November 30, 2010

Viennese Chocolate Fingers And My Blog Anniversary Giveaway Winners


Do you know what a cookie exchange party is? A cookie exchange party is a get together hosted by a cookie lover for other similarly minded cookie lovers. Everyone who comes to the party brings cookies with them, either ones they have themselves baked, or as a last resort cookies they have bought, because you do not go to this party empty handed. Once everyone has enjoyed the tea and themselves (but not the cookies), all the cookies that came to the party are divided and packed every guest takes home a cookie bag!

Great idea for a party, don’t you think? You make a large batch of one type of cookie, take them with you, have a great time meeting your friends for tea, and then come back home with a stash of a variety of cookies they baked for all of you!

Well, I had no idea what a cookie exchange was till about a year ago when Robin Olson wrote to me. She told me she was writing a book on hosting cookie exchanges and wanted to know if I was willing to have my Ghorayebah (Arabic Cardamom Shortbread Cookies) recipe included in her book. That’s when I checked out “cookie exchanges” and found that Robin was a pioneer in the field.





To cut a long story short, I agreed and Robin added my cookies to her book. Her book, The Cookie Party Cookbook: The Ultimate Guide to Hosting a Cookie Exchange was published last month and you can find my recipe on pages 188-189 of her book.

I just got my copy of the book and am looking forward to trying out some of the cookies in it. If you would like to host your own cookie exchange parties then Robin provides a wealth of information about how to plan and organise one and even provides ideas for party themes, invites, 25 sample tea-time menus, fun activities, prizes and favours.

If you’re not interested in any of these activities but are a cookie lover, her book has a great collection of 176 cookie recipes including classics like Chocolate Chip Cookies and Snickerdoodles, Christmas cookies like Peppermint Pinwheels and Chocolate Reindeer Cookies, bars, tartlets, turtles and a variety of cookies from around the world. Each recipe is also marked for degree of difficulty and whether it is an everyday cookie or a holiday cookie.





While some of the recipes are Robin’s and those inherited from her mother-in-law, many of them are recipes from cookie bakers around the world. I thought I would experiment with the Viennese Chocolate Fingers (page 147 of the book) contributed by Iris Grundler of Gaithersburg. What made them particularly attractive to me was the chocolate in them and that these are eggless cookies too.

It was also the perfect chance to put to use a set of measuring cups and spoons that Robin was so sweet to send to me. There’s a small story behind this. I am a person who has cooked and baked all the recipes on my blog using my own measuring cups (which are actually old coffee mugs; you can find the volume measurements I use at the bottom of this page), which follows the ASM system. In case you are wondering, that’s Aparna’s Standard Measure!

While this might seem unscientific to some, I believe that most recipes are not sacrosanct in their ingredient measurements. In my experience, with some exceptions, most ingredients in recipes are usually in proportion to one another. People have been cooking for generations and in the good old days they didn’t have standardised measuring cups and spoons or weighing scales, yet the turned out consistently excellent food!





So when Robin first asked for my recipe, there was a bit of a confusion regarding ingredient quantities. My measuring cups and spoons were not standard American size! She managed to convert my recipe to her requirements, and also promised to send me some standard American measuring cups and spoons which she did.

Since I started blogging, I have acquired a digital weighing scale which I have to confess I don’t use very much. Measuring cups are more my thing. In case you’re wondering, I also do not possess a candy thermometer but am reasonably adept at using the Cold Water Candy Test, which I learnt watching my grandmother and mother in the kitchen, to test sugar syrups.

Back to the Viennese Chocolate Fingers. I don’t get self-raising sugar here so used 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 1/2 tsp baking powder. I found the dough a bit thick so I added 3 tbsp milk to get it to a softer consistency. The dough needs to be quite soft, but not a batter, so that you can pipe it out, yet if it is too soft, the hallmark ridges of Viennese cookies will not hold shape.





Piping out the dough can be a bit of a strain on the hands. I would also suggest you use a sturdy piping bag and a pastry nozzle. I initially used one of those Chinese made disposable piping bags (that’s what I get here), and for the first time in my experience, the bag burst! I had to remove the dough and put it into one of my re-usable pastry bags.

The recipe is for fingers, but you can make them any shape you wish. So while I didn’t get down to the traditional “W”, I also piped some cookie sized circles and “S” swirls. My Viennese fingers/ cookies/ swirls were not too buttery, crisp but somewhat cake-like in the centre. These cookies are quite nice (they are dipped in chocolate!), but I think I might need to work on my Viennese cookie skills a bit more.



Viennese Chocolate Fingers
(Reproduced with permission from The Cookie Party Cookbook)



Ingredients:


1/2 cup (115gm) unsalted butter, softened

6 tbsp confectioners’ sugar/ icing sugar

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour, sifted

3 tbsp cornstarch

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips




Method:


Pre-heat the oven to 190C (375F). Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

Beat the butter and sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add the flour and cornstarch. Melt 1/4 cup of the semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave or a double boiler. Beat the melted chocolate into the cookie dough.

Place the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe fingers about 2” long on the baking sheets, spacing them 2” apart to allow for spreading. If the cookie dough is too thick, beat in a little milk to thin it out before you place it in the pastry bag. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Melt the remaining 3/4 cup chocolate and dip one end of the cookies in it. Allow the excess to drip back into the bowl. Place the dipped cookies on a sheet of parchment paper and let the chocolate set.

This recipe makes 30 cookies.



And for the winners of my 3rd blog anniversary giveaway. Thank you for leaving your comments because it makes it fun to pick out a winner. As promised, I (the number generator, actually) randomly picked out two commenters to win the books.

The first one is Jayashree and she gets a copy of Weeknight Desserts by Beatrice Ojakangas. The other commenter is the Happy Cook who has won herself a copy of Leftover Makeovers by Victoria Shearer. Congratulations ladies! Please send me your mailing addresses to that I can post them to you at the earliest.


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November 27, 2010

Pasta Frolla – Crostatine di Mele (Apple Pie Mini Crostata) and Crostate di Ricotta e Marmellata di Fragole (Ricotta And Strawberry Jam Crostata): Daring Baker Challenge November, 2010


This is probably my shortest ever Daring Baker post, because I don’t have the time to sit down and write a long one! I actually finished the challenge quite early on in the month but just never managed to put it down in words. November, for me, has been one of those months that seems to be over as soon as it began, and December looks like it is going to be pretty much the same!

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of Briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

And so to the challenge, which I thought was something to do with pasta, when I first saw it. Then I realized pasta frolla was shortcrust pastry in Italian, and a crostata is a tart (I think pies and galettes also qualify).

As Simona, who grew up with these says, pasta frolla is versatile and can be used as a base for crostata made with fruit preserves, pastry cream, fresh fruit, ricotta, and other ingredients, and, by itself, it makes very nice cookies.
We had to make pasta frolla using one of the recipes provided, but what we wanted to put in it was entirely up to us. You can find the detailed recipe here. The pasta frolla recipe I used follows along with my fillings.




I wanted to use fruit in my crostata but the rains have given away to cooler weather but fruits of the season are just beginning to make an appearance. One fruit which seems to be available the year round in India these days is the apple. And I’m always game for anything that remotely resembles apple pie.

So I made some lattice-topped Crostatine di Mele. Translated, that means little crostata filled with apple pie filling. The recipe for the pasta frolla gave me 6 crostatine and 4 small crostate.



Crostatine di Mele (Apple Pie Mini Crostata)



Ingredients:


For the pasta frolla:


1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

a pinch of salt

115gm cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

grated zest of half a lemon

1 large egg, lightly beaten


For the spiced apple pie filling:


4 apples (peeled, cored and sliced thinly)

1 tbsp lemon juice

1/4 cup brown sugar (adjust as needed)

2 tbsp butter

1/2 garam masala

1/2 tsp chai masala

1/4 tsp salt



Method:


For the spiced apple pie filling:


Mix the sliced apples, lemon juice and the brown sugar in a bowl and keep covered for about half an hour.

Then melt the butter in a pan. Put the apple-sugar mixture and the remaining ingredients into the pan and cook over medium heat, till the apples are cooked and the juices have thickened, and the mixture is moist but not runny.
Use in the crostata.


For the pasta frolla:

Put sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest in the food processor and pulse a few times to mix.
Add the butter and pulse a few times, until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal. Empty food processor's bowl onto your work surface.

Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten egg into it. Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips. Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.
Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.

Take the pasta frolla out of the fridge, unwrap it and cut 1/3 of the dough and divide it into 6 equal portions. Refrigerate this dough while you work on the tart base.

To help roll the crostata dough, keep the dough on top of the plastic wrap that you had it wrapped in. This can help rolling the dough and can also help when transferring the dough to your pan. You can also use parchment paper for this.
After overnight refrigeration, I didn’t have problems rolling out my pastry dough. Lightly dust your work surface with flour and start rolling out the dough to about 1/8” thickness. Using a 2 1/2” or 2 3/4" round cutter, cut out 6 circles. Take the scraps and place on top of each other (do not knead) and then roll out and cut thin strips to use for the lattice in the crostatine.

Now take the 6 pieces of dough in the fridge, and roll each one into rope of uniform thickness. The “rope” should be long enough to cover the circumference of your dough circles. Wet the edges of the circles with milk (I don’t use egg wash) and place the pastry “ropes” along the edges to from a wall sealing the edges neatly and the tips of the “ropes” together.

Fill each crostatina with the apple pie filling and then use the pastry strips to make a lattice over each one, sealing it with a little milk. Brush milk ober the top of the crostatine and bake them at 190C (375F) for about 20 to 25 minutes till they’re golden brown n colour.

Serve them warm as they are or with vanilla ice-cream. This makes 6 crostine.



Crostata di Ricotta e Marmellata di Fragole (Ricotta And Strawberry Jam Crostata)


Traditional Crostate di Marmellata is usually made with home-made jam. I had one jar left from last year's batch of strawberry jam and I decided to put it to some good use here. Since I didn't want a very sweet crostata, I decided to make a two layer crostata with ricotta (paneer) and the jam.




I made my ricotta (paneer) like I always do. For the cheesecake like filling, I did not use any eggs or anything else for binding, but my filling firmed up after baking.
I made these crostata as smaller single serve tarts using small tart tins with removable bases.


Ingredients:



For the pasta frolla:


Exactly as above.


For the ricotta and strawberry jam filling:


2 cups fresh home-made ricotta or paneer

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 to 1 1/2 cups home-made strawberry jam



Method:


Make the pastry dough in the same way as above. Take the dough out of the fridge. Cut about 1/4 of it and put back into the fridge for making the lattice.

Lightly dust the top of the dough and your work surface (if you’re rolling directly on a work surface) with flour. Keep some flour handy to dust the dough as you go along.

If the dough is very firm, start by pressing the dough with the rolling pin from the middle to each end, moving the rolling pin by a pin's width each time; turn the dough 180 degrees and repeat; when it softens, start rolling.
Roll the dough into a square about 1/8” thick. Cut the square into 4 equal squares.

If you used the plastic wrap or parchment paper as rolling surface, flip each square over over one of the four tart pans, centering it, and delicately press it all around so the corners are well covered. Peel away the plastic wrap.

Trim the excess dough hanging over the edges of the pan. Press the remaining dough around the border into the sides of the pan making sure the border is an even thickness all the way around.
Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork in several places. Keep the scraps aside. You can bake them into cookies later.

Take out of the fridge the reserved pasta frolla you had cut away earlier. Roll it with your pin and cut into strips or use cookie cutters to make small shapes (this is not traditional, but it looks cute); or roll with your hands into ropes.

Using a whisk or hand held mixer if you prefer, beat together the ricotta (or paneer), powdered sugar and vanilla extract rill very smooth and there are no lumps. Divide this mixture equally into the four tart tins and smooth the top.
Warm the jam slightly and mix it well with a spoon. Spoon the jam over the ricotta in a thin and smooth layer.

Top with a lattice or as you prefer and bake at 190C (375F) for about 25 to 30 minutes till the pastry starts turning golden brown.
Remove from oven, cool completely and remove from the tins. Serve.
This makes 4 crostate.



Verdict:


The pasta frolla recipe is a keeper. It makes a very buttery and flaky and some very good cookies too. I have made the pasta frolla recipe without the egg (I just left it out) and it was pretty good so if you don’t eat eggs, you can still use this recipe.




I think if I tell you I made the Spiced Apple Pie Crostatine first and that they were all gone before I could get my camera, I needn’t tell you anything more!
I had to make a second batch to get the pictures. And then, my daughter wanted to know when I was going to make them next, so I made the ricotta and strawberry jam version.


And please do take the time to visit my Daring Baker friends.



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November 25, 2010

Vegetable Dhansak, Parsi Brown Rice And Kachumbar (An Indian Style Salsa)


We have been exploring each other’s traditional cuisines these past two months in the course of our Velveteering. We tried Alessio’s Caponata and Pamela’s Laksa and this month it is Asha’s turn, and she suggested we make Dhansak which is one of the more well-known preparations of Parsi cuisine.
India being the vast and diverse country it is, there really isn’t one food preparation that would truly represent every part of the country. Perhaps kheer or payasam (which is the Indian version of rice and milk pudding) would come close, but then again there are so many versions of this across the country, but I am not sure.

So not only do we have Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Jains, India is also home to Jews, Parsis, Iranis and Chinese amongst others. This means we are that much richer culturally and each community has drawn on its own traditions, borrowed some from where it has settled down and come up with some of the most exciting tastes and flavours in food that one can think of.

The Parsis came to India from Persia over a thousand years ago, fleeing from persecution by Muslim invaders there, carrying only a flame from their holy temple. This small enterprising and peace loving Zoroastrian community may be small in numbers but is big in stature with many of its members being very well known in their chosen fields.
They’re also very passionate about their food which is mostly non-vegetarian and very egg-centric. Parsi cuisine is a very interesting marriage of Persian and Gujarati cuisine as the Indian state of Gujarat was where they settled down when they first arrived in India.




I know very little about Parsi food other than what I have heard or read about and that is rather unfortunate. The only Parsis I have known well enough, as well enough as a 7 year old could if that was possible, were an elderly couple. They were our neighbours in Tanzania, a Homai Uncle and Gula Aunty and their children Freny and Yezdi.
Uncle Homai must have been in his sixties back then and I remember him as an irritable old man whom Gula Aunty used to pacify – a sort of Mr. and Mrs. Wilson if you will. While I wasn’t quite the menace Dennis was, I now understand that the last thing an elderly Homai Uncle would have wanted was to be pestered by curious, obstinate and rebellious 7 year old who didn’t think something had to be done just because she was told to do it!

What I do have is some memories of both of them. I remember Gula Aunty’s collection of beautiful laces, the lovely chokers (they were the fashion then) she used to make with black ribbon embroidered with beads and sequins and their son Yezdi. Uncle Yezdi, as I used to call him, was a handsome young man, a bike mechanic and crazy about bikes.
He also had immense patience with the 7 year old that I was, and I returned the favour by being his unofficial assistant whenever I could, handing him his spanners and stuff when he needed them. Much as I like to believe I must have been of immense help, I now wonder if I was perhaps in his way more often than not but he was too nice to tell me so!




My apologies for going off on a tangent, so back to the Dhansak I was going to tell you about. Dhansak is a stew-like spiced preparation made with lentils, vegetables and some meat (usually lamb, mutton or chicken and even prawns at times) but of course, my Dhansak is vegetarian. Broadly, Dhansak can be described as a sweet and sour curry with a lentil sauce. The hot comes from red chillies/ chilli powder, sweet from sugar and sour from tamarind.

Dhansak is usually served with Brown Rice (a mildly spiced and caramelised pulav/ pilaf) and Kachumbar (an Indian style salsa made of onion, tomato and cucumber). I believe that kebabs are also sometimes served, but I chose to leave that out and make things easier and crunchier for myself by frying some pappads instead.

Apparently when you say Parsi food to a non-Parsi, Dhansak is invariably one of the dishes that come to mind. The things that come to my mind on being similarly prompted, and I shall post them eventually, are Akoori on toast (a Parsi version of scrambled eggs), Ravo (a sweet made of semolina) and Laganu Custard (Caramel custard pudding) but that maybe because I am not a meat/ fish eater!

I read somewhere that Dhansak is part of festive cooking and features in many homes for Sunday lunch. I also read that Dhansak is not celebratory fare, but actually part of funeral cooking!! It seems they serve Dhansak daal at wedding, without the meat. Anyone know which version is the correct one? If you do, I would love to know.




After checking up the many recipes on the web, I put together my version of Dhansak, which follows right below. You will notice that my recipes say oil or ghee as choice of cooking fat. That is because ghee can be a bit heavy if you’re not used to it or would prefer not to use it, so you may use oil. What I do is use half oil and half ghee. This way I don’t lose out on the flavour that only ghee can lend, without the heaviness. Of course, Dhansak and Brown Rice wouldn’t be on my regular cooking menu but on the one I would use for entertaining.

The Brown Rice is more or less a standard recipe, it seems, and most of them seem to require a little more sugar. I wanted my rice to just have a hint of sweet so this recipe is how I made mine. As for the Kachumbar, it’s a standard Indian style salad you would find in most homes and eateries/ restaurants and doesn’t really need a recipe, but here’s my version.



Vegetable Dhansak

 

Ingredients:


1/3 cup red gram lentils (tuvar dal)

1/3 cup spilt Puy lentils (masoor dal)

1/3 cup split moong lentils (moong dal)

1/4 cup Bengal gram lentils (chana dal)

2 medium sized onions, finely sliced

1 large potato, peeled and diced

1 medium round eggplant/ aubergine, diced

1 cup red pumpkin, peeled and diced

1 large tomato, chopped

1/4tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)

3/4 tbsp tamarind paste

1 tsp jaggery (or sugar)

1 1/2 tbsp oil/ ghee

salt to taste

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander for garnishing



For spice paste:

2 garlic cloves

1/2” piece of ginger

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds

1” piece of cinnamon

Seeds from 2 green cardamom pods

3 cloves

4 black peppercorns

2 dry red chillies



Method:


First make the spice paste. Dry roast the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns and red chillies, one at a time, in a small pan over low to medium heat, till the aroma of each just begins to emanate. Let them cool and then grind these and the rest of the ingredients for the spice paste with a couple of tsp of water into a paste. Keep aside.

Put all the lentils in a bowl and wash them well. Then add enough water and the vegetables (eggplant, potato and pumpkin) and pressure cook till done. You can also do this on the stovetop in a largish thick walled pan.

Once you can open the pressure cooker, remove the cooked lentils and vegetables and mash them well. For dhansak this means that there should be no lumps of vegetables visible, and the mixture should be smooth which is probably as it should be if there is going to be meat in your Dhansak. I wanted a bit of texture in my Dhansak so I mashed everything such that small bits of vegetables could still be seen.

Soak the kasuri methi in 2 tbsp of hot water.

Heat the oil in a kadhai/ pan and add the ginger-garlic paste and the spice paste. Cook for about one minute over medium heat, stirring frequently, seeing that it doesn’t burn. Add the onions. Sauté till the onions till they turn golden brown. Now add the tomatoes and cook till they become soft.

Add the mashed lentil-vegetable mixture, turmeric powder, the soaked kasuri methi with the water, tamarind pulp, sugar and salt, and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Cook till gravy thickens and bubbles. The dhansak should be like a thick stew in consistency. If it starts looking dry and hisses/ spits, add a little water to thin it down a bit.

Garnish with chopped fresh coriander. Serve hot with Brown Rice, Kachumbar and Pappads. This recipe serves 4 to 6.



Parsi Brown Rice



Ingredients:


2 cups basmati rice

4 cups water

2 tsp sugar

2 onions, finely sliced

2 pieces cinnamon sticks 2” each

5 cloves

3 green cardamom pods

1 teaspoon salt

4 tbsp oil/ melted ghee (or 2 tbsp each of oil and ghee)



Method:


Wash and soak the rice in water for half an hour. Then drain the water completely.

While the rice is soaking, heat half the oil/ ghee (2 tbsp) in a pan and, over low to medium heat, sauté the sliced onions till they caramelise (do not burn) to a dark brown and become crisp. Remove from the pan and keep aside.

In a small pan, over medium heat, sprinkle the sugar in a thin layer and let it caramelise till it is quite brown. Do not disturb the sugar while it is melting, but you may stir it a couple of times after it has started turning brown. Make sure it does not burn.

Once the sugar has turned a darkish shade of brown, turn of the heat and immediately (and carefully) pour 1 cup of water into the pan. Stir quickly to dissolve the caramel in the water completely. Keep aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of oil/ ghee in a largish pan. Add the whole spices and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the drained rice, and stir fry for another minute. Now add about 3/4 of the fried onion (keep the rest for garnishing), the caramel water, the remaining 3 cups of ware and the salt.

Mix well, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes till the rice is cooked, the water is completely absorbed and the grains are separate. Stir a couple of times in between to ensure even cooking but be careful otherwise the rice might break and become mushy.

Serve warm with the Dhansak, Kachumber and Pappads. This recipe serves 4 to 5.



Kachumbar (Indian Style Onion-Tomato-Cucumber Salsa)



Ingredients:


2 medium sized onion, diced fine

3 medium sized tomatoes, diced small

2 medium sized cucumbers, peeled and diced small

2 green chillies, chopped

1 tsp cumin seeds, roasted and powdered

2 tbsp each fresh mint and coriander, chopped

juice of 1 lemon/ lime

salt to taste



Method:


Put all the ingredients in a bowl and toss together. Adjust to taste, put into a serving dish and serve alongside the main dish of Brown Rice and Dhansak!

This recipe serves 4 to 5.



Verdict:


This was our lunch yesterday and we enjoyed it. The Brown Rice was light with a just a hint of sweetness and so beautifully fragrant. I only wish I had discovered it before. The Dhansak was quite creamy and if I hadn’t cooked it, I wouldn’t have known there was eggplant and pumpkin (not two of my personal favourites) in it! The spices in Dhansak can get heavy and overpowering so it is important not to overdo them, and while it’s a beautiful dish, it is definitely not everyday fare.

The combination of both with the fresh flavours of the Kachumber and the crunch of the Pappads was perfect. If you cannot find Pappads, salted potato wafers are a good alternative. Being the south Indian I am, I think yogurt would have been the perfect way to finish the meal, but then that’s me.
Cooking this meal might seem laborious but it is not. You just need to be organised and have everything prepped and at hand. Then all it takes is putting it all together which doesn’t take all that much time.



The four of us (Alessio, Asha, Pamela and I) go velveteering, as we like to call our kitchen adventures, with 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.


This month’s Velveteers recipes:

Asha: Mutton Dhansak

Sarah: Easy Chicken Dhansak

Lindsay: Lamb Dhansak Pot Pie

Veena: Vegetarian Dhansak


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November 22, 2010

Eggless Custard Powder Snack Cake


Yet another bake, so where’s the diversity that supposed to be in my virtual kitchen, I can see some of you thinking. I was planning to post something else but this particular cake has been pleading to see the light of day as a blog post. It has been a while since I first baked this cake and I have baked it any number of times since. One reason for not posting this cake was that I never managed to take pictures of it and we all know how one cannot blog food if, a) one does not have a picture of it; and b) if that picture is not passably good enough to show everyone!

A lot of ingredients one takes for granted in countries where baking is a tradition, are not easily available in India. Yet one ingredient, where one is spoilt for choice when it comes to the flavours available in India, is custard powder. I have seen flavours from plain vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, pineapple, mango to the more exotic saffron-pistachio.

For those of us who do not eat eggs or prefer to avoid eggs, custard powder is the answer when it comes to making eggless custard. An eggless custard does taste different from one made with eggs, but it works quite well for me in crème anglaise, pastry cream and ice-cream.

Sometime back, I was clearing out my kitchen stores/ pantry before making my monthly grocery shopping list and realized I had a rather largish stock of custard powder. I didn’t want to make the usual fruit salad with custard sauce or a caramelized pudding (I still have to perfect something as simple as this one!).





I had already made these really good Yo-yo biscuits and wanted to try something else but didn’t quite know what. One other country I’ve found, other than India (and I’m not counting the UK here), that puts custard powder to really good use is Australia. A search of some sites I knew would yield good results led me to this recipe for cake using custard powder.

I adapted the recipe to make it eggless. If you cannot find custard powder where you live, use the same amount of cornstarch instead. If you use custard powder, your cake will be a golden yellow in colour, but cornstarch will give you a white cake. So if you’re looking for a white eggless cake, then use cornstarch.

This cake is soft and moist and really good as a snack cake at teatime (or any time you choose to snack). It takes about 15 minutes to mix up and it is yet another cake that requires just a mixing bowl, a spoon and a cake tin to make!





I left my cake plain. You could double the recipe and bake the batter as two cakes (in 9” cake tins for flatter cakes) and sandwich them together with cream/ frosting/ jam.
You could top the cake with fruits of the season and serve it with cream. The possibilities are endless if you would like to dress up this simple cake a bit.

You might have noticed that the top of my cake has a "cracked" appearance. Some of the earlier cakes I baked had smotth tops while some looked like this. If yours has this uneven appearance like mine does, you can always claim that you were aiming for a rustic look!
Eggless Custard Powder Snack Cake
 
(Adapted from Best Recipes)



Ingredients:


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup vanilla flavoured custard powder (or cornstarch)

2 1/4 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (if using cornstarch)

150 gm butter, at room temperature

1 cup milk

1 1/2 tsp lime/ lemon juice



Method:


Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Use a wooden spoon and mix well. Add the milk and the butter and beat with the spoon until you get a smooth batter. Add the lime/ lemon juice and mix it in.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured cake tin (or two smaller tins) and bake at 180C (350F) for about 45 minutes to an hour or till the cake is done and a skewer poked into the cake comes out clean. Sometimes, depending upon your cake tin and the oven, this cake might take upto an hour to cook especially in the middle.
Cool on a rack and serve.

This recipe makes one 8” cake or 8 to 10 servings. You can make this cake in a 9” cake tin but you’ll have a rather squat looking cake.

As mentioned in my last post, I am giving away two books and the giveaway is open till the 25th of November, 2010. If you would like to take a chance at trying your luck, please leave a comment at that post.


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November 18, 2010

A Review: Weeknight Desserts (Quick & Easy Sweet Treats), One-Bowl Cocoa Bars And A Blog Anniversary Giveaway!


In my recently acquired style of not getting a lot of things done on time, I let my blog anniversary slip by too. I completed 3 years of blogging here, about 3 weeks back but couldn’t manage to find the time to post about it! I had planned to announce it on time and everything, but it was fated to be otherwise.

I’m not about to let this blog anniversary pass by without a mention and some sort of celebration, so that’s what I’m doing with this post. This little blog and I have come a long way from when I started out without having an idea where I was going, and wondering if anyone would want to read what I wrote! In these three years, I have discovered a whole new world food-wise and made so many friends whom I hold dear. You all know who you are, and I am lucky to have met you either virtually or for real.

I must also express my thanks to those of you who have written in telling me how much you enjoy my posts, recipes and photographs. My thanks also all of you who visit my blog or follow it regularly but prefer to remain nameless and silent, because you all make this blog happen and motivate me to get up and get going every time I think I’m losing my blogging mojo.

Coming back to my blog anniversary, it has been my practice to celebrate that with giveaways and it’s no different this time either. The giveaway comes at the end of this post. If you would rather not read this post but get down to the business of the giveaway, please scroll down.




Birthdays mean cake or at least something sweet. All of you must know by now that I find chocolate irresistible (except on the rare occasions when I have overindulged in it). I also like brownies very much so I knew I had to try out the “One-Bowl Cocoa Bars” when I saw them in Beatrice Ojakangas’ new book, Weeknight Desserts – Quick & Easy Sweet Treats.

I am a fan of Beatrice Ojakangas recipes because they’re very doable and all those I have tried so far have always worked for me. So I was quite happy when Sellers Publishers sent me a review copy of her “Weeknight Desserts”.




We all know the urge for dessert can strike at any time of the week and it isn’t always possible or easy to find time on a weeknight to cater to that sweet tooth. With her new book, Ms. Ojakangas provides us with just the recipes to make dessert quickly and with ingredients that are usually in one’s kitchen.

A part of the “Good Food At Home” series, you will find recipes in this book to help you make special impromptu desserts, handle last-minute requests for something sweet or bake-sale fare.
As is the case with all the cookbooks in the series, each recipe is marked with icons which indicate the level of simplicity of the recipe, if it requires preparation or can be made ahead, possible ingredient variations and handy tips.

This treasure of a little book has recipes for One Batch Cookies & Bars, Make Ahead Desserts, In-A-Pinch Pies &Cakes, Just Whipped Up Soufflés Pies Custards & Puddings, Fresh Fruit Finishes and You need It Now? Treats!
On the flip side, there are no photographs in it, but personally I didn’t find that a drawback as most of the recipes are for simple and easy to make desserts which don’t need much of visualization.

The best part of making these cocoa brownies (or cocoa bars) is that all the ingredients are put into a bowl and mixed up. Making brownies couldn’t get easier than this.

They are cake-like with just a hint of moist fudginess which is just how I enjoy my brownies the best. The mocha cocoa frosting only makes them better. I added to the effect by drizzling them with melted chocolate!
I can add that I got rave reviews from my friends whom I shared these brownies with. I think this recipe is going to be my new to-go brownie recipe!

I have presented the recipe here as it is in the book. I made my brownies eggless by omitting the egg and adding a tsp of baking powder.



One-Bowl Cocoa Bars
(Adapted from Weeknight Desserts by Beatrice Ojakangas)



Ingredients:


113 gm butter (I used 100gm)

1 cup sugar

1 egg (I substituted this with 1 tsp baking powder)

3/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Powdered sugar (optional)



Method:


Pre-heat the oven to 350F (180C). Coat a 13” by 9” pan with cooking spray.

Measure all of the ingredients, in the order given, into a large mixing bowl. With a hand mixer, beat until well blended. Pour into the baking pan and smooth the top. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes till a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool on a rack and cut into 24 squares. If desired dust the top of the baked bars with powdered sugar.



Mocha Cocoa Frosting:



Ingredients:


3 tbsp softened butter

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa

1 1/2 tbsp cold coffee*

1 tsp vanilla extract



Method:

* For cold coffee, you can use unsweetened strong black coffee (coffee decoction) or else dissolve instant coffee in water. I used filter coffee decoction which was refrigerated.
Mix the softened butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and cold coffee together until smooth. Spread over the cooled brownies.



The Giveaway:


Sellers Publishers have been generous enough to send me an extra copy of Weekend Desserts, which feature the above cocoa bars/ brownies, to giveaway to my readers.

They have also sent me a giveaway copy of Leftover Makeovers – Great New Meals from Last Night’s Dinner by Victoria Shearer.
Victoria Shearer lives in North Carolina and enjoys food and travel, as well as writing. She has contributed to the travel and food sections of newspapers and magazines and is the author of several books including “Quick, Cheap Comfort Food” also in the Good Food at Home series.




The name of this book is self explanatory, and a great addition to anyone’s cookbook collection. Also a book in the Good Food At Home series, Leftover Makeovers is an excellent and useful guide to creatively converting leftovers into new meals, so you can forget about warming leftovers that no one’s particularly enthusiastic about.

The recipes in this book are organized so that each “core” recipe is followed by the recipes which will help you convert the leftovers from the core recipe to a new meal. The recipes and suggestions in the book are divided into the sections such as Headliners - The Star Players: Poultry, Meat, Fish and Seafood;
Supporting Players - Rounding out the Meal: Pasta, Rice, and Vegetables;
Clean-Up Crew - Don't throw it out!: New Beginnings from Old Ingredients;
The Cupboard is Bare!: Throw-together Meals from What's Left in the Pantry/ 'Fridge;
Guide to a successful Makeover - Stocking the Pantry, 'Fridge, and Freezer;
Makeover Tips.

So I’m giving away two books, a copy of Weekend Desserts by Beatrice Ojakangas and a copy of Leftover makeovers by Victoria Shearer to two lucky readers of my blog.
I will ship the books worldwide, so this giveaway is open to both Indian and international readers.

If you would like to take a chance on winning one of these books, all you need to do is leave a comment at this post. You do not have to be a blogger to enter. Please leave a mail id or a link to one so I can contact you should you win.

This giveaway is open till the 25th of November, 2010, after which I will randomly pick two lucky winners for the books. Good luck!

Also just a reminder that you have three days left if you were planning to send in an entry to Does My Blog Good in This?


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November 14, 2010

Salted Limes With Ginger And Green Chillies: A Simple Indian Style Pickle


For most of us in India, limes are lemons and lemons are limes. As weird as that statement might seem to some of you, as far as our recipes and the vendors at our markets are concerned, they’re one and the same thing. That must sound odd for people who know they’re two different things entirely but for us, they’re all lemons. They’re sour and they can be juiced or pickled or whatever!

After a lot of thought and research, I have come to the conclusion that our lemons are actually limes, even though our markets keep selling us a mix of green/ yellow and thick/ thin skinned “lemons”. If anyone has any thoughts or conclusive information about whether our lemons are actually lemons or limes, please leave a comment.

In our home, limes are usually juiced to make absolutely refreshing summer drinks or used to add a tang to many of our spicy dishes including rasam, pav bhaji and chaats. Then, of course, they’re pickled. Depending on which part of India you are in, limes are pickled with a variety of spices and can be either salty or sweet. They can be so good that you would be spoiled for choice, as is the case with all Indian style pickles.




This particular pickle must be the simplest way of pickling limes. My father, like the rest of his side of the family, loved spicy food. I still remember my paternal grandmother would keep aside half portions of everything she cooked and would add the spice (read chillies!) to other other half. The “less” spicy half portions were reserved for us children and the odd adult who couldn’t tolerate the “heat”, while the rest of the family indulged in their fondness for spicy food.

Since we could never tolerate the levels of “fire” my father was used to, he would usually supplement what he termed “bland” meals with spicy pickles and this arrangement suited us all. However this salted lime and ginger pickle was one of the few non-spicy pickle favourites of his. So much so, that in our home he was the only one who made this pickle. Of course, one could argue that he picked the easiest pickle to make and left all the rest of the cooking to our mother!

There really isn’t much of a recipe to make this pickle proportion-wise. I am giving an approximate recipe but you may use it more a set of instructions for reference and adjust the salt and the green chillies to your taste. A slight increase or decrease of the ingredients will not make much of a difference.




It is important to let the ingredients sort of marinate and the lemon pieces become soft and pulpy in texture. Then have this pickle with cooked rice and freshly made plain yogurt for an absolutely delicious fuss-free and simple comforting meal.

I might be biased in this observation because I am a Palakkad Iyer for whom “thayir chaadham/ curd rice” (which is what we call our yogurt and rice) is the ultimate comfort food, so take my recommendation at your own risk!



Salted Limes Ginger With Green Chillies



Ingredients:


6 limes (washed, dried and cut into eights)

Juice of 1 lime

2 pieces of about 2” bits of ginger, chopped into small pieces/ julienne

3 or 4 long green chillies, chopped

2 to 3 tsp salt


Method:


Take a clean and dry glass jar. Put a layer or two of the lime pieces into the jar along with half of the ginger and green chillies. Sprinkle about a tsp of salt over this. Put in some more of the lime pieces, the remaining ginger and chillies and some more salt. Put in all the remaining lime pieces and the last of the salt. Lastly, add the juice of 1 lime also to this There is no hard and fast rule about this process. This is just a way of ensuring a more equal distribution of the ingredients.

Your jar should be almost full, but leave a bit of space at the top before closing the jar. This will allow the contents of the jar to move about easily when you need to shake/ agitate it.
Shake the jar a few times to ensure everything gets mixed well. Do this about 3 times a day, and leave the ingredients to work their magic.

The salt will draw the juice out of the lime pieces and also soften the skin. The ginger will initially turn a beautiful pink colour before losing it to become pale after a day or so. After about 3 or 4 days, the pickle will become a bit mushy looking.

Now it is ready for use. Once done, the salt in the pickle should ensure that it keeps at room temperature, but you can always refrigerate to be on the safer side.
This recipe makes enough pickle to fill a medium sized jam jar.


I also wanted to mention, once again, that I’m hosting this month’s edition of the photography event Does My Blog Look Good in This? The deadline for submissions is the 21st November, 2010. You can see the submissions sent in so far at the DMBLGiT gallery.


Read full post.....

November 10, 2010

Baking Without Eggs!


I originally wrote this post for the Food Talk series of articles at The Daring Kitchen. Baking without eggs and where this is not that easy to do, baking with as few eggs as possible is something I do on a regular basis.
I often get mails from my readers asking me how I bake without eggs and what substitutes could be used to replace eggs. There is no one substitute which will substitute for eggs in every recipe simply because eggs can play a different role in every recipe.
I am reposting this article here, and I hope it provides some answers to those questions about baking without eggs.


In India, baking is not a traditional method of cooking. However, in certain parts of the country, some form of baking has become a custom over the years as a result of trade with other countries or foreign invasions. The naans (Indian flatbreads) and other tandoori breads of northern India came in from Persia, while bakes like cakes, puddings and biscuits (as we call our cookies) are the legacy of the British, French, Dutch or Portuguese influnces.

As I have explained in many of my earlier posts that though we do eat eggs, we are not very fond of them. Over the years, I have tried adapting baking recipes requiring eggs by either reducing the eggs to the bare minimum, or not using them. I do bake with eggs some of the time, where they cannot be avoided and make a difference in my recipe.



Spiced Eggless Avocado Cake


Here, I’m sharing my experience about egg substitutes that have worked in my baking.
Eggs are such a large part of baking, that it is challenging to substitute or replace them. This was particularly true with most Daring Baker challenges. I have been successful with some of them while I failed miserably with others, and I’m still learning.

Some bakes, like angel food cakes, chiffon cakes, soufflés and meringues, are highly dependent on a large number of beaten eggs/ whites for lightness and volume they provide. It is almost impossible to substitute for eggs in these recipes.

The easiest way to bake without eggs is to use vegan recipes. Even if you are not vegan but want to avoid eggs, you can adapt many vegan recipes to suit your taste.However, I have found some vegan recipes excellent while others have been a disappointment. So I have, over time, got used to baking by adapting regular recipes which use eggs.



EgglessVegetable And Lentil Loaf

Substituting for eggs in baking is not difficult most of the time, provided one keeps three things in mind.

1. Understand the exact nature of the function the egg is performimg in your recipe of choice. Then substitution becomes easier. Sometimes, you may have to use one or more substitutes together to mimic the action of eggs in your bakes.

How does one figure out which function the egg is your recipe, is responsible for?

- If egg is the main liquid in the recipe, it is adding to the moisture. Eggs can also add richness to the bake.

- If the recipe is asking for just one egg, a reasonable amount of baking powder/ and baking soda but no other binding agent like flour or breadcrumbs, then the egg is acting as a binder. Here, it is necessary to use a substitute which would mimic this property.

- If there are little or no other leavening agents in the recipe, the egg is the leavening agent and provides a light and airy texture. In many such recipes, the egg can be replaced with a substitute that also involves baking powder.

2. Know that it is easiest to substitute for 1 (or at the most 2 eggs) egg in a recipe and this substitution will give you the best possible results for an eggless bake. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to substitute for 6 eggs!

In this case, the best option would be to substitute for about half the eggs in the recipe. If you do not eat eggs at all, then look for an eggless recipe rather than try to adapt one which uses eggs.

3. Remember that the eggs are in the recipe for a particular purpose. If they are substituted for, do not expect the same texture and taste as the original.

That’s not to say your eggless bake will not be good, just that it will be slightly different from the original. Having said that, I have to admit that I have been disappointed with some bakes where I have substituted for eggs.


One egg substitute which most people reach for is commercial egg replacer powders like Ener-G which, I understand, is a reasonably good all-round replacement in most recipes as it works as a leavening agent as well as a binder.

I live in Goa where baking is a part of culinary tradition due to Portuguese influence, so the concept of eggless baking is a bit redundant and an Ener-G type of egg replacer is the last thing I can expect to find on the store shelves here.
So I tend to use other commonly available egg substitutes in my bakes. I’m listing as many substitutes as I know of, where they can be substituted (in amounts equal to 1 egg), and what kind of bakes these usually work well in.


Commercial egg replacers like Ener-G

I just mentioned this above and they’re to be used according to the instructions on the package. I believe 1 1/2 teaspoons of Ener-G + 2 tablespoons of water substitutes for 1 egg.
This is supposed to be good in most bakes, especially cookies, breads and cakes.


Baking Powder

A lot of the time, if you want to substitute for only one egg in a recipe where it is a leavening agent, increasing the baking powder by about a little over 1/2 teaspoon will suffice. Too much baking powder will lend a bitter taste.

Incorporating air into the batter by creaming the sugar and butter, as well as whipping together the liquid ingredients (where the recipe allows this, as in muffins) also helps lighten the bake.



Chocolate Chip Covered Eggless Vanilla Cupcakes


In these Chocolate Chip Covered Eggless Vanilla Cupcakes, I left out the eggs and increased the milk a bit. The creaming process and baking powder make the cupcakes light and airy and these are my most popular cupcakes to date.


Powdered Flaxseed

Powder as fine as possible (will be a bit coarse), about 1/2 a cup of flaxseeds at a time, and store this in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Mix 1 tablespoon of this powder with 3 tablespoon of warm water and whisk well. Let it stand for a few minutes till it becomes viscous. Whisk well before using in recipe.
Powdered flaxseed lends a “nutty” flavour and is good in cookies (especially oatmeal), muffins, brownies, pancakes and waffles. You can replace up to 2 eggs though it’s best for 1 egg. Any more means the taste of flaxseed comes through.
I have found my cookies becoming “gummier” in texture when replacing 2 or more eggs with flaxseed powder.



Eggless Jam Doughnut Muffins


I use powdered flax seed as egg substitutes in my Eggless Jam Doughnut Muffins and Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies.


Unsweetened Applesauce Or Puréed Fruit/ Vegetable

Unsweetened applesauce can be used in recipes where eggs increase the moisture in bakes. Substitute 1/4 cup of it for 1 egg.

Applesauce works well in moist bakes like certain cakes, brownies, muffins and quick breads. Also use baking powder or baking soda for some leavening or this substitution might not work very well because fruit makes bakes dense.

However, applesauce can lend an “apple” flavour which might not be desirable in certain bakes.



Healthy Low Fat Eggless Brownie


My Healthy Low Fat Brownies use applesauce, but the flavour of apples doesn't come through.

Puréed beets not only give my Eggless Red Velvet Cupcakes their glorious red colour but with baking powder made them light and moist. I use fresh mango purée, yogurt and powdered flax seed instead of eggs in my Mango Ginger Muffins.


Ripe Bananas

Like applesauce, ripe bananas also add moisture to bakes. They also act as binders so they’re a very good substitute for eggs. On the flip side, your bake will taste of bananas. Again, ensure the recipe uses baking powder for leavening to avoid a dense bake.



Eggless Chocolate Chip Banana Squares


1/2 a ripe banana, mashed or puréed, can replace 1 egg. This works well in muffins and quick breads, some cakes, yeasted banana bread and pancakes. Banana also helps in browning in bakes.
These Eggless Chocolate Chip And Banana Squares are an all time favourite.


Silken Tofu/ Creamcheese (or Paneer)

Tofu is quite flavourless, and excellent at taking on other flavours. Silken tofu has the creamiest texture and is an excellent egg substitute in puddings, mousse and cheesecake.

I have used firm/ regular tofu successfully but silken tofu does produce a much better texture. I have found that creamcheese/ paneer (fresh Indian milk cheese) works well in eggless cheesecakes instead of eggs.

Run 1/4 cup crumbled tofu in the blender or food processor till very smooth and creamy and use in place of 1 egg. The wet ingredients in the recipe can be added to the tofu while blending, for best results.

Tofu makes bakes a bit dense so it is best in moist cakes, brownies, pie fillings and quiche. In recipes where eggs are used to make a custard type filling or as a binder as in cookies, tofu would have to be used with a binder like cornstarch.


Commercially Available Custard Powder/ Cornstarch

In India (and some other countries including the UK and Australia), we get something called custard powder in our stores, which is somewhat like a vanilla pudding mix. Custard powder is made from cornstarch to which organic colouring and flavours have been added.

This is good to make custard without eggs. Custard powder is cooked with milk and sugar till thick and can be used to make creamy sauces, thick set fillings for tarts and caramel custard.
Use this according to instructions on the packet. If you cannot find custard powder, cornstarch and flavouring agent of your choice will also work just as well.

Making ice-creams is not baking, but I thought I would mention that cornstarch is (sometimes custard powder) an excellent substitute for eggs in home-made ice-creams. Be careful how much of it you use, or else the taste of cornstarch/ custard powder will come through.


Vinegar (or Buttermilk) And Baking Soda

A combination of vinegar and baking soda mimics the leavening ability of egg. Many people also add a bit of oil as well. Baking soda reacts with the acid in vinegar to bubble up and introduce air, making bakes fluffy.

1 teaspoon baking soda + 1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar can replace 1 egg in quick breads, cupcakes and cakes. This substitution is good for 1 egg as sometimes replacing 2 eggs with this can result in some gumminess.

My Orange And Chocolate Zebra Cake, Snowflake Cookies and Spiced Eggless Avocado Cake are baked using baking soda with vinegar/ buttermilk.


Yogurt

Where egg adds moisture to a bake, 1/4 cup yogurt can be substituted for every egg. This is good in some cakes, bars, muffins and quick breads. Yogurt would need to be used with baking powder to avoid a dense/ gummy bake.



Eggless Zucchini Chocolate Bread


My Eggless Chocolate Zucchini Bread and Eggless Carrot Cake With Chocolate Ganache both use yogurt with a combination of other substitutes for eggs.


Agar Powder

Agar is a seaweed extract that has properties similar to gelatin. Agar is a good substitute in recipes requiring 1 or 2 egg whites (not for meringues and similar recipes). Dissolve 1 tablespoon agar powder in 1 tablespoon warm water to substitute for 1 egg. Whisk well, and then chill. Whisk again and use.


For “Egg Wash”

Egg wash is beaten egg which is brushed on breads or pastry before baking to obtain browning and a shine. The same effect can be achieved with milk, oil or butter.
I never use egg wash on my breads and rolls. Milk (and/ or cream) works very well for me.


Other Egg Substitutes (for 1 egg)

The following egg substitutes have also worked for me as you can see by the links I have included

1. Day old bread slices/ breadcrumbs and/ or chickpea flour where eggs act as binders. This is something I use in recipes like patties, cutlets, and this Vegetable And Lentil Loaf I made sometime back.
2. Sometimes, condensed milk (along with baking powder) can work well in some cakes like this one.

3. 1/4 cup puréed prunes. I have used puréed strawberries (with baking powder) to make a pretty good Eggless Fresh Strawberry Cake.

4. 1/4 cup mashed potatoes (in savoury dishes where eggs are binders) as in these Chickpea Vegetable Patties.


If you have wondered about baking without eggs, you can see that it isn’t impossible. I find that it just needs a bit of thought (alright, a lot of it!), and the willingness to explore various alternatives.

I would be happy to hear from any of you, about your tried and tested egg substitutes that work in baking.


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November 7, 2010

Announcing Does My Blog Look Good in This (DMBLGiT)?


It is my pleasure to host “Does My Blog Look Good in This?" this month. Considered by some as the “grandest food porn event on the web”, DMBLGiT was started in 2005 by Andrew of SpitoonExtra.
It is a monthly food (and drink) photography event open to all bloggers who have posted a food photograph on their blogs. Photographs are submitted from blog posts of the previous months and these are judged, scored and the winners are selected in each of three categories (edibility, aesthetics, and originality). There will also be three overall winners.




Before I list out what you need to do to be a part of DMBLGiT, I would like to introduce you all to my panel of judges for this month. Not only are they accomplished food bloggers, they’re also excellent photographers, and not just of food.
I’m happy they could be here to judge this month’s submissions.



Meet The Judges:



Arfi Binstead


Arfi is an Indonesian born New Zealander and a home schooling mom of 3 who cooks, bakes and gardens. You can find her at Homemades, where she shares her passion for cooking, baking from scratch, preserving and cake decorating. She also bakes gluten-free and her cooking centres on homegrown fruits, veggies, and nuts.
She also founded KBB, an online group of Indonesian daring bakers. She says that photography is the window to her heart, and has won recognition for her food photographs.



Giulia Scarpaleggia


Giulia has lived in the Tuscan countryside since birth. She loves traveling, discovering new countries and new cultures through its people and culinary traditions.
Her blog, Juls' Kitchen reflects her Tuscan roots and her discovery of the rest of the world. Her photography aims to reproduce a rustic and simply lifestyle, made of cosy and comfortable meals which are deeply rooted in her family traditions.



Simone van den Berg


Simone who lives in the Netherlands, has always loved cooking and baking and blogs at Junglefrog Cooking. She also loves reading and discovering foodblogs and the amazing photography on many of them.
A professional photographer, she started blogging and food photography about two years back. She enjoys photography so much that she’s glad she took the then “scary” decision to go professional with it.



Susan Wolfe

Susan who blogs at The Well Seasoned Cook, is also the creator of the popular event, My Legume Love Affair and lives in the New York City area.
She is a freelance photographer, writer and enjoys being a “kitchen magician” while indulging in her long-standing, self-taught expertise in cooking and baking. Having left the white-collar world of business she now spends time on her loves of creative writing and photography.


 
And The Rules:


First, the general DMBLGiT rules which are as follows-


Only one food/drink photograph may be entered per person.

The photograph must have been taken by you.

The photograph must have been posted on your blog between the 1st and the 31st October, 2010.

The deadline to submit your entry is the 21st November, 2010 midnight, whenever that is in your part of the world.


The above mentioned panel of judges will assess the quality of all of the entries before eventually selecting winners from the pictures. The winners will be selected in the following categories:

Aesthetics: composition, food styling, lighting, focus, etc.

Edibility: Does the photo make us want to take a big bite out of our computer monitor while drooling on our keyboard?

Originality: a photo that makes you stop, look twice, and think "Wow! I never thought of photographing it like that before."

Overall Winner: the photograph that scores the highest when individual scores for Aesthetics, Edibility and Originality are added up.

My announcement post with the winners for this month should be published on the 1st December 2010.



Now the specific details for participating in DMBLGiT-


Draft an e-mail with DMBLGiT as the subject line.

Attach one qualifying food or drink photo, 400 pixels in width. Please ensure your photograph does not have any text or watermarks on it.

In your mail, please include the following details:

Your name

Your blog URL

The title of the image/what it is

The URL of the post where the photo first appeared

The camera and lens you used

Then send the email to me at aparna@mydiversekitchen.com
Please note that by submitting a photo, entrants agree to their photo being redisplayed and altered in size on the host's page and on the SpittoonExtra DMBLGiT page.


I have created a gallery in Picasa where I will be adding your photos as I receive them. If you do not receive an acknowledgment from me within 72 hours, please leave a message in the comments section of this post.

If you would like any further clarification or have any questions, please feel free to write to me. Looking forward to your participation and seeing your food photographs.

If you would like to host a future edition of DMBLGiT (and I hope you will), please do write to Andrew.
Looking forward to your participation.


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November 4, 2010

Doughnuts: A Review And Loukoumades (Deep-fried Honey-Cinnamon Puffs/ Doughnuts)


I’m sure most of you know Lara. She is a Seattle based writer and food photographer who also conducts photography workshops, blogs at Cook & Eat, and runs Still Life With: on Flickr.
Sometime back I was happy to test some recipes for Lara Ferroni’s Doughnuts book. Her book has just been published and, in a very sweet thank you gesture, she sent me a signed copy of her book.




A small book full of easy, well presented recipes and lovely photographs, this is something I’d recommend if you love doughnuts. There are recipes for traditional favourites like Sour Cream doughnuts and Raised doughnuts, and unusual varieties like Crème Brûlée, Red Velvet, German Chocolate and PB&J doughnuts! Oh, and a variety of interesting glazes to top them with. There are also vegan and gluten-free doughnuts in the book.




It really seems to be a season for doughnuts. I just made some doughnuts as a Daring Baker and then Lara’s book comes in the mail. I had tested a few vegan doughnut recipes from her book, and though we thoroughly enjoyed them, I forgot to take pictures of them to use for a post.
Well, it must have been for the best because it means I made another batch of doughnuts just for the pictures. The bonus, of course, was that we got to eat them too!




Honestly speaking, deep-fried sugary doughnuts are the last thing my heart and waist need, but who can resist them? Very few people it seems, considering that every corner of the world has its own version of doughnuts.

Today I’m posting the Loukoumades that I tested for Lara. She says she first came across these Cypriot doughnuts in Tessa Kiros’ book, Falling Cloudberries.
I went looking for more information about these “honey puffs” as they’re also called, and found that Loukoumades (then known as honey tokens) were one of the earliest prizes awarded to winners, along with the olive wreaths, in the ancient Greek Olympic Games!




These fried puffs of dough are crisp on the outside and spongy on the inside. They’re rather uninspiring on their own, but dip them in the tangy honey cinnamon syrup and top them with toasted sesame seeds or chopped walnuts, and you have a “honey puff” that is worthy of becoming an addiction.
Lara recommends the use of a stand mixer. I don’t have one so I used a wooden spoon and a stainless steel bowl.



Loukoumades
(Reproduced with permission from Doughnuts by Lara Ferroni)



Ingredients:


1/2 tbsp active dry yeast

3/4 cup lukewarm water

3/4 cup all purpose flour

pinch of superfine sugar

pinch of salt

1 large (about 225 gm) baking potato, peeled and cut in half

1/4 cup honey

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

vegetable oil for frying



Method:


In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the yeast to the water. Stir to distribute the yeast. Add 1/4 cup of the flour, along with the sugar and salt. Stir again, cover, and let sit for 20 minutes in a warm place.

Boil the potato until it is easily pierced with a fork. Drain, cool, and mash well.

Add the potato and remaining flour to the yeast mixture. With the paddle attachment or dough hook, beat to form a smooth, wet dough. Cover the bowl and let sit until the batter has thickened, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the syrup in a heavy bottomed pot by stirring together the honey, lemon juice, and cinnamon with a splash of water. Boil on low-medium heat until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot until a deep-fat thermometer registers 360F (182C). Drop in heaping teaspoon-size dollops and fry, turning occasionally, until they’re golden and puffed, about 1 minute. Drain on a paper towel and cool slightly.
To serve, place the puffs in a bowl and drizzle with the syrup.

This recipe makes 20 to 30 loukoumades. Active time: 30 minutes; Ready in: 3 hours.



Before I sign off, I have to share some news.
Most of you would be know about the food photography event “Does My Blog Look Good in This?". I had sent in a photograph of my Fig & Eggplant Caponata, to the October edition.




Two days back I opened my virtual mailbox and the first mail was from Lynne telling me picture (below) had won a DMBLGiT award! I can’t tell you all how happy I was to see that mail.




I accidentally discovered photography when I started blogging, and photography as a whole, not just food photography, is something that has become a passion with me. I have a long way to go yet, but the award is a sort of peer recognition and tells me that I am going in the right direction.
As it happens, I am hosting the November edition of DMBLGiT, so please watch out for the announcement post.


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