Bangalore’s Khara Buns / Masala Buns – Spiced Rolls of Nostalgia!

Growing up in Chennai , the good old Madras of the yesteryears, I knew of only 2 seasons – hot and hotter. No, seriously, ask any Chennaiite..and they can attest to the fact that a slightest dip in the temperature, and mind you this is like slightest  dip in the barometer, and you and can get the folks talking about it. About how there is chill in the air, how we should get the sweaters – out, no seriously sweaters as in the one we all would all own a  single piece  of woolen clothing that could service us for years as they were used  very sparingly. Transplanting  this Chennaiite to the neighboring state of  Karnataka, could induce “chill attack” hitherto unknown to the heat accustomed body.

Of course, Bangalore would be this heavenly sojourn and a welcome respite from the Chennai summers. Especially in the months of May and June. As kids, my brother and I  have often been to Bangalore to visit our grandparents and uncles. Bangalore was in some ways another home. Beautiful, lush parks and cool weather that soothes the mind, body and soul. And, no visit to Bangalore would be complete without indulging in Iyengar bakery’s Khaara buns. we would just wait for the clock to strike 3 pm to weasel out money for this one or simply wait until my grandmom, would issue a dictate to indulge in this treat. Oh, and what a treat it was! Hot and spicy, just out of the oven with a cripsy crust, a spongy  center and absolutley delectable!

And as we often do, I took a trip down the memory lane one too many times the past few days. Probably running  around  with a myriad of things and sense of ” I – am ‘-on-the-hamster- wheel ” feeling struck me very strongly. After quick call to mom and dad, and assuring yours truly that everything and everyone in the near and dear circle were peachy, I finally decided to do something productive. Plus ,I was baby sitting an imp of a five year old. My youngest’s close ally in all the trouble ever perpetuated, this one was demanding all my attention since he was deprived of my kids company, albeit for a couple of hours.

Really , how still can a 5 – year old sit? Apparently a whole 10 minutes was near equivalent to a lifetime of inactivity 🙂  And so, yours truly was bombarded with questions….

” How come Curious George’s guy always wears yellow ?”

” How come A3 has school until 3.45 Pm?”

” Are you cooking?”

“Are you baking?”

“Is it yummy?”

“What are you making?”

“Why?”

” I am thirsty” And after a gallon of water  “I need to pee.. again “.

Back to ” Why is it only 2.30? When is A1 coming?”

And I realized , I better stock up on enough fodder to entertain a 5 year  old,and a lonely one at it.  So after a bit of Curious George and game of I spy.. we baked. Or rather I baked and answered some more of his questions.

Here’s an ode to Bangalore’s Masala Buns.. May it whet your appetite !

Spiced rolls/buns of Nostalgia – Bangalore’s Khara buns

 Prep time : 15 – min   Dough resting time – 50-60 min Baking time 22-25 min

Yields 10-12 buns.

Ingredients for the Dough:

  1. 2 cups Self rising flour+ about 3-4 tbsp extra flour if required
  2. 1 1/2 tsp rapid acting dry yeast. I used the fleishmann’s kind found in grocery stores.
  3. ¾ cup of Water
  4. ¼ cup of yogurt
  5. 1 tsp of sugar
  6. 2 tbsp of Olive oil or any fat of your choice
  7. 1 1/2 tsp Salt

For the smacking flavors of spice :

  1. ½ cup – ¾ cup of onions , thinly sliced
  2. 4-6 green chillis ( I used thai chillis ) finely chopped
  3. ½ cup of finely chopped green coriander leaves
  4. 1 tsp Cumin seeds

 For the glaze

  1. 1 tbsp of butter and milk

Process :

Proofing the yeast:

  1. In a microwave safe bowl, warm the water to a reasonably warm temperature. Rapid acting yeast requires luke warm temperature to begin its action. Boiling water will kill the yeast and cold water will not make it active.
  2. Add in the sugar and yeast and stir well and set aside for 7-8 minutes. You should see frothy upper layer forming on the surface of your bowl. If you do not see this , chances are one of the variables required was skewed. Go ahead and redo this process. An inactive yield would not impart the same successful results you need.

Making the dough:

  • In a wide bowl, add the flour and whisk it with the salt.
  • And the ¼ cup of yogurt and incorporate it gently. I gently folded the yogurt into the flour and used my fingers to do it.
  • Now add in the chopped onions, coriander leaves, cumin seeds and any other spices of your choice and a pinch of salt if required.
  • Mix in thoroughly. Again , I did not use a food processor or dough maker. Just my hands .
  • Add in the yeast frothy mixture of water and sugar and gently mix in the dough.
  • Once it forms a ball of a reasonable shape, add in the 2 tbsp of olive oil, knead again and cover it with a plastic wrap. By now your dough should resemble a big round blob. If it is too sticky add in the extra 3-4 tablespoons of flour to get a soft, pliable and non-sticky dough.
  • Set it side for about 45- 60 minutes, so the dough nearly doubles in size.

Baking process:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 deg F.
  • Re-knead the dough gently. You might need to grease your hands to do this. You do not need to vigorously punch out the air and re-knead it again and again. I just got the dough out on a clean working surface and kneaded it for about 5 minutes. Now you have a bigger blob on your hands! Proof that the yeast and leavening agents did their job!
  • Divide it into about 12 -14 rounds and the globes need to be placed a few inches apart from each other.
  • Place it in the center rack and bake for about 22-25 minutes.

Baked goodies and serving

  • The buns would bake a nice golden brown and should sound a bit hollow when tapped.
  • And the skewer test would work too.( stick a skew int he center and it should come out clean!)
  • Once done brush it with a prepared glaze of melted butter in warm milk to give it the nice glow.
  • To serve, slice a bun in half and add a dollop of butter and eat warm with a cup of chai.

Points to be noted 

  • If the frothy mixture of yeast and sugar is not happening, please redo this step.
  • If your dough gets sticky during the initial process, add in a few tablespoons of the flour to ease it out.
  • Greasing your palms when you make these globes for baking is a good idea.
  • Using a parchment paper on your baking sheet makes clean up a breeze.

Happy indulging !

Khara Buns
Khara Buns

Banana Walnut Cake – So awesome, Light , Fluffy and Nutty!

Planning your day around possible thunderstorms is a bit like planning a scientific experiment with a ton of variables thrown in. An experiment, that is fun but the outcome  is so unpredictable . To cut a long story short, it was the ” boy who cried wolf “.. while the huge thunderstorms didn’t show up, what did was  a reminder from mother nature that she  was the  one in charge . And we were blessed with blistering temperatures hitting near ninety ..Lovely !!

And of course when temperatures hit that high,  the stock of sorry looking bananas get even more sorrier. read natural organic progression .. more dark brown spots appear ( more like the pounds that magically appear on self ). 🙂 Well, I cannot just dump nearly half a dozen bananas out. They were just overripe and more sweet than the youthful ones. But no amount of cajoling could get my 3A’s to venture near them. And then inspiration stuck, or rather the thought in the back burner   just jumped several hoops ahead to make itself shout ” Make banana bread / cake “. Sure, sounds easy, but here is the cinch, I have never baked this one. Yes, I have baked so many more kinds, but banana bread/cake, the easy peesy one, I have never attempted to do so. Well partially because , I had a good friend who would treat me to her delectable version quite often and partly because it’s banana bread. And well honestly a fruit smoothie would be so much easier. Just throw in the bananas, add a couple more fruits, a dash of honey and there you have it. But no, the itch to bake set in and I do need to scratch it. Call me stubborn, but my friend , let’s just call her D ( you know who you are , sweety), had this heavenly version and  I just wanted to try it. After about  half an hour of searching,I did manage to locate the one. Here is the version, that she primarily used. (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/a-number-1-banana-cake/)

This is the one I based this experiment upon,  but of course my pantry ingredients decided the kind that went into the batter mix. Seriously, I was in  no mood to go shopping to the grocery store in the sweltering heat, just because I did not have buttermilk. The ones’ marked in Asterix, are variations of the original recipe.

Alright , folks, this is my version of the ingredients that went in:

  • 2.5 cups of self rising flour* ( notice it is self rising, why? cause I did not have the regular one ,and seriously a little bit of baking powder should technically make the cake more airy. In any case, my gripe about the run to the grocery store , well I stood my ground )
  • 1/2 cup of  unsalted butter .( You can substitute this with almond butter for a more nuttier taste I suppose )
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup of milk* ( the original recipe called for butter milk. Well, I decided to use milk here 🙂 . Why.. well no buttermilk and seriously, thought milk would be an awesome choice. I used 1% milk of course.)
  • 1 and 3/4 cup of sugar* – I used brown granulated sugar entirely
  • About 5 medium ripe bananas  * mine were pretty spotty brown ( the original recipe calls for 4. But I suppose an additional banana would do no harm )
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 pinch salt
  • A generous pinch of saffron *( I know I am obsessed with saffron )
  • A generous pinch of caradamom powder *
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup of skinned sliced almonds*
  • A pinch of cinnamon powder *

( Whew, don’t let the exhausting list fool you. I just emptied those nuts that were sitting in the pantry. And decided to add in a few flavors  to enhance the mix. More like, once I get started, I just cannot get to stop myself from adding a dash of this and dash of that ).

Alright, now that the stage is set, lets get the gooey good stuff going.

Prep work:

  • Preheat the oven / 350 deg
  • Grease and flour the pans of your choice. the original recipe called for two 8 inch pans. I used one 8  inch round and one 9 inch square pan.

Let’s get the party started …

  1. Sift the flour,baking soda and salt together and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter,sugar and eggs.
  3. Add in the pureed bananas,,cardamom powder ,cinnamon powder and saffron strands.
  4. Add in the flour and whip up the gooey mixture.
  5. Fold in the walnuts and almonds

Let’s cook them:

Stick those pans in the preheated oven and bake them at 350 deg for 30 min.

The results:

Holy mackerel ! Honest to goodness yummy light and fluffy and airy goodness in squares and circles. Beautiful brown goodness, perfectly baked and crunchy walnuts. The aroma filled the entire kitchen and brought the oldest scooting down to the kitchen.. all the way form the attic. 🙂

Texture : Very very soft ( possibly the baking powder in the self rising flour combined with the baking soda, did wonders) and porus.

Aroma : Fragrant cardamom and hint of cinnamon with saffron emanating creating the wonderful fusion with bananas.

Serve it up..the kids devoured it it warm with the cool combination of whipped cream. Yummy!

Verdict: Just awesome !.. And like I always believe, great cooking results is mostly achieved by right combination of ingredients and the freshness of  your stock. And of course, the right chemistry !!!

Besan Ladoos – Rich, Globes of heaven made in a Jiffy!

Besan ladoos.. Chick pea flour Ladoos,.. A gazillion recipes you can find if you troll the web.. What’s special about this one here?

Well,just that you can be done pretty quick using the microwave  for cooking rather than slaving over the stove ,frying the besan to get the right roast mix.

Again , did I mention, theatrics are part of this family ?  or rather the particular incident that led to delicious ladoos emerging from the kitchen of this queen.

The background:

A3 (my youngest) : “Mommy, if I eat this veggie aka broccoli, can you please make Ladoos?”

Mommy (me) :  ” You know we do not negotiate on the eating of veggies. They are good for you. They build muscles and you can be big and strong like your older brother. Or like daddy” Yada yada yada  and you know how the routine goes… As I expound the virtues of green goodness in ones’s life , I am surreptiously interrupted by ..

A3 : “Yeah , yeah.. but will you still make ladoos?” All of innocence (as much as can be mustered on an impish 4 year old’s face)  he declared “It is your anniversary. I love you mommy ! ”

Okay now, totally suckered by the charm and the demand, I decided to make a real quick ladoos , Besan aka chickpea flour Ladoos 🙂 Goodies are great, but I totally did not feel like slaving away in the kitchen for this delicacy.

Quick Pantry Check List

  1. Besan or Chickpea flour – I used the ladoo flour  – 2 cups
  2. Sugar powdered – 1 cup
  3. Clarified butter – ghee – 4 tablespoons.
  4. Chopped cashew nuts, almonds and walnuts – 1/2 cup
  5. Cardamom powder – a pinch

The procedure….Go on try it .. Its not that hard 🙂  

  1. Heat 4 tablespoons of ghee (clarified butter) in a microwave safe bowl on high for 2 min or so. Yep, you need to get it in the liquid state 🙂 but not the smoking hot one .
  2. Add the 2 cups of flour  to the  the melted ghee and stir in gently. Do note that stirring in gently will avoid lumps .
  3. Microwave it again on high for 3 minutes. Stir in well.and gently break ay lumps.
  4. Microwave it again for 2 minutes. Take it out and  stir again. By now the faint aroma of the besan with ghee would start wafting in your kitchen. Don’t be fooled yet! We are halfway there.
  5. Again microwave it for 5 min .. But this time in intervals of 1 min with stirring.
  6. When I took out the mix after the last interval of stirring, the Besan was nice light brown and my kitchen smelled very heavenly 🙂
  7. I added a pinch of the saffron strands( I know its customary  soak it in warm milk and then add it) but I just added here  along with the cardamom powder  and 1/2 cup of chopped nuts. (Note : I did not fry these nuts in ghee or even toast them)
  8. Microwave it again for 1 min.
  9. Let it stand  for a few seconds and add  1 cup of powdered sugar to this.
  10. Mix it nice and thorough.
  11. Make ladoos or balls out of these .. Now unless you have heat proof hands, it is not wise to dig in immediately. So I say wait about 5 min!
  12. Don’t be shy as you pack these heaps of  mix into ball shapes. I actually noticed it glistening after I made sure they were a nice sphere by adding a few extra rolls in my  hands.
  13. I made about 16 medium sized balls out of these..
  14. Let it stand for a few minutes and indulge 🙂

The fine print:-)

  1. If you use the Ladoo flour from the indian grocery stores, you do get the nice crunchy texture. Say you don’t have it, don’t panic :-). Just add 2 cups  of regular Besan or chickpea flour and a tablespoon of sooji or rava (cream of wheat in coarse form) to get the crutch. I would say add it it to the very final stage of microwaving , just before the saffron and nut goodies get added.
  2. If you get lazy and do not go thorough with the entire process of frying the besan in microwave (the nice light brown color of the besan with aroma wafting ), you will still have ladoos albeit with a raw taste. Experience does wonders 🙂 (At this point author is nodding her head sagely 🙂 )
  3. I used 4 tablespoons of unmelted / softened  ghee. It will be a bit more in the volume in the liquid form.
  4. Size of the ladoos – make it smaller if you are attempting it for a party. Make more that way 🙂 sneaky .. sneaky…
  5. The sugar to besan ratio , I personally like it at this level. You  could increase it of course per your convenience, I did not try this with brown sugar. Maybe next time !
  6. Ladoos not happening???.. balls breaking off? Add more ghee or maybe you can sprinkle with warm milk – note sprinkle, not add it in!. Shelf life will be considerably lower if you do decide sprinkle with milk.

 

Cooking time : about 40 min , including the ladoo making process.

Yield : About 16-25  depending on the size of the ladoos and in this case considerably less after sampling !

Verdict : Sinful and worth the effort!

Signing off..