December 28, 2008

French Yule Log for DB Christmas Challenge

Once again its time for the members of the Daring Baker community to reveal the magic they spun this month for the DB Challenge. This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand. Her blog is just amazing, do check it out and you will be in dessert-heaven!! Some of the variations in the recipe comes to us, courtesy of our dear Daring Baker Fairy Tartelette.

In France you can buy two kinds of Yule log, either the Genoise and Buttercream type or what is more commonly purchased which is a frozen Yule Log very reminiscent of an ice cream cake, only often it’s not made of ice cream but rather frozen mousse of some sort. In French this is called an entremets which is sometimes loosely translated in English as simply a cream dessert. This also means that this recipe is not holiday-specific, it is also just a scrumptious dessert recipe.

THE CHALLENGE RULES were that we MUST MAKE ALL 6 of these elements for the log:
(1) Dacquoise Biscuit (2) Mousse (3) Ganache Insert (4) Praline (Crisp) Insert (5) Creme Brulee Insert (6) Icing. The assembly will essentially be a Dacquoise Biscuit at the bottom, and the inserts inter-layered with mousse, with an icing finish.

We were given great flexibility this challenge, with several flavor options for each element.

My french yule-log had Dacquoise biscuit - Almond cake, Dark Chocolate Mousse, Vanilla Creme Brulee, Praline Feuillete, Dark-Milk Ganache Insert, Milk Chocolate Icing as its components. Check out the final picture for a visual of all the elements.

My experience:

I knew that this was one RICH dessert, and a tough one to make sense of!! With lots of flavor options and steps, an amateur like me tend to get confused!! Thanks to BonoboCakes and her game-plan that she shared with us, I knew how to divide my work. Once I chose my flavor combination, I decided to do the dessert in two-three days.

I made the Vanilla Creme Brulee, Dark Chocolate Mousse and the Milk Chocolate-Praline Crisp on the first day. I froze them for several hours and then assembled the three layers. Because I was not feeling well, I did the rest of the elements after two days. The second session had me prepare the almond cake and dark-milk ganache insert. I layered these two elements on top of the frozen mousse assembly. Once again, it was left overnight in the freezer. On the final day, I made a milk-chocolate ganache and made some dark chocolate pipings to decorate the log.

Verdict:

This challenge had us whip up so many desserts, many of which were my firsts! The praline crisp was probably my favourite element. We all loved the dessert, after so many days for waiting eagerly for it. It made for a delicious and elegant dessert. But I really cant say if it was worth all the effort. Dont get me wrong, I looooooved it, but there were too many elements for a single challenge, or was it because I was not feeling well!? ;-)

Like many other DB-ers, I was not very happy with the milk chocolate glaze/icing. But believe me, it wasnt too bad. Again, its more of a textural thing and I was not happy with the finish of the gelatinized icing. But it tasted just fine. It was more like Chocolate puddin, which sure is an amazing dessert by itself. The mousse was delicious and smooth and held-up well. The creme brulee was a first for me, and it tasted great. The dark-milk ganache insert was also delicious and well assembled. The almond cake was also an awesome element which was my first, and I loved every bit of it!!

I kept JM interested by giving him samples of every element as it was prepared, so that he wouldnt be impatient. But finally when the log was served, he had the nerve to tell me "Its really good, but whats sooo special!!?" Only if he had paid attention to all the work that went into it!


Element #1 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

Preparation time: 10 mn + 15 mn for baking.

Equipment: 2 mixing bowls, hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, spatula, baking pan such as a 10”x15” jelly-roll pan, parchment paper.

Note: You can use the Dacquoise for the bottom of your Yule Log only, or as bottom and top layers, or if using a Yule log mold (half-pipe) to line your entire mold with the biscuit. Take care to spread the Dacquoise accordingly. Try to bake the Dacquoise the same day you assemble the log to keep it as moist as possible.

Ingredients:

2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) almond meal
1.75 oz (1/2 cup / 50g) confectioner’s sugar
2Tbsp (15g) all-purpose flour
3.5oz (100g / ~100ml) about
3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar

1. Finely mix the almond meal and the confectioner's sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).

2. Sift the flour into the mix.

3. Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.

4. Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.

5. Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.

6. Spread the batter on a piece of parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc...) and to a height of 1/3 inches (8mm).

7. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden. 8. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.


Variations on the Almond Dacquoise listed above:

Hazelnut Dacquoise- Substitute the same amount of hazelnut meal for the almond meal.Chocolate Dacquoise- Add 3 tablespoons of sifted unsweetened cocoa powder into the almond meal/caster sugar mix in Step #1 of the Almond Dacquoise.

Lemon Dacquoise- Add the zest of 1 Lemon after the flour in Step #2 of the Almond Dacquoise.

Coconut Dacquoise- Substitute ¼ cup of almond meal and add 2/3 cup shredded coconut in Step #1 of the Almond Dacquoise.


Element #2 Dark Chocolate Mousse


Preparation time: 20mn

Equipment: stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment, thermometer, double boiler or equivalent, spatula.

Note: You will see that a Pate a Bombe is mentioned in this recipe. A Pate a Bombe is a term used for egg yolks beaten with a sugar syrup, then aerated. It is the base used for many mousse and buttercream recipes. It makes mousses and buttercreams more stable, particularly if they are to be frozen, so that they do not melt as quickly or collapse under the weight of heavier items such as the crème brulee insert. In the Vanilla Mousse variation, pastry cream is made to the same effect. In the Mango Mousse variation, Italian meringue is made to the same effect. Italian meringue is a simple syrup added to egg whites as they are beaten until stiff. It has the same consistency as Swiss meringue (thick and glossy) which we have used before in challenge recipes as a base for buttercream.The Whipped Cream option contains no gelatin, so beware of how fast it may melt.Gelatin is the gelifying agent in all of the following recipes, but if you would like to use agar-agar, here are the equivalencies: 8g powdered gelatin = 1 (0.25 oz) envelope powdered gelatin = 1 Tbsp powdered gelatin = 1 Tbsp Agar-Agar. 1 Tbsp. of agar-agar flakes is equal to 1 tsp. of agar-agar powder.

Ingredients:


2.5 sheets gelatin or 5g / 1 + 1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1.5 oz (3 Tbsp / 40g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp (10g) glucose or thick corn syrup
0.5 oz (15g) water
50g egg yolks (about 3 medium)
6.2 oz (175g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream (35% fat content)

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.)

2. Make a Pate a Bombe: Beat the egg yolks until very light in colour (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).

2a. Cook the sugar, glucose syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F (118°C). If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature.

2b. Add the sugar syrup to the beaten yolks carefully by pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream while continuing to beat the yolks. You can do this by hand but it’s easier to do this with an electric mixer.

2c. Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.

3. In a double boiler or equivalent, heat 2 tablespoons (30g) of cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.

4. Whip the remainder of the cream until stiff.

5. Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup (100g) of WHIPPED cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe.

6. Add in the rest of the WHIPPED cream (220g) mixing gently with a spatula.

Variations on the Dark Chocolate Mousse listed above:
White Chocolate Mousse- Substitute the same quantity of white chocolate for the dark chocolate in the mousse recipe listed above.

Milk Chocolate Whipped Cream (Chantilly)

Mango Mousse

Element #3 Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert


Preparation time: 10mnEquipment: pan, whisk. If you have plunging mixer (a vertical hand mixer used to make soups and other liquids), it comes in handy.

Note: Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it to facilitate piping it onto the log during assembly. Please be careful when caramelizing the sugar and then adding the cream. It may splatter and boil.

Ingredients:

1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp/ 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
5 oz (135g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened

1. Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color (for most of you that means darker than last month’s challenge).

2. While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.

3. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.

4. Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.


Variations on the Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert listed above:


White Chocolate Ganache Insert.

Cinammon-Milk Ganache Insert .

Dark-Milk Ganache Insert.


1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp / 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
2.7 oz (75g) milk chocolate
3.2 oz (90g) dark chocolate
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened

1. Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color (for most of you that means darker than last month’s challenge).

2. While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.

3. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.

4. Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.


Element #4 Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert

Preparation time: 10 mn (+ optional 15mn if you make lace crepes)

Equipment: Small saucepan, baking sheet (if you make lace crepes). Double boiler (or one small saucepan in another), wax paper, rolling pin (or I use an empty bottle of olive oil).

Note: Feuillete means layered (as in with leaves) so a Praline Feuillete is a Praline version of a delicate crisp. There are non-praline variations below. The crunch in this crisp comes from an ingredient which is called gavottes in French. Gavottes are lace-thin crepes. To our knowledge they are not available outside of France, so you have the option of making your own using the recipe below or you can simply substitute rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K for them. Special note: If you use one of the substitutes for the gavottes, you should halve the quantity stated, as in use 1oz of any of these cereals instead of 2.1oz. If you want to make your own praline, please refer back to the Daring Baker Challenge Recipe from July 2008.


To make 2.1oz / 60g of gavottes (lace crepes - recipe by Ferich Mounia):

1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk
2/3 Tbsp (8g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup – 2tsp (35g) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp / 0.5 oz (15g) beaten egg
1 tsp (3.5g) granulated sugar
½ tsp vegetable oil

1. Heat the milk and butter together until butter is completely melted. Remove from the heat.

2. Sift flour into milk-butter mixture while beating, add egg and granulated sugar. Make sure there are no lumps.

3. Grease a baking sheet and spread batter thinly over it.

4. Bake at 430°F (220°C) for a few minutes until the crepe is golden and crispy. Let cool.


Ingredients for the Praline Feuillete:

3.5 oz (100g) milk chocolate
1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) butter
2 Tbsp (1 oz / 30g) praline
2.1oz (60g) lace crepes(gavottes) or rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K

1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.

2. Add the praline and the coarsely crushed lace crepes. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.

3. Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.


Variations on the Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert listed above:

Chocolate Crisp Insert.
Coconut Crisp Insert.


Element #5 Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert:

Preparation time: 15mn + 1h infusing + 1h baking.

Equipment: Small saucepan, mixing bowl, baking mold, wax paper.

Note: The vanilla crème brulée can be flavored differently by simply replacing the vanilla with something else e.g. cardamom, lavender, etc...


Ingredients:

1/2 cup (115g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
½ cup (115g) whole milk
4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean


1. Heat the milk, cream, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.

2. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).

3. Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.

4. Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (whatever shape is going to fit on the inside of your Yule log/cake) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 210°F (100°C) for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.

Tartelette says: You can bake it without a water bath since it is going to go inside the log (the aesthetics of it won't matter as much since it will be covered with other things)....BUT I would recommend a water bath for the following reasons:- you will get a much nicer mouth feel when it is done- you will be able to control its baking point and desired consistency much better- it bakes for such a long time that I fear it will get overdone without a water bathNow...since it is baked in a pan and it is sometimes difficult to find another large pan to set it in for a water bath, even a small amount of water in your water bath will help the heat be distributed evenly in the baking process. Even as little as 1 inch will help.

5. Let cool and put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly.

Variations on the Vanilla Crème Brulée insert listed above:

Chocolate Creme Brulée Insert.


Element #6 Dark Chocolate Icing:


Preparation time: 25 minutes (10mn if you don’t count softening the gelatin)

Equipment: Small bowl, small saucepan.

Note: Because the icing gelifies quickly, you should make it at the last minute. or other gelatin equivalencies or gelatin to agar-agar equivalencies, look at the notes for the mousse component.


Ingredients:

4g / ½ Tbsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream (35 % fat content)
2.1 oz (5 Tbsp / 60g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50g) water
1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1. Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.

2. Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling.

3. Add gelatin to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.

4. Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gelify), use immediately.


Variations on the Dark Chocolate Icing listed above:


Milk Chocolate Icing

1.5 gelatin sheets or 3g / 1/2Tbsp powdered gelatin
4.2 oz (120g) milk chocolate
2 Tbsp (30g) butter
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream (35 % fat content)
1 2/3 Tbsp (30g) glucose or thick corn syrup
1. Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.

2. Coarsely chop the chocolate and butter together.

3. Bring the cream and glucose syrup to a boil.

4. Add the gelatin.

5. Pour the mixture over the chocolate and butter. Whisk until smooth.

6. Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gelify), use immediately.


White Chocolate Icing.


How To Assemble your French Yule Log

Depending on whether your mold is going to hold the assembly upside down until you unmold it or right side up, this order will be different.

THIS IS FOR UNMOLDING FROM UPSIDE DOWN TO RIGHT SIDE UP. You will want to tap your mold gently on the countertop after each time you pipe mousse in to get rid of any air bubbles.

1) Line your mold or pan, whatever its shape, with rhodoid (clear hard plastic, I usually use transparencies cut to the desired shape, it’s easier to find than cellulose acetate which is what rhodoid translates to in English) OR plastic film. Rhodoid will give you a smoother shape but you may have a hard time using it depending on the kind of mold you’re using.You have two choices for Step 2, you can either have Dacquoise on the top and bottom of your log as in version A or you can have Dacquoise simply on the bottom of your log as in version B:

2A) Cut the Dacquoise into a shape fitting your mold and set it in there. If you are using an actual Yule mold which is in the shape of a half-pipe, you want the Dacquoise to cover the entire half-pipe portion of the mold.

3A) Pipe one third of the Mousse component on the Dacquoise.

4A) Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.

5A) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.

6A) Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.

7A) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.

8A) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.

9A) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight eidge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.

10A) Close with the last strip of Dacquoise.Freeze until the next day.


OR


2B) Pipe one third of the Mousse component into the mold.

3B) Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.

4B) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.

5B) Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.

6B) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.

7B) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.

8B) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight edge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.

9B) Close with the Dacquoise.Freeze until the next day.


If you are doing the assembly UPSIDE DOWN with TWO pieces of Dacquoise the order is:


1) Dacquoise 2) Mousse 3) Creme Brulee Insert 4) Mousse 5) Praline/Crisp Insert 6) Mousse 7) Ganache Insert 8) Dacquoise.


If you are doing the assembly UPSIDE DOWN with ONE piece of Dacquoise on the BOTTOM ONLY the order is: 1) Mousse 2) Creme Brulee Insert 3) Mousse 4) Praline/Crisp Insert 5) Mousse 6) Ganache Insert 7) DacquoiseIf you are doing the assembly RIGHT SIDE UP in a springform pan the order is:1) Dacquoise 2) Ganache Insert 3) Mousse 4) Praline/Crisp Insert 5) Mousse 6) Creme Brulee Insert 7) Mousse (OPTIONAL) Dacquoise


THE NEXT DAY...


Unmold the cake/log/whatever and set on a wire rack over a shallow pan. Cover the cake with the icing. Let set. Return to the freezer. You may decorate your cake however you wish. The decorations can be set in the icing after it sets but before you return the cake to the freezer or you may attach them on top using extra ganache or leftover mousse, etc...Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly depending on the elements you chose.



Tips:

These are some of the steps that I found to be useful. I thought it would help someone else if I post it here.

(1) To soften the gelatin, I used about 5 tbsp water for 1/2 tbsp of gelatin.

(2) For praline component of the praline insert, I used 1/4 cup of almonds and 1/6 cup of sugar to prepare the praline and then ground it somewhat fine.

(3) For the crisp, I used the flakes of HuneyBunches of Oats, strawberry and crushed it somewhat fine with my hands.

(4) The almond cake was done in about 10 minutes.

(5) For the creme brulee, the vanilla bean was allowed to infuse the cream-milk mix for about an hour and a half.

Check out the French Yule log of all the other talented DB members on the DB blogroll.

December 25, 2008

Christmas wishes to all my friends and readers!!


Hope that you all are having a great time with your loved ones!

- JZ @ Tasty treats.

December 22, 2008

Cowgirl Chocolates from the Cowgirl!!

Foodbuzz has a new feature called the "Tastemaker program" in which members get a chance to try products by different vendors or Foodbuzz partners. I jumped at the oppurtunity to try out new products especially since Foodbuzz promised to bring only the best products for its members to sample. It is an opt-in programme and if you sign up, you will get an email whenever a product becomes available. And if you are quick with your response "Yes!", a sample would be send to you ASAP. Some products might be in limited supply and so its dispensed on a first-reply basis.

I recently received an email about the first sample product "Cowgirl Chocolates". Those who know me would agree that I could never resist chocolates!! I sent my ooooh yes! reply to Foodbuzz and soon enough, got a package delivered home.


Inside there was this beautifully packaged red box filled with yummy treats! There were dark and light chocolate varieties along with Cappuccino, Mocha, Hazelnut, Habanero, Raspberry and Caramel. They were divided into Spicy and Mild chocolates. Some of them had a dark chocolate shell and a creamy flavored filling which was the spicy part. I could get only a few pictures because as soon as the box was opened, my lil one and husband jumped in on them! And as you can see, theres no picture of the chocolate itself because nobody had the patience to wait for a picture before tossing them in their mouth!

Verdict: As you might have guessed, we loved them. As for the spicy part, I wouldnt mind if the spicy ones were a bit more so.

Cowgirl Chocolates are sweet and spicy gourmet chocolates for adventurous chocolate lovers and packaged as unique beautiful gifts for any and all occasions - says the Head Cowgirl.... and I agree. They make for a great gift for any occassion and come in beautifully packed cute boxes and would impress anybody!!

Thanks Foodbuzz, for the wonderful oppurtunity to sample these delicious chocolates!!

December 18, 2008

Crab Cakes with Lump Crab Meat

Crab cakes have always had a reputation of being a gourmet delicacy. I've never had these before, but have always wanted to make them because its said to be really delicious. I didnt taken on a particular recipe, but was inspired by quite a few and made a recipe on my own. The first time I made them, I used regular crab meat which was finely minced and so for seafood enthusiasts, there is no crab meat to bite into. Lump crab meat is a bit more expensive, but has big lumps which gives the flavor of the crab meat much better.

I am not a big seafood buff, but even I enjoyed these tender cakes. JM loved them, but wanted a little less sourness imparted by the lemon juice and mustard in it. The amounts mentioned are approximate, so please feel free to adapt the recipe to your tastes. I served the cakes with tartar sauce (dont know if mine would qualify as a traditional tartar sauce). Let me know how they turned out for you! Keep warm, and have a great day!!


Recipe (Makes 4-6 cakes):

Lump crab meat - 6 oz (1 can)
Dill chips - 5, chopped fine
Yellow mustard - 1/2 tsp
Pepper powder - 1/4 tsp
Lime juice - 1/2 tsp
Bread crumbs - 3 tbsp
Mayonnaise - 1 1/2 tbsp
Pickled jalapenos - 2, chopped fine

Method:

Transfer the crab meat into a bowl, feel through the meat and discard any shells.

Add all the other ingredients to the crab meat and mix together until everything comes together into a ball.

Shape into cutlets/cakes.

Heat a skillet.

Drizzle a bit of oil on the skillet.

Place the cakes gently on the skillet over medium flame.

Gently flip the crab cakes over when the first side is browned.

Brown the second side and flip the cakes over until the cakes are easier to handle.

Drizzle more oil as and if needed.

Serve hot with tartar sauce.

Tips:
  1. The crab cakes are very delicate and be careful while flipping them over as they might break.
  2. Keep the skillet over low-medium flame so that the crab cakes loose mositure and become easier to handle.
  3. I made the tartar sauce with some mayonnaise, pepper powder, salt and chopped dill pickles and jalapeno pickles.


Santa's Holiday Challenge is still going on strong. Dont forget to send in your qualifying entries to jz.tastytreats@gmail.com on or before Dec 31, 2008.

December 15, 2008

Methi Chicken


Last week had been really hectic for me with the MN Kerala association Christmas celebration and programmes, getting together for practices. So I couldnt do many posts. But today I am feeling much tired because of the nasty weather in MN today! From blizzard warnings yesterday to very low sub-zero temperatures, the weather is unbearable out here! Its -22 C here, so I decided to skip pre-school for my lil one. I feel like writing about something warm and hence today's recipe.

Methi leaves are my new-found love and I had done a post on Methi Parathas last month. Heres a chicken dish that would go with any meal, an awesome dish, with tomato and yoghurt based thick gravy which coats the succulent chicken pieces. The recipe has been inspired from a video by the Vah Chef on VahRehvah.com. Do check out his video on methi chicken. In his instructional video, the amount of ingredients have not been mentioned, so I have come up with a recipe that served the taste of my family well. So please adapt the recipe to your tastes.

Feel like curling up on the bed and snoozing the day away! ;-) Have a great warm day you all!!!

Recipe:

Chicken - 1 1/2 lb
Onions - 1 1/2 large
Tomatoes - 1 can (10 oz), chopped
Greem chillies - 1, sliced
Cumin - 1/2 tsp
Garam masala - 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Ginger - 1" piece, chopped fine
Garlic - 2 big cloves, chopped fine
Yoghurt - 2/3 cup, whisked with a bit of water
Water - as needed
Kasoori methi - 1/2 cup
Coriander leaves - a handful




Method:

Heat oil in a large pan and add cumin.

Once the cumin splutters, add the chopped onions.

Saute until the onions are cooked and golden brown in color.

Add the ginger garlic paste and turmeric powder and saute until fragrant.

Toss in the chopped tomatoes and green chillies and mix well.

Once the tomatoes are slightly cooked, add the chilly powder and coriander powder and saute until fragrant.

Pour the whisked yoghurt in and stir well.

Close the pan with a lid and allow the tomato - yoghurt mix to cook for 5 minutes on medium flame.

After 5 minutes, stir the sauce well.

Add the kasoori methi and chicken and stir well to coat.

Close the lid again and allow the chicken to cook completely.

When the chicken is done, remove the lid and allow the sauce to thicken.

Once the sauce coats the chicken, remove from heat.

Serve hot.

Source: Inspired from VahRehVah.com


Tips:
  1. The amount of ingredients are those that worked for me, so feel free to change it to your preference.
  2. The chef on VahRehVah suggests adding chicken thigh meat in this recipe.
  3. Lamb meat can also be used (suggests the Chef), but be sure to pressure cook the lamb separately and add to the sauce.

Just reminding you that Santa's Holiday Challenge is still going on. Dont forget to send in your desserts on or before Dec 31, 2008 for a chance to win Santa's gifts!! Have a great day!

December 9, 2008

Cranberry - Pistachio Biscotti


I guess these days everybody is busy getting their Christmas trees and gifts, planning for a great Holiday celebration! We are excited too, but this is also the time that we miss our families the most! How I wish I could celebrate Christmas and the New Year with my family! But I guess this time around, its just me and my lil family here.

Oh boy, it sure feels like winter here in Minnesota!! With sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow-falls, you dont feel like doing much!! But then who can resist fresh home-baked goods on a cold wintry day!? And since they have a good storage life, they can be made in advance and makes for a great make-ahead homemade Christmas gift for your loved ones! I baked these Cranberry-Pistachio Biscottis a week before. The smell of these crisp Italian treat filling the house is a treat by itself! I had tried Hazelnut biscottis before, but this is my first experience with cranberries!! And I should say I like those lil cuties. For these, however, I used dried cranberries. I followed the recipe on www.joyofbaking.com. The whole batch disappeared in just two days! Snuggle up on a couch with a cup of hot cocoa and a few of these biscottis and trust me, you will be in heaven!


Recipe (Makes 16-20):

Granulated white sugar - 2/3 cup
Eggs - 2, large
Pure vanilla extract - 1 tsp
Baking powder - 3/4 tsp
Salt - 1/8 tsp
All-purpose flour - 1 3/4 cups
Shelled unsalted pistachios - 1/2 cup, coarsely chopped
Dried cranberries or cherries - 1/2 cup, coarsely chopped


Method:

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and keep aside.

Beat the sugar and eggs on high speed using an electric mixer, until thick, pale and fluffy (about 5 minutes).

When the egg mixture falls back in ribbons when the beaters are raised, add in the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt together.

Add to the egg mixture and beat until combined.

Fold in the chopped pistachios and cranberries.

Transfer the dough to your parchment lined baking sheet and form into a log, about 12 inches (30 cm) long and 3 1/2 inches (9 cm) wide. (You might have to wet your hands with cold water to shape the dough into a log because the dough is really sticky).

Bake for 25 minutes, or until firm to the touch.

Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.

Transfer the log to a cutting board and cut at an angle (diagonal) into 3/4 inch slices.

Place the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet.

Bake 10 minutes, turn the slices over, and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from oven and set aside to cool.



Tips:

Based on the past performances of my oven, I made a few changes to the recipe.
  1. Instead of 350F, I preheated and baked at 325F.
  2. The biscotti log was initially baked for 25 minutes.
  3. After slicing the biscotti log, the individual biscottis were initially baked for 8 minutes, turned over and baked for another 7-8 minutes.
  4. I used about 1/4 cup pistachios and 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries.





I am sending these to my own event "Santa's Holiday Challenge". Dont forget that its going to be a giveaway contest with first and second prizes. You can send as many entries as you would like.

I am also sending this to the "Homemade Christmas Gifts" @ My Kitchen Treasures, "Christmas feast event" at Purva's Daawat and "Eating with the seasons" at Maninas: Food Matters.
I am also sending these to Christmas Cookies event at Susan's food Blogga and Cookie Baking event at Sharmi's Neivedyam.

Wishing you all the best this season!!

December 4, 2008

Santa's Holiday Challenge - My first event!

Dear friends,

The holiday season is upon us as we are getting ready to celebrate Christmas and the New Year!! I have always wanted to host an event on my blog and this holiday, I've decided to fulfill my dream by spreading some sweetness amongst all of us. Like I promised last week, here's something special that I have been putting together with the help of my dear friend Bhags of Crazy Curry. Hope you all are eager to know more about the event.

Oh! Wait.... Do you hear the bells....?

Here comes Santa…………….

Calvin: Well. I've decided I do believe in Santa Claus, no matter how preposterous he sounds.
Hobbes: What convinced you?
Calvin: A simple risk analysis. I want presents. Lots of presents. Why risk not getting them over a matter of belief? Heck, I'll believe anything they want.
Hobbes: How cynically enterprising of you.
Calvin: It's the spirit of Christmas.

There are three stages in the life of a person, one when he or she believes in Santa Claus, another when he or she doesn't believe in Santa Claus and the last when he or she plays Santa Claus. If Calvin's risk analysis is to be believed then I think it is in our favor to believe in Santa Claus, what say you!?

Well, there is one more reason for you to believe in the spirit of Santa, as I have decided to play one this year. But this Santa is too fond of sweets. As a self-proclaimed dessert enthusiast, you all need to impress this Santa by making the best dessert you can!



These are some of the things you can follow ensure a chance to win Santa's special Holiday giveaway :

Make any or many desserts like Cakes, Cookies, Chocolates, Pastries, Bars, Custards, Candies, Dessert tarts, Pies, Puddings and Icecreams while sharing your favorite Holiday memories, if you wish to. Send a picture of your masterpiece to jz.tastytreats@gmail.com on or by 31 Dec 2008, so that the spread is ready for Santa to snack on, after his Christmas work-out! I would really appreciate it if you could make Santa feel special by creating a new/separate post for this little celebration!

Lets all pass on the holiday spirit by selecting three lucky winners of the challenge, so please be ready to vote in January. Santa is delivering a $20 gift card for the first place winner and $10 gift card for the second place winner. The third place winner will get a special mention on this Santa's home - Tasty treats!

I hope I'll get to see many sweets coming my way, but I'm guessing I wont be dieting anytime soon!! ;-)

Here are the event points again:



  1. Please make one or more desserts which come under the categories given above.
  2. Make a post of your creation on your blog with a link back to this event announcement. Please feel free to include the event banner or logo in your post.
  3. Send a mail to jz.tastytreats@gmail.com with "Santa's Holiday Challenge" as the subject on or by Dec 31, 2008.
  4. Dont forget to attach a picture of your creation and mention your name, blog name and url, entry name and entry url.
  5. Non-blogging and talented Santa's little helpers can also send in their creations. Please include your name, entry name and a picture of your creation!
  6. Please do check back in January for the round-up and to vote for your favorite.

If you have any more questions, feel free to shoot an email to jz.tastytreats@gmail.com. I will try to resolve your question as soon as possible.

I would like to thank my dear friend, Bhags of Crazy Curry, for helping me with this wonderful event write-up and for giving me valuable inputs and ideas for the event. I hope I would get your whole-hearted support in making this event a great success!

Cheers!! - JZ

November 29, 2008

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting for DB challenge


After two months of working with the savory side of baking, Daring Bakers are once again exploring the sweet sensations! The challenge for the month of November is Caramel cake with Caramelized butter frosting. According to Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater, the leading lady of this month's challenge, sugar is the STAR of the party! Her co-hosts are Dolores of Chronicles of Culinary Curiosity, Alex - Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo: and Jenny of Foray into Food. The gluten-free version was provided by Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.

This challenge was unique in that there was also an optional challenge of making Caramels - Alice Medrich’s Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels, from her book Pure Desserts (Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111), with LOTS of variation. Since I didnt have much time this month, I opted out of the caramels challenge.



CARAMEL CAKE WITH CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
Splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Notes from Natalie for those of you baking gluten-free:

So the GF changes to the cake would be:2 cups of gluten free flour blend (w/xanthan gum) or 2 cups of gf flour blend + 1 1/2 tsp xanthan or guar gum1/2 - 1 tsp baking powder (this would be the recipe amount to the amount it might need to be raised to & I'm going to check)I'll let you when I get the cake finished, how it turns out and if the baking powder amount needs to be raised.

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy. Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform. Sift flour and baking powder. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.} Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan. Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

CARAMEL SYRUP

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)

In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber. When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back. Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}
Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool. Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.
Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month. To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

Recipes courtesy : Shuna Fish Lydon of Egg beater and as published on Bay Area Bites.


My experience:

I guess this month was the busiest month of this year for me. My parents came over to visit us from India and eventhough it is just for a few weeks, I am pretty busy. It was also my daughter's 3rd Birthday this month for which we had planned a party with some of our friends. I initially had no plans of making a cake myself on her birthday, but then incidentally I ended up making the Caramel cake on her birthday. For the first time my lil one was truly excited about my birthday and I am so happy that I got this cake for her to truly gleam on her birthday!

Making the caramel syrup was a bit nerve-wracking after reading the experiences of many DBers, but somehow I managed to complete the task. It seemed to get thicker as it cooled down, so I added probabaly about 1/2 cup water in stages , as the syrup was cooling down. I got a thick, deep-amber colored syrup. Eventhough I put a foil lid on the saucepan as I was pouring the water to stop the cooking process, the steam rode the foil up and managed to burn my fingers!

The cake was baked two days before it was decorated. I read the comments of fellow DBers, that the cake and frosting were incredibly sweet. So I reduced the amount of sugar in the cake by 1/2 cup (ie, 3/4 cups instead of 1 1/4 cups). Instead of 1/2 tsp kosher salt, I added 1/4 tsp regular salt and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract. The rest of the recipe was followed exactly like it was mentioned. I baked the cake in a deep 8" round pan for about 47 minutes. During baking the cake seemed to rise beautifully, but it was not forming a dome like the other cakes. I thought it might be beacuse of the caramel syrup in the cake batter. After cooling the cake appeared flat-topped and dense, so I knew what some of the other DBers talked about having a dense moist cake. Since it was hectic for me and couldnt redo the cake, I decided to stick with what I had.

I made the frosting exactly as specified in the recipe except for the amount of caramel syrup was reduced to 1 1/2 tbsp and heavy cream was about 4 tbsp. I found the frosting to be really deeelicious and to my taste!! I pretty much went simple with the decorations on the cake, with just some star flowers along the bottom border and rosettes along the top border. A few star flowers were piped on the top surface and dark chocolate chips were placed on the rosettes. My lil one was truly excited to see the entire frosting done before her eyes and when I declared that it was made specially for her, she was ecstatic!! She encouraged me soo much that I was happy to have done it all, evenwhen I wasnt exactly having a relaxed time.

She loved the cake and so did my parents, but I was a little disappointed. The cake wasnt fluffy or soft, but kind of dense, pasty and moist. Eventhough it tasted great, the texture was a major disappointment for me. But the birthday girl loooooved it!!! I decided to take the leftovers to a casual get-together of my friends, but I had my reservations! But as soon as they tasted it, I was relieved because everyone were scrambling for more. They all gave good reviews about it and were raving about the caramel taste. So eventhough I was not too happy about the results, everything turned out for the best! The excitement of my lil one was the biggest satisfaction ever!



Verdict: I loooved the caramelized butter frosting but I wish I could say that about the cake. Shuna had mentioned in the post that this cake is all about the balance between dry and wet ingredients, so probably by reducing the amout of sugar in the cake, I tipped the scales in the wrong direction! ;-) The texture, (and definitely not the taste), was the biggest negative for me. But everyone else seemed fine with it, so I guess its just a matter of personal taste!!

I hope I would be able to give the caramels a try sometime soon. For more inspiration, check out the cakes of the other Daring Bakers here.

November 27, 2008

Kasoori-Methi Parathas


Happy Thanksgiving to you all!! I am sorry for my unexplained absence from blogging! My parents are visting from India for a couple of weeks (yay!!), but since the visit is really short (just for 3 weeks!), I am keeping back from blogging. Thank you for all your concerns and wishes!

Most of you would be busy over the long weekend, going on a quick getaways, whipping up a great thanksgiving meal or having guests over. Well, we have a Thanksgiving get-together at the place of a great friend of mine! But I just thought I would post a quick recipe which has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, but is a recently discovered favourite of mine. I've never used kasoori methi (let alone methi leaves!) in my cooking before and this was a welcome treat for me. I absolutely loved the parathas, wish I'd come across it earlier. Again, this is a very common recipe, but still wanted to share with you, my new found love!

I also would like to give all of you a hint that something special is brewing on Tasty treats! The announcement will be made sometime next week. So stay tuned for the exciting and fun activity that I am putting together with a lot of help from my dear friend, Bhags of Crazy Curry!! So friends, please do check back next week and join in the fun!



Recipe:

Wheat flour (Atta) - 2 cups
Kasoori methi - 1/2 cup
Red chilly powder - 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/8 tsp
Ginger-garlic paste - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Water - to knead into a dough

Method:

Put all the ingredients together into a bowl.

Add just enough warm water to make into a dough which is smooth (but not sticky).

Keep aside for 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into 8-10 balls.

Roll out each dough ball into a circle of about 6-8 in.

Heat a griddle and place a dough circle on the hot griddle.

Cook until light brown spots appear on the first side.

Flip the paratha over and cook until the second side is cooked, showing light brown spots.

Drizzle a bit of ghee/butter/oil if needed on both sides and flip again.

Serve hot.

Hope you all enjoyed your visit to Tasty treats. Please do check back next week for the special announcement!