Monday, May 27, 2013

Cocoa Tuiles - Tuiles Love!

Guilty, guilty of making appearances so sporadic here! Summer vacations are just not my thing. Please say neither is it your favorite time of the year and make me feel better! I don't know if I have had enough of vacations or the kids have had enough of me, but neither of us can wait for school to re-open! Hang on, its just a week away, we keep telling each other!  And then a couple of things more not in my favor.  Out of the few recipes I managed to make in the mayhem, some recipes were not up to my expectations, some needing re-work ( exasperating I know!). Then a couple of good ones I want to share with you but turned out the pictures are terrible! I have never been proud of my photography, very honestly far from it, but this time my camera seems to be really avenging me for something! Thinking I won't have a single thing to post at this rate, am picking out a couple of recipes which I had put on hold for better pictures.  Please bear with me!

Here are some tuiles I had made sometime ago. Some super crisp, really chocolaty ones, they can be as addictive as potato chips, warns Alice Medrich! Great to munch on as is, but can you really resist playing around with these? Embellish them with nuts or drizzle them with some chocolate or use them to pipe in some coffee mascarpone / cream and berries to make desserts out of them.
As with all tuile batters, this is really easy and quick to make. You could make the batter and refrigerate it upto 3 days, make the tuiles in batches at your pace. Make sure you weigh your ingredients correctly as more flour can make your tuiles tough, more cocoa will make them bitter, less of it makes them sweet. I like them slightly sweetish with a bitter edge. I prefer trying out half the recipe first and then double it to suit my taste. 
Unsalted butter, melted and still very warm - 56 grams approximately / 4 tablespoons (weigh or measure before melting)
Sugar, powdered - 100 grams / 1/2 cup (powdered after weighing)
Natural cocoa ( Nilgiris, Hersheys, Cadbury's) - 1/4 cup / 22 grams approx (sieve after measuring)
Salt - 1/4 teaspoon
Egg whites - 60 grams / 2 large
All purpose flour - 10 grams / 4 teaspoons

Method: Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F. Line your baking trays with aluminum foil, smoothing any creases, taking care not to tear it. Grease lightly but very thoroughly with melted butter.
In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugar, cocoa and salt. Whisk in the egg whites. Add flour and mix only till combined. Let the batter rest for at-least 10 minutes or up to 3 days, covered and refrigerated.

Drop level teaspoons of batter 2 inches apart on the prepared foil. Using the back of a spoon, spread the batter evenly in 3 inch rounds or oval or other shape about 1/16 of an inch.  If using multiple trays, you could spread the batter and keep the trays in the oven one by one. If using the same pan for the next set of tuiles, make sure the pan is cool before you spread the batter.

Bake for 10 to 11 minutes. The time depends on the thickness of the cookies. Watch very carefully,  its tough to tell when they are baked and when they start burning because of the dark color! The edges will be ever so slightly darker says Alice, but it really is not easy to make this out. 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. Keep your rolling pin / cup right beside the oven if you want to curve them or shape them into cups. You won't have time to turn, go to the table and then shape.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 normally let them cool and harden, then peel the foil from underneath the tuiles very gently taking care not to break the tuiles. After baking all of the cookies, I put one cookie at a time in the oven (the underside of the cookie facing up, so that when you pick up the cookie and shape it into a cone, you have the right side facing outward) 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.

With basic tuilescoconut wafers and cocoa tuiles done (and loved much), you don't need to fear more tuiles appearing least for some time!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

No Knead, Easy & Quick Pizza - It Can't Get Easier!

Its no secret that I love Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Crust, but I still keep looking out for and trying out new recipes. A good dependable recipe and a good pizza for all the times you need one. Peter Reinhart's recipe when you have the luxury of planning well ahead, flexibility to make pizza anytime over the next 3 days.  How about one when you need pizza in a real hurry without any prior planning?

Ever since I have discovered how easy it is to make pizza from scratch at home, ordering pizza in is something I can't digest. Good money spent on not-so-good stuff.  If I had my way and some cheese at home, I will have good pizza ready in, say, an hour and a half, sauce, dough and all? My kids wanted to order pizza one day and yours truly all but kicked my legs and cried, imploring not to do so. The trade off - my 11-year-old budding foodie would get to make the dough. The young food enthusiast these days has been contemplating gastronomy as one of his future choice of academic options! Food love, one trait he has inherited from me!

The deal I suppose was good enough for him to be content with eating dal-roti-subzi for the moment. The next day saw us all set to make pizza, the sauce ready to go on it, the elusive cheese reassuringly sitting in the fridge. A pizza from this no-knead flatbread was the plan. Sure made my son happy as he made it successfully!

Tough for a kid or a beginner to fail when the dough is as simple as gathering all ingredients in a bowl and beating 20 strokes with a wooden spoon. The sticky dough goes directly on your pizza pan,  prepare the toppings while it rises .The sauce can preferably be made before you make the dough as it also needs to cool. Rest the dough for 30-40 minutes and bake. No fuss, no knead, quick and easy!

The reliability of old tried and tested recipes always tempt me to play around, this time the playing around restricted to simply dividing the dough into 3 parts and baking it with sauce and toppings in a very hot oven. Really simple but also works really well! 

I tried this with a potato, onion, garlic and EVOO topping too which was OK-ish, but the classic tomato sauce and cheese will always be a favorite!

Watch me make this pizza. Also check my video about yeast below. 

The recipe below makes 3 8-9'' pizzas, depending on the thickness of the crust.

All purpose flour - 210 grams/ 1.5 cups approximately
Salt - 3/4 teaspoon
Garlic powder - 1/4 teaspoon (optional)
Instant yeast - 1 teaspoon (Use 1 1/8 teaspoon if using active dried yeast)
Olive oil - 1 1 /2 tablespoons
Lukewarm water - 3/4 cup / 180 ml

More extra virgin olive oil for greasing the pans
Homemade Pizza Sauce
Toppings of your choice.

Procedure : Generously grease 3 9'' round or square pans or two large sheet pans with extra virgin olive oil. Enough oil (say about a teaspoon per pan ) will give your pizza a golden and crisp crust, easy release too. Keep aside.

Sift together the flour, salt and garlic powder. Keep aside. Take the water, oil and yeast in a medium sized bowl, tip in the flour mixture. (If using active dried yeast, mix it with lukewarm water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, allow to stand till frothy, 5-10 minutes, add the oil and the rest of the ingredients) With a wooden spoon, stir to bring it all together, then beat 20 strokes. The dough will be sticky. Divide it into three equal portions, you must eyeball correctly or weigh for uniformity in baking time and thickness of the crust of each pizza. Dump each portion on one pan. With greased hands, push the dough on the pan to make a 9'' round (about 5 mm aprox). (or smaller ones for a thicker pizza. I like mine with a thin crust). Try to keep the thickness uniform throughout (one of mine got a bit thicker in the middle). Keep in a warm place (cover if possible, taking care that the lid does not touch the crust or the area immediately around it) for about 25-30 minutes (may be 40-45 minutes when its not hot) or till the dough is puffy, not necessarily double.

Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees C (or higher if you can set in your oven) in the meantime. Spread the sauce and the vegetables on it and bake for 13-15 minutes (couple of minutes longer for a thicker crust) or till golden brown around the edges (watch carefully towards the end as you don't want it to burn or turn into a cracker) Remove from the oven carefully, top with more sauce and cheese, bake another 2 minutes till or the cheese melts. Remove, allow the cheese to set for a minute, slice and serve immediately.

Not a bad crust for a super easy, tasty and quick pizza, what do you think? Way better than the one you will get in 30 minutes! So next time you need pizza on a whim, you may not really want to reach out for the phone...head to the kitchen instead!

The pizza is yeast-spotted!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bloggers Table - Azure, Vivanta By Taj

There have been quite some meets happening at the Bloggers Table, Chef At Large, but I have had no luck being part of these these save for the first one at Blue Terrain, Novotel. Content at the moment that the kids are busy and happy, happier to have them out of my hair, but engaged elsewhere for sometime! But they are  back home too soon, back in my hair in no time! My sister took pity on me and offered to have my little monsters over for the weekend. Hard to say if the kids were more excited about it or me! A gentle nudge by Natasha Ali around the same time made me realize the Bangalore Table was to be hosted at Azure, Vivanta by Taj, Yeshwantpur the same Friday.  Happy coincidence as sister happens to live close by! Novena of  Edelman Private Limited, assured a decent spread of grub and drinks for me, a vegetarian and complete teetotaler. After dropping the kids off, hubby and I looked forward to what  was described as a Mediterranean Sojourn at Azure.

 The evening started with drinks at Shimmer, the bar. True to its name, Shimmer has a ceiling replete with dazzling suspended lights, a cheerful sight.  Oliveto, Watermelon And Basil Bramble and Rosemary Delight were made with flair, and anyone who wished to was given a chance to play bartender as well! A virgin version of Rosemary Delight for me. Am not much of a rosemary person, much less of a herbs in my drink person, so a couple of sips and I was done. 
The bar feels quite cramped though with narrow-ish spaces between the bar stools and the seating arrangement. Was quite late, an hour or more spent at the bar and we were all ravenous. Any more delay and I would have probably forgotten my manners and asked for my meal to be served!

We rapidly moved to Azure upstairs, a huge table laid for us bloggers and the press. Pleasant ambiance with a live counter nearby. The meal and the wait for it started with loads of cheerful banter - food, blogs, food obsession and photographing everything you eat. What else do you expect from a bunch of obsessed foodies meeting over a meal?

I opted to skip the soup as I find it takes a lot of precious space in my tummy and quite a bit of my appetite too! Though I would not have cared much for  the Lemony horse gram soup, I could have tried the Spanish Potato soup.

The first to appear on the table, the bread, was soft and served with soft butter, nice! The salad I had ordered, Plum Tomato Confit artichoke with cured buffalo mozzarella and French dressing was a burst of flavors, married so well, it hit the right spot! On any other day, I would not mind making a complete meal of one so good!  The Greek Salad was OK-ish and nothing to write home about. The salad did not reach Neha Mathur and we had to request for another, but it unfortunately did not reach the table at all!

 I loved the falafel, crispy and delicious! The dips that came along, tahini, Baba Ghanoush and hummus were disappointing though, missing critical flavor. The pitas were soft, though not particularly tasteful. The same was true with the aubergines which came along, no zing!

The talk and laughter though went on and on, one of those times when you enjoy like-minded company more, the food less!

The famished bunch that we were, we rapidly headed for the main course. My choice was Burrata with asparagus and vegetable mousseline. This, I belatedly gathered is an Italian cheese made with mozzarella and cream. Burrata arrived and how!! A colossal  portion of cheese no less, mozzarella on the outside and cream within. I love cheese, but then in considerably smaller portions as part of my salad or as a topping on some crusty bread. Burrata certainly aroused a lot of curiosity and the platter went around the table, everyone seemed to share my feelings about it. Rather sad, as such good cheese did not get its due, thanks to the size! May be it's just not my kind of a main course. I wished I had ordered the seemingly predictable Tortellini stuffed with cheese.

Swati saw my stuck-with-cheese predicament and shared her Tajine ( slow cooked vegetable stew with couscous) with me, a spoonful and sigh, another let down! As I was still hungry for my carbs, I requested for some rice which came along with another main course. This  was good, perfectly cooked aromatic rice, subtly flavored, with plenty of pine nuts, though a little less fat would have made it taste even better. I ate it with  some red bell pepper dip,  it helped take the focus off the grease!

I had already taken a sneak peak into the dessert menu and knew what I would order. Baklava! I have never tasted this legendary Middle Eastern dessert, layers of phyllo and nuts. I don't know if this is how baklava tastes, but it certainly did not have me swooning and digging in with all the gusto of a die-hard dessert lover.

Warm chocolate fallen cake with coffee ice cream beckoned to me loud from hubby's dessert platter and was it good! I got to try this at home sometime soon! The ice cream was mediocre, the flavor of coffee evident and quite nice, but the sandy-ness of it left a lot lacking in terms of texture. I would have much appreciated another Mediterranean dessert in lieu of the omnipresent sorbet.

My carnivore friends did not seem to be particularly impressed with their meal either, sad again!

So, the average meal was rounded off with the warm chocolate cake, the saving grace. It was quite late,  we had a long drive ahead with our poor man Friday at the wheels for the evening. Could not help but think, shouldn't a hotel the stature and reputation of Taj have infinitely higher standards? The menu had limited options, the serving sizes were decent though. Service could have been much faster and efficient. We would have loved it if the meal were as memorable as Taj is in our memories.

Thanks Taj for hosting our Table!