BAJRA (PEARL WHEAT) CRACKERS WITH SESAME SEEDS

Bajra (Pearl Wheat) and Sesame Crackers

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Happy and encouraged  by the acceptance  of my Cheesy Crackers by the Royal Highnesses. I went all out looking for more crispy options. Mr. 13 needs a munchy in the car as a pre-swim snack, which is loaded with complex carbs that gets slowly released into the body and I need to be innovative and on my fingertips at all times, so that no snack is repeated or boring enough to bring out the “teen-monster”. And hey I need my carb-fix too!  or I tend to get moody as well. With that in mind I contemplated snipping open that long forgotten pack of bajra/ pearl wheat flour from the bottom of the drawer. My experience with this particular flour has been limited to adding a few tablespoons to wheat flour to make rotis (Indian flatbread) and it has not gone down well with the royalty at home. So considering it a failed project, it was abandoned. But remember how I tamed the Baked Cheesecake monster, well I decided to meet out the same treatment to Bajra and got it on my “To-Tame” List.

Bajra or Pearl Wheat is one of the oldest known cereal. It has been cultivated since pre-historic times, but its goodness, nutrition and health benefits were over-shadowed by its richer brother wheat. It is gaining in popularity again due to its gluten-free property. In India it continues to remain a poor man’s flour, to make flat breads or Rotlas as commonly known in parts of western India’s desert state of Rajasthan. This is a tricky flour to work with, as it is gluten-free it doesn’t have elasticity and the rolling pin can be quite useless. Rural women use their palms to slap the dough into flat bread and bake it on a hot griddle or tava. Theses flat breads have to be consumed hot or you may end up with a rubbery disc and run the risk of breaking a few teeth.

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The Bajra flour has an earthy taste quite unmatched by wheat and there is a roughness to its texture and feel. Don’t get misled by its humble greyish brown looks….it packs flavour, is highly nutritious (magnesium and B vitamins), and fills up that bottomless pit called Tummy. I have flavoured it with curry powder, sesame seeds and finely chopped parsley. I have also used wheat flour so that rolling it is easier. Once you gain in confidence, I suggest reducing the wheat content. It was surprisingly a well-behaved dough. It is usually consumed in winters as its known for its warming properties (heatiness as my mom would say) so I served it with a cool yogurt based dip more on the lines of a Greek tzatziki.

imageWhat a change in taste and texture for the young one and its nice that he is opening up to difference…..loved the crispy thins that came out of the oven looking rustic and made-by-mom. Finally with these simple, crispy crackers I have cracked the Bajra code !  🙂

BAJRA /PEARL WHEAT CRACKERS WITH SESAME SEEDS.

RECIPE

1 cup bajra flour

½ cup wheat flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsps. Curry powder/ cumin powder/ chilly powder

1 tsp. green chillies chopped fine or paste

2 tblspns finely chopped parsley

2 tspns. Lightly roasted sesame seeds

Salt to taste

150 ml. Watered down butter milk

1 tablspn oil

  • Preheat oven to 160oC
  • Sift together the flours, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add in the spice powder, parsley and sesame. Mix it all in with your fingers
  • Make a well in the centre and add in the buttermilk a little at a time. Don’t be in a hurry to pour in all the liquid, you may not require all of it. Mix in the flour. Bring the dough together and knead on a flat surface till it comes together in a rough ball. Add the oil and knead further till the oil is incorporated into the dough. It should be soft but not sticky.
  • Flour the surface and roll out tennis ball sized dough balls into a large sheet as thin as you can. Cut into shapes and place on oiled baking sheets. Bake for 14-15 minutes. Remove and cool on wire rack.
  • Serve with Tomato Chutney or yogurt dip.
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Cheesy Wholewheat Crackers

Cheesy, Whole Wheat Crackers

image Its Summertime already! Technically its spring in the Northern Hemisphere, but in Mumbai its sweltering, sweat trickles down the back and the brow, the kitchen is a furnace and you feel like you will melt away like ice-cream. To add to the heat it’s a chaotic cricket season with the World Cup over and the IPL starting and the exams hurtling towards us like a meteor. Have to pacify the crabby teen and keep him in good spirits. His face grows longer as his swim training intensifies and study time takes precedence over the Idiot Box. Nowadays the brain is as hungry as the tummy…..for food! Edible bribes are all I can think of to help him get through a study session and Mr. 40 through a cricket match (BTW he is the spectator and not the player).

Baking crackers is what’s keeping me busy, to prevent two hungry monsters from diving into one more packet of potato crisps. The blender is whirring away, whipping out humus and the latest favourite….tomato chutney. Got to make sure that the  least amount of junk gets into the teens system and “Mr. 40-something” is kept afloat too. Whew!! Now you know why the Blog has been quiet for a week?

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It seems that the only sound that dominates a Sunday evening besides the cheering and commentary is the crunch of crackers and the only activity I see are eyeballs in motion, and jaws munching away and a few unsavoury comments for the home team!

Cheesy Whole Wheat Crackers are replacing the highly addictive and yummy (ofcourse) potato crisps. Though they are not that  close to that super, yummy, fried, salted snack,  you can use them to prevent excesses on game days and at study time when crunch is more important than what goes into the munch. They are heavy and quite filling. I have used Cheddar Cheese though the original recipe on Epicurious.com called for Parmesan. I am saving my Parmesan for that luxurious glass of wine, I will devour, in utmost peace and calm after this chaos is done with. To get back to the crackers…they are cheesey, tasty and versatile. Flavour them with a little curry powder or thyme or lime zest or chilly flakes. I have a little parcel of all these flavoured doughs cling-wrapped in the freezer ready to bake, when hunger comes a-calling.

I have cut them into no-fuss rectangles with a tacky, plastic fondant cutter. The original recipe said “don’t roll  the remnants again as they turn chewy when baked”. Catch me chucking any remnants of a tasty dough into the bin!! I pressed them into mini tart tins and turned them into canapés that became little vessels for a mix of boiled egg, mayo and tomato chutney. And suddenly eyes lit up, there were smiles all around and the lemonade was poured out for a tired, sweaty mom. The guys couldn’t believe their popping eyes and good luck… Now that’s what I call “Killing 2 birds with one Dough!!!”

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CHEESY WHOLEWHEAT CRACKERS

RECIPE

Cheesy Whole Wheat Crackers

Makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients

2/3 cup Cheddar Cheese (finely grated)

1 cup whole wheat flour

½ tsp baking powder

1 heaped tblsp unsalted butter

¼ tsp. salt

½ tsp. coarsely ground pepper

1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary (dried will do)

1 tsp thyme (dried will do)

2 tblspns. Lightly beaten egg

50 ml milk

Additional flour for dusting

  • Preheat oven to 160o C. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly oil.
  • Sift flour, salt, baking powder into a bowl. Add the cheese and mix.
  • Add the herbs and pepper. Mix well.
  • Rub the butter into the dry mixture till it is coarse and crumbly.
  • Make a well in the centre of the bowl and add in the egg and a little of the milk. Stir the flour into the liquid. Using your fingers knead into a firm dough. Add milk a little at a time. You don’t want a sticky dough. Knead the dough for a minute or two.
  • Roll it out as thin as you can dusting the board as you go along.
  • Cut into desired shapes and lay them on a lined baking sheet ¼ inch apart.
  • Bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Check on them every few minutes. Remove when they turn a golden brown. Cool completely and check if they are crisp. If not then return to the oven for another 10 minutes.

Other flavouring suggestions: Basil and lime zest, Red chilly powder / cayenne pepper and cumin, Roasted ground cumin, sesame seeds, oregano.

TOMATO CHUTNEY

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This tangy, Tomato Chutney is a yum dip, so easy, quick and absolutely hassle-free (unless slicing an onion is not your cuppa). It is a slight modification on the South Indian classic, onions, tomatoes, dried red chillies….see that’s not so difficult to source. If you don’t have dried red chillies then feel free to use fresh ones, but go easy on them. A few drops of lime juice adds that extra zing and the sugar evens out the sharpness. With the cheesy crackers it was an ideal contrast. Its fresh summery taste and slight heat from the chillies is a perfect sweat-breaker on warm evenings.

Recipe

1 tblspn. oil

1 large onion, sliced

2 large tomatoes, diced into 1″ pieces

2-3 cloves garlic

2-3 dried red chillies

2 tblspns. peanuts, skinned

a pinch of asafoetida (option)

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Salt to taste 

  • Heat oil in a small pan. Add the onions and fry till transculent. Add a pinch of asafoetida.
  • Add the tomatoes, chillies and garlic. Continue to saute on low to medium heat until the tomatoes soften and break easily when spanked with a spoon. Add sugar when hot and mix in, Salt it.
  • Whizz the peanuts to a coarse powder in the food processor. Add the onion-tomato mixture and grind to a smooth paste. Add in the lime juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning.