Monday, July 28, 2014

Creamed Corn In Savory Choux Puffs

When I registered for the Indian Food Bloggers Meet, little did I expect this excitement and anticipation!  Apart from the all the events planned at the meet, there are contests with tempting prizes to be won.  Team IFBM first gave us  'plum assignments' as some of my fellow bloggers put it, and then one with corn.  Now, you can't be a food blogger and not lust after every little thing which has potential to be a prop.  Especially if it is cheerful looking colorful bake ware!

Freedom Tree, Latika Khosla's niche design studio specializes in furniture, fabrics, lamps, rugs, kitchenware, bake ware among other things.  Not hard to guess that the prize for the Freedom Tree Contest is a special hamper of bake ware!  Being true to my community, eying that hamper from that vibrant collection, here comes my baked savory dish with fresh corn as one of the main ingredients.

Fresh and juicy corn on the cob is a treat in itself.  In a creamy herbed sauce, it makes a delicious dip or topping.  Here comes creamed corn filled in the custardy  interiors of savory choux puffs.  

Creamed Corn Filling 

Fresh corn - 1 1/3 cups, boiled with a pinch of salt till tender and drained
Butter - 2 teaspoons
Garlic - 2 pods, grated
Fresh cream ( I use Amul)  -  1 cup
Milk - 1 cup
Onion powder - 2 teaspoons
Flour - 2 tablespoons
Dried thyme - 1/2 teaspoon
Salt - to taste
Fresh ground pepper - to taste (be generous)
Grated cheddar - 1/4 cup (optional)

Method: In a bowl, whisk together the cream, milk, onion powder and flour.  Set aside.  In a medium sized pan, on low heat, heat the butter with the grated garlic.  Do not let it brown. Pour the cream mixture and stir constantly till fairly thick and very creamy.  Stir in the corn, herbs, salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese. Taste and adjust the seasoning. 

Variation : You could also try stirring in some basil pesto or mashed roasted red peppers into the corn filling. 

Choux Puffs 

Michel Roux's recipe from Finla's blog .  Please do watch this video here if making choux pastry for the first time.
Ingredients - I made about 12 small buns with half the recipe below.

Water - 125 ml
Milk - 125 ml
Unsalted butter - 100 grams, very soft and cut into pieces
Sugar - 1 tablespoon
Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
Flour - 150 grams
Onion powder - 2 teaspoons
Eggs - 192 grams / 4 eggs
Extra egg for egg wash

For the garlic and herb butter

Salted butter, soft - 2 tablespoons 
Garlic grated, 1 or 2 cloves
Dried herbs - 1/4 teaspoon
Mix all ingredients. 

Getting ready

  • Line your baking tray(s) with baking parchment. 
  • If piping the pastry, have a pastry bag fitted with a plain nozzle or just a coupler, folded and poised over a glass to spoon the pastry in.  You could also just spoon the dough using 2 spoons.
  • You will need a spatula, a wooden spoon, a heavy saucepan, another medium sized bowl to beat the pastry in.  A hand mixer or a stand mixer. You could also beat by hand. A stand mixer makes it very easy. 
  • A pastry brush to glaze the tops. 
          Method : Mise en place.  Pre heat oven to 200 C / 400 F.
  • Sift the flour with the onion powder.  Keep it in a bowl near the stove. 
  • Take the butter, water, milk, sugar and salt in the saucepan.
  • Over low heat, bring the water to a rolling boil.  The butter should melt before the water starts boiling.
  • Take the saucepan off the heat, dump all the flour at once into the boiling water.
  • Stir rapidly with the spatula or wooden spoon till the mixture is smooth and starts coming away from the sides of the pan.
  • Put it back on the stove, over medium heat. Vigorously stir the flour mixture  without stopping.
  • Keep beating till it forms a thick smooth ball, a slight crust at the bottom.  This may take a couple of minutes or longer.
  • Quickly, transfer it to the waiting bowl (or the bowl of the stand mixer*).
  • With the hand mixer at low speed in the bowl, slowly  start adding the whisked egg little by little (one by one) to the hot dough.   I half expected scrambled eggs! 
  • Increase speed to 3.  Make sure the egg you have added is fully incorporated into the mixture before adding more egg.
  • At first you will see the mixture break up and look curdled.  Then it will gradually come together. 
  • Keep adding the whisked egg, checking the dough for consistency when about 2 tablespoons of egg is left.
  • Using the spatula, drop some of the mixture into the bowl.  If it falls in a thick ribbon/ curtain, you are there .  Do watch the video.  If the dough doesn't drop or is very thick , add the remaining egg, beat again till fully incorporated.  Check again. I had to add about 1 tablespoon more for HALF the recipe.  If the dough kind of just flows down, you know you have added more egg than you need to.
  • Transfer the mixture into the pastry bag (not sure if you could keep the dough waiting). Pipe about 12 mounds of pastry spaced 2 inches apart. Brush with the beaten egg. 
  • Bake at 200 C for 15 -20 minutes.  The baking time depends on the size of the buns
  • The pastry must be puffed, golden on top, dry and crisp.  To test, bake 20 minutes, take one out of the oven (still on), break open.  If the insides are wet, score the shells and bake for 5 minutes more.  Its fine if the insides are moist.  These taste good warm too!
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 180 C / 350 F.  Cut the buns into half, pull out any moist centers.  Brush the outer part very lightly with the garlic butter.  Bake for about 5-10 minutes or till crisp. 
  • Cool about 5 minutes, fill with the creamed corn and serve immediately.
    If not using the puffs immediately, cool them after baking the first 20 minutes, store them in an airtight container.  Bake the second time just before serving.
  • You can freeze the baked puffs.  Defrost the puffs and then reheat in a 350 degree F (177 degree C) oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until crisp.

Happy PS  : I think I am making progress with choux pastry!  I like these buns still soft and warm from the oven.  They should taste good filled and eaten when soft and fresh (not cold and soggy!).  Vary the amount of filling as you please. 

Expect more choux pastry based recipes here!

These puffs are my entry to the IFBM and Freedom Tree Baking Contest

DISCLAIMER:*This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and buy through the link, I will earn a tiny commission on the same. I recommend products which I have used and found good or products I would consider for myself based on recommendations from my trusted baker friends. There will not be any extra cost to you. This commission will help me with me costs of running the channel and bring out more videos for you. Your support will be greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chantilly Crepes With Vanilla Stewed Plums And Ricotta

Its been raining plums thanks to the KitchenAid Contest, IFBM 2014 and the season of course! The team is keeping all participants on their toes dishing out recipes for various contests with attractive prizes. And  before I knew it, I was home with more plums. How can I be immune to the lure and charms of that sleek, gorgeous chopperThe plums soon found their way into some quick and easy, Chantilly Crepes filled with vanilla stewed plums, fresh ricotta and honey.

Being born and brought up in the south of India, the concept of crepes is not entirely new . But the kind I came across later were nothing like we the ones we grew up eating. Versatile and delicious, these were a revelation! The batter being mostly just eggs, flour, milk, butter and sugar whizzed in the blender, you can rustle up crepes in a jiffy. Conveniently, the batter can be made ahead and refrigerated. The crepes can be refrigerated or even frozen. Barely sweet, these lend themselves beautifully to sweet and savory fillings.

Drizzle them with honey or simply sprinkle some sugar on them for a light snack. Fill them with fresh or poached fruit , or cheese and vegetables as you wish for a substantial brunch. Filled with lightly whipped cream or mascarpone, dessert is served! 

Chantilly crepes from The Cake Bible are what I would call as dessert crepes. Made with cornstarch, these are tender, light and delicate, the perfect vehicle for indulgent dessert fillings. 

Chantilly Crepes With Vanilla Stewed Plums And Ricotta 

The quantity of the components of this dessert varies with the amount of filling you would like in them. Use honey and plum puree to taste. It doesn't hurt to have more of each on hand, you can always use leftovers to make more dessert!

You will need: 

Crepes - Recipe below.
Vanilla roasted plum puree - 1/2  cup
Fresh Ricotta - 1 cup 
Honey - 1/4 cup or to taste

Vanilla plums : To make about 1/2 cup

Plums - 10-12 , pitted and chopped
1/2 vanilla bean
Sugar - 2 tablespoons (more to taste)
Butter, soft - 2 teaspoons 

Heat the butter in a saucepan. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stirring occasionally, cook on low heat till the plums are soft and mushy, about 5 minutes.  Fish out the bean, just mash with a fork or puree the pulp. Strain if needed. Refrigerate. You can make this a day or two ahead.

Chantilly Crepes - to make about 21 - 24  6'' crepes, please read note


Eggs - 150 grams / 3 large
Milk, at room temperature - 240 ml ( I used 3% fat)
Vanilla - 1 teaspoon
Unsalted butter - 43 grams, melted and cooled 
Grand mariner - 15 ml (I have used 15 ml more milk)
Cornstarch - 90 grams / 3/4 cup
Salt - 1/8 teaspoon
Sugar - 1 tablespoon

Clarified butter / ghee - 1 tablespoon for brushing the pan

The recipe recommends using a 6'' crepe pan. I have used a larger non-stick frying pan.

Procedure : Place the ingredients in the given order in the medium or large sized jar of your blender. Blend at high speed for 10 seconds.

Heat the crepe pan on medium high heat until hot enough to sizzle a drop of water. Brush lightly with the clarified butter and pour a scant 2 tablespoons of batter into the center.  Ladle scant 2 tablespoons of batter in the center of the pan. Immediately tilt the pan to the left and then down and around to the right  so that the batter moves in a  counter-clockwise direction, covering the entire pan. 

Cook until the top starts to dull and the edges begin to brown. about 15- 20 seconds. Rose recommends using a sharp metal spatula to lift the edge to see the color. Flip carefully as the crepes are quite delicate. Cook for another 10 seconds or until lightly browned. Invert the pan over a plate. 
Turning out perfect lacy crepes am sure is an art in itself and I hope to get there some day. If these are good, I can imagine the perfect ones can only be even better!

Storing : Refrigerate the crepes for upto 2 days, freeze upto 3 months. If using the crepes on the same day, its fine to stack them. If refrigerating or freezing them, use parchment pieces to separate them. 

  • Please note : If making crepes for the first time, try using a pan of the recommended size. I must get myself a smaller pan! 
  • Take 2 tablespoons plus a little more of batter in a small cup so that you can pour the batter all at once. Hold back the extra batter and use only if needed to fill any gaps.
  • The amount of batter and the size of the pan will make your crepes thinner or thicker. 
  • Easy and right heat control should help make softer crepes. Cooking them longer will make them dry and kind of crisp, especially if the batter is less spread thin. 
  • Cornstarch : You can use upto 120 grams / 1 cup cornstarch if you want the crepes thicker. If using, 1 cup cornflour you will get more crepes. 
  • Crepe batter made with all purpose flour normally is refrigerated for a while after mixing. This batter can be used immediately.
      Assemble :

   Place the crepes on a large plate, attractive side down. Spoon some ricotta, then honey and some plum puree.    Roll it up. Serve with more honey and plum puree on the side.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Roasted Plum And Almond Mousse With Vanilla Bean Tuiles - For The KitchenAid Contest!

Glistening, deep hued plums on a plate and the little boy longing to taste them. As a kid, this image in Tolstoy's The Plum Stone made me wish I could eat them too. A taste of the local plums here much later taught me, some things look better than they taste. Every season, stone fruit evokes envy in the blogger in me. Such gorgeous looking fruit, but am strangely not a raving fan of their taste, especially when cooked. So when the organizers of IFBM announced the KitchenAid Contest, I was a tad disappointed that the ingredient to be used was fresh plums. And the prize to be won a Kitchen Aid Chopper, an appliance I would love to own (among others). This, without an iota of doubt, is scorned plums taking their sweet -tangy revenge on me! 

I normally do not make an effort to participate in competitions, but this would be fun! I just had to figure out how to make plums taste good. Very ambitious of me indeed! Cobblers, crisps, crumbles, galettes, cakes, (pretty much everything baked!) ruled out as in my opinion, baking fruit normally makes them taste even more tart. That left only one option - using pureed plums. Hope! 

Finding myself in uncharted waters, in my most polite tone, I asked the lady at the cart for some sweet, ripe plums. Am wary as I have been told off more than once when I have tried to select fruit. Has this happened to you? Her mentioning that these may the last lot of the season made me half-heartedly but hastily buy some fruit. These would be good for some much needed photography practice if nothing else!

That done, roasted them in the oven with some sugar and vanilla. Tangy-sweet, like jam with a gorgeous hue! And then tried something I thought should taste good .Crème Patissière. This time around with roasted ground almonds. Mixed in some plum puree. Easy here, want the flavor, but not much tang. Then some airy whipped cream. A tentative lick and surprise, this actually tastes good, vaguely reminding me of mulberry ice cream! Phew! 

Since I love them with creamy desserts, some dainty vanilla bean tuiles must be served alongside. Creamy, nutty with a nice, subtle but surely there berry flavor. It is quite a mouthful, but shall we call this dessert Roasted Plum And Almond Mousse With Vanilla Bean Tuiles?

Roasted Plum And Almond Mousse With Vanilla Bean Tuiles  (Serves 4)

You will need 

Plum And Almond Crème Patissière : 1 cup, recipe below
Sweetened Whipped Cream : 1 cup
Pink Gel Color - A tiny smear (optional)
Vanilla Bean Tuiles, half recipe : Recipe here 

Plum And Almond Crème Patissière : Basic recipe from Baking With Julia.

Milk : 240 ml / 1 cup
Egg yolks - 36 grams / 2 large
Sugar - 50 grams
Salt - a pinch
Vanilla bean - 1/2 scraped
Cornstarch -  2 1/2 tablespoons 
Almond meal - 2 tablespoons (roasted almonds ground to coarse meal)
Roasted plum puree - 2 tablespoons (alter to taste)

Method : Suspend a fine meshed heat proof strainer over another heat-proof bowl. Take all ingredients except the almond meal in a medium sized heavy saucepan. On medium heat, whisking constantly, cook  till it comes to a gentle boil .Boil for 30-60 seconds till the whisk leaves trail marks. This will be fairly thick. Immediately push through the strainer. Cover surface with cling film, allow to come to room temperature. Mix in the almond meal and the plum puree. If not using immediately, refrigerate. The cream thickens further on refrigeration.

Roasted Plum puree : Makes about 1/2 cup puree

Fresh ripe plums, pitted and chopped - 8-10
Sugar - 2 -3 tablespoons (depending on the sweetness of the fruit)
1/2 a vanilla bean scraped

Pre-heat oven to 200 C / 400 F. Combine the ingredients and spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes till the fruit is soft and pulpy. Reserving the juices for another use, puree the pulpy portion. Refrigerate. You could make this ahead and use it the next day. This made about 1/2 a cup of thick, intense tasting puree. 

To make the plum and almond mousse

Gently fold in the whipped cream into the plum and almond pastry cream. Check and add more puree or cream to taste. But remember, too much of mixing too many times may cause the cream to be less airy (but still tasty). Spoon into dessert glasses, cover with cling wrap and chill for at least 3-4 hours. Garnish with vanilla poached plums if you like. 

Serve with Vanilla bean tuiles. You could also make dainty tuile cups or cigars and spoon in the mousse just before serving. 

We liked the subtle berry flavor in the mousse after overnight refrigeration. The flavor seemed to mature and intensify after another day. I would recommend serving it after chilling for 3-4 hours or at the most after overnight refrigeration. 

Note to self : The plum puree is of course one of the flavors you can use. I think any intense fruit puree should work great here. I found this recipe for pastry cream using cornstarch stabilized the mousse. But my preferred pastry cream taste-wise would be this recipe.  Next time may be I will use it with agar stabilized whipped cream. Try with your favorite pastry cream recipe. This is just an idea, so feel free to play around!

I can't see the tuiles!!  Well, in an attempt to make some pretty looking tuiles, I tried adding some color to the batter. What came out of the oven were tuiles in a color I was not happy about. So, there they are just peeking from behind the glasses :D 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Baking For Beginners - A Few Basics And Some Simple Recipes

''Nothing says HOME like the smell of baking does!''

Welcome to the deliciously enticing, magical world of home baking!

Since you are here, hope I am right in assuming you want to take your first steps into the world of baking? Before you make any assumptions about me or my 'expertise' let me assure you, am certainly not one!  I just am a learner at a different stage of learning.  Hopefully, I should be able to take you through the most basic of the baking basics.

Being a self taught home-baker, I know it can be fairly daunting when you wish you could bake or just start baking. If its of any consolation to you, I started with no help, almost zero internet access and a hyper-active toddler in my arms.  Predictably, my first few attempts were total disasters.  But since then, I have managed to learn a thing or two, have churned out a handful of decent bakes. (Between you and me, I still have my fair share of disasters. Why, I could actually write another blog about my disasters and almost-there-bakes!)

Allow me to share with you the little I have gathered along the way.  I would also like to share some simple recipes that have worked well for me.  Please take these recipes as just a guide for the techniques that are used.  Feel free to try recipes which are similar.

I believe that a methodical approach will help you feel more at ease.  So I would suggest you go through all of the feature posts to familiarize yourself with some basics before you begin your baking journey.  Better informed, you are bound to make a better start.

All that I have written in these posts and my blog in general is only my understanding of the recipes, techniques and process.  Do feel free to correct me in case of any mistakes, I will be glad to make any changes that are necessary.

I often get e-mails about suggestions for baking classes.  In my opinion, classes can just about give you an idea unless you join a full fledged baking /culinary school .  Its entirely up to you again to actually learn.  Read up, practice, watch the wealth of videos on the internet and you are good to go!

Getting the hang of baking takes some time, effort and patience.  But take heart, if I can do whatever you can see here, so can you.  Keep at it, you will get there soon!  Then again, I keep reminding myself too, that this is a journey with so much to learn and explore.  Rest assured, it will be eminently enjoyable, the high you will get out of this is best experienced!

Update! - My new video channel for beginners! I am attempting to put these posts and more in video format. I am terribly camera shy, but go ahead and laugh at my first few videos ( I will laugh with you)!  Please do subscribe to my videos for updates. You can also subscribe to my channel on YouTube. Click to subscribe now!

Here is the trailer for you

THE BASEST OF THE BASICS - Boring but necessary!


Introduction To Baking - For The New Wannabe Bakers - Video here
How To Use A Convection Microwave For Baking Video here
Baking Gadgets And Paraphernalia - Must Haves And Nice To Haves! videos here and here
Basic Baking Ingredients - Part 1
Basic Baking Ingredients - Part 2 
Common Basic Baking Terms - Part 1 
Common Basic Baking Terms - Part 2 
Common Basic Baking Terms - Part 3 
Basic Baking Conversions Chart video here
Preparing Pans For Baking - A General Guide
How To Line Cake Pans video here
General Baking Prep - Simple Things To Do When You Bake

RECIPES - Now comes the interesting part!!

I know its extremely tempting to try that frosted dark chocolate cake as your first bake for that birthday next week, but hold on!  If you ask me, starting with simple recipes, moving to those which  require more by way of technique will be the best thing to do.  I know from experience that nothing truly motivates a new baker like a successful bake does.  And the key to learning better is largely continuous practice.

At the cost of sounding like that stern teacher of your school days, here are some recipes you could attempt, preferably in the order given.  Again, these are merely suggestions, feel free to try similar ones you may come across.  These may not go on to be your most favorite recipes ever, but will certainly be some easy ones you could successfully attempt.  Hopefully these will help.  Before you ask, yeast and breads only after you are completely at ease with your oven and baked a few cakes at least.


Double Chocolate Granola 
Peanut Butter And Chocolate Chip Granola video here
Pioneer Woman's Potato Parcels 
Chocolate Buttermilk Cookies 
EVOO And Yogurt Loaf Cake 
Easy Cocoa Brownies - And Some Brownie Point(er)s !
Orange Biscotti
Cinnamon Cornmeal Biscotti 

BREADS : Baking bread is joy, but be sure you know if your are using good yeast before you begin.  Since baking bread involves more variables for success, this is better done once you are comfortable with basic baking process and your oven.  Try the no knead ones, then the ones that need kneading.  

Know Your Yeast!
Yeast Bread Basics 
Dough Rising Bucket 
No Knead Pizza
No Knead Focaccia 

EXTRAS : Little things that make a difference - good vanilla extract for instanceTake up that brownie or cake a notch with these easy dessert sauces!

Vanilla beans and Homemade Vanilla Extract video here

Vanilla Bean Sugar
Chocolate Ganache 
Really Easy Butterscotch Sauce  video here
Dulce De Leche 
Making Caramel And Caramel Sauce
Creme Anglaise - English Custard Sauce

TECHNIQUES : Whipping cream, melting chocolate, whipping egg whites and more. 

One Easy To Melt Chocolate 
How To Whip Cream  

I have updated just a few recipes here, will soon be doing more.  This section will always be work in progress and will be constantly updated.  Please feel free to leave your comments, feedback and suggestions on this section.

Hope to hear from you!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Indian Food Bloggers Meet 2014 - Are You Going To Be There?

Appreciating good food is one thing, blogging about it another. If you had told me 5 years ago that baking would turn out to be such a big part of my life, I would probably have laughed! Today, I take my baking and blogging quite seriously. Same goes with an entire population of equally or more passionate food bloggers across the globe. One thing we all share in common apart from the love for food is sharing our culinary experiences via blogs.

Thanks to social media, we 'know' people before we actually meet them. But its always fun to get together and spend time with like-minded people. In this case, people who consider near obsession with food and blogs perfectly normal!

Blogging undoubtedly is a high in itself for me, but there undeniably is the urge to do better in every aspect of it. Photography, food styling, promotion, blog reach to name just a few.

The Indian Food Bloggers Meet being organized by  team IFBM is a great opportunity to meet and interact with food bloggers from all over the country. And also a chance to be part of some interesting, insightful and fun sessions! Here, we will meet people who started out as food bloggers but have a lot more accomplishments to their credit. If you nurture a secret dream to do more than just blog, this interactive event could well be that push you need!

Here is a peek into the events lined up at The IFBM 2014.

Food Styling : Apart from a wealth of baking recipes, Passionate About Baking  to many of us is synonymous to utterly gorgeous pictures and superb food styling. Deeba Rajpal will share some of her tips in an exclusive session devoted to food styling - hopefully some of your magic will rub off on me Deeba!

Food Photography : From someone totally uninitiated to someone who wrote an excellent series on food photography for beginners, Aparna Balasubramanian is truly an inspiration! For those of us (including me) who find using a DSLR intimidating, she demystifies photography and the jargon accompanying it. Pictures good enough to make your readers want to 'eat the food off the screen' is something all food bloggers aspire for. Here is your chance to pick up some useful tips and tricks of the trade in this session! 

How To Use Social Media : As food bloggers, we are aware of the kind of time and effort that goes into writing a blog. Good content not withstanding, reach is always a challenge. Promoting your work, building a following, being heard by the right people goes a long way in achieving this.

Nandita Iyer, blogger since 2006, food writer and culinary trainer, needs no introduction. Extremely active on social media platforms, she will give us useful insight into why social media is important and how to build a follower base among other things. Best thing - she will also outline a basic social media plan for your blog!

Secrets of  SEO : Search Engine Optimization! How do you increase the chances of a search engine finding YOUR blog during a search? I can't tell you the number of times I think about working on this but give up as its too technical and complicated for me. Ashish Verma, digital strategist and consultant, will speak on making blogs more reachable, brand imaging and positioning among internet audience. 

Food Writing : Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal well known author, food writer and food consultant is also one of India's first food bloggers. Her APB Cook Studio is India's first home cooking studio. She recently published her first cook book A Pinch of This, A Handful of That. Rushina also conducts cooking and food writing workshops. And to think her blog was the beginning of all this! She will conduct a session on food writing, a skill imperative to good blogging.

Going Beyond The Blog : You are no stranger to Sunshine Mom's stunning photographs and vegan recipes on  Tongue Ticklers! A government employee, she aspires to get into professional food photography soon!

On board will also be Sanjeeta Krishna Kumar and The Tadka Girls, Ruchira Ramanujam and Ranjini Rao Debnath who have published 2 successful cook books. They are bloggers who have successfully taken their passion beyond the virtual boundaries of their blogs. You never know, you might just get inspired to take your passion to the next level too!

Publishing your cook book : Not an uncommon dream if you write a food blog. Many of us may be waiting to do this, but then its too much work and hassle for the idea to translate into a hard copy.  Aparna Jain, author of The Sood family CookBook will speak about self-publishing your cook book.

And Then Some!!  If you appreciate your wine, you will enjoy this session on wine pairing by Aneesh Bhasin from Hipcask..  Spice Sorcery  by Husna Rahman will be launched by Harper Collins at the meet.

Kitchen Aid Master class : Kitchen Aid is more than just the gorgeous stand mixers we all have been eying since ages! Watch out for an exclusive masterclass which will showcase three of their leading appliances.

Goodie Bag! As they have aptly put it, what's a party without a goodie bag? Paper Boat, Soulful, Cremica, Picgravy, Freedom Tree and Harpen Collins will play our Santa in August ! That's one generous goodie bag I would say!

With so much happening, you wouldn't want to miss the event! 

This meet will be the first of the kind I would be attending, am so looking forward to1st and 2nd August! Smoke House Deli, Indiranagar, Bangalore, beckons with the grub I have heard much about. Do stop by here for registration and more details about the event.

Thanks Aparna, Nandita, Arundati and Revathi Upadhya for this commendable effort! For some much needed insight, fun and inspiration, am going to be there!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Orange Biscotti - And Some Biscotti Basics

Biscotti as we know, means 'twice-baked'. At first, these typically anise scented Italian cookies did not seem as enticing as the other cookies I wanted to try. But since then, I have come to like these crunchy treats. I like eating them as is or dipped in milk/ coffee. Before the Italian Nonnas kill me, let me tell you, the really dry versions of biscotti are traditionally meant to be dipped in wine.

Depending on the ingredients and their proportions, the amount, presence or absence of fat, these cookies can be either very hard, dry and crunchy or tender crunchy or even slightly cake-y. Versatile, easy to bake, these keep well and are sturdy enough to be shipped.

You can find recipes with part whole wheat or oats, cornmeal or with just plain flour. Simply stir in some cinnamon/ nuts/ citrus zest/ coffee or chocolate chip - walnuts as you please. You could make some with cocoa or dark chocolate or even marbled ones. Dip one side of the biscotti in melted chocolate to masquerade as dessert. You can make simple everyday versions great for snacking or the more luxurious versions for gifting. Oh, did I mention savory biscotti? With all these possibilities, these are worth a try I guess?

So, how are these different from other cookies? These are baked not once, but twice, their texture usually extra crunchy, hard and toasty. Some recipes need just simple mixing, some need creaming, some need the eggs to be whipped. The usually sticky dough is typically shaped into a skinny log or a flat 'loaf' and baked till it is firm to the touch. The log is then cooled and sliced either cross wise (for shorter biscotti) or diagonally( for longer biscotti). The slices are baked again to the desired texture. You could make them crisp or crunchy or extra crunchy depending on how long you bake them the second time.

These are quite forgiving unless you under bake to get a doughy or wet log. Over baking the log may make it crisp and difficult to slice.These are even friendlier as you can just bake the log and forget it till the next day, come back at leisure to slice and bake .

Here is a simple recipe for tender-crunchy Orange Biscotti. You could stir in some finely chopped toasted almonds or chocolate chips into the dough, but for ease of slicing I would suggest you save these add-in's for the next round of biscotti baking.

 Recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I have made a third of the original recipe. Feel free to make the full batch if you have an oven big enough for to bake 2 big logs simultaneously.


Ingredients: (to make about 15 biscotti)

All purpose flour : 162 grams
Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
Salt - a tiny tiny pinch (take 1/3 of a teaspoon of salt, use 1/3rd of it!)
Sugar, powdered - 100 grams
Unsalted butter - 46 grams, weigh, melt and cool to room temperature.
Egg - 48 grams / 1 large
Vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon
Orange zest, really fresh - 1 teaspoon (from one orange)
White of one egg, whisked. For brushing on top.

YOU WILL NEED : A whisk, spatula, a citrus zester, a dough scraper, a silicon brush, a sharp serrated knife apart from the usual tools.

PROCEDURE: Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 F. Line a baking sheet or tray with parchment. I have used a 10'' x 12'' tray, use a bigger one if your oven can accommodate. Or halve the above recipe to make a tiny batch in a 9'' square tin.

Mise en place.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt twice. Keep aside.
  • In another large bowl, take the sugar, melted butter, egg, orange zest and vanilla. Gently whisk to incorporate. No need to work up a volume.
  • Stir in the flour mixture gently in two additions. When you can still see some flour here and there, add the nuts or chocolate if you wish to. Stir them in gently till you have an uniform mixture. This will be quite sticky. Do not add more flour.
  • Now comes the relatively difficult part. Scrape the dough onto the center of the lined baking sheet. Wet your hands lightly, elongate the dough to form a rough log. Pat so that it is 1/2'' tall ( that would be about 3'' wide and 12'' long for the recipe above. If halving the recipe, the log can be 3'' wide and 6'' long). Am not very sure about this but read that the log should not be way taller as it may have plenty of cracks, meaning lots of crumbly slices. So stick to dimensions mentioned in a recipe! If I am not sure, I think 1/2'' tall should be safe in most recipes.
  • The log will spread, so make sure there is about two inches space all around the log ( about 4'' space between TWO logs). If the sheet is small ,cut off excess part with a dough scraper and transfer to another sheet.
  • Pat with wet hands to smooth the top. Use a dough scraper for the sides if needed. A neat, uniform log will give you uniform biscotti. Lightly brush the top and sides with the whisked white.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes till golden and firm to the touch. If in doubt, err on the side of over-baking. Remove from the oven, let the log remain on the sheet. Lower the oven temperature to 160 C.
  • Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes or more as convenient. Spray or brush the top very LIGHTLY with water, let stand 5 minutes. This helps soften the log, slice it easily especially if the log has cracked.
  • Lift the log from the sheet, place on the counter. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log into 1/2'' wide slices (cross-wise or diagonal). Uniform slices is uniform baking. Place the knife on the log, gently but firmly press it down to cut all the way through. The log should be baked through, but will still be moist and softish.
  • Don't worry if you don't get perfect slices. As long as the biscotti doesn't crumble into bits and pieces, rough looking slices should taste just as good.
  • Stand the cut slices on their backs on the baking sheet, 1 /2 '' apart. (Imagine just separating the slices of the log). Bake about 15 minutes, remove the tray from the oven. Keep the oven on. The biscotti will be soft but will harden as they cool. Once they cool completely, bite into one. Bake 5 minutes more if you want them crunchier. Remove from oven, cool completely. Store airtight. Should keep at least for a week.
        Baking biscotti is fun! I hope you will give it a try.