Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tiramisu...Deconstructed


I am so tired. This month's daring bakers challenge was truly one of the most challenging dishes I've ever made. Hosted by two lovely friends, Deeba and Aparna, the challenge was to make Tiramisu from scratch. Which means (and this is a hold your breath moment), you make your own mascarpone, your own ladyfingers, zabaglione and pastry cream.

Both zabaglione and pastry cream require that dangerous act of cooking egg yolks into something custardy, but with risk of ending up with scrambled eggs. This one was truly way out of my league.

Aparna had warned me that this will take 2-3 days so I finally got myself to start one night two days ago. The first step was making mascarpone. I've made paneer countless times so it wasn't hard. You heat the cream, then add lemon juice, let the whole thing curdle a bit and let it drain overnight. And you get such creamy cheese, I will never buy mascarpone again.

Next morning, I made three components of the dish (which is when it got a little manic). First, zabaglione - egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and marsala (but kahlua in my case) cooked gently in a double boiler until it becomes like a thick custard. Which it did, despite my fear that everything would look like scrambled eggs.

The next one was vanilla pastry cream which also involved equally involved cooking of egg yolks with flour, milk and sugar. I ditched the vanilla extract called for and used vanilla seeds in both of these. They looked perfect, both the custards. But to me, they smelled and tasted eggy. Have I told you how much I hate the smell of eggs in desserts - I could smell eggs all the way in zabaglione and secretly plotted to have someone eat the tiramisu.

By this time, I also realized that I could not make the regular ladyfingers. It was way too many eggs for me. So I went ahead with Aparna's recipe to create eggless ladyfingers - a nutty shortbread like cookie. Then all of this in the fridge and off I went to work.

Last night was the assembly night. The only component left was whipped cream - cream, vanilla and sugar whipped to soft peaks. Once that was done, I mixed up mascarpone, zabaglione and pastry cream. Folded in the whipped cream to form a delicious mixture.

Dipped the ladyfingers in kahlua and arranged in a glass dish. Added a layer of cream, another layer of ladyfingers and a final layer of cream. Then, on a lark, I did another plating with all components laid out separately so you can eat what you like in your tiramisu.

The other one is now set and dusted with cocoa. And guess what! It doesn't taste eggy at all. In fact, it tastes like the most delicious tiramisu I've ever eaten. Thanks, Deeba and Aparna for forcing me to go so out of my comfort zone. This is one recipe I would have never made on my own.

Before I go, the mandatory blog checking lines:
The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A new trend from New York


Like thousands of people, I eagerly look forward to Wednesdays when The New York Times publishes it's dining section. With it's witty reviews, NY Times has been the undoing of many a fledging new joint. And look at the trends it's pioneered. Jim Lahey's no knead bread started in the this dining section before becoming a worldwide rage.

A couple of weeks back, the dining section talked about another new trend in New York. That of putting cream or bechamel sauce on a pizza in addition to, or instead of the cheese. Now tell me a bread baker who would resist this idea, specially when followed by a great recipe for mushroom cream pizza.

NY Times tells you to start with a pizza base of your choice, as long as it's thin crust. I started with this base from the pioneer woman, but made it part whole wheat. So you mix 3/4 cup whole wheat flour and an equal quantity of plain flour with 1/3 tsp salt. Warm 1/2 cup water, add 1/3 tsp dry yeast and let it bloom for 10-15 minutes. Drizzle a tbsp of olive oil on the flours, then throw in the yeasty water and knead for 4-5 minutes by hand or with a handheld mixer until well combined.

Form into a ball, coat with olive oil and put in the fridge for at least 24 hours (it will be fine for 3-4 days).

Now for the NY Times magic. Slice an onion thinly. Also thinly slice a cupful of mushrooms. Heat a tbsp of butter and on very low heat, cook the onions until soft. Add mushroom, salt and pepper then cook on a low heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are cooked and the moisture they exuded has all evaporated. Add 2-3 tbsp of cream, mix well, let it cook for another 2-3 minutes and take the pan off the heat. The mixture will thicken a bit as it cools.

Heat your oven to as high as it will go. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil. Roll or stretch your pizza dough into a thin rectangle. Let it rise for 5-10 minutes, then top with the mushroom cream mixture. I omitted any cheese, but add a little if you like and bake until the crust turns golden.

By this time, your cream's all evaporated but it manages to make the mushrooms very creamy. More mushroom-y in fact, if such a thing is possible!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dunken Strawberries


I just discovered the best way to eat strawberries. And it doesn't even involve any cream.

Hull and slice strawberries. For each cup of fruit, sprinkle a tsp of caster sugar. Add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (mine has seeds mixed in) and a tbsp of balsamic vinegar. Mix, then pop in the fridge for around an hour.

You might want to make sure you are alone before you take the strawberries out to eat. For starters, you don't want to share this. But more importantly, you will be left with a small quantity of vanilla and balsamic syrup once the strawberries are over. You don't want to let go of this one; not even a drop. Maybe the phrase lick the bowl clean comes to mind!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Macaroni in Spinach Sauce


This isn't your standard macaroni and cheese. It's a lot better. And since this comes from someone like me who doesn't even like casseroles, you should start thinking about making this for dinner even while you read the recipe.

First, boil half a cup of macaroni in salted water until just cooked. Slice 5-6 mushrooms thinly. Heat a tsp of olive oil in a pan. Add mushrooms and stir fry until they looked cooked. Add macaroni, salt and crushed pepper. Mix well, then arrange in a baking dish.

Now our second layer, the spinach sauce. Start with a small bunch of spinach. Discard any thick stems and spotted/damaged leaves, then pour boiling water to cover the spinach. Blanch for a few seconds, drain and make a fine puree. This should give you around 3/4 cup. Seperately, mix a cup of milk with a tbsp of cornflour.

Heat a tsp of olive oil. Add spinach puree and cook until it starts to look a little dry. Then add the milk/cornflour mix and cook, stirring continuously, until the sauce turns thick. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remember your macaroni's already seasoned so go a little easy here. Pour the sauce over your macaroni.

Heat the oven to 180C. Top your macaroni and spinach with breadcrumbs and bake for 10 minutes. Take it out of the oven (very carefully!) and sprinkle some grated parmesan, then put it back and bake until browned on top.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Just what the Doctor ordered


My doctor keeps on trying to get me to mend my ways and give up (in his words) the evils like sugar, chocolate and junk foods. This time around, he asked if I was so intent on baking, why I couldn't create something that meets his exacting standards. All he wanted was a cake with

- No eggs
- No refined flour
- No refined sugar (jaggery is fine)
- No chocolate

A tall order, it surely was! I first tried a couple of recipes from vegan cooking blogs, but nothing seemed to work for my tastebuds. Then, I decided to pick my favorite eggless chocolate cake recipe, keep the dry versus liquid ratios the same but substitute the "bad" ingredients with healthy ones. And in doing that, I seemed to have hit on one of the moistest and tastiest cakes I've encountered.

Here's how you can eat your cake and be healthy too.

Mix one cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup ground almonds, 1/2 cup jaggery (or dark brown sugar) and 1/2 tsp baking soda. In a microwave safe bowl, melt 40 grams butter. Peel and coarsely chop a small apple, then puree in a blender with 2/3 cup orange juice. You are looking for around 1 cup of apple + orange puree. Pour the fruit puree, melted butter and 1/2 tsp vanilla essence in the flour mixture. Add 1/2 tbsp vinegar and whisk until the batter is smooth.

This should fill 6 cupcake moulds, but I decided to make 4 cupcakes and use the rest of the batter to fill my mini tart tin (which is the one you see up there). Bake in an oven preheated to 180C for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Corn and Bean Salad


I have this inherent inability to soak the right quantity of beans. Invariably, I get up in the morning and get shocked at how huge my beans got to be after an overnight soak. And invariably, this is double the quantity I wanted. Which is how I ended up with boiled black eyed peas in my fridge at the same time as I got a craving for salad.

So I steamed some corn, and there you go...a chopped red onion in the middle, then black eyed peas and then steamed corn. Mint leaves torn, then scattered all over the salad. Then a dash of salt, a toss of pepper and a liberal sprinkling of sumac for that lovely red color. Finally, juice of half a lemon that brings it all together.

Go soak some extra beans tonight. It's totally worth the effort.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

When you are down with a flu...


There's nothing better than soup. After two days of sore throat, fever and antibiotics, I am giving myself a treat with that French classic - the Onion Soup. Now French Onion Soup is traditionally made with beef broth, but I decided to do a vegetarian version with Alinea's mushroom stock. The rest of the recipe comes from Jennifer at Use Real Butter.

It's so easy even someone as sick as me can make it. Heat a tsp of olive oil and a tsp of butter in a pan. Add one thinly sliced onion and a dash of salt. Stir, turn the heat to lowest possible and let the onions cook in a covered pan for about 10 minutes. Remove the lid, and cook for another 10 minutes or so until the onions are a dark golden color and very soft. Heat a cup of mushroom stock (which you hopefully froze for such contingencies), add to the onions and bring the soup to a boil. Taste it, add more salt if you need it as well as some fresh ground pepper.

Toast two slices of a french baguette and arrange in a ramekin or any other oven safe bowl. Sprinkle enough grated gruyere cheese to cover the toasts, then pour the soup over. Add some more cheese, then bake in an oven preheated to 200C for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A year ago, this day...

I had never...

taken on a daring bakers challenge

or baked a loaf of bread, with my own sourdough starter

or hosted an event, or two

This year I learnt...



and also, some cultural mishmash

I made my own liqueurs, and some recipes long sought.

But most important of all, I made friends!

As Bombay Foodie enters it's third year, I just wanted to say to everyone who's stopped by with words of wisdom and encouragement

Thank You!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Climbing the Mango Trees


Before reading this month's book club pick, I had a vague impression of Madhur Jaffrey as an overindulgent diva who makes Indian food sound "too easy". After reading "Climbing the Mango Trees", the memoirs of her growing up years in India, I know why. The memoirs talk less of her childhood in an affluent joint family, and more of the foods she ate. There's daulat ki chaat and paranthey wali gali. There's kulfi and achaar and chaat from the streets. But all these poigant Delhi memories are also spiked with picnic lunches, and dinners with western influence far ahead of it's times.

Loosely written, the memoirs don't really follow a pattern. It's like a hastily scribbled diary, where Madhur writes whatever strikes her that day. I think the book is more charming because of that.

Madhur ends the book with a collection of her family recipes. From her fondly remembered dishes, I picked one of my memories - phirni, the custard-like pudding made with powdered rice.

Step one of making phirni was finding a shallow earthenware dish. That's what I've always eaten phirni in back home and I didn't want it any other way. I didn't spot the dishes for sale anywhere, but I spotted my milkman selling curd in those. And the sweet uncleji happily parted with two dishes I could set my phirni in.

Making phirni itself is easy. I followed Madhur's directions and mixed 2 1/2 tsp of rice flour with 2 tbsp milk to form a paste. Then I brought 230 ml milk to a boil with 2 tbsp sugar. Took it off the heat as soon as it was boiling. Poured it on the rice paste and whisked until it was smooth, the rice completely mixed in. Then returned the milk to the stove and simmered for around 10 minutes. This part is tricky; you have to constantly whisk the milk or you will get clumps of rice in your phirni. Once the custard thickened, I poured it into my two treasured dishes and let it cool at bit. Then sprinkled pistachios and let is chill. Phirni tastes best when cold.

Here's what other book club members came up with:
Janaki made Palak Gosht.
Sheba made Cauliflower with Cheese.
Sweatha made Roz Ki Gobhi.
Jaya made bazar jaisey aloo.
Aqua made Tahiri.
Also, do stop by to read Ann's very interesting story about the book!

Next month, we are reading "Under the Tuscan Sun" by Frances Mayes. If you would like to read with us, leave a comment here and I will get back to you with details.