Tag: chocolate

TWO WRONGS DO MAKE A RIGHT- THEY MAKE ONE GREAT DESSERT!

I was reading an article today that talked about how within just 6 days the Japanese repaired a section of the Great Kanto Highway that had been badly damaged by the earthquake. The article further goes on to state that many workers returned to their jobs only a day after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami and some businesses in the worst-hit regions have already reopened.

My prayers go out for the people of Japan who have suffered such grave loss, and hearing such stories of the Japanese determination just strengthens my belief that if any one nation has the power to rise again after such a tragedy- it is Japan. It emerged triumphant from the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and even now they will rise again. No wonder they are called the land of the rising sun!

Its such a simple lesson that one can take from the Japanese tragedy and the fortitude of the Japanese people- one could either resign and sit after such a disaster and accept it as nature’s will or one can stand up and be determined to get back on his/her feet.

Not that my tragedies in the kitchen are even remotely related to what Japan has gone through and is still going through, but the lesson learnt is to never give up and some wrongs can be made into a right if you have the will and determination along with some creativity.

I have joined the Daring Baker’s gang and February would have been my first DB challenge. But I failed in completing it as my first attempt was a failure and I was busy travelling after that to give it another shot. The challenge was to make Panna cotta and florentine cookies. My first attempt at Panna cotta was a big flop. It would not have been such a flop had I not used silicon muffin moulds for setting the Panna cotta. I am assuming so because the ones I left to set in the ramekins turned out fine. But out of the 13 servings I had, I put only four to set in the ramekins. Since I these were to be served for a party of 8 I knew I had to think of another way to serve them or make a completely different dessert. So instead I set out to make a chocolate Zucchini cake. Now, that is another story!

For the Zucchini cake- my parents bought a new oven and it was the first time I was baking a cake in it. I was scared- I had made buns earlier in it and they browned too quickly from the bottom and not from the top. So I knew the oven did not have even heating and I would have to keep a constant watch. If technical issues were not enough, human error on my part made sure that a disaster was on its way. I decided to use an angel cake pan for the batter. I knew that I would need another pan so I greased a small loaf pan too. But, I don’t know why, when I started pouring the batter I thought I should be good with only the bundt pan. I should have known better to not overfill. There was a voice that did tell me to pour the batter in the other pan as well (and it was right there- all greased up), but I was left with only a ladleful (or so I thought) and thought I should be able to manage with one pan. And in spite of my better judgement I filled it to the top. I knew it then and there I made a mistake.

And then it happened. Like lava the cake batter started overflowing from the pan and touching the sheet pan I had put underneath the rack. And my heart sank. It overflew and dropped on the pan and started burning since the sheet pan was on the lower most shelf and the house smelt of burnt cake, even though on the middle rack the cake was still baking. There was smoke all over and once the batter stopped falling from the pan, I removed the sheet pan and removed the burnt cake batter. The cake, once baked, was in no shape to serve as is, though it tasted really good.

The party was the same night and I had two failed desserts, albeit tasty! I did have the crumbs from the cake and a smooth, partially set panna cotta. I decided to make parfait like desserts with the two disasters. And boy, were they a hit. The creaminess from the panna cotta combined with the moist, chocolatey cake made a perfect dessert! (Of course, individually too they make fabulous eats!)

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TRIPLE LAYER CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE

So 19th/20th was our first wedding anniversary. V and I completed one year and would you believe it, we could not celebrate it together! I am in India and he is in the States and though he tried he could not get leave from office.

The reason why I mention two days is because we had our Hindu wedding (V is Hindu) on the 19th of March and our Sikh wedding (I am Sikh) on 20th March. Lot of people are kind of taken aback when I tell them ours is an arranged marriage because generally in Indian culture arranged marriages happen within the same religion and only in cases of love marriages, people of different religions marry. While his family and most of my family consider our anniversary to be on the 19th, my grandparents take 20th as our wedding anniversary. I don’t mind it because it gives me two days to celebrate! It also is a good save for people who forgot or couldn’t wish me on the 19th, and a few did use that as an excuse.

Now, since I am at my in-laws and it was our first anniversary and my first trip to India after marriage, my in-laws wanted to invite V’s relatives so that I could meet all of them. My in-laws always hire a cook when they throw a party at home. So the main course and snacks were all the cook’s responsibility. I was pretty impressed by the speed with which this guy cooked. He came at 12 in the noon on the day of the party and within 5 hours prepared 4 different snacks and 6-7 main course dishes! I wish I could work so fast. I guess that’s how the real professionals work.

Since the food was the cook’s responsibility, I thought of making the dessert. I had been itching to make this triple layer chocolate cake for days, and had luckily saved the recipe. I also wanted to try these chocolate roses I had seen on Cake on the Brain a while back. Unfortunately, I did not save the tutorial for the roses and when I sat down to make the cake I did not have the recipe nor the method to make the roses as there was some problem with the internet. I did remember that the recipe called for dark chocolate and corn syrup but had no idea about the proportions. Nor did I have corn syrup on hand so I used sugar and water instead. As a result, I did end up goofing the roses a bit but nonetheless was able to pull off some passable roses.

I think I did over bake the bottom layer a tad bit even though it was in the oven for less than 14 minutes but since I was using a microwave oven I think it baked faster! So do keep an eye on the bottom layer while baking as different ovens will vary in temperature and baking time. Also, as suggested by some on Annie’s Eat, I did not butter the sides of the spring form pan as mentioned in the recipe. But, I feel because of that and over baking, the cake cracked on top. I would still suggest you to not butter the sides, since by greasing, the bottom layer retracts from the sides giving way for the second layer to fill the gaps, resulting in just two layers to be shown on the outside.

I was double minded to post this recipe since the pictures did not come out too great as 1) the cake could have been prettier and 2) I hurriedly took the pictures as I had to rush for a “phoolon ki holi” party (it was my first time at such a party and the concept behind it is that people play Holi- a spring time Hindu festival – by throwing flowers at each other!). But, the cake was such a big hit at our party and everyone just loved it. I have to admit it does taste heavenly- c’mon! three different chocolate layer- how could one go wrong! So, despite not-so tempting pictures I would still insist you should try this cake out- you will surely not be disappointed! Promise!

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LAVENDER TRUFFLES

I am finally in India! Met my parents after almost a year. It feels so different- being at home after your marriage. I am still trill trying to comprehend the feeling I have, so it would be difficult to put it in words right now. The journey was long- more so thanks to my fever and cough.

I had a four hour wait at LA airport and thought I would blog to kill some time- but, the internet service was really bad at the airport, so guess the post had to wait. It was just not the greatest time for me to board a flight. Amidst excitement of meeting everyone back in India and of course the sadness of leaving V alone for such a long time, I was also fighting a terrible cold accompanied by severe body ache and fever. The day of my flight I was up in the morning at 3, waking V up and exclaiming how am I going to take the flight today- I just had no strength. Definitely, this was not a good time to get sick.

I hate travelling alone- I mean I really hate it- especially if I have a lot of luggage- which, of course, I did. And to travel with a fever and cold- well, hate would be too mild a word for the feeling I have. It kind of surpasses the excitement and the sadness- and the feeling that I had was to just get to India in one piece.

In the plane, though, I had a revelation. I watched 127 hours. (127 hours is a true story of a real life mountain climber Aron who gets trapped in a boulder for more than five days and has to amputate his arm to free himself. The movie is based on Aron’s book Between a Rock and a Hard Place). It kind of made me realise how petty my problem was- it was just a fever, cold- nothing a medicine couldn’t cure- and that gave me strength to enjoy the rest of the journey and not keep saying- why me,God! why now! (I tend to be a drama queen at times!) So, by the time I reached Dubai, I was all excited to meet my parents and everyone at home!

I never had a favorite color- it kind of keeps changing. Black has been constant but the rest evolve. Now, for a long time I have had this obsession with the color purple and all its hues. My iPhone case is purple. One of my favorite scarfs is purple. From Denver I picked up these measuring cups and spoons from Sur La Table for my mom and they too were purple and well, the list goes on. This obsession with purple might explain my current inclination to use lavender in the food I make. (My friends from the coffee group have promised helping me set up a herb garden once I’m back. I plan to have my own lavender plant and some other herbs.)

So, the other day, while going through Helen’s blog Tartelette for her macarons tutorial I stumbled on her lavender truffles recipe. (I love her blog- she is a true inspiration!) I knew I had to make this. I did not have enough of the ingredients called for so I did add some hazelnut creamer (I was out of cream). It gave a nice nutty toasty flavor to the truffles. Adding lavender made them so exquisite and a perfect gift to give some one!

In case you just want to use heavy cream, add 1/2 cup of heavy cream and don’t add the creamer at all.

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KAHLUA BROWNIES & SNOWFALL!

Temperatures have fallen significantly! It snowed today- and quite a lot, going by our small mining town standards! Fresh snow looks so beautiful- and during the holiday season it means even more!

I decided to celebrate the snow by making brownies. I have already posted a brownie recipe before (Maida Heatter’s version). This time I wanted to try Nick Malgeiri’s version. The other day I was surfing through Chowhound’s discussion forums and in the topic “50 dessert you should know” everyone was raving about Nick Malgeiri’s supernatural brownies! I had to give them a try now, and today seemed like the perfect day.

I did want to jack these up a little, in the spirit of the holidays, you know with the new year around the corner ;). I thought Bailey’s would give a perfect twist to the traditional brownies. I wasn’t sure that we had some but the other day V reassured me there was a bottle in our pantry (hmm…how did my eyes miss that?!) I took his word and what would you know, the wife is always right! There wasn’t any bottle.

Now, completely in the mood to jack the brownies up, I decided to use Kahlua. I also added a little coffee powder and a tablespoon of hazelnut creamer.


The brownies came out really good. There is a slight hint of the Kahlua- not too strong, which is good, but any one who wants a stronger flavor I would suggest increasing the amount of Kahlua. V liked them (to be fair he likes everything I make 🙂 ). Taking for my friends tomorrow- the real verdict will be given then.

I am sending my recipe for Divya’s Brownie event

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CHOCOLATE CHIFFON LOAF CAKE

So, we are back to just the two of us in our house. Said bye to V’s parents on Sunday and came back home to an empty house. After one month of Mom’s cooking lessons, catching up on family gossip, Papa’s watering the garden, and celebrating festivals together, V and I are both alone again in the house. From being so busy to not find time to log on to the net, I now have ample time on hand, and of course, back to having nothing to do in the afternoon. Which means- I am back to blogging :)! And, that too with a chocolate chiffon cake! There couldn’t be a better way to come back!

This cake is very, very soft- like the name suggests its like chiffon- light and soft. I couldn’t find vanilla essence in my house, which came as a shock to me, because its never happened that I don’t have a bottle of vanilla essence in my pantry. So, instead I used a teaspoon of Godiva chocolate liqueur (like I needed an excuse for doing that!), notching up the cake a little.

I would use a bigger pan the next time I try making the cake, because the batter did overflow a bit, as a result the cake fell while baking. But, besides that, the cake turned out great- really moist and perfectly chocolaty.
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FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE

Yesterday, it was our 6 month anniversary! (Saying that aloud reminds me of the How I Met Your Mother episode where Robin dumps her boyfriend for celebrating their weekly anniversary- she finds it gay!ouch!). Anywho, and hopefully not sounding gay, yesterday V and I completed 6 months of being together as a married couple. And for us, it was a big deal! Since we had two weddings- 19th March we had our Hindu wedding and 20th March our Sikh one, we get two days to celebrate our anniversary (I’m sure in the future it will be a handy excuse for someone who forgets our anniversary-‘Oh! For me, it will always be on the 20th!’).

Though we wished each other on 19th, I wanted to surprise V with a cake. And since 19th was a Sunday, a day when V is in the house the whole day, I decided to surprise him on the 20th. Because we ate out on 19th, he thought we already celebrated our anniversary and was clueless of the surprise I was cooking up or more like baking up. I am a genius!

So yesterday, I baked the cake in the morning, hid it in the guest room when he came home for lunch. Assembled the cake as soon as he left. Since I had to go for Zumba in the evening, I hid the cake in the fridge, so that when V came back from work he accidentally wouldn’t see the cake. And, luckily, I can trust him to not look inside the fridge when I am not there! When I came back from Zumba, V decided to go to the gym- great!, giving me time to set up surprise- candles, cake and the works.

Now, the cake wasn’t as great as I would have liked it to be. I wanted to like this recipe, I really did want to- its Julia Child’s. But, something just did not sit right with me when it came to the taste. Even though I like my chocolate bitter- the cake was more bitter than I would have liked. Yes, there were some issues with the ingredients- I did not have the required amount of bittersweet chocolate, so substituted a part of it with unsweetened chocolate and upped the sugar amount- but the cake was still quite bitter.

So instead of posting the recipe of the cake I made for our 6 month anniversary, I am posting the recipe for my famous (yes, I count something liked in my family as famous) flourless chocolate cake recipe which has consistently given me great results (the picture at the beginning of this post is of that same famous chocolate cake). The cake has more of a mousse-like texture and is really, really rich. So keep the portions small!

(Since I have not made this cake here in the US, I don’t have the step-by-step photographs. Hopefully the directions are clear enough to understand!)

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CHOCOLATE CHIP/CHUNK COOKIE

Two years back The New York Times came out with an article that was titled: “Perfection: Hint? It’s warm and has a secret”. A year back I read it and life, since then, has never been the same!

The article is an interesting read talking about the search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I don’t know how I stumbled upon it, but have made these cookies quite many times since then and it is definitely the best chocolate chip recipe I have tried yet!

Fresh out of the oven they are just melt-in-your mouth- good. Believe me, they are best warm. I made them first thing in the morning today, because the 36 hour chilling rule to achieve the three texture goal (crunchy on the outside, soft on inside and a mix of both in between) got over at 4 am today. Wish I had got up an hour earlier so that V could have had them freshly baked. But, I got lazy!

They are so good fresh out of the oven that I actually called V up and told him to come back home immediately. He got really worried, asking what happened – is everything OK?And I was like- You HAVE to eat these warm! (Unfortunately, you can’t leave work to eat a freshly baked batch of cookies- life just doesn’t work that ways! Sigh!)

Not that they don’t taste that great afterwards, but freshly baked- well, even a bad cookie tastes great just out of the oven- so these, which are pretty pretty good, just taste freakingly awesome!

Of all the times I have baked this dough recipe, this time had, by far, the best results. It could be because of the unsalted butter- a regular find here, but quite a rarity in India. All manufactured butters are salted, the unsalted kinds are imported and yes, very expensive. It could also be the experience- each time I make them, I learn something new. Next time I am going to add a little cream of tartar. I read somewhere, it gives that cracked look to the cookie (it does nothing to the taste, though) and I would like to see that look more prominent in my cookies.

Jacques Torres makes only 18 cookies out of the whole dough- so they are pretty huge. His are 6-inch affairs. And even though I would love to do that, it just meant having more calories at one go, which, for a person like me is a strict no-no. So I made mine 3 inches wide (yes, they are still big – big enough to enjoy the different textures, but not as harsh on your waistline as the 6 inch ones.)

I used chips instead of chunks, even though I prefer chunks. But since the baking chocolate I had was 54 % cacao content and Torres claims that it should be at least 60 %, if not more, I had to use the 60 % cacao content chips I had.

I added toasted walnuts too. I like mine with nuts. But, since many do not like nuts in their chocolate chip cookies I learnt a trick I saw on Deb’s Smitten Kitchen website. She finely chops her nuts- some the size of peas but many more like powder. That ways you get the toasty flavor and an occasional nut in your cookie, but nothing that overpowers the chocolate in the cookie. A great trick which I am keeping!

I also did not have cake flour. I can never find it at the shops I generally visit. So, instead I used all-purpose flour with a little corn starch. (Substitution rule: for 2 cups cake flour, mix 1 3/4 cups all-purpose with 1/4 cup corn starch.)

But, in spite of all the substitutions, these cookies were just perfect- chewy, gooey, crunchy, caramelly- a bunch of flavors and textures packed together in one cookie! And the salt on top (at a loss of a better play of words), is like icing on a cake! Enjoy it slightly heated in the microwave (about 15 seconds) with a cold glass of milk, coffee or just by its own- it will always taste good!

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MAMA’S FAMOUS CHOCOLATE BALLS

The other day, the song “Main Jahan Rahoon” from the film Namastey London was playing. Now there are certain songs that remind you of a particular incident or person or just a time in your past. This song is an example. So is the song Backstabber. It reminds me of one of my friends and how she would dance on this song. I will always associate the songs from the movie “Maine Pyaar Kiya” with my family and our trip to US when I was 7. The song “Paro” from the movie Shastra reminds me of my sister’s wedding and how we all went berserk dancing on the song.

The way songs remind us of someone, some place or some time in our past, food, can also have the same effect. Mysore Masala Dosa makes me go back to my college days. Stuffed Tomato reminds me of my friend B and the times I have spent at her house. Scotch eggs reminds me of the times she has spent at my house. Freshly baked vanilla cake reminds me of my mom and her parcels to me when I was a hosteler. These parcels also contained my mom’s famous chocolate balls. They used to be devoured by my friends whenever they came. My girl friends and I also used to share a private joke about them;)!

These chocolate balls were a favorite of my brother. They were made regularly for him and were specially made when he used to get back from NDA. And, I remember how in just one sitting, he would gobble them all up. He used to be crazy about them and probably still is. So, today being Rakshabandhan- a festival in India to celebrate the bond between a brother and a sister, I thought of making this for him. I know its going to be a while before I meet him- he stays in India , I stay in US, you do the maths!

Over the years, my brother and I have grown close to each other. But it wasn’t always like that. It was only when he went away and joined NDA did both of us start sharing stuff. Before that, we just fought- at every opportunity. He practiced all his WWF moves on me. Thanks to him I became strong. I learnt to use my elbow and could give him a serious fight.

I remember the day he ejected from his plane. I never have strong intuitions, nor are they ever correct- but, that day I knew there was something wrong with my brother. I remember how that very day I woke up in the morning with his photo falling on the floor. I remember  texting him that very moment to call me. When he did not, I called his girl friend (now his wife!:)), but she had spoken to him the night before and everything had been fine. I remember, taking a nap in the afternoon, relaxed to know all is well with my brother. I remember, my grandmother waking me up and crying and telling me his plane crashed. Those were the scariest few minutes in my life. My grandmother wouldn’t tell me whether he was safe. She just kept crying. I am happy today that he has fully recovered from that incident. Touch wood.

I remember how we both partied together for the first time at a pub in Delhi and blew up a lot of money. When I paid the bill, my brother, to show his disapproval, wanted to lightly tap me on my face, instead without realizing the force of his hands, he slapped me! I was shocked as to what happened. So was he. And, then we both laughed!

I remember he flew down and surprised me during my wedding by  coming a day early. I remember how he broke his arm during my sangeet, due to complete exhaustion from working and taking charge of all the marriage proceedings.

He is my idol. Growing up, he was the one person I looked up to for everything. The music, TV shows I like were a direct reflection of his choices.

He stood by me at all times. He encouraged me with my dreams- believing in me. He helped me out with my problems- in academics and otherwise. He finally got to do what he always wanted- to fly, even though the odds were against him. He never gave up. His determination has taught me to never give up on any dream in life – to keep on trying till you succeed.

He was the coolest person I knew while growing up and he still is! He is the best brother I could have asked for and I love him a lot! Wish you a very Happy Rakshabandhan, bro! Wish you a lot of happiness, success and good health in life. Miss you lots! This one’s for you!

MAMA’S FAMOUS CHOCOLATE BALLS

INGREDIENTS

3 cups Marie biscuits, powdered

5 tbsp cocoa

1 tin condensed milk

DIRECTIONS

Crush the marie biscuits in a blender till they are powdery. In a bowl mix the powdered biscuits, condensed milk and cocoa. Once thoroughly mixed, grease your hands with a little oil and make small balls. They are ready to serve and eat!


BRrrrrrOWNIES!

Brownies and chocolate chip cookies- they say- are America’s contribution to the dessert world- and boy! what a contribution! I was reading about brownies the other day (like I mentioned before–I’m a baking nerd) and was surprised to find out that traditionally brownies had no cocoa in them. In fact, the “brown” in the brownies was from the molasses that bakers added to the batter. I thank the lord for the person who decided to try making them with chocolate- he/she must have definitely gone to heaven for giving so much happiness to the world! 🙂 🙂

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