Sunday, April 9, 2017

Lemon Almond Cake

Here's an easy, casual cake, which can add a special touch to a nice, relaxed evening with friends. For me, the recipe really worked when our friend, D. said that it reminded him of his childhood in Spain.

Here's the original recipe, but I made a whole bunch of tweaks:
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/flourless-lemon-almond-cake-385

I added some flour, baking powder and almond extract, got rid of the cinnamon and added a lemon glaze and sliced almonds. Here's what I did:

Preheat oven to 375. Butter and flour one 9 inch cake pan. Separate 4 eggs. Beat the yolks with a pinch of salt, and 2 Tbsp sugar until pale. Add the zest of about 4 lemons, a small dash of almond extract (~1/2 tsp), 1 1/3 cup almond flour,  2 Tbsp flour, and 1/4 tsp baking powder. Remove this thick paste (almost dough-like consistency) in another container. Clean the mixer bowl and whisk really well. Beat the egg whites and 1/8 tsp cream of tarter until soft peak forms. Add about 5 Tbsp sugar and beat until stiff peaks. Mix about 1/3 of the whites with the yolk and almond mixture to lighten it up. Now fold it back into the whites gently and transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake in the 375 oven for about 25 mins (cake tester comes out clean). Cool on a wire rack, after a few minutes, remove from the pan and cool further.

Mix the juice of one lemon with about 1 cup of confectioner's sugar to get a thick glaze consistency. While the cake is still warm, transfer it to the serving plate with the bottom of the cake on top. Spread the glaze evenly on the top and let drip on the sides (some of the glaze will get absorbed by the cake). Once it cools a bit further, sprinkle sliced almonds all over the top, so they stick to the glaze. Cool completely and serve at room temperature.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Milk Masala

This makes for a perfect hostess gift, packed tightly in a mason jar, with a nice card with instructions on using it. 

Use all nuts in raw form unless specified. Also, they should all be unsalted.
2 cups almonds
2 cups cashews 
2 cups walnuts, very lightly toasted 
1 cup pistachios 
1 cup flax seeds, toasted until they start popping. 
2 tbsp cardamom seeds (not pods, but seeds)
3/4 whole nutmeg
1 really big pinch saffron
2 1/2 cups sugar 

In a food processor, grind each nut separately until fine or coarse. Towards the end, add a quarter cup of sugar for each cup of nut to aid grinding. The nuts
Should not turn to butter. Grind flax seeds finely in a grinder or magic bullet. Grind each of the spice separately with a couple of tablespoon of sugar in a spice grinder. Mix everything together nicely and pack in air tight container. 

For serving: mix 2-3 tbsp of powder with a cup of milk. Microwave for a minute, let steep for 30 sec and enjoy. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Party Menu: Holi

The idea is to make almost everything ahead of time and set it out. Ragda Pattice is the only thing that needs to be warm.

Mango Lassi
Thandai
Pani Puri
Ragda Pattice
Papdi chaat
Kachori
Pulao
Raita
Gulab Jamun
Gujiya
Paan


Party Menu: Diwali

I figured I should start writing down the menus I plan for parties...

This one was a potluck:

Diwali snacks: chakli, chevdo, farsi puri, cholafali, mathia, mawa peda (prasad), chocolate cookies
Amiri Khaman
Dahi vada
Fried balls of awesomeness
Methi Malai Matar
Rajma
Mix veg. Korma
Rice
Triangle paratha
Boondi raita
Papad
Moong daal halwa
Paan 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Birthday weekend grand finale: Homemade cashew salted caramel icecream.

In a small ziploc bag, crush half a pack of swad cashew chikki into big crumbs using a rolling pin. 
In a small pan, heat about 1/3 cup sugar until amber colored. Add about a tablespoon of salted butter, and a few splashes of heavy cream. Add a good pinch of sea salt, and cook until the sauce get a nice consistency.
Prepare ice-cream base according to the machine instructions (this was our first time using it). I used  1 cup milk + 3/4 cup sugar + 2 cups heavy cream + 1 tablespoon vanilla + 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste. I removed about half of the vanilla ice-cream to eat by itself. In the remaining mixture, stir in most of the chikki crumbs, and some of the caramel sauce. Remove into a container, and then drizzle more caramel sauce, and sprinkle the chikki crumbs, followed by more caramel drizzle. Cover and keep in the freezer.

Easier Almond sponge with two frostings

This cake for L.'s Birthday started with grand plans which quickly turned into a series of shortcuts due to complete lack of energy to bake on a Friday night. It turned out to be one of the tastiest cakes I've ever made and L. simply loved it. So I figured I'm going to keep this shortcut recipe. I did end up using two frostings, which I think was worth it, since I couldn't have had the correct balance of chocolate and hazelnut flavors otherwise. I did end up winging most of the measurements though..

The cake had five main components: sponge, syrup, ganache, frosting and nuts. 

The sponge was inspired by this original version (but I ended up changing the process a lot):
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/opera-cake-230481

The Nutella frosting was inspired by this:
http://cookiesandcups.com/whipped-nutella-frosting/

For the sponge, here's what I did. Preheated over at 425 and prepared two 9 inch round pans with butter, flour and parchment paper. In a stand mixer with whist attachment, I added 2 whole eggs + 2 egg whites and whipped until frothy. I added about 2 tablespoon regular sugar and whipped until pale. Melted 2 tbsp butter and cooled. I placed a strainer on top of the bowl (this really is important), to which I added 1 cup of almond flour, 3 tbsp regular AP flour, a dash of salt, 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon baking powder (I know there's no baking powder in a genoise, but hey, remember, I skipped the separate whisking of egg whites and cream of tarter business?) and strained the mixture on the eggs. Then gently folded it in. Added the cooled melted butter and folded that in as well. Divided the batter among the prepared pans and baked for about 10-12 minutes. Then the usual cooling on the wire rack, etc. You get relatively thin layers this way, but it's an almond cake, so I think it's just the right size. This sponge recipe is definitely a keeper.

Syrup: I'm completely making up these measurements: 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup sugar. Boil till sugar dissolves. Add about 3-4 tbsp Disaronno. I could have added a bit more, but I was pouring it directly from a bottle, and didn't want to over do it.

Ganache: 1 slab ghirardeli semi sweet chocolate (I think it's 4 oz). About 1/2 cup (?) heavy cream. Microwave for 30 seconds to a minute until cream is heated through. Let it stand for a minute or so, and whisk the ganache until smooth. Keep it in the fridge for 15-20 mins until it thickens slightly. Sorry, I need to be more precise, but as I said, I was winging it.

Frosting: I used a slightly different version of Nutella (something I got it whole foods, but I don't think it was much different..it didn't have any hydrogenated oil). In the stand mixer with whisk attachment, about 2 tbsp of cool to room temperature butter, about 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, about 1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut spread. Whisk until everything is mixed nicely. Add about 2-3 tbsp of heavy cream (and more sugar if needed). I might have added a dash of vanilla. Or not. Whip it until you get a nice stiff consistency.  This one's a keeper too, for quick cupcake frosting.

Nuts: With your hands, roughly break down thinly sliced almonds, so you get smaller pieces.

Assembly: This is slightly unusual. I didn't know what I was doing until it all came together. For each layer brush with half the syrup. spread chocolate ganache and keep it in the fridge. Leave some ganache for the sides. Once the ganache is slightly set, spread a thick layer of the chocolate hazelnut frosting on the base layer. Add the top layer (with the ganache side up). Ice the sides of the cake with the remaining ganache. Cover the sides of the cake with almond pieces. Also bring up the almond on the outer perimeter of the cake in a ring shape. Now with a star tip, create three concentric rings of the chocolate hazelnut frosting. This is not just decorative, but it also adds to the hazelnut flavor of the cake. There will be a small circle remaining in the center. Fill it with almond pieces again. This design not only looks pretty, but helps achieve the correct almond-chocolate-hazelnut balance. Or just do what your heart pleases.




Saturday, February 11, 2017

Back to Basics: Potato Sandwich

It's L.'s Birthday today, and I wanted to make a nice, comforting breakfast for him. Instead of going the fancy route, I went back to basics, and he loved it. Here's what I did:

Microwave one russet potato till cooked. Peel and mash by hand. Take about 1/4 cup of store bought shredded carrots and chop it further to get a very fine dice. Prep about a tablespoon of
In a small pan, heat about 1 teaspoon of oil. Add a few mustard seeds, add 1/4 teaspoon each of crushed ginger and green chillies, and a pinch of hing. Add the carrots and saute for a few seconds. Add about 1/4 cup, or less of peptite green peas, and saute a little more. Add a pinch of turmeric, a pinch of red chilli powder, a big pinch of amchur powder, a pinch of chat masala and salt. Add the potatoes, 2 tbsp ricotta cheese (or fresh paneer crumbs), cilantro, juice of half a lime, mix everything and turn off the flame.

I used four slices of a nice pane bread (with sunflower seeds) for two sandwiches. Spread green chutney one one side, and Maggie hot and sweet tomato chilli sauce (it's different!) on another. Spread the potato mixture and close the sandwich. Heat a little bit of butter on a tawa, keep the sandwiches on it, apply a little more butter on top, cover with a piece of foil, and keep a heavy object, such as a can of beans on it. Toast on a low flame, turn and repeat. Cut in half on a bias, and serve warm.

I served it with a banana-almond butter smoothie.