Ultimate Banana Bread

Banana Bread7
Overripe bananas are never a pretty sight in the kitchen. I’ve used them to make banana bread, banana fritters, banana pancakes, banana muffins, and even an occasional banana flambé. I bet you have your own “banana rescue mission” recipes.

I had six very ripe bananas, the exact number called for in the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, sitting on my counter. We were snowed in, and although the recipe had a few extra steps, I decided to try it. The verdict: I’m tossing out all my other banana bread recipes and keeping this one!

The method used to incorporate more banana flavor into the banana bread, without adding all their moisture, is brilliant. The secret is to use really ripe bananas for this recipe. I didn’t add the thinly shingled banana slices and the extra sugar on top. I loved the cake-like texture and the fact that it didn’t crumble when cut into slices. It was rich, moist, and truly the best banana bread I’ve ever eaten.

Ultimate Banana Bread
(Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated)

Total Time:  1 hr 20 min
Prep time:  20 min
Cook time:  60 min
Yield:  1 loaf (about 12 slices)

1¾ cups (8¾ ounces) all-purpose flour
½ tsp table salt
1 tsp baking soda
6 large very ripe bananas (about 2¼ pounds), peeled and cut in half
2 large eggs
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) packed light brown sugar
8 tbsps (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped, (optional)
2 tsp granulated sugar

Adjust oven rack to middle position and set oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda together in large bowl.

Place 5 bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. You should have ½ to ¾ cup liquid.

Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in eggs, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla.

Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

Slice remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Shingle banana slices on top of either side of loaf, leaving 1½-inch-wide space down center to ensure even rise. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf. (I skipped this step.)

Place in the center of the rack. After 30 minutes turn the loaf around and check the bread for color. If it is browning too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes. Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

– Use very ripe bananas.
– Do microwave the bananas so they release their liquid.
– Reduce the liquid to a ¼ cup before adding them back into the bananas.
– I skipped putting the sliced banana on top of the banana bread and sprinkling sugar.
– To toast walnuts, heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium high heat. Add walnuts to the hot, dry pan and cook, watching constantly and stirring frequently, until walnuts starts to brown. Using walnuts is optional.
– To store banana bread, wrap the bread tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature overnight or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It can also be frozen. The wrapped loaf should be put into a resealable freezer bag and it can be kept up to two months.

Chole Aur Bhature – Spicy Chickpeas with deep fried Indian Bread

Chhole Aur Bhatura5

Chole and bhature are made for each other. Both of them are classic dishes from Punjab, North India, and they are eaten together for breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a snack at tea time. Chole is made with chickpeas/garbanzo. It is called Kabuli channa in Hindi. Bhature is a deep fried, leavened bread made with all purpose flour.

The recipe for chole calls for a spice mix that is unique to North Indian cuisine. If you don’t normally use these spices, this is a great opportunity to learn and develop a taste for them. Many cooks use tea bags while cooking chickpeas to darken the color of this dish. I’ve used cocoa instead. To save time, you can use canned chickpeas. Drain them well and run cold water over them. Make the spice mix and then proceed to make chole.

I’ve been on a quest for the perfect bhature, using different ingredients like yeast, boiled potato, sago, yoghurt etc. to give it lightness, great taste, and texture. But this time, the compliment from my son ended my search for the perfect bhature. He said, “These bhatures are pillowy and I can’t stop eating them.” So try this recipe and your search might end too!

I made a large batch of chole and bhature that could feed six to eight people, but you can easily half the recipe. Make this with a side of cucumber salad and you have a complete meal.

Chole Aur Bhature
Soak the dry chickpeas: Overnight
Rest the dough for bhature: 1 hour
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour and 20 minutes for both recipes
Serves: 6-8

If using dry chickpeas/garbanzo/Kabuli channa

3 cups dry chickpeas soaked overnight in hot water
¼ teaspoon baking soda (optional)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (optional)

Soak the dry chickpeas overnight. Wash them in several changes of water. Put the chickpeas, cocoa and soda in a pressure cooker with enough water to cover them. Pressure cook for 20 minutes. Check on the cooking time for your particular pressure cooker. The soda is added to make the chickpeas soft, but don’t add too much.

For the spice mix
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
4 black cardamoms, peel and use seeds
5 cloves
1-inch piece cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon whole black pepper
1 bay leaf, (tejpatta)
4 whole dry red chillies, (depending on heat and your preference)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds, (anardana)

In a heavy bottomed pan, over low heat, roast the above mentioned ingredients until they smell fragrant and turn a very dark brown. Cool completely and then grind to a powder in a coffee grinder. Set aside.

For the Chloe
3 tablespoons oil
2 cups finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped green chillies, (optional)
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder
3 cups water
salt to taste

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, over medium-high heat, add oil. When the oil begins to shimmer add the onions. When they turn translucent add the ginger and fry for a minute. Add the green chillies and tomatoes. Keep stirring until the tomatoes are well cooked and the oil begins to separate. Add the ground spice mix, Kashmiri chilli powder, and salt.

Then add the cooked chickpeas and any water left in the pressure cooker. I like gravy in my chole so I added three cups of water. If you like the Chloe a little thick then add less water. Bring to a simmer and cook for an additional 30 minutes, so the flavors can meld. Stir occasionally to make sure that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and garnish with chopped green chillies, tomatoes, red onion and lemon wedges. Serve with piping hot bhature.

Bhature – Makes 20
3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons semolina, (sooji)
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
¼ cup canola oil
3 teaspoons turbinado sugar
Oil for deep frying

In a large bowl sift flour, salt, soda, and semolina. In another small bowl whisk buttermilk, oil, and sugar until the sugar dissolves.

Make a well in the flour and add one cup of the buttermilk, oil and sugar mix. Stir to bring the flour and buttermilk together. Add the 1/3 cup of buttermilk mix, one tablespoon at a time, while you knead. Use only the amount of buttermilk you need to make a soft, smooth and pliable dough. I used the entire amount, but if you feel the dough is getting too sticky, don’t use the entire amount. Knead well for at least seven minutes. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for one hour.

Roll the dough into a long log on a lightly floured surface. With a knife cut the log into 20 equal sized portions and roll them in the palm of your hands into smooth balls. On a lightly floured board roll the balls into an oval shape, about ¼-inch in thickness.

Heat oil for deep frying in a wok. Gently slide, one bhature at a time, from the edge of the wok, into the hot oil. When it puffs up, turn and fry the other side until you see specks of gold on the surface. Drain on a paper-towel lined tray. Serve bhature with Chole.

Bombay Toast with Yoghurt Topping and Strawberry Jam

Bombay Toast5The smell of Bombay Toast wafting up from the kitchen is a delightful memory that I have from my childhood. Thick slices of white bread from Kayani bakery, dipped in a batter of eggs, sugar and milk and shallow fried in Amul butter – yum!

Well, here is a bumped up version that I recently made for brunch with two of my friends. The yoghurt topping is easy to make and goes well with pancakes and waffles too. My homemade strawberry jam added a touch of color to this composition. Enjoy!

Bombay Toast with Yoghurt and Strawberry Topping
8 eggs
1½ cups half-and-half or milk
1 teaspoon orange zest
½ teaspoon vanilla
1½ tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon salt
1 large loaf challah or brioche bread, cut into ¾ inch slices
Vegetable oil and butter for shallow frying

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set it aside. Whisk eggs, half-and-half, orange zest, vanilla, honey, and salt in a large, wide-mouth bowl. Soak two or three slices of bread, at a time, in the egg mixture for two minutes on one side. Turn them over and soak the other side for two minutes.

Place a large frying pan over medium heat. Add one tablespoon oil and one tablespoon butter. When the butter melts, gently add the soaked slices of bread. Cook for two to three minutes on each side, until nicely browned. Fry the remaining soaked slices of bread, adding oil and butter as needed. Place the prepared Bombay toast on the sheet pan and keep them warm in the oven until ready to serve. Serve with maple syrup, yoghurt topping and jam of your choice.

Yoghurt Topping
1 cup yoghurt
½ cup cool whip
¼ cup maple syrup

Whisk the yoghurt, cool whip and maple syrup in a small bowl until creamy and smooth. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Puri and Bhaji

Growing up in Pune, Maharashtra, my family often traveled by train to Mumbai. Traveling by train was always exciting. Whenever we stopped at a station, I would scan the platform, looking for the puri-bhaji and aloo bonda walas (vendors). Puri-bhaji is a quick and satisfying fix for hungry travelers! I remember relishing every bite – an integral part of our trip’s adventure. And as the train pulled away, we eagerly awaited the next station for dessert – the famous Lonavala chikki. Simple pleasures are what some of my memories are made of.

Today, I am sharing a recipe for puris and bhaji. Puris are whole-wheat deep-fried bread, and bhaji is a potato side dish that often accompanies puris. Puris and bhaji can be served as a meal by itself or individually as side dishes. The main ingredients for bhaji are potatoes and onions. I’ve spiced my bhaji recipe with a twist on the train platform offering. Hope you like my version!

For the Puris
2 cups wheat flour (Indian wheat flour or Pillsbury Chakki atta)
2 teaspoons oil
1½ teaspoons salt
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon of warm water (approximately)

Put the wheat flour in a large mixing bowl, and make a well in the center of it. Add two teaspoons of oil. Mix the flour, and oil well. Add salt to the warm water, and add it to the flour. Knead to make a stiff dough. Divide the dough into 20 equal sized balls. Cover with a damp paper towel, and let it rest for 15-20 minutes.

Heat oil for deep frying in a heavy bottomed wok.

With the help of very little dry flour roll each ball into 4” diameter diskettes. Cover them with damp paper towels until all the puris are made. Deep fry on medium-high heat until light brown on both sides.

For the Bhaji
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon yellow split peas (Channa dal)
1 teaspoon split black gram (Urad dal)
1 stalk curry leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
3-4 finely chopped green chillies (adjust to your taste)
3 cups sliced red onions
3 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 diced tomato
4 cups diced boiled potatoes
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

Heat oil in a large pan. Add mustard seeds, and when they splutter add cumin seeds. Lower the heat to medium, and add the yellow split peas, and wait for a minute until they they turn light brown. Add the spit black gram, stir until they also turn light brown. Then add the curry leaves, ginger, green chillies, onion, salt, and turmeric. Saute until the onion turns transparent. Add the tomato, and saute for another two minutes then add the diced potatoes. Mix gently, cover the dish, and let it cook over low heat for five minutes. Serve garnished with chopped coriander.