The Pondicherry Challenge- Saffron Baguettes dunked in Coconut Milk Rose Basundi

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I’ll start with a confession. I am not particularly brilliant with fusion cooking. So we had this monthly challenge for February at Chefs across boundaries where Pondicherry inspired French-Tamil fusion cooking was required. I don’t know much about either of the cuisines. Fortunately, good old Google came to my rescue! 😀

They served little baguettes dunked into coconut milk at The Grand Maratha, Mumbai as dessert. And here is where I drew my inspiration from.
Made saffron-infused  and mildly sweet baguettes following the basic baguette recipe from here and served them with Coconut milk syrup/basundi.
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The challenge was put forward by the very talented Hetal Kamdar. Thanks Hetal, for helping me challenge myself.

For the baguettes you need
(This recipe makes 2 baguettes. I made four small ones)

Ingredients

2½ cup all-purpose flour/maida

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp instant dry yeast

¾  cup warm water

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp thick cream/malai for brushing the baguettes. (I replaced egg whites of the original recipe, with cream)

A generous pinch of saffron

 

Add sugar and yeast to warm water and rest covered in a warm place for 13-15 minutes till it is frothy.

Dry grind the saffron stands using mortar and pestle for a minute. Then add a few drops of milk or warm water and grind some more. This will help release the flavours from the strands of saffron. Add a tablespoon of water and mix well.
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In a large bowl take the flour and add salt and mix well.

Once the yeast is well bloomed, start with the kneading. First add the saffron water and then slowly the yeast and knead for a good 10 minutes.
Cover and let it rest in a warm place until the dough is doubled. This takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

Remove from the bowl and place on a lightly floured work surface.
Roll it out into a 16×12 inch rectangle. Cut it into half to create two 8×12 inch rectangles. Starting with the 12 inch side, roll each rectangle up tightly. Flatten out air bubbles as you go and seal the ends.

Line a baking tray with  parchment paper or grease it. Place the rolls on the tray.
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This is how I do it to retain the shape of the baguettes. I save the rolls from the aluminium foil packs and use them as separators to keep the shape of the baguettes while they prove.
Lay the rolls on a large tray and cover them with butter paper. Before placing the baguettes on the butter paper, make sure the area underneath is well greased with oil. If it is not, the baguettes will stick to the paper.
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Make deep diagonal slashes across the tops of the loaves.

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Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 40 minutes, or until doubled in size. Lay them on a greased baking sheet.
Preheat the oven at 170C for ten minutes.Brush the tops of the loaves with cream/malai.Bake at 170C for 20-25  minutes or until golden brown.Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Slice the baguettes once cool and keep covered in an airtight box till futher use.
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To prepare the Basundi/coconut milk syrup
1 litre whole milk
4-5 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 cup first press coconut milk
A few drops of rose water/ kewda water

Take a litre of whole milk and reduce it to  about one fourth (one and a quarter cup) on high heat, stirring continuously. Add cardamom powder and sugar. Take off the heat and let cool. Add half a cup of thick first press coconut milk and mix well. Add a few drops of rose water/ gulab jal. Put it in the refrigerator to chill.

Prepare sugar syrup with a cup of water and half a cup of sugar. Bring the water and sugar to boil and take off the heat. Stir in half a tsp of cardamom powder.

To serve
Spread ghee/clarified butter on both sides of the sliced baguettes and toast them on the griddle or in the oven till they are crisp. Warm up the sugar syrup.
Give the toasted baguettes a quick dip in the sugar syrup and serve with chilled basundi.
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Whole wheat Herbed Garlic Baguettes and a Loaf

Biga Baking fever on! And I am amazed as to what a bit of dough, kneaded a day ahead, can do to the bread- such lovely nutty flavour and the texture, oh-so-wonderful! This time I decided to go whole-wheat, well at least in part 🙂
Made some garlic flakes and garlic powder at home and flavoured the bread here with that and some fresh and dried herbs. The aroma wafting from the oven made the waiting period a task! I played around-well, a lot to be honest- with the basic  ingredients and measures I had used to bake the Gibassier and baked a Herbed Garlic loaf and three baguettes.
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The recipe below bakes two  9”x5” loaves
Or 6 baguettes 6” each.

Ingredients

For the Pre-ferment (Biga)
All Purpose Flour/Maida- 1 ½ cup
Milk-  ½  cup milk
Instant yeast- 1/16 tsp

Preferment, noun: A combination of flour, water, and sometimes yeast that is prepared in advance (as in pre-fermentation) and then mixed into the main body of the dough as an additional ingredient.
Making the Biga/Pre-ferment
The biga / pre-femented dough needs 14-16 hours to ferment. It is best to make it a night ahead of the day of baking. Mix all the ingredients listed above and knead to a soft dough. Put it in a greased bowl, cover and leave for about 16 hours (may need more time in case of cold weather). It doubles up develops large air pockets.

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For the Dough
All of the Biga
Whole wheat flour 1 ½ cup
All purpose flour 1 ¾ cups
Salt- 1 tsp
Baking powder- ½ tsp
Warm water- 1 cup (to knead the dough)
All the pre-ferment/ Biga from above
Instant yeast- 1 ¾ tsp
Warm water- ¾ cup (to prove the yeast)
Sugar- 2 tsp (to prove the yeast)
Garlic Powder- 2 heaped tsp
Oregano- 1 tsp
Parsley- ½ tsp
Rosemary- ¼ tsp
Chili flakes- ½ tsp
Black pepper powder- ½ tsp
1/4 cup olive oil
Butter- 2 Tbsp

Start with blooming the yeast. Warm ¾ cup of water and add the sugar and the yeast. The water should feel warm on the underside on your wrist. Leave covered for 10-15 minutes till the mixture froths well.
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Meanwhile, mix the flours, salt and baking powder. Add the garlic powder, spices and herbs- oregano, rosemary, parsley, pepper and chili flakes. Mix well.
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Break the Biga into chunks and add to the flour. Mix everything well with a wooden spatula.
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Add the warm water gradually and knead for 7-10 minutes. Add the olive oil and knead till it is incorporated into the dough.
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Add the butter and knead till for another five minutes. The dough will now be supple and non-sticky.
Transfer to a greased bowl, cover it and leave for 1 and ½ – 2 hours till the dough doubles up.
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Transfer to a work surface and shape either as two loaves or six baguettes. I made a loaf and three baguettes.
Move the loaf to a greased loaf tin and prove for an hour till it the loaf is well risen.
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For the baguettes, shape into long cylinders with gentle hands and leave them to prove. I didn’t have the required ‘couche’ to keep the baguettes in shape during the second prove but this homespun style works great!

IMG_20140807_153949_wmI made my  homemade “couche” out of aluminium foil and cling film rolls covered with greased butter paper. Rolled kitchen towels or placemats draped with parchment paper are other choices This couche provides the required support to keep the baguettes in shape during the second prove else they would flatten .

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Preheat the oven for 15 minutes at 200C and bake for 30-35 minutes till the bread sounds hollow when tapped.
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We used the baguettes to make some cheesy bruscetta.

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A very toasted and buttered slice with tomato lentil soup was perfect too.
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Here is an excellent guide on how to shape a baguette.

Here is a closer look at the crumb 🙂 Was divine! 
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