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Friday, October 2, 2009

"Pat a Cake" - Black Forest Cake (easy version)

"Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte" is the actual name of this German Dessert.It is one of my favorite cakes(and probably everyone else's too...right??)
I took a baking course back in India,and this was one of the cakes the teacher taught us.Since then, for my sister's birthday,for my mom's birthday,father's birthday,their anniversary....all I wanted to bake was ....this black forest cake! Everyone loved it...and I liked spending the whole day in the kitchen baking this 'masterpiece' from scratch!
But,now, especially after 'E' was born,I do not have the luxury of spending the whole day in the kitchen just baking....so when I baked this cake (On Valentine's day Feb 2009)....I took some help from the store..and made it the 'semi homemade' way and hence the 'easy version' in the title.
But let me tell ya' this one was no less delicious than the one made from scratch ...and on top of that I actually got to enjoy 'Valentine's Day' with my sweethearts....instead of being in the kitchen the whole day....baking.
So here is my 'easy' version of this chocolaty delight!

‘Betty Crocker’ chocolate cake mix 1 box
Pillsbury ‘whipped’ fluffy white icing 1 can
Hershey’s Semi sweet/dark chocolate bar 1
Pepsi/coke ¼ cup
Cool whip Whipped cream topping ½ can
(Or make whipped cream at home)
Coffee 1/2 tsp
Maraschino cherries 1 bottle

1)Bake the chocolate as directed on the box. Let it cool completely before cutting and icing.
2)Meanwhile boil ½ tsp coffee in ½ cup water and then let it cool
3)Make chocolate curls by peeling the chocolate bar with vegetable peeler( option: grate the chocolate bar with grater)
4)When the cake is cooled, cut carefully into 3 layers. Cut with a big sharp knife and carefully lift the layers with 2 flat spatulas and keep them on separate plates.
5)Mix the cooled coffee, ½ can Pepsi/coke and little cherry syrup from Maraschino cherries bottle and put in a spray bottle. Spray all the 3 layers of cake with this mixture evenly and generously. Let is sit and absorb for atleast 15 mins. Otherwise it will be difficult to put the icing on.
6)On the 1st layer of cake sprayed with coffee/Pepsi, spread the cool whip topping evenly. (Optional: cut the cherries into tiny pieces and add on the whipped topping)
7)Put the 2nd layer of cake on this. Repeat step 6.
8)Add the last layer. On this layer spread the Pillsbury icing evenly.
9)Add the chocolate curls/grated chocolate bar on top
10)Decorate with the remaining icing and cherries.
11)Refrigerate the cake (because of the whipped cream the cake has to be refrigerated immediately).
12)If you want to store longer, you can also freeze it. Just thaw for 10 secs in microwave before eating.
13)Enjoy with your loved ones!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"Appetizers"- Gobhi Manchurian

I am always intrigued ....how different cuisines are modified to suite the taste of the locals.Like for example....Chinese food.The 'authentic' Chinese food is much different than the Chinese food sold in the restaurants in India or US. It is more aptly called 'Indo-Chinese' food in India.It is heavily spiced with chillies,garlic,ginger etc to suite the taste of 'we' Indians...otherwise it will be mere 'bland' food for us.
It is interesting, that every person has an acquired taste for certain food.A food which is 'delicious' for one could be 'tasteless' for other person.As it is rightly said by Lucretius (96 BC - 55 BC), De Rerum Natura :'What is Food to One,is to others bitter poison".Leaving aside the extremity of 'poison',the quote is really true! We like food, which our taste buds approve of.If our taste buds are 'tuned' to certain taste,we prefer only 'that' type of food.You have to go out of your way to appreciate other tastes and other's food.
This makes me wonder,how the judges at food competitions like 'Iron chef' ,can judge impartially??? If the judge himself is born and brought up in .....say Italy and has mostly cooked and judged Italian food (And may be other European food),how can he appreciate a ..say..Japanese chef..or an Indian chef? Are his taste buds appreciative of all tastes???
Anyways.....the 'Indo-Chinese' dish that I prepared today,made me ponder on the 'Taste Buds' and these other thoughts...
Here is the recipe:
1) About 20 florets of cauliflower
2) 5tbsp All purpose flour
3) 3tbsp Corn flour
4) 1/4 tsp black pepper
5)1/4 tsp chili powder
6) 1/4-1/2 tsp chili sauce(depends how spicy you want)
7) 1tbsp Soy sauce
8)2tsp Ketchup
9) 1/2tsp Ginger garlic paste
10) Water
11) Oil to fry
12) Green onion stems for garnishing
13)Salt to taste
1) Wash the cauliflower florets and dry well.
2) Mix together all purpose flour,corn flour,black pepper,chili powder,salt and water to make smooth paste.Not to watery nor too thick.
3) Dip each floret in the batter and fry till golden brown on medium heat.Drain well and keep on paper towel.
4) In a pan,heat 1/2 tsp oil,add the ginger garlic paste,soy sauce,ketchup,chili sauce and the fried cauliflower florets.Mix all together.Take off the heat.
5) Garnish with green onions stems cut diagonally.
6) Serve with noodles/fried rice,soup etc.

1) Other vegetables like carrots,mushrooms,onions,capsicum etc can be diced and added to the sauce.
2) Manchurian gravy can be made by adding water and corn starch to the above sauce.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Visual Treat

"Everyday Cooking"-Veggie Puffs/Pattice

If anyone asks me..what was my favorite weekend breakfast back in India(Pune)? The answer will be the 'pattice' from Green bakery!
It used to be kind of a 'delicacy',because these bakeries will only make those on certain days of the week..and that too you have to stand in a queue to get this on busy weekends!
And ya...there were weekends when we went to the bakery a little late in the morning....and they ran out of the pattice.''Pattice NOT Available' the board would say.How heartbreaking was that!They were 'so' much in demand!
Even now,when 'M' and I go back to India,one of our 'culinary' agendas is eating the Green bakery pattice. They make such a flaky pastry stuffed with spiced potatoes and peas. We even make use of our 'jet lag' and wake up early and walk to the bakery very early in the morning to buy the pattice. 'M' always has one question.....if they are 'so' much in demand ...and they run out of the pattice early in the mornings itself.....then why don't they make more of those???????
They should work out their 'Supply-Demand' equation again!(His MBA is speaking here!)
Here in USA...you don't get the pattice anywhere....but you do get the Puff pastry.I tell you..I was so glad when I discovered that! So I started making my own 'veggie puffs' ...close enough to the 'green bakery way'!
1 packet Pepperidge farm puff pastry
2 boiled potatoes mashed well
3/4 cup boiled green peas
1 tbsp chopped onion
1/2tsp garlic ginger paste
1/2tsp Garam masala
1/4tsp turmeric powder
1/4tsp chili powder
1/4tsp cumin-coriander powder
5-6 curry leaves
1/4tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp mustard and cumin seeds
2tsp oil
Salt to taste
1) Thaw the puff pastry sheets as instructed on the packet
2)Preheat oven to 400F
2) Heat 2tsp oil,add mustard, cumin,curry leaves and fry for few secs.Add ginger garlic paste,turmeric powder,chopped onion and fry.
3)Add the mashed potato,peas,chili powder,garam masala,cumin coriander powder,fennel seeds, salt,and mix all together.Fry till everything warm ups.
4) Cut the puff pastry sheets in desired shape.Stuff with the above stuffing.I usually make 'triangle' puffs (like green bakery),but this time made the rectangle ones.
Press the edges with a fork and place on baking sheet.
5) Bake for about 25 mins or till golden brown and flaky
5) Serve warm with Ketchup/ mint chutney
Very versatile and can be stuffed with 'anything'.....spiced shredded boneless chicken, egg bhurgi(spicy scramble eggs),boiled eggs, minced chicken/lamb(kheema) etc.
About the picture:
'M' took this picture and it was his idea to put those 'ketchup' lines in the background, on the plate! How cool was that!
I am sending this recipe as entry for Meeta's "Monthly Mingle: Brunch" hosted by http://whatsforlunchhoney.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

'Pat a Cake'- Cream cheese pound cake with orange zest

Since last evening 'E' has been down with cold.He is sneezing,has runny nose and is...pretty cranky! That means only one thing......me spending minimal time in the kitchen! Did not even cook anything for lunch.Asked 'M' to eat at work cafeteria,I ate the leftovers from the fridge and made only some warm rice and 'aamti' (daal) for 'E'.
So there is nothing 'new' I have here to share.But....
Good news.....tadah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I have been taking pictures and saving the recipes.....whenever I bake something (May be I thought..I will publish it one day!) Here is one such recipe...
What I had liked about it was.....it was a pound cake but made with adding cream cheese and orange zest.It was so much more flavorful than ordinary plain cake and pretty easy to bake.
The recipe comes from 'www.JoyofBaking.com'.This website has numerous recipes and many tips and tools for baking better.
1) 3 cups (420 grams) all purpose flour
2) 1 teaspoons baking powder
3) 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4) 1/2 teaspoon salt
5) 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
6) 1-8 ounce (226 grams) package cream cheese, room temperature
7) 3 cups (600 grams) superfine or castor sugar
8) 6 large eggs, room temperature
9) 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
10) Zest of a lemon or orange (optional)
Note: To make your own superfine sugar - place 3 cups (600 grams) granulated white sugar in bowl of food processor. Process until very fine, about 30 seconds.
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Butter and flour a 10 inch (25 cm) bundt pan.
2)In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3)In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar, in three additions, beating well after each addition. Continue beating on medium-high speed until light and fluffy (about 3 - 5 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and lemon zest, if using, and beat until incorporated.
4) Add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
5) Bake for 1 to 1 hour 15 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6) Remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and cool completely. (The cake is cooled in the pan first for about 20 minutes so the cake has time to set. The cake may collapse if you try to remove it from the pan too early.)
7) Serves 10 - 12 people.
8) Will keep several days well wrapped at room temperature and over a week when refrigerated. Can also be frozen.
Note: Serve plain or dusted with confectioners sugar (icing or powdered sugar). This cake is very nice when served with fresh berries and softly whipped cream. The acidity of the berries compliments the sweetness and richness of the cake. Also good with ice creams and/or strawberry or raspberry purees. Leftovers can be toasted lightly.
My Variations:
1) I halved the recipe and used everything 1/2 of what they say
2) I used a normal 'loaf' pan instead of a bundt pan

Monday, September 28, 2009

"Sweet Treats"-My 'Kaju Katli' Saga

My 'Kaju Katli' Saga
I know what you are thinking...that's not how 'Kaju Katli' is supposed to look...that's a Pedha! Well..you are absolutely correct.....this was my try on Kaju Katli...which ended up being a pedha .
I was very excited yesterday,that I got the Kaju Katli recipe from my friend 'V'.
Both 'M' and 'E' love Kaju katli and today being 'Dussera' wanted to give it a try and surprise 'M'.
So this morning after dropping 'E' to pre school,stopped at TOPS on my way back, to pick up some raw cashews.Came home,pulled up the recipe given by 'V', and started to follow it.
The recipe calls for soaking the cashews in water for 1 hour and then grinding it into a coarse paste with very minimal amount of water.
Now, the problem is...I have this 'Hamilton Beach' Wave station blender....and to tell the truth..it's useless at times for Indian cooking. For most general applications where the water ratio doesn't matter..it's fine to use.But where you need to wet-grind without water or very little(like for medu vada's , for idli etc)....it practically can't! But surprisingly it can grind dry peanuts into a powder well!
So when I was grinding the cashew into paste,I ended up adding more water.In the latter steps I had to cook it longer than the recipe directions to form into dough. The when I tried to roll it out,it still was loose and sticky and wouldn't allow me to make those classic 'diamonds' of kaju katli.
I still had enough patience and enthusiasm,so I thought why not make 'Kaju Rolls' instead? So I mixed some green color and yellow color in parts of the dough and decided to make 'tri color' Kaju rolls. But in vain....
That didn't work out either....it was all sticky, wouldn't form into nice shapes...
So...finally with little (actually 'NO') patience left.....I rolled them into balls, like pedhas, and garnished them with sliced almonds(As seen in the picture above).
When 'M' came home for lunch, he said the pedhas look perfect and taste like Kaju katli..the shape doesn't matter..all that matters is the taste....etc.He also realized I wasn't happy with my current blender....so has offered to buy one ....which I like! Any Suggestions?
Till we buy the new blender,my friend 'V' had offered to demo the Kaju katli recipe for me...so will be posting the recipe..as soon as I learn it from her.
Till then..'Happy Dussera'!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Sweet treats"-Sheera/Sooji Halwa

Just yesterday,I wrote in the blog ... 'M' being very busy (@work+studies) and being lazy to cook in the kitchen, and that his 'helping' in the kitchen is ordering a Pizza to 'take care' of the meal..blah blah blah....

But....yesterday evening....he himself offered to make 'Sheera/Sooji Halwa"(needless to say ...one of his favorites) !!!!
He asked me for the recipe and instructions and was all enthusiastic about making it himself.Though I believe in him, I couldn't help myself looking over his shoulder to make sure he was doing as I instructed.That is a bad habit and the 'chef' should be given all the freedom when he cooks but 'head chef of house' in me....wouldn't let me do that...
'M' did a great job and the 'sheera' tasted perfect! Thank you 'M' for being such a 'sweet' husband!
1) 1 cup rava/sooji/cream of wheat
2) 1&1/2 cup water
3) 1 cup whole milk
4) 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
5) 1/4tsp Cardamom powder
6) 1 pinch saffron
7) 1 pinch salt
8)1/8tsp nutmeg powder
9) 1/2 cup butter/ghee
10) Cashews and raisins

1) Boil water+milk together
2) Roast the rava in butter/ghee till golden in a deep pan
3) Add the hot water+milk to the roasted rava,mix.Cover and steam for 1-2 mins on low flame
4) Add saffron,cardamom,nutmeg,sugar,salt and mix well.
5) Garnish with cashews and raisins.
6)Serve warm.
1) Mango puree can be added to the sheera to make 'mango sheera'.
2) Pineapple pieces can be added to make 'Pineapple sheera'
3) When offering to god,we usually add banana cut into small pieces.

"Around the World in 30 Weekends"-Weekend 2=Italy

Dish Name: Spaghetti with Zucchini strands

Amongst the cuisines which I have tasted and liked after coming to USA,I would rate 'Italian' amongst the top.Over the years,I have developed taste for Italian food and also gotten comfortable cooking it myself. First thing which comes to your mind when you hear Italian food is Pizza and Pasta.For my 'Around the world series' I decided to make Spaghetti with Zucchini strands.Spaghetti is a long, thin, cylindrical pasta of Italian origin. A variety of pasta dishes are based on it, from spaghetti with cheese and pepper or garlic and oil to a spaghetti with tomato, meat, and other sauces. Spaghetti is made of semolina or flour and water.
I had read this recipe by Chef Michael Chiarello(From Food Network) in Readers digest.It's pretty simple,attractive and very 'apt' for taking me on a 'Virtual Culinary tour' to Italy!

I had the spaghetti in the pantry, a Zucchini squash from 'E's school garden and fresh basil from my own garden.So with all the ingredients on hand....I was set to make the pasta.....the Michael Chiarello way...
3/4 lb. dried spaghettini (I used 1& 1/2 fist full)
3/4 lb. zucchini (I used 1 whole zucchini)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbs. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
3 tbs. coarsely chopped fresh basil
2 tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Bring large pot of water to boil; add salt. Add pasta. Cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.
2. While pasta cooks, cut zucchini by hand into longest, finest julienne you can manage. Season with salt and pepper.
3. If zucchini is very finely cut, it does not need to be cooked. Otherwise, steam until still slightly crunchy, about 2 minutes.
4. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in small skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add garlic. Sauté briefly, until light brown. Turn on exhaust fan, and add red pepper flakes. Quickly add basil and parsley; mix well. Remove from heat.
5. When pasta is done, drain, reserving about 1/2 cup cooking water. Pour pasta into warm serving bowl, add zucchini, remaining 1/4 cup oil, garlic mixture, and 1/2 cup cheese. Toss well, adding cooking water as needed to make smooth sauce. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tbs. cheese and serve at once.

My variations:
I took a 'general' idea from Michael Chiarello's recipe and modified it a little bit to suite our taste.
1) Cut the Zucchini strands length wise little thicker than julienne, otherwise they get too flimsy in the sauce.
2)Used 2tbsp 'Crushed tomatoes' in the sauce to make garlic-tomato sauce
3)Used only 1tbsp olive oil instead of 1/2 cup
4)Added 1/2tsp 'Italian seasoning' to the sauce
5)Used about 1tbsp Parmesan cheese in the sauce and some more to sprinkle on top while serving.
5)Added a 1/4tsp Ajwain/owa seeds.

About the picture:
The yellow flower in the picture is a squash flower.It is supposed to be edible ,but never tried it myself.The green leaves are fresh basil from our garden.