Yummy Breakfast Bagels – New York Style!

Last night, S, his family and I were just sitting on the dinner table talking about all sorts of yummy food, after dinner, which made me feel hungry again.. Somehow we got talking about donuts. I loooved donuts! There was this absolutely fabulous donut shop in downtown Monterey, California called Red’s Donuts, that made the most amazing, fresh ones. They were pretty much sold out by 10 AM and shut shop at 1 PM.. Ohhh the days before calories really mattered! We would head straight to the donut store after a short gym workout and I would get the custard filled ones! And the chocolate cakes ones! And the plain chocolate ones! And the cinnamon sugar ones! If you saw me, you could tell I’ve definitely enjoyed a donut or two!😀 Donuts are definitely my favorite kind of breakfast!

S preferred to have bagels with sundried tomato cream cheese, as a rare breakfast treat – just proving how opposite we really are! I thought bagels are the healthier breakfast option, perfect for a daily breakfast. But then again, I am comparing one bagel to 3 donuts..

S’s parents couldn’t help but remember the time they would take their twin granddaughters down the street to get some bagel and cream cheese, one of the twins’ favorite snacks! It seemed like there were many memories attached to bagels and since we don’t get them in Baroda, I decided to look into making some.

The first few recipes I researched were all traditional bagel recipes which needed a lot of proving time, a very specific starter yeast etc. Then I found this fabulous recipe which assured me I would have hot bagels on the table in under 2 hours! I cheated and even used instant yeast to get them faster and it worked! These bagels turned out chewy, yeasty and fresh! I even used all whole wheat flour to make them a tad bit healthier. Without any oil or butter, I could feel guilt free about eating these with some cream cheese and of course, butter!

New York Style Whole Wheat Bagels

Adapted slightly from here

Ingredients

2 teaspoons Instant Rise Yeast

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/4 Cup warm water (you may need more)

3 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour

2 tablespoons vital gluten

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Toppings

Kalonji, Crushed Pepper, Sesame Seeds, Chilli Flakes, Shahi Jeera (Caraway Seeds)

Method

  • Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast and sugar mixture.
  • Pour half of the remaining warm water into the well. Mix and stir in the rest of the water as needed. Depending on where you live, you may need to add anywhere from a couple tablespoons to about ¼ cup of water. You want to result in a moist and firm dough after you have mixed it.
  • On a floured countertop, knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Try working in as much flour as possible to form a firm and stiff dough.
  • Lightly brush a large bowl with oil and turn the dough to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and let it rest for another 10 minutes.
  • Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round. Now, take a dough ball, and press it gently against the countertop (or whatever work surface you’re using) moving your hand and the ball in a circular motion pulling the dough into itself while reducing the pressure on top of the dough slightly until a perfect dough ball forms. Repeat with 7 other dough rounds.
  • Coat a finger in flour, and gently press your finger into the center of each dough ball to form a ring. Stretch the ring to about ⅓ the diameter of the bagel and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Repeat the same step with the remaining dough.

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  •  After shaping the dough rounds and placing them on the cookie sheet, cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425ºF / 220ºC / Gas Mark 7.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce the heat. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to lower the bagels into the water. Boil as many as you are comfortable with boiling. Once the bagels are in, it shouldn’t take too long for them to float to the top (a couple seconds). Let them sit there for 1 minute, and them flip them over to boil for another minute. Extend the boiling times to 2 minutes each, if you’d prefer a chewier bagel (results will give you a more New York Style bagel with this option).
  • If you want to top your bagels with stuff, do so as you take them out of the water, you may use the “optional toppings” (listed above) to top the bagels.

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  • Once all the bagels have boiled (and have been topped with your choice of toppings), transfer them to a lightly oiled baking sheet.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown.

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We enjoyed these straight hot from the oven and they were so good! I definitely recommend spreading some delicious cream cheese (either plain or flavored like we did). I do hope S felt like he was back in New York and his parents back in Toronto. I wonder how I can improvise these. I am quite sure if I use only all purpose flour or if I add some gluten the texture will change, hopefully fluffier and lighter compared to the denseness of these bagels.

In either case, we really enjoyed eating these for breakfast the next day as well!

Happy Baking!

Super Duper Delicious Sundried Tomato-Basil Dip

I genuinely love writing about food.  It doesn’t matter how many people I reach, it’s just therapeutic to put down what I feel about food and to share recipes that have worked fantastically for me! Over the last few months, I have been at a crossroads – my small social media and digital marketing agency has taken off really well and that leaves me with very little time to blog! I’m hoping I can change this by installing a WordPress app on my phone to let me blog whenever I have a few minutes! This post is the first using this new app as I head to Bombay. 

Chips and dip are a classic combination! I think it takes a lot of will power for someone to turn down this combo! Perhaps it’s more attractive and comforting because it is enjoyed best when shared with friends and family. Whenever I think of chips and dip, I think of happy faces, casual seating and lots of laughter!

It also reminds me of the time my mom came to visit me in Monterey, where I was studying. She had just come down from India and was rather jet lagged. At 4 AM, I hear a ‘crunch, crunch’ sound breaking the deafening silence of the town. I head to the kitchen to find my mom with a giant pack of chips and a tub of Artichoke-Cheese Dip, seemingly pleased and in a trance! It’s an incident that my brother and I often laugh about while my mom dishes out weak defences every time.. If I concentrate, I can still hear the crunching of the chips and her sheepish look that morning!

This Sundried Tomato-Basil Dip is fabulous!! It’s creamy, tangy and can be made spicy. Perfect for our Indian palates and goes really well with our packaged Salted Chips. I cut out all the mayo and sour cream from the original recipehttp://m.allrecipes.com/recipe/81396/sun-dried-tomato-dip/?page=0 and substituted it with some thick, hung curd. I did keep some of the cream cheese, but reduced the quantity to keep it lower in fat.

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Sundried Tomato-Basil Dip

Ingredients

3 TBSP Cream Cheese (I use Brittania), at room temperature
1/2 Cup Thick, hung curd
1/3 cup chopped, Sundried Tomatos
2 garlic cloves
1/4 TSP ground pepper
Few dashes of Tobasco sauce
1/4 cup fresh Basil, roughly chopped
1 TSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt, to taste

Method

1. Rehydrate the sundried tomatoes by letting them soak in a bowl of hot water for 15 minutes.
2. Once the tomatoes have rehydrated, strain the water, keeping 3 TBSP reserved, and let them cool slightly.
3. Add the garlic, pepper, salt, tomatoes in the blender, with a little of the reserved water, and blend till smooth.
4. Then add the cream cheese, curd and Tobasco to the mix and blend again.
5. Finally, add the chopped basil and blend till smooth. Taste the dip for seasoning and adjust to your preference.
6. Remove the dip in a bowl and drizzle the olive oil over the surface. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve!

Enjoy this dip with pita chips, potato chips or tortilla chips!

Notes:
I used completely dehydrated Sub Dried tomatoes rather than those preserved in oil to reduce the fat and calorie content.
This dip cannot be stored for too long (2 days, at most) and must be refrigerated!

180 Degrees, McIver Resort, Conoor

The Colonial Era has always been something magical for me. It takes me back to that age in my life where I was curled up with classics like Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights along with historical romance novels. Such a  lovely time in your life where you don’t have a care in the world – the stress of studying, getting a good job or managing a family is non-existent. I would imagine being back in the Colonial/Victorian period, wondered what it would be like to be dressed in corsets and be a part of the ‘Debutante Balls’, eating all the food that was described: pies, hot chocolate, toast with honey along with tea! Luckily for me, I actually had the chance to visit a place that has been so wonderfully restored and maintained to give me just that feeling and let the wonderful memories from my books wash over me.

S, his family and I took a trip to the beautiful town of Wellington, India this Diwali. I had been to Ooty when I was very young and apparently had been to Wellington, but I had no recollection of the place. The Wellington Gymkahana Club is steeped in a different kind of history – a mix of British and Army culture. The food is typical club food with great eggs, sandwiches and South Indian food but does tend to get a little boring, especially if you plan on staying there for 5 days. The 2nd Day, we decided to walk down and explore what was close to us. Wellington is a little way away from the Conoor market and there really isn’t much in close proximity. After a short 20 minute walk, we came across McIver Resort.

What a view! It overlooks the valley and you can seen the colorful houses that cover the Nilgiri mountains. They have the most lovely, colorful flowers planted in the property and that definitely puts you in a sunny disposition. We entered through their dining area and I felt like we were transported back to some other era. The dining area is all wooden, with accents of French decor and has a lovely fireplace. The windows are long and give you an unobstructed view of the valley, the tables are wooden and the chairs are simple yet elegant. We were the only ones in the restaurant and were happy to take up a table that would give us the best view.

The menu has cuisine options of French, European, Thai, Lebanese, Indian and Italian. A very mixed menu usually makes me nervous because the food is always a mish mash of the different spices. Nevertheless, I was quite sure I would enjoy what they had to offer because I had heard such great reviews about the place. We began with a French Onion Soup. As someone who has started eating onions just about a year and a half ago, this was my first French Onion Soup. It was a thin broth, flavored with the sweet taste of Caramelized onions with croutons that were topped with eggs. I personally enjoyed the flavors because it wasn’t very heavy on the onions.

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Next we ordered some ‘bruschetta’ which was actually bread, with a layer of basil pesto and some lovely melted mozzarella cheese. The bread was delicious, freshly-baked, home bread!  In the cool air, the aroma of hot, fresh bread awakened by senses. The basil pesto piqued my interest – I don’t know if it was just my imagination, but I swear I could taste a hint of tea as an end note. The hot, melted mozzarella cheese was a little much in my opinion, but it was piping hot which made it better. The bread came after the soup and the lovely weather just made everything go together heavenly.

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For mains, we decided to get a simple Veggie pizza. This was the only disappointing part of our lunch. We ordered one with olives, and they were charging a good Rs. 75 more for just the olives, and the pizza came with only onions and tomatoes. We did talk to the server who said they would not charge us for the original pizza and just for a simple pizza, but it was a bit of damper. The pizza was a square shaped one, with the dough tasting nice and yeasty. The pizza was not overloaded with cheese, which is something we prefer. The tomato sauce was simple and tasted fresh. All in all, we really did enjoy that piping hot pizza while looking out at the beautiful valley and feeling the clouds enveloping us every once in a while. All I missed was a nice glass of a Cabernet Sauvignon.

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By this time we were both so full but when we heard that the dessert of the day was ‘Apple Pie’ there was no way we could say no. Their version of an apple pie was completely unlike any I have eaten before. The pastry tasted very buttery, a tad salty and I think they did use yeast in the pie pastry. The apple filling consisted of apple slices that were sprinkled with a little bit of cinnamon and they had some absolutely plain, unflavored cream on the side. I personally feel the cream could have been sweetened a little bit, but after such a heavy meal, I was  happy to avoid it completely.

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McIvers Resort has some beautiful, restored rooms that really make you feel like a part of history. There are old style fireplaces, beds with canopies, old style tables, corridors that are decorated with French-style painted plates and fresh, clean air that really takes you back in time. I loved the place and would love to stay here for a night or two whenever I go back to Conoor.

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More information can be found about McIvers Resort here.

After all that delicious food, we needed to stretch our legs and walked around the property. Here are some pictures of the resort.

The French-Style plates

The French-Style plates

The View from the Dining Room.

The View from the Dining Room.

Fireplace

Fireplace

An outside view

An outside view

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The view of Connoor from outside

The view of Connoor from outside

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And we had to walk through the clouds to go back! A perfect ending!

And we had to walk through the clouds to go back! A perfect ending!

Next up, I’ll be posting about where we stayed – Wellington Gymkhana.

Malaka Spice, Koregaon Park – Pune

You know the saying, “Opposites attract”? I never believed it and could not understand how two people who are completely different could live together. That was all until I met S. If you know one of us, it is so very easy to know the other one without ever meeting them. You just have to remember that if I like something, S won’t and vice versa. Let me try to explain this better with an example.

I never enjoyed Asian food. I don’t think I would even go out with my friends if they decided to go for Chinese food. The only time I remember joining them was when I was 16 and had just entered Junior College or High School. A friend’s older sister kept raving about this teeny place in one of the lanes of Koregaon Park called Malaka Spice. The restaurant served South Asian food, which was not such a popular concept a few years ago, that made it a ‘must-try’ place. Koregaon Park was the most happening place to be and we decided to go and try this restaurant out. None of us really knew that much about Vietnamese food or Thai Food of Malay food at that time.  We ended up ordering a bunch of things that did not really go well together and hated it! For the longest time I kept thinking that the restaurant served bad food, not once thinking that maybe we did not know what to order. I didn’t go to Malaka Spice for almost 6 years! Then I met S……..

S loves Asian food! He can polish off anything remotely Asian, sometimes even after eating dinner. His mom once told me that she would hide the bottle of soy sauce because he would love to pour it on everything. Back to 2 years ago, S was coming to Pune and I knew that I had to find a good Asian food restaurant otherwise he would think that the only restaurant I knew in Pune was Dario’s! After doing a lot of research online and talking to a bunch of people, I was convinced that the food at Malaka Spice was good and it was just us who couldn’t pair the food correctly.

We went to the new Malaka Spice, which had opened in place of a very popular nightclub ‘Lush’, in Lane 3. The atmosphere was wonderful! Lots of red paper lanterns, wrought iron furniture, very green and oh-so-cool. They do have an indoor seating as well but I have always enjoyed outdoor more. We took a table in a quiet spot and I decided to let S order. This time around, the food went together perfectly. I enjoyed all the flavors and I decided to bring it back from the “Never-go-again” list to the “Go-To” list for Asian food.
We went back many times again but we went last with my mom when we were in Pune. By now, we each have our favorites. We always start with the Vegetable DimSums, follow it with Pad Thai or any flat noodles, order some curry – either Red Curry or Penang Curry with herbed rice to end a super satisfactory meal. I have never had any space for dessert after eating all the yummy food and honestly, have never missed it.

The food tastes fresh, flavorful and is always served on time. The servers are well-trained and know how to pair food with alcohol. The vibe at the restaurant is very relaxed and it makes for a great place to meet with a large group of friends and enjoy a few drinks together. There is plenty of seating and the restaurant gets noisy only if you go for dinners over the weekends. I have had some hiccups here- once the rice was not cooked through and once they served us very foamy draught beers but both times, they made up for their mistakes. They could be more gracious and accepting of their mistakes but they have never been overly rude and have corrected the mistake without much arguing.

To sum it all up, this is a great place to try some authentic and very delicious South Asian food in Pune. I keep going back here and when I am in Pune, the first place I have to take my mom is here! For a wonderful ambience combined with good food, I give Malaka Spice a 4 on 5!

Restaurant Timings: 11:30 AM to 11:30 PM

Restaurant Contact: +91 8956938147

Website: http://www.malakaspice.com/

 

Jam Butter Thumbprint Cookies

Butter and Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Butter and Jam Thumbprint Cookies

As a kid, I never ate jam cookies. My brother, on the other hand, looooved them!! I remember mom buying Bourbon biscuits for me, Jim-Jam for my brother. I could never understand how he enjoyed them and I bet he kept thinking why I never enjoyed them. I found them overly sweet and didn’t particularly enjoy the jam flavor. I know that Kayani Bakery in Pune also made jam biscuits that were popular and my nephews and nieces loved them every time we would get it for them. I still didn’t enjoy them, even though I love Kayani’s other products.I think my biggest problem with jam cookies were that they are very sweet and taste rather artificial. I never thought I could ever enjoy jam cookies but this recipe surprised me! These are jam cookies for adults!

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I love the website Stumble Upon and I find it fascinating what you can find from the endless world of the Internet. I have found some great websites, which I now follow regularly, while Stumbling Upon. That’s where I found this recipe. As with all recipes, I read the negative reviews and the helpful suggestions before embarking on them. The cookies were described as buttery, less sweet with slightly chewy centers. Some people weren’t very happy that these weren’t very sweet and taste more buttery than anything else, but then they are BUTTER cookies! I was happy overall with the reviews and decided to incorporate some of the suggestions into my recipe. It also helped that I had some delicious fresh, natural, preservative- free jams in my fridge.

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This recipe is more adult-friendly, though it would look very attractive to children. This has less sugar and isn’t crispy but if you have kids who don’t like their baked goods overly sweet, its perfect!

Butter and Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Inspired by a recipe from here

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar (I used a little less – 2 tbsp less)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup fruit jam

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 170 degrees Celsius. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
In another bowl, whip the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes
Beat in the egg and vanilla, until just about combined.
Slowly fold in the dry ingredients, in 2 batches, mixing until just about incorporated.
Scoop the dough into 1-inch balls. You can roll the cookie dough balls in sugar if you wish. I did not.
Place about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake the cookies for about 7 minutes, until slightly risen. 
Pull the tray out of the oven and press a thumbprint into each cookies, about 1/2 inch deep or use a cap to make a better and uniform indentation. 
Fill each indentation with about 2/3 tsp of jam.
Return tray to oven and bake for an additional 9 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are slightly golden.
Cool cookies on the sheet for 1 minutes before transferring onto a rack,

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These tasted wonderful with coffee and tea! I dipped some of the buttery edges into my coffee and bit into them and they were deeee-licious!! The cookies absorbed the coffee flavour very well and melted in my mouth! I have already made them twice and look forward to filling the centres with many more different toppings!

Happy Baking everyone!!

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