Friday, October 14, 2016

Pumpkin Bread and Retro Fashion Show

My love for books has always found a place here in my baking blog. If you have been following me  , you probably know that I almost always bake for my monthly book club meeting  and thus the mention of the current read finds it way in my blog posts. Like always, I am looking forward to the Halloween themed cake for my next horror genre inspired book club meeting but for now , let's focus on another of my pursuits -taking part in a retro fashion show for Durga Pujo celebrations. I can't claim participating in fashion shows as a hobby pursuit or passionate inclination but after forty , one tends to be adventurous and with some real positive encouragement from friends , one tends to find oneself wearing high heels and walking down the stage .
Our retro fashion show was a tribute to Bangla cinema and as such we had to focus on some dancing too . That difficult task was accomplished by taking lessons from more experienced friends in the few practice sessions we had . When it came my turn to host one of those session, I decided that we all deserved some rich pumpkin bread for all the hard work we were putting in . It's official pumpkin season , why then think of  something else. I have baked  eggless healthy pumpkin bread earlier but this time , my mood was more along the lines of baking a traditional comfort food one , something to warm the soul as well as the body in this chilly October weather .It did it's job perfectly -tasting decadently rich and making us relaxed enough to chat without worrying about time on a week night .
So, next time you guys have girl friends over for fashion show practice or book club meeting , do give this recipe a try . Your friends will love you after eating it . To up the "oomph" factor of this bread, you could also add 1 cup chocolate chips along with the nuts. I left that out cause I had already made some pumpkin chocolate muffins last year  and as such wasn't particularly inclined to them . Another variation to the recipe which you guys can do is to add some pumpkin pie spice . Do remember to leave out the nutmeg powder then . Whether you decide to bake it exactly same or go for variation , would love to hear back from you . Enjoy the wonderful hues of the season and keep baking.

Ingredients -

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin
1/3 cup water
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2  tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts

Method -
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease as well as flour a loaf pan.

In a large bowl , mix all the wet ingredients - eggs, oil , water, sugar , pumpkin and water.

While stirring , add the dry ingredients - flour, baking soda , baking powder , salt ,nutmeg and vanilla.
Now, gently mix in the walnuts with the help of a spatula.
Transfer the mixture uniformly in the loaf pan with the help of a spoon. Sprinkle some coarse sugar on the top if so desired.
Bake for about  an hour (40-60 mins) until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean .

Remove from the oven , cool on a wire wire and cut into individual slices when done.
Serve with a beverage of your choice and enjoy.

Here are link to my other pumpkin recipes-
Pumpkin Donuts
Pumpkin Chocolate Muffins
Pumpkin Ginger Scones
Eggless Healthy Pumpkin Bread

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Cherry Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping for German Themed Book Club Pick !

Gentle Readers of my blog might  be familiar with the fact that yours truly runs a local book club . We meet once a month , discuss the chosen book a "little" and gorge on  super yummy food a "lot". The latter is due to the fact that all members are such talented cooks as well as being ardent book lovers. Though , we might not admit it outright but the call of the food at the meeting is more than the lure of our current read . Well, to be fair , we all love books without question but I guess we are even bigger foodies. As luck would have it , our members come from diverse parts of India so our book club food boasts of having the finest culinary treats  from each region .Yes, we are blessed that way . Tempted to join our book club ? I hope you read the part where I mentioned that it was "local".So, unless you reside somewhere in the Research Triangle Area , the chances of joining it are negligible . I would strongly encourage you to start your own and fervently pray that the members are united by the love of food as well as books.

The above pic is from (I  think you must have guessed by now) our meeting where I  decided to make cherry coffee cake with streusel topping in keeping with the German theme of  our current read "the Book Thief ". For those unfamiliar with streusel , let me enlighten you . The word itself means "to sprinkle" and refers to the crumb topping , the kind you see even in the pictured cake.The topping is made by mixing soft butter, sugar and butter with a hint of cinnamon and is strewn on top of the cake or any rich pastry product. Though it is called cherry coffee cake, the coffee is missing from the ingredient list . Coffee cake is a general term for a cake served along with tea /coffee and having a streusel topping. The streusel might be in form of a swirl and the cake itself might have a filling of fruit and nuts.I decided to do away with the nuts because I was filling them with cherry fruit which in my opinion tastes divine on its own. The fruit filling came in form of a can which can be purchased from the super market as pie filling.

Ingredients :
2 cups flour divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon,divided
1/2 cup butter divided into tablespoons
1 cup sugar divided
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup cream
1 (21 ounces) can cherry pie filling
1 teaspoon water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
In a bowl, sift the dry ingredients ( 1 3/4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon) and set aside.
In another bowl, mix 5 tablespoons butter, 3/4 cup sugar, until creamy, with the help of an electric mixer on high speed.
Now blend in the eggs one at a time along with the vanilla.
With the help of a spatula, fold in the flour mixture alternating with the cream until well combined.
Transfer the batter into the greased pan making a well for the cherries. Now carefully spoon the cherry filling over the batter.
Keep it baking in the oven for about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, we'll move on to making the streusel. 
In a bowl combine the remaining 1/2 cup flour, sugar, butter, and cinnamon until it has a crumbly texture. 
After the 40 minutes take the cake pan out of the oven and sprinkle the streusel on top.

Bake for another 20 minutes and check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the middle of the cake and checking if it comes out clean.
Enjoy it hot preferably in the company of loved ones or friends.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Eggless Avacado Cake and Healthy Indulgences !

Nothing can be more indulging than devouring decadently rich  chocolate cake !! Everyone deserves a good (maybe oversized ) portion of the above mentioned indulgence Feeling guilty  is almost expected afterwards but what  if we could do  away with it altogether? I mean what if we could eat the cake and show the guilt the exit door . Yes, it is possible..if you bake yourself an eggless butter-less decadent avacado chocolate cake. Avacado in a cake ,you say ? Where do you think the rich decadence  come from ? Addition of the avacado make the texture like carrot cake making it a prime candidate for being a healthy treat .
Healthy is what I had in mind while deciding on a cake recipe to bake on the occasion of my father-in-law's 85th birthday . This eggless butter-less fit the bill perfectly . It won many compliments and no one could believe that avacado was one of the ingredients !! Even hubby dearest who also happens to be my most fierce critic gave it a literal "Thumbs Up" !! You guys can imagine my delight !! This recipe is a keeper and for this reason alone I am updating it on the blog with an alacrity that I haven't displayed in recent months. 

The original inspiration comes from here but I was reluctant to make two 9 inch ones (two much of a good thing ?) so look the liberty of modifying the recipe ..essentially halving it . The results was scrumptious nevertheless . If you are in a mood for overindulgence, follow the original recipe otherwise this one should do the trick. Make sure the avacado is mashed smoothly , the flour is aerated properly and the oven temperature is just right . The sugar quantity can also be lowered to eliminate the guilt factor altogther so please decrease the quantity at your own discretion . 

Ingredients - 
1 1/2 all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
1/2 avacado , mashed to smooth paste
1 cup water
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar

Method -
Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C . Grease a cake pan and flour it with cocoa powder.
Take a  bowl and whisk the dry ingredients - flour, cocoa powder , baking powder , baking soda and salt.
In another bowl , whisk the wet ingredients -oil, mashed avacado , water , vinegar and vanilla.
Once properly mixed , add the sugar .
Now, add the this mixture to the flour mixture and mix well .
Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for about 30 minutes.
Take out of the oven , let cool for 10 minutes and then cut into desired shape.
Enjoy with a beverage of your choice.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Lavender Bread and Reading Garden Spells !

Any ardent admirer of my blog will quickly tell you how baking and books (not strictly in that order) are the great passions of my life. Baking soothes me and books give me wings . They may sound opposing forces by my above mentoned description but trust me that I absolutely adore when they combine. Luckily , due to my monthly book club , the coming together of my great passions is  becoming a frequent occurence (as evident from my previous posts). This month , though  , I hit the jackpot !!! Not the  money kind...just recipe in a fiction book kind. Make it "present on the author website" kind but you get the point ..yes? The author in question is Sarah Adler and her recipe of lavender bread won the taste test hands down by my fellow book members.

As presumed by the title , healing and magical power of herbs play a essential part in this feel good story about two sisters learning to trust each other in a small town setting with a fair bit of Southern charm thrown in . The fact that the elder sister is gifted at baking with edible flowers with healing properties only adds to the charm and appeal of this book. Like the female lead in the book , yours truly has tried using herbs in her bakes like rosemary,thyme etc  but it was the mention of lavender in the book that intrigued me . It is said to raise spirits and prevent bad decisions resulting from fatigue . What I prefer is it's calming aroma so when I  came across this recipe , knew immediately that this was what I would be baking for the next book club meeting . Apt too, don't you guys agree ?
With my next bake firmly in mind, I set on my quest to find some edible culinary lavender. A quick online search yielded the fact that Amazon was the preferred seller but I wanted to purchase locally . Scared of using too much and getting a soapy taste to my bake , I preferred buying in lesser amounts (so that the temptations to add more would be lesser) than the bulk amount being sold at Amazon. Trip to my local Trader's Joe proved fruitless but luckily my other local natural food store , Earth Fare carried it . I bought a meager amount (just a little more than required) and it only cost me 46 cents. Take a lesson from my experience and stick to your local store. That being said , I wished the quantity was more gong by the heavenly aroma in my kitchen after the bake. I promptly used the leftover lavendar in my daily quota of green tea.Do try that out also sometime.

Ingredients -
3/4 cup milk
3 tbsp of finely chopped culinary lavender 
6 tbsp room temperature butter
1 cup granulated sugar 
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs 
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Grease and flour a loaf pan and also pre heat the oven at 325 degrees F.

Take the milk and lavender in a sauce pan on a medium heat . Heat to a simmer , remove from flame and let cool slightly .
In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time till the mixture is fluffy and light.

Sift the flour , baking powder and salt and then fold in the cream mixture alternating with the milk and lavender mixture till well blended.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for a good 50 minutes to an hour till a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy .

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Savory Spinach Cake and Good to be Back !

Oh Boy ! Guess who is back ? Yours truly of course !!.If you guys are reading this , then I have been successful in breaking the bloggers block( lot of b words ..I know) though full credit should go to  the lady who stopped me at the hasya kavi sammelan yesterday , introduced herself and mentioned how she enjoyed visiting my blog and trying out the recipes . Needless to say  this conversation  uplifted and inspired me enough to write a new blog post and here I am sharing with you a savory recipe of spinach cake which I made for a book club meeting last month and was an instant hit . Fellow book lovers have asked for the recipe on more than one occasion  and now, I can finally share it. Apologies for the delay but the migraine headaches were winning the battle against my already weakened enthusiasm. Hopefully , the next rounds will all be in my favor for I really hope to share my baking journey with my gentle readers.
I did not take a break from baking was just the blogging which suffered. As such , I have many new recipes to share with you but for now let's concentrate on this savory spinach cake. You might be amused/surprised to read the ingredient list for this one. It has grated onions and green chillies to name a few. Did I mention curry powder ? The result is a finger licking good savory snack which can be enjoyed guilt free with a hot cup of kadak chai. Don't wait for a book club meeting to bake it , anytime you have friends over , this serves as a wonderful appetizer choice. It is quite filling as well , so you can limit those other greasy fried  snacks . I have already baked it twice as evident from the pics - once in a quiche pan and the other time in a rectangular casserole. You are free to go with your baking pan of choice.
If curious about the book club selection , I thoroughly enjoyed this 600 page historical fiction (our chosen genre for May) though keeping track of all the characters was quite a tedious job . The setting was in the court of Henry the VIII and the expected drama made for an interesting read. NPR has  a successful TV series of "Wolf Hall " and I am already looking forward to watching it. Yes , I am sucker for series inspired by books . Words can't do justice to how much I enjoyed watching "Poirot" and then re-reading the books. Books and baking are my passion and I can easily switch between the two .So, coming back to the latter , please note down the recipe for this savory spinach cake . You can also call it spinach corn cake if you are so inclined. 

Ingredients -
3 cups finely chopped spinach
1 can (400gm) can of cream style corn 
1 tsp chopped garlic
2 chopped green chillies
1 onion grated
3 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup cake flour ( 7 tbsp flour + 1 tbsp corn starch)
1/2 cup semolina or corn meal
1/2 cup chickpea flour (besan)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp curry powder
Sesame seeds for decorating

Method -
Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F . Grease and flour a quiche pan or any baking pan of your choice.
(I baked this cake  twice got a chance to use both )

Sift the flours ( corn meal (or semolina) , cake flour and chickpea) in a bowl and add salt, baking powder and curry powder  . 
Add the onions , corn , spinach , garlic paste and green chillies. Mix all of them well.
In a separate bowl , whisk the  room temperature eggs , oil and milk.
Pour the egg mixture into the flour and veg mixture, It will have a thick consistency . 
Pour the batter into the baking pan and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top.

Bake for a good 45- 50 mins till a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let it cool , cut into small pieces and enjoy .