Monday, June 15, 2015

Tea-time Treat: Indian Toast or Swedish Rye Rusks

The ritual of teatime began when I was a wee little girl in my grandparents' blue kitchen.  My Nani (grandmother) always drank two cups of chai (tea) a day, one at 6 A.M. and the other at 3:30 P.M, following our afternoon siesta, a welcomed break from the blasting Bombay sun.

Nani began by boiling some water in a saucepan, threw in some crystal sugar with her fingers, then as the water started to boil, poured in some milk and a small handful of puthee (tea leaves). Then she turned off the flame, put a lid on the pan and allowed it to infuse for a few minutes. Meanwhile, I was allowed to pick a new tea and saucer from the china cupboard -- they were so delicate and darling. Once picked, Nani poured me half a cup and herself a cup-full.

It was then time to choose our accompaniments from the tightly sealed steel containers: Did I want Nice biscuits (coconut cookies)? Good Day's (cashew-studded cookies)? Toast (rusks)? A bun with candied fruit and a good slathering of Amul butter? Once decided, we sat down and Nani poured some tea into our saucers, since it was piping hot, and we began to slurp. It was only then we took our biscuit/cookie of choice and dunked it into our tea. For me, it was more about this procedure than actually drinking tea, which was just as well because Nani said that tea was not healthy for me. Once adequately mushy, I hurriedly transferred the cookie from the cup and into my mouth before it fell into the tea or on its journey to my mouth. What a delicious feeling, so comforting to sit by my Nani and enjoy the little treats of life together. She would be slurping from her saucer pensively, perhaps contemplating what she wanted to cook the next day or what legumes to soak overnight? And then we would go out into the garden and I would water the plants with Nana (grandfather), earthing the warm smells of dirt mixed with the fragrant flowers amongst the papery magenta bougainvilleas.

My grandmother is no longer with us but I re-live teatime with my Nana whenever I go back to India, always with some kind of cookie or toast in toe. I even try to send him some of my own homemade cookies from Sweden, because a treasured tea-time treat is essential.

This particular one is called toast in India, rusks in English and skorpor in Swedish. It is basically dried bread. My grandparents liked to smother them with butter and enjoy with tea, and that's exactly how I like them. In Sweden, cardamom is added into the dough, which I cannot argue with as it is a spice I grew up with. My husband's farmor (grandmother) bakes the best ones! I've added rye flour to these as we live in the rye belt and it comes with copious amounts of health benefits.

The main reason that these are healthier than your regular rusks is because of the long ferment, which can help break down the indigestible components found in grains. In addition, using rye flour ensures extra fiber than if it was just made with wheat flour, and also helps regulate blood sugar. Even replacing 50% rye flour in baked goods can help make a product healthier, as studies* have found. In summary, preparing rusks this way means your body receives a more digestible product, one that will not spike up your blood sugar, is not very calorie-dense, but will still treat you with a delightful accompaniment to your daily tea or coffee ritual. So enjoy its virtuousness!

*García-Mantrana, I., Monedero, V., & Haros, M. (2015). Myo-inositol hexakisphosphate degradation by bifidobacterium pseudocatenulatum ATCC 27919 improves mineral availability of high fibre rye-wheat sour bread. Food Chemistry, 178, 267-275. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2015.01.099

Rye Rusks
Makes 24

1/2 tsp dry active yeast
2/3 cups milk (almond and oat work well)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sifted rye flour (using only the fine rye and not the coarse fiber)
1/3 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbs coconut sugar
1 tbs rapeseed, coconut oil or melted butter (I used rapeseed)
1/2 tsp crushed cardamom seeds

1. Warm the milk to slightly above room temperature and add the sugar and yeast. Add the flour on top along with salt, cardamom and oil and knead for 2-3 minutes. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a cool place for 4-5 hours, then place in the fridge for 8 hours.

2. In the morning, shape into a thin log. Allow to proof for 2 hours or until it comes to room temperature and rises a bit.

3. Bake in a preheated 180C/350F oven for 15 minutes only. Allow to cool completely. (The log will feel soft, almost like bread.)

4. Slice in half lengthways using a serrated knife, then take each half and slice into one inch slices using a fork. (The fork gives you a rugged surface = extra texture). Place on a cookie sheet and bake in a 140C/300F oven for 10-15 minutes, flipping midway. Turn off the oven and allow them to dry out further in the residual heat of the warm oven, about 10 minutes. Make sure they are completely dry before storing them in an air-tight container. Enjoy with butter and a cup of chai.

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