NAN KHATAI

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A close relative of the short bread cookies, these are popular cookies in western India, made usually during Diwali by The Maharashtrian and Gujarati communities. Most households in India do not own ovens. The ladies make the dough at home and bring it to the commercial bakeries for baking. Before the festival you can see long serpentine queues of women sitting on the pavements outside bakeries, patiently rolling the dough into balls and lining them up in tins, cheerfully chatting away, blissfully unaware of the traffic chaos they are causing. They are forgiven for the sake of these heavenly cookies and anyways all is fair and taken for granted in the spirit of Diwali.

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RECIPE

1 ¼ cup All-purpose Flour

¼ cup semolina

½ teaspooon Baking Powder

½ cup Caster sugar

½ cup or 8 tablespoons Ghee, at room temperature

¼ teaspoon Vanilla essence

1/2 teaspoon Powdered cardamom

pieces of cashews, Almonds and pistachios (soaked in milk)

  • Mix cardamom powder with the sugar.
  • Add the ghee and mix with a whisk until light and creamy. Add vanilla essence and mix well.
  • Sift the flour semolina and baking powder over the ghee mixture and using your hands bring the mixture together to form a crumbly dough. Add 1-2 tablespoons of warm milk if the dough falls apart.
  • Shape the dough into ping-pong sized balls and flatten them slightly. Embed the tops with the soaked nuts. Line them up on a greased tray and bake for 15-17 minutes at 170o C, until just golden around the edges.
  • Let them cool in the tray for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. Store in an air tight container.

 

 

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CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

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Its been a tough, tough few weeks. Change is good, change is needed, but change is a challenge. When in Mumbai I was raving and ranting about the dirty streets, the mad traffic, the choking pollution and dust, the rogue drivers, the incessant honking, the pot-holed roads and the hawkers and the noise….. Now I am in Singapore- the streets are clean, the traffic is disciplined, public transport is beautiful, no one honks, the roads are satin smooth and I have all my wishes fulfilled!! So why am I mopping around house feeling blue, wearing tattered Tees and tracks?? I am so missing home, the buzz, the noise and the constant doorbell that announces the arrival of maids and the vegetable vendor and the fish vendor who argues and haggles for half an hour…Homesick??? Yeah that’s it. The quiet that I so longed for is almost deafening, I hunger for the excitement of driving in and out of narrow, people packed streets, haggling with the vendors in the markets, challenging my lungs to breath in the fumes (that’s an exaggeration …LOL)….so you see I have become a little batty too! Anyways I mustn’t grumble too much….a little dose of Homesickness is good. It teaches you to count your blessings.

On the bright side, the ingredients out here are amazing. I don’t have to go hunting for stuff, its right there in my backyard. Fresh and of the finest quality. So as a pick-me-up I went ahead and bought myself the most expensive butter, the best chocolate chips and got to work on banishing my blues. What better way to do it than with cookies! I particularly like the ones which are cakey in the centre and crispy on the edges and that’s what I found on BBC Good Food. They turned out to be a crowd pleaser (Junior, Senior Man and Me).

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The dough is not too sweet, so semi-sweet chocolate chips work well, I added some dark chocolate chunks and they were like the surprise element in every bite. Makes you guess….will it be sweet or bitter.

So as I come to the concluding part of my post, I am into my 4th cookie or is it the 6th…. Who cares! They are homey, cakey, dunk-worthy, fill me with joy and maybe someday I’ll have a friend to share them with. Until then I have the whole box to myself!!

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Makes 25-30 cookies

150 grms salted Butter,

100 grms light brown sugar

60 grms granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 large egg

225 grms plain flour

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

¼ teaspoon salt

200 grms semi sweet chocolate chips or chunks (I added some dark chocolate chunks)

  • Beat the butter and sugars till light. Add in the egg an vanilla and mix well.
  • Sift together the flour, salt and soda bicarb. Add to the butter mixture and stir in well till incorporated. Add in the chocolate and mix in.
  • Lightly grease and line your baking tray with parchment paper. Take your measuring teaspoon (with a scoop) and drop dollops of the cookie dough on the tray keeping an inch and half distance. Chill in the refrigerator for 10-20 minutes before baking.
  • Preheat oven to 170o C. Bake cookies for 13-14 minutes until they turn a deep brown and are yet soft in the centre. Once baked leave them on the tray to cool slightly and then transfer them to a wire rack.

SHORTBREAD COOKIES

 

CLASSIC VANILLA & MOCHA-CHOCOLATE

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Its February already. The winter chill hasn’t receded yet, but there are a few warm days in between, the New Year is new no more and resolutions are long forgotten (Hurrah!!). Don’t get me wrong, but I find that festivities are such a hype and strain at times. They take me away from my routines, which get me crabby, they make demands on my time and me being the “old-habits-die-hard” kinda person, I want to make, bake and have fun. I can’t wait to get January out of my way and get started on routine baking. But Feb won’t leave me alone either. Look at the list of demands, cookies for school, cake for anniversary, missed Daring Bakers’ Challenges to make up and I am at it again.

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Valentines Day and my wedding anniversary following on each others tail, I usually try to combine the dessert or cake and roll it into one big celebration week. I must confess that I am not a pink, teddy, red hearts and long-stemmed roses person and I rather have a wholesome tea cake any day than a box of chocolates, but on this occasion I make an exception to my un-girly rules and roll out atleast a few heart shaped goodies. A beautifully rich dense cake- Le Diabola is baked and ready to be decorated (once I decide on the frosting) I hope I don’t end up serving it with lashings of cream or vanilla ice-cream. I have promised the boys to make it look pretty (They care a hoot about prettiness, to them the taste matters….LOL!!)

 

So to kick off the romance I baked a batch of my Valentine’s favourite Shortbread cookies. The recipe is Martha Stewarts’ and its absolutely gorgeous. I halved the batch and added coffee and chocolate chunks to one half and vanilla extract to the other. On hindsight I should have added a little more sugar to the coffee batch to cancel out the bitterness. These are super buttery and melt in the mouth with a crispy outside and a disintegrating inside. They look rustic and I felt no need to coat them with chocolate or fancy them up. They are so, so, so easy to make that its unreal.

I hope you try them dear reader, I can assure you they are the easiest way to “butter-up” your Valentine and if he cares more for the taste than the look, then you are one lucky gal.

 

RECIPE

SHORTBREAD COOKIES (adapted from Martha Stewart)

(Classic Vanilla and Coffee- Chocolate)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup Confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon salt

240 grams Butter (unsalted)

1 teaspoon Vanilla extract/ 1 tsp. Instant Coffee & 40 grams dark chocolate chunks

  • Cream the butter until light and add in the sugar ¼ cup at a time. Beat until light and fluffy, scrapping the bowl with a spatula.
  • Add in the flavouring of your choice at this stage. (coffee or Vanilla )
  • Sift the flour and salt and add to the butter mixture. Fold in until just combined and the dough comes together. If you want to add the chocolate do it now and gently incorporate it into the dough. Do not over-handle the dough.
  • Pat the dough into a 9”x 12” tray lined with parchment paper. Even it out with a palette knife and fork it all over. Refrigerate for an hour.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 155o C for 40-45 minutes until the edges are golden brown and there is a slight brown colouring on the top as well.
  • Remove from the oven and with a sharp knife cut them into rectangles of desired size in the tin itself. Cool for 10 minutes in the tin. Remove and continue cooling on the wire rack.
  • If you want to make shaped cookies- once the dough is ready, empty it onto a clingwrap, cover, flatten into a disk and refrigerate for an hour. Remove from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to 3 mm thickness. Cut into shapes and place on a well oiled or lined cookie sheet and bake at 155o C for 30 minutes or until light golden. Cool on a wire rack.

CHRISTMASSY BUTTER COOKIES

imageThis has been an amazing, exciting, super busy month. I am surprised I am sitting and calmly banging away at the key-board and my brain dares to think a thought. The long list of to-do baking grows longer with each passing year as requests and orders keep pouring in and closer to the holidays some genius decides on making my life more exciting by ordering 20 kgs of fruit cake, 15 kgs of cookies and so on ….mind you, I am not complaining because pressure, planner and performer are my three aliases and I thrive, thrive, thrive on all 3. One complements the other in my life. Under pressure an eerie calm takes over my mind and I become this insane planner and then after the meticulous planning I execute/perform with the precision of an executioner, ticking the orders off the board! So dear reader my philosophy is simple, “No pressure, No performance”. I just got the last of the big deliveries off my living room sofa and now that I reclaimed my place to sit….I decided to Blog!

I have decided to share the easiest recipes out of my Christmas favourites for 2 simple reasons – I can rattle off the ingredients without referring to my little black book and secondly, the only pics I managed to get are of the cookies! (LOL). 🙂

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The cookies are sweet with a hint of salt, ginger and cinnamon. The spices are so subtle that they are barely there. The dough rolls out well after a few hours of refrigeration, but if you are in a hurry feel free to make small balls and flatten them between your palms. The shaped cookies are unbeatable.

This recipe can’t go wrong unless you don’t know the meaning of flour, butter, sugar and spice. Now the 2 men are pros at making the dough too and handling the beater and of course packaging. The 2 handsome menials have earned their medals and will be rewarded with a boxful of cookies and brownies when the “masterbaker” finishes her many other commitments. What would I have done without their supreme packaging ideas (which were flung out the window) and their ribbon tying and sticking skills which I humbly and gratefully accept. 🙂

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Just in case I don’t manage to get in another post before the year ends, my heartfelt Thank yous to all those people out there who step into my little space and leave me with encouraging words and Likes. May God’s Love, Kindness and blessings touch each one of you. Happy Holidays and Sweet Endings and Sweeter Beginnings!

RECIPE

CHRISTMASSY BUTTER COOKIES

1/2 kg all-purpose flour plus a little more for rolling

360 grams Butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 ½ teaspoon Vanilla extract

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 heaped teaspoon dried ginger powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

  • Sift together, flour, salt, ginger powder and cinnamon and baking powder. Keep aside.
  • In a large bowl beat butter and sugar until light and thoroughly incorporated.
  • Add in egg and beat. Mix in vanilla and continue beating.
  • Add in the dry ingredients in 3-4 batches and beat well after each addition. Add the last batch and mix together with a wooden spoon. Remove on a lightly floured surface and bring the dough together. If the dough is too sticky to handle, add a tablespoon of flour and knead it in.
  • Cover with cling wrap and chill for atleast an hour in the fridge.
  • Preheat the oven too 180oC. Roll out the dough on a well floured surface and using Christmas themed cutters, cut out the cookies.
  • Lay them out on a well greased baking sheet, 1” apart and bake for 14- 15 minutes until golden around the edges. After 10 minutes of baking, change tray position up to down and front to back, to ensure even baking.
  • Remove from the oven, let cool in tin for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling mat or wire rack. They keep well in an air-tight container for 6-7 days (if they last that long). If you want to bake fresh cookies it’s a good idea to wrap the dough and freeze it. Remove from freezer, thaw and use.

RUGELACH

RUGELACH

I love making pastry. I don’t claim to have mastered it but over the years I have been able to iron out a lot of bumps and creases. The whole of last week I have been showing off my skills to Big Sis who is in Mumbai spending quality time in my kitchen kneading, whipping, baking by my side and giving some invaluable inputs.

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Well, here’s Rugelach a pastry in a new avataar! A rich, cream cheese pastry which encases sweet and nutty fillings, is a traditional Jewish festive treat. These baby crescents are made for Jewish new year and the rolled up shape signifies the cyclical year. The dough is made from equal quantities of flour, butter and cream cheese. Cute little, mini croissant type thingies….good to look at and fabulous to devour and I will reserve my comments on the process and leave you to decide.

I came across them a few years back when I was in the infancy of Baking and took to them immediately. My first attempt was clumsy, with sticky dough, that just wouldn’t behave well in the sweltering heat, filling that toppled out and a thousand other woes.

I am a sucker for pastry making and I don’t give up easily. A failure keeps haunting me till I take another whack at it, then another and then one more…. In Mumbai’s 34-38 degree kitchens, it is not the best thing to be making. It makes a tough job tougher as the butter keeps melting, the dough feels sweaty and you are constantly running to the fridge. So Rugelach isn’t a cake walk and the pastry-adventure has the added excitement of cream cheese which makes your journey that much more satisfying (hopefully by now you have got the picture). Those of you who know me some, know that I am the proverbial Matador. I invite the bull into the kitchen. So on a hot and humid morning I embarked on my Rugelach journey. Having learnt some lessons from my last misadventure,  I kept the AC in the living room on a cool 18 Degrees, flung open the connecting kitchen door and began the “Taming of the Shrew”. I had made home-made Cream Cheese a day earlier. The fillings are pretty straight forward and you can make them sweet, savoury or just brush the dough with butter and bake them as is.

Traditional Rugelach is filled with chocolate chips, walnuts and brown sugar. I made varied fillings- apple raisin, rum and raisin, cream cheese and the chocolate chip walnut.

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This is a very delicately wrapped pastry so my advice to you would be to puree the filling and apply it on the rolled out pastry in a thin layer. Leaving the filling whole may result in a mess when baking.  Alternatively run you rolling pin over the filling once you have assembled it on the rolled out dough.

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It’s a finicky dough and especially so in this unkind, unforgiving heat. Though the end product is pure heaven, cookie-like and crumbly on the outside and slightly soft and flaky inside. Don’t use wet a filling, it will lead to soggy bites. I froze half the batch once I had filled and assembled them and baked them a few days later and they tasted just as good.

I hope you try them and won’t let the finicky dough dampen your pastry spirit! Whats a good cookie unless the dough crumbles……oopps did I get it wrong!!!

RECIPE

RUGELACH 

Dough

2 sticks/ 240 grms unsalted butter

240 grms cream cheese

1egg yolk

2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp granulated sugar (optional)

Egg Wash Ingredients

1 egg

1 tsp water

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

 

Filling 1

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1 cup chopped walnuts/ pecans/ almonds

1  cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

2-3 tblspns brown sugar

2 tblspns Honey

Put the ingredients in a blender/ food processor and whizz it to a coarse paste.

I left mine whole and sprinkled generous amounts on the pastry round.

 

Filling 2

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3 large apples chopped

1 heaped tblspn Butter

3 tblspn Raisins

4 tblspns brown sugar

½ tspn cinnamon powder

Juice of ½ lemon

Sautee the apples, raisins in the butter, until the apples turn soft. They should give way when pressed down with the back of a spoon. Add the cinnamon, lemon juice and sugar and cook for a further minute until the mix is jam like. Give it a whizz in a blender or squash it up with a fork.

If you prefer a chunky filling, just cook the apples until soft and don’t break them up too much.

 

Filling 3

 ½ cup prunes

½ cup dates

½ cup Raisins

1 tblspn Butter

½ tspn All-spice powder

½ cup rum

Chop and Soak the dry fruits in Rum and all-spice for an hour. Heat butter and add the soaked fruits, and cook on medium heat till all the juices have dried out. Squash to a jam like mixture with the back of a spoon or put it in a blender to make a jam like paste.

Filling 4

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200 grms cream cheese / cottage cheese crumbled

100 grms Cheddar

1 tsp coarsely ground pepper

1 tblspn Fresh thyme and rosemary

Salt to taste ( a pinch at the most)

In a medium sized bowl mix all the ingredients to a smooth paste. Taste and adjust salt.

 

Making the dough:

  • Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together. Add the egg yolk and whisk a little more. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and sugar. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, mixing with a wooden spoon, until dough comes together.  Pour dough onto a lightly floured rolling surface and form it into a rough ball shape with your hands. Do not over handle the dough or knead it. Just pat it into a ball.

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  • Divide the ball into four equal pieces and form those pieces into rough balls.
  • Cover each ball with plastic and place in the refrigerator. Refrigerate dough balls for at least 1 1/2 hours, for up to 48 hours. Freeze if you want for later use.

Assembling the cookies:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees C/ 375 degrees F. Lightly flour your rolling surface and rolling pin. Take one portion of the dough out the refrigerator (keep the rest of the dough cold until ready to use). Roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. The dough will be very firm and cold, but will become more pliable as it starts to warm. Just keep rolling with firm, even pressure.

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  • Use a round 9″ cake pan or bottom as a guide to make a nice, smooth imprint of a circle in the dough.

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  • Cut the dough into a large circle, following the shape of the cake pan. Take 1/4 of the filling (about 4 tbsp) and place it in the center of the circle. Spread it very thin and evenly across the surface of the dough. Leave about an inch around the edges of the circle.

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  • Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife cut the circle into 8 equal triangles by first cutting the circle in half, then quarters, then halve the quarters to make eighths. Dust the cutter or knife wth flour to prevent the filling from sticking on to it.

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  • Roll each triangle, starting from the wide edge and rolling towards the narrow point.
  • Press the end to secure it.

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  • Place the rolled cookies an inch apart onto a parchment lined cookie sheet or a well oiled baking tray, end point down. The cookies can be frozen at this stage and bagged for later use.

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  • When you are ready to bake, brush the top of each cookie with egg wash, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar or sesame seeds (for savoury cookies).
  • Bake for 25-28 minutes in a pre heated oven, until golden brown. If you like them darker, bake a minute or two longer.

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DARING BAKERS’ CHALLENGE- MACARONS

I posting this challenge a day or 2 late!! I feel like a fifth grader who hasn’t submitted her assignment on time. Let me tell you this is one assignment I wanted to do well, its been on my “to-bake list” for a long, long time but I have been truly intimidated by Macarons and never bothered taking the plunge.

Blog-checking lines: For the month of October we got to take on one of many bakers’ deepest, darkest kitchen nightmares : macarons. Our talented bakers Korena from Korena in the Kitchen and Rachael from pizzarossa made the intimidating task of mastering these French beauties a breeze

Yes, the above 4 lines describe my state of mind, once I realised it was a Macaron Challenge. I was not too happy (I have had some disgustingly sweet, cavity sprouting macarons), I was alarmed at the number of things that could go wrong and mainly it just isn’t my favourite sweet/ dessert. But yet the sight of those shiny, coloured buttons made from nuts, sugar and egg whites always get a yearning look and I keep telling myself “Someday I am gonna get them”. The day arrived sooner than I anticipated.

This is a “challenge” in the true sense, it has tested my patience, accuracy, judgement and skill, innovation and obviously my self control once they were ready. You need to be in it mentally, as one wrong move or a drop of yolk in the egg white and you are done. No stirring the chicken pot or multi tasking when you have these beauties to deal with, give them your 100% attention. Mr, 40 and Mr.13 were packed off to a movie and warned not to return before the macarons were ready.

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Shells: These are made from egg whites, powdered sugar and ground almonds. You can use other  nuts like cashews or pistachios but if this is your first attempt, please stick to the tried and tested.

imageAll ingredients are by weight including the egg whites and I can’t stress enough the importance of weighing them accurately. Don’t be the Ms. Smaarty –pants and round off the measures. When whipping egg whites make sure, that the bowl and beaters are squeaky clean. Any oil residue will give you a “flop” show. A good tip given by the challenge host is to clean the beaters and bowls with a kitchen tissue dipped in white vinegar. The acidity will give the egg whites a rise and do the cleaning job perfectly.

I have made chocolate shells and a little more adventurous saffron flavoured shells inspired by the Indian sweetmeats. In the chocolate shells cocoa powder replaces some sugar. The filling is chocolate ganache and you definitely can’t go wrong with this one. Well the saffron shells are again not the classic French thing but it tasted rich and the saffron cut through the heavy sweetness of the shells. I paired the saffron shells with cream cheese frosting, with a hint of lemon.  But do note that cream cheese frosting may make the shells soggy and won’t keep long. They are best eaten the same dayimage

Adding colour and Flavour: use gel based or powder based colours. Liquid colours can affect the texture of the shells. Add the colour and flavour to the almond powder and sugar.

Almond powder can be store bought or home made. I made mine at home by blanching the almonds, removing the skins and toasting them in a slow oven and grinding them to a powder ( you are not likely to get talcum powder consistency but a gritty, coarse pwder).

Keep an eye on the oven. The baking time may vary slightly depending on the oven. Though the hosts mentioned 12-16 minutes, mine took a 20 minutes. The chocolate ones take a wee bit longer than the others. After the first 10 mins in the oven give the baking sheet a turn and continue baking, keeping a hawk’s eye on the shells.

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Macarons, as I have learnt, is a whole different ball game. Maybe you’ll get perfect shells in the first go and maybe you won’t. Mine weren’t exactly perfect. They were crisp, tasty but not chewy from the inside. A bit hollow! This I discovered could be because of over beating the egg whites or not knocking out enough air when mixing in the nuts. There is a fine line between under mixing and just about enough mixing.

This is one baking experience every baker should give go to and keep trying. Maybe next month I will try them again and then again till I perfect them. Its not the taste that makes me come back for more but the sheer fulfilment of having mastered a classic and as I always say, the story is not about the perfect cake, or icing, or crispiness of the cookie, but it’s about the journey. Enjoy!!

RECIPE

MACARONS

(using the French Meringue Method)

Servings: 20-25 x 3.5cm / 1 1/3” filled macarons

112grms.  ground almonds 204grms. powdered (confectioner’s) sugar 102grms.  egg whites at room temperature (from approx. 3 eggs) 51grms.  granulated (white) sugar

Seeds of one Vanilla Bean

For chocolate shells: Replace 20g of the powdered sugar with unsweetened cocoa powder

For saffron Shells: Add 1/2 tspn. Saffron strands to the almonds before grinding. You can also break them up with your fingers.

  • Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper on top of the piping guide, and set aside. (To make your own piping guide, instructions at the end of recipe)
  • In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ground almonds and powdered sugar, and pulse until completely combined and homogeneous. If you are using powdered food colouring combine it with the almond mixture.
  • Sift the mixture onto a bowl, then return any large bits left in the sifter to the food processor and pulse again until very fine. If you are using saffron combine with almond mixture at this stage. Set aside.
  • Place the egg whites in a scrupulously clean (free of any oil or egg yolks) large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk on medium speed until frothy, then very gradually add in the granulated sugar. Once all the sugar is added, increase the sped to medium-high and continue beating the egg whites until they form a stiff-peaked meringue (the peaks should not flop over). Don’t over mix or allow the meringue to become dry or chunky. It should look glossy and shiny. Before the meringue reaches stiff peaks, you can mix in some vanilla bean seeds.
  • Add half the almond mixture to the meringue and fold vigorously with a spatula, using about 15 strokes to combine and break down the meringue so it is not puffy. Make sure you scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as you fold so that the dry ingredients are all incorporated.
  • Add half the remaining almond mixture and fold again with about 10-15 strokes, until just combined. Add the remaining almond mixture and fold again, 10-15 strokes, until just combined. The mixture should fall from the spatula in long, thick ribbons, like slow-flowing lava, and the surface of the mixture should smooth out within 30 seconds.
  • Scoop the mixture into a large piping bag (only use half the mixture at a time) fitted with a large round tip or plain coupler, and pipe into the prepared baking sheets, using the piping template as a guide. Pipe straight down so that mixture comes out in a round blob – it will smooth and spread out on its own.
  • Lift the baking sheet up about 5cm / 2 inches and keeping it perfectly level, firmly bang it down on your work surface to dislodge any large air bubbles. Set the piped shells aside to dry for 30-60 minutes, until a skin has formed on the surface and they are no longer sticky to the touch. In humid climate conditions keep them under a fan.
  • Preheat the oven to 275˚F / 135°C / Gas Mark 1. Bake the shells, one baking sheet at a time, in the top third of the oven for 12-16 minutes, during which time they should sprout feet (if you used cocoa in the shells, they may need an additional 2-5 minutes of extra baking time). Bake for 10 mins, then rotate the baking sheet and bake for further 6 mins keeping an eye on the shells and testing them every 2 mins. To test the shells, gently tug on the top – if they jiggle at all, bake for another 1-2 minutes. Once baked, they should peel cleanly off the parchment paper.
  • Allow the shells to cool completely on the parchment paper, then peel off and store in an airtight container, layered between wax paper, at room temperature or in the freezer (NOT the fridge) until you are ready to fill them. Once filled, they should still be kept in an airtight container and can be refrigerated or kept somewhere cool.

FILLINGS

 Sufficient for 25 filled macarons.

Chocolate Ganache 113g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped 1/2 cup / 120ml heavy (whipping) cream small pinch salt 2 Tbsp / 28g  unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature

1-2 tblspns Liqueur/ coffee granules 1 tspn./ Vanilla extract 1 tspn.

  • Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl.
  • In a small saucepan, heat the cream and salt until just simmering, then pour over the chopped chocolate. Cover the bowl and let sit for 2-3 minutes to melt the chocolate.
  • Stir with a whisk until smooth, then stir in the butter and any additional flavourings like liqueur or coffee granules until completely incorporated and smooth.
  • Let the ganache cool in the fridge, until thick enough to pipe (about 30 minutes). Whisk it with a hand mixie until it forms soft peaks. Pipe or spoon the ganache onto the flat side of half the chocolate macaron shells, then sandwich with a second shell of similar size.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

½ cup cream cheese or Ricotta crumbled

1 cup whipped cream

2 tablespoons icing sugar (if using unsweetened cream)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Zest of 1 lemon

  • In a medium bowl beat the cream cheese to a smooth paste. Add the whipped cream and sugar and mix it well stirring vigorously. Add the zest and lemon juice. Taste and adjust the lemon juice as per your preference. Fill into a piping bag and pipe onto flat side of the saffron shell and sandwich with the other.

Prepare the parchment paper by using a bottle cap or a round object of about 3.5 cms as template. Using the round cap draw circles in a dark pencil on the paper. Turn over the sheet and place it on the baking sheet with the circles facing down.

TAHINI AND ALMOND COOKIES WITH ORANGE ZEST

TAHINI AND ALMOND COOKIES WITH ORANGE ZEST

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Walking down the aisle is such a heady experience. Hey I am talking about the supermarket aisle! That’s the only aisle I remember walking down in a long, long time….tempting, inviting and a perfect cure for a grey day. On one such and many more excursions, I have often got  carried away by the array of colourfully labelled bottles of exotic ingredients, condiments, spices…. read about but never tried, heard of but not seen. On a number of occasions my well-meaning heart picks up bottles and packets I mean to use in dishes, I mean to try out, but in the scheme of this chaotic and happily tired existence they get pushed to the back of the shelf, until one fine day when the cleaning bug hits me and I rediscover the lost “treasures”.

 

imageTahini is one such impulse ingredient that I bought……why did I pick it up? Hummus? But my hummus turned out good enough without it! Anyway, I found it lying in the back of my fridge used, but once, and fast approaching its best before date. I wasn’t letting it go waste and no I didn’t want to upset the hummus fans in the house either. So I went Googling and voila! David Labovitz provided the perfect recipe for a cookie that would use up my tahini. This lovely smooth, rich sesame paste proves to be a hit combination when paired with sugar. The savoury yet subtly sweet cookies turned out crispy on the edges and chewy in the centre. They demanded those extra cups of tea for shameless dunking. Mr 40 was happy to see something that went easy on his “not too sweet” tooth and Mr.13 (the contented, “little-no-more” cookie monster) was just happy to have something hot out of the oven. I loved the fact that the recipe was already high on wheat flour, so I had to make no adjustments on that front. Though my meddling ways couldn’t leave the recipe alone and I added a teaspoon of fresh orange zest, lemon would do just as well. But the zest leaves a fresh after taste and makes you keep coming back for more. I was in a greedy mood and decided not to blanch the almonds before grinding them. Made no monumental difference to the taste or texture. If anything, they looked “made by mom”. Not pretty to look, but a thumbs up to the taste and great for dunking into your cuppa.

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So the next time you walk down the aisle…don’t hesitate….go for what your heart desires….it might turn out just right for you! 🙂

RECIPE

TAHINI AND ALMOND COOKIES WITH ORANGE ZEST

(adapted from David Labovitz)

Makes 30-35

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour

80 grms almounds

150 grms. cold butter, cut into cubes

135 grms sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 ½ tblspoons orange zest / lemon zest

Pinch of salt

2 tblspns water

200 grms tahini paste

  • Preheat oven to 175 C . Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Grind the almonds with 2 tablespoons sugar, a tablespoon of flour to a fine powder.
  • Sift together the 2 flours, salt. Stir in the orange zest, sugar, ground almonds and vanilla. Add the butter and rub it in lightly, the mixture should end up crumbly like bread crumbs.
  • Add the tahini and mix in. Add in the water a tablespoon at a time and bring the mixture together to form a dough.  Knead it a little until smooth. If it feels dry add a teaspoon of melted butter.
  • Make balls smaller than ping pong balls and flatten slightly between your palms and place them on the baking sheet ½” apart.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes or until they turn a golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and cool. Taste. If it feels soft and chewy feel free to return to the oven for another 5 minutes.