Spice to Table baking: American sensibility, Indian flavors

Atlanta chef Asha Gomez has always drawn inspiration from her native state of Kerala in South India.

But at her cozy new bakery cafe, Spice to Table, Gomez takes comfort favorites, like quiche, pastries, and layer cakes, and imbues them with surprises of fragrance and jolts of heat.

“Spice to Table is essentially American sensibility with Indian flavors,” Gomez says. “Something looks really familiar, then you put it in your mouth, and pow!”

The menu changes daily and popular items sell out fast, but staples include puff pastry samosa pockets with seasonal vegetables, quiche-like chicken hash pie with flaky, fluted crust, and carrot cake studded with black peppercorns.

Pastry chef Lori Horne joins Gomez in the kitchen, bringing her own influences in the likes of a family favorite chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting that gets spiced up with cayenne chili powder.

“I am a big fan of the kind of rustic stuff that we do here,” Horne says. “If you notice, the cakes are not perfect. But I like it that way. We do a lot of rustic home goodness. We make it pretty but real.”

Horne admits she didn’t know much about Indian cuisine when she started working at Spice to Table. But that was fine with Gomez.

“When Lori first came, and I would tell her what I wanted in the carrot cake, clove, cardamom, black pepper, she would just add a little bit,” Gomez says, laughing. “And I would say more, more, more.”

As time went on, though, Gomez and Horne say they switched roles in many ways.

“We joke about that, because, right now, I’m totally into doing pastries, and Lori is totally into doing the savory stuff,” Gomez says.

“There’s a lot of learning back and forth. But that’s really what Spice to Table is all about. It’s a combination of everything that I’ve experienced from my culture, from the American South, which is also my culture now, and the chefs, restaurants and cookbooks that have inspired me over the years. I hate the word fusion, because it’s not really fusion. It’s my evolution as a person and a cook that shows up on the plate.”

Recipes

These sweet, savory and spicy recipes from Asha Gomez and Lori Horne come from the kitchen of Spice to Table in Atlanta, where American sensibility meets Indian flavors.

Chili Chocolate Cake

Lori Horne’s classic chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting is a decadent family favorite spiced up with cayenne chili powder. Add more or less cayenne to taste.

Chocolate Cake:

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 1/3 cups cocoa powder

3 1/2 cups boiling water

5 1/2 cups flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups white sugar

2 cups dark brown sugar

2 cups mayonnaise

1/2 cup oil

5 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 tablespoons cayenne chili powder, or to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, whisk together chopped chocolate, cocoa powder and boiling water. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat white and brown sugars and mayonnaise together. Add oil slowly. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda and baking powder together. Alternate adding chocolate mix and flour mix in four parts, incorporating between each addition. Add chili powder to taste.

Divide batter evenly between two prepared 10-inch cake pans. Bake at 350 for approximately 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

Chocolate Buttercream:

1 1/2 cups butter

1 cup unsweetened cocoa

5 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon espresso powder

In a stand mixer, cream together butter and cocoa. Add sugar and milk, alternating 1 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon milk. After each addition has combined, turn mixer on high for about one minute. Add vanilla and espresso powder. Adjust consistency by adding more milk to loosen or more powdered sugar to tighten.

To ice cake:

Make sure both layers have thoroughly cooled. Level the tops of the cakes with a long, serrated knife. Use an offset spatula to spread a 1/2-inch layer of buttercream on cut top of one layer Place second layer on top, cut side down, and adjust cake so that it’s level and sides are even. Use remaining buttercream to ice the top and sides of the cake.

Serves 16

Per serving: 1,012 calories (percent of calories from fat, 47), 10 grams protein, 132 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 55 grams fat (19 grams saturated), 123 milligrams cholesterol, 598 milligrams sodium.

Spiced Chicken Hash Pie

This quiche-like Spice to Table favorite was a happy accident, conceived one day when the kitchen ran short on eggs. Gomez decided to stretch the recipe by adding chicken, potatoes, and, of course, more spices. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, if you like.

Pie dough:

4 1/2 ounces cold butter, cubed

3 1/2 ounces cream cheese, cubed

1 ½ cups, plus 3 tablespoons flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 cup cold water

Whisk dry ingredients in bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. With mixer on low, add butter cubes and mix until pea sized. Add cream cheese and mix for about a minute. Drizzle cold water into bowl until dough separates from the sides of the bowl. Wrap in plastic and chill at least one hour before rolling.

Filling:

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 pound boneless chicken breast cubed into bite sized pieces

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 pound potatoes peeled, cubed and boiled

6 eggs, whisked

1/4 cup oil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt or salt to taste

In a medium saute pan heat oil, add the onions and saute until golden brown. Add all the dry spices to the pan and toast the spices with the onions for about a minute stirring constantly. Add chicken and potatoes to the pan and saute for about 10 minutes. The chicken does not have to be cooked through; it will finish cooking in the oven.

Preheat oven to 350.

Roll out the dough and place in a 9-inch cast iron skillet and flute the edges.

Let the filling cool for a few minutes and add the 6 eggs to the mixture.

Fold in cilantro. Place the mixture into the skillet and bake for 35 minutes.

Serves 8

Per serving: 463 calories (percent of calories from fat, 56), 23 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 29 grams fat (13 grams saturated), 240 milligrams cholesterol, 876 milligrams sodium.

Samosa Pockets

This Spice to Table take on traditional Indian samosas uses puff pastry, stuffed with whatever vegetables are on hand, and baked in the oven.

Puff pastry:

1 box frozen puff pastry from the grocery store, thawed, rolled and cut into eight 4x5-inch rectangles. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, try making your own with the accompanying recipe from Asha Gomez.

For the filling:

1 pound vegetables, such as winter squash, potatoes, carrots, peas, steamed and slightly mashed

1 medium onion chopped

1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

Heat pan, add oil and saute onions until golden brown Add spices and salt and saute for about a minute, stirring constantly Add tomato paste and mix well. Add mashed vegetables.

To make the samosas:

Preheat oven to 350.

Allow the vegetable mixture to cool. Place a generous tablespoon of filling in the center of the puff pastry rectangle. Fold over and brush each samosa with egg wash and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.

Makes 8 samosas

Per samosa: 294 calories (percent of calories from fat, 74), 2 grams protein, 17 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 25 grams fat (13 grams saturated), 52 milligrams cholesterol, 664 milligrams sodium.

Puff Pastry

If you want to try making your own classic puff pastry, you should know that it’s a time-consuming process, but not too difficult.

Butter Block:

1 pound plus 3 ½ tablespoons cold butter

Pinch salt

1 cup flour

Pinch water

In the bowl of stand mixer, combine with paddle, wrap in plastic and chill.

Dough:

1 ½ cups flour

4 tablespoons soft butter

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup cold water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine with paddle, wrap in plastic and chill.

Butter block and dough must chill for at least one hour and be the same consistency before enveloping.

To make the pastry:

Flatten butter block into a rectangle. Roll the dough into a rectangle at least 1 1/2 times the size of butter block. Lay the butter into dough at an angle and close butter in so that the top looks like an envelope. Roll out to about 1/2-inch thick, fold into thirds, wrap and chill for at least one hour

Repeat rolling the dough out to about 1/2-inch thick and chilling for an hour three more times. During the last roll, make dough approximately 1/4-inch” thick and cut into 4x5-inch rectangles.

Makes 24 rectangles.

Per rectangle: 219 calories (percent of calories from fat, 79), 2 grams protein, 10 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 20 grams fat (12 grams saturated), 52 milligrams cholesterol, 381 milligrams sodium.

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