Sunday, December 25, 2011

A bountiful of Christmas wishes with Bounties


If you like Bounty, you will love these. :) Christmas is a time to relax, spend time with loved ones, catching up with old friends and reminisce good old times. Bounty is one of my favourite childhood chocolate bars and they are perfect to be served on occasions like Christmas and Valentine's Day. It is eggfree, gluten-free and you don't need an oven to make this. Even people who may not love bounty will be blown away by these homemade bounty balls. I could not stop licking the spoon and my fingers, while I was making these. If you want to shine with a recipe, this is it. :) And with this post, I want to wish you, one and all, a very merry Christmas!


Ingredients:
200 g desiccated coconut flakes
3/4 cup fresh heavy cream (35-40 %)
50 g butter
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup icing sugar

Coating:
150-200 g semisweet chocolate

Method:
In a large cooking pot, melt the butter at below medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the cream, maple syrup and sieve the icing sugar. Mix well and cook at medium heat, stirring in between, for about 6-8 minutes till the mixture thickens. Then add the dry coconut flakes and mix well for a couple of minutes till it is really thick firm and then take the cooking pot away from the stove. Allow to cool. When it has cooled down, cool enough for you to handle the mixture with your hands, take one tablespoon of the mixture and place it on a cool parchment paper or shape into small balls, and place them on parchment paper over a steel sheet. Allow the bounty balls to cool and stiffen for minimum one hour before coating them with chocolate. I put them in the refrigerator overnight to set.

Melt the semisweet chocolate over a hot-water bath or in microwave. Before melting, chop the chocolate evenly. Bring 1 inch of water to boil in a cooking pot, and place a heat-proof bowl over it. Make sure there are no water stains in the glass bowl it has to be completely dry, and the bottom should not touch the water beneath. Place the chopped chocolates in a glass bowl and let it melt. Melt the chocolate over low heat, and while melting over hot-water bath, stir frequently, until the chocolate has melted. If you melt them in the microwave, follow the same instructions. Chop the chocolates evenly and heat them in the microwave. If you heat the chocolate in the microwave, it would be a good idea to not heat all the chocolate at once. Heat the chocolate in two batches. Take the chocolate out in between and stir. Stick a tooth pick in the bounty balls and then coat with chocolate, by dipping the balls in the melted chocolate and place them back on parchment/bakery paper. Coat all the Bounty balls and let them cool and stiffen before refrigeration. Keep these goodies in the fridge and serve them cool. Good luck!



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tiramisu

Typically the winter season is a depressing one for me, with nothing much to look forward to, except the Christmas holiday, but that too passes away as quickly as it comes. Luckily this winter has not been so severe and in the blogosphere there are always some fun and eventful happenings that keeps you upbeat and on your toes. Even if you don't win a give-away, you always win a few friends. The whole experience of participating and interacting with other bloggers and readers from keeps you in good, cheerful spirit. 

Although blogging can be addictive, it has turned out to be a rewarding learning experience for me in many aspects. Like many others in the blogosphere, ever since starting this blog, I have tried my hands at making some recipes and combinations that I otherwise would not have thought of or cared much for. I have even started to show some interest in learning some traditional recipes and methods from my mother, that I hadn't earlier. While some experiments go terribly wrong and the food goes wasted, leaving you in a state of discouragement and guilt, other experiments go extremely well, making you feel on top of the world.
My most recent experiment is Tiramisu, which had been on my mind for a couple of months now but for some reason I kept postponing it. This one needs no introduction, I think. You have probably seen and read about it in umpteenth food magazines, blogs, food programmes etc. This is a classic dessert but one that I have never tasted before. Tiramisu literally means "pick me up" in Italian, supposedly from the kick you get from all the caffeine in the coffee and the cocoa powder.

I was not too keen on trying the recipes that call for using raw eggs in the cream, so I finally made up my mind on Carminantonio Iannaccon's recipe. Since Carminantonio is an Italian and a chef, and this recipe was posted in Washington Post and featured in the"Daring Baker's Challenge" last year, I felt this recipe was a safe bet. It was much easier to make tiramisu than I had thought. The most difficult and brutal part of making it was to wait for it to set. I started making the zabaglione and the pastry cream on Monday and let it get chilled overnight. Made the whipped cream and assembled the tiramisu on Tuesday and then put it back in the fridge to set overnight. I got to eat it first for breakfast today, as I could not hold myself anymore. :) The tiramisu was very creamy and spongy and tasted quite refreshing mostly from the lemon. Unfortunately, the tiramisu started to melt when I was taking pictures.
Zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup Marsala wine (or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Pastry cream:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup whole milk

Whipped cream:
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the assembly:
2 cups brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon rum extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
36 store-bought ladyfingers
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Garnish:
Shaved nougat or chocolate (optional)

Method:
Begin by making the zabaglione. Have ready a double boiler. If you don't have a double boiler, place a pot with 1 inch of water on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl on it and make sure the bowl does not touch the water beneath. Combine the egg yolks, sugar, Marsala wine (or coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture is smooth. Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture, stirring constantly, at below medium heat for about 8 minutes or until it resembles an airy, lightly thick custard. It will bubble as it reaches that consistency. Continue to whisk and incorporate air into the custard. For me it took about 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

Next make the pastry cream, by combining the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan or pot. Add half the milk and the egg yolk. Whisk until smooth. Place the saucepan or pot and cook at below medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent curdling. Add the remaining milk in small amounts, stirring. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, be free of lumps, beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don't worry; push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.) Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream, combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. I prepared the whipped cream on the second day, just before assembling the tiramisu. Beat with a large whisk, hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Put it in the fridge till you need it. Have ready a large rectangular serving platter to make the tiramisu. Combine the espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon - this will make it easier to mix without any lumps. Add the refrigerated zabaglione and pastry cream carefully, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set the cream mixture aside.

Working quickly, dip the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover and even out the mixture, all the way to the edges. Repeat to create 2 more layers, using the ladyfingers that are left and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture on the edges of the platter; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.

To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer. Cut into individual portions. You can garnish the tiramisu with shaved nougat as I did, or some shaved chocolate. Good luck! I am sending this as my entry to New Year - New Dish by UK Rasoi and Midweek fiesta 8 by Amy.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Egg Biryani

Today I made an attempt to make egg biryani, in the rice-cooker, adapting recipes from Vahchef and Sailu's Kitchen. This biryani was quite easy to make, as I did not include any meat that called for elaborate marinating and cooking. This biryani made for a hearty meal today. A biryani is as much about the flavours as it is about the aroma. Spices such as cloves, cardamom and cinnamon play an integral part in making the biryani, if you or anyone in your family don't like the pungency of whole cloves and cardamoms, you can grind these into a powder, instead of excluding them.

Rice:
1 cup basmati rice
Water (as required)
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
2 cloves
1/2 tbs oil
1-2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt

Masala:
2 cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 cardamom pod
1/2 star anise
1/4 tsp shah jeera or cumin

Saute:
4-5 boiled eggs
1 onion
1/2 cup salted cashew nuts
3-4 tbs ghee or oil
2 green chilis
2 tbs coriander leaves (adjust)
2 tsp garlic-ginger paste
1 tsp chili powder
2-3 tbs curd or sour cream (adjust)
Salt to taste

Method:
Boil the eggs and peel them. Put aside. Grind the masala ingredients into a fine powder. Slice the onion and green chilis. Finely chop and grind the garlic and ginger into a fine paste. In a large pan, heat some ghee or oil. Add the masala powder, chili powder, onion, green chili, salt and saute until fragrant and golden brown. Add the cashew nuts and saute. The cashew nuts have a tendency to get burnt if you add them initially with the onion so don't add the until the onion is sauted at least half way or pre-roast the cashew nuts.

If you like, you can add the boiled eggs at this stage and marinate them in this onion masala, slit or whole. Put aside the eggs and half of the onion-cashew mixture in a bowl. Now add garlic-ginger paste and the coriander. Add the curd and mix. You can adjust the amount of coriander and curd according to your preferences. Take the saute away from the stove.

Add the water required to boil the rice in the rice cooker and bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, rinse and drain the rice properly. When the water is boiling, add turmeric, salt, oil, and the spices (whole). Mix a little. Then add the rice into the rice-cooker. Add the sauted onion-curd mixture and lightly mix. Close the lid and let the rice boil with the sauted onion-curd mixture and all the spices into an aromatic one-pot meal. Serve the biryani with the boiled egg and the sauted onion-cashew nuts and other side dishes of your choice.


I have sent this post as my entry to the "Royal Feast - Biryani" event and a Giveaway at Kaarasaaram.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cinnamon roll with almond filling

For some reason, I feel a lot like baking this month. It is probably the pre-Christmas jitters. I have made cinnamon buns many times before. However, I have never cut the cinnamon rolls lengthwise, except once, but that was many years ago. This time I also added homemade almond paste inside, just because I love almonds. This turned out absolutely divine, if I may say so myself. A cup of warm tea and some slices of a homemade cinnamon roll, is sometimes everything you need to brighten up the humdrum cold winter noons.

Cinnamon roll:
150 g salted butter
50 g compressed yeast
2 cups milk
1.4 kg flour (5 1/2 cups)
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tsp cardamom or cardamom powder

Almond filling:
200 g blanched almonds
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup icing sugar
2-3 tbs milk or egg white

Butter filling:
100 g butter
1/2-1 tbs ground cinnamon
3 tbs sugar

Topping:
Almond flakes
Pearl sugar
1 egg (egg wash)

Method:
Blanch the almonds. Bring some water to boil, lower the heat, add the almonds and boil for about 4-5 minutes and then blanch the almonds or alternatively, pour the boiled water in a bowl with almonds and let soak in the warm water for a couple of minutes and then peel the skin off. I would advise you to do this the night before. Let them dry a little and slice the almonds roughly. Slicing them before grinding makes it easier to get a fine paste and keep them in a cool place till needed.

Melt the butter in a cooking pot. Add the milk and warm the butter-milk mixture to 37 C degrees (finger warm). While you melt the butter, measure the flour in a separate bowl and mix in the cardamom. Put aside. Crumble the yeast into a large bowl. Add the heated milk-butter into the bowl, mix and dissolve any large chunks of yeast with your hands. Then add the sugar and then the flour, all at once. Take a wooden spoon and mix until everything comes together into a dough. Place it on a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Put it back in the bowl and cover with a cloth and allow the dough to rest (and increase in size) for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, grind the sliced almonds in a food processor. If you have a small grinder, grind in small batches. Grind the almonds as finely as you can. In a bowl, add the ground almonds and the sugar. Mix well. Add the milk or egg white. I used milk for the almond paste. Mix well into a paste and put aside. For the butter filling, mix softened butter, sugar and ground cinnamon and put aside. If the butter does not get soft, warm it in the microwave for a few seconds and then mix in the above mentioned ingredients.
Now, divide the dough into three equal parts. Roll it out, like you would a pizza dough, fairly thin, spread some of the butter mixture with a dining knife evenly on the dough. Add the almond paste over the butter filling and spread it as evenly as you can on the dough. Roll the dough up. Take next batch and repeat this process until you have three rolls. Let them rest for another 15 minutes or so. Cut the rolls with a scissor, not all the way down, and in equal sizes and drag the buns left and right with your hand. Whisk an egg. Give the rolls an egg wash, spread some pearls sugar and almond flakes over the cinnamon rolls.

Prepare two oven sheets by placing parchment/bakery paper on them. You can place two cinnamon rolls on one oven sheet.  Place the oven sheet in the middle part (but not on the lowest) of the oven and bake in a preheated oven at 175 C (350 F) for about 15-20 minutes. Let them cool somewhat before serving. You can refrigerate them and serve them on an another occasion, if you like. Let them cool down covered with a cloth on a wire rack, slice them and then put them in plastic bags and refrigerate. Eating them within two to three weeks is preferable.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Almond milk - Badam paal


Badam milk is a very wholesome drink enjoyed by people of all ages. This is a nourishing and soothing drink that is perfect to be consumed around this time of the year. Since many people suffer from dry skin during the winter season it's not a bad idea to consume it regularly once or twice a week. This recipe makes about 4 servings.


Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup water
3 tbs sugar
A pinch of saffron powder
A pinch of cardamom powder

Method:
Blanch the almonds. You can either bring some water to boil, add the almonds and boil for about 4-5 minutes and then blanch the almonds or let the almonds soak in warm water for a couple of minutes and then peel the skin off. Slice the almonds. Slicing them before grinding makes it easier to get a fine paste. Grind them in a food processor or in a wet grinder with some of the milk and grind into a fine paste. Grind it as finely as you can. I think the food processor grinds it more coarsely than the wet grinder. If you like it more nutty, you could use the wet grinder. 

In a cooking pot, add milk and the almond paste and bring it to boil in below medium heat while continously stirring. This might take about 15-20 minutes. Then add the sugar, saffron powder and cardamom powder. Stir for about 5-10 till the milk gets a nice colouring from the saffron. Typically the badam is made over the stove till it thickens somewhat. The milk that you get here tends to have more water in it. If you want it thick, you can stir till you get your desired consistency. Take it away from the stove and pour it into glasses or another bowl and allow to cool. Serve this drink cool.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fruit cake


Since Christmas is not far away, I wanted to make this cake that resembles the traditional English fruit cake a lot, at least by appearance, but that is actually a substitute to the traditional fruit cake. As you may be aware, the traditional English fruit cake contains rum/brandy and eggs. The fruits and nuts are let to soak in rum for a month when making a traditional fruit cake. I know there are some people who, for various reasons, want to omit any or any one of these ingredients. This fruit cake recipe is made sans eggs and alcohol.

Unfortunately, I did not manage to get hold of the eggless fruit cake recipe that my relations follow in Sri Lanka. So I baked this cake with much trepidation because I was unsure of the measurements, which is a-z when it comes to baking. I also used a few ingredients that were not used in that recipe. The cake was still very soft when I inserted the skewer 45 minutes in the oven. I could only breathe a sigh of relief when the cake was out of the oven. It turned out soft and moist and not overly sweet, as I we had thought, which is a good thing, because both of my parents are diabetics. Everyone in my family relished it, including my parents. Since this cake turned out well, I also decided to submit my entry for a Christmas-themed events and give-aways at various blogs, that you can see if you scroll down this post.

In Indian fruit/plum cake recipes, orange juice is often used to replace rum. In northern Sri Lanka, tea is used to soak the dates overnight. I'm sure there are many more options. I decided to substitute rum with orange juice. I also opted for an easier way out to making my own caramel - I used sweetened, condensed milk. This along with the brown sugar helped achieving the rustic colour. As for dried fruits and nuts, you could use any dried fruits and nuts of your choice. If you or anyone in the family is allergic to nuts, you could use dates, figs, raisins, candied cherries, apricots, pineapple etc. as per your liking.

Fruit and nut mixture:
1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup pineapple
1/2 cup cashew nuts
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 tbs chopped fresh ginger
3/4 cup unsweetened orange juice

Cake mixture:
225 g normal-salted butter (softened)
1/2 brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder


Chop the dates, pineapple, almonds, cashew nuts the size of raisins. Chop the ginger finely. In a pan, mix these ingredients in orange juice over low heat until the dry fruits and nuts have absorbed the orange juice. Put aside and allow to cool.

Mix the flour with the spices and the baking powder and baking soda and put aside. In a separate bowl, beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. I used the brown sugar to get the rustic colour. Add 3/4 cup flour in the butter mixture. Mix carefully.



Spoon in the cooled fruit and nut mixture in a large bowl. Add sweetened, condensed milk and mix. Add the remaining flour and mix. Pour the fruit and nut batter into the butter mixture and mix carefully and well. Butter the baking tin and spoon in the cake mixture in the baking tin and even it out.

Bake the cake in the lower parts of a preheated oven at 175 C (around 350 F) for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your oven. Insert a skewer in the centre of the cake to check whether the cake is ready. Skewer should come out clean if the cake is ready. Take the cake out and let it rest in the baking tin for about 10 minutes. Then gently unfold it. It is a soft cake that has a tendency to crumble but is nevertheless delicious. Wrap them up in aluminium foil and keep them in an airtight container to prevent it from getting dry.


Thank you, Ramya, for the award.