Sunday, June 30, 2013

Crack Pie. For Daring Bakers

Several years ago, I'd stumbled upon a New York Times article about Christina Tosi and how she pushed the boundaries. I made nothing of it.

But through the year, I kept spotting her names in dozens of American blogs and articles. And it was enough  to pique my interest. I saw that her bakery Momofuku's Milk Bar made it to the top 10 bakeries of the year in New York, year after year. I saw that she was reinventing and inventing desserts that had everyone talking And it was no surprises then that she won the 2012 James Beard Award as well.

Last year though, I read the recipe of her crack pie on my friend Marsha Thompson aka  the Harried Cook's blog and had been totally enamored by her description of it. Plus Marsha added as a caution that you'd just not be willing to share this pie.

So when this month's Daring Baker's challenge was announced. I knew exactly what I wanted to bake. Rachael from Pizzarossa was our lovely June 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she had us whipping up delicious pies in our kitchens! Cream pies, fruit pies, chocolate pies, even crack pies! There’s nothing like pie!

And crack pie it was. Ofcourse that meant you had to bake the the crust, crumble it, bake the filling and let it sit overnight. A really long wait for the pie. But it was worth every single moment of it.

This is some pie! I mean it's a serious pie. And as a serious pie lover, you need to be someone who loves caramel to enjoy it completely. Story goes, that this pie is as addictive as crack, which is why the name. The crust is salty sweet, the filling is oozy and gooey and you feel you've just had a bite of heaven.

Its safe to say that you can eat this pie alone in one sitting, if you have a terrible sweet tooth like me. So this time I acted smart. I baked two tiny pies and one pie where I took to cut for both Charis and Sushmita's birthday at a Blogger's Table event this Friday. (I was smart you see.) The only time I ate a bit of the pie was when I was photographing it.

You will cry for help (see those hands in the photograph, they were exactly for that) because you will feel like you've eaten something so sinful that your jeans will definitely not fit the next day. But if you share this pie you're good to go.

I've got to thank Rachael again. If it wasn't for her, I'd have missed out on this goodness.

Momofuku's Crack Pie


Oat Cookie Crust
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
5 1/2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
6 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Oat Cookie Crust
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper; coat with nonstick spray. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl. 
2. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until pale and fluffy. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. 
3. Turn oat mixture out onto prepared baking pan; press out evenly to edges of pan. Bake until light golden on top, 17 to 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie completely.
4. Using hands, crumble oat cookie into large bowl; add 3 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together. 
5. Transfer cookie crust mixture to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Using fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish. Place pie dish with crust on rimmed baking sheet.

1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. 
2. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Pour filling into crust. 
3. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. 
4. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 20 minutes longer. 
5. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight. 

DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; keep chilled.
Sift powdered sugar lightly over top of pie. Cut pie into wedges and serve cold.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Pinterest Picks: Pies for June

I love pies. And I have been wanting to post a pie pick for over six months. Last month when I finally decided I was going to post the pies and tarts off my board called Pie me a river, I had to really stop myself from going crazy. Especially since the Daring Bakers were pies too this month (but watch out for that post tomorrow)

These pies, my friends, are pies I want to bake, pies that I want to eat and pies that I want to take with me to bed. Ofcourse this would also mean that I'd have to bake a lot, and could that be more fun or what! Oh and please note these are dessert tarts and pies, I'm going to leave the savoury ones for another pick later.

Anyhoo, here's my top 10 pick off my board and if you aren't following me on Pinterest, please to be doing so.

1.  Cherry and Coconut Pie

2. Chocolate glazed chocolate tart

3. Apricot and Almond tart

4. Strawberry Pie

5. Mississippi Mud Pie 

6. Mini cherry pies

7. Key Lime Pie

8. Blueberry Hand pies

9. Pina Colada Icebox Pie

10.  Fig and berry tart

Meeting Vikas Khanna. Foodathon. Saffola Masala Oats 'The other side'

So I won a kindle. Because I made a pizza with oats as a crust for Foodathon's event 'The Other Side' with Vikas Khanna.

Ok, ok. Let me start from the beginning. It all started when a personalised box arrived at home. A small yellow box with two aubergines, one bitter gourd and a tinda (ok so I have no idea what it's called in English) The idea was sweet. It was meant to intrigue, and in its way I suppose it did too. 

Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Khanna
The Other Side. That's what the event was called. The idea was to have Michelin star chef Vikas Khanna give us a demo and a talk about how healthy can be tasty. And since it was brought to us by Saffola Masala Oats, that mean we were going to be learning a lot of oats as well. Held at Blue Frog in the height of summer on a particularly hot day, we waited for Khanna to make an appearance.

Vikas Khanna and I have a peculiar history. Yes ofcourse we know each other from Masterchef. But I have written so many articles about the chef (for various publications) that's a miracle he hasn't run out of things to say to me.

Photo Courtesy: Rekha Kakkar
But that's the thing about Khanna, he's self-deprecating and has a glorious Punjabi-twang to his English that makes you want to hug him. Of course he taught us some tricks of the trade (or so he let us believe) like how you should use a melon baller to scoop the inside of vegetables or that you should flatten one end of round-shaped fruit/vegetable so that it stands tall or that how a hollowed-out vegetable should be poached upside down for maximum benefits.

Khanna was also the judge of two competitions that Foodathon had organised. Both cooking based, but one was to be baked with oats and the other without. To enter the competition, he and the emcee asked a number of questions - all food based ofcourse. 

Four of us from the Blogger's Table got a chance to participate. Rekha in the first round. Parul, Himanshu and I in the second round. In true blue reality cooking style we were given a pantry where we had to choose ingredients from and then were given 20 minutes for a cook-off. 

Photo Courtesy: Rekha Kakkar
Parul made risotto balls (with oats and olives) while Himanshu did a stuffed bell pepper version of the same. I made a quick marinara sauce which I topped over a oat flattened patty and grated some cottage cheese over it and grilled it over the pans super quickly.

So while the deliberation over the winners were taking places, people from across the room came to taste what we'd made, Parul and I happily let them, only to forget that it needed to be photographed. Which meant we had to make it all over again. And we did. 

The prizes were so fun. We got a chopping board signed by Khanna and well, I won the Kindle, and just before leaving we were handed out hampers from Saffola Masala Oats that included all the differentvariations in flavours as well as muesli. And to top it all, we were also given Khanna's latest book - Khanna Sutra. Quite a loot I'd say.

I was briefly at the Foodathon last year, this year though it was a sea change. The event was way more exclusive and private (which was lovely because last year it was just too many people), the event went on pretty much seamlessly and it was truly value-addition for us bloggers.
Photo Courtesy: Himanshu Taneja

My only complaint was the food. Last year, it was inedible. This year it was borderline iffy. The salads were ok but the rest of it was slightly strange. I still don't get why at an event where healthy food was being underlined, were nachos and salsa being served on the table. But that apart, I have to say I had fun.

Oh and the oats, I know Sangeeta didn't particularly like them, but my husband seems to be totally a convert. Because all this while, he thought oats were meant to be eaten with sugar, this was an eye opening experience for him. 

I later understood why. There is a smell and a taste which reminds him of Maggi (his favourite food in the whole world) 

I've been doing a whole lot of things from the oats. I toss them in scrambled eggs under Sangeeta's advise. I made tart shells from it and filled it up with spinach and sausages and I baked it into these scrumptious muffins. 

All in all, that Saturday was well-spent.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies. Popina's

Long before I realised that you could actually bake a chocolate chip cookie at home, I'd already settled on my favourite brands of cookies - Dominos Chocolate chip were my favourite Indian brand while I would wait for someone to get me a box of Chips Ahoy whenever someone travelled.

And I suppose watching so many American sitcoms and movies didn't help my case. I'd see people dunking cookie in glasses of plain milk and try the same at home. Now anyone who knows the taste of plain old fashioned Mother Dairy milk by the token, would know how watery and well, terrible plain milk tasted back in the day. But still, I would think of how all those yankees kids enjoyed their midnight treat, and grimace and   do the same.

Yet, over time, I developed a taste for ice cold plain milk and was able to drink it happily. But when the tetrapak revolution finally happened in India, I realised what I'd been missing all this while. Thick, flavourless milk tasting milk. Not something that needed to be boiled. Not something that needed to have the cream removed from the top.

I'd go through cartons and cartons of plain milk (as long as it was cold) in a week and I suppose that's when I finally figured that you could actually make your own cookie to go with it.

The first cookie I ever made was a chocolate chip cookie. Except it was really a chocolate chunk cookies, coz you couldn't really get chips a decade ago. But ever since that I've been searching for my favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I haven't really posted that many on this blog (I've just posted Joy the Baker's and an oatmeal chocolate chunk ) but this one is by far my go-to recipe when it comes to chocolate chip cookies.

I can bake these with my eyes closed. And even though Popina says you get 12 cookies from this, I have never got anything less than 24 (ok 23 once but I ate the cookie dough that time).

You can soft bake these cookies, if you like them like that. Or bake 'em a little longer if you prefer your cookie crunchier. Either way you'll get a great cookie bursting with chips.

Try them. Then you'll understand why I love them.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Mildly adapted from Popina's Book of Baking


120g butter at room temperature 

165g of soft light brown sugar
1 TBS golden syrup (can use golden corn syrup)
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
210g of plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup dark chocolate chip
1/2 cup milk chocolate chip
Generous sprinkling of sea salt


1. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the syrup, vanilla and egg, beating it in well. Sift together the flour and baking powder.
2. Stir this into the wet ingredients, mixing in well. Stir in the chopped chocolate. 
3.Shape the dough into two rolls. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 1 hour.
4.Preheat the oven to 170*C. Line several baking sheets with baking paper. Set aside.
5.Remove the dough from the fridge and unwrap. Cut into 12 equal slices. Two times over
6.Arrange the cookie dough discs onto the prepared baking trays, leaving plenty of space in between for spreading. 
7. Sprinkle the sea salt on each cookie.
8. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the cookies are pale golden brown. 
9.Remove from the oven and allow to cool for several minutes. Serve warm for a real taste treat. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Sending this to Bookmarked Recipes at Jacqueline's Tinned Tomatoes

Friday, June 21, 2013

Mughlai food at Sadia Durrani's. Blogger's Table

For the longest time I couldn't eat chicken or mutton in gravies. Unless it was butter chicken or this chicken curry that my dad made or chicken korma. Most times I'd eat the gravy and I preferred my Indian meat as kebabs of tikka.

Then the Great Kebab Factory happened to me. Ofcourse I loved the kebabs, but the GKF introduced me to a whole range of curries - niharis, roganjoshes, yakhnis, achari meats and do pyaazas - and I was a convert for life. 

Ofcourse that I read up on all the different dishes was mighty helpful but I also started enjoying the nuances of the myriad dishes. And then when I moved to Delhi, I also began eating a lot more of these curries. And each time I tried it at a different place, the more I liked what I ate. One of the nicest awadhi meals I'd had was at Dum Affairs and the best nihari till date was at Sid's house followed closely by that at Old Delhi. 

So when we were invited to try the meals at Sadia Durrani's house to sample what she made for catering clients under the name Nawabi Zaayka. She had a feast spread out for us. So on a hot hot hot and super sultry afternoon, some of us from the Blogger's Table headed to sample her food.

Laid out in beautiful old world crockery, we went around the table to see what we'd have liked to help ourselves. I started with the Shammi Kebab and the Nihari. The Shammi was huge, I could barely eat half of it. But the meat was lovely, well-spiced and quite melt in the mouth. But two things stood out, one that it was deep-fried and two that it was stuffed. The fact that it was stuffed made it really quite different and I have to say I liked the kebab a lot.

I spooned some Nihari into a bowl. Not quite sure what to expect I took a tiny piece of meat with a generous helping of curry, A squeeze of lemon and it became really quite nice. But in my head I compared it to what Sid had made and realised that his flavours lingered far longer than  hers.

Achaari chicken and gosht do pyaaza were plonked in my plate next with a bit of sheermal, which had been ordered from outside (and was excellent). I had spooned in some of the mutton korma as well on my plate. The gosht do pyaaza had a lot of interesting spices that played well with the mutton and the achaari chicken had all the nice paanch phoran spices to make it very tasty. But the korma was a let down. Heavy-handed with the spices, it broke me into a sweat (ofcourse it didn't help that it was so sultry) but the fact that I needed to drink a whole lot of aerated drink made me realise that there was something quite not alright.

Kormas are supposed to be delicately flavoured with the brown onion paste shining through, this was my least favourite of the dishes. Very tepidly I took the awadhi chicken. And what a surprise. I really really liked it. The nut paste shone through and the flavours were all delicately balanced. This was by far my favourite dish in the meal.

A bite of the sheermal and I spooned in some of the biryani and the laal maas. The laal maas was very nice. And even though it was spicy (it was supposed to be) it stayed true to its flavours. The biryani though was a whole other story. 

The rice was way to mushy and the chicken seemed to carry barely any flavours. And it was way to hot! Hot as it mirchi as in fiery. Enough for me to drop my plate. I know there are different kinds of biryanis and awadhi, my favourite kind, is supposed to be delicate and beautifully spiced. This wasn't.

Such a pity.

For dessert we were served kheer in terracotta bowls which was totally kickass. And made up for the things I didn't like. The kheer was cold, not-too-sweet and smelled like the wet earth. It was like eating a spoonful of rain. 

A quick photo session and we called it a day. A few days later, we talked to each other, and sort of figured out that we felt nearly the same way.

I'd give Nawabi Zaayka a 3.5 on 5 and perhaps ask Sadia to go easy on her red chilli collection. Other than that I'd say this is a lovely place to order from when you have people over. 

Oh and don't forget to see what the rest of us, i.e. Mukta, Sangeeta, Sid and Parul had to say.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mistral Grill. Review

I am always intrigued with places that have a different menus for lunch and dinner.  I think it could go either way. Either you're cheating the lunch people of the yummy things you've designed for dinner. Or that you have chefs who've got so many ideas that it's difficult to miss any.

I'd like to believe the latter. Only because I'd like to think I've made the right choice. That said, at the newly launched Mistral Grill in Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj, you know you've hit jackpot when you walk in for lunch.

Located next to PVR Director's Cut and owned by the good people of PVR (the Bijlis), Mistral Grill is divided into three sections . One a semi-private PDR, two a lounge where you can sit and sip from the vodka bar and third a noisy albeit cheery cafe area.

By default we were seated next to the open kitchen, in the cafe. And even though it was spectacularly noisy since it was a Sunday, it felt nice to be able to see people rushing around.

We ordered from the juice bar first. Pineapple and celery for me and watermelon strawberry cooler for my sister.  It was so hot that what I really wanted was a nice salad. Mistral has a gorgeous salad menu and wanted to eat everything. But instead, I ordered Rock Melon and Ham salad, my favourite and a while later went on to order the warm goat's cheese salad. Both the salads were quite lovely. I liked the parmesan cheese bits that they had served with the rock melon salad.  I also ordered the bhutte ke tikki which was really very nice

The rest decided to order their mains almost as soon as they sat down. The husband ordered the lamb chops with bbq sauce with a side of mashed potatoes, the brother-in-law the Mistral BLT which included an oak smoked bacon and black truffle mayo and the sister the chicken thighs with bbq sauce. And there was a pepperoni pizza that we ordered for all of us to nibble from. And I the persian chicken kebab

The lamb was exceptional. Falling off the bone and bbq sauce was just excellent, tart and sweet really like beautiful. The chicken was slightly dry but the pizza was really quite nice. I liked the crust and  they'd used some good quality cheese. And the persian kebabs were so succulent that I couldn't believe I was eating chicken. So tender and full of delicate flavours, this was really my favourite dish from their whole repertoire.

The sandwich was extremely delayed, either they'd forgotten our order or they just had their hands full. We couldn't quite make out. My problem though was with the service. It was very hard to catch the eye of any of the waiters, and we had to flag them down several time even to get something as basic as pepper.

When the sandwich did finally arrive, the brother-in-law was extremely dissatisfied. I took a bite and I loved the sandwich. Turned out he didn't like the taste of the smoked bacon, but I thought that was the piece de resistance.

For dessert we opted to eat the crumble - granny smith apple and lovely bits of oats  served with ice cream and the toffee banoffee. The crumble took ages to come, and we were told later that it was because the oven had a bit of a problem but when it did come it was rather nice. What wasn't was the toffee banoffee, infact if it wasn't for my banana obsessed sister I think we'd have never ordered it. I would recommend you don't either. The dish does not live up to its description at all.

The thing is I know what they were trying to do, a deconstructed banoffee pie, it just fails miserably unfortunately because the caramelised bananas and the dulce de leche taste messy and the cigarallo is way too oily and there's just too much. All in all a disaster.

Having said that, Mistral Grill has barely been open for 2 months, so they will have some hiccups. Would I go back? Yes I definitely would, especially for the persian kebabs and the salad. But I'd wait a bit, till they get their service act together and figure out what works for them.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cherry Pie Pocket Puffs

Of all the fruits in the world, cherries are my least favourite. So much work for a tiny piece of fruit and the pit so boring and large. Bleah. 

Yet there is something about making cherry jam that sounds so Brit and old world. I am just about imagine matronly women pitting away these bright red globules and stirring them over a woodfire to make a couple of jars of cherry jam. 

Frankly when  it comes to this fruit, I am way too lazy. I might as well wash and pop them in my mouth than slave over removing the pit. But sometimes, sometimes you feel inspired and you find a way to pit the dang fruits with a little help. A kilo to be exact.

To be honest I was all set to make some jam until by accident I spied some puff pastry in my freezer and I had realised I had to bake a pie. Because cherry pie, to be honest was one of the first pies I had ever tasted in my life and suddenly I felt like a bite of  pie. I wanted it. I needed it. 

I had scrapbooked a cherry pie recipe several years ago. And obviously when I needed it, I couldn't find it, so I searched for the recipe online and stumbled upon something quite so similar.

I know the name seems like quite the tongue twister. But it's worth stumbling on each word. These pocket pies are extremely portable. And they taste as good cold as they taste warm. And they keep for at least a good 2 days. 

Oh and I didn't make the puff pastry that was shop bought.And Michel Roux is going to be very upset with me, I know. But it's just too hot. Meanwhile do look at his awesome puff pastry recipe.

Cherry Pie Pocket Puffs
Adapted from Bon Appetit's Cherry Hand Pies

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted,
2/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick of cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1  package of puff pastry 
Flour (for dusting)
1 large egg white
1 1/2 teaspoons raw sugar


1. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir cornstarch and 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl to blend.
2. Combine fresh cherries and next 4 ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cherry juices are released, about 5 minutes. Add cornstarch mixture; bring to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
3. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to an 18x15" rectangle. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut dough into nine 6x5" rectangles. 
4. Whisk egg white and 1 tablespoon water in another small bowl for egg wash.
5.Working with 1 pastry rectangle at a time, place on a work surface and brush edges with egg wash. Scoop 3 tablespoons cherry mixture onto one side; fold dough over filling so that short ends meet, forming a 5x3" packet. 
6. Crimp edges with a fork to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut a few slits in top of pie to vent. Place on prepared baking sheet; repeat with remaining dough and filling.
7.Brush tops with egg wash, then sprinkle with raw sugar. Chill for 30 minutes.
8.  Preheat oven to 375°. Bake pastries until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fun Kitchen stuff that I want. Like Now

I love love love gadgets. Whether they are useful, or just a fad or plain cute, I have to have 'em. If I'm lucky I am given a butter curler or a nice new soup bowl by my friends.  But it doesn't matter where I spot them I have to have 'em. 

Yesterday, while trawling around I found this Tea cup that made me want it that moment and the scooter pizza cutter which called out to me the moment I clicked on them. And then I couldn't stop looking. So I collected a few of the things I found including the Popcorn maker (which I know has no business in this list but it's just the cutest) which I thought I must show to everyone.