Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Flavors of Christmas



What do you look forward to on Christmas morning? I think of cinnamon and plump raisins soaked in rum and bright, cheerful colors. Looks like daring bakers had the same idea.

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration. All to make a bread that has all the colors and flavors of Christmas. We were even told to shape it like a wreath.

Lovely and festive, isn't it!

Merry Christmas, everyone and hope you have a great new year. I'd see you after the holidays.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pastry Wars : The Agenda

Pastry Wars : My quest to find the best version for every basic recipe that should be in a baker's repertoire. When I started, I didn't have a list in mind. But I've realized now that I need to start marking out recipes as I get to my favorites so here's the list I've put together.

Am I missing something? Do leave a comment and I'd add it to the list.
Pastry
Tart - work in progress.
Puff Pastry
Pate a choux

Fillings
Pastry Cream
Lemon Curd (or cream)

Cakes
Vanilla
Chocolate
Cheesecake

Frostings
Whipped Cream
Buttercream
Cream Cheese
Ganache

Comfort Food
Brownies
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Muffins

Everything Else
Souffle
Pouring Custard/Creme Anglaise
Crepes
Chocolate Sauce
Caramel Sauce
Tempered Chocolate Cutouts

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Kashmiri Dum Aloo



I am not a regular participant of Indian Cooking Challenge. Though now I wonder why. Every recipe I've cooked for this event has turned out to be a winner. This month's recipe - dum aloo cooked the kashmiri way with a unique combination of spices - was surely the best version of dum aloo I've tasted. An added bonus: it makes your whole house very, very fragrant.

I won't write up the whole recipe here because so many others have, so just go over to Srivalli's if you'd like to make some yourself.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My First Iced Cake



Vanilla Cake
Whipped Cream Frosting
Buttercream Flowers
Strawberries
Crooked Chocolate smiley

It may not be perfect, but it's the best cake I've ever made!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What would you do with leftover whipped cream



I had plenty left over from my pineapple pastry so I made a childhood favorite : fruit cream. Chopped up some canned pineapple finely. Also peeled and finely chopped an apple, then plonked it in lemony water for a minute.

I added both the fruits to the cream, then added someone syrup from the pineapple can to up the sugar quotient. Mixed it gently and put it in the freezer overnight. Next day, I left it in the fridge for 15 minutes then scooped it out in glasses. Although you can't see it up there, I also topped it with some blackcurrant syrup for a decadent dessert!

Now for some other news...

Bombay Foodie was featured in the Super Blogger Series at Simple Indian Food, so you might want to hop on there and read a bit more about me!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It Must've Been Something I Ate

I'd never heard of Jeffrey Steingarten until we picked his book as November's book of the month over at This Book Makes Me Cook. It Must've Been Something I Ate is a witty, very well written and immensely enjoyable collection of essays on food. Although I rarely read non-fiction, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. And there are three reasons you should read it too.

1. Steingarten seeks to burst the myths and fads about food. He takes it upon himself to educate misguided folks against their fear of cheese or MSG. What he says may or may not be true but I am with him on one thing : diet fads change every day and nothing in moderation could be that bad for you!

2. He doesn't believe in letting go. Once he gets hold of the idea, be it about proving the difference between salts or making blood sausages, he will sashay around the world until he gets to the bottom of it. His accounts are often hilarious and I can imagine the sheer number of people he will be irritating trying to run his little experiments, but they make for a wonderful read.

3. His enthusiasm, whether he's looking for the best sushi tuna, the perfect pizza or that elusive baguette in Paris, is infectious. I couldn't imagine anyone else lining up 14 espresso machines on their dining tables, blowing up every fuse in the house, just so they could find the easiest way to get good coffee.

And there's a bonus reason too. Steingarten hob nobs with the best in the food industry. And if it wasn't impressive enough that he is buddies with Herve This, or on first name basis with Alain Ducasse, he then produces a hot chocolate recipe from Pierre Herme himself. This is the recipe I set to make for the book club this month.



To make a cup of most sinful hot chocolate ever, bring 150 ml milk, 2 tbsp water and a tbsp of caster sugar to a boil over medium heat. Add a tbsp of cocoa powder and 25 grams chopped (70%) dark chocolate. Reduce the heat to very low and whisk until the chocolate is well blended and the milk comes back to a boil. Whirl the chocolate in a blender until thick and foamy (or whisk with a hand blender).

Where he used Valrhona, I had to make do with Hershey's extra dark cocoa powder and Callebaut chocolate. The Chocolate Chaud was no less delicious though, so do give it a try.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pineapple Pastry



This is what makes me feel so glad to be a part of the food blogging community. You saw the cake yesterday. I baked it on the morning of my parents' anniversary, hoping to turn into a traditional pineapple pastry they like.

Then I panicked. I know that the bakeries use a whipped cream topping, but I also knew that the 25% cream we get in India won't whip. So I put in an SOS mail to Deeba. And she called me back within minutes with ideas to incorporate more fat in the cream. With all her tips and hints, I finally have a pineapple pastry I like.

So if you are struggling with 25% Amul cream like me, here's what you do.

Tip No. 1 : Get rid of the whey. When you pour out the cream from the carton, you will get thick cream and some whey. Just pour the whey out.

Tip No. 2 : Chill, chill, chill. Before you start whipping your cream, put the bowl of cream in the freezer for 10 minutes. I also left the whipping blades of my hand mixer in the freezer for the same time.

Tip No. 3 : You need more fat in your cream. Melt 2 tbsp of unsalted butter with 2 tbsp of cream - I used 10 second pulses in my microwave until it was just melted. Then let it cool. If you are wondering where to buy the unsalted butter, that's a whole new story altogether.

Once your melted butter has cooled to room temperature, bring the cream out of the freezer. To my 200 ml cream, I added 1 tbsp powdered sugar. Beat on high until the cream starts to increase in volume. Then, with the mixer on, pour in the melted butter. Whip on high until the cream holds soft peaks. Put it back in the fridge for 5 minutes or so.

I had my cake already cut into equal sized bars so I spread whipped cream on one of the bars. Then I added a layer of chopped pineapple, the second cake layer and topped it all with another layer of cream. The whipped cream even held enough for me to pipe a lopsided border around the pastry. Top with a pineapple slice and, if you like, a candied cherry or a dollop of jam.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Vanilla Yogurt Cake



I've officially given up on sponge cakes.

Earlier this week, my parents celebrated their 35th anniversary. And anniversaries call for cake. Or, in case of my family, they call for the pineapple pastries. Of the sort sold at practically every bakery in India. It's essentially sponge cake sandwiched with whipped cream and pineapple, then topped with more whipped cream, pineapple slices and an optional cherry.

First step - sponge cake. Except it wasn't. The one I made didn't rise and was too eggy. This is approximately the tenth sponge cake disaster I've had so I think it's time for me to pick another cake as the de facto to-be-iced party cake. Dorie Greenspan doesn't bake sponge cakes, after all. I've tried several of Dorie's cakes and it seemed to me that her French yogurt cake was the perfect fit for the occasion.

After all, Dorie says that French women dress this cake up with cream for their children's birthday parties. And if it's good for the French, it's perfect for me. Plus, I've baked this cake successfully a few times now so this seemed like a safe pick. Except I like living on the edge so I added a twist.

A few days ago, Danone asked me if I would like to sample their newly launched flavored yogurts and give them some feedback. The yogurts come in Strawberry, Mango and Vanilla. Now I am not a fan of mango yogurts generally. And while their strawberry version was nice enough, it was too smooth and lacked the little bits that tell me "they must've put some fruit in there!". But vanilla, that's a clear winner. Health food it's not, packed as it is with sugar. But once you stop thinking about the health angle, you'd notice a beautiful vanilla flavor that would make this yogurt a nice dessert end to a meal.

So back to my twist - instead of the plain yogurt Dorie calls for, I used the Vanilla yogurt. The rest is easy. Zest a lime. Rub the lime zest with 2/3 cup sugar (minus 2 tbsp to account for the sugar that the yogurt will add) until it's moist and fragrant. Add 1/3 cup vanilla yogurt and 2 eggs. Beat untill well mixed. Sift together a cup of flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt and add to the liquid ingredients. Mix well until no streaks of flour remain. Then add 1/3 cup canola oil and stir until everything's well blended into a shiny batter.

Pour the batter in a parchment lined 6 inch square pan and bake in an oven preheated to 180C for 40-50 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with no crumbs).

I let my cake cool, then cut it into bars to transform into pineapple pastries. So did I get close to the bakery version? Wait until tomorrow to find out.