Monday, 30 July 2012

Twice Baked

On a random day when I have nothing to do I find myself in the kitchen. I love trying out new recipes, and even though my brother is adamant that I burn water, I enjoy being there.

I'm very capable of butchering an onion if I have to finely chop it, and I can’t roll a pizza slicer or draw a knife down in one straight line, BUT I love making food. And it almost always turns out the way I imagine it will (and almost never like the pictures). I’ve been told that real cooks don't bake, and baking is the safe way out because you’re not experimenting with flavoring. Bah I say! If I’ve made it and you eat it - that's enough for me! I'm not competing for a Michelin star.

A few weeks ago, I attempted to make Brioche burger buns for when we went out of town. I like making bread even though it takes so long! Knead it, proof it, shape it, proof it, blink, proof it, etc etc. It took me most of the day to bake these wonderful bready buns but the end result was pretty awesome – if I do say so myself.

I get a lot of kitchen inspiration from and these were just one of the things I came across when messing around on the site.

Brioche Burger Buns – Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (my comments)

Mini ball of dough
I started off rolling the butter into the flour but soon realized there was way too much flour and not enough butter. I ended up adding three times the amount of butter that was asked for before I was satisfied. What I really enjoy about making bread is kneading it and slapping it around on the counter. It’s like a small punching bag that's exclusively for you to destress with. Put the dough into a glass bowl, covered with a damp cloth to proof and go get on with your day. Give the dough three or four hours to rise and when you go back to it, it’ll be magically and wonderfully doubled or even tripled in size!

I struggled with rolling the dough into buns because it was so tacky, but managed to make 8 almost similar sized balls and then had to leave them to proof again! That's when I washed the dough off my hands, dusted the flour out of my hair and went to kickbox. The bread wasn't going anywhere and I was fed up being in my kitchen!

You will need:
3 tablespoons warm milk,
2 teaspoons active dry yeast,
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar,
1 large egg,
3 and 1/3 cups regular flour,
1 1/2 teaspoons salt,
6 tablespoons unsalted butter,
Handful black and white Sesame seeds (optional but very necessary I think)

Step 1
In a measuring cup, combine 1 cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. The milk and water should feel warm to the touch but not hot. Let it foam – (it will take over ten minutes and look like something has gone bad in your glass.) Meanwhile, beat one egg.

Step 2
In a large bowl, mix salt into the flour. Add butter and rub into the flour between your fingers, making crumbs. (All the flour won’t crumb, but I managed to convince myself that it had after 6 tablespoons of butter and squinting my eyes shut.)

Step 3
Mix in the yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto clean, well-floured counter and start to knead. It will be very wet and very sticky, so make sure you add enough flour on the counter to avoid that.

Scoop the dough up and start slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes (it took me 5). Remember though that the more flour you knead in, the tougher the buns will get. (I must have added at least half a cup more than I should have, but managed to keep the dough off the counter.)

Dough in a bowl ready to prove
Step 4
Shape dough into a ball and put it in a glass bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled. (I left it in my kitchen and came back four hours later and presto!)

Really sticky dough!
Step 5 
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (Make sure you sprinkle flour onto the paper other wise the dough will stick. – I didn't do this and the bottoms of my buns stayed pasted to the baking sheet when I tried to pry them off after baking)

Divide the dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange two to three inches apart on baking sheet. Press down on them lightly so they flatten into what will eventually be their burger bun shape. (I went for an almost oval shape and divided the dough into two baking trays)

Once again, cover them with a damp cloth and leave them. (I decided to try spraying oil onto clingwrap instead of the cloth and my poor buns didn't rise. The ones I didn't experiment with rose beautifully. Leave them for a couple of hours again (maybe you could go do your hair?))


Step 6
Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius with rack in center. Beat remaining egg with one tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. Sprinkle with sesame seed. Bake until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Enjoy enjoy enjoy!!!

My wonderful, yummy, light, sesame seed-y brioche buns

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


“Fitness - if it came in a bottle, everybody would have a great body.”
- Cher
And don’t I know it!

If you love food the way I do, you will understand that you NEED to be on a diet once in a while and you NEED to exercise as well. I have spent many years saying ‘nah I don't need to exercise as long as I eat right’. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

I’m really very lazy. If the gym isn’t ten minutes away from home I just wont go. Sometimes, and its happened often enough, even if it is a ten minute walk I still wont go. I have come up with so many excuses, reasoned with myself, bargained with my subconscious and ignored that my jeans were getting tighter and tighter. 

This could be me
I get frustrated on jogging tracks going round and round in a circle. Its like we’re tiny hamsters unknowingly generating electricity. I discovered something a few years ago – if I'm running from point a to point b – say from work to home – I enjoy it. I walk, skip, jog and run all the way home and enjoy the view while I'm at it. This view was marine drive for a while when I worked at Nariman Point. I highly recommend it - IF you can manage the logistics of what to do with your lunch bag, laptop and handbag.

I’ve broken ankles, and torn cartilages in my knees and had to sit in bed for months on end – which of course I did happily. Nothing like being told that I'm not ALLOWED to exercise to make me even lazier than I normally am.

So I came to a point 6 months ago where I didn't fit into anything and all I did the whole day was sit at home and lounge around. I was being too lazy and completely irresponsible and I needed to start exercising and stop eating. I got up, went to a nutritionist (who is amazing by the way) and started running every day. I was already dancing twice a week (I teach Salsa, yes lucky me) and I made sure I didn't miss a day. 30 minutes running up and down in my building was all I needed. I timed myself, put in different music on my iPod every day so I wouldn't get bored and just ran.

Luckily I was working from home so I didn't need to stress about what time to work out, when to workout etc. I’d wake up, have some breakfast, wait for a suitable amount of time (six hours to sleep?) and then go downstairs. Another amazing thing was that it was winter (what passes for winter in Mumbai anyway) and my building is conveniently positioned so that the driveway is almost always shaded. Which meant that I could run downstairs at 3pm if I chose to, and I frequently did.

Lo and behold! It worked! 30 minutes of running a day + a few sets of crunches and stretches and I was feeling fitter, looking better and loving it.
woohoo check me out

Over the last few months, I have also started kickboxing, which is the most awesome way to exercise. I’ve grown up playing Mortal Kombat and Tekken and for three or four hours a week I get to pretend I’m Hwoarang. So much so that when my instructor asks me to spar, I attempt to do his specialty moves which results in my instructor lying paralyzed on the floor laughing. This is a classic example of ‘What I feel like’ and ‘What I actually look like’.


1. Suck it up
Yes exercising is annoying and irritating and why must we bother? We bother so we can eat, drink and be merry and still fit into the expensive clothes we bought. If you have to exercise, you just have to do it.

2. Find something that works for you
I dislike going to the gym. I much prefer running around outdoors and I'm super happy having someone come to the house so I don't have to leave my bedroom to exercise. Find something that you enjoy doing and you won’t quickly get bored with.

My fantastic Marine Drive view
- I run on Marine Drive so I can move from one place to another, some days I go to the Race Course where I run in one direction and then reverse it after a round to break the monotony. 
- I teach/ dance salsa a few times a week – there’s nothing like getting your heart rate up like being on a dance floor for 3 hours a night. Join a class, learn to dance!
- I kick box at home because I'm too lazy to go to a class, and this way it works on my timings rather than my adjusting to someone else’s (I’m so lazy).
- II’ve done nothing, I will try (the operative word here is try) to wake up 20 minutes early, and do 20 surya namaskars.

3. What’s a rest day?
If you’re very serious about needing to lose weight, PLEASE don’t say ‘oh it's the weekend I don't need to do anything’. Your body doesn't care that it’s Saturday or Sunday (though it does appreciate the extra sleep) and you need to keep your metabolism up by exercising at least once during the weekend. In my over excited, unemployed and dedicated phase I ran six days a week. My entire building thought I was insane, but it really worked for me, and I was enjoying it.

4. But the top I bought 6 years ago still doesn't fit
Its important to remember that you wont see many results in week 1, you will suddenly feel fitter weeks 2 and 3 and then you’ll plateau. You have to ride out the plateau; most exercises only work after a month of being conscientious. Don't go attempting to buy new clothes within the first few weeks, wait for a while before you can see an actual result.

What happens when you go clothes shopping is that you either get over confident because you fit into a size lower than you normally do, or you get depressed because that super skimpy dress you saw in zara still doesn't fit. That's ok, maybe you should try it on in another size?

Keep in mind that when you put on weight, you don't always put it on or lose it in the same places. Chances are the top you bought 6 years ago may never fit again because the shape of your body is constantly changing. And really, if you bought something 6 years ago maybe you should think about buying something new?

5. Stick to the plan
If you’ve set yourself targets, and they can really be as simple as ‘I will go for a walk twice a week’ or ‘I will walk up the stairs instead of taking the lift twice a day’, try and stick to them.

6. Don't be someone you’re not
I’m not a morning person, I never have been and I don't think I will ever manage to be. So I don't try waking up at 6am to go for a run, because it just ain’t gonna happen. I've made plans to go for walks at 6am, and then turned my phone off, I joined spinning classes at 7am and fainted on the bike because I was tired and my body can't handle the adrenaline rush in the mornings… the list is endless. 
Stick to the schedule your body is comfortable and don't listen to people that say ‘oh if you don't workout at 7am its not really effective.’

Hmm; I can keep preaching, but the bottom line is you're going to have to WANT to exercise.

For now, I’m content pretending I'm part of Tekken every morning. Anyone want to join me? HAIIIIYAAA!