Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Homemade Ricotta Rasmalai

Rasmalai is one of my favourite Indian sweets. My aunt makes the best rasmalai I've ever had. I got the recipe from her and I'm happy to say, it's pretty simple to make. The secret ingredient is

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tree Stump Cake


When I was trying to figure out a cool cake to make for my friend Av's birthday, I realized most of my cakes have been pretty girly. It took a lot of thought to make it more 'manly' and I think the wood grain effect on the top tier made it happen.

To get a wooden effect I kneaded in brown food colouring to the fondant. Once it was an even cappuccino colour, I dipped a toothpick in the food colouring jar and pierced the fondant in various places. Then I rolled it out which created a streak effect.

The bottom tier is a chocolate cake with a mocha buttercream frosting and the top is chocolate with a coconut filling and vanilla buttercream with a hint of lime. I tweaked a recipe from the Hershey site. Here are the details:

Chocolate Cake
Ingredients
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup fresh brewed coffee

Directions
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in large bowl.
3. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes.
4. Stir in boiling water and coffee (batter will be very thin).
5. Pour batter into prepared pans.
6. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

Mocha Buttercream Frosting
Ingredients
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
3 tbsp fresh brewed coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Directions
1. Melt butter.
2. Stir in cocoa. It should turn into a paste.
3. Melt chopped chocolate and stir in to cocoa and butter mixture.
4. Stir in cinnamon and vanilla.
4. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
5. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Makes about 2 cups frosting.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Peaches topped with caramel sauce and a sprinkle of coarse salt
I love the flavour of caramel. Whenever there is a box of assorted chocolates around I'll always grab the one with a caramel center.  Today I tried making a caramel sauce from scratch. It was everything I dreamt it would be and more—sweet, buttery, creamy and the hint of salt makes it truly addictive.


You can pour it on fruits, ice cream or make your own version of a caramel macchiato. I drizzled some on sliced peaches that were warmed slightly in the microwave. It was so delicious. Trust me, you'll want to lick the bowl clean.


Ingredients
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
generous pinch of coarse salt


Directions
1. Heat water and sugar on medium heat in a pot with high sides. It will start bubbling right away but it's only ready when it turns amber and gives off a wonderful aroma. Be very careful because the sugar is extremely hot and can burn you.
2. Take off the heat and quickly whisk in cream and vanilla. If the caramel hardens while whisking in the cream, put it back on the heat so it will melt.
3. Add coarse salt to taste.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Pear Blueberry Almond Crisp

I made a pear crisp for my friend Anjali's dinner party with some local (backyard) produce. It was the perfect dish because her husband is writing a paper on locally grown food for his masters.  It doesn't get any closer to home than your backyard.

We planted a Bosc pear tree sapling when I was a kid.  It is now as tall as our house and produces bushels of pears every year.  The crunchy pears also taste great just before they ripen with a bit of salt and pepper.

There were some blueberries in the fridge so I added them in the crisp.  They added a lovely light purple colour to the pears once it came out of the oven.  They also boost the nutrition value of this dessert because they are packed with antioxidants. A crisp seems a little healthier than a crumble because of the oatmeal which contains protein and phosphorus. It's a great warm dessert to serve on a fall evening now that the weather is cooler. And your house smells wonderful when you pull a golden brown crisp out of the oven!

Ingredients
4-5 pears peeled and chopped into cubes
1/2 cup blueberries
1-2 tsp lemon juice to keep the pears from browning
1 tbsp maple syrup

Topping
2/3 cup oats
1/4 whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1/3 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup cold butter

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Filling
Peel and chop pears into small cubes and place in baking dish.  Squeeze lemon juice over it so it doesn't turn brown.  Add in blueberries and drizzle maple syrup over the fruits to add sweetness.

Topping
In a bowl, combine oats, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and coarse salt.  Cut the cold butter into small cubes so you can rub it into the mixture with your fingertips.  Once you have a coarse topping, add in the chopped almonds. Incorporate them well into the mixture and spread over the fruits.

Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbling and brown on top.  Let it cool slightly before serving. For a more indulgent dessert, top with vanilla ice cream.



Saturday, September 11, 2010

Kozhakattai -- Modakam -- Steamed sweet rice dumplings

Happy Ganesh Chathurthi! It is the birthday of the Hindu elephant-headed god who is prayed to before starting anything new because he will remove the obstacles from your path.

In South India, devotees make kozhakattai during this festival because it is Ganesha's favourite sweet. It's a delicious steamed sweet rice dumplings stuffed with a caramel flavoured coconut mixture made with jaggery, an unrefined sugar. It has a sweeter, more intense flavour than molasses brown sugar. Its distinctive shape, a round ball with a pointy top which is called a mooku, nose, is the most fun part to make.


Ingredients
Dough
1 cup long grain rice
1 1/2 cups water (approx., add slowly because you may need less)
pinch of salt

Filling
1 cup fresh grated coconut
1/2 cup jaggery
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 tbsp ghee

2 tbsp oil in a bowl (to rub on hands when forming your modakams)

Directions
Dough
Soak the rice for an hour and grind very to a smooth consistency with a little pinch of salt, like dosai batter. Too much water will make the dough loose and sticky. If that happens add a little rice flour to thicken it up.

If you are pressed for time and can't soak the rice, just use rice flour the proportion is one cup flour to one and a half cup hot water. It may go up or down depending on the kind of rice used to make powder.
Put it in a pot on low heat and stir it until it forms a tight ball.This dough will lump up first and get hard to move around and will stick to the sides of your pot. You have to scrape it fast and try to bring it all together till it is sort of shiny and oily looking. Keep the ball in the pot and close it tightly as the steam will cook it more.

Filling (poornam)
To make the filling, dissolve the jaggery in little bit of water and stir it on medium heat until it starts to bubble. Be careful as it will splatter. Add the grated coconut and keep on stirring until all the water has evaporated and it comes together and forms a ball. If it is too runny add some ground almonds while stirring. Take out of pan and keep in a plate to cool.

Making your modakams
Take the dough and knead it until soft and roll into a 1/2" diameter cylinder. Pinch off a 1/2" size piece of dough and roll into a ball. Pinch the sides of the ball and press your thumbs into the center to form a bowl. Place a piece of the coconut jaggery mixture into the middle and close the dough around it and form a little "nose" at the top.  Steam it for five minutes. When the dough becomes shiny you know it is done.

May Ganesha bless you and your loved ones!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Backyard Bounty: Cherry Tomatoes

We have the most delicious cherry tomatoes growing in our backyard.  It is so exciting to find the ripe red tomatoes and pick them.  They taste better than anything I've ever bought from the store.  The tomatoes are so juicy and burst with flavour in your mouth.  It is sweet and a little salty at the same time.

These tiny red tomatoes are the perfect size to pop in your mouth.  It's a healthy snack you can feel good about eating since one cup is only 27 calories and is full of vitamins A, C and E. Tomatoes get their bright red colour from the antioxidant, lycopene, which fights free radicals linked to cancer.

All you have to do is pick, wash, eat and enjoy!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Strawberry Lemon Brulee

There are still a few weeks left for you to enjoy the fresh flavours of the summer.  The delicious taste of strawberries and lemon makes this dessert hard to resist.  It is creamy, fruity, bright and fresh and the perfect finale to a meal.

I was looking for a fun dessert to make for my friend's birthday and I thought creme brulee would be quite elegant and fancy but when I saw the number of eggs that were needed (about 6) I was a bit turned off.  I found this recipe in a creme brulee book I have and I had to try it out.

This recipe doesn't use any eggs because the lemon juice makes the cream thicken.  The final product isn't as firm as a creme brulee with eggs but it tastes lighter and smoother.  The longer you leave the cream to set, the more the strawberry flavour infuses.  The strawberry pieces float to the top when you pour in the cream and it also adds a lovely pink colour to the dish. 

Ingredients
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup of superfine sugar (also called special fine sugar)
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
4 strawberries sliced
(makes 4-5 servings depending on size of ramekin)

Directions
1. Put sliced strawberried in bottom of ramekins
2.  Add cream and sugar to pot and bring to a boil on medium heat.
3. Take mixture off heat and add in lemon juice and zest.
4. Pour cream over strawberries
5. Put ramekins in fridge for 3-4 hours
6. Put 1 tablespoon of sugar over cream mixture and use a blowtorch to brulee the top.

It is still delicious without the sugar crust topping if you don't have a blowtorch.  The torches are pretty affordable.  You can get them for about $20 at a kitchen supply store and they usually include the ramekins.  It's a cool conversation piece for a party.  Everyone wants a turn with the torch!

You can use any of your favourite fruits for this recipe.  Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, bananas or peaches would work very nicely.  Strawberries make this dessert healthier because they are packed with antioxidants, vitamin C and are low in calories.  One cup of sliced strawberries is about 50 calories. 

It's great to use whatever is fresh in season because it will taste better and probably be less expensive at the grocery store.  Plus if you share, it's only half the calories.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Eggless Blueberry Peach Muffins (using condensed milk)


This is one of the best eggless cakes I have ever made.  I got this recipe from Nirmala Aunty when I went to her house to interview her kids for a podcast I produce called Keeping the Beat.

After the interview, she showed me this wonderful recipe binder she had made for her children.  I saw her dessert section was full of fantastic eggless recipes and I asked her to send them to me.  I finally got a chance to try one out and it worked out beautifully.  I can't wait to test out the rest of them.

This recipe has been adapted from her plain eggless cake recipe that is anything but plain.   I decided to add in some summer fruits.  One peeled, diced peach and a cup and a half of blueberries made this cake into a spectacular fruit-filled muffin.   The cake has a nice milky flavour from the condensed milk and isn't too sweet.  It is a moist but dense cake.


This has been a week full of celebrations.  I had my graduation and my parents celebrated their 34th anniversary.  It was also my friend June's birthday and I made these for her.  This was the perfect sweet treat to mark a special occasion.

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups of cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 can condensed milk (300 ml)
1 cup mango juice (or whatever juice you like, original recipe calls for orange juice)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup diced peaches
1 1/2 cups blueberries

Instructions
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder.
3. Make a well in the dry ingredients by creating a hole in the middle of the flour with a spoon.
4. Add the wet ingredients, vanilla, butter, mango juice and condensed milk into the well.
5. Beat the mixture together with a hand mixer for about a minute.  Use a spatula to scrape the sides to make sure all of the flour is incorporated.
6.  Fold in the peaches and blueberries.
7. Grease the pan before pouring in the batter.  Bake the mini muffins for 12 minutes.  The loaf cake takes about 40 minutes to bake.  This recipe made two batches of mini muffins (24 muffins total) and one loaf cake. 
8.  Take the muffins or loaf out of the pan after letting it cool for five minutes.

Feel free to use your favourite fresh or dry fruits in this recipe.  Strawberries would be nice to top this cake with but is not good to bake with.  It loses it's bright red colour when you put it in the oven.

To make this muffin in to a decadent cupcake, I topped it with a cream cheese icing and a sugar flower.

Cream Cheese Icing Recipe

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup butter (room temperature)
250 ml cream cheese (1 small tub)
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp lime juice

Instructions
1. Cream together butter and cream cheese with a hand mixer.
2.  Add in vanilla and lime juice.
3.  Slowly add in icing sugar until it forms a spreadable consistency.
This icing has a nice sweet and tangy flavour from the cream cheese and lime juice.  It pairs well with the blueberries in the cake.




The flowers on top are made out of fondant.  I used a flower cookie cutter and scored the petals with a special cake decorating tool. You can look here for more details. The flowers have an edible silver bead in the centre which can be bought at shops such as Bulk Barn.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Lemon Bars with a Ginger Kick

I love the fresh bright flavour of lemon.  It is definitely the star of this recipe.  These lemon bars have three distinct layers-- a shortbread crust, gooey lemon filling and cake-like top. 

This dessert was a hit at a dinner party last week.  People wanted seconds and even took the leftovers home!  My twist on this recipe from Joy of Baking is adding candied ginger to the shortbread crust.  It adds a nice kick to the sweetness of the filling.  I added the ginger to the crust because I wasn't sure if it would affect the way the filling would set.

Ingredients

Crust
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup icing sugar
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup candied ginger

Filling
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
2 tbsp flour

Garnish
2 tbsp icing sugar (or to your taste)

Directions
1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Butter an 8x8 pan
3. For the shortbread crust, cream together butter and sugar. 
4. Add flour and mix until combined. 
5. Stir in candied ginger. 
6.  Press dough in to pan and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
7.  While the crust is cooling a little, prepare the filling.  Beat together eggs and sugar until smooth.
8.  Add in lemon juice, zest and flour.
9.  Pour over crust and bake for 25-30 minutes or until filling has set.  If it is getting very brown but is still quite wobbly, cover the pan with aluminum foil and continue baking.  The top layer will set while the middle will remain gooey.
10.  Let it cool before you dust the top with icing sugar.  Use a small strainer to dust the sugar on top of the bars before you cut and serve.  This dessert tastes good warm or cold but should be eaten the same day.

*Photographs by Kanchana Sundaram

Friday, May 21, 2010

Almond Apricot Biscotti

The best part of my coffee break is the snack that goes with it.  Biscotti, a twice baked cookie, is one of my favourite treats.  It looks so elegant and sophisticated no one would guess how easy it is to make.  The hardest part is slicing the cookies.

Biscotti, an Italian specialty, was originally served with wine.  Now it is a coffee shop staple.  I love dunking the crunchy cookie in my favourite tea or coffee so it softens up for the perfect bite.

Ingredients
2 1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup whole almonds
1/3 cup chopped apricots (small dice)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp orange zest (or lemon)
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, zest, almonds and apricots in a bowl.
3. In another bowl, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla together.
4. Add flour mixture to egg mixture.  It will appear wet at first but should come together.  If not, add more flour.
5. Knead dough on a lightly floured board.  Split dough in half and form two logs.  They should be approximately 1-inch high and 3-inches long.  Sprinkle top with 1 tsp sugar.
6.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Let it cool for two hours. 
7. Slice logs into 1/4-inch pieces with a serrated knife.
8. Bake for 18 minutes.  Rotate pan and flip cookies over halfway through or until lightly golden. 

You can use your favourite dried fruit instead of apricots.  Candied ginger tastes wonderful in this recipe too.  Just add a quarter cup in addition to the apricots or replace them.

*Photographs by Kanchana Sundaram.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

English Toffee with Almonds

The first time I had English toffee was in Chicago a few summers ago.  I got it from the chocolate store in the basement of Macy's downtown Chicago which used to be the old flagship Marshall Field's building on State Street. 

English toffee is a crunchy caramel layer coated in chocolate and topped with nuts.  Almonds, pecans and walnuts are popular toppings.  The sweet toffee, dark chocolate and crunchy nuts pair together perfectly.

I tried making the toffee before but I couldn't get the right consistency.  It always ended up tasting like mysore paag (a classic South Indian sweet).  This time I found a new recipe that had the addition of corn syrup which I think helped get the right texture for the toffee.  It turned in to a beautiful golden brown colour and had the perfect crunchy hard crack stage.

A friend in Chicago loves toffee and has been asking me to make it for her for ages.  I think this is my best attempt yet so I hope she enjoys it!

Ingredients
1 cup butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp water
3 tbsp light corn syrup
3/4 cup chopped almonds
1 cup chopped chocolate or chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

Directions
1. Toast the nuts until fragrant.  Set aside.
2. Put aluminum foil on a cookie sheet.  Spray with cooking oil.
3. In a large pan, melt butter with the sugar, water and corn syrup on low to medium heat. Mix together and wait for sugar to dissolve while continuously stirring.
4. The mixture will start bubbling and you need to keep stirring until it turns caramel brown. This will take about 10 minutes or so.  If you have a candy thermometer, bring the mixture to 300 degrees. It will be bubbling the whole time. You'll know it is ready when you start smelling the caramel flavour.
5. Once the mixture is the right colour, take it off the heat and add the vanilla.  Mix it in thoroughly.
6. Pour it on to the cookie sheet.  Sprinkle the chocolate pieces on top.  It will melt in the heat and you can use a spoon to spread it out. 
7. Sprinkle the toasted almonds on top so it sticks to the melted chocolate.  Once it has cooled you can break it into pieces and serve.

*Photographs by Kanchana Sundaram and Shankar Sundaram

Friday, May 14, 2010

Molten Lava Chocolate Cake

Warm chocolate cake with a gooey, melted centre, served with vanilla ice cream.  My favourite combination.  The contrast between the warm cake and cold ice cream is so pleasing.

I attempted this dessert today because a friend who is a total chocoholic came to visit my sister and Shankar.  This recipe, by Trish Magwood from Party Dish, is definitely a keeper.  I got it off the Food Network website which also lists a caramel sauce recipe that I didn't make. 

The original recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate.  I think that is probably the ideal thing to use.  I had a huge bar of Lindt milk chocolate I wanted to use so I tried it out.  It has more sugar than dark chocolate so I cut the amount of sugar I added.  The cake, while delicious, didn't have the intense chocolate flavour I was hoping for.  Next time I would also try adding some cinnamon or espresso to add more flavour.

Ingredients
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter plus extra for buttering ramekins
2 eggs
2 yolks
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 tbsp flour

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Generously butter and lightly flour six ramekins
3. Melt chocolate and butter over a double boiler (heat water in a pot and place bowl over it --not touching the water--with chocolate and butter).   Mix until smooth. Set aside.
4.  Beat eggs, yolks, sugar and salt together until pale yellow and light.
5. Quickly fold chocolate mixture into eggs with a spatula.
6. Fold in flour.  (I recommend sifting it in because I got clumps when I just dropped it in)
7. Pour 1/3 cup of batter into each ramekin.
8.  Bake for 8-9 minutes.  The sides of the cake should be set and the centre should be soft.
9. Let it sit for 1 minute before turning it on to a dessert plate.  Run a knife around the edge to help loosen it before inverting.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whip cream.  Add fresh fruit like strawberries or raspberries and a sprig of mint for garnish.  Enjoy!

*Photographs by Kanchana Sundaram

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

My friend Maileen made these delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and I had to get the recipe from her.  I love how these cookies remain chewy, even after a few days.
I had the pleasure of baking these cookies in my sister's awesome kitchen.  It has beautiful skylights that let in so much natural light.  She has a deck outside the kitchen that overlooks a lovely pond.  The view is very serene and calming.  The perfect place to enjoy some delicious baked goods.

Raisins or dried cranberries can be used instead of the chocolate chips if you want to make them healthier.  The original recipe had a cup of walnuts included as well.  Oatmeal has many health benefits and is a good source of protien.  It has cancer fighting properties, can lower bad cholesterol and contains vitamin E and iron.

I took the cookies to a housewarming party and they were a hit.  People liked how they had the perfect balance of sweetness.

Ingredients
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups flour
3 cups oats (I used rolled oats)
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Directions
1.  Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cream together butter and sugars
3.  Beat in eggs
4.  Add vanilla, baking soda, salt and flour
5. Mix in oats and chocolate chips
6. Place heaping spoonfuls on to baking sheet.  Leave space between cookies because they will spread in the oven.
7. Bake for 12 minutes.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack 5 minutes after removing from oven.  Let it cool on the rack for about 1 hour.  The cookies taste better the more they cool.

Makes about 40 cookies.  Keep in air-tight container for a week.

These oatmeal cookies are the perfect snack in the afternoon with a glass of milk or cup of tea.  You could even eat them after a meal for dessert.  They are very satisfying but it's hard to just eat one.

*Photographs by Kanchana Sundaram

Friday, February 26, 2010

Blueberry White Chocolate Blondies

I went to the grocery store and thought buying some fresh fruit would help me beat the winter blues.  Strangely, I ended up buying a package of blueberries.

I knew I wanted to bake something and decided blondies (the vanilla version of brownies) would be a great way to showcase the beautiful colour of the berries.

A bottle of delicious maple syrup has been sitting in my cupboard waiting to be used.  This seemed like the perfect moment since blueberry pancakes with maple syrup are a popular pairing.

Finally, my last ingredient of inspiration was Bliss white chocolate squares.  They are creamy, buttery and not as shockingly sweet as most white chocolate I've had.  My sister bought them for me when she went to the flagship Hershey store in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  They call it "the sweetest place on earth." 

A Martha Stewart recipe for raspberry almond blondies was the perfect starting point for my creation.  The result, while delicious, wasn't the dense, chewy texture of a blondie.  It was like a moist, fluffy cake.  I still recommend making it. 

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter, softened, plus more for pan
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
1 pint blueberries
1/4 cup white chocolate pieces chopped

 Directions

  1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter pan. 
  2. Toast the almond in a pan on low heat for about 5 minutes. 
  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, and set aside.
  4. Cream together butter, sugar and maple syrup in a bowl. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until combined. Add flour mixture, and beat on low speed, scraping down sides of bowl, until well incorporated. Mix 3/4 of the almonds into batter.  Gently fold in the blueberries and white chocolate.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan; spread with a rubber spatula. Scatter remaining nuts over batter in pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted (avoid center and edges) comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, about 40 minutes. 
I used half the amount of sugar from the original recipe and it turned out really well.  The addition of the white chocolate added enough sweetness.

The maple flavour also comes through really well.  It is so wonderfully delicious and apparently has some health benefits.  Like blueberries, maple syrup is high in antioxidants.   It is also full of minerals such as magnesium, zinc, potassium and calcium.

I'm definitely going to use more maple syrup in my baking.  I'm thinking maple cookies.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Orange Chocolate Cookies

My friend Julianne went to London, England and brought back some amazing orange chocolate chunk cookies from Harrod's. They were so delicious I had to try to make them.

I adapted the lemon ginger cookie recipe and it worked out quite well.

Here is the recipe.

Ingredients

Orange butter
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (juice of 1 big orange)
1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2-3 tsp orange zest

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Orange sugar
1 tbsp orange zest
4 tbsp sugar

Directions


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring orange juice to a simmer over medium heat. When it has reduced by half, add 1/4 cup of butter to it. Stir until butter is melted.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and 2 tsp orange zest.

Cream together 1/2 cup butter and sugar. Beat in the sour cream. Slowly pour in orange butter mixture. Mix in the dry ingredients and chocolate chips.

In a small bowl, put a few tablespoons of sugar and add the remaining orange zest. Roll a spoonful of dough in the sugar mixture and flatten on a cookie sheet. You can use the bottom of a cup to flatten the cookie.

Bake for 13-15 minutes until the edges are golden brown.

The orange flavour goes together really well with chocolate. You could even dip the cookies into a melted chocolate instead of adding the chocolate chips in the batter. It would look quite pretty.

Next time I would try making these cookies with candied ginger. The ginger added a really nice kick to the lemon cookies and I'm sure it would pair well with the chocolate.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lemon Ginger Cookies


I made some really delicious lemon ginger cookies. I combined some recipes I saw (lemon poppy seed cookies and lemon currant cookies), made them eggless and added candied ginger to give them a little kick.

I saw the addition of sour cream in the lemon currant cookie recipe and thought it sounded really interesting. The tangy flavour of the sour cream paired really well with the tartness of the lemon.

I had made the lemon poppy seed cookies before and they were amazing so I wanted to see if they could become eggless. I sort of used the sour cream in the place of the egg.

I reduced the amount of sugar from one cup and added a tablespoon of honey because honey and lemon are a great combination!

Ingredients

Lemon butter
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (juice of 1 big lemon)
1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour (I used a combo of 1 1/2 cups white flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp lemon zest

1/4 cup candied ginger

Lemon sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
4 tbsp sugar

Directions


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring lemon juice to a simmer over medium heat. When it has reduced by half, add 1/4 cup of butter to it. Stir until butter is melted.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and 2 tsp lemon zest.

Cream together 1/2 cup butter and sugar. Beat in the sour cream. Slowly pour in lemon butter mixture. Mix in the dry ingredients and candied ginger.

In a small bowl, put a few tablespoons of sugar and add the remaining lemon zest. Roll a spoonful of dough in the sugar mixture and flatten on a cookie sheet. You can use the bottom of a cup to flatten the cookie.

Bake for 12-14 minutes until the edges are golden brown.

You could also place the dough in saran wrap in a log shape and chill it for an hour. Then cut it in to round slices and toss in the sugar/zest mixture and bake.

You could also save the dough to bake the cookies later.
The lemon flavour just pops in your mouth. It is so bright, fresh and delicious! I highly recommend it.

An alternative to the candied ginger is poppy seeds. Replacing the candied ginger with one tablespoon of poppy seeds will do the trick.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fall Themed Two Tier Engagement Cake

I made this fall themed cake for my friend Seema's engagement party which was held on Thanksgiving weekend in October. The colours of the flowers were chosen to complement her stunning outfit.

The gold at the bottom is made of ribbon which gives the cake a professional finish. The little flowers are made with a cookie cutter from my cake decorating kit. Each petal is scored with a little tool to give it a 3D effect. I placed a silver bead in the middle to make it even more elegant. I used gum paste (sort of like fondant) and water mixture to 'glue' the edible sugar beads on.
This was my first attempt at a stacked tier cake. There are plastic dowels placed in the first tier to support the second layer of cake.

The bottom tier was a chocolate cake with a strawberry filling and the top was vanilla with strawberry.

Congrats Seema and Amit! Looking forward to the wedding!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Homemade Granola Bars


I love eating granola bars for snack. It always seems like a healthy alternative to other junk food that tempts me in the afternoon. I didn't realize how easy they are to make yourself.

I have a very simple recipe that requires minimal prep and bakes in less then 30 minutes. It's also great treat to take to school or work.

You can get creative with you fruit and nut combination. I used whatever was available at home. It just happened to be the delicious combo of dates and almonds.

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups oats
1 can condensed milk (300 ml)
1 cup almonds
1 cup chopped dates (raisins, cranberries or apricots would work well too)

Directions

Heat oven to 325 degrees

In a large mixing bowl combine oats, almonds and dates. Pour in condensed milk. Mix well.

Grease a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil with oil or butter. Pour mixture on to it and flatten it to about 1/4" height. Try to make it rectangular so it will be easier to cut later.

Bake for 25 minutes.

Let it cool for 20 minutes. Cut into squares and enjoy!

You could add 1/2 cup of chocolate chips to make it more indulgent.

I didn't add any sugar because the condensed milk is sweet enough and the dates were soaked in honey.

Verdict: They are very satisfying and a little bit goes a long way. I was going to cut them into long bars but the little squares are the perfect size for snacking.

The oats are very filling and also have cholesterol lowering properties. Dates and almonds are a good source of potassium and magnesium so this is one snack you won't feel guilty about eating.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Grated Carrot Salad


My friend Sheena and her husband Scott came over for a South Indian lunch. In my culture it is customary to invite newly married couples home for a special meal. My mom made masala dosa, sambar and coconut chutney.

I made a carrot salad with cauliflower and bean sprouts. In South India it's called carrot kosumalli or carrot kosumbari. It is a colourful, refreshing salad that is very simple to make. All you need is a grater!


Ingredients
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
3 large cauliflower florets grated
1 big handful of beansprouts
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
Salt to taste (about 1/4 tsp)
1 tbsp chopped cilantro for garnish

Directions
Mix grated carrot, cauliflower and beansprouts together. Squeeze lemon over it. Add salt. Mix well. Garnish with cilantro. Enjoy!

You can be as creative as you want with this dish. You could even add pomegranate seeds or raw mango. My dad likes to add chopped almonds.

A more traditional recipe includes urad daal, a lentil that adds protein to the dish, green chillies and spluttered mustard seeds for flavour.
Sheena and I used to experiment a lot in the kitchen when we were roommates in university. Then she was lucky enough to marry a trained chef whose culinary experiments are definitely more successful than ours. Scott already got the recipe for potato masala from my mom to try out at home. I'm looking forward to hearing how it turns out!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sheena and Scott's Wedding Cake

I had the great pleasure of being my friend Sheena's maid of honour this summer. She had a beautiful outdoor wedding at her parents house in the picturesque countryside where she grew up. Her father had renovated their shed to host the reception. It was truly breath-taking to see the transformation of the space.

I made her wedding cake and used her cobalt blue theme with a ribbon at the bottom. The white roses are made of fondant. The small flowers have a silver sugar bead in the middle. The cake was a chocolate sponge with a strawberry filling.The wedding was such a wonderful celebration. I know we will treasure the memories forever.

Congratulations Sheena and Scott!


*Photo credits to David Goodfellow Photography

Friday, January 1, 2010

Coconut Lime Macaroons


I went to a wonderful New Year's party at my friend Av's condo to ring in 2010. He asked me to bring a dessert item.

I started to think about what would make a good party dessert. It had to be something that people could pick up and eat easily. It also had to be unique and interesting. At first I thought I'd make pecan bars again but they are quite rich and sticky.

I browsed some recipes online and found one for coconut macaroons. I love the combination of lime and coconut. The flavours take you to a tropical island.

This recipe is really simple and the result is very tasty. They are hard on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.

Ingredients:

1 cup condensed milk
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup flour
3 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp lime zest
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour condensed milk into a bowl. Add lime juice, shredded coconut, flour, lime zest and salt. Mix well. Add more coconut if it seems too runny.

Roll in to small round balls and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 12-13 minutes until brown.

Let it cool for 10 minutes before trying to take them off the foil. They will fall apart if you are too eager. Once they are cool they will peel off very easily.

The bottoms are pretty brown because the condensed milk caramelizes in the heat. Cooked condensed milk becomes dulce de leche, a South American staple.

Next time I would use unsweetened coconut because the condensed milk is sweet enough.

Happy New Year! May it be filled with many delicious adventures.




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