Petit Pains Au Lait (Milk Breads) - We Knead to Bake # 17

The bread for this month for the We Knead to Bake group chosen by Aparna is a simple but classic french bread. Petit pain au lait means little milk breads/ rolls. The rolls are mildly sweet and they bake to a beautiful golden brown. They are slightly rich and are soft and almost flaky on the inside because of the way they are shaped and rolled.

This is a wonderful and very easy recipe making it perfect for beginners. I stuffed about four rolls with some chocolate and left the others plain. All of us at home preferred the plain ones and I will surely be baking these again.

Do take a look at these videos to get an idea of how the bread is cut to create the pattern. Link1/ Link2.
Recipe adapted from Gourmet by Kat

Petit Pains Au Lait

2/3 cup warm whole milk (plus a few teaspoons more if needed)
1 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup bread flour*
1/4 tsp salt
60 gms butter, soft at room temperature
extra milk for brushing

*If you don’t have bread flour, put 2/3 tsp vital wheat gluten in your 3/4 cup measure and top up with all-purpose flour. Mix this well. 
Or if you don’t have vital wheat gluten, then just use 3/4 cup all-purpose flour.
**This topping is optional. The pearl sugar looks pretty and adds a little crunch. If you can’t find pearl sugar, use large crystals of sugar or even regular granulated sugar. 
I used my stand mixer to knead the dough, you can also use the food processor or knead by hand. Put the warm milk, yeast and sugar in the bowl. Mix on low speed. Then add all the flour and the salt and mix until the mixture looks crumbly. Add the butter and knead until you have a soft, smooth and elastic dough that’s not sticky. Add a little more milk (in teaspoonful at a time), if your dough is dry, until you have the required consistency of dough.
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl. Turn it over to coat with oil. Cover loosely and set aside to rise until double in volume, about 1 1/2 hours. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface. The dough will be easy to work with and not sticky, but if needed, just lightly dust your palms with flour. Deflate the dough gently, and divide it into 10 equal pieces. Let them rest for 15 minutes.
Roll out each piece of dough, one at a time, into a circle of about 4” in diameter. Slowly roll up the circle from one end, Swiss roll/ jelly roll style into a cylinder. Pinch the seam closed neatly, and place them on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet with the seam side facing down. Cover loosely and let them rise for an hour or so till almost double in size.
Brush them lightly with milk and using a pair of sharp scissors, make diagonal cuts (not too deep) on the top of the rolls. Sprinkle pearl sugar/ granulated sugar. Bake them at 200C / 400F  for about 15 minutes or so until they’re golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and serve them warm or at room temperature.
This recipe makes 10 Petit Pains au Lait. They’re best eaten the same day, though you could warm them up and serve the next day.

Melon Pan - We Knead to Bake # 15

Melon Pan is a Japanese sweet bread. These soft spongy mildly sweetened buns have a crunchy cookie layer on the top and the two textures is what makes them really special and unique. 
I love how attractive they look and they were just as delicious.
The ingredient list and the method maybe long but the bread was really easy to make and it is totally worth the effort. And here's a link to a very helpful video of how this bread is made.

Thanks to Aparna for choosing this wonderful bread for the We Knead to Bake group

Melon Pan

For an eggless recipe just substitute the egg with 1 tbs yogurt or milk.
For the bread dough:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbs milk powder
1 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup cold water
1 egg, beaten 
1 tbs sugar
25 gms butter

For the cookie dough:
1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
a large pinch of salt
60 gms butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup castor sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest
castor sugar/ granulated sugar for dusting

Bread Dough
Whisk together flour, powdered milk, yeast, and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer or in any large bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg and cold water together with a fork until well blended. Add this to the flour mixture in the bowl.
Using the dough hook, knead on low speed until it all comes together as a dough and then on medium speed until you have a somewhat stiff dough. Add the sugar and again knead well.
Now add the butter and knead (first at slow speed and then on medium) until the butter is completely incorporated into the dough and the dough becomes smooth and elastic. The dough should be well-kneaded to develop the gluten.
Shape the dough into a round, and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let it rise until doubled (about an hour or so).
Cookie dough
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat till combined. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and add this to the bowl. Also add the lemon zest. Beat together  just until combined.
Shape the dough into a cylinder  and wrap tightly in cling film. Refrigerate the dough until required.
Bread dough
Once the dough has doubled in volume, take it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Lightly grease your baking sheet or line it with parchment. Deflate the dough gently and divide it into 8 equal portions.
Shape each portion into a smooth ball. Work with one portion and keep the others covered so they don’t dry out.
Take the cold cookie dough and slice the cylinder into 8 equal portions. Use two pieces of plastic sheets or cling film to flatten the cookie dough. Place one slice/ round of cookie dough on a piece of plastic sheet/ cling film. Cover with another piece, and using a flat bottomed pan, press down on the dough to flatten it, until it is reasonably thin but not very much so.
Carefully take a ball of bread dough (it will have puffed up a little so don’t deflate it), and place the circle of cookie dough on top of it. Gently press the cookie dough edge to the bread dough ball so that it covers the top and sides of the ball, but leave the bottom open. Gently, holding the covered bread dough by the underside, press it into some sugar. Then using a the blunt side of a knife, mark the top of the cookie dough side of the bread roll with a diamond pattern. The pattern should be deep enough (otherwise it will disappear when the bread rises and bakes) without cutting through the cookie dough layer into the bread.
Place this on the greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat this with the remaining cookie dough and bread dough balls. Let them rise for an hour.
Bake them at 180C (350F) for about 25 minutes, until the tops of the Melon Pan just start turning brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool thoroughly.
Melon Pan are best eaten the day they are made.

The Birthday Cakes and a recipe for White Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Anushka turned 4 last week and this birthday was extra special as it was the first one we celebrated in India. It was more of a family get-together and Anushka got to play with her favorite cousin and had a fabulous time. Growing up all my birthdays were celebrated this way and this evening brought back such wonderful memories.

This birthday was also very different from her last birthdays as I had so much help getting everything ready, having your parents with you is such a blessing, everything is taken care of. The last year with the Minnie Mouse Party there were so many things to be done and as much as I enjoyed planning and organizing everything I remember having panic attacks every few hours. This time though I felt like I had nothing to do. Dad and made sure the house was clean and organised and looked after Anushka when I was busy, mom took care of the food and all I had to do was bake the cake.

The 4 year old "grown-up" gave me very clear instructions for her cake design. Up until two days before her birthday she wanted a blue cake with lots of flowers and butterflies and then suddenly changed her mind and wanted a pink one instead. I rolled the fondant and let her cut out the flowers and butterflies and she was so excited to see them on the cake.

Her day began with a small celebration at school. I sent a small cake with that she cut with her friends. As cream cakes are not allowed I made a simple chocolate cake with chocolate chips. I had planned to write a message with icing but ended up making a simple fondant topper instead.

The main cake was two layers of chocolate cake and one middle layer of orange cake. I filled the cake with whipped chocolate ganache and frosted with White Chocolate Swiss Meringue Butercream (SMBC).
It was the first time that I made SMBC with home-made butter and while it looked perfect somehow it wasn't sweet at all. I thought of adding some honey or corn syrup but just to be sure I asked the experts on HBG in facebook.  Got some wonderful ideas and ended up adding some white chocolate to the buttercream. I'm not so found of white chocolate but in this case it worked like a charm and the flavor was just delicious! 

White Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
18 tbs unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into tablesspoons
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature

Make sure your bowl, whisk and all other tools you use to make the meringue are completely free of any grease.
Take the egg whites and sugar in a big metal bowl and place the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk gently but constantly until the mixture reaches a temperature of 140 degrees F on a candy thermometer, or until the egg whites are hot and you cannot feel the sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers. 
Remove from heat and whip the hot mixture, until it turns thick and glossy and white and and about doubles in volume. The bowl will be neutral and not hot at this point.
Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating continuously on medium speed until it has a silky smooth texture. The mixture may look curdled at some time, but just keep mixing and it will come together soon!
Mix in the vanilla and the melted white chocolate and whip till smooth and creamy.
Use immidiately or refrigerate in an air-tight container for upto 1 week and whip until creamy before using.

50 Second Eggless Chocolate Mug Cake

Happy Valentine's Day to all! For the last several years I've have always baked a chocolate cake for this day, but this year with Manoj being out of town, the cake plans have been postponed to another day. But again it is impossible to ignore all the chocolate treats that I have been seeing everywhere and what's better at such times than this super easy chocolate mug cake. I have made this so many times, it is just the thing to satisfy all those sudden, irrational and odd time cravings for chocolate cake.

If you are looking for an easy last minute dessert to round up your valentine's day meal or for any other time then this could be it. The cake is moist, chocolaty and uses just basic simple ingredients. You can make it extra special by serving it with a dollop of whipped cream or ice-cream or drizzling or even pouring as much chocolate sauce as you like. Some ganache would be great too.

The only thing to take care is to not overcook the cake. In the microwave a few seconds here or there could make a big difference. 48-50 seconds is what it takes in my microwave works perfectly in mine, make sure to check.

Eggless Chocolate Mug Cake

3 tbs all purpose flour/ maida
1 tbs cocoa
1 1/2 tbs castor sugar/ super fine sugar
1/4 tsp instant coffee powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 tbs finely chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
2 tbs chopped dark chocolate
1 1/2 tbs water
1 1/2 tbs oil
1/2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, coffee powder, baking soda. Add the chopped nuts and chocolate and mix. In another bowl whisk the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla until combined. Pour the wet mixture over the flour and whisk gently just until combined. Spoon the mixture into a microwave safe mug and microwave for 50 seconds. 
Cool for a few seconds and enjoy!