Monday, June 30, 2014

Peanut Butter And Chocolate Chip Granola (Video Recipe)

Let me guess! With zillions of granola recipes out there, you can't really believe that I come back with another granola recipe with chocolate! If you could see me I look suitably sheepish agreeing that the other two here are Chocolate And Coconut Granola and Double Chocolate Granola. Please don't look at me like that, this one has peanut butter too! With raving fans of the spread around, I thought  David Lebovitz's  Peanut Butter And Chocolate Granola.will be a good one to have in the jar.

Though you will never catch me devouring spoonfuls of peanut butter, I am not really averse to the taste of it, especially with chocolate. The other three in my family can be annoyingly interested in that jar on the kitchen shelf. Kids slather it on toast and chapatis apart from digging into it with a spoon now and then. That's when I grow horns and refuse to replace the empty jar - till I want to :D

Like when I want to make peanut Butter Granola. I sneak out and buy some peanut butter and pretend it was there all along, somehow went unnoticed. I like having some granola around to feed the incorrigibly sweet -toothed me. Not to forget my forever hungry pre-teen who keeps combing through the kitchen for a 'small sweet something'.

Sweetish, slightly salty, with chocolate and peanuts in each spoonful, it's a peanut butter lover's healthy treat!

This makes a small batch of granola of about 1 1/4 cups you could bake in the 12'' round tin of your microwave. Can be easily doubled or tripled to make more.if using a much larger tray.

Ingredients: To make about 1 1/4 cup of granola

Oats - 75 grams - 3/4 cup, I use Quaker (please read note) 
Peanuts, salted or unsalted - 50 grams. Toasted and coarsely chopped
Bittersweet or dark chocolate chips - 3 tablespoons
Salt - less than 1/8 teaspoon (or to taste)
Smooth peanut butter - 2 tablespoons
Honey or maple syrup - 2 tablespoons
Brown sugar - 1 tablespoon
Water - 1/2 tablespoon
Vanilla - 1/4 teaspoon (or cinnamon)

     Method : Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees C / 325 F.  Line your baking tray with parchment. I have used 11 '' round tin.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the oats, chocolate chips and the peanuts.
  • Take the peanut butter, honey, sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring constantly, to warm the mixture. Do not let it get too hot or start boiling. 
  • Scrape the peanut butter mixture on the oats mixture. Mix well with a spatula. You will have a slightly wet but crumbly mixture.
  • Transfer to the baking sheet, spread evenly in a thin single layer.
  • Bake for about 15 minutes. Stir to redistribute  (don't forget to stir from the edges cautions David). Bake again for 5-8 minutes. The baking time varies depending on your oven and the thickness of the granola spread in the pan. Be careful. If in doubt, bake less. You can always bake more if needed.
  • If the chocolate chips melt, your granola will be kind of muddy looking like mine, so hard to judge by the color.
  • It will still feel soft but will turn crunchy as it cools. If you want it crunchier, bake 2-3 minutes more. Be careful not to over-bake as it will start smelling burnt. Don't know about you, but I would prefer my granola a little less crunchy to slightly burnt.
Once completely cool, store airtight. Keeps for a month or more - only if you make a considerably mega batch!

Please note:

Oats : I sieve the oats in a colander to get only the largish flakes and use them for the granola. Reserve the powdery part for another use.

Peanuts : I have used ready shelled, roasted and salted peanuts. You may want to omit or reduce salt according to the kind of nuts you use.

Chocolate chips : I have used the kind used for baking. But it started to melt when mixed with the warm peanut butter. Not that I have any complaints with the taste, but if you want the chips intact, you could try waiting for the PB mixture to cool a bit before adding it to the oats mixture.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Easy Cocoa Brownies - And Some Brownie Point(er)s!

America's favorite bar cookies - brownies!  Unbelievably, I discovered these quite late. Basically bars, these are made with either cocoa or dark chocolate or a combination of both. My personal preference are ones made with tons of chocolate, but cocoa brownies are the easiest to start with. Brownies made with dark chocolate need it to be melted with butter just right for best texture.

Brownies can be fudgy, like a candy bar or cake-y ones which are lighter or in-between the two. There are also brownies which have a dense mousse like texture. You will discover your favorite kind as you experiment. You will also discover that baking brownies will quite often be your first choice when you want to bake something easy and quick with minimal fuss. Eat as is or with ice cream for dessert. If you love chocolate, put these on your baking list!

Generally, flour (or flour plus nut meal) salt, cocoa and sometimes baking powder are mixed into into melted butter or oil (and chocolate), sugar and eggs. Eggs are the leaveners basically and adding baking powder makes the brownies lighter - you may or may not prefer this. You could add some instant coffee to the batter for a more intense chocolate taste. Stir in some toasted chopped nuts or chocolate chips or swirl some dulce de leche into the batter.  Recipes have varying amounts of chocolate, flour and then different methods of baking giving you brownies with varying taste and texture. With plenty of room for playing around, you will always have a new recipe you want to try!
The mixture is normally baked in a square tin lined with foil or parchment which 
helps you cut the brownies into neat squares. 

Though baking brownies is fairly simple, here are some pointers which may help. 

1. THE PAN: Use the pan size recommended . Remember that using a larger pan can result in over-baked brownies, something you must avoid at all costs Lightly grease your pan, line with foil or parchment leaving an overhang, lightly grease again. Here is how you do it.

2. INGREDIENTS : Weigh ingredients carefully. Weigh and cut the butter into cubes, get it to room temperature before melting. More of cocoa or less of sugar can make your brownies taste bitter.  Using powdered sugar (of equal weight) is best. Sift cocoa if lumpy. Recipes with plain unsweetened chocolate have more of sugar, guess that's what makes them more moist. If you substitute dark chocolate like Morde in a recipe which calls for unsweetened chocolate, your brownies will be sweeter. I am waiting for my stash of plain chocolate to try one of those recipes.

3. THE CRACKLY CRUST : Melting the butter first and then sugar and butter together till its hot but not bubbling helps  melt more of the sugar. This apparently gives the much desired shiny, crackly crust. I must admit I normally don't do this, but tried it for the KAF brownies. This step is only optional, your brownies will still taste good even if you skip doing this. 

According to Alice Medrich, the melted butter and chocolate should be very hot to the touch and need not be cooled before the other ingredients (like sugar) are added ( But I would be vary of adding eggs to anything hot). This produces greater chocolate flavor and a glossy surface.  

4. BROWNIES WITH MELTED CHOCOLATE: When you bake brownies where chocolate is melted, the chocolate-butter mixture must be smooth and fluid enough. If the chocolate seizes, your brownies will not have good texture (but will still taste good).

3. ADD INS : Decide on the add in's knowing that adding dark chocolate will make the brownies more chocolaty and slightly sweeter, adding some instant coffee will help cut down on the sweetness. So will adding nuts. Butterscotch chips or milk chocolate, dulce de leche will make brownies sweeter. I like my brownies intense and just about sweet. Other add ins could be cranberries, orange zest and candied peel, a swirl of cream cheese, caramel, peanut butter etc. These are all optional.

4. MIXING BATTER : In recipes with very little flour and more chocolate, the batter is more prone to separating. You need to stir the batter vigorously long enough for the batter to emulsify. The batter should visibly become more smoother and pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl. (as in the recipe for Best Cocoa Brownies). If you do not do this long enough, your brownies may ooze fat in the oven or turn out greasy and grainy. Its fine to use a hand held mixer, especially when you make a large batch says Alice Medrich. In some recipes, adding cold eggs helps cool and emulsify the batter quickly. So, where recipes specify vigorous mixing, do not ignore it! 

5. BAKING TIME:  Be cautious about the baking time. Over baked brownies are still chocolaty no doubt, but for the best texture, you need to bake them just right. When you try a new recipe, you may at times find that the baking time specified is way more than you need, so check them 5-10 minutes ahead.  (Gosh! Let me first check the recipes on my blog!) Ovens, voltage fluctuations etc can make a difference too. (The brownies above were already over-baked at 25 minutes, specified time in recipe is 30 minutes). Its always preferable to under bake brownies - till you see the toothpick come out with very moist crumbs or even safer a dirty looking toothpick. But not raw batter! If your toothpick comes out clean, you know you have over baked. 

6. COOLING BROWNIES: Set the pan on a rack, cool brownies in the pan.  Tempting though it is,  cutting them warm is messy. Cover, cool for a few hours or overnight. You could cool them in the fridge or even freezer for great cuts, but I guess it also dries them out a bit . Once you cut them, bring them back to room temperature before you serve. 

7. CUTTING BROWNIES: Lift the brownies out of the pan using the overhang. Place on the counter or cutting board. Use a very sharp serrated knife dipped in hot water to cut. Wipe the knife dry before cutting. 

8. STORING BROWNIES : These freeze well. Zap them in the microwave for a minute or so if the brownies are directly from the freezer. A spritz of water on them shouldn't hurt as you don't want them to dry in the microwave. Heat about 20 seconds on High if you have stored the brownies at room temperature. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream, drizzle of dessert sauce and toasted nuts. 

I tried two simple recipes, one for fudgy brownies from Joy of Baking and another for slightly cake-y ones from King Arthur Flour. Since I am very partial to fudgy brownies, I shall recommend Stephanie's recipe.  As I totally ruined the pictures for the Joy Of Baking brownies, I will show you just one picture of those (above), the rest hidden away. 

Easy Cocoa Brownies: Source Joy Of Baking


Unsalted butter - 140 grams

Powdered sugar or granulated superfine white sugar - 250 grams  

Unsweetened cocoa powder - 60 grams (or  75 grams Dutch processed cocoa) 
Pure vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon
Eggs - 96 grams / 2 large egg

All-purpose flour -  65 grams / 1/2 cup

Baking powder - 1/4 teaspoon

Salt - 1/4 teaspoon

Sour cream (full or reduced fat) - 1/4 cup (60 ml) I used Nestle set curd at room temperature after draining the thin liquid.

Add in's (optional) - 1 cup of toasted chopped walnuts or chocolate chips or anything else you please!

  • Procedure: Preheat oven to  160 degrees C /  325 degrees F and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Line the bottom and sides of an 8 inch (20 cm) square pan with aluminum foil or parchment leaving an overhang. Grease lightly again.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In a small saucepan melt the butter (can also melt the butter in the microwave). Remove from heat and pour into a large heatproof bowl. 
  • Whisk in the sugar and cocoa powder. Its fine if the butter is still hot at this point. When its barely warm, whisk in the vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time. You want the first egg fully incorporated into the batter before adding the next one. Whisk again till fully incorporated, till batter is smooth and shiny. (watch the video, follow her instructions)

  • Whisk in the sour cream. Using a spatula, fold in the flour mixture into the batter and any then any add-ins.

  • Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 25 - 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center has very moist crumbs clinging to it. I don't mind a very dirty looking toothpick. DO NOT OVER-BAKE! Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool to room temperature or for a couple of hours. Cut into squares. 

So, which recipe should you try first? Stephanie's recipe for fudgy recipes would be my first choice, please follow the recipe instructions, do watch the video. If baking The
King Arthur Flour recipe, bake half the recipe on the site in an 8'' pan for about 20 minutes. Do also try  Best Cocoa Brownies after your first one or two trays of these chocolaty bars.

My favorite brownies? Almond Brownies, Milk Chocolate Brownies, and Bittersweet Decadence Brownies.  Plenty more to be tried! 

 Please do come back later and share your favorite brownie recipe with me!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cheddar Cheese & Sun-Dried Tomato Herbed Rolls - A Guest Post By Aparna Balasubramanian

Aparna Balasubramanian and her stunning photography. The truly diverse deliciousness you can see in her virtual kitchen. From Palakkad Iyer Cuisine, Eggless baking and more baking by the Daring Baker on My Diverse Kitchen. A fellow blogger I look up to, now a good friend too! One of India's most well known bloggers, I don't really need to introduce her to you, do I? 

How can I not mention her extremely useful series on food photography? Extremely well written from an absolute beginner's perspective. If you want to get started with using a DSLR, her posts are of immense help. Even if you, (like me) hate reading manuals. Kudos Aparna, you are an inspiration!

Having had an opportunity to attend one of her workshops on food photography, let me tell you she is also a great mentor and guide. If you are a blogger you will surely want to be part of Indian Food Bloggers Meet she is organizing on 2nd and 3rd August at Bangalore.

Thank you so very much for your very kind words for me (blush!) and for taking the time to do this post Aparna, its an honor!  Let me now leave you to enjoy her very flavorful Cheddar Cheese And Sun Dried Tomato Herbed Rolls.

One thing I never expected when I first started blogging over 7 years ago was that it would introduce me to a community of such great and supportive people all across the world. I never expected that I would become such good friends with many of them, and that with some friends it would go on to become an abiding friendship that would go beyond food.

Occasionally, one of my friends from the food blogging community will ask me to write a guest post for their blog and I’m always happy to do so. Suma who blogs at Cakes And More is one such friend and when she asked me to do a guest post for her, I agreed but I must tell you that I just couldn’t make up my mind about what to write.

Suma loves baking and her blog is really about more than just cakes. Apart from some really lovely cakes, a wide variety of bakes and other non-cake recipes, her blog is one of the few I have seen that has excellent and detailed posts on baking basics for beginners that demystify various aspects of baking. After much thought, I finally settled on my all-time favorite – bread!

It’s finally vacation time for my daughter. You might be wondering how she’s on vacation when schools across the country have started classes for the new academic year? She’s just finished 2 years of higher secondary and finally taking a well-deserved breather from all things academic. If you live in India, you know how tough that can get with the added pressure of not only having to do well in the final exams but also equally well, if not better in the all the entrance exams.

She’s done with all those exams for now and looking forward to a month’s lazing around and having fun before she goes off to college. That’s something that we’re trying to get used to (not), the reality that she’s not going to be with us at home except for her vacations.

Her being at home also means that she now trawls the net and my cookbooks looking for things to make, not regular cooking kind of recipes but cakes and desserts. She’s now the resident Devil’s Food Cake specialist and makes a really good one.

However when the tea time hunger pangs hit, what she wants is savoury and not sweet. The other day, she woke up in the morning and asked if I would bake her some “cheesy” bread with specifics like “Please don’t use stuff like Parmesan (she doesn’t like the sharpness of it) or those funny tasting cheeses” but “I really want the taste of cheese in it”! Cheddar, Mozarella and Paneer (Indian fresh milk cheese) are her preferences when it comes to cheese.

My daughter loves bread like I do, and our Cocker Spaniel Fudge could live on bread if we let him. In fact, every time I bake bread, you can find in the close vicinity of the kitchen or oven often sniffing the air for the aroma of bread! He invariably gets the first taste too unless the bread has something in it that’s not good for him.

So I started thinking about what bread I could make with cheese that I hadn’t made before. This wasn’t particularly easy because while my daughter isn’t really fussy about her food, she knows what she likes and doesn’t! So cheese meant garlic and herbs would pair well, when I remembered the oven dried tomatoes I might a while ago . I had been planning to make some bread with them and I thought this was a bread they would do well in.

I can tell you that my daughter couldn’t stop eating them!

Cheddar Cheese & Sun-Dried Tomato Herbed Rolls

1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm milk
1 1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp mixed dried herbs of choice (I used an Italian mix)
1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
30 gm butter, soft at room temperature
1 egg
1/4 to 1/2 tsp grated garlic
1 3/4 cups grated mildly sharp Cheddar cheese
1/8to 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomato*
Salt to taste**


*You can use oven-dried tomatoes as well. I make mine at home, and tend to dry them such that they are quite chewy but not leathery. I also store them as they are in glass jars in the fridge (they last for 2 to 3 months) and they become a little soft.
**Since there’s salt in the Cheddar cheese and the sun-dried tomatoes, use salt judiciously.

  • Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the warm milk and keep aside for about 5 to 10 minutes until it has bubbled up.

  • Put 1 1/2 cups of flour, the herbs, chilli flakes and the soft butter into the bowl of the food processor. Run a couple of times so everything’s well mixed and it looks like fine crumbs. Add the garlic and the egg and run the processor until it’s just incorporated.

  • Now add the yeast-milk mixture and knead until you have a soft and smooth dough that’s not sticky. Add a little flour or milk, as he case may be, if you need it to get this consistency.

  • Now add the grated cheese and the chopped dried tomato and knead till it is incorporated. Shape the dough into a ball, and place in a well-oiled bowl, turning it to coat the dough well. Cover loosely and let it rise until double in volume for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

  • Deflate the dough gently, and divide into six equal portions. Shape each one into a ball and place on a lightly greased baking sheet, leaving enough space between them. Cover loosely and let them rise for about an hour.

  • Bake them at 200C (400F) for about 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Let them cool on racks. Serve them with soup and use them as burger buns or even fill them with fresh salads for a filling meal. We ate them plain with coffee.

    This recipe makes 6 medium sized buns.

    I can almost smell the herbs and the cheese, can't wait to try these soon! Thanks again Aparna for bringing these gorgeous buns to Cakes And More!


    Saturday, June 14, 2014

    ROYCE - A Sneak Peak Into Premium Chocolates & Confectionery From Japan

                                         Forget love, I would rather fall in chocolate!

    I could eat chocolate for dessert after every meal, no exaggeration! An invite for an exclusive sneak peak into confectionery products from an international Japanese company, Royce, saw me huffing and puffing to JW Marriot, Bengaluru on a Saturday morning. Learn to drive! Or you will get into a tiff with the auto driver trying to take you for a ride with a tampered meter. And you may not always have creamy chocolate truffles to perk you up!

    When we talk about gastronomic delights from the Land Of The Rising Sun, for once its not sushi or tempura, but chocolate! Royce (not Rolls Royce!) is a Japanese company in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, known for its rich natural environment and cold climate. Chef Jolly, Director, F&B started with an introduction to the chocolate tasting session. Avani  Raheja and Samir Gadhok, Directors, Burgundy Hospitality spoke about Royce, and the products they plan to launch shortly in Bengaluru on 20th June.

    We tasted a range of their products, mostly chocolates and cookies and some really good truffles! The cocoa kissed squares are called Nama Chocolate. Egg free, smooth and creamy, these come with a thermal bag to help retain the delicate texture during the journey from the store to your refrigerator.

    We tasted the liquor free Ghana Bitter  - truly good, melt in the mouth texture with a pleasant bitter edge. Reminded me of these truffles I had made some time earlier.  Sure to please most palates, this is the clear winner in this range. This is the kind of confection you may want to gift or take home as an indulgence.

    We also tasted the sweetish, Mild Cacao truffles too, but I will choose dark over milky any day. The other flavors in this range include Equador sweet, Pierre Mignon and Au Lait.

    Delicate, thin, tender-crisp, just-about sweet. These are chocolate dipped Baton Cookies for you. The coconut flavored ones did not taste all that special as the  flavor combo is extremely common in most bakeries of the South. The Hazel Cacao batons, specked with cacao beans were nice, but not really impressive. Dark chocolate and a hint of coffee would perhaps complement the flavors of cacao and hazelnuts better.
    I love chocolate, but hey, this was serious chocolate overload! Sips of water and the canap├ęs served in between by the Chef  helped.

    Then there is Criollo Chocolate - Little squares in sweet and bitter, made with the rare Criollo cacao bean (one of the considerations for the pricing I gather). On the left is the specially designed Pure Chocolate to enhance the chocolate experience.

    What can be better than eating a packet of crisp potato wafers? If you adore salty-sweet, potato wafers coated in chocolate! Am not a fan of salty-sweet flavors, but this had lots of takers! Just read up on your parenting tips before you treat your kids to something like this!

    Other chocolates from the Royce range as described in the catalog. These will be gradually introduced here.

    Berry Cube - Thin strawberry-scented milk chocolate squares filled with a sweet-and-sour raspberry and blueberry sauce.

    Nutty Bar Chocolate Crunchy, finger-sized chocolate bars packed with macadamia nuts, pecans, cashews, almonds and crispy puffs.

    Hazel cream wafers - hazelnut cream sandwiched between wafers and dipped in chocolate. Sounds good to me!
    Amande Chocolat - I would have loved to taste this! Roasted almonds coated in dark, milk and white chocolate.

    Coffee chocolate - Claims to have an impressive aroma that is similar to that of freshly-brewed coffee.

    Royce Red Collection - An assortment from the collection . Images below from the catalog.

    My opinion : A range of products to please most palates. Priced around Rs.500 for the bars and Rs.1,000 upward for the rest of the range (for about 12 pieces in a box ). You may want to splurge on Nama chocolates though am not sure if I could justify spending on the rest in the range.

    Currently being retailed out of their outlets in Mumbai at JWM Mumbai and Palladium Mall, this range will be launched at JWM, Bengaluru on the 20th of this month

    Thank you JW Marriot for having us over, I am sure Nama Chocolates will be a great hit in Namma Bengaluru!

    Wednesday, June 11, 2014

    General Prep For Baking - For Beginners . Video Post

    Sheepish me with yet another feature post for beginners! I think I am on the verge of exhausting all that I would like to tell to a new entrant into the baking world. And that for me is one minor victory!
    In the simplest recipes for beginners, I will in all probabilities be tempted to write a few of these at the beginning of each recipe. Thought will put it all together so that you won't need to read the same things over and over again. Some general tips, some preparation tips. Ideally that's how it will work best.

    Assuming you read up on the basics before you begin.

    STOCK UP ON ESSENTIALS: First most important thing. These essentials include a good convection microwave or an OTG, basic baking ingredients, gadgets and tools. Its really not enjoyable to begin with buying each ingredient and tool every time you want to try a new recipe. Start with basic stuff, build as you go.

    We can't hope to 'make do' without these basic things and still expect decent results. No, the old aluminum cooker tin may not be the best size, you can't 'give a shot' using that box of cocoa from last year as it will otherwise go waste. Remember, apart from wasting that cocoa, you may end up wasting other ingredients too. More important, your time, effort and the possible disappointment.

    FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU WANT TO BAKE : I have a dozen recipes swimming in my head every time I want to bake. Zero in on that one recipe you want to try today or tomorrow. This will help you gather ingredients in case you need to buy things like eggs, cream, fruit, whole milk etc. Having a recipe in mind and the ingredients for it at home is half the prep done.

    Chose simple, do-able recipes when you begin. Do read reviews of recipes where possible to see what others who have tried it have to say about it.

    PRINTOUTS : Take a printout of the recipe(s) you want to try. If halving a recipe, halve the ingredients and then print it. Make note of any conversions, including oven temperature. A baking chart is of great help here. Underline anything you need to quickly spot in the text. Like dimensions, consistency etc.

    Have a pen handy. Its much easier to tick off ingredients you have already measured, take hasty notes. No hassle of navigating screens, locks or smudging your iPad screen with butter. Particularly useful with kids running around when you would have measured the flour and dumped the baking powder on it. One loud thud and two screams later you are not sure if it was the soda or baking powder or both that's sitting on the heap of flour.

    You can also make your notes about the baking time, proofing time for breads and any variations you want to try next time.

    READ RECIPE INSTRUCTIONS : Before you even begin baking preparations, read the recipe at least twice thoroughly, the notes, updates too if any. This will help you understand the procedure, make sure you have the pan you need, the tools, all ingredients you need. If in doubt about techniques, watch a video which demonstrates the technique, it really helps.

    In chocolate recipes which need cocoa, most likely the flour will be sifted with the cocoa. But in some recipes, the it may be mixed with hot water or warm butter for an intense cocoa taste. An 'oops' loud enough to scare the neighbors is still not going to help separate the flour and cocoa at the last minute. So do read recipes carefully.

    PREPARE YOUR PAN : Use a baking pan of the size recommended in the recipe. Prepare your pan and keep it ready before you proceed with the recipe. You could do it the previous night if that helps. More on lining pans here. 

    PRE-HEAT OVEN: Pre-heat your oven ahead. Its better to keep your oven waiting rather than the batter. An oven thermometer  of course helps to know if your oven has reached the desired temperature. Invest in one.

    WEIGHING INGREDIENTS: Weigh the dry ones first, then the sticky and wet ones. Butter first, eggs next and so on. If weighing egg whites, weigh them after the dry ingredients, before you weigh the yolks or butter. Drop them in squeaky clean bowls, using really clean spoons. Remember egg whites for whipping need to be totally free of grease. Or you will end up washing the weighing bowl once in between.

    Mise En Place: The French phrase for putting everything in place. Lining up your ingredients on your counter before you begin. Though its a little unlikely that someone will film us baking, it certainly helps carry on with the procedure (what a word!) without unnecessary interruption.

    INGREDIENTS : All ingredients at room temperature unless specified otherwise. Use good quality fresh ingredients for best results. I prefer weighing for ease and accuracy, better results.

    BUTTER : If your recipe needs butter at room temperature or very cold butter, you will need it to be just at the right temperature when you use it. For chilled butter, you can weigh, cube and refrigerate even a couple of days ahead.

    When you want your butter at room temperature, be careful before you take it out of the fridge especially in summer as it will turn too soft too soon. Have all other ingredients ready before you get the butter out. Better to wait for a few minutes for the butter to soften and then use rather than having butter too soft. In case your butter gets too soft, pop it in the fridge for a couple of minutes till it feels right. Use immediately.

    EGGS : Use fresh eggs. Whisk the eggs, weigh and then use. Simple brownie recipes, easy chocolate mousse fillings involve mixing in eggs into the chocolate butter mixture. Even if you think a few grams here and there will not make a great deal of difference to the end product, crack the eggs into a bowl and then into the batter. Imagine - all that effort and chocolate going to the trash can because of one bad egg. We all learn the hard way!

    When we are talking about eggs, avoid adding an extra egg or skipping the yolks in an attempt to get a lighter texture. It may not always work unless this variation is specifically suggested in the recipe.

    If the recipe calls for cold eggs, you would need to put them in the refrigerator a couple of hours perhaps. If the eggs are cold just out of the fridge and you need them at room temperature, then keep them out for an hour or so. Or put them in warm water (not hot) for some time.

    INSTANT COFFEE : This gives a better, more intense flavor when dissolved in hot liquid. If the recipe has milk or water as one of the ingredients, it should be fine to heat a tablespoon of the liquid, dissolve the coffee. Cool, mix with the rest of the liquid and use as specified. Coffee works great in chocolate recipes as it heightens the chocolate flavor.

    EGG WHITES: If the whites are meant to be simply whisked into the batter , you don't have to be paranoid about washing the bowl and spoon 5 times. In recipes where you need to whip egg whites, its always better to have all the ingredients and pan ready, oven heated. First whip the egg whites and keep aside. You can then use your mixer blades to beat the eggs or creaming the butter without having to stop mid way to wash the beaters thoroughly and dry them. Unless of course you have an extra set of blades you could use.

    DRY INGREDIENTS : I like to always sift dry ingredients like flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices like cinnamon, cloves etc. Sifting aerates the mixture and also helps even distribution of salt and leaveners.

    SUGAR : Unless you use good quality caster sugar,  it helps to have a jar of powdered sugar. Weigh and use equal weight of it (do not measure as the volume will differ)

    STICK TO THE RECIPE LIKE SUPER-GLUE : Do not try to make substitutions and changes to the recipe or procedure. If you want to bake an egg less cake better to follow a recipe for egg less cake rather than trying to use a substitute for eggs in another recipe. It may or may not work.

    Don't even think of  beating / whipping the batter 'really well' or adding a 'bit more' of baking powder for a lighter cake. It may turn out to be disastrous.

    PREPARING WELL AHEAD : Toasting and chopping nuts, shredding dry coconut, chopping dark chocolate, powdering sugar, cutting out liners for your pans. These can be staples ready to use. Weigh dry ingredients needed for the recipe ahead, store in zip-lock pouches with labels. All of these pouches can go in another large pouch with a label thrown in of course. Now you won't procrastinate so much, it won't take you so long to bake that cake whenever you can spare the time. I do this when I need to start early and finish baking early.

    BE CONFIDENT, NEVER CARELESS : Even if you have made the same recipe a few times successfully, you still have to be careful every time you bake it (Don't remind about over-confidence and failed bakes please!) Unless you are Nigella Lawson, throwing things together carelessly may not give you the same results the next time!

    THE FLIP SIDE OF BAKING: Baking is more often than not, sugar, fat and refined carbs. Its takes little time for baking to go from hobby to obsession. Not-quite-there bakes are something, but please do not force yourself or your family to eat things which are ' just edible'. Save those calories for something eminently edible.

    Down the line, halve or quarter large recipes to see if its to your liking before baking large batches. Share some or freeze extra for later use. Space out sweet, savory and healthy bakes. When you want to desperately bake something try a new granola recipe or crackers or some biscotti. These are relatively low in calories and fat and can be eaten over the next one or two weeks.

    And if you are a blogger, write another feature post to take a break from the sugar and fat :D

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    Friday, June 6, 2014

    Easy Butterscotch Sauce (Video recipe)

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    What can be more appealing than a slice of moist cake, a scoop of vanilla flecked ice cream or a plate of lacy crepes? These with a drizzle of some dessert sauce may be? Conveniently, dessert sauces can easily be made ahead and stored for a few days. Instant dress up for those fudgy brownies or that pile of fluffy, warm pancakes. Welcome company! Lets laze over dessert this weekend! In pretty jars, with neat handwritten labels, these don't make bad gifts either.

    I keep looking for sauce recipes which is not hot fudge (Why should it be predictable chocolate always?) Tried this sauce which Deb calls as Ridiculously Easy Butterscotch Sauce. From inspiration to the jar in less than 10 minutes, the best thing is, anyone who has the skill to melt butter can make this sauce! For times when you want to just throw things together in your saucepan to make some rich, sweet, smooth vanilla scented sauce you must give this recipe a try. Why ever not when all you need is just 4 ingredients!

    Butter, cream, vanilla and good quality light brown sugar for richer and better flavor. Not that we get a lot by way of variety here, which probably explains the hue. Oh yes, will come back and tell you how I made the pictures worse, struggling to take them on a very cloudy day!

    Recipes for this sauce have varying amounts of sugar, some have corn syrup too. I chose this recipe as it has relatively less sugar. If salty-sweet is your thing, by all means do stir in some salt as well.

    Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

    Ingredients: To make 2/3 cup - 3/4 cup sauce

    Unsalted butter, soft - 56 grams / 1/2 stick / 1/4 cup
    Brown Sugar, light or dark -  100 grams / 1/2 cup packed
    Heavy cream - 120 ml / 1/2 cup, please read note
    Vanilla extract - 1 1/2 teaspoons
    Salt, a pinch (optional)

    Mise en place. You will need a whisk, a spatula and a heat-proof strainer over a clean, dry bowl, a heavy bottomed saucepan.

    Over low heat, melt the butter in the saucepan. Add the sugar, cream and salt (if using), whisk to combine. Scrape any sugar on the sides into the mixture. Gently cook on low heat for about 4-5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Be very careful as the hot sauce tends to bubble up. Push through the strainer. Stir in the vanilla. Cool and store in an airtight container for about 2 weeks.

    To re-heat : The sauce thickens as it cools. Reheat for about 10-20 seconds in the microwave or place in a saucepan of hot water.

    Cream : I have used Amul, 25% fat. Be sure to drain the thin liquid from the pack before you measure the thick cream.

    Sugar - I have used a brand called Trust. If you have access to better quality sugar, please do use it for better flavor.

    If you have the ingredients on hand, do try this sauce this weekend!