December 31, 2008

Wishing All A Happy And Prosperous 2009


The last day of this year is here. As someone said, “Here's to the bright New Year, and a fond farewell to the old; here's to the things that are yet to come, and to the memories that we hold.”

In our home, New Year’s Eve is usually a quiet affair. Sometimes we share it with family or friends. This year it’s just the three of us. We shall watch the colourful fireworks lighting up the dark sky, have a warm dinner and then some dessert while enjoying the cool breeze blowing in through our balcony from across the river.

Thinking of you all, wishing you happiness, peace and prosperity. See you in 2009!




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December 28, 2008

Like Chocolate? Then “Yule” Love This! A French Yule Log: Daring Bakers Challenge December 2008


Christmas is over and the New Year is peeking out from around the corner. In keeping with the spirit of the season, Hilda of Saffron and Blueberry and Marion of Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux (our Daring Baker hosts this month) chose to set us the challenge of creating a French Yule Log/ Cake.
The recipe was by Flore from Florilege Gourmand. The detailed and complete recipe can be found at Hilda’s blog.

This again was another of those desserts I’d never heard of! And then I saw the recipe and the first thought that came to my mind was “I can’t do something this complicated; I can’t even make sense of the recipe”!!
Not a very Daring Baker like thought, I know. I gave myself about 4 or 5 days to calm down and gather my courage to read the recipe again.
That’s when I realized that this log/ cake was about smaller easy to make individual elements which were then assembled into one finished fantastic looking dessert. That’s when I decided I was upto the challenge.




Before I go further, for those who are unaware of this, I just want to mention that within the Daring Baker group, there exists a smaller group called the Alternative Daring Bakers. They are “alternative” because of their dietary preferences and includes people who are vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, to mention a few. I am also part of this group, being a vegetarian, but do not face too much difficulty as a Daring Baker because we do eat eggs occasionally.

But can you imagine trying to bake without eggs, or regular flour or milk products as many of them do? Let me tell you its not very easy baking with alternatives while trying to achieve the taste and texture of foods baked according to the original recipes. Yet they do it every time with amazing results.

This month, I decided to bake as many of the elements as I could without eggs and it was also the first time I was using agar agar and fellow alternative bakers came to my rescue. A special thanks to VeganPower of VG-Zone and Shellyfish of Musings from the Fishbowl who helped me with recipes and suggestions.


My Log/ Cake Making Experience:

We were required to make the six specified elements and we were provided with the recipes and some variations for each element. This was compulsory but we had the freedom to choose our flavours and the shape of the log/ cakes and our presentation of this dessert.
I chose to make a round cake because my 6” cake tin was the only thing I had that was suitable for this cake.


Element 1: Dacquoise Bicuit

I followed the given recipe, making my own almond meal, and had no problems here. Having made a similar cake for the Opera Cake in a previous challenge helped.

There was enough batter to make two 8” layers. Unfortunately, while I was removing one of these from the tin, it tore so we ate this one and I used only one layer in my final cake.


Element 2: Eggless Vanilla Mousse

I decided to make an eggless mousse using agar agar. I used a recipe that I adapted from Tarla Dalal’s Eggless Chocolate Mousse. The mousse was lovely, though I thought it might be too soft to carry the weight of the individual elements. So I froze the mousse for a couple of hours so that it was still easy to spread yet solid enough to take the weight of the other elements.

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups milk (I used 3% fat)

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)

1 vanilla bean

10 tsp granulated sugar

12 tsp agar pieces/ flakes

3 tsp vanilla flavoured custard powder (I used corn starch)

200gm fresh cream (I used 25% fat)

3 tbsp powdered sugar

Method:

Soak the agar pieces/ flakes in ¾ cup of cold water for an hour.
Cook this on low heat, stirring frequently, till the agar dissolves.
(If this cools, it will become a jelly).

Set aside ½ cup of milk. Split the vanilla bean, scrape the inside with a knife and add to the 2 cups of milk. Add the granulated sugar to the milk, stir and bring to a boil. Also add the cocoa powder here if you are using it.
(I added cocoa powder because I did not want a pure white colour to my mousse. The cocoa gave my mousse a slightly off white colour without the chocolate taste which I felt would work well with the other flavours in the log.)

While the milk mixture is coming to a boil, in another pan put the custard powder/ corn starch and add the ½ cup of milk that was set aside. Mix well to dissolve and and cook over medium heat stirring constantly. The mixture will start thickening very quickly. At this point add the milk-sugar-vanilla mixture and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly.

Now add the cooked agar mixture. If the agar has jelled, just mash it and add to the above custard and whisk. The agar will redissolve on heating.
Cook, while stirring constantly, for about two minutes. Strain this mixture and allow it to cool, stirring it occasionally.

Beat the cream with powdered sugar till stiff. Add the cooled and strained custard from above. Mix gently till well blended. Allow to set and then chill.


Element 3: Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert

I followed the given recipe but used cream with 25% fat and salted butter.


Element 4: Coconut Crisp Insert

I made this layer using the provided recipe and Kellogs Special K for the crispiness/ crunch.
While it came out alright, I found it pretty hard once it froze and difficult to cut through.


Element 5: Orange and Cardamom Brulée Insert

I decided to go eggless here and used a recipe provided by Shellyfish of Musings from a Fishbowl. I substituted the water with unsweetened orange juice and also added 2 tbsp of orange marmalade. I also used 1½ tsp of powdered cardamom instead of vanilla.
Here’s the recipe, a Pastry Cream/ Custard recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Ingredients:

65g granulated sugar (1/3c)

16g unbleached AP flour (2 tablespoons)

32g cornstartch (4 tablespoons)

60ml water (1/4c)

315ml nondairy milk (I've used soy & it works well) (1 1/3c)

2 teaspoons lemon or vanilla extract

Method:

Beat together sugar, flour, cornstarch & water on high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

Bring milk to a simmer, pour about 80ml (1/3cup) of hot milk into the sugar mixture and stir to combine. Add the mixture back to the saucepan with the milk. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat while whisking constantly. It will begin to thicken immediately.

Scrape the bottom and sides of pan as you whisk. Cook until it begins to bubble, then whisk (as vigorously as you can) for 30 seconds, and remove from heat. Stir in the extracts.
This can be stored in the fridge for upto 3 days.

Element 6: Milk Chocolate Icing

I went with the given recipe using agar agar instead of gelatine.


Assembling the Cake:

I made my cake over 3 days. The first day I made the Crème Brulée and the Coconut Crisp Insert. The next day I made the Eggless vanilla Mousse, the Dacquoise Biscuit and the Dark Chocolate Ganache. I assembled the cake the same day and then covered the cake with Milk Chocolate Icing on the third day.

I first of all lined my 6” round cake tin (I didn’t have a spring form tin this size) with cling film. I then cut out a round, the size of the bottom of the cake tin, out of acetate sheet and placed it at the bottom. Then I cut a long strip of acetate 4” high and used it to line the side of the cake tin. This made it easy for me to unmould my cake and the acetate gave my cake a very smooth finish.




I also made and froze my layers a little larger than 6” so I trimmed it to fit into the cake tin. I also chilled my mousse for 3 hours to make it a bit stronger for layering. And I layered my cake as follows:

Mousse

Orange and Cardamom Brulée Insert

Mousse

Coconut Crisp Insert

Mousse

Dacquoise Biscuit

The cake was frozen and then covered later. This cake stays well frozen, as that’s how it took to finish off the cake. I found that it very easily serves 10 for dessert.


Verdict:

I can say I’m glad I decided to make this as it was an experience for me. I found the Crisp Insert a bit hard after freezing. Many fellow DBs had similar experiences and suggested breaking up the layer and sprinkling it on. I saw this suggestion only after I had made my cake but this would be a good idea.

My cake turned out to be 3” tall. If I had used a slightly larger cake tin, I would have had a shorter cake, which would have looked nicer.




As a dessert, it was a new experience for us. I served it at dinner with friends and we all enjoyed it thoroughly. The different flavours and textures in this cake blend really well. This is perfect for a special occasion and has what my daughter calls the “Wow” factor (people eat this and say wow!).

We are not used to eating such heavy and rich desserts, but I might just make this as a smaller dessert.

Now, I say this every time because it is the truth. The other Daring Bakers have made some very beautifully decorated Yule Logs and if you don’t take a look at them, you’re definitely missing something.

Also featured on Chefs.com



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Baking Powder Biscuits


For this month at “This Book Makes Me Cook”, the chosen book was Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
This book is about a little orphan girl caked Anne (which she insists is spelt with an “e” as it is much more elegant) who arrives at the house of Mathew and Marilla Cuthbert in place of the boy they wanted to adopt. The Cuthberts, despite the confusion, decide to give her home. The rest of this delightful book is about how Anne finds “scope for imagination” in everything in life making it brighter for herself and everyone around her.

In Chapter 16, the Cuthberts invite the new minister and his wife to tea and naturally food features, as can be seen in the excerpt below.
Monday and Tuesday great preparations went on at Green Gables. Having the minister and his wife to tea was a serious and important undertaking, and Marilla was determined not to be eclipsed by any of the Avonlea housekeepers. Anne was wild with excitement and delight. She talked it all over with Diana Tuesday night in the twilight, as they sat on the big red stones by the Dryad's Bubble and made rainbows in the water with little twigs dipped in fir balsam.


"Everything is ready, Diana, except my cake which I'm to make in the morning, and the baking-powder biscuits which Marilla will make just before teatime. I assure you, Diana, that Marilla and I have had a busy two days of it. It's such a responsibility having a minister's family to tea. I never went through such an experience before. You should just see our pantry. It's a sight to behold. We're going to have jellied chicken and cold tongue. We're to have two kinds of jelly, red and yellow, and whipped cream and lemon pie, and cherry pie, and three kinds of cookies, and fruit cake, and Marilla's famous yellow plum preserves that she keeps especially for ministers, and pound cake and layer cake, and biscuits as aforesaid; and new bread and old both, in case the minister is dyspeptic and can't eat new. Mrs. Lynde says ministers are dyspeptic, but I don't think Mr. Allan has been a minister long enough for it to have had a bad effect on him. I just grow cold when I think of my layer cake. Oh, Diana, what if it shouldn't be good! I dreamed last night that I was chased all around by a fearful goblin with a big layer cake for a head."

Having baked mostly sweet stuff this month, I picked something savoury for a change with baking-powder biscuits.




In India, a biscuit is what is called a cookie in America. When I was growing up, cookies were something that usually figured in my story books which American children had with milk! Much has changed since then and for the urban younger generation here, it’s all about cookies these days. Of course, we still have biscuits on our store shelves.

It was only much later that I came to know that biscuits were eaten in America, as a side dish to mop up gravy or at breakfast with butter and jam. These biscuits, more like scones, are small quick breads made with baking powder or baking soda instead of yeast.

Most recipes use butter (or lard, traditionally), but I decided to try making these biscuits with oil instead. I made half my biscuits plain and flavoured the other half with cheese, herbs and crushed black pepper. This recipe makes very light and flaky biscuits that are crisp on the outside. These biscuits are best eaten the same day.


Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

¼ cup grated cheddar cheese (optional)

1 ½ tsp mixed dried herbs (optional)

1 ½ tsp crushed black pepper

1/3 cup oil (I used sunflower + rice bran blend)

1 cup milk, chilled


Method:


Keep the oil in the freezer for about 2 hours till it becomes very thick and viscous.
In a bowl, put the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and dried herbs, if using. Mix everything till blended.

Add the chilled oil and mix, very lightly with fingers, till the flour resembles largish bread crumbs. Add the milk and grated cheese (if using) and again, mix very lightly with fingers or a fork. Gather the dough into a ball with both hands. Do not knead the dough.
If the dough doesn’t feel very cold, refrigerate it for about 15 minutes before proceeding further.

Using lightly floured hands, lightly press out the dough into a disc and roll out to ¾“ thickness. Cut into rounds or any shape using cookie cutters or into squares with a knife.

Place on a baking tray and bake at 220C for 15 to 20 minutes till the tops are golden brown.
Take them out and brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter. This recipe makes twelve 3” round biscuits or 24 small cookie sized ones).
Serve warm with jam for breakfast or tea.


Notes:

It is important to ensure that the milk and oil are chilled properly as you would do for making pie crusts.

It is equally important to handle the dough as little as possible as the warmth will cause the oil (or butter if you use it) to melt and affect the texture of the biscuit.

While rolling out the dough, do not be tempted to use more flour than the absolute minimum necessary. Adding more flour will make the biscuits heavy/ dense in texture.

It is important to use a cutter with very sharp edges, or the sides of the biscuits will get pressed down and will not rise on baking.

Place the cut out biscuits quite close together to ensure that they do not spread outwards much, but rise upwards if you want taller biscuits. Also ensure that your baking powder is active.

Usually the biscuits are brushed with an egg wash before baking, as this ensures a beautifully browned and shiny top. You may brush them with milk instead. I didn’t do either here.


Do go over to Bhags, Dee, Harini, Rachel, Simran, Siri, Srimathi and Sweatha to see where their "scope for imagination" led them.


Also featured at Chefs.com


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December 24, 2008

Kugelhopf


Kugelhopf (also called Kugelhupf, Gugelhupf) is a sweet and light bread with a cake-like texture. It also contains raisins and almonds and is somewhat like a brioche though not as rich. Some people refer to it as a yeasted cake, but I feel that this is definitely a bread even though it has a cake like texture.

The Kugelhopf is supposed to have its origins in Austria or the Alsace region of France though Germany, Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina also make variations of the Kugelhopf.




There are special pans for making Kugelhopf which resemble bundt pans, except that they are deeper and fluted making the baked Kugelhopf look like a turban with intricate folds. These pans are also sometimes known as a Turk’s-head mould and some even have depressions in the bottom which can be filled with almonds.

In fact, one story suggests that this bread originated in Vienna where bakers made it to celebrate the Hapsburg forces defeated Turk invaders at the city gates!
There is also a story that Marie Antoinette brought it from Austria when she married Louis XVI of France.
While the origins of the Kugelhopf are still under dispute, there can be no doubt that this bread is absolutely wonderful. At least we definitely think so.
While I don’t have a fluted pan, I do have a bundt pan and that’s what I used to make my Kugelhopf. The recipe I used was the one at David Lebovitz’s site. He made his “Kugelhof “ using Nick Malgieri’s “Gugelhof” from his book, A Baker’s Tour.

Many recipes for Kugelhopf suggest lining the fluted/ bundt pan with sliced almonds before putting the dough in it. They also suggest dusting powdered sugar over the baked bread before serving.
This recipe calls for chopped almonds in the dough and brushing a sugar glaze on the baked bread.
The recipe below is my adaptation of the one on David Lebovitz’s site.


Ingredients:

For the sponge:


½ cup warm milk

2 ½ tsp active dry yeast

¾ cup all purpose flour


For the dough:


½ cup golden raisins

2 tbsp unsweetened orange juice

3 tbsp salted butter, at room temperature

3 tbsp sunflower oil

3 tbsp sugar

2 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg yolk

1 ¼ cup all purpose flour

¼ cup toasted, blanched and chopped almonds


For the glaze:


¼ cup sugar

½ cup unsweetened orange juice

2 tbsp ground almonds



Method:


Soak the raisins in the orange juice and keep aside.
Mix the ingredients for the sponge and all let it rise till bubbly (in about 20 minutes).

Beat the butter and sugar, for about 3 minutes, till fluffy. Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla and then the egg yolk. Scrape down the sides and beat for another minute.

I don’t have a stand mixer so I used my hand-held one. At this point I changed to the dough hooks.

Drain the raisins and add the orange juice. Add the sponge and mix well. Then add in the flour and mix well for 2 minutes on low speed. Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes.
Now beat on medium speed for another 2 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Add the raisins and chopped almonds and beat till well mixed. The dough will be very sticky.

Scrape the dough out into a buttered bowl and turn the dough so it is completely covered in butter. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise till it has just started puffing up (about 20 minutes).

Scrape the dough out into a well buttered 6 to 8 cup bundt pan (or kugelhopf mould, if you have one), cover and allow it to rise till double.

Bake at 190C for about 35 to 45 minutes (mine was done in 35 minutes) till well risen and deep golden in colour. Remove from the oven and unmould after 10 minutes.
Cool completely on a rack.

To make the glaze, Place the sugar and orange juice over medium heat. Stir and take of the heat once the sugar has dissolved. Add the powdered almonds. Mix and then brush liberally all over the Kugelhopf.
Slice and serve. We had ours with coffee.

I understand that Kugelhopf is baked for Christmas while David Lebovitz baked his for Thanksgiving.

This is my submission for Zorra’s Bread Baking Day whose 15th edition is being hosted this month by Annarasa with the theme “Festive Breads”.

My Kugelhopf also goes for YeastSpotting to Susan’s Wild Yeast.





My best wishes to all my readers and well-wishers for the festive season. Happy Holidays!


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December 22, 2008

Pfeffernüsse or Pepper-Nut Cookies


I have been baking up a mini-storm of cookies over the past week mainly for gifting. After so much of sugar laden baking, I was just looking for something different to bake when I came across Pfeffernüsse which translates to Pepper-Nut cookies in English.

Reading up on this cookie tells me that it finds a presence as traditional Christmas fare in many European countries and also the U.S. I understand they are called Pfeffernüsse in Germany (though they are Eweißgebäck in South Germany), Pebernødder in Denmark, Pepperkakkor in Norway, Pepparnotter in Sweden and Pipparkukas in Latvia.




I also discovered a whole lot of recipes for this spiced cookie, using a variety of spices and sweetening agents, with some variations calling for the cookies to be rolled in powdered sugar after baking. These cookies mostly seem round, dark in colour and a bit on the harder side, though I saw some flattish ones too.
One thing that all the recipes I saw had in common was a variety of spices and black pepper, though a couple of them used white pepper.

Now I have no idea as to which would be an authentic version as I have never seen, heard of, or eaten these cookies till I made them. I do feel that since these are spice cookies, the original recipe would have been about highlighting them rather than camouflaging these flavours under others.

So I used a recipe for Swedish Peppernut Cookies I found at Kat’s blog, A Good Appetite. I made a few changes to the original recipe. I used honey instead of corn syrup, almonds instead of filberts/ hazelnuts and substituted the egg with flaxseed. I also halved the recipe and increased the amount of black pepper and other spices.

If you have never had this cookie before (like me), the number of spices in it would perhaps make you wonder how the cookie would turn out. Let me assure you that the spices blend very well in this cookie and the black pepper is a hardly noticeable taste. Here is my adaptation of Kat’s recipe which was adapted from Woman’s Day, Dec 1971.


Ingredients:


½ cup butter, at room temperature (I used salted butter)

¼ cup + 2 tbsp sugar

1 ½ tsp honey

1 ½ tsp flax seed meal in 2 tbsp warm water (or ½ egg)

¾ tsp powdered cinnamon

¾ tsp powdered clove

¾ tsp powdered ginger

¾ tsp powdered cardamom

¾ tsp freshly crushed black pepper

1 tsp baking soda

1 ½ cups + 4 tbsp all purpose flour

some milk if the dough is too dry (optional)

blanched and halved almonds



Method:


Sift the flour and baking soda and keep aside.
Cream the butter with an electric mixer. Add the sugar and honey and beat till fluffy. Now add the flaxmeal + water/ egg and spices and mix well.

Add the sifted flour and mix till well belnded. I found the mixture a bit dry and was not able to bring it together as a dough. So I sprinkled a few tsps of milk to form a dough.

My method of shaping these cookies is slightly different from the original recipe.
Pinch off small pieces of dough, a little larger than a marble, and using both palms of your hands press the dough and roll each piece into a smooth ball. Flatten slightly and press a blanched almond half on top of it. Similarly shape the rest of the dough into cookies and place on a greased cookie sheet. They can be placed close together as they do not spread very much on baking.

Bake them at 180C for 15 to 18 minutes till they start looking golden. The under side of the cookies will be darker brown. Cool completely on a rack.

These cookies are a bit dry, lightly crunchy on the outside and softer on the inside. Letting them age for a 3 or 4 days improves the flavour of these cookies.
This recipe gave me 30 cookies.

These cookies go to Meeta’s Monthly Mingle where this month’s theme is the World of Spice Cookies.


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December 19, 2008

Some Salvaged Nutty Chocolate Fudgy Bars!


We don’t celebrate Christmas but as far back as I can remember, we have always had friends and neighbours who do. I remember, as a child, looking forward to the goodies that would be sent over from their houses. Wherever we have lived, apart from celebrating our religious festivals, we have also been a part of festivities in other religions, because of our friends and neighbours who celebrate them.

I still remember Akshaya waiting for Santa to visit and leave her presents and we didn’t have the heart to disappoint her and so played along. We had to convince her that Santa would come in through her bedroom window as we didn’t have a chimney. Apparently her books had stories where Santa always came down the chimney!!

She used to believe in the Tooth Fairy too. Then one day, I found her telling her younger cousin that there was no tooth fairy, but it was better to pretend to continue believing in so or else we would stop leaving money under her pillow in exchange for the tooth!!!

She’s grown up a bit since those days but loves to celebrate any festival/ occasion. And all such celebrations, as a Cliff Richard’s song puts it, are about “a time to rejoice in the good that we see”.




As for the title of this post, there’s a story behind it.
Yesterday was the last day of my daughter’s end term exams and beginning of her Christmas vacation. She wanted to take some home made gifts (food naturally) for her group of friends at school.

After a lot of discussion, Akshaya and I decided that I would bake some Candy Cane Cookies, Snowflake Cookies and make Marbled Chocolate Bark.

Despite the fact that the making the cookies took time and effort, they turned out perfect. But something as simple as chocolate bark (supposedly) just didn’t turn out right for me.
I really have no idea what went wrong but I just had this mass of chocolate full of raisins and nuts. I have melted chocolate so many times now, so I know that the chocolate didn’t seize.

I just didn’t have the heart to throw out such expensive stuff, so I decided to salvage it if I could. I added some butter and cream to the chocolate and stirred it in. Then I poured it out into a rectangular cake tin, allowed it to set and cut it into squares.

And it was a winner. I know, I know, how can anything that’s chocolate, nuts and cream be anything but a winner.
I also know that what came out of this salvaging operation cannot really be called fudge because I didn’t add any sugar to it. But I can’t think of a name for these squares and they are somewhat fudgy in consistency so……….

Here’s the recipe, just in case anyone is interested.



Ingredients:


2 ½ cups dark chocolate, chopped

2 cups white chocolate, chopped

½ cup chopped almonds

½ cup chopped roasted and slated cashewnuts

½ cup golden raisins

2 tbsp salted butter

100 ml cream (25% fat)



Method:


Put the dark and white chocolate in a glass bowl and melt over simmering water or in the microwave. Add the butter and cream and mix well till smooth. Add the raisins and nuts and mix well.

Pour the mixture into a buttered sheet cake tin (mine was 11” by 7”) and allow to set. Mark into squares and refrigerate, if necessary. Then cut into squares and wrap them individually.

In all the excitement that followed this effort, I forgot to count how many squares this recipe made, but I would say it was between 25 and 30.



The bag of goodies that I made for Akshaya’s friends is also my submission to Happy Cook’s Homemade Christmas Gifts. You can also see what other bloggers have been making to gift this Christmas Season at her blog.


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Candy Cane Cookies


I had seen these cookies quite some time back on a couple of blogs and I knew I just had to make them with Christmas round the corner. Out here where we live, candy canes are just not part of the Christmas culture so cookies resembling candy canes were very unusual to us. It is however one of the things we connect to the Christmas we see in magazines from abroad, and the many American food blogs and sites I come across. I knew my daughter was going to love them, and that was a good enough reason for me to get baking them.





As it turns out, candy canes are not a modern invention but go back over 350 years! Apparently, it all started some time around 1670 in the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. The story goes that the choirmaster there wanted some way to keep the children quiet during the extra long services at Christmas time. So he asked a local candy maker to make some sugar sticks but wanted them bent into a hook at one end to resemble a shepherd's staff, so the children might remember the shepherds who came visiting the infant Jesus. 

The original candy canes were all white, and the first historical reference to the candy canes in America is in 1847, when a German immigrant called August Imgard decorated his Christmas tree with them. It was only after 1900 candy canes started showing stripes and colours.





These cookies aren't very difficult to make. The two things that took me time was blending the colours I had on hand to get a reasonably dark red (which I didn't manage very well) and rolling out the dough and twisting them into canes. This is definitely not a cookie you want to make with a couple of other things going on. 

Please note that the original recipe no longer exists on the site linked to.
Candy Cane Cookies

(Adapted from All Things Catered)

Ingredients:


125gm salted butter

1 1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract (or peppermint extract)

3/4 tsp baking powder

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp red food colour



Method:


In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar well. Add the egg, milk, vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. Now add the baking powder and flour (sifted together first) and mix into a dough.

Divide the dough in half. Add the red food colour to one half and mix well. Wrap both balls of dough separately in cling film and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Divide each ball of dough into 1 tsp rounds.
Take one plain coloured dough round and place it on a clean work surface. Using your fingers, lightly roll it back and forth into a 4” long rope. Do the same with one red coloured dough round.
 
 
 

Do not use flour while doing this, otherwise the dough ropes will not stick together. If the dough starts feeling sticky while rolling, place the dough in the freezer for about 15 minutes and then work on it again.

Place one plain and one red coloured rope side by side, and twist together to form a double coloured rope. Place on a greased cookie sheet and curve the top of the rope to form the handle of the cane.

Repeat with the remaining dough and bake the cookies at 190C for about 12 minutes or till they set and look dry and the plain coloured part of the cookie starts looking pale golden.

Cool the cookies on the tray for 5 minutes and then remove them from the tray. Cool on racks and store in airtight containers.
I got 50 candy cane cookies with this recipe.
 

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Eggless Snowflake (or Star) Cookies


I saw these very pretty Snowflake Cookies at Shelby's blog, The Life And Loves Of Grumpy’s Honeybunch. I saw the pictures accompanying her post and knew I had to try my hand at making them. Doesn’t the name of that blog tempt you to go there and take a look? Do hop over and you’ll see lots more than snowflake cookies.

Now, I don’t have snowflake cookie cutters but that wasn’t stopping me. (They’re on my long, long list of things I’m going to ask Santa to bring me in the next few years!)

So I dug out my cookie cutters and the one closest to a snowflake was a star shaped one. I now have a 6 pointed star shaped cookie cutter (unlike my old 5 pointed one) though it looks nothing like a snowflake in shape but that's not a big deal as far as I'm concerned. If it comes to that, it doesn’t ever snow where I live and I haven’t seen snow either (this one’s on my “things I’m going to do some day” list).
So I went ahead and made some star shaped snowflake cookies!





These cookies are easy to make but icing and decorating them takes a lot of time to do. I made the cookies on an evening then iced them the next morning and did the final decorating in the evening. After drying overnight, they were ready for packing on the third day.

The cookies are fun to make with children helping to cut out the shapes, but it might be a better idea to perhaps give them a few of their own to decorate and do some by yourself if you're looking to create some nice looking ones.





I used Nicole’s recipe for Soft Cutout Christmas Cookies as I wanted my cookies to be soft because I don't particularly like the idea of crisp cookies topped by crunchy icing. Now these cookies are quite soft and cakey in texture and that provided a nice contrast for the layer of sugar icing on top.
I adapted the original recipe to make it egg-free so I left out the egg as I felt the cookie dough had enough fat and leavening agents in it. I also substituted buttermilk with milk and vinegar. I think this also made up for the absence of the egg.

For the icing, I used simple sugar or glace icing. It is eggless and when dry, it becomes shiny and hard and is perfect to pack for gifting. The consistency of the icing is very also very easy to adjust. For thicker icing, add more icing sugar and the icing can be thinned to required consistency by adding milk.





The amounts given below are not enough to ice all the cookies made with the above recipe. I made the icing with 1 cup of icing sugar at a time, first for flooding the cookies and then again for decorating the cookies. I still had cookies which I left plain.
You would need to judge how much icing you need depending on the size of your cookies and how you want to decorate them. This icing is so easy to make that it’s not a problem to make it in two or three batches.
Eggless Snowflake (or Star) Cookies

(Adapted from Baking Bites)



Ingredients:


For the Cookies:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk + 1 tbsp vinegar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)


For the Icing:



1 cup icing sugar

1/2 to 1 tbsp milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

1/4 tsp salt (optional)

food colouring



Method:


For the Cookies:

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and keep aside.
In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the milk and vingar mixture and beat well.
Add the sifted flour mixture and mix everything till well blended. Divide the dough into two portions, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.




Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface till ¼” thick. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter and place on a greased cookie sheet.
Gather the scraps, roll again and cut out more cookies. If the dough feels sticky refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Repeat with the other piece of refrigerated dough.

Bake the cookies at 190C for about 6 to 10 minutes till the edges are firm and the cookies are a pale brown. Cool on a rack.

For the Icing:

Put the icing sugar, salt and vanilla extract in a bowl. I find that little bit of salt balances out the cloying sweetness of icing sugar.

Add the milk, one tsp at a time, and mix well with a spoon till the icing is of the consistency you require. Add the food colour a drop at a time and mix to achieve the shade of colour you want.

For flooding the cookie ( that is covering the cookie with the base coat of icing) you will need a slightly thinner consistency.




I filled a ziplock bag with the icing for flooding my cookies. Cut a very small opening at the end of the bag and trace the outline of the cookie. Then press out a little icing inot the middle of the cookie and using the tip of the bag spread it to fill the outline so the cookie is covered with a layer of icing. Allow this layer to harden. It will take about 4 hours at least.

Once the base coat of icing is dry, fill another ziplock bag with the icing for decorating and cut off a very small piece from the tip. If the hole at the tip of the bag is bigger, you will get very thick lines of icing on your cookie. Decorate as you desire.

Allow another 4 hours for the icing to dry and harden. The cookies are now ready to be eaten or packed.


If you are planning to try this for the first time I would advise some reading up on how to decorate these cookies. I did. Hannah of BitterSweet shares some very good decorating advice on her blog.


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December 16, 2008

Sweet Celebrations: And The Book Goes To………



Yes, the judging has been done and one blogger is getting Asha Khatau’s Vegetarian Cuisines Of The World.
Before I get to that, I want to thank everyone who sent in entries, and their congratulations and best wishes. You all make me feel that I ought to continue blogging here, even on those days when the “blogger’s block” seems to take me over.


Who were the judges?
A very good friend of mine, my sister who lives half way across the world, my husband and our daughter. I know, it’s a bit of a “keeping it in the family” kind of judging but it would have been unfair to celebrate a year of my blog and not include the moving force (my better thirds) behind my starting this blog.

Before we get to who is getting the gift, it would be only fair to present the sweet dishes that all of you sent in to celebrate with me. As is my usual practice, I’m presenting all the 60 entries in no particular order.







Basundhi from Mahimaa of Indian Vegetarian Kitchen (Los Angeles, U.S.). This Indian sweet is made with Paneer (Indian soft cheese) and thickened milk and Mahimaa says she calls it heaven and it tastes out of this world!






Cranberry Bliss Bars from Diana of Dianasaur (Auburn, Washington, U.S.). Not too sweet, these cake like bar cookies combine chunky white chocolate and cranberries topped with icing.






A Pretty Darn Good Coconut Rice Pudding from Cynthia of Rustic Cooking (Sydney, Australia). Though she didn’t feel like eating dessert after a filling dinner, a suggestion of rice pudding with coconut cream and caramelized coconut sugar won her over.






Kalakhand from Vidya of Delectable Vegetarian Recipes (Tenessee, U.S.). She made it for her husband’s birthday and this sweet is actually made in the microwave.






Tachani Besan Laddu from Vidya of My Art And Recipes (Fremont, California). A favourite since her childhood, she made these as a part of festive fare for Diwali. This sweet laddu is made of semolina (rawa) and chickpea flour (besan).






Delicious Banana Appams from Sia of Monsoon Spice (UK). A talk on the phone with her mother and the festive season got her inaugurating the Appam pan she had brought back from her summer trip to India.






Sweet And Salty Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Laura of The Spiced Life (SW Ohio, U.S.). These thick, chewy , delicious cookies are not just penutty but topped with grey sea salt.






A Spiced Mango Bread from Divya Vikram of Dil Se… (Los Angeles, California, U.S.). A moist bread filled with the goodness of mango and raisins, this bread tastes even better the next day when the flavour of the spices really comes through.






Some Nutty Energy Power Balls - Healthy Laddu from Anudivya of …And A Little Bit More… (U.S.). Traditionally, laddus are full of sugar and ghee, but here she has come up with a much healthier version of this sweet.






An Upsidedown Chocolate Caramel Nut Cake from Shibani of Anyone Can Cook (China). She served this cake, which is chock full of nuts, for dessert after their weekend dinner.






Moongdal Halwa from Madhu of Ruchi (Alaska, U.S.). Made with split yellow moong lentils (dal), her version is lower in fat and sugar than traditional versions.






Cherries In My Pudding from Rachel of Tangerine’s Kitchen (India). In order to satisfy a craving for a rich, creamy and sweet pudding, she experimented with ingredients on hand making this light and delicate eggless dessert.






A Badam Cake from Mahimaa of Indian Vegetarian Kitchen (Los Angeles, U.S.). This fudge like traditional Indian sweet is made of milk and almonds and brings back memories of her first Diwali celebrations following her marriage.






A Caramel Apple Cake from Diana of Dianasaur (Auburn, Washington, U.S.). Made for last month’s Daring Baker challenge, she describes her cake as moist, sweet and gone in two days!






Some Panasa Thonalu from Srivalli of Cooking 4 All Seasons (India). A traditional sweet, this very attractively shaped confection is deep fried, and coated with a sugar syrup.






A Mixed Dal Payasam from EC of Simple Indian Food (India). This version of the well known Indian dessert is made with a mixture of dals (lentils) and rice in thickened sweet milk.








Eggless Cocoa Brownies from Bharti of Veggie Foodist (Illinois, U.S.). She has never made brownies till now because she loves them so much, she can’t resist them. When Bharti finally did make these she had them for lunch!






A Cuckoo’s Nest Chocolate Cake from Ivy of Kopiaste.. To Greek Hospitality (Athens, Greece). The most difficult cake she’s ever made but worth every bit of the effort, she made this unusual chocolate cake, shaped like a bird’s nest, a for special occasion.








Carrot Dates Poli from Jayasree of Kailas Kitchen (Kerala, India). Her version of this traditional sweet contains dates and carrot.






Here are three entries from Sharmi of Neivedyam (U.S.). The first one is Boorelu. These batter-fried balls of sweetness don’t keep long but that would be a problem only if there were leftovers!








The next one is Badam Halwa. An successful experiment of Sharmi’s, this sweet requires few ingredients and is easy to make.








And the third one is Chocolate Burfi. This sweet is what her mother is famous for, and she made this to bring her mother a little closer to home.






Chickoo Rabdi from Deepika of Recipe For Dee-saster ... Less Sugar, Please (India). She came up with this because she wanted to make something for Diwali that combined two of her favourites, rabadi and chickoo, without being too rich or heavy.






A Family Chocolate Cake With Fudge Frosting from Maria of Maria’s Menu (Bahrain). Though she bakes a lot of cakes, this cake made especially for her husband’s birthday, is the first one she has frosted.






Lazeez Double Ka Meetha from Lubna of Yummy Food (Bangalore, India). Traditionally served at Muslim weddings, in the Indian state of Andra Pradesh, this sweet is made with bread.






Mango Burfi from TBC of The Budding Cook (US). This sweet fudge-like Indian preparation is made from that king of fruits, mango, and semolina.






A Microwave Milk Sweet (Doodh Peda) from Uma of Essence of Andra (U.S.). She learnt to make this easy microwaved version of a time consuming preparation from her sister.






Vegan Brownie Cupcakes from Madhuram of Eggless Cooking (Philadelphia, U.S.). These delicious and moist brownie cupcakes are also absolutely free from added fat. Who wouldn’t love a guilt –free (well, almost) brownie?






A Praline and Hazelnuts "Succès" Cake from Anne (Foodie Froggy) of A Foodie Froggie In Paris (Paris, France). This cake, a sort of Filbert Cake, but much lighter and filled with an Italian meringue butter cream got Anne rave reviews from family and friends.






Cherry Cheese Cupcakes from Cathy X of Aficionado (Sydney, Australia). Memories of watching her mother prepare dinner while she ate cold cherries in summer, made Cathy bake some of the season’s cherries into these cupcakes.






Angoori Rasmalai from Supriya of Queen of My Kitchen (Washington, U.S.). These soft and spongy mini Rasgullas in a sweet milky syrup was one of the desserts served at her wedding.






Chirumaalu Payasam from Lakshmi of Taste of Mysore (Singapore). This very unusual Indian milk pudding comes from the Indian state of Andra Pradesh and is a part of traditional wedding preparations. Do check her post for the details.






Kashi Halwa from Ramya of Mane Adige (Chicago, Illinois, U.S.). This traditional fudge-like sweet is made from Ash Gourd/ Winter Melon is festive fare.






Qubani Ka Meetha (Apricots Stuffed With Peanut Brittle) from Sra from When My Soup Came Alive (India). This Indian dessert from the city of Hyderabad,is not too sweet and made of rehydrated apricots stuffed with yogurt and peanut brittle.






Almond and Orange Blossom Cupcakes from Arfi of HomeMadeS (New Zealand). She sent in these beautifully decorated cupcakes to celebrate the changes in growing older and hopefully, wiser.






A Spiced Apple and Pomegranate Pie from Yasmeen of Healthnut (Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.). This easy to make pie is made of crumbly partly whole wheat short crust pastry is wrapped around a spiced mixture of apples and pomegranate.






Kesar Pista Kulfi with Falooda (Saffron, Pistachio Ice Cream Served with Rose Infused Vermicilli) from Soma of eCurry (Texas, U.S.). Rich, creamy, and a favourite with her husband and her, this eggless Indian version of ice-cream is flavoured with cardamom, saffron and nuts.






Spiced Creamy Coffee Jellies from the Happy Cook of My Kitchen Treasures (Belgium). She made these “jellies” for dessert to celebrate her daughter’s birthday and makes them with coffee brewed from fresh roasted coffee grounds.






A Whole Wheat Chocolate Linzer Cake from Anudivya of …And A Little Bit More… (U.S.). This lovely cake is also healthy as it is made using whole wheat flour and contains no butter and not too much sugar.






Coconut Chocolate Caramel Candy Chunks from Shweatha of Tasty Curry leaf (New Jersey, U.S.). These chocolate bars are topped off with toasted coconut and drizzled with caramel sauce.






Theratti Pal from Chitra and Dibs of Chitra Amma’s Kitchen (Bangalore, India and Sydney, Australia). This sweet made from milk and sugar is a very intrinsic part of all auspicious celebrations in certain south Indian communities.






Vella Payaru from Jayashree of My Experiments With Food (Chennai, India). A festive preparation that is sweet yet filling, this takes her back to her childhood.






An Eggless Banana Chocolate Chips Cake from Priya of Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes (Paris, France). This lovely cake also celebrates a double century of posts at her blog.






Mahalebi, a Cypriot sweet dish, from Ivy of Kopiaste to Greek Hospitality (Athens, Greece). She gave it her own signature by garnishing it with Caramelised Pistachios. What makes Mahalebi special is that it is flavoured with the essence of the rose flower.






Pizelles, made with her Dad, from Susan of Food Blogga (Sandiego, California, U.S.) These beautifully patterned Italian cookies are made by pouring batter into patterned pizzele irons and cooking them till they’re crisp. Susan serves them sandwiched with her favourite, chocolate ice-cream.






Orange Payasam (Indian Milk sweet with oranges) from Usha of Veg Inspirations (North Carolina, U.S.). A batch tangy oranges and a desire for a milk based sweet led to experimenting with agave nectar and a delicious and fruity dessert.






Boondhi Ladoo from Aparna of Sumi’s Weblog (North Carolina, U.S.). This was the first time she ever made these traditional ladoos but they turned out very tasty.






A Mango Cake from Smitha of Kannada Cuisine (Milford, Connecticut, U.S.). Continuing her mother’s tradition of baking delightful cakes, Smitha baked this lovely cake topped with whipped cream for her husband’s birthday.






A Low Fat Banana Brownie Pizza from Anuvidya of …And A Little Bit More… (U.S.). Here’s a dessert pizza that’s made of a brownie base with a topping of bananas and cream.








Daanedaar Besan Ke Laddoo from Nidhi of Charche Chauke Ke (Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.). She is also celebrating one year of blogging and joins me with these tasty Indian chickpea flour confections.








Double Ka Meetha from DK of Culinary Bazaar (California, U.S.). This very rich and celebratory traditional bread pudding, from the Indian city of Hyderabad, is flavoured with cardamom and saffron.






A Hummingbird Cake from Rosie of Rosie Bakes A Peace Of Cake (England, U.K.). She baked this unusually named beautiful cake (and added a candle too) to celebrate just for this blog anniversary.






Dulce de Leche Cheesecake from Ning of Heart And Hearth (Manila, Philippines). She made this cheesecake following her friend’s advice to “eat first and diet later”. And as she says, the only “guilty” ingredient in this delicious cheesecake is the sugar!






A Banana Chocolate Bundt Cake from Yasmeen of Health Nut (Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.). The gift of a bundt cake pan and some over-ripe bananas got her enthusiastically baking this cake which was vastly appreciated by her husband’s colleagues at work.






A Cocoa Cherry Cake from Lubna of Yummy Food (Bangalore, India). This simple cake, bursting with the goodness of cherries, is perfect to serve at any time of the day.






A Sweet Potato Flan from Sig from Live To Eat (Seattle, Washington, U.S.). An easily made but less traditional thanksgiving dessert, the sweet potato keeps the flan light, silky and soft with more texture.








Chocolate-y Shortbread from Simran of Bombay Foodie (Mumbai, India). She made these cute little shortbreads topped with chocolate bits especially for this blog birthday celebration.








Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle from Diana of Dianasaur (Auburn, Washington, U.S.). This rich and delicious mini trifles were dessert for a meal of layered nachos, sourdough bread with homemade apple butter, spicy spaghetti, homemade eggnog.







Fudgy Mocha Pistachio Brownies from Mansi of Fun And Food (U.S.). She made these “seriously decadent” brownies by adding cranberries, pistachios and some flavoured coffee.








Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies from Anudivya of …And A Little Bit More… (U.S.). These are combination of soft chewy brownies topped with nutmeg flavoured pumpkin cheesecake.




And a 7 cup sweet from Saroja of Mumbai (India). She is my cousin-in-law and a good cook but does not have a blog yet. She is celebrating with me too, and here’s her recipe.

Ingredients:

Besan - 1cup

Milk - 1cup

Ghee - 1cup

Grated coconut - 1cup

Sugar - 3 cups


Method:

Mix all ingredients in a heavy bottomed vessel and stir in medium fire till it leaves the side of the vessel. Pour it in a greased tray and when cooling cut in to small pieces.



As you can see they are all winners, and judging wasn’t easy but one person had to be picked. And the entry with the most votes from the judges is Rosie’s Hummingbird Cake.

Congratulations Rosie, and please do check your inbox for my mail.
I believe I have included all the entries I received in this round-up. If I have left anyone out by mistake, please leave a comment at this post and I shall include the entry at the earliest.

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