Friday, March 15, 2019

Pineapple sponge cake with cream and cashew praline

There's some excitement when I am beginning to share with you hidden treasures and untold secrets of lifelong loves. Today might be deep. Perhaps even scandalous. Do I have your attention, please?

Remember those first stories that gave you peeks of my obsessiveness for baked cups of caramel fudge, and an ever consuming penchant for tarts. Fruit-mimicking mithai, pudding that toffees onto the mouth as well as the heart, have become staple constants throughout life. Just like some other BESTS

For more than a few years, I've known two imminent truths; 1) with my love of recipe writing-forget the wide shadows between- confessing my weaknesses on the WWW for posterity will always be a certainty. 2) the adoration for lovely, sugar bound things would increase exponentially with age and, of course, subsequent waistline- both of which have reached digits that totally freak me out. Add to this, that, if I were were thrown a choice for my last meal on earth,  no doubt, I would take cake

Pineapple gateau. It's gorgeous. And, I, to the day, am so very glad, that following one fateful chance encounter multiple decades ago( Ann's bakery, Kottayam, to be exact) this remained one of the absolute loves of my life- don't judge, I have several. 

It is stacked pastry, of cloud-like crumb, tossed with fruit to liven it up and and, ultimately, the catch-all of stellar desertdom. It's not as elaborate and fancy as it displays itself to be. Though, perhaps, after initial bites, you know for a fact, that the combination of components do such an A class job that it should have it's own pedestal.

In constructing your gateau, let's consider the like-ability of wet cake. I, for one, am a wet cake lover. The moist, melt-in-your-mouth feels of slightly drenched crumb is something indescribable, totally get-able and one you crave for, much of your existence.

That being said, splashing cake with liquid has its downfalls. No one wants glue-y, streaked cake. For this reason, moisteners should be sprayed or, lightly brushed on. I do the latter. For the fondant and marzipan coverings, slight dampening need to be mandate to keep any cake from getting grainy and totally dried out. 

Ideal moisteners are almost always simple sugar syrup,  maybe fruit juices and, if you're adventurous, possibly rum or brandy. You could use one or a combination of a few. Note of caution: go light on the alcohol- when eating dessert; a boozed out cake could mean a very boozed out you.

Pillowed up fresh cream takes to the show like the perfect long lost lover. It's in such situations, that a buttercream, Italian meringue, and eehhh, the gelatinous fluff in plastic tub could simply never suffice.

Golden sponge possesses a surprisingly, light interior, because - ahhh- there's not an ounce of butter in it! Health and fitness purists, are you listening?

My biggest testimony would be from The Two at home. With the stingiest appreciators on the planet, this is the most requested dessert in our home. 

Beautiful. Quite simple. Decadent enough to fancy up your life a couple notches forward. SO, then, don't you think it's worth the try?

  • ¾cup plain flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tbsp cornflour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
 cashew praline:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup chopped cashews
  • 1 tbsp softened butter
whipping cream:
  • 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and cornflour.
  • In a stand mixer, using whisk attachment, beat eggs on medium, until thick, glossy and voluminous, about 2-3 minutes, on medium.
  • Into the egg mixture, beat sugar, vanilla, orange juice.
  • With a wooden spoon, very gently, stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture, being careful not to overmix.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on depth of cake pan.
whipped cream frosting:
  • Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer (thoroughly cleaned and dried) fitted with a whisk attachment. 
  • Once it starts to thicken, add the sugar, beating the cream until firm, stiff peaks form. 
  • Don't overbeat. You may end up with homemade butter
 cashew praline:
  • Line a 9 X 13 baking sheet with parchment paper
  • On stovetop, over medium heat, place sugar and water in a deep sided saucepan. Melt sugar and cook stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Increase heat to medium-high, bring to boil, without stirring and allow sugar mixture to reach a deep golden brown.
  • Remove from heat and swiftly mix in the cashews and the butter.
  • Spread out evenly onto lined baking sheet. Cool completely until hard.
  • Break or crush the now hardened sugar praline into small pieces.
cake assembly:
  • Using a pastry brush, brush and moisten cakes with pineapple juice. If cutting into layers, spread frosting between each layer. Top one with pineapple, spread evenly, leaving a half inch off outer rim of cake. Sprinkle some of the crushed praline over this mix. Stack with next layer. Repeat. Cover entire cake with cream.
  • Before it sets, sprinkle top with crushed praline, press on to sides.
  • If you have leftover cream, pipe rosettes or swirls and decorate. 
  • Garnish with pineapple.
I chill my whisk and beater bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes before whipping cream. It prevents the mixture from becoming butter.
I made a double batch of whipped cream for 4 layers of cake.

What is strength? Often we limit the word strong to the physical or to be visibly bold, outspoken, sometimes, hurtfully so. In truth, strength can define you at your emotional, mental and physical weakest. It could mean facing your deepest fear with trembling knees. Attempting to get up. Every. Single. Morning. In the face of extreme pain, and adversity, with no glimpse of hope or human help. Yet still, the greatest show of strength is on trusting The One who knows us most. It's through that blinding valley walk, when we are at our weakest, God works in us His greatest.
Our frailty becomes ground for a limitless Almighty. Your broken becomes restored, the supernatural is more visible and viable, and your walk becomes straighter and bolder each moment, each step, each day.  You can be strong and courageous, despite where you are. You just have to know whose you are.  

"And He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, most gladly, will I boast of my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 
2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Multigrain pizza crust with charred, chili paneer topping

In the U.S. alone, we eat 350 slices every second. The University of Maryland says, if we should eat more of it, it needs to be in whole grain form and that baking, at longer times renders a multitude of antioxidant power our bodies require.

As I go through these pictures today, I clearly see that it was so not the case. I had to be here, ditching much of what I thought I knew. It's been a long way, people, too long. Don't you think?

Likewise, the one time I colored Indian flatbread green was momentous, where many of my pure food epiphanies and inner child objectives were met and satisfied.

I am never averse to the wholefoods/grains-and-husks lifestyle, if, in fact, it achieves the flavor goals needed to actually consume it and say, oh yes, this is good(!). When you're considering a reworking of what's 60% responsible for insanely good pie, you pause... pause again. You, then raid Pinterest with a vengeance and pray that something productive happens after trolling the web and a million Instagram stories on how to possibly begin with whole grain dough construction. 

A stretchy, crisp foundation creates pizza utopia and on most occasions will be the difference between meh and I need another slice๐Ÿ˜Œ๐Ÿ˜Ž How do you achieve it with so many different inconstants? Will the crust morph into something unrecognizable and totally unpalatable? Does yeast perform contrapositively when the elements added are heftier than those few cups of refined white? How, oh how, do I go about this?

Of course, when the challenge is put across by the friend who's lost the equivalent of an ample size toddler's worth in weight, because their daily meal prospects looked much similar to this, you are further amped to make it totally doable.

The overwhelming prompt of finding a recipe for a multigrain pizza crust that entices the whole subcontinent of India and, moreover, should be appealing to most of us across the pond was tantamount to the exam you are about to take without prior study. This was, to boot, the most alluring part as well: to make a base as brilliant as the topping it carries with ingredients that should be part of essential daily nutrient intakes.

Hence, before we start, a few points to keep in mind:

1. Don't freak out if it doesn't come together, like all white dough usually does. It will. Eventually. 
2. You can use whole wheat flour alone. That would qualify it for whole grain. But it won't be as interesting.
2. Don't hesitate on experimenting. Swap other flours and grains. Before this experiment, I had no idea what sprouted millet was.
3. Use flours that you may actually eat. If you've bad experiences with anything in the past, by all means, do not try it here. You may end up hating pizza for the rest of your life. Which is not something anyone desires.

The Kitchenaid helped in kneading dough, but only the fourth time round. I honestly believe the fantastic crisp and airy light structure was because my arms worked so hard, the first three times, sans a machine or "needed" gadget. Let me emphasize, people, you don't require fancy machinery/tools/accessories for yeasted dough- no pizza paddle, stone, stand mixer or bread machine- in fact, it actually gets bread-y when done in the breadmaker.

The millet flour in the recipe will most likely be the most questionable variable against flavor. I think I've added just enough here for you to not say why? It does add heft, with the texture more on heavy than most might desire. You could very well omit it, though it actually lends enough dimension that you almost taste the promise of good in slices. 

You can pull dough as much as you need to create the stretchy thin crust or keep it deep dish-ish , whatever fuels your desire. The dark spots and bubbles that tops, and all of what's desired from stone fire pizzerias, are achieved through the broil option on your oven. 

Pre-saute adornments before you top and bake. It prevents the dough from sinking in the middle. Allow the mind to soar when considering topping options too. Artichoke hearts, kalamata olives and onions. Mushrooms and grilled corn. Salami and Anaheim peppers. Your mind can fuel a plethora of options and be the envy of many pizza joints.

I'm not saying I'll forever ditch white flour, but my current feels for this dough is pretty high up there and dinner prospects seem a whole lot brighter and, beyond doubt, healthier?

And who really doesn't want every night to be pizza night

What is finger millet? Don't worry, I never knew what a millet was until Google gave me the answer.Trust me, it doesn't involve fingers. It's a cereal crop found in many parts of the world, but, unfortunately not much in this part.You could buy online or search out specialty grocers. High in fiber, with substantial nutrient value, the gluten free flour is particularly magnificent in breads, flatbreads and thickened cereals. Yes, yum!

If you're even remotely familiar with anything slightly Indian or near Asian, you've most likely met paneer, India's national cheese. Mild in flavor, it's the chameleon ingredient that adapts delightfully well to almost anything you add it to. Mistakenly known as cotttage cheese, it is the unaged cheese formed when milk is cut with acid, forcing wheys and curds to separate. Paneer is delicious, at least for most palates, especially that of the health fiend buddy who tirelessly consumes it in a variety of ways, was the source of me creating this recipe in the first place and has a Weight Loss Testimony to take many others out of business.

Italian, Indian? What can it be? Fusioning food concepts can lead to very grand things.

  • 2 tsp agave nectar
  • 1 ½ cups warm water1 (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup sprouted millet flour 
  • 2 tbsp bulgur, cracked wheat (presoaked in boiling water for 15 minutes, then drained and completely dry of excess moisture)
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp onion seeds 
  • Stir together agaive nectar and water in a bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top. Let stand for 10 minutes until foamy
  • Stir the olive oil into the mixture. 
  • In a larger bowl, whisk together the salt, whole wheat flout, millet flour; add the yeast-oil mixture into this and thoroughly mix together either on a stand mixer, using the hook or hands and a rubber spatula.
  • When the dough starts to come together (add water by the teaspoon when needed), add the bulgur, chia seeds and onion seeds. Knead together until dough forms a smooth, tight ball. Keep covered in a well-oiled bowl with a clean dish towel for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.
  • After it has doubled, turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and divide into two evenly shaped discs, which make two medium-thin crust pizzas (9" round). Let rest, covered with towel, for an additional 30-45 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Roll out dough with a rolling pin into desired thickness. Use hands to gently pull without tearing and place on a greased pizza pan.
  • Prick the dough's surface with a fork, place in oven for a prebake of about 7-10 minutes.
  • Take out of oven. Add desired toppings (recipe for charred paneer below) Bake pizza with for an additional 15- 20 minutes, depending on toppings, until crust is crisped brown.
Notes: I used white whole wheat flour. Regular whole wheat flour an be used, but tastes will alter and you may need to sweeten the dough with some extra agave nectar , honey or orange juice.

Charred paneer topping:
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • tandoori masala powder
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp cayenne 
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt
  • 1 tbsp chili flakes
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • serrano chilli, seeds out, chopped fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • Preheat oven to 425°F
  • On a lined baking sheet, add 2 tbsp oil. Mix together ingredients from onion powder to pepper. Add paneer cubes and coat well.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes and light golden. Paneer will continue to brown and char when they bake with the pizza
  • In the meantime, in a medium pan, heat 1 tbsp oil, add garlic and cayenne and saute till cooked.
  • Pour in the crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt. Add chili flakes. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Pour enough tomato topping over prebaked crust. Add paneer. 
  • Top with onion slices, serrano, bell pepper slices.
  • Pour/sprinkle a light stream of cream
  • Bake for 15-12 minutes, as mentioned in the crust directions above,  until base is browned crisp and toppings are golden browned, paneer charred on edges
Let your pizza aspirations run wild. Use toppings you crave/swap out crust ingredients- anything that rocks your orbit.


2012: Paella

I know the silence is echoing loud. I apologize. I am grateful for your audience. And of course, the friend who fired this post, thank you much. Your trust propelled and encouraged me, fuelling my passion and purpose. God bless.

"With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall." Psalm 18:29