Tuesday, February 25, 2014

SAFARI THEMED BIRTHDAY CAKE

Safari themed Birthday Cake
Do you all remember the Baby Carriage Baby Shower Cake I did for a little girl, last year? That little bundle of joy turned One, a week ago and her parents asked me if I could do her First Birthday Cake too! What an honour, right? I mean, they have so many choices to choose from and they chose me! They are our close friends,like family.I agreed to do it but when D, told me their choice of theme, I did have a doubt whether I would be able to pull it off!

Baby Shower Cake
First Birthday's are so special. I remember how much I had planned for Ian's and no way would I want anything to go wrong on that day so I was a little worried if I would do justice to the cake they wanted. The cake ate my brains, literally.In a good way, though. I planned out and spanned my work over a few days while Ian was sleeping because he is an animal lover and I knew the minute he saw a Zebra or a Giraffe, he would ask me for it. Which, of course he did...but later though, after I assembled the whole cake.

Safari themed cupcakes
They also wanted me to bake some themed cupcakes and the decorations were left up to me. I mean, they just left the most attention seeking thing on that party to me.I had a big job to do! I scanned Pinterest for cupcake topper ideas and found some which I really liked and went ahead with it. D, sent me the cake's photograph so I just made it accordingly.

Safari Themed Birthday Cake
It snowed so hard the night before the party and the next morning,the roads were super slippery.While transporting them,I was holding onto the cake stand so tight that my hands were sweating and I really feared that the heat would pass onto the fondant and melt it all! It was only after we got to the venue did I breathe properly :-) And once the party was over, D, told me that it was her dream cake and that the entire party was based around that cake! That comment from her sealed the deal, for me :-)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

CHOCOLATE - ESPRESSO DACQUOISE...as we turn 4!

Chocolate - Espresso Dacquoise
We turned 4 and I still cannot believe that. Years are flying by especially after Ian Vaava was born.I have no clue about day or date unless there's some occasion that I need to remember.I jot down all our future activities on my kicthen calender or else,I will forget them for sure. Everytime when someone asks me for our dates for any kind of an activity, I have to check with Jobin to avoid confusions. Does that happen to you?

Chocolate - Espresso Dacquoise
I knew this year would be different with regards to the anniversary cake. I usually tell Jobin not to open the fridge because I don't want him to see the cake ahead of time. This year, I didn't tell him anything and he didn't open the fridge...and then he decided to make his morning drink of honey and lime juice! 'That's a nice cake!',was his reaction. I was juggling between something in the kitchen and all I could manage to say was,'You know you are not allowed to open the fridge!'.

Chocolate - Espresso Dacquoise
Chocolate - Espresso Dacquoise
We were watching something on TV a few weeks back and while channel surfing, I came across this recipe on America's Test Kitchen.After watching that show, it didn't take me a long time to decide what the anniversary cake should be. It was that easy! I mean, the decision making was easy since planning and making something these days, with our India trip in a week's time is not that easy. I have so much to finish before I start packing our bags,for India.

Chocolate - Espresso Dacquoise
I haven't mentioned it here till now that I am writing the dessert column for Malayali ,a monthly bi-lingual magazine, the first of it's kind in the USA. It's been many months now and I am thinking of submitting the future articles for it before I leave.There is another magazine work in the pipeline and that submission is also before I leave. Then the baking groups that I am part of... I think I should just stop talking about it all! There's so much to do in so little time. So,let's move on to the cake!!
CHOCOLATE - ESPRESSO DACQUOISE
Chocolate - Espresso Dacquoise Ingredients:
Meringue
3/4 cup blanched sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 cup hazelnuts,toasted & skinned
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Buttercream
3/4 cup whole milk
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon water
1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
16 tablespoons unsalted butter,softened

Ganache
6 oz bittersweet chocolate,chopped fine
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons corn syrup
12 whole hazlenuts,toasted & skinned ( I didn't use)
1 cup blanched sliced almonds,toasted

Method:
Meringue:Preheat the oven to 250 F and draw a 13 X 10 1/2 inch rectangle on a piece of parchment.
Process the nuts, cornstarch & salt until the nuts are finely ground,15-20 seconds. Add in 1/2 cup sugar and process again to blend, 2 pulses.
In another large bowl, whisk together the whites and cream of tartar on medium low until foamy,about a minute. Increase the speed to medium high and whisk until they form soft billowy mounds,about a minute.With the mixer running on medium high, slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and whisk till stiff peaks form,2-3 minutes. Fold the nut mixture into the stiffly beaten whites in 2 batches.
Spread this over the parchment,using the marked lines as the guide and bake it for 1 1/2 hours.Once baked,switch off the oven and let it cool inside the oven for another 1 1/2 hours. Do not open the oven during this entire time.Remove from the oven and let it cool completely. Trim the meringue with a serrated knife,in a sawing motion to 12 X 10 inch rectangle.Cut them into 4 equal rectangles. Set aside.

Buttercream: Heat the milk until simmering. In another bowl, whisk together the yolks,cornstarch,sugar & salt until smooth.Pour a little bit of the warm milk into it,whisking while doing so to temper the yolks. Pour the yolk and egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook on medium heat until it thickens to a soft pudding like texture. Transfer it to a bowl, clingwrap it touching the surface and chill for a minimum of 2 hours.Before using it, bring it to room temperature.

In a small bowl, mix together water and instant espresso.Using a mixer,beat the butter on medium high speed until fluffy,3 minutes. Add the pastry cream in 3 batches,beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Add the coffee and beat well for 5 minutes,scraping the sides if needed.

Ganache: Melt all the ingredients together in the microwave oven for about a minute. Take it out and stir until smooth.

Assembly: Spread 1/4 cup ganache over 3 out of the 4 rectangles of meringue. Let them chill in the fridge for 15 mins. Spread 1/2 cup buttercream over the remaining meringue.Plop the ganache topped meringue over it.Spread 1/2 cup of buttercream over it and cover that with another ganache topped meringue. Repeat. It will resemble a rectangle box. Spread the remaining buttercream all over the top and sides and smoothen it.Chill for a few hours.Warm the remaining ganache to a pourable consistency and pour over the top. Level it out and spread it to the sides.Cover the sides with sliced almond and top with hazlenuts. I didn't have them, so piped some buttercream instead. Chill well and slice with a sharp hot knife.

All I can say is that this was a delectable cake. A classic French cake.On the show, they did mention that it's a piece to master,so, I was extra cautious while making it.The meringue softens once assembled so it just blends in very well with the espresso buttercream and the ganache.It is a very light,melt-in-your-mouth kind of a cake.I am sure I will make it again.
The top layer didn't turn out as glossy as I wanted it to because there were other things I was juggling between in the kitchen that day and I couldn't pay attention to it,completely. Our kitchen is like a food machine...so much is going in and so much more is coming out. Phew!
To be honest, I have to tell myself every now and then that we are going for a long vacation...but that happens only when I get some free time to think about it :-)

 

Monday, February 10, 2014

BAKERY STYLE CHICKEN ROLLS

Bakery Style Chicken Rolls
The earliest memories I have of these rolls are from Cochin Bakery, Kannur. It was many years ago when I was in school. That bakery was located in a corner on Fort Road and after a few years, they shut it down. By then, these rolls were everywhere. Somehow, I was never excited to try them after that. I think it was the size and colour that threw me off. They were huge and ugly brown. It was fried sometime early in the day and still lingered in those shelves till they were sold.

Bakery Style Chicken Rolls
I think Amma needs to be blamed for that! We were and still is spoilt with choices at home. Food is always served hot at home and there was a point when my brother wouldn't eat anything other than those right off of the stove! Imagine! He will not eat any snack that was stored in tins but only those which came out piping hot from the oil! He is so much better now, hostel life changes you in so many ways!
Bakery Style Chicken Rolls
I was scrolling through my cousin Priya Chechy's food photographs yesterday and saw these rolls .I don't know where I got the craving for them but it was very strong that I decided to take action right away. I always have poached chicken with me,either in the fridge or in the freezer. So making these were a breeze.Seriously,these are so much better when made at home.They taste so fresh and are unbelievably flavourful!

BAKERY STYLE CHICKEN ROLLS
Bakery Style Chicken Rolls
Ingredients:
Filling
3 cups of poached chicken, shredded
1 large shallot or 8 pearl onions, diced
3 green chilies,chopped
1 inch ginger, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
5 curry leaves,chopped
1 teaspoon vinegar
Oil
Salt & pepper

Wrapper
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 egg
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
Salt

Coating
3 egg whites,lightly beaten
Fresh breadcrumbs from 6 slices of bread

Method:
Filling: Heat oil and saute all the ingredients from shallots through curry leaves.Once the shallots have softened, add the chicken and mix well to coat. Add the vinegar and saute for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and check for seasonings.Let it cool.
Wrapper: Mix all the ingredients together,reserve 1/4 cup of the batter and make sixteen 6 inch pancakes using the remaining batter.
Assembly: Divide the filling into 16 and place them over the 16 pancakes,a little lower than the centre of each pancake. Fold them like how you would with a spring roll and seal the edges with the reserved 1/4 cup batter.Dip each roll in egg white and roll them in breadcrumbs. Deep fry them in hot oil ,drain on paper towels and serve with ketchup!

I wasn't very sure if the filling would be Ian friendly but went ahead with it anyway. Ian was fast asleep when I made these rolls and by the time he woke up, I had fried a few for us to enjoy . He was overjoyed to see the deep fried goodies and happily munched on them!
 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

PERFECT KERALA PALAPPAM

Palappam
It feels weird when I call a Palappam, Palappam because we always referred to it as appam. But in reality, it can be confusing to many, so calling it Palappam will clear all such doubts. This dish holds so many fond memories because it is always associated with celebrations.Nowadays people make it quite often at home but in the olden days, it was made only for celebrations.Amma always told me that it was only for Easter or Christmas that they had Palappams while growing up and that it was made in a cast iron appa chatti which made a sizzling noise when the batter was poured in, which, could be heard all the way till the church and that they used to run back from church to eat those hot hot Palappams right out of that hot pan.

Palappam
No matter how many fond memories you have associated with it, there will be many terrible memories of how it turned out for you when you tried making it for yourself. Having heard so many such disasters, I went ahead and got the recipe from Amma,even before I was married! Only after you are married will you attempt such adventurous recipes on your own, right?

Palappam
Till date,I've never had a failure at it. This recipe is foolproof! Last May, Perappan & Peramma had visited us and I made Palappam's for breakfast one day. It's not that easy to get a compliment from Perappan because he really knows how to cook,so, he can be a very good critic too! But my Palappam's became an instant hit with him that he just couldn't stop feeling it and telling me how soft they were and that, it never came out so soft for them! And he overate at that meal !

Palappam
Oh and another thing he totally loved was my Theeyal! I adore Peramma's theeyal and if Perappan had to like mine, it had to be that good.I remember Perappan asking Peramma,'Evalude naadan curry ellam nallatha.Evidunnu kitti aa kaipunyam?', to which Peramma replied,' Avalude Perammede aduthoonnu!'. I couldn't stop laughing hearing that!
PERFECT KERALA PALAPPAM
Palappam Amma's recipe
Makes 25-30 nos.

Ingredients:
3 cups basmati rice
1 3/4 cups grated coconut
1 cup cooked rice (parboiled, sona masoori, basmati ...anything!)
1/2 teaspoon yeast
6-8 tablespoon sugar
Salt

Method: Wash and soak basmati rice in plenty of water for 5-6 hours. Grind it using your blender,along with the remaining ingredients except salt to a smooth paste, adding about 2-3 cups of water. Once it is ground transfer the batter to a large container,then, separate your fingers and dip your hand into the batter and pull it out. If the batter drips down thin ,almost like water,that's the correct consistency. If it's thick, thin it out with some more water. Cover and let it ferment for 8 hours in a warm spot or until almost tripled in volume. After 8 hours (or before using it), add salt to taste and stir it in. Leave it undisturbed for 20-30 mins for the batter to rise again. It would be super foamy on top.
Heat the appa chatti* on high heat and scoop out a ladle full or two of the foam from the top,pour into the hot pan and swirl the pan to make appams. NEVER stir the batter,just scoop out the foam that's forming on top. If you feel that the foam has subsided after making 10-12 appams, just leave it aside till it foams again, 5-6 minute and continue.

*If you don't have an appa chatti, you can use an omlette pan and cook them like pancakes, one at a time.Don't flip them,just cook them on one side.

When I was growing up, Sunday's always meant Beef curry with potatoes & Appams at Peramma's house. Ah! That was one of the best combinations I've ever eaten. That taste still lingers on my tongue. Now, whenever I make that 'urulakizhangu etta beef curry' I think of those days.I am so glad that I am able to reproduce that same taste in my kitchen.I think even if everyone can't cook well, if they can make their most favourite things, be it one or two items, that should be it. I mean, if you can make your comfort food the way you always liked them, I think you are a star!

Palappam's vanish at lightening speed in our house. Jobin always ends up overeating that day. Ian will be standing right next to me pointing at the appa chatti asking for more. He will not leave the kitchen once the Palappam's aroma starts wafting throughout the house. And I will be this crazy woman trying to juggle between my two appa chatti's , a hungry baby and a husband who enjoys 'choodu choodu appams' ! No matter what the commotion is in the kitchen, I always tell Jobin that I am so happy that I know how to make perfect appams because I've never wanted them to be like 'someone else's'.

Appam days are always happy in our little household!

Friday, January 24, 2014

FOCCACIA CAPRESE

Foccacia Caprese
Every time I enroll myself for a challenge of any sort, I end up missing it. I usually don't make any resolutions as the new year rolls in, but this time, at the back of my mind, I did make a resolution to not to give up on something that I have started. It could be anything from exercising to cooking. Sometime half way through last year, I came across a bread baking group on Facebook and wanted to join them to bake a bread every month. Since I was very late to join, I waited patiently till they opened up the group to welcome new members.
For this month, we all had to make a Foccacia. I love a good foccacia sandwich. That bread always called my name whenever we went out to eat. It's soft and very flavourful.
Foccacia Caprese
This recipe is a bomb! I did exactly what it called for but I am sure next time I'll skip the toppings and just make the bread with the herb oil. It is so wonderfully fragrant and gives such a subtle yet wonderful flavour for the whole bread, slice after slice.
Breads are a carb heaven and I am so not guilty about eating it. Back home, Amma,myself and Ritchie kuttan would polish off loaves of bread especially when they are hot and right from the oven. Speaking of home, we have booked our tickets for our yearly India trip and as always, I am planning on conducting a few baking classes in Kannur. If you are interested, watch out this space for more details. I am planning on something different this time.
Foccacia Caprese

We are leaving for New York on Saturday for a week and I am planning on hitting some bakeries that I always wanted to visit and catch up with friends and cousins. Once we get back, there's so much to plan for February because our anniversary is coming up and there are plenty of other cakes to bake! I really cannot wait  for it to be February! How is your 2014? Mine seems to be busy already and I am not complaining a bit!
WKTB Logo Jan '14
FOCCACIA CAPRESE
Foccacia Caprese Original recipe by Kitchen Whisperer
Adapted by Aparna
Makes 2 medium sized Foccacia
Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:
For the bread:
2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
3 1/2 cups bread flour (All purpose will also work)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 olive oil (regular also works)
1 - 11/2 cups warm water
A little more olive oil for brushing the dough

For the topping:
4-5 roma tomatoes (depends on the size, I used just one)
1 small ball of fresh mozzarella cheese,cut into 1/4inch slices
1/2 cup fresh basil,cut into thin strips

For the herb oil:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon garlic paste
Salt to taste

Fresh basil for garnishing

Method:
Herb oil : Mix together all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Bread: Mix together all the ingredients though olive oil and then add in the warm water and form a soft elastic dough that is just short of sticky. Take the dough out, oil the bowl with some extra olive oil, put the dough ball back in and coat it by turning the dough a couple of times. Cover and let rise until doubled,about an hour.
Pre heat the oven to 210C / 400F. Once it is risen, take the dough out and divide into two. Place them on a cookie sheet and press it out gently into a rectangle of 1 inch thickness.Let it rise for 20 mins. Slightly oil your fingers and poke into the dough at equal intervals to create a dimpled effect. Brush the top of the bread with the herb oil, generously. Bake for 18-20 mins or until golden brown.
Take the bread out and increase the baking temperature to 230C/ 450F. Brush the bread with some herb oil and top it with cheese and tomatoes. Lightly drizzle the remaining herb oil over it and let it bake until the cheese has just melted. Garnish with basil leaves and serve warm.
I cannot even begin to tell you how delicious this bread is! We loved it so much that I regretted for not making more.I can actually have this for a meal,even though I made some Cream of Mushroom Soup with it.Ian loved this bread,so it was a winner in every aspect!
If only God made Potatoes, Bread & Desserts the most nutritious thing on Earth! :)

Monday, December 30, 2013

FRENCH APPLE CAKE

APPLE RUM CAKE
APPLE RUM CAKE
There was an era in my life,the dark ages, when I hated anything to do with baked apples. I totally hated it with all of my heart. If it had cinnamon sprinkled over, then just forget it! I had my first bite of an apple pie from a coffee shop in Bangalore and it was just cinnamon coated apples in some pathetic pastry. That was enough for me. I wouldn't even dream of eating an apple pie after that!
It all changed the day I decided to make my favourite Apple & Cardamom Cake. It is to die for!
APPLE RUM CAKE
Living in America for the past almost 4 years has changed me in the way I look at baked apples. Here, they make such amazing things with apples and cinnamon.The apple pies you get here,especially homemade ones are really to die for! It's just apples wrapped in pastry but there is really some magic in it.I eat a lot of fresh apples,especially the HoneyCrisp,when in season.I wanted to make an apple pie today but thought of baking an apple cake when I saw Dorie's recipe.
APPLE RUM CAKE
Jobin's mom is visiting us now and she loves all the cakes I bake. She particularly loved that Apple & Cardamom Cake I made a few years ago. It was a simple yet truly delectable one bowl apple cake.If you know me, I don't like to bake the same things again and again...except for that rich dark Chocolate cake that I bake almost every week. It's a staple in our house. So, if you ever drop in...that might be your snack :-)
APPLE RUM CAKE
Ian adores cakes.He was fast alseep when I baked it but wide awake while I was photographing it. So, he decided to photobomb for the most part until Jobin's mom came to the rescue. He says 'Mam' for food. So, that was one word he kept saying when I was busy and I couldn't stop myself from slicing it up for him.The photographs can be imperfect :-)

FRENCH APPLE CAKE
APPLE RUM CAKE Ingredients:
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted & cooled
3 tablespoon dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 medium apples

Method: Preheat the oven to 350F and butter an 8inch springform tin.Line it with parchment.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt & set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy . Add the sugar and whisk till well blended.Add half the amount of flour and whisk it in. Add half the melted butter and whisk it in.Blend in the remaining flour followed by the melted butter .Add the peeled and diced apples and fold it in with a rubber spatula.Pour into the prepared tin and level it. Place the cake tin over a parchment lined baking tin and bake for 1 hour or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let it cool almost completely and then run a knife around it to make sure no apple pieces are sticking to the pan . Invert onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely.
The aroma while this cake bakes is so good!This cake has a nice golden brown colour on top which may make you think that it's like a well set cake on the inside. Actually, it's a very moist,almost custardy kind of a cake filled with apples. It's mildly sweet with a nice touch from the rum which will make you grab another slice.Ian enjoyed eating it from the tiny bites he could manage from us,so did the rest of us!

Wishing you all a prosperous 2014!
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