Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Milk Chocolate Mini-Bundt Cakes

First of all, I am so sorry for the belated post. My blogger account acted up last night and wouldn't let me publish on time.

That said, weeks' recipe was chosen by Jennifer, The Rookie Baker, and I enjoyed it more than I had expected to. I went the cupcake route (since I don't own a mini-bundt pan) and also skipped the swirl altogether. Un-frosted, these turned out to be a perfect treat. 

The chocolate flavor in these cakes is not as overwhelming as I had hoped for it to be, but they are wonderfully moist and have just the right balance of sweetness making the glaze almost unnecessary. I have to stress on 'almost' because I am sure that if I had gotten the glaze right, these cupcakes would have been even more wonderful. 

I tried, honestly I did. But all I got was an un-spreadable blob. Let's call it my first BFMHTY-fail. I'm sure there is a way to get it right, but it just didn't work for me this time. See:

Looks more like a thick frosting than glaze :(
But my daughter loved it

For the recipe, please head over to pages 188-9 of Baking: From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, or Jennifers' blog and take a look at the BWD blogroll to see how the BWD bakers did this week.

Next up, we're baking Chocolate Chunkers (Page 70, BFMHTY) chosen by Laurie of Cookin' Up North. If you'd like to join us, please drop me an email at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake with us!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Brown Sugar Bundt Cake

Chaya saved me the effort of making myself a birthday cake tomorrow by choosing this recipe for the BWD challenge this week. It's just what I wanted: simple, non-fussy and, judging by the deliciously caramel-sweet aroma of brown sugar and apples infusing my house, deeply comforting and flavorful. 

I'm afraid I can't say much about the flavors because I haven't sliced into it as yet - I'm doing what Dorie suggests and keeping it on the kitchen counter, tightly-wrapped. Till tomorrow. So that I can have myself a birthday cake. And I'm so sure it's a winner, like every recipe of Dories' that I've baked so far. 

You can find the recipe on Chaya's blog or on Page 179 of Baking: From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan. Be sure to check out the other BWD bakers here and here. This week we were joined by two new bakers - welcome Laurie & Rebecca

Our next challenge, coming up on August 30th, is Milk Chocolate Mini-Bundt Cakes on pages 188-9 of Baking: From My Home To Yours and has been chosen by Jennifer. If you'd like to join us, please drop me an email at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have  you bake along with us!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

M&M and Chocolate Chip Cookies

It is my sons' first day at school today. Also his first day in the 1st grade and in a new school.. I felt the same tug at my heart this morning, leaving him in his new class, that I had felt the day I dropped him off at his Kindergarten class for the first time. According to my husband I am quite literally worse than my kids and have more separation-anxiety than they do.

Sigh. Where did my baby boy go? 

That's him, hiding his face with his hand and probably thinking, 'Get a grip Mom'.


Okay, I admit - I'm having an emotionally-wrenching kind of day. But lets get over that already.  Let me introduce to you my sons' favorite chocolate chip cookies. The ones he requested as an after-school snack today - with 'a glass of really, really cold milk'. 

The recipe is very slightly adapted from Dorie Greenspans' 'Best Chocolate Chip Cookies'  & is the first recipe of Dories' that I ever tried, a little over two years ago. Much before I owned her book and before starting to Bake With Dorie. I've made these cookies several ways, countless times. My most favorite way to make them is the 'cocoa chocolate' version with peppermint extract - it's like biting into an After Eight chocolate. 

But I didn't make them that way today. I had started by wanting to - but when I was measuring out the dry ingredients, I 'forgot' to add cocoa powder and only realized my mistake when the cookie batter came together and it wasn't brown. Oops.

Too late to turn back, so I threw in M&Ms for fun instead of nuts. From the grin on my boys' face, I can tell they're yummy.

M&M and Chocolate Chip Cookies
slightly adapted from Dorie Greenspans' Best Chocolate Chip Cookies, found on Page 68 of Baking: From My Home To Yours

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 large eggs
12 ounces or 2C chocolate chips
1 cup finely M & Ms

Center a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. 

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. 

In a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the sugars and beat for 2 more minutes. Beat in the vanilla and then add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Reduce the speed and add in the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chips and M&Ms. 

Scoop tablespoons of dough onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each spoonful (these cookies spread a lot). 

Bake for 10 - 12 minutes (rotating the sheet at the midway point) or until they are brown on the edges and golden in the middle. Remove from oven, allow to cool on sheets for 1 minute before removing to wire rack to cool.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Channa Daal Curry and Thoughts Worth Thinking. . .

Ramadan is the muslim month of fasting and creating anew ones' intimacy with God. According to Quranic teaching, God is always as close to us as our jugular vein, and His compassion and blessings are especially prevalent throughout the month of Ramadan.

So, the onset of Ramadan is a joyful celebration; a chance to reflect over the past year and renew our pledge to improve ourselves in the year to come. And realizing, in that final moment of hunger and weakness before breaking fast at sunset, that all sustenance belongs to God and it is by His Grace alone that we are able to eat our sunset meal at all.

This year, however, the mood around my Ramadan table is somber. As we break our fast, the thought of suffering in Pakistan (a crisis much bigger than the Tsunami) is not far from our minds. At present one-fifth of the country is submerged under water, the lives of over 14 million people have been affected because entire villages have been wiped out leaving over 250, 000 homeless, an estimated $1 billion worth of crops have been destroyed... To further compound the situation, water-borne disease has broken out. It's all the more painful that this should happen in Ramadan - the holiest month of the year.

It's no wonder I don't have much of an appetite, despite a 14.5 hour fast. Ramadan is a time of charity, but here I am - unable to do anything. To really do anything to help anyone. The realization that I have so much for be thankful for is a hollow one when faced with the other realization that while my family and I enjoy a cozy meal each evening, there are millions who have no access to clean water or nutritious food and that they long for a place called home. .*(please read post note)

Praise be to God who blessed us with food to eat, water to drink, homes to live in and our families surrounding us. . may He have mercy on all the suffering souls and may He accept our fasting, all our prayers and good intentions this blessed month. Ramadan Kareem, everyone.

And now I bring you Channa Daal Curry: a simple, satisfying, every-day curry. I made it today with zucchini although it's traditionally made with either pumpkin or bottle gourd. 

Channa Daal and Zucchini Curry

1 cup channa daal, washed and pre-soaked for 1-2 hours
2 cups water
1 cup zucchini, diced (about 3-4 small)
1 large onion, sliced
2 tomatoes, diced into small cubes

2 tsp minced ginger
2-3 green whole chillies, stalks removed (I used birds-eye because I like the extra heat)
1 tbsp lime or lemon juice
1 heaped teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (I actually used only 1/4 because I was using birds eye green chillies)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder2 tbsp fresh, chopped coriander
2-3 tbsp cooking oil

Heat cooking oil in a pan and add sliced onions. Fry around 15 minutes on medium heat, or until golden-brown.

Add all the dry spices, along with a small splash of water (so that the spices don't burn) and stir fry for a minute or so. Add the diced tomato as well as the whole green chillies and cook until the tomatoes are mushy and the oil separates (around 5 minutes).

Now add the zucchini, stirring it well to make sure it is coated with the tomato mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add in the daal, water and salt. Mix well, cover and let cook on medium-low heat for approx. 20 minutes. Test to make sure that the daal is fully cooked before removing from heat.

Stir in the lemon or lime juice as well as the chopped coriander and serve right away. For me, this daal is delicious all on its' own & I eat it with a spoon. But it is served with either Roti (flat bread) or rice.

(Post-note: after publishing this post, I came across a link to a blog listing one of many non-governmental organizations that are helping the relief effort in Pakistan. If you would like to lend a hand, visit the blog here and this organization here, here or here . And here's another very comprehensive list of ways you can help)

Monday, August 09, 2010

How To Eat a Mango - Part 2

There is no civilized way to enjoy a mango. The sweet, juicy flesh and inedible skin make it a difficult fruit to eat without making a huge mess. And some would argue that getting all sophisticated about consuming mangoes takes away the fun of eating them altogether. And I agree.

But this post isn't really about how to slice and eat mangoes. It's about a cherished memory from an otherwise mostly forgotten part of my life: while I was growing up, it was an unspoken tradition that I would spend some time during the summer each year with my best friend and her family. One morning, during one of my visits at their home, Uncle A. (my best friends' father) asked me if I'd like to have Mangoes, Parathas (flat bread) and Lassi (yogurt drink) for breakfast. I couldn't wrap my mind around the combination of breakfast items - in fact, it was plain bizarre to me. But I was too curious to turn it down.

So we all sat around the breakfast table while Uncle A. showed me how to eat mango with parathas: take a bite of mango, followed by a bite from the paratha... Or scoop some mango flesh into a piece of paratha. Wash it down with a sip of sweet, frothy Lassi. It was strangely delightful. Eating mangoes all by themselves is delicious enough, making a meal out of them was an indulgent treat; the memory of which is heart-warming.

And so, this morning, I treated myself to a healthy dose of mangoes and remembrance of times past. I'm only sorry I didn't have my best friends, R & H to share it with this time around.

 Sweet Lassi 

1 cup yogurt
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup ice cubes
3 teaspoons sugar
a pinch of salt

Blend all the ingredients on high speed until the ice is crushed and the mixture is frothy. Pour into glasses and drink right away.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Mango-Almond Kulfi

I know what you're thinking, 'Mangoes again?'

I realize I sound mildly obsessed, working mangoes into every recipe possible. But it's August now, almost the end of mango season. And I'm reluctant to let go.

Since it's too warm to bake, I decided instead to experiment with making Kulfi. Traditionally Kulfi is made by cooking milk till it is reduced, but this 'cheats version' is ridiculously simple and very close to the real thing. Since the possibilities for playing around are endless, I worked crushed almonds and mangoes into this version. The result: fantastic, of course.

Give it a whirl!

Mango-Almond Kulfi

Add the following to a blender:

1 can (14-oz) evaporated milk
1 can (14-oz) sweetened condensed milk
enough whipping cream/half-and-half to make 1 liter
1 slice of bread, crusts removed
1/4 - 1/2 cup sweet mango
a handful of chopped almonds
1 heaped tsp cardamom, powdered  (or seeds from 8 - 10 cardamom pods, crushed)

Whiz everything together until blended. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze for 6 hours or overnight.

I sprayed my molds very slightly with cooking spray and dusted with ground almonds (used my coffee grinder for this) before pouring the Kulfi mixture in.

If you'd like to make a plain version, omit the mango and/or almonds. Personally I like it best the traditional way: with just chopped pistachios and cardamom.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Mango Crumb Cake

I'm back. The hiatus is over. And I've discovered yet another delicious way to incorporate mangoes into a BWD challenge. This week Tina of My Domestic Bliss chose the Blueberry Crumb Cake and I had no choice but to play around with the recipe.

I have to admit that I didn't plan this one. It happened quite simply because I'm back home after days, had no time for grocery shopping and mangoes and pecans were what I had on hand. I love mangoes. I love streusel toppings. And I love pecans. It couldn't go wrong.

And I was right. This cake is light and super-moist; the buttery, sugary, streusel adds a nice crunch. The flavors from the mango in the cake and the cinnamon in the crust came together to form a complex flavor instead of overpowering each other. For me - the streusel is the super star in this recipe. There is nothing I didn't love about this bake!

Thank you for choosing this recipe, Tina! You can find the recipe on Tina's blog, My Domestic Bliss, or on Pages 192-3 of Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan.

Please check out the blogroll here to check out the other BWD bakers. Our next challenge will be posted on August 16, and it is the Brown Sugar Bundt Cake, chosen by Chaya of Chaya's Comfy Cook Blog. If you'd like to join us, please drop me an email at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us!


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