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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Whole Wheat Fruit and Nut Biscotti

This is one of our favorite cookies!! Since we enjoy this so much and so often, I thought that if there was a way to make this healthier, I should. So, I decided to subsitute the regular ingredients with healthier ones, and the end result was delicious.

Dry ingredients
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sliced blanched almonds
1/3 cup walnuts
1/3 cup pecans
1/4 cup cranberries
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

Wet ingredients
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence/ pure vanilla extract
1/2 a stick of butter (about 2 tsp) melted (optional)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix together. In another bowl break the 3 eggs and whisk them. Add the vanilla essence and mix. Then add the melted butter. Now, slowly pour this egg mixture into the dry ingredients and mix. Once you have added half the egg mixture, add the dry fruit and nutes. The resultant dough is a bit sticky.

Shape the dough into 2 logs approximately 10 x 3 inches long. Bake these two logs at 350° F for about 40 minutes. The logs will be light brown in color. Take these out onto a cooling rack and let it cool down for 10 minutes. Once the logs have cooled down sufficiently to handle, cut these into biscottis to the desired size. Generally about 1 X 3 inches in size. Place these back onto your baking sheet and bake them for about 10-20 minutes in the oven at 350° F.
Let the biscottis cool and enjoy! These biscottis are not as hard as the ones made with all purpose flour and remind me a lot of cake rusk.

Don't overmix the dough. Mix it just enough so that all the ingredients come together. Coat your hands with a little flour to work with the sticky dough to avoid getting your hands messy. The longer you bake the biscotti during the second baking, the harder it will get. Cut the logs into biscottis using a serrated knife to minimize crumbling and resultant crumbs.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

One of my favorites. This cake is so pretty. My mom used to bake this occasionally as a treat. I remember my first attempt at baking this cake several years ago. The pineapples got stuck to the base of the cake pan and had to be removed and placed back on to the cake. Though the cake tasted great, I was quite disheartened by the experience and didnt try to bake it again.

Anyway, fast forward several years and I found myself facing a pineapple can. Was I  ready to face the challeng? Did history repeat itself? Will I ever make it again? Stop biting your nails and read on.

2 cups all purpose flour/maida
1 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
3 eggs
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup pineapple syrup
1 can of tinned pineapple slices - cut one slice into bite size pieces
5-6 cherries (canned) or few cranberries

For the caramel
4 tsp sugar
1 tbsp water

Sieve the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and soda together three times. Add the sugar to this flour mixture. Separate the egg yolks and white. Beat the egg white till its foamy and stiff. Add the vanilla to the the egg yolks and whisk it. Take the butter in a bowl, to this a little flour and sugar mixture. Alternate the flour with the egg yolks mixture. Once all the egg yolks have been incorporated, alternate the flour with the egg white. Do not over beat the batter and gently fold in the egg white. Once all the flour and eggs have been added, fold in the pineapple pieces. Add the pineapple syrup a little at a time so that the consistency of the batter is such that it falls easily when its is dropped from the ladle. 

To prepare the pan
This is an important step so that your pineapple slices don't end up sticking to the base. Grease the pan with butter, then cover the pan with a butter paper. Next pour some caramel syrup to cover the base of the paper lined pan. To make the caramel, heat the 4 tsps of sugar till its turns brown and caramelizes. Add half to one tbsp of water to thin it out. Arrange slices of pineapple around the base. Add the cherries/cranberries in the center of each pineapple slice. Pour the cake mixture over this. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 F.

Grease the pan well, do not skim on the butter else the pineapple slices will stick to the base. Peel the paper carefully away from the cake after removing it from the pan after it has cooled down a bit. If its too hot, the cake might crumble, but if the cake is too cool, the paper will tend to stick.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Shahi Tukra/ Royal Bread Pudding

This dessert is definitely worthy of the Shahi or Royal qualifier. I made it for the very first time and it was a great hit with my family and friends. The recipe is simple with readily available ingredients, but you must factor in lengthy cooking time. It can be made in advance and assembled just before you are ready to serve. A rich dish, garnished with ghee, dry fruits and nuts.

2-3 tbsp ghee/clarified butter
4-6 slices of white breads with the crusts cut off
500 ml milk - must be whole milk, do not substitute with low fat milk
1/8 cup water
1/8 tsp cardamom powder
1 pinch saffron/kesar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp almond slices (can cut whole almond into small pieces as well)
handful of roasted cashews

Make a simple syrup using 1/4 cup sugar and the water and keep aside to cool. Heat milk in a vessel, add sugar and cardamom powder and let it simmer till the volume of milk reduces to half and the milk thickens. To this thickened milk mixture, add the saffron, almonds and cashews. Boil for another few minutes till the saffron is incorporated in the milk. Cut the bread slices into triangular pieces and shallow fry in ghee till the bread turns light brown.

To assemble
The bread and milk must be well cooled in the refrigerator before serving it. Assembly of the dessert must be done just before you are ready to serve it else the bread will turn soggy and pasty. Coat the ghee roasted bread slices with the sugar syrup. Place it in a bowl, to this add the thickened milk. Serve cold and indulge.

Coat the bread using a spoon instead of dipping it in the syrup, so that you can control the amount of syrup. Doing this will avoid it from getting soggy and you can control the amount of sweetness. The thicker the milk, the tastier it is. You can adjust the amount of sugar added to the milk based on how sweet you want the milk to be.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Strawberry Jam

I had been to the grocery store last week picked up a couple of pounds of strawberries. Of course, there were too many to eat and finish before getting spoilt, so I thought why not make a jam. I have the fondest memories of childhood where my mom used to make a variety of jams, preserves and sauces and once I had thought of that, I just had to call her and ask for the recipe. It turned out to be a simple recipe, with a lengthy cooking time, but since constant supervision was not required, it seemed to be really easy.

1 pound of strawberries pureed. Keep a few aside and dice them.
2 cups sugar
a couple of pinches of citric acid.

Cook the pureed and diced strawberries together. You will know that the strawberry is cooked once the color of the puree changes to deep red and the volume will decrease and the mixture will become thicker. At this stage, measure the amount of the cooked puree. I had one cup of the cooked puree and so I took two cups of sugar. Mix the puree and the sugar and heat it on a low flame. The mixture will become watery as the sugar melts and then start to thicken. When this mixture is thick enough where your spoon leaves a slight path when its dragged through it, it is ready to be taken off the heat. Take a little mixture in a small bowl and add the citric acid to it, stir thoroughly so that the citric acid is completely dissolved. Add this back to the warm mixture. Let it cool. Jam is ready!! Enjoy with a piece of toast.

I took one pound, however, since the other measurements are relative to the cooked pureed strawberry volume, it doesn't matter what you start with, just adjust the proportions of other ingredients accordingly. The volume of sugar must be equal or more than the volume of cooked pureed strawberries. This can be adjusted based on how sweet the strawberries are. If they are sour, increase the amount of sugar. Do not cover the jam with a lid when it is cooling. Condensed water can lead to spoilage. Citric acid is added as a preservative. If it is not completely dissolved, it can leave a very sour taste if one comes across it while eating the jam, so make sure that it is dissovled completely. This recipe takes about 1.5 hours to cook completely, if cooked on low-medium heat.