Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Red, white and blue cake

If your Fourth of July is as happy as this cake is, then I'd say you're having a very good holiday. 

Since I'm not too much a fan of summer, I had nothing better than to work on my coloring/crafting skills, perhaps in a sincere endeavor to make up for lack of a few years' worth of July Four posts.

Not to reduce this beautiful display of pastry art to mere simpleton aspirations/techniques. Though, it may stem from a likeminded concept- to just. let. go. Like you would in a situation you've nil control over. When doing so, it gives you that creative edge and an end product with enough enterprise, in varied texture, taste, mouthfeel and crumb. Yes, people, the party in your mouth can be a true story.

Today's cake is designed with the flag in mind, decorated in patriotic berries, purchased specially for the purpose. It warrants the standing ovation, open mouthed aaahhss!, a possible salute or two, and  can be assured total Grand Entry Status to any venue it's showcased at.

The three layers are noticeably distinct from one another, not only visually, but in flavor nuances a trio of independent cakes should give off. The blue and red are velvet cakes. I used separate recipes, because I wanted to have more of a cocoa touch in one and less in the other. The white layer is lemon-ish and has enough stand-out quality to perk up anything that might be taken for granted in this three ring show. 

I bid you to try, then thank me later.

Happy fourth y'all🎉 🎇 and happy birthday, America🇺🇸

Recipes will be soon be up💥 Update July 4, 2019 *** They are up*** Scroll down to see⬇︎
Red velvet cake-
(Adapted from Live Well Bake Often)
  • 2 ⅔ cups cake flour 
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup salted butter 
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs 
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 3-4 tbsp no-taste red gel food color
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • ⅓ cups buttermilk 
Red cake -
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.
  • In a large bowl, sift together cake flour, cocoa powder and baking soda. 
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, eggs, oil, red food color, vanilla extract, and vinegar.
  • With the mixer running on low, slowly add in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Make sure to mix each addition until just combined.
  • Distribute batter between prepared cake pans. 
  • Bake at 350°F for 28-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Place cakes in their pans, on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. 
  • Remove the cakes from the cake pans and invert cakes onto the racks directly to cool.
Vanilla(white) cake-
(Adapted from Joy Of Baking)

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • zest of one lemon, finely grated
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ⅔ cup whole milk
  • ⅔ cup vegetable oil

Vanilla cake-
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.
  • In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt.
  • In mixer, cream together sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla extract until smooth.
  • Stir together the milk and oil.
  • With mixer running on low, alternately, add the dry ingredients to the batter in three additions with the milk mixture, starting and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined.
  • Distribute batter between pans.
  • Bake for 25- 30 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Place cakes in their pans, on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. 
  • Remove the cakes from the cake pans and invert onto the racks directly to cool.

Blue velvet cake:
(somewhat adapted from Food Network's Blue velvet cake)
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda 
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar
  • 2 tbsp royal blue gel food color
  • 1 toothpick amount violet gel food color
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Blue cake-
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.
  • In a large bowl sift together flour, cocoa ,baking soda and salt.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer ( or handheld mixer) cream together oil, sugar, coconut sugar, food colors, vanilla, vinegar and eggs.
  • With the mixer running on low, alternately, add the dry ingredients to the batter in three additions with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined.
  • Distribute batter between prepared cake pans. Bake 28-30 minutes or until cakes have pulled away from sides and toothpick inserted in center of cakes is clean.
  • Transfer cakes to cooling rack. Allow cakes to cool in pans for 10 minutes, after which remove from pans and place directly on racks to cool to room temperature.
Soaking syrup(optional)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tbsp rum
Soaking syrup
  • Bring water and sugar to a boil until sugar dissolves. Let simmer for an additional minute. Turn off heat and add alcohol.
Cream cheese frosting-
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp heavy cream
Cream cheese frosting
  • Beat  cream cheese and butter until smooth.
  • Add sugar and vanilla until frosting is light and fluffy. 
  • Beat in heavy cream until well combined.

Whipped cream frosting-
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Whipped cream frosting-
  • Beat 2 cups heavy cream until until it starts to become thick.
  • Slowly add the powdered sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Stack cakes with red cake at the bottom, white in the middle, blue on top. Brush each layer with cooled soaking syrup. Fill and frost between the cakes between with cream cheese frosting. Ice the entire cake with sweetened whipped cream.
Decorate with berries or fruit of choice.

Eggs, butter, milk and buttermilk should be at room temperature.
No buttermilk? No worries :-) Combine 4-5 tablespoons of regular milk in enough plain yoghurt to equal the amount required in the ingredients.
It is beneficial to line the bottom of your cake pan with parchment. Just trace out a parchment circle using the cake tin as your guide and place it in after the pan is greased and floured. Be sure to remove before you frost.
Tap the pans on the counter 2-3 times before cakes go into the oven to remove any air bubbles.
If you are baking all the cakes in succession, then one preheat is fine and the oven will remain on throughout your baking. That being said, you can space out baking the layers. Cakes can be made several days in advance, sealed with wrap and stored in the freezer.
When whipping heavy cream, chill bowl and blade (s) in freezer for 5-10 minutes prior to beating. 
Each recipe yields 2 cakes, which in my household is not a problem. Desserts are dietary requirements here, so I freeze the extras, including any shaved off remnants, in lots of plastic wrap for later use.

"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12(NIV)

Friday, June 21, 2019

Instant Pot butter chicken

Last year, I gave you an adequately easy recipe for butter chicken. Today, I want to expand on that:  same ingredients, in an exceptionally...surprising...wait for it....effortless way. I'm excited about  today's story- not a better version of the former- just an alternate road to bring the same meal to your tables at faster, greater frequency.  

Curtains rise. Cue the Instant Pot. Say hello to Present Hero of My Kitchen, my 10 month new appliance I wax poetic about to any person I have on the phone for more than five minutes. The auto timed, multi cooking piece of magnificence is my new companion, a ten in one use grand machine. It is relentless in its pursuit to produce happiness, predominantly mine. The semi adult/ mid teen child look at you like you're a rockstar, your dining room transforms to Moti Mahal in a matter of minutes-  ALL because of what I'm about to share with you. Yes, people, material goods really can lead one to nirvana.

Of course, the next few hundred words are not to persuade you to buy anything, in any way. Except maybe the stuff needed to produce what's made within the six quart pot. Because, seriously,  friends, you'd know, that any time I open script, it should be, only will be, solely about the food

Most layfolk, who know not left or right of the spice spectrum, consider butter chicken and it's British-Indian counterpart chicken tikka masala natural starting places on the Indian menu. Both are hugely popular and closely akin. Though it's butter chicken that sings in less spice and more butter, is as desi as it gets and is one of my absolute favorite dishes, just falling short of the regional cuisine I inherited.

There is not really a huge margin of error here since the cooker does most of the work. A simple saute of non-marinade ingredients pressure cook into a beautiful mess, which after going through a hand blender (yahhh- it never leaves the pot !!) mashes into the silkiest, smooth spiced, onion-tomato-ey broth you'll  ever experience.

It is a clean step process. The only executive decision you'd need to make is how to brown the chicken pieces, because it's just better that way. You could brown them in the Instant Pot, take out for gravy making purposes and return to simmer after. Or oven bake for tandoori-like, slightly charred flesh. In either situation, allowing the chicken to commingle and settle into it's upcoming murgh makhani role is what you're really aiming for.

Lastly, I feel obligated to impart some advice, perhaps heathen, from all that I've learned, through years of cooking/recipes/kitchens/habitats. Never think an iconic plate of food, or kitchen technique is unattainable, non doable, or as elaborate as the world and their mother make them out to be. Do use ingredients and methods that deem authenticity, not altering blueprints in such a way that have people wonder what it is. Yet, strive to keep the flow easy, classy, economical, friendlier to busy lifestyles, evolving palates, limited budgets. 

So that we all become fearless champions of not only the kitchen, but even our homes. 
Bring on the capes.

  • 2-3 tbsp red (Indian)chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • salt
  • ½ cup plain yoghurt
  • juice of one lemon
  • 5 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 large red onion, cut into medium chunks
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly cut into chunks
  • 2 tsp thinly sliced ginger
  • 6-7 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1 small-ish cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 cardamom pod, 
  • 2 sprigs cilantro
  • 1 -1 ½ cups water
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • ¼ tsp powdered fenugreek leaves- kasoori methi (optional)
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2-3 tbs of butter
  • 1-2 sprigs cilantro, chopped
  • 1 sprig mint(optional)
  • Make a paste of cayenne, coriander, cumin, turmeric, garlic powder, ginger powder, black pepper, salt, yoghurt, lemon juice, 3 tbsp oil.
  • Add the chicken pieces and coat each in the spice mixture thoroughly.
  • Set aside marinaded chicken for 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Using the Instant Pot's saute setting, add 2 tbs. oil and cook onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and stir on high 3 minutes. You don't need to brown them.
  • Stir in cinnamon, cloves, cardamom.
  • Add cilantro and salt.
  • Pour in the water. Stir to combine. 
  • Secure the lid and pressure cook on high for 8 minutes. Allow the natural release option to release for 15 minutes, then quick release the remaining pressure. Ingredients should be soft cooked and fork tender. 
  • In the meantime, place chicken pieces onto a foil lined baking tray. Bake at 400° F  for 20-25 minutes. It's ok if they're slightly undercooked, pieces will finish cooking when later simmered in the IP.
  • Open the Pot. Remove, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom.
  • Use an immersion stick blender to puree cooked ingredients into a smooth, thick liquid.
  • Take the chicken out of oven and put pieces into the pureed onion/tomato sauce.
  • Once more, turn on Instant Pot's saute function, simmer the ingredients for an additional 5-7 minutes, more if chicken needs to cook through.
  • Taste and add salt, if needed. Add additional water if you desire a more liquid gravy 
  • If chicken has not fully cooked through, leave on saute to simmer until cooked.
  • Turn off Pot.
  • Stir in the sugar. 
  • Add powdered fenugreek leaves.
  • Add cream, and butter.
  • Garnish with cilantro and mint.
To kasoori methi or not? I leave out the powder on most occasions. So, I'd say test with a pinch of it and see if it's what you'd like to eat for the next 5 servings.

Curry leaves nod to a much needed South Indian dimension, one which I'm familiar with and oftentimes longing for. I admit, even if I don't have much love for it, fenugreek leaves lend authenticity in fragrance and flavor. An overgenerous serving of butter doesn't hurt either. 

Indian chili powder is just pure ground red chilies. American chili powder is not. It is a combination of several spices, including cumin. I cannot vouch for the Mexican kind either, or those from other parts of the world.  An appropriate substitute would be cayenne pepper, which is about the same thing.

Honestly, I had not planned this at all, but almost exactly one year ago on this date~

June 2018:butter chicken
"Jesus turned and saw her. "Take heart, daughter," he said, "your faith has healed you." And the woman was healed from that moment." Matthew 9:22 (NIV)