Tuesday, June 14, 2022

If You Like Idli and Uttappam

In my spare time, which there is a lot of these days, I make books. Not to sell, though many have suggested it. For my own reference, I created a "My Favorite Recipes" book a long time ago, going on to create a Volume II as there were so many more recipes that came to mind after finishing the first volume. 

I have made books of bird and fowl identification, using photos I had taken or from my sisters for identifying purposes, spend a lot of online time researching descriptors and other details so If I came home with yet another photo I had a resource for identification. I made a book of all the flowers, be they weeds, wild or other, from trips to the Pacific northwest, one from flora of California I had

Guatemala, recipes, memoir
My Guatemalan Cookbook

photographed, of orchids I'd grown myself or taken photos of in botanical gardens. More recently, I created 4 smaller books of plants and flowers on Arizona (one of Cacti, one of tender plants, one of succulent type plants and one of shrubs and trees). 

Many other cookbooks have been made since those first ones so long ago. One was a memoir cookbook of Guatemalan recipes for my oldest daughter when she turned 40. I had lived in Guatemala for 12 years, and my children were born there. My oldest was still closest to the relatives there; still spoke Spanish reasonably well. At the time of creating that book, I had made such few recipes as were included in the book, maybe around 40, because there was nothing online to find nearly 12 years ago. Since then I have added to that memoir cookbook for my son and next daughter turning 40. I have managed to include over 80 recipes in there now, and I learn more as the years go by.

bread baking, ethnic recipes, flatbread
My Bread Cookbook

I have no background in India, but love the flavors and spices. I have created a couple of Indian cookbooks so far, but it wasn't until I was finishing the pages for a Bread cookbook that I went searching for other Indian breads than Naan, parathas or chapatis. While researching Indian breads, and the "appams" in particular, I came upon recipes for Utappam, which uses leftover Idli batter. Oh boy.

Idli was something I got interested in - as a concept - a LOT of years ago, but never got around to trying out of fear. Too many conflicting admonitions, a lot of strictures, and it was just so foreign (excuse the word) a concept. So I managed to set that on the back burner for about 8 years. Once I did venture to make Idli, while the batter did not ferment (remedied by adding baking soda last minute before using), I loved those little steamed pillows! But making Idli is a definite process, needing time and some attention. When I read about Utappam, I really wanted to try, but did not want to go through all that trouble of making Idli batter just then.

I mused on that a bit and thought, 

"Really, idli batter is made of presoaked rice and urad dal, with a little fenugreek and a little cooked leftover rice or Poha rice, then grinding the soaked grains to a batter. What it I skipped the first part of soaking the rice and the lentils and used rice flour and pre-ground urad dal? I have fenugreek powder. Poha rice nearly disintegrates in liquid anyway."

I proceeded to try that out, but as a quick version used instant yeast to approximate fermentation (it took a couple of hours to rise). It was good, and it worked. Still, obviously the fermentation process would be adding flavor. These yeasted ones, while good, were curiously "flat" tasting. So I went back and made a new batter. After mixing the ingredients I left it in the counter for nearly 24 hours, at which time I saw a slight growth of the batter and some bubbles. Eureka! 

Idli, steamed dumpling, fermented batter
Idli and Chutney with idli Podi

This batter made lovely and very delicious Utappam, as well as Idli, so I am truly happy. 

Quicker Idli or Utappam Batter

Made 4 (5-6 inch) Utappam and 8 Idli
fermented batter, rice flour, urad flour

1 cup white rice, ground finely to equal 1 1/4 cups,

       OR use 1 1/4 cups preground rice flour flour

        (about 190 grams)

1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (3 grams), ground finely, 

      OR 1  1/4 teaspoon fenugreek in powder form

1/3 cup peeled split urad dal, ground to flour (about 74 grams), or 3/4 cup once ground (- not a typo!)

1/4 cup Poha rice, 

       OR  use 1/4 cup leftover cooked rice

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 3/4  cups cool water, or as needed

Place the rice flour, urad dal flour, ground fenugreek and Poha rice into a large mixing bowl.  Begin stirring in the water with a wooden spoon, so as not to form lumps. Add only enough water to make what looks like a stiff pancake batter. Set the bowl aside in a warm area and cover with a lid or plastic film and allow to ferment. This may take up to 24 hours. Look for puffing, bubbles and a nice fermented aroma. Once ready to use, stir in the salt.

To make Utappam,  heat a skillet as you would for pancakes. Lightly grease the pan and ladle in batter, as for pancakes, spreading to about 5 or 6-inches in diameter. While the "pancake" is cooking on one side, place your desired toppings on the uncooked upper side. Possible toppings include, cilantro, parsley, curry leaves, shredded fresh ginger, sliced onion of shallot, chopped garlic, grated carrot, chopped bell pepper (green or red), chopped or sliced green chilies (Serrano or Jalapeno are good), chopped tomatoes (not to juicy), or anything else that sounds good. Limit the toppings as they will only fall off when flipping to cook if too many are in place. Once the bottom is browned, drizzle some oil over the top before turning and then flip the pancake to lightly brown the other side. Serve with toppings upwards, with any chutney or pickle of choice, with a dal dish or a soup.

To make Idli, a traditional south Indian breakfast or snack food, an Idli stand is a must. My Idli stands consist of a three-tiered stand with a base to be able to set into a large pot with a shallow layer of lightly boiling water. The little rounded wells of the trays are filled just to their edges and stacked. Once set into the pot with water, the water must not touch the bottom tray. Cover the pot and steam the idli for about 7 to 9 minutes. They should test done as for a bread or cake, by inserting a toothpick in center that should come out clean. Idli can be served with any curry or leftovers, with Sambar, Tamatar ki Chatni, Tamarind (Imli) Chutney, Coconut (Nariyal) Chutney, Idli Podi (a dry spiced mixture that tastes heavenly), or all by themselves with any of these chutnies or Podi.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, continuing my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest. 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

New Indian Recipes on the Menu

Time seems to escape me these days, yet every so often there is a gathering that warrants a fresh look at my recipes to date, sometimes finding them insufficient, despite the fairly vast number. A month or so past, I entertained my grandson and his friend, who love Indian food. When we chatted, he'd said that the flavors of Indian are some of his favorites, though he usually eats very simply. So I created a dinner, not knowing his particular tastes, but hoped it wouldn't be too far out of his comfort zone - and it wasn't! They both ate like two very healthy young men should. I was pleased. 

For that meal, I made some of my more common favorites, Chicken Korma, edging outside the plain rice category with Barley Kichdi as one of the side dishes, and one of my all-time favorites, Palak Paneer, as the other. I also had no clue on their tolerance for heat, so all the dishes were made quite mild, but I offered an array of chutneys with varying heat levels: Am Chutney or Mango Chutney (no heat), Dhania Poodina or Green Chutney (medium heat), Imli Chutney or Tamarind Chutney (a little heat), and Fresh Ginger slices in lime juice with Serrano pepper and salt, possibly the hottest). They went for the Green Chutney and fresh ginger, polishing them off!

So, when my son was recently married in Hawai'i, and his lovely bride just turned
fifty years beautiful, I made a dinner to celebrate both when they came to visit this past weekend. They both love Indian food as well, and I have made them many Indian meals already in past. Trying to come up with something to feed them that hasn't already been a part of many menus in past was becoming a challenge. Ana is sensitive to rice, so I wanted to keep that out of the menu completely. I thought of making the Barley Kichdi again, but they've had that more than once and well, not again. The same for the Palak Paneer, which is maybe one of all our favorites, but as I serve it with practically any special meal I felt it was time for a change. 

What to do, what to do?

I finally opted for Telangana Chicken, though I kept it mainly without any of the fiery, spicy heat in deference to Ana. Instead of going for rice or even barley, I opted to make a very simple Tadka Dal using only Masoor (red lentils) and Moong (mung bean) dals, and adding a simple Tadka of sauteed mustard and cumin seeds, asafetida, shallot, ginger and garlic, and salt at the end. We all love dal/lentil dishes, so that one was a hit. I wanted to make Channa Masala, but my son objected. I went hunting for something to do with peas and found some few ways, such as Matar Masala (spiced peas), and somewhere i came across a recipe called Sookh Matar, though I can find no other reference to this terminology. I felt after reading that Sookh might refer to the same concept as "sabzi" meaning a dish cooked down to relative dryness - no sauce in it. I wanted more vegetables and also some color so added red bell pepper. It turned out fantastic whatever it may be called.

Matar Masala or Sookh Matar

Serves 6 to 8

peas, red pepper, masala, sauteed onion
Matar Masala (Spiced Peas)

1 large onion in thin half-rings

2 tablespoons coconut oil or sunflower oil, more if needed


1 - 2 tablespoons coconut oil or sunflower oil

1 large shallot, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon asafetida

MASALA: mix together and set aside

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala

1/2 teaspoon black salt or regular salt

1/2 teaspoon amchur (dried green mango powder)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper


1 bag (13 ounces) frozen baby peas

Saute the large onion in the oil, stirring very often and watching carefully not to burn, until the onions are a deep caramelized brown. Spread the onions on several thickness of paper toweling to blot and cool. This part can be made days in advance and refrigerated until needed.

Heat a skillet over medium to medium low heat and add in the 1 or two tablespoons of oil. Add in the cumin seeds and asafetida to sizzle for a few seconds, then add in the shallot, garlic, ginger and red bell pepper and saute gently to soften. Add in a tablespoon of water at a time, only if needed for the ingredients not to stick. Add in the masala ingredients and stir until fragrant. IF MAKING AHEAD, the dish can be made to this point, placed in a covered container and refrigerated for up to three days. 

To finish the dish, bring the refrigerated mixture back to heat in a skillet, then add the peas with a tiny amount of water and heat them through. Once heated, add in the caramelized onion and stir in to heat through. 


The other new item  on the menu was a salad, something I had never created with an Indian meal, but this time I wanted some diversity. 😉 The most common I found was called Kachumber Salat, a combination of cubed cucumber, tomato and onion, seasoned with an array of possible spices and a touch of lime juice. I plan to mix a batch of the masala mixture to keep on and to sprinkle on tomatoes at any time - it was that good!

Kachumber Salat

Serves 6

tomatoes, cucumbers, shallot, lime, mint, cilantro
Kachumber Salat

1 cucumber, seeds removed if too large, cut in small cubes

1 - 2 medium tomatoes (I used heirlooms), in cubes

1 large shallot or 1 small onion, in cubes


1/2 teaspoon Chaat Masala

1/2 teaspoon black salt (or regular salt)

1/2 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds


2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped finely

1/4 to 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped finely

2 teaspoons lime juice, or to taste

pinch chili in powder or crushed chili flakes

IF MAKING AHEAD, the only thing that can be done is mixing the spices together. The tomatoes and cucumber will go watery if done in advance. If raw onion or shallot are not tolerable, cut these ahead of time (up to 20 minutes) and set them into a bowl, covered with white vinegar. Drain and rinse before adding to the remaining ingredients and stir them all together well before serving.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, continuing my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Delightful Bundt Cake with Bourbon Spiked Drizzle

I started out with nothing particular in mind one day, looking at dessert recipes. I think of all desserts to make, cakes are possibly my favorite. Anything from a simple old fashioned coffeecake tosheet cake to decorated cakes and bundt or ring mold cakes. Suddenly I came upon a site with a recipe called Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Cinnamon Rum Icing. I love gingerbread - it is a kind of cake / dessert bread cross, after all. The pictures on the site are just lovely. The mold used for the Bundt cake was exceptionally pretty, though I don't own that particular style. And I thought about it a while and wondered, "The recipe calls for applesauce. I wonder how pumpkin would do in the recipe?

Bundt cake, pumpkin, gingerbread, dessert
Pumpkin Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Bourbon Spice Glaze
As I continued to peruse the recipe, I noticed that 

it is made a bit differently than any other cake recipe I've ever made. It called for melting butter, setting side to cool slightly, then beating together the sugar and eggs till fluffy and light. What? And then adding in the melted, cooled butter. Okay, so I went ahead with all this and made the cake with my own variations. I made the icing with Bourbon rather than rum as I have become interested in Bourbon of late.

The outcome was the finest grained cake, the most tender, and just flat-out delicious, that I had to share. The link above to the original recipe will show how it was. I loved the mix of Pumpkin and Gingerbread flavors. The drizzle icing was amazing. And here is the recipe, as I made it:

Pumpkin Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Bourbon Spice Glaze

Makes one bundt cake

200 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

4 large eggs

360 grams sugar (about 1⅔ cup)


360 grams all-purpose flour (about 2½ cups)

1½ teaspoons baking soda

¼ teaspoon flaky salt

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon ginger

1½ teaspoon cloves


1 cup sour cream

1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a Bundt pan with soft (not melted) butter and dredge with flour. Tap to release excess flour, then set pan aside.

Over low heat, melt the unsalted butter; once melted set aside. In a mixer, beat together the eggs with the sugar until they are light and fluffy, then slowly stir in the slightly cooled butter.

Separately, measure out all the dry ingredients and stir to evenly distribute ingredients. In a measure, stir together the sour cream and pumpkin to combine.

To the egg mixture add about a third of the dry ingredients, mixing on low speed to combine. Add half the pumpkin mixture and mix, then another third dry mixture, the remaining half pumpkin mixture, then the remaining dry ingredients, stirring after each addition. Pour into the prepared Bundt pan, rapping sharply on a hard surface to release bubbles.  

Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Rest on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, turn out onto the rack to cool completely before glazing.


180 grams / 1¼ cup confectioner's sugar

1 - 2 tablespoons Bourbon

1 - 2 tablespoons milk or water

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon fresh orange zest

Stir all ingredients until smooth. Pour over completely cooled cake.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest.

Pork and Sauerkraut for New Years

Pork tenderloin, stuffing, pan sauce, Bourbon
Elegant Tenderloin Pinwheels
I grew up with my Mom's traditional pork chops and sauerkraut as our New Year's Day dinner. I just never thought much about it until I started getting objections to this menu. And so it is that although I have tried to just go ahead with making it on a couple of occasions, it was not well received (my husband would just pick off every tiny shred of sauerkraut that clung to the pork or the potatoes), I enjoyed it thoroughly. 

Mom would bake her pork chops in the oven, adding quartered, peeled potatoes to the pan, covered with foil. Once all this was cooked (in the case of the pork chops, way overcooked), she would empty a jar of sauerkraut into a colander, rinse it well, then scatter it over the pork and potatoes, then top with a little brown sugar, cover again and bake. 

So, while my husband has never been keen on the idea of sauerkraut, I know my son and his fiancĂ© do love it. Hence my idea of creating a really stellar pork dish, one that wasn't overcooked, and then making the sauerkraut as a stand-alone dish, so those who do not love it could just skip it, while the rest of us enjoyed. 

My husband's teeth need some work at the moment, so I was looking for something soft; pork tenderloin would be the meat. Then, I recalled a recipe I had made a very long time ago, where the pork was butterflied out flat and filled with a mixture that included prunes (dried plums). I recalled that it was very good, but I wanted to jazz it up some. Recalling another recipe, one for a rolled and stuffed flank steak, where the filling was so amazingly flavorful (from my very old Creme de Colorado cookbook), I got out both these recipes to compare and see what parts of each stuffing recipe I liked best. 

Ingredients I absolutely wanted to include from between the two recipes were: prunes, bacon, spinach, parsley, Romano cheese and mushrooms. White bread crumbs were a part of both recipes, but I had some pumpernickel I wanted to use instead. Nut meal sounded good, and I opted for hazelnut meal. Somewhere I read lemon zest as a possibility for flavor with a pork stuffing. Caramelized onion and garlic were also good additions. For fresh herbs, thyme and sage were added to the list.

Pork tenderloin, stuffing Bourbon, Pan Sauce
Elegant Tenderloin Pinwheels

I wanted to have the pork look pretty in a spiral when sliced, so it would be best to have both of (a package of) two pork tenderloins cut open and slightly overlapped to fill, roll, then tie them in place. There are different ways of cutting open pork tenderloins. One is to simply cut most of the way into the center, lengthwise, open flat and pound the heck out of them until of an even thickness. I hate this. It makes so very much noise and takes forever to truly get the meat flat. Somewhere online, someone butterflied, this way but instead of pounding, cut into each thick section to create an unfolded piece of tenderloin. I don't see that as any easier. My preferred method is to use small cuts with a very sharp knife parallel to the cutting board, continuing parallel until the meat is mostly all one thickness and laid out flat. There are many, many places online showing this and the other methods in excruciating detail, so I do not believe it is needed to reproduce all that here. Whatever method is used, it is good to have the thickness small, about 1/4 to 5/8-inch thick. 

While this seems an extraordinarily long recipe, if broken up into the do ahead parts and finalized on the day of serving, it is very doable. The final result of this experiment was a chorus of groans of pleasure at the table, so I accomplshed my goal. Here is what I did:

Elegant Tenderloin Pinwheels

Served 8 - 10

Pork, Stuffing, Potatoes, sauerkraut, green beans
Elegant Tenderloin Pinwheels Dinner

5 ounces bacon, cut small and fried crisp


1 medium onion, chopped

½ teaspoon salt, divided

1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil or bacon fat

3 tablespoons dry Sherry or Bourbon

6 cloves garlic, minced


¾ pound fresh mushrooms (I used 'Baby Bella'), sliced

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 - 3 tablespoons Sherry

½ tablespoon fresh thyme leaves½½


¾ cup finely shredded Romano cheese

½ cup chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

1½ cups fresh baby spinach, in fine chiffonade

7 - 8 soft, pitted prunes, cut in small pieces

¾ cup fresh pumpernickel crumbs (or other bread crumbs as preferred)

½ cup hazelnut meal

- zest of one lemon


2 pork tenderloins (about 2.5 lbs. total)

½ teaspoon salt

chicken or beef stock for pan

1 medium onion, sliced


4 tablespoons Bourbon (or Sherry)

1 clove garlic, finely minced

½ cup red currant jelly

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup sour cream

Make ahead (1 to 3 days in advance if needed): Begin the stuffing by frying the bacon and draining on paper toweling. Once cooled, place into a medium sized container with lid. Set aside. If using bacon grease, leave a tablespoon worth in the skillet and add in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the chopped onion and sautĂ© on medium to medium high, stirring often until the liquid has mostly gone, then add in 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the minced garlic and stir constantly, lowering the heat if needed so as not to burn, until the onions are nicely browned. Add in the Sherry or Bourbon and cook quickly until completely evaporated. Pour the contents into a bowl to cool, then add to the container with the bacon.

Add to the same skillet the butter and olive oil and add the mushrooms, sautĂ©ing until all the liquid has cooked out and evaporated. Add in the remaining quarter teaspoon salt and continue cooking, stirring, until the mushrooms are browned. Add in the thyme leaves and the Sherry and cook until the Sherry is completely evaporated. Add the mushrooms to the same plate where the onions cooled; once cool, add to the bacon and onion mixture and refrigerate.

Grate the Romano cheese and place in another container with lid. Add to the cheese the chopped parsley, spinach chiffonade, prunes, pumpernickel crumbs, hazelnut meal and lemon zest. Toss to combine, cover and refrigerate if needed for up to 2 days.

Remove any silver skin from the tenderloins. Taking one tenderloin at a time, using a very sharp knife with the blade set parallel to the cutting board and about a quarter to a half-inch from the board, begin slicing into the length of the meat.  As it opens, continue to slice in at the same height along the length, using small cuts if needed, until the tenderloin is completely opened flat. Set the tenderloin aside and repeat with the other tenderloin. (Some ideas, with pictures, on how to open and flatten the pork tenderloins are here, and here.)

Combine together all of the two containers of prepared stuffing ingredients into one bowl and toss repeatedly until all the ingredients are well and evenly distributed. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13-inch pan with cooking spray. Measure out 7 or 8 lengths of cotton kitchen twine and set nearby. 

Place the two tenderloins spread out, slightly overlapping, with one narrow end pointing the opposite direction from the other. Place the stuffing mixture onto the meat, spreading and patting evenly, leaving about an inch bare all around the perimeter. Neatly roll the meat, carefully lifting while rolling to keep the stuffing from oozing out. Once rolled, slice one piece of cotton twine under the roll and tie tightly. Repeat this about every 2 to 3 inches. Trin the ends of the twine to no more than a half inch long. 

Place a large skillet over medium high heat and add some olive oil to the an. Carefully brown the meat on all sides. Once browned, set the meat into the prepared 9 x 13 pan. (Leave the pan as is, to make a sauce, later.) Pour some stock around the meat, to no more than a third of the way up the sides of the meat. Add in some of the onion, then cover with foil and bake the meat for 50 to 70 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 155 to 160 degrees. Remove from oven and leave covered. 

Meanwhile, with the skillet on a burner, deglaze the pan with Bourbon or Sherry, stirring with a plastic spoon or spatula until all the browned bits are mixed in. Add in the garlic and jelly, stirring until dissolved. Stir in the butter until emulsified, then add in the sour cream and mix, off heat, until combined. 

Slice the meat across the roll, into 3/4 to 1-inch thick slices. Leave the twine in place to keep the rolls from unraveling (it is easy to remove at table). Set the slices slightly overlapping on a platter and pour the pan sauce down the center of the meat.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

A New Take on Sourdough

Maybe "new" isn't absolutely on the mark, but for me, this came as a shot from left field. What am I talking about? 

Yeast Water.

I have to believe that I am not the only bread baking person who hasn't heard of this before, and the whole idea came to me in such a roundabout and serendipitous way that I am sure I was just "meant" to find it. I was still working on my bread cookbook, and it was coming to a close. For some unknown reason, I was dragging my feet on finalizing the project, and it had been days since I really did anything with it. And then, I came to a point I thought, "Okay, I have to finish this already!" And with that said, I thought I'd take a look at "The Rye Baker," by Stanley Ginsberg, just to see if there was a blank page in between the last recipe and the Index. Simple enough.

bread, sourdough, yeast water, ciabatta, poolish

There was not a blank page there, but there were a few pages that dealt with things like resources, and one of the resources was blogs that he frequented. One of these was for a baker in Switzerland, no less, with " . . . a wealth of information of sourdoughs and Swiss regional breads." The blog is Bernd's Bakery (

I love things foreign. I always have. Things from foreign places fascinate me, so I immediately went to check out the blog. Of course it is in German, so that posed a problem. I tried Google Translate, and that left a little to be desired, but then I realized that the English version of the recipes is right there, just further down the page. All right! After perusing the first page, I looked at the menu bar and chose "Bread Baking with Wild Yeast." After all, Stanley Ginsberg referenced sourdough right there in his Resources. And there I came to a halt and stared. Was I seeing this correctly? He talked of "Yeast Water." And I felt like a fish out of water. I am fairly knowledgeable on bread baking terms. So what the heck was this, then?

I read about this phenomenon in that Swiss blog. Then, I opted to just Google "yeast water" and see if anything came up. The very first place that came up was a blog called Drive Me Hungry ( Here it is all explained in American English, and this blog showed how the yeast water is made and how it is used. Do check it out - so very worthwhile and so easy. I looked at a couple more places, but this one was sufficient. It all seemed too easy to be for real, but I am always game for something new. I went to the kitchen (about 10 steps away) and got out some figs, sugar, water and a container and mixed them together in a container. Three days later my yeast water was ready.

So, What IS Yeast Water?

sourdough, bread, poolish, Ciabatta, yeast water
Yeast water is fruity, fermented water that can stand in quickly to make a
sourdough starter. No muss, no fuss, and best of all, no waste. Simply a mix of preferably organic raisins (or figs or other dried fruit), filtered water and a small amount of sugar. Mix well, cover and set aside. Shake or stir vigorously morning and evening and once the fruit is floating and there are lots of bubbles, plus the lovely fruity fermented smell, it is ready. Strain out the fruit (use them in a recipe if desired, instead of tossing), then keep the water in the fridge till needed. 

With a regular sourdough starter, it must be fed to become active. A flour and water mixture is added to existing starter and left to ferment. But unless you throw out some of the initial starter, you end up with gallons of it. And if your starter is pretty dormant after too long in the fridge, this process is repeated over a series of days until the starter is very actively bubbly. Each time, you are tossing a portion of the starter. 

With yeast water, in order to have a nicely bubbly and active batch of starter, all that is needed is to combine equal portions  - by weight - of flour and fermented yeast water. No waste. After a few hours at room temperature, it is as bubblingly active as you could ever want. No discarding anything. This has long been a bugaboo of mine - the waste of flour. Especially last year, with all the grocery shelves bare and flour in short supply. 

When I first created my wild yeast sourdough starter from scratch in South Dakota, it worked exactly as the recipe said, in Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice." It was perfect. It bubbled and grew, just as it was supposed to do. Since moving to Arizona, where I opted to recreate a sourdough starter from scratch rather than try to bring an active starter along with me. For whatever reason, though I followed the same recipe, did everything right, my sourdough starter is sluggish. No matter how many times I feed it, it will grow, but never very much.

With this yeast water, which fermented so quickly, I went on to use one of Drive Me Hungry's recipes for Sourdough Ciabatta. I mixed up the Poolish and set it to rise overnight. I mixed up the yeast water and flour and set to rise. Drive Me Hungry's recipe says to let the two starters ferment for 10 to 14 hours, depending on temperature. Well, we live in Arizona, so it's a lot warmer indoors than in Aberdeen. I have a suspicion it may have taken about 4 or so hours to ferment the starters, and next time I am planning to make the starters in the day and once risen, place them in the fridge overnight, to develop more flavors. That will be another post. By next morning the starters were huge. I made the bread and it turned out great. Though, with the very wet dough I had to haul out my baker's couche to support it while rising. All the flour needed on the couche made a thorough mess in my kitchen, then outdoors where I shook it out later, and all over my clothes (face, hair, feet) as the flour flew everywhere when I shook out the cloth. All that aside, I made the Ciabatta recipe and aside from needing a full cup more flour to make the dough even remotely clear the sides of the bowl, it came out perfectly, and it is delicious. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The Most Delicious Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Many years ago I made cinnamon raisin bread. I tried forming it in various ways. Truly, the complexity got out of hand. Ultimately, the bread didn't present well. It was delicious, but that's not enough. And so it happened that as I was writing that recipe into my bread cookbook that I've been creating for myself, I thought it needed revising. I wrote down how I thought the best way to make the bread might be, and wrote all that into the pages of my book in progress. The difficulty lies in photos. If I want to present photos of how the bread should look, and I have none, well. You see the problem here?

yeast bread, cinnamon raisin bread

With that in mind, I opted to give my new and revised recipe a try. Thank heaven I did, because this version not only looks wonderful, it tastes like a slice of heaven, to boot. 

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Makes 3 loaves


1 cup milk

1 cup water

1/3 cup honey

- pinch salt

2 cups bread flour

1 teaspoon instant yeast

Warm the milk, water and honey to 105  - 115 degrees F. If it heats too much, allow the mixture to cool slightly. Pour this mixture into a large bowl, or the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer with dough hook attachment. Whisk in the salt and bread flour and instant yeast and cover. Set aside for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the mixture has grown markedly and is covered in foamy bubbles.

yeast bread, cinnamon raisin bread

1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces), very soft

3 large eggs

2½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon instant yeast

2 - 3 tablespoons cinnamon

3½ to 4 cups more bread flour


1 - 1½ cups raisins

DOUGH: Add the butter to the sponge and begin beating in with the dough hook or by hand with a wooden spoon. Add in the eggs and mix well, then the salt and cinnamon, yeast and 2 cups of the bread flour. Mix until well combined, with machine or by hand (turning out onto a floured surface when the dough becomes too stiff to beat by hand). Add in the remaining flour, ½-cup at a time, until the dough becomes a soft mass. Do not add more flour than needed to bring the dough together. Knead for 5 minutes more, by machine or by hand, then add in the raisins and knead a further minute or two to fully incorporate. Remove the dough hook and cover the bowl, or if kneading by hand, grease a bowl and set the dough in the bowl, turning once to grease both sides and cover the bowl. Let proof until doubled, about 60 to 90 minutes.

Grease three 8 x 4-inch loaf pans. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and lightly degas. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Flatten a portion into an approximate rectangle (see sidebar, left) and roll up tightly from the narrow end, tucking in edges as you roll to keep a neat roll. Set into a greased loaf pan. Repeat with the remaining 2 portions of dough. Cover and let rise until 1-inch above the pan rims. If desired brush with an egg wash. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the loaves for 30 - 35 minutes, or to an internal temperature of between 195 and 200 degrees F. Turn out onto racks to cool completely before slicing.

NOTE: If desired, when flattening out the dough in preparation for rolling into loaves, you can mix 1/3 cup of granulated sugar with a half-teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle a third of this mixture over each rectangle before rolling up into log shape. Proceed with rolling and set into pans, and proceed with rising and baking.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Guatemalan Breads Once Again

In my previous post, I mentioned that I have been creating a breads cookbook, just for myself; a way of getting together all my bread recipes. As I was collecting  all the recipes I had made to date under the chapter for Guatemalan Breads, I started looking around the internet once again and found some more to try. The recipes I am posting here are, in the main, from a YouTube video by Recetas y Pasteles Lili. The whole video is in Spanish, and it is long, but very thorough. My recipe has minimal changes, and less steps, plus, it's in English, but my gratitude to "Lili" for the recipes and instructions.

Pan Dulce, Guatemalan Bread, Gusanitos, Gallinitas, Besitos
These breads, all three of them, are made from the same dough, and the same batch of sugar paste. They are fairly sweet, sweeter than most of the Guatemalan breads. But, they are really cute breads. One type is called Gallinitas, or "Little Hens." So called, because they supposedly represent the coxcomb (wrong sex, but hey!) with their little floppy looking tops. Another of these breads is called Besitos, or "Little Kisses," as they have an "X" cut into the top. The third of these breads are called Gusanitos, or "Little Worms," so called because of the segmented-looking bodies. If these don't sound inviting, just wait.

Since they are all made from the same dough(s), once the dough is made and ready, they simply need to be shaped. There is an interesting little trick to forming each of them, and only for the Besitos did I change the method, as Lili's method seemed cumbersome. These breads are just delightful with a cup of coffee, be it for breakfast or afternoon snack. Once trying out the methods they do become very easy. I hope you'll give them a try.

Pan Dulce (Gallinitas, Besitos and Gusanitos)

Makes 18 sweet rolls

Make the SUGAR PASTE: with hands or a small mixer, beat together the flour, sugar and lard or shortening until it is cohesive. Add in a tablespoon of water. It should have the consistency of dough. If not, add a tiny bit more water at a time until it can be formed easily, rolling out or making into a ball. Cover the bowl to prevent drying and set aside.

MAKE THE DOUGH: Place all ingredients for “dough” except the water into a heavy duty stand mixer or into a large bowl if mixing by hand. Run the mixer with paddle until the lard had dispersed well. Add in most (not all) of the water and begin mixing with the dough hook, or by hand. The dough should be very soft, but not so soft it cannot be handled. Add the remaining water if needed, to achieve this soft consistency. Knead the dough for 5 to 8 minutes, then allow it to rest for 20 to 25 minutes. 

Turn the dough out onto a greased surface and divide the dough into 3 equal portions, by weight. Each portion will make 6 rolls. Set two portions aside, covered. Divide the last portion of dough into 6 equal pieces by weight.

To make “GALLINITAS:” Make each of the 6 pieces of dough into a log about 6 to 7-inches long. Take a piece of the sugar paste almost, but not quite, as big as the piece of dough and roll it into a similar length log. Set the sugar paste log on top of the dough log. Flatten the two pieces together, to a width of about 1.5 inches. No need to lengthen the log. Now, using a small knife or a metal bench scraper, slice through the stack, from the center to the wide edge, and repeating these cuts about every quarter-inch.

forming Gallinitas, stacking dough and sugar paste

forming Gallinitas, forming Guatemalan bread, pan dulce

From one short end, begin to roll up this piece, until you come to the end of the length. The bread is formed sideways, so turn the dough so the floppy ends are now the top and set on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat this process for the remaining five pieces of the dough,  setting them well-spaced, on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Pan Dulce Gallinitas, Guatemalan Pan Dulce

To make “BESITOS:” Take the second portion of the dough and further divide it into 6 equal pieces by weight. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten the ball with hands to about 3½  to 4-inches in diameter. Take a small ball of the sugar paste and set it in the center of the dough circle, photo 1. Bring the dough up and around the sugar paste to completely encase it, pinching the ends so they stay closed. Turn the ball over so the seam is on the bottom, photo 2, and set this onto a parchment lined baking sheet. With clean scissors, snip across the top of the ball, photo 3. Now snip the top in the opposite direction, across the first cut, photo 4, and forming an “X in the dough, having cut through so the sugar paste is exposed, photo 5. Repeat this process with the remaining 5 balls of dough from this group, setting them well apart onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with egg wash, avoiding the open, cut surfaces.

forming Besitos, Guatemalan pan dulce
Guatemalan Sweet Breads, Besitos, Pan Dulce


To make “GUSANITOS:” With the last of the 3 portions of dough, divide this into 6 equal pieces by weight. Take one piece and form a ball. Set the ball onto the oiled surface and flatten to a large, long oval, approximately 5 x 8”. Divide the remaining sugar paste into 6 pieces. Take one piece of the sugar paste and flatten as much as possible between the hands, then set this piece onto one end of the long oval of dough, leaving about ½-inch of dough exposed at the end, photo 1, below, ensuring that the paste just reaches the side edges. Make slices through the sugar paste and dough, starting about a third of the way up the dough, cutting into strips downward about every quarter to one-third inch apart, photo 2. Begin rolling the dough from the short end without the sugar paste, pressing each side to seal as you roll, photos 3, 4, 5. Once the roll is complete, photo 6, the cuts will reveal the insides and the segments will somewhat resemble a worm, or “gusanito.” Repeat this process with the remaining 5 pieces of dough and sugar paste. Set each Gusanito onto parchment lined baking sheets, well apart. Brush the dough with egg wash, but avoid getting the egg into the cut surfaces. Set aside, covered, and proof for at least 30 minutes. 

Forming Gusanitos, Guatemalan pan dulce

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake all the breads for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees and bake for 10 minutes more, for a total of 25 minutes. If breads are on separate pans, bake one tray at a time.
Guatemalan Sweet Bread, Gusanitos, Pan Dulce

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest