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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

My Hindi video
Candied Orange slices

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..

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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!