September 30, 2009

Xiang Cong Hya Juan Bao (Chinese Flower Steamed Buns)

The Bread Baking Babes having been baking (or should I say steaming, this time?) again and this month it's Xiang Cong Hya Juan Bao! That's quite a mouthful if you don't know Chinese (I don't) but these are very pretty looking steamed buns made with dough that has both yeast and baking powder.

I remember saving a recipe, quite a few years ago, for some steamed Chinese lotus buns. Not only did I never get around to making them, I don't even know where that recipe disappeared to!
I have been joining the BBBs as a buddy for a little while now and thought I ought to try these ones too.

This month's recipe was chosen by Karen of Bake My Day from the Global Baker by Dean Brettschneider. He says,

"Everywhere you go in China you see people eating steam buns, also known as mantong Typically Chinese, a sweet bread is combined with a savoury filling, such as red bean paste and barbecued pork, but take care and avoid using too much filling or the bun will fall apart during the rising and steaming stage. The baking powder helps to open up the texture and gives a little tenderness to the eating quality of the buns. If you can, use imported Chinese flour from a specialist Asian food market or store".
I used the same recipe, just converted measurements into cups and spoons! I also substituted a part of the all purpose flour with rice flour as I felt it would improve the texture of the buns, and upped the amounts of both yeast and baking powder to 1/2 tsp each.
It took me while to figure out the shaping procedure and I'm still not sure I've really got it right! I must mention it is indeed very important to keep the filling a bit on the lesser side, or else it will leak out.



1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup rice flour

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 tbsp butter, at room temperature

good pinch of salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp active dry yeast

150 ml chilled water, placed in the refrigerator overnight


rice bran oil, for brushing on dough

40 g finely chopped spring onions or chives

25 g finely chopped red chillies ( I used chilli flakes/ crushed black pepper)

salt to taste


To make the dough, place all the ingredienst into a large mixing bowl and, using your hands, combine to form a very, very firm dough mass. Don't be tempted to add any water or the steam buns will be flat after steaming.

Place the dough on a work surface and, using your rolling pin, roll out to a thin strip, fold this in half and roll again. Repeat this 10-15 times with a 30 second rest in between each time. This is a way of mixing a very firm dough, the dough will start to become smooth and elastic as a result of the rolling process.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a warmish place (23-25C) for 15 minutes. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece to a 25cm square.

Brush the dough surface lightly with oil and sprinkle the chopped chives and chillies evenly over the dough. Season with salt.

Fold the dough in half and then cut into 2.5cm strips so that you end up with 10 folded strips. Stretch each strip and, starting at the folding edge, twist the two pieces of each strip over each other to form a rope.

Take the twisted rope and tie into a double knot, tucking the loose ends underneath. Place each bun with ends facing down on a lightly oiled steaming plate (idli trays are also excellent for this) and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Prove for approximately 30-45 minutes in a warm place.

Bring a wok or saucepan of water (or steamer) to the boil with a bamboo steamer sitting on top. Remove the bamboo steamer lid and place the buns on the paper in the steamer 3-4 cm apart to allow for expansion during steaming. Replace the steamer lid and steam for 20 minutes.

I used my idli tray, one bun in each depression, and the buns were perfect. Repeat until all the buns have been steamed and are firm to the touch.

This recipe makes 10 buns. Serve with a soya based sauce.


I made these twice, first using red chilli flakes to spice them up and the crushed black pepper the next time. These buns are a bit bland otherwise. They also are much better with a sauce or something to dip them into before eating.

I made a slightly spicy sweet and sour sauce with soya sauce, green chilli sauce, some tomato ketchup (yes, I did say ketchup!), a bit of smooth peanut butter and salt and sugar adjusted to taste. I just added a little water to adjust the consistency and cooked everything till it came to a boil.

We found them quite soft and a bit chewy. I did like them and was happy to finish off the ones no one wanted, though I won't say they were fantastic. My husband and daughter didn’t particularly like them.

Having said that, I think this was more because we are used to steamed food which is traditionally made from rice flour and very soft. These buns, on the other hand, were chewy and yet not like bread as we know it so perhaps they're more of an acquired taste.
So I would recommend you try them (perhaps half the recipe) and you might just like them.

These steamed buns are being YeastSpotted!

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September 27, 2009

Flying In The Wind! Vol-Au-Vents : Daring Baker Challenge, September, 2009

Vol-au-vents (pronounced vō′lō vän′, that is "vol-aw-vahn") means flight with the wind. They were supposed to have been invented by an early 19th century French chef named Carême, who declared that these small pastry shells were as light as the wind and hence the name.

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Vol-au-vents are made by cutting out circles of puff pastry (pâte feuilletée) and baking them into very airy, layered, flaky and beautifully risen pastry cases. These are then filled with filling of choice, usually savoury.
Smaller vol-au-vents make excellent appetizers while larger ones can be served during the main meal.

You can find the challenge in detail with recipe here.

My vol-au-vents experience:

This month has been one of challenges of sorts. My first one was the French Macarons I made with a gang of fellow food bloggers and this was the other one.
One thing I have learnt, again and again, especially after joining the Daring Bakers is never to take anything for granted where recipes and outcomes are concerned! I have now learnt to approach each month's challenge with a slight sense of impending doom.
If something goes wrong, I can tell myself "I told you so!", and nothing goes wrong I can feel good that my "intuition" was way off mark.

While I am nowhere near a puff pastry expert, I have made it at home before successfully. Readymade puff pastry is the stuff that dreams are made of, where I live. I'm not complaining because it means that I go the extra mile to try out techniques and recipes that are totally foreign to me.

So when I saw this month's challenge, I felt I could handle this. We had also made similar laminated dough for Danish Pastries last year. So I went ahead and made dough, beat the heck out of some butter and then lovingly wrapped it up in dough, rolled and folded everything 6 times as specified with ample chilling time in between.

Everything was fine until the pastry cases were baking. They rose quite nicely and then my oven beeped signifying they were done.
I pulled out the tray only to see that my pastry cases were almost drowning in an ocean of melted butter! Alright, I am exaggerating a bit but you get the idea. Looks like the butter decided to take its revenge for being beaten and abused!
Now, I quite like butter but there's something very revolting about puff pastry sitting in pools of liquid butter.

And so my vol-au-vent story was over as soon as it had begun. Well, we aren't called Daring Bakers for nothing are we?
So I decided to give puff pastry a second chance. In the olden days (about 2 years ago), I would have probably given up on puff pastry at this point. There is, however, something very compelling about the thought of having to do a blog post, only to admit to failure.
So, in the hope of a successful DB post I ventured into puff pastrydom again. This time, I am very happy to report reasonable success.

What did I do differently the second time?
Helen told me the butter needed to be cold but just right and pliable. If it was too hard, the butter would crack when being flattened and would ooze if too soft. The other thing I did differently was to bake my puff pastry at a higher temperature as suggested by Audax. So I baked the cases at 220C (instead of the suggested 200C) for about 18 minutes.
I didn't use the egg wash so my cases look a little pale.

We were required to use the given recipe to make puff pastry and had to make vol-au-vents. Creative freedom was ours regarding size, the fillings we used and what else we made with the puff pastry.

So I made savoury vol-au-vents and filled them with sautéed vegetables (onion, carrot, peas and sweet corn) in a herbed and slightly spicy cheese sauce. This isn't really a recipe but something I just make as I go along.
I also made a sweet variation using the puff pastry mille feuille style by sandwiching thin layers of pastry with chocolate mascarpone mousse.

I mentioned in my previous post that we had this for dessert on my birthday. I had used home-made mascarpone cheese to make this mousse, and it was the best mousse (finger-licking good) we have ever eaten. Here is the recipe, like I promised.

Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse:


1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened dark coca powder

a pinch of salt

1 tbsp coffee decoction, cold or orange juice (optional)

1 cup mascarpone cheese

2/3 cup chilled cream (I used 25% fat)


In a bowl, combine the powdered sugar, cocoa and salt. Add the coffee or orange juice or substitute with 1 tbsp of cold water if you do not want to use coffee or orange juice. Add the mascarpone and with an electric mixer, beat on low speed till everything is well mixed and looking a little fluffy. Now add the cream, and slowly increase the speed and continue beating till the mixture forms soft peaks. Do not over beat.
Scrape the mousse into a bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but overnight is preferable. Serve as dessert or use to make other desserts.

Puff pastry involves using a lot of butter and entails quite some effort though this would probably come down with practice. So it is criminal to throw out the scraps leftover from making vol-au-vents. So I just piled my scraps one on top of another and rolled out the pastry to make palmiers. I used brown sugar here and baked them at 230C for about 18 to 20 minutes.


Where I live, summer is quite warm and the cooler months (July through January) are still too warm to comfortably make puff pastry. Having said that, a bit of practice with rolling and folding the dough is all it takes to make good puff pastry at home. Just ensure that you refrigerate the dough the moment you feel that the butter in the dough is becoming too soft to handle. Let the dough stay in the fridge until the dough has chilled enough to handle and this might take longer than mentioned.

We enjoyed the vol-au-vents and the mille feuille as, in both, the contrast of buttery crispness with the soft filling was interesting as always.
Puff pastry with savoury filling is something we have eaten a lot in the form of "puffs" (a turnover with a variety of savoury filling which is quite popular here) and enjoy very much.

So while we liked the savoury vol-au-vent, the sweet one wasn't quite to our liking. The puff pastry was great and the mousse was fantastic but they didn't really work well together for us. Luckily, I had sandwiched only a few, so we ended up eating the puff pastry and the mousse separately.
As for the palmiers, they puffed out beautifully and were all gone before the evening was done! That's how good they were.

And now it's time to visit the other Daring Bakers and see what they've come up with this time.
Festive greetings for a colourful and happy Navrathri/ Dussera to all who are celebrating.

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September 24, 2009

Apple-Mascarpone Parfaits

It was my birthday yesterday. I know I really ought to wait for everyone to wish and graciously accept the wishes, but how could you all wish me if you didn't know about it?
I had a great day filled with calls and wishes from family and friends which ended up as long conversations, catching up on all that had happened since the last time we had talked!
I must confess that I spent a lot of time talking and got very little done during the day, but then it's not everyday that one celebrates a birthday. It was also unexpected to have my friendly Tweeple, sending their best wishes including one who virtually sang her wishes to me. (You know who you are!).

I know it's the done thing to celebrate birthdays with cake. Traditionally in India, we celebrate birthdays with payasam which is a sort of sweet milk/ coconut milk based dessert. I made payasam but decided to break the rules a bit and so there was no cake!
I usually make cake for everyone's birthday here, and somehow didn't feel like making one for mine.

So there was no cake, but there was chocolate and for me chocolate is better than cake! For one thing I'm really not overly fond of cake, and another I cannot imagine how anyone could celebrate without chocolate.

I had some home-made mascarpone cheese in the fridge, so I made some chocolate mascarpone mousse. I have to say that it's the best chocolate mousse I have ever eaten. It was finger-licking good.
Do you need any more proof of this other than my telling you that my husband was licking the mousse off his spoon and I'm surprised that there wasn't a hole in the bowl from the spoon scraping of the bottom of it?
Or that my daughter who usually asks (and she likes chocolate), "Why is it always chocolate here?" told me "This is chocolate mousse! Please make more of that mascarpone stuff, I like it!"?

I'm very sorry that I have built up the suspense this far, only to tell you that I'm not posting that dessert today!
The chocolate mascarpone mousse was my variation on an element in this month's Daring Baker challenge. So it must stay under the wraps till reveal date later the weekend, so please drop by then.

But this is my birthday post and that calls for something sweet, so let me present another dessert I made last weekend with some of that same home-made mascarpone.

Why home-made mascarpone?
There are many ingredients and food items used in baking and desserts which are easily available in many countries but not here in India, and mascarpone is one of them. Mascarpone is so easy to make if you have cream and lemon juice as Deeba pointed out to me.
There are any number of sources on the net telling one how to make it. Heat the cream, add the lemon juice, stir it some, leave it to drain it overnight in the fridge and ta-daaaa! You've got yourself some thick, creamy gorgeous cheese.

Now back to that dessert.
It's one of those desserts that can be done ahead of time and are very easy to make. I was inspired by these parfaits from My Recipes and though mine don't look as pretty they were good.
I halved the recipe, used sweeter apples and added some spice with cinnamon and garam masala. This recipe is supposed to make 3 servings (and my glasses are small even though they don't seem so in the picture), but I found a single serving pretty filling so you could consider using slightly smaller glasses and making 4 servings instead.
Here's my version.


1/2 tbsp butter

3 apples (cored, peeled and sliced =approx. 2 cups) +1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp golden raisins

1/4 cup packed brown sugar (reduce if apples are very sweet)

2 tbsp water

1/2 tsp grated dried ginger

1/2 tsp garam masala

1/4 tsp cinnamon powder

1/2 cup low fat crumbled paneer (or cottage cheese if you can find it)

1/2 cup mascarpone (I made mine with 25% fat cream)

2 tbsp white sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract


In a pan, melt the butter. Add the apples with the lemon juice, raisins, brown sugar and water. Mix well and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer the mixture till the apple is cooked, soft and almost dry.
Use your spoon to break up the apple pieces a bit while they're cooking.
Add the ginger, garam masala and cinnamon powders and mix well. Cook for another minute and take the pan off the heat. Allow the mixture to cool.

In the meanwhile, run the crumbled paneer (or cottage cheese) with the sugar in your processor or mixer/ blender jar until it is smooth. Add the mascarpone and vanilla extract and run everything together just till very smooth.

To assemble the parfaits, take three glasses and put in about 2 tbsp of the apple mixture into each. Cover this with about 2 tbsp of the cheese mixture. Again layer another 2 tbsp of apple mixture and top with the remaining cheese mixture.
You can use a spoon to layer the cheese mixture or pipe it using a pastry tip. Chill the parfaits for at least 3 hours.
Decorate with grated chocolate or nut brittle and serve.

This recipe makes 3 parfaits.

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September 22, 2009

Announcing Monthly Mingle: High Tea Treats

I remember reading books by Enid Blyton, P.G. Wodehouse and Agatha Christie to mention a few, where tea invariably referred to a formal affair where one made very polite conversation at. Tea was drunk out of bone china cups in saucers, while delicately munching on cucumber sandwiches, little cakes, scones, crumpets served with jam/ preserves and clotted cream!
As Henry James writes in The Portrait of a Lady, "There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea".

As it turns out, for the English, "afternoon tea" was something very different from "high tea".
Apparently, the practice of afternoon tea was started by the Duchess of Bedford as a tray of tea with some bread butter. In those days, they had lunch at noon and dinner was eaten after 8:00pm, and afternoon tea provided some sustenance in between.
This afternoon tea was also referred to as "Low Tea" because it was typically served on low tables and really a social affair.

High tea, on the other hand, was actually a meal which was served around six in the evening in homes of common working class folk and a full meal equal to dinner! It was called high tea because it was served at the high table/ family dining table.

Somewhere in time, high tea came to mean a sort of traditional tea where lighter desserts and dishes are served. This would include savouries such as appetizers or tiny sandwiches, scones, crumpets and pastry items like cookies, cakes, shortbreads, etc.

I am happy to announce that it is my turn to guest host Meeta's Monthly Mingle this month and I thought it would be a nice to have our own tea party with the theme of "High Tea Treats". After all, tea is a perfect occasion for friends to get together.
Let me hasten to add that coffee lovers are also most welcome to join in, as the emphasis here is on "Treats".

Please Note: You do not have to submit only typically British dishes for this High tea. Any dish which you would serve at a slightly more elaborate tea party (or tea time get together) is welcome.

Meeta and I look forward to having you all for tea. So join us with what you would typically serve if you were to have a high tea sort of party.

And here are the rules:

1. Make or bake something which you would typically serve at teatime.Your teatime treat must be vegetarian, though eggs are allowed.

2. It must be a dish you posted on your blog between the 22nd of September and the 15th of October, 2009. Older posts will not be accepted.
Please note that you may submit your entry for this Monthly Mingle to any one other event (only one, please), if you choose.

3. Please link your post to this announcement and to Meeta's Monthly Mingle page. Feel free to use the lovely logo Meeta designed, along with your Monthly Mingle post.

Please submit your entries before midnight (your time) of the 15th of October, 2009 by using this Event Submission Form.

Just fill in the necessary details and hit the submit button. Please also ensure that the image you submit is 300px wide.

Do check out the round-up to last month's Heirloom edition at Jugalbandi.

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September 20, 2009

Neiyappam (Deep Fried Rice And Jaggery Dumplings/ South Indian Aebelskivers)

One thing I really like about a lot of traditional food, and this is true across the world, is that their names are pretty straight forward (especially if you know the language). In those days, people named dishes as they saw them, no fancy stuff. By and large, once you heard the name of a dish, you pretty much knew what it was!

My post today is about the neiyappam. This south Indian preparation is an "appam" (this refers generally to dumplings, steamed or deep fried) cooked in "neyy" (which is ghee), hence the name "neiyyappam"! See what I mean?

The neiyappam is very much a part of Palakkad Iyer festive fare and is one of the few sweet preparations that is made during festivities as well as religious or ritualistic celebrations. Most other festive preparations are usually linked to, and prepared for particular festivals.
This deep fried dumplings are also offered as "prasadam" (food offered to God and then distributed to devotees) in many temples in Kerala.

What the Palakkad Iyers call neiyappam, is known as "Unniappam" in Kerala and "Vella Paniyaram" in Tamilnadu.
In Kerala, the neiyappam is made by pouring ladles of a similar batter directly into ghee and deep-fried as a slightly larger flattish cake. Whereas the unniappam (our neyappam) is made by pouring a little batter into the depressions of a special pan called the "appakaaral" which looks like an aebelskiver pan.
So I guess one could refer to the neiyappam as a south Indian aebelskiver!

On an aside, I recently read here (and I didn't know this even though we lived in Cochin!) that the Jewish community in Cochin makes a version of neiyappam for Hanukkah.

Again, like a lot of traditional food that I know, the neiyappam doesn't really score in the "looks" department. A dark brown, almost burnt looking ball doesn't really inspire love at first sight but don't let appearances deceive you.
Give the neiyappam a chance and you will discover that the unattractive crusty exterior hides a delightfully soft and spongy cardamom flavoured interior dotted with thin coconut slivers.
On a personal note, neiyappam is not one of my favourites and yet I am recommending it here because I have so far never met anyone else who doesn't like them.
In fact, I mostly have always witnessed scenes where everyone is fighting to get the last few ones left in the tin!

I have no idea how old this recipe is but I do know that people have been making neiyappams for generations. This recipe was given to me by my mother who got from her her mother.
In fact I remember watching my maternal grandmother making neiyappam. Even though there was a gas stove in the kitchen, she used a small kerosene stove (haven't seen these in some time now) to make the neiyappams. This was probably because it was easier to clean up oil splatters or dripped and dried batter spots!

The kerosene stove was kept on the floor in a corner of the kitchen, near the window. My grandmother had a small, low three-legged stool which only she used and she would sit on this and the "appakaaral" would sit on the stove.
Though I don't like neiyappam, I remember being fascinated by the batter bubbling in their little puddles of ghee-sesame seed oil and watching the batter slowly oozing from the tops of the neiyappams as they cooked.
On asking, I also remember being told that the oozing batter meant that all was well in the neiyappam world and they would turn out just right! And it's true, though the oozing batter does even less for the already sad appearance of the neiyappam, it really makes all the difference in the texture.

You will find many recipes which use a bit of black gram lentils (urad dal) to make these dumplings, but this recipe below is how they're traditionally made at home.
A banana is added to increase the flavour and softness of the neiyappam, but this means that it will spoil after a couple of days. Since we usually make smaller quantities at home, there are rarely any leftovers.
These can also be made without the banana, but the dumplings will be less spongy in texture.

Neiyappams are really not too difficult to make. They just need a bit of practice, and of course an "appakaaral" or an aebelskiver pan.
My "appakaaral" is somewhat of a family heirloom as it was given to me by my mother-in-law, who was given it by her mother-in-law. It is made of bell metal and weighs 2 kg which means it is quite heavy.

But these were made this heavy so that once the pan got heated it would retain that temperature for a long time ensuring uniformly well cooked dumplings which would never stick to the pan. Of course this was in those days when cooking was done using firewood and stove temperatures were difficult to adjust.
The weight also meant that the pan was stable and unlikely to tilt, an important consideration given that it contained very hot oil/ ghee.
Lighter pans, even of the non-stick variety, with more depressions (mine has only three) are available in stores today.


1 glass raw rice
3/4 glass powdered jaggery

1 small banana

4 pods cardamom

2 tbsp thinly slivered coconut pieces

ghee and sesame seed oil for deep frying


Soak the rice in water for about 3 hours. In the meanwhile, dissolve the powdered jaggery in half a glass of water. If there are impurities in the jaggery, decant the solution.

Drain the water from the rice and grind the rice to a smooth paste/ batter using the jaggery solution. If the batter is too thick and difficult to grind, add just enough water as and when required.
Chop the banana into 3 or 4 pieces, and add them along with the seeds from the cardamom pods to the batter. Grind some more till everything becomes a smooth batter.
The batter should have the pouring consistency of pancake batter. After the grinding is done, add the coconut slivers to the batter.

Place the "appa kaaral"/ aebelskiver pan on the stove and pour equal amounts of ghee and sesame seed oil (about a tbsp of each) into each depression. Each depression should be half full.

Wait until the oil-ghee mixture is hot and then turn down the heat to medium. Pour small ladlefuls of batter (enough to half-fill each depression) into each depression. The batter will sink to the bottom of the depression and the fat will rise and some will overspill into the pan. This is fine as it will ensure that the top part of the neiyappam also gets cooked.
As the neiyappams cook, you might start seeing batter ooze up from inside through the top. This is normal and desirable, as I mentioned before, (though not pretty, perhaps) as it means they're cooking well!

With a well seasoned/ non-stick pan, the neiyappams will slightly pull away from the sides of the depression as they cook and float up. Turn them over, using a fork so that the top of the neiyappams are now in the depression and can brown as well. If they don't float up once they have cooked and the undersides are browning, gently coax them using the fork. Too much pressure may cause the neiyappams to break.

Once the neiyappams are browned both on the bottoms and tops, remove them from the pan using a "pappada kuchi" (a metal skewer used for frying pappads) or a pair of forks/ tongs.
Allow them to drain well on paper towels. These dumplings tend to remain a little oily even after they've drained on the towels.

Cool them to room temperature. They're now ready to eat. These keep for a couple of days after which they spoil, but stay a little longer (but become hard) if refrigerated. If refrigerated, you can soften them by steaming/ microwaving them for a couple of minutes before serving.

This recipe makes about 15 neiyappams.

They are my contribution to Meeta's Monthly Mingle, being hosted at Jugalbandi this month.
The picture with the neiyappams is also being sent to them for this month's CLICK!

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September 18, 2009

Thengai or Coconut Barfi (Cardamom Flavoured Sweet Coconut Squares)

My home state of Kerala is really a land of coconut trees, not just ayurveda, the backwaters and the rest of it. While there still is some disagreement as to the origin of the name, the general view is that Kerala comes from the words "Keram" (which in vernacular means coconuts) and "Alam" (which means land or territory). Even if this wasn't true, I would say this argument holds for the sheer abundance of coconut trees throughout the state visible as far as the eye can see and beyond!

So it should come as no surprise that the coconut has an all pervading influence and presence in our cuisine, irrespective of community or religion. In fact, the coconut and the tree features in most aspects of our lives, then and now.

The coconut shells are fashioned into bowls, ladles and other items of utility or decoration. The husk is an excellent potting medium and also used to make coir for ropes, baskets and mats.
Coconut flowers/ inflorescence are an important part of traditional ceremonies including weddings. The buds yield a sweet liquid which is fermented and made into toddy (or arrack) and to make coconut vinegar.

Coconut leaves are woven to thatch roofs, mats, hand-held fans, fruit baskets, traditional umbrellas, brooms, etc.
The wood of the coconut tree is very hardy and durable and makes excellent furniture and construction material.

Tender coconut water and the soft creamy flesh are particular favourites and perfect for our hot and humid summers. The coconut and coconut milk are used up to cook some very tasty fare, as those who have tried it would tell you. The traditional cooking medium was coconut oil and it still lends flavour to many traditional dishes which would be lacking something without it.

I know the coconut, its milk and oil are considered "unhealthy" in today's world but I have to mention that the generations before ours survived on coconut based cuisines without too many problems. In fact, the coconut does feature extensively in Ayurveda for its medicinal and rejuvenating qualities.

I would think that it is quite likely that our increasingly sedentary lifestyle with all its excesses, processed and packaged foods and not the coconut that is largely to blame for some fat intake related health concerns, but I am not about to start an argument on this here.

Having written so much about the coconut, I now present a traditional sweet in which coconut is the main ingredient. The coconut burfi is one more sweet which is typical of Palakkad Iyer cuisine as well.

A burfi is a sweet squarish or diamond shaped bite sized Indian confection in which sugar is used to not only as a sweetener but also as a binder of the ingredients. This somewhat fudge like sweet is mostly festive or celebratory fare and comes in a mind boggling variety of flavours and colours depending on which part of India one is in.

I have seen many variations of this sweet with the addition of other ingredients including nuts and colour. The traditional coconut burfi however contains no additions beyond the following ingredients.

Thengai or Coconut Barfi (Cardamom Flavoured Sweet Coconut Squares)


2 cups freshly grated coconut*

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup water

powdered cardamom (from 4 pods)

2 tbsp ghee


*If you are using freshly scraped/ grated coconut, make sure the brown part does not scraped/ grated as well. This will produce brown flecks in a burfi which should be pristine white! As you can see from my picture, I wasn't careful enough to take this piece of advice, myself!!

You may also run the coconut (as it is) a couple of times in your mixer/ blender or food processor to make the grated coconut a bit finer (do not grind it very fine). This will also make your coconut burfis look smoother when cut and less rustic looking.
I personally prefer the rustic look, as you can see from my burfi/ coconut square. This traditional way also makes juicier burfis. It's a matter of personal preference which way one goes.

Place the sugar and water in a thick walled/ heavy bottom pan. Over medium heat, stir till the sugar dissolves completely and starts boiling. Keep stirring frequently and let the sugar syrup cook and thicken till it reaches 2-string consistency.

Since most kitchens in India (even now) do not use candy thermometers, we tend to use the cold water candy test method. And "string/ thread" consistencies are the first stages of sugar syrup.

To check for 2-string consistency, put a couple of drops of the sugar syrup on your index finger (make sure it has cooled slightly, but still warm, or you will burn your finger). Bring your thumb down to lightly touch the sugar syrup. Lift your thumb away from your finger and the syrup will form threads. If 2 or 3 threads (one thick thread is not enough) form and break, the syrup is at the right consistency.

If this consistency isn't reached, your burfi can end up becoming soft and fudgy. If your syrup passes this stage, the burfi will be dry and not quite hold together. At the correct consistency, the burfi would hold its shape well while being a bit soft and juicy when bitten into.

When the sugar syrup has reached the desired consistency, add the grated coconut and stir well. The mixture will take on a slightly wet look from the milk in the coconut. Continue cooking the mixture stirring constantly, till it thickens quite a bit and the edges start looking white and take on a frothy appearance. At this point the mixture will be thick and somewhat dry looking. Don't worry, it will stay together.

Add the ghee and cardamom powder and stir well. Take the pan off the heat and pour the mixture into a 7" by 7" square pan/ cake tin which has been greased with ghee. Press down (not very hard but enough to pack the mixture into the tin) and level the mixture with a greased flat spatula or the back of a spoon or even the underside of a greased flat bowl.

Allow to cool and harden a bit. Cut into 16 small squares.
If you plan to keep this beyond 3 or 4 days, then please refrigerate the burfi, in an airtight container, after it has cooled.

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September 14, 2009

Banoffee Cupcakes

I have made Banoffee pies before (haven't posted one yet, but I will). I love bananas as fruit but am not particularly fond them in bakes and desserts, but my husband is. This was the reason I first made a Banoffee pie, and must say that I actually liked it.

Banoffee, as the name suggests, is a combination of banana and toffee (which is cooked condensed milk, actually) topped with whipped cream and grated chocolate. While this combination of flavours did sound a bit unappetizing, pie in my recipe book of the pie looked good and the recipe looked do-able. And that was my introduction the Banoffe pie.
And no, I haven't forgotten that this post isn't about a pie but about cupcakes.

Last month there was a Cupcake Hero revival at I Heart Cupcakes. And this month's cupcake theme there is "Banana".
So it was but natural that I thought of making Banoffee cupcakes. So I thought of making a banana cupcake filled with a slice of banana and condensed milk caramel, topped off with whipped cream and grated chocolate.

For the cupcakes I adapted the Banoffee Cupcakes recipe from Cupcake Heaven by Susannah Blake.

Dulche de leche (caramelized sweetened milk), which is used in these cupcakes, is usually prepared by boiling a can of condensed milk in water for a couple of hours. I have heard stories telling of these cans bursting and wasn't willing to risk it.

So I used a method given in Mary Berry's Banoffee Pie recipe from her Traditional Puddings and Desserts, which I have detailed below.
My cupcake does look a little flat, because it was quite warm and the whipped cream melted and wouldn't stay whipped! Not that it affected the taste.


4 tbsps unsalted butter, at room temperature (about 80 gm butter in my case)

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 ripe banana, mashed (about 1/2 cup)

1 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

about 8 slices of banana (1/4" thick)

For the toffee/ lightly caramelized condensed milk:

150gm sweetened condensed milk

2 tbsps unsalted butter

1/4 tsp salt

For decorating:

2/3 cup cream, whipped

Some semi-sweet chocolate, grated
(I used a mixture of semi-sweet and milk chocolate here)


Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl, with a hand held electric mixer, until creamy. Then beat in the egg till well incorporated. Fold in the mashed banana, then sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the mixture. Fold again till everything is well mixed.
Spoon the batter about halfway into 8 paper liners. Place one slice of banana in each liner and top with remaining batter such that the banana pieces are completely covered.

Bake at 180C for about 16 to 20 minutes until risen and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes on a wire rack.

While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the toffee/ lightly caramelized condensed milk. To do this, melt the butter in a saucepan, over low heat. Add the salt and condensed milk and cook, stirring continuously, till it turns a light caramel colour and thickens a bit. Allow to cool.

Now assemble the cupcakes.
I used the cone method to fill these cupcakes. While removing a bit off the cones ensure that you don't remove the banana slice which was cooked in the cupcakes.

Fill the cupcake with the caramelized condensed milk. Cover the filling with the piece of cupcake which was cut out, and press slightly to seat it well.

Cover the cupcakes with whipped cream and decorate with grated chocolate. It would be a good idea to refrigerate these cupcakes till they're ready to be served.

As you can see form my pictures, it was too warm and the cream started flowing a bit. So the cupcakes don't look as pretty as they should, but they taste just great.

This recipe makes 8 cupcakes.
I tend to think of cupcakes as snacks, but these cupcakes are really dessert. Just one can be quite satisfyingly filling!

These cupcakes are off to Cupcake Hero to join the other cupcakes in this event here on Flickr.

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September 10, 2009

Coffee And Dark Chocolate-Nutella Macarons

I think I first saw macarons on Helen's blog and remember wondering why her "macaroons" looked different! Until I realized that a macaron wasn't even remotely related to a macaroon.

A macaron and a macaroon are both cookies, though I'm sure quite a macaron afficionado would be shocked to see me referring to the macaron as "just another cookie"!
A "macaron" is made with beaten egg whites, powdered almonds and sugar whereas a "macaroon" is a sticky and sweet coconut cookie. So totally different yet they are apparently connected in their origins.

Some say that the macaron is French while others think it is Italian but the general consensus is that they both get their name from the Italian word "maccherone" which means flour-and-water paste. This, incidentally, is where the elbow shaped pasta macaroni also derives its name from!

As the story goes, the macaroon (not macaron) was taken out of Italy to France by two Carmelite nuns who baked almond and egg white cookies for a living, and by Italian Jews to Europe where these flourless cookies were baked for Passover. These cookies eventually reached the U.S. where the almonds were substituted with coconut and became macaroons.

So maccherone basically refers to a paste which in the case of the macaron, is an egg white-nut paste. The French macaron as it is known today in its various hues and flavours, with buttercream (or ganache) sandwiched between two almond meringue cookies, is attributed to Pierre Hermé.
Updated (12th Sept., 2009) : Hilda tells me that it wasn't Pierre Hermè who revived the macaron but the French pastry shop Ladurée who were responsible for this. Pierre Hermé worked with Ladurée early in his career and became well known for the unusual and exotic flavour combinations he brought to the world of macarons.
Ladurée, incidentally, spells it's macarons as "macaroons". So I guess the debate as to whether the macaron is to be spelt as "macaron" or "macaroon", is very much alive!
In the past year and a half or so since I started blogging, I've been seeing more than my fair share of macarons in an unbelievable number of colours and exotic flavours. It was natural that all this made me want to hop onto the macaron bandwagon too, but lacked the courage to do so. I had also been reading a lot about how difficult it was to achieve "the" macaron.

So how difficult can a cookie made with some egg-whites, powdered almonds and sugar get, right? You have to try this one out to answer that question.
And there are only two answers to this. Either you're lucky (and have lots, I mean lots!) and are in the group that gets it right and it’s a breeze, or you're in the group that doesn't get it right and wonders how something so simple can become such a nightmare!!

After a couple of miserable attempts, I was on Twitter and asked Deeba if we could get together and do this one? You know, "united we stand………"!
She agreed and that's how we started. Deeba then spread the word and next thing we knew was there was this "Mac Gang", as we call ourselves, out there discussing all things macaron. Where would we be without Twitter?

Jamie was put in charge and she found us Helen's recipe. So Jamie, Meeta, Hilda, Deeba, and I started making our macarons while setting ourselves 15th September as a posting deadline.
Ilva, Barbara, Ria, The Happy Cook, Erin, Deb, Shelley, FujiMama, The Cooking Ninja and Rachael also joined us and we're now one big happy "Mac Gang".

I am a person who cooks and blogs without a kitchen scale so I chose to use David Lebovitz's chocolate macaron recipe (which is also a French macaron recipe like Helen's) as a starting point as that deals with cups and spoons. I slightly adapted the recipe as I made coffee macarons (which was Jamie's chosen flavour) instead of chocolate macarons. My macarons were filled with a dark chocolate-Nutella ganache.

Bolstered by the heady feeling of my coffee macaron success, even if they weren't perfect but somewhat chubby, I decided to experiment with flavours. Let me tell you, this wasn't one of my best decisions.
I dreamt of making rose macarons with a cardamom flavoured white chocolate ganache filling. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? I thought so too. Dream it shall remain, for now at least, as it never happened.

My rose macarons came out very pretty, like pink meringue cookies but had no"feet". I was a bit disappointed here but felt reassured as I at least had cookies! So once they were cool, I peeled them off the foil and they seemed alright. Then I tried to fill them and found out they were so soft that they caved in, collapsed in my hands and I was left holding a slightly sticky and crumbling mass!
The rose meringue cookies (can't call them macarons, I guess) tasted good however, and I managed to rescue just 3 cookies to take a picture.
This picture does give me some consolation as it shows what original French macarons looked like. At least my "rose macarons" looked right, all the way down to the slightly cracked tops!

What follows are some of my thoughts on making macarons, and then the recipe I used.

Some thoughts on making macarons:

~ There are different methods of making macarons.
This one, the French method, is supposed to be the easiest (though temperamental, some say). Here the almond mixture is added to beaten egg whites.
In the Italian method (supposed to be most fool-proof method), the almond mixture is added is added to beaten egg whites to which a cooked sugar syrup has been added.
And in the Spanish method, the almond mixture is added to beaten egg whites which have a higher sugar content.

~ As silly as this one sounds, make macarons when you have time on your hands and things are a bit peaceful. It may have only four ingredients (plus flavour/ colour) but there are so many variables involved here.
This is definitely not one of those recipes you want to work with in between sending your kids off to school, attending to the washing, fixing lunch or answering the phone!

~ Egg whites have to be aged before they're used. Now there is a lot of discussion on this matter. Some people work well with whites aged for 24 hours whereas some prefer them aged for 2 or 3 days.
To age egg whites, separate them and keep them in a bowl at room temperature over night or in the fridge for 2 to 5 days.
You can also age fresh egg whites in the microwave by zapping them at medium power for 20 seconds.

~ We don't get almond meal here, so I powdered my own almonds and I didn't bother blanching them.
To powder your own almonds, run them in the small jar of your mixer/ blender or coffee grinder. Adding a little sugar helps prevent the almonds from releasing its oil and becoming pasty. Sieve well, and powder the small pieces again

~ Parchment paper is one of the things I don't get here, so I used aluminium foil to line my baking sheets. I find it works very well. Once the macarons had cooled, it is easy to peel them off the foil.

~ Once the egg whites have been beaten till they form stiff peaks, the almond mixture has to be folded in. It is very important to do the folding properly. Do not use more than 50 strokes. Over folding can ruin macarons.
When correctly folded, the batter should be not too thick or thin. The correct consistency is described as "magma-like". Test a small amount by dropping it on a plate. If the top flattens on its own it's fine. If a small beak forms, give the batter a couple more folds.

~ Piping the macaron batter requires a bit of practice if you haven't done it before. If you need it, place a template of 1" circles under the parchment (don't forget to remove this after you have finished piping) to get uniform macarons.
This is important when you have to match them to sandwich the filling. You could otherwise end up with very "wonky" looking macarons which isn't quite the thing, aesthetically.
Hold the piping bag vertically and pipe in a smooth motion. If any slight "beaks" don't subside, you can lightly flatten it with a moist finger. Take care not leave any moisture on your piped macaron or the tops of your baked macarons will not be smooth.

~ Tap or rap the trays with the piped batter quite strongly against your work surface to eliminate air bubbles.

~ Rest the piped macrons at room temperature till a skin forms on top. Now there are differing opinions on this. Some macaron masters bake the macarons as soon as they're piped with great results, while others swear by "resting time".
I rested my piped macarons for almost 2 hours because that’s how long it took my macarons to develop a skin on a rainy day. Most people recommend 45 minutes to an hour.

~ Check the temperature of your oven. Temperature is another variable that can make or break your macarons. Different recipes specify different temperatures and times. Stick to the one your recipe tells you and bake one small lot initially. This will enable you to make adjustments.
My recipe said 180C for 15 to18 minutes. I baked mine at 170C for 15 minutes, but I think a slightly lower temperature (150/ 160) would be good. Many in the "Mac Gang" baked their macarons at 140C/ 150C.

~ Use two trays stacked (the one with macarons on another tray on the oven rack) to bake the macarons. This helps distribute the heat so the macarons are cooked properly, puff up and form "feet".

~ I decided to use a ganache rather than the buttercream filling that is usually used for two reasons. The first one is that we are not really buttercream fans.
The second reason was that we found the macrons very sweet, almost too sweet to enjoy. So I thought using a semi-sweet chocolate ganache would reduce the over all sweetness a bit and make them more enjoyable.

~ And most importantly, read up as much as you can find on making macarons. There is no dearth of matter on this subject on the net. I can tell you that I have read up so much on making macarons that I don't remember working this hard on my books in school or college!

~ Also, be prepared for failure. It takes a lot of practise (and some luck too) to make successful macarons. But persistence does pay, so don't give up.

For a pretty comprehensive collection of links to all things macarons, visit David Lebovitz's "Making French Macarons".

It also helps also helps if you're lucky to have friends who are willing to share their experiences and advice with you.
I certainly was and wouldn't have made mine without the following people who jumped in to offer me advice, answer all my questions and clear my confusion.

Helen of Tartelette, Mark of No Special Effects, Y of Lemonpi, Sandra of Le Petrin, Caitlin of Engineer Baker and the members of my "Mac Gang" especially Hilda of Saffron& Blueberry, who was the only one in the Gang who had made macarons before.

And here's the David Lebovitz recipe I tweaked a little and used.


Macaron batter:

1 cup powdered sugar

½ cup powdered almonds

1 tsp instant coffee powder

2 egg whites, at room temperature (aged for 2 days)

5 tbsps granulated sugar

Chocolate-Nutella ganache filling:

1/2 cup finely chopped dark/ semi-sweet chocolate

1/4 cup cream (25% fat)

3 tbsp Nutella


Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch, 2 cm) ready. You may also use a Ziploc bag with the tip cut off, for piping.
Grind together the powdered sugar, the powdered almonds and coffee powder so there are no lumps.

With a hand held electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm (about 2 minutes).

Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. When the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag/ Ziploc bag (standing the bag in a tall glass helps).

Pipe the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1-inch circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch (3 cm) apart.
Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons. Keep them at room temperature for about an hour till a thin film forms on the macaron batter. If you lightly touch a macron and the batter doesn't stick to your finger, then it is ready.

Bake them at 160C or 170C for minutes. Let the macarons cool completely then slowly peel off the parchment paper.

Store the macarons in airtight containers till ready to fill.

To make the ganache filling:

Heat the cream in a small saucepan. When the cream just begins to boil at the edges, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute, then stir until smooth. Add the Nutella and mix well. Let cool completely before using.

Assembling the macarons:

Spread (or pipe) a bit of ganache on the inside of the macarons then sandwich them together.
You may or may not use all the filling, depending on how much you use in the macarons. Let them stand at least one day before serving, to meld the flavors.Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

This recipe makes 30 shells/ 15 macarons.

Jamie will be doing a round-up on her blog on the 16th of this month, so please drop by there to see what the "Mac Gang" macarons look like.I
I shall go back to trying macarons in other methods, colours and flavours. Should I never manage another perfect macaron (I'm sure I will!), I can always say, "I did make some coffee and chocolate macarons, one day in the September of 2009!".

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Pulikyatchal (A Spicy Green Chilli-Ginger-Tamarind Chutney)

t the beginning of this month, I had posted a picture of a festive meal (sadya) served on a plantain leaf. One of the items on that leaf was "Pulikyatchal". This is very spicy chutney that is served and eaten like a pickle (Indian style). In Kerala, this is also known as "puli-inji" or "inji-puli" bith meaning ginger-tamarind.

The name "pulikyatchal" comes from two words, "puli" meaning tamarind and "katchal" from "katcharadhu" meaning to cook. So as you would have figured out, this chutney is basically made by cooking finely chopped ginger and green chillies in tamarind pulp till it is quite thick in consistency.

This chutney is another one of those preparations which is daily fare yet our festive meals are incomplete without it.

You will, once again, find numerous variations of this recipe depending on who is making it. There are versions which include shallots/ onions and others which do not use ginger (or green chillies).

This particular version is how it is made in our family and it is very much Palakkad Iyer fare. The amount for each ingredient is indicative so feel free to adjust the amounts to your taste.
Make your adjustments such that your chutney is quite spicy (and salty) with a very strong sour note and the jaggery should just add a hint of sweetness while balancing out the spice and the tang.

Pulikyatchal (A Spicy Green Chilli-Ginger-Tamarind Chutney)


a large lemon sized ball of tamarind

about 2 to 3 tbsp finely chopped ginger

3 to 4 green chillies, chopped

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

2 sprigs curry leaves

3 tbsp powdered jaggery (or more)

salt to taste

For tempering:

3 tbsp sesame seed oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

2 tsp Bengal gram lentils (chana dal)

1/4 tsp asafetida powder


Soak the tamarind in about 3 cups warm water for about half an hour. Using your fingers, rub the tamarind well in the water and then squeeze out as much pulp as possible. Throw away whatever residue is left of the tamarind and keep the tamarind pulp aside.

In a deep pan (or wok), heat the sesame seed oil. Add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the lentils and sauté till they're golden in colour. Turn down the heat to medium and add the asafetida powder and the curry leaves. Stir a couple of times and add the chopped ginger, green chillies and turmeric powder.

Sauté for about 5 minutes till the ginger turns soft. Add the tamarind pulp, jaggery and salt and bring to a boil. Turn the heat a bit further, and simmer till the mixture thickens to the consistency of a chutney and you can see a bit of oil on the surface.

Take off  the heat, cool and bottle. This recipe makes a small jar of chutney and will keep for over a month.
Serve with rice and plain yogurt or dosas.

As Sra pointed out in the comments section, this chutney can be added to cooled, cooked rice along with peanuts pan fried and browned with a little oil and mixed well to make Tamarind Rice/ Puliyodharai.

Thanks for all those comments. Let me further clear up the confusion.
It is correct, as pointed out in the comments section, that "puliyodharai" (a kind of tamarind rice) does not have ginger in it, and this is not the tamarind chutney that is used to make it.
I just wanted to say that one could make a tamarind rice of sorts by mixing this chutney with rice.

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September 8, 2009

Chocolate Drizzled Pineapple and Ginger Paneer/ Ricotta Cookies (Eggless)

I'm sure most of you have heard about Paper Chef. Organised by Ilva , this month's Paper Chef is being hosted and judged by Deeba. Every month, 4 random ingredients are chosen and the challenge is to cook up something with that in one week's time.
I have been following this for a while, but sometimes one or more of the ingredients would be something not available where I live. Those months when I could lay my hands on all the 4 ingredients, I would invariably not have the time!

This month's ingredients happen to be chocolate, ginger, ricotta and a fall (autumn) fruit. Chocolate sounded great. Ginger was even better, because it is the season for very tender, new ginger right now. Ricotta was a problem because it is not available here, and with the deadline for PaperChef midnight today, I didn't have the time to make it either. Ricotta is pretty much like paneer (an Indian soft unsalted cheese), so I used that.
Fall/ autumn is something that doesn't visit us in south India, so with Deeba's go ahead, I decided to use a fruit that's available here this month.

I remembered reading about an Italian Ricotta Cookie somewhere and searched around a bit. Finally, I decided to adapt a Giada de Laurentiis recipe for Lemon Ricotta Cookies I found on the Food Network.
Before I go further, I must mention these cookies are very unlike most cookies as we know them. They are really soft because of the paneer/ ricotta and almost cake-like in texture. The baked cookies apparently freeze well (so I'm trying that since I have so many).
These cookies are traditionally glazed with a lemon sugar glaze which would be perfect flavour pairing. I chose to drizzle them with semi-sweet chocolate instead, for obvious reasons.

I also realized that I had run out of eggs (That's for another project some of us food bloggers are doing, so watch this space around the 15th of this month), so decided to make these cookies eggless too. I replaced the 1 egg (which you can use if you prefer) with powdered flax seed.
I replaced the lemon in these cookies with pineapple as this is what I chose to use as my fruit for this month.


1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp salt

100gm butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 tbsp powdered flax seed + 2 tbsp warm water

200gm (just under 1 cup) crumbled paneer/ ricotta

1 to 1 1/2 tsp fresh finely grated ginger

3 tbsp fresh or packaged pineapple juice

1/2 tsp pineapple extract

melted semi-sweet chocolate to drizzle on cookies


Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another cup or small bowl, beta together the flax seed powder and the warm water for a couple of minutes, with a fork, and set aside.
In the large bowl, using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).
Add the flax mixture and beat till incorporated. Add the paneer/ ricotta cheese, grated ginger, pineapple juice, and extract. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, or lightly grease them (I don't get parchment paper here). Spoon the dough (about 1 tbsp for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake at 190C for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes, before moving them.

This recipe makes between 30 and 36 cookies.

I found these cookies a bit on the sweeter side so you might want to reduce the sugar to 3/4 cup if you don't have a sweet tooth.

Updated (10th Sept., 2009): I found that refrigeration (not freezing) actually improves the taste and texture of these cookies.

These cookies are off to participate in this month's Paper Chef.

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