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.


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.


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.


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!


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


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!

November 13, 2008

Dessert Pizza with Caramelized Apples and Almonds

Last month the Daring Baker's challenge left me with 4 balls of pizza dough in the freezer. Soon after the challenge date, I made two more pizzas which were polished off in mere minutes! I decided to attempt a dessert pizza, which many of the DB-ers had chosen to do for the challenge itself. I knew what I wanted in mine - apples and almonds!! Eventhough I've never made caramelised apples before, I took inspiration from a few of the recipes on the net and set out to make my first dessert pizza!

The dough I had left over was somewhat small (not an exact 1/6 division of the actual recipe), so I kept it pretty simple. I didnt use any sauce base (but next time I defintely would brush a bit of the glaze on the crust). The flavors of caramelized apples and almonds blended together to form something amazing! The crust was perfect with a crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside edges, and was a treat by itself because of the glaze brushed on it while baking!! The pizza was not overly sweet and with the apples and glaze was not overwhelming at all, since the dough was not sweetened. My lil one who is rarely willing to try new stuff, was hooked! JM and I enjoyed our share, very much. Our only regret was that the pizza was a small one and it quickly disappeared before our eyes (for bigger crust use more toppings)! For fun, I shaped the crust in the shape of an apple!! Do give this a try and you will be impressed.

Recipe (Makes 1 small pizza) :

Caramelized apple:

Fuji apple - 1 or 1 1/2
Butter - 2 tsp
Granulated sugar - 1 tbsp
Ground cinnamon - 1/8 tsp (optional)


Peel and core the apple.

Slice the apple into thin slices.

Heat the slices in a saucepan with sugar.

Stir the apples around.

When slightly cooked, add the butter and keep on high heat.

Keep a watch on the apples and stir occasionally.

When the sugar starts to caramelize, stir frequently until the apples are browned.

Toss-in a pinch of ground cinnamon (if using).

Sugar Glaze:

Confectionares sugar - 1 1/2 tbsp
Orange juice/ Water - 1/2 tbsp

Mix well and keep aside.

Assembling the pizza:

Caramelized apple - 1 recipe
Sugar glaze - recipe above
Sliced almonds - 2 tbsp


Preheat the oven to 475F.

If the dough has been frozen, thaw it compeletly in the refrigerator. Proof the dough at room temperature for an hour.

Roll the dough out into a thick crust.

Poke the surface of the crust with a fork.

Spread out the caramelized apples on the pizza crust.

Toss the sliced almonds on top.

Bake in the pre-heated oven.

After about 2 minutes, rotate the pan.

At the 6 minutes mark, generously moisten the edge of the pizza crust with the glaze using a pastry brush.

Bake the pizza for a total of 10-12 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Drizzle with sugar glaze if needed.

Serve warm.


Next time, I would drizzle the sugar glaze on the crust before spreading the toppings. Because the crust was brushed with the glaze, the crust took on a beautiful golden brown sheen and was crisp and had crystals of baked-on sugar, it was amazing!!!

I am sending my Caramelized Apples and Almonds Pizza to "Eating with the Seasons" event at Maninas: Food Matters.

I received the Good job award from Su of iDayz and Ramya of Ramya's Kitchen Corner, Perfect Blend award from Ramya of Ramya's Kitchen Corner and the Inspiration award from Aartee of Nalabagham. I appreciate your gestures, you girls! Thank you so much.

I would love to pass these on to,

Laavanya of Cookery Corner
Sujatha of Spicy Khazaana
Cham of Spice-club

PS: If you like my blog, dont forget to update your name on the follower list on the upper right hand of the side bar. My posts are not getting updated on Taste Of India, so make sure that you dont miss any of the posts by subscribing to Tasty treats.

November 11, 2008

Chicken Biriyani

I have always been fond of biriyanis. It truly is a treat for all senses. The wonderful aroma, color and the taste of the biriyanis would beat any other rice dish, hands down! It also has cherished memories associated with it. It reminds me of my friends whom I am proud to have as friends even after these 5 years! Hmmm!! those really were the good times! I also prefer biriyanis for entertaining because if you get it right, you dont need many other sides to complete the meal. I have already posted another version of chicken biriyani (Hyderabadi dum biriyani) in which the uncooked meat is layered with rice in a pot sealed with dough and cooked over the flame until done. This technique is called a kacchi biriyani in which the meat is cooked after layering with rice. The other one is the pakki biriyani in which the meat and rice are pre-cooked before layering and allowing the flavors to mingle.

This recipe for Chicken Biriyani is one that JM's mother made when she was visiting. It is a very interesting recipe which makes use of both cooking and baking the rice - chicken mix. Addition of ground cashews and khuskhus gives richness and body to the chicken gravy. The other techniques are the ones regularly followed in biriyani recipes. Dont be alarmed by the long list of ingredients, most of them (if not all) would definitely be available in an Indian pantry. I have tried to break up the process into easy steps and I hope it helps anyone who wants to try this wonderful and flavorful dish.

For the rice:

Basmati rice - 1 lb 4 oz
Cardamom - 2
Cinnamon - 1" piece
Cloves - 3
Lime juice - as needed

Rinse the rice with water until the water runs clear.Cook the rice in a heavy pot with salt, cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves and lime juice or oil, to prevent the rice from sticking. Drain when the rice is just done (the grains should be cooked but separate and not mushy). Keep aside to cool.

Chicken marinade:

Chicken - 1 1/2 lb
Plain yoghurt - 3/4 cup
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Salt - as needed

Cut the chicken into large chunks and marinate with youghurt, turmeric powder and salt for an hour.

To grind:

Cashewnuts - 8-12
Khuskhus - 3/4 tsp

Soak the cashewnuts and khuskhus together and grind to a fine paste. Keep aside. Alternatively, I used dry cashews and khuskhus and powdered them in a spice grinder.

For garnish:

Cashewnuts - a handful
Raisins - a handful
Onion - 1, sliced thin

Fry the cashewnuts until golden brown. Fry the raisins until they puff up. Keep them aside. Fry the sliced onions until crisp and brown. Drain on paper towels and keep aside.

For the chicken gravy:

Cardamom - 2
Cinnamon - 1" piece
Cloves - 5
Star anise - 1, broken
Fennel - 1/2 tsp
Onion - 3 1/2, sliced thin
Green chilli - 2, split lengthwise
Curry leaves - a handful (if using)
Ginger - 1" sliced
Garlic - 3 pods, sliced
Red chilly powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Pepper powder - 1/4 tsp
Tomato - 2 small, chopped
Cilantro - 1/2 cup
Mint leaves - 1/2 cup
Ghee/Butter - 1 tsp, melted

Heat oil in a heavy pan.

Toss in cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and fennel and saute.

Add the sliced onions, green chillies, curry leaves (if using), ginger and garlic.

Saute until the onions are cooked and tender.

Measure the red chilly powder, turmeric powder and pepper powder and add to the onion mixture.

Add the marinated chicken to this mixture and toss to coat.

Cover and cook the chicken until half done.

Add the chopped tomatoes, cilantro and mint leaves to the chicken and cook until well done.

Now add the ground cashewnut-khuskhus mixture and mix well.

Allow to bring to a boil.

Remove from heat when the chicken is cooked all the way through with a bit of gravy.

Final assembly:

Preheat the oven to 300F.

Grease an oven-safe baking pan.

Layer the pan with chicken and gravy.

Line with a layer of rice.

Repeat the layering and finish off with a layer of rice.

Drizzle a bit of melted ghee or butter on the top.

Cover with aluminium foil and bake in an oven until the gravy is absorbed into the rice.

Open the foil when ready to serve.

Garnish with nuts, raisins and fried onions.

Enjoy hot with pickles, raita and pappad.


I unfortunately dont remember the exact temperature at which I baked the rice, but I believe it was 300F for 20 minutes. Since the rice and chicken are cooked before layering and baking, I assure you that it wont be undercooked. the purpose of the baking is to allow the gravy to eveporate and flavor the rice.

I am sending this to the "Rice Mela" hosted by Srivalli of Cooking 4 all seasons. While I am at it, I am also sending a few of my previous rice posts to the mela.

Pineapple Fried Rice:

Coconut Rice:

Turkish tomato pilaf:

Lemon rice:

Click here for more of my rice dishes.

November 7, 2008

Kerala-style Lamb Stir-fry (Lamb peralan)

Eventhough we are hardcore carnivores, we rarely buy lamb in the US. Even while we were in India, mutton was considered a bit pricey a few years ago, so it was only prepared for special occassions. I first bought lamb in the US for an Easter meal, the recipe for which I have posted on my blog. It was the recipe for a roasted lamb which was marinated overnight in red wine. We loved it! When my MIL came here, we once again bought the boneless leg of lamb for a taste of Indian Lamb Curry. My MIL made this preparation which is relatively easy to execute. With just some basic Indian spices, she made an extraordinary dry lamb preparation which we absolutely loved!! It was just another version of the typical Kerala-style beef that we make at home, and it was fantastic. It would be an excellent accompaniment to rice, rotis or chapathis. We even used a bit of the lamb curry to make a lamb stew for appam, the recipe for which I will post soon. Hope you all would give this recipe a try. This would be a great collection to your lamb recipes!


Lamb (Boneless leg of lamb) - 4 lb
Onion - 2 large, sliced
Thai green chillies - 2 small, sliced
Ginger - 2" piece, sliced
Garlic - 2 cloves, sliced
Red chilly powder - 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tbsp
Coriander powder - 3 tbsp
Garam masala - 2 tbsp
Black pepper powder - 1 tbsp
Vinegar - 1 1/2 tbsp


Heat oil in a large skillet.

Saute the onions, green chillies, garlic and ginger until tender and cooked.

In a small bowl, mix the red chilly powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, garam masala and black pepper powder.

Make a smooth paste of the powders with water.

Add the spice paste to the sauteed onions mixture.

Saute well on open flame until the spices are cooked and oil starts to separate from the mixture.

Toss in the cubed meat and vinegar.

Mix until the meat is well coated with the spice mix.

Pour a little bit of water if needed.

Close the pan with a lid and cook on low flame until the lamb is cooked and tender.

When the lamb is cooked, remove the lid of the pan.

Stir fry until all the water is evaporated and the spices cling to the meat.

Serve hot.

  1. The lamb can also be cooked in a pressure cooker. Saute the onion-spice mixture, mix with the lamb and add the vinegar. Then cook in the pressure cooker. Once the lamb is cooked, transfer the cooked lamb curry to a skillet and stir fry until all the water is evaporated and the preparation is dry.

November 4, 2008

Gulab Jamuns (Fried Milk Balls in Rose Water -Sugar Syrup)

Good day to you all, dear friends!! After my daring pizza toss for the DB challenge, I thought that I should come back to active blogging with a "dessert". Hmm, yes! A dessert with which most of you would be familiar - the golden brown milk balls which are decadent, sweet and spongy - Gulab Jamuns! GlabIn India, you can get these plump cuties from anywhere either ready-made or as ready-to-make mixes. But in the US, I had to search for a recipe to satisfy my craving for these beauties. I honestly can down a few in a sitting! ;-) When I found this recipe, I set out to make them then and there. Over the course of time, I have made them multiple times, with slight changes, because the actual recipe didnt work well for me. Anyways, the recipe given below gave me the best result so far, but I am sure I would continue to experiment with the proportion of ingredients to truly make it the best recipe ever!! The recipe below gave me small jamuns which were spongy, soft and soaked through with the syrup. The addition of rose water (which makes for the 'Gulab' in the Gulab Jamuns) and cardamom truly elevated the flavor and smell of the dessert. I hope you all like my "come-back recipe" and would try it out soon.

I am sending this to Sweet series: Milk sweets with spongy texture event at Mythreyee's Paajaka. Its my first event entry after soooo long! :-)

Recipe (Makes about 32 small jamuns):

Milk powder - 1 cup
All-purpose flour - 2 tbsp
Baking powder - 1/2 tsp
Cardamom powder - 1/4 tsp (optional)
Whole milk - enough to make a dough
Oil - for frying the dough balls

Rose Water - Sugar Syrup:

Granulated sugar - 1 1/2 cup
Water - 1 1/4 cup
Cardamom pods - 2, crushed
Rose Water - 1 tsp


Add the sugar, cardamom pods and water to a small saucepan.

Stir the sugar and dissolve in water.

Bring the sugar solution to a boil and remove from heat.

Pour the rose water and keep warm.

Mix the milk powder, all purpose flour and baking powder together in a bowl.

Prepare a dough out of the mix with whole milk, adding just enough to make the dry ingredients come together.

Make small balls of the dough and smoothen them into perfectly round balls.

Heat oil on a very low flame (*).

Carefully toss in a few balls at a time and fry them until golden brown.

Gently move them around with a slotted spoon so that they are evenly browned.

Drain the balls using the slotted spoon and put them in the warm sugar syrup.

Repeat for the remaining balls.

Allow the balls to soak in the sugar syrup until they are soaked through.

Serve cold or at room temperature.



  1. While making the dough, be sure to add just enough whole milk.
  2. To make shaping easier, grease your hands with oil which prevents the dough from sticking to your hands.
  3. The sugar solution should be runny and not thick. Only then will the balls soak up the sugar solution and become plump. The syrup will thicken in time.
  4. (*)The temperature is key while frying the jamuns. The oil should only be slightly warm when you put the first batch of dough balls. The balls should take a few minutes to pop up. This ensures that the balls are cooked through.
  5. Do make smaller balls so that you can be sure that they are cooked through.
  6. While frying the jamuns, always heat the oil on low flame.
  7. The next time I make the jamuns, I would experiment by adding a bit more of the baking powder to see if it would make the balls more spongy and soft, which would almost melt in the syrup itself.

Have a great day, you all. I promise I would post more often now that I am a little bit settled. Dont miss out on any of the posts. My posts are not getting updated on Taste of India. So please check back often or subscribe to Tasty treats.