Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I have moved to tastegoblet.wordpress.com!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

kesari...a couple of ways

Kesari is probably the fastest Indian dessert to make. Just be prepareds for some fast and furious stirring. Nonetheless it requires very basic simple ingredients, is fast to make and can be served immedaitely without needing much standing time...which is why many a time, when unexpected guests sudedenly pop by, kesari is always the fist treat to be whipped up. It makes us look like fabulous hosts when actually, it takes little more than fifteen minutes to serve up a bowl of the sweet, richly flavored confection.
After a request from mariya, I looked through my Indian cookbooks -and a few websites- for kesari recipes and to my surprise, discovered that there were actually various versions of this South Indian dessert. I decided to try out two...the first the kesari we are familiar with in Singapore: made with roasted semolina (rava), sugar, liberal lashings of ghee and studded with raisins and cashews.... and the second, a rather unique recipe that uses flattened rice (aval), jaggery (vellam) and ground cardamon.
While both tasted good, I must say the orange semolina version was much more well received by everyone at home. The smooth almost meltin richness of the semolina won everyone over while nobody really could identify with the broken rice version as kesari...although I got a few comments that it tasted a bit like vajay---that Malayan glutinous rice dessert..

Semolina Kesari (makes 4 servings)
55g semolina (rava)*
1/4 cup melted ghee
5/8 cup boiling water
a pinch of kesari colour powder or orange coloring+
50g sugar
3 cardamons, pounded
a pinch of ground nutmeg
a handful of cashews, halved
a handful of golden rasins
1 tbsp of ghee, extra

1. Heat a tablespoonful of ghee in a small saucepan and fry cashews and raisins till golden brown. Set aside.
2. Heat the 1/4 cup of ghee in a wok over medium-low heat and fry semolina until fragrant and it darkens slightly... this would take about 3-5 minutes.
3. Pour in water and stir vigorously. When it is cooked and thick, add sugar, coloring, cardamon, nutmeg, fried cashews and raisins. Cook, stirring all the while over gentle heat till it thickens.
4. Pour into a tray and cut into squares, or press into small bowls and unmould on a plate to serve.

*The semolina best for making kesari is the coarse kind, very easily found in Indian grocery stores. Just ask for a small packet of rava.
+While food coloring works just as well, kesari powder is what makes the confection have a gorgeous deep reddish orange hue. The powder is sold in Indian grocery shops as well, and a small bottle costs only 80 cents! Just ask for orange kesari powder.
Frying cashews and raisins in ghee...how decadent, not to mention unhealthy, is that?

Roasting semolina in ghee
Cheap but powerful kesari powder

Aval Kesari (makes about 10-12 squares)
200g beaten rice (aval), soaked for 25 minutes and drained
125g golden jaggery (vellam)
70ml water
2tbsp sugar
50g ghee
5 cardamons, pounded
a small pinch of salt
1. Boil together jaggery, sugar and water until sugars are dissolved. Strain syrup into a wok.
2. Over low heat, add beaten rice and ghee and cook until all the syrup is absorbed and the rice is cooked. Add cardamon and salt and mix well.
3. Pour into a small tray, flatten surface and cut into small squares to serve.

Golden jaggery...nature's sweetener

Beaten rice, otherwise known as aval. Easy to prepare-just soak for at most 30 minutes- and much fluffier than regular rice.

Cooking the aval with ghee and syrup.

Poured into a tin and flattened...waiting to be cut into squares.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

toffee almond fudge

Again with my fascination for indian sweets, here was my attempt at toffee almond fudge, a recipe I got from an Indian vegetarian cookbook that my aunt had sent me from the States. But strangely enough, the end product doesn't taste like an indian sweet at all...there was no ghee, or spice. I guess this was something taking from the Western style of fudge making, cos it tasted remarkbly like a nutty version of caramel fudge. Don't get me wrong, it was quite nice...milky and with a lovely toffee flavour..but ultimately very American fudge-like. And another thing was with our weather, I couldn't leave the tray of fudge to sit out in the open..it refused to set. So it had to be popped into the fridge, where it thankfully did not harden immensely. It still has the requisite fudginess that is so important for chewy sweets. Combined with the crunch of toasted almond chunks and the milky caramel sweetness of the fudge, I was quite pleased with the end result. The only thing I guess is important is to have really fresh milk powder available so that you get the best taste outta each slice of fudge.
Ingredients. Not too many but all quite luxe. Almonds, danish butter, demerara sugar, cream...
Sugar and butter boiling away to make the caramel
Poured into a lightly greased tray...
...and sprinkled with toasted almonds
Toffee Almond Fudge (makes about 50 pieces of fudge)
recipe from Cooking With Kurma, Chakra Press
250g unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup raw or demerara sugar
1 cup pouring consistency pure cream
1 cup whole almonds, roasted and chopped coarsely
3 3/4 cups full cream powdered milk
extra toasted flaked almonds for decoration
  1. Melt butter over low flame in a heavy saucepan. Add sugar, and stir constantly over moderate heat until sugar dissolves.
  2. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until the mixture develops a light caramel color. You should be able to detect a slight toffee fragrance.
  3. Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool for 5minutes. Stir in the cream and nuts. Using a wire whisk, gradually mix in the powdered milk, 1/2 a cup at a time, stirring vigorously to remove any lumps. When the mixture is very thick and just hangs on the whisk, it is ready.
  4. Scrape the mixture into a lightly greased 25 by 30cm tin. Smooth out the top and sprinkle over with toasted almond flakes. Allow to cool completely, slice into 1 inch squares or other shapes and store in the refridgerator.
Slices of quite decadent toffee almond fudge

Saturday, August 19, 2006

lemon cupcakes

I was inspired by another food blogger's entry on lemon cupcakes to try out this recipe. And for a very long time, I've always wanted to try my hand at cupcakes that have fillings. It's alot more work but I'd always thought the end product would be worth it...a crumbly rich cake, a sweet filling that just gives that unexpected jolt of flavour when you bite in, and a mound of lovely frosting. This particular recipe seemed to be perfect...a citrus flavoured cupcake and a tart lemon curd filling. Though it orginally calls for a meringue topping, I decided to go with the lemon buttercream that the "food whore" used.
Unfortunatly, the original recipe for the cupcakes did not turn out AT ALL *sniff*. Perhaps I did something wrong but there just seemed to be too much liquid in the batter and the cupcakes turned out hard and dense. Completely different from the reviews that describe them as light and fluffy... guess something went off somewhere. It was quite heartbreaking to throw an entire batch of cakes down the rubbish chute.
But I still wanted to make these cupcakes so I went back to a tried and true recipe for vanilla cupcakes and added a tablespoon of lemon zest to it. And glad to say it turned out lovely, buttery and not too sweet either. Along with the tangy lemon curd filling and sweet buttercream, it really was a great amalgamation of flavors. And just because, I toasted a handful of almond flakes and sprinkled them over the swirls of yellow and ivory frosting. Definitely something to make again, the next time I have some time on my hands..
Lemon cupcakes
(adapted from the Magnolia Bakery's vanilla cupcake recipe)
1/4 cup butter, softened
slightly less than 1/2 cup vanilla sugar
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 egg, at room temperature
2/3 cup plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Cream butter, sugar and zest till pale.
2. Beat in egg and vanilla. Continue to beat for 1 minute.
3. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and baking powder.
4. Alternating with the milk and vanilla, beat in flour mixture into the creamed butter-egg mixture.
5. Divide batter amongst cupcake holders (I managed to fill 10) and bake at 175 degree C for 20 minutes.

Lemon curd (to fill 10 cupcakes)
1/6 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 egg, at room temperature
1/4 tsp vanilla
1. Over a low heat in a small saucepan, dissolve sugar in juice. Mix in zest.
2. Beat egg in a small bowl. Whisking continously, pour juice-sugar syrup in a slow steady stream into the egg. Beat for two minutes and transfer back into saucepan.
3. Heat over a small flame, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the curd mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool and store in fridge.

Lemon buttercream
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cup icing sugar, sifted
3 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla

1. Cream all ingredients on low speed until combined. Continue beating on high speed for five minutes until thick and fluffy.
To assemble:
1. Even off the domes of cupcakes with a sharp knife. Cut out a cone from the top of each cupcake and fill the hole with 1/2 tsp- 1 tsp of lemon curd. Replace cut out cone.
2. Frost with buttercream. Sprinkle with toasted almonds if desired.

vanilla sponge with berry everything

Me thinks this is the most beautiful dessert I've ever made. I know it sounds awfully pretentious to say so but I actually find it very hard to admire what I cook/bake/decorate. But this time, I can honestly say that I'm proud of my work. A dear friend was throwing her sister a surprise birthday party and asked me to bake a cake. It was so far the largest cake I've ever made for an order. 2 kilos. That's like, the weight of a sizeable dumbell. Carrying the cake to the delivery point was terrifying cos I had to maneuver through hoardes of people carrying something so heavy and at the same time try my best not to jostle the cake box least the cream smears. But thankfully, all went well and the massive cake was delivered to the party intact.

The cake itself was a vanilla sponge...sandwiched with blueberry pie filling...
Then frosted with slightly sweetened whipped cream, with buttercream rosettes piped as a border. Went on to decorate with fresh strawberries, silver dragees, pastillege hearts, chocolate vanilla wafer rolls and to top it all off, a fine dusting of pure cocoa.
No wonder it weighed 2 kilos. haha.
But I'm so happy with how it turned out. My brother took a look at it and didn't believe that I made it myself so that say alot! *grin*
I like.
Hope the birthday girl enjoys it too...
btw, am glad to say the nurses loved all the sweet goodies I baked for their Nurses' Day celebrations. In fact, a few days after their party, I got an order for 2 strawberry sponges from one of them. Yay for me! *smile*

My baby... I actually was kinda sad to deliver it cos I wanted to keep it at home a little while longer. Haha! Serious psycho baker tendencies showing themselves here...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

sweet

Am in the mood to make indian sweets... and the difficult ones at that. Those that involve boiling sugar syrups, stirring candy mixtures for hours and pounding all kind of spices before the confections can even set.
Latest attempt was at mysore pak, a sinfully rich golden fudge of south indian origin made of besan flour (ground chickpeas), sugar, pure ghee and freshly ground cardamon. And because there are so few ingredients, it becomes really important to make sure they are all uber-fresh, well measured out and added/mixed/stirred at just the right amounts... I mean, sometimes with cakes and cookies that call for eight or ten different things, you can afford to skimp on this or add a litte more of that in the hope that the other ingredients will make up for the one screwup. This unfortunately was not so...everything had to be just right. And the thing with fudge mixtures lik this one...it helps ALOT if you have a candy thermometer to figure out the different stages the sugar syrup goes through. Which predictably, I don't.
So there I was, with a dish of ice-cold water, dropping in bits of sugar syrup to test if it could be moulded into malleable spherical shapes i.e. the soft-ball stage essential for fudge to set. And somehow, I was lucky enough to get there without too much mishap. Of course I managed to burn the inside of my wrist on the very hot burner, but a little bloodshed is to be expected in my kitchen adventures. Life wouldn't be exciting enough if I didn't burn a finger or nick a bit of skin every now and then. My battle scars. =)
So anyways, here's my version of the sweet. It's really yummy--melts in your mouth and mysteriously milky even though there is no dairy in it. I poured everything into a 8" square tin and could cut out about 36 pieces of pak. Too much for the five of us at home so I did a little good natured distribution to my cousins...Why settle for just one diabetic in the family when you can drag them all down with ya eh? *grin*

Mysore pak (makes 30-36 diamonds)
1 1/2 cups besan flour
2 tbsp ghee (to roast the flour)
1 1/2 cups ghee, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups coarse sugar
1 3/4 cups water
4 cardamon pods

  1. Melt 2 tbsp ghee in a wok. Roast flour until the raw smell of besan is gone.
  2. Lightly pound the cardamon pods open, scrape out the seeds and pound into a fine powder.
  3. Stir the melted ghee into the roasted besan and pour into a measuring jug. I only did this cos of the narrow mouth of the jug. Really helped to pour the flour mixture in a steady stream into the sugar syrup later without losing control.
  4. Meanwhile, boil the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed pot and continue to boil until syrup reaches a softball stage. This is when a teaspoon of syrup droppd into really cold water can be easily gathered into a soft ball in the water itself. If you take the ball out of the water, it should flatten within a few seconds.
  5. At this point, pour the besan mixture into the sugar syrup in a steady stream, stirring continously. I stirred with my right and poured in the mixture with my left. Of course, a MUCH easier way to go would be to get someone to help. But I love challenges you see. haha.
  6. Continue to stir the mixture vigorously until it thickens and leaves the sides of the pot. Switch of the flame, quickly stir in the cardamon and pour out into a 8" tray greased lightly with ghee.
  7. Level out the surface and let cool for about 3 minutes before cutting into diamonds/squares. Cool completely and serve. (Fyi, it tastes better the day after once the flavours have a chance to merge and mellow)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

liberte. and yet pressed for time.

Job contract's over. Theoretically, you would think that meant I was free. But nope. Still busy. But at least busy doing stuff I like. Marketing. Cooking. Cleaning. A regular stepford wife- minus the spiffy clothes and accessories.
Anyways, been cooking everyday. And trying my best to take pictures of everything but often, I'm rushed for time, since lunch is served so early in my house that I just can't stop to snap photos. But I did manage a few...
These were my going away cupcakes for everyone at work. Varlhona chocolate batter, with chocolate chuncks folded through, and buttercream flower-tips. Very well-received. But then, when can you go wrong with chocolate? =) Right after my last day, I worked all night and day, preparing 2 trays of brownies, 2 trays of triple-layer fudge slices, 100 mini cupcakes and 4 strawberry sponge cakes for a nurse's day party. I was so exhausted I tell ya....I didn't even have the energy to take a single shot of anything. It was like mix-bake-cool-pack-mix-bake-cool-pack for 3 whole days! But I hope the nurses enjoyed everything.. I've yet to ask how everything tasted.
My attempt at gulabjamun- fried milk pastry balls soaked in a cardamon and clove infused rosewater syrup. I followed the recipe to a T but the end product was not what I was going for... although the syrup was lovely. Sigh.. I am thinking of popping my my favorite Indian eatery one day and asking them for their recipe. Think they will be kind enough to share??
Fresh Bing cherries. Tried them in two desserts. One a cherry clafoutis and the other cherry friands. The friands won hands down. The yummiest batter I've tasted in a long long while. Almost like a buttery almond cake and so easy to put together. Definitely a must-try.... and you dun even need the cherries. Im perfectly certain it'll be amazing with blueberries, strawberries or even plain... Really yummy.
Cherry friands (from Best Food)
3/4 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup plain flour
90g butter, melted
3 egg whites
1/2 cup ground almonds
125g fresh cherries, pitted and chopped
(or any other fruit- or none at all)
  1. Preheat oven to 170 degree C.
  2. Sift icing sugar and flour into bowl. Whisk egg whites till foamy. Add butter, egg whites and almond meal into flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir until just combined.
  3. Divide mixture amongst cupcake holders. Top with cherries.
  4. Bake for about 25mins.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

joyous days are a-coming!

Monday's my last day at work! I've been rifling through my cookbooks for the past week, my fingers itching to reclaim the lost territory known as my kitchen. Already, I've gotten an order for 6 trays of desserts to be delivered on Tues for a Nurse's Day party, my largest order yet.
The countdown has begun.
Come August 1st, watch this space.
=)

I brought this strawberry sponge to work last week.... even though I'm not particularly fond of the strawberries we get in Singapore, pairing them with sweet buttercream and sponge cake is great cos all the sugar detracts from the often tart fruit. And I'm glad to say everybody at work thought the pairing was yummy too.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

coconut candy

Local sweets 101.
Coconut candy:- Much loved, tropical treat that originated from Malaysia. Freshly grated white coconut flesh, truckloads of granulated sugar and liberal lashings of full-fat evaporated milk. To up the decadence quotient, a 'healthy' knob of butter. Extremely popular during Hari Raya and Deepavali, in a mindboggling array of colors. Semi-hard upon biting into a cube of this heavenly-smelling dessert, it almost instantanously dissolves in your mouth, spreading into a sugary coconut-ty molten mass. Only for those who like their coconut and their sugar though, cos that's all this candy is about.

Coconut candy (recipe courtesy of Letchmi aunty)
3 cups freshly grated white coconut flesh, packed down
3 1/4 cups coarse white sugar
3/4 tin evaporated milk
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
desired food coloring

  1. Grease a 9" tray with butter
  2. Dry roast the coconut in a non-stick wok over medium heat until most of the moisture evaporates and the coconut is slightly dry.
  3. Pour in 3 cups of sugar and all the evaporated milk. Stir well. Add extra sugar to taste.
  4. Stir stir stir. Continously. Until the mixture thickens and slightly comes off the edges of the wok. Will take up to 1/2 hour.
  5. Add softened butter and continue to stir.
  6. When the mixture is really thick, quickly add in vanilla essence and coloring.
  7. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring all the time. The candy is ready when the mixture leaves the sides of the wok, almost like a lump. Also, the mixture will lose some of its shine, almost going matte.
  8. Working quickly, pour out the mixture into the greased tin and flatten top with the back of a clean spoon.
  9. Let cool ten minutes and cut into squares whilst warm. Let cool completely before breaking off into tiny brightly-colored squares and serving. Store in an air-tight container.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

browned butter crisps

Bless the soul who left a pot of butter on the stove a tad too long and after seeing it turn brown, still decided to use it to bake off a batch of cookies. I'm certain that's how browned butter cookies were born. Cos, honestly, when my melting butter turned from rich golden to a nutty brown, I was certain I had ruined a perfectly good stick of fat. But apparently, that's exactly what this recipe calls for. Browned butter. I wish I had taken photos of the process but I was a little panicky about how long I should leave the butter on the heat so I didn't dare fiddle with getting a camera during the cooking process. But I think it suffices to say the butter has to become brown...not a golden brown, but brown. Like sand. It'll give off a heady, almost nutty scent. Really the most intriguing thing.
As are the baked cookies. I think I added a pinch more cardamon than the recipe called for and I'm so glad I did. It was a lovely note of sweet spice to the buttery crisps. So much more delicate than the usual run of cinnamon or cloves in cookies and cakes. If I closed my eyes, I almost felt as if I was biting into an Indian or Middle-eastern dessert, laced with butter and cardamon it was. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Browned Butter Crisps
(recipe from Egullet)
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar (the original recipe called for 1 cup-way too sweet)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom (I must have added close to 1/2 tsp)
1/8 tsp salt

  1. In a small heavy saucepan, melt the butter and continue to cook until it browns. Watch carefully to make sure it doesn't burn. Let cool slightly.
  2. In a large bowl, mix browned butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the egg and mix until smooth.
  3. Stir the flour and spices until spices are distributed evenly; add to butter mixture and mix until blended thoroughly.
  4. Drop by teaspoonfuls on parchment lined cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes, or until edges are turning golden and the tops have begun to crinkle.
  5. Let cool on the sheets for a few seconds, then remove and cool completely.