July 30, 2008

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

Its the time of the month to show off the creations of the awesome group of "Daring Bakers"!! I am proud to present the result of my second Daring Bakers Challenge. The challenge theme was the choice of Chris of Mele Cotte - a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream. It is a recipe from "Great Cakes" by Carol Walter. While recovering from my first challenge Danish Braid, I was secretely hoped that this month's challenge would be a cake, because I considered that to be in my comfort zone. But this cake something spectacular and a lot harder than I had wished for. Eventhough the techniques involved were pretty clear, each of the cake components had multiple steps of preparation which made the challenge very time-consuming and tiresome. Like many DB members said, if I had someone to clean up behind me, it would've been great! ;-) Unfortunately, I didnt have anyone, but still I finished mine without any major problems!

I followed the recipe exactly, working with the hazelnut genoise, praline buttercream, whipped cream and chocolate ganache, except that the entire cake was alcohol-free. The challenge was spread over two days, with the cake being baked on the first day and the assembly and decor on the second day.


First Day:

I toasted and skinned the hazlenuts at 350F oven for 8-10 minutes and then rubbed the slightly cooled nuts within a cloth. The genoise was baked in a 10" by 3"round cake pan at 350F for about 46 minutes. I had absolutely no issues with the genoise sinking or anything. After cooling, I refrigerated the cake overnight. I also made the sugar syrup the first day.




Second Day:

The next day, I made the praline first, with hazelnuts and cooled it to form the brittle. The brittle was processed in the food processor to make a perfect praline paste. The Swiss buttercream was again made without any issues and was mixed with the praline paste to form the absolutely the tastiest buttercream I've ever had - the Praline buttercream. I also made fresh whipped cream. The cake was cut into three equal layers, the second layer broke towards one side, but it was nothing big. I just glued that piece with the whipped cream. The layers were soaked with sugar syrup and then assembled with a layer of buttercream and whipped cream. Then I did the mistake of cutting the three-layered cake, so the sides did not turn out to be smooth. I should have just went without cutting it! The glaze I used was apricot glaze using it to seal the cut edges somewhat uniformly.
The ganache actually didnt set well even after refrigeration and since it was my first time with ganache, I poured it anyways (since I didnt know how thick it should have been). The surface had a smooth mirror finish, whereas the sides were not so perfect. I left it to set for a few hours, at intervals, coating the sides by spooning over the pooled ganache, taking care not to touch the surface at all. That certainly did help my cake, the sides were coated a bit more.

The praline buttercream that I kept aside in the refrigerator for piping on the surface had hardened, so I beat it again. That made it ooze the caramel, a bit. But my buttercream was smooth and fine enough to be piped using a #3 round tip. I also used an open star tip for some rosettes and stars. The cake was refrigerated for sometime before the piping was done. I did a vertical stripe design on the sides ending towards the middle of the surface of the cake. Because of the caramel liquid, some stripes could not be completed, but that didnt make the cake ugly in any way! The lower and upper borders were done as stars. The inner border on top was done as rosettes. I was done with the assembly and decoration in the afternoon.


I waited eagerly for JM to come home, and when he did, we took tons of pictures and JM had a piece of the cake. He was more than satisfied with the cake. It sure was terrrrrrific!! The hazelnut praline buttercream was the star of the show - no doubt about that!!! I loved the taste and texture of the cake too. It sure was a very time-consuming challenge, but once again I am happy that I did it succesfully, without any mishaps!

And that is the story of my second DB challenge. This is one amazing cake which I never would have even considered trying out, if not for the Daring Bakers Challenge!!




Check out my first challenge - Danish Braid (June 2008). Dont forget to browse through the amazing creations of my fellow Daring Bakers. Have a great day!!

July 28, 2008

Mousse au Chocolat

The featured blog for Tried & Tested July 2008 is Meeta's blog - Whats for lunch honey?. Tried and Tested is an event started by Zlamushka of Zlamushka's Spicy Kitchen and has everyone interested, cooking from a chosen blog, each month. As everyone is familiar with Meeta's blog I dont have to describe how beautiful her blog is and how fantastic and tempting her pictures are. Since I am a dessert lover, I chose her Mousse au Chocolate (Chocolate mousse) recipe for T&T.


Chocolate mousse is enjoyed by everyone, I guess, because of its looks, texture and taste. The texture is smooth, airy and fluffy because of the beaten egg whites and cream gently folded in (rather than stirred) to maintain its aeration. This is literally a "melt-in-your-mouth" creation which can be whipped up in minutes. Then comes the agonising wait for the dessert to chill. I assure you that nobody would be able to resist the temptation of this sinful dessert. Do try this out soon. The perfect dessert for a special occassion or to impress some guests or loved ones. I couldnt help myself from posting all these beautiful pictures. We enjoyed it a lot and so will you! à bientôt !! (See you!).


Recipe:

Bittersweet chocolate - 100-120 g (an exclusive chocolate preferably with 71% cocoa)
Butter - 15 g
Eggs - 2 , separated
Heavy cream - 200ml, beaten till stiff


Method:

Place a bowl over a pot of water and bring to a boil. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water in the pot.

Melt the chocolate and butter in the bowl.

Mix well until the chocolate and butter are melted and combined well, without any lumps.

Set the mixture aside and stir to cool for 30 seconds.

Add the egg yolks and mix together. The mixture will take on a thicker consistency.

Allow to cool further.

Gently fold in the whipped cream.

Beat the egg whites until stiff.

Fold the whites carefully into the chocolate-cream mixture.

Make sure that everything is mixed until smooth, fluffy and well-blended.

Transfer the mousse to individual serving bowls or a large single bowl.

Chill for several hours before serving.



Tips:


  1. How to put chocolate designs on a glass/serving bowl ? In this case, since the mousse was going to be dark colored, I decided to go with white chocolate design. Melt some white chocolate in the microwave and transfer to a ziploc/sandwich bag. Cut off an end very close to the tip. Hold the glass tilted in your hands and pipe any design that you would like on the bottom and/or inner walls of the glass/serving bowl. In this picture I just piped random lines at the bottom of the glass and spaced dots on the walls. Allow to set in the refrigerator for a few minutes. These dressed-up glasses can be used to serve desserts/drinks that are not hot!


  2. Meeta used chocolate with 71% cacao. I used a 4 oz (113g) Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate bar with 60% cacao. I would try this with bittersweet 71% cacao chocolate next time.
  3. My chocolate-egg yolk mixture became a bit (and yes, just a bit) lumpy probably because I added the yolks too early?. For the fear of deflating the cream and whites, I didnt mix too much. This didnt affect the taste at all, but I had a few chocolate lumps, which I enjoyed just as much! :-)
  4. Just for the presentation, I dusted the top with some cocoa powder and used a bit of whipped cream, with white chocolate pipings.

I am sending this sinful Chocolate Mousse also to "Sweet Series - Cool desserts" event at Mythreyee's Paajaka.

Dont forget to check out my Apple Swan too! ;-)

July 27, 2008

Vegetable/Fruit carving event & the Magic Lamp




I am sending my Apple Swan to the "Vegetable Carving" event at Roma's Space. Thanks for bringing to us such an interesting event, Roma!! I really enjoyed doing this.

Srilekha or Me and My Kitchen, EC of Simple Indian Food and Ranji of Ranji's Kitchen Corner passed the Magic Lamp to me. Thanks, you guys!


Alakazam!

The mighty Genie King and the beautiful Genie Princess from the magical Land of Faraway are back! Upon escaping the clutches of their Evil Master after being held captive for 1000 years, the magical genies have been busy flying on their Magical Flying Carpet, granting wishes and spreading love throughout the blogosphere.And now, the genies are back with a special gift for everyone! Behold the sacred, Magic Lamp of Luck! With this magic lamp, your blog will enjoy much good luck and fortune, warding off all things evil lurking around in the blogosphere. We would like to share this magic lamp with you so please pass on the Magic Lamp of Luck to those in need of some good luck. Remember, do not be greedy or unkind, evil or vengeful and good luck & fortune will always be with you! Join us on another exciting magical adventure as we spread goodwill and good luck to one and all!

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I would like to pass the lamp onto,

Maheswari of Beyond The Usual
Laavanya of Cookery Corner
Sujatha of Spicy Khazana

Hope you all are having a great time!

July 25, 2008

Sichuan Beef Stir-fry

I have a little news to share, I have family "coming over" to my home for about 2+ months. Yes, my in-laws are coming for a small vacation to the US. They will reach here on Monday. Hopefully I would be able to continue posting regularly, but be prepared to see more traditional Kerala recipes from now on. There might be some other posts in between, and ofcourse some dessert recipes too, but mostly it would be of the traditional recipes that I am going to learn from my MIL. This is why I am pretty busy nowadays, getting the house ready for the arrival of our "guests".


Recently on a trip to the grocers, I picked up this small packet of Asian Sichuan seasoning mix (powder form) which was tucked away in a corner beside the more popular stir-fry sauces and noodles. I also picked up some Japanese stir-fry blend from the frozen section which actually is a blend of broccoli, carrots, snowpea pods, onions and mushrooms. I knew I would be able to make a sizzling meal out of these two. I wasnt wrong! The color of the dish was just awesome, and very appetizing. We all had a very satisfying meal, thanks to the wonderful flavor imparted by the unassuming packet of seasoning mix - Szechwan (as on the packet). The stir-fry can be made vegetarian by omitting the meat, or beef can be replaced by the all-time favorite chicken or pork. Experiment with your favorite blend of vegetables and enjoy!!



Recipe (Serves 5) :

Beef - 3/4 lb, cut into strips
Sugar - 1 tsp
Soy sauce - 3 tbsp
Water - 1/4 cup
Oil - 2 tbsp
Fresh mushrooms - 1/4 lb, sliced
Bamboo shoots - 1 can, drained
Japanese stir fry mix - 8 oz, frozen **
Hot & Spicy Sichuan/Szechwan seasoning mix - 1, (3/4) oz packet


Method:

Combine the seasoning mix, sugar, soy sauce and water.

Blend and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil, add meat and stir-fry until browned.

Add the frozen stir-fry vegetables and saute until cooked and tender.

Toss in the sliced mushrooms and bamboo shoots, stir-fry.

Add the seasoning mxiture.

Stir fry for another minute or until thickened.

Serve the stir-fry over noodles or fried rice.

Tips:

  1. I served the stir-fry on a bed of enriched lomein noodles.
  2. Chicken or pork can be substituted for beef in this recipe.
  3. Make a quick vegetable stir-fry by omitting the meat.
  4. The actual recipe called for fresh vegetables. So instead of the stir-fry vegetables blend, you can use onion (1 medium, sliced), carrots (2, sliced) and red or green bellpepper (1, sliced).
  5. I did not use bamboo shoots.
  6. Stir-fry over high heat so that the vegetables would stay crisp.


I am sending this stir-fry to the "Eat Healthy - Protein Rich" event at Sangeeth's Art of Cooking Indian Food. Check out my other entries like,

Chicken tikka masala
Noodles with Peanut Sauce
Stir-fried Chicken with Mango
Baked Buffalo Wings
Chicken tikka
Diced Chicken with Vegetables
Hot and Sour Pork with Celery
Sweet and Sour Chickpeas

Have a great weekend ahead!!

I had been tagged by Skribles of Food with a pinch of love for a meme which I had already done. Check this out for my previous post on the meme! But today, the five things on my to-do list are

Keeping in touch with my friends
Cleaning the house (to welcome my in-laws!) and more cleaning!
Cooking
Blog-hopping
Shopping

Anyone who is interested can take up the tag and enjoy doing it!! :-)

July 23, 2008

Asha's Mango-Cream JellO


Nowadays I am pretty busy with some household chores and stuff, so I feel as if I am not getting enough time to spend for the blog!! I guess for a few of the upcoming events I've already gotten my entries ready and probably thats why I am not making anything new. I wish I could go back to posting everyday, but because of time-constraints (I have family coming over), I am not able to. But I do find time to hop over to the creative blogs of my dear fellow bloggers and leave comments!! :-)

For "MBP: Less is more" event at Nupur's One Hot Stove, I chose this pretty, cool and delicious Mango-Cream Jello from Asha's blog - Aroma. Asha's blogs Aroma and Foodie's Hope are treasure chests of wonderful recipes both simple and sophisticated. I made this dessert immediately after she posted hers. She answered my queries about the dessert quickly and I finished mine just as quick. We enjoyed the jello a lot! Again, since I had made only half the recipe, I had to fight for my share! I loooove mangoes and this is my kinda dessert! If you have guests over and need to whip up something super quick, this is the recipe for you! I guess in place of mango puree, fresh mangoes would be just as good. With just four ingredients, this is just awesome! Enjoy!! :-)


Recipe:

Mango pulp - 1 3/4 cup
Half and half or Heavy cream - 1/4 + 1/4 cup
Knox unflavored unsweetened gelatin - 2 envelopes
Powdered sugar - 1-2 tbsp, if using unsweetened mango pulp
Whipped cream and pistachios - for garnish (optional)

Method:

Mix the mango pulp, 1/4 cup cream and sugar (if using) and mix until creamy.

Heat 1/4 cup of cream, add gelatin and mix until the gelatin dissolves.

Add this mixture to the mango mixture and whisk well.

Pour into molds and chill until set (about 3 hours).

Serve chilled with garnish.

Tips:
  1. I only made half the recipe as I only had a little of the mango pulp.
  2. Add 1 envelope of gelatin to 1 1/4 cup or less liquid.
  3. The geltin can also be added directly without warming the cream, but the mixture has to be beaten well for the gelatin to dissolve.

I am sending this delicious mango dessert, also to "WYF - Juices and Icecreams" event at EC's Simple Indian Food and to the "Sweet Series - Cool Desserts" event at Mythreyee's Paajaka.








Enjoy this wonderful dessert and have a nice day!!

July 21, 2008

Chicken tikka masala


Chicken tikka masala is probably the most popular Indian dish in the Western countries. For me it is definitely not surprising that perfectly grilled chicken cubes slathered with a rich and delicious sauce of almonds and tomatoes are well-loved and in demand. The tomatoes make the curry mild for those who dont have a fiery palate and the almonds lend their rich nutty flavor to make it all the more irresistible. I have always loved the tandoori dishes be it naan or tikkas or tikka masalas. So it was taken that when we grill the tikkas, I would make Chicken tikka masala with it. The recipe I used was perfect, with the spices and the tomato gravy balanced well to make a decadent rich curry. We enjoyed it very well with hot naan. The recipe starts with marinating and grilling the chicken cubes to make chicken tikkas. I have given the recipe for the marinade and grilling instructions in a previous post. Hope you all would enjoy this delicious chicken tikka masala. Have a great day!!


Recipe (Serves 6) :

Oil - 1 tbsp
Onion - 1, finely chopped
Cardamom pods - 2
Garlic cloves - 2, crushed
Chopped tomatoes - 14 oz, can
Ground cinnamon - 1/4 tsp
Garam masala - 1 tbsp
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Jaggery or soft brown sugar - 1 tsp
Cream - 1 1/4 cups
Ground almonds - 1 tbsp
Chicken tikka - 1 recipe
Chopped cilantro - 1 tbsp




Method:

Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan over low heat.

Add the onion and cardamom pods and fry until the onion is soft and starting to brown.

Add the garlic to the pan, cook for 1 minute and then add the tomatoes.

Cook until the paste is thick.

Add the cinnamon, garam masala, chilli powder and sugar to the pan.

Cook for a minute.

Stir in the cream and almonds.

Add the cooked chicken tikka pieces.

Gently simmer for 5 minutes or until the chicken is heated through.

Garnish with chopped cilantro/coriander.

Source: The Food Of India by Priya Wickramasinghe.




I am sending this yummy curry to "Eat Healthy-Protein Rich" event at Sangeeth's Art of Cooking Indian Food. My other entries include:

Noodles with Peanut Sauce

Stir-fried Chicken with Mango
Baked Buffalo Wings
Chicken tikka
Diced Chicken with Vegetables
Hot and Sour Pork with Celery
Sweet and Sour Chickpeas

July 18, 2008

Honeydew-Grape-Watermelon Milkshake - a Cool post!


This milkshake was inspired from a fruits-combo in an article that I received from Aarti Vivek of Nalabagham. The blend of honeydew melon, grapes, watermelon and milk was mentioned to be rich in vitamin C + Vitamin B2 that increase cell activity and strengthen body immunity. The combo sounded intriguing as they were not something that I would have thought of bringing together. I found a balance of the fruits that suited our tastes well. The shake really was delicious and refreshing, with each of the fruit contributing its distinct flavor to the milkshake! The milk enhanced the total flavor a lot (and I had doubted it would go together)!! We had it for breakfast along with some toasted bread and preserves. The grape skin remnants would come up if allowed to sit for long. If you are not fond of that, strain before serving (we didnt). Experiment to find your favorite taste balance. I would definitely make this again! Enjoy!! :-)

Recipe (Serves 2) :

Watermelon - 1 1/2 cup, scooped
Honeydew melon - 1/2 cup, scooped
Grapes - 1 cup, whole
Milk - 1 cup

Method:

Pour the milk into a blender and add the rest of the ingredients.

Blend until smooth and well-mixed.

Serve immediately.

If using unrefrigerated fruits, add a few ice cubes to the blender.

Tips:

  1. Strain the shake before use, if desired.
  2. I used green grapes, the original articles showed purple/red grapes.

I am sending this milkshake to:










  1. WBB : Summer Feast at Sia's Passionate about life and spice.
  2. Sweet series - Cool desserts at Mythreyee's Paajaka.
  3. WYF - Juices & Icecreams at EC's Simple Indian Food.
  4. Summer Splash at Aartee's Nalabagham.

From the archives:


Mango Lassi:




  1. Sweet series - Cool desserts at Mythreyee's Paajaka.
  2. WYF - Juices & Icecreams at EC's Simple Indian Food.
  3. WBB : Summer Feast at Sia's Passionate about life and spice.
  4. Summer Splash at Aartee's Nalabagham.

Traffic light smoothie (Kiwi-Strawberry Smoothie):



  1. Sweet series - Cool desserts at Mythreyee's Paajaka.
  2. WYF - Juices & Icecreams at EC's Simple Indian Food.
  3. WBB : Summer Feast at Sia's Passionate about life and spice.
  4. Summer Splash at Aartee's Nalabagham.

Carrot Milkshake:



  1. Sweet series - Cool desserts at Mythreyee's Paajaka.
  2. WYF - Juices & Icecreams at EC's Simple Indian Food.

Cappuccino Milkshake:



  1. Sweet series - Cool desserts at Mythreyee's Paajaka.
  2. WYF - Juices & Icecreams at EC's Simple Indian Food.

Confused? Dont be... Just enjoy the smoothies and shakes!! :-) Have a great fun-filled weekend ahead!! Dont forget to try some of these delicious drinks to cool you down in the scorching sun!

July 17, 2008

Homemade Strawberry Icecream

Only recently did I start to experiment with preparing icecreams at home. After the intial success of the Cheesecake icecream, there was a break before I tried another one. I made Banana icecream (yet to be posted) and immediately after, this Strawberry Icecream (I mean yesterday!). This turned out above my expectations and was really creamy, soft and melted in our mouths! I dont have an icecream maker, so I was apprehensive while making it! But everything worked out great. I really should say that homemade strawberry icecream has more flavour and fresh fruit taste than store-bought ones. It also had the tiny crunch of the seeds which was a delight! I had just made half the recipe and now I only have a few scoops left. I wish I had made more!! This recipe is super easy and within hours you can have fresh homemade icecream!! Do try this out as soon as possible! Check out the tips for those who dont have any icecream machine and for tips on how to make a chocolate cup for serving the icecream. Enjoy!!


You scream I scream we all scream for icecream.... Do you know that it is also the lyrics of a song? Anyways, with many events in the foodie blog world about icecreams, I got to know that July is the National Icecream month! What a tasty month! Had I known that before, July would have been my favourite month!! WINK!


Recipe (Makes 1 quart) :

Whole fresh strawberries - 2 1/2 cup
Whole milk - 1/2 cup
Eggs - 2
Sugar - 2/3 cup
Vanilla - 1 tsp
Whipping cream - 1 cup

Method:

In a blender or a food processor, add the milk, eggs and strawberries.

Puree until smooth and well-blended.

Transfer into a large bowl.

Add the sugar, vanilla and whipping cream.

Stir well.

Transfer to an icecream maker.

Freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.

Tips:
  1. I only made half the recipe.
  2. If using frozen strawberries, use unsweetened frozen fruit, thawed before pureeing.
  3. I dont have an icecream maker and I used a handmixer to whip the icecream to a creamy consistency. Trust me, it works!
  4. Once you stir in the cream, vanilla and sugar, mix the icecream using the whip attachment (not the beaters) of an electric mixer or use an ordinary whisk.
  5. Mix for 2-3 minutes every hour for 3 hours and then freeze until set.
  6. Chocolate cup was made by lining a small bowl with plastic wrap and then spreading melted chocolate over it and freezing until set.

I am sending my Strawberry icecream to,











  1. Fresh produce of the month - Strawberries hosted by An Italian in the US.
  2. Sweet Series - Cool Desserts hosted by Mythreyee of Paajaka.

July 16, 2008

Noodles with Peanut Sauce


Pasta, in their noodle form, was one of the most welcomed food when we were young. I had no trouble polishing off my plate if noodles were served anytime of the day. I would almost always order noodles in some form or the other when we would go out to eat! But times changed, our tastes and preferences changed. Nowadays, eventhough I dont choose noodles at restaurants, it always has a lot of fond memories associated with it, reminding me of the good, carefree times of my childhood. In those days all you had to do was "order around" your mom to get a steaming plate of noodles! ;-). I am noticing the same thing with my lil one who would eat without complaining when I serve noodles on her plate. It might be that the kids have some kind of fascination towards the long slender pasta or maybe it is sloppiness involved in eating it ;-) !

Anyways, I fell in love with this peanut sauce the first time I made it. I made a minor change, but the resultant sauce was terrific!! I made this dinner twice in the same week. The sauce is quick to make and just involves mixing together a few ingredients. The only work is to cook the noodles. The vegetables are cut very thin and again there is no cooking involved. This is a very tasty quick lunch or dinner, especially when you are feeling lazy to make elaborate meals. Try it out sometime, its delicious!!



Recipe (Serves 4) :

Egg noodles - 6 oz, fresh or dried
Salt - 1 tsp
Vegetable oil - 2 tsp
Green onions - 2, with tops, shredded
Carrot - 1 small
Cucumber - 1 medium
Snow peas - 2 oz

Peanut sauce:

Creamy peanut butter - 1/4 cup
Sesame oil - 2 tbsp
Soy sauce - 3 tbsp
Vinegar - 2 1/2 tbsp
Sugar - 2 tbsp
Water - 3 tbsp
Dry mustard - 1 tbsp

Method:

Cook the noodles with salt and vegetable oil, until the noodles are done.

Rinse with cold water and drain. Set aside.

Place the shredded green onions in ice water for 10 minutes. Drain well.

Peel the carrot and cut into matchstick strips.

Peel the cucumber and slice into 2" pieces, then cut into matchstick pieces.

Remove and discard the string from the pea pods.

Place the peas in boiling water and return to a boil.

Immediately rinse with cold water and drain thoroughly.

Cut into 1/8" matchstick strips.

To prepare the sauce, in a medium bowl, thoroughly mix the peanut butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and water.

In a separate bowl, mix the dry mustard with 1 tbsp water until smooth.

Add this mixture to the peanut sauce and stir until well combined.

Place the noodles on a serving platter.

Arrange the carrot, cucumber, and snow pea pods in a spoke on top of the noodles.

Place the green onions in the center of the spoke.

Before serving, pour the peanut sauce over and toss gently.

Source: Everyday Chinese Cooking by Leeann Chin and Katie Chin.

Tips:
  1. I omitted cucumber and snowpeas. Since I didnt use these ingredients, the whole prep was pretty simple.
  2. I also didnt have any dry mustard.
  3. I only had chunky peanut butter, so I used the specified quantity of that.


I am sending this to "Its all about memories" event at Jeena's Kitchen of Chef Jeena! Eventhough this sauce was not something I was familiar with during my early days, noodle dishes have plenty of fond memories associated with them! ;-)

I am also sending this to "Eat Healthy-Protein Rich" event at Sangeeth's Art of Cooking Indian Food, since peanuts are a good source of protein.