Friday, May 28, 2010

How To Eat a Mango

This tutorial is for my 'mango-challenged' friend Susi. She asked for a  step-by-step tutorial on how to cut mangoes after I put up post on the previous BWD challenge.
I have to admit, at the risk of sounding narcissistic, the mango did look pretty in the photo I took for the post. The one I have used today is a mango with more fiber so it doesn't have the nice clean lines the other one did. 

So that is step #1 : The choice of mango is important. Choose a firm, sweet mango with little fiber. Look at the stickers on mangoes when you're out buying them to see where they originate from. Mangoes from Brazil or Kenya, for example, are much like the one I used today and have a lot of fiber in their flesh. 

Small, pulpy mangoes will not work either if you want to cut them this way. Anyway, here we go: 

All I had was two mangoes. The one on the front is the one I chose for the tutorial before I realized (after cutting it) that I should have chosen the Pakistani mango at the back (which is what I used in my old post).

Cut as close as possible to the stone this way and please ignore the fact that I need a manicure.

Repeat with the other side.

Now, pick one half up in the palm of your hand and cut into the flesh (without tearing the skin) along the length of the mango.

Repeat by cutting along the width.

Now, just hold it from the sides and turn the skin out.

I know, not as pretty as the mangoes here but it's not too bad, right? At this point, you can slice as close to the skin as possible while holding the mango-half over a bowl and you will get perfect mango cubes. 

Or (and this is better) this is also a pretty way to present mango when you have company, since it can be eaten right off the skin with a spoon. 

I'm throwing in this next bit for fun. If you have small kids, here's a fun way for them to eat their mangoes. Cut all around the middle of a mango :

Then twist one half off. Here's what you will get:

Kids can eat out of their 'mango cups' with a spoon (you could even fill the scooped-out half with some ice-cream). I loved eating mangoes this way as a kid & still do! And so does my offspring:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

David Lebovitz's No-Recipe Cherry Jam

Part of the fun of having a food blog is that you get to make things you wouldn't ordinarily think of. 

Like .. cherry jam. My inability to find cherry jam at my local grocery store was all the inspiration I needed to make it from scratch for the BWD challenge  two weeks ago  (Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte).

An online search for a simple recipe that wouldn't require preservatives led me to DL's no-recipe cherry jam . And that's what it was - not a recipe,  but step-by-step instructions on how to make the jam. It seemed simple enough, not much unlike my previous attempts at making strawberry jam.

I wanted a thick jam - almost like cherry preserves. So, here is what I did:
from David Lebovitz's recipe for no-recipe Cherry Jam

2 pounds cherries (half sour, fresh ones + half dark, sweet & pitted frozen)
2.5 cups sugar (roughly - since I had just under 4 cups of cooked cherries)
zest and juice of 2 whole lemons
a few drops of pure almond extract

Rinse cherries, remove pits and stems. Chop them roughly into small pieces - but leave some whole or simply halved to get texture. 
Add the cherries to a large stockpot. Add  just enough water to cover & mix in the lemon juice and zest. 

Cook the cherries over medium heat until they are wilted and completely soft. This took me about 25 minutes. Once they are cooked, measure how much of the cherry & juice mixture you have and add in 3/4 of the amount of sugar. I somewhat under 4 cups so I added roughly 2.5 cups of sugar. 

Stir the sugar and cherries and cook over moderate to high heat. While you are cooking the jam, place a small plate in the freezer. 
Keep stirring the jam and scraping the bottom as you go so that you don't end up burning the mixture. If you use a thermometer - you'll see that the jam will jel at around 220 - 230F. 

If you don't have a thermometer - use the frozen plate to test the doneness of your jam. Once it begins to look thicker & seems to be gelling, take it off the heat and spoon out a small amount onto the plate and return it to the freezer. Remove after a few minutes and test by nudging with your finger. If it wrinkles, it means it's done. If it seems runny, cook the jam a little longer and test again. 

Once it's done, take it off the heat and add a few drops of almond extract. Ladle into jars, seal and let cool at room temperature before putting it in the fridge to cool.

According to DL, the jam keeps for a few months. In my case, it has lasted barely two weeks and I was able to save only a few tablespoons of jam in order to take these photos. 
Here, I smothered it on the Tender Shortcakes I made this week. And what a blend of flavors this was: slightly sour cherry from the jam and the hint of ginger in the shortcakes. 

One word: yum.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Tender Shortcakes

These baking challenges and this blog are turning out to be the reason why I have to hit the gym at 5 a.m. daily. Seriously.  

But does the guilt stop me from at least wholly consuming everything I make? Nah. You already knew that, didn't you?

This weeks' recipe was chosen by Susi of Susi's Kochen Und Backen Adventures & we're joined this week by two new bloggers who have joined our baking group.

I made these short cakes in a hurry this morning & was glad that it wasn't an elaborate dessert that I would have had to labor over.

I've never made shortcakes before, so I was a little perplexed over the dough which looked too crumbly and didn't come together as well as I had expected it to. I didn't want to overwork it, but had no idea if this was even what it was supposed to look like. 

So, I just took the plunge and baked a batch of 4 to begin with. And guess what happened: burnt the bottoms. I had better luck with the second batch which came out looking great and was only slightly scorched on the bottom. 

Now handling these cakes was tough - they were crumbly and using a serrated knife to slice them just didn't work. So I did what Dorie alternatively suggests: pricked with a fork all around and then just lifted the top off with a spatula & layered it back on after spreading the bottom halves with fruit & whipped cream.

For the fruit, I chose to use chopped mangoes with a squirt of lime (as suggested by Dorie on page 425) . Her original recipe asks for berries, but I used mangoes because they are my favorite fruit and it's hard to resist them now, with the beginning of mango season here. 

I also played around with the dough & took up one of Dorie's suggestions of adding powdered as well as candied ginger into the dough. And for me, the blend of flavors from the lime, mango and ginger were a real treat. 

All the shortcakes then  needed, was some simple whipped cream.

Please go over to Susi's blog for the recipe, and the blogroll here to check out the other BWD bakers versions.

Our next recipe, due on June 7, is the Lemon Cup Custard (page 387). If you'd like to join the challenge, please drop  me an email at needfulthings at ymail dot com. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Rolls

Lately my kids have complained that I am too grumpy & busy and don't do anything remotely fun with them. 

I don't know about you - but I just can't take it when they pull at my heart-strings like that! The weather has been completely uncooperative lately. It has been either too wet or too warm to do anything outdoors. So I did what I always do: got both the kids in the kitchen, presented them with lumps of cinnamon-roll dough and told them to take a go at it. 

Now there's no way to make a cinnamon roll healthy. I've tried & failed. The best I could do was to try and find a recipe using whole-wheat flour so I could feel all virtuous & dupe myself into believing that I came up with a 'healthy' version of this sinful treat. 

I stumbled across a great blog that had a recipe for Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Rolls. It was just what I wanted, except I tweaked the frosting a little bit because I just could not resist. Can you blame me? These are Cinnamon Rolls we are talking about: what's the point of being cautious or counting carbs and calories when you've gone as far enough as making them?

This recipe makes many, many cinnamon rolls. I didn't count but I can safely say I made at least 3-dozen and had to send 3/4th of those to my husbands workplace the next day because there was no way I was going to let them sit around and be tempted to scarf down a few every couple of hours.

Because they were that good. 

For the purpose of taking these photos, I thickened the frosting a little by adding more confectioners sugar but, otherwise, I made it thinner and when I drizzled it over the warm rolls it melted into them and made the rolls gooey and sticky & deliciously soft (but not pretty!). 

Here's the recipe: 

Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from Heavenly Homemakers

For the rolls:
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons yeast
2 teaspoons honey
2.5 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup honey
4 teaspoons fleur de sel
8 cups whole wheat flour

For the filling:
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup granulated white sugar +1.5 tbsp ground cinnamon
For the frosting

approx. 3-4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk
1/8 tsp salt

To make the dough:

Mix 1 cup warm water and 2tbsp yeast & 2 tsp honey in a large bowl. Stir and let sit for 5 mins. 

Melt a stick of butter in a large saucepan and add the 1/2 cup of honey, fleur de seul and 2.5 cups of milk. Bring to about 120F and then remove from heat and pour over the yeast mixture and stir. 

Stir in the flour, 2 cups at a time. Turn everything out on a floured surface and knead well for 10 minutes. I divided the dough in two & let the kids punch the heck out of their respective balls of dough before covering them and leaving them to rise for 1.5 hours. 

After 1.5 hours, take 1 ball of dough and roll it out into a rectangle on a floured surface. I got a pretty large rectangle and I may have also rolled it out very thin. 

Use a pastry brush to spread half of the melted butter all over the rectangle. My 2 yr old used her pudgy hands to do this & my son sprinkled on  half of the cinnamon and sugar mixture. It was great fun & I only wish I could have taken photos - dark, dungeon kitchen or not. 

Roll up the rectangle - I read somewhere once that the thinner you roll out the dough and the tighter you roll it, the more swirls you get - and so you get  lots more of the cinnamon filling - which is what we were trying to get. Once it is rolled up, pinch sides and cut into 1/2" thick slices. 

Place all the rolls in a lightly greased 9 x 13" pan. Cover with clingfilm and allow to rise for about 1/2 hour while you repeat the process with the remaining dough. 

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. 

Let the rolls cool for 5 mins while you beat together the ingredients for the frosting & then drizzle the frosting all over the warm rolls.

I am also submitting this post to Yeastspotting, a weekly bread showcase at  the Wildyeast blog.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Moving to Wordpress

So I spontaneously decided to move to Wordpress - 15 minutes ago. 

Luckily for me was available so I snapped it up several weeks ago when I first thought about it, and am migrating my previous posts there right now, as I type this post. 

I think it might take all day, because it's stopped at the 41st post. Also, it's not at all going to be easy because now I have to work out how to re-direct all web-searches for previous posts etc to wordpress and change links to posts.  

I figure I also have to re-format my posts and work on the blog theme. I don't know what possessed me to do all this right this very instant. But now that I've started - if any of you have any clues about how to go about all of the above or have done this before and have any tips, please give me a shout. Because I am really, really out of my depth here!

For now, I've set the the page at Wordpress to private so that at least I am less confused until I can work out all the technical stuff. 

Wish me good luck. I hope to have the new page up and running in a week or so!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oh So Easy Homemade Cottage Cheese

Now why would anyone possibly want to make their own cottage cheese when they can easily buy it from the grocery store? 

Except - I can't. Because it's not locally available where I live and so I had to figure out a way to make it myself a couple of years ago. It is the simplest thing ever & I made it again just last week to use in the Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte I made for the BWD challenge.

All you need is milk & a few tablespoons of vinegar. Really - that's it. 

Homemade Cottage Cheese

1 litre milk (I used low fat)
3-4 tbsp vinegar

Bring the milk to a boil in a large pan over medium heat (it should reach about 120F).
Lower the heat and add the vinegar a couple of teaspoons at a time, stirring well after each addition.
The milk will get cloudy and the curds will start floating on top in large and small clumps. 

After you have added all the vinegar, remove the pot from heat and let it cool for around five minutes before straining the curds through a strainer lined with a cheesecloth.

When most of the liquid has drained away, gather up the sides of the cheesecloth and squeeze to get any remaining liquid out. 

Place the cheesecloth & curds back in the strainer and place over a bowl for 1 - 2 hours to let all moisture drain away. 

Use the cheese right away or store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte

Dorie Greenspan: where were you my entire life? 

My husband and I love a good cheesecake & so I've attempted to make it a couple of times in past years and always found it to be one of those elusive things that I just can't quite get right. Either I would burn the crust, under-bake the filling or the filling would split in the middle - making a very messy looking cake. In fact, I've never been able to make a cheesecake with a filling that didn't crack. And I've always found the recipes I've tried to be too sweet, too heavy.

When Elizabeth of Gluten Free Baking 101 chose this recipe for this weeks' Baking With Dorie challenge, I was prepared for cheesecake-fail. But then I thought: so far Dorie hasn't let me down & so maybe this time I would finally succeed in making a good & smooth-looking cheesecake!

The ingredient list called for cottage cheese which isn't available locally where I live & Ricotta is prohibitively expensive, so I told my baking partners Susi and Elizabeth that I would be making my own cottage cheese

That is easy enough. But then I couldn't come up with cherry jam and decided to make my own jam as well. I used David Lebovitz's directions for making cherry jam using two pounds of cherries; half fresh sour cherries and half frozen, dark & sweet ones. The directions are available here. Since I wanted a very thick jam, I used only enough water to cover the cherries, added the zest of two whole lemons and followed the rest of David's directions. The jam was ready in around half an hour & I've had a very, very hard time restraining myself from eating any of it before I could use it for the baking challenge today. It is so good & I like it even better than my homemade strawberry jam. 

Susi joked that I've turned this week's challenge into a Daring Bakers challenge by making all the ingredients by scratch. It's been a bit of work in that sense & I've stretched it over a couple of days like I did with the lemon tart we made for the last challenge, but I enjoyed it so much. 

I finally got around to baking the torte this morning. Dorie's instructions are easy to follow, and I thought I got everything right. . . 
But: my cake split again :( 

I got past my disappointment, waited for the cake to cool slightly and dusted with icing sugar. 

I released the sides of the pan but didn't try to remove the base of the spring-form pan that I baked in - just in case I broke the bottom of the crust and I didn't want to deal with that kind of disaster at this point.

Then I cut myself a slice of not quite-as-yet-cold-cheesecake. Pure heaven. I can only imagine how much better it will taste when completely chilled.

I think I finally succeeded in making the perfect cheesecake: perfect crust, smooth filling (except for the cracks) that wasn't too sweet. or too heavy Simple to make. Thank you Dorie! I've gotta tell you: I really love you!

For the recipe, check out Susi's page & do go over to Elizabeth's blog and see how she made a Gluten-Free version of this torte. 

Our next challenge is Tender Shortcakes on Pages 423-424, picked by Susi. If you would like to join the challenge, please drop me an email.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Cioccolata Calda - Italian Hot Chocolate

Real Mothers don't eat quiche;
they don't have time to make it. 
Real Mothers know that their kitchen utensils 
Are probably in the sandbox.
Real Mothers often have sticky floors, 
Filthy ovens and happy kids.
Real Mothers know that dried play dough
doesn't come out of carpets. 

Real Mothers don't want to know what
The vacuum just sucked up...

Real Mothers sometimes ask, 'Why me?'
And get their answer with a little
Voice that says, 'Because I love you best...'

Happy Mothers Day! 

Moms, treat yourself to some decadent Italian Hot Chocolate today - you deserve it. 

I made this today as requested by my son: 

Italian Hot Chocolate or Cioccolata Calda 
From the recipe at Bell'alimento

100g good quality chocolate with 70% cocoa or higher, roughly chopped
1.5 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tsp cornstarch

Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat till bubbles form on the sides. Add in the sugar at this point and stir until dissolved.

In a small cup, mix the cornstarch with a few tablespoons of the warm milk and return the mixture to the saucepan, stirring for 2-3 minutes till the milk thickens a little. 
Turn heat to low & add in the chopped chocolate. Stir, remove from heat and continue to stir until the chocolate is dissolved. 

Pour into cups and consume immediately. 

Monday, May 03, 2010

Drinks are on me: Mock Champagne

Fancy a drink? Need something summery to remind of you the warmer days up ahead?

Something bubbly? With a hint of apples, lemon and mint?  

Here you go: 

Mock Champagne

Juice from 5-6 lemons
6-8 tbsp sugar
2 Granny Smith Apples
2 liters unsweetened apple juice, chilled
1 liter sparkling water, chilled
handful of mint leaves, chopped

Stir the sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool.

Cut the apples into small chunks. 

Mix the juice, sparkling water and lemon syrup together in a large pitcher. Add the chopped apples and mint leaves. Serve. 


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