Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Wholewheat Chocolate Banana Cake

The other day during my trip to the super market, my baby insisted on buying bananas and though I knew she wouldn't eat it, I couldn't refuse her. She ate just 1 out of three with much pain as she knew it was her mistake in buying them in the first place. She however could not show her goody self for the rest of the two and refused them as yucky!! With school starting today after holidays and snack boxes needed to be filled, I planned to hide the bananas behind a flavor she truly loves and combined it with the goodness of whole wheat flour. Result was an amazing soft and moist cake with a beautiful combination of flavors and topped with a humble ganache!!! Snack time just got more delicious!! 
1 1/2 cup sugar (I used a mix of brown sugar and white sugar; You can increase the sugar by another 1/4 cup if you like it more sweet)
1 3/4 cup wholewheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder 
1 1/2 tsp baking soda 
1/2 tsp salt 
1 cup mashed banana (about 2 medium ripe bananas; the more ripe the better)
2 eggs
1 cup (240 ml) warm/lukewarm water
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk room temperature 
1/2 cup (120 ml) unflavoured oil (I used extra light olive oil)
1 1/2 tsp Vanila extract 

Pre-heat the oven at 180 degree celcius and line a 9" square pan with parchment paper. 
Mix the sugars, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
In another bowl, mash/puree the bananas. 
To this, add the eggs, milk, oil, vanilla extract and warm water. Take absolute care that the water is "not" hot, but just warm. Whip together till mixed well. Now, add the flour mix to the wet ingredients little at a time till everything is mixed well. Take care that no lumps remain. The batter will be quite thin. Don't worry as that is how it is supposed to be. Pour the batter in the prepared pan. 
 Tap the bottom of the pan on the kitchen counter for a couple of times and bake in the pre-heated oven for 30-35 minutes till  a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 
Cool on a wire rack completely before slicing. 
For frosting, I used ferrero rocher chocolates along with a few other chocolates lying in the fridge (about 1 cup) and added 1/4 cup hot cream (warmed till just about boiling point). Mix well and spread. If you want a more flowing consistency, add more hot cream. Apply the frosting and let it set for 1/2 hour before slicing. 

Friday, 26 June 2015

Baked Doughnuts

Somethings have to just wait for the right time just like my doughnut pan which I had bought almost 2 years back and since then had been patiently waiting in my archives to be used someday!!! I really regret for keeping it waiting for so long. But as they say, better late than never!! Der aaye Durust aaye!! I am loving it. Another successfully acquired baking gadget!! Yippee!! 
1 cup flour 
3/4 tsp baking powder 
1/4 baking soda 
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup brown sugar 
2 tbsp butter melted
1 large egg
1 tsp Vanila essence 
1/2 cup buttermilk 

Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a bowl and keep aside. 
Whip the egg, buttermilk, vanilla essence, and cooled and melted butter. Add the dry ingredients into the wet and mix well. Ensure there are no lumps while taking care at the same time that no lumps remain. 
I am using my doughnut maker but you can use a regular baking tray and keep a small piping nozzle in between to make the hole and keep it there while baking. Make sure however that you use the aluminium ones instead of the plastic ones or anything which helps you to keep the doughnuts in shape. If using the oven , pre-heat to 190 degree celcius and bake in the pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake. 
If using the doughnut  maker, pre-heat  it before using and then pour 1 -2 tsp of the batter into the holes and close the lid. Bake till golden on one sude and then flip and bake for 2-3 minutes more. 

Let them cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile, prepare the ganache. I used unused regular chocolates lying in the fridge and melted them. Added cream to a consistency I desired and added 1 tsp honey to make it glossy. Once cooled, dip the doughnuts top side down into the 
Chocolate ganache and let it set for 30 minutes before serving. 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Quick and Easy Vegetable Biryani

In a Non-Veg household, when it comes to biryani, it ought to be either meat or fish. As a cooking enthusiast, however, how can I not try something which is so popular with Vegetarians. I was running short of time and so chose a quick fix process and my Biryani was ready in less than an hour!! It was delicious and liked by all and now I have an addition to my menu for my vegetarian friends!! 
For the rice
2 cups Basmati rice
3 cardamoms, 5 cloves, 1" cinnamon, 1 bay leaf 
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oil (optional)
For the veggies 
2 cups mixed veggies chopped  (I used a mix of cauliflower, carrots, peas, corn)
2 medium onions sliced 
1" piece ginger minced
4-5 cloves garlic minced 
2-3 green chillies chopped 
2 tbsp biryani masala 
1 tsp red chilli powder 
1 tsp turmeric powder 
1/2 cup yogurt 
2-3 tbsp cashew and raisins 
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
1 tsp shahjeera 
3 cardamoms, 5 cloves, 1" cinnamon, 1 star anise, 1/2 mace, 1 black cardamom 
1 tbsp ghee plus 1 tbsp oil

For the assembly 
2 tsp ghee
2 tbsp fried onions (I used store bought)
Fresh coriander chopped 
Fresh mint leaves chopped 
Rose essence or kewra essence for sprinkling 

Wash and drain the rice and cook with all the ingredients mentioned for the rice till 90% done. Drain and keep aside. 

In a pan, heat the ghee and oil and splutter the shahjeera. Next add the whole garam masala and fry for another minute. Add the ginger garlic mince and the sliced onions and fry till golden. Now add the veggies and stir. Add salt, nuts, and cover and cook on a medium flame till done. 
Meanwhile, whip the yogurt with milk and biryani masala and red chilli powder.
Once the veggies are done, add the yogurt mix and stir. Now add the cream and check for seasoning. Remove from heat. I have a bit of gravy here as otherwise the veggies and the rice become very dry as opposed to using meat where it releases it own juices. 
Now you can either assemble and make it on dum for 30 minutes or use an ovenproof dish. Whatever way you choose, assemble in the following way. 
Put a layer of rice (pick out the bay leaf) and level it. Next add the veggies and top it with some fried onions, coriander, 1 tsp ghee and kewra essence. 

Top the veggie layer with another layer of rice and finish it off with remaining coriander, fried onions, ghee and kewra essence. 
If baking in the oven, pre-heat to 200 degree celcius and bake covered with aluminium foil for 20 minutes. If doing dum on gas, put the vessel on top of an iron tawa and reduce the flame to minimum and cook on dum for 30 minutes. If using microwave, cover with a clingwrap and microwave for 5-7 minutes. Mix the rice and veggies before serving and enjoy!!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Irish Cream Eggless Tiramisu

Tiramisu and eggless do not quite sound right and I was apprehensive too. Tiramisu ought to be made with eggs and I was really stressed to think of a way to make it eggless. I was certain that the vegetarians around the globe couldn't let go of such a yummy dessert just because it has eggs. There had to be a way! And sure there was. Again, I wanted to make it little (ok! A lot) boozy for the kick. I decided to follow my own instincts and research on Google and came up with this eggless Italian delight that everyone enjoyed and relished. If you want to skip the alcohol, you can just do it. It only enhances the taste but is not an integral part. Again, if you want to make it boozy but do not have Baileys Irish Creme, you can use white rum or maybe vodka (I haven't used vodka but you sure can experiment) as well. All in all, it was a sheer delight serving this dessert and relishing it as well. It stays good for at least a week in the refrigerator if taken care to keep it covered at all times and using a clean spoon each time.
1 packet (approximately 22-24) ladyfinger or sponge finger biscuits
350 ml stongly brewed coffee cooled to room temperature  (you may need more as well, so keep it handy)
250 ml bailey Irish cream (can be substituted with white rum)
75 gms castor sugar (increase as per your taste)
1 cup whipping cream 
500 gms mascarpone cheese 
Cocoa powder for dusting 

Get the coffee ready and cool it to room temperature. Mix 150 ml of Irish cream into the coffee and keep aside. 
Next, beat the whipping cream and castor sugar to stiff peaks in a bowl. In another bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese till soft peaks. Fold in the mascarpone cheese into the whipped cream along with the remaining 100 ml Irish cream. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use. 
Now take a rectangular 2 liter dish and open the package of lady's finger biscuits ready in another plate. Dip the biscuits in the Irish cream coffee mixture and immediately place it in the rectangular dish, arranging in whatever way you find it best to fit maximum biscuits. The lady's fingers biscuits absorb the cofee mixture too quickly and any longer absorption will result in a soggy liquid base (sharing from my experience). The quicker you can dip and arrange, the better. However, do make sure that the biscuits are dipped evenly on both the sides. 
Once the first layer of biscuits is done, take out the chilled cream and cheese mixture from the refrigerator and spread half of it on top of the biscuits. Level the top with a spatula or butter knife and you may also dust the top with some cocoa powder if you like. Now time for the second layer of biscuits. Repeat the same process as you did for the first layer. Make sure you have equal number of biscuits on top and bottom and preferably in the same sequence. If you fall short of coffee, make a fresh batch and bring it to room temperature before using. Again, spread the remaining cheese and cream mixture on top and level it. Now lightly cover the top and chill in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours or overnight. You can prepare this dessert at least 2 days in advance. 
On the day of serving, dust the top with cocoa powder and any other garnishing that you would like and keep it chilled till serving time. 

P.S.: I am sorry I don't have pictures of the steps in between as I wasn't too sure how it will turn out. The next time I make it, I will surely update this post. If you have any questions please feel free to ask me. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Citrus Biscotti

I am in love with citrusy flavors and this biscotti reinstates my love. It is bursting with an addictive citrus flavor right from the time you put it in the oven to when you take it out and take an irresistible bite into this crispy crunchy breakfast delight. It turned out more crumbly than I expected but nevertheless, I am not complaining. I love the crumbs as much as the biscotti. Twice baked, these are easy to assemble and handle and are a great breakfast with a hot cup of coffee and some muffins!! If you are watching your calories and yet craving for some baked delight, then this is what you should bake. With just 1 tbsp oil, a breakfast or any snack time cannot get any yummier than this!! 
1 3/4 cup plain flour plus more for dusting
1/2 cup fine sugar
1 tsp baking powder 
2 eggs
1 tbsp oil (I used extra light olive oil)
1 1/2 tbsp citrus zest (I used a mix of lemon and orange zest; you can use whatever you have at hand)
1 tbsp lemon juice ( orange juice will work equally well)
1 tsp lemon/orange essence (if using orange juice, use orange essence and likewise for lemon essence)
Sliced pistachios for topping (optional)

Mix the flour, sugar, and baking powder in a bowl. In another bowl, mix the eggs, zest, essence, oil and lemon/orange juice. Now add the flour little at a time and mix with every addition. When it gets difficult to move the spoon, transfer the dough to a floured surface and with your hands lightly knead the dough for a few minutes and form a log. If the dough gets too sticky, add some flour 1 tbsp at a time till it is smooth and non sticky. 
Grease a baking tray and line it with parchment paper and grease again. Place the log on the greased plate and top it with sliced pistachios (or almonds). The taste of toasted nuts is too good to resist. 
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 175 degree celcius for 20-25 minutes till browned on top. 
Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Now with a serrated knife, slice the loaf. Place it on the baking tray sliced side up and put it back into the oven for 10 minutes. Now, take it out and flip sides and put it back again for another 5 minutes. Your yummy crunchy biscottis are ready to be devoured. If they become soft the next day, you can pop them back into the oven for a few minutes till they are crunchy again!! Enjoy!!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Chocolate Orange Marble Cake

It's holiday time again and this time we are visiting the beautiful country of Taiwan. It's a short 4 day trip but mostly on the move. As such it's imperative to carry as much finger food and snacks as possible. With a toddler on board, hunger pangs can strike anytime and anywhere. Being prepared is a wise thing to do as such. Keeping my little one's and my preferences in mind, this chocolate orange marble cake has been baked and packed for this exciting and adventurous trip. See you all soon with more recipes and chit chat.... Till then, take care and lot of love!! 

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs (you can increase this to 3 as well; I fell short of 1 egg but feel it will taste even better with an additional egg)
2 tsp orange essence (you can also substitute with vanilla essence)
100 ml orange juice (fresh is best, but canned will work as well)
1 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp baking soda 
50 ml milk
2 cups flour 
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder 
1 1/2 tbsp orange zest (peel the skin of oranges with a peeler and cut it very fine; you can also use candied orange peel chopped very fine or dried orange peels)

If using fresh orange, peel and cut the zest and keep aside and juice the orange. 
In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time and whip till smooth and creamy. Add the orange/vanilla essence (I strongly recommend using orange) and the orange juice. Whip further for a minute. Now add the flour mixed with the baking powder and baking soda alternating with the milk. Stir well till no lumps remain. Now divide the batter into two equal or unequal portions and mix in the cocoa powder into one (I mixed into the one with more quantity) and orange zest into the other. In case you do not have access to orange zest (either fresh or candied or dried) you can skip it. However, you must add the orange essence then in the first step to achieve the perfect orangey flavor. 

Pre-heat the oven at 180 degree celcius for 10 minutes. Now take a 8" round pan and spray with cooking spray. Line it with parchment paper and spray again. This helps in easy release of the baked cake. Now alternately spread the two batters in whatever pattern you wish to. With the help of a long skewer or toothpick, make swirls in the batter to help form a pattern inside. 
Now bake in the pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes or till a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack for cooling completely. Store in air tight containers once sliced. 

Friday, 12 June 2015

Kesari Malai Rabdi

First attempts are most often the best but the second is always better. My experiment with this delicious Indian dessert today just proved the same. The first time I tried making Rabdi at home, it was an instant hit with my friends and they loved it completely and even licked off the entire bowl. However, I knew I could do better and I did certainly. The Rabdi today turned out simply outstanding and just like I have had it all my life in Mumbai. My Father-in-law has a big weakness for sweets, especially rabdi. He would bring tubs of it from Punjab Sind Dairy (a local and quite prominent dairy sweet shop nearby) and have it after every meal. Today, when I tasted my Rabdi I literally jumped with joy as I knew how much he would have loved to eat this. It is sometimes so exciting to cook what your elders love to eat. This I made today for a very dear friend who is in her 8th month of pregnancy and had asked me for it sometime back. Now how can you not fulfil a pregnant lady's wish.... After all, who doesn't want good wishes!! 😜😜
1 liter full cream milk
200 ml cream
2-3 tbsp sugar (as per your taste)
Few strands of kesar soaked in warm milk
1 tsp cardamom powder (I forgot but the aroma of saffron completely worked its magic)
Pistachios chopped for garnish 

Take a wide mouthed deep pan and pour the milk and cream. Bring to a boil and then reduce the flame to minimum. 
Gently with the help of a spoon, push the layer of cream/malai that is formed on the top to the side as shown in the picture above. Repeat this process every 5-10 minutes and keep collecting the cream on the sides of the pan. Make sure the heat is at the lowest. 
When the milk reduces to almost 1/3, start scraping down the sides and mix into the milk. Now add the sugar and cardamom powder and mix well. Add the saffron milk and stir. 
When the milk reaches a creamy consistency, remove from heat. The process although very simple will take around 2-2.5 hrs to complete. Just put it on the stove on one side and carry on with your rest of the work. Garnish with chopped pistachios (you can add some into the milk as well) and let it cool. Chill in the refrigerator. Enjoy with some delicious hot Jalebis or as is!!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Zucchini Mozarella Tart with Sundried Tomatoes

When I was planning my all Italian dinner last week, the dish that troubled me most was this tart. With the restriction of making it eggless, I was completely clueless and could hardly find any ideas which would give the tart some body and not make it look like a pizza. I remembered a tart I had at my Dutch friend's house and I got in touch with her. She was kind enough to help me with the recipe and everything else just fell in place. It was so wonderful to see my guests enjoy the menu and I just couldn't stop feeling proud of myself. 
1 9" pie crust (I used storebought pie crust mix)
1 block of Mozarella cheese (I used Gouda cheese as I had a block lying with me but mozzarella works equally fine)
1 zucchini cut into thin slices 
1 medium onion thinly sliced 
1/4 cup Sundried tomatoes drained 

Blind bake the pie crust as per the packet instructions. Blind baking is baking the rolled out dough fitted in the tart pan and pricked with a fork all over so that it doesn't rise up. You can also place a heavy weight like uncooked rajma, chick peas etc. 
Now let the pie crust cool completely before filling. Once cooled, grate the gouda/mozzarella cheese and spread all over the base covering all the corners. Now place the zucchini in circles starting from the outside. Now spread the onion slices similarly in between the zucchini and follow with the Sundried tomatoes and freshly chopped parsley. Finally, cover with another layer of grated Mozarella/gouda cheese and bake in the pre-heated oven at 200 degree celcius for 15-20 minutes till the cheese is melted and slightly golden and the zucchini softened. Keep the tart inside the oven for 5 more minutes after switching off so that the zucchini gets cooked without burning the cheese. 
Serve hot!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Risotto Cheese Balls or Arancini

Arancini is a very Italian snack which is traditionally served on December 13 in eastern Sicily for the feast of Santa Lucia when bread and pasta are not eaten. The dish is believed to have been originated in Sicily in the 10th century when the Arabs ruled. Ever since it has become very popular and now it is served all year through at all Italian joints and is a scrumptious snack to start any party with. Last weekend I decided to go all Italian with my guests and chose the Arancini to start my party with. Since I did not have any Risotto (Italian rice) with me nor did I wish to buy, I substituted it with our regular small grain aromatic rice. I was a bit skeptical about the results but when I saw my guests devouring them, all my fears were put to rest. Serve these with your favourite dip and see your friends and family enjoy them heartily!!
2 cups risotto or small grain rice (I used aromatic jeera rice)
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (I used Italian seasoned) plus more to coat
2 eggs
1 tbsp garlic finely chopped 
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 medium onion chopped 
1/2 cup mushrooms sliced 
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano 
1 tbsp fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried parsley)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mozzarella or cheddar cheese cut into small cubes for filling 
1/2 tbsp olive oil plus more for frying 

Cook the rice or risotto until 90% done. Do not overcook. Drain and keep aside to cool. 
Meanwhile heat oil in a pan and add the garlic. Fry till slightly browned and then add the chopped onions and fry till soft. Now add the mushrooms and sauté till all the moisture dries up and the mushrooms are slightly browned. Take care that there is no water left from the mushrooms. Let it cool. 
In a bowl, take the cooled rice, mushrooms, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, herbs, fresh and dry, eggs, and salt and pepper and mix well. If you find the mixture too wet, you can add 1 tbsp breadcrumbs more. However take care not to add too many crumbs as the mixture will taste doughy. Make small balls from the mixture and then make a small hole and place a cube of cheese inside and seal from all sides. Roll the ball on a plate of breadcrumbs and arrange on a plate. Repeat with the rest of the mixture. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
Heat oil in a pan and fry the balls till golden on all sides. Drain the excess oil on kitchen towels and serve with your favourite dip. 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Garlic Knots

Bread baking is a superb stress buster and very satisfying too. When you see your ball of dough puff up like a mountain in the first rise, your chest also doubles up equally with joy in anticipation of eating something awesomely yummy fresh and hot from the oven. I had hosted an all Italian dinner at my place this weekend and to make it even more enticing, I decided to bake my bread at home to compliment my Lasagna. The bread superseded my expectations in every way right from the first rise, the oven spring to the cottony soft texture!! My happiness knew no bounds and even more so when my guests couldn't stop praising my efforts and the food. 

3 cups all purpose flour (I used bread flour but APF works equally well)
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast 
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt 
3/4 cup warm water plus 1/2 cup for kneading 
2 tbsp butter softened 
For the garlic wash
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp garlic finely chopped (depending in how garlicky you want your knots)
2 tbsp parsley finely chopped 

Dissolve the yeast in 3/4 cup warm water (43.3 degree celcius to be precise or till you are able to bear a drop of water on the back of your wrist) and sugar and let it stand till frothy and doubled in volume. 
Mix the flour and salt and add the frothy yeasty liquid to it. Mix with your hands or a spoon until the flour just comes together. It is not required that it forms a dough at this point. Cover and let the dough hydrate for 15 minutes. 

Now add the remaining water little at a time and start kneading the dough. Once the dough starts coming together, transfer to a clean kitchen counter or silicon mat and knead with the heels of your hands till the stickiness of the dough is almost gone. Now flatten the dough slightly with your hands and put 1 tbsp butter on the flattened base and fold in. Bang, fold, and knead the dough with all force till the butter is all absorbed and the dough is smooth with no stickiness. Again roll out the dough with the hands and apply the remaining butter and fold, bang, fold and knead like before till the dough is smooth to touch and and soft and elastic. Oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl and grease it too. Cover and let it rest either in one corner of the kitchen counter or inside the microwave (basically a warm and humid place) until doubled in volume. 
Now deflate the dough and punch down the dough for 2-3 minutes. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and divide the dough into two. Keep one part of the dough in the bowl covered while working on the other. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a circle of 1/3" thickness. With the help of a knife cut long strips. 

Pick one strip and make a knot (bring both ends together and then push one end into the circle making a knot). Place it on the prepared baking tray. 
Repeat with the rest of the strips and the dough. Place the knots 1" apart as you keep them covered in a warm place for their second rise, about 1 hour or until doubled in size. Singapore is quite hot and humid these days and so it took me just 45 minutes in both the proofings for the dough to rise. 
Pre-heat the oven 20 minutes before the end of the second rise at 225 degree celcius. Now make the garlic wash. Melt the butter and oil together on the stove top and add the garlic. Stir for a minute and then remove from heat and add the parsley. Stir and cool it to room temperature. Now brush the cooled garlic wash generously (but gently) on the puffed up knots. Take care not to deflate the risen knots by hard brushing or hot garlic wash. 
Bake in the pre-heated oven at 200 degree celcius for 15 minutes or until golden on top and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from the oven and brush again with the remaining garlic wash. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely!