Herb and Cheese Pretzel Bread- A beautifully textured bread

For the February edition of We Knead to Bake, we were asked to bread any bread of our choice. I went through loads of blogs, unsure of what I wanted to bake. I have been dying to bake some Grissini, but I thought it goes best with soup and in this hot and humid weather I wasn’t sure I wanted to make any soup at all.
I wanted to bake monkey bread, but I have left my bundt pan back in Bangalore and didn’t feel like baking them in the muffin pan. Moreover, I wanted something savory and the recipes I saw were mostly sweet. I check out a few dinner rolls as well but didn’t feel like baking them either.

To tell you the truth, without a good camera, I don’t feel like baking these days. I know! I know I am baking to eat and not to photograph, but you know, if you are part of a group with fabulous photographers whose pictures look like works of art, you really don’t feel like putting up your crappy pictures on the same page as theirs.

Anyway, I finally zeroed in on the Herb and Cheese Pretzel Bread that Aparna has on her blog. I didn’t add onions to the bread like she did, coz my in-laws are here and they don’t eat onions.

This time, unlike last time, I kept a close eye on the bread while proving. I wanted a really good texture unlike the dense texture I got last time with the Focaccia Caprese.

This was a fairly easy bread to make. Just mix all the ingredients, knead, leave to prove, shape the bread and then bake. Suited the lazy me coz I didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen baking elaborate stuff.

So without further ado, presenting the Herb and Cheese Pretzel Bread for this months “We Knead to Bake” bread. A beautiful bread to accompany a soup, a pasta or even to toast and have it plain. Ofcourse, my bread “uncrazy” family needed me to make a sandwich out of it for breakfast.

Recipe adapted from: Aparna’s blog 

This month’s bread on Aparna’s blog: Ciabatta Rolls

Herb and Cheese Pretzel Bread


  • 2 tsp instant dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 – 1 cup warm water
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tsp dried Italian herbs, crushed
  • 1 1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Some white sesame seeds (optional)
 In a mixing bowl (or processor bowl), put in cheese, flours, Italian herbs, pepper and salt. Mix (or pulse) a couple of times and add warm water. 
Knead very well, adding more water if necessary, till a moderately stiff dough which is smooth and elastic is obtained.
Shape into a ball and place in a greased bowl, coating the ball with oil by turning it round in the bowl. Cover and allow the dough to double in volume (about an hour or so).
Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, letting it rest for 10 minutes. Roll the dough out into a 24″ long smooth rope. Place it on a greased baking sheet and shape into a large pretzel shape. Moisten the ends of the pretzel and tuck them underneath to seal.
Shaped and ready to prove again

Shaped and ready to prove again

Cover and allow to rise till almost double (about half an hour). Brush the top of the bread with cold milk and sprinkle  white sesame seeds if preferred. Preheat the oven at 190C for 10 mins.
Bake at 190C for about 40 minutes till golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped. If the bread is browning too much, cover it loosely with aluminium foil during the last 20 minutes in the oven. Cool completely on a rack.
The herb and Cheese Pretzel Bread after baking

The herb and Cheese Pretzel Bread after baking

I loved the texture of the bread. Below is the picture of the pretzel bread and store bought whole wheat bread. Just tried comparing it for my satisfaction that’s all.
It is important to use a sharp cheddar cheese to make this bread for the flavour of the cheese to really come through in this bread.

Return to Blogging with Focaccia Caprese

I can’t believe that its been more than a year that I posted on the blog. Too many changes, just too many changes happened last year. We moved countries, not too far though, just to Colombo. Had to give up on my nascent baking business as well. A tad disappointed about that, but such is life. You need to give some to gain some.

Life has been a roller coaster ride and hasn’t left me much time to bake. Colombo is a very hot place and even though I cook really early in the morning, it leaves me pretty exhausted. Exhausted enough to not really want to venture into the kitchen again to try out new recipes and use my oven.

However, once a baker, always a baker. The itch to bake soon took hold of me and I started off with some easy- peasy brownies. Then Christmas came upon us and I took to baking with a vengeance. Found my mojo again and baked many many fruit cakes and some date bars as well.

I needed something to keep me going- to bake at least once or twice a month. (Let me tell you that’s getting really difficult given the rising temperatures in this city).

So I decided to join the WE KNEAD TO BAKE group started last year by Aparna of mydiversekitchen fame. I have expressed my admiration for her blog, baking and photography before as well.

I love baking breads, love the entire process- the bubbling of the yeast, the kneading, the rising of the dough, the aromas arising from the oven while baking, the browning of the bread… everything. However, it’s a long process and like I said, too hot… really hot in this place.

Once a month, however is doable and I love the breads Aparna and the group bring to the group. So I am gearing up to do this once a month.

After the long rambling of mine(forgive me, its been too long and I couldn’t stop myself), I guess its time to get to the point and to the recipe itself. (Pls forgive the picture quality. Taken at night and with a not-too- great phone camera. My camera has conked off and I need to buy a new one. Until then, will have to contend with these strange looking pictures. Pls check the other blogs for awesome looking pics)


Focaccia Caprese

I love Focaccias- love the flavor, the use of olive oil and the simplicity of the recipes involved. Although i have baked focaccias before, this one appealed to me mainly because of the herb infused oil. The moment I read the recipe, I knew that the bread will be abundant in terms of flavor with the cheese and tomatoes adding to the softness and taste of the bread.

So without further ado, presenting Focaccia Caprese. This bread gave me 2 generous portions which served as dinner as breakfast for a family of 3 (one of them is a 4 year old child). So you can halve it or reduce proportions to suit your family size.

To read about the history of Focaccia and its origin, etc, you can head over to Aparn’s blog.
While we were free to add our own toppings, I stuck to the original recipe simply because I love tomatoes and cheese.

Focaccia Caprese


Out of the oven and ready to go into the mouth

Recipe Source: My Diverse Kitchen

Original recipe adapted from: The Kitchen Whisperer


For the Dough:
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour (or u can add 1 Tbsp of Vital Wheat Gluten and mix well. I didn’t have either so I just used plain ol’ all purpose flour)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup oil (preferably olive oil)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • A little more olive oil for brushing dough
For the Topping:
  • 4-5 larg-ish tomatoes, sliced thin
  • 1 6-7” round piece of fresh buffalo mozzarella, cut into 1/4” slices- again I couldn’t find Mozzarella in time, so I used some stringy cheese I had in my refrigerator. I guess, mozzarella works best, though.
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips- or you could use dried basil as well.
For the Herbed Oil:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp finely minced garlic/ paste
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh basil leaves for garnishing
  • First make the herbed oil- Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk them together. Keep aside till required.
  • Then make the dough-  The dough can be mixed and kneaded by hand or machine. I used my sturdy (;-)) hands for the same. Put the yeast, sugar flour, salt and oil in a bowl and mix well. Then add 1 cup of warm water (and as much more as you need) and knead until you have a soft elastic dough that is just short of sticky.
  • Shape into a round and place in a well oiled bowl turning the dough around so it is coated. Cover and let it rise till almost double in volume. This should take about an hour. Pls keep an eye on the dough esp if you live in a hot, humid place like me. I happily went to take a nap and the dough overflowed my bowl.
  • You can make this as 2 medium sized Focaccia like I did or 4 smaller ones. I have a small oven and so could bake only one Focaccia at a time.
  • Oil your pan/ tin well. If making 2 Focaccia, then two 11″ by 7″ pans should do. Divide the dough into two equal portions and lightly roll them or press them out into the shape of the pans.
  • You dont need an exact square or rectangle shaped bread… gourmet breads are rarely shaped perfectly are they? 😉
  • Transfer the dough to the baking tins. The dough will shrink a little. Use your fingers and push it out a bit making sure it’s evenly thick throughout. Let it rise for 20 minutes. Lightly oil your finger tips and press into the dough creating evenly spaced “dimples” in it. Generously brush the surface with oil.

  • Preheat the oven at 210C for 10 mins.
  • Bake at 210C (410F) for about 18 to 20 minutes till it is almost done and is beginning to turn golden brown. Take the Focaccia out and turn up the heat of your oven to 230C (450F).
  • Lightly drizzle some of the Herbed Oil over the Focaccia and then evenly arrange some slices of mozzarella/ other cheese over the bread, leaving very little space between them. Arrange the tomato slices over this and sprinkle the chopped basil over this. The topping should cover most of the surface of the bread.
  • Drizzle some more Herbed Oil over the topping and return the bread to the oven. Bake the Focaccia for 5 to 8 minutes or until the cheese has just melted. Remove from the oven and garnish with fresh basil leaves.
  • Cut the Focaccia into slices and serve while it is still hot.
  • Enjoy with some soup for a simple yet delicious dinner.
Melty cheese, juicy tomatoes, herby bread... mmmmm

Melty cheese, juicy tomatoes, herby bread… mmmmm

Exciting News: Launch of Pret-a-Bakes- My home baking business

Hola there! Been a while since I came up with a post….

Its coz have been busy with some new things in my life. Have finally, after much deliberation and dilly-dallying decided to start my home baking business.

So, Folks in Pune:

Are you looking for a special cake inspired by your child’s favorite character on his/her birthday?

Need some yummy yet nutritious delights for your child’s snack box?

Just plain craving an exotic cheese cake for no reason at all?

Look no further. Launching

At Prêt-a-Bakes- We will choose and personalize our goodies to your tastes. Created from the freshest hand-picked ingredients with healthy options and no artificial preservatives, we cater to your child’s and your health concerns. You can also bedazzle your party-guests with the variety of lip-smacking and exotic bakes.

Eggless Bakes:  If you have despaired at the lack of variety in egg-free baked options, don’t worry! We have a special bakelicious Egg-Free menu to serenade your taste buds.

For the aspiring baker in you: Our classes begin from December 2012. Call us now to register. Choose from a variety of baking workshops- Eggless bakes, healthy bakes, breads, cookies and brownies, Chocoholics and more!

For orders and enquiries, please call us at +917276871422 or mail us at pretabakes@gmail.com

Follow us at http://www.facebook.com/PretABakes for Menu information, Week Specials, Baking class

Schedules and more.

Recipe- Povitica (Croatian Yeasted Bread) to celebrate World Bread Day!

It’s been a while since I baked something. Been busy with several things and then for some reason wasnt in the frame of mind to switch on the oven and bake something.

Then this came along. Its been a while since I baked bread and I thought I should join. When I checked facebook, the entire bakers gang was getting ready to celebrate the World Baker’s day. So I was pretty excited about contributing as well.

However, as they say, when fate is not on your side, nothing you do will work. Or something of that sort. Anyway the child fell sick last night and was home all day today. Moms will know what that means- a complete mess of the routine, no time to breathe, a cranky child and a messy home.

I was however, determined to bake bread. So bake I did. Been wanting to try this recipe for a long long time. Really admire Aparna and love her blog and all her recipes. Had some hazelnuts crying out aloud from the freezer for a long time now- so got an opportunity to use that up as well.

I pretty much followed her recipe to the ‘T’. Except that I forgot to add the chocolate chips, substituted half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour and brushed the bread with coffee as per the original recipe.

Please check her blog for the recipe. I will leave you with my pictures.

The dough should preferably be so thin that you can almost see through it

Almost ready to go into the oven

Just out of the oven… forgot to keep a watch on it…. the top browned a bit more than required

The lovely whorled pattern when sliced. I forgot the choco chips, else the color of the filling would have been fantastic

Another look at it….

The verdict: It’s been half an hour since I cut slices and half of it has been devoured already. Was the daughter’s dinner and will probably be our breakfast- atleast whats left of it. The bread is just lovely. I think it’s a good thing I missed the chocolate chips- would have made it a tad too sweet for me.


Sending this for submission for the World Bread Day here

Recipe – Eggless Apple Crumb Cake

As usual I had tons of apples lying in my fruit basket and needed to use them up. Looked up many apple recipes and was utterly confused as to what to make. Even put up a poll sort of thing on Facebook to make up my mind. What finally helped me was the fact that my friend who I was meeting after a long time asked me to bake something and I thought carrying a cake and brownies will be a good idea. So an apple crumb cake it was!

The recipe was quite simple but I needed to make it eggless. So I went back to my experimenting lab. I think what took the cake (pun intended) was the crumb topping. It was really out of the world. The apple pieces also added a nice crunch to the cake. I didn’t get photos of the crumb shot (actually forgot! *insert sheepish look*) but the cake was pretty decent. I made one mistake. In the process of replacing the eggs, I added more than required liquid which increased the moisture content a bit. I didn’t get a very fluffy texture, but the taste was fantastic! I think coz of that, I had to keep it in the oven for a longer period of time. So the top was a bit more brown than I would have liked it to be. I also used brown sugar so the brown-ness could be because of that as well.

I have modified it to bring down the moisture content. So hopefully, it should turn out light and fluffy the next time.

Look at the crumb…

Recipe adapted from Divyascookbook


Crumb Topping

Cold Butter – 5 tbsp(approximately 70 gms)
Sugar – 1/2 cup. I used half brown sugar and half regular sugar
Flour – 1/2 cup
Salt – 1/4 tsp
Walnut – 1/2 cup,chopped and toasted.


Use a fork to mix all the ingredients except for the walnuts to resemble bread crumbs. Add the walnuts and give it a final mix (you can use a food processor). Store in the refrigerator until ready to use (you can store it up to 3 days)

For the Cake

Apple – 1 1/2 – peeled and diced into small pieces.
Flour – 2 cups
Baking powder – 3 tsp
Baking soda – 1 tsp
Salt – 1/4 tsp
Cinnamon powder – 1/4 tsp
Sugar – 1 cup
Butter – 1/2 cup/100 gms
Yogurt 1 cup
Vanilla extract – 2 tsp


Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line the bottom and sides of an 8′ round pan. Sift together flour,baking powder,baking soda,salt and cinnamon powder.

Cream butter and sugar until light. Add vanilla. Beat until mixed well.

Now add the flour mixture and the yogurt alternatively until batter comes together. It will be very thick. Fold in the chopped apples.

Transfer batter onto prepared pan and spread it evenly. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly. Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden or tester comes clean.

Enjoy a slice with some custard poured on it.

View from the top!

Wish I was back in Goa!!!

Thats where I was, these last few days. When I tell people that Goa is my home town, the place where I was brought up, their reactions range from surprise to awe to open jealousy. People are often surprised that Goa actually has good schools and colleges and wonder if people actually study there. Now, that’s the ultimate stereotyping! I would put it right up there with the stereotypes that Western folks have about us Indians-  where we ride atop elephants on the roads and play with snakes.

Anyway, sorry for the digression. The point I was trying to make was that it was a busy last few days where I baked a lot, laughed a lot, traveled overnight by bus with a 3-year-old for the first time and lived to tell the tale 🙂

I was there to meet a dear friend, one who been my friend since we were about 3 years old and who has seen me through all the ups and downs of my student life. After she moved to the US, meetings became rare. Therefore whenever she is down, we tend to treat it as a grand reunion and make all efforts to meet up. Moreover, this time I was meeting her after 4 long years and seeing her child in person for the first time- so the event was even more special.

Of course, the meeting had to be preceded by tons of drama that’s how my life always is. But the point is, we met and had a good time. I had to bake something for her and so made an apple crumb cake and my favorite choco-chip brownies which turned out to be really yummy.

Will post the recipes soon, in the meanwhile, will leave you with the only picture I had of the entire trip – A sweet moment between the daughters of the two childhood friends. Hopefully, someday they too will form a friendship which will be as strong as ours is.


Recipe: Roasted Banana and Rum Cake – For a twist on the usual banana fare

I landed up with over-ripe bananas again (Why do I even buy them?). However, I was sure I didn’t want to bake another banana bread. I was getting quite tired of the sweet bakes anyway. But I needed to use them and I am not very fond of banana smoothies. Wasnt feeling like making custard, so decided to go back to Google God to see if there were any recipes which tried to do something different with bananas. Turns out, a lot of them have. But considering the family taste constraints, I decided to go with this one, Roasted Banana and Rum Cake.

As usual I had to make modifications to it to make it eggless. Since I love love love Rum and Raisin ice-cream, decided to add some raisins to it as well. Turned out absolutely yum- soft, moist and bursting with flavor. The flavor of Rum stands out only  in the frosting making it one heady treat to the tongue. Without further ado, presenting the recipe:

Roasted Banana and Rum Cake.


  • Butter – ¼ cup
  • Sugar – ¾ cup
  • Vanilla – 1 tsp
  • Oil – 1/8 cup +1 tsp
  • Flour – 1 +1/3rd cup
  • Ripe Bananas – 3 (I used big ones)
  • Dark Rum – 2 tbsp
  • Baking powder – 1 + 1/4 tsp
  • Baking soda – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt – ¼ tsp
  • Buttermilk – 1/3 cup.(I used slightly thinner yoghurt)
Cut the banana into one inch thick slices and roast in a frying pan until it browns . Mash well and keep aside.
Cream room temperature butter and sugar in a bowl until light and creamy. Add vanilla extract, oil, mashed bananas and rum.
In another bowl sieve the dry ingredients together- flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Alternatively add  the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the creamed butter and stir until combined.
Grease and flour a 8 inch bundt pan. Pour batter into prepared pan
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the top brown.
Allow cake to cool for half an hour in the pan then take it out and let it cool completely.
Rum Drizzle
Butter – 1 tbsp
Dark rum – 1 tbsp
Milk – a few drops.
Vanilla – ½ tsp
Icing sugar – 1 cup
Beat together butter, rum, milk, vanilla and about ½ cup icing sugar in a bowl until smooth. Gradually blend in additional sugar until you have a glaze that is smooth and thick enough to drizzle over the cake. I was a bit scared about adding so much sugar so I added as less as I could… hence wasnt able to get a thick glaze. But it was yummy nevertheless. The cake tastes good without the drizzle as well but with it, its out of the world!!!

Just out of the bundt pan and ready to get drizzled with the glaze

It doesn’t look very attractive when you spread the frosting evenly with a spatula… but with low amounts of sugar, it looks best this way

Recipe: Eggless Choco-Chip Banana Bread

Whenever there are over ripe bananas lying in my fruit basket, the first thing that I think of doing – is to make some banana bread/ muffins. It is probably the most basic and most common recipe that you can find. I have tried numerous recipes online- a couple that I use often are the ones from showmethecurry.com and divinetaste.com . However, this time I decided to try a different recipe. This one is largely adapted from http://myretrokitchen.blogspot.in/2011/02/eggless-chocolate-chip-banana-bread.html.

It was so awesome that I had to make 4 more batches of it within a week’s time for my neighbors as well. Its safe to say that I wont be baking banana bread for some time now.

The pictures arent that great since I clicked them in low light at night. Nevertheless, they look yummy- so am going to put them up anyways.

Choco-Chip Banana Bread

The choco-chips gave the required crunch. Chocolate goes so well with banana


– 1 cup All purpose Flour

– 1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

– 1/3 cup white sugar

– 1/3 cup brown sugar

– 1/3 cup butter, softened

– 2 teaspoons baking powder

– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

– a pinch of salt

– 1 tsp vanilla essence/ extract

– 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (would be about 3 big bananas or 5-6 small yellaki/ elaichi bananas). I pulsed them with my blender to make a pulp. If you like it a little chunky you could mash them with a masher.

– 1/2 cup chocolate chips.


–  Grease a loaf pan – I have a 10 by 5 inches. The batter was just about right for a dish this size. Dust it with flour and keep aside. Preheat the oven at 180 deg C.

– Cream sugar and butter in a large bowl for about 5 minutes until well blended. It does have not to get airy and smooth. Add the vanilla to this mixture.

– In another bowl, sieve both the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

– Add flour mixture and banana to the butter alternatively and beat with every addition.

– The batter will be very thick. Fold in most of the chocolate chips. You could also use your favorite nuts. Walnuts and almonds toasted and raisins added as is.

–  Scrape the batter on to the loaf pan. Sprinkle the rest of the chocolate chips on top of the batter.

– Bake at 180 deg C for 30-35 mins or until a tester comes clean.

Best enjoyed warm with a cup of tea!

Recipe: Peach Pudding Muffins

After going through so many peach recipes posted by so many bakers… I was itching to try my hand at something as well.

I wanted to bake some lovely peach cobbler scones first… but then some of my friends asked me to show them how to make muffins. So decided to experiment and come up with a recipe myself. I decided to bake some peach pudding muffins.

Both the variations…

The cake batter for this is a very simple Nita Mehta eggless sponge cake recipe. I tweaked the sugar levels a bit coz I was going to use honey and sugar based toppings. I also added some spices so it could go with the peaches.

For the toppings(technically the bottom layer), I was confused whether to caramelize the sugar and make it an upside-down muffin/ use Demerara sugar to give it the caramelized look or to do something different. I decided to use honey as one of the toppings after going through some blogs for ideas.

Here is the recipe… do try it out and let me know how it turns out for you.

Peach Pudding muffins: (Makes about 20 medium-sized muffins)


¾     For the bottom layer:

¾     1 – 1½ tsp cinnamon

¾     ½ – ¾ tsps nutmeg

¾     3-4 ripe peaches

¾     about 30ml honey (1/2 tsp for every cake)/ Demerara sugar (I used both- half of my muffins had honey and the other half , sugar)

¾     butter/ to grease the pan


        Peel and slice the peaches thinly. Mix the cinnamon and nutmeg and keep it aside.

For the muffin batter:

¾     All-purpose flour/Maida – 1 1/2 cups

¾     Sugar – ½ – 3/4 cup (I used only half cup plus one tablespoon it was perfect)

¾     Baking powder – 1 1/4 tsp

¾     Baking soda – 1/2 tsp

¾     Salt – a pinch

–   ginger powder – 1/2 tsp

¾     Thick curd – 1 cup

¾     Cooking oil – 1/2 cup (non strong-smelling cooking oil)

¾     Vanilla essence – 2 tsp


¾     Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F. Grease Muffin moulds really well with butter/ oil.

¾     Pour ½ tsp of honey into each mould. Cover half the moulds with honey and the other half with Demerara sugar.  Top it with 3-4 slices of the peaches. Sprinkle the cinnamon and nutmeg mixture on top of the slices.

¾     In a bowl, mix the curd and sugar till the sugar dissolves completely.

¾     Stir-in the baking powder and baking soda into the curd mixture. Mix well and set aside for 2-3 minutes. The curd will turn frothy and start rising and increasing in volume.

¾    Sieve the flour and set aside. Add the ginger powder to it.

¾     Add the oil and vanilla essence to the curd mixture. Stir gently so that the air in the mixture is retained.

¾     Next, gently fold in the flour. Dont stir very vigorously; do it very gently. The batter should have a dropping consistency.

¾     Pour the batter into the muffin moulds until 3/4th full and bake for 20-30 minutes. Check with toothpick and take it out.

¾     Loosen them gently with a knife around the edge and leave them to cool for a couple of minutes before tipping out. Quickly turn the pan upside down on to a plate or cooling rack. If some of the peaches fall off the top, just place them back on.

The one with the honey topping…

The view from the top 😉

This is the one with the caramel

The crumb shot….

Make some custard and eat them warm with the custard… mmm… yummy!


Recipe: Pull Apart Garlic Rolls – Pillowy goodness!

This is a very popular recipe made even more popular by the fantastic baker- Monika Manchanda of Sinamontales.wordpress.com fame.

Please head over to her site for the recipe… I will just leave you with the pictures of the rolls that I made recently… although I have made it a couple of time earlier as well.

Please forgive the picture quality- the husband ran away with the camera that day and I had to make do with the phone.

While they were left for proofing(or is it proving?)

fresh out of the oven… yum yum

The rolls in all their glory!