At the Bread of Life (2) workshop


Plaits, twists, no, they aren't ways of styling long hair but ways of shaping bread dough.

Clovers, twists, plaits, fans and crescents

At the second part of the Bread of Life workshop, my jolly crew pummelled and pounded their way though yeasted dough, proofed and punched them and finally shaped them into crescents, fans, clovers (including a couple of lucky clovers), the aforementioned plaits, twists and plain buns.

Plain buns - all they need are some juicy patties

Then there was a dead easy bread made with a batter dough. This one doesn't need you to flex a single muscle but still bakes itself into a delightfully tangy, cheesy loaf!

Cheese bread

There was a mound of sweet dough which were shaped into these rosebuds...


...and a delicious Swedish tea ring.

It was 10 years ago that I did the Bread of Life series for the first time. It still remains one of my favourite workshops. English poet Robert Browning was so right when he wrote,"If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens."

Bread of Life Part 2 - a workshop


Not all bread dough needs to be shaped into loaves of bread.

At the second part of the Bread of Life session, these are on the menu -

Roll dough - shaped into fans, crescents, clover leaves and plaits;
Sweet dough - to make a Swedish tea ring;
Plain buns -  just the thing to stuff a burger patty into and
Cheese bread - do you need a reason to make cheese bread???

On April 25th, at Kottivakkam, from 10.30 am - 2.30 pm. 

At the Bread of Life (1) workshop


Making bread is always interesting. The usual questions that are posed by those new to the activity - how long should the dough be kneaded, how do you know if it has been kneaded sufficiently???

Interest levels perk up when the shaping of dough begins and various kinds of dough are dispatched into the oven. Eyes grow wide in disbelief when the dough starts to rise and the aroma of bread fills the kitchen. And when the baking is finally over and the breads come out of the oven, suddenly the whole class is hungry at the same time. Hmm...I always wonder why.
 hungry emoticon
Sesame seed rolls

Lite wholewheat seed bread

Mini brioche

Focaccia slices

Part 2 of the workshop will be on April 25th.

Nuovo menu at Focaccia, Hyatt Regency Chennai


The regions of Campania, Puglia and Calabria are located in southern Italy; these areas make up the heel and toe of the country. So also Sicily, the island that got kicked into the Mediterranean. I'm sure this was how many of us learnt about Italy in Geography class.

The reason for this quick brush up was because of an invitation to Focaccia, Hyatt Regency Chennai's trattoria style award winning restaurant to review their new offerings. Chef de cuisine, Roberto Zorzoli from Milan has put together a new weekday menu that reflects the specialties of southern Italy. There definitely was going to be a lot of tomatoes and olives.

My friend and I decided to go for a midweek lunch and not surprisingly, as it was a festival day, found ourselves the only occupants of the restaurant, except for a big group of people in the private dining area. Which meant the service staff pampered us with plenty of attention. Also with us was HRC's PR Manager who gave us a brief overview of the new menu before rushing off to attend a meeting. As for the menu, it was a mix of new dishes and popular older ones. We left it to Chef Roberto's more than capable hands to make the selection. Our only request was to serve us a half portion of anything he wished us to taste.

To quench parched throats, we ordered a strawberry iced tea and orange iced tea. After all, we had to order something...


Both were deliciously refreshing.

A basket of focaccia  and an intensely delicious tomato dip was served. The bread was supersoft and was the perfect accompaniment to the dip which had all the colour and flavour of tomatoes and herbs and perfectly balanced acidity.

We started with polenta e fungi, squares of polenta browned in a hot pan and piled high with sauteed mushroom trifolati - a medley of button, shiitake and porcini slices. We loved the various textures of the mushrooms and the blandness of the polenta was the perfect balance to the earthy flavour of the mushrooms and we used it to mop up all that delicious sauce.

Then there was beef carpaccio topped with olives and ricotta - wafer thin slices of tenderloin cured with sugar and salt. A drizzle of truffle oil enhanced the look of the dish and the curing process ensured that the meat had been slightly "cooked". Rocket leaves, as stated in the menu would have been an interesting combination with the meat but alas it wasn't available that day.

Chef Roberto made us an insalata caprina that had plenty of julienned carrots, slices of tomato, salad leaves and a tangy dressing. Topped with goat's cheese, walnuts and pine nuts, there was plenty of crunch from the carrots and nuts and was light on the stomach.

A choice of 3 soups and we opted for the traditional minestrone. Served with pesto smeared crusty baguette, it was terribly delicious. Slow cooking of the vegetables had resulted in the flavours becoming amplified; the cubes of vegetables included zucchini, carrot and pumpkin.

For the main course, Chef Roberto sent across his signature risotto al fungi. It had porcini mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, wine, and a delicious stock that had been cooked into a riot of flavours. A drizzle of truffle oil adorned it but the only thing that took away the perfection of the dish was that the rice was slightly underdone. In his charming Italian accented English, the chef asked us if it was "too little al dente" and offered to make us another portion. No, no, as we had spotted the ravioli di salmon making its way to our table. Cute little house made ravioli parcels stuffed to bursting with pink salmon in a cream sauce and topped with baby spinach. Delicioso!

How can anyone turn down dessert? We were going to when the chef said we simply had to taste his cannoli Siciliana - crisp pastry tube filled with ricotta cheese and candied fruits, chocolate chips and chocolate sauce dizzled over. We loved the crunch of the pastry and the cheese that had just the right amount of sweetness.

There's plenty more on the menu including rustic lasagna, green ravioli and risotto with prawns and zucchini... and pizzas from the wood fired oven...sigh...and soft centered chocolate...Sigh!!

It was a long languid lunch, every now and then we'd look out at the mess of traffic on the main road below. The only distraction was the glass window that needed a good cleaning. But then again, I'm just nitpicking.

Focaccia's Nuovo Menu that was introduced on 1st April is available for both lunch and dinner. It is a la carte and priced at 2500/++

Call +914461001234 to make a reservation.

And don't forget to order the minestrone.

Bread of Life - a workshop


There's something about the aroma of freshly baked bread that fills a home with love and warmth. It's simply irresistible and you'd just want to tear off a chunk and savour it. Plain, buttered, with jam or dipped into a gravy, bread is the most comforting of foods. No wonder it's called the staff of life.

At the first of a 2 part workshop titled "Bread of Life", learn the science and art of making bread, the secrets of kneading and shaping and baking it perfectly.

On the menu:

Focaccia - an Italian flatbread redolent with rosemary, garlic and Parmesan cheese;
Mini brioches - rich and yeasty little buns, very delicious, very French;
Lite wholemeal seed bread - a loaf shaped bread with crunchy bits and bobs and
Sesame seed rolls - little buns topped with seeds, an ideal way to present your bread when entertaining.

At Kottivakkam on April 18, 10.30 am - 2.30 pm.

   * Date for Part 2 will be announced later.                                                                                                         

Mascarpone coffee tarts for a 3rd birthday


Three years old and counting...this time, I was more than ready when the blog anniversary birthday rolled around and I actually had a recipe in mind. All it needed was execution.

Ok, put up your hand if you like tarts...if you like chocolate... if you like coffee. Then you're gonna love this recipe. The inspiration for these tarts came about a couple of months ago when I was trying out new recipes for a dessert workshop that involved pastry. Strangely, my best ideas come when I'm procrastinating. Instead of getting on with the job at hand, I started dreaming of... tiramisu in a martini glass, tiramisu in a shot glass... tiramisu... I looked down at the little tart shell in my hand and the sheer genius of it almost knocked me over. Almost!

Some nice ideas have to go out straight of the window - how can it be tiramisu  if there are no savoiardi biscuits. Fine then, it would have the ingredients and flavour of tiramisu, but it wouldn't be tiramisu - just a poseur. On second thoughts, it could be a kind of petit fours.

After some tweaking of a sweet pastry recipe I often use, I found I didn't even have to roll it out and cut it. On second thoughts, the next time I make these tarts, I definitely will roll out it out as I like my pastry to be very thin - more filling goes in, you see... and they'll look even more dainty.

The filling was a breeze to assemble. These tarts can be made and filled a couple of days in advance without fear of the pastry going soggy. How?? A secret ingredient, perhaps... of course, the answer is always chocolate.

In a nutshell, bake the tart shells and leave them to cool. Make the cheese and coffee cream and pipe away. Oh, I didn't tell you what to do with the chocolate, right?

But in the end, you're going to love the crisp chocolaty sweet base of the tart that shatters so effortlessly when you take a bite, followed by the lick of the coffee flavoured cream. You will be forgiven for getting blobs of cream stuck to the tip of your nose - there's really no dainty way to eat these. 

Here's the recipe:

Mascarpone coffee tarts

Ingredients for tart shells
150 gm flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
75 gm cold, cubed butter
3 tsps fine sugar
1 egg yolk, beaten (you may need some of the white)

Sift together flour and salt. Stir in the sugar.
Rub the butter into the flour mix, add in the yolk and form into a dough. (If the dough is dry, add in some of the white as well.)
Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for about half an hour.
Either roll out the dough and cut into 12 discs or divide the dough into 12 balls and press into the bases and up the sides of fluted mini tart tins (2" diameter).
Dock the base with a fork (goodness... it rhymes!!), bake at 180°C for about 12-15 minutes till they turn a light gold colour. 
Remove the tins from the oven and unmould the pastry. Leave them on a wire rack to cool.

50 mls water
35 gm sugar
2.5 teaspoons espresso coffee powder 
100 gm good quality mascarpone cheese at room temperature
100 gm whipped sweet cream
1 tablespoon Amaretto - optional
1 tablespoon Kahlua or Baileys Irish Cream- optional

100 gm dark chocolate, melted
Cocoa powder for dusting

Brush the inside of each tart shell with some of the melted chocolate.
Put the water and sugar into a small saucepan, bring it to the boil. 
Turn off the heat, stir in the espresso powder, mix to dissolve.
When it cools, add in the liqueurs, if using.
Whip the mascarpone till smooth, blend in the coffee syrup.
Fold in the cream.
Fill a piping bag with a large star nozzle and pipe the coffee cream into the shells.
Put the remaining melted chocolate into a a piping bag, pipe lines of chocolate over the filling.
Chill the tarts in the fridge. 
When you're ready to serve them, place a halved strawberry over each tart and dust a little cocoa powder over the top. 
Get out your prettiest plate, arrange the tarts on it and serve. 

Dear dear readers, baketales is still a toddler and you've been my best supporters. Thank you for visiting, leaving comments and what I cherish most, writing in to say that you have tried out my recipes or gone to places I've reviewed or even love my photographs (I know who to thank for this). Thank you for being my cheering squad; looking forward to more of your mails and comments. 

Cream cheese bolognese for pasta


Just can't believe it - I haven't posted a pasta recipe to date and strangely enough, pasta is one of the things I cook quite often.

A good bolognese sauce is just what any pasta needs. Over the years, various ingredients have gone into the basic ragu that I make in an attempt to increase the flavour. Let's face it - the meat and the tomatoes that are locally available are not exactly top quality but bolognese is a particularly forgiving sauce. Beef or a mix of beef and pork would be my meat of choice but more often than not, I find myself using chicken. While chicken ragu is quite flavourful, I never quite get the colour that a good ragu commands. Ah well...

It takes a good hour to cook a bolognese and there are no shortcuts. At the end of the cooking time, what you get is a thick sauce and tender meat that's so full of flavour. I know chicken liver is a strange ingredient but believe me, once the ragu is done, no one will know there's such a thing in it - not if you tell, at any rate. It adds a different dimension to the sauce, more depth. As for the cream cheese, what it does is to take the edge off the acidity of the tomatoes and infuses a certain tangy mellowness to the dish.

This sauce is good with any kind of pasta. When you're done doling the sauce over the pasta, don't forget to sprinkle Parmesan cheese over too. After all, can there ever be too much cheese?

Here goes my recipe:

Cream cheese bolognese

4 tbsp oil
50 gm bacon, diced
2 onions, finely diced
8 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
1 large carrot, grated
1 bay leaf
1 tsp mixed dried herbs
500 gm minced meat
2 chicken livers, cleaned and minced
1/2 cup red or white wine or sherry
200 gm blanched and pureed tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato paste
6 stalks parsley, remove stems and chop fine
1 cup milk
1 cup stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar
50 gm cream cheese

Heat oil in a large pot, saute bacon till crisp, remove.
Tip the diced onion, garlic, celery, carrot and bay leaf into the pan, saute till soft.
Add in the minced meat and chopped liver, fry till the juices dry up and the meat is browned.
Add in the bacon, mixed dried herbs, wine or sherry, tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, milk, stock salt and pepper.
When it comes to the boil, turn down the heat, cover the pot with a lid and allow the sauce to simmer for an hour, stirring the pot every 15 minutes or so.
Switch off the flame, stir in the sugar and the cream cheese.
Serve over a bed of pasta.

  • Bake Tales © 2012