16 February 2007

Early morning stories - Part I

I just realised today that I tend to bake a lot whenever DH is away on his official trips. Though I don't eat high carb food myself, it is good to have some fresh homemade bread or a loaf of cake waiting for him when he is back, my way of showing him that I'm glad that he's back!

The bread making started last night after I came back home late from a conversations over coffee with my girl pal. Before turning in for the night, I mixed up the flour, yeast and other ingredients and left it to rise overnight. The first thing I went to check in the morning was the bowl of dough. It had risen beautifully and it was so silky smooth to touch, just like a baby's bottom! Not sticky at all. After a bit of kneading and shaping, I kept it covered up. Meanwhile my morning cup of ginger tea was ready to be savoured with the newspapers.

Early morning scene from our balcony - The moon is still around and what lies beyond the crowd of buildings is the Arabian sea.

The morning half hour spent sitting in our balcony, with the birds providing the most melodious background music and the sea breeze wafting gently onto us, each reading our favourite sections of the newspaper over steaming hot ginger tea is easily my best time of the day. I love to do this routine even if I'm home alone. This gives a kind of stress-free kick to the day.

I am surely a early bird (though I don't have to rush out to catch worms) and it is a kind of disadvantage at times. Even if we've partied way past midnight, I'm up bright and early. I can't sleep beyond 8 to even save my life and then it is indeed tempting to nag DH to wake up too (Evil grins).

But surely there are other days when I enjoy the quiet and peace of waking up before the rest of the city and ofcourse the sun too. The dark hours of morning have always given me the much needed peace, whether it was while studying for class 12 and while doing MBBS, or even nowadays when I feel a certain feature I am working on, is going nowhere. I set the alarm for 5 am, keep the filled kettle on the stove to make my first cuppa tea and sit down with my laptop.

It has rarely happens that I don't find direction on my work in these early hours. Most of my work, like the conclusion to a piece or the final editing is done then. Besides, it is a great sense of accomplishment, when you finish a much pending chore first thing in the morning.

The Sun setting into the Arabian Sea, an evening view from our 'favourite' spot in the house

The other thing I love doing early morning, is baking. Letting loose those delicious aromas in the house is a perfect way to start the day. What say?

I'll share with you two bakes with beets. The first one that I share here is a yeast milk-bread. I I love beets for the ruby red colour they impart to everything they get into and that's why they get in here too. You can easily substitute the beets in the bread with grated zucchini or keep it just plain like a milk bread.

The second recipe will feature in one of the forthcoming posts.

Recipe for Beet-Milk Bread follows.

Beet and milk yeast bread
Category - Yeast bread
Time taken - Overnight plus some hour and a half
Recipe source - My own


Scant 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast + 1 tsp sugar in 1/4 cup lightly warm water until bubbly
2 cups whole wheat / AP flour plus some more to get a non-sticky dough
2 tbsp yogurt
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup finely grated beets
2 tsp oil


Mix in the salt, sugar and flour in a large bowl. Make a well, pour the yeast mixture, milk, yogurt and grated beets in the well and stir in the flour to make a non-sticky dough. Once the ingredients are bound into a smooth dough with some kneading, use 1 tsp oil to further smoothen the dough. In a well-oiled bowl, place the smooth ball of pink dough. Make deep cross cuts on the top with a sharp knife for easy rising. Cover and keep overnight or for some 2 hours until the dough has risen to over double the volume. In cooler times, it serves well to keep this on your counter overnight for a perfect rise.

After the dough has risen well, remove it onto a lightly floured counter. Punch out all the air by kneading for a few minutes. The dough will be very pliable and not stick to your hands at all. On an inverted baking sheet, flatten the dough with your hands into an oval or a round of over an inch thickness and score some cuts with a sharp knife. Let this prove for atleast an hour covered with cling film during which it will again double up in volume.

In a 200 C preheated oven, place the shaped dough and bake until a hollow sound can be heard by tapping the bottom. My loaf was ready in 15 minutes.

The 'wild' bread - sliced and 'tamed' with a slap of coriander chutney topped with paper thin slices of cucumber

taster's notes

This bread has a thin yet nice crust. Insides are soft from the milk and yogurt mix. The beets add their sweetness and ofcourse the beautiful pinkish brown colour. Pull off a bit, butter and it's the perfect accompaniment to your morning brew.

The other beet recipe coming up soon...

Eggless beet cake!


Meeta said...

Great write sweetie! I look forward to coming to Bombay and sharing that sunrise and a cuppa with you. That bread looks really wild.

Nandita Iyer said...

WIll wait for that beautiful day! Haha you got the perfect word, may be i should change the title to 'Really wild bread' (GRINS) ANyway what else can you expect from a wild person?

bee said...

holy frijoles batman! i love that bread and the way it looks.

Karishma said...

Hi..I have been reading saffron trail for a few months now. I am not a blogger but I your pictures of bombay made me soooo nostalgic now.
I am a student in the US (from Mumbai). all the best...really enjoy ur work!

Nandita Iyer said...

Hehehehe Thanks Bee! As Meeta says, it sure turned out Wild! But it tastes pretty simple and benign.

Karishma - Thanks for taking time to write back. I can understand your feelings, i was in US for a year and used to feel homesick very often. Hope to cya around, i promise not to make you any more nostalgic than you already are :P

Mythreyee said...

Amazing view. Beautiful and Serene. Especially when, Aroma from the Indian Kitchen Envelop the air all over. What more is needed to welcome the day.

Swapna said...

Hi Nandita,

Happy to know that you too are a writer and a food blogger:-)..Your blog, recipes, and photographs look cool. I love them.

starry nights said...

You want some company? I am an early riser and would love to come over and watch the sunrise over a cup of coffee and maybe a piece of that delicious bread with a dab of butter.

Paz said...

Beautiful pics and delicious looking bread!


Jyothsna said...

Your write-up has made me homesick, and I want to fly down to Bombay right now! Nice colour for the bread.:) I'm trying that right away.


Good Early Morning stories _ Part 1

waiting for part 2

Priscilla said...

Nice post Nandita, one of your best I'd say. You have captured and described your early morning ritual so beautifully. Reminded me of the time when I lived in Mumbai and followed a similar chai and newpapers pattern.

looking forward to more...

Carol said...

This is a lovely post. I'm an early riser too, but live in a different part of the world!!Reading your post was such a lovely experience. Would love to come back for more. Do you love pets?? If so, do peep into my blog.Carol

Nandita said...

Mythreyee - You bet it is serene, it is a blessing that Im thankful for each day, for peace is very rare especially while staying in the busiest parts of the city.

Swapna, thanks indeed for your very encouraging words.

Starry Lalitha - Im surprised with a blog name like starry nights, u are actually an earlier riser. I'd love to have your company, i'll be assured of delightful conversations (your blog is testimony to that)

Nandita said...

Paz - thanks dear, reminds me I havent come to your space in a while, be there in a while!

Jyothsana - you are the only one who has shown the GUTS to try this out, hahaha, Im sure you share a wild streak with me! Homesick...aw...should i say sorry, but you can always enjoy this when you are here.

HK jee - Welcome home! and I shall be posting part two soon, i have seen you around at happy burp.

Priscilla - thanks for your compliments...I personally thought so too, it is tough to show some 'soul' on exclusive food posts and when i digress it seems like fun for all concerned.

Carol - Hi welcome Carol. I am not a pet owner, but do like small animals. Shall be around

Anonymous said...

I like your beet milk bread recipe, but have been struggling to get the dough to rise. I tested the yeast with regular warm drinking water and bottled mineral water, but the water does not froth or foam (every one/recipe mentions that it will foam after 10 minutes, mine just dissolves) The yeast is less than 2 months old from the date of manufacture. I am from Hyderabad, I don't know if the room temperature is making a difference. Could you tell me, how the yeast water will look like, when sugar & yeast is added to it

I have conducted tests with warm water

Nandita said...

Hi Anon,
What brand yeast do you use? I've been using Bluebird- the small 25 gm pack that I get in supermarkets. I have had similar experience with other batches of yeast, some of them just sail to rise, ending in a murky water after 10 minutes or even after waiting for 30 minutes. It is best to discard the whole batch as it is of no use really.
Buy a fresh pack, use tap water, put in sugar, warm it very very slightly so that it is just little hotter than ur body temp. In this lightly warm sugar water, put in the reqd quantity of yeast. Don't stir too much or water will turn cold. You can either keep this bowl on a window sill where sunrays can keep the water warm and make the yeast rise, or else keep it in a closed microwave where the yeast gets some warmth to get activated. DO lemme know if any of this helps. You will find detailed pics of yeast rising in my '
Pita Bread' post.

sailaja said...

I loved this post, Nandita. Nothing to beat the early hours of the day and can relate to your post very much. And not to forget listening to 'early morning raagas' as the day unwinds. Somehow I always felt that I really really *listen* to music only in the early hours more than during the later part of the day. You get what I mean?

Nice pictures.

Anonymous said...

I use eagle active dry yeast, that I picked up the from local super market. I noticed that, if the yeast is allowed to dissolve with the water for more than 2 days, it starts frothing/foaming

My next question, I kneaded the dough with the yeast, and kept it in a warm, place, nothing happened, but when I kept it in the vegetable tray of the fridge, it changed from being sticky to non-sticky. What process do you follow. I tried boiling two cups of water and keeping it in the lower compartment of the oven and the dough on the upper comparment, no change occured

Anonymous said...

By this message ".....In a 200 C preheated oven, place the shaped dough and bake until a hollow sound can be heard by tapping the bottom. My loaf was ready in 15 minutes...."

Do you mean, after the oven switches off automatically when it reaches 200C, I should place the tray and let it stay inside for 15 minutes without raising the temperature again ?

Mallugirl said...

Read ur lovley write but forgot to post my appreciation! Nandita, it was relaxing to read abt ur morning routine and some of my tension also eased away as I remembered Bombay.(I used to live there for some time after my wedding.)

Nandita said...

Sailu- that is so true, we tune onto some classical music on Worldspace Radio to make mornings completely blissful...

Anon- You can't keep yeast to foam for two days, i am no bread expert but somehow I havent heard of keeping yeast so long to activate, if it doesnt happen in 15 minutes it is not live yeast, so if you used that to bind the dough, i am not surprised that the dough didn't rise. The foaming u saw after two days is what you'd see in any liquid left out for 2 days such as milk/buttermilk, due to bacterial fermentation.

Anon- I kept the shaped dough in a preheated oven at 200 C and had timed it for 25 minutes, at 15, i saw the loaf turning brown and hence removed it from the tray, tapped the bottom, got a hollow sound and hence decided that the baking was through.

Mallugirl- Ahha thanks , im so happy that my writing brought u some sense of peace. Bombay life is hardly peaceful, its the little things we do to keep our lives saner and stress free. Your appreciation means a lot!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip on the yeast brand that you used, I visited the bluebird website & followed their instructions to test the yeast. It foamed within 10 minutes, and started frothing after a while. I was using 10 to 12 grains (i.e < 0.5 gms), because I read that yeast multiplies like mad. For testing I used 20 gms

Nandita said...

Oh no wonder, i generally use from one teaspoon to a tablespoon dependign on quantity of flour. 20 gms is how many spoons?

Dancing Fountain said...

Hi Nandita...

2 things after reading this post :

1- Iam so inspired to try my hands on baking.
2-I want to come back to good old Mumbai ! :((

Take care!

Rajeswari said...

Hi Nandita,
I've been reading your blog since last year.I love all your posts,especially the unconventional ones! Tried your beet-bread recipe today,without the beet.Thanks to you,my very first attempt in bread making or rather baking itself,came out as a huge success..The bread is heavenly.Cant wait to show it to my husband..He'll definitely say i bought it from some store...:)Thanks a lot...All the best....

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