Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Stocking(cake)pops


It's almost Christmas.

And this is what I did last week. 

And it's what you can do this week. 

Because it's fun. Way too fun.

Wee time consuming.

But makes you look like a superstar.

So before I enter into the customary knows-no-end narrative..

And waste your precious holiday time.

Here goes.

Cake pop made into stocking placed on a stick.

I realize it may look difficult.

But I tell you it's tremendously easy.

Stuff your stockings and eat them too. 
Ho ho ho!

This is where I stop and have you start.

But not before I wish you a bright and Merry Christmas.

(Adapted from Bakerella's Stuffed Stocking Cake Pops)

Items needed~




  • 1 9x11 inch cake(about 18.25 ounces)
  • 12 ounces of frosting
  • 48 ounces each of red/green/white candy coating (available at craft/baking stores, or online)
  • various assorted colored sugars, sprinkles, edible oddments for toys and toppers
  • paper lollipop sticks


  • Have also ready~
    • large mixing bowl, several other bowls to "catch sprinkles"
    • 2-3 baking sheets or pans lined with parchment/silicone sheets
    • microwave-safe plastic bowls (for melting candy coating)
    • wax paper
    • toothpicks
    • Styrofoam block or colander (to place your dipped pops on)

    On where to go next...

    For The Queen of cake pops tutorial, it's right here.

    My how-to here.  

    Since it's Christmas, I'll just be generous:

    Directions:
    • Mix 2/3- 3/4 jar of readymade frosting with crumbled cake until well combined. (If using homemade frosting, add half cup of frosting and slowly work up by two tablespoons till well combined with crumbled cake).
    • Roll mixture into 48 balls and place them on lined baking sheet.
    • Shape them into stocking shapes, about 1 inch long and half inch width. Have wax paper on hand to aid you in smoothing and defining the shape. Repeat for each cake ball.
    • Freeze for 15- 20 minutes to firm. Then transfer to refrigerator.
    • Melt red or green candy melts according to instructions on package. The melted coated should be in a bowl deep enough to dip each shaped cake (about 3-4")
    • Take out 2-3 shaped cakes at a time, keeping the rest refrigerated.
    • One at a time, dip about 1/2" of a lollipop stick into the melted coating and insert this end straight into the bottom of the stocking pop. Do not go more than halfway through.
    • Dip the whole cake pop into the melted coating. Gently lift the pop out of the coating and tap off any excess. Let dry completely in large styrofoam block or in holes of a colander.
    • Melt white candy coating in the small microwave-safe bowl. Dip the now dried stocking tops into the melted white coating to make cuffs. While the coating is still wet, decorate with sprinkles as toys on top. Return to let dry completely. Repeat for the remaining stocking pops.
    • When dry, use a toothpick to apply more of the white coating onto cuffs. Sprinkle with white or colored sugar. Use the edge of a clean toothpick to straighten any rough edges by gently pressing it along the bottoms of the cuffs.
    • To decorate the front of the stockings, dot on melted coating to attach button/snowflake sprinkles or anything of your choice. Allow to fully dry.



    Basic cake balls ready and shaped into stockings(or perhaps red shiny boots :-) 


    The more the merrier; edible toys and adornments have them come to life.


    Experiment with different candy melts and sprinkles.


    King of the world. Look how happy gingerbread boy is. Wouldn't have been so with foreknowledge that he'd be finished off in 3 seconds ;-D
    ******

    "Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34:5

    Source: rachelwojo.com

    "When they saw the star, they were overjoyed." Matthew 2:10

    Tuesday, December 9, 2014

    Baklava

    Be still my butter-honey-nut loving saccharined soul. Said my overjoyed mind to the thumpingoutofchest heart, as I experienced the generous slice of a handmade and quite overwhelming phyllostacked marvel. It is rich. Flaky. Crisp. Nutty. Sweet. Sticky. Juicy. What else is there to say? This is baklava.

    Taken in from ancient Ottoman/ Turkish roots, it's the Farsi translation, many leaves, that visually guides us to understand this luxurious and extravagant treat, thus making an almost endless dough blanketing process more meaningful. A multilayered pastry perfected, once upon a time in Istanbul's palace kitchens, carrying present day variations that touch in from all parts of Western and Central Asia. 

    Wonderment at its finest, a vertical compilation of stacked paperthin edible sheets, with nuts to fill middles and sugar syrup to hold the show in. And in case you don't  know, whenever you put mountainous piles of crisp, feathery dough with properly accentuating elements, it shall never ever be an unwelcome thing. Almost has you question why it couldn't be considered the 8th wonder of the world. Or is that spot already filled?

    Further, it will knock flat those misguided notions of having one-too-many watereddown, perhaps dryflavorless versions of whatshouldbe utterly astounding. Take heart, for much of that can be overcome and nixed, once you are armed with knowledge, master  the skill and aspire to do just what I say so you too can see how devastatingly easy baklava can be. 

    I have a newfound love for phyllo, beautifully tissuelike and possessing such right demeanor for what's in store, a dough that unfortunately bears the notorious reputation of being tricky and fragile beyond words. Though I tell you, in proper care and handling, you will become friends with these very laminated sheets, setting in to almost reverence with each successive contact. And no worries if that strip tears or goes slightly askew, here will be more than enough opportunity for a smooth coverup, reaching you to your flawless finale, and beyond par presentation .

    I will mention the absolute need to have at your ready, copious amounts of melted butter. Just so that brush of layers happen. To soften, crisp, separate and make the whole thing insanely awesome.

    A generous mosaic of nuts, kissed in warmth, spread throughout strategically, gives it substance, makes it posh and thus brings in the structure and resemblance of classic baklava. Herein, my  sidenote: the pistachio/almond/pecan/walnut composite and its accompanying Christmasreminiscent spice merge I've used  may not be your thing. Sole showing of walnuts and cinnamon may do. Why not pistachios/cashews/cloves? For yall out there that speak only pee-cans, may the force be with you, but bear in mind, this is where you sing your own tune, adapting variables of The Listed, things that are distinct to your pantry and palate.

    Finally, fair warning, as you settle your assembled dessert into oven heat, sugar syrup boiled and waiting, acknowledge the gentle tug of pride, later to ascend to goosebump shivers. Your insides may swell with a sense of accomplishment. The Oh My!Did I? experience is exhilarating and does not fade. Because you just nailed one of the most celebrated, highly popular pastries and reputably "difficult"desserts on the planet. 

    I think I've said enough. 



    Crediting my baklava recipe to a single source would not only be difficult, but unjust. While Pioneer Woman humored it from the get-go, and had me pondering in Ree Drummond-ish ways as I set upon the methodical layering of my very breakaful components, Allrecipes Baklava1 sold me on its 5 solid stars and rather simple ingredient list, PLUS a very helpful 1400 commenter community with loads of advice to help achieve a muchbeyond favorable outcome. Of course, standing ovation to Alton Brown, with the Recipe of Recipes, Master of the labroom-like tutorial, exacting truetoform precision, start to finish. 



    Things begin looking up when you reach this far into writing (chug-a-chug-chug). I had a set mind that I would call it a wrap and publish today, since it's been lingering for a while on my draft page for a little over 3 weeks. Hurrah for lazy! Shame on me, right? 

    (Inspirations and Sources: Allrecipes.com, Pioneer Woman's baklava, Baklava:Alton Brown)
    Ingredients:
    • 1 (16 oz) package phyllo dough
    • 1 lb chopped nuts(divided between chopped pistachios/almonds/walnuts and pecans)
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • ¼ tsp nutmeg
    • 1 pinch ginger powder
    • 1 ½ cups butter, melted and cooled
    • 1 ½ cups water
    • 1 ½ cups sugar
    • ½ cups honey
    • 1 clove
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    Directions:
    • Bring phyllo dough to room temperature either by thawing frozen dough in the refrigerator for upto a few hours before starting baklava assembly.
    • Preheat oven to 350° F. Brush the bottom and sides of the pan with butter
    • Toss chopped nuts with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger powder. Set aside.
    • Trim the sheets of phyllo(I use scissors) to fit the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch pan. 
    • Set aside phyllo over the sheet it was packed in. Cover it with plastic wrap and a damp, well-wrung kitchen towel. Phyllo dries out and gets brittle very fast. Keep with you only what is needed for the moment.
    • Grab hold of two sheets of phyllo and lay down and press gently into the pan. Lightly brush the topmost sheet with butter. Repeat this step 4 more times, every 2 sheets buttered, for a total of 8 sheets of phyllo
    • Spoon 3 tbsps of nut filling or enough to make a single layer over the top of this 8th sheet.
    • Place over this four sheets of phyllo, butter in between every two,  then nuts. Repeat four sheets, butter between every two, nuts. Do this with until you have used up the nut mixture.
    • Once you have placed in the last installment of nuts, lay over it a final 8 sheets of dough, buttering between each two. Finish off with a liberal brushing of butter on the topmost layer.
    • Using a sharp knife cut through the top layers, stopping within half an inch to the bottom of the pan, making 5-6 diagonal rows, lengthwise and then cut across to form 2"-3" individual diamond shaped cuts.
    • Spritz with a light spray of water to avoid any curling of the dough.
    • Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until top is golden brown and crisp.
    • Make syrup by boiling sugar and water. Add honey, clove and stir through. Let simmer, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes.
    • Take off heat, add vanilla.
    • Remove baklava from oven. Strain out clove.
    • Allow to cool.
    • Carefully pour cooled syrup over hot baklava, waiting for layers to absorb the syrup.
    • Score through the cuts all the way to the bottom layer.
    • Wait a few hours for the syrup to absorb and serve once baklava is room temperature.

    In Greece, baklava is supposed to be made with 33 dough layers, referring to the years of Christ's life. Source: wiki) Pretty neat, huh?


    Right said Ree~"Baklava is yummy, but it's yummiest when you make it at home." Ree Drummond, Pioneer Woman

    Notes~
    For the crisp to stay crisp and pieces that don't sog and slosh, pour cold syrup over hot baklava or wait till baklava cools and reheat syrup to pour it hot over the cooled baklava.

    Cutting the slants just short of half an inch from the bottom of the pan before baking allows the sauce to seep into every layer of the baklava, without it sitting and condensing at the bottom of the dish. You can cut all the way through once it has completely cooled.

    A 9x 11 pan yields roughly 30 even sized pieces.

    A broken lens and a set of 100 pictures( the real good ones) swallowed in edit made me long pause before starting up on a nextbatch. To say I was discouraged would be an understatement.
    ******
     “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters … You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light” 2 Samuel 22:17 and 29

    Friday, November 7, 2014

    Chili roasted cauliflower


    If you had told me the next upcoming script would have a giant flower headshot looming over the page, I would probably have given you a questionable look. I mean before I googled upon this  Purewow hopeful, I had no real obsession with the cruciferous root, mainly because I knew not that it could be consumed so efficiently, served so impressively, sans labor, other than taking it out of the fridge. A wholeness that made the call to my better side, you know the one that dons the halo.

    And lets' face it, write-ups dedicated to vegetables sometimes elicit certain amounts of unexcitement, (bear with me, vegan stalwarts, I shall redeem myself towards conclusion) that too when a significant amount of time goes into prepping the subject of choice. What with fragmenting florets from stalk and cauliflower shrapnel invading every square inch of corner kitchen, is it a fallacy that not a single BFMK page is dedicated to the head sized flower food?

    Not that I'm averse to cauliflower recipes. I actually enjoy them. But when it involves a tailoring process longer than the actual cooking time, it seems illogical to me in spending the half day I'd take to watch a few movies  for something that could, just might, possibly have a more swifter, approachable coda.

    As a result of additional websearching it was no surprise to find a treasure trove of The Uncut, whole cauliflower heads roasted in varied flavor composites, each in their own way good, doable and just so laborsavingly commendable. This broad spectacle had me realize that some things, including food groups, are so much better, and way prettier when they are not tampered with as much as they are existingly set out to be.

    The quick brushing of oil, savory pastes and powders assist in awakening our c. heart roast, making you a believer of how grand this veggie can be. Oven heat, combined with marinade render for outer crispiness and sears in the fantastic taste that weaves its way into the very core. Unbroken, bronzed cauliflower is quite the Beautiful One, and has my heart stop for more than a few beats. At this point, I smile. And smell the flower.

    Not only is this a stunningly fierce dish, it is great advancement for a stealtheshowpresentation. Something that could impress the socks off all those vegetarian dinner guests who now have a good excuse to invite themselves over.

    And go ahead, have it sing to your own tune. Feel like tandoori? Mixup pre made masala, seasonings and yogurt, spread/ smother onto the crown and make it an ode to your favorite Indian restaurant. Some thyme/sage, and it swaps in for this year's Thanksgiving roast (turkey lovers, kindly disregard the blasphemy). Perhaps cancel the night's takeout with a Chinese-esque soy/ginger/sesame glaze. There's ample room to transform and mold today's blueprint, astounding yourself with each new discovery.

    Finally, I tried it soon after with an accompanying almost-gravy, a sidecar of sautéed onions, garlic, chili and a few tomatoes. That, combined with a dip of cilantro yogurt transcended the remarkable to unbearably fantastic.

    Chili cauliflower is of the uberspectacular genre, one that has you reconsider each and every misconception of working with this veg's floretfilled head. 

    There you have it, the true confession of a recovering sloth fragmenter and c. flower phobe


    (Inspired By Purewow- thanks for showing me how to use my head;-)

    Ingredients:
    • cooking spray
    • 1 whole cauliflower, cleaned and trimmed of leaves and thick stem
    • 4 tbsp canola oil
    • 2 tsp garlic paste
    • 1 tsp ginger paste
    • 1 tsp lemon juice
    • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
    • 2-3 tbsp coriander powder
    • 1 tsp black pepper
    • salt
    Directions:
    • Preheat oven to 375° F. Oil a foil lined baking sheet with cooking spray/ or cooking oil.
    • Combine ingredients from 3 tbsp oil to salt in a small bowl.
    • Using your brush or hands smear the head of cauliflower with this mixture.
    • Place the cauliflower on the prepared baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, until slightly browned on surface.
    • At this point, take large foil and lightly tent the cauliflower for the remaining 20-30 minutes or until soft when pressed with fork and top is well browned and crusted.
    • Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve as wedges with cilantro yogurt and/or white rice. 
    Notes~
    You may wish not to foil- tent if you like the cauliflower well browned with darkened crust.
    Cilantro yogurt is nothing but 1 cup yogurt, 2 tbsp finely minced cilantro leaves, salt pepper. Whip together these and serve alongside your roast. Recipe is also found at the end of this post.



    I've been neglecting these glances to the past.
    But we''ll overlook this misstep on my part and take it from here.
    This time, last year  ~
    ******

    Romans 8:18
    Source: Duo Paradigms
    "The sufferings we have now are nothing compared to the great glory that will be shown to us."(NCV)

    Wednesday, October 22, 2014

    Besan (chickpea/garbanzo bean flour) laddoo


    My appreciation for the sweetmeat far exceeds any other, a food boast I shamelessly proclaim, over and over on these pages. Be it dashed liberally with cocoa, caramel fudged into quaint tarts, creamed, flamed, fruited , it is the dessert species that manages to captivate not only the content writer, in this case myself, but also her sugarrushed readers, proof when reports along this ranking reach louder than most. Oh, I hear you. And I really don't think we could deplete the number of ingenious ways in which to showcase sugar.

    So when dulcet delicacies level in charming presentation, tipping even with stupendously good flavor, I volunteer myself to bring those cases on. Take for example my past weekend, where I was mass producing 2 batches of specialed up morsels, most favorable to Indian palates, on my kitchen counter.

    It was a few decades ago that mithai (mee-ttie)became a part of my vernacular. Indian for candy, this has probably been the most enamoring word in my native culinary vocab, one which I can't attach a single bad memory to.

    Where encounters with honied confections, laced with edible silver and gold, dripping in ghee, tastefully arranged in just the right amount of sugared dozens, made my mouth water and waistline increase at alarmingly fast rates. This was my once upon a time, though, when I was fortunate to live within walk distance of the bakery that housed suchmentioned delights. The ten minute stroll combined with a decades-younger metabolism balanced perfect to my grazing through a few couple rows of roundbite desserts that I will introduce to you today. How time changes *sigh* These days  stealtheating is accompanied with stipulations like "cutting down carbs", "sweets in moderation", things I am highly incapable of doing. Thus, life goes on.*and sigh again* 
    Having never even half attempted  Indian mithai, my feelings were that this type of perfecton should not be tampered with and left to suffer at amateur hands. It's when  pinterest had me glance over  the few 100 10 boards,  that I could finally wrap my dense head around a possible desi confectionmaking future(?). The visual forcing had me dream my part in playing the fierce laddoo whisperer.

    Anytime, before this sequence and you had told me you've never tried laddoo, I'd  head you on out to the nearest Indian grocer/baker/cafe/grandma to try a first bite. But now, since we're here, and  you've never experienced the luxury, and myself being the generous host I shall ever be, this very discourse will be your source shining light onto one of India's most highly favored indulgences, something you will thank me for later.

    Laddoos are round sweet desserts. Mithai made from grains, grams, fruits or flours familiar to the Indian's daily speak, varied and colorful as the region's imagination. Oftentimes these are roasted, fried or steamed, and mixed with ghee and sugar, wheeled in with flavorings/seasonings, all needed in its uncomplicated coming together. A roll here,  a roll there, with  the combination of any these will bring about fantastic forms of spherical love. 

    Today's ball of confection is of a more traditional realm, a stalwart laddoo, used for national celebrations as well as welcoming babies into the world. Besan laddoo, is basically made with  groundbesan, better known as flour of the garbanzo bean. Many recipes suggest this be the coarser type flour, a variety harder to find here in these Southwest U.S parts. And since I had not the slightest inclination to disregard the 5 lb "regular" fine yellow-powder-in-a-bag, from the pantry, my laddoo assembly would rely on just that. 

    A swift four steps are probably what will entice you into beginning this simplest fix to satisfying your sweet tooth. A teeny offset to this here effortless layout is an inevitable 15 minute penance in front of a heated stove. Hence, a nopainnogain philosophy will help you stand ground as you slow roast and transform yellow dust into beautifully dotted amberlush grain, the finale that signals in the best airperfume, guaranteed to last for a solid 2 hours. 

    A flow of an ample amount of sugar is followed by the clarified butter that lends these charming nuggets their binding fudginess, as well as the addictive melt-in-your-mouth smoothness. Take into account that not dropping a few finished miniglobes into your mouth within the time you clear through a whole batch will be quite an impossible task. 

    Finally, the grace note that  lovely laddoo ends on? Not that it needs further gilding, but being free of gluten, and a fantastic energy snack pulls in several bonus points to paleo/pure/healthful arguments. Surely, it puts my mind to ease, as I powerfeed myself the last few, running through end sentences of this enoughsaid laddoo editorial.
    Rolled to half inch. Could be taken to exactly an inch. Liked the smaller version better. They resemble mini pumpkins, don't they?

    (Adapted from here. Thanks Turmeric n Spice!)
    Ingredients:
    • 1 cup besan/chickpea flour/garbanzo bean flour
    • ¾ cup raw cane sugar or granulated sugar
    • a pinch cardamom powder
    • ¼-¾ cup ghee/clarified butter
    • ¼ c pistachios/ cashews/almonds for garnish
    Directions:
    • Place flour into a large nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat.
    • Using a wooden spatula/spoon continuously stir flour around the insides of pan so each grain cooks through and reaches a light amber (not dark brown), giving off a real nutty scent.  (I had flame on low and it took me 20 minutes).
    • Stir in sugar. Mix together with the cooked flour for a minute. Take off heat. Add cardamom powder and combine all ingredients well.
    • Add 1/4 c ghee,  stir and combine, adding in more, up to triple the amount until the ingredients are moistened and bind well, without being greasy. 
    • Wait until besan mixture is cooled and roll into 1/2 to 1 inch balls.
    • Garnish with either crushed or whole pistachios, cashew, almonds.
    Notes~
    There was nothing meaningful in using organic raw sugar, just that I happened to have a 2 lb bag ready to use for such an occasion. You could make adjustments on the sugar quantity to personal taste. Also the raw cane sugar can be swapped out for superfine sugar if a smoother texture is desired.
    ******
    We all know free time is priceless. A calendar's blank spot, the afternoon free of phone alerts, clean floors and an empty laundry basket*aahhh* are the rarest of treats. These welcome breaks are my cherished interludes where relaxation/ refreshment, that which a million spas together can't assure, come from the Giver of Rest.  His company is nourishment and energy, granting a tired body respite, breathing peace to an anxietyburdened mind and shoring restoration to the very wearied soul. In this quietness, with confidence, I can let it be. All is well within me.
    “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Exodus 33:14 

    Monday, September 29, 2014

    The breadmaker's rustic loaf

    I suppose when you take hiatuses for as long as I do, you kind of lose any existing writer's edge, while veering in and out of funks, even if your aim be not such. Here and there, you nod off at the keyboard, eating whole bags of potato chips (no frets, they're the baked ones) counterproductive to this whole eat and tell show. The monologue that was supposed to have seen light two and half weeks ago, gets deferred in publishing because one completely forgets how to form sentences. Ahh, where is the quality editorial I strive for?

    Anyhoo, I needed my prompt, maybe some boosting inspiration. By the way, repetitive watching of Rocky's motivational training circuit will never get old, a must-mention after powering through my ten year old's seven disc La Saga Completa. I was ready to fly.

    So, I shall cut to the day's chase. Which involves the following true story and the above visual. Yes, that overbearing easilyfeeds10people loaf sessioning on your technicolor screen was over 80% diminished 2 hours into a particular home-from-school racket. I think I've mentioned a few sequences ago the enticement starch holds over this household, so it should by no means knock your socks off when hearing that my two junior people eat their weight in leavened flour. 

    Further, I must make mention a few salient features of making bread. Not only is it the best air freshener ever; there is The Calm, a preciously therapeutic something that  happens on encountering scattered singular elements inputting together to be part of an expanded, delicious smelling whole. In our kitchen it is a recurring theme, featuring more than any other in BFMK chronicles, page after page of elastic gluten being twistedknottedflattenedstuffed, weaved, and fried. Clearly, I do spend more time with thoughts of flour and yeast conclusions. But really, when life gives you a bread maker, what else do you do?

    Which brings me to Collosas, my fail-me-knot beast companion. He entertains me endlessly with more than twenty options and several preprogrammed settings, assembling the perfect loaf each and everytime. His no-fail track record for kneading, beating and leavening liquid and dry agents into glorious forms of dough is impressive, all done with zero complaints. Ahem, this is in no way a setup for unfair and biased machine- human comparisons. Though, one can wish.

    I learned 4 years and about 60  Food.com recipes ago that it is a solid, standard source for good recipe building. With a database of mostly home cooks, there is treasure amidst those no-nonsense pages and pictures that desire possibly more light. It impressed me deeply that this particular contribution ranked beyond all others, numbering one on wikisearch, a solid five stars decorated to its page, complete with a whopping 151 reviewers. 

    Novice bakers and those minus a loafcrafting kitchen appliance, the sequence should in no way intimidate you. According to Commenters One, Two and Three, the same blueprint, with very few tweaks can be pulled and formed in regular stand mixers. Identical results may also happen with diligent hands and a bit of elbow grease if you're ambitious.

    To classify this as mere bread would be grave injustice. Possessing all the attributes of Spectacular Leavened Glory, moreso as it shines further, having the bakerystyle rugged-encrusting that satisfyingly plays into an airy softerthansclouds midsection. 

    So what makes and why is this so fantastic? Possibly the cornmeal dust ensuring a stonehearth texture. Just about here I'll ask you to peek down to last point on our ingredient list. Spritzing water from a bottle over the top entirety of the loaf might be what secures that much envied crisp, a legendary outcome from great bakehouse ovens. The science behind will fascinate, though my Artsmajor head barely muffled over the whole mist to vapor spiel. Summarised, it goes like this; waterspritzing  mid bake will and should delay the cooking process, and its steam allows for a porous, gorgeously beaming and crackly crust. The excellent form, with an impressively light, springychew will be this wonderful loaf's endnote.

    Country style. Artisan. Rustic. Italian. So it shall be whatever fits right with you.

    Get ready to pat yourself on the back. With floured hands.

    Ingredients:
    (Adapted from Food.com)
    • 1 c warm water
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 3 c bread flour
    • 3 tsp sugar
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 2 tsp bread machine yeast
    • handful cornmeal to sprinkle on baking sheet
    • 1 egg white, slightly beaten
    • 1 tbsp oats to sprinkle over loaf
    • clean water in a clean spray bottle
    Directions:
    • Add the water, oil, flour, sugar, salt and yeast into the order suggested by the bread maker manual.
    • Program the machine for dough and  press start.
    • When the cycle is complete, the dough should form a soft ball, not too sticky or stiff. If not hand knead with additional flour or water, as necessary.
    • Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes. If you plan to leave it longer than 30, turn dough out into an oiled bowl, keep covered and refrigerate for upto half a day. Warning:it may ferment to more than triple size.
    • After its rest period, deflate dough, form into an elongated loaf or round ball. Place seam side down on cornmeal dusted baking sheet. Cover lightly with the towel and allow to rise for another 25 minutes.
    • In the meantime, preheat oven to 375° F.
    • After the second rise, gently create 2 or 3 crosshatch/slashes over the top of the loaf with a sharp knife or pizza wheel. Might deflate the loaf a bit, but the oven's heat should spring it back to life :-D
    • Brush with the egg white and sprinkle oats over the loaf's top.
    • Bake at 30-35 minutes, opening the oven 2 times midbake to lightly spritz water over loaf's top and oven sides. Don't overdo it with a heavy hand. All you need are a few quick sprays.
    • Remove from oven and cool on wire rack. 
    Sidenote~ I'm all for slicing once cooled, but really the luxury of tearing off chunks of just-from-the-oven bread can't be beat.

    School's in routine, and this year the two are driven to an actual building instead of being present at our kitchen table. So, with those spare bits of free time, I intend to work at clocking in, with regular intervals of my editorial bits, hopefully my own definition of regular will ride along the same lines as yours;-D Thank you.
    ******
    "Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." Psalm 55:22
    Give it to Jesus. Only He redeems, recharges, restores, renews. I should know. He dazzles me time and again with His amazing grace, healing power and kind compassion. So much so, that as I fretted on how, He abled me to sit through and type the very words that fill this end of September post.

    Friday, September 5, 2014

    Vanilla Nutella panna cotta

    Let me get the obvious out of the way before you wonder if its audacity or just plain memory loss that work into my explanation of near abandoning my already erratic meet ups with you. It could be that I truly was just out. Not of station. Perhaps of mind. Ahem.. let's not delve too deep into that. But believe when I say the gratitude is deep, for you being the Faithful, checking up this page as regularly as I should have done. I know. It's too deep a shame.

    Since also, we've experienced my absenteeism in the past, I understand you should not be met with  my often overdramatized life and the the tidal wave of slack I work in its midst. Neither must you hear the difficulties of powering through twenty DVR episodes, racing time so you make it soon enough to catch at least one of the kids from school. Nope. None of that here.

    In spite, the one thing I must bring to your attention, is that, though an actual published page has not been effectuated of recent, a thriving yet-to-be known archive is growing to giant beanstalk levels. Yup. Unfinished and resplendent pagestobe; among which wait for One Right Visual, just maybe a  few decents(?), or lack the Ta-Da opener, sometimes even proper ingredient wording. These chronicles, bereft of one or all of the few mentioned features, are still waiting to see the light of blogger day. Thereby, while I thank you for the patience exercised in staying tuned, know that you will be rewarded, with newer uploads pushing through, albeit in slow motion.

    So, for the matter at hand, and before another session of procrastination hits, shall we move on?

    Today's subject recipe can easily top the list of Aaahhhmazing (linguistic stress totally intentional) Desserts of All Time. Mainly for the ease in its making, but not withholding its extremely accommodating nature as well.
    What is it? Well, one that's wonderfully brilliant, in that it demonstrates how luxe taste can be achieved in less than an hour, requiring very few storage staples, sans all the pesky, numerous steps conventionally requisite of Great Desserts. It's when David Lebowitz goes at length on its overall delightful benefits, you forgo everything and pay attention.

    I'm explaining cooked cream that's put into a higher than all perspective, something we should thank the Tuscan region of Italy for. This is panna cotta. A blend of one or many kinds of dairy- cream, milk, could be full, varying percents, skim, a pour/splash of half and half- that are elemental choices enabling for panna cotta to reach a destiny of soft, buttery pudding or thickly luxe like custard formation. These being the dependent variables (vocab results of reviewing my 5th grader for his science test) of the type of white liquid used. Silky mouthfeel, firm to touch and room for the slightest wobble are the dessert's uniform attributes, things that should result 100% of the time, despite any panna cotta recipe you try .

    The love of creamy vanilla panna cotta cast glorious dreams of the newest yet(!) update charged with mentals of unadulterated, pure white cream. Then I saw this. My hope rose astronomically. Prior cooking experience telling me that dividing flavors and colors can only intensify the whole deal, making appeal to at least three of my twenty-one  senses.

    Myexisting half jar of the world's favorite spreadable candy was not enough, especially since gratifying licks on opening are truly mandatory. So, in sheer glee, I utilized my limit four buy-one/get-one coupon. Life is good when you have multiple kitchen shelves lined with 13 oz. Nutella jars. 

    In the quickest, most efficient lessthanfifteen I've ever experienced, my first batch of panna cotta was done and refrigerated. On the 45 minute interval for sturdying the white layer and finishing off half a movie that was tying up my malayalam matinee que, I took on same bowl and single saucepan for my chocolate layer. Heated, stirred and poured over the first, that too finished in a second's breath. It was the wait for finished product that was seemingly unbearable. Clocking in at 1 hour 45 minutes, I encountered the greatest and dreamiest cup of dairy, rich and velvety, perfect center jiggle and oh so pretty.

    Panna cotta's fantastic flavor truly does belie its absolute simplicity. Sweet, satisfying and swift reinforced in each and every bite of this two-in-one sequence.

    I won't crowd your thoughts with furthers of my experience. I'll let it justify itself. Observe and take notes. The Fine One has much to say.

    For the love of vanilla. 
    Get creative with your gelatined cream. Here, kitchen towels rolled and purposed for troublefree slants.
    Nuts add texture, taste and looks.

    (Thanks Pretty Little Crumbs for the inspiration
    Vanilla layer~
    Ingredients:
    • ⅓ c milk
    • 1 envelope or 2 ¼ tsp powdered gelatin
    • 2 ½ c heavy cream
    • ½ c sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    Nutella layer~
    Ingredients:
    • ½ c milk
    • 1 envelope powdered or 2 ¼ tsp powdered gelatin
    • 2 c heavy cream
    • ⅓ c sugar
    • ½ c nutella
    Directions:
    • In a bowl, pour in the 1/3 c cold milk for the. Sprinkle gelatin over milk. After a few minutes stir to combine.
    • Heat the heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan or microwave. Do not to boil. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat.
    • Pour the gelatin and milk into the hot cream mixture. Stir to dissolve all the gelatin.
    • Add vanilla and stir.
    • Divide the pudding into oiled or buttered molds, if inverting onto plates; ramekins, or decorative goblets, glass dishes if serving as is.
    • Refrigerate and allow to semi setapproximately 45 minutes to 1 hour before starting on the Nutella layer.
    • Repeat the directions for the vanilla, sprinkling gelatin in 1/2 c milk and heating the cream mixture with sugar. Add in the Nutella to the cream mixture. Once heated and well combined, take off flame.
    • Pour the gelatin/milk into the Nutella cream.
    • Have the Nutella panna cotta cool to the touch before pouring/layering over the now firm vanilla panna cotta.
    • Refrigerate and let set for 2-4 hours before serving.
    Makes approximately 8-10 assorted sized servings.

    Notes~
    You can use full fat milk here. I use skim milk to cut some of the richness. If you prefer a thicker full-bodied pudding, swap cream/half and half for the milk.
    Crumbled cashews and pistachios in my chocolate layer. To me the bite combined with the silk of spooned cream is unbeatable.
    If using sheet gelatin, know that 1 packet powdered gelatin renders .25  ounces which would be around 5-6 sheets.

    Today's makeshift studio and Rocky, the tireless food watch (albeit lying down and in wait of a reward). What can I say? He loves his job ;-D
    ******
    "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalms 16:11 (ESV)

    Friday, June 6, 2014

    Homemade pastry tarts

    I can honestly say that some of my greatest inspiration comes from regular TV watching. It can be mindless or purposeful, gazing at beautiful TV kitchens, complete with raging top chefs, serial marathons, as I watch back-to-backs of my DVR-may-delete shows, not to leave out the joy of cinemaviewing in my first language. It's all inspiring. As I see it, there will be food or glimpses of it, surrounded by interesting people, things, circumstances, that are often influenced or make decisions because of it. Ideas that spring from screen to mouth and then to screen. You will see this occurrence come into play as you read on.

    Whilst catching up on the antics of my favorite Master Detective, on BBC's most captivating series of the century( no prizes for guessing), I beg my eyes to rewind the few scenes where crimesolving happens around coffee breaks in quaint cafes. Its super sleuthing at a greater level, when talks of gore and mystery take place over tea and what appear to be, in one episode, scones. It had me thinking in the least, on how well you can enjoy anything with the nice pastry in hand.  And since casebreaking needs to pull upon the combined knowledge of quantum physics, algebraic equation and inductive reasoning, all a fantastic shortcrust requires is a conversion/equivalents calculator and great baking skills. I believe that's a one up.

    After that it was a mind summoning, to churn up butter and flour, that too with a glorious fury.

    Juniors One and Two were not as captivated as I approached them casually with the "how 'bout scones(?)" idea. "What are they and how do you eat them?" Second One asked. 'The what' was explained. As to how, it was Firstchild's turn as she puts on her "naturally" fake British accent like a pair of shoes, no persuasion needed, the one who believes she could fool the Queen and in her opinion should be walking the streets of London instead of melting in desert regions of Southwest America. Herein, she effortlessly demonstrates her glottal stop, "with jam and clotted cream". An FYI, be not fooled, these two are anti-fancy fascists when it comes to food, and things likewise that demand their jurisdiction. Especially when neither knows what "clotted" means.

    They do, however, reach a conclusion on how all this should be meted out, my craving to do pastry, their desire to wheedle something good from the whole deal. And agree they do in unison as wind up toys let free. One. Two. Three. Poptarts. Puhleeze. You see the stress on that last part is because they have forever desired those boxed "treats' of thousandunknowningredients. With the exception of the two times I was bullied and almost gagged, I have always said "no". Again, they try to make the decision for me, convincing Amma of the 10 box sale, and doubled coupons. These two are professionals at this, a wee bit more, and they can see me bend.
    It's then that Eureka(!) moment occurs and saves. I boldly declare I can make them a set, maybe two. Further, they could art up their creations, with filling, topping, painting, any which way their heart so deems. No more deprivation. I let go of the whimsy of cream clotted scones, for now it would have to be doubled up tarts.

    My enthusiasm was not matched. Faces started to sink, smiles fade. Surely they underestimate their mother's ability to best up a common, much coveted, not to mention, factory churned jam sandwich. I go on to remind, that mine won't be of "unidentified "materials.  They'll be nobler, with pure butter and flour. Super tarts. Yes, that's it. "They'll be super tarts", it's a sorry persuasion, I know, and I got  bare approval, with two half nods.

    Pinterest showed me these. And these. And these. I  was sold, but indeterminate as to have this as a next up or wait for what had already progressed, a labor of love that took over three weeks of writing/testing/halting/experimenting/photographing. Do I break in the middle of that to go and bake portable pie?

    Intuit told me yes, I had enough jams and spreads for a creative, filling/topping potential. And while my gut was steering this whole dialogue, it's the Today Show food segment where the guest demonstrated how you could totally copycat childhood favorites that substantiated my outcome. Pop tarts were four on the list. Sign, right? Moreover it did take me to the childhood where I actually never tasted them but relived how kids were ranting about the totally aaa-somes, this would be the era Valley Girl became an official language. I was taking it on. Homemade pastry tarts would grace this very page.

    Now, we know that one of two outcomes could come about from copycatting such a well known recipe. Either it can go to epic ruins or take to transcendence, bettering off its manufactured, branded counterpart.

    My first round did clearly fulfill that utter fail destiny, following most recipes with just butter, sugar, cornstarch, and the wee bit moisture involved. A lot of my findings were based on  flakey shortbread-like crust, which for me turned out way too fragile, a dough without much heft to the body, the rolling of which became painful as I had to peel apart my gluten bandaged countertop. After a few thoroughly flawed attempts, one which saw tears.  When are we ever going to eat these? I went to google again.

    King Arthur Flour came to my rescue. The one recipe thus far that I'd seen where an egg was used, there be the binder to ward against frailty. Once again, I set up station, this time, to a very successful tune from start to finish. There on my granite layed rolled slabs of powerhouse dough. It withstood much rolling, cutting, rerolling, chilling and all that it was meant to overcome.

    And so they baked to perfection. A transcendent buttery crisp outpart inlaid with sweet, melty innards. A  portable pie, done so right.

    The two overlaps of thinned crust are outstanding in contrast to the vibrancy of fruit hued filling. That is, if that's what you're desiring. I found that preserves work well as a stand alone plumper, you get the benefit of the sweetness along with significant chunks as well. Strawberry preserves, in specific, bring a jam/shortbread reminiscent pairing. But this is the blueprint where where you could freehand your own flavor composites. Pineapple preserves with a coconut, almond topping. Raspberries with lemon curd. Peach preserves topped cinnamon and brown sugar. NUTELLA. Its whatever can be and must spin your orbit.

    Mind you, this toaster tart doesn't have the the near yield of a factory turned pack. But owing to Flaked Golden's superior nature, I assure you, this will not be the end.

    No more convincing needed here. These were well worth the unsuccesses and several times my oven generated heat for them. Better yet, horizon looks lofty and promising for the two Resident Pastrypop GazerAddicts, who claim they have reformed and" will never glance at those boxes again".

    So shall this mother dream.

     18 cuts which makes 9 tart sandwiches.
    Ingredients:
    (Adapted from King Arthur Flour's Tasty Toaster Tarts)
    For the crust~
    • 2 cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour 
    • 3 tbsp sugar
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 tbsp milk

    For the filling~
    • ½ cup any fruit flavored preserves/jam/nutella
    • 1 large egg, lightly beaten (to seal edges)
    Icing~
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp sour cream
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1 1/2-2 tbsp milk
    Toppings~

    • colored jimmies, sugars, nuts, coconut
    Directions:
    • In a food processor or with wire whisk, mix or pulse together 2 cups flour, sugar, salt. Stop and add butter. Pulse together 8-10 times, or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Alternatively you could use a fork or pastry blender. 
    • Stir the egg and milk together. Add into the food processor and pulse for an additional 5-8 turns, till it is barely incorporated. Turn dough out on to countertop, with remaining 2 tbsp flour and knead till dough comes just together, but is smooth.
    • Shape the dough into two disks, each  less than 1-inch thick. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or up to 1 day. Once chilled, bring out one disk to flour dusted surface and bring to a semisoft condition, almost  room temperature .
    • Roll out the disk (leaving the other in the fridge)  to a thickness of ⅛ inch, and length/width of 9×12".  Trim off edges. Using a ruler score in thirds lengthwise and widthwise.  Repeat what you did to the first.
    • Recombine, rechill and reroll the dough as and when necessary.  
    • Lightly grease or line a baking sheet(s) with parchment paper or Silpat.  
    • Place the first set of rectangles on the prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart. Spread 1 tablespoon filling evenly over each rectangle, leaving a ½-inch edge free of jam around the perimeter. With your finger or a small pastry brush, run a line of the beaten egg around the jam-free perimeter of each strawberry-covered rectangle. Cover each rectangle with one of the plain (the second set) rectangles and press the edges firmly together to seal. Use the tines of a fork to score the edges over the seal and also prick the tops of the tarts to let out steam. Refrigerate and preheat oven to 350°F.
    • Take chilled tarts out and bake for 23 to 25 minutes, a barely golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
    • Meanwhile whisk the ingredients for the icing together. 
    • Spread cooled tarts with icing and sprinkle with additional toppings.
    Advice from K.A. Flour: 
    When rolling out the large rectangle, lay a 9×13" sheet pan over the dough as a guide. Sprinkle trimmings with cinnamon sugar and bake them while your tarts set aside to cool.

    Notes~ 
    I actually got 8 per disk, maybe my measuring went off, since I'm not geometrically inclined. Ideally it will yield 9 3×4 rectangles.

    Chill, chill, chill. Especially if you work in intrepid heat conditions like I do here. My kitchen, around 7 months of the year is the inferno. Rolling and assembling in quick pace helps as well as placing idle dough into the fridge or freezer at intervals. May lengthen production time, but you will see the results are totally worth this extra bit of effort.

    If not using immediately, freeze tarts, until they harden up and store in freezer bags or between sheets of parchment in airtight freezer friendly containers. You can toast them in a toaster oven or bake them as and when needed.
    Strawberry jam for one. Nutella for the other. 
    Merci beaucoup750 Grammes, the French food magazine, that featured my fish taco recipe and photograph within its very esteemed pages. It was a privilege and honor and I am very much humbled. More so that I couldn't read my own recipe, I'd need a translator to read me the French. No worries, since I wrote the contents, I'm pretty sure it is the grilled version of my tacos here. Also much gratitude goes to that sweet editor of Gourmandize, Gitanjali Roche, I so appreciate your budge, nudge, push and shove, forcing me out of snail mode, from time to time, so especially in this regard ;-D
    Then to you, friends, and readers who thumb, browse and take it all in, I am truly grateful for all your 207, 083 visits. 

    To my greatest inspirer, Jesus, my heart, mind and soul be. He is the breather of ideas who puts my  thoughts into words. He resets my focus, purposes my step and brings meaning to everything in my life. It is to Him, my All in All, that I am forever indebted. 
    ******

     "It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone." Ephesians 1:11-12 (The Message)