Monday, September 24, 2018

How to Make Buckwheat Focaccia

Making bread at home is fairly easy. All you need is good quality yeast, flour, water and a bit of salt, at the very basic level. Once you're confident with that you can easily expand your repertoire with a few more ingredients and even with different kinds of flour. I find focaccia to be one of the easiest breads for beginner bakers like me. I've made innumerable focaccias and so far, thankfully, I've had no disasters! 

On a recent visit to the market the hubby and I picked up a packet of buckwheat flour. The plan was to use it to make pancakes in place of the regular APF pancakes I was making. 

buckwheat flour

I happened to make bread at home soon after and we immediately wondered how a focaccia with some buckwheat flour would taste. I did search on the Net but found recipes that were purely for those looking for vegan or gluten free breads. Since those required ingredients I didn't have I decided to just see what happened if I replaced a certain amount of APF with buckwheat flour in my usual focaccia recipe. As you can see in the picture above, it worked! 

Buckwheat Focaccia

2.5 cups all purpose flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
1.5 tbsp sugar
2.25 tsp instant yeast
1.5 tsp salt
1 cup tepid water
1/4 cup good quality olive oil

extra olive oil
toppings of your choice - garlic, sun dried tomatoes, olives, jalapenos, etc

In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer mix all the dry ingredients and the olive oil. Stir for a couple of minutes to mix. Use the dough hook if you're using a stand mixer. Now pour the water into the mixture in two lots, mixing well in between additions. Don't add all the water unless you need to. Mix the dough combining all the ingredients till it comes together. 

If you're kneading by hand tip the dough out onto your cleaned and lightly oiled work surface and knead for a good 15 minutes till the dough comes together in a soft, slightly sticky ball. Add dry flour if the dough is too sticky but work at it steadily with a gentle hand. 

You can let your stand mixer do the kneading, it turns out just as well. Keep an eye on things and add a bit of dry flour if required. 

Once the dough is ready shape it into a neat ball and put it into a large greased (with olive oil) bowl to rise. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and leave it undisturbed in a warm spot till it has doubled in volume. 

Now turn out the risen dough onto your work surface and deflate it gently. Divide the dough into two and shape two loaves by gently patting the dough onto baking sheets. You can make the loaves thick or thin, as you like. Press holes into the surface of the loaf with your finger tips and poke in slivers of garlic, bits of rosemary, sun dried tomatoes or any other topping. Leave the loaves to rise for another 25-30 minutes. 

While the loaves are proofing set your oven to preheat at 200C. Once the loaves have risen properly slather generously with olive oil and bake for 15-18 minutes till done. When you tap on the loaf you should hear a firm hollow sound. The buckwheat flour will give you a darker loaf so don't go by how brown the loaf has become. 

Remove from the oven and brush with more olive oil. Let the breads cool and then slice up and serve. Enjoy the focaccia with bowls of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, soft cream cheese, and some cold cuts, or pair it with a hearty bowl of soup. You can also make superb sandwiches with this bread. 

Making Ghee in the Microwave

I love making ghee at home and have done it ever since I set up my own home. In fact, in these 18 years of being married and having my own household I've bought a tin of Amul ghee only once. It wasn't bad but it was obviously different from ghee made in my house and I never bought ghee again. These days the only out sourced ghee in my kitchen is Bonolokkhi ghee from Santiniketan. A little jar of that sits in my kitchen to be used as a drizzle on hot rice or khichuri.

However, as much as we enjoy the Bonolokkhi ghee, nothing gives me as much pleasure as home made ghee from full fat buffalo milk. As a child I had seem my mother make ghee at home.

There would be an aluminium dekchi or pot in which she would collect the thick cream. Our household consumed a litre of buffalo milk daily and the pot of malai or 'shawr' would fill up in a week. Moni would take the pot out of the fridge and leave it to come to room temperature. Once it was soft enough to churn she would get her churner - a hand-held gadget that would be plunged into the collected cream and then one would turn a handle that in turn made a wheel go round to turn beaters just like the ones we get on hand held electric beaters today. Of course, Moni also had a fancy Kenwood electric stand mixer with a detachable hand beater but she found it easier to use the manual gadget rather than unpack the Kenwood.  The job of churning the malai soon fell to me as Moni decided I was old enough to be used as free kitchen labour.

Once the malai was sufficiently churned dollops of white butter would emerge and this butter was scooped out and then cooked over a low flame in a thick bottomed kadai till the beautiful, aromatic and golden ghee emerged. Moni would cool the ghee and then strain it to be stored in the large glass Nestle coffee jars with their broad orange plastic lids. She had dozens of these jars and her pantry cupboard would have a line of these filled to the brim with her home-made ghee. There would be so much ghee that a jar of ghee would be carried as a gift for Didin on our yearly trips to Kolkata.

In later years Moni had a lot more to handle and she stopped churning the cream to make butter but would simply cook it directly to make ghee. It was quicker and less bothersome. I too stopped extracting butter before making ghee out of sheer laziness. It isn't the most efficient way and there's a fair amount of cleaning to be done, especially of the cooking vessel. And then I discovered the method of making ghee in the microwave on Chef at Large.

This was a revelation! Nothing much to it and no mess at all! No stubbornly stuck bits on the cooking pot, no multiple pots and gadgets to clean, and beautiful ghee too! I am a convert and here's how to do it.

Microwave Ghee

Collected cream

Large microwave safe glass bowl
wire whisk or fork
tea strainer
glass jar

Keep the collected cream on your counter top to come to room temperature.
Transfer the cream to the microwave safe bowl.

Whisk it lightly to make it smooth and even.

Set your microwave on 100% and then zap the smoothened cream for 10 minutes.

Stir gently with your spatula and then zap again for another 10 minutes. Hold the bowl with a napkin as it might get hot.

Give it another 5 minutes and then continue microwaving in bursts of 5 minutes till it looks like this -

Let the ghee cool and then strain it into a clean glass jar. Your ghee is ready!

The residue in the bowl will come off very easily so you don't have to worry about soaking the vessel and then applying serious muscle power to clean it. This method worked really well and the ghee tastes as good as ever. Do give it a try.