July 27, 2011

Strawberry Fraisiers for DB Challenge!

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.
I am back to blogging just in time for this month's DB challenge, after a seemingly long break of a couple of months. I was just caught up in life's busy schedule. A lot has happened in the last few months. My parents are visiting us from India for 3 months and my lil girl is enjoying the attention and love of her grandparents whom she has not seen for a couple of years. I had to change my job, life has been busy with the new job and new responsibilities! Change is hard, I got through it and am much more comfortable now at my new place... I sure missed blogging but you all know how it is...
Another awesome news is that I got to go to the U2 concert in Minneapolis - was a night of fun and awesome music! I had so much fun!! Thanks to my dear husband for gifting us with the great seats and a great experience! Loooooooved it!

Now, coming back to the challenge, let me start by saying that this was one of the most fun challenges ever! Thanks, Jana! It was enjoyable every step of the way, with simple ingredients and techniques, but still with an oppurtunity for creativity and skills... Eventhough, I thought that I had made mistakes with the pastry cream and the cake, in the end it turned out beautiful, silky smooth, cool and refreshing. The entire cake was just amazing, not so sweet, not heavy and overwhelming, but really soothing, cool and really summer-y!! I am really happy with the outcome of my challenge, and would recommend this to everyone- it makes a great summer cake!

My cake did sink out of the oven, but it was still soft and airy, so I just leveled off the top and used as directed. My pastry cream did thicken a bit more than I would have liked, so I added more milk to thin it out. So I used gelatin accordingly to account for the extra cream. Like others mentioned, I think the hardest part was covering the springform ring with clingwrap! The wait after assembly was another agonizing step without knowing whether the cake assembly was perfect and whether the cream would hold up.

Needless to say, everything went well, and the cake held up beautifully. Even the slice was beautiful and held up without getting squished. In short, my family enjoyed it immensely and so did my friend. I also saved a slice for my coworker (Allison, thats you!) who enjoyed every bit of it, I was thrilled with her reaction! Anyways, its great to be back with a great challenge completed successfully..

Basic Chiffon Cake:
for gluten free and vegan options see the links at the end

1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270 ml) (5½ oz/155 gm) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) baking powder
3/4 cups (180 ml) (6 oz /170 gm) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) salt, preferably kosher
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (3.17 fl oz/95 ml) water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (3 gm) lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) cream of tartar

1. Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3).

2. Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.

3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.

4. In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly.

5. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.

6. Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.

7. Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.

8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

9. Removed the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.

10. To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days.

Variations to the Basic Chiffon Cake:
Lemon Chiffon Cake
Ingredient Alterations:

Reduce water to 1/4 cup (60 ml)
Add 1/8 cup (30 ml) lemon juice
Increase lemon zest to 1½ teaspoon (7½ ml) (5 gm)
Remove the vanilla from the recipe

Direction Alterations:
Follow the directions, same as above, adding the lemon juice and zest to the oil, egg yolks and water in step 4.

Orange Chiffon Cake

Ingredient Alterations:

Replace the full amount of water with orange juice
Replace lemon zest with the zest of one orange
Remove the vanilla from the recipe

Direction Alterations:
Follow the directions, same as above, adding the orange juice and zest to the oil, and egg yolks in step 4.

Coconut Chiffon Cake
Ingredient Alterations:
Add ¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) freshly ground nutmeg
Reduce oil to 1/8 cup (1 fl oz/30ml)
Reduce water to 1/8 cup (1 fl oz/30ml)
Add 1/3 cup (2 ⅔ fl oz/80 ml) unsweetened coconut milk
Remove the vanilla from the recipe

Direction Alterations:
Follow the directions, same as above, adding the nutmeg to the flour mixture in step 3, and the coconut
milk to the oil, water and egg yolks in step 4.

Chocolate Chiffon Cake
Ingredient Alterations:
Reduce all-purpose flour to ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon (195 ml) (4 oz/110 g)
Add 1/4 cup (60 ml) (3/4 oz/20 g) cocoa powder
Direction Alterations:
Follow the directions, same as above, adding the cocoa to the flour mixture in step 3.

Pastry Cream Filling:
Gluten Free! Vegans see the links at the end!

1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) whole milk
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon (1/2 ml) (¼ gm) salt, preferably kosher
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (10 gm)cornstarch
1/4 cup (60 ml) (2 oz/55 gm) sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz/30 gm) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (4 gm) gelatin
1/2 tablespoon (7½ ml) water
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) heavy cream

1. Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine.

3. Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.

4. When the milk is ready, gently and slowly while the stand mixer is whisking, pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture.

5. Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon.

6. Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.

7. Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth.

8. Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for up to five days.

9. In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.

10. Put two inches (55 mm) of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.

11. Measure 1/4 cup (2 oz/60 ml) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.

12. Heat the cream until it is 120 F (48.8 C). Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.

13. In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.

Simple Syrup:
gluten free and vegan!

You may choose to flavor the syrup. One way is to use flavored sugar (for example:
apple cider sugar, orange sugar, or vanilla sugar) or to stir in 1-2 teaspoons of
flavored extract. You may also infuse with herbs or spices, if desired or add four
tablespoons (60 ml) of fruit juice or liqueur while the syrup is cooling.
1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) (2⅔ oz/75 gm) of sugar, flavored or white
1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) of water

1. Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not
necessary, but will not harm the syrup.

3. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly.

4. Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup can be stored for up to one month.

Fraisier Assembly:

1 baked 8 inch (20 cm) chiffon cake
1 recipe pastry cream filling
⅓ cup (80 ml) simple syrup or flavored syrup
2 lbs (900 g) strawberries
confectioners’ sugar for dusting
½ cup (120 ml) (5 oz/140 gm) almond paste


1. Line the sides of a 10-inch (25 cm) spring form pan with plastic wrap. Do not line the bottom of the pan.
2. Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers.
3. Fit the bottom layer into the prepared spring form pan. Moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
4. Hull and slice in half enough strawberries to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the strawberry against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring.
5. Pipe cream in-between strawberries and a thin layer across the top of the cake.
6. Hull and quarter your remaining strawberries and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover the strawberries and entirely with the all but 1 tbsp. (15 ml) of the pastry cream.
7. Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup.
8. Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners' sugar and roll out the almond paste to a 10-inch (25 cm) round 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) thick. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of pastry cream on the top of the cake and cover with the round of almond paste.
9. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
10. To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the plastic wrap.
11. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Thanks for visiting Tasty treats! Do try out this recipe, you will definitely be pleased! :-)

April 27, 2011

Maple mousse in edible cups for Daring Bakers

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com/!

Oh yeah!!! I was soo excited to see that there was an award offered this month for the most creative edible container! But it turned to be one of my most uncreative months! Yeah, I did make some fun containers that I have never tried before, but I did not "wow" myself! We did get some very pretty pictures of the mousse and the edible containers, though!! I am very happy with this set of natural light photography! :-)

Now that the time for the challenge is over, I am getting new ideas (ofcourse!!). I think maple mousse truffles covered in tempered chocolate would have been nice! Maybe even a maple mousse cake pop covered in a myriad of colors... A chocolate cage, or a sugar cup.. Oh my! I should've done some of those..... But the best part of this challenge is that I have a new found love towards chocolate art! I am fearless of tempering chocolate and I have great interest in learning about chocolate art now!! The mousse was amazing, it showed me how better pure maple syrup is, how maple flavored syrup cannot capture even remotely the goodness of pure syrup! It was pure heaven in a chocolate cup. The recipe yielded enough mousse to cover dessert for more than a few days!! I am happy with the outcomes of the challenge. The challenge was YUMMMMMMYYY!!! :-)

Bacon Cups:

24 thin slices good quality bacon
1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C.
2. Take a muffin pan or 6 small ½ cup capacity heat-proof bowls, turn upside down and carefully form aluminum foil covers on the back of 6 muffin cups or the bowls.
3. Taking 2 strips of bacon at a time crisscross the strips over the backs of the muffin cups and cut to size a tad longer then the bottom part of the cup. Now use 1 to 2 more strips to cover the sides of the muffin cups in a weaving fashion. You want a full tight weave because bacon shrinks a lot. For smaller cups I used a shot glass with a square of bacon for the bottom and I wrapped 1 strip around the side.
4. Tuck the ends of the bacon strips inside otherwise they will curl while cooking. A good idea is to insert 4 toothpicks where the crisscrossed bacon meets in the weave.
5. Place muffin pan in a cookie tray to catch drippings. Bake in oven for about 25 to 40 minutes, or until the bacon is golden and crisp but not burned.
6. Cool completely, a good hour, before removing your cups delicately from the foil.

Nut Bowls:

 1 1/2 cups crushed nuts of your choice such as almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts
 1 egg, beaten, at room temperature
 2 tablespoon sugar
 1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces
1. Use a food processor or a zip-lock back with a rolling pin to crush your nuts if whole, use about 1 cup of whole nuts to get 3/4 cups crushed. You want it somewhat coarse.
2. In a bowl mix the nuts with the beaten egg and the sugar.
3. Take 6 small ½ cup capacity Pyrex cups or a similar container and line the inside with aluminum foil. Spread ¼ cup of the mixture in the bowl, all the way up to the sides making sure you have a thin and even clean layer all around.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F/175 degrees C. until the nuts are golden and fragrant (about 15 minutes). Let cool completely before unmoulding.
5. Melt chocolate (either in the microwave or over a double boiler). Dip the rims of the cooled nut bowls in the chocolate. Place in the freezer for at least 15 minutes or until the chocolate has hardened and is set.

Maple Mousse:
 1 cup (240 ml/ 8 fluid oz.) pure maple syrup (not maple-flavoured syrup)
 4 large egg yolks
 1 package (7g/1 tbsp.) unflavoured gelatine
 1 1/2 cups (360 ml. g/12 fluid oz) whipping cream (35% fat content)
1. Bring maple syrup to a boil then remove from heat.
2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and pour a little bit of the maple syrup in while whisking (this is to temper your egg yolks so they don’t curdle).
3. Add warmed egg yolks to hot maple syrup until well mixed.
4. Measure 1/4 cup of whipping cream in a bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Place the bowl in a microwave for 45 seconds (microwave for 10 seconds at a time and check it in between) or place the bowl in a pan of barely simmering water, stir to ensure the gelatine has completely dissolved.
5. Whisk the gelatine/whipping cream mixture into the maple syrup mixture and set aside.
6. Whisk occasionally for approximately an hour or until the mixture has the consistency of an unbeaten raw egg white.
7. Whip the remaining cream. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the maple syrup mixture. Fold in the remaining cream and refrigerate for at least an hour.
8. Remove from the fridge and divide equally among your edible containers.

Vegan Maple Mousse:
 1 package (12 oz.) soft silken tofu
 ¾ cup (14 fluid oz.) pure maple syrup
 2 teaspoon agar-agar
1. Let tofu come to room temperature. Using a food processor, blender, or hand mixer, blend tofu until just smooth.
2. Sprinkle agar-agar on the maple syrup and let it rest for 10 minutes. Heat maple syrup on the stove to a boil and then let it simmer 5 minutes until the agar-agar has dissolved.
3. In a food processor, blender, or a large bowl, blend the tofu with the maple syrup until creamy.
4. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Remove from the fridge and divide among your edible containers.

Meringue (optional):
 3 large egg whites at room temperature
 ¾ cup (165 g./5.5 oz) sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F/150 degrees C.
2. Put the egg whites in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer beat for a few minutes until the whites become stiff. Now add the sugar, a little at a time, whisking until the mixture is stiff and glossy. You should be able to turn the bowl upside down and the mixture won’t fall out.
3. Place baking parchment on to a clean baking sheet. Using a spoon or a piping bag, dollop the meringue into circles that fit inside the rim of your edible cups. (See mine, I wanted height but they fell a bit...which is OK...freeform art)
4. Put the tray in the oven, then immediately turn the oven down to 250 degrees F/130 degrees C. and bake for 45 minutes.
5. Turn off the oven and allow the meringues to cool in the oven for a few hours.
6. Place meringues as decoration on your maple mousse which has already be spooned into your edible containers.

Chocolate Tulip cups:

Blow some balloons to the size of an orange or bigger, depending on the size of the desired tulips cups. Melt chocolate in 15s increments in the microwave until melted and smooth. Let the chocolate get to slightly warm temperature. Dip the balloon slightly slanted and overlapping so as to make the petals of the tulips. Hold the balloons vertically on a parchment lined sheet pan for a few seconds and let harden. Gently snip the upper tip of the balloon with scissors and let the air escape slowly. Remove the balloons and fill the chocolate containers with your desired filling and enjoy!

I used light chocolate candy melts (Michaels) and white chocolate chips (Hershey's) swirled together for my tulip cups.

Chocolate cups using cupcake liners:

Melt chocolate at 15s increments in the microwave until melted and smooth and at about 40C. Temper the chocolate using the microwave method (just google!!). Brush a layer of melted tempered chocolate onto the bottom and sides of a cupcake liner placed in a muffin pan. Tempered chocolate will dry quickly and will have a snap to it when broken. Enjoy with your favorite filling!

Sugar Brandy Snaps:

Check out this link for the recipe I used to make sugar brandy snaps. I didn't use brandy or ginger though! :-) I just kept them as flat snaps and I thought they looked stunning!! Follow steps 1-3 for sugar snaps!

The texture and taste of real tempered chocolate is much much better than candy melts. They seemed a bit chewy for my taste whereas the chocolate cups that I made with tempered semisweet chocolate were amazing!! Chocolate and maple mousse go very well together! YUMM!

Candy melts are convenient in that we do not need to go into the trouble of tempering them. They also set pretty quick. They are good in that we can make cut outs and/or mold them a bit easier (I felt) than real chocolate.

My chocolate tulip cups and chocolate cups were satisfying!! Maple mousse was just out of the world! It would have been fine if it was a little less sweet.

Thanks for visiting!! Enjoy your week! Couldn't stop myself from posting all these pictures.. Hope you enjoyed going through the pictures as much as I did presenting them!

March 28, 2011

Chocolate Silk Raspberry Tart

It finally feels like spring in Minnesota! I am glad that the snow showers and the extreme cold are done with atleast for a while! Now starts the time of getting together with friends and celebrating some good times before the next strike of winter, which will be here sooner than desirable in MN :-(
I am also glad its a Friday (TGIF)! - been looking forward to this break ever since Monday ;-). I thought I would also share with you a dessert that I recently tried when we had some friends over at our home. This is one delicious, smooth, creamy and rich dessert! It's relatively easy and can be prepared ahead of time. The recipe isn't as complicated as its name "Chocolate Silk Raspberry Tart". I found the recipe on Betty Crocker website. Chocolate Silk Raspberry Tart

Ingredients: 20 creme-filled golden sandwich cookies, crushed (2 cups) 1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips 2 cups whipping (heavy) cream 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened 1 cup fresh raspberries 2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam

Directions: Heat oven to 375°F. In medium bowl, mix cookie crumbs and butter. In 9- or 10-inch springform pan, press mixture in bottom and 1 inch up side. Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until set. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in 1-quart saucepan, heat chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of the whipping cream over low heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate is melted. Stir in vanilla. Cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. In large bowl with electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Beat in chocolate mixture until creamy. Set aside. In another large bowl with electric mixer, beat remaining 1 1/2 cups whipping cream on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold half of whipped cream into cream cheese mixture until blended. Fold in remaining whipped cream. Spoon into cooled baked crust. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. To serve, arrange raspberries around edge of tart. In small microwavable bowl, microwave jam on High 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted; lightly brush over raspberries. Remove side of pan. Cut tart into wedges. Store in refrigerator.

MY VARIATIONS: I layered the crushed cookies on the bottom only of a springform pan and baked until golden brown and set. I made the dessert the day before and refrigerated until serving. Instead of using raspberry jam, I bought a frozen bag of raspberries. Thawed it by immersing the puch in water for 10-15 minutes. Kept the thawed raspberries refrigerated. Unmolded the tart from the springform pan and just before serving, spooned the raspberries with the juice (not heavy syrup and hence not extremely sweetened) along the sides of the tart. A few sprigs of mint and some chocolate shavings completed the decor. It sure looked and tasted amazing!

VERDICT: We really enjoyed this dessert as did our guests! They gave me rave reviews! My lil girl who isn't much receptive even to desserts, enjoyed this immensely. With the cream cheese in it, it definitely tasted a lot like cheesecake which was amazing! It sure was pure creamy dreamy heaven! The slightly tart raspberries were amazing against the sweet smooth chocolate filling. The baked crushed golden cookies added a crunch and character to the tart. I am a fan, for sure! Please do try this out and I'm sure you'll looove it!

March 27, 2011

Chocolate - Almond Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake for DB Challenge!

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake. Here I am posting my finished product eventhough its a day late! Let me just quickly write about how much I LOVED this coffee cake! The dough was very smooth sexy and elastic, as they described it, and very easy to put together and work with. The yeast worked magic on the dough and turned it into the light and airy dough wonder which rose beautifully! The meringue was a breeze to make (I used egg whites from Crystal farms to make the meringue). I rolled out the dough to an approximate size, spread the meringue and chocolate chips with some crushed roasted almonds. The rolling part was a little tricky and messy as the meringue was trying to squish itself out of the dough roll. I managed to roll the dough and used a round condiment bowl to shape the wreath (which resulted in a bit of a lopsided wreath because the ends of the rolls were not filled, and the attachment of the ends was not perfect!). I cut the wreath using a knife deep so as to cut into a few layers, but still left the bottom layer uncut. I brushed the wreath with egg white before baking.

Baked the roll as mentioned for about 25-30 minutes until it was golden brown on the darker side. The result was an amazing and beautiful coffee cake. I didn't have the time or patience to let it cool (was baking at bedtime!). I had a 5yr old clinging to my knees begging for a taste of the coffee cake before she went to bed!! A dusting of cocoa powder and confectioner's sugar completed my coffee cake.

The cake was literally DEVOURED, once I cut into it. Did manage to salvage a few pieces for breakfast the next day and all was gone by then!! I would definitely try this again as the recipe was perfect and easy - light, not overwhelming, not extremely sweet but has all the right ingredients (if you know what I mean - sugar, chocolate and meringue!!). A perfect accompaniment to coffee, as breakfast or a snack!

My only disappointment was not being able to see swirls in the cut piece. A dusting of cocoa or cinnamon over the spread meringue or rolled out dough should do the trick. I will definitely try doing that the next time. I would also like to add some chopped dry fruits to the chocolate chip-nut mixture next time! All in all, I absolutely LOVED this challenge and I did complete it on time eventhough posting a day later!!


Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter. The recipe can easily be halved to make one round coffee cake


For the yeast coffee cake dough:

4 cups (600 g / 1.5 lbs.) flour
¼ cup (55 g / 2 oz.) sugar
¾ teaspoon (5 g / ¼ oz.) salt
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons / 7 g / less than an ounce) active dried yeast
¾ cup (180 ml / 6 fl. oz.) whole milk ¼ cup (60 ml / 2 fl. oz. water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
½ cup (135 g / 4.75 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature 2 large eggs at room temperature 10 strands saffron for Ria’s version (Saffron might be hard to find and it’s expensive, so you can substitute with ½ - 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom or ground nutmeg. Or simply leave it plain like Jamie’s version)

For the meringue: 3 large egg whites at room temperature ¼ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon vanilla ½ cup (110 g / 4 oz.) sugar

For the filling: Jamie’s version: 1 cup (110 g / 4 oz.) chopped pecans or walnuts 2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 cup (170 g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

Ria’s version: 1 cup (130 g / 5 oz.) chopped cashew nuts 2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar ½ teaspoon garam masala (You can make it at home – recipe below - or buy from any Asian/Indian grocery store) 1 cup (170g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips ( I used Ghirardelli)

Egg wash: 1 beaten egg
Cocoa powder (optional) and confectioner’s sugar (powdered/icing sugar) for dusting cakes

Directions: Prepare the dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups (230 g) of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast. In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted.

Ria’s version: add the 10 saffron threads to the warmed liquid and allow to steep off of the heat for 10 minutes. This will give the mixture a distinct aroma and flavor and a yellowish-orange hue. With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 cup (150 g) flour and beat for 2 more minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 1 ½ cups of flour remaining) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.

Place the dough in a lightly greased (I use vegetable oil) bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 – 60 minutes. The rising time will depend on the type of yeast you use.

Prepare your filling: In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling if using. You can add the chopped nuts to this if you like, but I find it easier to sprinkle on both the nuts and the chocolate separately.

Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue: In a clean mixing bowl – ideally a plastic or metal bowl so the egg whites adhere to the side (they slip on glass) and you don’t end up with liquid remaining in the bottom – beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the ½ cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.

Assemble the Coffee Cakes: Line 2 baking/cookie sheets with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 ½ cm) rectangle.

Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling of choice evenly over the meringue (ex: half of the cinnamon-sugar followed by half the chopped nuts and half of the chocolate chips/chopped chocolate).

Now, roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal.

Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (although scissors are easier), make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch (2 ½ cm) intervals. Make them as shallow or as deep as desired but don’t be afraid to cut deep into the ring.

Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings. Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown.

The dough should sound hollow when tapped. Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. Allow to cool. Just before serving, dust the tops of the coffee cakes with confectioner’s sugar as well as cocoa powder if using chocolate in the filling. These are best eaten fresh, the same day or the next day.

Look at how airy and the light the cake looks! Yeast works magic on the dough! All in all the result was just beautiful - well risen, baked to the right golden brown perfection...

March 21, 2011

Exciting new hobby!!

Hi All... I have a fun new exciting high- making birthday cakes!! Thanks to my friends Leslie and Sus, who trusted me enough to ask me to bake their daughters' birthday cakes! I had made a castle cake (made with 6 cakes) for my lil girl's birthday last year! I got very positive reviews after that but I wasn't bold enough to take any orders for the cake. But my friend Leslie thought that I should be able to make one for her lil girl who was turning 5 this month.

The first birthday girl wanted a princess with pink gown. I decided to do a yellow cake with strawberry preserves for the doll and a black forest cake with fondant (Wilton) covering to resemble a wrapped present, with the doll standing on top. The present cake was covered with a pastel pink fondant with bows, crullers and ribbon made out of white fondant. And thus my first ever doll and present cake was born! It turned out really well, and the guests were amazed and were kind enough to appreciate me!

The inspiration for the ruffled layers in the front of the doll came from a video of a cake on youtube and I searched for tutorials. Finally when I figured it out, I realised that it was a relatively easy and quick to master technique and yet gave breathtakingly beautiful and professional looking results!

For the crullers (fondant springs): Roll the fondant thin and make very thin long ribbons with a kinife. Drape the ribbon around the handle of a wooden spatula and allow to dry slightly. Slide the crullers off the handle gently and allow to harden completely.

I grew confident and I decided that I could accept a second cake order within a couple of weeks! Sus really liked pictures of the first cake and wanted a doll cake for her daughter too! But I changed the bottom of the second cake by covering it with buttercream (Wilton decorator's icing)icing with pink shells on the border and two toned roses.

The second doll was done pretty much similar to the first one except that the gown was of a slightly diferent pattern. I also tried using pearl dust (pink) on the gown and thats my new favorite cake decorating accessory!! The pearl dust gave such a beautiful sheen to the dress, I loved it! Its pretty easy to use - just mix with some vanilla extract and paint on! Pearls coated with shimmer dust also adorned the gown.

For the irrgeular green stringy leaves, pipe green tinted buttercream through a small round tip and allow to drop naturally on the cake. For two toned roses, apply gel coloring to the inside of the piping bag (on the narrow petal tip side of the bag). Pipe buttercream roses with icing tinted to a color lighter than the gel applied to the inside of the bag. I have sprinkled pink decoraring sugar on the cake. Also, put tiny drops of piping gel on the roses to resemble water drops.

Since I didnt take any pictures of how to make the ruffles during my first try, I took some this time. Hopefully someone else will find it useful! Please follow the basics of working with fondant - dust the work surface with confectioner's sugar, keeping the unused fondant covered. I did all my fondant work on a silpat mat.

Make crinkle cut outs from fondant. Cut the center of the cut outs using a smaller plain round cutter.

Take a tooth pick and press at the petal part of the cut out and roll it back and forth to thin out the area. Repeat through all the petals of the cut outs. Cut the ruffle ring along one petal and stretch to linearize.

Stick the ruffle to a crumb coated doll figurine. If attaching to a fondant covered surface, use little water to stick the ruffle to the fondant. I attached three of such ruffles to make the lowest layer of ruffle. Attach the second layer of ruffles overlapping the first (bottom). Repeat to cover the entire front of the doll. I did the next couple of layers with one ruffle each and then towards the top of the doll, one ruffle ring can be cut into two and stretched to make the top ruffle layers. Drape another layer of rolled fondant over the ruffles so as to cover the ends of the ruffles and make the gown.Decorate/punch designs on the drape before applying onto the cake.

I hand painted each star on the draped gown with the pearl dust, and also the ruffles. I am extremely happy with the results considering this is only my second doll cake!

I know I haven't covered everything in this post. So feel free to ask any questions that you might have, I would be happy to respond. Please do let me know your thoughts and suggestions on how I did!

Once again I am toasting to my new hobby! I just hope I would get enough time to be able to continue with it.... Cheers!!!

February 11, 2011

Layered Vanilla Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies!

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Unfortunately my computer broke recently (initially thought to be a virus but now it looks like a problem with the hard disk) and I dont have a quick access to any of my pictures! I am just heartbroken because I had put in a lot of effort into these layered pannacotta!! I am trying really hard to recover atleast some of my pictures! Lesson learned for not backing up stuff! Stay tuned and I will post them asap, if I am able to recover them!

UPDATE: I was able to get the pictures that I had posted on Daring Baker's forum. There were a lot of other pictures on my computer. I will try to recover them as soon as I get a chance.

VERDICT: This recipe for pannacotta is simply awesome!! I was not too excited when I first knew of the challenge, but this challenge resulted in such an awesome creamy smooth dessert, I fell in love with pannacotta all over again! The gelee that I made was using Pom Pomegranate-Blueberry juice and the tart gelee worked magic with the smooth creamy and dreamy pannacotta. You can work wonders with the presentation and will leave you satisfied with the results!

The florentine cookies were also amazing! Again, I was not too thrilled about oat cookies, but these were really delicious crisp cookies! The ease of prep work is also something to be mentioned! I will definitely make them again!

Giada's Vanilla Panna Cotta

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (one packet) (15 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups (720 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
1/3 cup (80 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) granulated sugar
pinch of salt


1. Pour the milk into a bowl or pot and sprinkle gelatin evenly and thinly over the milk (make sure the bowl/pot is
cold by placing the bowl/pot in the refrigerator for a few minutes before you start making the Panna Cotta). Let
stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
2. Pour the milk into the saucepan/pot and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat this mixture until it is hot,
but not boiling, about five minutes. (I whisk it a few times at this stage).
3. Next, add the cream, honey, sugar, and pinch of salt. Making sure the mixture doesn't boil, continue to heat and
stir occasionally until the sugar and honey have dissolved 5-7 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into the glass or ramekin.
5. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Add garnishes and serve.

Chocolate Panna Cotta:
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
2 cups (480 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
½ cup (115 gm) (4 oz) sugar
¾ cup (145 gm)(5 oz) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) vanilla extract
1. Pour milk into a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the top, set aside for 2-5 minutes.
2. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir in cream, sugar and vanilla. Bring to a low boil.
3. Add chocolate and whisk until melted. Whisk the milk/gelatin mixture into chocolate cream mixture. Whisk until gelatin has dissolved.
4. Transfer to ramekins, or nice glasses for serving.
5. Cover and chill at least 8 hours, or overnight.

Nestle Florentine Cookies:
Recipe from the cookbook “Nestle Classic Recipes”, and their website.


2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm) (5.3 oz) unsalted butter
2 cups (480 ml) (160 gm) (5 2/3 oz) quick oats
1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (95 gm) (3⅓ oz) plain (all purpose) flour
1/3 cup (60 ml) dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) dark or milk chocolate

Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F (190°C) (gas mark 5). Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.
1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.
2. To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well.
Drop a tablespoon full, three inches (75 mm) apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.
4. While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or stovetop (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl).
5. Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean).
6. Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate.
This recipe will make about 2 1/2 - 3 dozen sandwiched Florentine cookies. You can also choose not to sandwich yours, in which case, drizzle the tops with chocolate (over your wax paper).

Coffee Gelée:
Adapted from this recipe in Gourmet Magazine


2 cups (480 ml) good quality brewed coffee
1/4 cup (60 ml) hot water + 2 tablespoons (30 ml) cold water
1/2 cup (120 ml) (115 gm) (4 oz) granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (3½ gm) (1/8 oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract

1. Place granulated sugar and 1/4 c. hot water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir until the sugar has dissolved.
2. Sprinkle gelatin over 2 Tablespoons cold water and let it soften 2 minutes or so.
3. Stir the coffee, sugar, hot water, and vanilla into a small metal bowl, add gelatin mixture and stir well until gelatin has dissolved. If pouring over Panna Cotta, be sure that this mixture is no longer hot, it will melt Panna Cotta if it is, let it come to room temperature.

Fruit Gelée:
Recipe by Mallory


1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) fruit (strawberries, raspberries, mango, blackberry, etc.)
*Note: Certain fruits interact with gelatin and stop it gelling like pineapple and kiwi etc.
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
1/4 cup (60 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (3½ gm) (1/8 oz) unflavored powdered gelatin

1. Sprinkle gelatin over water.
2. Place fruit and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Now mix the gelatin into the strawberry mixture and stir until gelatin has dissolved.
3. Remove from heat and allow to cool (close to room temp, again, if you're planning on layering on pouring on top of your Panna Cotta, a hot mixture will also heat up your chilled Panna Cotta).

February 10, 2011

Croquembouche - revisited!!

Remember this, everybody!? Croquembouche was the DB challenge for the month of June, 2010. It was such fun making it the first time and sharing it with a bunch of friends! I decided to make it again during the holidays last year as a thankyou gift when we went over to a friend's for a dinner party!

I thought I would post the new pictures that we took of my second successful try and inspire those who haven't tried this before! Hope the pictures are tempting enough to give them a try!

Unadorned, but I still think they are super pretty!

Stay tuned for the DB challenge for this month! Have a great week!

February 2, 2011

Appetizers galore - 3 different appetizers to spice up your party!

Good morning everyone!

I would like to share with you a few appetizers that I had tried for a couple of parties around my daughter's birthday time and Christmas! I came across these recipes on allrecipes.com and kraftrecipes.com and decided to give them a try since they had very high ratings and awesome reviews! I first made them for my lil one's birthday party! Eventhough we had a whole Indian dinner planned afterwards, I had to have a lot of appetizers for our guests (I love trying out new ones!)! So I chose the 7-layer dip, bacon wrapped smokies and cheesy spinach-artichoke dip as my three new try-outs, along with others like meatballs, peanuts, chips and salsa and so on! They were simple, easy and had our guests rave about how awesome they were! I had recipe requests from our guests!

The preparation of 7-layer dip went without a hitch, eventhough mine was more like a 4-layer dip! I did the taco seasoning-refried beans layer. the cream cheese-sour cream layer, a thin salsa layer and then the cheese layer with a few sliced olives on top. It tasted superb! Pair it with Tostitos Hint of Lime chips and mmmwah! One of the top favorites especially among our vegetarian friends!

The bacon-wrapped smokies needed a bit more effort - wrapping each cocktail sausage with a slice of bacon. I cut each strip of bacon into three so that I could wrap three sausages with one bacon strip. The first time I made them, I did the mistake of keeping them on flat sheets for baking. Of course, the bacon fat and sugar dripped down onto the oven base (which I actually didn't notice until later), and when I tried to bake my cheesy spinach artichoke dip, it starting smoking and the fire alarm went off! Our fire alarm says "FIRE FIRE!" when its beeping and after the nerve-wracking episode of calming my lil one and her friend down, I decided I would use slow cooker for my next try, whenever it is!

It wasnt long after, when I made it again for our Christmas party! I used a slow cooker and cooked it over 4 hours or so, but the liquid that came out was too much, and so my smokies were not as coated as when I made them in the ove. So word of advice, use a pan with sides and bake the smokies to perfection, definitely use foil to line the pan! Eventhough it was a bit messy, we all enjoyed it so much, it was the star appetizer of the party!

Because of my oven mishap with the smokies, I couldnt bake the cheesy spinach artichoke dip. I microwaved it for 10 minutes or so, but was never the same as if I had baked it. And it cooled down pretty quickly, so it didn't have the pulled cheese look, when dipped into! But other than that it was also pretty tasty!

So try these out and I am sure you wont be disappointed! Please do leave your comments and/or suggestions about the blog or the post or just say hi when you drop by!