Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lemon thumbprint cookies with strawberry jam

Fore feet © Cookaroo 
Let me tell you a secret about thumbprint cookies. There are no thumbprints. You don't need to use your thumbs at all. Instead you need to use your fore fingers to make the indention. But I suppose no one would eat them if they were called forefinger cookies.

But the thing is. I love them. They remind me of my childhood. How my mother would buy us coconut macaroons and jam print cookies from this neighbourhood bakery every other weekend, to pack into our snack boxes for lunch.

I loved the stickiness of the jam that just totally complemented buttery cookies and then I loved dunking them in milk and having them at tea. 

I've made a lot of thumbprint cookies, I've made Espresso cookies with espresso jam, Lemon curd and vanilla thumbprints, chocolate with ganache, the list is really quite endless. But this is the first time, I've made lemon cookies. I wanted to do a batch before Diwali, a sort of dry run to figure out whether I want to give these cookies out as presents. 

I really liked them. Once the cookies and filled, baked and cooled, I dusted them with icing sugar and refilled the cookies with some more jam. I think I could have filled them with some plum jam as well. But yummers.

But I am still in a toss up. Lemon raspberry cupcakes or these cookies? One more trial run and life will be sorted



Lemon thumbprint cookies with strawberry jam
Adapted from Emril Lagasse's Christmas Cookies on Food Network

Ingredients
1/4 cup strawberry jam
1 tablespoon cherry brandy
11/8 cups flour
1/2 tsp  baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
100 grams butter  room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract


Directions


  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degree centigrade. Lightly butter 2 large baking sheets.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the jam and brandy. Stir to combine.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk
  4. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the egg yolks, lemon zest,  lemon juice, lemon extract and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 2 additions and beat just until moist clumps form. Gather the dough together into a ball.
  5. Pinch off the dough to form 1-inch balls. Place on the prepared baking sheets, spacing 1-inch apart. Use your floured index finger or 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon to create depressions in the center of each ball. Fill each indentation with nearly 1/2 teaspoon of the jam mixture. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  6. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Sprinkle the icing sugar and then refill the cookies with jam

Cookieee © Cookaroo 

Sending this to Delicious Dish Tuesdays which is being hosted by Amanda of Coping with Frugality


Monday, October 29, 2012

Thai eggplant salad. And explaining the hiatus

So winey© Cookaroo
I've been a bad person. I know I have. I've been away for nearly two weeks now, and it's been so totally crazy for me that I hardly had the time to blog. But I feel I owe my blog an explanation. So here goes.

I wasn't sick. I was just plain busy. I have a full time job (which is ok) and I was doing a menu development project and the restaurant will be up and running in a day or so. So between writing stories, cooking, training and tastings I had no time to myself. I was sleeping some six hours and was working all the time.

Plus since I needed to maintain a sort of work life balance, I was still going out and meeting people. So while I haven't missed any bloggers meets, I just haven't had the time to pick up the camera and shoot. I haven't cooked at home either. And when I am at home, I've been eating eggs and toasts and milk. I've been baking (for other peeps) but not shooting. And now my Diwali rounds have to begin, which means lots of baking again because I am going home for Diwali. (yay).

Meanwhile in other news I met Gary and George of Masterchef Australia (that I will post about sometime soon) and went for F1, where I saw Sebastian Vettel win. And made some of the best cupcakes of my life.

But before that, some of us bloggers were sent a Diwali pack by Four Seasons which included a 350 ml bottle of Shiraz and another of the Chenin Blanc and a sweet wine glass. We decided to make something from it, and tossing between doing a risotto or a sangria, we just ended up doing what we felt like. I decided on doing this thai eggplant salad.

I love eggplant. But you know this. I've made the chilled soba salad, grilled eggplant salad and roasted aubergine sandwich, but this salad has been a favourite ever since I ate it 5 years ago. I love how the tomatoes and eggplant seem like such a natural fit. I love how the basil is a definite must. And I love how quick and uncomplicated it is. Oh and it's a warm salad. Perfect for winters




Thai Eggplant Salad
Adapted from a memory about five years old

Ingredients
2 tblsp vegetable oil
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 medium sized eggplants, diced
1 medium-sized onion, diced
2 tomatoes diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped (
2 tblsp white wine (I used Four Seasons Chenin Blanc)
1 tbslp red wine vinegar
3 tblsp dark soy sauce,
 2 tblsp brown sugar
20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn
A pinch of salt
Handful pine nuts

Method

<!--[if !supportLists]-->1.       <!--[endif]-->Make the dressing with the ½ chopped garlic, white wine, red wine vinegar, two tbslp soya sauce, 4 basil leaves, 1 tblsp of brown sugar and salt. Toss the tomatoes in it. Keep aside
<!--[if !supportLists]-->2.       <!--[endif]-->Meanwhile heat a deep saucepan and add oil to it. Add red chilli flakes Let it sizzle for 10 seconds. Add the eggplant and stir fry for 3 minutes. Add onions and garlic and stir fry for three more minutes.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->3.       <!--[endif]-->Once the eggplant has softened, add the remaining soya sauce and brown sugar and toss well. Remove for heat. Let it cool for a couple of seconds and add to the tomato and dressing mixture.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->4.       <!--[endif]-->Toss well. Check for salt. Add the basil leaves and finally top with pine nuts 


So nuts © Cookaroo

Sending this to Patty's Weekly Story 99 at Colours Dekor

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Zanotta at Leela Kempinski with the Blogger's Table



Photo courtesy: Arvind Khanna
This picture warms my heart through and through. You can see how people are mid-conversation, how food is always centre-stage and how someone somewhere is always having a giggle fit.

For capturing a moment that is so Blogger's Table , I thank you Arvind Khanna, the taker of this picture.

Most of the evening was a blur for me, a good kind of a blur. Firstly I was running late (as always) and Sangeeta I think had to literally chase me down to figure out where I was. Anyhoo, by the time I got there, I'd obviously missed the first course - which I believe was quite fabulous -  Pan seared Scallops with grilled Zucchini salsa. 

I got a bowl of Minestrone Soup instead - Minestrone alla Zanotta with pumpkin and rice, as the second course and I was poured the wine for both the course almost simultaneously - Craggy Range, Chardonnay, New Zealand and Albert Bichot Cote de Rhone, Chardonnay, France. I loved the Craggy Range. So much so, that before I knew it, I was on my second glass. Ofcourse Deeba who was sitting across from me noticed and I was given a rap on my knuckles. 

Thing was, I was tired. And not very hungry. But I wanted to hang with everybody. And the problem being seated in a long table is that you get to only chat up with either people sitting across from you or next to you. And then you can sort of eavesdrop and try and catch snatches of conversation at the end of the table. Or if you are feeling slightly garrulous shout across the table - like Sid and me.

I was seated next to Vinay Narang, PR of Leela who was wearing a gorgeous sari and across from the very polite general manager Roger Wright. And I asked her if Chef Kunal was around and she called him. The rest of the evening, I spent gossiping with him.And unfortunately didn't pay as much attention to Antara, who was our special guest for the evening.

Back to the soup. I really really liked the Minestrone. It had such the right amount of tomatoes and warm vegetables like pumpkin which made for a beautiful complement. The flavours were really really rich. 

The Mushroom Ravioli came up next. And it was shaped like a tortellini. I love hand rolled pasta. I love ravioli and this was no exception. I loved the meaty mushroom mix inside, it was just bursting with flavours and left you wanting more. Except you really couldn't eat so much more

Photo courtesy: Deeba Rajpal
And then the Crespelle arrived. Stuffed with spinach and  ricotta, served with tomato and parmesan, this was totally my favourite course (or did I speak too soon! ) It was cheesy, it had greens and it was just lovellllllly.

Ofcourse this course was paired with another wine - Valpolicella 'Classico' Allegrini, Corvina Italy - with Deeba and Sangeeta watching me, I took a rain check and opted to drink a diet soda. 

Photo courtesy: Deeba Rajpal
But then the piece de resistance arrived. In shapes of igloos. Beautiful ice structure that housed a lovely surprise. And no it wasn't dessert, it was the palate cleanser. With a tea-light candle flickering inside, and a tea towel keeping the ramekin from sticking - a lovely berry sorbet helped us steer towards the grand finale of this lovely, formal yet languid evening. 

Photo courtesy Himanshu Taneja
The dessert arrived - bitter chocolate semifreddo - that was served with candied apricots, blueberry and pear coulis and a teeny bit of mango pannacota and some orange feel. In an odd sort of way it was quite a DIY dessert, since you could pair your flavours as you liked them. Chocolate blueberry, good. Chocolate apricot, even better. Chocolate mango, yum. And then plain chocolate - even better!

And with that the foodgasm came to an end. Downing a glass of water (remember the eyes, they were still watching me), we managed to pull ourselves out the chairs. Only to realise how late it had gotten. But what a lovely lovely night.  

The service superb, the people humble and an experience quite unlike any other, this was a meal truly fit for a  king, let alone bloggers. 

On the table that night:

Sid @ Chef at Large
Rekha @ My Tasty Curry
Himanshu @ White Ramekins
Charis @ Culinary Storm
Parul @ Shirazine
Sangeeta Khanna @ Banaras Khana
Deeba @ Passionate about Baking
Antara @ Antypasti





Monday, October 8, 2012

Orange Juice Cake with Orange blossom water

 OJ not Simpson © Cookaroo 

Hey you, man sitting at the end of the table, I'm talking to you.

Just because I smiled at you politely and made some conversation, doesn't mean I want to be friends with you.

Just because you were in the same room with me, breathing the same air, doesn't mean you can send me a friendship request on social networking sites.

Just because you and I have similar interests and can talk about food, doesn't mean that you can ask for my number.

Don't stalk me on Facebook, don't send me messages, don't talk to me.

But hey, since you're stalking me anyways, here's cake you can bake

-----------------------

This cake was an experiment. But it turned out sooo good that I was totally surprised. It had a lovely wafting citrus smell, the rind gave it a brillaint punch and the juice added moisture making it really light, despite having whole wheat in it.

It tasted like an orange creamiscle and had a pound cake-like texture. This measurement made me two small cakes and I was happy with that because I could give one away. Also the husband loved this cake. He loves a vanilla sponge and loves citrus - this just made total sense to him.

You can omit the orange blossom water, I added it because I have a huge bottle that the husband brought back for me from his trip last month and in any case have been looking for recipes to use it in. This just made sense. If you don't have it, use some more juice and perhaps a bit of lemon extract.


 More Orangey © Cookaroo 

Orange Juice Cake with Orange Blossom water

Ingredients


1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat
2 tblsp corn flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp orange blossom water

2 tsp orange blossom water for soaking

For the glaze
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tsp orange blossom water
2 tsp orange juice


Directions:

1 Sift flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda together.
2 In a separate bowl, cream butter, orange blossom water and orange rind together.
3 Gradually add sugar, creaming together until light and fluffy.
4 Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.
5 Then add flour mixture, alternating first with the milk; then with the orange juice, beating until smooth.
6 Pour batter into a parchment papered pan and bake for 30 minutes at 180 degree centigrade.
7 Once done, remove and poke holes through the cake and splash it with more orange blossom water
8 Let it cool while you make the glaze by combining juice, icing sugar and more orange blossom water. Drizzle over the cake. Serve.



Pound intended © Cookaroo 

Sending this to Bake Fest 12 by Mansi at Fun and Food Cafe which she is guest hosting for Vardhini of Cook's Joy


And to Patty's Weekly Story 96  at Colours Dekor


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Flowerpot Cake. First attempt at fondant. And happy birthday to my "conjoined twin"



This post is a over a month late, but I've meaning to take my time and write it, because I'm not really posting a bunch of recipes here, just a bunch of links.

I am sorry that the photos are so awful, but for some reason we weren't able to take pix of the cake that weren't shakey or dark some are from the phone camera and half the time, we weren't sure who was taking the photo so no credit. Perhaps it was the excitement, perhaps it was the time of night, whatever it was we were able to only take these.

This is a flower pot cake. I know I am stating the obvious, but I want to emphasis that that it's completely edible except for the candles and the toothpicks.



The cake is a chocolate cake that I make super often, you can read about it here, Filled with coffee liqueur and chocolate ganache. But the thing was it was the first time I'd be working with fondant. I opted to make the simple fondant - marshmallow fondant. And troubled my friend Amrita for two whole days while I worked with the fondant.

Have you seen Amrita's cakes? They are beautiful. You can check them out here (and do like her page). She literally guided me through the process. I'd call her up for everything - how long should I roll, how should the fondant feel, how should I carve the cake, how should I make the leaves, how should I stick the flowers. The list and query were endless. And she, very patiently explained things to me and gave me some suggestions.

Suggestion number one was to bake the cake in a borosil mixing bowl, so that I'd get the dome-shape and not have to carve too much. Suggestion number two was to start on the flowers pronto because they were going to take ages to dry up (it was much too humid end of august). Suggestion number three was to use and a bit of fondant and a toothpick to attach the flowers.

I learnt how to make fondant roses here. The daisy-type flowers I just cut with a cookie cutter. And the leaves I cut by hand and made indentations with the back of a toothpick and let it dry on the ledge of the plate.

To cover the cake - which was the pot - I used cocoa powder and fondant, which made it a bit too malleable, but it helped me get the colour correct. I used a wooden block print block to make the designs on the pot, to make it look a lot more authentic and ethnic. For the mud effect, I used crumbled oreo cookies.

So why did I bake this cake at all? Three reasons really, I been trying to challenge myself with the next step in cakes. Two, I needed to get over my irrational fear of fondant. Three, it was my friend N's birthday and I wanted to something special for her, especially since she's had quite a rough year this year.



You'd have seen her name peppered through the blog. It's for many reasons. It's because she started this blog for me a couple of years ago. It's because she took the photos for it when I started off seriously. It's because she comes with me, when I drag her to blogger events. It's because she  gives me a danda for spending so much time on the blog. It's because I love her.

We've not been friends since we were children or anything. We've known each other for barely five years. But in that five years we've shared so much that like she says it, "we are a part of each others family" We've worked together, shared bylines, shared stories that make sense to nobody else. We've gotten drunk together, we've laughed so much about other's stupidity. And then been stupid ourselves.

She was my bridesmaid for my wedding. She metroed across Delhi, to see me in the hospital. She'd cover for me at work. She'd walk me to the loo. She's speed dial number 6.

We've always been made fun off - called husband and wife, conjoined twins, shadows. But we're more Laurel and Hardy, really.

And now, with both our futures uncertain, I am nothing but maudlin.

The thing is, I will miss her immensely. Heck, I miss her when I haven't seen her in three days. From a point where we'd see each other everyday to not working in the same office for about year and a half now to just not able to if we are in different cities, it's been a roller coaster of an emotional journey.

So this cake was for her. The lover of flowers and trees. The lover of things with the ambi-prints. The lover of things brown and green.

I will miss you. Immensely. Terribly. God-awfully.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Caramelized Onion Jam.


In a jam © Cookaroo



Many people I know don’t like onions. But I’ve got to tell you that caramelized onions are nothing like onions. They are sweet, bursting with flavor and are an awesome accompaniment to just about anything.

The first time I made caramelized onions was for a Nigella Lawson recipe for an onion bread. The was filled with caramelized onions, and the bottom a lovely buttermilky bread. Totally awesome. That was atleast five years ago. Ever since then I’ve come across so many recipes that called for caramelized onions that I decided to make a whole batch together that will last me atleast five to six times. So it’s always stocked in the refrigerator.

 I love serving caramelized onions with my cheese platter. I think the sweetness of the onions add a certain depth to the cheeses – plus they work well with both bland and piquant cheeses. I also am a big fan of tarts and quiches with caramelized onions – total flavor contrasts making it awesome. And everytime I see some good cheese that is melty – I run off to make a caramelized onion and grilled cheese sandwich.

 The other night though, we tried it with the raclette. And it was fabulous.

 My jam is simple. I don’t even season it, because, you know, I can season it whenever I wish to. I use just onions, oil and water. That’s it. Nothing more nothing less. But, onion jam takes a hell of a lot of patience.

 You need to slow cook it, so that you don’t burn it and make it like biryani-wale pyaaz. You have to turn in over, every now and then and you have to treat it with love and respect.
So don’t make this when you are in a hurry. Make it leisurely when you have all the time in the world – like on a weekend. But trust me, every single spoonful is worth that effort.

Relish © Cookaroo

Caramelised onion jam
1 kg red onions
2 tsp oil
1 cup water
Seasoning of your choice
Lots and lots of patience
Directions
1.Peel and slice onions in even shapes – thick or thin is your choice
2.In a large saucepan add the olive oil and add the onions. Stir till all the onions are coated with oil.
3.Lower the flame and let the onions cook for 1 hour . Keep turning it around once in a while.
4.After a point, when it starts to stick to the bottom, add a splash of water and mix. Do this until all the onions are browned and you get a lovely sweet caramelized smell .
5.Add seasoning if you wish, I prefer it unseasoned because I use it for so many things.
6.Let it cool. Fill into a nice jar and keep aside. Onion jam will keep upto a month in the refrigerator





I'm sending this lovely jam. My refrigerator staple to Tea Time Treats which is being hosted by What Katy Baked and Lavender & Lovage. This month's theme is jams and preserves, and I think this will fit in quite snugly





Sweet child © Cookaroo
 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Nutella Cake. And Nutella tales

Never say never © Cookaroo


I am not allowed to bring Nutella home. Why? Because I can finish an entire jar in one sitting. I slather it on soft bread, eat it with my pancakes, dip it in paranthas and well, eat straight from the jar as well.

I remember when I lived in New York briefly, there's always be three things in my fridge - hummus, soft multigrain bread and Nutella. I'd make sandwiches - hummus with cucumber and Nutella with bananas. One savoury and one dessert sandwich. Filling, delicious, and totally hitting the spot. Which is why, when I lived alone in Delhi, about four years ago, I'd buy it often.

But ever since I've gotten married, the husband has caught on to some of my tricks and Nutella is banned from the house - also because I don't share my it - and I always have to tell him why I've bought it.

Which is why, when I bought a bottle the other day, I was instantly quizzed - are you going to finish this jar on your own or are you going to make something? I protested indignantly, hullo I'm going to bake a cake. A smirk and a quiet drive later, I sulked and then refused to look at the bottle till the next morning.

Between some bananas blackening on my table, and the thought that I was going to meet die-hard chocoholics (when I took a lemon pie for one some time ago, he said, this is lovely but where's the dessert?)  in the evening, I decided to bake a nutella cake with chocolate. 

A chunk not slice © Cookaroo

I added some cocoa so that I could bring out the deeper flavours of the nutella and unlike in the photograph I slathered some more nutella on top and then perched a ferro rocher  atop.


The cake was moist yet sturdy. This is not a gooey or ultra rich cake, it's light and bursting with flavours. It is a cake that satisfies your chocolate and Nutella cravings. This cake brings out the lovely hazelnuts in the creamy spread and cuts through like butter. And while we ate it plain, you can bring on some ice cream or fresh cream with it.

But I have another thing or two to tell you before you read the recipe. If you eat the cake straight out of the pan, you will get a slight soda-ey taste. I suggest you let the chocolate/ Nutella develop for at least a couple of hours before you eat it. In fact bake it in the morning and forget about it till dinner. Leave it in the fridge to cool and develop the flavours. And then when you eat it, you'll be transported to a place where you can eat Nutella without ever being questioned and for all three meals 24 X 7. 

Ache for cake © Cookaroo

Nutella Cake

1 1/3  cups Flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup butter (let it for an hour)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs 
100 grams melted dark chocolate
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup of milk

Method:
1. Beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. 
2.  Add eggs (one at a time) followed by the Nutella and melted chocolate
3. Gradually add the dry ingredients and lastly the milk. 
4. Spread the mixture into a greased and lined tin.
5. Bake at 160 for 45 - 50 minutes. This is the best bit. Your kitchen will be filled with the aroma of Nutella. The cake is cooked when a skewer comes out clean.

Nothing like Nutella © Cookaroo

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wholewheat Banana Raisin Bread with Muesli Streusel

Breads and more © Cookaroo
Monday! New Day! New Week! New Month! It's quite a power-packed day.today and somehow I've got to make sure I complete atleast 99 percent of my goal. Which is why I decided to blog first, get myself all charged for the rest of the day and hopefully the month.

Fortunately tomorrow is a holiday, so I gots to be charged only that long.

I love love Banana bread. It is my comfort food. It is what I like to give to people as presents. It is what I want to make when I know my sister is coming over.

Lately, however, after analysing the consumption of all-purpose flour at home - we don't eat it as much as I give away - I thought the best thing to do was switch to whole wheat where ever I know I am going to it. So this whole wheat banana bread was born. I was tired of making my banana wholewheat muffins and wanted to make something that I could eat and share for a couple of days.

I've used lots and lots of raisins, because I love the squishy taste of raisins with the wholesome-ness of the banana.The oats have given a lovely texture, so please don't omit it. While my favourite banana bread, a Nigella Lawson recipe uses butter, I switched to oil - olive oil at that, because I have a lot of lying around. But please go ahead and make those changes if you. Also feel free to add nuts, I didn't have any walnuts so I had to omit my longing for some crunch.

The result was a very moist banana bread which kept well for 5 days and was shared with so many people that my heart swells with happiness. Do try.



Wholewheat Banana raisin bread with Muesli Streusel
Makes 3 medium sized loaves or 1big and small or one xl size

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1  tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup oats
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup oil
2/3 cup raisins
2 tblsp rum/ water

For the Muesli topping
3/4 cup store bought muesli
1 tblsp honey

Method

1. In a bowl measure the oats and milk and keep aside. In a separate bowl sift all the dry ingredients - flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda. Add sugar to it. Whisk it together 
2. Zap the raisins with rum/ water in the microwave for 30 seconds. Leave aside
3. Mash the bananas and keep aside.
4. In a mixing bowl, mix the eggs, vanilla extract, oil and butter together. Add the oats mixture along with the flour mix. Stir. Add the bananas and lightly fold.
5. Add raisins and fold. Fill in parchment paper-lined trays. 
6. In a separate bowl add the muesli with honey. Sprinkle on top of the banana bread mix. Bake at 175 degree centigrade for 40 minutes.
7. Serve with butter

Sliced not diced © Cookaroo
Sending this to The Weekly Story # 95 at Patty's Colours Dekor 

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