If you live in Chennai, a lot of what you do will from now on be marked ‘Before the Deluge’ and “After the Deluge’ Anyone who has lived through it in some way has changed forever. Yes, we all did know that it was going to rain, but none anticipated the downpour which we were to receive. As the rain started with a light drizzle, I was thrilled that my electric power which had been iffy for the last few weeks was actually allowing my oven to work. I had not been able to bake for almost 3 weeks and the oven kept calling out to me.
I had bookmarked this recipe from one of my baking groups ‘We Knead to Bake‘. It was a pumpkin bread, in anticipation of Thanksgiving. Yes, I know we do not celebrate that holiday in India, but we are always ready to embrace any celebration which involves food. I had already bought the pumpkin a couple of times but each time used it to make something else because my oven would not co-operate with me.
Finally, it looked like I could make the bread. I had the pumpkin puree ready (yes, I made it from scratch) The recipe was super simple and in no time was the dough ready. While the dough was rising, the light drizzle was getting steadily heavier. Unheedingly, I shaped the dough into cute little pumpkins, stuck little pecan bits on top for the stems and into the oven they went. The kitchen was filled with the warm smell of spices while roll baked in the oven. I felt warm, cozy and comforted.
Almost as soon as I took the rolls out of the oven, the power went off. Oh, Thank God!” I said to myself “At least I got the rolls done” I broke a piece of the roll and as I popped it into my mouth, I gazed absently out of the window. Now the rain outside did not look like it was going to let up. “How long is this going to keep up?” I wondered. The mildly sweet flavour of the pumpkin married beautifully with the warm scent of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. It would be perfect with the roasted vegetable soup I had made for lunch.
My phone was still working and somebody sent me a message saying that the airports were closed. There was way too much water for the flights to take off and land. I opened my front door and the water was lapping at the edge of the bottom step. I knew now, there was no way my electric power was going to be restored, at least not until the rain stopped. (It was to be almost 100 hours before the power was restored)
I did not know at that point of time, that what was going to hit us was so massive. It had never rained so hard for a hundred years. I watched fearfully as the water rose higher. Lucky for me I only had the water gently hitting my doorstep. While rivers overflowed and bridges became unnavigable, the rain continued to lash the city. Many were not so lucky as I. Some had their entire house washed away. My friend had her 85-year-old parents rescued from waist deep water while she sat worrying in Mumbai. There were those who spent an endless night on their open terrace hoping to see some rescue boats to help them to safety. Their homes, offices and businesses with everything they own were lost in the flood.
There were stories of heroism. Young boys rushing to rescue hapless citizens. People organising themselves into groups and working tirelessly to reach people who needed help. I never felt more helpless and proud of the city I lived in. By now all forms of communication had been cut off. No power, no water, food supplies were running low, But I was safe and dry. Something to be thankful for. I had made a sizable batch of the rolls hoping to share them with my friends. Instead, I shared them with my neighbours warming the rolls by the candlelight, bonding over our shared plight. The Thanksgiving rolls now truly became for me, a symbol of everything to be thankful for.Each of us gave our silent thanks to God for keeping us safe and little words of prayer for those facing the wrath of nature.
1/3 cup Warm milk
2 tbsp Honey
2 tsp Instant yeast
1/2 cup Unsweetened puréed pumpkin (I made my own)
40gm Butter, melted
1 tsp Salt
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups All-purpose flour
1/2 tsp powdered Cinnamon
1 tsp powdered Dry ginger
1/4 tsp powdered Clove
1/4 tsp powdered Nutmeg
5 to 6 Pecans, sliced vertically
- Mix all the ingredients together and knead until you have a smooth and elastic dough that will be somewhat sticky. It should pull from the side of the bowl. Add a little more flour (or milk) if required, to obtain this consistency of dough.
- Shape it into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl, turning it around to coat it well. Loosely cover and let the dough rise for about an hour or so, until doubled in volume.
- Deflate the risen dough gently to remove large pockets of air and divide it into about 8 (or 10 for smaller rolls) equal sized portions.
- Shape each portion into a ball. Flatten each ball slightly and using a sharp knife or a pair of scissors make 8 cuts at equal distance from each other, from the edge of the ball towards the centre but leaving the centre uncut – like a flower.
- Place the dough “flowers” 2” apart on a lightly oiled or parchment-lined baking sheet. Loosely cover and let them rise for about 45 minutes.Use your forefinger or the round end of a wooden spoon (dip it in a little oil or flour so the dough doesn’t stick to it) and poke a deep hole in the centre of each “flower” for the pecan “stem”. Brush them with milk.
- Bake the rolls at 180C (350F) for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Take them out of the oven and brush the rolls with melted butter or a little honey diluted with water for a shine. I skipped this step since I got preoccupied with the weather.
- Remember to say your silent Thanks and count your numerous blessings before taking a bite.
To make your own pumpkin puree, Remove the skin of the pumpkin and roughly chop the orange flesh. Boil the pumpkin with just enough water to cook it. Cook until soft. Cool the pumpkin and then use a blender to make the puree. Measure and use as required.