Thursday, April 28, 2011

Can you store cake batters



I always thought you couldn't. In fact, I used to get stressed out if I had to wait even 5 minutes after mixing the batter. I'd get nightmares about baking a brick instead of a light cake if a few minutes were to pass without the batter getting into the cake tin and right into the oven.

But two days back, when I baked the caramel muffins, I had some batter left over. Instead of throwing it away, I tried a little experiment. I stored the batter in the fridge for a whole day.

24 hours later, no major catastrophe happened. The cakes went into these cute little heart molds and rose perfectly. They were just a tad bit denser than my first batch, so there is some disadvantage to keeping the batter overnight.

But even if I am not going to make a habit of storing cake batters, I now know it's not the end of the world. I can totally stop panicking when the doorbell rings right after I stir everything in and the cake has to wait an hour because a friend dropped by.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Donuts?



Isn't that a gorgeous tray of golden fried, sugar crusted donuts.

Except it isn't! What you see up there are in fact sugar donut muffins. This was the first recipe I thought of the moment I had a successful batch of caramel sauce.

When Valerie filled her muffin tins with batter and added a drizzle of caramel on top, she fully intended the caramel to sink in the middle and become a filling for a muffin.

My caramel sauce must be heavier for it sort of sunk and then created donut holes. Which is fab because I seem to have accidentally discovered a dessert that looks like part muffin, part donut. And once brushed with butter and dipped in sugar, tastes better than either!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Burnt Sugar



If there's something that evokes fear in even experienced cooks, that's sugar. Think caramel, butterscotch, praline - all examples of recipes that take you to brink of disaster. And yet, no food creates more excitement than sugar when its burnt.

I've had a trial by fire myself. Now, after several unsuccessful attempts, I have a delicious, golden bowl of caramel sauce. Mixing sugar with water and vinegar, then boiling it until it gets to the right shade of amber, adding cream to the bubbling lava - every step in making caramel is fraught with danger.

So I'm not going to give you a recipe. I made mine without a thermometer so it's not going to be much use anyway. But I'd give you an advice. When you've poured the caramel sauce in a bowl, resist the urge to dip your finger. It's delicious but it's hot, and you'd burn yourself. Don't ask me how I know!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lasagna Rolls

It's like lasagna but better!

Start with 4 lasagna sheets boiled al dente.
Add a layer of ricotta/paneer mixed with salt and oregano.
And a layer of spinach sauteed in olive oil with some garlic.


Drizzle some roasted marinara sauce and add a layer of roasted peppers.


Now sprinkle some parmesan. Well, mozzarella if you like but I prefer parmesan.
Roll it up.


Arrange in an ovenproof dish, cover with marinara and more parmesan.
Bake in an oven heated to 220C until the cheese melts.
And voila! picture perfect lasagna rolls.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Memories of New York



Where others collect memories of places they visit and people they meet, my travels net me images of food stalls and restaurants. Not surprisingly, New York to me means delis of Broadway and Times Square.

In that ubiquitous world of sandwiches and salads, some names stand out. One of them is Cosi, where the first sight to greet you is a massive wood fired oven. Every hour, several batches of crunchy bread emerge from this oven. Some of them go on to become sandwiches. If you are salad buyer though, you can pick a piece of warm bread (or two!) on your way out after picking the salad for lunch.

My oft-remembered favorite is the Cosi Signature Salad. It's a mixture of conflicting flavors; some sweet, some savory:

- Mixed Greens (I got iceberg lettuce)
- Pears
- Red Grapes (okay, mine are black)
- Gorgonzola Cheese
- Cranberries
- Pistachios

The dressing is a sherry shallot vinaigrette. You take equal parts sherry vinegar and olive oil, whisk until they emulsify and add 2 finely minced shallots, salt and pepper.

Cosi puts all ingredients in a bowl and tosses them with the dressing. I put everything on a skewer so if dip it in the dressing and gulp it down in one go, I get a burst of flavors that takes me back to New York.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Roasted Tomato Marinara



I know I say this every time I discover a new version, but this is really my new favorite tomato sauce. At its very basic, marinara sauce is made of tomatoes, garlic and oregano. I've added some pizzaz - a smoky flavor from roasting the tomatoes, lots of herbs and some acidity from vinegar.

First off, line a baking sheet with foil. Cut 6 medium sized tomatoes in 1-inch pieces and arrange on the baking sheet in a single layer. Also cut a small red onion into inch sized bits and add to the baking sheet alongwith 4-5 peeled garlic cloves. Drizzle a tbsp of olive oil on the tomatoes and sprinkle a tbsp of herbs de provence all over. This goes into the oven preheated to 220C for 45 minutes.

By this time, your tomatoes and onion should be softened so everything goes from the baking tray to a thick bottomed pan. Mash them lightly with the back of a spoon, then add 2 tbsp of tomato paste and a tbsp of white wine vinegar. Let simmer on a low heat for 15-20 minutes. Finally, add salt to taste and a tsp of olive oil, mix everything in and take the pan off the heat.

Let it cool down a bit, then pulse it in the food processor until you get to a consistency you like. This is good with pasta, and makes a good topping for pizzas too.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Which Apple



It may not look like it from all the desserts I bake, but I actually eat a lot of fruits and salads. Growing up, apples and tomatoes were my top two food groups. I even had my own nicknames for both of them. Even now, despite all the new flavors I keep discovering, these are the two fruits I love tucking into any day.

So imagine what would have happened when Washington Apples called me to say that with some recently launches, they now retail seven types of apples in India and will I like a sample. First, I was shocked at the number 7 - I didn't even know there are that many types around. The next thing, I got this pretty package with all kinds. Some, like golden and gala, are my regular buys. And some, like braeburn, were totally new. But what surprised me was how crisp, how fresh each of these apples tasted compared to anything I buy in the markets. As I excitedly ate one variety after the other, I realized that my plans to bake with these apples were going to remain just plans.

But there is one apple so tart I can never eat it on its own. I originally thought of turning this granny smith into an apple pie, but I happened to see a tangy apple coleslaw on tastespotting the same day.



Made with no mayo, this is my kind of coleslaw. I followed the recipe exactly, except I used just the granny smiths where foodiebride used two different kinds of apples. And I did think there was a LOT of dressing so I will halve it the next time.

You can obviously match this up with burgers and stuff, but I ended up eating a lot of coleslaw by itself. With tang from vinegar, the sharp bite from mustard and the sweetness of sugar, it's actually a fabulous salad. And the perfect showcase for a lovely apple!