Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Creamy Vanilla Bean Pudding ( Eggless, No Bake)

You know the feeling akin to spotting a long lost friend when you see certain things at the supermarket. And then buying them in large quantities just to have the comfort of having it on hand when you may need it. You may of course not use all of it, but it is good to have these in abundance in your pantry. The strange looks the person at the billing counter gives you as she eyes the cart is absolutely fine. The spouse's quizzical looks don't matter much either. As long as you can get these home, sigh in pleasure, think about all the wicked ways you can have with it. You use some and then after some days, look at it with a frown, furiously browse your favorite cookbooks and blogs for a recipe - the classic case of buying too much and then racking your brains about how you will put them to the best use before the product expires! At least some of us do this most of the times I guess. I am very definitely guilty of doing this!

In our country, we hoard, not because we are greedy or anything, we just don't want to be in a  situation (life and death, goes without saying) where we want to cook or bake something desperately and 'this' thing does a disappearing act.. again.! for months! And oddly enough, most recipes you want to try during this period feature this absconding ingredient. The referent here is fresh cream. I like to use Amul cream, specially the small 200 ml packs. I find them very convenient to make just that bit of ganache or to go into an ice cream or pasta. Annoyingly, it has this strange habit of periodically disappearing off the shelves. Along with its family member, mozzarella (another fav product of this brand). On one of my grocery shopping expeditions, I ended up buying quite a lot of these handy tetra packs of cream. And had a couple of precious packs to finish before the expiration date...life and death situation again, undoubtedly!

An unexpected visit to a friend's home for a meal, had me volunteering to make dessert (my most favorite part of a meal to cook and to eat both). Friend doesn't eat eggs and is not a raving fan of chocolate. Not very easy for me as I first think eggs and chocolate or at least one of them when I think dessert! Uhh, how about a subtle, creamy vanilla bean pudding? Inspired by the Vanilla bean pudding on  Smitten Kitchen, I wanted to try an egg less version of it. Good vanilla beans at home, thanks to Deeba, made this a very tempting, quick dessert to try. But had to get the richness, texture without using eggs. And no, not too much of cornstarch as I do not favor the texture it brings. Cream of course! So, here is my version of the Vanilla bean pudding, which is subtle, really easy, quick and delicious, a convenient make ahead one as it thickens with refrigeration. And tastes even better the next day... or is it my imagination?

The below quantity makes enough for about 6 generous servings.

Whole milk - 4 1/2 cups (divided use)
Cream - 1 1/2 cups/ 400 ml ( I used 25% fat)
Vanilla bean - 1
Cornstarch - 5 tablespoons
Sugar - 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (more if you like sweeter)
Pure Vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon

Procedure: In a heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk together the milk and cream till well combined. Add the sugar. Scrape the vanilla bean and add it to the milk and cream mixture, bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat. Allow to cool slightly. (At this point, you could cover and allow the flavor to infuse for an hour or so if time permits) In another small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with the remaining half a cup of cool milk. (if the milk is hot, the starch may become lumpy). Whisk well to make a smooth mixture. Add to the milk and cream mixture little by little, whisking constantly. On medium heat, cook for about 5 minutes, whisking constantly as it thickens.  The pudding will coat the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat. The pudding will be quite thick now (but not very much so) and will thicken further as it cools. When cool, add the vanilla extract. Let the bean remain in it till you pour the pudding into individual serving bowls. Chill for at least 4-5 hours or overnight before serving.

This makes a just about sweet, creamy dessert, which tastes like vanilla ice cream, but with the texture of pudding of course..

Please note : Make sure you use good vanilla beans and extract to get the best of flavors. Full fat milk certainly gives the pudding texture and body.  Low fat milk will not give the same results. If you use low fat milk, you may need to use more cornstarch, which I personally do not prefer, taste and texture wise. If you do not have vanilla beans on hand, you could use vanilla essence, but again, it will be nice, but not quite as rich in taste, so I would not recommend it very highly.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mock Puff Pastry - Easy And Quick!

I am so excited! I made puff pastry at home! Albeit something which goes by the name Mock Puff Pastry, it still made me do a little jig and my heart puffed with joy! The puff pastry most of us are familiar with, is layers of flaky pastry with a savory or sweet filling we get at bakeries. The thought that this is something which can be made at home to be stored and put to such versatile use is new to me. Thanks to blogging again! How do just four ingredients like butter, flour, salt and water metamorph into flaky layers? Got to be something of a challenge to achieve!

When I first checked recipes for puff pastry, it was one made by the Daring Bakers, Michel Richard's recipe from the book Baking With Julia. With breathtaking results, this one yields 2 1/2 pounds (1 kg plus some) of dough and is made in a food processor. I was not very sure if I could do this with a hand mixer and get similar results. Puff pastry not being exactly as simple as baking brownies, what if I try it without a food processor and I do not get even passable results? Going by the accounts of the DB members, a good number of people made it a couple of times before getting it right. And in my opinion, halving and quartering recipes won't work for puff pastry - at least if you are doing it for the first time or unless you really know what you are doing.

A couple of quick and easy recipes needed sour cream as an ingredient and again, I was not sure if yogurt would be a good enough substitute in this particular recipe. Sigh! And then I came across this recipe called Mock Puff Pastry in Alice Medrich's Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, Melt-in-The-Mouth cookies, which does not need a food processor or sour cream or a stand mixer and yields a modest amount of pastry. Perfect!! I am glad I did not miss this recipe in the book, as its easy to, because this recipe is given in the last few pages under the chapter "Components'.

The recipe involves mixing cubes of chilled butter, flour, salt and ice cold water, forming a barely cohesive dough. This needs to be rolled into rectangles of specific dimensions, chilled in the fridge and then re-rolled as directed. Chill again for a couple of hours and your puff pastry is ready to use! As Alice says, its hard to imagine and quite intimidating at first, to see the mass of flour and butter you are expected to roll out into pastry. Its fun and easy and the results will delight you she says. You could use this for baking tartlets, palmiers and other fancy stuff, within no time at all. Aye, aye!

Before we move any further, I must confess, that though the results really pleased me and was appreciated by folk around, I kick myself for slipping at the first step - could this have been even better? Is this as good as the intended result?  Very definitely, this is very much a matter of better results with more practice. I made this twice, once when I thought I had baked a complete disaster, but turned out decent enough to eat. Second time, with a couple of lessons learnt, but a new mistake done!! In spite of this, the outcome was flaky, crisp, pastry! Which gives me hope that making good puff pastry, although, mock, is not very far off... And of course, I can't wait till I get this per..rfecct before I share this with you.

Sharing my experience, I think some pre-planning and careful execution, can surely make this easier and leave less room for error. One of the very important things is the temperature of the butter when you actually use it. Cutting the butter into cubes well ahead of time (previous day or at least 4-5 hours ahead) and refrigerating it can help. Do not freeze or pop in the freezer for some time (as I did), or it will be a wee bit hard and you won't be able to roll the dough easily. Keep the cubed butter in the fridge till you are all ready. Cut the butter into 1/2 '' cubes and chill (not chill and cut just before you use as this may cause it to soften). You may think of this as funny, but I took the half inch part quite seriously. Take no chances!

The water needs to be ice cold and you mean business here. Keep the measured quantity of water in the freezer an hour or so before you make the pastry. You don't want to measure later and find that you are short of water. You want very very cold ice water, but not ice. Adjusting the temperature of the water when you are making the pastry may make your butter softer and the dough more prone to tearing.

And remember, you need to be quick as you work with the dough throughout. This will help keep the butter and the dough cool, easier to work with.

Things you will need:
A 14'' scale
A large, wide bowl
A large metal spoon
Dough scraper
Aluminum foil - a large sheet or plastic wrap. (this needs to be big enough to wrap a 10'' sq pastry in)
A big rolling pin
A flat plate (10'' sq or more ideally, I used my 9'' sq tin)
A plastic file or a thin, flat, clean, plastic table-tennis bat kind of thing or a stiff piece of cardboard (to lift the rolled dough)
A print-out of the recipe right next to you, so that you can read it as you work.
Space in your fridge to house a 10'' sq..
An apron!

Please note : The ideal temperature to make puff pastry is apparently around 18 C. So its best made either in winter or in an air conditioned room.

Ingredients: I have weighed the ingredients

All purpose Flour - 1 3/4 cups - 220 grams / 7.875 oz
Salt - 3/4 teaspoon -
Butter, unsalted, cut into 1/2'' cubes and chilled - 227 grams / 2 sticks / 1 cup
Ice cold water - 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons (if needed), keep them in separate bowls
A lot of flour for dusting the counter

Procedure: Mise en place. Clear the counter, clean, wipe dry, you need lots of space. No extra water or coffee here please, we can't risk spillage when you are engrossed in rolling the dough. Kids away please - at school preferably. Mark a rectangle of 8 by 16 inches on your counter (using a non-toxic crayon) , the 8'' side facing you. This will help you roll the dough to this dimension. Elongate the sides and mark a little away too. Once the counter is covered with flour, you can't probably see where the mark is!

Now ad verbatim from the book, some bits from me. Sift the flour and salt and put it in a large, wide bowl. Then add the chilled butter. With a large metal spoon, stir until until the butter bits are separate from each other and coated with flour. Separate the butter pieces with your fingers if needed.( I had to). Drizzle in most of the water (from 1/2 cup) and turn the mixture gently with the spoon till the water is absorbed. Lift the mixture to one side with the spoon and pour the remaining water onto the flour in the bottom of the bowl. Stir and lift the mixture until there is no longer any dry flour left at the bottom of the bowl. Add the extra 2 tablespoons of water one tablespoon after the other if necessary. (I used the extra 2 tablespoons both the times) The mixture will be loose and shaggy, literally a bowl full of butter chunks coated with damp flour amid damp raggedy pieces of dough. Do not over mix or let the butter get soft.

Now dust your counter heavily with flour. Flour your rolling pin. You need to keep dusting the work area and the rolling pin as you work if you need. (At any point of time, if you need to flour the counter, lift a part of the dough, just enough to flour underneath if needed, don't try to lift the dough completely off the counter as it will tear) . Scrape the mixture on the counter and shape it into a rough rectangle (using your hands) Press and roll out the dough to a rectangle 8'' by 16'' inches, the narrow 8'' side facing you. (Try to roll as evenly as possible. The mistake I did here was my butter was a bit too hard as I had popped it into the freezer for some time and then put in the fridge and this made rolling the dough tough. So I gathered the dough again and rolled. Ms.Alice will not approve of this, am sure! And at this point I was very very convinced that I have ruined the show again) You will see distinct pieces of butter and loose pieces of flour in the dough.  Run the flat plastic file or cardboard under the dough to detach it from the counter. Fold up the bottom third of the dough and top third of the dough down over it to make a new rectangle about 5 1/3 by 8 inches. If the dough is not cohesive enough to fold without significant breakage, slide the file folder to help you lift and fold with minimal breakage. (Dust the counter and rolling pin again if needed. In case, there is any butter sticking on the counter, scrape it off with the bench scraper).

Rotate the dough a quarter turn (now you will have the narrow 5 1/3 '' side facing you) , there may still be loose bits, roll it out again to 8 by 16 inches. By now the butter will have somewhat softened and the dough should be more cohesive, but it may still be breaking at the edges. This is OK. Using the file again, fold the bottom up and the top down to make a rectangle of 5 1/3 by 8 inches (same way as you did above). Wrap tightly in plastic wrap (I used foil) and (place it carefully on the plate or back of a square tin) and chill for 2 hours.

Clean and scrape the work surface if needed to make it smooth again. Mark a dimension of 8 by 20'' on the counter. Lightly flour the surface and the rolling pin. Working rapidly to keep the dough cool, unwrap the dough and roll it out to a rectangle 8 by 20'' inches. Fold the bottom edge up to the center and the top edge to the down to the center. (the edges will meet). Now fold the new top edge down to the bottom edge (there will be four layers of dough in a rectangle of 5 by 8''). Flour the dough and the work surface, rotate and repeat the last rolling and folding steps. Now flour the dough and roll it into a 10'' square. You could brush off any excess flour. Wrap securely with plastic wrap or foil and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days. Freeze for longer usage.

Whew! I think this is easier done than said !! Before I sign off, I think of this as a good attempt, but don't you think it would have been even better if I had not slipped at the first step? There is certainly room for improvisation in terms of handling and rolling the dough evenly, getting consistent results every time. Any insights from puff pastry veterans most welcome! For puff-pastry newbies like me, its simpler when you do it, so don't shy away reading this very lengthy post! Am sure, if you follow the directions to the T, your pastry will be better than mine in terms of texture. You can be sure of updates for this post as I make this make more attempts.

For now, this space will see a couple of recipes using puff pastry as the base, at last!!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Cookie Fest - Round Up And The Winner!

As I had promised, here is the round-up of the entries I have received for my Cookie Fest. The theme was cookies of any kind, crunchy, crispy, chewy, gooey or melt-in-the-mouth..Of course the giveaway is (as if you have not read me mention this in every other post of mine recently!) is Alice Medrich's Chewy, Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-The Mouth Cookies. A very nice book with a great deal of lovely recipes listed according to texture, lots of tips and fabulous pictures which will inspire you to bake some every now and then. One book, you must add to your collection!

The entries here are mostly are in random order, but mostly in the order I have received them. Forgive me if I have messed the order! Take a look at these and bake some for yourself or scroll right down to the bottom of the post and see the winner! And no, I won't do anything funny  like I did last time. God Promise! Now please don't tell me it was not-so-funny and break my heart!!

So here we go!

Almond Flour Coconut and Cashew Cookies from Sadhana of SensibleVeg. Gluten free and egg free with a predominant almond flavor and coconut too! Yumm!! Thanks Sadhana!

Butterscotch Cookies from Aliena of What's Cooking Today. Fudgy, gooey, buttery...Butterscotch chips in every bite! Do you have any of these chips? Put them to good use! Thank you Ally!

Eggless Double Chocolate Cookies from Gayathri Ramdas Srikanth. A double dose of chocolate and eggless too, enjoy these yummy treats with a glass of milk! Thanks Gayathri!

Nan Khatai from Jyothi of Pages. The well known Indian cookie! Presented like this, its impossible to resist, particularly if you like your cookies simple and buttery...Thanks Jyothi!

Eggless Nutella Brownies from Jyothi again! Now, isn't this very serious temptation? As if brownies are not tempting enough, she adds a huge dollop of Nutella too! Am coming right over Jyothi! Thanks so much!

White Chocolate And Kaju Cookies from Simran of Lazy Cooks Kitchen. What do you do when you do not find macadamia nuts where you live? Use good old cashew-nuts instead and give them a completely new taste partner, white chocolate! Very interesting, not to mention delicious!Thanks Simran!

Eggless Lemon Cornmeal Cookies from Priya Of Priya's Easy And Tasty Recipes. One of the most enthusiastic foodies I have seen, Priya dishes out something new everyday for her family! Kudos lady! And when you host an event, she will very surely send something your way! Here are some zesty, refreshing cornmeal cookies!

Eggless Sweet Potato And Raisin Cookies from Priya of Priya's Easy And Tasty Recipes. Cookies with a hint of sweet potato and raisins too! Isn't this innovative?

Eggless Orange,White Chocolate & Oats Cookies from Priya Of Priya's Easy And Tasty Recipes. Me, for one, just can't resist the orange and dark chocolate pairing. Now white chocolate and orange, must be lovely too! Thanks for sending all these lovely cookies for me Priya!

Red Velvet Checkerboard Cookies  from Priya of Culinary Chronicles. Eye catching cookies, tough to be a kid and not find these inviting! When are you hosting the next kiddo party? Here is something for you to bake! Thank you Priya!

Peanut blossom cookies from Priya of Culinary Chronicles. Priya is not a fan of peanut butter, but loved these cookies! Now, I love peanut butter, so you better hide the cookie jar from me Priya! Thanks for sending these Priya!

Gingerbread Men from Swapna of Swapna's Cuisine. Cute little smiling gingerbread men, all dressed up in colorful icing. Christmas or not, these will bring a smile and a splash of festivity any time of the year! Thanks a lot Swapna!

 Iced Cherry Rings from Swapna of Swapna's Cuisine. Cookies with glace cherries in every bite!A holiday treat, you can't say no to! The gingerbread man there looks so happy,  hey,  they are all not for you, save some for me too!

Banoffee Slices from Swapna again. Crispy cookie base, topped with gooey caramel and further topped with whipped cream! Cookie slices which are crisp and gooey at the same time!

Garam Masala Macaroons from Deeba Rajpal. The diva of Indian baking blogs of course needs no introduction at all! I doubt if there is anything she hasn't baked and any food she has not made look anything less than absolutely stunning! Am truly, truly honored that she sent these cookies my way, thanks a zillion Deeba! Am thrilled to bits!

Macarons with a twist, Garam masala! Sandwiched with salted caramel butter cream! Super-inviting!

Vanilla Bean Chocolate Chip Wookies.
Cookies or waffles? These are wookies! These transform from sticky batter to crisp chocolate chip treats in just 2 minutes! Wondering, who emptied your cookie jar Deeba? I gobbled them up of course!!

Lemony Shortbread Cookies from Sanjeeta of Lite Bites!. She made a hundred of these buttery, zesty treats for her hubby's co-workers! With pistachio meal and the zing from lemon zest, these got to be a real treat! Thanks Sanjeeta!

Nankhatais from Sumana of Sum's Cuisine! Buttery and delightful cookies, she has managed to bake these not withstanding her super hectic schedule, just for my event! Am so very glad and touched that you baked these for me Sumana, thank you so much!

Macadamia And White Chocolate Chip Cookies from Champa of Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen. Truly a very versatile foodie, extremely talented baker, the lady who taught me to love yeast! White chocolate and macadamia nuts in a cookie, make it a real treat!

Quick Palmiers from Champa again! Flaky, sugar kissed palmiers from scratch, made quick and easy with a flaky quick base almost similar to pie crust she says, but with the addition of sour cream. Surely got to try this!

Hundereds and Thousands from Veena of Kitchen Celebrations. As you know, she is a food blogger as well, but due to some technical issues, unable to access her blog. Thanks so much for sending these colorful cookies for us Veena, and hope your blog will be up and running even before you know!

Apricot Nut Slice - Apricot jam ,nuts, coconut and cocoa topped on a par-baked cookie base and baked further. Delicious! Thanks Veena!

Snowballs - Cookies masquerading as snowballs! These come together in a flash, baked and then rolled in icing sugar. Wouldn't this be nice on your Christmas table?

A few of my cookies for the event...

Bittersweet Decadence Cookies - A whole lot of chocolate with just a little flour to hold it together, and very little butter! These make very very chocolaty cookies which are more dangerous because you can freeze the dough and have these in a matter of minutes!

Citrus Tuiles - Super thin, crisp and elegant cookies, you could decorate and shape as you wish. Little baskets, cigars, twisted strips...fill them with whipped cream or serve with ice cream! Will you believe, these are darn easy and quick to make?

Stained Glass Window Cookies  - Whole wheat and eggless, these cookies have a 'window' filled with crushed candy, which melts and hardens as you bake. This makes for ornamental cookies with  translucent centers. Perfect to hang on your Christmas tree !

New Bittersweet Brownies - Brownies with a deep chocolaty taste, a texture somewhere between cake and mousse. Do you love your chocolate? You got to try these!

 Thanks ladies for sending your cookies my way, am honored to receive these entries from you! Hope I have not missed out on any...

And now for the the winner....

Its Gayathri!

Congratulations Gayathri! Please email me your mailing address and your copy of the book will be very very soon on its way!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Bittersweet Brownies - We Turn Two!

Whoa! Have we already turned 2? Yes, my virtual baby celebrates its 2nd birthday today! I really, really do owe you a lot for helping me complete 2 full years. Clich├ęd  as it may sound, comments and mails from readers are one of the biggest highs in the life of a blogger. My sincere thanks to you for giving me these highs and always inspiring me to do better. A big heartfelt thank you!

While on this, I must admit, the blog has really, really grown on me. If you blog too, then you know it becomes so much a part of you. Blogging can almost be described as a life altering phenomenon.
Food, which was only fun and interest hitherto, becomes something you are really really serious about! The blog which starts out as a way to share your baking adventures, becomes almost an obsession. The little bit of baking you were earlier doing, now becomes something you have to do on an almost everyday basis or at least move in the direction of doing something. The little list of want-to-try bakes grows a mile longer. Baking for fun, becomes a serious ever growing passion. On a lighter note, by way of introduction, you may tend to say, 'Hey, this is me, I write a baking blog'. Things like, you kind of get irked not seeing 'blogger' as one of the tick options for occupation in forms :).

The little but indispensable fuel food blogging needs is a bit of appreciation from readers, a few satisfied ummms, a few plates licked clean. The 'it worked for me' mails and comments, which cheer you no end, add to the fire of passion!
Blogging and baking get to you, rule your mind. When you want to take your mind off things, the best stress buster you know - cook or bake something! Again, baking something good or not-so-good makes or spoils your day. You either are grinning from ear-to-ear like the proverbial cat who got the cream - successful recipe and decent pictures ! Or snap at folk around you and be a pain (or shall we make it less of a joy?) when you are not-so-successful with a recipe, compounded by barely there pictures. Happens to me and quite often :(. How about you?

And sometimes, you want to write something nice, but of course its just the perfect time for the writers block to make its appearance! You have something in mind for a particular post and you just-miss the mark, at more than a couple of attempts. You start all over again. The economy thrives, you buy more butter, more flour, more eggs ( poultry flourishes because of us!). You give away all the fruits..err breads, cakes, puffs of your labor to everybody you can think of, there isn't anyone spared. But you are still quite not there! So what you do you do? Now with very little time left for that post, you silence that persistent voice in the head to bake something you have not baked yet, something impressive. And stick to something seriously safe but still very good, like brownies...Moist, rich, the texture between fudge and mousse, very chocolaty brownies which are a chocolate lover's delight.

These are again from Alice Medrich's Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-The-Mouth Cookies.

In the book, Alice says, when chocolate is melted and used in cookies and brownies the cacao percentage is really important for the right texture and moistness. But when you are using them as chips or chunks in the batter, you can use chocolate with any percentage of cacao. (Cacao percentage is the total of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor in the chocolate) Meaning chocolate with higher cacao percentage, will be darker and have a more assertive, more intense chocolate flavor, less sugar and less milk solids, hence less sweet. She says success rates are higher when the chocolate with the specified cacao percentage mentioned in the recipe is used. I find premium quality chocolate prohibitively expensive, hence I have used the brand of dark compound chocolate I normally use. This may have resulted in a slightly different texture than intended, but it was nevertheless very very tasty.

Alice describes the texture of these brownies as between a very moist cake and rich chocolate mousse. One of the secrets is whipping the eggs with some salt.

Bittersweet chocolate, chopped (70% cacao) - 224 grams / 8 oz
Unsalted butter, cut into pieces - 6 tablespoons - 85 grams approximately
Eggs - 3
Sugar - 7 oz / 1 cup ( Reduce sugar to 150 grams / 3/4 cup if using normal dark chocolate like Morde)
Salt - Scant ( slightly less than) 1/4 teaspoon
Pure vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon
All purpose flour - 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon / 1.75 oz/ 49 grams approx

Procedure: Grease and line an 8'' square tin with baking parchment or aluminum foil. You need to line all the four sides, this will help lift the brownies out easily and cut them.

Pre heat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Mise en place.

Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave or in a bowl set over barely simmering water. (I use the microwave for this). When the chocolate is melted, set aside. Take the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla in a medium sized bowl. Beat with a hand mixer on high speed till the eggs are thick and light colored, about 2 minutes. Whisk the warm chocolate into the egg mixture. Fold in the flour. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out free of gooey batter. A few moist crumbs is fine. Do not over bake or your brownies will not be as moist. Mine took about 32 minutes.

Cool the brownies in the pan over a cooling rack. Lift the brownies out using the edges of the foil or parchment. Cut into squares.

I cut the brownies soon as they cooled. It did not give me very neat squares, but very very nice ones, with a lovely texture. I would suggest you do not put them in the refrigerator for better squares (as I did!) as it will not be as gooey. Cut them as is once they cool,  eat at least some them right away! I put a part of the brownies in the fridge as I wanted better cuts for the pictures! Though these looked neater when cut, they lost the gooey appearance (as my pictures show, please don't go by the pictures to decide the texture). The ones which remained outside the fridge taste better than the ones refrigerated.

My brownies rose and then deflated a bit in the oven. The last moment post sent me into a frenzy, making me forget to reduce the sugar, probably over whip a bit, I did not line the tin neatly so the batter oozed out from the gaps, parchment stuck to the pan - Jeez! The works! In spite of all these, the brownies are really yumm, very certainly a keeper of a recipe! You bet I will be making these again!

Before I end the post, I would like to say, all the effort, the time, the joys and the frustration is all worth the while as there isn't a chance I would swap baking and blogging for any hobby in the world. Its isn't easy, but its infinitely rewarding . And with readers like you, inspiring comments like yours make it even more so.

Thanks again, hope to see you around and hear from you soon...

These brownies are my last entry to my event Cakes And More Cookie Fest . One lucky person will get a copy of Alice Medrich's Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-The-Mouth Cookies. Hope you have sent all your cookies to me! If you haven't yet, am still waiting!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mumbai Tomato Paneer Pulav / Tawa Pulav

Do you love street food? I do too! Admittedly, we are not the quintessence of wanderlust. But when we do travel, eating street food and eating at small eateries is more appealing than dining at upscale restaurants. May be because you can tantalizingly actually smell and see the local food cooked in front of your eyes as you pass by . Not to mention the sight of gastronomic delight on the faces of the folk devouring these delectables. So easy to make a beeline for the same, never mind if you have eaten your last meal just an hour ago.  Taste is paramount, let's think about the hygiene aspect later. That's street food for you. You can ask for your plate to be custom-made, less oil in the dosa, extra garlic chutney, 'extra spicy' or  a little of both 'khatta and meetha' in your pani puri'. The vendor is in his element as he briskly puts the order together. He is a specialist and Chef in his own right. Obliges most of the times for the customer.  Now street food is even more popular with the show - Highway On My Plate. I envy those guys for actually getting paid to eat (wow, wow!!) all the street food across the country. Mayur, specially, for eating and still looking fit!

Every region and city has its unique street food. Lip-smacking chaats, Kaati rolls, rasgollas of Calcutta, the numerous idli-dosa joints of Chennai, the grub on Parathewali Gali in Delhi, North Karnataka' s Mandakki Churmuri, Girmit and Menasinakayi (batter-coated deep-fried green chillies).  In Bangalore, Calcutta wala's  pani-puri, dose camp dosas, chur-muri, and tomato masala beckon. And how do we forget Mumbai? Vada-pav, missal, dabeli, faloodas, chaats, cutting chai, fusion food... Add another specialty rice dish Tawa Pulav. Cooked rice, vegetables,  pav-bhaji masala and other spices sauteed over a tawa (griddle), heated up in a jiffy over the raging flames and ladled on to the waiting plate. And on to the hands of the very...ahem... eager eater... etiquette stops us from literally grabbing the plate from the vendor. We are salivating,  badly.  Blame the visual appeal and assault of aroma of food being cooked within inches of your face and...mouth!

Now am sure, as with a lot of food, this dish has variations as well and names too. I saw this on Supriya's Red Chillies, and the dish had to be tried. Like her, I too thought that Pav Bhaji masala is meant for use only in Pav Bhaji. As it turns out, Pav Bhaji masala and tomato sauce in Tawa Pulav do make this one delicious and zara hatke (off-beat) kind of rice. Ever so slightly sweet, slightly tangy and spicy, with bits of succulent paneer and the crunch of capsicum does make this a delicious dish indeed. Perfect to entertain guests on short notice or even for a bunch of kiddos - now show me a kid who can resist a combo of paneer and tomato sauce.  I have made this about 4 times now, this being an easy preparation guaranteed to please most palates.

Goes without saying that one key factor for this dish to taste its best, is perfectly cooked rice. I have used Basmati, cooked the rice directly in a heavy bottomed pan. If you cook directly in the pressure cooker, you may need to use less of water.You could use regular rice too.  You could also use left over rice.

Uncooked rice - 1 cup (I use Dawat)
Water as needed - I used 2 1/4 cups
Oil - 3 tablespoons
Cumin - 1 teaspoon
Grated fresh garlic - 1 teaspoon
Grated fresh ginger - 1 teaspoon
Onion, chopped fine - 1/3 cup
Fresh tomato (the salad variety), chopped fine - 1 cup
Tomato sauce - 2 tablespoons
Turmeric powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Red chilli powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Pav Bhaji masala - 2 teaspoons
Paneer, cut into small cubes - 100 grams (about 1/2 cup)
Green peas, frozen (or fresh) - 1/2 cup
Colored capsicum, cut into cubes - 1/2 cup
Fresh coriander, chopped for garnish
Salt to taste

Procedure : Cook and cool the rice completely. Heat the oil in a broad, heavy pan. Add the cumin, saute till it changes color. Add the grated ginger, garlic, saute for a couple of minutes, take care not to let it brown. Tip in the peas, onions and tomato, turmeric powder. Once the tomato is cooked, add the red chilli powder, pav bhaji masala, sauce  Add the paneer and the capsicum. Heat gently for a couple of minutes. Add the rice and salt to taste. Go easy on the salt. Mix gently but thoroughly. Heat through, covered. I do not like to heat this for long as I like the slight moisture from the sauce and tomato. If heated long, the moisture will be gone, the paneer may become slightly chewy. Garnish with chopped coriander. Serve hot.

Please note: Supriya uses more sauce in the recipe. More sauce will make the rice sweeter, but please do go by your taste. I would add not more than 2-3 tablespoons of sauce for the above quantity.
Try this out for yourself, you are sure to make it again and again. Thanks Supriya  for sharing this recipe, it sure is a great one!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

EVOO And Yogurt Loaf Cake

Wish you a very Happy New Year! Hope 2011 was a great one for you and wish you have an even better year ahead! Do you make any resolutions? Do you break them? I never, never break them!!! I don't make any you see! We are pretty boring folks that way...no new year parties, no fuss, no resolutions. 2011 has been rewarding, have loved and enjoyed blogging, learnt a couple of new things too.  A mention and a tiny article in the local edition of the magazine, Time Out Bangalore, made me so happy! Felt truly, truly honored when Deeba Rajpal, India's most famous and best baker-blogger, mentioned my little space as one of  her 5 favorite Indian blogs, in her  interview with Blogadda! Left yours truly tickled pink and blushing beet red indeed!

Being a (part-time) working wife and mother of two, obsessed foodie, baker and blogger, wearing many hats with ease and efficiency, is something I am yet to learn. Sigh! Moving ahead, hope 2012 will bring even better times, good health and happiness, hope to be more organized and do more in a day (only 24 hours and so many things to do!). Daughter starts her dance classes, son wants to take up cricket - it is effort along with academics, for both them and us. But we owe it to our kids - to give them the wings and help discover their interests and potential. Takes some zipping around and how I loathe not being comfortable in the driver's seat! Probably time to practice driving ( yep, I do have my license, but am too chicken!) and hopefully get myself a set of wheels! Long list, I know! But nobody ever said, being parents, and to two kids at that, is easy. Hope to achieve at least some of the above in the near future.

We are not much of believers in New Year, Valentine's Day and the kind . Unless it something of personal significance, we think of it as just another day. Well,  I told you we are boring! But I always look forward to seeing the date on the calendar. This means schools will reopen after the Christmas vacations. Kids finally out of my hair for some time at least! Relief!! Hubby's birthday is just around the corner. So, a much awaited decorated cake is in the offing - am excited!! My blog anniversary happens to be right after that, have an ongoing event and a giveaway for you.

On this happy note, here is a simple loaf cake made with extra virgin olive oil and yogurt, Dorie Greenspan's recipe. She calls this the simplest loaf cake, needing no more than a whisk and a bowl to put the cake together. I love cakes baked with oil as they are much more moist and much less fuss too. This cake can be made with any neutral oil of course and I tried it with rice bran oil as well, but EVOO lends a distinct flavor and richness to the cake. Yogurt is something most of us have at home at all times, so no extra effort for this. A kind of less rich, but flavorful, healthier version of a pound cake if you please. Just my kind of tea-cake, non-buttery, just about sweet, light, yet tasty, with a refreshing hint of citrus and of course the EVOO.

I have halved the below recipe and baked in a small loaf pan. (Had too many goodies around, so this had to be baked, but in a smaller quantity) You can find the original recipe here

All-purpose flour - 195 grams / 1 1/2 cups 
Baking powder - 2 teaspoons
Salt - a pinch
Sugar - 200 grams / 1 cup ( granulated sugar, measured and then powdered with the zest)
Finely grated zest - from one lime
Plain whole milk yogurt - 120 ml / 1/2 cup (read note)
Eggs - 144 grams / 3 large
Pure vanilla extract - 1/4 teaspoon
Extra-virgin olive oil -  120 ml / 1/2 cup

  • Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / 350°F. Grease, flour and line a 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch loaf pan. I have used a smaller tin, but please stick to the recommended tin size if you have just started to bake.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt, keep aside.
  • In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, sugar and vanilla. (If using fast dissolving fine grained sugar, put the sugar and zest in a medium bowl and rub the ingredients together until the sugar is fragrant, then add other ingredients) Whisk for about a minute. You just want the mixture well blended and homogenous, no need to work up a volume. 
  • Gently whisk in the dry ingredients in 2-3 additions. You are more like stirring in the flour with a whisk. Vigorous over mixing /whisking will make the cake tough. The batter needs to be smooth enough with just enough whisking. Use a spatula to scrape any dry flour around the sides back into the batter.
  • Using a spatula, gently fold in the oil. Folding in means incorporating ingredients into a mixture very gently but thoroughly. The batter will be thick and shiny. 
  • Scrape it into the pan and smooth the top.
  • Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until it is golden and starts to come away from the sides of the pan; a thin wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean. Check at 50 minutes (do not turn the oven off yet), if the skewer doesn't come out clean, bake for 5 minutes more. Thin long wooden skewers work great here, avoid toothpicks.
  • Note : It took 25-30 minutes for a half the recipe in my small pan
  • Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then run a butter knife between the cake and the sides of the pan. Un mold and cool to room temperature right-side up. Slice and serve.

Dorie says the cake keeps at room temperature for at least 4 days and can be frozen for up to 2 months.

         The crumb : The crumb, i.e the inner part of the cake, is what she describes as a coarse one). Different recipes, different techniques, different crumb structure.
  • Yogurt : You could use thick curd with fat percentage of 3% like Nandini, Nestle. If its cold, keep it out on the counter for an hour or so. This will take the chill off it and get it to room temperature. If there is any thin liquid around, just drain (no need to hang it), use only the thick curd. 
  • Zest : You could use lemon or orange zest. If you do not have a citrus zester, use a very sharp knife to carefully peel just the outer yellow/ green part of the skin of lime/lemon. Grind it with the sugar. Take care not to scrape the bitter white pith of the lime. Wash the lime/lemon/orange with hot water, pat dry and zest it. This will help wash the wax off.

Thanks to all my friends for sending me their entries for my blogiversary event! If you have not yet sent, there is just about a week more left for you to send in your cookies and get a chance to win a copy of Alice Medrich's Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy Melt-In-The-Mouth Cookies .