June 27, 2010

Pavlova With Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse, Mango And Vanilla Crème Anglaise: Daring Bakers Challenge, June 2010


Its Daring Bakers reveal time, again, and our challenge for this month was to make a dessert that’s a treat for chocolate lovers. This challenge was a bit unusual in that it didn’t call for any butter at all, but made up for that with some cream!

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.


A Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert served as a cake, whose basic ingredients are egg whites, castor/ superfine sugar, cornstarch, white vinegar, whipped cream and soft fruit. Here, the characteristic texture of the meringue base should be crisp on the outside and soft and marshmallowy on the inside.





Both Australia and New Zealand claim the pavlova as their own, and there is also confusion regarding its actual origin/ creator. However, this dessert is generally credited to Bert Sasch, an Australian chef. He is supposed to have created it to honour the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova when she toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s.

We were required to make the meringue base (chocolate or plain), chocolate mascarpone mousse, mascarpone cream and crème anglaise. We had the choice of using our own recipes for the crème anglaise and of course, our presentation.
You can find the complete and detailed challenge on Dawn’s blog.



My Pavlova:


The Meringue Base:

Meringues are something my egg disliking daughter loves, so I do keep making them on and off. I’ve made Meringue Cookies and Nut Meringue Cookies before and this time I made some mini-meringue cookies also.
I needed to serve dessert for five, so I made five 2 1/2" meringue nests and used the rest of the egg white batter to make the cookies.




Meringues are quite easy to make, but you just need to have very, very clean bowls and beaters to start with. It also helps tremendously if you don’t have any sort of humidity to contend with as the meringues tend to draw moisture and become soft and sticky.

Right now it’s the monsoon season, here in India, and this is definitely not the best time to successfully bake meringues. So, for a change, I actually did this challenge early in the month before the rains set in.

I made small single serve sized meringue nests, and chose to keep them plain. I do love chocolate but it seemed to me that chocolate in the meringue and the mousse would be over kill.

We do prefer our meringues (in anything including pavlova) to be completely dry and crisp as opposed to marshmallowy inside, so that’s the way I cooked mine.
My meringues were done in an hour and quarter.

The Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse:

I used home-made mascarpone for my mousse. My changes were using 25% cream (what we get here), semi-sweet chocolate (the only kind I get here and I don’t know what % chocolate it has!), and not using Grand Marnier/ orange juice. This was because we don’t use alcohol and I didn’t think orange juice would pair up well with mangoes which I was going to add to my pavlova.

This mascarpone mousse is not very sweet which is a good thing in this dessert, and it sets very well and is very easy to pipe into designs.
The leftover chocolate mascarpone mousse made the perfect topping to these German Chocolate Cupcakes of mine.


The Mascarpone Cream And Vanilla Crème Anglaise:


I deviated slightly from the challenge requirement here and didn’t make the mascarpone cream. The dessert was already rich enough for me and since there already was mascarpone in the mousse, I decided to leave it out. I added some chopped fresh mango instead over the mousse, before adding the crème anglaise.

Summer in India means that we get a wonderful variety of some the sweetest and best mangoes in the world, and as far as we are concerned there can never be “too much” of it. So it was a foregone conclusion that there was going to be mango in my pavlova.

For the crème anglaise (a dessert custard sauce of pouring consistency), I made an eggless vanilla custard sauce using vanilla custard powder, sugar and milk.




Verdict:


On the whole, I didn’t really find this pavlova challenging because I have made all the elements, including a different chocolate mascarpone mousse, before.
Like many of our earlier challenges, this is one dessert where the elements can be made slightly ahead of time and then put together before serving.

Meringues are naturally on the sweeter side, though you can reduce that a bit by adding cocoa powder to make a chocolate meringue. In this recipe the chocolate mascarpone mousse balances that out and you can always adjust the sugar in your crème anglaise, if sweetness is an issue.

There is something satisfying about the slight crunch of the meringue, the creamy smooth richness of the mousse, fresh moist sweetness of the fruit and the crème anglaise completes this dessert.
I am someone who is not very fond of meringue, yet this is one dessert where I think I don't mind it.

I think a pavlova (made with whatever your flavour preferences might be), is something to keep in one’s stock of desserts to serve whether there is company or not. It is easy enough to make, light in texture, and a great way to showcase seasonal fruit.

You can find all the other beautiful Pavlovian creations (I’ve had a preview so you can trust me on this) on the Daring Baker blogs. Don’t miss them.


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June 25, 2010

German Chocolate (Not) Cupcakes With A Choice Of Two Frostings


One question I have been asked quite a few times, since I started blogging, is if I have a favourite cookbook or chef. I really do not and tend to decide to cook/ bake something new if the recipe seems attractive to me. However, in the course of the past two years, two cookbook authors whose recipes haven’t failed me yet are Beatrice Ojakangas and David Lebovitz. I find their recipes very doable and like their simple, well explained and straight forward approach to cooking.

I follow David Lebovitz’s posts regularly, and one of his recipes I had bookmarked to try out were the German Chocolate Cupcakes. To quote from his post,

“I could never understand how anyone couldn't like something so tropically sweet, that it was the perfect partner for dark chocolate.

I can see people not liking things like black licorice or those the icky red peppers bits that people put in things that one has to carefully pick out and leave on the side of the plate. But a dessert made with coconut and dark, bittersweet chocolate? Sign me up!”

I echo that sentiment so I signed up to make some cupcakes for myself.

There is nothing German about these cupcakes (or the chocolate cake which also goes by this name) and the name comes from Samuel German who created a sweet baking chocolate for the Baker’s Chocolate Company. This chocolate cake typically uses chocolate and the frosting is made with chocolate, pecans and coconut.




I adapted this recipe from David’s who in turn adapted them from Lori Longbotham’s Luscious Coconut Desserts. I call my version German (not) cupcakes like the author of the original recipe, but for different reasons.

There were a couple of ingredients in David’s I don’t get here, and he offered me some alternative options for some other unavailable ingredients.
Here’s why mine are different. I reduced the eggs by one yolk because we don’t like an “eggy” smell or taste and so I tend to cut down on the eggs in my bakes to bare possible minimum.
I reduced the butter to 100gms because my butter comes in 100 gm slabs. I replaced the buttermilk with fresh home-made yogurt because I always have it on hand.


This one's topped with chocolate-coconut frosting


For the frosting, I left out the pecans as we don’t get that here. I replaced the egg yolks with cornstarch and here in India, unsweetened coconut flakes are called dessicated coconut. We don’t get evaporated milk either and David suggested I could use heavy cream or half-and-half. Again, I don’t get either, so I used the 25% cream I get here.




These cupcakes were very soft and light in texture. Unlike most American recipes where the sugar is usually on the higher side for our tastes, these are just right when it comes to sweetness.
I think the coffee, semi-sweet chocolate and the cocoa make for a very intense chocolate taste which is more suited to an adult taste.

I would suggest using a sweeter chocolate (or milk chocolate) and substituting the coffee with hot water if baking these cupcakes for children though my teenage daughter liked the dark chocolate version. Oh, and these cupcakes don’t dome very much and tend to be a bit flat on top.


These are the ones with the chocolate mascarpone mousse


The chocolate-coconut frosting pairs up really well with these cupcakes, but then we like coconut. I can understand how only those who really like coconuts would like this frosting, though.

I have made these cupcakes a couple of times now and the last time I did, I had some home-made mascarpone which I used to make some dark chocolate mousse for another project.
So I topped these cupcakes with some of that mousse. Much as I liked the coconut frosting, I have to say the mousse took these cupcakes to an entirely more decadent level.

I have included both the chocolate-coconut frosting and the dark chocolate mascarpone mousse recipes here. These recipes are what I used on my cupcakes and have been adapted from the originals. This also makes both the frostings eggless.



German Chocolate (Not) Cupcakes

(Adapted from David Lebovitz)


Ingredients:


¼ cup semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup boiling coffee decoction

100 gm butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

2 egg whites, at room temperature

1 egg yolk, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup cake flour

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup plain yogurt, at room temperature



Method:


First of all, pour the boiling coffee decoction over the chocolate and stir until it has melted. Set this aside.

I use filter coffee decoction because it is always available in my kitchen and the aroma of that coffee is something I love. If you do not have this you can use espresso or mix up some powdered instant coffee in boiling water and use that instead.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and beat well till mixed. Now add the vanilla and coffee-melted chocolate and mix well.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in half of the dry ingredients into the above mixture, add the yogurt and mix till blended. Now add the remaining dry ingredients. Mix again till just blended.

Whip the egg whites in a clean and dry bowl, till stiff. First fold a third of this into the chocolate batter, and then the rest till there are no streaks of white remaining. Do not overfold.

Equally divide the batter between 12 paper lined muffin cups. Bake at 180C (350F) for about 25 minutes, till the batter seems just set in the center. Remove the cupcakes from the oven, cool for a few minutes, and then remove the cupcakes from the muffin tins. Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting them.

This recipe makes 12 cupcakes.



Chocolate-Coconut Frosting

(Adapted from David Lebovitz)


Ingredients:


3/4 cup cream (25%)

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

3 tbsp cornstarch

30gm salted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 cups dessicated coconut, lightly toasted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

additional toasted coconut, for garnishing (optional)



Method:


Whisk together the cream, brown sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan.

Add the butter and cook the mixture, stirring constantly over medium heat, until the mixture begins to thicken and takes on a custard-like consistency and coats the spatula. Do not allow it to boil.

Take off the heat and immediately whisk in the chocolate, stirring gently until melted. Then stir in the coconut and vanilla. (If using unsweetened coconut, add an additional teaspoon of brown sugar if you would like the frosting sweeter.)

Cool the frosting to room temperature, then frost the cupcakes and garnish with a bit of toasted coconut if you wish.



Dark Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse:

(Adapted from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard)


Ingredients:


3/4 cup cream (preferably 36% to 40%, but I used 25% which worked well)

grated zest of 1/2 a medium sized lemon

1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup mascarpone

1 tsp vanilla extract



Method:


Warm 1/2 cup the cream and lemon zest together in a saucepan over medium heat. Once warm, add the chopped chocolate and whisk until the chocolate melts and becomes smooth. Pour this in to a bowl and cool to room temperature.

Put the mascarpone, the remaining cream and vanilla in a bowl. Beat for about a minute, on low speed, until the mascarpone softens. Beat some more, on medium speed, until it holds soft peaks. Take care not to over beat as the mascarpone will break.

Refrigerate the mousse for about half an hour or so, till it thickens a bit, and then transfer to a piping bag and frost your cupcakes.

This recipe makes a little more mousse than you will need to frost your cupcakes. You can refrigerate the remainder and serve it as part of some other dessert (it is especially good with fruit).


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June 23, 2010

Rocky Ledge Bars (My Version)


Rocky Ledge Bars, Rocky Road Bars and “Anything But The Kitchen Sink” Bars are some of the names these bars go by depending on the variations in the ingredients that go into them. Bars or cookies with “Rocky” in their names seem to invariably include marshmallows in them.

The “anything but the kitchen sink” tag comes from being able to put things like nuts, candies/ chocolate and savoury snack items and just about anything else which needs to be used up, into it!
While I understand where the “kitchen sink” concept comes from, and very much appreciate how important it is in my kitchen, I would rather not connect anything I eat to the kitchen sink for obvious reasons!
Now I discover there's another version of these Kitchen Sink bars called Compost Cookies/ Bars!!! Luckily for us, the cookies/ bars aren't even remotely anything like their names.

I don’t remember on whose blog I first saw these Rocky Ledge bars, but I remember they were adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe. When I checked out that recipe, the first thing that struck me was that these bars must be very, very sweet. There’s a whole lot of candy and chocolate and then some sugar in her ingredient list.




I still very much wanted to make them but decided to cut down the sugar and egg. I left out the marshmallows because of the gelatin in them. I used butterscotch chips instead of caramel candy and also added some caramel chocolate bars.
I added some salted cashewnuts which also balanced out the sweetness of the bars some more.

I substituted half of the flour with buckwheat flour. I have this stash of buckwheat flour which Deeba sent me quite some time back and though I have used it in a lot of my cooking/ baking, I haven’t blogged any of that yet.




I like the nutty taste that buckwheat flour lends to bakes but not everyone here feels the same way. I thought this was a good recipe in which I could use up some of it, as all the additions in these bars would ensure that the taste of buckwheat was muted.

Buckwheat flour (known as “kuttu ka atta” in north India and very popular during religious fasts) is a gluten-free flour and substituting her in a larger quantity will result in a very crumbly bar that will come apart while cutting it.

When I was stirring in all that stuff into the batter, I kept wondering how such a hotch-potch of ingredients would turn out. I was quite surprised to find that the bars were quite good.
A soft cakey base with a sometimes soft, sometimes chewy texture from the chocolate and caramel and then crunch from the cashewnuts and butterscotch chips makes these bars interesting and a bit addictive.
So if you are on a diet, watching calories for some reason or cannot live with the guilt of eating your way through these rather rich but delicious bars, I would suggest you find friends to give them away to like I did.



Rocky Ledge Bars (My Version)
(adapted from Martha Stewart)


Ingredients:


50 gm salted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup packed demerara (or brown) sugar

1 egg

about 1 to 2 tbsp of milk (if needed) to thin the batter

3/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped (or broken) salted cashewnuts

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

1/2 cup butterscotch chips

70 gm caramel chocolate bars, chopped into small squares

(I used Cadbury 5 star bars)



Method:


Prepare an 8” by 8” square tin by lining it with parchment paper such that there is some over hang. This will help you pull the baked bars out of the tin after baking.

If you are one of those (like me) who don’t get parchment paper in the stores, you can use aluminium foil to line the tin. Cut a piece of aluminium foil of size such that there is a bit of overhang when placed into the tin. Grease the foil with butter or oil and carefully line the tin, making sure the foil does not tear.
I personally prefer foil for these types of bars as unmoulding them after baking is very easy.

Place the flours and baking powder in a bowl and whisk together so they’re well mixed.

In another bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar for about 2 minutes till light and fluffy.
Add the egg and vanilla and beat till mixed. Add the whisked flours and baking powder and beat till just well mixed. If your batter seem very thick, add a tbsp or two of milk ( as required) to thin it down. Your batter must be on the thicker side or all the toppings will sink into it while baking.
Put the chopped cashewnuts, dark and white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and the chopped caramel bars into a bowl and mix together. Add half of this to the batter and fold in till mixed well.

Scrape this batter into the prepared tin and lightly spread with a spatula or spoon to level it. Now sprinkle the remaining mixed nuts-chips on top evenly so that it completely covers the batter.

Bake at 180C (350F) for about 35 minutes or till a skewer pushed into the middle comes out clean. Take the tin out of the oven and let the whole thing cool to room temperature. Then place the tin, without unmoulding the cake, in the fridge for about half an hour till it has just set.

Take the tin out, and using the overhang, pull the cake out. Peel off the foil and cut into triangles (or squares if you prefer).

According to Martha Stewart, her recipe makes 16 triangular bars. I halved her recipe and got 18 triangles (each about 2” to 2 1/2” on the sides), so I wonder just what size the original triangles would have been!


I am sending these bars to Susan who is hosting this month’s Sugar High Fridays with “Bar Cookies”.


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June 20, 2010

Apple, Tomato And Grilled Paneer Salad With Orange-Mint Dressing


Last month we challenged ourselves with a sweet something made from a fruit and two kinds of nuts which I interpreted as Mango Fool with Chocolate Chip-Nut Meringue Cookies.
This month Alessio, Asha, Pamela and I decided to make something using mint and a seasonal fruit or vegetable. All four of us live in different parts of the world and at any given time, what’s seasonal for one of us is not for the others.
Pairing mint with something else doesn’t seem like much of a challenge, does it?
Well, it was a bit of one for me. For one thing, even though it is available in plenty at the market here throughout the year, mint is not an herb we (as in my kind of traditional cooking) we use. North Indian cooking does make good use of it, on the other hand.

So even though I like mint in small doses, it’s not very popular in the family except as mint-coriander chutney. Even the much loved ice-cream tends get a wide berth if there’s mint in it.
Mint is great in any summertime cooler whether as a drink or a soup. Since our sweltering Indian summer has thankfully given way to the monsoons (at least in my part of the country), “cooling” is definitely not the need of the moment.

Then somewhere along the way between last month end and now, I just forgot about all this "mint" challenge till a couple of days back. This suddenly meant that making something with “mint and something seasonal” just got more challenging as it had to be with whatever vegetables and fruit were in my fridge.

What’s really seasonal here, as far as fruit goes at this point in time are mangoes and cherries both of which I didn’t have. What I had were apples, some pears, tomatoes, cucumbers, a cabbage, some yard-long beans, two bell peppers and a couple of zucchini.
After some consideration, it seemed the best way for me to go was with a salad. My freezer had a bit of stuff including some paneer (a soft Indian cheese) which I decided to use as well.




I'm not sure I could call apple seasonal right now as the season for Indian apples is on winter. Imported apples are however, now available all the year round in our markets. Similarly, tomatoes and cucumbers are also available all the year round.
Since I also needed to use these up, I am going to consider them seasonal as they're available in my market right now. I hope my partners in crime (?) will see this in the spirirt of the thing!

So I put together an apple, tomato and cucumber salad to which I added pan-grilled paneer. An orange-mint dressing was next and some lightly toasted broken walnuts were the final and finishing touch!
This salad can be served on the side with a main meal, but can make a filling meal in itself. It has plenty of vegetables, some fruit, nuts, protein and a bit of good fat. The lack of carbohydrates can be taken care of by adding a bit of cooked rice to it.

This is really not much of a recipe and all the ingredients can be adjusted or substituted for depending on what you like/ whatever you have on hand.


Apple, Tomato And Grilled Paneer Salad With Orange-Mint Dressing
(My own recipe)


Ingredients:


For the salad:


2 apples (I used Fuji apples), chopped or thinly sliced

1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

4 medium sized tomatoes, chopped or sliced into thin rounds

1 small cucumber, chopped or sliced into thin rounds

200 gm pan-grilled paneer cubes (with a tsp of olive oil)

2 to 3 tbsp chopped walnuts, lightly toasted


For the orange-mint dressing:


1/4 cup orange juice

½ tsp garlic paste

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp mint cut into strips

salt and pepper to taste



Method:


Prepare the dressing.
In a small glass bow, whisk the orange juice and olive oil till well emulsified. Add the mint, salt and pepper. Mix again and refrigerate till required, if not serving the salad immediately.


The pan-grill the paneer cubes.
Heat one tsp of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Turn down the heat to medium and add the paneer cubes. Toss frequently till all the paneer cubes are uniformly grilled to a light brown colour. Remove to a plate and allow to cool.

In the meanwhile, cut the apples and toss them in the lemon juice to prevent them from changing colour. Cut the tomatoes and cucumber into desired shapes and size. I personally dislike eating large pieces of raw vegetable, and so tend to cut mine a bit smaller than usual.

Add the dressing and mix well so the pieces are coated with the dressing. Sprinkle the walnuts and serve immediately. Alternatively, do not add the walnuts but allow the salad to marinate in the dressing for about half an hour. Add the walnuts just before serving.

This recipe serves 4.

Please do take a look at what Alessio, Asha and Pamela posted for this challenge. Their "mint and seasonal vegetable/ fruit" preparations will be on their blogs in the next 24 to 48 hours, as we are all in different time zones.

The four of us go velveteering, as we like to call our monthly kitchen adventures, a new dish/ style of cooking/ cuisine every month. Each of us will share our recipes, experiences and verdicts on our blogs.
If you would like to join us, please leave a comment at this post or send me a mail and we’ll get back to you.


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June 14, 2010

Cucumber Pachadi (Cucumber in Spiced Yogurt) And Mujadara (Lentils and Caramelized Onion Pilaf)


A South Indian cucumber in yogurt preparation and a Middle Eastern rice and lentil pilaf make for strange bedfellows (or I should say table fellows), don’t they? In reality they pair up extremely well.

But first, what is Mujadara?
Mujadara (also called moujadara, mejadra, mjadra, etc) is a lentil and caramelized onion pilaf (pulav/ pulao in India) made with either rice or broken wheat. Either brown or green lentils are used, though my personal preference is for the brown lentils.
Mujadara, once cooked, resembles the khichdi which we cook in India.

I had seen this recipe at Michael Natkins’s blog sometime back and then a couple of weeks back, Nupur asked if we had anything lurking in our kitchen cupboards that needed to be used up.
I do try to use up as much of my food supplies as I can, before I go shopping next so do not usually have too much stuff sitting in my cupboards.
Right now though, I do have a few things bought with specific recipes in mind and are yet to be used. On the positive side, that’s plenty of raw material for more posts to come!

This morning I was feeling a bit lazy and the fact that it was raining heavily just made me want to curl up and read a book or something. Cooking was definitely not on my mind but I needed to rustle up something for lunch. A one-dish rice preparation without too much of time or effort in the kitchen was what I was thinking of. I suddenly remembered the mujadara, and this seemed the best way to use up the last bit of brown lentils (whole masoor dal) in the jar.

I used Michael’s recipe but made a few minor changes to the recipe to suit our tastes. I don’t know if this means this is not an authentic mujadara, but all I can say is that we liked it very much.

I understand that mujadara is usually served with labneh or some form of yogurt and that is most definitely the way to go, in my opinion. In India, too, we serve our pulao (pilaf) and biryanis with either plain thick yogurt or raita which is seasoned vegetables (or even gram flour vermicelli/ mini-fritters called “sev” or “boondhi”) in yogurt.

In my part of southern India, we make a type of raita called “thayir pachadi”. This is made with a variety of vegetables, mostly cooked but occasionally raw, and ground coconut in yogurt and then seasoned with mustard.
I had a couple of cucumbers in my fridge which also needed to be used up while they were still fresh, so I made a cucumber thayir pachadi to serve the mujadara.
Here are my recipes for both.



Cucumber Thayir Pachadi:





Ingredients:


2 medium sized cucumbers, peeled and diced into small cubes

3 cups thick plain yogurt

3 tbsp fresh grated coconut

1 or 2 green chillies

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

salt to taste

1 1/2 tsp oil and 1 tsp mustard seeds, for tempering.

some mint for garnishing



Method:


Grind the coconut, chillies and mustard seeds, without water, to a coarse paste. Add this to the yogurt and whisk by hand, a couple of times till the yogurt is well mixed and smooth.
Add the salt and the chopped cucumber and mix well.

Heat the oil for tempering and add the mustard. Once they stop spluttering, add to the yogurt-cucumber mixture/ pachadi.
Chill and garnish with mint before serving.

This recipe serves 4.



Mujadara:




Ingredients:


1 cup brown lentils (whole masoor dal)

1 1/2 cups long grain white or brown rice (I used a steamed short grain variety called jeera rice)

4 medium sized onions, sliced thin

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp oil

1/2 tsp garlic paste

1/2 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp garam masala

1 1/4 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp red chilli flakes

salt to taste

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp chopped coriander for garnishing



Method:


You can cook the rice and the lentils together, but it is easier if you cook them separately as one can ensure the rice and lentils do not cook into a mush.
Cook the rice with some salt and a tsp of oil till well done but the grains are separate. Spread the rice on a plate to cool.
Also cook the lentils with enough water (do not add salt as the lentils might not cook if you do) till they’re done but whole.
You can cook them on the stove top. I personally always cook my lentils, and the rice too, in a pressure cooker.
Melt the butter and oil in a large pan , large enough to contain the rice and lentils. Add the sliced onions and salt, stirring occasionally, and cook them over medium heat till soft. Turn heat up slightly and keep stirring the onions frequently till deep brown and almost crisp. Remove the onions and spread on a paper towel to drain.

There will be a little oil-butter mixture in the pan. Don’t turn off the heat and add the garlic and ginger pastes to this and sauté for a couple of minutes. Turn down the heat to low and add the cumin powder and garam masala powder.
Sauté this for a minute and add half the caramelized onion, the cooked lentils and rice. Also add the chilli flakes and some more salt if necessary.
Gently mix everything together. Turn off the heat. Add the lemon juice and mix well.

Transfer the mujadara onto your serving dish and uniformly sprinkle with the remaining onions and chopped coriander. Serve warm with some plain or seasoned yogurt for a very filling and well balanced meal.

This dish amply serves 4 people. Leftovers can be refrigerated and served the following day, when it tastes even better.



Since Nupur wanted to know what was lurking in my kitchen, this mujadara goes to her.
It is also my entry to Susan’s MLLA whose 24th edition is being hosted by Diana at A Little Bit Of Spain.


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June 10, 2010

Vanilla Yo-Yo Biscuits (Or Cookies, If You Wish)


I have heard of writer’s block, but is there something called blogger’s block? Apparently there is, and it’s a much more serious and prevalent disorder than I realized! My motivation to blog seems to have deserted me for the present. I still enjoy the thought of writing in this little space of mine and have no plans on disappearing from here. It’s just that cooking, taking pictures and writing a post suddenly seems like a lot of effort.

Maybe the heat of the summer has got to me, and all it needs the monsoons to cool everything down and bring back the magic. I hope so because, at this point in time, I think I could do with a little magic in my life!

Last month saw us busy with loads of things, but quite a few of my “to be posted” drafts saw the light of day and kept my blog going.
Then the beginning of this month saw me in bed with a viral infection. Now that I am much better, my appetite for food is back but my mind seems singularly blank when I sit down to write a post. No interesting ideas, no stories, and my pile of “to be posted” drafts has dwindled down to almost nothing.

I shall spare you the pain of listening to me whine, and try to see if any of these surefire methods of battling bloggers block will help me beat it! In the meanwhile, I am once again, falling back on another of my “to be posted” drafts, but a more recent one.




A couple of weeks back, I heard Sasa ( a food blogging friend) talking about Yo-Yo biscuits she was making. I had never heard of them before and asked exactly what they were.
She told me they were an Australian favourite and these biscuits (cookies for those in the U.S.) were made with butter, icing sugar, flour and custard powder and then sandwiched with a custard powder buttercream.

I searched the net and found they were called yo-yo biscuits because once sandwiched with buttercream, they indeed looked like yo-yos! They typically have a ridged pattern on them that comes from pressing down on the cookie dough with the tines of a fork.
These biscuits are very like shortbreads or melting moments in taste and texture. And if you are looking for an eggless recipe, this one is definitely for you.




Yo-yo biscuits are very easy to make, just that you have be careful not to bake them for too long. If you do, they lose their melt-in-the mouth quality. They do not need to brown and have to be taken out of the oven just as they’re beginning to change colour.

I checked a lot of recipes, and most of them are variations on the same basic ingredients. So I adjusted quantities to suit me and this is the recipe that I made my yo-yo biscuits with.



Ingredients:


For the biscuits:


125 gm butter, softened

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup vanilla flavoured custard powder (or cornstarch



For the buttercream:

30 gm butter, softened

3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 tsp vanilla flavoured custard powder

1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

A couple of drops of food colour (optional)



Method:


To make the biscuits, put the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl. Using an electric mixer beat this on high speed till it becomes pale and fluffy (for about 3 minutes). Scrape the sides of the bowl down a couple of times in between.

Sift the flour and custard powder onto this butter-sugar mixture and beat on low speed till everything is just combined to form a soft dough.
Since the dough is not very easy to handle at this stage, refrigerate it for about 30 to 45 minutes till it can be easily shaped.

Then take out the dough. Lightly coat your palms with flour and pinch off equal little bits (about 25 to 30 in all) of dough and roll them into smooth balls.

Place them on parchment paper lined sheets or ungreased cookie sheets. Dip the tines of a fork in flour and lightly press down on each ball of dough, flattening it to about 1 cm high. The tines will leave a decorative mark on the biscuits.

If your balls of dough have been rolled smoothly without any cracks, they will be smooth when pressed down.
Place the sheets in the refrigerator for about 10 to 15 minutes (the time it takes for your oven to pre-heat).

Bake the biscuits at 170C for about 15 minutes or till they start looking a light golden colour. Do not be tempted to over bake them, as the biscuits will lose their melt-in-the-mouth texture.

Let them cool on the sheets for a while and cool them completely. Beat all the ingredients for the butter cream till light and smooth. Sandwich the biscuits with this buttercream.

These yo-yo biscuits will stay refrigerated for about 5 days, provided they last that long!
This recipe makes 12 to 15 vanilla yo-yo biscuits.


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June 7, 2010

Mava/ Mawa Cake - An Indian Cardamom Cake (Version 1)


As I have mentioned a couple of times before, baking is traditionally not a part of Indian cooking methods. A history of trade with other countries of the world, foreign invasions, the arrival of Christianity and Islam, and colonization have however, had an effect on the cuisines of various parts of India.
Baking has become an innate part of some regional Indian cuisines and there are a few cakes, biscuits (which is what we call our cookies) and bakes which are very Indian though their origin might have been elsewhere.

In Kerala (my home state) and Goa (where I now live), the Christian community is famous for their festive baking as elsewhere in India. Similarly, the Parsis and Iranis in Mumbai are also well known for their baked confections. Many other cakes and biscuits had their origins in the tea-time practices of the British when they were in India. While a lot of these are disappearing with time, one can still find small bakeries in various parts of the country.

I am going to keep looking for recipes for such bakes and whenever I do, try them out and share them here.
One such bake is the “Mava Cake”, which is just one of the excellent eats made and served at Irani bakeries/ cafés.




The Irani café, a fast disappearing tradition, refers to the cafés run by immigrants to India from Iran and Persia in the early 20th century. These cafes were very popular for the delicious yet inexpensive food they served. Many of these cafés have closed down because they couldn’t cope with the fast food culture that has swept in.
It would be unfortunate if they totally disappeared because they are an insight into a culture, tradition and cuisine which was very much a part of India.

I’m not an expert on Irani cafés and the only thing truly Irani I had ever had was Irani chai which is strong, sweet, milky and deliciously flavoured with cardamom. Yet I had heard so much about the food served in those cafés and the bread, cakes and biscuits made in their bakeries, especially their mava cake.

Mava, also known as khoya, is the base in many Indian milk-based sweets. It is made by reducing full fat buffalo milk (or cow milk) over low heat, until most of the liquid has evaporated leaving behind the milk solids.
There are different types of mava depending on the moisture content and each type is used in different dishes.
Mava is easily available in the stores in most parts of India, but you can always make it at home. It just takes a lot of time and a watchful eye.

About 6 months back, I came across a mention of the mava cake in something I was reading. I wanted to try making it but had no idea how it tasted. It was sheer co-incidence that my husband was in Mumbai on some work then, so I immediately messaged him asking if he could bring back some mava cake.

My husband is now quite reconciled with the vagaries of having a wife who blogs about food, and is never surprised by my occasionally strange demands for something or the other whenever he travels out on work!
So, as a matter of course, he messaged me back asking “How urgent is this?”!!

I replied it really wasn’t, but searched out all information as to where exactly he could source the cake from, and sent it to him. The next day, my husband came back from Mumbai and handed me two rectangular brown paper boxes, tied up in string, bearing the name of the 103 year old bakers and confectioners, Kyani & Co.

The rather plain and unpretentious packages were opened to reveal two somewhat ordinary looking cakes (one with almonds and another with cashewnuts). One bite of the mava cake however, revealed why this very rich yet soft and melt-in-the-mouth cake is so popular with everyone who has ever had a taste of it.
Now all I needed to do was to see if I could reproduce a cake as close as possible to the original.




There weren’t too many recipes out there and most of them required more eggs than I was happy using since I didn’t want an “eggy” cake. They also seemed to need a lot of butter, but then the mava cake is a very rich cake. So I cut down on the eggs and tweaked the recipe, baked these cakes a couple of times to arrive at a cake which comes pretty close in taste and texture to the ones I ate from Kyani and Co.

Living where I am, I wasn’t too sure how good or fresh store bought mava/ khoya would be, so I made some at home. This method takes a bit of time, but this is how mava/ khoya is traditionally made.
Another easier version of home-made mava can be found on Helen’s blog. This source provides more alternatives for mava, but I have no idea how well they would taste in this cake.

You can make the mava cake as cupcakes, but the cakes I got from Mumbai came as small loaves. As I did not have a suitable sized loaf tin, I made mine as a round cake. I tried to stay as authentic as possible to the appearance and taste of that cake.
The cashewnut mava cake from Kyani was flavoured with cardamom (which I used in my cake too) while their almond mava cake was flavoured with nutmeg.
Mava/ Mawa Cake - An Indian Cardamom Cake

Making Mava:


Ingredients:


1 litre milk (I used 2% fat) ~ 3/4 to 1 cup mava



Method:


Pour the milk into a deep heavy walled pot/ pan. This is important as the milk needs to cook very slowly. Bring the milk to a boil and then turn down the heat. Allow the milk to simmer and keep stirring frequently until the milk reduces down so that the milk solids are very moist but there’s no visible liquid in the pot/ pan.

Take it off the fire and allow it to cool. This mava can be refrigerated in an airtight container for about 3 days.



Making The Mava Cake:


Ingredients:


1/2 cup mava

60gm butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp powdered cardamom

1/3 cup milk

1 egg

about 10 to 12 unsalted cashewnut halves



Method:


Beat the sugar, soft butter and mava till light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well. Mix together the flour, baking powder and cardamom and add alternately with the milk beating well with each addition till smooth.

Pour the batter in to a buttered and floured 9” cake tin. Sprinkle the cashew halves on top and bake at 180C for about 25 minutes or till the top of the cake is a golden brown and a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, remove and cool on a rack.

This cake is very rich and it might be advisable to cut smaller servings than usual. It should serve about 10 to 12.

For variations of the mava cake, do see Nandita’s eggless mava cake and Vaishali’s vegan version.


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June 1, 2010

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels & Garlic Knots With Parsley And Olive Oil


As has been the practise with me for a while now, I don’t seem to have enough time to do all the things I’ve signed up for (blog-wise) including the bread baking from Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes! Its not that I have signed up for a lot of things, but that I end up pushing whatever little I have taken on to the last minute, and then find it tough to meet the deadline I have set for myself!
Guess I need to become a little more organized with my time and what I want to do with it, but there’s so much I want to do.

I haven’t been baking much this past month though you wouldn’t believe it looking at all my posts for the month! A lot of those were from the previous two months. As I was saying, I didn’t get around to making the scheduled ABin5/ HBin5 breads which were Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf, Turkish-Style Pita Bread with Black Sesame Seeds or the Whole Grain Garlic Knots.
And for the 1st of June, the ABin5/ Hbin5 schedule was set for Cherry Black Pepper Focaccia, Cinnamon Raison Whole Wheat Bagels and the Moon and Stars Bread!

Given that I waited till the end of May to take a look at the schedule, that’s a tall bread baking order! So I decided to pick one bread from the first lot and one from the second to make. As it turned out, both the breads I decided to bake required the same master dough recipe.

The Garlic Knots and the Cinnamon Raisin Bagels were my breads of choice.
I changed the proportions given in the master recipe a bit. Since I halved the master recipe, I used 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour and 2 cups all purpose flour and left out the gluten since I don’t get that here.
Otherwise I kept with the recipes, except that I left out the cheese in the garlic knots.

Now I don’t usually post my kitchen failures, because the idea is to share good food with you all and the recipes which have worked for me. The exceptions to this have been the occasional Daring Baker challenges.
While I wouldn’t exactly term this set of HBin5 breads as failures, I most definitely will not count them among my successes.


The Garlic Knots:


One of the things about the texture of some the breads in this book (not the enriched dough types) is that they tend to be very chewy in texture. Personally, we prefer our bread rolls, by and large to be softer and less chewy. Adding whole wheat flour (especially without the gluten) tend to make them even more chewier.




So these garlic knots are quite chewy which is not a bad thing provided they’re eaten straight out of the oven. But as far as we go, these are not the best bread knots we’ve eaten especially if you have eaten these Italian Bread Knots.
So I guess I’ll not be making these again. If you would like to try your hand at them, there's a recipe for them here.

Remember, this is just my opinion and that I did tweak the original recipe a bit and that I did not use gluten here. All of these could have (and probably did) contribute to the texture of my garlic knots. So do give them a try before deciding one way or the other.

A quarter of the given master recipe will give you 5 garlic knots.


The Cinnamon Raisin Bagels:


I have made bagels once before, a very long time ago probably around 3 BB (before blog!). I had never seen a bagel before and the idea of a bread which needs to be boiled in water before being baked was interesting. That exercise was a bit time consuming but we liked the bagels.




It was with that thought in mind that I decided to make these cinnamon raisin bagels. Except that this time, I found shaping the dough a little more challenging as the dough was stickier.
Here's the recipe for these bagels. Jeff And Zoe also have a tutorial for shaping bagels on their ABin5 site.

I have to say I was quite disappointed with my efforts. These bagels tended to spread out and flatten themselves a bit and by the time I had boiled them and baked them, they were a little to flat to be called bagels!
I took a picture of the only one of that lot which was a little taller than the rest, and as you can see, that wasn’t much!
I have had only a couple of disappointments in the breads I have baked so far from ABin5/ HBin5, and I am going to have to add these two breads to that list. Hopefully, my next attempt will be more of a success.

I am sending the Garlic Knots off to be YeastSpotted! I'm also sending them to Natashya who is hosting the 30th edition of Bread Baking Day themed "Twisted Breads".
I know these breads, especially the bagels didn't work for me, but they have done extremely well for most of the ABin5/ HBin5 gang.



Please Note:

Before I end this post, there are a couple of things I would like to mention.
All the links on the horizontal menu/ link list under my header no longer link to On My Menu, but to pages on this blog. I know some of you are following that blog and wanted to let you know I’m deleting that blog in a couple of days.

I am in the process of cleaning up my blog and have also removed the recipe index which was on the left side. For a complete listing of the recipes on my blog, please click on the recipes link on the horizontal menu/ link list right under my header.


I would also very much appreciate your opinion on something that has been on my mind. Would you prefer a “Print” option for recipes on my blog?
For me, print options don’t make much of a difference, as I don’t print out recipes from the net. I tend to scribble down recipes/ notes on pieces of waste paper printed on one side.
Many food blogs do offer a “print recipe” option and it seems to me that a lot of people do use it to print out recipes.
I would really like to know what your preference would be. Thank you.


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