Nothing gets me going like a good recipe and a new dish to bake. The planning, the excitement when the dish looks like its working out, the joy of seeing my family and friends gobble it up and eagerly looking forward to what I can bake next, everything about baking makes me happy (the messy kitchen counter top aside :p) Here's a peek into my kitchen, my cooking, my wonderland.


Thursday, 29 December 2011

Cream cheese snowmen

Goofy smiles
It's really cold out here and for once, I honestly thought, any colder, it would snow :D And speaking of snow, have I got a treat for you. I was on the lookout for visually appealing desserts, after my edible pencils and fondant bee run. That's when I chanced upon a picture of a snowman's head, edible and oh so cute. 
I decided to take it one step further and made snowmen and snow-women standing on a snow covered plate. What's more, I am sharing the recipe with you guys. Yes, the last few posts have been sans recipes, but I am making up for that :) 
This is a quick fix dessert as it is so easy to make and looks stunning. If you have kids around, get them involved in the process, it's just their kind of thing.


Mrs Snowman
Ingredients:
  1. Cream cheese frosting (I've already posted a recipe for this on my older posts which you can find here).
  2. Marie biscuits crushed (About 10 to 15 should do. Place them in a zip lock bag and pound away with a chapati belan or whatever you have in hand).
  3. Your favourite frosting to cover the snowmen with.
Method:
  • Mix the frosting and the powdered biscuits together to make a rough dough.
  • Shape them into balls, a bigger one for the bottom of the snowman and a smaller one for the head.
Eat me before I melt
  • Chill in the fridge for about half an hour.
  • Flatten out the bottom ball a bit so that the 'head' can sit on top firmly. 
  • Whip up a bunch of your favourite frosting and roll the balls in it or pour the frosting directly on the snowmen, making sure to leave a puddle below to mimic snow.
  • Pipe on some coloured frosting onto the heads and bodies, decorating them however you like. 
  • Serve chilled.

Friday, 16 December 2011

To 'Bee' or not to 'Bee'

Hi 'Bee'autiful
Saw a pic of bees and looked around for inspiration online and found the perfect one. Forgot which one it is exactly, so I can't post a link here, but I hope the pics are enough to give you guys an idea :) 

Honey I'm home :)
These are my first fondant figurines and I'm mighty tickled by how they turned out, especially without proper sugar modelling tools. From the back of bubble spoons to bottle caps that matched the sizes I needed, it was a kitchen raid all the way :)
These lil bees make great cupcake toppers like so:
Sitting pretty
Or also add a charming appearance to a cake. You can be as creative as you want with them. Remember, store them in an airtight container if you plan on using them later. I tried making the cake look like a somewhat beehive and placed one cutie pie in the center. Try your own combinations and don't forget, let me know how they turn out. For any tips/queries, leave a comment and I shall gladly help you in any way I can :)
My makeshift bee hive


Friday, 9 December 2011

Edible Pencils

Frosty Pencils
Hit a creative nerve and came up with these beauties and I HAD to share them with you  :) Don't they look too good to eat? No recipe this time, just the pics :) 
Smooth Operator
Still perfecting these coloured pencils, so once I get them perfect, I might share the recipe with you guys. I currently have two versions of them. The frosty ones and the smooth ones. Do let me know what you'll think of them. Your comments are really appreciated :)
Keep them or eat them?


Monday, 28 November 2011

Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Try it and you will be hooked
So here's the thing, since I was a kid, tomatoes and bananas would make me go eww. Slowly, that changed, I still don't like bananas, won't have them, but tomatoes, I kinda like their taste when they are cooked. I absolutely can't eat raw tomatoes even now. So why is a anti-tomato person like me writing a recipe about - tomatoes and nothing else? :p
That's because I absolutely love sun-dried tomatoes. The minute I see sun-dried tomatoes on the menu, I veer towards ordering that dish :) But they come at a steep price so I don't indulge in them as often as I would like to, so when I found a recipe for oven-dried tomatoes, I couldn't resist. The proof's in the pudding when I say that they were polished off in the next 20 minutes of them coming out of the oven, all by me :p  Some bits were almost wafer-like, as I had cut them up thinly, yumm. Hubby will have to wait for batch no 2 to sample the sour, salty, tangy red slices of irresistible tomatoes :) 


Alternative to Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Source: Purple Foodie
Ingredients: (serves 1 to 2)
  • 3 firm tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon each of oregano, pepper and herb seasoning (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • 5 pods of garlic finely chopped
Method:
  • Pre-heat your oven to 100 C
  • Slice the tomatoes finely, lay them on a kitchen towel to soak off the liquid
  • Sprinkle salt on them and let them sit for about 20 minutes
  • Add the pepper, oregano, herb seasoning, garlic, olive oil and toss in a bowl
  • Spread the slices over your baking tray that has been lined with butter/parchment paper, top off with the garlic from the bowl
  • Let it bake for about 1 1/2 hours or so till the slices wrinkle and dry up
  • Peel them off and enjoy.
Tomato wafers anyone?


Friday, 25 November 2011

Strawberry Fizz

Strawberry pop
I'm slowly moving on to featuring non-bakes in my blog and what better way to start than something bubbly? Since strawberries are in season, I decided to make my popular Strawberry Fizz drink a few days ago. It's super simple to make and trust me when I say you will rush for seconds after you taste it. 


Ingredients:

  • 1 pack of strawberries, cleaned, with the leaf removed
  • Juice of half a lime
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional if strawberries are very sweet. I personally like the tang without the sugar)
  • Soda
  • Sprite/7-up or any other lemony fizzy drink
  • Ice cubes
  • A few sprigs of mint leaves

Method:

  • Chop up the strawberries, drop it into your blender along with the lime juice, a few mint leaves, sugar and salt. Add in a few ice cubes and a bit of the sprite and blitz.
  • Add a 1/4 measure (Fill 1/4 of your serving glass) of the strawberry mixture to a glass.
  • Add the ice cubes and top up with equal quantities of soda and sprite (you can use a 3:2 ratio between soda and sprite depending on how sweet you want your drink to be)
  • Garnish with a few mint leaves and serve.
  • P.S: You can add a shot of your fav spirit to it and make it a cocktail too :) 



Cinnamon and Raisin Rolls

Light and fluffy Cinnamon rolls
Been AOL for a while on my blog, thanks to Diwali, B'day, a trip back home and what not. Finally back and I decided to go all out and try and make dough from scratch. But that's not all, I wasn't making a plain ol' loaf. No siree, I went for one of my favs - Cinnamon rolls. And boy am I glad I went through the effort, cuz these babies are packed with flavour. With the mildest hint of cinnamon, these beauties will be walloped down by kids too. So without any further ado, here's my recipe for Cinnamon Raisin rolls. 


Can't stop at one Cinnamon Raisin Rolls
Recipe courtesy: Rias Collection


For the rolls you will need: (Makes about 10 rolls)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons butter (you can even use frozen butter as it will melt with the heated milk)
  • tablespoons melted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup sugar 
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cup all flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1/4 c sugar (to be mixed with the ground cinnamon)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup raisins
For the frosting you will need:
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk
  • A few drops of your favourite essence
Method:
  • In a pan, heat the milk, water and butter till quite warm. If you are using dry yeast, add it in to the liquid to dissolve.
  • Mix together the dry ingredients and add the egg and milk mixture in and stir them all together to make a sticky dough. 
  • Cover with a cloth and leave to rest in a warm place. In about an hour, it will double up in volume. 
  • Cover your counter top with clingfilm dust the surface with flour. Punch down the dough and roll it out on your counter top, like one would roll out a chapati, making it rectangular in shape instead of the usual round.
  • Pour the melted butter over the rolled out dough and spread it out evenly.
  • Mix together the cinnamon, sugar and raisins and sprinkle the mixture over the dough and butter.
  • Roll the dough like a jam roll, lengthwise so that you have a long cylindrical dough roll. Pinch the ends together. Cut them into slices/circles and lay them on your baking tray. Let the dough rise again for about 1/2 an hour. The dough will spread out and rise so leave a gap between the slices.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 190 C, dab a bit of butter on the tops of the rolls and bake the rolls for about 20 minutes. 
  • Mix all the ingredients for the frosting together and lightly drizzle your cooled cinnamon rolls with it and dig in. 

Monday, 24 October 2011

Coffee anyone?

Coffee cupcakes with white chocolate fudge frosting
   There are times in life when you are humbled by people who often are the most simple in being, but whose actions make them anything but ordinary. One such person I met was Mamta Shukla, my friend Shubham's mom. I met her on Shubham's birthday, bringing it in with a homemade cake as usual. That's when she knew I loved baking and after our miles by the minute conversation, Shubham and me said bye whilst her folks wondered in amusement how we could talk so much, so fast, simultaneously and still understand each other. 
   Met her mom again for dinner that day and her twinkling kind eyes made me like her instantly. She left to travel around and that was it. We didn't talk thereafter. Now you can imagine to my surprise when Shubham says, 'My mom has got you something from her trip.' The thought of her getting something for me, who she just met for a few hours was enough to make me smile for the next few hours in joy. Who doesn't love gifts? And unexpected ones, even better :) 
   She had remembered that I loved baking and knew my fondness for cupcakes and had gotten me Joanna Farrow's book - Cupcakes. I squealed like a child at this book, my first one on cupcakes :) Even though what she did might seem simple and inconsequential to a third person, her thoughtfulness has inked herself into my memory. Thanks aunty, not just for this, but for being there for me via your daughter in trying times as well. Shubham, you have one helluva lovely mom :) This ones for you aunty :) 

Coffee cupcakes with white chocolate fudge frosting
Recipe courtesy: Cupcakes by Joanna Farrow


For the cupcakes you will need: (makes 12)
  • 150 grams unsalted butter
  • 150 grams castor sugar
  • 175 grams self-raising flour (You can substitute this with plain flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon strong coffee powder
You can decorate them with sprinkles like so

    Method:
    1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 C 
    2. Dump all the ingredients in a bowl and beat for 2 minutes or so until the mixture is light and creamy.
    3. Pour them into your lined cupcake moulds and bake for about 20 minutes or till they have risen and are firm to touch or till a skewer inserted comes out dry.
    For the white chocolate fudge frosting you will need:
    • 200 grams white chocolate chopped up finely
    • 5 tablespoons milk
    • 175 grams icing sugar
    Method:
    1. Place the chocolate and milk in a heat proof bowl, set it over a saucepan of gently simmering water and leave until melted. Stir frequently to avoid lumps and burning the chocolate. 
    2. Once melted, remove the bowl from the saucepan and stir in the icing sugar gently until you get a smooth mixture.
    3. While still warm, spread or pipe the frosting over your cooled cupcakes. 
    A yum treat to finish off a meal



    Tuesday, 4 October 2011

    Gimme red

    Red velvet cupcakes, plain without trimmings, but regal regardless
    I've always been in awe of red velvet cupcakes, mostly cuz the name sounds so fancy and royal. I mean, red and velvet, separately conjure up some wow images in your head, put them together and add cupcake to it and you've got heaven on a plate :)
    The real tempter was when I had my first red velvet cupcake at Candies in Mumbai with my bro. Ever since, I've been wanting to make this sinful beauty. Tried it after months of eating it and waited with bated breath after making the cupcakes and making my own buttermilk, mind you :)
    But as luck would have it, boom, the powers that be put a spanner in the wheels of my plan by shutting down the power supply in my area the minute I put these beauties in the oven. Thankfully, I had a second batch to rely on and the residual heat in the oven carried forward the baking process considerably enough to make the first batch bake well too. If you ever get stuck in a similar situation, I've found that mixing a teeensy amount of baking soda in the batter and mixing it again before baking (when the power comes back on) helps them rise beautifully. The result, was stunning but I decided to go all the way and decorate it with blue and white cream cheese frosting. Indulgent, aint I? :p 
    I mixed up a few recipes I found online with some steps of my own.. So without any further ado, here's how you can go about making these red beauties. 


    Ingredients:
    1 cup flour (maida)
    2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
    1/2 cup castor sugar
    2 eggs
    3/4 cup buttermilk
    60 to 80 grams unsalted butter
    1 teaspoon vanilla essence
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
    Red food colouring
    Salt to taste


    For the cream cheese frosting, you will need:
    180 grams cream cheese that is at room temperature
    200 grams icing sugar
    100 grams unsalted butter
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract


    Making buttermilk:
    If you can't find plain buttermilk in the stores (I found only the masala variety everywhere I went), you can make your own buttermilk. Simply add half a teaspoon of lemon juice to 3/4th cup of milk, mix well and leave to rest for about 15 minutes before using.


    Making the cupcakes:

    • Preheat oven to 180 C
    • Beat the butter till fluffy (1 minute) and beat in the sugar as well, till fluffy (2 mins)
    • Add the eggs, beating after each addition and beat in the vanilla essence and red food colouring too. You can add as much as you like to get the desired hue. 
    • Sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt and alternatively add the flour and buttermilk mixture to the batter, starting and ending with the dry  mixture. 
    • Just before you pour the batter into the cupcake liners, mix the vinegar and baking soda together and add that fizzy mixture to the batter and mix it in. (This helps make the red look brighter, some say)
    • Pour into your liners (1/2 to 2/4th full) and bake for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out dry. 
    • Cool the cupcakes before decorating them.
    Go wild with colour combos and patterns. Experimentation is the key...

    Making the cream cheese frosting:
    • Beat the cream cheese and butter till smooth.
    • Add in  the vanilla essence and then, the icing sugar bit by bit, beating till it is well incorporated. You can add more or less depending on the consistency you want.
    • Divide the mixture onto two halves and colour accordingly. 

    Ending on a pretty note



    Tuesday, 20 September 2011

    When vanilla beats chocolate


    Vanilla queen
    One might think a vanilla cake is plain and boring, but I've got news for you - it can blow you away. I chanced upon this recipe from my go-to blogger as always - Ria and modified it a bit and came up with my new favourite cake (yes, chocolate has bowed down to the humble vanilla this time). I love the lil vanilla bean specs in this white cake and white and chocolate ganache seal the deal to make this a cake you will not put down easily. I made it first for an order )sugar-free that too) and have made it twice thereafter in quick succession, thanks to popular demand :) So here's the angelic cake that will bring out the devil in you :p

    The sugar-free order clicked by B'day boy Manu Srivastava
    Ingredients:

    • 2 cups maida
    • 113 grams unsalted butter (1/2 cup) at room temperature
    • 1 cup castor sugar (substitute with a sugar-free baking sugar or sugar substitute for sugar-free cakes for diabetic people) 
    • 1 cup milk
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
    • 1 vanilla pod
    • 2 eggs
    • A pinch of salt
    For the dark chocolate ganache, head to my previous post or click here - ganache. For white chocolate ganache, simple replace dark chocolate with white chocolate.

    Method:
    • Pre-heat your oven to 180C 
    • Sift the flour and baking soda so that there are no lumps formed and keep it aside.
    • Slit your vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds from both halves and keep aside. You can use the bean ‘shells’ to make yum vanilla sugar. Simply place them in your sugar container and there you have it.
    • In a large mixing bowl, whip up your butter and sugar with an electric mixer till smooth and fluffy.
    • Add your eggs one by one and beat after each addition.
    • Add in the vanilla seed mixture and beat till incorporated and you can see lovely specs of black vanilla bean seeds in the batter.
    • Add in the flour and milk alternatively, beating continuously, starting and ending with flour. Make sure to beat it till the batter is light and fluffy. Do not use all the milk if the batter is too runny.
    • Pour into a prepared baking mould (butter the inside or use cooking spray) or pour into cupcake moulds lined with cupcake liners.
    • Bake for 30 mins or so till a toothpick inserted comes out dry.
    Decorating your cake/cupcakes:
    For the cupcakes, just dip them top side up into melted ganache and leave to rest.
    Sugar-free cupcakes dipped in melted chocolate ganache

    You can also just alternate slivers of dark and white chocolate ganache, using a spoon to let the ganache flow into ribbons.

    Cupcakes drizzled with slivers of white and dark chocolate ganache
    Halve the cake, fill with chocolate ganache and top up with the same, adding globs of white chocolate on the edges if desired.
    Vanilla cake filled and topped with ganache

    Sunday, 11 September 2011

    Gussying up a cake quickly

    Jack Frost is in town

    My Jack Frost cake
    This blog has been neglected for some time and apologies for the same. I wanted to put up my best order as the post that followed me crossing a 1000 hits. (Yayyy, big achievement :)) Thanks a tonne guys for reading and encouraging my blog. This one is for you'll. Only wish I could actually share by bakes with you'll too rather than just share pics and recipes... 
         The reason for the delay is that the pictures of the winning cake (sugarless, might I add) sadly weren't all clicked by me. While I have the mini version of it, the final product has been clicked by b'day boy Manu (a talented photographer) and I haven't been able to get the pics just yet. So I decided not to wait any longer and post something else, rather than neglect my blog any longer.
         I just completed by 4th b'day order cake and frankly didn't have much time to decorate it as the darned power went off whilst baking (that's another story altogether with me frantically pacing up and down praying for the power to come back and driving everyone mad with my antics). Thank God the cake had baked its course (almost) by then so the residual heat from the oven baked it through and through, minus the power. So cut short to me having half an hour to pretty up a cake before it was to be picked up, this being a sugar-less cake, icing and butter cream was out of the question, so was melting and blitzing the butter etc for lack of time. So, I decided to go for chocolate ganache once again, only this time, I have my new and improved chocolate ganache. That still looked a lil plain so I 'frosted' it a little. No, not with icing, but with a lil sprinkling of icing sugar mixed with sugarless sugar (diet baking sugar for those in the dark). I call it my Jack Frost cake and the result was simple and stunning and I suggest you keep this as a go to decorating idea for those days when time is of the essence.

    New and improved chocolate ganache:
    200 grams dark chocolate
    100 ml double cream or thick cream
    1 tablespoon unsalted butter (you can add more if you want more gloss, but I find 1 tablespoon works fine)

    Method:
    Chop up the chocolate into tiny pieces or flakes if possible and place in a glass bowl (heat proof bowl). Heat the cream on a saucepan till it comes to boiling point and pour over the chocolate flakes. Drop in the butter on the mixture and leave on the counter top covered for 3 minutes. DO NOT stir it even though the cream at this stage will just about cover the chocolate, not looking liquidy enough. After 2 to 3 minutes the chocolate will still look solid but would have melted. Gently shake the bowl so that the cream covers the chocolate and you can see swirls of brown over the cream. Now, take a silicon spatula and give it a good mix till the butter, cream and chocolate have combined to form this glossy, clear chocolate thick syrup. If you find some lumps in the ganache, heat the bowl in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time and stir till it has all dissolved. Leave to cool for a while and use. I simply poured the mixture over the cake and guided it over, it till it gently slipped onto the sides. Pour some icing sugar or fine sugarless sugar onto a strainer and gently dust over the cake to get this lovely snowed on effect. Viola, you have a pretty cake in a jiffy. It does help to make the ganache before as it sets well and stays for long when refrigerated. When you want to use it, just bring it to room temperature, heat it in the microwave for 10 seconds till it is pourable and use.

    Monday, 29 August 2011

    Just drool

    Choco ganache cake with edible glitter
    A few weeks ago, I got my first 'official' cake order and I was over the moon. Chalked up the cakes and planned the design and set out with such enthusiasm that it got the better of me. Cut short to eight hours of non stop baking, piping, cutting and what not and lil me is knocked out puking and almost fainting. Lesson learned: Don't skip meals in enthusiasm, nivi ain't superwoman :p
         I was mighty pleased with the result and i'm surprised I took this long to post it. Recipes were gonna follow suit, but I'm listening to my good friend who said 'Don't share these recipes, just put up pics'. So I'm just gonna make you guys drool and keep the recipes on hold this time. If you guys want the recipes, gimme a shout out and I shall oblige :)
    Layered choco cake with a peppermint cream filling

    Easy peasy choco balls


    There are days when measuring, mixing, baking just don't do it. If an easy choco fix is what you are looking for, look no further. My fudgy choco balls can be made in about ten minutes, give or take, and can be devoured instantly if you can bear a scalded tongue, or be left to cool and gobbled up, for gobbled up they will be. Trust me, they wont last long. No one believes that they are super easy to make and this dessert has been shared over and over again, with many asking for the recipe, so here it is. 


    Easy peasy choco balls
    For the choco balls, you will need:
    1 can condensed milk
    1/2 cup of cocoa powder
    1 teaspoon unsalted butter for rolling the balls


    Start off by heating the condensed milk in a heavy bottomed pan. Keep the flame on low and keep stirring till it bubbles up. Be sure to scrape the edges often as condensed milk can burn quickly on heat if not stirred well. After about four to five minutes you shall notice the condensed milk thickening up a bit. Add in your cocoa powder (you can add more or less depending on how chocolatey you want it) and keep stirring till it coats the back of your spoon. After about four to five more minutes, take it off the heat. The mixture will look liquidy, but don't worry, it will set. Pour the mixture on a plate and let it cool. You can also keep it in the fridge if you are impatient. Once it is cooled, it will harden up a bit. This is when you can start rolling it into balls. Coat your hands with some butter, drop spoonfuls of the mixture into your palm and roll. Top off with an m&m on each ball and you are done.  

    Tuesday, 23 August 2011

    Happy Birthday Wuffie

    Last year, around this time, I was beaming with joy as I had just spent a day with my very own puddytat, Wuffie. An adorable white fluff ball, he stole my heart the minute I set my eyes on him. He has an almost angelic quality about him, what with everyone saying he has angel eyes :) New beginnings were in order not just for me with the new home, marriage and the rest, but for him too with a new home. Ah how I waited to bring him home, carried the tiny fluff ball in my hands and promised to keep him happy. 
         He slept with me and stuck by my side for the first few days. He was my poonch (tail) like Ma would say. Where ever I turned I would find him in the house and he has been a big part of my kitchen (no, he wouldn't cook with me :p ), but would always lie down on a box in the kitchen while I would cook and bake. Just having him around made my day and I would sing and cook with him as company in the kitchen, although he had his 'I hate the kitchen' moments too, thanks to my new hob. He would always be on my shoulders, loving the view from the top :) One day, as I was cooking he came and rubbed his head against my legs, signalling a pick me up command. Off he came on my shoulder. I put the hob on to take away the cooking smells and boom, he scratched me and jumped away in horror, wondering what that monstrous sound was. One day later, however, he was back to his box in the kitchen looking at me pottering away.       
         Apart from baking and cooking, Wuffie (He was white and fluffy, so he got christened Wuffie) has been my pride and joy and to celebrate his birthday (the day we got him home technically) I baked, what else but cupcakes, two mini ones. You can use any recipe for the cupcakes, I used the leftover batter from a marble cake (coming up in another post). I tried a new piping technique (basket weave) I learnt and I must say, I'm mighty pleased with the result (Pic no 1 at the beginning of the post). A tutorial on the extremely simple and great looking piping technique will be coming up shortly. For the second one (the white one) I simply used a star tip and piped dots of it so to say, all over the cupcake.



    Wuffie got a dab of icing that he licked off in delight and had a teeny bit of the cake and was one happy cat :) 


    Happy Birthday my fur ball.
       
    Wuffie, the week we got him home



    Tuesday, 16 August 2011

    Spuds at their best

    All things sweet might seem like my cup of tea, but I love all things salty too. Ask my mom! my best friend and I, as children (I still do and I'm sure she does too :p ) would sprinkle salt on anything and when it came to lime and salt on raw mangoes, yummm, the more the better, with a dollop of chilli powder for good measure. Anyways, I've digressed enough already :p . Point of the matter is, if cakes are not your thing, don't fret, I have something savory coming right up. Just tried this dish for a light dinner a few hours ago and encouragement from hubby made me want to share it with you guys, however simple it may be. 


    Baked potatoes topped with a mint yoghurt dressing and a side of pea and corn salad (serves 2)


    For the potatoes you will need:
    4 to 5 potatoes
    2 teaspoons paprika
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 teaspoons mixed herb seasoning (Any off the shelf mixed herb seasonings will do. If you don't have this, just mix some dried herbs - oregano, red chilli flakes, basil and thyme together)
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 teaspoon pepper
    1 pod garlic, slightly smashed


    For the salad you will need:
    100 grams frozen sweet corn
    100 grans frozen peas
    1 teaspoon salted butter
    1 teaspoon pepper
    Juice of half a lemon


    For the mint yoghurt dressing you will need: 
    4 tablespoons yoghurt
    a pinch of salt
    a pinch of paprika
    a few sprigs of mint leaves chopped


    Method:
    Wash the potatoes thoroughly, making sure all the grime is off. Cut them into random-sized chunks. Drizzle your baking dish with olive oil, drop in the potatoes and sprinkle salt, pepper, paprika, herb seasonings and the lightly smashed garlic pod (with the skin on). Pop them into a preheated oven (210 C) and bake for 30 minutes. 
         While the potatoes are baking, you can get started with the salad. Simply boil the sweet corn kernels in water till they are tender and drain. This hardly takes 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat the process with the peas and pop them all in a bowl. Add the butter, salt, pepper and lime juice and mix till all the corn and peas are coated in the glossy butter and serve. For the yoghurt dressing, simply mix all the ingredients and pour it into a serving bowl. 


         Toss the potatoes after about 20 minutes of baking to ensure even baking and continue to bake them. After 30 minutes of baking, grill the potatoes for another 5 to 10 minutes so that the tops are browned. Serve the potatoes with the bits of the crunchy baked garlic (I love garlic, but if you aren't that fond of it, toss them away before serving). Drizzle the yoghurt dressing over the potatoes and serve. 



    Death By Chocolate

    I started off with a bang and then disappeared for a while. Can't blame a gal for being under the weather, can you? The long weekend didn't help either :p
         While the country was celebrating Independence day, our family was also celebrating a b'day and lil ol me couldn't pass up an opportunity to bake. I wanted to try out something new this time and a bar of dark chocolate sitting pretty in my kitchen beckoned. Chocolate ganache was something I've been lusting after, so I thought why not? Shopped for some cream and I was set. And since I was going for chocolate, I decided to go all out and make the cake all about chocolate, thus the name. Anything in excess is bad, yes. But when it comes to chocolate, it's all goood :) I got this recipe from my go to blog for desserts: Rias collection. I modified it a bit but the base is all her recipe and I must say, it is one of my favourites. 




    Death by chocolate


    For the cake, you will need:
    3/4th cup flour
    1/4th cup cocoa powder
    50 grams milk chocolate (melted)
    120 grams cooking butter (I used the slightly salted variety)
    1 cup plus 2 heaped tablespoons demerara sugar
    2 eggs
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    3 tablespoons hot water
    1 tablespoon vanilla essence


    For the ganache and flakes you will need:
    110 grams dark chocolate
    100 grams heavy whipping cream (cream with a thick fat content)
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter


    Method:
    Start by preheating your oven to 180 C. Get your cake batter started by softening your butter. Mix it thoroughly in a bowl till it is smooth. A quick trick is to heat the butter in the microwave till it is soft to jump start your mixing process. Once it is smooth, add in the sugar and mix. Don't worry if the mixture is not all smooth, the demerara sugar adds a nice crunch to the cake. Add in your eggs one at a time, beating with each addition. Add in the vanilla essence and your melted chocolate and mix well. 
         Sift your flour and cocoa powder and add it to your wet mixture. If you are using unsalted butter, add half a teaspoon of salt to your mixture now. After it is all incorporated, add your baking soda to the hot water, mix it and stir it into the cake batter. If your batter is too thick, add more water till you get a thick flowy consistency, not globs of batter dropping off your spoon. 
         Lightly grease your baking tin (I used a 20x20 cm square dish) with butter. I often use leftover butter wrappers as they are much easier to scrub the insides of your pan with, rather than using your fingers and getting them sticky. Makes good use of the little butter left on the wrappers too. Pour your batter into the baking tin and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or  till a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and dry and not gooey. Let the cake cool for a while before you upturn it onto your serving dish. 
         While the bar is still in one piece, use a knife and graze it down the length of the bar to get thin chocolate flakes. Repeat this process till you have enough flakes to cover the top of the cake. Keep the flakes aside. For the ganache, break the chocolate into smaller pieces and keep them in a glass bowl. Simply heat the cream on a pan till it is boiling and pour it on the chocolate pieces and add in the butter and stir till you get a glossy liquid. Leave it to cool slightly and then pour it over the cooled cake, top it off with chocolate flakes and you are done. The ganache sets into a soft layer of chocolate so if you want to have it slightly fudgy, you can either leave it on the counter top for an hour or refrigerate it before you serve it.

    Thursday, 11 August 2011

    My guest post at twopotsandapan.ca

    Guest Post – Peppermint Meringues by Niveditha Rao

    The Polka Dot Princess cakes



    I've always been fascinated with fondant. A white blanket that swaddles cakes of all sizes, making everything look as pretty as a snow covered garden. However, fondant isn't available off the shelves here and the lazy me always thought it was too much effort to make it from scratch. After watching a week's worth of Fabulous Cakes on TLC, I took the bull by its horns and decided it was time to attack the beast. 


    The lazy bug in me, decided to go in for the easier to make marshmallow fondant vs the more authentic but long process of making fondant using glucose, gelatin, corn syrup and what not. All I needed for this recipe was marshmallows and icing sugar. If you  live in India, you know that marshmallows, aren't available off the shelf, so after hunting away at Spencers, Spar and other haunts, eureka, it hit me, Sweet World at popular malls here sells marshmallows. So off I went to their store, the only grown up 'kid' nevertheless, asking the bewildered attendant for only white marshmallows from the pink and white lot. He must have surely thought I'd lost it. After all, for a person eating marshmallows, it hardly matters what colour it is, does it? Regardless, I stood there while he picked and chose the white ones and a happy puppy I was, anticipating the pretty fondant patterns in my head.


    Armed with my bag of marshmallows, I set to experiment and much to the amusement of my two cats, I did a happy dance in the kitchen when I finally achieved success. So here's the recipe for fondant and the mini princess cakes..


    Polka Dot Princess Cakes 
    For the fondant, you will need:
    100 grams white marshmallows
    1 tablespoon water
    3 cups Icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
    A few drops of glycerin


    Method:
    Place the Marshmallows in a large microwavable bowl, ensuring that there's enough space for the marshmallows to rise when they heat up. They often double up in volume when heating up. Add the water and heat them in your microwave for a minute. Take them out, even though they look puffed but not melted, they are. Use a silicone spatula and mix them so that all the water is incorporated. Give it a good whisk till all the bits and pieces are melted well. Add in a cup of icing sugar and begin to mix. The marshmallow mixture will slowly adhere to the icing sugar and it will soon thicken, starting to get harder to mix. After most of it has been incorporated, dust your work surface with icing sugar, put the mixture on it and adding the rest of the icing sugar gradually, begin to knead everything together. The mixture will be extremely sticky at this stage, but it will get better as you knead it in with the rest of the icing sugar. As a rule of thumb, do not add all the icing sugar, making sure to gradually add in only how much is necessary. You might need more or lesser than what the recipe calls for based on the humidity levels in your location. If your dough is too wet, add more icing sugar and if its too dry, add a few drops of water at a time and knead it again. It also helps to knead in a couple of drops of glycerin just to aid the softness of the dough. When the dough isn't sticky anymore, roll it into a ball, cover with cling film twice and store on your counter top if using it within a day or two (depending on how cool the weather is) or store it in your fridge, getting the dough to room temperature before kneading and rolling it. 


    For the cakes, head to my senior from college, Aparna's website for this super easy egg-less microwave cake - Apycooking.
    I used 3 small bowls instead of one big bowl and substituted the vanilla essence for peppermint essence, my fav. 


    For the Buttercream frosting you will need: 
    150 grams unsalted butter (softened)
    1 cup icing sugar
    2 plus 1 tablespoons milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla essence


    Method:
    Whisk the butter, icing sugar, essence and 1 teaspoon milk till it is smooth. Keep aside 3 to 4 spoonfuls of the frosting in another bowl, add the rest of the milk to this mixture to make a thinner frosting, you will need this for the crumb coating of the cake. Once the mini cakes have cooled completely, slice them into halves and fill them with the thick buttercream icing and sandwiching them back together.


    Buttercream-filled cake
    After this, you need to use the thinner frosting to crumb coat the entire cakes. This is basically a very thin layer that seals in all the stray crumbs so that the cake is smooth when the fondant or the top layer of buttercream is spread on the cake. Using a flat butter knife, cover the cake with a thin layer. Don't worry if the cake is seen through this layer.


    Crumb-coated cake
    Pop the crumb-coated cakes into the fridge and let it chill till the frosting is hard and dry. While this happens, knead your fondant till its soft and pliable. If you are using different colours, divide the fondant into smaller balls, place them on your work surface that has cling film on it, add in the colour and knead individually till the colours are incorporated completely. Make sure to have gloves on, otherwise you'll end up having a rainbow fondant mixture. Roll out the white fondant (I used the good old desi chapati belan :p ) till it is about half an inch thick and double the diameter of the cake you want to roll it onto. I measure the length and breadth of the cake and that is the size I want my fondant to be rolled into. Keep dusting the roller and work surface with icing sugar as the dough tends to stick while rolling. Once done, place it over the cake and quickly smooth it out and shape the edges, pressing in as you move downwards. Smooth in the base with the back of a spoon and cut off the excess portions with a pizza cutter. This is how it will look after being covered in white fondant. 




    Snow white wrapped in fondant
    It looks pretty as it is, but if you want to decorate it further, roll out your coloured strips of fondant and cut our shapes and patterns you desire. Simply wet the portions you want to decorate the cake with and attach the coloured shapes. I used simple polka dots for two of my cakes and they do make a pretty sight. For the third, I cut coloured strips and alternated them on the cake.




     As you can see, the base isn't the neatest at times, so decorating them is necessary. You can decorate them with small balls of different colours if you like. A word of caution, this is tedious if you are doing this alone. Luckily, I had hubby walk in from work at this opportune moment and I dragged him into the kitchen to help me with them :p. Don't worry if they are all not even in size, they are too small to be judged by a perfectionist's eyes :)




    Or you can roll out strips of different colours, place them in a row and then twirl them together to get this twisted fondant pattern and attach them to the base with a little water:




    There you have it, a perfectly decorated set of mini cakes to make any day special. Two people can easily polish off these mini cakes, but if you do want to store them, do so in an airtight container. But be warned, these babies won't last long, especially if you have kids at home or a sweet tooth like me :)