Sunday, March 13, 2011

Balloon bread and ghee

Our Mellow Bakers breads for March are two varieties of whole wheat levains, sunflower seed bread with rye sourdough, and aloo paratha.

I've already made both of the whole wheat breads. I made the whole wheat levain with multigrain soaker for World Bread Day last year. It was one of my very favorites from Hamelman, and I've made it several times since then. The plain whole wheat levain, which I made in the hopes that my kids (who don't like seeds in their bread) would like it, was just so-so.

I'll need a chunk of time to revive my starter in order to make the sunflower seed with rye sourdough, so I'll probably get to that one over spring break (one week away!).

So I decided to start with aloo paratha, a bread I had never heard of before it popped up on our list for March. Hamelman describes aloo paratha as "delectable filled flat breads [which] originated in India [that are] filled with potatoes, herbs, and spices [and] are a fine accompaniment to milder foods."

I actually don't have any experience making Indian food, so I was excited and a little nervous to make these into a meal. One of the ingredients on the list is ghee, Indian clarified butter, which I actually had heard of before. I first read about ghee when Nicole posted a recipe for kettle corn (one of my favorites). I was intrigued with her claims that it makes the absolute best kettle corn and immediately bookmarked this recipe. But I'd never tried it...until now!

To make the ghee, I first purchased a pound of the best organic butter I could find. I heated the butter over medium heat until it was melty and frothy and starting to boil, then I lowered the heat to low. I let it cook for 30-45 minutes, unbothered, as instructed. I spent the time obsessively researching, and it was clear that I was supposed to wait until I had three layers: a frothy top layer, a clear liquid middle layer, and a golden solid bottom layer. I obviously had the froth on top. I was a little perplexed by the use of the word "clear" to describe the liquid: clear as in transparent? colorless? uncloudy? At first I was waiting for colorless, but then realized the liquid was later described as "golden," so that was probably the wrong definition; I eventually decided they meant not cloudy. The bottom layer gave me the most problems. After letting the ghee cook for way longer than the 45 minutes, I still couldn't see a solid layer on the bottom, but I was really nervous about all of the warnings that it would burn, so I decided it was done. And then I saw that there were actually little specks of brown sediment on the bottom; not the thick layer I'd been watching for, but definitely solids. They were darker than golden, but still smelled good and weren't burned. Anyway, I let the ghee cool for 10 minutes and then strained it through coffee filters into a sterilized jar. I'm not sure coffee filters were ideal ~ it took forever ~ but I couldn't find my cheesecloth.

The ghee smelled so tasty, and I was excited to use it for the aloo paratha tonight.

For the filling, I mixed up boiled potatoes (Yukon golds), toasted cumin seeds, ground coriander, minced ginger, chopped green chilis (from a can), fresh cilantro (from my indoor herb garden), salt, and mustard oil made with mustard seeds (I couldn't find black mustard seeds). The dough was whole wheat flour, white flour, salt, and water.

The dough is mixed and then rests for 30 minutes. I made eight little balls, pushed in the center, stuck in a ball of filling, and then sealed it up. The dough balls were then flattened and rolled out.

And then I cooked them for a couple minutes per side in my cast iron skillet, brushing them with ghee half way through. The kids had great fun watching them pouf up in the skillet, and we nicknamed the bread "balloon bread."

I placed them between kitchen towels and stored them in the (off) oven; they stayed warm while I prepared the rest of dinner: Indian-spiced chicken with tomato chutney from Cooking Light.

The chicken was absolutely delicious; even the kids loved it which kind of shocked me. The chutney was addictive (although we didn't bother offering it to the kids, both of whom dislike tomatoes). I really enjoyed the aloo paratha, especially with the chutney. Hubby had about 3 1/2 of them with his dinner and declared it was a shame that they were so time-consuming to make. The kids both tried theirs but didn't eat more than a bite or two.

All in all, a success, and I'm excited to try more of the Indian-spiced dishes I discovered when looking for something to accompany the aloo paratha.


  1. What a great adventure in your kitchen today, and such delicious-looking results! I love Indian food, but rarely make it, so you've inspired me. Love your balooning bread shot.

  2. Balloon Bread! Love that name, and it does look like a balloon. Am fascinated that you made your own, I would be panicked cooking anything for 45 minutes like that so I applaud your patience. It all looks really great, and I would be happy to eat G&A's portions of the chutney.

  3. Interesting to read about you making ghee. I have never tried it. I love Indian food and would love to start making it more regularly, but somehow never have. Funny that your kids hate tomatoes--I used to as well when I was little, and only ate pasta with butter on it for the longest time. How bizarre!

  4. In a word: Inspiring!
    This bread is next on my list. I can almost taste it already...

    I picked up some Ghee last week, although now it look like it's just as easy to make your own. I'll have to check the price to see if there are any savings, what with butter being over $3.50 here.

  5. Wow, they ballooned just like pita bread does! What fun! And making your own ghee, sounds almost as complicated as making your own dulce de lece. (Another project I have read about and never done)

    I have the filling and the dough in the fridge and am going to make them today with a chicken rogan josh curry I hope! Wish me luck :)

  6. Everything looks so good! Do you mind me using the same chicken recipe to accompany my aloo paratha? ;o)

  7. Wow, you got a good picture of the paratha puffing up! My husband panicked when that happened and quickly tried to deflate it:) I wish I'd chosen an Indian dish to go with mine. They are time consuming, but I think if you make the filling up earlier in the day it would be easier. Good luck on the rest of your Indian cooking!!!