Friday, February 25, 2011

Banana Mini Muffins

    After going nuts over Pistachios its now time to go bananas!  Seriously, I can see myself going from relatively sane to insane very soon. Its the dreaded time of the year around the corner...March, April and May. The kiddo's exams, more of work at office and the most dreaded long summer break... sigh!! Its virtually impossible to work from home with the kids around all day, my son groaning to go to an activity center, my daughter dutifully echoing her brother. I wonder how the younger ones so quickly latch on to things about the older ones - the not-so-good-things I mean. And to think that you will be a better parent just because you are a Mom second time is a mistake - a huge one! Brother and sister are chalk and cheese. He was never a kid to howl his lungs out, never made me dread the time he would return from school, a stern word would immediately put him back in place.

The daughter has manged to ruffle my feathers , well mine and most people around to be precise. 'Amma!!!!', she calls out to me, "Look - she has not folded up the blankets neatly'' - the 'she' is the flabbergasted house-help. She runs to the kitchen when I am just about to hand my hubby his morning cuppa, asking him very seriously "Do you want Amma's coffee or the coffee from my kitchen set?'' Hubby is torn between  the two important women in his life.  My attempt to scare her( as a last desperate resort ) by telling her that the garbage picker has come to warn naughty kids, fails miserably when she tells me "She is here to just pick up the garbage, you don't worry''. I am left racking my poor brains for the next smart thing I can do or say.

Son's friends come to call him for cycling or a bey blade battle when am I just all set for the home work session. For all the pain taken to get him to write in cursive for years, he suddenly decides that the other way of writing looks 'just awesome and cool'. When life ruffles your feathers, thank God there is always baking to make me feel better. Never found a better thing which can instantly make things appear suddenly brighter...A batch of delightful Banana Muffins- soft, tender and delicious, were the outcome of one such instance.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pistachio Hot Milk Sponge

                                                 'You are what you eat - avoid nuts!'

Yikes!!! Does this cake look suspiciously like it has come from Mars?? I assure you - most definitely not! Its very much from my oven, with me adding in a bit too much color, in an attempt to make my Pistachio Hot Milk Sponge look prettier.  I am nuts about nuts and nothing like the above quote can make me stay away from them! I love to munch on them as a snack and in my desserts and cakes. The one thing I ask hubby to get for me when he travels is nuts. Cosmetics, gadgets and all the other 'phoren' things don't hold much appeal for me. Since he loves nuts too, hubby makes it a point to get them. How I love to stash(read hide) them in the freezer  and keep thinking about what I can do with them. Pistachios are a particular favorite- don't ask me why! They are supposed to be the lower in calories and fat among nuts, making them a healthy snack. If you are not new to my space you have seen these in my Kulfi, Pistachio Chocolate Fudge and Eggless Pistachio Cookies. Yes, I really love them..

After having used gulp!!-able quantities of butter in my recent bakes, I wanted to bake a cake which did not need copious amounts of butter, a whole lot of planning, time and effort in it. This recipe has 2 tablespoons butter added to hot milk and then the mixture goes into to the cake batter. Rings a bell? The Butter Sponge which I baked earlier is a similar recipe, but with more butter and lots of egg yolk. Though this is a cake with low amount of fat in it, the taste and texture was quite good. Its also very easy to make, making it a good recipe for a beginner.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Spicy Brinjal Sesame Chutney


Mothers will always be mothers and their children kids to them always, no matter what the age. My parents live in the same city and when they visit, my mother insists that she get the food for me. I sometimes put my foot down very firmly and sometimes I get very tempted by the thought of eating her food at my home, some on the same day and some to be eaten later. Not to mention the unexpected break I get from the routine cooking. My brother's work place being close to my home, I get to eat her food quite often, packed and sent to me very thoughtfully, along with accompaniments which she thinks I will relish. Whenever my brother declares that the food is more than usually tasty, he makes sure I get to eat some of it. My father promptly sets about searching a suitable container for the dish not heeding my mother's feeble protests that the quantity may not be decent enough to be sent. The fan is turned on full speed, the hot food cooled and packed hurriedly while my brother gets ready to leave for work. So many a times, I unexpectedly get to eat chutney or a rice dish etc. I hugely relish the food, the stuff I have cooked conveniently pushed into the fridge.

Predictably, when she is here, my mother wants to cook for me for the day or make something that can be stored away, food being the universal expression of love. When she visited us recently, she was as usual wanting to cook something and I asked her to make some Brinjal Sesame Chutney which is one of the many many of her lip-smacking signature dishes. Brinjal doesn't make to the list of my son's favorite veggies, but this is one brinjal dish he always asks my mother to send.  I do make this myself at times, but somehow seem to miss that 'something' which makes the chutney extraordinarily good. This chutney was made by my mother and of course I made a note of the recipe so that I can recreate the same taste.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Strawberry Mascarpone Icecream

                            "Destiny shapes our end...desserts shape our middles!!"

Strawberries are not really my cup of tea...but I must admit its very definitely my (BIG) bowl of  ice-cream! Talk about being caught unaware! I have never fancied eating strawberries, having eaten the fruit a couple of times and then dismissing it off as an over-rated, albeit very pretty fruit. This seasonal fruit is supposed to taste best when plucked ripe, but unfortunately also has a very short life. Which probably means, folks who live in areas where the fruit is grown get to savor the fruit at its best. I had once asked a fruit-vendor how long would the fruit stay fresh and he had told me that the fruit is like ice-cream - eat it immediately or it will no longer be the same thing.

I wanted to make something with strawberries before the season's gone - just because I have never earlier made anything out of it. Ice-Cream with strawberries seemed like a better idea and one with mascarpone seemed even better. I loved mascarpone when I made it for the Tiramisu Cake and got lured into making ice-cream with a fruit I am not really crazy about. I set about making the mascarpone and took pictures of the fruit enjoying the visual treat of the bright fruit against white...consolation enough in case even if I absolutely would not enjoy the ice-cream. I ate humble pie as I thoroughly enjoyed the  Strawberry Mascarpone Ice Cream - creamy, smooth, luxurious and very very delicious...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

No Knead Spicy Buns - Beginner's Perfect Bread!

How do you feel when you bake something very easy and its turns out great? I made these AMAZING buns yesterday and they turned out fabulous! Very soft, great textured, very good in taste, relatively quick and easy to make. There, I have used so many adjectives in one sentence to describe these! Yes, they were really very good! And if you are someone who has never handled yeast or previously tried baking with yeast and did not really go ga-ga over the experience, here is one recipe which will make you fall in love with yeast. You don't need to know a lot about yeast, you don't need to know great techniques. This is one super easy recipe which will work just fine for anybody. All you need is one very important ingredient... good yeast. And the rest is a breeze..

These are No-Knead Spicy Buns, bread wherein you do not need to do any amount of kneading at all. Kneading for the right amount of time is one of the key factors which results in good bread. Using the right amount of liquid when you are mixing and kneading the dough is another related key factor. And these 2 things taken care of will up your chances of baking a good bread to a large extent. If you have been baking breads, but not tried this category of the clan, please do! Having baked a few breads including the No-Knead Date And Walnut Mini Buns, the ease with which I baked these buns and the result left me smiling all day.

These buns can be baked with minimal effort and fuss and absolutely worth your while. Please do try these out, in fact I INSIST you try these out . At the cost of sounding very immodest, I want say you will thank me for this. Just as I have been thanking Champa for this keeper, keeper of a recipe.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Instant Microwave Brownie - Eggless, Warm and Chocolaty - Just 2 Minutes!!

My old basic model microwave conked at last! .YAAAAYYY!!!!! How I had been waiting for this joyous day!! Am so so happy to finally replace it with a bigger convection model:-))). My old microwave which had been my kitchen companion since years conked:-((.. sighhh... And hubby had to get me another one offered to buy me another one. I now have a big 30 liter convection microwave which occupies a ( good lot of) place of pride on my tiny kitchen counter in my even tiny kitchen.  A peek into the new microwave makes me feel like I am looking into a HUGE baking chamber no less! Oh joy!! It can fit a good number of my bigger baking tins. Much to the amusement and bewilderment of the electronics store guy, I had carried my big baking tins to see if they will fit in the oven. Oh well, its a very big decision and an even more important gadget in  the kitchen and I wanted to do all possible to ensure I made a decent choice. 3 visits (these are few considering that I can be extremely indecisive when it comes to buying most things) to the store, some internet searching and some mails to blogger friends and the microwave was on the counter.  And yes, I very much have my loved small 14 liter Morphy Richards OTG which introduced me to the pleasure of baking.

There are so many microwave recipes I have been wanting to try, but could not due to the growing inefficiency of the old gadget. One of the recipes being Instant Microwave Brownie which will take 1.5  minutes to get cooked and 3 minutes to put together. Forget the  pictures here which I took in a hurry - this tastes good!! Mind you, I am not very much of a believer in these recipes, had tried a similar one sometime ago and it was a put off. But I liked this instant version from Art Of Dessert and I must share this with you.

This will help you give a good brownie to your chocolate hungry kids in a flash, will see you through your dessert craving on a long tiring day and still leave you pretty satisfied. Sounds good eh? And with Valentine's Day around the corner, this serves-2 dessert is a good one to make for a cozy two-some - particularly if you are not a hands-on person in the kitchen. If you love your brownie warm and gooey but iffy about uncooked batter with eggs, you are in luck as this one is egg-free too! As Rianne says, you could mix up the dry ingredients and store in a zip-lock bag, just mix in the wet ingredients and zap in the microwave.. and you are good to go!

Aren't these enough reasons to give a try at this?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Eggless Basic Cookies - Very Versatile!!

For someone who was not very keen on baking cookies until very recently, I suddenly seem to be looking out for and trying out more and more cookies! Of late I have baked Eggless Coconut Macaroons, Eggless Buttermilk Chocolate Cookies and Eggless Coffee Walnut Cookies. In fact I baked the Coffee Walnut Cookies again as it became a huge hit with my family and friends. Not surprising since they are yum, yum, yum... The cookie recipe hunt took me to Rachel Allen's Basic Cookie Dough which I had bookmarked long ago after seeing her bake these on her show. This down-to-earth, unassuming lady is my most favorite celebrity baking chef .She makes everything look so easy and do-able and fun. I loved her show 'Bake'.

I remember this episode in which she bakes the basic cookies and takes around the tray of additions to the cookie dough. Poppy seeds, lemon zest, dark chocolate, orange, white chocolate, mixed spices, chocolate chips are mixed with the basic dough to give entirely different flavored cookies with no extra effort. Isn't that great? Specially if you would have to please kids with different tastes or different demands of the moment. Or for baking with kids and their friends during the holidays. Or just for the high you will get to turn out varieties of cookies at short notice for your guests.. Sounds good to me! Its quick, easy, its fun, and egg-less too!! Hope I have sold the idea by now? Not yet? Well, you can also make the dough ahead of time and put in the fridge for 2 weeks or freeze for a couple of months.

This is a great egg-less basic cookie recipe. Let me show you the Dark Chocolate And Orange Cookies, Pistachio and White chocolate and the Chocolate Chip cookies I made. You could get more imaginative and try the variations above and more like coffee, double chocolate chip, lavender, saffron, dry fruit and nuts, cardamom-coconut... the possibilities seem endless.