Arabian Date and Walnut Cake


Baking a cake is always special and baking it for someone’s birthday is only icing on the cake !! 🙂
It was my uncle’s birthday and I wanted to do a different cake though non icing. This cake is a hands down winner so full of flavour !!


I’m sure you’ll wonder that most of my cakes are baked in the bundt mould. Well, when I’m baking a cake for someone’s birthday the round is common and kinda boring. Bundt makes the cake look really interesting. There is no hard and fast rule for the mould. You can use any shape you like.



Arabian Date and Walnut Cake


Ingredients

1 ¾ cups Plain Flour

125g Butter

1 cup Sugar

2 Eggs

1 cup chopped, stoned Dates

½ cup chopped Walnuts

¾ cup hot strong Coffee

½ tsp Baking Soda (soda bicarbonate)

½ tsp Salt (omit salt if using salted butter)

1 ½ tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Vanilla Essence


Icing Sugar for dusting





Directions

1. Dust a ring mould or a bundt mould.

2. Preheat the oven to 180 degree C for 10 minutes.

3.Pour hot coffee over the dates and walnuts and allow it to cool.

4. Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda together.

5. Cream the butter and sugar and then add one egg at a time. Beat well.

6.Mix the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar-egg mixture.

7. Lastly mix in the date and nut mixture and the vanilla essence.

8. Pour into the prepared mould and bake for 50-60 minutes at 180 degree C.

9. Let it cool down. Demould and dust with icing sugar.

10. Serve.


Happy Baking !!

Peach Cobbler | Baking


Summertime is not just about Mangoes and Water Melons, it is also all about stone fruits from cherries, to apricots, to plums and my favourite Peaches 🙂



The juicy sweet fruit is typical of summers and always always remind me of the mountains. So with peaches in abundance at home nothing better than creating a dessert. Peach Cobbler !! Yes finally and that too in my cast iron skillet. Yes I’m showing off !! One look at it, and you’ll agree it is a thing to show off !! Ever since I started blogging and cooking I saw a lot of recipes being cooked in a cast iron skillet. I wanted it forever. A few months back a friend coming from US was kind enough to carry it for me (inspite all the weight of the skillet) all the way from there, but I got a chance to use it only now 🙂




So coming back to the Peach Cobbler, a cobbler is a dish usually consisting of a fruit as a filling with a crumbly topping. It can be baked in a skillet or any oven proof dish. I’ve made my cobbler in my cast iron skillet, you could also use a pyrex. If not baking in a skillet, please see the notes at the end of the recipe.


Ingredients


For the filling:


1 kg Fresh Peaches, Peeled and sliced

3/4 cup sugar

3 Tbsp Cornflour

3/4 cup butter



For the crumble:

1 cup all purpose Flour

1 tsp Baking Powder

1 cup Sugar

1 cup Milk

4-5, 1″ cubes of butter



Directions

1. Preheat oven to 180 degree C.

2. Wash and peel the peaches. Slice them. 

3. Sprinkle the sliced peaches with sugar and cornflour and set aside.

4. In another bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and sugar. Whisk well. 

5. Now add milk to the flour-sugar mix.

6. Place the skillet on the flame, and melt the butter in it. Add the sliced peaches. Mix well.

7. Now add the flour-sugar-milk mix to the skillet and stir till well combined. 

8. Now transfer the skillet into the oven. Top with the cubes of butter and let it take for 45 minutes to an hour.

9. Remove from the oven. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.







Note: 
1. If you are not baking in a skillet, just melt the butter in a pan, pour into your baking dish, add the peaches and pour over the flour-milk mix in it and set it to bake.

2. Peach Cobbler can also be made with canned peaches. For those times when you crave a peach cobbler when these beauties are not in season. Though fresh peaches are any day better.

Happy Baking !!

Pomegranate Molasses | How To Series | Kitchen Hacks


A lot of times baking and even cooking various dishes, from around the world can be challenging especially in India, because of the lack of convenience of finding certain ingredients off the shelves. Either it is difficult to find them or if you find them then they are way too expensive or difficult to source consistently.  

The flip side to this is that we learn how to create these at home !! Isn’t that what love for cooking does to so many of us !! Honestly if I know my results are exact to what I can buy in the market, I anyday want to make a dish from scratch; so making such ingredients at home is only icing on cake :-). A few examples of such ingredients are Sour Cream, Half-n-Half, Tahini, a Carton of Buttermilk, Pomegranate Molasses, Sun Dried Tomatoes etc which are either not available or way too expensive.



I ran into one such issue when I was making Muhammara, a Turkish Dip. Pomegranate Molasses is a key ingredient to muhammara and I could not find it anywhere in my city, but I could not get my heart off this simple turkish accompaniment….I just had to make it at home…so with a little research I learnt how to make Pomegranate Molasses at home and voila…..it worked. Worked beautifully !! 🙂

So here goes the recipe for Pomegranate Molasses:



Ingredients

1 litre Pomegranate Juice (I used packaged juice. If you are using fresh juice increase the sugar content to 1 cup)
1/2 cup Sugar
2 tbsp Lemon Juice

Directions

1. Pour the pomegranate juice in a pan and set it on high heat. 

2. Add the sugar and keep stirring till the sugar melts.

3. Now add the lemon juice and continue to stir till the juice thickens into an almost jelly like consistency . The moment the juice coats the back of the spoon, turn off the gas. The molasses is ready.Basically that 1 l of juice should reduce to about 350 ml.

4. Let it cool down completely then transfer in a bottle and refrigerate. Use as required. This stays happy in the fridge for many months.


We learn something new everyday !! Cheers !!

Multigrain Bread | Baking


After all the fun I had, doing the 30days30dips Series, I’m back with baking bread.
This bread has been on my to do list for a while. I love making breads and especially the whole wheat and multigrain varieties. I must confess it took me 2-3 times before getting the mix right. Yes. If I make it pure pure multigrain then the bread becomes too heavy and hard and if I add too much flour I was changing the character of the bread.


When I started doing breads I took it up as a challenge on myself to be able to make the real multigrain or the real whole wheat, because I used to see my mother promptly opt for the branded multigrains or whole wheats thinking she was buying better healthier options. However the truth is that store bought commercial bread (i’m not talking about bakery breads here) only contain 10% multigrains or whole wheat flours. The rest is white all purpose flour. While white breads have the best textures and are really really yummy, they may not always be the healthiest. 
Here I’m not trying to preach anyone the benefits of multigrain or whole wheat over white breads, nor am I saying that homemade multigrain is only multigrains and no flour, but if and when you want to eat a multigrain eat the real thing.


For my multigrain recipe, I use a homemade multigrain flour mix. The details of the multigrain flour will be listed out after the bread recipe.

Multigrain Bread


Ingredients

4 cups or 400 gm Multigrain Flour

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour

1 cup All Purpose Flour

2 tsp Dry Active Yeast

2 tbsp Honey

3 tbsp Milk Powder

4 tbsp Olive Oil

1 tsp Salt

Directions

1. Sieve together the multigrain flour, wheat flour, all purpose flour, salt and the milk powder.

2. Activate the yeast in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water.

3. Once activated, add to the flour mix and rub it through the flour with your fingers. Keep mixing till you get a bread crumbly texture.

4. Now add a little water and start kneading the dough. Add the olive oil and fo on kneading. This dough requires a little more water compared to other doughs.

5. Once kneaded well, this should take about 10 minutes, keep in a dry clean bowl and cover with cling wrap and keep in a warm place for an hour or till the dough doubles in size.

6. Once the dough doubles in size, punch it down lightly with your fingers and give it a light knead.

7. Shape it into a desired shape, place it on a baking tray and let it rest for another 30 minutes. You can sprinkle either poppy seeds or nigella seeds.

8. In the mean time preheat the oven to 200 C degrees for 10 minutes. Now place a shallow tray with hot water at the bottom of the oven, place the grill in the middle rack over the waterbath and place the trays with the loaves. Bake for 20 minutes till the crust browns golden in colour.

9. Remove from the oven and place on cooling rack.

This bread is best served toasted.

Multigrain Flour

2 cup Wholewheat Flour
1 cup Ragi
1 cup Soya Flour
1 cup Kala Chana Flour
1 cup Pearl Millet (Bajra)
1 cup Sorghum (Jowar)
1 cup Oat Flour

Sieve all these flours together and store and use as required.

Happy Baking !!

Condiment Series | Sour Cream Onion Dip | Dip

Day 24


It’s here….the Sour Cream and Onion Dip !! Yummilicious and Simple !!
This is a super simple dip. Probably the simplest so far….. It’s best friends are salsa and guacamole if you like mexican !! Tastes heavenly with nachos or burritos or enchiladas or cornbread or tacos….oh ! the list is endless.
This is one dip that again goes with anything. I even love it with my seekh kebabs !! Yeah talk about fusion foods.


I often serve with ‘diet chips’. That’s what I call smart cooking or being a domestic goddess !! Put up something together so quickly which tastes yumm and leaves people wondering ‘how did she do this?’ 😛

Sour Cream and Onion Dip



Ingredients

1 cup of Sour Cream

2 Spring Onions finely chopped (including the green stems)

1/2 tsp Garlic Powder

1/2 tsp Salt

Directions

Whisk the sour cream. Add the onions, garlic powder and salt. Mix it well. Transfer in a serving bowl and serve.
Yes it’s that simple !!

Note:
I used homemade sour cream. (will share the recipe soon).
Bottled sour cream is readily available in supermarkets and cheese stores.


Happy Dipping !!




Condiment Series | Mushroom Dip | Dips

Day 9


Mushroom Dip. Serve it hot. Serve it cold. Yeah… serve it the way you like it. It’s an all year dip. I serve this warm-n-fuzzy with nachos or pita on cold wintry evenings and serve it chilled in summers. This also makes for excellent sandwich spreads too (that was my breakfast today !!).


The base in this dip is the white sauce, though one could do the same with sour cream as well. I’ll try to share a sour cream-mushroom dip recipe as well, a little later. For now here goes the recipe:

Mushroom Dip !!




Ingredients

200g Mushrooms (regular white button mushrooms), finely chopped

1 large Onion, finely chopped

4-5 cloves of Garlic, minced

1 tsp Dried Oregano

1/2 tsp of chilli flakes

Salt to taste

Oil for sauteing

For the white sauce

1 tbsp Butter

1 tbsp All purpose white flour

1 cup Milk

Black Pepper

Salt to taste.




Directions

1. Take a pan. Pour oil, saute the garlic till slightly golden. Now add the onions and saute` till translucent.

2. Once the onions are done add the finely chopped mushrooms and saute`.

3. Keep stirring every once in a while till the mushrooms are almost cooked through. This should take about 12-15 minutes on medium to high heat. Now add the salt,  dried oregano and chilli flakes. mix well. Cook for another 2 minutes. By this time the moisture from the mushrooms should have evaporated. If not, saute` a little more till the liquid evaporates.



4. While the mushrooms are cooking, we should prepare the white sauce. Take another pan, add 1 tbsp of butter and half a tsp for oil (so that the butter doesn’t burn).

5. Once the butter melts, add the flour and mix well till butter and flour are well combined. Make sure the flour doesn’t change colour, however once the aroma rises, add half the milk and quickly quickly whisk with a spatula or a balloon whisk , into a smooth paste. Make sure there are no lumps formed.

6. Add the remaining milk and mix well. Check for consistency. It should not be very flowy. It should have saucy consistency. If the sauce coats the back of the spoon, it is ready. Add salt and pepper. Mix well.

7. Remove from fire and add the cooked mushrooms.

8. Serve warm. Or if you want to serve cold, let it cool down completely, cover with the cling wrap and refrigerate.

I’m back…and how !!

I’ve missed you guys and this space a lot more than you would have. Blogging and my readers give me the kinda high nothing does, but life has been one roller coaster for the last 4 months. A lot happened. 

We moved to our new house and in the midst of all of that, some health issues came up in the family. 
Well all’s well now. I’m warming up to the new place and getting used to my new kitchen.
The mood is now being set and my comfort zones created.
Last night’s dinner was out of the ordinary for me…. Hummus and Chicken Wraps with Tzatziki. Though this post is not about any of that. the recipes for the same would follow shortly.

My cooking and baking had slowed down in the last 4 months ….also because I was staying with my parents for bit and how my mother pampers me rotten with all her cooking (so why will I cook).
These were some of the things that happened in my kitchen in the last 4 months, though I couldn’t shoot them as well as I wanted and couldn’t write about them as well:



Just when we were packing for moving to our new house, a Daring Baker’s Challenge came up where we were supposed to bake a dessert / cake with vegetables hidden in them. Inspite of all the chaos in my life I couldn’t resist it and attempted two different recipes.
While I missed the challenge date I enjoyed it all the same and so here is what I did:

I made 2 different types of vegetable cakes:

 Beet Cake – 
Looks like a regular chocolate cake but is enriched with beetroots.

Adapted from Bakerycakery.com


(yields one 9” round layer)

Ingredients
¾ cup Pureed beets (Boil 2 medium sized beetroots till tender) 
½ cup Oil
¼ cup Milk
1 tbsp Plain yogurt (this is a strangely small amount to me)
½ tsp Balsamic vinegar
2 Eggs
¾ cup Flour
⅔ cup Sugar
½ cup Cocoa Powder
1 tsp Baking powder
½ tsp. Baking soda
¼ tsp. Salt
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. 

Whisk together all of the dry ingredients and set aside.

Blend the wet ingredients until uniform.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until combined.


Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of the center comes out clean.


Dust with powdered sugar.

Serve warm or at room temperature.





Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake




Ingredients
1 ¾ cups + 2 tablespoons All-purpose Flour

½ teaspoon Baking Soda

½ teaspoon Baking Powder

1-teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

½ teaspoon Salt

2 cups Grated Zucchini (about 2 small ones)

½ cup Orange Marmalade

¾ cup Vanilla Sugar

½ cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 large Eggs

½ cup Walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped

½ cup Chocolate Chips

2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
Directions:
Spray, line, and spray again a 23cm x 12.5cm (9×5 inch) loaf pan and set aside
Preheat the oven to 175°C.
Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
Mix all the remaining ingredients (except the walnuts, if using) in a large bowl until combined (no giant lumps of marmalade at least).
Sift the dry ingredients into it and stir until just combined (don’t worry about it being smooth, just be gentle).
Stir in the walnuts if using. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.
Sprinkle the top with the about 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar.

Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
I served this with a a dollop of mascarpone cheese.



Happy Baking !!

My New Toys….

A much over due family holiday and Singapore is a favourite city.

It was fun in more than one way…..

Singapore for my family is more shopping and less sight seeing….. months before we went for the holiday all our shopping lists were ready. While my mum and my cousins were shopping for shoes and bags, no prizes for guessing i was shopping for my kitchen !!!
Baking moulds, especially the infamous bundt mould, kitchen thermometer, cake lifters oh….the list was endless, but of course with limited baggage space I had to prioritise…..

One thing that I was totally kicked about was the bread flour……I don’t think we get it here in India in non-commercial packs……

Can not wait to try my hands at these ……

Will keep you posted…..

Sourdough Bread

With the mercury soaring to 45C, this is the perfect time to try my hands at the temperamental Sourdough !!
The December Challenge for the Daring Bakers was the Sourdough bread which did not work for me. The temperamental starter refused to cooperate and ferment. It felt a little too cold in my December kitchen and I was determined to try it again when the weather changes.
The reward of a summer baker is beautifully risen sour dough starters and yeast fermentations.
I love doing breads in summer. Cakes and rich desserts are more for the winter or the spring !!
So this weekend’s baking was the Sourdough bread.

For those of us who are new to sourdough here’s what it’s all about:
Sourdough bread is essentially bread made without yeast. In comparison with yeast-based breads, it produces a distinctively tangy or sour taste, mainly because of the lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli; the actual medium, known as “starter” or leaven.

Sourdough likely originated in Ancient Egyptian times around 1500 BC and was likely the first form of leavening available to bakers.
Bake along……

Russian Rye Bread
Servings: 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves and excess rye starter to keep for further baking.
Rye Starter – Day 1:
Ingredients
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 ml) (25 gm/1 oz) whole (dark) rye flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) water (at 104°F/40°C)
Total scant ½ cup (110 ml) (3 oz/85 gm)
Directions:
1. In a Tupperware or plastic container, mix the flour and water into a paste.
2. Set the lid on top gently, cover with a plastic bag, to prevent messes in case it grows more than expected!
3. Set somewhere warm (around 86°F/30°C if possible). I sometimes put mine on a windowsill near a radiator, but even if it’s not that warm, you’ll still get a starter going – it might just take longer. It should be a very sloppy, runny dough, which will bubble and grow as it ferments.
Rye Starter – Day 2:

Ingredients
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 ml) (25 gm/1 oz) whole (dark) rye flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) water (at 104°F/40°C)
scant 1/2 cup (110 ml) (3 oz/85 gm) starter from Day 1
Total scant 1 cup (220 ml) (6 oz/170 gm)
Directions:
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 1, cover, and return to its warm place.
Rye Starter – Day 3:

Ingredients
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 ml) (25 gm/1 oz) whole (dark) rye flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) water (at 104°F/40°C)
scant 1 cup (220 ml) (6 oz/170 gm) starter from Day 2
Total 1 cup plus 6 tablespoons (330 ml) (9 oz/255 gm)
Directions:
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 2, cover, and return to its warm place. If you notice it has a grey liquid on top, just stir this back in and continue as normal.

Rye Starter – Day 4:

Ingredients
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 ml) (25 gm/1 oz) whole (dark) rye flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) water (at 104°F/40°C)
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons (330 ml) (255 gm/9 oz) starter from Day 3
Total about 1¾ cups (440 ml) (12 oz/340 gm)
Directions:
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 3, cover, and return to its warm place. At this point it should be bubbling and smell yeasty. If not, repeat this process for a further day or so until it is!
Rye Starter, ready for baking.

Russian Rye Bread – Step 1: Production Sourdough


Ingredients
1/4 cup less 2 teaspoons (50 ml) (50 gm/1 ¾ oz) rye leaven (starter)
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons (250 ml) (150 gm/5 ⅓ oz) whole (dark) rye flour
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (300 gm/10 ½ oz) water
Total 2½ cup (600 ml) (500 gm/17½ oz/1 lb 1½ oz)
Directions:
1. Mix everything into a sloppy dough. Cover and set aside for 12-24 hours, until bubbling. Set aside the remaining starter for further loaves – see the Notes section for tips!

Russian Rye Bread – Step 2: Final Dough

Ingredients
2 cups (480 ml) (440 gm/15 ½ oz) production sourdough (this should leave some (½ cup) to become your next loaf of bread!)
2 1/3 cups (560 ml) (330 gm/11 ⅔ oz) rye flour (light or whole)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm/.2 oz) sea salt or ½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2½ gm/.1 oz) table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons (200 ml) (200 gm/7 oz) water (at 104°F/40°C)
Total 5 cups plus 3 tablespoons (1245 ml) (975 gm/2 lb 2⅓ oz)

Directions:
1. Mix all the ingredients together to form a soft dough. With wet hands, scoop the dough up and put it in a well-greased loaf tin.
 2. Put the tin inside a large plastic bag, blow it up, and seal it. This should make a good little dome for your bread to proof inside. Set aside somewhere room temperature to warm.
3. The dough should be ready to bake with in anywhere between 2-8 hours, depending on how warm it is. I proof mine by a sunny window in about 4 hours. If the dough was halfway up the tin when you started, it will be ready when it reaches the top (i.e. almost doubles in size).
4. Preheat the oven to very hot 470°F/240°C/gas mark 9. For a large loaf, bake for 50-60 minutes, reducing the temperature to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 after about 10-15 minutes. If baking in small loaf tins, bake for 35-45 minutes, reducing the temperature after 10 minutes. If you are unsure about whether it is done, give it a few minutes longer – it is a very wet dough, so the extra time won’t hurt.
5. Leave to cool on a cooling rack, and rest the loaf for a day before eating it.

Happy Baking !!

Danish Apple Cake…..with love from Shimla !!

This year it was dad’s 60th birthday and what could be better than a quick vacation to Shimla. His favourite hills and mine too.

Shimla the Queen of Hills, located in Himachal Pradesh was also the Summer Capital of the British Raj in 1864. A big small town located in the North-West Himalayas, the city is named after the goddess Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of the Hindu Goddess Kali.

The beauty of Shimla is it’s overbearing Colonial Flavour. The British have left a deep impact on these lovely hills covered with Pines and Oaks. Inspite of it being so densely populated, Shimla has not lost its old world charm, even today. The long walks…….the Colonial Architecture like the Viceregal Lodge, Auckland House, Gorton Castle, the Grills on the walkways and Mall….and the Gaiety Theatre……one of the five ‘Gothic Architecture’ Theatres in the world and the only one in South Asia!
And of course the World Heritage Rail Track. The oldest train track in the scenic hills in India with 105 tunnels.

I never have enough of these hills and my vacation calendar is never complete without a trip to Shimla each year. Though, to make the most of these beautiful hills, avoid going in peak seasons like the Summer time between May-July.
The things I love doing the most and do year after year are the long walks on the mall and beyond….. the sweet corn soup from Krishna Bakers………gazing at the valley at night from a particular point outside Hotel Clarkes. This hotel is the first Oberoi property and till date maintains its old world charm.

Himachal is also home to the Apple Crop of the country besides Kashmir. The apples from Himachal come from Kotgarh, It is at a distance of 82 kilometers from Shimla on the old Hindustan-Tibet road and 6,500 feet above the sea level. The most of the various varieties are Royal, Golden and Richard Red.

On our way back from Shimla around Solan we saw these apple wholesale shops and the foodie in me obviously couldn’t resist it…….I could already see the Apple Pies and Apple Cakes in my Oven !!
So here it is the recipe for the Danish Apple Cinnamon Cake….with love from Shimla:

Danish Apple Cinnamon Cake

Ingredients:

2 Eggs
175g Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
A pinch of Soda-bi-carb
1/2 tsp Cinnamon Powder
75g Powdered Sugar
75 ml Oil
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
1 Apple – cored and chopped (1 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

For the topping mix together:
1 tbsp Brown Sugar
1 tbsp Oats
1/2 tsp Cinnamon Powder
1 tbsp Chopped Walnuts

Directions:

  1. Grease and dust an 8″ diameter cake mould
  2. Sift flour with baking powder, soda-bi-carb and 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  3. Separate eggs. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt, till stiff. Add sugar in batches and beat well after each addition.
  4. Add vanilla essence to the yolks and add one yolk at a time in the white egg & sugar mixture.
  5. Add oil and beat for 1/2 a minute.
  6. Add flour gradually and fold gently. (DO NOT USE A BEATER).
  7. Fold 1 cup apples and chopped & dusted walnuts into the batter.
  8. Pour the batter into the greased mould.

    9. Evenly spread the remaining 1/2 cup apples on the batter and sprinkle the topping mixture on the apples.

   10. Bake in  a pre-heated oven at 180 degree C. for 45 minutes
   11. Serve hot with butterscotch or vanilla ice cream.