May 27, 2009

Cream Cheese - Mixed fruit bits Strudel

This time I should say I completed my challenge with time to spare, though just two days before! Yes, once again its time to reveal the DB challenge for the month of May. The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

First of all, I want to mention that the support and the rapport of the DB members in the DB forum is praise-worthy!! I had almost given up on my thought of attempting this challenge. Thankfully, I went through the posts of the DBers on our members only forum and I was in awe of the combinations that everybody had made. There were many who had done multiple versions and had gone really creative with their flavor combinations. Everybody offers each other support, suggestions and advice and it really inspired me to atleast attempt the challenge and I am happy to say that I did.

I really was not sure if we would like the strudel because we do not usually like dough based desserts (like pies - that doesnt mean that we wouldnt eat it, though!!). The recipe seemed really simple so I wasnt entirely happy with my decision to pass this challenge. But finally, on an instinct, I started putting the dough together on Monday. I actually used bleached enriched all-purpose flour. The dough came together well and it was allowed to rest for an hour and a half. The dough was stretched at first by rolling out and then by hand. I got a few tears but I didnt care! I was happy that I was even doing it!

From the date the challenge was revealed, I knew I wanted to do something with a cream cheese base. I saw quite a few of cream cheese cherry combo, so I decided to go with a fruit medley. I used the dried mixed fruit bits available and soaked it in rum extract and fruit juice for about an hour and a half. The cream cheese was beaten until smooth along with 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. The soaked fruits were then folded into the cream cheese mixture.

I divided the dough in half and worked with one half at a time. I stretched each half as much as I could, initially with a rolling pin and then with my hands. The stretched dough was smeared with melted butter and generously dusted with toasted breadcrumbs (store-bought). I divided the cream cheese mixture between the two strudel dough and the rolled the dough as instructed. I shaped one of the strudel logs into a horse-shoe and the other one was left as is. The top of the strudel was smeared with some melted butter and was sprinkled with a bit of breadcrumbs. After about 20 minutes of baking, I brushed the top of the strudels with an egg-wash, and baked for another 10 minutes.

The strudel was allowed to cool for another 30 minutes. The strudel was served with a drizzle of bittersweet chocolate and strawberry coulis.

My only complain is that in my horse-shoe shaped strudel, the most filling of cream cheese leaked out through the few tears in the dough and so when cut, there wasnt much filling left! So I was left wondering how it would've tasted! Be aware of the cons of the tears. But finally when I cut the log shaped one, it had a thick amazingly delicious cream cheese filling inside. I got quite a few layers in each strudel and they were delicate, thin and crisp to perfection. I refrigerated the left overs and yesterday evening after work, I tasted some straight from the fridge and it was awesome!! I would recommend it cold! It hadnt turned soggy at all, it was crisp and delicate just as before.


Eventhough I was a little apprehensive about trying this challenge, I am really happy that I did. This is not the best among the DB challenges for me, but still I really like the simplicity and the results of this recipe. The dough takes no time to put together and is very simple. Once you figure out the combination of the filling that you want, you can get the filling together while the dough rests. The stretching of the dough, if done a bit patiently, will work out perfect - its easier if done in half. The strudels were crisp, flaky and delicious. I got many delicate layers which baked to a perfect golden brown color. I was just ok with the taste on the day I baked them, but I was amazed with the delicious flavor after a day in the fridge. The pastry was still flaky and crisp and the filling was cool, creating a great feel in your mouth! I would like to make this again, with different fillings. It is not at all time-consuming when compared to some of the past DB challenges and is great as a home baked goodie which does not need days of preparation! :-) Thanks Linda and Courtney!!

Preparation time
Total: 2 hours 15 minutes – 3 hours 30 minutes
15-20 min to make dough
30-90 min to let dough rest/to prepare the fillin
20-30 min to roll out and stretch dough
10 min to fill and roll dough
30 min to bake
30 min to cool

Apple strudel from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbsstrudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel dough from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

Tips- Ingredients are cheap so we would recommend making a double batch of the dough, that way you can practice the pulling and stretching of the dough with the first batch and if it doesn't come out like it should you can use the second batch to give it another try
;- The tablecloth can be cotton or polyster.
;- Before pulling and stretching the dough, remove your jewelry from hands and wrists, and wear short-sleeves.
;- To make it easier to pull the dough, you can use your hip to secure the dough against the edge of the table.
;- Few small holes in the dough is not a problem as the dough will be rolled, making (most of) the holes invisible.

Both Courtney and I did a trial run on making the strudel. Below are our notes:

Courtney's notes- She could't get it to stretch to 2 feet by 3 feet, it turned out more like 2 feet by 2 feet. But the dough was tissue thin nevertheless;- She got some serious holes, but after rolling it wasn't noticeable;- She used a large cheese cloth which helped manipulate and stretch the dough more than a heavier cloth would have.

My notes- I made the dough by hand, just mixed the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. Kneaded it for about 5 min like you would bread dough. This worked as well. Haven't tried using a standmixer so I don't know how it compares.- Instead of cider vinegar I used red wine vinegar;- I used bread flour;- Picking up the dough to let it stretch didn't work well for me, holes appeared pretty much instantly. Instead I stretched the dough while it was lying on the tablecloth by putting my hands underneath and stretching it out further and further.

Here's a
link to a strudel making video that might help you a bit. Check out the DB bloroll for more ideas.

May 19, 2009

Caramel Custard Pudding - One of my favorites!!!

Caramel custard pudding is one of my all-time favorite desserts. I love the texture, the taste and the feel that this dessert brings. The smooth, creamy, cool feel of this amazing dessert in your mouth, can be best described as heavenly!

I dont remember the first time I had this wonderful piece of heaven, but I do remember that my mom used to make this at home for special occassions and sometimes, just because :-). My brother and I were ardent lovers of mom's caramel custard and it isnt surprising at all that I learned the recipe for this before any other!! My mom used to cook the custard in a pressure cooker (without gasket) and basically steam it. My brother and I would fight like crazy for the liquid caramel that forms once its cooked.

After coming to the US, I searched for a recipe that didnt require the custard to be steamed, but rather could be baked. I came across this amazing recipe at Chef De Cuisine. I tried these out and they came out really well. Since then, I have made this recipe a zillion times since then, mostly in half the quantity, and have always been happy with it. So I thought that its high time that I shared this recipe which has given me good results consistently. JM is also a big fan of caramel custard and there's no doubt that this will be our go-to recipe forever! The pictured custard was gone in two days, I mean TWO days!!! (Actually we started working on this last Friday night, and it was gone by Saturday evening!!). Do try this out and I know you will love it! I will be happy to answer any questions that you might have, so please send an email to

Recipe (Serves 8) :

For the caramel :

Sugar - 3/4 cup
Water - 2 tbsp

Heat the sugar and water together in a saucepan. Melt the sugar and wait until the sugar is caramelized and turns dark brown. Remove from heat and pour into a large mould or individual moulds. Swirl to cover the bottom of the mould/s and allow to cool completely.

For the custard:

Eggs - 6
Milk - 1 quart (32oz)
Granulated sugar - 1 cup
Vanilla essence - 1 tsp

Method :

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

Beat the eggs and sugar together until well blended.

Boil the milk in a saucepan.

Add the boiling milk into the egg-sugar mixture and mix until uniform.

Stir in the vanilla essence.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into the single large mold or individual molds.

Bake in a water bath for about 30 minutes for a single mold and 20 minutes for smaller individual molds.

Allow to cool and refrigerate.

Before serving, run a knife through the edge of the mold and invert onto a serving plate.


Source : Chef De Cuisine

  1. The recipe can be halved and it still works.
  2. Before pouring into the caramel coated mould, cool the custard mix slightly so that it doesnt melt the caramel coating.
  3. For the waterbath, place the mould in a bigger oven-proof pan/skillet and pour hot or boiling water atleast halfway up the sides of the custard mould. The waterbath helps the custard to cook uniformly without drying up.
  4. Caramel custard can be also served with fresh fruits. I just served them plain with some caramel juice, which is just the way we like it! :-)
  5. The caramel custard can also be cooked by steaming.
  6. Make sure to add the milk to the egg-sugar mixture and not the other way around, theres a chance of the mixture appearing curdled, if you do.

Thanks for visiting! Have a great day!

May 13, 2009

Iced Chocolate Nut Gateau

I have been eyeing this dessert since I bought the "Desserts 500 delicious recipes" book. It has all the stuff that I love - its sweet, its frozen, it has nuts and whipped cream with delicious sponge fingers. I finally got a chance to make it last weekend. My dad was visiting us from my brother's in Seattle, on his way back to India. I took it as a chance to try out a new dessert as it was an excellent chance to divide the calories ;-).... Am I evil, well, I dont think so! It was an awesome dessert, perfectly sweetened and light. The whipped cream made fresh at home and the light sweetness imparted by just the right amount of confectioner's sugar is remarkable. I personally love the taste of hazelnuts and this reminded me of the delectable Ferrero Rocher, one of my favorite kind of chocolate. The sponge fingers lend the spongy texture of a cake, and the whipped cream gives the feel of an icecream. The chopped hazelnuts and morsels of chocolate were exceptional, making for a delicious bite among the light and fluffy whipped cream! My favorite part of this dessert was the hazelnut bits and the soaked sponge fingers.

I believe that this will taste just as delicious with almonds or cashews as well. Once the gateau is thawed in the fridge for about 10 minutes, the dessert will be ready to be sliced and served. I served the dessert with a simple decoration of cool whip swirls and a few cherry chocolate chips and hazelnuts. Try these out and I am sure you will love it. It makes for a really simple dessert with which you can impress your guests. Dust with a little cocoa and sugar and it will look stunning. Enjoy!!

Recipe (Serves 6-8) :

Hazelnuts - shelled, 3/4 cup
Sponge fingers - about 32
Cold strong black coffee - 2/3 cup
Brandy - 2 tbsp
Double (heavy) cream - 2 cups
Confectioner's (icing) sugar - 2/3 cup, sifted
Semi-sweet chocolate - 5 oz, chopped into small pieces
Icing sugar and Cocoa powder (for dusting)


Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Spread out the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 5 minutes until golden.

Turn the nuts onto a clean dish towel and rub off the skins while still warm.

Cool, then chop finely.

Line a 5 cup loaf tin with cling wrap and cut the sponge fingers to fit the base and sides.

Reserve remaining fingers.

Mix the coffee with the brandy in a shallow dish.

Dip the sponge fingers briefly into the coffee mixture and return to tin, sugar side down, to fit.

Whip the cream with the icing sugar until it holds soft peaks.

Fold half of the chopped chocolate into the cream with the hazelnuts.

Use gentle figure-of -eight action to distribute the chocolate and nuts evenly.

Melt the remaining chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Cool, then fold into the cream mixture. Spoon into the tin.

Moisten the reamining fingers in the coffee mixture - take care not to soak the fingers, otherwise they will collapse.

Lay the moistened fingers over the filling.

Wrap and freeze until firm.

To serve, remove from the freezer 30 minutes before serving to allow the icecream to soften slightly.

Turn out onto a serving plate and dust with icing sugar and cocoa powder.

Source: Desserts 500 delicious recipes; Edited by Ann Kay.


  1. I didnt use brandy with coffee. I used a bit of hot cocoa powder along with the coffee powder to make the dipping.
  2. I used about 4 oz of semi-sweet chocolate.
  3. I just had 24 sponge fingers (while the sponge fingers were in storage at my home, some in-home thieves stole the rest!), so I didnt top the dessert (when served, it lines the bottom) with moistened sponge fingers.
  4. The gateau was served decorated with whipped cream, whole hazelnuts and cherry chocolate chips.
  5. The dessert is very lightly sweetened. So if you are into sugar-high desserts, add more confectioner's sugar to the cream before whipping.

Have a great day!!

May 8, 2009

Steamed rice cakes and Black chickpeas curry (Puttum Kadalayum)

Hey everyone, how are you all doing? I finally started my work at the University this week - on Tuesday! Its become really hectic at home nowadays since I take the bus and have to leave home at 6.50 am. The evenings are just as hard because poor lil LM also gets home after almost 9 hours at school and is really tired after all the running around! I am planning on taking the Fridays off and finally my first weekend is here today!! :-) Its a lot of work at the research lab with a lot of standing and walking around! But I should say that it feels good to be back in a lab after a gap of 3 years. Because of the new experience, I couldnt plan well on my posts last week, but I hope to post regularly from next week onwards!

This recipe for the Black chickpea curry is from my mother-in-law who visited us last year. I had taken these pictures then and was saved as a draft for so long!! Puttu (steamed rice cakes) and kadala (black chickpea curry) is an outstanding breakfast combo in Kerala, India. Eventhough it is more popular as a breakfast item, you can get these anytime you fancy, from one of the roadside stalls or restaurants. Puttu is a simple blend of rice flour, salt and water which is then steamed in cigar shaped or bowl shaped molds. You can also use a regular steamer in which case the puttu will not be in any molded shape. I didnt like it as much when growing up, but after moving to the US and not getting to eat these made it a delicacy for us!!

Puttu can also be eaten with sugar or ripe bananas (for sweet versions) or also with whole moong dal curry (cherupayar curry). Since coconut is abundant there, Keralites typically tend to use a lot of coconut in their cooking - puttu can be made by either mixing grated coconut with the flour or just lining the steamer with grated coconut.

I made these steamed rice cakes in a small steel "chiratta" vessel which is shaped like a coconut shell and can be steamed on the steam outlet of a pressure cooker. So its called chiratta puttu. In addition to imparting the cute shape to the puttu, the "chiratta puttu" vessel also makes it easier to steam the individual portions of puttu in less than a couple of minutes. Read more about puttu at wiki. I usually use the puttu flour available in Indian stores (Double Horse brand), for making these. It is basically plain rice flour, but the ones for puttu is more coarsely ground than the fine rice flour available in general grocery stores. If using fine rice flour, it might help to dry-roast the flour in a skillet, wetting the flour with water and then steaming the puttu.

Black chickpeas takes a long time to cook, so do soak it overnight in water. Using a pressure cooker makes it easier to cook after soaking, even then it takes about 20 minutes. If using a saucepan to took, be advised that it will take longer. Chickpeas curry can be had along with many other traditional Kerala breakfast or even with rice. The coconut milk in the curry makes it an all time delicious and sought after traditional Kerala curry.

I hope these descriptions are enough for those who are not familiar with these dishes. Trust me, its a very delicious combo, especially the black chickpea curry with coconut milk. The recipe follows. So try these out and let me know how it turned out. I would be happy to answer any more questions that you might have. Enjoy!!

Black Chickpea Curry

Recipe :

Dried black chickpeas - 1 1/2 cups
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Garlic - 3 cloves, sliced lengthwise
Onion - 1 small, sliced
Curry leaves - a handful (if using)
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Chili powder - 1/2 tsp
Garam masala - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Pepper powder - 1/4 tsp
Canned thick coconut milk - 1/2 cup


Soak the chickpeas overnight in water.

Pressure cook the chickpeas in enough water for a whistle.

Reduce the flame and cook for about 15-20 minutes.

In a pan, pop the mustard seeds in oil.

Add the sliced onions, garlic and curry leaves and saute.

Once the onions are soft and sauteed well, add the spice powders.

Saute until the spices are well cooked.

Add the cooked chickpeas with any remaining water to the pan.

Season with salt and bring to a boil.

Boil the curry until it is of the desired consistency.

Just before removing from heat, pour the thick coconut milk and mix well.

Serve hot with puttu!!

Steamed rice cakes / Puttu :

Take the desired amount of rice flour and add salt to it. Then add warm water, a little at a time until the flour is just wet. Break up the lumps with your finger tips and palms, until soft and powdery, and just wet. The puttu flour is now ready to be steamed.

One way to make sure that the flour has been adequately wet is to hold a handful of flour and press lightly to shape. If the flour holds the shape and then breaks up easily when pressed, the flour is ready!

For the chiratta puttu:

Boil a cup of water in a pressure cooker. Cover with the lid and allow the steam to escape through the outlet on top. Line the steel puttu mold with a bit of grated coconut. Fill the mold loosely with wet puttu flour. Cover with the mold lid. Keep the mold on top of the steam outlet. The puttu is done when steam comes out of the top of the puttu mold. Srve hot and enjoy with hot chickpea curry!!

Hope you enjoyed reading the post. Have a great weekend!!