Friday, October 30, 2015

Eggless Chocolate Bundt Cake and Mystery Book Club Meetings

One productive thing that was accomplished this year was the beginning of our local book club. Glad to report that we are already looking forward to our second monthly meeting  , no small feat considering that the formation itself took quite some time . But now that we have met , the "ice has been broken" and the next month meeting all planned with attendance confirmed , the future of the book club looks secure. talking of book club meetings , how can you leave cake behind ? A sinfully rich cake is an absolute requirement even more than managing to finish the book before the meeting . Truthfully !  The cake has to be accompanied by loads of chai , which is generously taken care by a fellow book club member . We can count on the others to bring more delectable treats and so you gentle reader get an idea that food is quite an important part of our book club.  

For the first book club meeting  at my place, I made the eggless dates cake . Not to toot my own horn , but everyone appreciated it . Encouraged by it's success, decided to continue with  the eggless route this time too. Just ditched the dates and loaded on the chocolate . The result was this decadent treat which could be described as a true chocolate lovers delight. Just be generous with pouring the dark chocolate topping as well. Over time , it will seep through and keep the cake moist . The recipe I followed is widely available online , though the only thing I would add to it would be some extra sugar if making for a get togther. Also, while greasing the bundt pan, remember to sprinkle with cocoa powder and not flour if you do not want ugly white streaks on the cake.
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt.
1 cup water
9 tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp vinegar
Method -
Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F . Grease and flour a bundt pan . Use cocoa powder for the same instead of all purpose flour for the color.
Sift the flour and cocoa powder in a bowl .
Gently whisk in the sugar, brown sugar, salt and baking soda.
Now, whisk the wet ingredients - water, oil , vanilla extract and vinegar in well so as to form a smooth batter.

Pour into the greased bundt pan and bake for 40-45 minutes till a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning it out.

Pour some warm dark chocolate topping and enjoy while warm.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Eggless Sweet Potato Banana Bread and Weekend Festivities

The much awaited and anticipated part of the year is here . The festive season ..Not only is it a time for religious observances and fasting for some  but also of  social mingling .donning our best desi attire and indulging in scrumptious Indian mithai . I will admit that no baking can even come close to a well prepared desi mithai . If the above statement reeks of bias , so be it . Coming back to "it's a season theme " how can I not mention that it is the season for Durga Puja festivities too ? My first time being part of the same was after my marriage ( perks of being married to a Bengali ) and since then I have been fortunate to experience it both in India and various parts of US . While the location and few others things may vary , great Bengali cuisine served at Pujo has always been a constant.
Here in the Carolinas, we had our Pujo celebrations a tad  bit early but that didn't dampen our spirit a wee bit. It was a fun weekend where we sought Durga Thakur's blessings , mingled with friends , enjoyed some entertaining cultural activities ( even an art contest thrown it ..the sketches pictured above are my daughter's  practice work for the same) and gorged on some great Bengali cuisine. All this heavenly  and heavy eating made for a very 
lazy Monday followed by a craving for something healthy . A look at my fruits baskets made me aware of some over ripe bananas . That followed by the discovery of some lonesome sweet potato made me decide on baking it sweet potato banana bread. The oats were an afterthought in keeping with the healthy craving.

1 1/2 cup oats flour 
2 ripe bananas
1 medium steamed sweet potato
4 tbsp honey
1/2 cup apple sauce
1 tsp chai masala powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

Note :If you do not want to make it eggless, you can substitute the apple sauce foe one. Also, feel free to add more honey if you prefer it sweeter . The chai masala can be readily replaced by pumpkin pie spice if your taste vary from mine.

Method -
Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a loaf pan .

Prepare the oatmeal flour by just giving the oats few quick turns in the food processor.
In a bowl . mash the bananas and sweet potato with the help of a fork . Few chunks left are absolutely fine.
Now , add the applesauce , vanilla extract and chai masala. Blend it all in with the help of spatula.
Time to add the honey and olive oil . Once again , use the spatula to mix it well.
The dry ingredients go in last (oats flour, baking soda, baking powder ,salt ) . Fold them gently in , making sure as to not overmix.
Transfer into a greased loaf pan . Level it with the back of spatula. You can sprinkle some almonds or any other nuts on top .(optional)
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy later as a slice for breakfast or with my beverage of choice- tea.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Pumpkin Choco Chip Muffins and Insane Breakfast Timing

I am not going to let go of pumpkin bakes so easily !! How can I when pumpkin chocolate muffins are yet to make their way on my blog? I know they should  have  found their  way sooner considering that I prefer healthy muffins as a good after  school snack and we are
 so near to finishing our first quarter there  but  somehow  I  have been interested in other bakes more . Let me get all philosophical and say that better late than never.So,here they are , occupying  their  rightful  place on my blog and deservedly so , considering that they taste  easy  feat for whole wheat healthy muffins to claim . Plus, we know when muffins taste good , kids don't mind the  vegetables  that go into their making which in this case is the not so humble pumpkin.

Muffins anyways are a godsend if you or anyone in your family follows insane breakfast timing. My son has to leave for school at the crack of dawn and as such having a tray of healthy muffins nearby is really and truly appreciated . Depending on the mood, they can be eaten as breakfast along with a glass of warm milk or packed along as snack to break the always fruit for snack routine. The chocolate chips in the healthy snacks do tend out bring the smiles and serve as a great reward for good behavior or to satisfy those dessert  cravings. Makes one feel less guilty especially when it is part of something healthy..atleast in my book it does.

1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice 
1/3 cup water
1 1/4 cup chocolate chips 
1/2 cup butter ( or 1 stick at room temperature)
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a muffin pan with non stick spray.
Sieve the dry ingredients - flour, pumpkin pie spice , salt, baking powder and baking soda in  a bowl and set aside. 
In a separate bowl ,cream the butter , sugar and vanilla extract till light and fluffy.
Now ,add the eggs one at a time making sure that they blend well.
Now add the pumpkin puree and mix well with the help of a spatula.
Take the sieved dry ingredients and fold it in the batter alternately with  the water making sure to start and end with the dry ingredients.
Now add the 1 cup of chocolate chips to the batter and mix them in the batter with the spatula.
Fill the greased muffin cups with the batter making sure that they are 2/3 rd filled. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of chips on top.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy with chai or milk .
Check out my other pumpkin bakes here - Pumpkin Scones and Pumpkin Donuts !

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pumpkin -Ginger Scones and the British Fixation !

To say that I am besotted by all things British would be a very accurate way of describing my fixation with it . Be it the incomparable British mysteries of the likes of Hercule Poirot , Victorian romances covered by Barbara Cartland or quintessential British baking as demonstrated by Delia Smith and Mary Berry , I need my daily fix of it all . The gentle reader might be compelled to ask as to how pumpkin scones fit in this fixation . Well , scones are decidedly British (at least the sweet ones ) and as regards pumpkin ..well you just have to follow my blog to know my current obsession with them . When I am not decorating them with acrylic paint for fall decor, I use the puree to make pumpkin donuts or pumpkin quick bread . 
(Particularly proud of this painted pumpkin )

British scones differ from American ones in the fact that while the latter serve more like a "bread " and are enjoyed with savory , the former are sweet and enjoyed with a nice cup of tea. Traditionally , they are made with either whole wheat or oats but for this recipe , I have used a combination of whole wheat and all purpose flour..If you want your scones to be  softer, use only all purpose flour. I like mine to be a little coarser , not to mention healthier ..but then again if is a rainy day and I'm craving scones , who knows which way I might lean flour wise ? This is where I got the recipe from usual some changes were done...pumpkin pie spice was added, more maple syrup and butter were added albeit small amounts ..the scones with the original recipe turned out quite bland and dry . 

Note regarding Candied Ginger - The recipe calls for candied ginger, don't fret if you don't have any .I made it at home by adding 1/2 cup of chopped ginger to 3 cups of water to which 1 cup of sugar was added . It was let to simmer for 30 minutes till the ginger was tender ,then was drained and left to dry . Honest admission - I cheated here ..the recipe calls for equal parts of sugar and water to glue them together ..I just got scared of the large quantity of sugar so used 1/3 ie 1 cup. If you want the authentic flavor /taste of candied ginger , stick to the equal ratio of sugar and water and remember to roll it into the sugar after fully drying it .Also, cut the ginger a bit more chunkier , mine was very thin as I personally dislike big chunks in my scones .
Ingredients -
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup candied ginger 
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup buttermilk (just add few drops of lemon juice to milk and let stand for 10-15 minutes)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
5 tbsp cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces

Method -
Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
In a bowl sift the dry ingredients -flours,salt , baking powder, baking soda and ground ginger.
Transfer the sifted ingredients to the food processor . Add the chopped cold butter and pulse the processor few times to distribute it evenly through the mixture . You can omit the food processor and use your finger tips to mix the butter in gently .
The mixture should have the consistency of coarse corn meal . Transfer it to a bowl.
In another small bowl , blend the pumpkin puree,maple syrup and butter milk . Add it to the flour-butter mixture along with the candied ginger. 
Give it 8-10 turns with a spatula until the dough just comes together.Make sure as to not over work the dough .
Transfer onto a slightly floured surface , press and shape into rectangular form .
Cut into squares ,cut the squares further diagonally to form  triangles .
Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes till lightly brown.
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy with a nice cup of tea .