Categories
Baking Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

How to Make Neyyi or Ghee (South Asian Clarified Butter)

After chocolate and chillies, ghee might just be the third most amazing food in the entire world. When made well, with good quality butter, a spoonful of ghee can transform a meal from delicious to absolutely exquisite!

I’ve read some people (almost always non-South Asians) refer to ghee (clarified butter) as less flavourful than butter. I say: pay them no mind! I reckon they don’t know good ghee. Ghee is delicious and divine (it is even considered quite literally divine by many people in the Indian subcontinent). Good ghee is as delicious, if not better than butter, albeit with a different flavour, texture, and aroma.

In any case, I mention ghee a lot on this blog, so I thought I ought to share my ghee recipe here so that you too can try making some! Let me know how you think it compares to butter!

Here’s what you’ll need if you’d like to make a go of it:

Ingredients:

Good quality, unsalted butter.

Note on butter: Ideally, I recommend using cultured butter from a local farm, so that it is as fresh as possible. Also, I prefer butter from grass-fed “happy-cows” (namely cows that are allowed to roam free and treated humanely). This is one butter that is fairly easy to get a hold of in Toronto and makes pretty delicious ghee (I buy it at our local Rowe Farms store):

Cultured butter to ghee

Equipment

A saucepan

A ladle

A strainer

A heat-proof bowl

Jars to store the ghee

Method:

1. Place the butter in a saucepan.

How to make ghee

2. Let it melt and then cook it slowly on medium heat, until it begins to bubble.

Indian clarified butter recipe

3. The milk fats in the butter will slowly rise to the top and transform into a foam that will blanket the melting butter. Continue heating the butter.

Indian clarified butter recipe

4. Next, the foam will begin to separate into small brown chunks or clusters, which will eventually sink. Continue heating the butter through this stage as well.

5. Finally, you will notice that the butter is no longer bubbling. Moreover, it will take on a golden hue, like a blonde ale. Many people choose to remove the butter from the heat at this stage and consider the ghee “done”. I recommend cooking it some more.

Indian clarified butter recipe

6. In fact, keep heating the butter, past the point where it turns golden-brown or ochre.

Indian clarified butter recipe

7. Heat it right up until it begins to look like molten bronze and emits a caramel-like, nutty aroma. This is the point at which the ghee is parfait! (This is my personal opinion. Reasonable minds can disagree as to whether or not to cook the ghee this far.)

Indian clarified butter recipe

(Between the previous step and this step, though, watch the ghee carefully: it can turn from perfectly browned to burnt in an instant!)

8. Take the ghee off the heat and pour it into a heat-proof bowl. Once it has cooled, strain it into air-tight jars for storage. I recommend storing the ghee in the refrigerator to keep it fresh. Take it out as and when you need it and warm it up in the microwave or on the stove.

Indian clarified butter

9. Enjoy it with dal, use it in cooking and baking, or add it to your coffee to make bulletproof coffee!

Kept coffee;

Categories
Baking Chocolate Food General Recipes

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Butter

If you like Nutella, but also find that it is simultaneously too sweet and not quite hazelnutty nor chocolatey enough, then you know exactly how I feel. In my quest for a perfectly rich and nutty butter, I have tried various different brands, including Patchi and Neuhaus. None of them really hit the spot, unfortunately. The problem was their texture, their weak chocolate flavour, and the fact that I could taste only a hint of hazelnut flavour in them.

Then, it occurred to me, a few years ago: why not make my own butter? I’ve tried various versions of my own butter since then, but this recipe is now my favourite! This butter’s texture is rich and velvety and the flavour is a perfect balance of dark chocolate and the unmatched, gloriously nutty flavour of real, toasted hazelnuts. A quick note: the more you like the dark chocolate you use in this recipe, the better the butter will taste.

Here it is, poured over a slice of bread, looking so delightfully smooth and glossy!

 

If you want to try making some yourself, this is the equipment you will need:

  • A food processor or powerful blender (I use a Blendtec)
  • An oven
  • A baking tray
  • A tea towel
  • A spatula
  • A jar

And here are the ingredients you will need:

  • 450g Hazelnuts
  • 35-45 g sugar (based on your taste) (I use castor sugar but if your processor/blender is not too powerful, I recommend using icing sugar)
  • 172 g good quality dark chocolate, to taste (my favourite is Cotê d’or)
  • A pinch or two of salt.
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence or hazelnut flavouring (optional)(I use this one).

 

Method:

1. Toast the hazelnuts at 350 F in a baking tray for about 15 minutes, until they turn light brown and fragrant, tossing them periodically.

2. After they’ve cooled, place them at the centre of a tea towel/kitchen towel. Wrap the nuts securely in the towel and then roll the wrapped up nuts on any hardish surface. This will help remove their skins. After you’ve rolled the nuts about for a bit, open up the towel, and pick out the skinned nuts. Repeat this step if there are still a lot of nuts with skins on them.

3. Toss the skinned nuts into a food processor or blender and grind them up until they turn into a smooth butter.

4. Melt the dark chocolate in a the microwave or over a bain-marie.  If you have a powerful blender you can skip this step.

5. Throw in the melted chocolate, sugar, a pinch or two of salt (to taste), and a teaspoon or two of vanilla essence or hazelnut flavouring.

6. Blend everything until it feels smooth enough to you, and there you have it! Your own homemade chocolate hazelnut butter!

My favourite way to eat it is on bread with some homemade peanut butter! Mmmmmm!

Categories
Baking Chocolate Food General Recipes

The Best Brownies in the Universe

This is not an exaggeration. These are the best brownies in the universe, IF you like your brownies chewy on the edges, crisp on the top, and gooey in the centre.

Rich gooey brownies topped with salt

Of course, there are those who say that they don’t like their brownies this way. Such people don’t actually like brownies; let them eat cake!!!!

Cake-y brownies are NOT brownies. They are a travesty.

So go ahead, give this a go, you will not regret it. And it’s a fairly easy recipe too! Thanks to Christina Marsigliese for posting the original recipe. I would recommend using good quality chocolate, as this is the main ingredient in the brownies; I use Callebaut or Valrhona.

IMG_0222IMG_0223

Ingredients:

  • 85 g butter (I recommend using unsalted, as it is usually better quality butter)
  • 142 g bitterswet/semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • 200 g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 62 g all-purpose flour
  • A pinch of salt

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 fahrenheit (about 176 celsius).
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Alternatively, you can do it in a microwave, but be careful not to burn the chocolate. Once the chocolate is melted, set it aside to cool for a few minutes.How to melt chocolate properly
  3. While the chocolate-butter is melting, cut two pieces of parchment into two strips about 8 inches wide and at-least 14 inches long. Line an 8-inch square pan with the strips of parchment paper at right angles to each other such that they intersect in the middle, like a cross, with a two-inch over-hang on either side of the pan.How to line pan for brownies
  4. Beat the eggs and sugar in a stand mixer for about 8 minutes, until pale and fluffy. The egg-sugar mixture should fall back on itself in a gradually disappearing ribbon when you dip a ladle or whisk into it. This step is important as properly dissolving the sugar gives the brownie its wonderful texture. (If you don’t have a stand-mixer, do step 5 first, and then whip up the eggs and sugar mixture in a bowl with an electric hand-held mixer.)20151202_143923
  5. While the chocolate is cooling and the egg-sugar mixture is being whipped up in the stand-mixture, whisk together flour and salt in a separate bowl.20151202_134327
  6. Once the egg-sugar mixture is ready, add the vanilla essence and whip until incorporated.
  7. Add the cooled chocolate-butter to the egg-sugar mixture and mix with a ladle.20151202_144159 20151202_144530
  8. Fold in the flour-salt mixture gently with a rubber spatula. It is important to have a light hand here, otherwise too much gluten from the flour will be released, making the brownies harder and more like bread, rather than dense and gooey.Folding flour to avoid gluten release
  9. Pour the batter into the 8-inch pan lined with parchment paper. I like to make swirls on the surface of the batter, but this is completely optional 🙂20151202_145447
  10. Bake for about 25-30 minutes (depending on your oven’s temperament) until puffed on top, and a tooth-pick stuck into the centre of the brownie comes out mostly dry, but with a few sticky crumbs.Chewy fudge brownies with crips tops and gooey centres
  11. Sprinkle the top of the brownies with flakes of salt. I like to use Pink Himalayan Salt for the best visual effect. You can use any salt-flakes you can get your hands on.Rich dark gooey brownies
  12. Let the brownies cool for as long as you can (you’ll probably cut off a piece a few minutes into waiting :P).Himalayan Salt Brownies

Take them out of the pan using the parchment paper over-hangs and cut them into little squares.

Fudgy Gooey Brownies

 

Fudgy Brownies topped with salt flakes

Eat them as is, or with frozen yoghurt or ice cream. I like to serve them with strawberry frozen yoghurt because the tartness compliments the brownies’ richness. Also, the light pink colour goes well with the Himalayan salt.

Strawberry ice-cream with brownies

 

 

Categories
Baking Food General Recipes

Spiced Banana Rum Cake

I’ve been baking a lot this week for some reason. I think the return of cold weather has put me in the mood for it: a warm oven giving off the aroma of vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg can go a long way in consoling me on these dreary grey afternoons.

My latest and most exciting baking experiment was this spiced banana rum cake.

Cinnamon, nutmeg, banana rum cake

This is a delicious and simple cake to bake; in my view, even someone new to baking will find the recipe for this cake a tough one to mess up 🙂 Also, most kitchens are likely to have these ingredients lying about in them. It’s based on one of Dorie Greenspan’s recipes, taken from her iconic book “Baking: From my home to yours”.

The cake is also versatile: it can be served at different times of day in varied contexts, such as for tea, as dessert, or even as a mid-morning study-break snack. I decided to bake it on a whim this Saturday and brought it over to a friend’s for dessert. As it turns out, it’s actually an ideal dessert to take with you to other people’s homes because it is relatively easy to transport.

If you’d like to spice up your fall afternoons or a friend’s dinner party with this cake, here is a 13 step guide to making it!

Ingredients:

Note 1: I’ve provided the quantities for ingredients in grams (except for a few dry ingredients that have been measured in teaspoons and all liquids which have been measured by volume) because I find measurements by weight to be far more precise in the home-cooking context. I have also provided an approximate measurement in cups for those of you who don’t have digital weighing scales at home.

Note 2: All ingredients should be at room temperature, so set them out a few hours before you plan on starting on this cake.

Ingredients Group A:

162g (1 1/3 cup) all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp freshly ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

 

Ingredients Group B:

85g (3/4 stick) of butter

75g (3/8 cup) granulated sugar

100g (1/2 cup) light brown or golden sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1.5 cups (about 2 large) very ripe bananas, mashed

1/4 cup coconut milk or yogurt

 

For the Rum Syrup:

1/3 cup water

50g (1/4 cup) sugar

1/4 cup dark rum/Malibu coconut rum

 

For the Cinnamon Sugar:

25g (1/8 cup) granulated sugar

1/2 tbsp freshly ground cinnamon

 

Equipment Needed:

1 or 2 medium bowls (if you use a stand mixer you will need only one bowl)

Whisk

Stand mixer or hand-held mixer

Measuring cups and, if available, a weighing scale

Teaspoons

2 forks

Spatula

9 inch round cake tin (preferably a spring-form pan)

Parchment paper

Oven

Narrow knife or skewer

Basting brush

 

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Butter the cake tin. Next, cut a circular piece of parchment paper with the same circumference as the cake tin. Line the tin with the parchment paper and butter the parchment paper as well. Now dust the tin (including the bottom of it which is lined with paper) with flour.

2. Whisk all the dry ingredients listed in Group A together in a medium size bowl until evenly mixed.

3. In a second medium-sized bowl or a stand mixer, beat the butter at a high speed until creamy. Next, add both the sugars and beat again until creamy (about 3-4 minutes).

4. Add the egg and vanilla to the butter-sugar mixture and beat until smooth.

5. Lower the speed of the mixer and add the mashed bananas. The mixture will look fairly unattractive at this point. Dorie Greenspan describes it as “curdled” which is pretty accurate 🙂 Don’t worry about this.

6. Now add the dry ingredients in Group A to the “curdled mixture”, alternating with the coconut milk (or yogurt). Start and end with the dry ingredients. (In other words, add a third of the flour mixture, followed by half the milk, followed by a third of the flour mixture, followed by the rest of the milk, and end with the last third of the flour mixture).

7. By now, you should have a fairly smooth and delicious smelling batter. Pour this into the prepared cake tin and place in the oven to bake for 40 minutes or so, until browned on top. The cake should come away from the edges as shown below. Check if its done by inserting a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Spiced banana cake

8. While the cake is baking, prepare the rum syrup and cinnamon sugar. For the syrup, place the sugar and water in a small bowl on the stove on medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved completely bring the syrup to boil and then transfer it to a heat proof bowl. Mix in the rum, cover and let cool. In the meantime, mix the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl using a fork until evenly mixed.

9. When the cake is done (as shown above), take it out of the oven and carefully remove the cake from the cake tin after letting it cool for about 10 minutes. Make sure you keep the cake intact and place it right side up, with the beautifully browned dome on top.

10. Using a narrow knife or a skewer, poke holes all over the cake. Now, with a basting brush, carefully brush the rum syrup all over the cake, working slowly so that the cake soaks up the syrup evenly. How much syrup you want to use is up to you; it’s not a very sweet syrup, so the cake won’t become overly sweet should you decide to be generous with the booze.

11. Once the cake has cooled and the syrup has soaked in, lightly dust the top of the cake with cinnamon sugar.

12. Serve as is, or with whipped cream and/or strawberries.

13. Enjoy!

Spiced Banana Rum Cake

 

 

Categories
Baking Food General Recipes

Boozy Banana Bread Served with Orange-Chocolate Butter

This is by far the most delicious banana bread that I’ve ever had. It’s a miss-mash of a few recipes I’ve tried out before, but it’s predominantly based off of Jamie Oliver’s banana bread recipe, which can be found here. Overall, while I liked his recipe the best of all the ones that I’ve tried, it wasn’t boozy 😉 and his chocolate butter, while delicious, was a bit too sweet. So, I played around with the recipes for both the bread and the butter a bit and came up with this one.

Also, just a clarification, the bread doesn’t actually have a strong taste of alcohol; I was just being flip and I liked the alliteration in the title.

This bread is a great addition to a tea party!

Banana bread with rum raisins

Or, you could just make up a loaf, and eat a slice or two every day as an afternoon snack, with tea 🙂

Banana bread with rum raisins

Anyway, if you want to try it, here’s what you will need, and what you will need to do.

Ingredients:

For the Banana Bread:

1 cup walnuts, shelled and chopped

2 handfuls raisins (ideally golden raisins)

Enough rum to submerge the raisins completely (about 100 ml)

500 g frozen, very ripe bananas, (measure the weight once you have peeled the bananas)

125 g unsalted butter

125 g dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

200 g unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

A couple of pinches of salt

A couple of pinches of salt

 

For the Chocolate Butter:

The zest of an orange

100 g good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped

100 g unsalted good quality butter

50 g icing sugar (you might want to play around with the amount of sugar you use based on the bitterness of the chocolate you are using and of course, on your taste)

Largish flakes of salt (I like the pink salt because it looks nice on top of the butter)

General notes about ingredients: Leave the eggs and butter out on the kitchen counter for a few hours before you begin making the bread so that they are at room temperature. Also, unless otherwise specified, when I list the amounts of dry ingredients you should use in a recipe, I mean levelled tea spoons, table spoons, and cups.

Method:

Place the raisins and rum in a little pot or saucepan and place the pot/pan on medium to high heat on the stove. Once the rum is boiling, take the pot/pan off the heat, cover it, and set aside for at least an hour, until the raisins have soaked up all the rum 🙂

Rum soaked raisins in banana bread

Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees celsius (325 degrees fahrenheit). Sift together all the dry ingredients into a medium bowl. Take two half litre loaf tins (or a single one litre tin) and line them with parchment paper that has been buttered on both sides. Once the oven has pre-heated, place the walnuts on a baking tray and toast them in the oven for 4-5 minutes, until they are slightly darker in colour and you can smell an aroma coming off them. Be careful not to over-toast them. While the nuts are being toasted, mash-up the bananas in a bowl. You don’t have to make a smooth paste of them, it’s ok if there are a few chunky bits in the banana paste.

Next, beat the butter and sugar together using a stand mixer or hand-held mixer (egg beater) until the butter and sugar form a smooth, creamy mixture (say for about 5 minutes at medium to high-speed). Now, beat in the eggs, one at a time. Once you have an even/smooth mixture, mix in the bananas, walnuts, and rum-soaked raisins with a spatula or spoon, followed by the dry, sieved ingredients. The batter is pretty thick; as you can see, my wooden spatula was standing up in the batter without any support:

Banana Bread with Raisins and Walnuts

Pour the batter into the prepared tins and bake in the middle shelf of your oven. You will know the bread is done when you poke it with a tooth pick or skewer and it comes out clean. This should take about an hour, depending on your oven.

20140330_223841

While the bread is baking, you can get the chocolate orange butter ready.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (you can also do this in a microwave, in which case, make sure to use a low heat setting and monitor the chocolate, so as not to burn it). Once the chocolate has melted, take it off the heat and stir in the orange zest. Set the chocolate aside. In another bowl mix the butter and sugar with a hand-held mixer until smooth and creamy. Finally, stir the orange-infused chocolate into the sugar-butter mixture.

It’s ready! You can serve and/or store the butter in a bowl, on a little plate, or even in a butter dish. Whichever way you choose to serve/store it, sprinkle some coarsely ground salt on top of the butter; it’ll look nice and taste even better 🙂

Delicious chocolate butter infused with orange zest

One thing to note, the butter is best served/eaten at room temperature when accompanying the bread. Of course, it tastes great cold if you’re just eating spoonfuls of it by itself. Fair warning though, it’s pretty unhealthy and you might feel quite ill if you eat too much, so moderation is advised!

This is the bread, once it was baked and sliced up:

Delicious soft, dense Banana Bread

Great snack- banana bread with chocolate butter

Categories
Baking Cooking Food General Recipes

Baked Mushroom Arancini (Baked Risotto)

Risotto is one of my favourite Italian dishes. The only problem with it is that while it tastes great right off the stove, it doesn’t re-heat well. As a result, until recently, I’d usually make up a big pot of the stuff, and then be left with a lot of cold risotto that tastes sub-par when reheated in the microwave. Alternatively, I’d make just a little, and then have to cook something from scratch for my next meal.

That is, this used to be my problem with making risotto, until I tried some arancini (fried risotto balls) at a restaurant. While eating the arancini, I had an epiphany, and now I have a whole new risotto-system 🙂 Now, I make up a pot of risotto, eat it fresh off the stove for a meal, and then use the left over risotto to make arancini. I basically roll the left-over risotto into balls, which I refrigerate, and then bake them (instead of frying them because it’s healthier and easier) whenever I am ready for my next meal.

And just like that, I have a delicious, hot meal in a few minutes!

Baked Risotto

If you’d like to try making some, here’s the recipe for the arancini part of the process. At some point, I will blog about my risotto recipe, in the meantime, there are plenty of recipes out there on the great Internets. For instance, you could try Jamie Oliver’s mushroom risotto, the recipe can be found here. (I’d skip the celery part of the recipe, though, if I were you, (yuck!))

Ingredients:

1 pot of risotto (Whichever recipe you use, make sure to chop the mushrooms into fairly small pieces, rather than slicing them. if the mushroom slices are too large, it becomes difficult to shape the risotto into balls for the arancini)

1 cup (approx.) panko crust

3-4 egg whites

1 cup (approx.) flour

Goat cheese or mozzarella to taste for the arancini filling (optional)

Method:

Cool the risotto in the fridge for at least a few hours. Once you’re ready to shape the risotto into balls, place three bowls and a baking sheet lined with parchment paper on the counter, table, or wherever you are going to be working. Put the panko crust in one bowl, egg whites in another bowl, and flour in the third.

Using an ice cream scoop, portion some risotto into your hands and shape it into a sphere, about the size of a tennis ball. (If you’d like to make arancini with goat cheese or mozzarella centers, flatten a scoop of risotto in your palm, place the cheese at the centre of the flattened risotto, and then wrap the risotto around the cheese). Now, roll the ball in the flour and place it on the baking sheet. Repeat this process until all the risotto is used up.

Next, dip each flour-coated ball into the egg white, immediately roll it in the panko crust, and then place it on the baking tray.

Baked Risotto

Once you’re done coating all the balls, you can bake them immediately, or you can store them in Tupperware, and bake them when you’re ready to eat them.

To bake the arancini, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and place the arancini in the oven on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake the arancini for about 15 minutes, until they are crisp and golden brown on the outside. Finally, enjoy!

They’re a great meal, but they’re also great as appetizers for a party.

Categories
Baking Chocolate Food General Recipes

Easy Chocolate Cupcakes (with Dark Chocolate Centers and Cream Cheese Frosting)

Dearest readers, I must begin by apologizing for my long absence. I’ve had a very busy summer indeed. But, I am back now, and I thought a great way to apologize would be to bake you all some delicious cupcakes.

Yes, yes, I know that some people are saying that cupcakes are ‘dead’ now and all that, but really, that’s all stuff and nonsense. Like chocolate, cupcakes are forever, or at least, chocolate cupcakes are forever. I can’t speak for lemon flavoured ones, or even about Kiwi ones, or really about any fruit flavoured ones, but chocolate ones, mmmmm…. even contemplating a world without chocolate cupcakes is enough to drive me to utter and complete despair.

I mean, just look at this cupcake:

Easy Recipe for chocolate cupcakes

Can you imagine this ever not being delicious?

So you see, I am convinced that cupcakes are here to stay, whatever the naysayers may say (I agree with most things on Jezebel, but on the issue of cupcakes, Jezebel and I disagree, vehemently, see: http://jezebel.com/fuck-cupcakes-475125988.)

So, given their classic status (at least in my home and heart), here is a delicious and easy recipe for chocolate cupcakes, with some optional frills you can add to make them even more yummy!

Ingredients:

(I’ve divided the ingredients into three groups, so it’s easy to refer to them collectively in the recipe.)

Group A:

1.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

0.5 teaspoon baking soda

3-4 pinches of salt

Group B:

1 cup sugar

0.75 cups cocoa

0.75 cups sunflower or vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

2 eggs

1 cup 1% milk

Group C (for frosting and chocolate fillings):

Icing sugar (to taste, usually not more than a cup)

8 ounces cream cheese

About 140 g dark chocolate (this amount will vary depending on the darkness of the chocolate you choose and your taste as well).

About 40 g milk chocolate

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees celsius).

2. Whisk all the ingredients in ‘Group A’ together in a bowl.

3. Whisk the sugar and cocoa together in another bowl. Add all the other ingredients in ‘Group B’, except the milk, and beat with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed, until the mixture is smooth.

4. Now beat the ‘Group A’ ingredients into the mixture from step 3, a few spoonfuls at a time, alternating with the milk. Beat until smooth. This is your cupcake batter. You can mix a handful or two of chocolate chips, if you like, at this stage.

5. Ladle or pour the batter into cupcake cups placed in a cupcake or muffin baking tray.

6. Place the tray in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cupcakes comes out clean. Do not over bake as the cakes will then end up dry.

7. Once the cakes have cooled, take them out of the mold/tray. You can eat them as they are, or you can give them dark chocolate centers and frost them.

8. To give them chocolate centers, melt 6 squares (about 60 g) of your favourite dark chocolate (make sure it’s not too dark, as you want the centre to be soft at room temperature, rather than hard and gritty) with 4 squares (about 40 g) of milk chocolate in a bowl in the microwave on a very low heat setting, or in a double boiler. While the chocolate is melting, use a cupcake corer, or a knife to carefully bore a hole into the cupcakes from the top, to about midway into the cupcake (make sure not to go all the way to the bottom), and take out some of the cake to create space for the chocolate. Once the chocolate is melted, spoon some chocolate into each cupcake. Let the chocolate cool. (Note: don’t wash the bowl you use in this step to melt the chocolate in, just yet.)

9. In the meantime, place an 8 ounce brick of cream cheese in a bowl, and beat it with an electric mixer, until it’s smooth and creamy. Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence, and a few tablespoons of icing sugar, then beat the mixture, and taste it. Keep adding sugar by the spoonful until it tastes just right. Now melt about 8 squares of dark chocolate (80 g) (my measurements for the chocolate are approximate because each person will want different amounts of chocolate in the frosting; so go by what tastes right) in the same bowl used in step 8. Pour this chocolate into the cream cheese-sugar mixture. Make sure that the chocolate is only warm, not hot. Now beat it all together until smooth. Your frosting is ready.

10. Spoon the frosting into an icing bag (if you don’t have one, you can spoon the icing into a sandwich bag or other type of plastic bag and cut a whole at one corner of it). Holding up each cupcake, swirl frosting on it.

11. Top off the cupcake with dark chocolate shavings, if you feel like.

12. You can also make cupcakes with mint buttercream frosting, as shown in the photo below. Just beat a cup of unsalted butter with a few drops of mint essence, a few drops of green food colouring, and icing sugar to taste. Then follow the same steps for frosting the cupcakes as described in 10 and 11.

13. Eat the cakes yourself, or throw a cupcake party for your friends 🙂

Cupcakes with chocolate cream cheese icing

Chocolate cupcakes with mint buttercream frosting

Categories
Baking Chocolate Food General Recipes

Whole-Wheat Double Chocolate Cookies

As I wrote in a previous post about my chocolate chip cookie recipe, cookies haven’t always been my favourite dessert or snack. I don’t mean that I don’t like them, I DO like them, and I certainly would never say no to a chocolate cookie. But, they aren’t usually the first thing I think of when I walk into my kitchen wanting to bake something. This has changed gradually, since my last cookie post, and I’ve been thinking and fantasizing about cookies more. I’ve been thinking, nay, dreaming especially about gooey, rich, chocolate chocolate chip cookies that are crisp on the outside, and gooey on the inside. (Really, over the past few weeks, I’ve actually taken a break from working without realizing it because my mind has wandered off from copyright law, meandered through various foods, lingered on fish tacos, and finally settled on visualizing chocolate cookies.)

So today, I finally decided to give it a shot and bake some double chocolate cookies! But, because I wanted an adventure and a challenge, I decided to try and bake the gooey-est, yummy-est cookies that I possibly could, using whole-wheat flour. It’s healthier than all-purpose flour you see. Also, I ended up buying 10 kilos of the stuff when my mother visited (she makes delicious Indian rotis for which we needed the flour), and haven’t used much of it since she left.

I was nervous at first; it seemed ill-advised. I wanted something decadent and delicious, and whole-wheat based baked goodies don’t usually taste very decadent or delicious. In my experience, they taste kind of, well, healthy. And by that I mean, rough, dry, and most importantly, the opposite of rich. But, I decided to give it a shot.

I was going to use chocolate and butter in the recipe, that was a given. But, using whole-wheat flour and brown sugar seemed like a good way to make the recipe a wee bit healthier than usual.

“Did they turn our well?”, you ask. Oh yes, indeed they did.

Healthy Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

They turned our so well that I was forced to resort to expletives to describe how good they tasted, when I first bit into one.

Healthy dark chocolate cookies

If you’d like to try baking them too, here’s what you’ll need:

1 cup whole-wheat flour (I used chapathi flour) (if you’re not a stickler about making the cookies completely whole-wheat, you could mix in 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, just so the cookies are a little smoother)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup dutch processed cocoa

1 teaspoon salt

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (be warned that using unsweetened chocolate instead results in a sour, bitter, dry and brittle cookie)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon instant coffee

3 handfuls of dark chocolate chips (substitute some of the chips with toasted hazelnuts or macadamia nuts if you like)

Method: Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (you can also do this in a microwave, in which case, make sure to use a lot heat setting so as not to burn the chocolate). While the chocolate is melting, in a medium bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. In a small bowl lightly whisk the eggs, sprinkle the coffee on top of the eggs, and set the bowl aside.

In a separate bowl beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Then, add the two types of sugar, and beat until smooth. Now, add the eggs, followed by vanilla extract, and finally the melted chocolate, all the while beating the mixture. Continue beating at medium to low-speed until the mixture is smooth.

Next, at a low-speed, beat in the dry ingredients. Once they’re mixed in, fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula, or your hand, until they are somewhat evenly distributed.

Your dough is now ready! (If you used your hands to mix the chips in, this is a great time to give the dough a taste.)

The final step involves dividing up the dough. It’s best to move to the dining table for this last step as it takes about 5-10 minutes, and you don’t really need access to things in the kitchen or the sink for this. Place a sheet of parchment-paper or wax-paper on a baking sheet. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out a little portion of the cookie dough on your palm and roll it into a ball. The size of this portion can very, depending on how large you want your cookies to be; I scooped out about a ping-pong ball sized amount. Roll the dough up into a ball, then flatten it a bit, into a little disc. Place the disc on the sheet. Continue doing this until all the dough is used up.

How to freeze cookie dough

You’re almost done! You can bake the cookie dough at this point. But, if you want to eat warm, fresh cookies everyday, whenever you want, just freeze the dough instead. If you’re having a party, and want to serve warm cookies at it, but can’t be bothered with baking them on the day of the party, then this freezing method works perfectly for that too. When the party starts, you can just pop the frozen dough-discs into the oven and then chat with friends over wine/martinis/etc., until they are ready.

To freeze the dough, place the baking sheet in the freezer for about 2 hours, until the dough is frozen. Then take the sheet out, place the balls in a freezer bag and pop them back into the freezer. Whenever you’re ready to eat a cookie (or three), pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit, place a dough-disc on a baking sheet covered with baking-paper and bake for 12 minutes, until the edges, and top seem firm. You might want to turn the tray around mid-way through, to ensure even baking.

It’s best to let the cookie cool a bit on the tray and then on a cooling rack. But if you’re impatient, that’s probably not going to happen.

Mmmm… these cookies were pure deliciousness!

Healthy, whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies

You could also enjoy it, all warm and gooey, with a glass of cold milk!

Categories
Baking Chocolate Food General Recipes

Delicious Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Fresh and Warm, Whenever You Want!

Warm cookies, fresh out of the oven, crisp on the outside, gooey on the inside, full of chocolate chunks- doesn’t that sound simply heavenly? So often, I think about baking cookies, and then decide that it’s not worth the trouble, considering how short-lived the joy is of eating them warm out of the oven. I’ve only ever liked fresh, warm cookies, you see. Once they’ve cooled, I lose interest in them. In fact, the only way I really enjoy cold cookies is by breaking them into chunks and dropping them into chocolate ice cream 🙂

But now, I have found a way to eat warm, fresh cookies everyday, whenever I want, and you can too! Just follow this recipe for cookie dough, then shape the dough into little balls, and freeze them raw. When you’re ready to eat a cookie, simply pop a dough-ball into the oven and 10 minutes later, enjoy!

Fresh, crisp, goey chocolate chunk cookies

If you’re having a party, and want to serve warm cookies at it, but can’t be bothered with baking them on the day of the party, then this freezing method works perfectly for that too. I did this for my birthday party, and everything went smoothly! I just popped the frozen dough-balls into the oven and then chatted with friends until 10 minutes later, they were ready 🙂

If you’d like to try the recipe I use, here it is! It’s from ‘Baking Illustrated’ published by the famous ‘Cook’s Illustrated’ magazine editors.

Here’s what you will need:

1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

¾ cup (5¼ ounces) dark brown sugar

½ cup (3½ ounces) granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 handfuls of dark chocolate chunks

In a medium bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. Next, in a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter and let it cool until it is luke-warm. Add the two types of sugar to the butter and beat until smooth. Then, add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and continue beating at medium to low-speed until the mixture is smooth. Next, at a low-speed, beat in the dry ingredients. Once they’re mixed in, add the chocolate chunks, and try to mix them in with a spatula or your hand, until they are somewhat evenly distributed. Your dough is now ready!

The final step involves shaping the dough into balls. It’s best to move to the dining table for this last step as it takes about 5-10 minutes, and you don’t really need access to things in the kitchen or the sink for this. Place a sheet of parchment-paper or wax-paper on a baking sheet. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out a little portion of the cookie dough on your palm and roll it into a ball. The size of this portion can very, depending on how large you want your cookies to be; I scooped out about a ping-pong ball sized amount. Roll the dough up into a ball, then tear it apart at the centre. Rotate the two halves so that the uneven, torn surface faces upwards, and re-attach the two bits together into a make-shift, but clearly imperfect sphere. (Apparently, this uneven surface makes the cookie look better once baked. (I am not entirely certain of this, to tell you the truth. One day, I shall be brave enough not to follow this instruction, and then I will let you know what happened.))

You’re almost done! Place the baking sheet in the freezer for about 2 hours, until the dough is frozen. Then take the sheet out, place the balls in a freezer bag and pop them back into the freezer. Whenever you’re ready to eat a cookie (or three), pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees farenheit, place a dough-ball on a baking sheet covered with baking-paper and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown on top.

It’s best to let the cookie cool a bit on the tray and then on a cooling rack. But if you’re impatient, like I am, these cookies taste good minutes after they’re out the oven too, as you can see from the picture below, I could hardly wait to bite into my cookie 😛

Delicious chocolate chunk cookies in minutes

Mmmm…deliciousness!

You could also enjoy it, all warm and gooey, with a glass of cold milk!

Chocolate chunk cookies in minutes

Categories
Baking Cooking Food General Recipes

Refried Beans Remixed Part II

Sometime ago, I wrote about how relatively easy it is to make refried beans. Now that I’ve figured out a recipe for beans that works for me (and by that I mean that it is a wholly vegetarian recipe and it’s super-spicy) I’ve been making refried beans a lot lately. My favourite ways to eat beans include: beans on top of rice, beans inside burritos and quesadillas, and even just beans on more beans with lots of cheese on top 🙂 And then of course, there is the refried bean pizza 🙂

My latest bean-related experiment involves mixing two iconic foods from Mexican and French cuisine respectively: refried beans and crepes. Here’s how it turned out:

Baked crepes with refried beans and cheese

If you want to try it out, here’s what you will need:

For the Filling:

One serving of re-fried beans, go here for my recipe.

Freshly grated aged cheddar, to taste

Chunks of mozzarella, to taste

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp freshly ground cumin seeds

For the crepes:

1 cup all-purpose flour (leveled)

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1 1/2 cups whole milk

4 large eggs

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Method:

I started by making the crepes. I just threw all the ingredients for the crepes (in no particular order) into a food processor (you call also use a blender/mixie) and whizzed them all together until I got a smooth mixture. The batter will be pretty thin, quite unlike pancake batter.

Now for making the crepes. I heated a skillet, melted a little butter on it and poured a ladle of batter on it. Then, I swirled the batter about to make a thin layer completely covering the entire skillet. I cooked the underside of the crêpe for about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula I loosened the edges of the crepes and then flipped the crêpe over and cooked the other side for about 2 minutes. Then I placed the crêpe on a plate, covered it with plastic wrap and repeated the crepe-making process until I’d used up all the batter. (You can also store the batter in the fridge for a day or two if you prefer.)

Now I was ready to stuff the crepes with their filling! (You can stuff and bake a couple at first and store the rest of the crepes in the fridge. Since they’re all wrapped up in plastic, they will stay fresh.)

But first, I had to pre-heat the oven, which I did to 350 F. While the oven heats up, start filling the crepes with refried beans and cheese and lining them up on a baking tray. To keep the crêpe nicely wrapped and beans snug inside, I used a toothpick.

Baked crepes with refried beans and cheese

Once the oven is warmed up, place the crepes in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or so. Monitor them and reduce the temperature, or take them out sooner if they look like they are browning too much. You just want them to be a nice golden colour with the edges starting to crisp up.

Once they are ready, take them out of the oven, sprinkle with cumin and cayenne pepper and enjoy!

Baked crepes with refried beans and cheese

If you don’t want to spend the time decorating the crêpe with cayenne pepper and cumin polka-dots like I did, you can just lightly dust the crêpe with the spices:

Baked crepes with refried beans and cheese

They made for a perfect snack while working on my dissertation.

Baked crepes with refried beans and cheese