Friday, September 14, 2007

Breaking Bread with the Bloggers

Every month, Coffee from The Spice Cafe sends us off on a mission called the Monthly Blog Patrol: the idea is to browse our favorite blogs and choose some recipes that make us want to run to the kitchen and try them, and, well, run to the kitchen and *actually* try them, instead of merely drooling all over the keyboard. This month's theme: BREAD from scratch.

There are all kinds of breads that are on my to-do list. This time, I decided to try my hand at making submarine rolls (or baguettes or hoagies, if you prefer), the ones that are delicious with all sorts of sandwich fillings. I always seek out these rolls from good bakeries- the best rolls have a hard crusty shell that cracks as you bite it, revealing a soft and pillowy interior. After all, anyone can turn out fabulous cakes and pastries full of rich ingredients, but it takes a great deal of talent to make a delicious product from just flour, water and yeast. The inspiring recipe came from the blog Coconut and Lime. With just 1.5 cups of flour, it is a small-scale recipe, perfect for pilot experiments.

The most sought-after characteristic of these rolls- the crisp texture of the crust- is achieved by creating a steaming effect in the oven when the rolls start to bake. This can be done either by spritzing the oven interior with a spray bottle filled with water, or by throwing ice cubes on the floor of the oven. I tried both and thought that the ice cube dumping was easier and worked better. I suggest reading the original recipe carefully if you want to try this; I have merely written a short summary here. It takes about 3 hours from the time you start making the dough to the point of getting fresh-baked rolls from the oven.

Sub Rolls

(adapted from Coconut and Lime, makes 4 palm-sized rolls).

1. In a food processor, make a smooth dough with 1.5 cups flour (I used 1:1 all-purpose flour and white whole-wheat flour), 1 t salt, 1.5 t yeast and 0.5 C or so water.
2. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, then let it rise for an hour or so.
3. Gently collapse the dough, divide gently into 4 portions and let them rest for 20-30 minutes.
4. On a cornmeal-sprinkled surface, gently pat each portion of dough into an oblong shape. Cover and let it rise for another hour.
5. Heat the oven (with a pizza stone inside) to 450 degrees F. Place the rolls on the pizza stone, throw 4-5 ice cubes on the oven floor (they will melt and vaporize with a great deal of hissing and sizzling), and close the oven door.
6. After 5 minutes, turn the temperature of the oven down to 400 degrees F, throw 3-4 more ice cubes on the oven floor, and let the rolls bake for 15 more minutes, or until golden brown.

I used the rolls as a base for Barbecue sandwiches, using this recipe from Vegetarian Times.

It was the very first time that I used the meat substitute seitan (wheat gluten) and I thought it was OK, but nothing to write home about. The barbecue sauce was quite flavorful and overall, we enjoyed these sandwiches. The rolls had a superb crust, to my delight, but the inside was a little more dense than I would have liked. All in all, this was a delicious meal.

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Here are a couple more recipes from fellow bloggers that I tried and loved (NOT entries for the event, just ones that I wanted to share here)...

There are all kinds of reasons why I bookmark a recipe, but this following recipe was bookmarked for the simple reason that it has such an irresistable name: Succulent Mountain Mushrooms. I was tempted to make this delicious mushroom curry the minute I read Nabeela's post.

This recipe was a good example of how minor variations in the spice profile can lead to such diversity in the tastes of dishes. This mushroom curry starts off with the most unusual tempering: asafoetida, fenugreek seeds and jet-black nigella seeds (kalonji). This last ingredient is a newcomer to my pantry. The result was completely delicious! The mushrooms are the most succulent and flavorful ever, and if you close your eyes tight, you can pretend that you enjoying the crispness of the Himalayan air, rather than being trapped in a sweltering Mid-Western summer.
P.S.: This recipe comes from a beautiful book called Mangoes and Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. Part travelogue, part photo-essay, part cookbook- this coffee table-style book is entirely worth a read.

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I happened to mention spaghetti with soy "meatballs" and roasted cauliflower in this post and Roshni left a comment on the post saying that she would like the recipes for these. Well, it took me quite a few weeks to get to it, but here are the methods to make these (too simple to be official "recipes")...
1. Spaghetti with soy "meatballs": This quick yet satisfying dinner uses three pantry staples- whole wheat spaghetti, canned whole tomatoes, and fake "meatballs". I don't use meat substitutes very often, but this last product (usually made of soy protein) is something I do like to keep on hand. There are many brands available, and I normally use the ones from Trader Joe's.

I started by following Karen's recipe for Sunday gravy
(pasta sauce for the rest of us!) to the letter, except that I did not add any soy crumbles. I always imagined that flavorful pasta sauce requires hours of simmering, but luckily, I was wrong :) This one takes 20 minutes and is absolutely delicious. The fennel seeds add incredible flavor, so don't even dream of skipping them! I added thawed soy "meatballs" in the last 5 minutes of simmering. Toss this sauce with cooked whole wheat noodles and sit down to the heartiest meal ever. This is a wonderful meal for a crowd- or for family dinner- don't miss the lovely description of Sunday dinner in Karen's post.

2. Roasted cauliflower: our favorite fall/ winter side dish, a go-to vegetable dish when inspiration fails me. Cauliflower cooked this way is so tasty that I find myself nibbling on it as if it were popcorn. I don't have a picture of this, but will update the post the next time I make this stuff.
(a) Take a medium head of cauliflower. Cut into bite-size florets. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F.
(b) Place the florets on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with 2-3 T extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Use our hands to distribute the oil over the florets.
(c) Roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 7-8 minutes, or until the florets start browning. By this time, the cauliflower should be tender on the inside (test with the point of a knife). If not, turn the oven off and leave the sheet in there for 5-10 minutes more.
(d) While cauliflower is roasting, mix the following in a bowl: 1/4 C coarsely chopped olives (any kind you like; I usually use Kalamata olives), 1 heaped T capers, red chilli flakes (optional), 2 T fresh lemon juice and 2 T minced parsley.
(e) Stir the olive mixture into the roasted cauliflower and serve.


  1. Those buns look very do you do in microwave?

  2. wow! thats quite a spread. esp like the rolls with their filling. lovely entry :)

  3. Feel like trying all of them from your blog, loved that bread from scratch...will surely try this and also soy meatballs, coz I love spaghetti!

  4. lovely bread Nupur!!
    Who can resist that with a cup of hot tomato soup!!
    combo to die for!!
    loved u'r other dishes as well!!

  5. sometimes I do a similar thing with roasted cauliflower. I also do a simpler roast - just olive oil salt and cumin on florets, and that is lovely as well.

  6. The buns look delicious with the filling

  7. Nupur,
    Love your blog. I'd like to try the soy meat balls. Are they in the frozen section of Trader Joe's?

  8. Your bread has baked so perfectly! Got to try this one...loved your spaghetti with meat(less)balls too!:)

  9. Those breads have a very warm, hearty feel to them. You got them perfect and the sandwich makes me hungry
    I have not seen these soy balls, which aisle are they usually in ? My Ma makes these kofta like balls with "Nutrela", they taste yummy

  10. The rolls look great Nupur and the sandwich is altogether tempting. Spaghetti and soy meat balls seems like an absolute treat for the palate.

  11. Spafhetti with soy meat balls looks so warm and inviting, i ma sure gonna try this one as soon as i can get my hands free.....the bread seems so neat

  12. You're an inspiration, for sure, Nupur! How do the rolls 'keep' for anyone inclined to make a 'larger' experiment : - ) to have on hand for later?

  13. That spaghetti with soy balls sounds and looks too good. I love cauliflower but find it so pesky to cut them up, and when I try to cook them in a curry, they go all limp on me. I will try this roasted version. Thanks for sharing!!

  14. Hey Nupur,

    The buns look so nice just like the perfect ones we get in bakeries..:D Nice yummy post Nupur.

  15. Your bread and the sandwich look great. And now, I have the excuse to a) use some of the yeast in our pantry and b)buy that pizza stone I've been wanting for a while. Questions: Is the crust nice and crusty? Is the white part fluffy?

  16. The rolls look really good! Must try them sometime. Never tried seitan.....Soy meatballs/koftas are my favorite too, occassionaly with some aloo and corn ;).

  17. the rolls looks awesome and little crunchy too. For me a doubt, where to get that pizza stone, never heard about it. Because I want to prepare these rolls. Please give me the details. Thanks in advance and waiting for the reply. Great entry too.

  18. Nupur, your rolls look bakery-perfect, and the cauliflower roasting method looks wonderful. I need to stop drooling and get cooking!

    Thanks for trying my "gravy"...

  19. Srivalli, I don't know any recipe for making these rolls in the microwave...sorry!

    Nags, thanks :)

    Padma, oh yeah, all spaghetti lovers will really enjoy that dish!

    Padmaja, so true, the rolls would go wonderfully with some tomato soup!

    Diane, mmm...cumin would be wonderful on roast cauliflower!

    Happy Cook, thanks so much!

    Mekhala, yes, at our TJ's I find them in the frozen section next to the other soy burgers and breakfast foods like frozen waffles. I love your name :)

    Tee, not "perfectly" but edible :)

    Sandeepa, oh, those home-made nutrela koftas sounds so delicious! I keep the ready-made ones for the 2-3 days in the month when the schedule goes for a toss!
    You will find these products in the frozen section.

    Laavanya, spaghetti and soy balls is one of those ultra-comforting meals :) yes, an absolute treat on over-worked days.

    Bhags, do try it, I think you will enjoy it!

    Alanna, ah, the million dollar question :) well, I had one left over and it turned a bit chewy...lost most of the crunch. I needed breadcrums so that was how I used up that poor guy :) But I know people par-bake these, and freeze them to do the final baking later, which might work.

    this little mainyacha, cutting up cauliflower: comparing it with cutting other veggies, I would say it is better than some, worse than others :) Have you tried cutting at the bottom, at the stems to release the florets? That makes it quite easy. I think you will love cauliflower roasted like this. You can cook it to desired tenderness if you prefer it on the crunchier side.

    Siri, well, it does not yet taste as good as the ones we get in bakeries :)

    Mari, oh, a pizza stone is so useful for pizzas, breads and naans! The crust was nice and crunchy, but the inside was not as fluffy as I would have liked :) I did use half whole-wheat flour so that might have something to do with it!

    Musical, there you go again with your novel combinations! Soy meatballs and aloo-corn...very interesting!

    Jyothi, you can find pizza stones in any cookware store/ departmental store (in the US at least). I got mine in "Bed Bath and Beyond".

    Karen, your gravy rocks! :)

  20. Nupur,
    Bread looks so beautiful, never tried my hand at baking.Coffee MBP is making me to get my hands dirty too.

    Perfect crust and soft inside the way bread is supposed to me

  21. The buns look really delicious -- and so professional! But I'd have to make more than four at a time; they would never last in my house!

  22. lovely looking bread! I also loved the look of soy meatballs:)) very clever idea.

  23. Lovely post Nupur. All dishes are yummy. The bread is perfect. Viji

  24. Everything looks wonderful Nupur, and the bbq subs, wow! I hope I get time to try my hand baking for the MBP this month. I am entirely encouraged now, seeing your beeeautiful sub rolls! Yum! :)

  25. Hi Nupur,

    I just took your idea of making BBQ sandwich and used shredded soyburgers instead of seitan. Thanks for the idea!!

  26. Hi Nupur - your rolls are beautiful! I just went with a friend to a vegetarian restaurant a couple of weeks ago (a belated celebration of both our birthdays) and had a sandwich that sounds much like the one you put together. It was also my first time trying seitan and I thought it was pretty good - of course it was really all about the BBQ sauce! Also, funny coincidence - I was going through some back issues of magazines yesterday and a mention of Mangoes and Curry Leaves caught my eye - I made note of it and was planning to find out more about it on-line, but now I know it has the Nupur Seal of Approval!

  27. Sreelu, baking is fun, and really much easier than we imagine! I am sure you will get hooked on to it once you give it a try.

    Lydia, The buns are really filling, though- I was stuffed with just one :)

    Sharmi, glad you like it!

    Viji, thanks!

    Linda, can't wait to see what you bake up for MBP!

    Sana, shredded soyburgers is a great idea for this sandwich!

    Cathy, so true- it is ALL about the BBQ sauce! Glad you liked seitan; I should try it in a few other recipes and I might love it more. Mangoes and Curry Leaves is a gorgeous read, and it has short photo essays so it is perfect for bite-size reading. Hope you are enjoying this weekend!

  28. I baked bread too... from Anita's blog... will post about it sometime soon :-)

  29. Nupur, since i got introduced to the ONE HOT STOVe, my visits into Kitchen have become more pleasent!.. and I think my Hubby would thank you more than me for that :)

  30. Thanks Nupur. I'll get the meat balls next time I am there. Talking about frozen waffles at TJ's, have you tried the blueberry waffle? We love it!

  31. I am wokking in very later here, but can't resist to comment on that great looking dish! I am sure I can find the bean paste at INA market in Delhi...I had fermented beans in a Chinese dish for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and they do add a very unique deep flavour. I will be sure to try this wonderfully simple looking dish (with my own watering-down depending on the ingredients available).

    Looks like I should get myself a copy of World Vegetarian. MJ's A Taste of India is my favourite cookbook - every dish there is a family pleaser too.


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