Curry and roll

Time flies. August celebrates our one-year of being in Boston. That also means that I have been working in the kitchen for the same period of time. No longer am I frustrated with certain outcomes of my culinary adventures but am embracing the uncertainties and amazing discoveries along the way.

But, to be honest, there is perhaps one cuisine that I’m still doubtful of even though it is commonly found in where I live. It is the Indian cuisine, one which is unimaginable without spices. And it is precisely the spices that deter me from attempting the recipes since the complex, multilayered flavours associated with the best Indian food are achieved through careful cooking and the artful combination of usually small amounts of several different spices.

Thankfully, though the spices are varied, you can be sure that the same basic ones are used. In the Indian pantry, the following spices can more often be found and it is advisable to buy whole spices since they can keep longer.

Whole spices:
Dried red Kashmiri chillies | Black (or brown) mustard seeds | Cumin seeds| Fenugreek seeds | Coriander seeds | Cinnamon sticks | Green cardamoms | Cloves | Black peppercorns | Whole nutmeg | Fennel seeds | White poppy seeds | Saffron strands

Ground spices:
Asafortida | Chilli powder | Tumeric

Of the above, how many are you familiar with? I don’t usually buy whole spices, preferring ground ones and I’m thankful to have found this recipe – Kari Ayam (Malaysian Curry Chicken) which uses ground spices! Obviously, you can try to replace whole spices with ground ones but I’m just too lazy to do the conversion. =p

To complete this dish, I’ve decided to bake some old-fashioned dinner rolls (Source: The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet)

Makes 10 rolls

1 small russet potato (about 140g), peeled and quartered
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 stick (57g) unsalted butter, very soft
1/2 cup warm whole milk (110 – 115F)
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 tsp salt

1. Cook the potato: Put the quartered potato in the small saucepan, cover with water, and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the tip of the paring knife slides in and out easily. Drain well, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Return the potato to the pan and mash using a fork. Sert aside to cool to room temperature.

2.  Mix and knead the dough: Warm the reserved potato water to 110 – 115F and pour into the bowl of the stand mixer. Add the yeast and 1 tsp of the sugar and whisk by hand to blend. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes or until the yeast is activated and foamy. Measure 1/2 cup mashed potatoes and add to the bowl. Add the remaining sugar, butter, milk, and egg and whisk by hand until well blended. Add the flour and salt and knead on low speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until the dough begins to come together. It will seem sticky. With the mixer on low, add additional flour, a tbsp at a time (if needed), until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the speed to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough feels firm, dense and springy, 5 to 6 minutes.

3. Rise the dough (first rise): Lightly butter or oil the bowl, scrape the dough into the bowl, and lightly coat the surface of the dough with a little butter or oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes (longer if the room is cold).

4. Punch down and chill the dough: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles. Chill, covered, for at least 2 hours and up to overnight, or until the dough is very cold.

5. Shape the dough: Cut the dough into 85g portions and shape each into a taut, round ball. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon mat and position the rolls on the sheet about 3 inches apart. Failing which they would stick together during the baking process. =(

6. Proof the dough (second rise): Cover the rolls loosely with plastic wrap and let rise almost doubled in size, 35 to 45 minutes.

7. Bake the rolls: Preheat the oven to 375F and position an oven rack in the centre of the oven. Bake the rolls for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue to bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the rolls are golden brown and their internal temperature registers 200F on the instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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