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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Gulab Jamun using Mava/Khoya

We love gulab jamun! I have made them from readymade mixes and tried the milk powder based recipes, and we enjoy them all, but I always wanted to try out a recipe using mava/khoya. I could imagine what a rich taste that would have. I make mava/khoya at home from ricotta cheese during the festival season and this time I froze some to use later to make gulab jamun. I had called some friends over for dinner and it seemed to be a perfect time to try this out as a dessert.

The gulab jamuns turned out very good. The best compliment was that everyone ate seconds and some even eat thirds and they were all gone by the next day. They were soft, infused with syrup and they melted in the mouth. I also had a few learnings while making it. It is easier to fry these in oil as the temperature of ghee is tougher to maintain. Fry the gulab jamun at a consistent medium high temperature else the soft dough can disintegrate in the oil. That is the main difference between mava and milk powder gulab jamun. The milk powder ones must be fried at a medium low temperature for the jamuns to get cooked well. Also, remember that these will absorb the syrup and swell up to one and a half to two times the fried size, so roll the gulab jamuns accordingly. Try frying one gulab jamun to ensure that it doesn't melt in the oil and then fry the rest in batches.

Here is the recipe to make mava/khoya at home - Mava/Khoya/Kava recipe

3 cups sugar
2.5 cups water
few saffron strands
¼ tsp cardamom powder
1.5 cup mava/khoya grated
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp fine rava
oil to deep fry the gulab jamun

Put sugar and water in a deep and broad saucepan and heat it. Stir so that the sugar doesn’t caramelize. Once the sugar dissolves and water starts boiling, let it boil for a few minutes and turn off the heat when it starts looking syrupy. It doesn’t need to be thickened to get any threads. Add saffron and cardamom powder. Stir well. Keep this warm syrup ready for the gulab jamuns.

Knead the mava thoroughly. Add the all purpose flour, rava and baking soda and mix this thoroughly with the mava so that it is well dispersed. Knead this into a dough. Then make small 1 inch diameter balls of the mava mixture. Make sure to keep the dough and the balls with a damp cloth or paper towel, so that they do not dry. If you find the dough cracking, then add a few drops of milk at a time into the mava mixture and knead it till smooth. Make sure the gulab jamun balls are smooth and do not have any cracks. Once a large batch is ready, heat the oil. To test if the oil is hot enough, drop in a little dough and if it comes up immediately, then the oil is hot. Keep it on medium high heat and then add the gulab jamun balls. Add as many as the pan can accommodate. They will start coming up immediately. Cook them till they are nicely browned on all sides. Be careful while frying and turn them just a couple of times using a slotted spoon. If you over handle them, they may break. Once browned, remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel for a couple of minutes. Then put them into the warm syrup. They will float. As they get heavier and soak up the syrup they will sink a little.

These are delicate and if the temperature of the oil is low and they don’t get cooked quickly, the gulab jamun balls will start breaking up and separating up. Before you add all the gulab jamun balls in the oil, test with one to see if it fries up without breaking. If it breaks, then adjust the temperature and try again. It it still breaks then add a tbsp of maida rava mixture (without baking powder) to the dough and knead it again and then make the balls.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Bottle Gourd/ Dudhi Halwa/ Lauki Halwa - Instant Pot version

I got my Instant Pot a couple of years ago and use it on a daily basis, but these days I have started using it to save time, reduce the amount of fat in the recipe and to do a lot of precooking which takes a lot of time the traditional way. I am starting a separate section of recipes that can be cooked in the pressure cooker to reduce the amount of time needed to spend on the recipe. I will keep updating the techniques as I experiment and find more shortcuts.

One of the recipes that takes a lot of time on the stove top is bottle gourd/dudhi/lauki halwa. Since this is a very water vegetable, it takes a  lot of sauteing to get it cooked and the water evaporated. This method also requires more ghee to sautee it to get a nice cooked flavor before you can add milk to it. If the ghee is less or if the lauki is not well cooked, the halwa may not turn out that tasty. The 30-40 minutes traditional cooking (on low heat to avoid burning) and monitoring is reduced to about 15 minutes hands free process when using the pressure cooker. 

For reference: Here is link to the traditional Dudhi halwa recipe.

2 dudhi/lauki/bottle gourd (had about 3.75 cups), peeled and grated 
1/2 cup liquid from the dudhi/lauki
4 tbsp (1/4 cup)  cup ghee/clarified butter
1.5 cups whole milk
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/8 cup raisins - soak this in a little water
sliced almonds/ cashews 
1 cup sugar (to taste)
Ricotta cheese/ khava - optional

Peel and grate the lauki/dudhi. Keep it aside for 10 mins. It will release a lot of water. Place this grated gourd in a large sieve and drain the grated dudhi and press it to make it a little dry. It doesn't need to be squeezed dry. The intent is to reduce the liquid so that there will be less to evaporate later. Save the liquid. 
In the Instant Pot liner, add 1/4 cup of the saved dudhi liquid and 1/4 tbsp of ghee. Then add a layer of half of the grated dudhi. Then spread a tbsp of ghee on top of this layer. Then add the rest of the grated dudhi in a layer and spread a tbsp of ghee on top of this layer. Add another 1/4 cup of liquid and then close the lid with vent sealed. Cook on manual mode for 5 mins. Then let it stay in warm mode for 2-3 minutes and then release the pressure. Stir it well. The layer touching the bottom may be lightly browned. It will also release some liquid. At this stage if the dudhi is not cooked (it may need more time if it is old) then put it back on manual for a couple more minutes.

Now, switch to the saute mode and let the water evaporate, stirring occasionally so that it doesn't get caught at the bottom and start browning. Then add the milk and stir and cook the dudhi in it, till it evaporates. The milk curdles a bit and the solids are left behind to give a rich mava/khoya flavor. Add mava/khoya if using at this stage. If using ricotta cheese, add it before adding the milk and cook it a little. Then add the sugar. It will melt making the mixture liquid again. Again cook this till the water evaporates. 
Add the last tbsp ghee to give it a rich flavor. Then add the cardamom, raisin and almonds and stir. The halwa is cooked. I prefer to let it cook further so that it caramelizes as I like this flavor better. To do that keep cooking it till it starts to get golden brown. Serve warm or cold.

You need not squeeze out the liquid, but if you don't then it takes much longer to cook the water out before adding the milk. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tea Rusk

Everyone in our family loves rusk/tea rusk. The kids love to dunk it in their milk and we love it with our tea. As a result we can easily go through a newly opened packet in less than a week. The difficulty is that the closest store that sells these crackers is about 10 miles away and now along my daily routes. So, most of the times we are out of this at home and it becomes a rare treat. I had been thinking about making this at home and thought that it would be similar to making croutons at home. So, one evening I tried it and it worked beautifully. I would recommend using a French bread to get the store like effect. You can also use a baguette for smaller size crackers. Now I make this at least once a week and there is always a stock of low calorie crackers in the snack closet for anytime snacking. 

French bread loaf or baguette 
3-4 tbsp unsalted butter
2-3 tbsp sugar (optional), caster/fine if possible

Remove the bread from its packaging and let it stay on your kitchen countertop or table for a few hours or a day. The purpose is to make it drier so that it is easy to slice. If possible keep it on a cooling rack for better air circulation. Then use a serrated knife and slice the bread into slices that are of about ½ to 3/4th of an inch. Use a sawing motion to slice the bread, so that it doesn’t get squished.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan or the microwave. Use a brush and brush on the melted butter on both sides of the bread slice. If using sugar, sprinkle it lightly onto both sides. 

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place a cooling rack on a cookie sheet. Then line up the bread slices on the rack. Place in the oven for about 15-20 mins till the toast starts to get a nice golden brown. Remove from oven and let it cool completely. Store in an airtight box.  

If using the microwave, heat the butter in a deep enough bowl, so it doesn’t boil over. Also, heat the butter in intervals of 10-20 seconds till the butter melts. You can line the cookie sheet with a silpat or parchment paper for easy cleanup. If using a baguette, the bread will brown in 12-15 mins. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Gulkand (Rose Preserve)

Gulkand is a highly fragrant and delicious rose preserve. Gulkand is said to have a cooling property and is usually eaten in summers. We usually eat about a spoonful of it with milk. I have also used it to make different sweets. So far, I had always bought gulkand. This year I decided to try my hand at making it from the roses in the garden.

We have been having a lovely spring and this year the rose plants are producing beautiful, and extremely fragrant roses. The roses are so fragrant, that I was very tempted to make gulkand using them. I remembered that my mom had made gulkand from the roses in her garden last year. So, I called her and she explained the process to me. Now I just had three large roses and I wanted to see how the gulkand would turn out without having to wait for the time period that the traditional method entails. So, I decided to try to experiment with instant methods and they worked beautifully. I would recommend the traditional method if you have the patience, as it produces the most fragrant gulkand, but the instant methods are also great quick recipes which produce equally flavorful gulkand. See the tips below for pros and cons of both methods.

I used three large flowers to make the gulkand. It was a small quantity but very satisfying as it was made using flowers from the garden. I began with an ounce (28 gm) of flower petals which resulted in about 1/3 cup of gulkand.

Rose petals (any color)
Water (if using instant method)

Make sure that the roses you are using are edible and are not sprayed with any toxic pesticides. Any color rose petals can be used. The more fragrant the rose, the better aroma the gulkand will have. Remove the petals from the roses, gently and then wash these very gently. To do this, fill a bowl with water, and submerge the petals in it. Gently swirl them around and remove the water. By doing this, you ensure that the petals don’t get bruised. Then, use a salad spinner and dry the rose petals out. And spread these on a cotton cloth and let them dry for a couple of hours till absolutely dry. This is an important step if you are going to use the traditional method of making gulkand. Next, weigh the petals and then weigh an equal amount of sugar. If you don’t have a weighing scale, take enough sugar to cover all the petals with sugar. You can always take a little more sugar but at the minimum it should be at least equal in weight or enough to cover the petals. Now continue with one of the methods below. See tips below on the pros and cons of each method.

Traditional method
Cut the petals and crush them lightly and place them in a glass container. Cover the petals with the sugar. Close the lid and place in the sunlight. In the evening, bring the container inside. The next morning, shake the container to mix the petals and semi melted sugar.  If you have more rose petals to add, follow the same procedures. Add a layer of the petals and cover them with sugar. Continue this till you have filled the bottle with the desired volume of petals. Keep this in the sunlight during the day and make sure to shake the bottle and stir the petal and sugar mixture. Continue this for a couple of weeks till the sugar has melted and the petals are nicely coated and have a brown hue. You can taste it at this stage and determine if the petals are the right consistency. If the temperature is high during the day, the gulkand will be formed n a week to 10 days after you have stopped adding the petals and sugar. It will take longer with milder weather.

Instant method #1
Cut the petals and crush them lightly. In a saucepan, add the sugar. Add a few spoons of water, just enough to ensure that the sugar is wet and there is enough water to stir it. Heat this and make a syrup. Add the petals and boil them for a few mins till wilted and cooked. Take off the heat and let cool.

Instant method #2
Cut the petals and crush them lightly. In a pressure cooker safe bowl add the petals, sugar and a few spoons of water. Stir it and cover the bowl with a lid or aluminum foil so that it is tightly covered and the steam created during the pressure cooking will not enter the bowl. Add water to the pressure cooker as per the directions for your cooker. Then place the bowl in the pressure cooker and cook the petal and sugar mixture for about 5/6 whistles or 4 minutes in an electric pressure cooker. Once the pressure drops, remove the bowl and remove the lid/foil gently ensuring that any water collected on it doesn’t fall into the bowl. Stir the mixture and let it cool.

The traditional method preserves the fragrance better and the gulkand will have a stronger aroma. However, it does take longer for the gulkand to get cooked in the sunlight. This is however a better method with long term storage. Since the roses are preserved in sugar and additional moisture is not added, it is a better method to make it in bulk as it will not get spoiled easily. As long as you do not introduce any moisture, it will last even an entire year.
The instant method is much faster and you will be able to eat the gulkand immediately instead of having to wait for weeks. It is better when you are planning to use just a few roses. The taste is flavorful, however the fragrance is not as strong as it evaporates a little due to the heating at high temperatures. A small quantity will last without refrigeration for a couple of weeks, but keep it in the fridge for longer storage time.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Dark Chocolate

I love chocolates and all kinds of chocolate desserts. My favorite these days is a piece of really good quality dark chocolate. Just a small piece is enough as long as it is good quality. In my quest to try and make everything at home, I decided to try my hand at making chocolate at home. I first tried my hand at making milk chocolate using my Mom's recipe and it was a resounding success. The kids loved it. After that success, I decided to buy a packet of good quality cocoa butter and try out my hand at dark chocolate. I scoured the web for recipes and methods. My first try was with equal proportion of cocoa butter and cocoa powder and cold maple syrup. It tasted great but did not set well and remained soft even after keeping it in the fridge for a while.

So I went back to research the factors on which the texture of the chocolate depended. The main variables seem to be the proportion of cocoa powder to cocoa butter, and the temperature during the process of making chocolate and how quickly it is set. So with a better understanding of these factors, the tempering process (which makes the chocolate set in a crystalline pattern which provides the much needed snap), and the seeding process (by which the crystalline structure begins development), I decided to give it another go and this time the results were much better. The chocolate set beautifully and got the correct texture.  I also used chocolate molds and this gave the chocolate a gourmet look. The taste was also rich and I needed only 3 ingredients.

After this successful experiment, I plan on using a thermometer to better manage the tempering process and also trying different flavors. And of course I will post updated recipes with details to make it easier and foolproof for you to get the perfect dark chocolate.

1/4 cup raw cocoa butter
2 tbsp cocoa powder, dutch processed, unsweetened
4-5 tsp maple syrup

Sieve the cocoa powder to remove any lumps and set aside. Finely chop or grate the cocoa butter. Fill a small saucepan with about an inch of water. Heat it up till you can see bubbles on the surface and then reduce the heat to low. Place a glass or ceramic bowl, which is heat proof and can be used in the oven or microwave, on the saucepan. The bowl should be large enough to completely cover the saucepan opening. This set up is called a double boiler and is used to provide indirect heat to the chocolate so that it doesn't overheat. Add the cocoa butter to the bowl and once you see it start to melt, warm up the maple syrup for 15 seconds in the microwave. It should be at room temperature or lukewarm. Once the cocoa butter is completely melted, add the maple syrup and stir, so that it is well mixed and a homogenous liquid.

Take the bowl off the saucepan and wipe the base of the bowl which has a layer of the condensed water. Turn off the heat and move the saucepan off the stove top. Now add the cocoa powder and stir well till you get a beautifully dark glistening liquid which takes about a 20 seconds to a minute. Pour this into the chocolate mold and then keep it in the freezer for 10-20 minutes till completely set. Remove the chocolate from the mold by following the instructions on the mold package. Store in fridge.

Make sure that not even a drop of water falls into the mixture during the process, as this will cause the chocolate to seize and then the chocolate won't set and will become a mess. Use a glass or ceramic bowl rather than a steel bowl as it seems to help maintain the heat better. If you do not have a chocolate mold, you can use cup cake liners as molds to shape the chocolate. Else you can pour it in a pan and let it set as a chocolate slab and break it into pieces.

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