My desire to bake or cook ebbs and flows with little reason. I love the feeling of being consumed with a desire to create something in the kitchen. I generally dislike week night cooking because it’s rushed and I feel lazy after work. However, the weekends give me a chance to carefully go grocery shopping for ingredients and try something new. A few weeks ago I tried 3 new recipes with varying degrees of success.
Thayir sadam, pizza dough from scratch, and Alton Brown’s The Chewy.
First, Thayir sadam. Surely most of you are probably wondering “what is that?” and “how do I pronounce it?” I am no expert on tamil pronounciation but I would try this “Thire Sod-thum” with the “thire” sound more like one syllable than two distinct ones. It literally translates into yogurt rice, or curd rice. Wikipedia explains the dish better than I could, but I have more to say about my intense feelings for it.
To me, it is a pure comfort food. Due to it’s simple and mushy nature, it’s something children can start eating early on. I like to compare it to something like chicken noodle soup or PB & J sandwiches. They are simple, easy to make and invoke feelings of ultimate comfort and care.
I can’t speak for other south Indians but in most meals I’ve had there is usually plain rice and yogurt available. It’s usually something we might end the meal with as the cool yogurt cuts the spice. As the article states, there are two basic preparations: the simple addition of yogurt to rice (this is what I consider “end of meal thayir sadam”) and the fancier kind where it is combined with a few spices and made in a larger portion. I like to call the latter “picnic thayir sadam”, because I have strong memories of this being brought to every single picnic I’ve been to with Indians.
This style reminds me of the summer and fun times with my family. I’d never actually made the picnic version before so I asked my friend Naj and he supplied me with his recipe. It’s so simple and there are no hard and fast rules about it, so it turned out well. You could deviate as much as you want but as long as you got yogurt and rice (and salt! lots of salt!) you’d have a delicious dish. I wonder how people who didn’t grow up eating this dish would feel about it. Maybe they would like it, but not love it the way I do. To me, it’s a small bit of perfection.
It turned out wonderfully. Since the first making I’ve changed it from bastmati rice to straight up long grain. I prefer that level of mush better.
2 Cups of white rice
2 cups Approx. balkan style yogurt
salt, to taste
2 -3 Curry Leaves
1 small chunk of ginger, diced
2 tablespoons of oil
1 pinch of mustard seeds
1/2 cup of milk
- Make Rice
- Add milk to rice and mush together. Add yogurt and mix well, put in fridge to cool
- Heat oil in small pan, add curry leaves, ginger, and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start popping, throw the the entire mixture (oil included) in to cooled rice. Mix up and let cool again
The second recipe takes us from India to Italy… kind of. I had never made pizza dough from scratch, nor have I ever worked with yeast. Breads & pastries intimidate me because they seem so finicky. This is part of the reason I’ve gone this long without trying them. As I get bored with basic cakes and what not, breads & pastries are the perfect way to challenge myself. I also recall my mom making pizza doughs from scratch quite often and remembered it was fairly simple. I used quick-rise yeast and I kind of failed. My first batch was a bit of a disaster as it only rised a bit… but I didn’t put it in a bowl and cover it so the outside got dry. Duh. After feeling completely dejected I decided to try again. This time I covered it, and this time it did rise, but only a bit. It wasn’t the right texture. It wasn’t tacky and springy. I decided to bake it anyway and to my surprise, it actually turned out well. The outside crust got quite hard, but the inside was ok. I’ll have to consult with people to figure out exactly what I did wrong. I suspect my water was too hot and killed some of the yeast.
The last thing was Alton Brown’s The Chewy Chocolate Chip cookie. I’m always after the ultimate chocolate chip cookie. It’s a classic and every baker should have a solid go-to recipe. The chewy part is non-negotiable for me. I will eat a crispy chocolate chip cookie*, but I’d be a willing participant in the farce. Also, no raisins… YUCK! I do enjoy oats, nuts and other ingredients, but in the end I’m a purist. Again, I’d eat and possibly enjoy a chocolate chip cookie with other ingredients, but it wouldn’t be the same as a pure chewy chocolate chip cookie. (The alliteration is what makes it extra awesome.) I would consider THIS to be my standard, it uses vanilla pudding powder to keep them chewy. This works, however they get flat and don’t look the best.
*President’s Choice The Decadent Chocolate Chunk cookie is the only crispy one I enjoy – but even then it’s dependant on being dunked in milk.
My cookies turned out delicious. One thing I find with home made chocolate chip cookies is that the standard amount of salt is a bit too much. I can usually faintly taste it and I do not like my sweets and salts mixed together. I reduced the salt by a bit and it was perfect.
The finished product is a bit dark and I think I baked them for a few minutes too long – but they did retain their chewiness! I think this will be my new standard for the CCCC (Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie) for NOW. I’ll have to keep experimenting and looking for new recipes.
So that’s it! It’s enjoyable to add to my repertoire. There will be more coming soon!