Sunday, August 30, 2015

Chocolate Barfi and the Mithai Bucket List !

Mithai bucket list ..Is that the first time you have heard about it ? Let me assure that it exists albeit in my mind . Also, if I have not mentioned it before , let it be known to  the gentle reader that I am a Gemini and a typical one at that . In simpler terms it means that I get bored with repetition and to keep my creative juices flowing , I have to try something new now and then. Suffering from a case of the aforementioned, I decided to do something about my imaginary mithai preparation list . Why chocolate barfi ? Simple answer - I love it !!! I am not a very big chocolate fan( truly) but chocolate barfi is something that I simply  cannot resist. The appeal may be due to the quite obvious fusion of traditional and western flavors. So, can you guys then blame me for giving it the honor of being the first mithai to try in my bucket list ? 
Determined in my resolve and with a fair bit of excitement thrown in , I visited the local grocery store to buy the main ingredient - Khoya or mawa . Milk powder simply does not do for me. I have this annoying habit of doing things the proper way, however lengthy and tedious the task may become as a result of it.Seem to have "inherited" the habit from my hubby  . Husbands are always a convenient excuse when you have to blame a bad habit on someone else. I really hope you guys agree. Anyways, armed with the khoya and back home. I kept on delaying the obvious task...a certain apprehension at trying something new might have been the culprit. See, I don't blame my husband always!!  
Baking is something that I am comfortable in. A new bake, however daunting it may be does not faze me but mithai is altogther a different ball game. But shirking form the mithai preparation duty  was impossible as I had already announced it on my FB page and few friends were eagerly waiting for the pics. So , just took a deep breath, evoked the Almighty for courage and luck and started with the preparation. 
Note : I like to think that I was moderately successful in my endeavor so it won't seem out of place for me to advice you guys on how best to get the desired results . I learnt a few things and armed with that knowledge , I  do believe we  can achieve  even better precision . First , go in a for a smaller tray for setting the mithai. The more compacted, the more firmer the result . I also found the chocolate covering  too thick for my taste , so took the libery of adjusting the proportions.

350 grams -Khoya or mawa  (1 pack available in most US grocery stores)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp semi sweet cocoa powder
2 oz semi sweet cooking chocolate (half a bar)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp milk

Grate the khoya for uniform consistency.
Now , in a non stick pan over  medium heat  , add the khoya and sugar and start mixing them . Make sure that you stir them continuously otherwise the khoya will stick to the bottom.
After 7-8 minutes of continuous stirring , you will get the desired consistency . Remove from heat and divide the mixture into two parts .
Take a small tray and line it with parchment paper . Take one half of the mixture and spread it evenly in the tray with the help of the spatula.let stand for 15 minutes or more.
While it is setting,  to the other half of the mixture, add 2 tbsp of cocoa powder and stir well to blend.
Spread the mixture on top of the plain mixture with the help of a spatula.(see second last pic). Let it set and cool down for 15 - 20 minutes.
Now ,in a saucepan over medium heat , add the semi -sweet chocolate , milk and butter and stir to make a smooth paste.
Pour the paste on top of the cocoa layer and spread evenly. Let it stand for 1-2 hours (can refrigerate too) and then cut  into individual pieces and enjoy !

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Funfetti Cake and Happy Occasions !

The fondest memories of my childhood involves me creaming the butter and sugar whenever my mom decided to bake a cake. That used to happen often ...a visit from any of our countless relatives was reason enough to indulge in it . Mother was a wonderful cook and loved baking too ,even though we didn't have a traditional oven . Her Prestige aluminium tandoor used to do the dual work of making Naans as well as cake and boy  were they delicious!! I never bothered with the recipes though  thinking I would have plenty of time to jot them down later. Life has a way of teaching us lessons and relations which we take for granted are cut short one day !!!! 
Anyways, on my last visit to India my Bhabhi shared my mom's favorite cake recipe . It turned out to be the traditional sponge cake recipe .She worked her magic on it and turned it a culinary wonder . Maybe it was all those happy memories associated it  which made it acquire a cult status bakewise . The festive occasion of Rakhi seemed to a good enough excuse to give the recipe a try again . Just to make it more colorful , I added some funfetti . Nothing like a good dose of color to mark an Indian celebration. The original idea was to make a tutti fruti sponge cake but I made the mistake of giving a choice between it and funfetti to  a bunch of my favorite girls. You know who won now, right ?

Ingredients -
6 oz all purpose flour
6 oz sugar
6 oz butter (unsalted and room temperature)
2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs (room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup funfetti
pinch of salt

Method -
Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease as well as flour the cake pan .
In a bowl , sieve all your dry ingredients - flour,baking powder and salt. You may even whisk it for aeration. Set the bowl aside for now.
In a separate bowl , cream the room temperature butter and sugar till it turns pale in color.You may either use an electric mixture or use muscle power for the same. Take care as to not over mix.
Now, introduce the eggs one at a time and mix them till well incorporated. Add the vanilla extract as well.
Now , add the previously sieved dry ingredients (flour,baking powder and salt) in small portions and fold them in the batter with the help of a spatula.

Mid way through it add the funfetti , and fold it in as well along with the rest of the dry ingredients.
Transfer the batter to a greased pan and bake in the center shelf for 30 -35 till a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy in the company of loved ones.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sundried Tomato Cheese Biscuits and Mountain Getaway

First the mountain getaway. It was to a "quite up there in the wilderness" log cabin in the Smokies. We had booked it months in advance and quite forgotten about it . As such it "sneaked" upon us and we had to "leave " things  mid way and head for the mountains ! It was a treacherous climb (very narrow unpaved road)to the cabin which did not have Wi-Fi access (that being the whole point of the escape) and as such the blog post had to wait even though the pics of this bake had already made the round of many baking groups. Came back yesterday and with all the back to school craziness and a doctor's appoitment thrown in , didn't get any chance to pen the blog down. As it happens, when things get delayed , you have to really force yourself to sit down and finish the task . If you guys are reading the blog post , then it seems I have been successful in the aforementioned.
Here is a view from our cabin top . Not pictured are the crackers I was having with my morning cup of tea. Yes, they did make the trip to the Smokies. I had baked them the night before and even though we had enthusiastically gobbled dowm more than a few, there were still some left to take along. Having them while sippig tea and gazing at the tranquil scene in front of us was pure bliss. They disappeared  fast with our tea sessions and I was  seriously tempted to bake another batch right there in our vacation cabin. The fact that I might be hard pressed to find the required  ingredients at this elevation quashed my baking plans.
Coming back to the bake ,what I really love about these biscuits is the fact that the dough for them is excatly the same as the Rosemary Poppy Seed Crackers I had made earlier. Knowing this fact , do you know what any wise man/;woman would do?  Make the dough and then divide it in half. Use one for the poppy seed biscuits and the other for the sun dried tomato . This is exactly what I did too!! Were you in any doubt about me not being wise? The poppy seed crackers were baked the same day I made the dough , but for the sundried one, after adding the tomato paste and cheese , I rolled them to the desired thickness and then froze them for later use . That way, I'm ensured of a fresh bake when next I am in the mood for something savory .
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter ( 1 stick)
2 tsp salt 
1 tbsp sun dried paste
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 oz water (more if needed)
2 eggs ( 1 for dough , one for brushing)
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

In a bowl , take the flour, butter , salt , one egg and with the water , mix well for about 5 minutes till you have dough like consistency.
Knead the sun dried tomato paste and cheddar cheese into the dough on a lightly floured surface . (You may also opt for diving the dough in two parts and freezing one half)
On a lightly floured surface , roll the dough to about 3 mm thickness with the help of a rolling pin. Transfer the rolled dough to a parchmnet paper lined baking sheet , cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for about half an hour. (You may cut in half it exceeds the length of the baking tray ).
Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees F . With the help of a cookie cutter , cut small rounds from the refrigerated dough and brush them with beaten egg.On the top , sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 10-15 minutes till golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy with a beverage of your choice.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rosemary Poppy Seeds Biscuits or Should I say Crackers ?

Yes, before faithful blog followers  point out , let me admit it myself ..I still had some rosemary left and while not fresh had to be incorporated into a bake. Not just any other bake...mind you..a savory bake ..why?? ..because I was once again bitten by the savory bug. After baking so many sweet treats, I have developed a temporary aversion to them . Let me admanantly admit that this aversion is temporary (has happened one time too many ) , so you guys won't have to wait too long for a sweet bake. For now though, I had to satiate my savory craving and these rosemary  poppy seeds "biscuits" seemed the logical choice for my next baking adventure.

The recipe for this savory bake has been adapted from a one by "Mr.Killer Blue Eyes"  A.K.A Paul Hollywood himself . yes..I am bitten by "The Great British Bakeoff " bug too.Talking of all this biting , would like to state my ultimate fantasy. Of having  Mr.Blue Eyes taking a bite off my bake ..fixing his smoldering gaze on me and stating something complimentary . Till that happens, let me content myself by adapting his recipe for my bake. Rosemary being an addition to these biscuits was my only adaptation and you guys know the reason behind adding the herb.Personally , I like to think that the rosemary really enhanced the bake so try not to omit it.
Note : You can either use the entire dough  or freeze one half after rolling it. That way , you can be assured of a fresh out of the oven batch when the cravings hit you. For this baking adventure, I used the other half of the dough for making sundried tomato cheese biscuits and froze it for later use. A  random check of my freezer drawer will always result in dough of various seasoning resting there. The authenticity for the same can be confirmed by Mr. Roy who has to occasionaly rummage through them while trying to locate something in the freezer. 
Ingredients -
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter ( 1 stick)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp poppy seeds
2 tbsp dried rosemary
2 oz water (more if needed)
2 eggs ( 1 for dough , one for brushing)

Method - In a bowl , take the flour, butter , salt , one egg and with the water , mix well for about 5 minutes till you have dough like consistency.
Knead the rosemary-poppy seeds into the dough on a lightly floured surface . (You may also opt for diving the dough in two parts and freezing one after rolling it).
On a lightly floured surface , roll the dough to about 3 mm thickness with the help of a rolling pin. Transfer the rolled dough to a parchmnet paper lined baking sheet , cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for about half an hour. 
Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees F . With the help of a cookie cutter , cut small rounds from the refrigerated dough and brush them with beaten egg.

Transfer to a baking tray and bake for 10- 15 minutes till they turn golden brown in color. Remove from the oven , cool on a wire rack and enjoy with  a beverage of your choice .

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Fresh Rosemary Bread and Thoughtful Gifts !

I'll be the first to admit that I don't possess a green thumb. My knowledge of gardening is practically zilch  but that doesn't stop me from dreaming of going to my imaginary herb garden and just picking a few and incorportaing them in my bakes. My imagination is quite vivid and advanced in that regard-- I can even smell the fresh herbs lending a heavenly aroma to my kitchen . What pure bliss can I conjure ..right ? Anyways, coming back to reality , the closest I come to getting this spiritual experience is when a good friend takes pity and gifts me some fresh herbs. That does happen and I bless them a million times.

My latest blessings were for a friend who sent me some fresh romsemary from her garden . The sight of them sent me into a baking frenzy . Make it bread baking frenzy . There is no other bake that can do justice to rosemary than freshly baked home bread, The aroma and flavor are simple divine not to emntion the extreme satisfaction you get from baking your own bread . I now quite a few people who would like to bake bread but get too intimidated by the process. That's where I don my bread fairy avatar and try my best to help . My blog post is a humble attempt at the same.

The key to baking bread is making sure that the yeast does it's magic . Very often people tend to use hot water and that kills the yeast . Warm water is ideal and best way to ensure a good rise is to stir in the yeast in 1/4 th cup of water and 2tsp of sugar till bubbles form . Let stand till foamy (about 5 minutes ) then mix the rest of the ingredients and knead it into dough . Leave it to "proof" for an hour till it doubles in size and then  gaive it the desired shape and again let it "proof" for an hour . The second proofing is very essential for a good bread bake.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup water divided
2 tsp sugar 
1 1/4 oz yeast packet
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
4 -5 tbsp fresh rosemary (use less if putting dried rosemary )
extra olive oil , kosher salt and rosemary for topping
Take a bowl and stir in the yeast , sugar to 1/4 cup warm water . Let stand for 5 minutes till you can see bubbles rising.

Now, add the flour , 1 tbsp oilve oil ,rosemary,salt and the remaining 3/4 water and stir it all in .
Now , we need to knead the dough . You can either use teh stand mixer with the dough attachment  and let it do it's job for 8 minutes or use your own hands. I have made this both ways with beautiful results.
Transfer the dough into a greased bowl . Cover it and keep it in a warm place to rise for atleast 1 hour.

 For me it took close to 90 minutes to double in size.
Divide the dough into four equal parts as shown. Now, form free forming balls by taking one dough at a time. folding the top and the bottom in teh middle  the sides as well to form a square . Turn the dough over  and then tuck the sides to form a ball.
Repea the steps with the remaining dough to form four balls . Take two baking trays lined with parchemnet paper and put the balls , two each on either and let rise uncovered for another 1 hour.
This is how they should look after second proofing. Now, bake them at a pre heated 400 degrees F or 205 degrees C oven.
After 10 minutes, take them our, brush the remaining olive oil and more chopped rosemary as well as coarse salt. Transfer the oven and bake for another 10 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy fresh !