Friday, January 12, 2018

Cinnamon star bread

38541667775_b21716d984_o

KAF have a monthly bakealong where every month they share a recipe that the bakers can then make. I've always wanted to participate in the bakealong because just by doing it once a month I would’ve tried 12 new recipes! However you know how it goes. You may want a lot of things but you can only do so many. This recipe was posted for the Holiday bakelong in December. So when the opportunity presented itself – we had to take dessert to a get-together – I jumped on it and decided to try it out. KAF blog said that it is not as difficult as it looks and I took their word for it since you know KAF is my trusted baking site. Sure enough it turned out be quite simple and straightforward. It does take a lot of time because of all the periods when you need to let it rise but it’s not active time. So start well in advance – around 4-5 hours before you need it. Or freeze/refrigerate it the previous day. The result was very impressive and yummy! It was the star of the get-together Smile I followed the recipe as it is without any changes.
Ingredients:

DOUGH:

FILLING
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar*
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Instructions

  1. First, measure the flour by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.
  2. To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead in a food processor to make a soft, smooth dough.
  3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise until it's nearly doubled in bulk. I kept it for 60 minutes and it was half way there. Then since it’s winter here and we do keep our house temperature on the cooler side I kept it in the oven with the light on for another 30 minutes or so.
  4. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, cover the balls, and allow them to rest for 15 minutes. Again I put it in the oven.
  5. On a lightly greased or floured work surface, roll one piece of dough into a 10" circle. Place the circle on a piece of parchment, brush a thin coat of beaten egg on the surface, then evenly sprinkle with 1/3 of the cinnamon-sugar, leaving 1/4" of bare dough around the perimeter.
  6. Roll out a second circle the same size as the first, and place it on top of the filling-covered circle. Repeat the layering process — egg, cinnamon sugar, dough circle — leaving the top circle bare.
  7. Place a 2 1/2" to 3" round cutter in the center of the dough circle as a guide. With a bench knife or sharp knife, cut the circle into 16 equal strips, from the cutter to the edge, through all the layers.
  8. Using two hands, pick up two adjacent strips and twist them away from each other twice so that the top side is facing up again. Repeat with the remaining strips of dough so that you end up with eight pairs of strips.
  9. Pinch the pairs of strips together to create a star-like shape with eight points. Remove the cutter.
  10. Transfer the star on the parchment to a baking sheet. Cover the star and let it rise until it becomes noticeably puffy, about 45 minutes.
  11. While the star is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.
  12. Brush the star with a thin coat of the beaten egg. Bake it for 12 to 15 minutes, until it's nicely golden with dark brown cinnamon streaks; the center should register 200°F on a digital thermometer.
  13. Remove the loaf from the oven and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.
  14. Store any leftover bread, well wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

Enjoy!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Peak – Secrets from the new science of expertise

Authors: Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

ChJll3dU8AQP0ey

This book is an extension of the growth mindset. If you haven’t read the book Growth Mindset by Carol S Dweck then I would highly recommend reading it. That opens the door for this one – in my opinion. I was looking through my archives and realized that I never posted a review for that book!! That makes me so sad because I really enjoyed that one and would definitely want everyone to read about it. Anyway, this review is about this book so let’s get the train on the track.

The author talks about how to be an expert at something and after reading the book I thought to myself wow that was a really thick book just telling you how to become an expert at a sport, music or anything else. However now that it’s been a couple of days since I read it, I feel that it was important to have that much content to drive the point.

In the authors’ opinion (which I’m fully subscribing to), you can become an expert if you want to. There’s no such thing as “you need to be born with a talent”. They quote various studies and have also studied some of the famous people like Mozart to understand how people like Mozart get to where they were. Or Roger Federer for that matter. It was not because they had the music gene(or the sports gene) in them. There’s a lot of hard work behind it and a lot of targeted hard work. They use the term “purposeful practice” that will get you skilled at anything. Purposeful practice is defined as one where:

  1. You have well defined specific goals.
  2. You get feedback at every step. There’s no point practicing if you don’t get feedback on how to improve what you practiced. That could be coming from you or from a teacher or somebody else.
  3. You get out of the comfort zone. To keep making progress you will need to step out of your comfort zone. Otherwise you will stagnate.

This is not easy. When you are not good at something, to keep going at it in the hope that you will get better one day is not easy. You need a lot of motivation for that and there are techniques for that as well. One of them you make it a habit. If you want to learn to play an instrument, make it a habit to play it every morning at 7am. Then it becomes like just another thing you do every day.

However this will not get you to become an expert. The authors opine that you can become an expert at any field where the progress can be measured and somebody else has already been an expert at that. Latter is important because then you can use the techniques used by people before you and even improvise on them; as well as you can get teachers/trainers who have already studied the experts in that field to analyze what’s the best way to practice.

That said there may be other hurdles in you trying to become an expert. The younger you start learning something the easier it is to become an expert as your brain is more adaptable. That means your parents need to be dedicated to whatever it is that you are learning and should be able to take you to the practice sessions and all. That you should be able to afford the resources that you need.

After reading the book, I feel that if somebody is an expert at something and we say “oh he/she was born with xyz” or “he/she has natural talent” then we are undermining the effort and hard work the person put in getting to where they are.

Highly recommend reading this book!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Book review: Hit Refresh

Author: Satya Nadella

30835567

I enjoyed reading the book and I must admit that some where inside me there was a pride that the book was written by my CEO. We also got special employee edition which added to the experience of this being special. The punch line of the book rightly sums up what the book is about – how Microsoft is evolving and what is the future Satya sees; and how can we create a better future for everyone literally everyone on the planet.

I feel the book will be enjoyed by mostly all the people – specially those who work part-time/full time. There is a small section on the future of technology which may not interest everybody but other than that nothing is too technology specific.

He shares his personal story which helps you make a human connection – that he was also just like any other employee/person and faced the same difficulties that you do. He talks about his personal challenges more than his professional challenges (when climbing up the ladder). On the professional side he mentions the hard decisions he has had to make but not so much the difficulties he encountered and how he worked around them.

A couple of chapters talk about what a leader should be like – and here a leader not necessarily means a manager/lead. He also talks about qualities of a good manager and what culture shift he’s trying to bring to Microsoft. What that means for employees and how they can help in spreading that culture. I really liked this whole section – there was a lot to learn! All his thoughts apply to any organization that wants to have a culture that promotes healthy growth of employees, healthy collaboration amongst employees/teams and innovation.

From there the book goes on to talk about the future of technology as he sees it; privacy, trust and security issues facing the technology companies these days and what needs to be done about that. Lastly he talks about how we can get economic growth for everyone on the planet. This was another very interesting section for me. Here he discusses how adoption of technology can help economic growth for everyone; that while it is true that automation replaces human labor it doesn’t mean it reduces human jobs. Latter is a particularly interesting topic which crosses many of our minds. So it was good to hear his thoughts on it.

Overall it was fun to read the book – not only there was so many things to learn but was also good to learn his thoughts on various things.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Vitamix S50 review–for Indian recipes

I would think that everybody who cooks indian recipes is always on the lookout for a good mixer/blender. At least I always was. We had an Oster blender which would do the not so powerful stuff but was too big to grind anything in small quantities or dry grinding spices.

14714388

Then we got a small indian mixer. It did it’s job really well and I was very happy with it. However the quality was not so good and it ended up breaking only after a few uses.

51AdPRD1cuL

Of course I also have a stone grinder that would grind batter for vada, idli, dosa, etc. and it;s my favorite for doing that job.

smartmini

My kitchen had this void for a mixer that I could use to grind chutneys, wet masalas, dry spices and especially in small quantities. So I started looking at the ninja bullet and the likes. The primary attraction there was the small mixer/blender jars that come with this category of blenders. They’re just perfect for my purpose. One thing led to another and I came across the Vitamix S series. Earlier I’d never entertained the idea of buying a vitamix because of it’s prohibitive cost. The S series being the personal series was more reasonable than their other series but still was at $400 – but then it was made in USA. That was a point in it’s favor. I looked a a couple of videos and was mostly convinced that it should do the job for me. With that I started stalking craigslist to grab a used one – given that it has a lifetime guarantee I thought it was a perfect candidate for buying second hand (only time will tell if my thinking was correct!).

S50-Main-40oz-20oz

We brought home an S50. The benefits of the personal series is that it comes with a small jar (20 oz) and a big one (40 oz); it packs a good enough power and the same blade as the full series. The power is a little less than their full series but that doesn’t seem to be limiting. We use the vitamix for making:

  1. Smoothies and shakes – like mango shake, strawberry banana smoothie, etc. The texture is very silken and everything blends uniformly. In strawberry banana smoothie you wouldn’t taste the grittiness of the strawberry seeds. I’ve used both the small jar as well as the big jar for these and both work great.
  2. Pureeing and chutneys – pureeing spinach for saag and making cilantro-mint chuney. With the latter we need to use the tamper to push the herbs down and then we get a very smooth chutney. Always used the big jar because I think the fresh leaves take a lot of space and would be hard to squeeze into the small container.
  3. Grinding dry spices – I made bisibelebhaath powder in the small jar because I only wanted a small quantity. It was just awesome! I was so happy with it!
  4. Coconut chutney – this is one thing that has not worked very well for us. We’re still experimenting to see how we can get a good texture here. I have tried the small as well as the big jar. If you have any suggestions do let me know.
  5. Wet masalas – like grinding cashews with water or grinding tomatoes with spices. I use the small jar for this and has worked really well!

35589790635_1e3a8766a3_o

Bisibelebhaath powder made with vitamix by grinding whole red chillies, various lentils, cinnamon and other whole spices.

Overall this does come out as a winner as it lets me do almost everything I need to do – from dry grinding to wet grinding to smoothies – all with just one mixer. If your recipe can use sufficient quantity of liquid then it’s a breeze to grind/blend. Otherwise using a tamper (provided with the machine) helps and it might take a little time but still gives you the perfect smooth texture. My only ask from vitamix would be that since they call this the personal series and have smaller jars with this series, it would be great if they can support the mini jars as well with this series!

I still have my stone grinder and use it for grinding south indian batters.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How the veggie garden is flourishing

I was looking at my past posts and looks like I never got around to posting the photos of veggie garden when the season started. That makes it difficult to give you a before and after picture (pun intended!). Nonetheless I hope you will enjoy looking at how the various vegetable plants are thriving.

35194343671_c19cf64f07_o       34936617910_bbdc1aa3bb_o

Photo on the left: The front rows are radish on the left and arugula on the right, behind them is (starting from right) spinach, lavender and mint (there’s some spinach behind it as well). In the second raised bed, there’s summer squash (4 of them – we’ll probably fall short on the space, eeks!) and then tomatoes at the back.

Photo on the right: The front rows are cilantro on the left and strawberry on the right then couple of rows of beans followed by marigold. In the second raised bed we have zucchini followed by tomatoes at the back.

DH harvested some radishes yesterday and did they look beautiful?!?! While washing the radishes we discovered a baby slug that had come in with it. Yes that was an eww moment and no not all babies look cute!

Seeing the plants grow so well, really fills our heart with joy!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the quest for a fantastic future

Author: Ashlee Vance

bhyr-square-orig

Tesla and SpaceX and Solar City and the Hyperloop – have all been in the headlines at different times! And they’ve been in the headlines for good reason – they’re one of the first in their industry and have helped their industry grow! What they have in common – Elon Musk.

Sure enough when I saw that his biography has been published, I was very curious to read it. I try to be very environment friendly and am in total support of everybody who is contributing to the world of eco-friendly products. In this case – Tesla the 100% electric car which made electric cars a fashion statement and Solar City – which is a popular company for solar panels. So I was very much interested in reading how he came to investing in these. And then of course SpaceX and Hyperloop – seem to be ahead of their times.

I think I had my expectations set rocket high because when I started reading the book I fell down with a thud. I was expecting to learn about some traits of Elon Musk, or some famous words to live by. However what I got was a never ending story of his day to day rigor. How he spent his day at Tesla and then commuted to SpaceX, what color the walls are at his factories, how many wives/kids he has and so on. Not a single piece of writing that felt motivating/inspiring.

I never finished the book. Didn’t see any point in spending my time reading about the daily grind. Yes he talked about the work culture at these offices, what is the working style of Elon Musk, etc. I feel that the author has not done the job of squeezing out the crux of the story. When you say what is the one take away from this story? Author seems to have narrated the events and left that exercise to the reader. If it was in the last few pages then of course I never got to them.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Chocolate balls– simple. easy. vegan. and gluten free.

DSC_0001

It’s hard for me to pass up anything that’s chocolate flavored. Chocolate donuts? Yes please! Brownie? Always! As a result, I’m always looking for healthier options to satisfy my chocolate and sweet tooth cravings. When I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, it seemed easy enough that I should at least give it a try. Worst case – I don’t like it and never make it again. Best case – I’ve found a healthier substitute and made my contribution to the chocolate and sweet lovers world! I think they’re going to thank me. What’s even better – these are vegan and gluten free. I know a lot of people out there who belong to one of these categories for some reason or the other. So yes they’re going to thank me too!

After all this cost-benefit analysis I bought all the ingredients – actually just two. Almond butter and hazelnuts. Dates we always keep in our pantry. Then these two ingredients sat in my home for almost a month or so. Getting familiar with each other while I was busy with my life. Every day I would see the almond butter sitting at the back of the refrigerator and think to myself “Oh! I need to make the brownie bites”. Then finally I decided I need to make them before the ingredients expired.

Let me tell you – they’re so delicious! It’s hard to stop at one! It makes me feel good that there’s no added sugar. Only wholesome ingredients. Nutrition information: Protein: 3g; Fiber: 3g; Carbohydrates: 12g; Sugars: 9g; Fat: 7g. Calories: 111.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 12 whole medjool dates, pitted
  • 2/3 cup almond butter
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment or silicon mat. Add the hazelnuts to it in a single layer. Roast them for 10 minutes. Let cool. Rub them with your fingers to remove the skins. Don’t worry if some of them still have the skins.
  3. Reserve 20 hazelnuts. Pulse the rest in the food processor till they’re finely chopped. Keep aside.
  4. Pulse the dates in the food processor till it forms a paste. Add the almond butter, water, cocoa, vanilla and salt. Pulse till well combined.
  5. Divide the mixture into 20 portions.
  6. Roll each portion around 1 whole hazelnut (reserved in step 3). Roll the ball in your hands to smoothen the surface. Roll it next into the finely chopped hazelnuts.
  7. Chill until firm, around 30 minutes.

Note: Store in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.