Monday, December 26, 2011

Stained Glass Window Cookies, Whole Wheat Eggless Decorating Cookies


'' There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child." ~ Erma Bombeck

 Christmas and Christmas festivities are hard to ignore, with the highly infectious festive spirit everywhere in the air. We went to a convent school where Christmas was celebrated every year, replete with skits, carols, the customary crib, prayers, sermons etc. This meant rehearsals for the carols and skits, our teachers racing through the 'portions' between these sessions and the approaching Christmas holidays. At that time, for me, the only reason to look forward to the season was the holidays. I am no singer or actor, there was not a lot I would look forward to. (Picture the studious student who yawns through these things, can we trade a Tintin for this puhleez!!!) But I remember practicing the carols a few times, guess they must have taken me as one terrible voice is easily drowned in a score melodious ones. Seniors and classmates would do their preparations and the rest of us would chat away the hot noons. Not of course without  the serious Sisters chiding us for not maintaining 'pin-drop silence'. Well, now that I am still alive and kicking and how,  I have indeed managed to survive all that, thankfully!  And now the reason for me to look forward to this season is of course baking. Though we do not celebrate Christmas, the festival being almost synonymous to baking, its impossible not to bake more than usual. Thanks to internet and baking and food blogs, Christmas is virtually omnipresent!


Life has been pretty busy the past few days, with little sister's visit, a family function, guests, the kids' vacations and other routine things.  I did have plans for the Christmas day post, like a lot of us. But it was not meant to be. I baked a Stollen Wreath, another Daring Bakers challenge. Everything worked like a charm till I kept the dough for the final rise in a warm place - my oven. And switched on the connecting indicator to check if there was power supply. Astonishingly forgot to turn it off. The moment I realized it, I pulled out the hot tin from the oven with bare hands, forgetting to grab a kitchen towel in utter haste and distress (!!). A yelp and a blistered finger. Hubby having breakfast at the nearby table, though aghast, made the right sounds. But I could read his mind - can anyone sane get a finger blistered like that  - and for a bread??? Guess I must have muttered things about kicking myself, the tiny kitchen, the oven size...Heard someone say in hubby's voice ' Let's go and get your big oven'! A gal with a blistered finger deserves at least that ;-)

Baked two fruit cakes, they were alright, but nothing really to write home about. I baked another when power cut ruined my day (and my post!), surprisingly the cake still tasted very good.  The stollen, in spite of the blunder, still was passable as toast. After mourning for the candied orange peel made painstakingly, the wasted precious flaked almonds, I did not have any more inclination to try more such bakes. Looking at the positive side, these almost-there bakes at least helped to make the blog look Christmassy, gracing my header!


So now, as a last shot at my Christmas post, I made these cookies over the weekend, with hubby at work and the kids holding the candy (meant for the cookies) ransom. At the end of my wits, I thought if this doesn't succeed, I will skip the post for this year. Thankfully, they turned out decent and I heaved a sigh of relief! A post for Christmas at last! I first read about stained glass window cookies in one of Annabel Karmel's books and had been wanting to try it out. These are cookies with a stained glass window effect, the windows of the cookies filled with crushed candy and baked. The melted candy looks translucent, making them pretty, edible decoration for the Christmas tree. The cookie dough could be your favorite sugar cookie dough, I have made these with whole wheat, a recipe from The King Arthur Whole Grain baking book - Thin And Crisp Whole Wheat Decorating cookies.

The cookies are indeed crisp and tasty, just about sweet and 100% whole wheat. I made some stained glass window cookies and some with sparkling sugar sprinkled over. Even with only half the recipe, they still warrant a bit of time and effort, before you finally call it a day. A good recipe you could use as a base for decorating or even otherwise. The book says they are sturdy, but mine turned out quite fragile, but surely not crumbly.

To make these cookies, you first make the dough, chill it to make it easier to handle, roll, cut into shapes. A small cut-out is made using a smaller cutter. The 'window' thus created, is filled with crushed candy and baked. A small hole is made in the cookie using a straw, this for threading in the satin ribbons. The cookies taste good, though the candy part doesn't. But certainly an idea to be tried at least once, for the fun of it. The dough recipe though, is one to be made again.


I have halved the recipe below. According to the book, this yields 6 1/2 dozen, 2 1/2 inch cookies.

Ingredients:
Whole Wheat flour - 2 cups / 232 grams / 8 oz ( I used Ashirwad Atta)
Baking powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Salt - 3/4 teaspoon
Butter, unsalted, soft at room temperature - 3/4 cup / 170 grams / 6 oz
Sugar - 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons / 6 1/4 oz (Measured and pulsed in the mixer)
Vanilla Extract - 2 teaspoons
Orange juice - 1/4 cup / 2 oz

For decorating
Cookie cutters (Big ones and smaller ones to fit within the bigger one, still leave enough space around the cut-out, to make a hole without breaking the cookie)
Candies of different colors (I used Poppins)
Sparkling Sugar / Liquid or Gel Food Color if you wish to paint
Royal icing

Procedure: Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar in a medium sized bowl till light and fluffy. I used my hand mixer, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Add the orange juice, vanilla, beat again for about 30 seconds to mix well. Tip in the flour mixture. Fold in. You may need to use your hands to gather the dough. This will be quite soft, firms up on refrigeration. A tip from the book to avoid ragged edges as you roll the dough. Divide the dough into workable portions. Take a ball of dough, transfer to a lightly floured surface. Flatten the ball to about 1'' thick and roll it on its edge along the work surface (as though you were rolling a hoop on the street). Flatten dough again and roll along the edges again. Repeat till you get a round ball with smooth edges. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for about 1/2 an hour.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 F. Grease your baking sheets or line with baking parchment (I love parchment). Crush candies of one color and keep aside.

Work with one piece of dough at a time, keep the rest in the fridge till needed. Roll into a thin circle (about 3 mm thick). Cut using cookie cutters. Transfer to the baking sheet or parchment carefully. Use smaller cookie cutters to make the windows. Use a drinking straw to make the holes. Fill the window with crushed candy. Bake for 11-12 minutes or till brown around the edges. This will vary depending on the thickness of the rolled dough. A test batch will tell you the approximate baking time. Do not fill a lot of candy at one go as it may spill over the edges of the cut-out. If the candy doesn't fill the cut-out as it bakes, fill more carefully in between. If there are any gaps after baking, use a toothpick to move the melted candy to fill the gaps. You will need to do this immediately after baking or the candy will harden.

Remove the cookies, transfer to a rack to cool completely.



Hope you had a very Merry Christmas! Season's Greetings and Best Wishes!

These cookies go to my blog's 2nd Anniversary event, Cakes And More Cookie Fest. Do send in your entries to get a chance to win a copy of Alice Medrich's Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-The-Mouth Cookies.



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Citrus Tuiles - Delicately Delicious!



Think cookies and am discovering that there is so much more!! Tuiles for example.  Pronounced as 'Tweel' with the 's' being silent, Tuiles are 'tiles' in French for their classic arched shapes. These are thin, sweet, crispy and very very delicate cookies. All purpose flour, egg whites, flavorings, sugar and butter are simply whisked together and there that's the batter! This can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days to make these cookies as and when you need. Really easy and quick to put together, they make an extremely elegant accompaniment to ice creams and creamy desserts. You could also pipe in some whipped cream into them just when you want to serve. Tuiles can be made ahead and stored in an air tight container for almost a month. 

The batter is spread using a spoon in thin, small circles, baked and then you can let your creativity flow! The cookies are soft and malleable when they are hot and remain soft only for a precious few seconds. That's when you could shape them into strips, or use stencils to make other shapes. Or make them into circles, then roll them into cigars. You could mould it in tart-let cases to make pretty little baskets - again fill it with whipped cream and the kind. You could also 'paint' them with some colored batter. You could also make giant cones and fill them with ice cream. Makes a very light and eye-catching end to a meal, sure to grab attention.


I so wish to join the Daring Bakers group, but I must admit, I get cold feet. Will I be able to do it and work with deadlines? So, unashamedly, I am trying to pick out the easier of the challenges, to see if I can do it. If I join, I can hope to get out of my comfort zone, hope to learn. Tuiles was one of the things done by the Daring Bakers group sometime ago, so when I saw this tempting cookie (actually quite a few) in the book Chewy Gooey Crispy crunchy Melt in the Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich, this was killing two birds with one stone! So here I go!

This recipe goes by the name Vanilla Bean Tuiles in the book, the citrus one is given as a variation. I have halved the recipe given below. The below recipe makes 40  2 1/2 ''  tuiles.

Ingredients:
Unsalted Butter -  3 tablespoons, 45 grams, melted and still very warm
Sugar - 2/3 cup / 4.625 oz /  130 grams aprox (I used powdered, read note)
Egg whites, large - 3 (90 grams)
All Purpose Flour - 1/4 cup 3 tablespoons / 60 grams aprox
Citrus Zest -1 tablespoon (orange or lemon)
Salt - 1/8 teaspoon
More butter to grease the pan liners

 Equipment - Baking trays or pans or cookie sheets, silicon baking mats, heavy duty aluminum foil dull side up. Small cups, rolling pin for shaping. Small zip lock bags if you want to 'paint'. A very thin metal spatula, cooling rack.


Procedure:  If baking cookies immediately, preheat oven to 150 degrees C / 300 degree F. If baking cookies later, just mix the batter as mentioned below.

If you would be using foil, measure the size needed to line your tray or pan. Cut carefully making sure you do not cause major creases. If there are any small creases smooth it out. Wrinkles will mar the appearance of the cookies. Line your pan or pans if you have multiple ones. Grease the foil with butter lightly but thoroughly. Large cookies sheets will be great, I used my 9'' square tin. I could bake 2 at a time. So be warned, you will need patience to bake these in batches if using a small oven. Now you see why I have halved the seemingly small recipe.

In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients till well blended.  Let the batter rest for at least 10 minutes or keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. I used it after a good 20 hours. The batter firms up on refrigerating. If you wish to paint, set aside a tablespoon or two of batter. Whisk a little cocoa powder in a few drops of warm water and then add it to the batter. If you add cocoa directly, you may have tiny clumps of it, blocking the tiny opening of the zip lock bag. Spoon this into a small zip lock bag, cut a tiny corner and pipe designs away of the cookie to glory!

Drop level teaspoons of batter 2 inches apart on the prepared foil. Using the back of the spoon, spread the batter evenly  in 2 1/2 inch rounds or oval or other shape about 1/16 of an inch. This will be almost translucent. If you want to paint the tuiles, paint them after you spread them on the sheet. If using multiple trays, you could spread the batter and keep the trays in the oven one by one.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. The time depends on the thickness of the cookies. Watch very carefully,  bake till the cookies are golden brown half or three quarters way to the center, but still pale in the center. Rotate pans if using a large oven and multiple sheets. If the cookies are not baked thoroughly, they won't be completely crisp when they cool. A test batch must tell you the approximate baking time. I baked for about 11 minutes.

Remove the cookies sheets or pans from the oven and set them down. You are supposed to slide a very thin metal spatula when the cookie is still hot and soft. Then shape it immediately into a curve or cigar and cool it on a rack. If the cookies harden before you shape, pop them back in the oven for a few seconds, they will soften, you can shape again.  I tried to lift, but was not successful. So I have let them cool and harden, then peeled the foil from underneath the tuiles. After baking all of the cookies, I have put one cookie at a time in the oven on the sheet for 30-40 seconds till they became very soft and flexible. Then shaped them. They harden very very quickly as in a matter of 4-5 seconds, so its really important that you work very quickly. Keep your rolling pin right beside the oven if you want to curve it. You won't have time to turn, go to the table and then shape. So timing is the most important thing!

They will be really really delicate, so handle the cookies with care. Store in an airtight container. Alice says they can be airtight for at least a month. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.


Please note: Be very careful as you measure the flour. Excess flour can make the tuiles tough. If using the same pan for the next set of tuiles, make sure the pan is cool before you spread the batter. You could reuse the aluminum foil if its completely smooth and clean. I have measured the sugar and then powdered it. This amount of sugar made the cookies a bit on the sweeter side, but am not sure how the science works if you reduce the sugar. Using less sugar in the filling may help balance if you don't like your desserts sweet.

I had earlier baked lace cookies along similar lines, but it was way too buttery and greasy for me. This was delicate and good without being greasy or buttery. Am glad I tried the tuiles, am surely going to be trying more variations in future.

Hahaha, the picture below suspiciously looks like a throne? Well, just wanted to show you the zest visible through the thin wafer...





Variations: For each of the tuiles, in place of the citrus zest, for
Vanilla Bean Tuiles - use 3/4 teaspoon ground vanilla bean.
Cinnamon Tuiles : Use 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Saffron Tuiles: Stir in scant 3/8 teaspoon saffron into the warm butter, allow to infuse for 5 minutes, then proceed as directed.



This goes to my 2nd blog anniversary event Cakes And More Cookie Fest. I am giving away a copy of Alice Medrich's Chewy Gooey Crispy crunchy Melt-In-The-Mouth Cookies . Please do send in your entries before 10th January.
























Monday, December 12, 2011

Saffron And Coconut Ice Cream - Easy, Quick And Eggless Too!


In my opinion, there are broadly two categories of ice cream eaters. Those who eat ice creams wearing jackets, sweaters and caps even in winter too. Some people who pass by the ice cream store - shivering - just watching this sight! These are folks for who eating ice cream is warm weather fun. I belong to the former category, sans the winter gear. I love eating ice creams when it is cold and oh, even more when the sun is scorching away. When it is raining and when it is not raining. Generally, any time of the day, any season. I can't resist ice creams or anything sweet for that matter. Are you with me?

The cool, creamy, finger and spoon licking delights come in a myriad of flavors with at least half a dozen outlets on every street and avenue. Isn't it then simpler and easier to just walk or drive down for one (or ask to be driven down, but I am sure you are not a hopeless driver like me)? Why bother to make your own ice cream? This was my amused sister's question to me, she had to roll her eyes of course. I guess, there are three reasons - First, you are obsessed with making all the chow stuff that you fancy. Second, you can have fun making it in your own flavors, and third and most important - you are crazy. I raise my hand for all the three reasons, both hands for the last reason. Are you still with me?

And for all this madness and questions from saner folks around, I don't even own an ice-cream maker, yet! Not that I have made lots and lots of ice creams by now, but the few frozen delights I have whipped up, have made me put an ice cream maker on my top priority list. For example, can you buy  Low Fat Pistachio Kulfi or get uber delicious, creamy Strawberry Mascarpone Ice Cream anywhere? Or get half the sense of satisfaction or fun when you eat store bought stuff? Rhetorical question of course (picture me looking very SMUG!). Did I mention, the satisfaction factor doubles triples when you manage to make really creamy, smooth ice cream without an ice cream maker. Armed with a simple recipe and tips from Monsieur David Lebovitz.



Assuming, you are still, still with me, allow me to tell you about the Coconut and Saffron Ice cream I had recently made. The ice cream has just a few ingredients - coconut milk, sugar, saffron and cream. Takes just a few minutes to mix all of these together, a few more minutes to simmer, then cool and freeze. Blend every half an hour to break the ice crystals. As you do so, doesn't make you tear your hair thinking how many more times you would need to do blend to get it smooth. Not all that bad to not have an ice cream maker when you come across a recipe like this...

Adapted from here .Original recipe from Delicious Days.

Ingredients:
Cream - 2/3 cup /160 ml ( I used 25% fat, Amul)
Coconut milk - 1 cup / 250 ml (I used packaged coconut milk)
Sugar - 1/4 cup ( add another tablespoon if you want sweeter)
Saffron strands - Scant 1/2 teaspoon (or lesser, read note)

Procedure ad verbatim from Monsier Lebovitz's blog  : In a medium-sized saucepan, bring all the ingredients to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and chill the mixture thoroughly. Once chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Once churned, be sure to scrape any saffron threads clinging to the dasher back in to the ice cream.

Refer this link to read his tips about making ice cream without an ice cream maker

I have cooled the mixture, then used a freezer safe box to put the ice cream mixture in. Used my hand mixer to break the ice crystals at intervals, blended in the same box. The mixture was too little and I did not want to share some of it with my blender jar every time I blended. I have blended about 4-5 times and then froze it overnight.

Note: The ice cream turned out just about sweet, with a very smooth, creamy texture. The ice cream had a hint of coconut, probably the saffron over-powered it. I guess I ignored the 'scant' part while measuring the saffron. I will next time add lesser saffron as I would prefer a more intense coconut flavor.  Or replace it with cardamom. And some chopped tender coconut after the ice cream is blended for the last time doesn't sound amiss...And very definitely double the quantity ...

Thanks to Monsieur Lebovitz, this will be made again!


Do you use an ice cream maker?  A set of features to look out for? Recommend a favorite brand ? Would love to hear from you...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bittersweet Decadence Cookies -


Decadent, chocolaty, rich cookies, with very little fat! Now, if this isn't an oxymoron, what is? These cookies from Alice Medrich's Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy Melt-in-The-Mouth Cookies are just that! When I first read the recipe, I read and re-read. Where's the butter? And did I miss the flour? Because this is the first time I have come across a recipe for cookies which has 1/4 cup of flour for 30 cookies. And '2 tablespoons' is hardly the measure which will follow an ingredient like butter - specially when you describe the cookies as rich! But yes, these cookies are made with only so much of these ingredients. And cartloads of chocolate! Not surprising, Alice has named them as Bittersweet Decadence Cookies. Apart from the fact that we adore chocolate, this was another factor that prompted me to bake these the moment I came across this recipe. Decadent cookies with so little butter and very little flour. Intriguing! Am I glad I tried these... they are very chocolaty, rich and soft-chewy when freshly baked. Slightly crunchy after a couple of days. And delicious! And the batter freezes well! So there! Chocoholics - here is a dough you got to have in your freezer and indulge in some chocolaty indulgence which won't leave you feeling very guilty this infectious season of baking...



Chocolate, chocolate and chocolate, some melted and some chopped up chunks in the batter, play the lead role. The flour appears to be there to just help hold the chocolate together. Considering its major role here, the quality of chocolate does make a difference to the end product. Oh, forgot to mention, there is a whole lot of walnuts in the recipe too if you love your cookies really nutty.

I baked these twice recently. The first time, uh, the chocolate I melted was not quite smooth, in fact more like very creamy soft chocolate - Gosh! Have I never melted chocolate or what? (please tell me you have minor disasters like this too!)? But I went ahead and baked the cookies, with half the amount of nuts the recipe called for. And nothing was even remotely drastically wrong with them. They tasted good! Forgiving recipe..Was not so happy with the way my cookies shaped up though, they did not look bumpy and chunky with the reduced nuts. But will melting the chocolate properly make a whole lot of difference? Adding the recommended quantity of walnuts make them look nice and chunky? (God! What we can do for blog pictures!)

So made these again, and dared the chocolate to spite me :) And in went all the nuts. Lot of dough, can't bake more than a few at one go. Some went into the freezer. What a chocolaty, delish, comforting thought!


Hoping I have tempted you enough, shall we head to the recipe now?

Adapted from Alice Medrich's Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-The-Mouth Cookies. In case you are curious to know, this comes under the "Chunky' category in the book. Described as 'Rich as sin, slightly crunchy around the edges, chunky but divinely gooey centers'. Reminiscent of brownies?

Important :The dough is quite runny and will set very soon, in a few minutes. So its important to have enough parchment on hand to place the scooped dough on when it is still soft. You could bake them in batches or refrigerate or freeze for later use.

Ingredients:

All purpose flour - 1/4 cup - 33 grams / 1.125 oz
Baking powder - 1/4 teaspoon
Salt - 1/8 teaspoon
Semisweet or bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped - 232 grams / 8 oz (refer note)
Unsalted butter - 2 tablespoons
Eggs, large - 2
Sugar - 1/2 cup (refer note)
Pure vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon
Semisweet or bittersweet or dark chocolate , chopped into chunks - 174 grams / 6 oz
Walnuts or pecans , chopped - 2 cups (read note)

Procedure : Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degree F. Line your baking sheets or trays with parchment. If you do not want to bake or can't bake all the batter at one go, have more parchment cut and ready. You will be scooping the batter and placing it on these when it is still soft.

Mise en place : Have all your ingredients measured out and ready.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and whisk very well to combine. Have a large bowl of simmering water ready on the stove top, a smaller bowl which will fit into it, but not touch the water.

Place the sugar, vanilla and eggs in the smaller bowl.

Melt together the 232 grams / 8 oz of chocolate and butter till smooth either in the microwave or over simmering water. Remember, we need to work quickly to make sure the procedure moves quickly so as to use the chocolate while it is still liquidy and smooth. Set the melted chocolate mixture aside.

Whisk the egg mixture thoroughly with a wire whisk, say about a minute. Set this bowl over the larger bowl of simmering water and stir till the mixture is lukewarm to touch. Make sure you do not heat it too much. When you dip a finger in, the top of the mixture may not feel warm, but the lower portion of the egg mixture will heat up faster. So when you mix, the whole thing will be lukewarm and right. If it becomes more warm than needed, let it cool under the fan. Pray your chocolate doesn't firm up during this time! If you know of a fool proof way to keep the chocolate melted and warm (not hot), do it! And share your tip with me!

Stir the egg mixture into the warm (not hot) chocolate mixture. Stir in the flour mixture, then the chocolate chunks and nuts. It will look like a chunky mixture of melted chocolate and nuts. The batter will not be very firm at this stage but will begin to stiffen almost instantly. Scoop slightly rounded tablespoons (think very small lemon size balls) of batter on the parchment using a cookie scoop. I oiled my fingers very lightly and scooped with my hands as the batter is sticky and I do not have a suitable cookie scoop. Place the scooped batter 1 1/2 inches apart. They will spread, I was able to place 4 small balls at a time on my 9'' square tray.

Bake for 12-14 minutes till the surface of the cookies look dry and are still gooey in the centers. I baked for 12 minutes. If baking in two racks and two trays, rotate in between for even cooking. Set the pans or racks to cool or just carefully slide the parchment with the cookies on a rack. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container up to 3 days. And do eat some when warm...they taste really rich and chocolaty best.


To make the dough ahead : Refrigerate or freeze scoops of batter until hard. Place in ziplock bags and store in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to bake, thaw frozen scoops in the fridge at room temperature, place scoops on pans bring to room temperature and bake. I overlooked this part about thawing and baked a few straight out of the freezer, and they were fine.

Please Note :

Chocolate : Alice suggests using 8 oz of chocolate if the cacao is up to 60%. Use 7 oz  if using chocolate with 61% to 64% cacao. The dark chocolate I used did not have any details on the wrapper, I have used 8 0z. Alice says, for the best gooey texture, the cacao percentage in the chocolate and the amount of sugar are important.

Sugar: Add 1 tablespoon more sugar if using chocolate with 61% to 64% cacao.

Nuts : I got delicious cookies both the times, but half the quantity of nuts works better, making the cookies more chocolate rich. I shall stick to using only a cup of nuts or even less next time.

My chunkier cookies...


Another thing I loved about these cookies are - they are rich without being buttery. Taste bestest when warm and on the day they are baked. This is a relatively low fat recipe, am not aware of the fat content in chocolate though. I baked them with not perfectly melted chocolate, probably not the kind of quality of chocolate called for, they did not look perfect. But they did turn out great tasting both the times and that's all that matters to me.

I love Alice for creating this keeper of a recipe, I see myself baking these again and again!

The cookies go my event Cakes And More Cookie Fest, I shall giveaway a copy of Alice Medrich's Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-The-Mouth Cookies. Hope to see your entries!

This also goes to Pari's Only 'Cookies And Cakes'.



Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cakes And More Cookie Fest ! An Event And A Giveaway...



It will soon be 2 years since I started to write this blog! Was it only yesterday that Cakes And More Turned 1 and now I find myself announcing the second anniversary event and giveaway, how time flies! Let me spare you reading all about how I feel about my virtual baby, the journey, etc etc...I shall talk about this a little later ;-). Now for the event and the giveaway - my way of my thanking you for taking time to read my blog, and always being my inspiration by way of your emails and comments. Thanks so very much!

Alice Medrich, needs absolutely no introduction, being one of the world's best known authors, dessert Chef and chocolatier. I wanted to give away a book on baking and finally zeroed on her book Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth-Cookies.



Homemade, freshly baked cookies are a real pleasure anytime of the day. Enjoy them warm out of the oven, send them to your family and friends or sneak in a couple of them in your kiddos snack-box. Cookie doughs which freeze well, with one time effort, can give you a plate of warm cookies at the shortest notice - be it to indulge your cravings or to wow your unexpected guests. This said, a variety of cookie recipes which will unfailing delight you are a must in every home-baker's repertoire. This book gives you a numerous recipes classified according to chewy, crunchy, gooey, crispy and flaky textures - whatever you fancy that moment. Alice makes you look beyond the ubiquitous chocolate chip cookies, which  - most of us, including me , think of when we think cookies. A few of her enticing recipes include Hazelnut Sticks, Goldies, Anzac Cookies, Steve Ritual Brownies, Flaky Chocolate triangles, Citrus Tuiles, Whole Wheat Biscotti, Sesame Butterflies and a lot more. Apart from these, there are tips and techniques, about equipment and an entire list of cookie doughs from her book which freeze well. A book you must have on your shelf, derive loads of satisfaction from it for years to come..

Coming to the event, its only apt that I ask you to bake and send some cookies my way. None of us remain immune to the spirit of baking during the Christmas season, even the hesitant baker turns on the oven for sure.  So, do bake me some cookies - chewy, crispy,flaky or crunchy - anything from gooey brownies to crunchy biscotti to delicate tuiles to flaky batons - I shall gobble them all!

What you would need to do
  • Bake cookies and post them on your blog any day between today and 10th Jan.
  • Include a link to this announcement in your post.
  • Lets please keep the entries fresh, no recipes from your archives please! Eggs are allowed, though not non-vegetarian.
  • Mail me your entries with the subject line "Cakes And More Cookie Fest' on or before 10th January, with your name, the name of your blog, the name of the recipe, a link to the recipe and a picture of the same. Please keep the file size under 100 KB.
  • Multiple entries are fine, the more the merrier!
  • Usage of logo is optional but would be very happy if you can help spread the word.
  • Non bloggers are most welcome to participate, please mail me the details with the picture.
  • Last date for submitting your entries is 10th January.
  • I shall post the round up around 15th January and announce the winner, earlier if possible.
  • The book can be shipped anywhere in India, so if you do not live in India, but would like me to ship it to someone here, you are most welcome.

If you have any queries, please drop me a line at sumadotrowjeeatgmaildotcom

So grab your bowls, whisks, turn your ovens on, lets play with flour, sugar and butter! Look forward to receive your entries!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Candied Orange Peel & Orangettes


Watch the video!




Some really simple things which you would never think of till you see somebody else do it and then think - Oh, yes! This can be done this way too! Now why didn't this occur to me? The humble orange peel for example, which finds it place in the trash can most of the times, meta morph into a lovely candy? Google led me to Smitten kitchen when I asked for some candy recipes. What do I see there among other gorgeous candies - Orangettes! Orange-what?? Never heard of them or tasted them earlier. New to me, these are candied orange peels dipped in chocolate, pretty enough to gift when you do a neat job. When you do a sloppy job like me, they are great to store in the fridge and pop a couple of them when dessert craving strikes.

 If you think orange and chocolate marry well, then you will love having these on hand. These are quite easy to make, but time consuming, more so if you want to make them in large quantities. But then, with the intense flavor of orange within the orangettes, it would not be possible to eat too many of them at one go, at least in my case, so that's a kind of consolation. For the the time spent, even with just 2 oranges, you can eat them well over a couple of days time. The outer layer of dark chocolate snaps when you bite into them, the ever-so-slightly chewy sweetish orange peel within ..

Humor me if you see more than just a splash of orange here this season but I have a few things on my mind which hopefully I will do soon. And when I find a simple recipe like this bang in the orange season, what's really to stop me from trying it out?


What we need to do is quarter the outer peel of the orange, cut them into strips, blanch them in boiling water twice or thrice to remove the bitterness. Then cook the peels in simple syrup, allow them to dry. This makes candied orange peel. To transform them into orangettes, dunk them in a pool of melted dark chocolate and let them set. That is it!

Recipe adapted from Deb's Smitten Kitchen. I made half of the recipe, the only change I made is a reduction in the amount of sugar.


Here is what you need:
Oranges, whole, washed and dried - 2

For the syrup -
Water - 1/2 cup
Sugar, granulated - 1/3 cup (read note)

For dipping
Dark chocolate, chopped - 225 grams
Baking parchment to dry the candied peel on.

Procedure: Take a sharp knife and cut the outer layer in an X shape to divide the entire orange into 4 quarters. Remove the peel carefully and cut again into strips, try and keep them uniform in width to help even cooking. If you want them to look pretty, make an oblique cut at the edges so that the peels don't have sharp 'tails'. In the meantime, in a large saucepan, bring sufficient water to a boil. Tip the peel into this, the water must cover the peels. Boil for about 5-6 minutes and then drain. You are supposed to rinse them at this stage, but oops! I forgot to! Repeat the process again with fresh water. This helps remove bitterness from the peels. Taste the peel, if it is still bitter, blanch once more. I blanched twice and there was only a barely there bitterness, so I did not blanch again. Drain the peels and set aside.

In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water. When it simmers, add the blanched peel, cover and cook on low heat for about half an hour. If you vary the number of oranges, the cooking time will vary too. Keep checking in between, making sure you cover the lid again. Try not to stir, as it may introduce sugar crystals. Swirl the pan if needed. Another point I overlooked, were mine slightly crystallized? At the end of the period, the syrup will almost be absorbed and your orange peel will be shiny, translucent and beautiful. Be careful not to let the peels get burnt. Don't allow the sugar to crystallize unless you want it that way. Transfer the peels to a cooling rack to allow any excess syrup to drip and dry. They will be very hot with the syrup, so be careful.


Don't forget to taste the candied peel at this stage, tastes quite good! My kids were home and I thought I would be very selfish if I did not let them taste the candied orange. Son liked it, will the daughter like it too? She is funny with nuts and a whole lot of other things. So I over-confidently asked her if she would like to taste too. Hesitation first, the she reached out and tasted one, the hands slowly formed a thumbs-up! Aaww Gawd! Was hoping, she would wrinkle her nose! Now aren't you thinking, am I a mother or a witch? Well, all in the interest of the candied peel making it to being Orangettes, trust me ;-) And I needed them to last till they dry, bathe in chocolate and pose for my pictures too! After all the effort, the orangettes cheated and did not oblige, got some barely there pics, that's another matter...

I let them dry for about 2 hours. Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave. A smallish bowl kind of container will work better, giving you more of fluid chocolate to dip the peels in, giving them a smoother finish and a thinner coating of chocolate. I did not do a great job here of course as I was too lazy to find the most suitable microwave safe container and make did with whatever was washed, dried and did not smell of leftover pasta. I would prefer a thin coating of chocolate as a thick one would overpower the taste of orange.

Place the orangettes on parchment, allow to dry and set. If you want them to set faster, keep them in the refrigerator. I have stored them in the fridge.

Please note : The original recipe has equal parts of sugar and water, I have reduced it from 1/2 cup to 1/3 cup. This made the peel slightly sweet, but not overly so. If you want them sweeter, use 1/2 cup sugar. Adding corn syrup to the peels while they cook in the syrup is supposed to help avoid crystallization, I haven't tried that..

On another note, Cakes And More will shortly turn 2 and I am planning an event and a giveaway soon! Stay tuned for the announcement!




Monday, November 28, 2011

Orange Glow Chiffon Cake



Moist, billowy, light as a feather is how Rose Beranbaum describes the Orange Glow Chiffon Cake in her book, The Cake Bible. Baked this delightful cake which is indeed is all of that, not to mention tasty, truly zesty and refreshing.

For those of us new to this cake, a chiffon cake is made with oil and more liquid as in juice or water, which ensures a moist cake, while a good number of egg whites whipped and folded in, gives it real light texture. Chiffon cakes belong to the category of foam cakes which characteristically have a high proportion of eggs to flour. Biscuit, roulade, angel food cake, sponge, genoise etc are other cakes in this group. These cakes rely more on the whipped eggs for volume and lightness than on leavening agents like baking powder /soda etc..

Chiffon cakes are baked in a tube pan, i.e; a pan with a long tube in the center which supports the light cake as it rises while baking. The pan is typically not greased or floured for two reasons - one, the cake can cling to the pan as it rises in order to allow it to achieve maximum height . Second is, the cake needs to stick firmly to the pan as it cools - upside down! ( I wonder why then non-stick tube pans are made?) On baking, cake in the pan is immediately inverted and cooled upside down suspended over a bottle or with the help of the 'feet' of the pan. If cooled right side up as in other cakes, the cake will collapse under its down weight, resulting in a dense, unappealing cake. Some tube pans have 'feet', which help the air circulate underneath when the pan is inverted, aiding complete cooling and perfect texture.


With oranges everywhere now, the citrus-lover that I am, I plan to make the most of the season. My brand new tube-pan is reason enough for me to start with an orange chiffon cake, something I have longed to try. I have technically baked a chiffon cake a few years ago, but not in a tube pan as I did not own one. This cake is quite easy to bake, as the dry ingredients, oil, juice and egg yolks are just beaten together and finally the whipped egg whites are folded in towards the end. The success of the cake depends hugely on whipping the egg whites to the right consistency and folding it into the batter, without any loss of air. This done, you will turn out one of the lightest textured cakes, which will delight you as a baker and leave others wondering as to how that texture could have been attained...And you take even more pleasure in gloating that this is not a butter laden, cholesterol laden cake, quite the other way, a cake with low cholesterol per serving!
 
Here is how it goes. Things you will need -

Special equipment : A 10'' tube pan, a hand mixer or a stand mixer for whipping the egg whites.( It would be strenous to attain the volume needed with a wire whisk ) A large balloon whisk, or a large silicon spatula or a slotted skimmer for folding in the egg whites. A sturdy and heavy, narrow necked glass bottle to invert the cake on. 2 large mixing bowls will be of great help in mixing in without overworking the batter. A good zester will make zesting the oranges a breeze.






 
                                                         Images from Amazon

Ingredients:

Sifted Cake Flour - 2 1/4 cups / 8 oz / 225 grams
OR
All Purpose Flour - 190 grams plus Cornflour - 34 grams (Read note)

with the rest of the ingredients below...
Superfine Sugar - 1 1/2 cups /10.5 oz/ 300 grams
Baking powder - 2 teaspoons / 10 grams
Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
Safflower /Canola/ Vegetable oil - 1/2 liquid cup / 3.75 oz / 108 grams (read note)
7 large eggs (at room temperature) separated, plus 3 additional egg whites
(Total egg whites - 1 1/4 cup / 10.5 oz/ 300 grams
Egg yolks - 1/2 cup / 4.5 oz / 130 grams)
Orange juice, freshly squeezed - 3/4 liquid cup / 6.25 oz / 182 grams (from approximately 2-3 large oranges)
Grated orange zest - 2 tablespoons / 12 grams
Pure vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon
Cream of tartar - 1 1/4 teaspoons - 4 grams( I used equal lemon juice, read note)

Procedure: Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees C / 325 F. Do not grease or flour the tube pan.

In a large, deep mixing bowl, combine the sifted cake flour ( OR APF plus cornflour) baking powder all but 2 tablespoons sugar and salt. You will be adding the whipped egg whites to this bowl so it has to be large enough to mix in. Set aside. Measure the rest of the ingredients and set aside. Have a squeaky clean large, dry bowl and really clean beaters ready to whip the whites. If there is any trace of grease in either the bowl or beaters, your whites will not whip well.

I have weighed the whites and yolks, I needed to use about 11 small eggs in all. Separate the eggs carefully without any bit of yolk in the whites. Your best bet is to break the egg in half carefully, the yolk intact, pour the white into the bowl from one half, pour the rest of the egg from the other half onto your cupped fingers, let the whites flow down into the bowl. Collect the yolks in another bowl. Save the egg shells, don't throw them yet. Repeat. Messy, but works well for me. Please watch  my video here on how to separate eggs


If there is any yolk in the whites, use an egg shell to take it out, works really well. Weigh the egg whites and the yolks, whites to be weighed first. You don't want to wash the weighing bowl in between again, more importantly take any chance with grease after the careful exercise! Yes, we all know, yolks are grease...

If you will be using the same beaters for beating the rest of the cake batter, its better to first beat the egg whites and set aside. Hmm.. we have to live with this way of working till we get our stand mixers with different bowls and beaters ..:)). Now to beat the egg whites, start with your hand mixer on low speed. When it starts foaming well, add the cream of tartar. If you add it beforehand, the whites will not foam. Once you add the cream of tartar or lemon juice, continue to beat gradually increasing the speed to medium high. When the beater marks show distinctly and soft peaks form, add the 2 tablespoons of sugar you have reserved. You could add the sugar beforehand, but whites whip faster to soft peaks without the sugar.

Continue beating for a minute more till the whites form stiff peaks. To check, stop your mixer, slowly lift the beaters from the whites, you should be able to see peaks which stand straight. If they droop right away and fall back, you have to beat a little more. Be careful here, stop and check after a minute or so, as you do not want to beat the egg whites till they dry out. If they dry out, it will not easy to incorporate into the batter and your cake will not be light. Once the whites are whipped to the right consistency, keep the bowl aside. Wash and dry the beaters.

Back to the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Beat these for 1 minute to mix and aerate the mixture. Make a well in the center, add the orange juice, yolks, oil, orange zest and vanilla. Beat for 1 minute or till smooth. Do not over beat. Now using a balloon whisk or slotted skimmer or large spatula, fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the flour mixture. Mix to lighten the batter. Then tip in the rest. Fold in quickly, gently, but thoroughly. I used a large slotted skimmer for this. If using a balloon whisk, shake out the batter periodically. The batter is neither thick nor thin. Remember,  you must add the whipped whites to the batter and not add the batter to the egg whites, the whipped whites will then deflate.

Pour the batter into the pan. The batter will come to 1 inch from the top. Run a sharp knife or metal spatula through the batter to prevent air pockets. Wipe away any batter from the tube or the sides of the pan. If you do not, this little bit of batter will burn. I don't know about you, but I prefer my cake smelling zesty rather than burnt! Bake for 55 minutes or till a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back lightly when pressed in the center. Mine took around 63 minutes.

 It was domed in the oven, I could not longer see the tube, was worried the top may touch the inner top of the microwave. Frowning me. Did I do something wrong? But it deflated slightly once out of the oven. The tube was showing now, the height akin to what I remember seeing in the videos! Relieved me!

While your cake is baking, have your bottle ready. I did not find a suitable one, so I had to some engineering to 'build' a make-do high rack for the pan with feet! Even if using a pan with feet, according to Rose, the height it provides off the counter is not enough for the cake to cool sufficiently. The point is to suspend the cake well over the counter to allow the cake to cool completely. Don't laugh, but this is what I did...want to show you just in case you don't find a suitable bottle either. If you have multiple suitable bottles, save one for me please, more chiffon cakes baking in my kitchen!


Once baked, stick the neck of the bottle into the tube of the pan and then invert. I did not do it, but imagine it must be tricky with a hot pan. Even otherwise, you absolutely need thick towels or mittens to handle the large hot pan. The cake will take 1 1/2 hours to cool. You bet, this is one test of patience !!

After 1 1/2 hours, keep your serving platter nearby, loosen the sides of the cake with a long metal spatula or a knife. Run it along the sides of the core tube as well. For the sides to remain attractive, press the spatula or knife against the sides of the pan and avoid any up and down motion. Place the serving plate on top of the pan, put the plate on the table and invert the cake. I placed it slightly off-center, but did not want to risk breaking the cake, so let it be. The sides did not release real clean, but was happy to have the cake in one piece. I used a knife to gently separate the plate with the tube from the cake.

Hold the cake gently with one hand and cut with a serrated knife. This cake can be stored at room temperature for 3 days, 10 days in the refrigerator, 2 months in the freezer. Rose says, there is no way you can dry this cake out, its great even eaten straight out of the freezer ! Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled.

While you are here, don't miss this video of Rose Beranbaum baking the Orange Glow Chiffon cake, which was filmed in 1988!! I found the video very helpful, pay special attention to whipping of the whites and the way she folds in the whipped whites into the batter and the size of the skimmer suitable. Am glad I watched this, even more glad I got the cake right!!



Notes: To repeat, whipping the egg whites to the right stage and folding it into batter without any loss of air is critical to the lightest texture.

Sugar: Use best superfine sugar. Since I did not have super-fine sugar,  I have measured the sugar first, then processed it in the mixer till almost fine. Fine sugar helps get better texture.

Flour: 1 cup of sifted cake flour equals 84 grams of APF plus 15 grams of cornflour. Source Joy Of Baking. So I have used a total of 190 grams of APF plus 34 grams of cornflour in all to make 2 1/4 cup of sifted cake flour.

Cream of tartar: This is very helpful to help avoiding over whipping egg whites. According to Rose, its virtually impossible to over beat whites when you add cream of tartar. But use it in the right quantity as specified. More can cause the whites to not whip well. I have used lemon juice in equal quantity as cream of tartar was out of stock at my grocers.

Slotted Skimmer : This is the most easily available one for us to use for folding in the whites. An almost industrial sized one, the kind normally used for deep frying. I got myself a new one, but found it quite heavy and difficult to use because of the weight. Get a lighter one if you can find for more ease.

Orange Zest : If you do not have a zester, scrape the bitter pith from the orange peel and process the peel with sugar till fine as Rose does in the video.

This is a very large, just about sweet, really spongy and light cake, quite unlike any cake I have baked. Serves 16, so share some (just some;-) if you can and save the rest, in the fridge or freezer. I am now tempted to try more variations of the wonderfully light textured cake...In my humble opinion, a must try - even if you have to buy, beg or borrow a tube-pan!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons


'Dessert' is the family middle name! My baking life would otherwise have been unimaginably miserable, considering my ancient affair with desserts and sweets. Kids and hubby more often than not, ask if there is dessert after a meal, knowing fully well, the answer will more often than not, be a sad 'No'.  I convince myself that a spoon of sweet saunf or supari  is my chocolate mousse after most meals. We would probably eat dessert after every meal if our health and the nefarious weighing-scales would permit us to...Sigh!! My son growing chubbier and yours truly growing rounder by the day keep reminding me to make desserts less frequently,  treat them as once-a-while indulgences. How I hate the villains in my sweet-somethings love story!

Did I mention that hubby is a big time lover of coconut ? Add a generous lot of coconut to his chutney to go with idli-dosa and it will make his weekend. Make fantastic lemon-rice (a dish he can eat everyday, no exaggeration!), skimp on the coconut and his joy will be instantly halved! Another love is chocolate. He can eat a tiny meal of these for dessert. Whenever my sister-in-law asks him what she could get for him from the US, he invariably asks for only chocolates - special preference to those with nuts and coconut. The answer has been the same since the last twenty years or so, so she has now stopped asking him. Bottom line - He loves these two things!



On an entirely different note, funny and weird as it sounds, did I ever tell you that preparing for travel, kind of stresses a not-very-organized me out? I really do admire people who very effortlessly travel every now and then with kids in tow. Specially if its for weddings and the kind. Coordinating sarees and jewellery for each of the numerous functions is not something I am very adept at. And now with my daughter watching and aping me , nothing less will do for her either, so double the effort! Traveling with kids being an entirely different ballgame, there must be snacks, the quintessential medical kit, 'at-least coloring books and a ball' among other things in the travel bag. Clear the fridge, make sure the kids' assignments are completed before we leave, hand over my precious pot of basil to the neighbor. To top it all, things need to be in place to rush the kids to school in an hour after we come back. In short, I have a serpentine, boring of list of things needed to be done - apart from the mundane chores needed for survival - Aaahhh!

A stress-busting, very welcome, short break to bake something seriously quick for hubby to munch on while he watches Everybody Loves Raymond? Seriously quick coconut macaroons? Why not? The gaping suitcases waiting to be packed can wait for another hour, absolutely!  


Some macaroons are made with whipped egg whites, almond meal etc, piped and baked. These are the ones apparently difficult to master, the kind people research and write tutorials about. (I am yet to muster up courage to try these). Some kinds need egg-whites to be cooked on the stove-top with coconut and sugar, the mixture chilled and then baked, so not really difficult, but needs pre-planning . The macaroons here are made by simply whisking together whole eggs, shredded coconut, sugar and vanilla, then baked. If you have shredded coconut on hand,  its as easy and quick as saying 1-2-3! Crispy on the outside and chewy within, the bottoms dipped in chocolate - what's not to taste good? If you love the coconut and chocolate tango, this is a must try!



Recipe adapted from Joy Of Baking, I have halved the recipe as I wanted to finish baking quickly.  Plus continuously baking in multiple small batches is just not me!  I have used peeled, grated dried coconut (copra).  Have used a potato peeler to peel the dried coconut, slightly tricky to do this, so be careful. If you get ready shredded coconut, you could try using that. If I am not wrong, dessicated coconut, being much finer can't be substituted for shredded coconut and probably not suitable for this recipe. In my opinion, using the right amount of  the right kind of coconut is really important in this recipe.


Ingredients:
Egg - 1
Unsweetened shredded coconut - 1 1 /2 Cups /110 grams (read note)
Superfine sugar - 1/4 cup (50 grams) plus 2 tablespoons ( use only 1/4 cup if using sweetened coconut flakes)
Vanilla Extract - 1/2 teaspoon
Salt - a tiny pinch ( I did not add)

Procedure: Preheat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F and line your baking tin / tray with parchment paper.
In a medium sized stainless steel bowl, whisk the egg until well beaten, about a minute with the whisk. Stir in the sugar, salt (if using), and vanilla extract. Finally, stir in the coconut, making sure that all the coconut is completely moistened. You may feel that the coconut quantity is more compared to the egg, but it will be fine. You will have a moist coconut mixture, quite thick, you almost can't see the beaten egg.

Place small mounds (about 1 tablespoon) of the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them well apart. These did not spread a lot. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. I baked mine for 22 minutes. Do a small test batch if you wish. Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes and then place on a wire rack to cool. They will crisp and harden a little more as they cool.

When they are all almost cool, melt chocolate, cool. Dip the bottoms of the macaroons in the melted chocolate and place the macaroons, chocolate side up, on a tray. The chocolate will set in a few minutes. Stephanie says, refrigerate the cookies for about one hour, or until the chocolate hardens. I did not do this as I was not sure if they would stay crisp. You are supposed to store them in the refrigerator. But since it was a small batch we did not have enough (left :) to put in the fridge.

This made about 20 (plus a few I think, not very sure, tasting-testing made me lose count, naturally!) small macaroons. Just about sweet, with slightly crispy exteriors, chewy insides and some chocolate to tease you just enough to reach out for the next macaroon. We loved them!


But of course, I had to take pictures and in a hurry. My daughter does not like coconut, but she was charmed by the chocolate bottoms and lifted one away as I was taking the pictures...

Hubby was immensely pleased to eat these when he came back from work. But, intentions however noble, you will agree, remain mere intentions quite often. Only 2 of these remained for him to eat while he watched the Raymonds :).

This quick and easy recipe goes on my list of keepers and I am surely baking these again!

Please Note : I have first measured by lightly spooning shredded coconut into the cup (not packed them), measuring 1 1/2 cups, then weighed, this was 110 grams. This worked fine for me, so I shall stick with this. The original recipe has 300 grams of sweetened shredded coconut.

Looking for eggless coconut macaroons? Check this.










Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kayyi Chutney - Super Spicy, No Grind, Quick Chutney



Taking another walk down the memory lane, we were brought up in a small town near the famous city of ruins - Hampi, in North Karnataka. My great-grandfather was instrumental in forming a committee in honor of the famous saint-singer-composer Shree Purandharadasa. The tradition of being part of organizing religious events and music festivals on a regular basis has been handed down from generation to generation in the family - carried on till date. For most of similar events, there are committees that manage the functions and other activities like pujas, Aaradhane (anniversaries of saints), music festivals etc . Some of the committees are traditionally well funded, some well funded by members, some not, public contributions and things keep them going. As a kid, I remember us eating a few times at these functions at temples and Mutts (religious establishments usually with a seer heading them), where the number of people who are fed during these events are by the hundreds.

Most of us are no strangers to these kinds of kinds of mass gatherings where the food is prepared in gigantic quantities, by dozens of people who seemingly have boundless energy. Kilos of rice and chopped vegetables, gallons of rasam and sambar are cooked over raging wood fire. Preparations begin since the dark hours of the day  in order to feed crowd in the noon - more often than not, going on till evening. The food thus cooked on wood fire, has a distinct aroma of smoke and eating this meal on a plantain leaf adds to it. Many a times, the menu also includes some dishes which require lesser effort and time, not to mention cost and the feeding capacity quotient. You got to feed the sea of people and serve in batches and batches! One of these dishes commonly made is something called as Kayyi Chutney which literally translates to 'hand-chutney' meaning a chutney which doesn't need to be ground. Its made simply by sauteing green chillies, sometimes greens, coriander and hing, then coarsely crushing them by hand in a mixture of yogurt, gram flour, salt. The mandatory tempering goes into it and there you have a really quick, tasty accompaniment to rice. Unexpected shortage of rasam or sambar  and kayyi chutney is dished up to quickly feed the anticipating hundreds. 



This is a chutney made in a number of households too, when you feel lazy and need something quick to go with rice while its cooking. Or when you have an unexpected guest and you want to add another dish to the rest of the meal. At home kitchens, the green-chilli mixture is normally ground to a coarse paste in the mixer and mixed in fresh yogurt and gram flour. But be warned, this is quite spicy, no, very spicy and doesn't have that wow factor if it isn't spicy enough. If you like your food fiery,  you will love this one and make this part of your regular menu.

Ingredients

Green chillies - 5-6 medium sized ones
Fresh coriander leaves, chopped and measured - 2 tablespoons
Hing - a pinch
Oil - 2 tablespoons
Fresh, thick yogurt - 3/4 cup
Gram flour (not roasted) - 3 tablespoons
Salt to taste

For the tempering
Mustard seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Urad dal - 1 teaspoon
Turmeric - 1/4 teaspoon
Curry leaves - A few
A dash of hing

Procedure: Stem and wash the chillies, pat them dry. Slit them vertically and cut into two parts. If you use them whole, they will pop in the hot oil and may cause injury. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the chillies. When they blister and change color, they will also soften enough for you to crush them with your hand if you so wish. Take them out and place on a plate. Now add the coriander leaves and hing, saute for just a few seconds till the leaves wither. Remove on to the plate. Turn off the heat. You will be using the remaining oil for the tempering in the same pan. Allow the chilies and coriander to cool. Crush this by hand, this will give you chunks of chilly in the chutney. Or grind to a coarse paste in the smallest jar of your mixer.

Whisk the yogurt, salt to taste and gram flour in a small bowl. make sure there are no lumps of flour. Add the crushed /ground green chilli paste. Heat the remaining oil, add the mustard seeds, when they splutter, add the urad dal and allow it to turn golden. Add the curry leaves, hing, turmeric, saute for a few seconds till the curry leaves turn crisp. Turn off the heat. Add the tempering to the yogurt mixture and mix.

Serve with hot steamed rice and a spoon of oil. Keep any leftovers refrigerated or it will turn sour.

 

Please note : The above quantity makes about a cup which is enough to serve 3-4 people. You can't eat this fiery chutney like sambar you see! The chilli will not be soft enough to crush with your hands if there isn't enough hot oil to dunk them in. Don't skimp on the oil, even if you chose to grind in a mixie. You could use slightly less number of chillies, but too little will make the dish bland and tasteless.

I could eat kayyi chutney and rice as a meal in itself. Given that I am the only person at home who feasts on this, I often make, store in the refrigerator for 2 days.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Creme Anglaise / English Custard Sauce / Homemade Custard Sauce


Custard for a lot of us here, conjures up an image of a yellow box of instant mix, occupying an almost permanent place in the refrigerator and on the grocery list. We have grown up eating this dessert, most often with fresh fruit. A good number of times, this dessert makes an appearance post festivals when you have fruit raining all over the place. Or as one real quick and easy life-saver dessert for unexpected guests. For folks like me, the 'real' custard made with milk and eggs is something very new.

I am not much of a custard (made with powder) person and hardly ever make it out of choice. Was curious to know what a home-made custard tastes like.Tried it and we absolutely loved the creamy sauce with the barely perceptible crunch of the vanilla bean. So much better and delicious than the custard made with custard powder mix! Received a stash of  plump and shiny beans from Deeba , am truly humbled and don't really know what to say except a heartfelt 'Thanks a ton!' for that generosity...I am now spolit for the quality and going to be looking out for similar ones. What difference quality does to the end product!



Compiled with reference to The Cake BibleBaking 911 and Joy Of Baking. Creme Anglaise or English Custard Sauce or home-made custard sauce is basically milk, egg yolks and sugar cooked on the stove top (sometimes over a pan of simmering water) with flavoring optionally added to it. Whole milk forms an extremely important part of this sauce, the egg yolks add to the richness and the characteristic yellowish color. The end result is a smooth and creamy, delicious sauce which can be served warm or cold with fresh fruit or used as a base for other desserts. This is a 'cooked' or 'stirred' custard as it is cooked on a stovetop and differs from a 'baked' custard which contains whole eggs and baked in a water bath.

Custard and its variations are quite a few. Bavarian cream is Creme Anglaise which contains whipped cream and  is molded with gelatin added to it. You could make Creme Anglaise with part heavy cream and make a rich ice cream out of it. When you use cornstarch to thicken the custard sauce, it becomes pastry cream and can be used as a filling for pies, eclairs and cakes. Creme Caramel is custard (with whole eggs) baked. Creme Brulee is rich custard baked and then topped with a crackly layer of caramelized sugar.

Creme Anglaise can be of varying consistency and richness, but its not meant to be very thick or very sweet, its mildly sweet and always pourable. The standard proportion is 2-3 egg yolks and 2-3 tablespoons sugar for every cup of milk. You could use vanilla beans or grated orange zest or liqueur to flavor the sauce. In The Cake Bible, Rose Beranbaum makes versions with ground coffee, pistachio and praline paste too. 


One note worthy thing here, when making custard sauce with only milk it has to be whole milk for best results. Skimmed milk or low fat milk will not give you results you will fall in love with. Also, if you reduce the number of yolks, the sauce will not be as rich. You could use part cream in the recipe for an even richer version. Light custard (all milk) to go with a rich dessert and a rich custard (3/4 cream) to serve with fruit says Rose. But using enough yolk and whole milk gives a sauce rich and tasty enough. I have used 6 egg yolks for 2 cups of milk as I had seen Monsieur David Lebovitz's Orange Creme Anglaise  and I wanted my sauce as thick and creamy as his...

Important :Cooking the custard till the right point is critical here. An undercooked custard is not safe to eat, overcook and the sauce may curdle. And the difference between cooked and curdled can be a few seconds. So do get all the ingredients and paraphernalia in place before you begin.

You will need: A large bowl of ice. A largish stable bowl with a wide base (so that the bowl doesn't spin as you whisk) A smaller bowl placed in the ice-bath with a strainer suspended over it. A whisk, spatula, a wide spoon and a heavy saucepan. Helpful to have an instant read thermometer. Your mixer with the largest jar - a clean one, ready to use!

Ingredients:
Whole Milk - 2 cups (500 ml)
Egg Yolks - 6
Sugar - 4 tablespoons (this was just sweet, more if you want it sweeter)
Salt - a tiny pinch ( I did not use)
Vanilla bean - 1/2 , split lengthwise
Pure Vanilla Extract - 1 teaspoon

Procedure: Suspend a large, fine strainer over a bowl, place it over a larger bowl filled with ice. (this helps arrest the cooking process when you strain the sauce into the bowl). Whisk the egg yolks and sugar (and salt) together in wide-base bowl. Keep aside. Do not leave this sitting for too long as a film will develop over the yolks.

Take the milk in a heavy saucepan, scrape the vanilla bean caviar into it. Heat the milk and vanilla bean to the boiling point. Turn off the heat. Take 1/4 cup of milk and very slowly dribble it into the yolk and sugar mixture, whisking all the while. Slowly dribble another 1/4 cup, while whisking continuously. Dribble in all the milk gradually. Let the bean remain in it. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook the custard on low heat (to be safe), stirring constantly.

Steam will begin to appear and the mixture will thicken. The sauce will leave a well defined track on the back of a spoon when you run a finger across. This will be at the boiling point ( between 170 degree F and 180 degree F). This happened only nearing 180 F for me. The time will depend on the heat you are giving. It took me about 3 minutes on medium heat. The point at which you will take the saucepan off the heat is at the point when the sauce leaves a trail on the back of the spoon without the sauce running down the trail . At this point, immediately take the saucepan off the heat and strain it into the bowl set over the ice bath. Keep stirring constantly, till it cools.

The sauce will be thick at this stage and will thicken further slightly when chilled. Refrigerate when it comes to room temperature. When the sauce cools, stir in the vanilla extract or liqueur if using. You could use the sauce right away or chill and use. If using the sauce later, let the bean remain in the sauce till you serve.

You can store this upto 5 days refrigerated, 3 months frozen according to the Cake Bible.

We loved the sauce poured over fruit...




Pooled around a slice of cake... And just as is, chilled!


 Note: Be very careful as its difficult to see when the sauce reaches the boiling point when you are stirring because of the foam. If you heat over 180 F, the mixture will curdle. Again you won't see the curdling immediately as it will curdle at the bottom slightly and you are likely to see it only when you strain the mixture. If the mixture curdles slightly, remove the bean, immediately pour sauce (without straining it) into the blender and blend till smooth and then strain.( Be careful as there will be a lot of steam and if your mixer jar is not large enough you are likely to take a shower in the hot sauce. Yes, it happened once to me as I used the medium sized jar. The volume of the sauce per se in the jar  will look less, but this happens because of the steam)

Straining is important even if there is no curdling as it will give you a smoother sauce.

Making this custard is really easy and quick and the result is delicious. Very eggy? Surprisingly no. I am wary of eggy smelling dishes and this one was surprisingly not smelling very eggy in spite of the 6 yolks I used. Try it out for yourself, its worth trying out even if you are egg-phobic! As for me, I am going to be making this again and again! 

Get comfortable making this custard sauce and you can dish up a lot more! 

Crème Patissière or Pastry cream http://tinyurl.com/nq4dumm

Crème Caramel http://tinyurl.com/nqlltrp

Cafe Au Lait Pots De Crème http://tinyurl.com/npnnmyn

Dark Chocolate Pots De Creme - http://tinyurl.com/q527qy9

Savory cheesy custard (Mark Bittman's recipe)  http://tinyurl.com/pmn78h6

Pistachio and Saffron Diplomat Cream - http://tinyurl.com/o68r87s

The Creme Anglaise goes to Meeta's Monthly Mingle, hosted by Sally this month, the theme is Custard Dishes