Monday, December 29, 2014

Cumin and Onion Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls

My savory fascination much for me being a slave to my sweet tooth. Hubby has an interesting theory about it..he says my case is now like the "halwai"...after a year of sweet bakes , I have developed an immunity against them !!! If what he says is correct, I fervently pray and hope it remains that way...would be so much better for my waistline !!!

Back to all started with the chana pulao ..well at least on the blog...which was followed by the festive tortilla rollups ditching sweets on Christmas day must be indicative of some big change..right !My appetite for savory wasn't at all satiated....had to go for a non-sweet bake too ..what better than dinner rolls ? The only trouble ..I'm not a bread person so was avoiding baking one ..but it is the holidays and kids are home and mom has to be creative and try new things how about spicing up the dinner rolls by adding cumin and onions?

I admit that dinner rolls take time...they are a fermented need to double proof the yeast but the end result is so worth it. The magic of pulling apart fresh from the oven butter smeared rolls and plopping them in your mouth is hard to describe...borders close on heavenly though . If I have tempted you enough , give them a try...just a few precautions though....make sure the water is not hot water will kill the yeast ..similarly cold water  will not "wake" it up. Also, make sure to make sure that you see bubbles forming when you add yeast and sugar before adding the other ingredients.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp room temperature butter
1 tbsp milk powder
1 tsp yeast
1 cup warm water
1 onion finely chopped
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp olive oil

Method -
Fry the onion and cumin mixture in 1 tbsp of olive oil and keep aside to cool.
Meanwhile, for the dough, take a bowl and add the sieved flour.
Now , make a well in the center and  to it , add 1/2 cup warm water , yeast and sugar.
The yeast needs to the sugar to a minute or two , you will see bubbles rise to the surface.
Add the butter, salt , milk powder and mix well.
To it, add warm water to form dough.
The dough needs to be kneaded for 6-7 minutes (for the gluten to form...gluten prevents the bread from falling apart ).
Now, add the onion mixture , mix well and cover with cling wrap.
Keep it in a warm place for 30 minutes or till the dough doubles in size..( proofing the yeast )

Now , knead the dough again for a minute. Form small balls and keep them on a well greased pan making sure that they have room to expand.
Cover the pan again and keep in a warm place for 30 minutes or till the balls double in size.(double proofing )
Bake them in a pre heated oven at 350 deg Fahrenheit for 20 -25 minutes .
Remove from the pan and smear them with butter before serving.
We had ours with carrot ginger soup guys are welcome to have them with anything that pleases you !

Friday, December 26, 2014

Festive Tortilla Rollups in vibrant red and green !

T'was the night before Christmas and I was still vacillating about my appetizer choice ...we had a get together at our place and though the main dishes had been taken care of..the appetizer choice was giving me a tough time...maybe the fact that my brain had slowed down contributed to the indecision ...blame all the brain activity on the holidays ..before I venture further into this tangent ,let me make clear that I  wanted the appetizer to be easy to make /assemble and in the traditional holiday colors.  Not a big fan of food colors , was looking for inspiration the natural way when Mother Nature in the form of Ree Drummond  came to my rescue. Her Christmas Tortilla roll ups were too perfect to ignore ! The only way in which I begged to differ from her was that I didn't use spring onions..Please don't ask why ...I might get a tad bit emotional.

Firmly keeping my rambling thoughts aside , here is what you guys have to do if you want to wow your guests the next time you have a get together..or simply wow your family and bask in the glory of all the compliments absolutely do not have to tell anyone that that they are so easy to assemble ..easiest appetizer with guaranteed is the ingredient list in case you have fallen in love with them and want to give them a try soon .

Ingredients -
1 package burrito style Flour Tortilla
1 1/2 package softened cream cheese ( have another handy if you apply liberally)
1 package dry ranch dressing mix
1 whole red bell pepper
1 whole green pepper
green onions or celery thinly sliced (optional)
1/2 tsp black pepper

Method -

Let's see your slicing and dicing skills...never mind if you are still honing them..just take the top part off the bell pepper, take the seeds out..slice it to thin slices and dice it as fine as you can . If you are adding spring onions or celery, make sure to follow the same procedure with them.

Now , to the softened cream cheese , add half of the ranch dressing mix and a tad bit of bell pepper, We will be adding the remaining later.
Now with the help of a spatula , smear the cream cheese mixture on the tortilla..I used it sparingly but you guys are welcome to be add the diced green and red bell pepper and sprinkle the remaining black pepper. You also add  black olives, spring onion , celery ..shredded chicken..the options are endless. Coming to the "being careful" part ., roll the tortilla up as tightly as you can and immediately cover it up with cling wrap.

Repeat the same for the remaining and then refrigerate for a couple of hours. The longer they are refrigerated , the better they will be flavor and appearance wise. At the time of serving , take them out, remove the wrap and cut them into the thickness of your liking. Do give them a try can use orange and yellow bell peppers ..pair them with other ingredients and let your creativity shine through !

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Chana Pulao and Savory Cravings !

So, if you had enough of all the sugary holiday cheer ..yes, we are talking about all those platters of cookies and fruit cakes ...and are now in the mood for something savory , welcome to the "no more sugar this holidays" club. Once you join the club, treat yourself you this scrumptious chana pulao ..wish I could offer free sampling of this tasty treat but geographical limitations prohibit me from doing so even though I am not lacking on the holiday spirit ! I could do the next best thing ..share the recipe with you with the trust that you will do full justice with it .

Secure with that knowledge, let's move on to the ingredients and the method involved. Hey ... have to halt a bit ..wanted to mention a few things...first ,you can substitute the kabuli chana with black chana or green chana ...yes, go for it ...secondly, try to use a wide vessel while making the pulao ...leads to more "khile khile rice "...okay..instructions over..time to move ahead !

Ingredients -
1 cup whole Chana (also called Kabuli Chana) 2 cups rice (preferably Basmati)
5 tbs. oil
1 onion chopped
2 tbsp ginger julienne
1 tbsp ginger finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds whole (jeera)
3-4 black pepper pods (sabut kali mirch)
3-4 cloves(laung)
1 black cardamom (badi elachi)
3-4 green cardamom (chotti elachi)
1 star anise
1-2 bay leaves (tej patta)
Piece of cinnamon stick 
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tomoato chopped 
3-4 green chillies
coriander to garnish 

Method -
Both the chana and the rice need to be soaked in water though for different duration.
Chana needs to be soaked for a good 6-7 hours and then pressure cooked but not too much. For the rice, just 20-25 minutes soak before the actual cooking is ideal.

Now in a wide vessel , pour the oil and then the whole spices ( cardamoms,cinnamon,star anise,cloves) . let it simmer till you get a nice aromatic smell.
Now add the cumin seeds followed by the chopped onions.

When the onions become translucent , add the chopped ginger and garlic.
Mix it well and when a little brown , add the chopped tomato followed by ground spices (coriander powder, jeera powder and garam can alternatively skip these three and just add chana masala .

Saute for a few minutes and add the rice and chana.
Mix well with a flat spatula and add the water making sure that it covers the rice well.

Reduce the flame after the first boil and cook till the rice soaks up all the water .
Garnish with coriander and serve !

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Red Velvet Cupcakes and Birthday Treats !

Red velvet (cup)cake - the name evokes rich flavor and texture along with the characteristic red hue. Paired with cream cheese frosting , it has  become the new culinary obsession. I joined the bandwagon a bit late though . Not that I was unaware of it's hype but the  right place and setting was missing ... I got officially hooked when on a cold cold winter evening , had this warm tender cake at the  Ritz Carlton bakery in Charlotte.fell in love with the buttery taste and the fact that red is my favorite color must ahve played a part too !

 Some tastes linger with you and apparently with your family members as well.Dearest daughter has her birthday coming up and was thinking of baking cupcakes as  birthday  treats for her native language school friends. Upon asking  as to what her choice of flavor would be for the cupcakes , her reply was guessed it velvet ...hence the blog pose !! they had my vote too ..with Christmas was perfectly apt as a holiday treat too.

Red Velvet cup(cakes) need to be especially tender ..that is why almost all recipes call for the use of cake flour. But what is a "girl" got to do if she doesn't have  cake flour??? Just substitute 2 tablespoons of flour with the same amount of  corn starch for every cup of all purpose flour...a simple google search was responsible for this pearl of wisdom. Google will once gain come to your rescue if you don't have buttermilk ready . Leave that task for you guys !

Ingredients -

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 tbsp corn starch
2 eggs (room temperature)
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp red food coloring
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Cream cheese frosting to decorate

Method -
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line the muffin pan with cupcake liners . You will need two 12 count muffin pans..this recipe yields exactly 24 cupcakes.

Sieve the all purpose flour with the corn starch a couple of times to ensure proper mixing for the cake flour. Add the other dry ingredients -cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and whisk them .
Now,  cream the butter and sugar with the help of a hand mixer. . Add the vegetable oil to it followed by the eggs(one at a time ) and the vanilla extract . After mixing well, add the red food coloring and the vinegar. Mix again and now it is time to add the dry mixture and butter milk. Try to do add teh dry mixture in three batches alternating with the buttermilk . Never over mix once the flour mixture is added.

Now divide the batter equally among the cups of the pan.Also, make sure that they are about 2/3 rd filled . Bake them for 20-22  minutes or till a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.Cool on a wiring rack completely before starting with the frosting.

Frosting -
Fill a piping bag with the cream cheese frosting . Attach the Wilton tip no. 12 and pipe round swirls and top with glazed cherries. I used red and green in keeping with the holiday theme but you guys can go for your own choice of cupcake toppers . Give these buttery red velvet cupcakes a try and let me know how they turned out . Keep warm and keep baking !

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cherry Marmalade Fruit Cake and the Holidays Baking Frenzy

It's that time of the year again...time when supermarkets bring out their baking goods display right at the entrance to tempt us into baking . You can find anything ..say from the plastic gingerbread spatula to candied green cherries ...and speaking of glazed is also the time for fruit cakes . Fruit cakes, the quintessential  holiday cake ...raise your hand if the mere mention of it  rings back childhood memories of feasting on them or helping your mom beat the eggs in order to bake one ..fruit cakes for me takes me back to my convent school days , when they were given as a  Christmas treat complete with Christmas carols playing on the intercom.

No, I don't have the recipe for that particular fruit cake of my childhood , though it wouldn't hiurt to be in the possession of it .. purely for sentimental value. Enough of a trip down memory lane...coming back to the fruit cake mentioned in this blog ...This particular one does not require any pre soak , so if you are like me and end up doing things at the last possible moment , this  recipe is for you . Just make sure that apart from the usual baking ingredients , you also fetch some glazed cherries or canned ones, raisins and marmalade when you make the hurried trip to the grocery store. Without any more delay , here is the ingredient list...might come in handy on your visit.

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 cup quartered dried glazed Cherries
1 tbsp orange marmalade

Special Notes about Fruit Cakes - (make sure you read them)

Always coat your fruits with all purpose flour otherwise they will just sink to the bottom and you won't get them in a uniform manner in the cake.

Always bake them at lower temperatures for longer duration.

Method -

Drain the cherries from the sugar syrup , wash and dry well.We don't need it be wet and heavy otherwise it will just sink to the bottom of the cake.

Coat the dried cherries and raisins in all purpose flour (refer to notes above )

Also, as I like to remind my kids, the very first thing you do is pre heat your oven ..Did you really read the notes above? you know...that we 'll be baking this cake  at lower temperature ...320 degrees F .

Cream the butter and sugar together . remember the butter need to be at room temperature . Now add the eggs one at a time (also at room temperature . Beat well and then add the marmalade.

Now add the flour containing the cherries and raisins and just fold it in . Do not over beat  after adding the flour mixture.

Transfer to a well greased pan and bake for at least an hour . Cook on a wire cooling rack and glaze with marmalade if you so desire. Enjoy warm in the company of loved ones !

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Pinwheel Cookies and Christmas Cookie Platter

Life throws a curve ball sometimes....encountered one recently . Without going into much details , let's just say that it has not been a great year ..and when you are facing tough times or as I like to say have dark clouds hanging try to cling to mundane ordinary things that make you happy and restore some normalcy ...baking is one such "thing" keeps me sane and focused when things get chaotic !

Enough of a rant ...on to cheery things like baking pinwheels and getting  the Christmas cookie platter ready ... December is a great month for baking colorful cookies , so comes as no surprise  that my first addition to the Christmas platter are these pinwheel cookies. You may  also call them as "spin cookies " or "swirl cookies"...the possibilities are endless !

Wanted to bake them in the traditional holiday colors but hey ..what can you do if you simply run out of red and don't want to run out to buy it in gloomy weather ? So, here we are ..with somewhat muted colors but imbibed with full holiday spirit , pinwheel cookies.

Luckily, had all the other ingredients on hand. Yes, the butter and eggs were at room temperature  and had not forgotten to pre heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Here are all the things that you need as well as the steps involved to bake these holiday delights -

Ingredients -

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
 Method -

Sift all the dry ingredients - flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar .

  • Now add the  eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla extract .

Now add the flour mixture and continue to mix to form a dough like consistency . Take care as to not over mix. 

Shape the dough into a ball , cover it with cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Now , divide the dough into 2 equal parts,color one half green and the other orange . You may opt for any color of your choosing . To color, add a few drops of desired food coloring and knead the dough to achieve uniform color consistency. Cover it with cling wrap and keep refrigerated for at least 2 hours.

Unwrap the green dough and roll it  between sheets of wax paper till it is about 1/4th of inch in thickness . Do the same with the orange dough and now place it on top of the green one. Beginning from the edge, start rolling in a log shape . Cover and refrigerate over night .

Cut the log into thin  rounds , place on a baking sheet and keep it in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 12 - 18 minutes. 

Cool on a wire rack and enjoy ! 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lazy Saturday and Spinach Soup !

Finally , one of those Saturdays which come after a major this case the one after the Thanksgiving potluck and Black Friday madness . After gorging on all the food on the aforementioned holiday and being invited to a dinner party the following day body was demanding some mercy be shown and something light be consumed. It's not that I didn't pay heed it to it's first warning bell..remember the green smoothie I made with kale and left over cranberries but having biryani on the previously mentioned dinner party  didn't help at all.

Anyways, coming back to the lazy Saturday , half of which was spent lazing around ..doing nothing and close to the other half on vacillating on what light soup should be prepared ? Asking my kids would not have helped matters at all  as they are extremely biased towards the cream of mushroom one. Green came to my rescue soup..simple ! Spinach Soup was meant to be.

Here is my adapted recipe, the original having being published in March 2004 edition of the Good Food magazine. I chose to spice it up a bit and leave out the cream (remember my craving for something light ).

Ingredients -
3 tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 potato chopped in chunks
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups spinach , roughly chopped
1 tsp garam masala or curry powder
Grated cheese for garnish


In a saucepan , fry the onion and garlic in the butter for 5-6 minutes.
Now add the chopped potato pieces and cook for a minute.
To this, add  the vegetable stock and let it simmer for 8-10 minutes.
Pour in the milk , when it simmers add half of the spinach.
Cover it with a lid and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
Keep aside to cool
Pour the cooled mixture in a blender with the remaining spinach.
After a run in the blender , return to the sauce pan to reheat .
Season it with salt , pepper and garam masala .
While serving, add  a dash of lemon juice and garnish with grated cheese (I used light cheddar) .

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Brunch and the Upside Down Cranberry Cake

We are celebrating our Thanksgiving the typical desi way ..yes, you guessed it right ..we are having a potluck party . Before you dismiss it as another boring affair , let me point out that we are doing something "different".. we are having a Thanksgiving brunch instead of the traditional dinner. While you may feel the need to compliment us for doing something "hatke" let me assure that it was more out of necessity. Black Friday sales have now formally invaded Thursday Thanksgiving dinner ..the lure of the all deals was just too hard to moved the potluck  early  from dinner to brunch.

Cranberries are a staple of any Thanksgiving feast and I for one wasn't making an exception ? Have to admit that I was getting kinda bored with eating this antioxidant rich food as sauce only ...that too store bought are just nothing more than sugar jellies. Google came to my rescue and the possibility of baking  a  cranberry upside down cake got embedded in my brain. My inspiration came from here though as usual , I made a few variations ... more out of necessity , I should admit.

For the topping ,  simply caramelized the sugar with butter and poured it in a greased pan (well greased one actually as we don't want the cranberries sticking to the pan). Next, covered  it up with cranberries ...the recipes calls for 8 oz but I just sprinkled handfuls on  the poured sugar and butter layer..see the pic below.

A word of caution for the cake batter. The recipe calls for separating the eggs . Once the yolks have been incorporated and the flour added, the egg whites are folded in the end.  The whites have be to beaten till they form stiff peaks before they are folded.. That means, your blades should be clean while handling the whites. If you have an extra set of blades , now is the time for them to come in handy . You could do what I did, used a hand whisk but you are going to need a lot of muscle power.
Here is a pic of the cake batter before adding the whites.

After folding in the whites, kept it in the oven and it was ready in 35 minutes. Was very nervous while inverting it after the necessary cooling time but my fears were laid to rest when it easily came out with no cranberries sticking (remember to grease well). This is a cake that should be served hot from the oven  but since the potluck was the next day , just stored it outside in a cake container and warmed it in a microwave for 2 minutes.

The recipe also calls for adding cream of tartar to stabilize the whites. Didn't have any so substituted that with equal measure of lemon juice . Judging by the very positive feedback I got for this cake , don't think this substitution affected the cake a bit. The cake turned out better than I expected. The sugar and butter caramelized the cranberries and the crumb was soft and spongy . Give it a try this holiday season !

Ingredients -

5 tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
8 oz ( I used as much as required to cover it up)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter at room temperature.
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs separated
1/2 cup of milk at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar ( I used lemon juice ).

Method -
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease your cake pan .
Take a small sauce pan and put the butter and sugar in it . Keep the flame at medium and stir .
Continue stirring for a few minutes after the sugar has dissolved and the  butter has dissolved.
Now pour the caramelized mixture in the greased pan.
Cover it evenly with the cranberries.

Now for the cake batter.

Sieve all the dry ingredients -flour,salt and baking powder and set aside.
In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar till soft and fluffy .
Add the vanilla extract followed by the egg yolks.
Continue to beat while adding the flour mixture ( in three parts) alternately with the milk .
Now add the dry ingredients , making sure as to not over mix.
Ina clean separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and lemon juice till stiff peaks are formed.
Fold the egg whites into the cake mixture with the help of spatula in two additions.
transfer the cake batter into the pan at bake for 35-40 minutes or  till a toothpick comes out clean .
 ( mine was done in 35 and had pulled away from the sides too).
Cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack and invert it on a plate or cake stand.
Best when served hot.