has a lot of aesthetic appeal.

  • After baking the Gibassier, brushing them with clarified butter (ghee)while still warm not only gives them a lovely nutty flavour and taste but also helps the dusted sugar to stick well to the bread. Clarified butter is easy enough to make, as all it requires is to melt some butter and cook it till it turns golden.
  • To make the decorative cuts in the Gibassier, do not use a knife (however sharp it may be) or anything that drags through the dough. What you need is something that you can push down into the down to make a clean cut. 

For the Pre-ferment (Biga):
1 1/2 cups bread flour                 
1/2 cup milk
1/16 teaspoon instant yeast

For the Dough:
2 eggs (I have substituted for eggs with flax seeds powder and warm water)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup orange blossom water*
1/8 cup warm water (or orange juice) **
3 1/4 cups bread flour
All the pre-ferment/ Biga from above
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
75 grams butter, slightly soft***
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoon anise seeds
1/2 cup chopped candied orange peel (I used dried apricots) ****
1 teaspoon orange zest (use 2 teaspoons if using dried apricot)

For Glazing and Dusting the Gibassier
1/3 cup to 1/2 cup clarified butter (ghee) *****
Vanilla sugar or castor sugar

*What gives this bread its signature aroma is the orange flavour and orange blossom water makes all the difference. It is difficult to replicate with substitutions, so if you cannot find it, you may leave it out altogether. In this recipe since orange is an important flavour, you can can use 1/2 tsp orange extract instead, if you have it. Otherwise you can substitute the 1/8 cup water with unsweetened orange juice.

**If you are using apricots instead of candied orange peel, replace the 1/8 cup water with warm unsweetened orange juice.

***It is important to use butter that is just beginning to soften. The butter should be somewhat cold but just soft enough for you to press down with your finger. If your butter is too soft you might have greasy Gibassier.

****You can make your own candied orange peel if you want to.

If you don’t like cadied peel, you can substitute it with chopped dried apricots. But then remember to use warm orange juice instead of warm water for a stronger orange flavour.

*****If you don’t have ghee, you can make your own clarified butter. Just put unsalted butter in a pan and melt it. Let it boil and bubble on medium heat until it turns golden. Strain out the solids and you have clarified butter/ ghee. Store in a glass jar.

You can use melted butter instead of clarified butter but you will not get the same flavour.

You can make your own vanilla sugar at home, by steeping slit vanilla pods (whole or those from which you have removed the seeds) in a jar of granulated or castor sugar. Let it sit for about a week or two and your vanilla sugar is ready for use.

Making the Biga and baking the bread :

Make the biga or the pre-ferment the night before. Mix the ingredients listed together, increasing the milk a little bit, if necessary, (as it was for me) to a slightly stiff yet smooth dough.
Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat with oil on all sides. Cover loosely and let this stand at room temperature for 14 to 16 hours. By then it would rise and have a fermented look.
The next day, when you are ready to start the process of getting the dough ready and baking it, keep the butter out and allow it to soften just a bit.
I did not use eggs, instead I mixed flax seed powder in warm water, whisked it to substitute for the eggs.
The process of kneading van be done with the aid of a processor, which makes it easy or by hand, a bit long and messy process as the dough gets quite sticky.
In the processor bowl place the eggs/ substitute, olive oil and orange blossom water. Run it for a couple of minutes until they combine. Add the warm water (or warm orange juice, if using apricots) to this. If you are using eggs, ensure that this water is not hot so the mix does not curdle because of the eggs.
Now, tear the biga in pieces and add to the above in the bowl, the bread flour, sugar, salt and yeast.
Knead until the dough is smooth. Then add the butter in small chunks a little at a time making sure that the butter is well incorporated in the dough. Add the aniseed, orange peel and gently incorporate them in the dough.
The dough has to be kneaded well until it is soft and supple.
Grease a bowl with some oil and make a roll of the dough, turn it well in the oil and cover the bowl.
Let the dough rest and rise to almost double the volume which takes about a couple of hours.
When that has been achieved, turn the dough on to the work surface and divide it in twelve equal portions. Shape each of them in a round and allow them to rest for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Roll one portion in a semi circle or in an oval shape. Make three cuts using a small cookie cutter or however you feel fit. The three cuts have to be made one in the centre and to facing outwards in the arch of the semi circle. Snip off a small portion on the arch also at two points to give it a floral shape.
Lift the shaped dough and place it on a parchment lined baking tray. stretch the dough a bit so as to make the cuts show.Keep it loosely covered as you work the next one.
Repeat the process until all the dough is done. I had scraps from the cuts and could make one extra gibassier with that.
Place the baking trays covered and allow the dough to puff up a bit for 30 to 45 minutes.
Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Bake the gibassier for 12 to 15 minutes until the top is nicely golden brown.
Soon as the trays come off the oven, brush the ghee on the warm buns. Sprinkle the vanilla sugar on top and allow them to cool on wire racks.
Serve the gibassier warm with coffee or tea.

I have halved the above recipe so as to get 6 large gibassier. With the extra from the scraps I had one more.
If you can remove the warm gibassier off the parchment and press it lightly in the vanilla sugar, they will coat evenly and a bit more. I sprinkled the sugar on top and that sufficed to our taste, a little more than mildly sweet and not too sweet.

There is Aparna's post and all of our links at the end of that post. Please do check it out and see what an array the members have brought for you.