Jams, Jellies, Marmalade, and a jam recipe.

I know these are troubled times. Our country is in great difficulty, and like any Indian, I feel terrible in the manner of which the state of affairs are. It is important for us to keep our spirits up. We need all the positivity and goodwill we can find. Above all else, we need God to see us through and restore peace and normalcy in our land. There will soon be times of refreshing from the Lord, (Acts 3:19), and we shall tide past this by Grace alone… Kindly read on…

Sunitha’s mother made an amazing Pineapple jam when we were growing up and in school.

Sunitha was a dear classmate, super cute, piggy tails and all. And her mom was a housewife who made splendid jams, bread, biscuits, and pickles.

Our batch was special (all batches of school kids think the same way, don’t they?). A lot of us dint change school from Class 1 to Class 12.

Bitter and sweet, school memories never fade and we grow fond of each other over time. I think it also helps us stay grounded, for in school, everyone was raw. Our process of self-discovery, embarrassing moments which were inevitable, the foolish things we did being kids, and wish we dint, are they not all part of that story? 😊

Auntie made this amazing jam consistently for all those years.

Much later, as we grew up, and realisation dawned, we understood that it was just plain genius to do the same thing over and over and be consistent.

Simple affair, the jam consisted of fresh Pineapple pulp, and a particular variety of plantain called the Paalayan thodan pazham with sugar, cooked in heat and nothing else.

Yet, it was divine in taste and texture. It had golden strands of glistening pineapple in it, and believe me when I tell you, that it is no phantom memory.

Spoke to Auntie recently, and had a most delightful conversation, all things related to food.

She said, no two batches of jam will always taste the same, there would be variations, and I was reminded of Christine Ferber‘s statement,
“Remind yourself that no two jams are ever the same. From one year to another, one batch to another, a little thinner, a little thicker, each is different – that is what gives them their charm.”

Amazing that all cooks speak the same language, whether they’re world renowned or otherwise.

Love the tease in making jam and jellies, you have to lock the flavour in, and stop the cooking process at the right time. “Too early, and there is liquid in the jam that needs to evaporate. Too late, the jam sets solid and unscoupable…” and worse still, the flavour of the fruit is lost too.

Ever wondered the difference between jams, jellies and Marmalade? Here it is:

“A jam is a fruit preserve consisting of pieces of fruit cooked with sugar until they thicken and partially break down.”

“A jelly is an extracted fruit juice that has been combined with sugar, lemon juice, and (sometimes) added pectin and boiled until it sets.”

“A marmalade is a jelly with clearly defined pieces of fruit suspended in it.”

The husband got me a Copper pan for jamming last year, and I was waiting to put it to good use once Summer arrived.

A flat bottom Copper pot is perfect for jamming because,”… it allows efficient and even water evaporation. Also, Copper releases an acid when mixtures are cooked in it, and in this case it helps the pectin to set.”

If you don’t have one, fret not, a wide stainless-steel pan works just as fine. However, “Never use an aluminum pot when making jam; the acid in the fruit will react with the metal and leave a very bad metallic aftertaste.”

Jam aficionados know that the Mauviel pans are one of the best, but it was way too expensive for me to cart down, or get it shipped from abroad.

But hey, guess what…God is good! We have Mannar, the house for Copper-ware, close to where we live and I must say they did a grand job at recreating the same Mauviel pan. See…

Pectin:

You may work with or without the additional commercial pectin*.

I have come to understand it is best to avail the natural pectin within the fruit itself. If you are using a fruit with a low pectin content, you will need to add another fruit high in pectin, to compensate. That way your preserve is cent percent artisanal.

You may want to read up on high pectin fruits and low pectin fruits for a better understanding., http://motherskitchen.blogspot.com/2009/07/making-jams-without-using-boxed-pectin.html

Cleaning your Copper cookware:

“Copper oxidizes after it is left in the air for a day; the way to cook safely in it is to make a mixture of 2 parts vinegar, 1 part salt, and 1 part flour. Rub the mixture over the entire surface of the pot. You will see that all the oxidization will disappear instantly. Then rinse thoroughly with water, dry it well with a paper towel, and voilà! Your copper pot is ready for use for the entire day.”

This is what Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer recommends in his book, The Art of French Pastry.

Another method, which my mother suggested, is to wash the pot with Ash and tamarind, it will make your Copper-ware shine too. Both methods work.

Choosing Copper-ware:

“Some copper pots are sold for decoration only; these are very light. When choosing make sure that the pot is very heavy. A good copper pot will last generations and it is a wonderful tool to pass on to your children.”

Storing your jams and jellies:

We live in a humid climate and I always refrigerate my jams and jellies. They will stay intact in the fridge for over an year without any spoilage. Also, the feel of a cool jam on a warm toast is lovely.

My method is to wash the glass jars and place them in boiling hot water, and let them stay in there for a while. Drain the water and put them upright along with their lids, in an oven at 121 degrees C for half an hr. Take them out n fill them to the brim while still hot. Clean the sides for any drippings with clean wet cloth (all this with gloves on since the jam is hot, and so are the bottles) and turn them upside down . I then leave them that way at room temperature for a day.

I have tried not refrigerating them too, and the jams are good, but I am more comfortable keeping them in the fridge for some reason 😊

Now here is the jam recipe, I was raving about, in the beginning.

Believe me, you will be rewarded with a jam no specialty store can offer, promise.

Pineapple Jam Recipe:

1 kg Pineapple pulp, do not sieve

1/2 kg Paalayan thodan plantain, discard the seeds

Sugar :1. 5 kg

Bring the fruit pulp to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally.

Paalayan thodan plantain

Add the sugar, and keep stirring in order to prevent scorching on medium high heat.

After the initial foaming, the bubbles will be controlled and the jam will start looking shiny and a tad darker in shade.

Check the set, and the drip off the thavi (spoon) , and do the freezer test.
https://www.thekitchn.com/7-tips-to-make-sure-your-jam-sets-up-193268

You may have to repeat doing this a couple of times, esp if you are a beginner in jam making, so consider keeping a few spoons and small saucers in the freezer while making your preserves.

Do remember, jams gel at 105 degree C, so if you don’t have a candy thermometer or therma-pen, you can always gauge it with a spoon test as mentioned above.

There are other methods, there’s the sheet test as well, to check for doneness of the jam – https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/jelly_point.html

Happy Jamming! May we all stay safe and well.

*Pectin is a complex carbohydrate molecule found in all fruits.

References:

Bluechair jam book by Rachel Saunders https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Chair-Jam-Cookbook/dp/1449487637

The Art of French Pastry
https://www.amazon.com/Art-French-Pastry-Jacquy-Pfeiffer/dp/030795935X

https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html

Apple Pie

I think of all doughs as living things, even tart dough. It has an opinion. It will stretch only so far. You have to listen to the dough” – Thomas Keller

Now I know why Apple pies are synonymous with mothers, 🙂, phewie!

If you’ve ever eaten homemade “Chakka varatty” – a notoriously difficult Kerala delicacy to conjure, and exceptionally addictive (similar to pate de fruit of the western world); If you’ve tasted the finicky “Achappam” (a crunchy, mildly sweet, local fried snack), fresh from your kitchen; or If you’ve eaten a homemade Apple pie, even once, in life… know that you are loved.

Why do we cook?.. or bake?… because there are people we care about, people who care for us, because of the provision made possible… Cooking speaks of our well being, shows that we have each other, it showcases God’s goodness and faithfulness.

The seasons are for you, and me. The Sun rises, collaborates with the leaves to produce the act of photosynthesis, and prepares a table for us! “O taste and see that the Lord is good”, is pretty deep… Psalms 34:8

OK, I digress, but it is all so interconnected! Back to our pie story…

The Pie, That Humbles.

I usually steer clear of making pies simply because the involvement is very high and it needs constant attention. It is one of those super-sensitive foods, and pretty much deserves the treatment you would give another fellow human being!

“Listen to your dough, what does it say”… Revered cooks and chefs meant every word when they said that.

It baffles me that they call it, “Humble pie”… really?!

Pie dough humbles you in the making. You cannot rush it for it it will refuse to perform, and the dough, “needs rest before changing environments.”

But why pie… Because it is worth it. It is a memorable memory created.

Because the best pastry is the one you make at home. Rose Levy Beranbaum said it. No bulk baking will match it, ’cause when you bake at home, you give it all the individual attention that it needs, and it will always yield a superior product than any store can offer. Promise!

Wonder why Apple pie is an American food type… It is as Indian as American, we have an ample supply of apples throughout the year, and we have all the good varieties… Red Delicious, Pink Lady, Gala, Fuji, to name a few.

One thing is a given, it’s holiday baking for sure. Venture into it only if you have sufficient time and are feeling 100 percent. Pie requires that of you. Is that why pie is an integral part of thanksgiving? Maybe…

I remember when I started pie-making some years ago… My first pie collapsed upon baking. The upper crust broke. The filling was runny.

More futile attempts followed; my pies were far from good looking, the pie crust was always fragile and the bottom, mostly under cooked. But somewhere it had a minimum taste, and my solace was that it didn’t go to waste.

Adults and children love pie… Kids, I think ‘coz of the crackly crust and the warm, full bite of a luscious jammy filling, and adults …well, for the same reason ☺️

Now the pastry case for pie, that’s a study in itself. Let me explain in brief, what I have learnt. You may decide what pie dough you want…

But wait, please in no way be discouraged by the technical complexity that you are about to read below…the idea is not to make you want to run away from baking a pie, esp for the uninitiated, rather to help ensure that you get it right.

Kindly read on..

(I have relied heavily on The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer for this blog post and Chef has graciously permitted me to post excerpts from his book, which explains pie in its entirety)

1. Pate Brisee

Also known as Pate a Foncer which means, “Dough used to line tart shells”, an ideal pastry case for cooked custards, and fruit. Use non-fragile fruits, eg., Apples, pears, etc.

2. Pate Sucree

This pastry is sweeter. “Mainly used for blind-baked Almond cream, flan, and chocolate tarts.”

The method used is the familiar Creaming method, but “.. avoid incorporating too much air into the dough or you will end up with a very airy and porous dough that will get soggy as soon as it is in contact with the humidity of a cream or the refrigerator. Air bubbles also like to puff open during the baking process, which will make the baked dough separate very slightly, so it won’t be as stable and resistant to becoming soggy.”

3. Pate Sablee

“Crisp and crumbly, Sablee pastry is used blind baked for fresh fruit, cream and chocolate tart, and tartlets.”

The method used is the sanding method, whereby “We first mix the butter with the flour, allowing the fat in the butter to wrap itself around the gluten in the flour. This prevents the gluten from developing, which would cause the dough to be rubbery…The higher fat content in the sablée dough also makes the dough flaky and slightly more fragile compared to a sweet dough.”

However, “… you can use a creaming technique with a sablée recipe and vice versa. For example, if the sablée recipe you want to use calls for a sanding technique but you want a more stable dough—say you want to keep the tart you are making for a few days—you can always change the mixing method to a creaming method. Or you can use the sanding method for a sweet dough if you want your dough to be more flaky and fragile.”

Told you, this is a tad technical… But don’t give up as yet, we’re almost there…

Confused which pie dough to use? Here’s a straightforward answer :

“Sablée is a different type of dough that is richer in butter and egg yolks than pâte sucrée (Sweet Dough), thus more crumbly (sable means sand)… Because pâte sucrée makes a sturdier crust, you would choose to use it if you wanted to make, say, a strawberry tart that would keep for 2 days. It would stay firm despite the juice from the strawberries. But if you want a flakier, richer-tasting crust and you plan on eating the tart on the same day, sablée would be the dough to make.”

Also, a word of caution, do yourself a favour, pls pls pls do not avoid the egg in this case.

“Egg yolk also helps bind the dough and contributes great flavor, texture, and color to the final product. The lecithin in the yolk is what makes it a great binder.”

I have had untold misery having avoided eggs in pies and tarts. You have been forewarned, smile.

Consider working in an AC environment while rolling out and shaping pie dough. It is a requirement if you live in humid climes like ours.

How to roll pie dough :

Roll your pie dough between two pieces of parchment paper

“Begin rolling gently, to stretch out the dough. The key to rolling dough evenly and successfully is to roll gently, 3 times in one direction, from the edge nearest to you to the far edge, then check to see if the dough has stuck to the parchment paper or Silpat. You must always be able to slide the dough on the rolling surface during the rolling process. If it is sticking, run an offset spatula underneath to loosen it, then gently lift it off and lightly dust underneath with flour. Rotate the dough a quarter turn clockwise, make sure that there is still enough flour underneath that it doesn’t stick, and roll 3 more times. Never apply too much pressure to the dough; this will make it stick to the board or to the rolling pin. Continue to rotate the dough, check the flour, and roll 3 times, until it has reached the desired thickness, about ¼ inch.”

If you plan on blind baking :

“Using a fork, perforate the bottom of the shell, making rows of little holes up and down the bottom of the dough with the tines of your fork. This step, called “docking,” is important, as it will allow steam to escape evenly during baking.”

Cut out a piece of parchment paper, to fit the diameter of the pan, with a slight overhang, in order to lift it out later. Fill it with rice, dry beans, or dry green peas.

“Bake with this “faux filling” for 15 minutes, then remove the faux filling and return the tart shell to the oven. Bake until golden brown and evenly colored, another 5 minutes in a convection oven, 15 minutes in a regular oven. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before filling.”

Brush your pre-baked pie shells with a bit of egg white, this would help seal the bottom crust, I usually do so 3-4 minutes before I take the pie tin out of the oven.

For those of us who work in a home environment, in order to avoid soggy bottom for pie crusts, bake the pie along with the filling on the oven floor in the final stages. Switching on the bottom rod of the oven also helps, halfway through the bake, if it’s a home oven like a Morphy Richards but you will have to keep a strict vigil.

If your decorative pieces are browning while the rest of the pie is baking, simply cover them with Aluminum foil.

And if your pies take long to bake, esp for home cooks, cover the surface loosely with Aluminum foil “and make a vent in the centre to prevent the crust from steaming”, as mentioned by Rose Levy Beranbaum in her “Pie and Pastry Bible”.

If you really want to enhance your pie-making skills, here is a comprehensive read which you shouldn’t miss,

https://www.thebutterbook.com/post/bake-better-holiday-pies

Want a recipe for a sturdy pie crust, and a delicious Apple pie filling, here is a reliable recipe,

https://www.splendidtable.org/story/2013/10/02/the-best-all-american-apple-pie

Thanks for stopping by and trust we will all have a safe and protected New year!

The Quintessential Cookie – CCC

” I look out the window and I see the lights and the
skyline and the people on the street rushing around
looking for action, love, and the world’s greatest
chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little
dance.” – NORA EPHRON, Heartburn, 1983

Anyone who’ve tried chocolate chip cookies knows that we’re in the constant pursuit of that perfect cookie… And does it ever stop, smile.

I remember the first CCC that I baked… I’d watched Just Desserts, one of the foremost baking shows to be aired at the time…..Sylvia Weinstock was judging and one of the contestants, Chef Erika Davis, presented her signature chocolate chip cookies.

Sylvia took a bite, looked at the smiling chef, and said, “I want that recipe!”

The emphatic manner in which the elderly lady said it, spoke volumes. A woman so advanced in years and experience and in the food industry knows her Chocolate chip cookies, alright.

I scoured the net and located the recipe on Bravo.T.V and quickly made a batch. I then served it to a bunch of finicky Sunday School students. They loved it. I got a lot of brownie points from them and still counting. It’s been many years since.

They became my fav Chocolate chip cookies, for all the goodwill they got me, and of course, it was delicious. Kids usually tell the truth about their palate preferences and are openly vocal about it too.

Then on, I read up Chocolate Chip Cookies, the net is full of stories, both true and untrue.

I guess the biggest appeal to it, is that it is as gourmet and as rustic as it gets. Two polar opposites, merging in perfect harmony – that, to me, is the Chocolate Chip Cookie.

For those of you who don’t know the story, here is a brief history of this iconic cookie:

There is a lot, or definitely, some masala involved in these stories, (‘coz the creator of these cookies never acknowledged any of them, but it sure does make for fun reading)

In the late nineteen-thirties, an Innkeeper Housewife named Ruth Graves Wakefield along with her husband, Kenneth, ran a popular restaurant by the name Toll House, in Massachusetts. This is authenticated and true.

Ruth Graves Wakefield

One day, while making her Chocolate Butter drop cookies, which was an old colonial recipe, she realised that she ran out of nuts (or baking chocolate?) and substituted Nestle bars expecting them to meld in the cookies. But it dint. The chocolate stayed suspended within the cookies as it baked, and it was walloped by customers coming back for more.

Second story, fancier, says that while her industrial mixer was running, the vibrations caused a jar of Nestle chocolate bars to jitter down from a high shelf and land into the churning cookie mix. And the quintessential cookie was born!

Food historians pooh-pooh these stories, stating the fact that the proprietress had a degree in household arts, and was an accomplished baker and cookbook author herself. She was considered to be a rather efficient woman with a penchant for perfection in the manner in which she and her husband ran the motel.

Mrs. Wakefield developed the cookie “by dint of training, talent (and) hard work “, according to food writer Carolyn Wyman.

A reporter from those times, noted that the cookie was invented after Mrs. Ruth came back from a trip to Egypt.

Anyway, records hold that Andrew Nestle and Mrs. Ruth reached a business agreement wherein Wakefield gave Nestlé the right to use her Toll House cookie recipe (which was printed on the package of their semi-sweet chocolate chips) for an undisclosed amount of money, and a lifetime supply of Nestlé chocolate.

So many factors contribute to the making of something iconic. And the CCC is no different. “The cookies were a perfect antidote to the Great Depression.” Also, what boosted its growth was “wartime soldier consumption” with America’s entry into World War II, and of course, the emotion behind it. Women baked it for their “soldier boys” and it was wholesome nutrition in one cookie.

Above all else, it tasted “part chocolate bar, part cookie,” as someone rightly observed, hence making it irresistibly delicious.

Who would think, that even a Chocolate chip cookie, had a deep story to tell?

It was and still is, comfort food, at its best.

If you are new to cookie making, would be nice to consider these points:

The recipe should contain both brown sugar and white sugar, with the percentage of brown sugar outweighing the white. It gives it that desirable chew and delicious after notes of toffee and caramel.

Always use salt, salt amplifies the flavour.

Consider resting your cookie dough for up to 24 hrs. Mrs Ruth attested that she rested her dough overnight.

Use the egg, please don’t be cruel.

In my opinion, any good quality chocolate would suffice, you don’t have to go overboard with designer brands (unless, of course, you can afford it)

Want a really good Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe?

Here it is, you can’t go wrong with a tried and tested Butter Book recipe from the French Pastry School.

https://www.thebutterbook.com/

It also has the step by step procedure on video, so you are double ensured of a delicious outcome. Enjoy.

References:

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/sweet-morsels-a-history-of-the-chocolate-chip-cookie

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Ruth_Graves_Wakefield

http://www.women-inventors.com/Ruth-Wakefield.asp

A Love Story and the Deerback Recipe from The Art of French Pastry.

Wanted to put up this story for Valentine’s but soon after, things got pretty unexpected and who would’ve thought we’d be stuck in our homes for over a month and a half ,🙂

Anyway, any time is good for a love story, so let me tell you.

She was his high school sweetheart, but only he knew. Studying in a professional college, he loved being with her. They’d hang out together in the company of common friends, his silent crush for her growing by the day into something deeper, of which she was unaware.

He was not to blame either..she smiled easy, was good-natured, and had great sensitivity toward people… which is why she rightfully chose her profession to be a doctor.

Many times, he’d come home and tell me how scared he was, to propose to her.

What if she said no? He said deep inside he felt that she knew that his feelings for her ran deep, but then, why wouldn’t she acknowledge it? Having no definite answers, he decided he wouldn’t ask, for fear of losing a great friend. The matter was forgotten but I would occasionally tease him about the village she came from. He’d wistfully smile and it reminded me again, that he was smitten for life.

Years passed by, and she went overseas. Their friendship was contained in occasional pleasantries over the mobile phone and WhatsApp. By then he’d found himself a job. His visits home too, became less frequent.

However, on one such visit, he spilled the beans to my husband whose reaction was not something either of us expected. The husband (to whom he is related) asked him what in the world took him so long to propose ?!

In unison, we said he wasn’t sure if she would say yes and we din’t want to lose a precious friendship. What if she outright refused, then?

If no, then no! But it must be done, the husband retorted. If the answer was no, the boy could very well be released from his limbo state he was struggling with. To make matters worse, he laid a dictum that the boy make a phone call asap and ask her straight out, without any further ado. We looked at each other haplessly, the boy and I.

The following day, he called us late in the night… unable to muster the courage to pick up his call, I promptly gave the husband the phone.

The boy called to say that, the previous night he had a dream. He dreamt he was invited to her wedding and he went to attend it! Bereft of any appetite at the wedding feast, he simply sat there distraught, staring at a Pepsi that someone sympathetically offered him.

He broke out in a sweat and woke up. Not being able to take it any more, he dialed her number.

Being overseas, on the other side of the planet, she picked the call, sleepy and groggy, and took awhile to come to her senses as he asked her in a composed and dignified tone, whether she would consider marriage and partnership with him for a lifetime. He told her he always considered her and no one else all these years, but if she was not interested, he had to make other plans, totally respecting hers.

To which she quizzically asked him, ” Why did you not ask me before?”, after which she confirmed in the affirmative.

Absolutely overjoyed, he arranged to meet up with her after four long, uncertain years!

He’d saved up enough to get her a diamond ring, but hey, What is romance without Cake?😊

…told those guys to take pictures, of the cut cake, but I should’ve guessed they’d be too busy catching up. Got one distracted picture, but thankful I got one.

I rummaged my baking repertoire and settled for the super special “Deerback Recipe” from Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer. It is a spectacular cake, perfect for two, a little technical, but worth every bit of the effort.

It is a “modified version of a moist chocolate and almond pound cake”, from The Art of French Pastry, authored by Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer.

Deerback Cake (reprinted with permission)

Ingredients

Soft butter, for the pan: 30 grams or 2 tablespoons
Sliced almonds, with skin: 75 grams or ¾ cup
Cocoa powder: 16 grams or 3 tablespoons
Confectioners’ sugar, sifted: 60 grams or Scant ½ cup
Almond flour, skinless, sifted: 80 grams or Rounded ¾ cup
Cake flour: 20 grams or 2 tablespoons
Cornstarch: 18 grams or 2 tablespoons
Butter: 52 grams or 1 4/5 ounces
Almond flour, skinless, sifted: 75 grams or ¾ cup
Confectioners’ sugar, sifted: 30 grams or ¼ cup
Egg yolks: 50 grams or 3 yolks
Clover honey: 20 grams or 2 teaspoons
Whole eggs: 50 grams or 1 egg
Vanilla extract: 5 grams or 1 teaspoon
Lemon zest: ½ lemon
Orange zest: ¼ orange
Egg whites: 160 grams or ⅔ cup or about 4½ whites
Granulated sugar: 80 grams or ⅓ cup
Ganache: 75 grams (make ½ recipe and store what you don’t use) or 2 3/10 ounces

Procedure

1. Using a pastry brush, grease your loaf pan very generously with soft butter and pour the sliced almonds into it. Tilt the pan in all directions so that the almonds coat the sides thoroughly and evenly, forming a natural outside lining of your cake. Once the sides are coated, turn the pan over and allow the excess almonds to fall out. Set the excess aside for another purpose and place the pan in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C with the rack positioned in the center. Sift the cocoa powder, 60 grams of confectioners’ sugar, and 80 grams of sifted almond flour together onto a sheet of parchment paper and set aside. Sift the cake flour together with the cornstarch onto another piece of parchment paper or into a small bowl and set aside.

3. Place the butter in a small saucepan and set over low heat.

Allow the butter to melt, then stir slowly with the spatula until it turns light brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain into a small bowl so that it does not continue to brown. Set it aside to cool for 5 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, place the 75 grams sifted almond flour, the 30 grams sifted confectioners’ sugar, the egg yolks, honey, whole egg, and vanilla in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Mix on medium speed for 5 minutes, until the mixture is pale and light. Add the lukewarm browned butter and mix on medium speed for 30 seconds. Take the bowl out of the mixer and scrape out the mixture into a large bowl. Using a wide spatula, gently fold in the lemon and orange zests and the cake flour and cornstarch mixture. Wash the mixer bowl thoroughly with hot, soapy water, rinse, dry, and return to the stand. Change to the whisk attachment. Immediately move on to the next step so that the flour does not sit too long in the egg mixture.

5. Place the egg whites in the bowl of your mixer fitted with the whisk. Whip on medium speed for 10 seconds. Add the granulated sugar and whip for 1½ to 2 full minutes on high speed, until semi-stiff but not dry. Remove the mixing bowl from the machine, place a small bowl on your scale, and weigh out 120 grams of the meringue. Fold this into the egg yolk mixture. Do not over-fold or you will deflate the batter and your cake will be tough. Return the mixing bowl to the machine and continue to whip the remaining meringue on the lowest speed just to maintain it.

6. Stop the mixer, take out the bowl and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the cocoa powder mixture. Scrape into the almond-lined bread pan and, using a small offset spatula, gently spread it evenly all over the sides and bottom of the pan to create a chocolate meringue shell.

7. Fill the chocolate shell with the cake batter and smooth the top with the small offset spatula. The pan will be about ⅔ or ¾ full. Place the mold on a sheet pan and bake for 25 minutes at 350°F/180°C. Reduce the heat to 325°F/160°C and bake for another 20 minutes, until firm. Insert the tip of a paring knife into the center of the cake; it should come out clean. If it does not, bake for another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately reverse the cake onto a wire rack, unmold, and gently wrap the cake in a towel. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature; this will take 1 hour.

(I stopped here and covered the cake with ganache, with Chocolate to the cream ratio being 1:1. You can even avoid covering the cake with ganache and proceed to the next step)

8. In the meantime, make a half recipe of ganache, cover with plastic wrap, and allow it to cool in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Weigh out 75 grams and store the remaining ganache, wrapped airtight, in the refrigerator or freezer (it’s great for making hot chocolate! Just add a tablespoon to a cup of hot milk, blend, and voilà!).

9. Place the cake on a cutting board with the bottom facing up. Using a long serrated knife, create a V cut by slicing from the edge of the cake to the middle on an inward 45-degree angle. Repeat on the other side of the cake so that you can now remove the triangular slice. Using a small offset spatula, spread the surface of the V cut with the 75 grams of ganache. Return the triangular slice to the cake, setting it right on top of the ganache filling and pressing down gently but firmly so that it sticks to the ganache. Place the cake back in its original mold and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This will allow the ganache to set and keep the whole cake together. Let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes and unmold. The cake is now ready to be served.

If you find this recipe a little intimidating (esp. if you ‘re just beginning to bake), the Pastry chefs at the French Pastry School have started an Online Pastry and Baking community called “The Butter Book“, on the web and on Instagram, where you get a 60 day free trial with no strings attached.

It’s an absolutely fantastic baking resource, so if you are planning to hone your baking skills, or try something new, this is the place to start, I can guarantee you that.

Do hop over to “The Butter Book” , and see the step by step videos to guide you along. All the best!

And for those of you who are waiting for your special one, be inspired, and do not lose heart, God will bring you the best! There will be times of rejoicing once again.

Thanks for stopping by.

Vanilla!

“How was your date?”

“Ugh..,he was so vanilla!”

Shauna Sever in her book “Pure Vanilla

Gotcha, dint I? 😄

Been wanting to do a post on Vanilla for so long, and finally, here it is!

Any baker will tell you, what is dessert without Vanilla? Triple sigh!

Dorie Greenspan rightly called it the “culinary equivalent of the C-major chord in music, the back bone of so many creations.”

Bakers will know what Vanilla means to them…it’s the one flavor that catapults them into enduring acclaim, making them worth their salt.

Vanilla has such great personality, “its flavor is one that is well aligned with most flavors, pushing other flavors forward without muting it’s own.”

For me, it holds similarities with its savory equivalent, the curry leaf. A dish can either be traumatic or exquisite, depending on whether you use it or not. It’s omission will always cause a lack of wholeness.

Remember, you can make the best looking, highly dramatized cake, or dessert, have all the bling and the glitz, (and yes, we eat with our eyes first) but if it doesn’t hit that right note in the first bite, it’s an irredeemable flop story.

The truth is, most of us grew up on Vanilla Essence, and we still loved it! In spite of the fact that it only mimicked the real thing. Those very essences triggered in me a deep interest for the real deal, and from then on, there was no looking back.

A Snippet of my Journey..

The more I read about this exotic spice, the more it fascinated me! I had to delve deep into the heart of the matter for it was beginning to give me restless nights…

I still remember when I read about the fruit intense flavor notes of the Mexican Vanilla, and the tiny indigenous Melipona bee, the only insect that pollinated the Vanilla orchid flower, that I soo wanted to get my hands on some.

However I didn’t have anyone in Mexico or any other access to it at the time, and I wistfully wondered how I could source some of the precious stuff, from “the birthplace of the Vanilla plant.”

It was at that time, that my Uncle decided to go on a cruise to the Bahamas for his 25th wedding anniversary.

I told him, should the cruise ship take him to Mexico city, he should search for some of this Vanilla. He laughed it off, and the following month he got me my precious Mexican Vanilla Extract.

I digress, but I had to tell you that story.

The Precise Process…

So, what makes Vanilla so fascinating? Allow me to brief you, a little about the drama, that goes behind growing and harvesting this esteemed and finicky spice that some of us can’t do without…

Vanilla orchids are not self pollinating, they need to be hand pollinated*, making it an extremely labor intensive procedure.

If that is not all, Vanilla orchids bloom just once every year, and then dies the very next morning.

And therefore, the laborers have to hand pollinate them in around just in 12 hours!

After 10 months of maturing, the pods are now harvested by hand, at a ‘particular prime.’

After that, one of the two methods are usually employed – they are either sun dried or steeped into a hot bath to ensure that they don’t develop further and they rightly use the term “killing” the beans for this process. Then the beans are left to “cure.”

This is where the magic begins to unfold…the flavor that’s worth living for, and the aroma start to develop. As the beans are further cured, they intensify in flavor. There is an enzymatic reaction in the pod, and Vanillin, is produced. Vanillin is what makes Vanilla, Vanilla, and gives it it’s star value.

Flavors of Vanilla…

In cake baking, and similar applications, we use Tahitian, Mexican, Madagascar/ Bourbon vanilla, all having distinct characteristics, each unique on its own.

  • Tahitian Vanilla has a floral aroma, and has flavor notes of Cherry, Licorice, and raisins. This is excellent for pairing with fruit, custard, and creams.
  • Mexican Vanilla has aromas of rum, caramel, very ripe fruit and is more woodsy, with hints of clove and nutmeg.
  • Bourbon Vanilla or Madagascar, Alice Medrich says, “smells and tastes like Vanilla”, lol. Has a rich, sweet, creamy and mellow flavor. It’s also known as the Mother of all Vanillas “because of its wide availability and familiar flavor.” Fabulous for infusions.
  • The prized Tongan Vanilla, with its pronounced flavors of fig and bark, is used in Chocolate making and some savory applications.
  • India has Vanilla too, and the flavor is smokey and chocolaty. The pods are more intense in colour than their Ugandan counterparts which have a potent and bold wine like and raisin flavor profile.
  • Then there are the beans from Papua New Guinea, with its intensely fruity floral notes, reminiscent of cherries.

Little did I know that the small, mischievous boy who came to our home for tuition, would one day deal in Vanilla beans from PNG! I received the pictures of the plantation and processing from him.

Vanilla Extract…

It’s quite easy to make Vanilla Extract, if you have good quality alcohol, and good beans.

Do check Shauna Sever’s link if you want to make some pure extract at home. https://www.shaunasever.com/journal/2012/11/homemade-vanilla-extract-vanilla-sugar-and-more.html

Storage and Shelf life…

To be called an Extract, Vanilla has to have alcohol in it. In the US, “The FDA allows only true extracts with alcohol to be labelled Vanilla Extract.” and since it is alcohol based, it will last a very long time if stored in a cool, dark place.

The alcohol content does not pose a problem, since most of the alcohol is evaporated during the baking process, leaving the flavor behind.

For those who do not want to use Alcohol at all, there is excellent Vanilla that is distilled in Glucose.They would be labelled as “Pure Natural Vanilla.” According to Rose Levy Beranbaum, Glucose tends to retain Vanilla flavor better during baking.

Vanilla pods may be stored in plastic wrap and placed in airtight glass jars as this helps keep the moisture out. Do not store them in the fridge as it causes condensation. And considering how expensive it is, we want to be able to extract every single drop of the undiluted pure flavor.

If you see a white frosty or fungus like substance on your Vanilla, wait!

Don’t panic. First touch it, and if it is mold, it would remain on your fingers. If they are Vanillin crystals, they would disappear in a couple of seconds.

Places like Munnar, Kumily, Ooty and Kodiakanal sell Vanilla beans here in South India. Make sure they are not split. They should be soft, moist and plump.

Some Pointers…

Using premium Vanilla Extract may not be all that pocket friendly. For people beginning to bake, please feel free to purchase any good Vanilla. Some essences are not bad at all. Check the contents, know what you are getting, and be guided by your nose. When we are just learning the ropes of a trade, chances are, we tend to bungle. Inexpensive alternatives are useful in such scenarios.

Learn and perfect your recipe, the correct procedure of mixing and baking. See how you perform and when you are a ready and confident baker, invest in top quality Vanilla.

Nielsen Massay, a company that has been around since 1907, offers some of the finest Vanilla.

In India, Ossoro flavors, has a French Vanilla Flavor. It has sweet, custardy, ever so slightly tropical flavor notes to it.

In Conclusion…

Vanilla reminds us of the many details hidden within the spectrum of life, and I pray that we be able to enjoy all of it… Wishing you a truly Happy New Year!

Let us all lift the other, like Vanilla does, 😊

Thanks for stopping by…

References and good reads on Vanilla :

“Pure Vanilla”, https://www.amazon.com/Pure-Vanilla-Irresistible-Essential-Techniques/dp/159474596X

https://www.shaunasever.com/journal/2012/11/homemade-vanilla-extract-vanilla-sugar-and-more.html

* https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/08/09/a-pollination-technique-invented-by-a-12-year-old-slave-on-the-island-of-reunion-is-why-we-have-vanilla-today/

Kyoto Black Sesame and candied lemon Brioche

“Chef, what are your trade secrets?

Almost everyone asks me the same question over and over again since the time I began my foray into the kitchen.

My response? I have NONE ! Wala, aucun, keine, ninguno, mafi!

… You will be amazed the answers to your culinary challenges may just be in YouTube! If you have the proper technique, understanding,  and skills, then the key to unlocking those “secrets” is in  your hands.”   – CHEF NOUEL

Kyoto Black Sesame and candied lemon Brioche

Have always enjoyed Chef Nouel Omamalin’s recipes from his blog, The Nifty Chef

Have tried his Gingerbread house and cookies, the Parisian Macarons ( for a first try, it gave super results. If only i “macaronaged” a bit more, I could’ve achieved perfectly  flat tops and developed those  distinct feet),  his Decadent Chocolate Cake. They are all very good recipes . Do hop over to take a look., (http://www.chefnouel.com/recipes/)

Gingerbread house

Kyoto Black Sesame and candied lemon Brioche

So, was totally elated, to receive a copy of his first baking book, Nouel’s Nifty Chic Baking: Original ideas to impress, in the mail one day.

Love the combination of the simple and the sublime in his book, and the creative and chic way he dresses up his pastry creations.

It is simple and straightforward, and the element to excite is prevalent in each of the  recipes.  I feel, it is a book to challenge the home baker to aspire higher and also has innovative ideas for the pastry chef.

Browsing through the book, had to stop right at the Kyoto Black Sesame and candied lemon Brioche on pg # 37. I had to bake it , it looked super cute and sophisticated at the same time…Those bite size buns with their charcoal black tops and the dark red horizontal brush strokes on the sides (inspired by the red colours of Autumn n Kyoto, Japan) were indeed irresistible.

Kyoto Black Sesame and candied lemon Brioche

But I was apprehensive about the Sesame streusel crust, it lend the bread  a chic  look, but how would it taste?

My acid test is to always serve it at Potluck. The food gets sampled by a considerable number of people and if sixty percent of them like it, it’s a keeper !

This, was a total delight, and people never have enough of it.

The crust is really the star and it pairs  very  well with the bread ( as it is, it’s a Brioche, how more decadent can you get? )

Here is the recipe, you’ll  develop a fondness for these lil guys, just looking at them, smile…

Kyoto Black Sesame and candied lemon Brioche, by Chef Nouel Omamalin,  reprinted with permission.

Ingredients:

Brioche 

470 gms flour

25 gms sugar,  caster

8 gms salt, fine

10 gms, yeast , instant

100 gms egg yolks, room temperature

100 gms Lemon peel, candied

60 gms butter,  unsalted, softened

Black Sesame Streusel Crust

90 gms butter, unsalted,  softened

110 gms brown sugar, light, fine

1 gm salt, fine

90 gms flour

40 gms black Sesame seeds, finely ground

10 gms black Sesame oil

Optional: 6 drops black food colour paste

Kyoto Black Sesame and candied lemon Brioche
Procedure :

Straight dough method:

Place all dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.  Mix briefly with the paddle attachment of your mixer.

Add in the rest of the ingredients except the lemon peel and butter.

Using the dough hook attachment of your mixer, mix the dough on slow speed until gluten formation begins. The dough will start clinging onto the dough hook.

Gradually add in the butter in three additions and continue mixing until dough is fully developed.

Add in the candied lemon peel.

Allow to rise in a lightly floured or lightly greased bowl, covered, until double in bulk.

While waiting for the dough to rise, prepare the Streusel crust. You can prepare this well in advance and keep it frozen until ready for use.

Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and with the paddle attachment, blend at slow speed until a uniform paste is formed.

Spread onto a baking paper ( at least 60 cm × 40 cm) or silicon mat. With a rolling pin,  roll into a thickness of 0.25 cm.

Place in the freezer until fully set.

When the dough is ready,  degas and allow to rest for about 10 minutes before scaling.

Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. Shape into rolls and pan.

Allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes and gently brush the top with milk.

Cut the Streusel crust into squares of 5 cm.

Place on top of the rolls without pressing. It will slowly soften and stick onto the roll’s surface.

When the rolls are double in size, bake in a  180° C preheated oven.

While the rolls are baking,  prepare the finishing touches by mixing  a few drops of red food colour paste or powder with some milk.

As soon as the breads come out of the oven, immediately create decorative red lines around the rolls to complete the look.

Thanks for stopping by.

Cake Decorating – Sharp edges and Straight corners …

“There’s a moment when it suddenly comes to you leveling the top of the cake. Working with a palette knife, it’s the move in the air, then coming across the top of the cake. Beginners tend to go around it, making a dome of it…it’s not something you get right away, then suddenly …” – Martin Howard.

If you are a serious home baker, then you know what I mean, smile…

sharon 1

Those elusive sharp edges and straight corners….truly a learning curve for those who take cake decorating seriously…at least it was, for me. Clearly remember the times I winced when I saw those super sharp edges and pristine corners on Cake decorating sites and in the magazines … how in the world did they achieve that?, I wondered, time and again.

And it sure did elude me for a long time…

Either I’d end up with a leaning tower of Pisa, or ‘d leave the bench scraper marks everywhere on the cake and the cake would lack finesse.

Yes, there are a lot of video tutorials and write ups, put up by generous people, who have devised various techniques to achieve the super finish- and absolutely Yes, they are incredibly helpful – which is why I am able to blog abt it and post my pictures.

But it was not something I could achieve at the drop of a hat!

I so remember the time I had just made a barell cake, again with a visible slight slant- to be served at a gathering – and a humourous guy light heartedly said to me, Chech (Sis), your cake resembles Mohanlal!!! (a popular Malayalam movie star who has a characteristic slanting gait.) Gosh! But he was right. And I made my resolution once again.

I did check on You tube videos, and I have found that I am most comfortable with the upside down technique, since I don’t do massive structures yet.

Technique:

I did not make use of the acrylic boards, though I assume they are a very convenient and stress free option to employ.

I use two cake boards or cardboards cut to the same size (slightly bigger than the cake) and wrap them in aluminium foil – One for the bottom, and one for the top.

Stick cellotape to secure the aluminium foil onto the cake board that is to be placed on the top part of the cake. The portion where u stick the cellotape should be the one facing you, not the other way round. Set aside.

Put a dab of Chocolate ganache on the bottom cake board and place the cake on it, inorder to secure the cake in place.

Then you fill your cake and place another cake on top of it. (Or torte your cake and fill.)

Pic 1

Cake artist, Jessica Harris, has a detailed write up on how much ganache may be used to frost each layer, so do run by her site to get an overall understanding.

http://jessicaharriscakedesign.com/2013/01/how-much-ganache-do-i-need/

Apply a liberal amout of ganache on the surface of the topmost cake and put the second cakeboard that you set aside earlier (the one covered in Aluminium foil and secured with cello tape) on top of it and squish down, softly but firmly.

Pic 2

I use a leveler, to ensure that the cake is flush and level.

Next, crumb coat and leave to chill in the fridge.

Once the cake is set, place it on a turntable, and check to see for bulges.

The cake should be contained within the two cake boards, and should not be jutting out on the sides. I use a Square tool to go around the cake to check. Gently cut off excess cake that’s protruding to the sides.

Pic 3

Apply ganache or buttercream liberally to the sides, covering both cake boards.

I use a piping bag to do this, with a big, round tip, going all around the cake using the turntable.

Pic 4

Scrape off the excess with the help of a bench scraper kept perfectly straight. You may be here for a while, but you surely are on your way to those super sharp edges.

Pic 5

Scrape more if you find an excess build up or apply more ganache to those areas that need to be filled, with the help of a spatula.

Turn your cake upside down, and place the level tool on top to check if it is level. If not, slightly push down and ensure it is level. Scrape again, if necessary.

Turn your cake right side up. Go to knee level or bend over and check your cake on the sides. Believe me, it will add to your confidence to do so, it means you are ensuring those straight sides as the final outcome.

I am one of those many people who have done quite a bit of Bharathnaatyam and Mohiniyattom, going around my cakes, obsessed with the sleek, sharp look..,lol!

Pic 6

Place in the fridge again till perfectly well chilled.

Remove the cello tape off the top cake round first and take out the Cardboard.

Pic 8

Carefully peel off the aluminium foil sticking to the cake. If the cake is not well chilled, you may rip some of the ganache off, which you may always fill., but can be messy and time consuming. I don’t think you may encounter this problem with acrylic boards.

Pic 9

Whatever happens, don’t panic, and give yourself time. Many a sharp corners that you see, is a result of constant practise, and a good ganache to cream ratio.

I use a 2:1 combination, two parts chocolate to one part cream.

I also use an immersion blender after I pour the scalding cream over the chopped chocolate and give it a stir with a Silicon spatula. This ensures I have a lump free Ganache with a good consistency to work with.

Pic 10

Now go around the cake with a warm spatula (dipped in hot water and then wiped clean)

Take a lil bit of your ganache and add more cream to bring to a slightly more viscous consistency and dab on rough areas, and smooth out with a spatula.

PIc 11

Chill again if required, and smooth out one last time, the sides and the top, with the spatula dipped in hot water, wiped clean. Again, you may be here for a while, this is where u can get really obsessed, going round and round your cake … but you will soon learn.

Pic 12

Pic 13

If using Swiss Meringue or Italian Meringue buttercream to frost your cakes, avoid the hot water technique as it may discolour the buttercream.

And in all this, keep a wet wash cloth next to you, so that you may wipe your hands occasionally. Your hands are going to get sticky playing with ganache. It helps relieve stress … or maybe it’s just me.

Pic 14

Pic 15

In Conclusion

If you are one of those people whom straight sides and sharp corners are evading, realise that it is just a matter of time. With the immense support we have on the net, it is not one that is impossible to achieve.

I also realise that not all cakes need to have razor sharp edges and be super straight all the time … like the chic, the abstract has its appeal too.

Pic 16

Pic 17

Have Fun..

Thanks for stopping by.

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…

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…

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.