November 30, 2008

Orange Marmalade Cake


This month, I had the honour of picking the books for “This Book Makes Me Cook”. And the unanimous decision was for Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I read this book long ago as a teenager and I have enjoyed reading it again with my daughter sometime back.

On first thought this book takes me back memories of an Alice who keeps growing and shrinking depending on what she ate or drank, a grinning Cheshire cat, the Mad Hatter’s teaparty, knaves painting white roses red, Alice and the Queen playing croquet with flamingoes and hedgehogs and a Queen of Hearts who keeps shouting “Off with their heads”!!

The first chapter of “Alice In Wonderland” starts with Alice getting with sitting down while her sister reads a book without any pictures. She then sees a White Rabbit (with pink eyes) that carries a watch and talks to itself, so she follows the rabbit down a hole.
She finally reaches the bottom of the hole to find………..


"it was too dark to see anything; then she looked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they were filled with cupboards and book-shelves; here and there she saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs. She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed; it was labelled `ORANGE MARMALADE', but to her great disappointment it was empty!"

I, on the other hand, had a jar which was full of Orange Marmalade. So I decided not go any further but see what I could do with marmalade.
My husband and our daughter do not like marmalade because “it is bitter and not sweet enough”. I enjoy butter and marmalade on hot toast but there’s only so much marmalade I can eat. So this was the perfect opportunity to try something different.




After much searching (I found a few good ideas which I shall be trying out in the future), I found Denise’s Orange Marmalade Cake at Allrecipes which seemed just right. I mostly followed that recipe with a few changes.

The marmalade I get here, in India, is sweeter (not as sweet as jam) than marmalade should be. So I used less sugar than suggested. You may need to adjust the sugar according to how sweet your marmalade is.

Here’s my adaptation of the original recipe.


Ingredients:


1 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ cup salted butter, melted (for unsalted butter add ¼ tsp salt)

½ cup sugar

2 eggs

½ cup milk

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp powdered cinnamon

¼ tsp powdered cloves

¼ tsp grated nutmeg

¼ cup, chopped walnuts

¼ cup golden raisins

½ cup orange marmalade


Method:


Sift together all the dry ingredients other than the sugar, nuts and raisins.
In another bowl, stir together the sugar, melted butter, eggs, milk and lemon juice. Add the sifted ingredients and mix by hand, till well blended. Stir in the marmalade, walnuts and raisins.

Pour the batter into a greased bundt pan and bake for about 50 minutes or till the cake springs back when touched. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then cool on a rack.




My Notes:


First of all, let me say that this is a moist and delicious cake which is wonderful with coffee. My marmalade disliking family couldn’t believe there was marmalade in it and gave it the thumbs up.

I have a small 8” bundt pan yet the batter just filled half the pan and the pieces were very small as the cake didn’t seem to rise very much. The next time I bake this, I shall bake it my 6” round cake tin and perhaps increase the baking powder by ½ a tsp.


Do drop by my fellow bookworms Bhags, Dee, Harini, Rachel, Simran, Siri, Srimathi and Sweatha to see what Alice In Wonderland inspired them to cook.


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November 29, 2008

Caramel Cake With Caramelized Butter Frosting And Some Salted Cashewnut Caramels: Daring Bakers Challenge November 2008

After two straight months of savoury bakes, this month the Daring Bakers are back to baking something sweet. This month’s hostesses are Shuna Fish Lyndon of Eggbeater (whose signature cake we’re all baking this month), Dolores of Culinary Curiosity, Alex of Brownie and Blondie and Jenny of Foray Into Food.

They picked Shuna’s Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting recipe. And for those of us who felt we weren’t challenged enough by the cake, there is an additional optional challenge in the form of Alice Meldrich’s Golden Bean Vanilla Caramels from her book Pure Desserts (Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111).
The recipe we were to bake from, is at the end of this post.




For this challenge, we had to bake the cake and make the frosting, but other than that, we had the choice to go our way as far the size, shape, flavours and decorating the cake was concerned.
The detailed recipe for this challenge can be found at Dolores' blog Culinary Curiosity.


My Cake Making Experience:

I started this challenge making the caramel syrup. I had a feeling the quantities of ingredients for the syrup were more that I would need for the cake, so I made only half the recipe. And I was right.
So no left over syrup or wondering what to do with it.

I had to make the syrup twice before I got it right. So what’s the big deal about boiling some water and sugar to caramelize it and make a syrup? That’s what I thought too before my confidence came down a couple of notches.

The first time I followed the recipe, caramelized the sugar, added water to stop the caramelization and whisked till it reduced (about a couple of minutes). It looked good. So I poured it out into a bottle and left it to cool on the kitchen counter.

When I got back to it a couple of hours later, the amber coloured liquid had cooled to a toffee coloured solid mass and nothing I could think of doing to it made any difference. It brought to mind my school chemistry lessons about irreversible changes and the line of the Ashford and Simpson song “Solid, solid as a rock………”!

So I made the syrup a second time, and just whisked the syrup after I stopped the caramelization, turned off the heat and left it to cool. This time it was perfect amber coloured syrup.

The next step was making the butter frosting. I made it the following day.
No problems here, really. I used 25% fat cream instead of heavy cream which I don’t get here. I used salted butter because the unsalted variety is also hard to come by. I also did not need the full quantity of the sugar mentioned in the recipe.

I made the frosting only to discover it was very, very sweet. Now my tolerance for all things sweet is very low, so I could be biased here. But my husband (who has a sweet tooth very few can rival) agreed with me this time.
I ended up adding almost a teaspoon of salt to balance out the sweetness, and it still was quite sweet.




The cake was a breeze to make. After hearing quite a few fellow Daring Bakers say how very sweet the cake was, I used a little less than one cup of sugar (instead of the suggested 1 ¼ cups and we were to add the caramel syrup too). I know that we are supposed to keep to the provided recipe, but I just did not want to put so much effort and material into something no one was going to eat.

I made the full quantity of batter and made a 6” round cake and a sheet cake. I cut out the sheet cake into small rounds to make single serving cakes.
I did this by sandwiching two cake rounds with caramel butter frosting and then covering with milk chocolate ganache (milk chocolate and 25% fat cream) and decorating it with caramel.




The 6” cake just got covered and decorated with the butter frosting and topped with caramelized sugar decoration. Of course, I had some very nice decoration ideas in mind but the actual implementation ended up with my cake looking quite unlike what I had planned for it!


The Optional Challenge: Alice Medrich’s Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels:

I made these too, as I had promised my daughter I would make them for her. I finally found the time to do this challenge yesterday afternoon. The recipe we were to follow for these can also be found at the end of this post. As we were allowed to experiment with flavour variations, I made Salted Cashewnut Caramels.




For this, I quartered the recipe and added ½ a cup of chopped salted cashewnuts to the caramel mixture after adding the cream (25% fat).

I didn’t have vanilla beans, so I just used vanilla extract. I also used honey instead of golden syrup, which we don't get here. The other thing I do not have is a candy thermometer. I’m not sure I’d get one in the shops here, either.
I am used to working with sugar syrup since many Indian sweets involve making a sugar syrup at some stage or the other. What I did was to cook the caramel mixture till it reached the “hard ball” stage and used the Cold Water Test to check if the caramel was ready or not.

As the mixture cooks, it will start becoming thicker. Drop a very small amount of this mixture in a plate of cold (not ice cold) water. Using your fingers try to roll the drop into a ball. If you can’t, the syrup is not ready. If it does roll into a ball, but the ball is very soft, then this is the “soft ball” stage. The caramel mixture needs to cook some more and the “soft ball” needs to become a little firmer but not hard. If it is cooked too long, the caramel will probably become too hard to eat or burn! Making candy or caramels this way requires some practice.

The salt in the cashewnuts added to the flavour of the caramels. I used a 6” by 6” cake tin, so my caramels were slightly thinner as I had quartered the recipe. My caramels hardened and were ready to eat in 2 hours!
And they were slightly hard and chewy, and very, very good. My daughter is also very happy.
I don’t think I would have ever made these at home if it wasn’t for this challenge.


Verdict:

Caramel is not one of my favourite flavours, but my husband likes it and it is my daughter’s favourite. In fact, when she found out that this month’s challenge was caramel cake, she would keep asking when I was planning to make it. This is the reason why I did the challenge so early in the month!

Though the cake was quite sweet, this is something that can be adjusted by reducing the sugar in it. I thought this cake was very good. Personally, I liked it that the caramel flavour was not very strong in the cake.
While it was a bit dense and not airy like most cakes, this caramel cake was moist and I really liked the texture. It is also quite easy to make.

The caramel flavour really came through in the butter frosting but it really was too sweet. If there was someway of reducing that, then this frosting is a winner.

The smaller cakes were much nicer, in my opinion, because there was less frosting and the chocolate also helped in balancing out the sweetness. Having said that, I really have to say there weren’t any complaints and there was no cake left. The proof of this cake is definitely in the eating!!
Many DBs made cupcakes and I think this would be a better idea than one single cake, since each cake would require much less frosting, as compared to frosting one big cake.

Now please don’t forget to hop across to other Daring Baker blogs and take a look at their cakes. I can promise you that many of their caramel decorations are fantastic.
Don’t believe me? Then go check them out for yourselves.


Also featured at Chefs.com

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November 27, 2008

Molten-Centred Chocolate Cakes


Also known as Molten Lava Cakes, these are single serve chocolate cakes with a liquid chocolate centre. The idea of cutting open a chocolate cake to find melted chocolate oozing out has always seemed an exotic way to eat dessert.

Unfortunately all the recipes that I have come across for molten-centred cakes have involved baking the cake batter till the outside of the cakes cook but the middle would be partially cooked resulting in a semi-solid centre. I honestly didn’t think I wanted to make molten lava cakes even though the molten centre concept was attractive.
Imagine eating half cooked batter!




Then last month Sra gifted me a book called Everyday Chocolate with about a hundred recipes, every single one with chocolate. I’m not exaggerating. It has 256 pages, and if you take away a few pages (for the contents, introduction, indexing and all that stuff) there’s one recipe every two pages.

So what I wanted to say was that, in this book, there was a recipe for molten-centred chocolate cakes where the centre was actually molten chocolate and not uncooked batter!!



Here’s the recipe, very slightly adapted, from the book. The changes I made are within brackets.

Ingredients:


4 tbsp soft margarine (I used 60g of salted butter)

55 g caster sugar (¼ cup)

1 egg

85 g self raising flour (about ¾ cup flour + ½ tsp baking powder)

1 tbsp cocoa powder

55 g plain chocolate

icing sugar, for dusting



Method:


Put the butter, egg, flour, baking powder and cocoa in a bowl and whisk together, till just smooth.

Spoon half of the batter into paper cases or greased muffin tins. Make a small indentation in the middle of each cake with a spoon. Break the chocolate into equal pieces and place a piece in each indentation. Spoon the remaining batter on top covering the chocolate.

Bake at 190C for about 20 minutes till springy to touch and the top of the cake is slightly crusty. Stand for 2 to 3 minutes before removing from the moulds.
Invert onto serving plates and serve warm dusted with sifted icing sugar or cocoa powder.




The book says this recipe makes 8 cupcakes. I used my muffin moulds to make these and this recipe gave me 6 cakes.


Some notes:


I have made these cakes twice so far.

The first time, I didn’t have anything but semi-sweet dark chocolate with me (and I’m the only one who likes this here) so I used Cadbury’s milk chocolate bars. I put 2 small squares in the centre of each cake. These squares didn’t melt but I had very nice and tasty chocolate cupcakes with milk chocolate centres.

I still wanted cakes with molten centres. That’s when I came across Anita’s excellent blog, Dessert First. She had made Molten Chocolate Cakes with chocolate ganache centres. This means that the centres are guaranteed to melt and that the ganache centres can be flavoured according to choice. Do check out Anita’s exotic ganache flavours.

So I made a chocolate ganache flavoured with orange, using the following ingredients.


Orange Flavoured Chocolate Ganache


1 cup dark semi-sweet chocolate

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp cream (25% fat)

2 tbsp orange syrup

½ tsp orange extract


Melt all the ingredients over boiling water till smooth. Keep in the freezer for an hour till firm. Scoop out into balls and place one in the indentation in the batter in each mould, instead of the chocolate pieces.

Otherwise the recipe remains the same. This amount makes a little more ganache than required for the cakes. The extra chocolate ganache keeps in the freezer.

The ganache produces absolutely melty and delicious centred chocolate cakes.
I also tried substituting the egg with flax seed and I have to say that while the flax seed version was quite good, the version with the egg turned out much better taste-wise.

I'm sending this off to Not Quite Nigella's The Ultimate Chocolate Cake Challenge.


It is the 27th of the month today. That means that there are just 3 days left for all of you who are yet to join me in celebrating my blog birthday. So if you're planning to be there, you need to hurry up.

I'm also taking this opportunity to acknowledge some more awards fellow bloggers have honoured my blog with. I'm not sure I really deserve them, but I appreciate the gesture and thank you.
Dibs of Chitra Amma's Kitchen has passed on a whole bouquet of them - A Butterfly Award, Great Buddy Award, Kreative Blogger Award, Inspiration Award, Chocoholic Award, Friendship Award and A foodie Award.
A Kreative Blogger Award from Vibaas of Delectable Vegetarian Recipes.
All these awards are displayed here.



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November 24, 2008

Grape Cardamom Gelato


Gelato is an Italian frozen dessert made from milk and sugar. It is technically not an ice-cream because it does not contain cream and unlike ice-cream much denser because air is not beaten into it. Gelato is also much softer, because it is not frozen as much as ice-cream, and should melt in your mouth.
The other ingredients in gelatos depend on which part of Italy they originate from. So you can have some gelatos made with eggs while others which are egg-free.
My gelato is of the egg-free kind where the corn starch is the thickening agent.

Some of the credit for this recipe has to go to Harini of Tongue Ticklers. She has a monthly event on her blog which celebrates the colours in food and this month she chose the colours black and purple!
It just set me thinking about purple coloured food. I thought of egg plant/ aubergine but that doesn’t stay purple once it’s been cooked. Purple cabbage was another, but I have not seen it in the market here. Then I thought of grapes.
The the next question was what to make with grapes. I had made Grape mini-pies earlier and it was just a couple of weeks ago that inspiration hit me. Grape Ice-cream!




I like making gelato because it means it is egg-free, low in fat and adding fruit to it ensures having to add very little sugar to sweeten it. This makes for a comparatively healthy dessert. It also means I can get my daughter to have some of the fruits that she otherwise refuses to eat. A win-win situation, I’d say.

For this particular gelato I used unsweetened grape juice from the store. The better option would be to boil purple/ black grapes with some water and sugar (amount would depend upon how sweet the grapes are). Cool and strain to remove the skin and seeds.
The amount of sugar in this recipe may be adjusted according to the sweetness of your grapes or grape juice and if you use full fat milk you would get a richer and creamier gelato.

Here’s how I made this gelato.


Ingredients:


1 litre milk (3% fat)

4 cups unsweetened grape juice

½ cup + ¼ cup granulated sugar

4 tbsp cornstarch

5 to 6 pods cardamom, powdered

½ tsp salt



Method:


In a pan, put the grape juice and ¼ cup sugar. Bring to a boil, then simmer till it reduces to about 1 cup of liquid. Add the cardamom powder and mix. Turn off the heat and allow the liquid to cool to room temperature. It will take on the consistency of a not very thick syrup. Keep aside.

Keep aside ¼ cup of the milk.
In another heavy bottomed pan, put the remaining milk and sugar and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and allow the mixture to come to a boil, stirring constantly, till it reduces by a third in quantity.

Dissolve the corn starch in the ¼ cup of milk and add to the reduced milk, stirring constantly. Let the milk mixture boil till it thickens a bit. This should take a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Now put the milk mixture and the grape syrup in a liquidizer and blend well, for about a minute. You can do this using a whisk too. When the grape syrup is poured into the milk mixture, it might look like it is curdling. This probably because of the acidic nature of grapes. Liquidizing the mixture will take care of this.
Pour into a plastic or metal container with a lid and freeze. When the gelato is half set, remove and liquidize to break the ice crystals. Put it back in the freezer. Repeat this twice more.

Freeze till the gelato has set well but not hard. It should be soft enough to scoop easily.
Serve according to your taste. We had it plain and our daughter liked coloured sugar sprinkles on hers. Chocolate sauce and toasted nuts would probably taste good with this grape gelato, I think.
This recipe should serve 4 to 5.

So Harini, this gelato is for you. This gelato was deep purple when I started making it but the addition of the milk turned it much lighter.


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November 22, 2008

Eggless Anise Pretzels


These aniseed flavoured slightly crunchy cookies are shaped like pretzels. My cookie book tells me that these holiday cookies are great for serving at parties, giving as gifts or for hanging on the Christmas tree.

This recipe is from Cookies Step-By-Step Techniques from Sunset. The original recipe calls for eggs which I have substituted with flax seed.
I usually run about 6 to 8 tbsps of flax seed in the small jar of my mixer/ grinder to powder it. I store this powder in the fridge for when I need it. I have given the ingredients as given in the recipe with my adaptations within brackets.




I liked these cookies, but both my husband and daughter didn’t seem to like them very much. A part of the reason could be that anise seed is not something they particularly like. One thing both of them said was that the cookies were not sweet enough, though I thought the sugar was enough. So you might want to increase the sugar according to your taste.


Ingredients:


1 cup butter, softened (I used salted butter)

½ cup sugar

2 eggs (I used 2 tbsp flax seed powder + 4 tbsp water)

3 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 ½ tsp anise extract (I omitted this)

1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water (for brushing pretzels- I omitted this)

1 to 2 tbsp anise seeds (I used 1 ½ tbsp coarsely crushed aniseed)



Method:


Beat the butter and sugar till creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition till well combined. I used a flaxseed- water mixture and added this at this point. I ran 2 tbsp of flax seed powder with 4 tbsp water in the small jar of my mixer/ blender till well blended.
Beat in the anise extract at this point, if using it. I omitted this because I didn’t have the extract.

Gradually add the flour and the crushed anise seeds, blending well into a dough. I used less than the specified amount of anise seed as I didn’t want an over-powering smell and taste. I also coarsely crushed the seeds to release the flavour.

Divide the dough into two and roll each half into a log 2 inches in diameter. Wrap tightly in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, until the dough is easy to handle.

Take the dough out, and work on one log at a time. Cut each log into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 14” long rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Place on greased baking sheets about an inch apart and brush with the beaten egg-water mixture and lightly sprinkle the anise seeds. I didn’t use this glaze and brushed the pretzels with plain water. This would explain the slightly paler brown colour of baked my pretzels.

Bake at 170C for 20 to 30 minutes till light golden in colour and firm to touch. Cool on racks and store in airtight tins.
This recipe makes 2 dozen pretzels.

These go to Manuela of Baking History who is guest hosting Sunita’s event Think Spice, Think Anise this month.

I’m also sending these to Susan of Food Blogga for her Eat Christmas Cookies - Season 2. If you are looking for some ideas for cookies, you can find a collection that kept Santa happy last year here, and what Santa is looking forward to this year here.


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November 20, 2008

Indira’s Lentil and Almond Burger Patties/ Cutlets


Cutlets, as we refer to patties in India, are a popular tea time snack served in most middling to smaller restaurants right across the country. They would, perhaps, differ only in which vegetables are used to make them but most varieties of cutlets would have some potato in them.
These spicy little pan-fried (sometimes deep fried) crisp rounds which are soft on the inside are best eaten warm and usually served with tomato ketchup.




When I came across these Lentil and Almond cutlets at Indira’s blog I knew I was going to make them. They are very easy to make, don’t have any spices other than green chillies unlike Indian cutlets. They also have lentils and almonds as two main ingredients, the sound of which I found attractive.

I followed Indira’s recipe with some minor changes.
She sliced the almonds, whereas I ran the almonds in the small jar of my mixer/ blender to break them into small pieces.

Indira used tuvar dal (yellow lentils) while I used whole masoor dal (puy lentils). I also grated the carrots instead of chopping them up. I also used chilli powder instead of green chillies and I reduced the lemon juice to 1 tbsp.

Indira mentioned in her post that these cutlets were delicate. This was probably because the binding agent for her recipe was egg, which she left out. So I added 1 medium potato (microwaved and mashed) and two slices of whole wheat bread (after removing the crust) to the cutlet mixture before mixing it up in the processor.

These cutlets are good and don’t judge them too harshly going by my picture. I know my picture isn’t my best, but it was taken at night when there wasn’t enough light, I was too tired to go through the effort of setting up things for a better picture and my family was very hungry and waiting for dinner!

Serve them warm with tomato ketchup or use them to make vegetable burgers.
This recipe gave me 6 patties/ burgers.

Zlamushka of Zlamushka’s Spicy Kitchen is showcasing Indira’s blog, Mahanandi, this month at her monthly event Tried & Tasted. So Zu, this one’s for you.

These cutlets are also perfect for Suganya's Vegan Ventures Round 2 at Tasty Palettes, and for Susan's My Legume Love Affair whose 5th edition is being hosted by Simona of Briciole.


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November 18, 2008

My “Everything There Is” Salad


Weird sounding name for a salad?
Wondering what this is all about?
This is a just a post about a salad I make often to ensure there’s some more of vegetable on our plates for lunch. I also thought it would also make a nice change from all the baking posts here this month!

Salads, in the conventional sense, are really not a part of Indian cuisine. North India has its “Raita” which is raw vegetables in seasoned yogurt and south India has its “Kosmalli” which is a seasoned vegetable, lentil and coconut salad.

Otherwise, even in predominantly vegetarian families, we rarely seem to have a tradition of eating our vegetables raw. But when it comes to cooking vegetables, I think it is hard to find another country where there are so many different ways of doing this that I think I can safely say one could eat a different meal every day for a year without repeating a dish!

However, since we are now told that it is important for our health to consume not just cooked vegetables, but raw vegetables too, one starts feeling guilty about not serving up a salad frequently enough.




While I have got somewhat used to eating salads the one thing I just cannot stomach is a salad which is very green in colour because it’s mostly some type of lettuce or the other! I know greens are good for us, but I’d prefer to get my quota of greens (not lettuce) in other dishes, preferably cooked. Blame it on a palate not conditioned to eating salad.

My husband on the other hand, enjoys salads, though he also shares my lettuce phobia. Our daughter doesn’t particularly like raw vegetables but she actually agreed to try this particular version out and asked when I was making it again. I think, for her, the magic ingredient in this one was the “Boondi” (please read further).

Given that we largely eat traditional style meals, it becomes important to make salads which would go well with say a meal of rice, sambhar or rasam, a dry vegetable and yogurt (curd).

Here is one salad I make and serve. For want of a better name, I’m calling it my Everything There Is Salad. This is because, I usually check what my vegetable bin in the fridge (and my freezer sometimes) has that I could use in a salad. I chop up (or shred) the available veggies into small pieces, season it and serve.

Depending on what’s in my fridge and what I have to add, this salad takes on a different avatar every time (well, many times) I serve it.

And if you are not the sort of person who enjoys eating a salad by itself, I recommend this with rice and yogurt (curd) and a small dollop of spicy pickle.

There are no definite quantities of the ingredients. It depends on what you have, what you want to add and how many people are going to eat the salad. Feel free to experiment and adjust to your need or taste.



What I usually use:


Finely chopped (or shredded) vegetables like onions (or spring onions), tomatoes, capsicum or bell peppers, carrots, cabbage, frozen (and thawed) green peas or sweet corn, etc.

Other stuff that goes well with this is cooked chick peas (garbanzo beans) and pomegranate arils, just a handful of each.

A little bit of chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Put all these in a salad bowl. Season the salad with salt, freshly crushed black pepper, a tablespoon of honey and some lemon juice. Toss well and serve immediately.

Occasionally, as in the above picture, I would have some “Boondi” (deep fried chick pea flour bead-like fritters, I can’t think of any other way to describe this in English) or “Sev” (deep fried chick pea flour vermicelli) which I would add (a small handful should be enough) to lend the salad a nice savoury crunch. Add these just before serving, or they will become soggy and unappetizing!


A Reminder To Celebrate With Me




May I gently remind everyone that its time for Sweet Celebrations on this blog and there’s 12 days left till the party when the gift gets unwrapped. So for all of you who had planned to join the celebrations but haven’t got around to making a certain sweet something for my blog, this would be the time to start.
I can't wait to see whose name is on that gift.




Also featured at the Chicago Sun-Times
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November 17, 2008

Spiced Tomato Swirl Bread


I enjoy baking bread and make a special effort to bake something especially for Bread Baking Day. This has helped me discover many new types of bread while improving my bread baking skills quite a bit.

So when Boaz of Grain Power, who is hosting this edition of BBD, announced “Colored Breads” as the theme, I was a bit nonplussed. I have never baked a colored bread though I have seen many such breads, most of which seem to get their colors from the flours that are used. This really wasn’t an option for me as that variety of flour isn’t available here.




After a lot of thinking, I came up with the idea of a swirl bread. Most swirl breads I have seen, both on the net and in books, are sweet. I wanted to make a savory bread and so I thought of making a spiced tomato paste, spreading it on the dough, rolling it up and baking it. But it seemed to me that perhaps the coloured layer wouldn’t be very visible.
That’s when I saw Arundathi’s beautiful bread for BBD and thought I would knead the tomato paste into the dough and roll both the plain and tomato dough to get a nice contrasting coloured swirl.

Here is the recipe I put together. I have used half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour for the plain dough. I have used only all-purpose flour for the tomato dough as I felt the tomato paste might make the bread a bit dense and did not want to add to this by using whole wheat flour.


Ingredients:


For the Tomato Paste:

1 big onion, chopped

3 medium tomatoes, deseeded and chopped

1 tsp garlic paste

2 tbsp tomato ketchup

1 tsp chilli powder

1 ½ tsp garam masala

1 ½ tsp mixed dried Italian herbs

1 ½ tbsp oil

salt to taste


For the plain dough:

½ cup warm water

1 tbsp honey

1 ¼ tsp active dry yeast

1 ¼ all purpose flour

1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour

1 tbsp oil

¾ tsp salt


For the tomato dough:

½ cup warm water

1 tbsp honey

1 ¼ tsp active dry yeast

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

¾ cup tomato paste

½ tbsp oil

¾ tsp salt (remember there is salt in the tomato paste)


Method:

For the tomato paste:

Puree the tomatoes and onions together.
Heat the oil, add the garlic paste and the onion-tomato puree. Saute well, and then add the tomato ketchup, chilli powder and salt. Cook over medium heat till all the water has evaporated and the tomato paste is thick. Add the garam masla and herbs and cook for another couple of minutes.

Take off the heat and cool completely. This paste can me made a couple of days ahead and refrigerated. Bring back to room temperature before use.
This recipe gave me the ¾ cup tomato paste required for the tomato dough.


For the plain dough:

Mix the honey in the warm water and add the yeast. Stir till it dissolves and keep aside to prove.
Put yeast mixture and all the other ingredients in the food processor (you may knead by hand if you prefer), adding just enough water to knead into a soft and elastic dough that is just short of sticky.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, cover and allow to rise till double in size.


For the tomato dough:

Knead the dough as for the plain dough, using the tomato paste to knead the dough. You will not need water for this dough. Should you feel the need, sprinkle the water a little at a time. The dough should be soft but not sticky.

Allow this dough to also double in size.


To make the bread:

Gently deflate the plain dough. Using oiled hands, gently roll out the dough into a rectangle about ¼” thick. Similarly roll out the tomato dough into a rectangle of the same size. Gently lift the tomato dough rectangle and place exactly over the plain dough rectangle.

Now, from the shorter side of the rectangle, roll both the dough tightly together like you would roll a jelly/ swiss roll. Seal the roll and neaten the sides.

Place in greased loaf tin(s), or on a tray dusted with cornmeal or semolina, cover and allow to rise for about 20 to 30 minutes. Brush with water and bake at 190C for about 30 minutes till the bread is done and sounds hollow when tapped.
Cool on a rack. Slice and serve. This bread makes very nice sandwiches.

This recipe makes one big loaf or two small loaves.
This bread is my submission for BBD #14 and goes to Susan of Wild Yeast for YeastSpotting.


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November 13, 2008

Flaky Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls


Deeba of Passionate About Baking tagged me, last week, to bake bread for The Worldwide Blogger Bake-Off Challenge. I enjoy baking bread and if I can help someone somewhere by baking bread, why not?
And my contribution to baking bread are these flaky whole wheat dinner rolls.

Breadline Africa is a charity based in South Africa works towards ending poverty in Africa by helping communities achieve long-term self-sustainability.
Breadline Africa was founded in 1993 by a group of community and social workers in South Africa and like-minded colleagues in Europe. Together they have raised funds in Europe and identified small, ground-level projects in Africa that are most likely to succeed with a financial boost.




On Blog Action Day, Breadline Africa launched their Worldwide Blogger Bake-Off campaign. The aim is to raise $1 million in funds for a project to convert shipping containers into locations for food production and distribution in Africa. It is hoped that these sustainable community kitchens will not only provide food such as bread and soup to those in need, but also opportunities for skills development within poor communities.

If you would like to join The Blogger Bake-Off, details can be found at their site. These are some of the ways in which you could be a part of the campaign.

Bloggers who would like to bake for this cause may use the widget on their blogs and tag 5 other bloggers to Bake Bread, Give Dough and Feed Africa.
I would like to invite the following bloggers and hope that they join us to bake some bread.

Shibani of Pearlsofeast

Arundathi of My Food Blog

Manuela of Baking History

Jude of Apple Pie, Patis and Pate

Ivy of Kopiaste


When Sandra of Le Petrin sent in these Flaky Rolls for Bread Baking Day #12 (which I had guest hosted) I knew I was definitely going to try them out. She promised that these rolls had the texture of croissants without the fat or sweetness and that was all the encouragement for me to make them. Sandra used this recipe from MyRecipes.com and that’s the recipe I also used.


I experimented with a few minor changes. I have made these rolls using all purpose flour, half and half of all purpose and whole wheat flours and only whole wheat flour. All three versions turned out good. So what you would like to use would be according to your preferences.

I have also used this recipe to make croissant shaped rolls. The rolls in the picture were made using half and half of all purpose and whole wheat flours.




Just follow the method given below. Instead of the rolling the dough rectangle, cut the dough into 10 triangles. Roll each triangle from the longest side towards the point opposite it. Bend the ends of the rolled triangles slightly to resemble a croissant, if you wish. Brush with oil, cover and allow the croissants to rise for about 30 to 45 minutes. Bake as for the rolls.
These are absolutely delicious. I served them with Sopa de Feijao Branca e Legumes. You can see the roll in the picture below.




Here is my recipe adapted from here. I would recommend that you go through the original recipe before trying my version.



Ingredients:


2 tbsp honey (or sugar)

2 ¼ tsp dry active yeast

1 cup warm milk

3 cups whole wheat flour

¾ tsp salt

2 tbsp butter, softened

oil for brushing rolls



Method:


Dissolve the honey and yeast in warm milk. Keep aside to prove.
Measure out 2 ¾ cups of flour by lightly spooning into the cup and leveling with a knife. Put this flour, salt and the yeast-milk mixture into the food processor bowl. Process till a sticky dough forms. You can do this by hand if you prefer.
Put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, adding as much of the remaining flour as necessary, till the dough is smooth and elastic. The dough should be slightly sticky. Cover the dough and aloe to rest for 10 minutes.

Roll the dough into a 12” by 10” rectangle, lightly dusting with flour to prevent the dough from sticking. Now spread the softened butter over the rectangle. Starting from the long side, fold one third of the dough over the butter. Fold one third from the opposite side to have a folded rectangle which is 12” by 3”. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 10 to 20 minutes.

Take the dough out of the freezer and roll the dough out again into a 12” by 10” rectangle, using a little four if necessary. Folding from the long side, fold again as explained above. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 10 to 20 minutes.

Remove from the freezer and roll the dough, using a little flour if needed, into a 12” by 8” rectangle. Starting with the long side, roll the dough (as for a jelly/ swiss roll) and pinch at the seam. Do not seal the ends of the roll.

Cut the roll into 12 equal pieces and place each in a greased muffin cup, cut sides up. Brush the tops of the rolls with oil, cover, and allow them to rise until almost double in size (about 30 to 45 minutes).

Bake at 190C for 20 to 25 minutes, till golden brown. Remove from the pans and cool slightly on a rack. These rolls are truly flaky and soft and best eaten when warm. If serving later, warm the rolls before serving.

These dinner rolls also go to Susan of Wild Yeast for Yeastspotting.
Mansi of Fun & Food Cafe thinks these rolls are just the thing for her Vegetarian Thanksgiving Carnival and I'm not arguing with her. So these go across to her, too.


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November 10, 2008

Making Rice (And Hay) While The Sun Shines!


In Goa, the monsoons finally come to an end in the month of September/ October. This year, it was mid-October when we experienced the last rains. With the rains gone and the sun out, this is the season for harvesting rice.
Harvesting rice is still done in Goa (and most other parts of India) in the traditional way and this is highly labour intensive. Very little mechanical means are involved in harvesting.

The rice is cut using sickles and the rice stalks are then either threshed (to separate the grain from the stalks) by using a wooden pole to beat the rice stalks or by beating the stalks against the ground (or a hard surface) to loosen the grain. This has to be done properly, or the grain could break resulting in broken rice and inferior quality of grain.

After this, the stalks are shaken well, to dislodge the grain. The grain-free stalks are left on the sides of the fields and roads to dry out into hay.
The grain (called paddy) is then sun-dried so that it can be de-husked later. Paddy is taken away to have the outer husk removed after which it is used as brown rice, or polished to produce white rice or else processed to produce par-boiled or boiled varieties of rice.

People working on the fields or fishing are everyday sights if you live in Goa. We are lucky to see a lot of this on our regular drives to work, into town and to the railway station or airport even though we live on the outskirts of Panaji, the capital of Goa.

I took these pictures (one of the rare occasions when I had my camera in the car) on my way back from Margao, one Sunday morning in October. Margao is 37km from Panaji (also known as Panjim), and like most roads in Goa, this road also snakes its way through some beautiful countryside.


Threshing on a small field on the side of the highway.


Beating the hell out of the grass?

Some part of this road is flanked on both sides by agricultural land and during the harvesting season, the roadside is the scene of harvesting activities. During this time, even the sides of the major highways become threshing grounds for grain, even as the traffic whizzes by! Some of the less busy roads are often used to sun-dry the grain!! At these times it is harvesting activites which get precedence over traffic on the roads.


Threshing on the side of the highway!


On this sunday, this highway was shared by the harvesters and the traffic alike.



Separating the grain from the chaff.


Motorists, Beware!!

I came across Francis on the Velha – Curca stretch (home stretch) of my drive, that same day. Francis is a “render” (toddy tapper) and was pouring out the coconut toddy he had just collected, into a plastic jerry-can.
Toddy is obtained from young flowers of the coconut tree. This sweet sap contains yeast. On fermenting, the sap is converted to an alcoholic drink. Coconut vinegar is also made from toddy. The famous coconut feni of Goa is made by distilling coconut toddy.


Francis and his jerry-can of coconut toddy.


Pouring the stuff in!


Photo session over, riding his cycle away.


Francis (which he told me was his name) didn’t know English and I managed to communicate using sign language and some broken Konkani to ask if I could take some pictures. I think he understood because he was kind enough to pose for my camera. After which he got onto his cycle and rode away, probably wondering about the strange woman, who obviously wasn’t Goan yet not a tourist (you can recognize this species of the human being very easily in Goa), who was wandering about with a camera!

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November 9, 2008

…. And Butterscotch Brownies/ Blondies!


In my previous post, I did say it would be natural for anyone who likes chocolate to like chocolate brownies. Well, my daughter likes chocolate but actually likes something better than brownies.
Butterscotch Brownies/ Blondies! The magic word in these set of words is the “butterscotch”. For a long time, every time we went out for ice-cream she would ask for only one of two flavours - vanilla or butterscotch.



So whenever I make brownies (and sometimes when I don’t), I have to make these blondies for her. And she likes them better without the walnuts. If you are like her, feel free to leave out the walnuts in this recipe.
This recipe is from the book Cookies Step-By-Step Techniques published by Sunset.


Ingredients:


4 tbsp butter (I use salted butter)

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

(use a little less if you do not want your blondies very sweet)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt (if using unsalted butter)

¼ cup chopped walnuts


Method:


Melt the butter over medium heat.
Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Add the egg, vanilla extract, and beat, by hand, till well mixed. Fold in the flour, baking powder, salt (if using) and walnuts.

Pour the batter into a greased 8” square tin and smoothen the top. Bake at 190C for 20 to 25 minutes till golden and done. Cool in the tin, remove and cut into squares.
As previously mentioned, I have a 6” square tin, so my blondies are a bit thicker and I get 16 squares with this recipe.


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November 7, 2008

Chocolate Brownies …………


Any one who enjoys chocolate is bound to love chocolate brownies, and I am no exception. I cannot resist the moist, slightly chewy and fudgy texture of brownies and more so because they are not too sweet.
So when I know I have to say no to chocolate (this is very difficult to do) and still wouldn’t mind a piece or two of some brownies, I make them using cocoa. These brownies have a lovely chocolatey taste that only cocoa powder can lend and I feel happy that I’m keeping away from the chocolate.
Yeah, I know. Just who am I fooling?




This recipe uses cocoa powder and the brownies have a slightly cake-ish texture probably because of this. On baking, these brownies have a nice cracked and crisp top which hides a soft, slightly chewy interior. I like these as much as I like those made with the chocolate.




As always, brownies are easy to make. The batter for brownies is best mixed by hand as this gives the finished brownie its nice and dense texture. In case you are wondering why the brownies don't look the same in the above photographs, they were two separte batches baked on different days ( one with regular cocoa and the other with dark cocoa).
Chocolate Brownies


Ingredients:


3/4 cup salted butter

4tbsp cocoa powder

2 eggs

1 cup light brown sugar (or white sugar)

1 cup sifted all purpose flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

a pinch of baking powder

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 tbsp powdered sugar (optional)



Method:


Beat the eggs and sugar lightly with a wooden spoon, until well mixed.
Put the butter and cocoa powder in a heat proof bowl and mix, over a pan of boiling water, till the butter and cocoa becomes a smooth paste. Remove from heat. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Add the cocoa-butter paste to the egg-sugar mixture and mix lightly. Now add the flour, baking powder, vanilla and chopped nuts. Fold lightly till everything is well mixed.

Pour the batter into a greased and lined 8” square tin. Bake at 190 for 20 to 30 minutes till the brownie is done. Allow to cool a bit, remove from the tin and finish cooling on a rack.
Cut and dust with powdered sugar if you prefer.

I have a 6” square tin which is what I use to make my brownies so they are little thicker than they should be. This recipe gives me 16 brownies.


Occasionally, I pour this batter into cupcake liners and bake them as cupcakes. This makes it much easier to pack and carry especially to give out as gifts.

I’m sending these brownies to DK of Culinary Bazaar for AWED: American.
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November 4, 2008

Meeting Two Friends & White Chocolate Chip And Pistachio Cookies


The past two weeks have been interesting in more ways than one. Akshaya gets a three week vacation from school for Diwali, so she and I (my husband couldn’t take time off from work, unfortunately) decided to put some part of it to good use by taking a short trip to Chennai (formerly Madras) with an overnight stop over at Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) on our way back. We haven't been able to figure out why politicians have a thing for changing names of places in India, every now and then, but that’s another story.

We spent time at Madras attending to some matters, visiting family and doing a bit of shopping. Akshaya was a bit disappointed with being unable to shop as she wanted, but the rains in Madras put a spoke in her plans. A small amount of rain (by our standards as we’re normally used to 3 to 4 months of heavy monsoons) and Madras roads get flooded!

One of the high points of this trip was meeting up with Rachel of Tangerine’s Kitchen and Sra of When My Soup Came Alive. I got to know both of them some time back through our blogs and it’s been very nice talking to them both.
A lot of fine-tuning of our schedules finally ended in our meeting in the middle of my shopping! Rachel brought her little daughter (who has the sweetest smile) along. We couldn’t spend too much time as she had guests at home.
Sra treated us (my niece, daughter and me) to a Mexican lunch at the mall and we spent the time talking about many things, including all things food and blogging (naturally). It was nice to finally be able to put a face (ok, two faces) to friends I’d made but never seen.
Both Rachel and Sra gifted us some “Chocolate”. Sra, I shall definitely move from visually treating myself to doing something about this. And Rachel, I know that was meant for Akshaya but I couldn’t resist the temptation.

Once at Bangalore, Akshaya came down with viral fever which I promptly caught on returning to Goa. It’s been a week of fever and misery but we’re over the worst of it. A bit tired after the slightest exertion, but getting better everyday.




I’ll leave you with these cookies I made before our trip. I remembered the lovely green of the pistachios in the Biscotti that Rachel and I made (you can see them on the right side column of my blog) so I thought I’d make cookies with them. And I had some white chocolate chips on hand which I added to the cookie dough.

White chocolate and pistachios definitely pair well. I used the Eggless Cornflakes Cookies recipe, left out the cornflakes but added the nuts and chips.
These cookies are good, with a chewy texture and a bit of crunch.


Ingredients:


¾ cup salted butter, softened

1 ½ cup sugar

2 cup all purpose flour

1½ tsp baking powder

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

¾ cup white chocolate chips

½ cup chopped pistachios



Method:


Cream the sugar and butter together. I usually leave the sugar still granular as I like the texture this gives my cookies.
Add the remaining ingredients and mix using a wooden spoon till well incorporated. Pinch off small bits of the dough, roll into rounds and flatten slightly.
Place on a greased cookie sheet, leaving enough space in between as these cookies spread as they bake. I could make 7 cookies on each of my 9” round cookie trays.

Bake them at 180C for about 20 minutes till they turn light brown. Leave them on the tray for about2 to 3 minutes before removing and cooling on racks. The cookies are very soft when they come out of the oven and will break if removed immediately. They harden on cooling.
Enjoy. This recipe makes 25 to 30 cookies depending on how big you make them.


Its been raining awards again. I think it’s a nice way for my blog to celebrate being a year old.

I would also like to thank Yasmeen of Health Nut and Divya of Divyazeasyrecipes for both giving me a Chocoholic Award. I have to say this one certainly describes me.

Priya of Priya’s Easy N Tasty Recipes has also passed on Hard Working Food Blogger Award to me. I appreciate this and I have to say food is enjoyable hard work.

Padmajha (PJ) of Seduce Your Taste Buds has also passed on a Butterfly Award for the coolest blog. Thank you.


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