Sunday, April 24, 2016

Easy mixed berry cobbler

Last night, I threw together the fastest dessert I have ever made. Surprisingly, it was one of the best desserts I have ever had. How often do you get rewarded for not putting in a whole lot of effort? I used this fantastic recipe and only made minor modifications. 

Ingredients
2 - 2.5 C frozen or fresh mixed berries
3/4 C all purpose flour
3/4 C milk
1/2 C sugar
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

Melt the butter in a pie dish. Mix together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, milk, and the extracts. Pour into the pan. Scatter the berries in the batter. Top with a tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 45-50 minutes in a 350F oven. Serve warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for an extra special treat. Bliss!


Notes : 
  • 1/2 C sugar was plenty. In fact, it was a little sweeter than I prefer. Maybe the berries were very sweet by themselves. I will use a bit less sugar next time. 
  • I loved the almond flavor with the berries. 
  • Lemon zest might accent the flavors really well.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Wheat Bread

It all started with my buying a big jar of instant yeast. It seemed like such a good idea at the time.. I had visions of myself surrounded with an array of delicious, fluffy baked breads. I would wake up early on Sundays and bake two loaves of bread, that would be consumed over the week. We would never have to buy bread again... This is how I convinced myself that the big jar of instant yeast was a great investment. Sure to pay for itself.

Months slipped by. The unopened jar started back at me every time I opened the cupboard, reminding me of my lofty dreams. Finally, last week, along with the rush of energy that accompanies one during the new year, I decided that I was going to bake some bread.

I wanted to try a whole wheat bread. I've made the caramelized onion bread a few times now, some foccacias, but never a whole wheat bread. Whole wheat yeasted breads can be intimidating. A quick perusal through the cookbooks in my home got me all discouraged at first. They recipes involved complicated steps (start a biga, knead-rest-knead-rest-knead-rest.. I lost track of the number of times and the amount of time for each step). Also, I didn't want to burn my whole weekend baking bread.

This recipe, however, was inviting. It comes from the magnificent Smitten Kitchen, where pretty much every recipe I have tried is a whopping success.

I made some minor modifications to the recipe, that I note here ( I *have* to tinker). First, I made a half batch. Second, I substituted bread flour for part of the whole wheat flour.

Ingredients
1/2 C + 1/8 C water
1/2 C + 1/8 C milk
2 T molasses
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
2 T oil
1 egg
1 C quick cooking oats
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1 C bread flour
1/2 T salt

Procedure
Heat the milk and the water together in the microwave, until lukewarm to touch. Add the molasses, yeast, oil and egg and whisk together until well combined. It is easier to beat the egg separately and add instead of combining it with all the liquid. Add the oats, the flours and the salt and stir well until combined. Let the batter rest for about 5-10 minutes. After that, mix vigorously for about 10 minutes, starting with a wooden spoon and then with your hands. I was a bit lazy and only kneaded for 5 minutes.

Proof the dough for about 2 hours, or until the volume doubles. Punch out the air at that point, and plop it into a greased baking dish. I didn't bother with the fancy rolling and shaping. Maybe next time..

Let the dough rest and rise again for another hour. Then bake in a 350 F oven for about 45 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Let it cool before removing from the pan. It came out without much trouble.

Verdict 
The bread tasted great. It tasted of whole wheat, with a hint of molasses. The molasses imparted a fantastic dark brown color, that I loved. During my childhood, my parents regularly bought bread at a fantastic bakery : Universal Bakery on Kutchery Road, Luz, Chennai. This bread reminded me of that. It's not quite there, but similar.

The bread kept well for a week, and was very hearty. May be it is the oats that makes it so filling. I will try this again, but one thing that I had trouble with was the number of crumbs. I had to slice pretty thickly to prevent the bread from breaking apart. Maybe I'll be more diligent about the kneading and shaping the next time.



Wheat Bread with oats, right out of the oven. It smells like a bakery here!
Look at the gorgeous dark brown. It reminds me of the bread at Universal Bakery in Luz, Chennai.

Yum.


Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy 2016!


Happy New Year!! I have neglected this space for a long time. I'm hoping to be more active this year.

I'll start off with a sweet treat I made in 2015 to give away as gifts. These were incredibly good and easy to prepare as well. I followed David Lebovitz's recipe exactly and that is what I would do the next time as well. I can't wait to make another batch!

Things to note :
a) Watch the almonds like a hawk while they are toasting. Over toasted almonds get bitter!
b) Chop them by hand. This is time consuming, but the effort is worth it.



The buttercrunch cooled for hours before it set completely. It took about 5 hours on a winter evening!

This was unbelievably delicious.







Sunday, December 28, 2014

Cranberry Almond biscotti

A wonderful recipe for biscotti, from the fantastic Smitten Kitchen blog. I made small adjustments to the recipe, as noted here. The cranberry almond combination is a winner and I will be making this again. I was worried it was too crumbly, but in the end, the texture was fine. My biscotti were a little tubby, but they were delicious!





Ingredients

3 C flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 C or 8 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
3 eggs
1 C sugar
1 Tbsp orange zest
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract

1 C slivered almonds
1/3 C dried cranberries

Whisk together butter, sugar, eggs, zest, vanilla and almond extract. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and add to the butter/sugar mixture. Stir until combined and all the flour is incorporated well. Add the almonds and cranberries and mix well to combine.

The dough is sticky. Work with your hands if needed. Transfer to a floured work surface and add small amounts of flour as needed. Shape into 2 logs.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease cookie sheet  and place the logs with about 2 inches clearance from the edges and from each other.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned. Allow to cool completely.

Slice on a bias with a serrated knife and lay flat on the same baking sheet. Bake on one side for 8 - 10 minutes and flip them. Bake them on the other side for 6-7 minutes before removing from the oven and cooling completely.

Store in an air tight container.

Mine came out slightly crumbly. I knew this was going to be an issue when I tried to slice the log after the first bake. I think this might be because I used slightly less butter than the original recipe called for.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Homemade Mixture

Searching for a snack with a satisfying crunch on a weekend afternoon, I tried yet another recipe from the wonderful Nupur's blog. Honestly, I have lost count of the number of recipes I have tried from her blog! Well, as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that! I feel truly lucky to live at a time when the internet facilitates the sharing of wonderful ideas.

It all started when I spied a bag of puffed barley at a grocery store and was struck by how it resembled Pori or Puffed Rice. I was also momentarily seized by a feeling of virtuousness. "We shall have no more store bought fried snacks at home!", I decreed to R. I shall make a healthy mixture that we can snack on using this undeniably healthy puffed barley.

I tasted the puffed barley upon returning home and it was nothing like Pori. In fact, it tasted awful. A bit like rotting cardboard, I thought to myself. But I had to salvage this gigantic bag! I quickly found inspiration in Nupur's Chivda and Bhadang recipes and decided to combine the two.

I have to say, since that first time, I have made this Mixture 3 times. We usually run through it pretty quickly. And you do end up feeling virtuous after eating a bowl of this Mixture.



Ingredients

2 T sunflower oil
1 t mustard
1 t saunf
10 - 15 curry leaves
1 t red chili powder
1 t sugar
1 t turmeric
2 C poha
1/3 C raw peanuts
1/2 C dried cranberries or raisins
1/2 C Pottu Kadalai or Roasted Gram
1 C store bought Sev
1 C puffed barley
Salt, to taste

Heat the oil in a large pan, preferably wide and not very tall. Add mustard seeds and once they have popped, add the peanuts and curry leaves. When the peanuts begin to turn light brown, add the poha and turmeric and stir well. The poha will absorb all the oil and get toasty.

Another way is to roast the peanuts separately and add them after the poha has got toasty. Add the red chili powder, salt, Pottu kadalai and puffed barley at this point and continue to roast for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the sugar, dried cranberries and store bought Sev.  Allow to cool completely before storing in an air tight container. It stays fresh for about a week, by which time we usually finish it.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Soba noodles with Lime Cilantro Pesto

Resuscitating this blog after years..

Having moved next to an Asian food market, I'm discovering many interesting ingredients and experimenting a bit. I once ate cold Soba noodles with a dipping sauce (which was mostly soy sauce with garlic and scallions) at a Japanese restaurant and found it to be a delicious summer lunch. Since then, I have been trying to use Soba noodles more. Inspiration struck when I ate a Cilantro Pesto pasta salad at Sweet Tomatoes - I decided to combine Cilantro Pesto and the Soba noodles.

This is a delicious cold lunch and tastes even better the next day. It also requires very little prep work - the Pesto is easily prepared in the blender and a bunch of vegetables can be chopped while the noodles boil.

The washing of the soba noodles once cooked takes a few extra minutes ( they need to be rinsed several times in cold water to remove the starch ) but the results are worth the effort.



Cilantro Lime Pesto:

1 bunch of cilantro, leaves and stems, roughly chopped
2 big cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, minced
1/3 C sunflower seeds, toasted
1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
1-2 T oil (toasted sesame or canola)
2 limes, zested and juiced
salt to taste
Add some pasta water to loosen up the paste

1 package of soba noodles, cooked and rinsed at least 2 times in cold water

2 cups of carrots (thinly sliced) and broccoli (steamed in the microwave)

Grilled Tofu for some Protein

1 bunch scallions: thinly sliced

Toss all together. Yum!!








Sunday, January 27, 2013

Butternut Squash Khichdi

Ingredients
1 Whole Butternut Squash, cooked and cubed
1 C Rice
0.5 C Masoor Dal
4 C Water
1 T garlic, finely minced
1 T ginger, finely minced
1 T oil
1 tsp mustard
3 dried red chillies
2 bay leaves
0.5 tsp Turmeric
Red Chilli Powder, to taste
2 tsp Goda Masala
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Initial Prep:
Squash: Cook the butternut squash by microwaving on HIGH for 6-8 minutes. The cooking time may vary depending on the microwave and the size of the squash. Allow to cool, and then peel, scoop out the seeds and dice into 1 inch cubes.
Rice: Wash and soak the rice and Masoor Dal in water.
Method:
Heat oil in a large pressure cooker and add mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the bay leaves and dried red chillies. After a few seconds, add the cubed squash, ginger and the garlic and saute for 10 minutes on medium heat, or until the raw smell from the garlic and the ginger disappears and the squash starts to brown. Drain the rice and the Dal and add to the pressure cooker. Add chilli powder to taste, and the Goda masala. Add 4 cups of water, and salt to taste. Cover and cook, as you would normally cook rice in the pressure cooker.

Allow the steam to release naturally and garnish with coriander. Serve with a dollop of ghee and some curd on the side. Yumm.