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Welcome to our August Bakealong Challenge. Each month, we announce a new recipe for you to try, along with helpful tips and step-by-step instructions here on our blog. We invite you to bake this month’s recipe, Golden Focaccia, then share a photo of your creation, tagging it #bakealong. We recently wrapped up the first year of our Bakealong challenge, and decided to kick off our second year of Bakealong with this classic Italian country recipe. It is a casual bread, enjoyed warm from the oven with family and friends, a dish made for sharing.

Maybe you’ve tasted the American version of this flatbread, typically thick and tender with a soft crust but we’d like you to learn about true focaccia, the kind made in Italian towns from Genoa to Catania. Our Golden Focaccia Bakealong will show you how to create the real thing: Italian focaccia, usually a bit thinner than American-style, crusty and chewy and topped with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a scattering of herbs. Fancy versions of focaccia will have chopped olives or onions, plus maybe a few curls of shaved Parmesan. But one trait common to all native Italian focaccia is this: there’s no iconic recipe, and it’s never made exactly the same way twice.

GOLDEN FOCACCIA

Ingredients:

For the Overnight Starter

1/2 cup cool water

1/16 teaspoon instant yeast

1 cup all purpose flour

For the Focaccia Dough

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

1/2 cup lukewarm water

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Method:

  • Make the overnight starter by mixing water and 1/16 teaspoon instant yeast, then slowly add the flour.
  • Stir until the flour is incorporated. The starter will be paste-like; it won’t form a ball. Cover and let rest.

  • Keep at room temperature for about 14 hours and starter will be bubbly and be ready by next morning.
  • Combine the starter with the remaining dough ingredients, and knead to make a smooth, elastic dough.

  • Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour. Dough will become noticeably puffy.
  • A large baking sheet (e.g., an 18″ x 13″ half-sheet pan) will comfortably hold the entire batch of dough.

  • For a smaller focaccia, pat the dough into four 6″ to 8″ rounds, either freeform or in round cake pans.
  • Use non-stick vegetable oil spray to lightly grease the pan. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top of it.

  • Gently pull and shape dough into a rough rectangle and pat it into the pan but not all the way to edges.
  • Leave an inch or so free around the perimeter. Cover pan, and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes.

  • Use fingers to make irregularly spaced dimples, pressing down firmly to reach the bottom of the pan.
  • Cover dough, and let rise until it is noticeably puffy, about 1 hour. The dough should have expanded.

  • Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F. Set baking stone on lower-middle rack.
  • Spritz heavily with warm water. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, enough to collect in the dimples.

  • Sprinkle with rosemary, any herb of your choice, black pepper, and some flaked sea salt or kosher salt.
  • Place the pan of focaccia onto the baking stone. Bake until light golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

KAF August 2017 Bakealong Challenge: Golden Focaccia

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Milk (Doodh) Peda is a traditional Indian sweet made by cooking milk and ghee together until it forms a soft dough. Flavorings like saffron and cardamom powder are then added before the warm dough is rolled into balls and flattened or given attractive shapes using decorative molds before being topped with chopped nuts or dried fruit. This recipe, from  Honest Cooking, will easily give you a small batch of milk pedas with a nice chewy, almost fudge-like texture, using full cream milk powder and condensed milk. Decorated with a single pistachio, they are commonly offered as prasad to Lord Krishna on the special occasion of Janmashtami.

MILK {DOODH} PEDA

Ingredients:

1 can condensed milk

1 3/4 cup milk powder

1 tablespoon pure ghee

1 tablespoon liquid milk

Pinch of cardamom

Pinch of saffron strands

1/4 cup pistachios

Method:

  • Chop the pistachios into halves and set them aside. Warm one tablespoon milk in the microwave.
  • Add the saffron and cardamom powder to milk and give a quick stir and let it sit to infuse flavors.

  • In a heavy based cooking pan add the condensed milk and milk powder. Mix and whisk till smooth.
  • Add the milk with saffron and cardamom and mix well until there are no lumps. Switch on the heat.

  • Cook this mixture on medium low heat, stirring intermittently until the mixture starts leaving sides.
  • Now add ghee and keep mixing till it turns into a doughy ball. The mixture will thicken as it cooks.

  • Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes or until you can easily handle it. Roughly divide into 20-25 portions.
  • Apply some ghee to your hands and roll into a smooth ball. Press between palms to flatten it a bit.

  • Add a halved pistachio to the center. Allow them to cool completely, they will solidify as they cool.
  • Store in airtight container. Makes 20-25 pedas. Stays good for up to one week in the refrigerator.

Milk Pedas with Pistachios

A popular treat from North India, the besan laddoo is traditionally served as prasad, an offering made to God or to mark festive occasions like birthdays and weddings. Unlike other laddoos which involve painstaking methods of preparation, the technique of making besan laddoos comes as straight forward and relatively foolproof such that you will get it right on your very first attempt. The only catch is to get your besan/chickpea flour perfectly roasted over a low flame until it loses its raw smell and texture without letting it burn.

The rich, characteristic taste of the besan laddoo depends on this crucial step, so roll up your sleeves and make sure that you keep stirring the hot besan until it turns golden and fragrant. Usually a generous amount of clarified butter is required to get that distinctive melt-in-the-mouth texture, so do not skimp on the desi ghee if you can help. The khoya helps to bind the mixture well and make it less crumbly though it does reduce their shelf life a bit. Make this easy yet flavorsome laddoo for your brothers on Raksha Bandhan and share the love!

BESAN LADDOO

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups besan

1/4 cup semolina

1/2 cup ghee, melted

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup khoya or mawa

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 cup almonds, chopped

1/4 cup cashew nuts

Method:

  • Heat 1 tablespoon ghee in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the cashew nuts and sauté on low medium flame.
  • When they turn golden brown, remove from the pan from heat and place cashew nuts in a bowl to cool.

  • Add almonds to ghee, sauté on low flame for 3 minutes. Remove from pan and place with cashew nuts.
  • In the same pan, add remaining ghee and allow to melt and turn warm, not hot. Slowly, add the besan.

  • Roast on low flame till besan turns color and gives lovely aroma after at least 30-35 minutes of cooking.
  • Turn off heat and remove roasted besan to a wide plate and allow it to cool. It can be slightly lukewarm.

  • Melt 1 tablespoon ghee and roast semolina on low flame for 7-8 minutes and add it to the roasted besan.
  • Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon of ghee to the same pan and sauté the grated khoya for some 2-3 minutes.

  • Turn off flame and remove it from pan. Grind the roasted cashew nuts and almonds to a coarse powder.
  • Add the nuts to roasted besan. Add powdered sugar and mix to combine. Finally add cardamom powder.

  • Mix gently to combine and shape this mixture into small, lemon sized even balls. Leave to set on a plate.
  • Place cashew nut on top as garnish. Laddoos have a shelf life of 2 weeks at room temperature. Makes 12.

Besan Laddoos

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