Ria's Collection

Saturday, October 10, 2020

COOKBOOK!

It's Cookbook Time!
Hello everyone! I am waaaayyy beyond thrilled to finally let you all know that I have been working on my very FIRST COOKBOOK for the last two years. Yes, in between all the get-togethers, potlucks, birthday parties, tea parties, sleepovers, stitching, gardening, travelling and all that I have been sharing with you... I've been writing a cookbook! It's been a wonderful, yet crazy journey that kept me awake on many nights, kept me stuck in thoughts, kept me wondering if I can ever nail that recipe right, etc. It also gave us many delicious meals to enjoy and also very many, many dishes to wash.
The work is all done and submitted. Now, it's just a matter of a few weeks before I can share more details with you! I still cannot believe that I just shared the good news with you guys on the 12th anniversary of my food blog! Yes, today marks 12 years since I started Ria's Collection. Time flew by, right? 

Monday, September 7, 2020

SEMOLINA BREAD LOAF

Semolina Loaf

Iabsolutely love baking bread at home. More than quality control, it gives me so much joy to transform simple things like flour, water, yeast and salt into a soft dough which bakes up into this boxy heavenly cloud! If you have never baked bread before, I urge you to give it a try. You will be hooked for sure! It is pretty dangerous to be a bread baker who loves to bake (& eat!) bread because you will forever have a fresh stock at home and then it just find it's way into your belly, one slice at a time.

Semolina Loaf

When I came across this recipe, I wanted to try it to see if there was any difference between this bread and the one that I had been baking for years. My regular, go-to white bread is made fully out of all-purpose flour. But when I sliced into the freshly baked Semolina Bread Loaf, there was barely any difference in taste or texture. I wouldn't have known that it wasn't made out of all-purpose flour if I didn't bake it myself. It was that good! The crumb was exceptional as you can see in the photograph above. I loved every bite of it!


Semolina Loaf


If you are a newbie at bread baking, I have a few pointers for you to bake a successful loaf of bread. Yeast is a living organism, so when you add water, it should be just warm and never boiling hot. If you were to check the temperature, it should range somewhere between 100F -110 F. It should feel nice and cozy, like a warm bath water.  If the water is too hot, you will kill the yeast and you will have to start over. Dead yeast will not leaven your bread, it will be rock-like when baked. Also, baking is a science. So please be exact when you measure the required ingredients. Please don't eyeball anything, you will most likely be disappointed in the end.
Semolina Loaf

SEMOLINA BREAD LOAF
Makes one 9 X 5 inch loaf
Ingredients:
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons white sugar
315 ml milk & water 
500 grams fine semolina / rava / suji
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk powder
1 tablespoon oil
Method: Oil a 9 X 5 inch loaf tin and set it aside.
In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the oil and stir to form a soft shaggy mass. Cover and let it rest for 20-25 minutes. 
Add 1 tablespoon oil and knead the dough until you achieve the windowpane test. It will take about 15-20 minutes by hand and about 5-6 minutes in a stand mixer. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add another tablespoon oil while mixing. The final dough should be smooth and soft and shouldn't break when stretched (windowpane).
Let the dough rest in a large, covered and slightly oiled container until doubled in size. Knock back the dough and roll it out into a large rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Roll it up and place it into a prepared loaf tin. Cover and let it rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Brush the top with ghee and bake at 200 C / 400 F for 30-35 minutes or until golden on top and sounds hollow when tapped.
If you'd like, brush some more ghee over the baked loaf. Transfer the hot loaf onto a cooling rack to cool completely. 
Enjoy!
* If your semolina is coarse, grind it for a few seconds in the mixie to make it fine.
Like I mentioned earlier, I couldn't notice any difference between a semolina bread loaf and the regular white bread. This recipe makes a very soft, delicious bread. You can use this bread for every recipe that calls for white bread. They make terrific sandwiches, french toasts, bread puddings, bread crumbs etc. I hope you try baking it at home and if you do, let me know your experience!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

CROISSANTS

Croissants

There was a time in my life when I didn't know what a Croissant was. Then there was a time in my life where I made Croissants for weeks together! I was a student at Le Cordon Blue at that time and Chef Paul taught us how to make the very best Croissants. We baked so many over the course of 6 weeks and even had an exam on it. It was so much fun learning how a small change in the process can change the outcome dramatically. I enjoy working with yeast because it's pure magic that's happening right in front of your eyes. 

Croissants

Making Croissants can come across as something that's hard to achieve at home, especially for a first-timer. In my opinion, it's not difficult if you pay close attention to details. And when I say that, I really mean it. There are no two ways about it. Every step matters if you want to have a consistent product each time, like how it's mentioned in the recipe. It's not a recipe where you can add or take away things during the process. When you read through the recipe, it might sound super length-y. It's actually the most easiest process but attention to detail, like how I mentioned before, if the key.

Croissants

So you begin the process two days prior to the actual baking and eating day. On day one, you make the dough and butter block. On day two, you bring the two together and do all the folding. On day three, you bake and eat it! The active time in making Croissants is very little. You just do a little each day and the dough is resting in the fridge for the most part of it. One of the important steps is to make sure that the dough and butter block that you make on day one, is of the same consistency / feel  when you are about to do the folding on day two. Butter should feel as pliable as the dough, thaw if need be.Why is it important? It's because if the butter block is hard and the dough is soft, it will break up while you fold. You don't want to take any chances of the having a butter leakage at any point. If you do, stop what you are doing and let the dough chill for a 10-15 minutes. You might get tested for patience, if you are doing this on a hot, humid day.

Croissants


Try to get the best possible butter that you can lay your hands on. The more fat content it has, the better is is! I used a block of unsalted butter from Hope Creamery, Minnesota. I love their butter! Croissants are best eaten warm but there's not harm in freezing fresh ones and warming it up in a toasty oven later. It will still be good. This recipe is from Weekend Bakery, a blog I came across on Pinterest a few months ago. I pinned it to try later and here I am! It will look lengthy but I promise you, it's not that long when you do it. Just be sure that you follow the instructions. , including the measurements!
Croissants


CROISSANTS
Makes 15
Ingredients:
500 grams all-purpose flour
140 milliliters water
140 milliliters milk (cold milk is ok)
55 grams sugar
40 grams unsalted butter
11 grams instant yeast
12 grams salt

280 grams unsalted butter, cold
1 egg yolk + 1 teaspoon water, for egg wash

Method:
Day 1 : Making the dough
Mix all the ingredients together from flour through salt on low to medium speed for 3 minutes until it all comes together to form a dough with a low stage of gluten development. You are not looking for windowpane here, the dough will fight back when you roll. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap and chill in the fridge overnight.

Day 2: Laminating the dough
Cut the cold butter into 1.25 cm thick slabs. Arrange the pieces on parchment paper to form a 15 x 15 cm square. Place another piece of parchment paper over it and pound the butter gently using a rolling pin to flatten it to a 19 x 19 cm square. Trim the sides to straighten it and place the trimmings on top of the square and flatten it again to form a 17 x 17 square. Wrap and chill until needed.
Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface to 26 x 26 cms square with straight sides and even thickness. Take the butter out of the fridge. Place the dough square with one side facing towards you. Place the butter block over it at a 45 degree angle so that a point of the butter is facing towards you.Fold a flap of the square dough over the butter, so that the point of the dough reaches the centre of the butter. Repeat with other three sides. The edges of the dough flap should slightly overlap to enclose the butter fully. With the palm of your hands, lightly press the edges to seal the seams.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out from the center to form a rectangle of 20 x 60 cms. Aim at lengthening the dough and not widening it, keeping the sides straight. Fold the dough letter style, folding the top 1/3 portion towards the center and folding the lower 1/3 rd portion over it. Cover and let it chill for 30 minutes. Repeat the process two more time, rolling out the dough to 20 x 60 cms each time. After each turn, turn the dough 90 degrees before you roll again. After the 3rd turn, cover and chill the dough in the fridge till Day 3.
If the rolling gets tough at any point, let the dough relax in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

Day 3: Dividing the dough
Take the chilled dough from the fridge and roll it out to 20 x 110 cms on a lightly floured surface. Do not stretch the dough, just roll it gently. If it fights back, fold it letter style, cover and chill for 20 minutes. It took three rounds for me to roll it out that long.
Once the dough is fully rolled out, gently lift from the sides to let it shrink naturally. Your strip of dough should be long enough to let you trim the sides and still be 100 cms long.

Shaping the dough
Take a tape measure and mark 12.5 cms intervals at the top of the dough ( 7 marks in total). At the bottom, make a mark at 6.25 cms. Then continue to mark at 12.5 cms intervals (8 marks in total). Top and bottom lines will not match and will form the base of the triangles. Make diagonal cuts using a pizza wheel from the top mark to the bottom mark. Continue this for the length of the dough. Change the direction and cut the opposite way for the length of the dough. You will have 15 triangles and a few odd shapes of dough.
Using your pizza wheel, gently make a 1.5 cms notch in the centre of the short side of the triangle. Now, gently elongate the triangle to 25 cms. You can use a rolling pin for the same.
After you cut the notch in the short end of the triangle,try and roll the two wings by moving the hands to the center, creating the desired shape with a thinner, longer point. Try and roll the dough very tight in the beginning and use just enough pressure to make the dough stick together (don't squish it!)
Proofing & baking
Place the shaped croissants on a baking sheet with enough space between them . Whisk together the egg yolk and water and brush a thin coat over the croissants. Let them proof in a draft-free space with an ideal temperature of 24 C -26 C. It will take about 2 hours. You should be able to tell if they are ready by carefully shaking the baking tin and see if the croissants slightly wiggle. You should be able to see the layers of the dough from the side.
Preheat the oven to 200 C / 390 F convection or 220 C/ 430 F convectional oven.
Right before baking, give the croissants a second thin coating of egg wash. Bake them for 18-20. It's best eaten warm. You can reheat frozen ones at 180 C/ 350F for 8 minutes straight from the freezer.
Enjoy!

I rolled the dough scraps with chocolate and baked them along with Croissants.
Try making Croissants on a relatively cooler day, it save you some trouble!

Did I scare you with the lengthy instructions? If I did, please take a deep breath and read it again. Write it down on a piece of paper, it can help. The first time can be intimidating with all those measurements thrown in. I promise you, it's not all that scary!
If I didn't scare you, what are you waiting for? Get baking! When I was working at Hyatt Regency, Minneapolis as a Pastry Assistant, we would fill our Croissants with Nutella just before serving. Just poke a hole in the bottom of the Croissant and fill Nutella with the help of a piping bag. Dust some icing sugar over the top and enjoy it with some hot coffee!

You can find the step-by-step instructions with photographs on my Instagram profile.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

HOMEMADE PERFECT PAPPADAM

Homemade Pappadam

This is definitely not my family recipe. None of us make it at home. I mean, why take the extra effort in making it when you can buy some in less than half the time,right? I must admit that it's hard to find good Pappadam these days, even in Kannur. Nalla pole pollunna pappadam is a rare sight. They always reminds me of the sadya we ate during the Kerala State Youth Festivals when I was in school. Somehow, eating pappadam with rice on a hot, humid day brings in a lot of memories for me. Today was one such day here in Minneapolis. 

Homemade Pappadam

I don't like the Pappadam we get to buy here in stores. They just don't puff up, even the ones that's sold by the name Kerala Pappadam. They are like Pappadam polathe Poori, crisp flat discs with some bubbles here and there. I agree, it tastes the same, but to me a Pappadam should puff up dramatically, just like a Poori. Thin, a bit salty and crisp, shatteringly so. Our little ones and Jobin goes ga-ga over them,so I was on the lookout for a good recipe for a while now until I stumbled upon Jinesh's page. This is the very first time that I am making Pappadam and they couldn't be more perfect!

Homemade Pappadam


It is a breeze to make Pappadam at home. You will need some muscles to pound the dough to make it pliable. That's the only place where you might be wondering if it's really worth all the trouble. I would suggest that you hold on to that doubt and wait until you fry your first handrolled, homemade Pappadam. That feeling when you see them puff up, one after another is beyond comparison. I was literally jumping up and down and by the time I fried the second one, Jobin's Mummy was right next to me. That excitement was contagious to say the least! 
Homemade Pappadam



HOMEMADE PERFECT PAPPADAM
Makes 28-30 pieces
Ingredients:
1 cup whole skinned Urad dal 
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Approximately 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon water
2 teaspoons oil*
All-purpose flour, for dusting

Method:
Powder the urad dal very fine and sieve it into a large bowl. Add the salt, baking soda, water and 1 teaspoon oil. Mix to form a stiff, slightly sticky paste. Add one more teaspoon oil and mix well. By now, the dough would have come together and the sides of the bowl will be almost clean. This shouldn't take more than a minute.
Transfer the stiff dough onto a clean counter top and pound it down with a pestle, folding the dough and flattening it as you go for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, the stiff dough would have become pliable and soft, almost like a chapathi dough. Roll it out into a long log and divide them into 1 inch portions.
On a floured surface, roll out each portion into thin discs, just like storebought ones. Lay them flat on a baking tin, without overlapping and dry them under the sun for 10-15 minutes, flipping once in between. Store them in airtight containers and fry as needed in hot oil.
* The original recipe called for sesame oil, I used vegetable oil.
You can cut them into perfect rounds using a cookie cutter, if you wish to. I did that and fried up the scraps as well. I didn't bother rolling out the scraps.I flipped the pappadam half way through the drying process because I felt the underside was slightly wet. It should still be soft and pliable after sun drying. Do not make it stick like.
I am assuming that these will stay good for week in a covered container if stored in the fridge. I didn't get the chance to try that out.
Homemade Pappadam

If you were to ask me if it's a time consuming process, I will have to agree to that. It took me close to a hour from start to finish. It will also depend on how fast you are at rolling them out because the time taken to make the dough would remain the same for all. Will I make it again? 100% yes! Next time, I will try if my Kitchen Aid can help. If it does, I am sure it will cut down on the pounding time. 
Try this with your kids but do keep an eye on them because you don't want the to pound their own tiny fingers! 
Now that Onam is around the corner, I couldn't think of  a better recipe to share with you all! I hope you give it a try because it is so worth it! I must warn you that the fruit of your hard work will vanish in mere minutes once they are fried!!

Monday, July 27, 2020

CHERRY JAM

IMG_7622

Cherries are without a doubt one of our favourite Summer fruits. No matter how many packs we buy, they get over in a couple of days time. I look forward to seeing them in stores by mid May and when I do, a pack is definitely coming home with us! This year, we take turns in doing grocery shopping and Jobin is the one who does most of our Target shopping. I often tell him how much I miss going there and walking around casually looking at all the wonderful fruits and produce! It's all done in a rush these days. Get into the store as quick as you can and get out even quicker. 

IMG_7631

Talking about doing things quickly reminded me of how I work in my kitchen. I love to cook but I do not believe in spending a lot of time in the kitchen just cooking and doing dishes. I want everything to be done quickly, without wasting time. I sometimes feel that I push our children also into doing things quickly, unknowingly. I try to slow down at times but then the itch to finish things begins quickly! :-)  Are you guys like me? I am sure, I am not alone in this race against time. I always feel that my biggest competition is myself. It's not just in the kitchen... I am always trying to better myself from what I was yesterday. I sometimes fail but I pick myself up and try again! It's a never ending process but a happy, satisfying one!

IMG_7628

I have been making jams and jellies for a while now and I love how quick the whole process is and in the end, you are rewarded with multiple bottles of goodness that you can use over the year and even gift to friends, especially around the Holidays. We go through quite a bit of jam yearly because we love our jammy treats. I use them on our toasts, plop some on my thumbprint cookies and also sandwich my cookies with them. I enjoy thinning it out with some fruit juice which complements the jam and sometimes even water and use it to serve alongside my cheesecake, pannacotta, cakes etc. It's very versatile and handy to have them with you throughout the year! This wonderful jam recipe comes from MJ.
CHERRY JAM
Makes 2 cups
Ingredients:
20 ounces pitted fresh cherries
10 ounces white granulated sugar
Juice of one lemon

Method: Roughly chop the cherries and add to a large pot with tall sides. Add the sugar and lemon juice and cook on medium heat until the sugar melts. Increase the heat so that the mixture comes to a full boil. Cook until the jam reaches 220F on a candy thermometer or when a drop of jam poured onto a cold plate, sets.
Ladle the hot jam into clear, sterilized bottles and let it cool completely. Put the caps on and refrigerate until its used up. If you are canning it, you don't have to refrigerate it.

* There are many ways to check if the jam is done. Using a candy thermometer makes the guess work much easier. You could also do a sheet test or a single string test. Some even draw a line in the hot mixture and if you can see the bottom of the jam pot, it's ready.
IMG_7638

The colour of this cherry jam is so lovely! Once I was done making it, I somehow just didn't feel like washing the pot. It was a lovely deep purple-pink. I don't know how else to describe the colour! :-) When you make the jam this way, the cherry pieces are still visible in the end product. If you don't like it that way, you can quickly blitz the cherries once you roughly chop them using an immersion blender. I have seen people do it once the jam is cooked and before it's bottled. I like to bite into fruit pieces so I've kept the cherries roughly chopped.
Some fruits have natural pectin in them and some not so much. Cherries do not have enough pectin to make the jam set, so lemon juice is used to help it reach the desired consistency. So do not skip it altogether. The jam does not taste of lemon. I hope you like it!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

BAKED CHEESECAKE

Baked Cheesecake

I enjoy trying new recipes because they keep boredom in the kitchen at bay. Ever since the lockdown began, I have been seeing a lot more people cook and bake on Instagram. It's so tempting to follow all of them but then again, I feel I might overlook the updates from people who I know in person because that's what happened to me on Facebook. So I just take a screenshot of the recipes and let them know once I've tried it. 

Baked Cheesecake

I absolutely enjoy when you tell me that you have tried something from here. It's not a sense of accomplishment but it's something that makes me feel that I've been helpful to someone. I get a lot of responses, more than what I can respond to in a day's time on Instagram these days. I enjoy every bit of it and sometimes I fight with the kids to get that extra five minutes to reply to all the queries and the beautiful pictures you all send. It is really heartwarming going through every single one of your messages.

Baked Cheesecake

Whenever I get similar questions, I do a Q & A session once in a while. It's even more fun because I get to interact more with my followers. I just finished doing one today and I am amazed at the variety of questions you had for me. I've heard that variety is the spice of life and it really is true, in this case for me. By doing so, I get to know you guys more. It's boring when it's a one-way interaction. Don't you think so? 

Baked Cheesecake

So when I was scrolling through my Instagram explore page, I came across Simi's page and found her recipe for this baked cheesecake. Even though I've baked many a cheesecake before, I felt that this one would be incredibly delicious because of the ingredients. Condensed milk is my forever favourite ingredient to add in a dessert. I have been caught multiple times by Ian while trying to scrape and lick the bottom of the tin. I don't know what it is but condensed milk just makes everything taste better!

Baked Cheesecake

I baked this cheesecake over the weekend because a friend of ours was coming over with her baby after what felt like ages. Now, meeting anyone outside the family feels like a celebration. So I felt I needed to bake something different yet something that she would enjoy. As I was scrolling through my screenshots on the phone I quickly thought of this recipe. I had everything on hand so didn't waste any minute and set out to baking this beautiful, delicious cheesecake.
BAKED CHEESECAKE
Make a 9 inch cake
Ingredients:
Base:
250 grams Marie biscuits, powdered fine
100 grams unsalted butter, melted
Filling:
500 grams cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup condensed milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Dulce de Leche, as needed

Method: Preheat the oven to 400 F / 200 C and wrap the outside of a 9 inch springform tin with foil.
Base:  Mix the two together and press into the tin.
Filling: Using electric beaters on medium high speed, beat all the ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined, about 2 minutes. Pour over the base and bake in a water bath for about 40-45 minutes or until the cheesecake is almost set and still a bit jiggly, like jelly. Take it out and let it cool completely. Chill for 6-8 hours to set it further. Top it with a few dollops of Dulce de Leche before serving.
* You can add berries, chocolate, cookie crumbles etc to the batter before baking. Change the topping accordingly. You could also bake it plain and serve with fruit toppings.

Baked Cheesecake

When our friend left, Jobin wasn't around and when he came down later I thought he looked serious when told me that it was the best cheesecake that I have ever made. He kept saying how perfect the slice looked and how soft the filling was and how perfect the base was. I didn't know how to react because I was trying to read his face at first that whatever he said didn't register quickly. I laughed out loud when the compliment finally sunk in. 
Baked Cheesecake

Our friend really enjoyed the dessert and I packed a few pieces for her to share with her family later. This is indeed a good recipe and I am sure there will be multiple repeats and requests for it from now on. The leftovers were happily polished off by Jobin & Zara! I urge you to try this sometime soon, you will really enjoy it! Just keep an eye on the baking time. It can vary from oven to oven. The final jiggle of the cheesecake as you pull it out of the oven should remind you of jelly-jiggle. It will continue to cook and firm up as you let it cool down and later chill in the fridge. To get clean slices, dip your knife into boiling hot water and wipe it. Repeat for each cut. Simple, right? 
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