Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Rasmalai! Just the name makes me drool ;) This is one of my all-time favorite Indian desserts! The last time I was in India I wanted to make this as we (my cousin and I) were not huge fans of the rasmalai sold at the local sweet shop. So, I ended up improvising it! I got some ready made rasgullas, washed/ squeezed them in cold running water, then added them to the badam milk mixture that was boiling and almost done. It was really really delicious and we ended up eating them, even as mid-night snacks!

This time, I wanted to make it from scratch and found very good recipes at vahrehvah.com and showmethecurry.com. I mostly followed http://showmethecurry.com/desserts/ras-malai-indian-dessert-recipe.html this and the result was just out of the world!

Apart from whatever is said on the recipe website, here are my additions:
* I used almost 18 cups of milk, totally (approx 8 cups for the malai and 10 cups for the ras).
* I did not use a food processor and kneaded the malai by hand and the result was equally awesome.
* Each cup of milk yielded 3 malai balls.
* While reducing the milk for the ras, I reduced it to almost half and added the instant badam milk mix (Badam feast) to it. It is so much easier and give a lot of flavor.
* In addition, I did add some saffron, ground cardamom and sugar(to taste).

* The whole process did not take more then 2-2 1/2 hours. So, it is not bad at all!
* I just crushed some pistachios and sprinkled them before serving. It really made it look professional ;)
* The rasmalai tasted the best after 12 hours. We ate it for almost a week and it just got better by the day!  

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Warm and Luscious Mocha Pudding

This warm Mocha Pudding, I promise, takes an hour to make and vanishes in less than half the time!!! The "Sizzling Brownie" at Cafe Coffee Day in India, is one of my favorite desserts. It feels just amazing to taste the hot fudge, warm brownie and the cold ice cream, all at once, in every bite! This was the inspiration for this warm and luscious mocha pudding. You should really really really try this and I am sure you will love it :)

When you have guests all of a sudden or at times when you crave something delicious in a jiffy, this is the one to devour! I made this yesterday when we had friends over for dinner. No time to cook and we ended up having pizza. But who cares about dinner, anyway, when there is an awesome dessert??? I actually started making this when we began eating the pizza and this was ready to eat in 45 minutes.

Mocha Pudding : 4 big servings (We eat a lot of dessert!)
Dry ingredients:
All purpose flour - 3/4 cup
Baking powder - 2 tsp
Salt - a pinch
Sugar - 1/2 cup

Wet ingredients:
Butter - 4 tbsp, melted (I used oil when I made it again, today and it tasted equally good)
Semisweet or unsweetened chocolate - 2 oz., finely grated or melted
Milk - 1/3 cup (I used 1% and no regrets)
Vanilla extract - 1/2 tsp

Dry topping:
Brown sugar - 6 to 8 tbsp (depending on your level of sweet-tooth)
Sugar - 3 tbsp
Unsweetened cocoa powder - 2 tbsp

Wet topping:
Hot water - 1/3 cup
Instant coffee granules - 2 tbsp

Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.
Mix all the dry ingredients together.
Mix the wet ingredients together and add it to the dry ingredients. Mix until well combined.
Coat a 9 x 9 inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
Transfer the mixture to the baking pan and level the top.
Mix together the dry topping ingredients and sprinkle it on top.
Add the coffee granules to the hot water and pour it on top of the dry topping.
Bake it at 350 F for 30-40 minutes. Keep checking after 30 minutes. It is done when the top is set and looks slightly crusty.
Serve it as soon as it is done. Top it with some ice-cream.

When we were at the grocery store looking for some ice-cream flavors to go with it, Vathsal suggested we buy Caramel flavored ice-cream. He picked a big tub and I said "Pick any flovor, but, buy a small tub so that we would be done with it tonight and not have a temptation tomorrow". With the big tub in his hand, he spontaneously said "I can finish this tonight, if you want me to"!!!

Next time, I would love to try it with vanilla or butter-pecan ice-cream. I also squeezed some chocolate sauce on top ;) Aaaahhhhh......heaven!!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Le Fraisier !!!

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

I recently found this website, www.thedaringkitchen.com and they have challenges every month for daring bakers and daring cooks. All these challenges are so interesting and the best part is that, at the end of so much hard-work and creativity, you get to eat it ;) :)

The challenge for July, was Fresh Fraisier, a french dessert. Fraisier actually means "strawberry", in French. So, even though this might not be the healthiest way to eat a strawberry, I bet it is one of the tastiest ways ;)
This dessert is traditionally made with a layer of cake at the bottom, pastry cream in the middle, adorned and filled with a lot of strawberries, topped with a layer of cake and finished with a layer of almond paste. It is also made with fruits, other than strawberries.

When I first saw this as the challenge for July, I had to make it :) Just that the techniques were new to me, I was just procrastinating! Finally, I decided to make it last weekend, when we had friends over for dinner. I made mine with chocolate ganache dripping chocolate cake, vanilla pastry cream and strawberries.

At first, the entire recipe looked simple, but, only when I wanted to start making it, boy, I was overwhelmed. It took me some time to figure out where to start and how to proceed. This was my plan of action and it really worked out. 
1. Step 1 of the pastry cream
2. Bake the cake and let it cool.
3. Make the simple syrup. Let it cool.
4. Add the simple syrup to the cake, wrap and refrigerate.
5. Make the chocolate ganache.
6. Pour the ganache over the cake layers and refrigerate.
7. Step 2 of pastry cream.
8. Cut the strawberries.
9. Assemble the bottom layer of the cake and the strawberries that go around the cake.
10. Step 3 of pastry cream.
11. Add the pastry cream to the cake. Fill it with cut strawberries.
12. Top it with the layer of the cake that has the ganache on it.
Patients is virtue! So, wait for at least 6-8 hours before you devour the cake :)

Steps 1-4 can be done 3-4 days in advance. Steps 5-12 can be done 2 days in advance. The cake can be assembled and left to set in the refrigerator for a day or two.

Chocolate sponge cake:
Dry ingredients:
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Wet ingredients:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon lemon zest
5 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoon sugar

Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F.
Line the bottom of an 10-inch(You can use anything between 8-10 inches. I used 10) spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients, until combined.
In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly.
Combine the wet ingredient mixture with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
Put the egg whites in a large porcelain/ glass or stainless steel bowl, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the 3 tablespoon sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.
Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined. Make sure you don't mix it much and flatten the egg whites.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes.
To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Allow it to cool on the wire rack.

Once the cake is cooled, cut the cake horizontally into layers. The recipe called for 2 layers, but, I thought they were too thick and I made 3 layers. Save the 2 layers that look good (the top and bottom layers on mine looked good) and may be you can munch on the 3rd, not so good looking layer ;)
You can refrigerate the cake for upto 4 days, either as a whole or after cutting it into layers. I wrapped mine with plastic wrap and left it in the refrigerator.

Simple syrup:
This is used to moisten the cake layers before assembling them. This is basically a mixture of sugar and water. I added a little bit of instant coffee power to mine, because, I think chocolate taste much better with a slight tinge of coffee :) Feel free to use anything else to add flavor, like vanilla, orange zest, rose syrup or any other spices.

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder

Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan.
Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary, but will not harm the syrup.
Remove the syrup from the heat, add the coffee powder and cool slightly.
Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup can be stored for up to one month.
With a pastry brush(I used to sprinkle the syrup using my fingers, before I got my pastry brush. So, don't fret if you don't have one), drizzle the simple syrup on the cut surface of the cake layers, until the entire cake is moistened.
Wrap the cake with a plastic wrap and save it in the refrigerator, until you are ready to pour the ganache.

Chocolate ganache:
I wanted my fraisier to look very elegant and I did not want the "not so smooth" sides of the cake to be seen.  So, I decided to pour chocolate ganache (like a molten chocolate) on it.
4 oz unsweetened 100% dark chocolate 
4 oz semi-sweet 70% chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream

Break or chop the chocolates and add them to a bowl. Heat the cream on medium flame, until it begins to boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolates and mix well, until the chocolate melts. Let it cool slightly, before pouring it on the cake.

To pour the ganache on the cake: Place the two layers of the cake(top layer on top) on a wire rack, placed on a sheet-pan. Pour the ganache on the center of the top layer and tilt the wire rack to make the ganache run evenly in all directions. The excess will drip on to the sheet-pan and you can take care of it ;) and nobody has to know about the excess chocolate(C'mon, there can never be excess chocolate!!!)
Place the whole thing(the sheet pan with the wire-rack and the cake layers) into the refrigerator and the molten chocolate hardens into a beautiful shiny shell :) Awesome!!!

Pastry cream filling:
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
6 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoon gelatin
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Step 1 of pastry cream:
Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl, add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine
Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk with a hand-mixer, until smooth.
When the milk is ready, gently and slowly while the mixer is whisking, pour the heated milk, very slowly in a trickle, down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture.Keep whisking and make sure the egg mixture does not curdle.
Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon. At this stage, the mixture begins to form lumps, mainly because of the cornstarch, and keep pressing on those lumps to smooth them out.
Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. You can press the remaining lumps though the sieve, so that you no longer have lumps.
Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.
Cut the butter into 6 pieces and whisk into the pastry cream until smooth.
Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Step 2 of pastry cream:
In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.
Put two inches of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
Measure 1/4 cup of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel/ glass or porcelain bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
Heat the cream until it is 120 F(If you do not have a thermometer, use your finger and try touching the pastry cream while it is heating until temperatures you can handle. don't let it overheat or boil). Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth.
Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
Step 3 of pastry cream:
In a large bowl, using the hand mixer, whip the heavy-whipping cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream, in 3 batches, with a rubber spatula.
Strawberries for the Fraisier:
You will need two pounds of strawberries for the entire fraisier. Pick about 10 similar sized, good looking strawberries and cut them into halves. These can be used to decorate the sides of the fraisier.
Cut the remaining strawberries into small pieces. These will be used with the pastry cream, in the middle layer of the fraisier.

Assembling the Fraisier:
Place the base of the spring-form pan(the 10 inch pan that we used to bake the cake) and layer it with parchment paper.
Place the bottom layer of the cake (this one has already been drizzled with the simple syrup and has ganache only on the sides), over the parchement paper.
Now place the rim of the springform pan around the base of the pan and lock it.
Line the inside of the rim with a strip of parchment paper, cut according to the height of the rim.
Place the strawberry halves around the rim, with the cut side facing the parchment paper, with no gap between the cut side of the berries and the parchment paper.
Once step 3 of the pastry cream is done, fill a pastry bag(or a ziploc bag, with one corner cut) with the cream mixture. Fill the gaps in between the berries with the cream. Make sure the berries stay close to the parchment and the cream does not enter in between the berry and the parchment.
Cover the center of the bottom layer with pastry cream and add remaining cut strawberries.
Top it with the remaining cream and smooth the top.
Now, take the top layer of the cake(that has already be drizzled with the simple syrup and has ganache on the entire upper surface and the sides) and place it carefully and gently over the cream layer.
Place the entire spring-form pan in a cake carrier and let it set in the refrigerator, for atleast 8 hours.

Top it with some cut strawberries, just before serving and just dive in!!!

Next time, I will try to click pictures while I am making it. It will be much easier with pictures :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blueberry Coffee Cake

I am a huge fan of the reduced fat blueberry coffee cake at Starbucks. Though they call it reduced fat, the calorie count does not look great and comes to approximately 350 calories per serving. Once I thought about it, then the itch started to make a home-made healthier version (I tell you, Ignorance is Bliss!!!).

I searched online and found some copy-cat recipes for the Starbucks cake. It does have quite a lot of butter and sugar(c'mon, they never told you reduced-sugar;) ). Finally, I landed on Ellie Krieger's recipe from Food Network. I tweeked it, slightly, to make my version.

It turned out to be delicious. Nothing fancy, just a healthy snack you can have without any guilt :) So, give it a try!

(Makes 18 servings) 
Dry ingredients:
All purpose flour - 1 1/2 cups
Whole wheat flour - 1 1/2 cups
Salt - 3/4 tsp
Baking soda - 1 1/2 tsp
Sugar - 2 tbsp (Add two more if you want it sweeter)
Ground nutmeg - 1/4 tsp (Feel free to add 3/4 tsp of ground cinnamon, instead)
Chopped walnuts - 3/4 cups
Wet ingredients:
Brown sugar - 3/4 cups
Vegetable/ olive oil - 6 tbsp
Eggs - 3 large
Vanilla extract - 1 1/2 tsp
Buttermilk - 1 cup
Yogurt - 3/4 cup
Frozen blueberries, thawed - 2 cups

Pre-heat the oven to 350F and spray cooking spray on a bundt cake pan. You can also use a regular baking pan, approximately 10 x 10 inches.  You can try making 18 muffins instead, but the baking time might vary.
Mix all the dry ingredients.
In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the topping.
In a large bowl, beat together the brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one by one and beat well. Add the vanilla, buttermilk and yogurt. Beat well.
Now add the dry ingredients to the wet, in two batches and mix well, until combined. Do not over-mix.
Add the blueberries and fold them in evenly in the batter. Too much mixing at this stage will break the berries and change the color of the batter. So, just some light mixing would do.
Transfer the batter to the pan and spread evenly.
Top it with the topping mixture and gently press the mixture into the top of the batter, just to make sure the topping does not fall off once done.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, if using a bundt pan. If using a regular pan, please check if the cake is done(with a tooth-pick), after 30-35 minutes.
Once done, let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes and transfer it to a wire-rack and cool it completely, before slicing.

Enjoy with or without a cup of hot coffee :) Each serving comes to slightly less than 200 calories, approximately. So, what are you waiting for???????
I have also tried making it with strawberries and they taste great, too. Just cut the strawberries into small pieces and add them just like the blueberries.I actually made muffins with the strawberry batter and they were great for breakfast!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Spinach Smoothies ;)

 Last weekend when I went grocery shopping, I got all enthusiastic and health-conscious and bought 2 bags of fresh spinach. The plan was to stay healthy and cook a meal out of it, but, good thoughts don't last long and I totally forgot about the spinach, after placing it in the refrigerator. Two days ago, Vathsal and I went to the grocery store again and this time it was Vathsal's turn to be smitten by the health-bug. He suggested we buy spinach and eat healthy! So, in came the third bag of spinach.

So, what do you do when you are stuck with so much spinach and no intention to cook??!!! Well, you put a spin on everything possible ;) I tried making smoothies out of them and I loved it. In my opinion, this is the simplest, yet, tastiest way to eat spinach.

Even Vathsal was like, "Whaaat? Spinach in Smoothies????", but, no complaints after tasting it! You really don't taste the spinach distinctly, after you mask it with the other flavors. The whole thing looks GREEEEEN  which might look a bit weird and apart from that, its just delicious.

Apart from the specific ingredients, I also get crazier at times and add a few other stuff, like,
* Whey protein powder - especially after a trip to the gym.
* Fiber powder (like Benefiber) - doesn't really have a taste but gives you some additional fiber goodness.
* Ground flax seed - Good stuff with all the good fats and the fiber. Also, adds some thickness to the smoothie.
* Egg whites (from the carton) - Full of protein and the egg whites from the carton are pasteurized, so they are safe, unlike the fresh egg whites, if you worry about the Salmonella and the rest of the gang.
* Plain or flavored fat-free yogurt - Substitute it for the soymilk.
* Plain or flavored skimmed or 1% milk - Substitute it for the soymilk.
* Frozen fat-free vanilla yogurt - Makes it taste even better! Any flavored frozen yogurt would do, according to the smoothie that is being done.

Straw-nach-ana: Servings-2
Strawberries - 10, frozen
Spinach - 2 handfulls
Banana - 1 medium sized (fresh or frozen)
Vanilla flavored Soymilk -  1 cup (I use the light version, which is like 70 calories/serving)

Add all the ingredients to the blender and blend until you get a smoothie! Add more or less soymilk depending on how your blender blends.

Spinach island: Servings - 2
Mixed frozen fruits (mango, peach, pineapple) - 1 to 1 1/2 handfuls
Banana - 1 medium
Spinach - 2 handfuls
Vanilla flavored soymilk - 1 cup

Go Green: Servings -  2
Avocado - 1 medium
Spinach - 2 handfuls
Fat-free Vanilla frozen yogurt - 1 cup (I did not use the soymilk here, as the avocado is not strong enough to mask the flavor of the spinach. So, we get the extra support from the frozen yogurt and its sweetness)

Green berry: Servings - 2
Mixed frozen berries - 2 handfuls
Spinach -2 handfuls
Vanilla flavored soymilk - 1 cup

If you are still not convinced about making it, then I say you should definitely try it once, because,
(1) It is all the stuff that is good for you - Fresh greens, fruits, milk, soymilk, yogurt, flax seed, egg whites,......C'mon, it doesn't get better than this!
(2) Even if you have 2 servings of it in the morning for a breakfast, it will still look good on the calorie count(less than 400 calories for 2 servings) and will keep you full for more than 3 hours!
(3) Anything else as healthy as this, whipped up in two minutes???!!!
(4) Once you start your day with such healthy and guilt-free stuff, chances are more that you will stay good the entire day and not indulge in a junk-food :)

Think Green and Drink Green !!!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Joconde Imprime !!!


Joconde Imprime (Vathsal, my husband, calls is Anaconda!) is a fancy French dessert with a self-designed cake as a mold and layers of different fillings.
I was totally excited when I first saw a picture of this one at Deeba Rajpal's blog (http://www.passionateaboutbaking.com/2011/01/baking-biscuit-joconde-imprimeentremet-for-daring-bakers.html/biscuit-joconde-imprime-entremet1) and had an instant urge to do it ;) The sponge cake, the chocolate custard and the strawberry bavarian cream were to go into mine and this is the first time I am trying to make all three of them. It has been in the back of my mind and on my to-do list, for a few weeks now, just waiting for the an occasion. Then came the occasion and the fear of actually making it!  I didn't want to do it because it was challenging and I didn't want to quit, especially because it was challenging :) Finally, I mustered up all courage (Vathsal said it looked like I was going for an examination...LOL!) and stepped into the kitchen! Baking time :)

The first thing was to make the cake with the design pattern. I started with the decor paste and I actually made only half of the recipe and that was a lot. Next time I wouldn't make so much. Drawing the hearts was so much fun, since, it they were kinda cute and free-style.
Joconde imprime /entremets
Recipe Adapted : From Chef John O, The International Culinary School in Atlanta, Georgia USA.
Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste (I made half of this, but, I wouldn't make so much, next time)
YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan
14 tablespoons/200g unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups plus1½ tablespoons Confectioners’ (icing) sugar
7 large egg whites
1¾ cup cake flour [(14 tbsp all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch) sifted 3-4 times = 1 cup of cake flour]
Food coloring gel, paste or liquid
COCOA Décor Paste Variation: Reduce cake flour to 6 oz / 170g. Add 2 oz/ 60g cocoa powder. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together before adding to creamed mixture.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Gradually add egg whites. Beat continuously.
Fold in sifted flour.
Tint batter with coloring to desired color, if not making cocoa variation.  
Preparing the Joconde- How to make the pattern:
Spread a thin even layer of décor paste approximately 1/4 inch thick onto silicone baking mat or parchment  with a spatula, or flat knife. Place mat on an upside down baking sheet. The upside down sheet makes spreading easier with no lip from the pan.
Pattern the décor paste – Here is where you can be creative. Make horizontal /vertical lines (you can use a knife, spatula, cake/pastry comb). Squiggles with your fingers, zig zags, wood grains. Be creative whatever you have at home to make a design can be used. OR use a piping bag(I used a piping bag and piped the cute little hearts). Pipe letters, or polka dots, or a piped design. If you do not have a piping bag. Fill a ziplock bag and snip off corner for a homemade version of one.
Slide the baking sheet with paste into the freezer. Freeze hard. Approx 15 minutes or even more.

Joconde Sponge
YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan
¾ cup almond flour
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons icing sugar
¼ cup cake flour
3 large eggs
3 large egg whites
2½ teaspoons white granulated sugar or superfine (caster) sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
In a clean mixing bowl whip the egg whites and white granulated sugar to firm, glossy peeks. Reserve in a separate clean bowl to use later.
Sift almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour.
On medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and light.
Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix.
Fold in melted butter. (I forgot to do this and later found my butter lying the microwave, but, no regrets!)

Remove the joconde decor from the freezer. Quickly pour the Joconde batter over the design. Spread evenly to completely cover the pattern of the Décor paste.
The oven was pre-heated to 475 F and mine was done(bounces back when slightly pressed) in a little less than 10 minutes, on the middle rack. Keep watching your cake while it is in the oven, as it gets done pretty quick and burns quicker! You can bake it as is on the upside down pan.
Cool. Do not leave too long, or you will have difficulty removing it from mat/parchment.
I was really tensed until I peeled my parchment paper from the cake after turning it upside down on another parchment sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. Viola!!! It was awesome looking with the pretty pretty hearts on it and perfectly done! Instant gratification!!!

I assembled mine on a 9'' spring-form pan rim, lined with parchment strips on the sides and the base and cellophane taped to the base of the cake carrier. The strips of cake were so flexible and I loved working with them. 

Preparing the MOLD for entremets:
Start with a large piece of parchment paper laid on a very flat baking sheet. Then a large piece of cling wrap over the parchment paper. Place a spring form pan ring, with the base removed, over the cling wrap and pull the cling wrap tightly up on the outside of the mold. Line the inside of the ring with a curled piece of parchment paper or mousse strips overlapping top edge by ½ inch. Cut the parchment paper to the top of the mold if you want to smooth the top of the cake.

The next part was to make the Chocolate custard :) My first attempt went wrong as I let my custard boil and it curdled :( I wanted to give up as it was already 10 PM, on a weeknight. Then then there is this urge in you that makes you do it! I tried it again, no boiling this time and it came out awesome!
Vathsal and I love strawberries dipped or rather dunked in chocolate. Yummy :) That is the only way we can eat strawberries! So, I decided to add the cut strawberries to the chocolate custard. ( I actually sneaked in a few berries dunked in the custard...........Shhhhhhh, Vathsal doesn't know ;) ) So, the cake lining on the base got a first dose of the chocolate custard, followed by some pieces of strawberries and then the remaining chocolate custard. I left it in the refrigerator for an hour and in the meantime made the strawberry bavarian cream, another first!
Chocolate Custard/Cream
2 egg yolks
3 1/2 tbsp sugar
100ml milk
150ml cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
 7 oz. dark chocolate, chopped (I used 5 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate and 2 oz. of 100% chocolate. I prefer slight bitterness in my chocolate mixture!)
Simmer the milk, cream and vanilla and bring to a boil.
Beat the yolks with sugar until pale & creamy.
Pour about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture over the beaten yolks, stirring quickly with a balloon whisk to incorporate fully. Pour this back into the remaining milk/cream mixture in the pan, and continue to cook over low heave until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon.
Remove from heat immediately, and strain over the chopped dark chocolate. Stir until smooth. Cool well, until it loses the heat but is still pour-able, yet quite thick. Pour about an inch over the cake base, and allow to set completely in the fridge, at least an hour, before adding next layer.  (I added cut strawberries to my chocolate custard)

Strawberry bavarian cream:
The custard making stint this time was a breeze and I then mixed it with my bloomed strawberry jello. This mixture tasted awesome and I had to stop myself from doing the "taste testing", which I did almost ten times ;) Then whipped the cream and folded it into the jello-custard mixture. It tasted even better! Oh boy, it was real test to my self-control, especially when it was close to 1 AM and with no-one around ;)

4 egg yolks
1/3 cups + 2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp + 1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp strawberry gelatin
400ml cream (as 200ml + 200ml)
Whisk the egg yolks with a balloon whisk with 1/3 cup of sugar and 1 tsp vanilla until smooth.
Bloom gelatin in 3 tbsp of cold milk
Simmer 1/2 cup of milk and 200ml cream with 1 tbsp vanilla extract and bring to a boil.
Take it off the heat and whisk into the yolk mix, somewhat like in French pastry cream.
Return to a heavy bottom pan, and place on medium heat until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon, stirring constantly.
Take off and whisk in bloomed gelatin. Strain and leave to cool.
Once it is completely cooled, whip 200ml of cream with 2 tbsp of sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla extract, and fold it into the custard gently but thoroughly. You will notice the Bavarian thickening.
Pour the Bavarian mousse over the set chocolate custard layer. Leave to set overnight.

Strawberries dipped in chocolate:
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2-3 tbsp cream
8-10 strawberries

Microwave the cream for 10-20 seconds, until it begins to boil and pour it over the chocolate chips. Stir well until the chips melt. (If the chips don't seem to melt, try microwaving the mixture for 10-20 seconds.)
Wash and pat dry the strawberries. Dip them in the molten chocolate and place them on a parchment paper.
refrigerate until the chocolate hardens and sets.
Place these strawberries on the cake bavarian cream layer.
Add 1-2 tbsp of cream to the remaining chocolate mix to thin it and drizzle it over and around the cake!
Let the whole thing sit in the refrigerator for at least 4-5 hours, for the flavors to blend.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Spicy pretzels !!!

Pretzels! I always thought that the ones that tasted good (like the salted or the yummy chocolate covered ones) were not good for you, while the ones that were actually good for you (the unsalted, fat-free ones.........boo..hoo!) tasted, well, tasteless !!! 
Then, I got this recipe from friends at work. I have slightly tweaked it to suit my love for spice and (occasional) low-cal conscience! Try one and I am sure you will want more ;) 

Unsalted mini pretzels (fat free) - 23 oz (2 1/2 packs of 9.25 oz packs)
Spicy ranch dressing - 1 sachet
Onion powder - 1 tbsp
Garlic powder or garlic salt - 1 tbsp (I used garlic powder for my low-sodium preference)
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp or according to taste
Olive oil - 6 tbsp

Method :
Take a large mixing bowl and put the pretzels in it.
Mix together the powdered ranch, onion powder, garlic powder and red chilli powder in a small bowl.
Add the oil to the pretzels and mix, until evenly and well-coated.
Sprinkle the spice mixture over the oiled pretzels and mix evenly.
Pre-heat the oven to 250 F.
Spread the pretzels evenly on a sheet pan or a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
Mix once and bake for another 15 minutes.
Once they are done, let it cool (you will not have anything left once you start trying it while it is still hot/warm!) and store it in air-tight bags.
They should be good for a week to 10 days, in case there are some left ;)

Monday, April 4, 2011

M'Hanncha - Moroccan snake cake :)

M'Hanncha, translated as "Snake cake" is a Moroccan dessert. It is traditionally made with an almond paste filling, but, I made mine with dates and a nut mixture, sweetened with honey. So, it is actually all the stuff that is good for you, but, what is in a dessert without any butter, a.k.a. the tasty stuff ?!!! The filling is then, wrapped with some phyllo dough sheets and butter is spread in between the layers of the dough ;) Yummm!

2 cups dates
1 cup blanched or slivered almonds
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pistachios
4 tbsp honey
2 tbsp rose water
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp orange zest or the zest from one orange*

1 roll of phyllo dough, thawed
6 tbsp butter, melted
1 egg yolk

6 tbsp honey
4 tbsp rose water
4 tbsp water
1 tbsp orange zest or the zest from one orange*

* The traditional recipe calls for orange blossom water, but, I used orange zest, instead.

Steam the dates for 10 minutes or until soft.
Dry roast the nuts, until golden brown and aromatic.
Run the nuts in the food processor and make it into a coarse mixture.
Do the same with the dates and its okay if it turns into a sticky paste.
Add the nuts and the dates to a mixing bowl and mix well.
Add the honey, rose water, cinnamon, cardamom and the orange zest.
Mix well and the the mixture will come together into a ball.
You can actually sneak some at this stage too ;) C'mon you deserve it!
Take some of this mixture and using your hands, roll it into a log(approximately one inch diameter and eleven inches long)
Thaw and unroll one roll of phyllo dough. Cover it with a damp paper towel or kitchen towel (Make sure it is not wet).
Take two sheets and lay them on a work surface(I covered my work surface with parchment paper, just in case the sheets stick to the surface) with the length of the sheet towards you.
Brush some melted butter on the sheet. Instead, you can try spraying some butter flavored cooking spray for a reduced calorie option).
Lay 2 or 3 more sheets on the buttered sheets. Make sure to cover the remaining phyllo dough sheets with the damp towel.
Place the mixture made into a log, along the edge of the length of the sheet. FYI, The sheet is 14 inches in length and 9 inches in width. 
Roll the sheet along the length, so that the mixture becomes the filling wrapped in phyllo dough, resembling a log. Gently press to relieve any air-gap between the filling and the wrapper.
Tuck in or fold the remaining/ unfilled ends of the log.
Butter a 8 x 8 baking dish.
Place this log in the center and roll/ coil it around itself. It might break at some points and that is okay!
Make similar filling logs, wrap it with phyllo dough and coil it in a similar way, tightly, end to end, filling the entire baking dish. There lies our snake!
Brush the coiled snake with melted butter and then with a egg yolk, to brown it while baking.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 F and bake the pastry for 30-35 minutes. Make sure it does not burn.
While it is in the oven, let us make the syrup!
Mix the honey, rose water, water and orange zest, together in a sauce-pan. Taste a few drops and if you find the orange over-powering as I did, filter it.
Bring the remaining liquid to a boil and turn off the heat.
Once the snake is out of the oven, pour the syrup evenly over it.
Let it cool for sometime. Enjoy it warm or cold and I am sure you will love it, either way!
We enjoyed it warm with some vanilla ice-cream on top.......Hmmmm.............Welcome to bliss!!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Granola bar

My Granola Bar, inspired by Ina Garten !!! Wake up for a healthy breakfast as this does not have any butter or high fructose corn syrup :) Just the ingredients that are natural and healthy for you!  Rise and Shine!!!

Dry ingredients:
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup oat bran
½ cup ground flax seed
½ cup wheat bran
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup sliced walnuts
1 cup shredded dry coconut (unsweetened)

Wet ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup honey
¼ cup brown sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt

1 ½ cups of mixed dry fruits (dates, raisins, apricots, apples, pineapples, papayas, cranberries, etc,.)

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Mix all the dry ingredients together and spread it on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until toasted/ lightly browned. Take the pan out once or twice in-between and mix the contents, to make sure they are evenly toasted and not burnt.
Transfer this mixture to a large mixing bowl.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 F
Place all the wet ingredients in a small pan on stove-top and bring to a boil, over medium heat. Keep stirring and cook for a minute.
Pour this hot mixture over the dry mixture and stir well.
Add the dry fruit mixture to this and stir really well and make sure the mixture is well-mixed and evenly coated.
Transfer the mixture to the same pan lined with parchment paper.
Wet your fingers slightly and press the mixture evenly into the pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until light golden brown.
Cool for about 30 minutes and cut into pieces when slightly warm.
Cool the cut pieces for 2 hours and store in a air-tight container for 2-3 days or in the refrigerator for nearly 10 days. But, I am sure it will not last that long!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Blackforest cake

Black-forest cake!
2 layered cake. Serves 8.
Dry ingredients-
1 3/4 cups - All purpose flour
3/4 cup - Hershey's Special Dark cocoa
2 tsp - Baking soda
1 tsp - Baking powder
1 tsp - salt
Wet ingredients-
2 cups - Sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup - Milk
1/2 cup - Canola/Vegetable oil
2 tsp - Vanilla extract
1 cup - boiling water
1 tbsp - instant coffee powder
Filling & Icing:
Cool whip (original or lite) - one big tub (Or you can whip up some cream, if you want. I prefer cool-whip, for the lighter option!)
Maraschino cherries in syrup - 1 bottle
1/2 cup black coffee - cooled

Method -
Heat the oven to 350F
Spray oil on two 9'' round cake pans and place a cut round parchment paper.
Sift together all the dry ingredients and keep aside.
Beat the sugar, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, until well mixed.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet in batches and beat until just mixed.
Add the coffee powder to the boiling water and add this to the batter. Mix well.
The batter will be very thin at this stage.
Divide equally and pour in the pans.
Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes, until a tooth-pick comes out clear.
Transfer the cakes to wire racks and let them cool

Assembling the cake:
Cut each cake horizontally, into two. *
Place a decorative cake base on a flat surface or a cake decorating board.**

Level the cakes. (If the cakes don't have a flat upper surface, slice the curved upper surface and make a flat top. Reserve the cut curved top layer, for decoration)
Apply 2-3 tbsp of cool-whip on the center of the base and place one cake, bottom side down. The cream will prevent the cake from sliding from the base.
Now place 3''x6'' strips of parchment paper all around the base of the cake, inserting 1'' of the 3'' underneath the cake, so that the cake is surrounded by at least 2'' of parchment paper. This will prevent the decorative base of the cake from getting messy from all the assembling and decorating
Sprinkle 2 tbsp of the cherry syrup and 2 tbsp of the coffee on the cake. This will keep the cake nice and moist.
Spread a layer of the cool-whip on the cake and top it with a few quarters of the cherry, here and there.
Now for the top layer of the cake, place it in such a way that the upper surface of the cake is smooth(ie., bottom side up) and not the cut-side of the cake. Before you place this, sprinkle the cut-side with the cherry syrup and coffee.
Spread the cool whip on the top of the cake and the sides.
Now break the remaining slices (the cut, curved top slice) of the cake into crumbs and microwave it for a minute. Take it out and check if it has dried out, if not repeat, until the crumbs become dry and powdery. Take care when checking as it is really really hot.....Trust me!
Take some of these crumbs in your hand and try to make it stick to the sides of the cake.
This step will be really messy. You can re-use the crumbs that are falling down.
Remove the parchment papers and you will have a clean base!
Attach a star tip a pastry bag and fill it with cool-whip. Decorate the area around the cake and the top of it. Top it with cherries. Do it the way you want it or like it!
Shave some dark chocolate on top of the cake.
And, you have got yourself a beautiful and delicious black-forest cake.......So, time to treat yourself!

*To cut them equally, insert tooth-picks in the middle of the thickness of the cake at 12,3,6 and 9 '0 clock positions. Take a nylon thread or a flavor-less dental floss around the cake and with the tooth-pick as the guide, gently cut through the cake....Viola(!!!), you are now left with two equal halves! Another slightly easier and slightly expensive way would be to buy a cake-leveling/ cutting equipment from Wilton or a similar brand.
The decorative base for the cake to rest on can be bought from Wilton or any other store, like Walmart. But, I make mine! Take a Pizza box and cut one on the card-boards into a 11'' circle(for a 9'' cake). Wrap this circle with aluminum foil and you got yourself a nice, shiny, totally inexpensive base!

Zucchini pineapple quick bread

Dry ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp b soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Wet ingredients:2 large eggs
2 c sugar
2 cups grated zucchini (about 1 1/2 medium)
2/3 c oil
1/2 c egg substitute
2 tsp vanilla
2 (8 oz) cans crushed pineapple in juice, drained

Method:Pre-heat the oven to 325F.
Combine the dry ingredients.
Beat the eggs until foamy. Add sugar, zucchini, oil, egg substitute and vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet, in batches.
Add in the pineapple.
Spoon batter into two 9x5 inch loaf pans. Bake at 325F for 1 hour.
Cool and cut into slices

Makes two loaves and 14 servings per loaf
167 cals, 5.9 g fat, 2.4g prot, 26.5g carb, 0.7g fiber, 15 mg chol