Wednesday, August 20, 2014

baking whole grain crackers : 5 recipes of whole grain crackers for everyday snacking


I have been talking about baking with alternative flours a lot on this blog. Last week we discussed how biscuits are the silent culprits of sneaking in more carbs and sugar and even trans fats into our system and how home baked cookies and bars with buckwheat could be one of the answers to packaged biscuits and cookies. How about adding more variety to the tea time snacks and appetizers and baking some savoury crackers?

I call these crackers as slow foods as these are very low on glycemic index and release the calories slowly into the blood. Not only that, you tend to eat these crackers slowly, enjoying every bite and hence consuming lesser amount of snack as compared to a packet of chips or potato wafers. Bake them from scratch, use your kitchen gadgets to make the process easy and enjoy snacking in a healthy way. Serve the crackers with fresh fruit salsa, quark cheese dip or guacamole or hummus to make it a mini meal.

Replacing white flour with millet flours like ragi (finger millet), barley and jowar (sorghum) or with flours of pseudo grains like amaranth and buckwheat is easy to work with when baking thin crackers. All these flours behave differently when made into a dough or mixed with water but one can play with them by adding a bit of chickpea flour or a little whole wheat flour if one is not bothered about gluten sensitivity. All this experimentation will be worth when you see how tea time snacking has become healthier and even party appetizers have become more fun and healthy as well.

Healthy baking is no rocket science. You just follow your choices and work around with flavours you like and add them to whole grain flours. Once you start using some herbs or greens for flavouring and some seeds for texture and crunch you would see how whole grain flours are suited very well for crackers. The texture of the crackers is more crunchy (not crisp) and more nutty owing to the whole grain flours. Adding poppy seeds and sesame seeds is my favourite way of adding value to the crackers and making them look beautiful too.


1. recipe of ragi crackers with poppy seeds 

ingredients 

ragi flour 1 cup
whole wheat or barley flour 1/2 cup
butter 2 tbsp
bathua or spinach puree 1 cup
salt 1 tsp
green chilly paste 1/2 tsp (optional)
poppy seeds 1/2 cup

procedure

Mix the flours with salt and rub the butter and green chilly paste (if using) thoroughly in the flour mix.
Knead the dough using the spinach or bathua puree. You may need less or more of the puree depending on how thick is the puree.
You can mix everything except poppy seeds in a food processor and knead the dough.
Now roll out small discs (like roti) using poppy seeds as dusting and cut the disc into thin wedges. Repeat with all the dough and make wedges to be baked into crackers.
Lay all these wedges on the baking sheet and bake at 170C for about 20 minutes or till they turn crisp. You may need to bake 3-4 batches of these crackers but the crackers bake fast so the whole process takes a little more than an hour.

Store in airtight container and serve with choice of dips or with Indian chai.


2. recipe of whole wheat and barley crackers with fenugreek greens 

ingredients

whole wheat flour 1 cup
barley flour 3/4 cup
fenugreek leaves (cleaned and chopped) 3 cups
butter 3 tbsp
salt 1 tsp
pepper 1/2 tsp
anardana powder (dried pomegranate seeds powder) 2 tsp
milk 1/4 cup or as required

procedure 

Pulse everything in the food processor till a firm dough is formed. Trickle the milk slowly so the dough is stiff and firm, you might end up using more or less milk.
Roll out a sheet using the whole dough at once and cut out any shape you like for crackers. I like these crackers a little thicker but you can make them as thin as you wish.
Use the trimmings to roll out again and cut out more crackers.
Spread all these crackers on a baking sheet and bake at 170 C for about 25 minutes of the crackers are about half a cm thick. Watch out after 15 minutes of baking as all crackers burn really fast.

I like serving these with plum balsamic preserve and quark-garlic-parsley dip. You can have them as it is or with tamarind chutney.


3. recipe of mixed grain khakhra style crackers with poppy seeds

ingredients

whole wheat flour 1/2 cup
barley flour 1/4 cup
chickpeas flour 1/4 cup
amaranth flour 1/4 cup
butter 3 tbsp
salt 1 tsp
ajwain seeds 1 tsp
poppy seeds 1/2 cup
milk 1 cup

procedure  

pulse everything except poppy seeds together in food processor and make a dough. Trickle the milk slowly to make a stiff dough.
Divide the dough in 10 portions and make balls with them.
Roll out flat thin discs using poppy seeds as dusting and roast them all on a medium hot griddle till light brown spots appear. Prick with a fork while roasting on the griddle to prevent them from puffing up.
Repeat to make 10 roti like khakhras that will not be fully crisp.
Cut the half cooked khakhras using scissors and bake them all at 170 C for about 10 minutes or till the khakhras get crisp.


I served these mixed grain crackers with a peach salsa that I made couple of weeks ago.

4. recipe of amaranth flour and sesame seeds khakhra crackers 

ingredients

amaranth flour 1/2 cup
barley flour 1/2 cup
chickpea flour 1/4 cup
sesame seeds 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup
salt 1 tsp or to taste
water or milk 1/2 cup

procedure

Make powder of 1/2 cup sesame and mix with the flours and salt. Make a stiff dough using the water or milk.
Roll out small discs after dividing the dough into a dozen small balls. Roll out thin using sesame as dusting so the sesame seeds stick to the surface.
Roast them all on medium hot griddle till faint spots appear. You can press these discs over the medium hot griddle using a rolled up tea towel till the khakhras get crisp or bake them just like the mixed grain khakhra crackers above.
I usually cut these in quarters if baking them and leave them as discs when roasting them over griddle.


These crackers taste great with any sweet and tart salsa too. I served them with kiwi salsa once and the crackers were in demand for some time. Now I serve them with basil pesto or with cucumber raita or even pineapple raita.


5. garam masala crackers with mixed grains and sesame 

ingredients

whole wheat flour 1/2 cup
sorghum flour 1/2 cup
chickpea flour 1/2 cup
garam masala 2 tsp
kasoori methi 1 tbsp
salt 1 tsp or to taste
butter 2 tbsp
sesame seeds powder 1/4 cup
whole sesame seeds 1/4 cup
yogurt 1/2 cup or a bit more

procedure

Mix everything except whole sesame seeds together in food processor to make a stiff dough.
Gather the dough and roll out over a dusting of sesame seeds. Flip the rolling dough to coat it with sesame seeds on both sides. Keep the thickness a little less than half cm.
Cut out any shape you like and spread them all on a baking sheet.
Bake on 170 C for about 20-25 minutes or till the crackers are crisp.
Store in airtight container.


These were not one of my favourite crackers but my parents loved it quite a lot. My dad loved these with his tea or coffee and my mom wanted some tamarind chutney or mango chutney with this one. I tried these with tamarind chutney too and topped them with chopped onion etc to make them like papdi chaat. That is a better way to enjoy quick chaat when these garam masala crackers are around.

Later these crackers grew on me and I started having them with green chutney and even with karonde ka achar. This one is a green chutney made with tart apples, mint and coriander greens along with a green chilly and salt.


Some chutney on these crackers make it such an enjoyable treat. Now I break a couple of these crackers over my sprouts chaat as well.

These lentil cookies have already been a favourite and I bake them often with different seasonings. That reminds me, I have to bake a big batch of those for my dad who actually needs something to munch on 2-3 times a day.

How many of these whole grain crackers are you baking in your kitchen? I know each one of these will be a favourite and you would realise how easy it is to eat healthier and chuck those packets of wafers and biscuits.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

baking with buckwheat : a buckwheat groats granola bar and a buckwheat flour and dates cookie | no added sugar


Healthy baking using alternative flours and natural sweeteners looks difficult for most bakers but many of them do it with ease. I think it is just about keeping your mind open and trying new flavours with real ingredients and not artificial flavouring agents and texture enhancers. I am here with another Wednesday post for Home Baker's Guild discussing buckwheat and amaranth as ingredients for baking a couple of healthy bars and cookies with no added sugar.


Baking a granola bar and a cookie with buckwheat this time as I have always noticed that most families consume a lot of biscuits every single day. Many people start the day with a biscuit or a rusk along with their tea or coffee and keep having a couple of different types of biscuits in between meals as snacks when they get bored or just to accompany a cup of tea. So much so that even kids are fed biscuits as meals when they refuse to eat regular food. This needs to change. One must bake some alternative dry snacks at home or try and get them made by local bakeries. Once the commercial establishments know what you are looking for, they would see a business opportunity in it and such snacks will be easily available.


Baking granola bar using fresh fruit pulp and buckwheat groats and some coarsely powdered almonds is really easy. One of those recipes where you just mix everything and spread on the baking sheet before pushing the tray into the oven. Adding some natural sugar is optional, I have added a spoonful of honey in this bar as we like mild sweet snacks and not too sugary. A little grated jaggery will be good to add if you want it more sweet.

It will be good to know a few properties of buckwheat if this grain (pseudo grain) is new for you. Cooking with buckwheat and it's flour can be tricky if you don't realise it can be a slimy goop when cooked, here are a few clever ways to cook and bake with buckwheat.

  • Buckwheat groats get a little slimy when soaked or cooked with water, roasting them before adding water helps if you want the groats cooked separately in pulao like recipes.
  • Whole buckwheat is more suited for roasting the grains first and then cooking it with water to get cooked plump buckwheat that can be seasoned or dressed like a pasta. One can soak the buckwheat and cook with some more water and a little butter to get a pulao, rice or pasta like texture.
  • Buckwheat flour gets really slimy when made into a batter with water, milk or buttermilk. It almost behaves like flaxmeal slurry but this property is useful in baking egg less cakes and breads. This buckwheat English muffin recipe works well even when you want a bread that bakes on a skillet.
  • Because of it's sliminess buckwheat flour has a good capacity to bind ingredients. This peoperty can be used to add loads of grated vegetables or fruits to make pancakes of sweet or savoury type.
  • Do not add liquids if you are baking cookies with buckwheat. The dough would result in hard cookies. Use lightly moist dates or figs that help binding along with butter and make the cookie dough.



Note that you can make your own buckwheat groats or buckwheat flour if you have whole buckwheat. Just run through a coffee grinder or spice grinder of a mixie for a second and you get groats. Grind it for about 2 minutes and you get a white fine powder. Buckwheat is a soft seed that powders quickly.

ingredients 
(makes about 20 bars)

buckwheat groats 200 gm (or run the whole buckwheat in blender for a second and use)
almonds 200 gm (coarsely powdered)
Fresh apricots seeds removed 180 gm
honey 1 tbsp or a little more
nutmeg powder a pinch

procedure 

Pulp the apricots well along with the honey. You might want to use a little more honey of the apricots are tart.

Mix with the buckwheat groats and almond meal using hands and knead lightly to make a sticky dough. Adding the apricot pulp slowly works better, add a little more of the pulp if required as it depends on how ripe and juicy the apricots are.

Spread this mixture on silpat sheet or any nonstick baking sheet and pat to make a thin layer of the mixture (a little less than one cm). Use a flat spatula to keep the margins straight. Then mark the sheet to cut bars.

Bake in preheated oven at 160 C for 25 minutes. Take out the baking tray and invert the silpat on a large chopping board. Cut the bars as marked. Spread them again on the baking sheet and bake again on 150 C for 30 minutes or till they get firm and crunchy.


I have been working on many recipes of granola bars and cookies baked using alternative flours. Some are here on this blog and some more to come but the thing is, we rarely snack on these cookies and granola bars. These kind of cookies, bars and some roasted nuts are useful only when we travel to places where we have to trek or hike and carrying light weight dry food is convenient. At home we love to snack on fruits and some freshly cooked snacks like roasted nuts, a bowl of poha, jhal mudi or a sprouts chaat.

This granola bar using amaranth flour is also baked sometimes for everyday snacking.


Being ginger and jaggery rich, this amaranth bar is more suited for winters. Even the cookies with buckwheat that I am sharing now will be more suited for winters with war spicing. It would be great if you add bits of candied ginger ti the dough.


This cookie with buckwheat flour would surprise you in the way it looks and the way it tastes. Mildly spiced and pleasantly sweet and nutty, this cookie has not used any nuts in it. Add a little more butter to this cookie when baking for kids as with lesser butter (as in this recipe) the cookies are better suited for adults. Butter makes these cookies really crisp. Sticking some chopped nuts or poppy seeds on these cookies will make it more attractive for the kids as well.

This cookie dough is a very good base for tarts as well. Try that sometime to make gluten free fruit tarts for kids.

ingredients
(for 20 small cookies(
I am giving cup measurements as the battery of my kitchen weighing scale died as I was making it.

buckwheat flour 1 cup
good quality soft dates (not sticky ones) 18
butter 1/4 cup
clove powder 1 pinch
nutmeg powder 1 pinch
ginger powder 1/4th tsp

procedure

Chop the dates and remove seeds.
Place all ingredients in a blender and mix well till it resembles bread crumbs or is the consistency of a tart dough. If you take a spoonful of mixture and apply pressure, it binds well.

Make small balls of this mixture, flatten all of them and arrange on a baking sheet.

Bake in a preheated oven at 160 C for 25 minutes.


This cookie is dense but a nice nutty crunch with a hint of spice gives it a unique flavour. You might like to add some chopped dehydrated fruits like cranberries or candied peel to this cookie dough to make it more enjoyable for the kids. This is an easy almost 2 step recipe suitable for busy adults who bake in the night to save time. Yes I baked this cookie in the night.

You would know how tasty buckwheat can be if you use it the right way. There are many buckwheat recipes on my blog you can try once you start getting buckwheat in your pastry. Buckwheat has been used in our homes for centuries, more for fasting foods during navratri and other festivals.

So buckwheat is completely sattvic in vedic terms, tags like gluten free and low glycemic, high protein etc started being relevant only recently. And did you notice how apricots and dates make wonderful natural sweeteners?

Monday, August 11, 2014

pear and rucola salad with walnuts and mango chutney dressing | a keeper recipe of mango chutney


Nothing like a fresh salad with locally grown fruits and garden fresh herbs. I brought really fresh naturally grown pears from Dhanachuli (located in Uttarakhand hills) and we have been eating pears for meals sometimes. This pear salad was one of those meals that we both enjoyed thoroughly. These pears are the ones that get soft after full ripening but the fruit seller had plucked them slightly raw to get a longer shelf life. Crisp and sweet these are. Yes those roadside fruit sellers in remote hills always pluck themselves and bring the fruit to the roadsides so the people traveling in vehicles can buy them. I love going to such fruit sellers in those areas and buying fresh fruit, it is a luxury we don't have in city life.


So I wanted to use the best of the pear in the best possible way. Of course we have been biting into a pear any time of the day but that could not prevent us from having a large bowlful of pear salad for dinner. How naturally grown real fruit (real whole food) captivates your senses in a different way than chemically enhanced food like substances. Amazing.

I had made mango chutney using the leftover mangoes that we brought from Ratoul last month. These were a mix of sweet and sour mangoes and we were fed up eating the same mangoes everyday. I turned them all into this chilly mango chutney and have been using it creatively since then. For this salad I just diluted the chutney with a little balsamic vinegar and a little water and it coated the pear salad well giving it a nice sweet sour hot kick.

The salad recipe is simple. Slice the pears the way you like, bite size pieces work well. Tear some rucola or arugula leaves ( I used them fresh from my garden) and mix with the pears. Add some tender beet leaves or red amaranth leaves to brighten up the salad and break a few walnuts over it. Drizzle the mango chilly chutney over the salad bowl and mix lightly with the folk as you eat.


Recipe of the mango chutney 

ingredients

fresh (or tinned) mango pulp 2 cups
sugar 1/2 cup
balsamic vinegar 2 tbsp
red chilly flakes (or powder) 1 tsp
scissor cut whole dry red chillies 2 ( I added just for a few larger pieces of chilly visible in the chutney)

procedure

Cook everything together till the chutney thickens to your desired consistency. Fill in sterilised jars and store in refrigerator for about a month.

* Try and use a mix of mango varieties in this chutney and include tart and sweet both types of varieties. This gives it more depth of flavours. Using reduced balsamic vinegar also gives it a deeper flavour so go ahead and make this mango chutney yours with a chilly kick.

This mango chutney works really well along with sharp cheeses over toasted crostini or crackers. Or with aloo paratha as Arvind loves it. I loved this mango chutney over grilled chicken too.

Just try replacing your junk ketchup with this mango chutney and see how well it tastes in sandwiches, with fries or even to make different cheese or mayo based dips.

I am planning a fruit pizza using this chutney as a sauce and pears and tart apples as topping with feta cheese and rucola. Who doesn't like easy yummy meals?

Please do let me know whenever you try this mango chutney.


Friday, August 8, 2014

3 ways to use fresh peaches : a peaches and cream dessert, a salad and a salsa with peaches


What do you do when you have the freshest peaches possible, you eat some you let them soften in the fruit basket and make some yummy desserts and salad with them. I even make pasta with peaches. I have been bringing loads of fruits from my frequent visits to Dhanachuli, seasonal fruits freshly plucked from the orchards of fruit sellers themselves most of the times. I have been making jams and preserves for the friends and family as well but those I rarely eat myself. Sugar free fruit desserts and salads are more my type of fruit consumption.

This 'peaches and cream' dessert is actually fresh soft ripe peaches and coconut cream blended together with a hint of Litchi honey. Thats it. Coconut cream can make any dessert great I feel. Especially if you like the subtle sweetness in it and the way it infuses with the chosen fruit. I love mangoes too with coconut cream. This coconut and cream dessert is almost frozen as frozen peaches and coconut cream is used in it. But the ice crystals get emulsified well when you blend it really hard resulting in a silken texture of this peaches and cream dessert.


ingredients
(4 servings)

fully ripe peaches 2 large (or 300 gm)
coconut cream 200 ml (use coconut milk if cream is not available)
honey 1-2 tbsp as required
coconut flakes or chips (lightly dry roasted if you like) 1 tbsp or as required

procedure

Halve the peaches and peel the thin skin as you would peel the skin of parboiled tomatoes. Fully ripe softened peach would allow you to do that. Chop and freeze in a container. Freeze the coconut cream in an ice tray to make it easy to blend. Freeze both of these for at least 2 hours.

Empty both the contents into a heavy duty blender and blend till completely smooth and silky.

Scoop out the semi frozen peaches and cream dessert into glasses or mugs. I used these beautiful glasses from Borosil, just perfect for such a delicate dessert.

Sprinkle coconut flakes over the dessert and serve right away.


You can plan this dessert a day ahead and blend right after the meal so it can be enjoyed at the right temperature. You can always use your ice cream maker and serve as desired.

You can also make Popsicle with the same peaches and cream dessert if you wish. I don;t mind it even if it is a little softer or creamier.


A salad with peaches is also a great way to use up the plenty you have brought home. Aren't you just like me who gets greedy for fruits and buys a lot?

I have been making peach salads and peach pasta every season and this version of insalata caprese is quite a favourite at our place. Sometime we just like it with salt, pepper and torn basil but sometimes I drizzle some basil pesto in the salad or just drizzle some garlic and rosemary infused olive oil.


I have used fresh paneer cubes and fully ripe peeled peaches in this saald. Just chop the peaches in bite sized cubes and toss with paneer cubes and torn basil in a preferred dressing. Sometimes I replace basil with mint and sprinkle some chaat masala to give it an Indian punch.


Being lightly sweetened peaches make a good addition to salads and can replace tomatoes in many recipes. A peach salsa and peach sauce is also really good if you like to spread it over grilled meat or chicken.

Peach salsa salad has the potential to become your family favourite too. Arvind took this salsa in his lunch box twice this week and loved it. Although I have been making tomato salsa, mango salsa and kiwi salsa as well and he has loved all of them. At least some of our choices are similar.


The recipe of the peach salsa salad is really quick. Just cube about a cup of ripe peeled peaches, add 1/2 cup of cubed ripe mango, one ripe plum cubed or a few pomegranate seeds and toss with chopped onion, minced green chillies (as much heat as you like) and some herb of your choice. I love coriander greens and mint leaves in this salsa salad so I use them generously. Add some chopped tomatoes and some chopped cucumber if you wish and season with Himalayan pink salt (or any salt you like) and pepper powder. I added a pinch of dry ginger powder to make the taste deeper and loved it.


 We enjoyed the salsa with some potato papad (alu ke papad from Banaras, microwave roasted) and few multigrain crackers crusted with poppy seeds.

This salsa can be made hot or mild as per taste, you can refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving as it helps melding the flavours better. This lovely jar of salsa will keep enticing everyone as soon as it is served on the dining table. Keep loads of crackers handy for it.


This post is written for the second round of #mybeautifulfood contest organised by Indiblogger and Borosil. For me the food should be healthy first but making it beautiful is not that tough if you get a little creative and prepare the food with love. Serving ware helps a lot you see.

You can find more peach recipes on this blog.
This peach salad with rucola and feta cheese has been phenomenally popular with friends and family.
Peach salad with red cabbage and onions, nuts etc is one more recipe that I keep repeating.
This peach salad with mint has been a perennial favourite too.
I even make iced tea with peaches and basil seeds.
This pasta with peaches is something you must try. Basically you can replace peaches with tomatoes pretty much all the time or replace half the quantity of tomatoes with peaches. Try and see how you like it. And let me know if you did.