BROWNIES (and a little nostalgia)

 

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I have been meaning to post these recipes since a long, long time….but life gets in the way of blogging and the old laptop plays up like your stubborn teen and the Y key needs to be stabbed atleast 5 times before it works…… in the interim moments of inspiration come and vanish and before I know it, its months since I have typed out my story.  I am trying to avoid the Y key but is so damned tough (LOL)

 

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These are the lines that move my heart with a little regret, a little sorrow and nostalgia. It makes me wish I had held on longer to those baby moments, wish I had done some “conscious living” when I held his baby fingers and made him walk, when his dribble slid down my neck, when I bathe him and ended up getting wet,  Wish I had built more sand castles on the beach with him instead of burying my head in a novel, played with his lego blocks more often. Wish I hadn’t used a sharp voice when his little fingers couldn’t colour within the line or when more food ended up on the T shirt than in his mouth. Wish I had spoilt him a little more, laughed and tolerated his naughtiness without feeling the need to correct him, behaved his age and less mine.  I wish and I long for that little baby who made numerous demands on my time, energy, patience and emotions. I long for that little boy who loved to watch “scaredy” movies and wanted stories read in the characters’ voices, who lost his socks, always had untied shoe laces (and still does),  who called out in the middle of the night and always found an excuse to snuggle into my bed.

As I watch my lanky teen silently doing his own thing, wordlessly browsing through is phone I miss that chatter. His eyes roll at “lame” “Mom” jokes, there are no more secretive giggles, all you get are moody nods, monosyllabic expressions and demands of a different kind. Occasional smiles, Thank yous and Hugs suddenly bring that little boy to the fore and light up my bleakest days.  So now I “live” and cherish these hugs, smiles, laughs and conversations to the fullest and when I hear “Can I have some brownies?” instead of saying “Too much sugar”, I wink and say “Why not?”

 

 

 

BROWNIES

The Oreo Cookie Brownies are a family favourite and I carry them as gifts whenever I have forgotten to buy one and to bake sales and whip them up for easy brownie desserts or just thaw the frozen ones in my freezer ( ha…ha). It’s a recipe I sourced from La cuisine d’Helene by Ina Garten.

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The second one is by Jamie Oliver, everyone’s favourite guy. This is the second time I have made them and they are extremely soft, gooey and moorish. I kept the proportions the same but just changed the method.

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Don’t you all think baking brownies is somewhat like mothering? How can you go wrong with so much love (chocolate, butter, nuts), attention (keep an eye on them, don’t over bake, ever) and a little bit of common sense?….. and your brownies will turn out just fine.

 

RECIPE 1

OREO BROWNIES (by Ina Garten from la cuisine d’Helene)

Makes a 10×12  inch pan

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240gms butter

250 grms semi sweet chocolate chips

90 grms dark chocolate

1 1/2 tablespoon instant coffee granules

1 tablespoon vanilla

60 grms flour

1/2 teaspoon baking poder

1/2 teaspoon salt

25 Oreo cookies chopped into tiny pea sized bits

  • Pre heat oven to 180 C
  • Line a 10×12 inch Pan  with grease proof paper. Make sure the corners are neat and not crumpled
  • In a heat proof bowl set over a double boiler melt both the chocolates and butter stirring to break up lumps.
  • In a large mixing bowl  whisk together the sugar, eggs, coffee, vanilla.(I give it a good whisk till the mixture is thick and frothy. this is against brownie making principles. But this is what gives my brownies that crust on top when baked)
  • Add the slightly cooled butter and chocolate mixture to the egg mix and stir till its well mixed and smooth.
  • Sift together flour baking powder and salt. Ad a tablespoon of the flour mix to the oreo and coat well.
  • Add the oreos o the chocolate mxture, followed by the flour. Mix well to ensureno lumps of flour remain.
  • Pour the brownie mix into the pan and bake 35 minutes until a skewer inserted 3inches from the side of the pan comes out clean. do not over bake. cool to room temperature and refrigerate for 2 hours before cutting.

 

 

RECIPE 2

CHOCOLATE WALNUT BROWNIES (Jamie Oliver)

Makes a 10×12 in pan

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200 g quality dark chocolate (70%)

250 g unsalted butter

75 g dried sour cherries , optional

50 g chopped nuts , optional

80 g quality cocoa powder

65 g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

360 g caster sugar

4 large free-range eggs

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line baking tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Break chocolate into a large bowl, add the butter and place over a pan of simmering water, until melted, stirring regularly.
  3. Sift the cocoa powder and flour into a separate bowl, add the baking powder. Stir through the  nuts (if using).
  4.  Beat the eggs and sugar until froth and add to the slightly cooled chocolate mixture. mix in the dry ingredients until you have a silky consistency.
  5. Pour the brownie mix into the baking tin, and place in the oven for around 25 minutes. skewer inserted an inch or 2 from the edge of the tin should comeot clean and the centre must be soft and goey/
  6. Allow to cool in the tray, then carefully transfer to a large chopping board and cut into chunky squares.
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COCONUT CARAMEL MINI BITES

 

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I was speaking to a friend last week and she asked “So what’s the plan for Valentine’s Day?”  Am I the only one who gets asked stupid questions? Every year I reply “Nothing special” and feel like a freak. This time I answered “Oh I am wearing my new black, lacy corset with the pink stilettos and taking the dog for a walk”. The man of the house heard this and choked on his beer and peanuts and the gawky teen rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath. Did I say something wrong? Freak! So, my friend and soon-to- be enemy pressed on ”Seriously, how will you show love, come on”   Show my love? Oh yeah…..for the last 5 years we wake up at the crack of dawn to pack food and drinks so that a young boy can pursue his passion, I load endless number of dishes into the dishwasher and piles of colour coordinated laundry into the washing machine, I tolerate male blindness and make lost T shirts appear out of thin air, I have cleaned blood, puke and poop endlessly, driven at 100 km/hour on empty roads to get the boy to training on time, held hands, prayed for patience and rejoiced at the victories, cried for our losses, smiled when I wanted to bash up the 2 men. We have shared, fought, kissed away tears, made up after a spat, held hands and assured each other, tied a fractured wrist in a splint, massaged aching backs, iced sore shoulders, supported each other’s dreams, gone to hell and back  and lived every minute of everyday for each other through thick and thin, sick and sin.  If that doesn’t show love, nothing  will. I guess everyday should be a celebration then.

 

 So 2 days before the advent of the “romantic day” Man of the house flew away on business leaving me with the temperamental teen. Teen declares “I want something different, coconutty”  Since no heart shaped candies were likely to come my way I decided on these coconut caramel bites to please the teen and see if it evoked any romance in my 40 plus heart. Fat chance!

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I have seen this recipe on one of the cooking shows where vegan food and vegan cheesecakes are ooh-ed and aah-ed over. They used coconut oil in the recipe. My only relationship with coconut oil went as far as my hair, so I decided on butter. Ofcourse being a healthy treat they omitted sugar but I did not want to risk feeding them to the bin so sugar won over healthy.  I have no big love for home made chocolates but these little treats are quite good. They are chewy in the centre with the bitter chocolate coating offering a contrasting flavour. Teen was generous with his praise and going “Mmmm”. I got a Happy “Momentine” hug and make some more  soon whispered in my ear…..ha ha….Love is in the air.

 

 

 

RECIPE

 

COCONUT CARAMEL BITES

 

MAKES- 15 PIECES

 

130 grams finely shredded, dessicated coconut (unsweetened)

 

200 ml coconut cream

 

50 grams  sugar

 

1 teaspoon butter

 

190 grams dark chocolate (baking)

 

Line a tin or cookie sheet with non stick paper, In a shallow saucepan heat sugar with a teaspoon of water on medium heat. The sugar will start darkening at the edge. Swirl the pan so as to avoid burning the sugar. Do not stir. Let the sugar darken to a golden brown.

 

Put off the heat and add the coconut cream. It will start spattering. Put the heat on medium and stirring constantly heat the mixture for 4-5 minutes till it thickens. Add in the coconut and continue stirring on low heat till the mixture comes together to form a sticky dough. Turn off the heat and add the butter and mix.

 

Spoon the mixture onto the lined sheet and shape into a 4’ by 8’ rectangle, using your wet fingers or the back of a spoon. The layer should be even and a little thicker than ¼ inch. Freeze. After 40 minutes in the freezer remove and cut into 15-16 squares. Do not separate yet. These are quite a heavy treat so don’t be too generous. Freeze for another hour or 2.

 

Line another large cookie sheet with non-stick paper. Melt chocolate over a double boiler/ bain-marie. Do not over heat chocolate. Stir occasionally. When partially melted remove from heat and stir, so that the remaining lumps melt in the residual heat. Remove filling from the freezer. Break into the cut pieces. Using 2 forks dip each piece of filling into the chocolate, turning over to coat it evenly. Place on lined sheet. Sprinkle with dessicated coconut (optional) Working fast coat all the pieces and return tray to the fridge.

 

Remove from the fridge (30-40 mins). Store in an air tight container. Keep refrigerated

 

 

 

STRIPED CHEESECAKE

 

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There are days and possibly weeks when I am simply haunted by a failed project and keep looking back as to where I went wrong, why, how, so on and on. Sometimes I chuck a failure out the window, thinking it was not meant to be and continue life as usual, but somewhere in my crazy brain an itch keeps popping it’s prickly head and nagging me to give it another go and succeed. Cheesecakes have been my pet peeve and for years I have kept safe distance, but since I conquered the devil with my Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake, I am becoming better and bolder. So this is where the story leads you dear reader, to my super, amazing, choco-vanilla striped cheesecake. The taste and looks are a match made in heaven.

imageIt’s a recipe from a “nameless book” which I had photocopied (believe me one of these days the print is going to vanish). Everytime I make a recipe from my nameless book I overwrite in pen. This is a truly amazing recipe and what got me all excited and charged up was the method to achieve the stripes. It’s so simple and obvious yet it will leave your family and friends scratching their heads …..pssst, don’t you dare reveal your secret. Let them confer you with the title of “culinary genius”.

There are 3 parts to this beauty, a chocolate base, and the dark and light cheese cake. To create the striped effect you simply have to pour ladlefuls of the dark and light mixture (alternately). Because of its thickness it won’t mix in or merge with the previous layer and that is what gives it the zebra effect. The pictures are the best I could do (its not easy holding the I pad and a ladle and clicking). The taste is rich and I have added a good dose of kahlua to the choco mix which gives it an elegance of a high class dessert. The “in your face” taste of the chocolate is a contrast to the subtle vanilla taste of the lighter cheesecake. All in all it sends your taste buds and texture-buds (?????) into overdrive. This is a dessert fit for a Page 3 appearance. Move over LBDs the striped cheesecake is making ripples.😀

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RECIPE

STRIPED CHEESECAKE

Biscuit Base

120 grams Digestive biscuits (crushed to a coarse powder)

1 ½ tablespoons Cocoa powder, sifted

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

45 grams butter, melted

Filling

400 grams cream cheese (Homemade version Here)

110 grams Sugar

2 large eggs / 3 small

80 grams Dark Chocolate

2 ½ Tablespoons Kahlua

1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

 

  • Grease the sides of a 6-7 inch springform tin 2 inches in height.( I used a normal cake tin and the cheesecake turned out just fine. I lined the bottom with grease proof paper.)
  • Preheat oven to 180o
  • For the biscuit base put the crushed biscuits, sugar and cocoa in a bowl. Stir well and add in the melted butter. Toss with a fork to blend. Press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the prepared tin. Bake at 180oC for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and lower oven temperature to 160o
  • Carefully grease the sides of the baking tin with butter.

FILLING

  • Melt the chocolate with the Kahlua over a double boiler. Remove from the heat and leave aside to cool.
  • Put the cream cheese (at room temperature) in a large bowl. Beat using a hand held beater. Gradually add in the sugar, beating continuously. Add the Vanilla.
  • Add in the eggs one at a time, beating only enough to combine them with the rest of the mixture.
  • Pour a little under half of the cheesecake mixture into the melted chocolate and Kahlua.
  • Pour a large ladleful of the white mixture onto the biscuit base tilting the tin to cover the base. Add a little more if required. Add the same amount of the chocolate mix gently on the white layer and let it spread. Do not tilt the tin.

 

  • Alternate the layers using about half the remaining mixture each time until both the mixtures are used up. You should get 4 pourings of the light mixture and 3 pourings of the chocolate mixture. A little here and there won’t change the equation or look of the cake. As you keep pouring in the layers the previous ones will spread creating a ripple effect.

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  • Put a pan of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven and the cheesecake on the rack above. Bake for 45-50 minutes until the light mixture in the centre is just set. The chocolate mixture will firm up as the cheesecake cools.

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  • Remove from the oven and set the cheesecake on a wire rack to cool. Run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake before removing the tin. Carefully remove the tin and refrigerate the cake until ready to serve.
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LE DIABOLO- THE SUPERIOR CHOCOLATE CAKE

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This post is long overdue. Its been a month of cookies, cakes, bars and a few failed projects. On the positive note my anniversary cake has been a big hit and was lapped up in two sittings. I had no time to decorate it and the boys had no patience to wait for it to be covered in chocolate clay or ganache (not that it needs any more additions!) I couldn’t hold them and myself off any longer, so we unleashed ourselves on my heart shaped anniversary cake sans the frosting, the roses or the ribbons and enjoyed it just the same.

I must mention here that I have been on a mission to teach myself how to decorate a cake and make it look pretty. This futile exercise in cosmetics has been going on for a few years now and at the end of it all I throw up my hands in frustration, chuck the fondant, chocolate clay into the bin….only to get back and bind myself up, in thick fondant and chocolate clay all over again. This year I resolved to try making chocolate clay and went after the recipe like a woman possessed. I made dark chocolate and white chocolate clay. The end result was a slab of hard rock that wouldn’t budge but would do the job of a murder weapon or a meat mallet quite well!! (LOL)😄

I did manage to get a few roses from the dark chocolate but the white chocolate clay remained stubborn and stiff refusing to give in to my desperate kneading and massages. I must also clarify that it has nothing to do with the recipes, it has to be something to do with my mindset or the reluctant vibe that I give off when planning a beautification project. Until I get the science of clay making right I will keep looking enviously at the lovely pictures on other blogs.

I must apologise for photographing only part of my heart shaped cake. We got so caught up in the taste and dense beauty of this beautiful patisserie that photography wasn’t on my agenda, until my teen jerked his head out of his plate and screamed, spewing cake bits and vanilla ice-cream all over the table “Mom, the blog”. I looked at the half eaten heart with a broken heart and quickly halted the party, whipped out my ipad and clicked the left-overs. Don’t get put off by the pics, I promise you this half eaten heart holds a lot of promise and no one will notice or ever critic you for the lack of fuss and frills. It is immensely chocolatey, with a melting texture and just needs an accompaniment of whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream or just enjoy it as is. Thank God your taste buds have no eyes!! 😆😆

RECIPE

LE DIABOLO- THE SUPERIOR CHOCOLATE CAKE

150 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped

150 grams unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 ½ teaspoon Vanilla extract

3 eggs separated

115 grams Caster Sugar

50 grams ground almonds

40 grams plain flour, sifted

½ teaspoon salt (scant)

  • Preheat oven to 190o C. Grease and line with parchment paper an 8-9 inch springform cake tin. An ordinary tin will do just as well.
  • Melt the chocolate and butter together over a double boiler, careful not to overheat. Once most of the chocolate has melted get it off the heat and stir the remaining bits and they will melt.
  • In a medium bowl beat the egg yolks with 70 grams of sugar until pale and thick. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture followed by the almonds, flour and salt.
  • In a squeaky clean bowl, whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks, add in the remaining sugar and whip until the whites are stiff.
  • Fold a large spoonful of the egg whites in the chocolate mixture to lighten it and then fold in the remaining whites.
  • Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre shows moist crumbs. The cake will rise and a crust will form on the top. Let the cake cool in the tin placed on a wire rack. Press down the cake before removing from the tin.
  • Serve with a dollop of fresh cream or vanilla ice cream. Serves 10.

 

 

GATEAUX PITHIVIERS

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Hello! I know I have been showing up in small bursts and spurts. I must say I have been quite tardy lately. Blame it on my “go-slow-on-sugar-flour-and –butter-New Year resolution”. A slight change in the pleasurable pursuits of life can slow me down. We get so foolishly carried away by the bright lights and promise that a New Year brings, that we are ready to chuck it all and lead the life of a sage. How did I convince myself not to bake too much, when I am at my happiest and most charming after a rigorous baking session. Come February and the repercussions of a sugarless life has dawned on me and I hereby, officially kick food-related resolutions out the door and continue on my sweet journey. (LOL)

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I have missed 2 Daring Bakers’ Challenges in a row. I have completed one challenge yesterday (Pithiviers) and the next one will be done next week in the form of my anniversary cake. I also have 2 meal recipes lined up. There! Now that I have committed myself in print there isn’t any going back.

The Gateaux Pithivier originated in the town of Pithivier in the Orleans section of France. It’s a beautiful wedding of pastry and Frangipane/frangipani or Crème d’amandes. The frangipane is almost like a fragrant orange scented marzipan, stuffed inside the fluffy pastry. (the Frangipani recipe is taken from the Daring Bakers’ December Challenge

Since I was short on time I used a Rough Puff Pastry instead of Puff Pastry. It is definitely a cheat’s version but I was happy with the end result. The pastry is scored with free hand S shapes on the top and on baking, the S fluff up into exaggerated curves giving the pie a glamorous look. The almond filling is not too sweet and marries well with the pastry. The scalloped edges which is the trademark of a Pithivier is such fun to do. Though mine wasn’t perfect it did the job.

By the time I got the Pithivier out of the oven I realized maybe what I missed dearly was not the sugar kick but the kick I get out of baking and the happy hormones it activates in my brain. So all in all it is back to a Happy, Tired but Sweet existence.

PITHIVIER

RECIPE

Rough Puff Pastry

2 cups all-purpose flour

320 grms Butter, chilled and cut into cubes

120 ml chilled water

1/4 teaspoon salt

  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour. With a pastry blender (or two table knives) cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly but even, with pea-sized pieces of butter. Make a well in the middle and pour in a little of the ice cold water. Toss the flour/butter and water together with a fork until the dough starts to clump together. Add a little more water if the dough feels dry and doesn’t clump together..
  • Turn the dough out onto your work surface – don’t worry if there are still pockets of dry flour. Gently knead and squeeze the mixture a few times just enough to bring it together into a square (a bench scraper is helpful for this). Be careful not to overwork the dough: there should be visible bits of butter and it should still look very rough.
  • Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin, and roll the dough out into a rectangle about 10” (25 cm) long. Fold the bottom third of the dough up into the middle, and fold the top third down, like you are folding a letter. This is the first fold. Give the dough a quarter turn so that one of the open edges is facing you, and roll out again into a 10” (25 cm) rectangle. Fold again – this is the second fold. Repeat the rolling and folding 3 more times, for 5 folds total. Your dough will get smoother and neater looking with each fold (the pictures show the first and fifth folds).
  • If your kitchen is very warm and the dough gets too soft or sticky to do all the folds at once, chill it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes between folds. After the fifth fold, use your rolling pin to tap the dough into a neat square. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for a least 1 hour, or overnight.

Frangipani

100 grms Almonds, blanched and toasted

75 grms sugar

2 large eggs

rind of 1 lemon/ orange, grated

1/2 teaspoon Vanilla essence

  • Grind the almonds to a fine powder.
  • Mix all the above ingredients until well blended
  • Line a 6-7 inch bowl with cling film. there should be enough cling film hanging over the sides of the bowl to cover the frangipani mixture. pour the frangipani mixture into the bowl. Cover with the cling film and transfer to a flat plate. Leave in the fridge to chill (2 hours). I put it in the freezer for an hour until it was semi-set.

Assembling the Pithivier

Rough Puff Pastry

Frangipani

1 egg lightly beaten

  • Preheat oven to 220 C
  • Cut the pastry dough into half and return one half to the fridge. On a lightly floured counter top roll out the dough into a 9 inch circle. Transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment. Brush egg on the inside of the edge
  • Remove the frangipani mix from the fridge and lay it on the rolled out pastry circle. Return to the fridge.
  • Roll out the other piece of pastry and lay it on top of the frangipani to cover the pastry. The edges should be aligned. Press down gently on the edges to seal.
  • To make the scallops, push down on the edge of the pastry firmly with your fore finger to create an impression as seen in the pic below. Repeat this all over the circumference of the pastry circle.

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  • Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash. With a sharp knife make an S starting from the centre to the sides. You can freeze it at this stage to be baked later.
  • Bake in a preheated 220 C oven for 10 minutes. Then lower the heat to 180 C and bake till golden brown (25-30 mins).

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  • Sprinkle sugar on the top and further bake at 220 C till it caramelises. This is optional. The pie can be served warm and keeps well in a airtight container on the counter for 2 days, after which it will need to be refrigerated.

 

 

 

 

PIES

 

Apple Pie and Mince Pies

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Since the New Year has started I have been struggling to get off the sugar, flour and butter wagon and do it healthy. As a result I have been a bit crabby (LOL). Its not easy you know, for a person who has been popping cookies, gorging on cake and licking chocolate off every spoon and bowl the whole of December, to suddenly chuck the sweet life in January. Finally last week I decided to ease into my old self again and try out a slightly healthy version of the apple pie. A warm apple pie on a chilly evening or any chilly-time of the day is such a treat and if you know that it comes with oats and wheat flour in the crust and not too much sugar, then it is all the more welcome. Junior was a happy man to know his mom was back and sugar-sane again, but I detected a hint of sulkiness in Senior and thought I better treat him to a Mince pie since apple pies are too delicate for his hearty taste-buds.

I have taken a basic rough puff pastry recipe and added some ground oats and wheat flour, used low fat butter and a little olive oil. The oil was added to tame the flour and make it behave, since it was dry and crumbly and wouldn’t come together. The apple filling is sweetened with minimal sugar, I used lots of raisins instead and cashews.

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The mince pie filling is made from chicken mince with an addition of raisins and cashews as an ode to the Christmas Pies which I drooled over on other blogs. The filling was sweet and savoury with a mild hint of chilly and though I didn’t taste it I assume it was good……it didn’t last too long!

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The crusts need to be baked before they are filled and baked again. They need a good long bake or else they will end up doughy and raw. Finally, with this post I have got the New Year rolling with the Life of Two Pies (which didn’t last too long!!)

RECIPE

APPLE PIE

Makes 1 x 7” Pie

Serves 6

Rough Puff Pastry Crust

200 grams Butter, chilled (low-fat)

¼ cup oil

80 grams ground oats

100 grams whole wheat flour

100 grams plain flour

Pinch of salt

1 cup chilled water

1 ½ teaspoon lemon juice

  • Sift the flours and salt into a large bowl. Add the cubed butter. Using a knife cut the butter until coated with the flour.
  • Sprinkle over lemon juice, oil and half the water. Cut into the flour with a dinner knife until mixed but not breaking up the butter. Add a little more water if the mixture looks too dry.
  • With lightly floured fingers bring the mixture together to form a rough ball. Turn out onto a floured surface and bring it gently together and pat into a rectangle. Cover with a cling film and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove from the fridge and on a floured surface roll out the dough to form a rectangle, 18×6 inches. The dugh may look rough and difficult to manage at this stage but as you go along folding and rolling it will come together.
  • Fold the lower third up and the top third down. Give a quarter turn and seal the edges. Cover and refrigerate for 15-20 mins.
  • Continue rolling and folding, chilling the dough 4 times, giving it a quarter turn each time you fold.
  • Roll the pastry into a round of 3 mm thickness, line your tin (7 inch false bottomed pie tin) with the pastry . Trim the edges. Fork it all over and bake in a pre-heated oven at 190o C for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is a light golden and firm.

Filling

6 medium sized apples/ 4 large ( peeled, cored and sliced)

2 teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup golden raisins

½ cup cashews

Juice of ½ lemon

Pinch of salt

½ teaspoon oil/ butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

  • In a large pan heat oil or butter, add the apples and stir fry on medium heat.
  • Add the sugar, salt and cinnamon. Stir
  • Let the apples cook for 5 minutes to dry out the water content but make sure the pieces remain whole and do not turn mushy.
  • Add the raisins and cashews.
  • Cool the mixture before using.

Assembling:

  • Preheat oven to 190oC
  • Lightly brush the inside of the pre-cooked shell with beaten egg (this is optional). Spoon the mixture into the shell. Using left over pastry to make strips and form a lattice over the pie. Brush with egg.
  • Bake at 190oC until the top is golden brown and cooked (approx 30 minutes)

CRUMBLE CHEESECAKE PIE- DARING BAKERS’ CHALLENGE

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Technology has so overtaken their existence its almost as if we will cease to exist without the gadgets. Teens no more do the things we used to, they hang out on the gadget, their fingers and eyeballs the only parts of their bodies that move. “But I do read , Mom” he says it in response to my “dark look of disapproval”. Yes he does, that too, on a gadget. Come on folks whatever happened to good old books…dog-eared, dusty, and comfortingly familiar. And what happened to my childhood pass-times. I spent hours in the company of a pair of scissor, glue and paper, colour pencils which were reduced to a stub and pens which dried out from overuse. Creative that’s what we were. Creative, thats what my fellow Daring Bakers are. We are a bunch of people who challenge each other to think, innovate, twist the recipe around yet sticking to the broad out-line. Yea, yes we use technology and gadgets but that’s to keep us connected not distanced from reality and real people.

Old-school? Yes that’s me….if I can do it from scratch I will do it….even though the effort may be a foolish waste of time. That’s the way I tackled this challenge, a crumble, a cheesecake, a pie, all made from scratch….the cream cheese too!

Blog checking lines: For the month of November Krista & Nicole of “Two Cups of Sugar.” challenged us to make our own version of cheesecake crumble pie.

Cheesecake Crumble Pie….It is such an innovative idea, though a bit over the top. The pie is a speciality of a bakery in their hometown which makes Cheesecake Crumble Pies and the sisters rightfully judged that this group of bakers were the ultimate guinea pigs (LOL)!!

There is a savoury and a sweet version of the crumble pie and I made both for 2 reasons I couldn’t decide between the 2 and secondly senior likes savoury and junior likes both 🙂

There are 3 elements to be prepared, the pie crust, the cheesecake and the streusel or crumble on the top.

I decided to go homemade all the way and made my cream cheese at home too (recipe after this post). That left me feeling so fulfilled in ways I can’t explain, that an extra piece of cheesecake was gulped down without guilt (the cream cheese is low fat after all)

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The pies turned out beautifully and junior, senior and all in-between were happy. The savoury pie to which I added corn and spinach (to give an illusion of “healthy”) was almost like a quiche but richer. I topped it with a mix of crushed crackers, melted butter and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese.

The sweet version was yummm too and the cheesecake was the right sweetness. I added choco-coffee swirls and topped it with a mix of oats, honey, a tablespoon of flour and butter.

Then what is it that bothered me??? The pie crust!! I wasn’t happy with it. Shortening !! I don’t use it often or at all. The pie crust was tough and greasy and the taste and texture left a lot to be desired. Maybe I didn’t do it write or maybe I over-worked it…… you can use your own pie crust recipe or try this out. I wonder why a short crust pastry wasn’t used.

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The next time I would go with a short crust pastry or my favourite biscuit crust (old school???). Initially I resisted the idea of the crunchy topping but it added character to the pie and it is an innovative way to turn your cheesecake on its head. A friend who tasted it said that the topping cuts through the rich, smoothness of the cheesecake. My homemade cream cheese ensured that the pie wasn’t sickeningly heavy, so mom and son had big, guilt free portions.

All in all I would give a big thumbs up to the Cheesecake Crumble Pie and if I had to do it again it would be with a biscuit crust and maybe the crunchy topping as a side. My mantra- if I can bake it, I won’t buy it (ever)!!  🙂

RECIPE

CHEESECAKE CRUMBLE PIE

(New York Cheesecake)- Serves 8-10

Recipe 1: Pie Crust

To fit 1 Pie Dish of 9” diameter Preparation time: 10 minutes Baking time: 13 minutes

 

Ingredients

1 ¼ cups /175g all-purpose (plain) flour

¾ tsp fine salt

6 Tbsp / 77g shortening, cubed

1 ½ Tbsp / 21g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed or grated

6 – 7 Tbsp / 90 – 105ml ice water

  • Sift together flour & salt. Add in shortening and butter and mix by rubbing mixture between your hands until it resembles a coarse meal/ bread crumbs. Do not leave big pieces of shortening as they melt during the baking process and create tiny hole in the pastry
  • Sprinkle 6 Tbsp / 90ml of ice water over the mixture and blend gently by hand or with a fork until it holds together. If mixture is not holding together add additional an additional 1 Tbsp of ice water as necessary. Add a little at a time. Too much water causes the pastry to shrink.
  • Shape dough into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes.

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  • Preheat oven to 425°F / 220°C

 

  • Lightly flour working area and roll out dough into a round 1.5” larger than the pie pan.
  • Gently place in pie pan and cut away the excess dough. Prick the dough several times with a small knife or fork and fill with beans, baking weights or an 8” / 20cm cake pan to help keep shape during baking.

Bake for 9 minutes. Remove weight/cake pan and bake for an additonal 3 – 4 minutes until edges of crust are lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

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Recipe 2:

New York Style Cheesecake (Sweet)

Servings: fills a 9” / 23cm pie + a little extra

 

450g cream cheese

¾ cup / 150g white sugar

½ tsp grated lemon zest

¼ tsp vanilla

2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk

¼ cup / 60ml heavy cream

For the Chocolate CoffeenSwirl- melt together 40 grms dark chocolate +20 grms butter over a double boiler. Remove from heat once it has melted. Stir and add in 2 heaped tablspoons of almond meal and 1 teaspoon instant coffee. I also add 2 teaspoons of Tia Maria. Leave to cool and proceed with the cheesecake.

  • Have all the ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 220°C.
  • Beat cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides and add sugar gradually while beating until smooth (about 1 – 2 minutes).
  • Beat in lemon zest and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  • Beat in eggs one at a time until incorporated. On low speed, beat in heavy cream.
  • Pour filling into prepared crust.

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  • Splatter or dot top of cheesecake with the chocolate coffee mix. Swirl it around gently with a butter knife or toothpick. You just want swirls of brown chocolate and not a light brown cheesecake. You may not need all the choc-coffee mix. Use it sparingly (5-6 tablespoons max)

 

  • Bake for 15 minutes at 220°C. Top with crumble (see recipe 3) and return to oven at reduced temperature of 100°C and bake for 50mins-1 hour more. Turn the oven off, prop the door ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon, and let the cake cool in the oven for 30 minutes.

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  • Remove to a rack and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving.

 

 

Recipe 3: Crumble (Sweet)

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½ cup oats

2 tablespoons Chopped Nuts

25 grms Butter

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon Brown Sugar

½ tsp. Cinnamon

Pinch of salt

Melt the butter on medium heat.

Add the honey and turn off the heat.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

CHARLOTTE ROYALE

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There are recipes that you read, pictures that you stare at and think “Oh, My God, I want to make this” and there are some who say “Oh My God, I have to eat this”. Well I am more of the former….don’t mistake me, I love my desserts and need a “dessert fix” a couple-a-times a week, but the pleasure and anticipation and the sheer thrill, of executing a complex recipe goes way beyond the pleasure of devouring it. If I haven’t said it before (who cares if I am saying it again, its my blog!! 🙂 ….LOL), it’s the journey that I look forward to more than the destination.

Charlotte Royale is one such dessert that I was itching to make,  since I missed it on the Daring Bakers’ Challenge.

As you can see from my hastily taken pictures, slices of swiss roll encase a beautiful filling. The filling can be anything that you fancy from a chocolate mousse, to vanilla ice cream.  The light swiss roll is so beautiful that it’s a treat in itself and I had a tough time stopping my young man from gobbling down a few slices. The swiss roll is cut into ¼” slices and a 6-8 cup bowl is lined with the slices and left to set in the fridge. The filling is a light orange flavoured Bavarian Cream to which I added some chocolate to give a marbled effect but the chocolate hardened as soon as it hit the cold cream. Once the cream is poured in its “swiss roll shell”, it is topped with another sponge layer which can be cut to fit the top.

Don’t rush into the whole process in one day. Its best spread over 2-3 days. This is a masterpiece and takes time and oraganisation. Let the journey unravel slowly and at a leisurely pace. It freezes well so it’s a fabulous make-ahead dessert.  I made it for my pre-new year dinner party, for my favourite friends. Since I had to click pictures for the blog, I kept the guests waiting and risked mob fury. But finally the delay was forgiven; such was the beauty’s magic.

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If you have seen the Miss. World contest, where they repeat year after year after year  “beauty inside and outside”….well Miss. Charlotte is one such dessert. Beautiful outside and beautiful inside. Unlike the Miss. World contestants you don’t need to plaster it with make-up on the outside, She is beautiful as is.  Stunning, with clean lines, a little complex tasting  and like all good things you want more. I crown Ms. Charlotte the new Miss. World of the Dessert Land- a beauty with a very decadent cause. 🙂

RECIPE

CHARLOTTE ROYALE

Step 1: SWISS ROLL

50 grams sifted cake flour/ all-purpose flour

4 ½  tablespoon  unsifted cornstarch

6 large eggs  room temperature

3/4  cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 oz/113g) sugar, divided

1 ½ teaspoon vanilla

¼  teaspoon cream of tartar

¾ cup seedless, raspberry/ strawberry jam

 

  • Preheat oven to hot 230°C.  Grease the swissroll pan /sheet pan and line it with parchment and then grease it again and flour it. Do the same with a 7-8 inch cake tin.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and cornstarch.
  • Separate3 of the eggs, placing the yolks in one large mixing bowl and the whites in another.
  • To the yolks, add the 2 remaining eggs, and ¾  cup of the sugar.
  • Beat the yolk mixture  on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick, fluffy and tripled in volume.  Beat in the vanilla.
  • Sift ½ the flour mixture over the egg mixture and fold it in gently but rapidly with a large balloon whisk until the flour has disappeared. The balloon whisk will help the flour to be incorporated with the egg mix without deflating the bubbles. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture.
  • Beat the egg whites with the whisk attachment until foamy, add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Beat in the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold the whites into the batter and pour into the prepared cake tin (a thin layer) and the pan. Using an angled/offset metal spatula  level it.
  • Bake for 7-9 minutes or until golden brown, a cake tester comes out clean, and the cake is springy to the touch.
  • As soon as the cake has finished baking, slide it out of the pan onto a flat surface using the parchment to help move it.  Cool the round cake on a wire rack and proceed with the swiss roll.
  • Flip the cake (for the roll) onto a clean dishtowel and carefully remove the parchment paper.
  • While the cake is still hot, roll cake up tightly in the dishtowel.  Roll from the longest side with the darkest side of the cake on the inside.  Cool the rolled cake/towel on a rack.
  • When ready to fill, gently unroll the cake .  Spread up to ½ cup of raspberry/ strawberry jam in a thin layer on top of the cooled cake. The jam should look like it’s barely covering the cake. Don’t lay it on thick.
  • Roll up the cake as tightly as you can about 1/3 of the way and then use the towel to pull the roll towards you , continue to use the towel to help roll the cake all the way up.  The completed roll should be about 2” (5 cm) in diameter.  It is important to get this roll as tight as possible as you do not want gaps in the spirals.
  • Wrap the roll tightly in plastic wrap and freeze until firm enough to slice, at least a couple of hours.  If desired, the roll and the base can be frozen for a few weeks before you make the rest of the Charlotte.
  • When the roll is firm, cut it into ¼ inch (5 mm) slices with a small, serrated knife.  You want to get as many spirals as possible, so be careful to evenly cut the slices as close to ¼ inch (5 mm) as you can.

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Step 2:  ORANGE BAVARIAN CREAM:

1/2 cup (65gm) sugar

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon  gelatin powder

3 large egg yolk

1-2/3  cups (400 ml) milk

1 vanilla bean, split (you may also use extract/paste, but add it when the cream is cool)

1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream

1½ tablespoon Cointreau or Grand Marnier

Note: As a general rule, two gelatine leaves is equivalent to one teaspoon of powdered gelatine.

  • Refrigerate the mixing bowl for whipping the cream.
  • Have ready a fine strainer nearby, suspended over a small bowl.
  • In a small, heavy saucepan, stir together the sugar, salt, gelatin and yolks until well blended, using a wooden spoon.
  • In another small saucepan heat the milk and vanilla bean to just below a simmer.  There will be steam rising off the milk and there may be some small bubbles but it will not be at an active simmer yet.  Stir a few tablespoons of hot milk into the yolk mixture to temper it.  Gradually add the remaining hot milk and vanilla bean, stirring constantly.
  • Heat the egg and milk mixture, stirring constantly, to just below a simmer again  Steam will begin to appear and the mixture will be slightly thicker than heavy cream.  It will leave a well-defined track when a finger is run across the back of a spoon.  
  • Remove from the heat and pour the mixture along with the vanilla seeds into a bowl to cool.  Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sauce.  Stir until the seeds separate.
  • Chill the pastry cream in the refrigerator for about 1½ 2 hours (checking frequently and stirring occasionally) until whisk marks barely begin to appear when stirred.
  • In the chilled bowl, whip the cream until it mounds softly when dropped from a spoon.
  • Whisk the liqueur and orange juice concentrate* into the pastry cream and then fold in the whipped cream just until incorporated.  The mixture will be soupy, like melted ice cream. .

*To make the concentrate, start with ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice and reduce it to 2 tablespoons.  Add the concentrate when the mixture is cool. 

Note:  This is a very lightly flavored Bavarian and the flavor is better after a day or two.  If you want a stronger flavor, you may want to use some orange oil or orange extract in addition to the concentrate and zest.

Step 3: ASSEMBLING THE CHARLOTTE:

Lightly oil a 6-cup (1½ litre) round bowl or mold (the smaller the diameter at the top the better) and line it as smoothly as possible with plastic wrap, leaving a small overhang . if you find handling the clingfilm painful, skip it and make sure the bowl is well oiled.

To line the bowl, place 1 slice in the bottom center and place other slices around it as tightly as possible to try to avoid gaps.

The width of your mould and the width of your slices will determine how far up the mould you can get.

 Adjust the spirals to eliminate gaps, but it may not be possible to make it fit perfectly.  If there are any gaps between the spirals, plug them with a small amount of the remaining raspberry jam or some trimmings from unused spirals.  You want to plug these spots to prevent the Bavarian Cream from leaking through. Its also a good idea to see that all the spirals are in the same direction, it looks prettier.

Cover the lined bowl tightly and place it in the refrigerator until the filling is ready.

Make the Bavarian cream and spoon it into the lined bowl until it comes up to the top of the bowl or just to the place the top spirals last touch each other.  Trim the top spirals even above the cream if necessary.

Place the cake round on top of the cream and touching the edge of the spirals.   Press down gently on the edges of the cake circle so it makes contact with the edge of the spirals.

Cover tightly and refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours.

To unmold, invert onto a plate and lift away the bowl, tugging gently on the plastic wrap to release it.  To prevent drying out, leave the plastic wrap in place until serving.

COCONUT AND LIME PANACOTTA

COCONUT AND LIME PANACOTTA image Some 30 summers back the simple pleasures included drinking nimbu paani (lemon juice) from a local roadside vendor. Homemade lime juice just didn’t taste the same. 7-up, Sprite and Pepsi weren’t part of our life then. He squirted the juice of 2 lemons into the glasses with a wooden, worn-out lime squeezer, mixed in chaat masala he and the sugar syrup to make a yummy, tangy cool mix. And ofcourse the uneven shards of ice that filled the glass, which he broke with an ice pick from a huge block hidden under a jute bag. Sometimes being short on cash I would happily ask for “cutting” (half glass) nimbu paani and share it with a friend. It only added to the joy. Coconuts too were a huge part of our life, before we could spell cholesterol. All the simple things which gave us so much pleasure as kids are now frowned upon or looked at with suspicion and dread. Coconut water that sweet, cooling, life giving, toxic washing liquid. Everytime I accompanied an adult to the market to buy coconuts, the vendor broke them and served the coconut water in the half itself. It was a thrill. An outing to the beach always ended with Narayal paani (coconut water) and once done the coconut cream was scooped out. Now, nimbu paani and coconut water, cream and milk all come out of tetra packs. Yes, convenient, hygienic, flavours intact but not half the fun and with no “memory –value” either. image I have combined 2 favourite memories to get one lovely, silky dessert, perfect for the summers. Though the ingredients sound heavy the dessert comes out surprisingly light and subtle on flavours. Its like eating lime flavoured coconut cream. Its so easy and fast, you will be lulled into a state of laziness and want to make it again and again.

RECIPE

COCONUT AND LIME PANACOTTA

200 ml Coconut milk

200 ml cream

75 grms sugar

1 1/4 tspn gelatine

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

1 stalk lemon grass, bruised (optional)

  • Take a tablespoon of tepid water in a small heat-proof bowl. Sprinkle the gelatine over it and leave aside to sponge.
  • Put the coconut cream in a heavy based container. Put it on a low heat to boil. Add in the sugar. Stir intermittently till the mixture is simmering but not boiling over. Switch off the heat and add in the lemon grass stalk and lemon zest to infuse the flavours. Leave aside and let it cool to room temperature.
  • In another pan/ vessel, heat the cream gently and bring it to a boil. Put off the heat. Let cool slightly. Add a tablespoon of the hot cream to the gelatine to loosen it up a little. Add the gelatine to the cream and stir well to dissolve. Strain the cream mixture into a bowl and leave it cool to room temperature.
  • Make sure the coconut milk and cream have cooled completely. Strain the coconut milk into the cream mixture and stir it well. Discard the lemon grass stalk and zest. Strain the 2 combined liquids into another container to get rid of the gelatine lumps if any. Add in the lemon juice. Stir. Taste the mixture. If you feel the need for a little more tang go ahead and add a little more lemon juice.
  • Pour the mixture into 4 ramekins or shot glasses. Chill for 6-8 hours.
  • Serving suggestions: Brown 2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut in a pan, stirring constantly. When it turns a nutty brown, empty it into a bowl, cool a little and add ½ teaspoon of caster sugar and a generous pinch of cardamom powder. Mix well. Sprinkle over the panacotta
  • Cut fresh coconut into thin slices and brown under a grill. Remove and coat them with caster sugar and top each panacotta with a slice.