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BANANA CAKE / CUPCAKES

“A baker should never let distance stand in the way of sharing.” – Flo Braker

banana cake

My mom was doing a visit to her youngest sister in Bombay who is convalescing from a period of illness.

I have the fondest memories of this precious aunt. She was the star in the family. Growing up, I was always asked to look up to her, and with good reason…

Quite an all rounder in her time, she was equally good in academics and sports. A sprightly character with a care free attitude. she was pretty too, with her flawless skin and petite structure. And, she had deep sensitivity toward others.

We were a joint family of seven in a tiny Bandra flat, all of us huddled together, like a bunch of fresh sardines, set to be sold in the local market.

Night times were great. My grand dad and grand mom would occupy the small bed on the side of the wall, my mom and another sister on the adjascent little bed, my uncle under the table near the kitchen, and my youngest aunt and I, in the middle of the room, on a mattress with pillows. She would fervently sing to me each night, melodies of the mid seventies, in her not so melodious voice. I thought nobody could sing better…it provided an overwhelming sense of security. Soon after, my parents shifted base to Kerala, and I missed her bitterly then.

When I had my Summer hols and we did trips to Bombay, she and I would religiously go together to the Paan shop, buy 2 meeta paans each (sans the thambaakku), and stick them to the farthest corner of our mouths. We’d viciously grind those beetle juices with our teeth, extracting every sweetish pungent flavour, and aim for the next big gutter to see who would shoot best. She would laugh heartily at the lightest jokes and it would take her a while to get her bearings back. We had to wait for her to finish enjoying the gleeful moment! Life’s precious and fleeting flavors, sigh!

So, my mom was going to Bombay and I threw myself into making two of my aunt’s favourite cakes…A Carrot cake and, her absolute favorite, Banana cake.

Now when it comes to a good banana cake, ”we want it moist, we want it delicious”, quoting Peter Reinhart from “Crust and Crumb”, and that is all.

Have tried many variations in the past, and nothing matched up…it was either too bready or it was too dense.

We have fantastic baby bananas in Kerala, one of the most delicious and varied flavours that the Earth can offer. And I wanted to maximise on it.

Banana cake

This recipe is from Joanne Chang, from her book, Flour.
Here is the recipe, it has soft and warm flavours, and is not bready.
 

Flour’s Famous Banana Bread, Re-printed with permission.

Makes one 9 – inch loaf

INGREDIENTS

210 gm  All purpose Flour, 1 1/2 cups

1 tsp Baking Soda

1/4 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Salt

2 Eggs

230 gms Sugar, 1 Cup + 2 Tbs

100 gms Canola Oil, 1/2 cup

340 gms Mashed Bananas, 1 1/2 cups

2 Tbs Sour Cream

1 tsp Vanilla

75 gms  Walnuts, 3/4 cup

banana cake

PROCEDURE

Position a rack in the centre of the oven, and heat the oven to 325 degrees F ( 162.78 degrees Celsius).  Butter a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan.

In a bowl, sift together Cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment,( or a hand held mixer), beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. If you use a hand held mixer, the same step will take about 8 minutes.

On low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. Don’t pour the oil in all at once. Add it slowly so it has time to incorporate into the eggs and doesn’t deflate the air you have just beaten into the batter. Adding it should take about one minute. Add the bananas, sour cream and vanilla, and continue to mix on low speed just until combined.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture and the nuts just until  thoroughly combined. No flour streaks should be visible and the nuts should be evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hrs. or until golden brown on top and and  the centre springs back when you press it. If your fingers sinks when you poke the bread, it needs to bake a little longer. Let cool in the pan or wire rack for atleast 30 minutes and then pop it out of the pan to finish cooling.

The Banana Bread can be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temp for upto 3 days. Or it can be well wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for upto 2 weeks. Thaw overnight at room temp for serving.

Thanks for stopping by…

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2015 in recipe

 

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WHIPPED CREAM CAKE

“Cake baking is really very easy, but it is the little things that make the difference between ordinary and extraordinary.” – Rose Levy Beranbaum

Whipped Cream Cake

My baking journey started here… I remember having typed ‘real baking’ doing a random search on the web for authentic cake recipes, many years ago, and was promptly led to the site Real Baking with Rose. Ever since, i have not looked back.

”Rose is a teacher. She doesn’t just offer you great recipes, she also figuratively takes you by the hand and tells you how to be a better baker.” – Marie Wolf.

See, for most people who love to bake, every cake flop is a heart ache… ‘coz we are already envisioning a loved one sampling our labour of love, and enjoying it, in our mind’s eye. Not to mention the waste of all the precious stuff… butter, sugar, eggs, the emotions and time… This is when you know and truly appreciate the value of a well balanced, tried and trusted recipe with all the steps meticulously explained… it is an absolute boost to your confidence, you are not uptight any more and you are on your way to capture some happy moments.

Whipped Cream Cake

Rose and her assistant Woody Wolston did 17 test bakes between them before they perfected the recipe for “Renee Fleming Golden Chiffon Cake” in her latest “Baking Bible... That shows some serious gumption!

Ok, now for the cake… splendid! And when it takes just a few minutes to put everything together, what more can you say… Hallelujah!!

I am making the most of “Amul Whipping Cream” which has hit the market in more recent times. It’s a home baker’s dream… 30% pure milk fat makes it luscious. Always thought cream is a more delicious alternative to butter in a cake batter, but then that is a matter of opinion. It is one of the best recipes I have tried to date.

Whipped Cream Cake

The recipe link is here.

Enjoy, truly!

Thanks for stopping by…

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Cinnamon Cookies

It all started with a Cookie – Cake Boss , Buddy Valastro

cinnamon cookie

I never thought biscuits/cookies would play such an integral role in my life….the girl takes them to school to snack on her short break and I find myself frequenting the biscuit counter at the super market every now and then. We have had some great biscuits growing up…there was the evergreen “KrackJack”, still going strong,the Britannia “Tiger” Biscuits (Glucose biscuits) that are sold at a fantastic price of Rs.5/- for a pack, the Marie Biscuits…and the delicious Unibic biscuits which is making its waves among kids and adults…

I buy them off and on, for it is a convenient alternative, but the fact remains nothing beats home made…and you know, if you love to bake, you have the incessant itch, so i went on a cookie baking spree and made 3 kinds of cookies.

The first I did were Anzac Cookies, with oats and honey, sans egg. Its a ‘healthy’ cookie, one that reminds you of a chewy granola bar, one of those ‘I am on a diet’ kinda cookie…which i realised was just not me.

Then I tried some white chocolate lemon cookies which was too crumbly for my taste ..then i tried these Christmas Sables….

cinnamon cookie

Needless to say, this was ‘Thumbs up’ the best cookie…it is crisp, it is crunchy, has the characteristic snap, the sugar is just borderline, and there is a hint of Cinnamon for a faraway feel…obviously, it comes from one of the Masters of his trade and absolutely delivers.

Recipe from The Art of French Pastry,  by Pastry Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer,

Re-printed with permission.

INGREDIENTS

All-purpose flour – 300 grams

Almond flour, skinless – 100 grams

Ground cinnamon- 2 grams (1 teaspoon)

Butter – 200 grams

Vanilla extract or paste – 10 grams (2 teaspoons)

Granulated sugar – 150 grams

Sea salt – 3 grams

Whole eggs – 40 grams ( 1 extra-large egg less 4 teaspoons)

Egg Wash – 1 egg, heavy cream and a pinch of salt, beaten together

cinnamon cookie

METHOD

1. Sift the flour and the almond flour and combine them in a bowl. Add the cinnamon.

2. Place the butter, vanilla, sugar, and sea salt in the bowl of your mixer and mix with the paddle for 2 minutes on medium speed. Add the egg and mix for another 2 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure that all the ingredients are mixed together.

3. Add the dry ingredients and mix until they just come together. Stop the machine and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and the paddle, then beat again just until the dough is amalgamated. Do not over-beat or you will activate the gluten in the flour and the dough will be rubbery.

Scrape the dough out of the mixer onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Divide into 2 equal pieces and press each piece gently until it is about ½ to ¾ inch thick.

Wrap airtight and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight to allow the flour to absorb the water in the dough. This will make the dough much more stable and easier to roll out.

4. When you are ready to roll out the dough and shape and bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C with the rack positioned in the middle. Line the sheet pans with parchment paper. Lightly dust your work surface or a silpat with flour. It may be easiest to cut each piece of dough in half and roll out 1 small piece at a time. Take the piece you are going to roll out from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes.

Then roll out to 3/16 of an inch. Cut into shapes with the cookie cutters of your choice and place on the sheet pans. Do not cut on the silpat.

cinnamon cookie

5. Brush the tops of the cookies lightly with egg wash, taking care not to allow it to drip down the sides of the cookies. Let sit for 10 minutes and apply a second thin layer of egg wash.

6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, reversing the pan front to back halfway through, until they are golden brown throughout.

The low oven temperature will allow all of the water to evaporate, resulting in a very flaky cookie. The finished product should be golden brown throughout.

This means that you have baked it long enough.

STORAGE

The cookies will keep for 1 month in a tin or an airtight container.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

CREAM PUFFS (Choux Paste for Cream Puffs and Eclairs)

”I’ve given up watching television,” she said. ”I watch my oven instead” – Baking, From My Home to Yours, Dorie Greenspan

Cream Puffs

Literally. Thats what I did as I watched my cream puffs sizzle and firm up inside my Morphy Richards.

Have made Choux paste for Eclairs before, and I always thought the initial procedure was slightly similar to making the paste for our Idiyappams (String hoppers,a delicious South Indian breakfast )

I was super excited to make it this time, the recipe from Pastry Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer’s, book, The Art of French Pastry. If you saw “Kings of Pastry“, you know what i am saying.

Cream Puffs

Have always felt that cream puffs is a child’s dream…you bite into an unassuming lil pastry, only to have it shatter between your teeth and give way to a silky smooth cold cream. Its a very unique feeling, in a very nice way.

Had it quite a few times as a kid and i always thought it tasted really good. So simple and so satisfying…nothing is too much in a cream puff. Its just there, leaving a slight tease in the mouth, making you wonder where the cream puff vanished so quick!

There are a few things to look out for when you make cream puffs. I so wanted the shatter to be there as you bite into one, ‘coz the dangers of having a soggy pastry loomed large. And then, its a lil fussy dessert in the serving, it tastes best within three hours of being made…what good is a thing if you can’t share it with friends??

I did my bit of research, I wanted a larger yield as i was baking for a slightly larger group, and Chef Jacquy’s recipe fit the bill. He has clear cut instructions as well, and it is like taking a class in Choux Paste.

The Art of French Pastry, is a very carefully written book, with tremendous attention to detail and interspersed with  beautiful life stories and the journey that Chef Jacquy took as a pastry Chef to reach where he is at now. Not to mention the fantastic recipes, from the second generation master baker, who along with Pastry Chef Sébastien Canonne, has co-founded The French Pastry School.

Like how a book reviewer on Amazon aptly said,”If you can’t be there in person, this is the next best thing.”

Cream Puffs

I assembled my pastries before time, (filled it with Cream Diplomat, don’t be intimidated if you are new to pastry, its just a combination of pastry cream, one of the simplest things to make under a watchful eye, and whipped cream) and refrigerated my puffs till serving time. The proof is in the eating, and i kept wondering about whether it would still have the ‘shatter’.

Upon serving, people din’t go gung-ho abt it. But I guess thats what cream puffs do…they make you wonder, ‘Where did my cream puff disappear???’

It was all gone in a matter of seconds though, and when a person who usually avoids dessert asked me if there was more so he could sample another one, I knew the cream puffs were doing their thing. I had my moment of truth, when someone who was standing behind me, bit into their cream puff, and I heard the distinctive CCCrunch!!

I know my pictures do no justice to these lauded French baked confections, and that is a lousy excuse to say that i was hard pressed for time, but try the recipe and you will not miss the picture!

Cream Puffs

INGREDIENTS FOR THE CHOUX PASTE (Recipe from The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeifferre-printed with permission)

PÂTE À CHOUX (CHOUX PASTE)
YIELD ( ENOUGH FOR ABOUT 80 PUFFS)
INGREDIENTS

Whole milk (3.5% fat) | 125 grams

½ cup Water | 125 grams

½ cup plus 2½ teaspoons  Butter (French style, 82% fat, I used Amul, 80% fat) | 110 grams

3¾ ounces or 7½ tablespoons  Granulated sugar | 5 grams

1 teaspoon  Sea salt (I used regular) | 2 grams

¼ teaspoon All-purpose flour, sifted | 140 grams

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons  Whole eggs | 220 grams plus extra as needed | 4 to 5 eggs, as needed
Egg Wash

Cream Puffs

MIXING THE DOUGH

1) Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Line sheet pans with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, water, butter, sugar, and sea salt. Stir together with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, and then exchange the spatula or spoon for a whisk. Bring it to a full boil. Once it comes to a boil and you see that the butter and sugar are well incorporated into the milk, turn off the heat. You don’t want to reduce the liquid. It’s important to have a uniform mixture at this point; there should be no lumps of unmelted butter.

2) Add the sifted flour to the liquid mixture in one quick addition and immediately whisk vigorously so that the mixture comes together. You have about 30 seconds to do this. No need to panic, but work quickly and efficiently. If you whisk too slowly you risk getting lumps of flour, and once lumps form in a pâte à choux you will, unfortunately, never be able to make them disappear. You will see lumps right after you add the flour, but after 30 seconds of whisking it should be a uniform mass.

3) Place the pan back on medium heat, switch back to the rubber spatula or wooden spoon, and cook, stirring all the while, until dry, about 1 minute. What you are doing at this point is cooking the protein in the flour that you just added. The mixture is ready when it congeals in a lump and begins to stick to the bottom of the pan. It will make a sort of hissing sound when it begins to stick.

4) Remove the mixture from the heat and transfer it to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Run some water into your pan and let it stand to loosen the thin layer of dough sticking to the bottom of the pan; it will come off easily with a little soaking.)

5) Have 220 grams of eggs (usually 4 extra large) ready, and beat an extra egg to set aside, in case your dough seems dry. Mix the dough on medium speed for 30 seconds, then turn the speed to low and begin adding the eggs, 1 at a time, beating on medium speed until each egg is incorporated into the dough before adding the next one. Each time you add an egg turn the speed down to low so that you don’t get splashed with egg if it catches the paddle at the right moment. Once you’ve added 2 of the eggs, stop the mixer, take off the bowl and paddle, and scrape the bottom of the bowl to mix in the layer of dough adhering to the bowl. Then return to the mixer and add the remaining eggs following the same procedure.

6) Now you must ascertain whether the pâte à choux is the right consistency. Stop the machine, take the bowl and beater off, and scrape up any dough that is sticking to the bottom. Beat briefly to incorporate. Pull out the beater. If the consistency is right, when you pull the paddle up the dough sticking to the paddle should hang down in a V shape. If it does not, the dough needs more liquid, either some beaten egg or a little warm milk. But you must be careful adding liquid, because if you add too much your pâte à choux will turn to soup and you’ll have to begin all over again. There’s no fixing a soupy choux pastry by adding flour. So add a teaspoon of egg or milk at a time, and each time you add and beat in a little more, check the consistency again. Adjust until you get the V-shaped ribbon when you lift the paddle from the dough.

7) Once your dough is the right consistency, transfer enough choux pastry to a pastry bag fitted with a ?-inch round tip to fill the bag halfway.Pipe the desired shapes—1¼-inch rounds (for all cream puffs), 1½-inch ovals (for Salambos, 3- to 3½-inch strips (for Éclairs), 1-inch rounds (for Croquembouche)—onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Continue piping with the remaining choux pastry. Brush the surface of the pastries evenly with a little bit of egg wash. With the tines of a fork, make a slight impression on the surface. This will help the puff to rise evenly. At this point the choux pastry can be frozen unwrapped on the sheet trays. Once frozen, wrap the pieces in plastic wrap and store in a container or in freezer bags. Before baking, place on parchment paper–covered sheet pans and allow to return to room temperature.

Cream Puffs

BAKING INSTRUCTIONS

1) Make sure that the oven is fully preheated to 400°F/200°C before you bake the pastries. The high heat causes the protein in the eggs and flour to congeal together and create a soft shell, and forces the water in the pâte à choux to steam, which is what makes the pastries puff. If the oven isn’t hot enough your product will be flat and dense. Place a sheet pan in the oven and bake until the pastries rise, which should take 10 to 12 minutes.

2) Once the pastries have risen, lower the oven temperature to 325°F/160°C. You now need to bake them long enough for them to form a crust so that they’ll hold their shape and dry out completely. Otherwise they’ll be doughy. This should take 25 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the pastries.

3) When they are done they are very golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. You can freeze them at this stage as well.

Cream Puffs

Freeze them on the sheet pan; once they are frozen, transfer them to an airtight container or freezer bags.

The choux pastries should be dark golden brown on the outside and hollow with a little moisture in the middle.

STORAGE

At the raw or baked stage pâte à choux can be kept frozen for about 1 month.

Usually we do not keep baked pâte à choux refrigerated for more than 1 day because it will become soggy.

THAWING INSTRUCTIONS

Let the baked pâte à choux thaw out at room temperature and then flash them in a 400°F/200°C oven for 1 minute. Thaw unbaked pâte à choux at room temperature before baking.

Vanilla Pastry Cream Filling (from the old Godiva Recipe site)

1/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups milk

3 tablespoons cornstarch

4 egg yolks, at room temperature

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make Filling:

1. Place sugar and 1 cup milk in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved.

Increase heat until mixture boils.

2. Place cornstarch in medium bowl. Using wire whisk, gradually whisk in remaining milk and whisk until mixture is smooth. Add yolks and whisk until well blended.

3. Slowly pour 1/3 cup hot milk into yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in remaining hot milk. Return milk-yolk mixture to saucepan and heat to a boil over medium heat. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.

4. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla. (If pastry cream is lumpy, pass it through a sieve.) Transfer pastry cream to a non-reactive bowl.

Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto surface of cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold.

I added a cup (?) of whipped cream to the pastry cream, and folded in before I piped it into the Cream Puffs.

Thanks for stopping by…

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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HEROES

Heroes

I am an occasional reader of Malayalam biweeklies…

You never know wherein lies a good recipe, and it helps keep the home menu fresh, revamping it once a while. It was in the same vein that I picked up an edition of a “Vanitha” and saw an article featuring three men.

Stories of three ”ordinary” men, unassuming, from humble surroundings. Not wanting to make a quick buck at the cost of a lost conscience, keeping ethics over all else, these men displayed power!

1

Every time I remember their stories, it shakes me up.

The first two people are Lottery agents in Aluva and Cochin who sells lottery tickets for a living.

One day, two of their customers (who bought lottery tickets from them) chose their set of five lotteries each, asking the agents to keep the tickets aside.

They would collect it later in the evening, and the payment would be made.

The lucky draw was on the same day and when the results were announced, the respective customers hit jackpot with one of them winning a crore ($150,000) and the other receiving a prize money of forty lakhs ($55,000) and an Innova car.

2

Since the tickets were with the agents themselves, some friends advised them against handing over the lotteries to the customers. The payment, they reasoned, was not made anyway and the customers wouldn’t know if the tickets were exchanged.That was big money at stake, and they wouldn’t make that kind in a life time.

However, these agents din’t think twice, but went in search of their lucky customers and let them know the news and hand over the prize tickets.They said they knew they would be blessed .They are now stars within their territory. The Defence Minister of India even called one of them and said that it was a matter of pride to be able to say that he hailed from the same state as they did.

Was reminded of the scriptures which says, ‘A good name is to be more desired than great riches, Favor is better than silver and gold.’ Proverbs 22:1

3

The third person is an auto driver who lives in Palakkad…a family had got into his auto-rickshaw, and accidentaly left behind their small handbag in a last minute hustle to catch their bus – a handbag which had fifty sovereign of gold ornaments in it! The auto driver had taken another run. That passenger brought the handbag to the notice of the auto driver who lost no time in contacting the police station to return the goods.The gold was returned to the owner (who had panicked and came rushing to the Police station) in the presence of the auto-driver.

The driver said he was so sure he did not want anything that was not his, and that the pleasures of living on his hard earned money gave him the highest satisfaction. Cruddy standards,he mentioned, would hinder sweet sleep. His mother had instilled in him the importance of honesty and he remembered that in all the ups and downs of life. He said he always wanted to live life with his head held high.

I yearn that my kids imbue these characteristics, be people of worth and lead the heroic life. Should they choose to tread the path of honesty and abide by the Truth all times, life would be complete.

Happy New Year everyone!

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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PINWHEEL COOKIES

“I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man I have ever met.”- Dwight L. Moody

Truly felt this way when i made these pinwheel cookies…phew-wee!

I set aside some time knowing it would’nt be smooth sailing the first time.

Actually, its just delicious cookie dough – with a lil extra precision. And of course, you can get it right…that is, to say, with practice.

Pinwheel cookies

When this is your first time,you may not necessarily get all the nooks and the crannies right…but then again,it must just be me…if you pay more attention, you will surely succeed earlier than I did. They look a lil complicated and is definitely some extra work, but they are an absolute crowd puller.

I was awestruck when I saw Checkerboard cookies/Pinwheel cookies for the first time…! They looked soo very cute and the pattern baffled me…

Its actually so simple, one rolled out vanilla dough on top of a rolled out chocolate dough and both are then rolled together into a long compact log, sliced into uniform pieces after you semi freeze them and you get the spiral effect…just had to bake them…

Believe me, I would’nt make it over and over again unless it tasted that good as well…I want the look, absolutely, but flavor should be as good or even better.

Pinwheel cookies

The kids were freaking over it, and kept coming back for more, so it is worth the effort. I thought it might just be my kids but when I served it to a gathering of exuberant kids (you know the kind who HAVE to constantly do something, is forever fidgety, finding it hard to stay still before you can say Ready, Steady, Go!), they reacted the same way too…it got their attention at a glance, and they seemed pensive as they munched on the cookie, came back again and politely asked for more …and more! One little thing straight away asked if he could have some to take home too, lol!

No way am i going to let this recipe go!

Pinwheel cookies

Make the dough when you are relaxed, allow yourself time, and its a piece of bread. I know I will be making these often…it looks like rocket science, smile.

These Pinwheel Cookie recipe is by the award-winning author and teacher, Carol Walter.

(Recipe by Carole Walter, Holiday Baking 2005, Fine Cooking Magazine, (c) 2005 by The Taunton Press Inc. http://www.finecooking.com, re-printed with permission from the site)

Do check out their step by step pictures which shows you how to roll the dough.

Ingredients

  • 13-1/2 oz. (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 10 oz. (1-1/4 cups) unsalted butter, slightly  softened
  • 11/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 2 Tbs. boiling water
  • 3 Tbs. unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and still warm

Pinwheel cookies
Procedure

Mix the dough:

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-low speed until smooth, about 2 min. Add the sugar in a steady stream and mix for another 2 min. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined, scraping the bowl as needed. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients in two additions, mixing just until combined. Remove 2  cups less 2  Tbs. of the dough and set aside.Dissolve the espresso powder in the boiling water and set aside briefly to cool. Then mix the espresso and cocoa powder into the remaining dough. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the warm melted chocolate and mix just until thoroughly combined.

Roll the pinwheel logs:

Portion each flavor of dough into three equal pieces. (For accuracy, use a scale.) Shape each piece into a 5×5-inch square on a piece of plastic wrap and wrap well. The  chocolate will be thicker than the vanilla. Refrigerate the dough for 30 min. (If the dough becomes too hard, let it stand at room temperature for a few minutes before rolling).

While the dough is chilling, tear off twelve 12-inch squares of waxed paper. Roll each piece of dough into a 7×7-inch square between two sheets of the waxed paper. Without removing the waxed paper, layer the squares of dough on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 10 to 15  min. Have ready three 15-inch sheets of plastic wrap

To shape the cookies, remove one square of the vanilla dough and one square of the chocolate dough from the refrigerator and peel off the top sheet of waxed paper from each. Invert the chocolate square over the vanilla square (or vanilla can go on top of chocolate; try some of each for variety), taking care to align the two layers as evenly as possible. Using your rolling pin, gently roll over the dough to seal the layers together. Peel off the top layer of waxed paper.

Starting with the edge of the dough closest to you, carefully curl the edge of the dough up and over with your fingertips, so no space is visible in the center of the pinwheel.

Using the waxed paper as an aid, continue rolling the dough into a tight cylinder. After the cylinder is formed, roll it back and forth on the counter to slightly elongate it and compact it. Transfer the log to the plastic wrap, centering it on the long edge closest to you. Roll tightly, twisting the ends of the plastic firmly to seal. With your hands on either end of the log, push firmly toward the center to compact the dough. It should be about 9 inches long and 1-1/2  inches thick. Repeat with remaining dough. Refrigerate the logs until firm enough to slice, about 3  hours, or freeze for up to three  months.

Bake the cookies:

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Working with one log at a time, use a sharp, thin-bladed knife to slice the dough into 3/16-inch rounds. Set the rounds about 1 inch apart on the prepared pans and bake until the tops of the cookies feel set, 12 to 14 min. (don’t let the edges become too brown). To ensure even browning, rotate the sheets as needed during baking. Let the baked cookies stand for 1 minute on the pan. While they’re still warm, use a thin metal spatula to transfer them to racks. When cool, store between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container for up to two weeks, or freeze for up to three months.

Hope you enjoy…

Merry Christmas !!!

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

KUTTANADAN DUCK ROAST

I am always looking forward to dinner with my loved ones – Sebastien Rouxel

Kuttanad

We always pass by the Kuttanad region to get home and back….
We do these trips often, from Thiruvalla to Cochin via the Changanacherry – Alleppey route….’coz we live in Thiruvalla and Cochin is my home-town.

Called the Venice of Kerala, Kuttanad and the Vembanad Lake is a tourist spot with the popular back waters and the lovely house boats….also, the place is visually stunning….with paddy fields which seem to change colour every season, and varied hues of green (sometimes its a lush green carpet as far as the eye can see, sometimes the place is submerged in water due to the heavy rains) the place has an old world charm.. the ”Far from the Madding Crowd”  kinda place.

Kuttanad

I love it for another reason too, for the Kuttanadan ducks…you see them floating in the waters, a hoard of them, and is a source of income for those who rear them .

And they are phenomenal in taste…Simply fantastic. We have people from distant places come here (some even crossing state lines!) to either buy the ducks or to sample a savoury meat dish.

Kuttanad

Have always wondered what gives these ducks their amazing taste…some people attribute it to the particular feed it is fed and some say its ‘coz of the type of water it waddles in most of the time…in fact, I wait till I get my hands on these ducks to cook a Duck roast or Duck curry.

Thankfully, we have a dear friend who gets the meat straight from the duck rearers. I’ve also been recently informed that the male duck is priced over the female, as the female ducks don’t put on as much flesh.

duck roast
I have got this lip smacking recipe with a few of my alterations, from a recipe book called “Tastebuds“, which had a particular issue featuring Kuttanadan duck…Of the Malayalam culinary books that I have tried, I must say “Tastebuds” is a cut above the rest, with precise amounts and balanced flavor.

This recipe in particular, is one of the best. Enjoy!

Duck Roast

INGREDIENTS (Re-printed with permission)

Duck, cleaned and cut into small pieces- 500 gms

Peppercorns,crushed – 3 tsp

Chilli powder – 3 tsp

Coriander powder – 3 tsp

Turmeric Powder – 1/4 tsp

Onions, chopped – 300 gm

Tomatoes, chopped – 200 gm

Green chillies, slit – 4

Ginger,julienned – 2 pieces

Garlic, chopped – 4 cloves

Coconut oil – 150 ml

Thick coconut milk – 150 ml

Garam Masala – 1 tsp

Curry leaves – a sprig

Salt – To taste

Duck Roast

PROCEDURE

Saute the chopped Onions, the slit green chillies, julienned ginger, and chopped garlic in Coconut oil in an Iron Kadai.

Once the onions are fairly browned, mix in the Chilli powder, Coriander powder and the Turmeric powder and saute again a few minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes, and once it turns mushy, add the duck pieces, a little water and pressure cook till tender.

Add in the garam masala and the crushed pepper corns, and add the coconut milk and keep stirring till gravy turns nice, thick and browned.

Crush the fried curry leaves and sprinkle them on the top. Serve.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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