Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Daring Bakers' November 2012, Twelve Days Of Cookies



Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us.

From Peta's list of twelve, we were given instructions to handpick a one. The second option followed, where free reign was permitted in choosing right recipe # 2, on our own, for the November challenge.

Ohh, happy day! Set out I did to fulfill this merry making test, all to the the tune of my favorite monster. And to think, just yesterday I was of resolute mind that official holiday baking begins only on December 1st. How wrong I was (?) since, here, on this page, I've come to see that kickstarting it the Daring Baker way made a whole lot more sense, giving me additional days of deemed holiday noshing baking and all the more reason to play Bing Crosby's White Christmas.

I chose Peta's piped shortbread cookies. Mainly because I saw a super concise ingredient list, five to be exact, all of which were in my stockpile. Not too, inspiring, I know. One heads up, though, ultimately those mighty five did me in(as they will you), playing their parts distinguishingly well, and hailing in an overall fabulous piece of cookie.

Many things about piped shortbreads bring back memories of old-school butter cookies, stacked rows in those round blue tins, perfect for tea, that is if you drank tea, their pronounced butter flavor (pure, artificial, convoluted,who knows?) passing through every opening of your face.

Still, I can tell you, this moment, right now, these are different. What with their cornstarch, confectioner's sugar and prescribed 10 minutes of uninterrupted beating, they bake to an evolved, refined rank, one of buttery- crisp- softmelt-vanishing-on-contact breed. Your tongue detects it and says thank you, over and again. There is no safety in fighting off craving. Just give in.

(Recipe Adapted From The Daring Bakers' Challenge Page)
Piped Shortbread Cookies~
    Ingredients:
    • ½ c confectioners' sugar
    • 1 c softened butter
    • 1¼ c all-purpose flour
    • ¼ c cornstarch
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
      Directions:
      • Preheat the oven to moderate 300°F.
      • Combine confectioner's sugar, butter, flours, and vanilla in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle beater. Mix on low speed until combined and then change to the whisk attachment.
      • Beat for 10 minutes.
      • Pipe into rings
      • Bake in preheated moderate oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned.

      The snow caps are a recipe that has visited our home and my kitchen, every Christmas season for more than half a decade. I really don't know where it came from, possibly Food Network, but don't quote me on that. I've kicked and played around with this blueprint so many times, that today, it's final make up has taken it quite a ways from it's original destiny.

      Mounded scoops of dough are first baked and cooled. Here, then, comes the Ta-Da. The tops get adorned with melted semisweet chocolate and kissed with the white chocolate gratings of "snow". The cookies themselves are not saccharine sweet, so the double chocolate sings delicious against the nutty, no frills dough. Now with this you can bring on an infinite variation of topping conclusions. Your "mountain caps" can very well be white melted , with colored sugars, sprinkles, themed jimmies, etc. Or maybe a crest of milk chocolate tapped in coconut shreds. The possibilities are delightfully endless.

      (Possible- Could- Be- Adaptation from Food Network archives)
      Snow Caps~
      Ingredients:
      • 1¾ c flour
      • 1 c chopped walnuts or pecans
      • 1 stick and 3 tbsp butter (softened)
      • ½ c powdered sugar
      • 1 tsp vanilla
      • ¼ tsp salt
      • ⅓ c semi-sweet chocolate chips
      • 4 oz. white baking chocolate bar, grated
      Directions:
      • Preheat oven to 350°F.
      • Combine flour and walnuts; set aside.
      • In a food processor, pulse together butter and sugar until well blended. Add vanilla, pulse until all ingredients amalgamate. 
      • Gradually add flour mixture, stirring at each interval, until all is combined thoroughly and form a moist small crumb-like dough, which can be shaped easily when pressed in with hands (If not, add upto 1/2 tsp of water to aid in shaping). 
      • Shape into 1 inch balls and place on baking sheets.
      • Bake 18 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool cookies on racks.
      • Melt semi sweet chocolate chips in microwave -I cook on 50% power at 30 sec intervals until melted and glossy.
      • Have the grated white chocolate set in a wide bowl or plate.
      • Dip tops of each cookie into melted chocolate, then press lightly into white chocolate shavings for a snow topped effect.
      • Let stand until tops are set.
      • Makes about 2 dozen.
      NomNomNom. A dozen were gone before my two came home from school. Being the shameful cookie fiend I am, I was so pressed to hide the remaining from myself (help!). 

      So there you go, your holiday baking begins, and not with the generic- run- of- the- mill. This might just replace all those favorite cookie recipes you have scribbled in journals and bookmarked on screen. Keep with, the knowledge, that in a few short hours, you will be overflowing in pure cookie love, having enough for finishing, possibly even sharing. All the best with that.


      Thank you Peta for this disarmingly delicious challenge, sharing a plentiful array of cookie recipes and ringing in the cheer of this year's Christmas season. Much thanks also for introducing back into my life the art of the situp, ho, ho, ho - what fun it is!
      ******

      "I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!" ~Psalm 116:1-2 (NLT) 
      Picture Source: Proverbs 31 Ministries via The Better Mom


      Wednesday, November 21, 2012

      Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

      Doesn't the picture say it all?

      I came across this recipe while foodgawking, again. With the hours spent browsing, pinning and bookmarking, you'd think I'd come up with enough inspiration and recipe material to carry well into a decade and plus. 

      Which brings to this poignant setting. A few days ago, during scheduled routine, my eyes stumbled across and over this gorgeous slice of four layer cake. Nearly peeling the roof of my mouth off the floor, I read through it's content and within a few I knew I was ready to tackle this magnificent piece from those insane Tastespotting publishers.

      And here it is Thanksgiving Eve, that I execute this spectacular next- day dessert. Oh, yes, I wanted, needed  to thaw my unyielding rock of a turkey, but it was my baking roll with Pumpkin Spice layering and the subsequent other and afters that took precedence for much of my today.

      Contrary to the usual, I cannot string into a prolonged melody as to how good it really shall be. I do not know, yet. I do know, however, that it has tucked into it's opulent body some depthfully magnificent flavors. The something that brings me to the conclusive thought that pumpkin spice layer cake may just be the show stealer for tomorrow's gluttonous feast.

      Excruciatingly tough my whole prep, assemble and bake scenario, inasmuch the desire in me, I kept myself from trying a crumb, not even the spoon lick. I did succeed, obstacles be gone, just to experience my much anticipated bite, at tomorrow's table. Chiefly throwing me over wit's edge was the aroma exploding anywhere and all about, several concentrated whiffs that extended into neighbors' confines, and lasting well after JZ's evening return, having the grown man dancing, sneaking in scraps, crumbed hands and all. This was my madness that knew no end.(Aaaahh!)

      The brilliance of the recipe is the combination of so many flavors, balancing a very profound cake, topped with the sweetened tang of cream cheese icing and cut with an ambrosial douse of toasty rich caramel. Luxury awaits, and I am all for the telling, once I cut in through my slice, come tomorrow morning afternoon.

      Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a 15 pounder to brine.

      Have a blissful, and lovely Thanksgiving day.

      Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake~
      (Recipe adapted from TasteSpotting blog) Ingredients:

      • butter for pans and parchment liners
      • 3 c all purpose flour
      • 2 tsp baking powder
      • 1 tsp baking soda
      • 1 tsp salt
      • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
      • 2 tsp ground ginger
      • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
      • ½ tsp ground cloves
      • 2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
      • 1 c granulated sugar
      • 1 c light brown sugar
      • 4 large eggs
      • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
      • 1 c pumpkin puree 
      • Simple Cream Cheese Frosting 
      • Caramel

      Shhh, I haven't enlightened my picky one and two that pumpkin is the main ingredient (gasp!), since they won't go near two feet of any dessert carrying the p-ingredient. I actually cut down the amount from the original, since I didn't want an exaggerated scene of gagging and faces from either.The secret lies with me to the grave(unless probably they read this), though they were none the wiser when combing up shaved cake ends earlier today.
      Directions:

      • Grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Alternatively, you could line the bottom with rounds of parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper, as well, then flour the parchment paper bottom and sides of the pan.
      • In a bowl, sift together all 8 dry ingredients starting from ending in cloves. 
      • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, using a hand mixer), beat on medium speed granulated sugar, brown sugar, and butter until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time. Incorporate pumpkin and vanilla until just combined, reducing speed to low.
      • Add the dry mixture to the wet and stir until just combined.

      • Divide the batter between the buttered pans. Lightly tap the pans over the countertop and smooth out the tops of the batter.

      • Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centers come out clean, about 30-35 minutes.
      • Allow cakes to cool for 10 minutes.
      • Transfer to cooling racks. Let cool completely. Flip upside down so as to flatten the dome tops.
      Make the Cream Cheese Frosting tripled. For my next time, I will be trying a certain orange cream cheese frosting .
      After that Caramel drizzle, please.

      Save yourself time and tension. Layers can be baked ahead and keep well in the refrigerator or even the freezer.
      Once I cut into it, I promise I will update with a nice picture of my charming quadruple layered first wedge.


      *Update* For my buddies who wanted in on a slice~

       Multi storied and mega towering...one would never be enough.

      ******
      "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!" Psalm 107:1 (ESV)
      There is always something to be thankful for.

      Friday, November 16, 2012

      Daring Cooks' November 2012 ~Brining and Roasting/ North Kerala Stuffed Chicken


      Audax of Audax Artifax was our November 2012 Daring Cooks’ host. Audax has brought us into the world of brining and roasting, where we brined meat and vegetables and roasted them afterwards for a delicious meal!
      A while back, one November, Food Network aired a special prior to Thanksgiving, a sort of Q&A on the how- to's of the big meal. Of course, turkey brought in major mention, and in tow came the discussion on the needs and basics of brining that turkey. After the viewing, which I later went on to bookmark twice, the calling to brine has always been first up in prepping good bird. So start Thanksgiving eve, my multi gallon bird bath begins. Which, by the way started out in a black double lined trash bag (since then I have graduated to a pot the size of a medium ground well, used only and solely for the purpose), replete with apple cider, salt handfuls, two sugars, a few cloves and bulbous heads of garlic. Almost everything but the kitchen sink( if need be, too), goes into saturating the day's star.
      It was from there, my brine trials continued, extending into beloved fryer recipes, as well. The spicy fried chicken you most definitely should check out here is always moist because of it's overnight buttermilk soak.

      Knowing the secret of brine made me feel that cut above, where this excellent way of preparing meats was my secret and not yours, ha, ha and ha. Well, the month's challenge on Daring Kitchen changed all that, eye opener it was, clearing my Pooterish mind of incorrect brining after effects, still yet, opening up an enlightening avenue, of the what, the where, the how much and how longs of a good soak. You see, people there is a whole science behind moist, roasted food, and it must be taken seriously.

      Audax says, "Brining works in accordance with two principles, called diffusion and osmosis, these two principles like to keep things in equilibrium (or in stable balance). When brining a fowl for example, there is a greater concentration of salt and sugar outside of the fowl (in the brine) than inside the fowl (in the cells that make up its flesh). The law of diffusion states that the salt and sugar will naturally flow from the area of greater concentration (the brine) to lesser concentration (the cells). There is also a greater concentration of water, so to speak, outside of the fowl than inside. Here, too, the water will naturally flow from the area of greater concentration (the brine) to lesser concentration (the cells). When water moves in this fashion, the process is called osmosis. Once inside the cells, the salt and, to a lesser extent, the sugar causes the cell proteins to unravel, or denature."

      Those proteins that unravel drastically change your roasting results, be it poultry, red meat, fish or other, all for the better.

      In other words, this birdie's getting punch drunk. Where it loses it's natural qualities and it's whole structure gets a reboot.

      So, the song that starts on the DC challenge page, I play over to you. Chirrup buddies, you are one step away from being the skilled roaster, having never to associate with unsucculent, dried up substance again.

      Brining Times~Meats, seafood, vegetables, nuts or seeds can all be brined. The length of time meat soaks in a flavour brine depends on the type of meat and its size, as well as the amount of salt used in the brine—the saltier the brine mixture, the shorter the soaking time. Kosher salt  and table salt are the most common salts used in brining. Generally brining takes from ½ hour to 2 days.

      The secret of the air dry~Once brined and out, you must air dry, chicken( in this case). Since I was going in for my a spice rub, I dried the whole parts and inside the cavity off with paper towels, which I suggest you do before applying anything over it's skin for seasoning.
      Roasting Tips~Roasting can take up to 2 hours for most pieces of meat, for large poultry 6-7 hours.When brined cuts of meat are roasted, the skin needs to browned at first at a hotter temperature. Then the oven gets lowered to reduce moisture loss in the roasted food. It is important to rest (loosely covered in foil) your roast so that the moisture can redistribute itself in the meat, it greatly adds to the final tenderness of the cooked product.
      I nearly tripled my new found all purpose brine to dunk my whole chicken, tossed in smashed heads of garlic, an inch of ginger, peppercorns, of course, also the couple of bay leaves.

      The idea to do this lovely style of chicken, bearing the stamp of my homestate Kerala's Northern regions, came in part from the one episode prior, in trying my hand at this self same recipe, eons ago. A desperate effort that came to epic fail results. Ever since, I wanted to revisit with a better game plan in hand. Here, I have finally arrived

      All Purpose Brine~
      Recipe:
      Makes 4 cups of brine enough for about one pound (½ kg) of meat. This is the brine to use for most cuts of meat and poultry that will be roasted.

      Ingredients:
      • 4 c of cold water 
      • ¼ c table salt or ½ cup Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
      • optional 2 tbsp  sugar 
      • optional 3-4 peppercorns, a few springs of herbs, a garlic clove or two, a knob of ginger etc. 
      Directions:

      • Heat 1 cup of water to boiling point add the salt and stir until all the salt has totally dissolved.
      • Place in a non-reactive container (glass, plastic, stainless steel, zip-lock bags etc). Add the remaining water and stir. Make sure that all the salt has dissolved. Wait until the brine has reached room temperature.
      • Add your cut of meat make sure that the meat is completely submerged (that is totally covered in the salty water) if need be you can weigh down the cut of meat with a clean plate (etc). If using plastic bags make sure that the meat is totally covered in brine and make sure that is bag is locked securely.
      • Cover the container with plastic wrap to prevent odours contaminating the flavour brine or the brine leaking.
      • Place the container into the refrigerator for the soaking time (3-8 hours for chicken).
      • If desired you can air-dry your poultry (usually over night) in the refrigerator if you wish to have crispy skin on your bird. It is best to pat dry your brined item (inside and out) with paper towels before cooking.
      • Cook the brined item as directed .
      Notes:
      • You can substitute all or some of the water with a combination of wine, cider, beer, tea, coffee, fruit juice, most sauces, chicken stock, beef stock or fish stock. Be careful with acidic liquids like wine, cider, fruit juices which can turn your meat to mush if brined too long.
      • A little sugar can help overcome the saltiness of the brine and helps to give a nice sheen to your piece of meat when roasted. You can use up to ¼ c of sugar (use the lesser amount (2 tablespoons) for high temperature roasting since the brine can burn at high heats if you use too much sugar). You can use brown sugar or honey or other sweeteners also.
      • Any combination of spices and herbs can be used to flavor the brine.

      Dry chicken marinade~
      Ingredients:
      • 2 tsp cayenne
      • 2 tsp coriander
      • 2 tsp garlic powder
      • 2 tsp ginger power
      • 1 tsp cumin
      • 1 tsp salt or enough to flavor
      Directions:

      • Mix all the powders and together in a bowl.

      ~Check out the egg masala, used for my stuffing in the puffs. A word of warning, the eggs get cooked further in the roasting (not much of a problem tastewise, I think). You may want to consider soft boiling them. A few tweaks/upgrades: I sliced in an extra onion, chopped up a tomato, which I wilted along with the first ingredients. The texture was also enhanced with sesame seeds tempered along mustard seeds, likewise I threw in ¼ c raisins (optional), ¼ c cashews (optional) towards the end. Finally, there is the ¼ c canned coconut milk plus ¼ c water combined, boiled with the rest of the elements to a thick gravy concentration. On many accounts, the gravy for this is made separately, here I just combined it all into one pot. 
      Not sitting pretty and most certainly odd. Eggs come out of bird, not go back in, right? Though one bite of this unparalleled piece of chicken awesomeness will transform you to think from the other end. Do yourself the favor and have a taste and see. And, tell me I was right.

      North Kerala Style Chicken Roast~
      Ingredients:
      • 1 3-4 lb. whole chicken, cleaned and innards taken out
      • 1 part chicken dry marinade
      • 1 part egg masala
      Directions:
      • Brine the whole chicken in the flavoured brine in the refrigerator  4-6 hours or overnight. (Make sure that every part of the chicken is covered in the brine you can weigh the bird down with a clean plate so it is completely submerged.)
      • Discard the brine and dry the skin and inside of the bird with paper towels.
      • Use your chicken marinade and rub onto all sides, all over the chicken, getting between skin and flesh as well.
      • Set aside for 2 hours.
      • Preheat oven to 425°F.
      • Stuff the egg masala into the cavity of the chicken lightly, eggs first, gently squeezing in only the few that fit. (you can serve the rest alongside the chicken), a bit of the onion mixture after that. Reserve the remaining gravy to pour over the bird after the final bake. Alternately you can close the openings with skewers or cooking twine. I do neither. 
      • Roast on 425°F for 15 minutes.
      • Reduce oven to 350°F and roast for an additional hour upto an hour and a half, loosely covering the chicken with foil. Done-ness should be when the internal temperature is 165°F, or the juices  run clear when you pierce the bird between the leg and thigh.  
      • Rest for approximately 30 minutes covered loosely in foil.
      • Cover chicken with remaining curry gravy.
      The whole bird stuffing gala made me think it might end in another catastrophic conclusion. But no, this time, I brined for moistness and roasted to beautiful crisp skinned goldenness. Hands down, this was a best, one made to be revisited many times, year round. The recipe and the ingredients alone gave it first rate flavor dimension, but the bird itself moved up to the Sensational, enhanced specifically by it's method of preparation.



      I used 6 eggs, them providing an ample enough one meal for four. Tucked into this four pound chicken, the whole thing will make it to a couple of dinners or perhaps a dinner and smashing next day leftover lunch.

      Great thanks and many cheers to Audax for our challenge, running us through those drills and skills needed to make the ultimate brine and roast. Indeed, many of us, with Thanksgiving coming up in a few, will be heaving the long sighh of relief and gratitude to you, our roasted turkeys all ready, set to carve and done to faultless succulence. Hip, hip and hurrah!
      Decided to be inspired by nature for the day (?) Took some pictures on the whim, why not share? It could work as a peace offering to the Daring Cooks for my triple day late challenge entry. Sorry :-/
      ******
      "When fear comes knocking at your door, send faith to answer." Joyce Meyer

      Monday, November 12, 2012

      Sweet Potato Fries and Green Chili Chutney

      Orange. It just seems that all things made right is contained in this simple color. Such a fan am I that the many shades cast in this orange-scopic color range, whether it be dusty coral, gorgeous vermilion, even anemic salmon take my breath away, make my heart race and help me to think a little bit faster. 

      Transfer this philosophy of mine to food and it multiplies by a couple, landing on that very bridge, where bright, beautiful pigment meets and cloaks the insides of a wonderfully good eat.

      The earthily pretty sweet potato, gem like and very majestic in it's naked state (I said it!), is  exactly what I am referencing right now, and serves as top subject for today. 

      Row upon row, piled together in season bearing abundance, these magnificos totally mark the harvest and the accompanying plenitude that walks about in it's timely tow. Tubers of all shapes and sizes crowd in unabashedly, but on most occasions, I am plighted with the warm hued Sweet that screams my name. 

      And due to the quantum fact that they are so haplessly cheap, I am basket- laden, and desperately deluged with more than a month's share, which then finds space all over my storage area, read the floor, and onto the designated chop zone of my counter. On sight, cravings stumble in, those of which ideas and bomb recipes spring forth.


      So I set out to make my first batch of sweet potato fries for the month. Taking five firm tubers and utilizing much ignored arm muscle I slice, imperfection at it's height, wedges of a dimension that qualify as only homemade bestly could. Covering those wedges with just the right amount of oil, I bake sweet potato fries to a crisply conjured, light- seasoned perfection. 

      With the spot on temperature and timing, these sweet fries are spectacularly easy and so intriguingly good. Not only are they flavorful, but the very root from which they were birthed hail in optimum health kick status. With more than a lofty share of nutrient value sourced from vitamins B6, C, and D, so also a good dose of magnesium working it's anti stress properties through this cartenoid high biggie, sweet potato has more benefits than I have possible page space for or time to allot. A performing potato that transcends super mega function.

      So to brace this heavy weight, I don't consider a dipping sauce, gooped concoction worthy of it's time or your tastebuds. No. Instead, an effortless 4 ingredient, no count salt, chili crushed chutney works here. Oh yes, this glorious pairing will just about blow that inert palate right out of your unsuspecting mouth. It will usher in a new dawn, an appreciation for all sweetly starched roots and the knowledge that they most rightly should be anchored into only this formidably piquant destination. 

      As for the chutney, it does dual role, creating balanced harmony, as well as cutting through any saccharin-ey, cloying taste rendered by Sweet. Both the fries and the chutney sort of build on each other, where knowing one will create a need to get better acquainted with the other.

      Yes, this one alone may well be the converter, where even the most cynical prophets of sweet potato doom will fall prey to baked orange charm.

      So, for all you doubters and nonbelievers, never say never.

      Sweet Potato Fries~

      Ingredients:

      • 2-3 tbsp canola oil
      • 5 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into wedges
      • ½ tsp salt
      • 1 tsp sugar
      • ¾ tsp cayenne or paprika

      Red cayenne, salt and a shot of sugar gussy up my not so perfect cuts.  


      Directions:

      • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
      • Line a sheet tray with foil. In a large bowl, combine oil, salt, sugar and cayenne.Toss to coat slices with this mixture
      • Spread slices in single layer on prepared baking sheet, don't crowd . 
      • Bake until tender and golden, flipping halfway through, about 30 minutes total.
      • Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving with green chili chutney.
      Green Chili Chutney~
      Ingredients:
      • 8 green chillies( serrano peppers)
      • 1 tsp salt
      • 2 tbsp water
      • 2 tsp vinegar
      • ¼ c coconut oil
      Directions:
      • Crush chillies, salt water and vinegar with a mortar pestle or a small mini grinder, chunky form.
      • Pour mixture into a small container. Stir in coconut oil.

      For the faint of heart, I'd  deseed these, replace serranos with jalapenos, or best yet, bring down the number of chilies and blend in half cupful of plain yogurt. 


      There is a faultless crisp that takes place here. Crunchy outsides with soft insides. A good thing they  are healthy, since you won't be able to stop with just a serving, why not two (?), most surely three.

      ******

      So small a thing, yet it has the power to destroy or bring forth life and light. ~
      "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits." Proverbs 18:21 (ESV)

      Who have you blessed today?

      Wednesday, November 7, 2012

      Beef Fry, Spiced and Done the Kerala Way


      With Indian food, being so popular, you'd think those puffed up naans, cream laden curries, red hot tandooris and sought after tikka masalas that populate restaurant menus and pub dining are day to day naturals in the common Indian home. Well, I have news for you. Honest good they may be, though not the be- all of the Indian culinary experience. A due injustice, it is, actually to all of you who lie in the unknown. And more so to those other parts of the country, less stumbled upon, which offer more than ample plates of undiscovered awesome. A colossal expanse of good eats lie tucked away in hills of the East stretching to the coastal cities along the Western parts, further extending to the freshwater borders of the Southern tip. And it is here in the South, where I come from, that food is as unique and gasp worthy, as the geographic and cultural confines of the region.

      My homestate, Kerala, though small on the map, is Gargantuan of Great Might on the food scene. With all sorts of plated deliciousness racked to it's credit, it is my love affair with the stylized beef fry that deserves steep mention. This obsession, started when I was maybe a teen or further, and first came into contact ordering from the local joint, only known for it's takeout, most particularly on this one item. 
      Infamous fried beef. Glorious cubes of browned fabulousness, textured and seasoned right, mind bogglingly drool, and worthy of true gastric admiration.

      So much so, that after leaving the familiar surrounds, Deep Dark Fry had me dizzy, jilted beyond appeasement, I could never get over the memory of my perfect Mahogany Charm. For years, I came upon stuff of commendable attitude, though having never reached the heights of those very first love notes. I knew destined day would come where my tremendous want would drive me to encounter my many shades of brown once more. Thus, reaching the best of perfect spice crescendo, I wish to share this unparalleled Kerala beauty right here with you.

      With it, I pass along this point worth noting, this is no namby pamby preparation. A hero of the Kerala meat scene, beef fry is strongly trestled and framed in mighteous masala flavor. Seeing as I've gone through masala time and again, making this sole recipe alone will provide ample masala review and rightful enlightenment of the when, where and how much.

      With my spice pantry raided, and almost every container sharing from it's fair yield, it is by the most part, a conglomerate effort of all that is outstanding, with ingredients hitting some intensely strong chords. Whole spices get crushed to fragrance bearing fragments, bringing in the first wave of familiar aromatic heat.

      Thereafter, sliced onions, added once in the beginning, second time browned more and towards the end, give to it sweet balance. Ginger, garlic plus green chillies infuse and hinge their very substance onto meat cubes. A mob pack of spice powders punch with depthful warmth, merrily going about blending motley flavor factors and powerfully influencing a unison, overall preparation. Tempered ingredients hold topspot texture and crunch, taking beef fry to it's full- rounded, fantastic finale. 

      After which, I feel confident that this meal, on it's own will blow the confines of your very mind, as it always does mine, transcending you to an untouched meat lover's paradise. With mouthful upon mouthful, spoon after spoon, singing praises you definitely will, to this utterly A-class plate of Kerala beef. 

      Oh, and don't blame yourself, when visiting this page, on numerous accounts. That's a given. I do suggest you print and frame. Keeper he is, right up there next to the husband/wife and yes, even the kids.

      Ingredients:
      • 1 medium stick cinnamon
      • 3 cloves
      • 2-3 cardamom pods
      • 1 star anise
      • ¼ tsp fennel seeds
      • ½ tsp whole black peppercorns
      • 1½" piece ginger
      • 5 pods garlic
      • 3 serrano peppers (green chillies)
      • 3 tbsp oil
      • 2 medium onions, sliced thin
      • 1 large tomato, diced
      • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
      • 3-4 tsp coriander powder
      • 1 tsp cumin
      • 1 pinch turmeric
      • ¼ c coconut slivers, cut from fresh or frozen
      • 2 lbs. stew beef chunks, cut it into 1" cubes, trimmed of fat
      • 1½ tsp salt or flavor according to taste
      • 1 tsp mustard seeds
      • 3 sprigs curry leaves
      • ½ tsp garam masala(optional)
      • 1- tsp coconut oil(optional)
      There is a reason for every single spice, seasoning and ingredient, here. Believe me, you will experience it as a unison scream as well as in individual discrete whispers. 

      Directions:
      • Using a mortar/pestle or even a mini chopper, coarsely pound spices from cinnamon to black peppercorns.
      • In a mini chopper or food processor, grind to paste ginger, garlic and serranos.
      • In a large deep and heavy bottomed skillet, heat 2 tbsp of the oil over medium flame, add in half the  sliced onions, and coarsely ground spices. Saute until onions are translucent and cooked through.
      • Add ginger/garlic/serrano paste and tomatoes. Stir for half a minute, then add cayenne, coriander, cumin and turmeric. 
      • Stir in coconut slivers.
      • With flame raised to high, Add beef pieces and sear on all sides, keeping pieces from burning- should take about 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer in it's own rendered juices while covered. 
      • Add salt, and stir on occasion, removing lid, and cook until done and pieces forktender (about 30- 40 minutes, depending on the quality of meat). The moisture should be all but gone.
      • In a separate skillet, heat remaining oil, spoon in mustard seeds, allow to temper and pop. 
      • Sprinkle in curry leaves.
      • Add remaining onions. Fry until dark brown.
      • Add the fried elements to the meat mixture, along with garam masala and saute the whole thing over medium high flame, until meat is devoid of all moisture, dried and reaches a deep brown color, about 10 minutes.
      • Top with coconut oil. Stir and take off heat.
      Notes: The measurements above are just guidelines to skim you through a first-time adventure, and not marked in stone. If you're ok with upping the flavor/spice ante, you should (especially in regards to the onions, ginger/ garlic and the powders, cayenne and coriander). Beef fry for me means 3-4 onions, almost a third's addition of ginger/ garlic, more cayenne,  and furthering in a few tablespoons worth of coriander. Any which way, and using these elements, it all leads to the same bridge. Make sure it's on par with your comfort level, and those you cook for.

      4/9/2014**Update and notes** Gosh! There were some direction omissions/mistakes here(results of typing faster than mind's ability to process) that've been brought to my attention by some very good friends. They've been addressed and cleaned up (pretty much). Though, I do a number of rechecks and drafts, there are the times my eyes overlook bumps and wrinkles, thus resulting in edit fails. So, then if you notice anything that seems amiss, do holler me out in the comments. Thank you.
      This could very well be served as a side, maybe to appam, or possibly crusted bread. Did anyone say a plate of steaming hot rice? Oh goodcurry, endless decisions!

      With the spices acting as a natural preserve, meat keeps for a good week, getting better with each passing day. Really fortunate you'll be, if it goes beyond day two.

      **Update 5/12/2014**
      I am delivering the beef fry on over to my friend, Rafeeda who blogs at The Big Sweet Tooth, and is hosting the event, South Indian Cooking, for the 3/14-5/15 segment. Do linger while you're there, and pay some of her rank recipes a visit- she has numerous utterly astounding edibles waiting for the try. To you Ms. Rafeeda, thanks for arranging this show, because we all know how mindblowingly awesome South Indian food truly is.
      ******

      In wake of all the Election buzz and clamor, here, and regardless of who takes the seat, our visions need to gear to a no fail, all win mode. I know my faith lays solely on God who is greater than any power, any government, any political personality. Christ is King. His government will carry on, forever resting on His unswerving shoulders. He, alone, is our destiny and through Him we possess eternal life. There is nothing greater or more deserving of hope and trust than this very truth. 

      "Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him." Daniel 2:20-22 (ESV)

      Friday, November 2, 2012

      Fun Fall Cupcakes

      I know this lame tribute to Autumn is whittling it's way through, a tad late, perhaps by a week or two.  Though you should know, with bare deliverance from a searing heat clime, I had not the least bit of Fall in me. If you recall, I'd mentioned before, that I am not parked in rustling-leaf/scenic-pumpkin-patch world of postcard lore. Instead, my desert terrain, seriously lacks a welcome approach to a conventionally toasty, cider sipping season.

      I miss those markers that pixelled my habitat not long ago, the rusts, flames and brittle crisp browns. But I will make mention of my new third season panorama, beautiful in a visibly different way. Beiges and shades of green, gorgeous mountainous terrain side- by- siding palm tree dotted desert landscapes, and scorcher temperature transitioning to "isn't it just beautiful out?" together hail in an outdoorsy impressiveness. You got it- befuddled seasonal discord reaches it's peak right about this time of year.

      With the disproportionate marking in season to weather, I decidedly went on a whim to bake up my own Fall, you know the red, orange, leaf kind. Successfully scored by purchasing a combination of bright warm tubs of food color and suitably shaped cookie cutters.

      These are themed cupcakes, brilliantly enclosing a wee piece of cut out cake. Dressed for the occasion, they are tremendous genius, albeit off- the- chart- cute.

      Fiery bright leaves, coppery acorns, and orange pumpkins were mass yielded from a half batch of flavorful vanilla white cake. This cookie cutter art was then placed smack center of cupcake wells and fortressed on all sides with untouched batter, allowing the cups of cake to fold over and rise to glorious crumb perfection.

      Not only is the cake dreamy, it has a beyond fluff attitude, because of the beating of the eggs- separated yolks with first ingredients and stiff, glossy whites, folded in later, yield more thick and much velvet batter appearance.

      This is a recipe of the exceptionally cool/utterly awesome set, where it provides a host of options to house an invariable number of  cookie cutter goodies, helping you storyline through all seasons, possibly taking care of a couple of birthdays and a wedding anniversary, in the process. Imagine. Yellow baby chicks, sweet red hearts and rogue runaway gingerbread men, all contained and pinned to the insides of this good mass of cake. Endless cupcake baking opportunities, all with one no fail recipe. A matchless finale to any theme or non theme, am I right?

      Did I mention the fun when serving these fabulouses? Make sure you cut through these, in front of your guests, revealing the pretty surprise window and ushering in the host of gasps, oohs and aahs. Nope, not a single one will survive past that, I assure.

      Take a look and see how crazy simple it is. Once done, get ready to impress. Yes you should. And wear that title proud, Master Genius of The Cupcake Zone.


      This idea, directions and method of assembly come from delightful Not Your Momma's Cookie. I tweaked the cake mix part, baking mine from scratch, henceforth providing you guys with a new recipe. To dispense of my colors into the pan I used a spoon for the thicker parts and a pastry bag for narrower coloring.

       Cupcakes~
      Recipe:
      • 2 ½ sifted cake flour
      • 2 ½ tsp baking powder
      • ½ tsp salt
      • 1 c unsalted butter, softened 
      • 2 c sugar
      • 4 large eggs, separated
      • 2 tsp vanilla extract
      • 1 c milk
      Directions:
      • In a large bowl sift flour, baking powder and salt. Leave aside.
      • In electric mixer set to medium high, beat butter until smooth. Beat 1 ¾ sugar in, scraping down bowl until light and fluffy.
      • Add egg yolks, beat well.
      • Add vanilla and combine.
      • Alternating between the milk and flour mixture, add in to to batter in three additions, starting and ending with flour.
      • Using a clean bowl, whisk egg whites until foamed up.
      • Continue beating while gradually adding the remaining sugar in increments until soft, yet stifff peaks form.
      • Gently fold into the batter and combine without over mixing. 
      • Halve the batter into two separate bowls.
      To assemble cupcakes~
      ( Adapted From Not Your Momma's Cookie)
      • 2 batches of white cupcake batter
      • brown, light brown, red, yellow, orange
      • mini fall cookie cutters
      • vanilla frosting or of choice
      Directions:
      • Preheat oven to 275°F- 300° F
      • Grease and flour a square baking pan.
      • Use one half of the divided batter and split into batches, depending on number of colors you have. Mix in the different food colors (I used 4 bowls- orange, brown, beige, red).
      • Either have spoons on hand to spoon into baking tray or put the colored batter into different pastry bags with a medium sized opening or round tip.
      • For pumpkins: Pipe out an orange large strip next to brown ( for body and stem)
      • For acorns: Have the beige and brown next to one another.
      • For leaves: Go crazy! In random array, pipe colors next to and on top of another. Swirl with a toothpick. 
      • Pipe or spread to about 1/2 thickness.
      • Bake until done so as not to puff up and raise too much. Mine came out at 25-26 minutes. But check in on them, no browning at all. After done, set aside to cool.

      • Once colored cake has cooled, use your cutters to cut shapes. Cut the pumpkins right out of the segment with orange body, dark brown (for body and stem), cut the acorns with a dark brown top and a light brown bottom, and cut through leaves from the multi- color part. 
      • Line a muffin tin with liners. Preheat oven to 350°F .
      • Put a tiny bit of batter number two (white) in the bottom of each liner. Place your shape in facing front towards you straight in the middle.


      • Have them all facing the same direction. You can use a food writer to mark the front of your cupcake on the bottom of the liner.
      • Spoon  in batter around and on top of the shape. 
      • Bake for for 18- 20 minutes, or until done.
      • Frost with vanilla buttercream or the topping of your choice. 
      Notes:
      I had the shapes stick out a bit above the batter prior to baking, to know where to cut and reveal the shape inside.
      I also marked the center with a toothpick, then proceeded to frost.

      The vanilla buttercream recipe is the one I've used here.

      Perfect in all it's imperfections.

      ******
      While tinting and assembling, I could not but help wonder how truly artistic our Maker is. His hands can be seen in and throughout our beautifully detailed world. Even trying to mimic it in so minor a way seasoned me  with fresh eyes of gratitude and a true heart of joy. How blessed we are to see and experience His works, on an everyday, everywhere you look basis.
      He carved the valley as definitely as he shaped the mountains and the beauty of His all powerful imagination can be spotted the world over, well across the symmetry of the universe. Be thankful when you look out today onto the magnificent canvas of our mighty, most awesome God. 

      "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows and proclaims His handiwork. Day after day pours forth speech, and night after night shows forth knowledge." Psalms 19:1-2 (Amp)

      "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." Genesis 1:31