“No yoga exercise, no meditation in a chapel filled with music will rid you of your blues better than the humble task of making your own bread.” ― Mary Francis Kennedy Fisher, The Art of Eating
..and so, one such day, when I was feeling blue, I decided to bake these bread rolls! Hehe… no..I decided to bake these Mexican rolls, because they were not available at any of the local bakeries! But I agree- baking your own bread is therapeutic for the mind and soul. There are very few things as comforting as the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting through the house.
We selected a Mexican cookbook for our ‘cookbook club’ this month and I chose to make Tortas (not to be mistaken with Torte), since they have been on my mind for a long time.
Torta is a Mexican sandwich made with a small, oblong,crusty bread, usually stuffed with re-fried beans,vegetables or meat,salsa,Avocado,onion,tomatoes,sour cream etc.
The crusty bread also called as Bolillo is a variation of the French Baguette. A bit sweeter and softer than the Baguette, Bolillo is now an integral part of Mexican baking. I used this recipe from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger (I halved the recipe to make). This recipe uses a sponge starter or yeast pre-ferment to make the bread dough. Part of the flour and all of the water + yeast are used to make a sticky yeast starter. This yeast starter is left for fermentation,for 1-2 hours . The rest of the ingredients are then added in the second stage, to make the final dough, which in turn is allowed to proof again.
I was delighted with the taste and texture of the resultant gorgeous bread rolls! Also the amount of yeast required was much less compared to what I usually use for my regular breads (without the starter).
For the Torta,I made my own version of re-fried beans using red Kashmiri Rajma and flavoured it with Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce from my secret stash (my bestie got it for me from the US). The hot,smoky re-fried beans were so good that I had to stop the kids from eating them as it is! Also my vegetarian version of Torta uses sauteed Mushrooms. You can substitute them with any other vegetable of your choice or Shredded Chicken or any other meat.
Making the Bolillos from scratch and then making the different components for the Torta seems like a laborious process. But I baked the rolls a day in advance. They can be frozen for up to a month. You can also make the re-fried beans,sauteed mushrooms a day before freeze. In case you don’t want to bake the bread, you can use any crusty bread; I think even the Brun Pav usually available in the local bakeries should be good.
Tortas make a great meal/snack for a small get-together with family or friends or a kiddie party. Make the different components and let everyone assemble their own sandwiches. This ,a pitcher full of Margarita or Mojito or Sangria or some kid friendly drink is my version of a homemade Happy Meal!
- For the sponge:Add the yeast and sugar to the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer.Stir once or twice.Use the paddle attachment. Use a whisk if doing this by hand.
- with the mixer on medium speed,gradually add the water. Beat the mixture for the next 4-5 minutes or till it becomes smooth.
- Cover with a moist kitchen towel or plastic wrap and keep in a warm place for 1-1/2 hours (until it ferments, you will see lot of tiny bubbles)
- Place the bowl back on the food processor. Replace the paddle with the hook attachment.
- Add salt and butter and mix.
- Gradually add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time mixing on low speed till a soft dough is formed.
- Knead for 8-10 minutes more till the dough is smooth and springy.
- Place the dough in a greased container and cover with a moist kitchen towel or plastic wrap and keep in a warm place for 2 hours (till it has doubled in size)
- Grease or line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper.
- Take out the dough on a lighlty floured work surface. Gently deflate and cut into 10 equal pieces.
- Pat each piece into a small rectangle (about 3×2 inch) and roll tightly.
- Pinch and press to seal the seams .
- Place carefully on the baking sheet (about 2 inch apart)
- Cover with a moist kitchen towel for about 30 minutes till it has doubled in size.
- About 20 minutes before baking, pre-heat the oven to 200 deg Celcius.
- With a sharp knife or blade, slash the top of the rolls ,lengthwise.
- Brush with the glaze.
- Place a baking bowl full of ice cubes in the lower rack of the oven.
- Place the rolls in the oven and bake till the tops are golden brown and the rolls sound hollow when tapped with a finger.
- Transfer them to a wire rack and cool.
- For the sauteed Mushrooms: Heat oil in a small pan.
- Add the garlic and sauté for a few seconds. Add the mushrooms,salt and the seasoning. Stir fry on high heat for 2-3 minutes or till the water evaporates.Sprinkle the chilli flakes/paprika mix and keep aside.
- Toss the Avocado with the lime juice
- Spread 2-3 tablespoons of re-fried beans on one half of a roll.
- Top that with some sauteed mushrooms.
- Spread a spoonful of the salsa next.
- Top it with some onion,tomato,avocado,lettuce and coriander leaves.
- Drizzle some sour cream on top of everything.
- Cover with the other half of the bread to make a sandwich and serve immediately.