Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Easy Chocolate Cake

There are times when you want to have something, there will be a tug of war between our emotional side and our reasoning side. For me, it happens on a daily basis. One such tug of war happened around 3 weeks back. I was really craving for a chocolate cake. My emotional side was quite happy to jump into the kitchen and start making it. Then my reasoning side came just in time to block it. Following was a snippet of conversation

Emotional Side(ES) : I feel like having a chocolate cake.
Reasoning Side(RS) : Do you really want to have chocolate cake now? I mean do u want to load yourself with all that sugar and empty calories.
ES: Err.. OK then ..

Then about 10 days after, I started craving for chocolate cake again.
ES : I feel like having a chocolate cake
RS: Hmm.. Think about it.. You have been doing really good during this pregnancy. Why do you want to derail it now..
ES: Err.. OK then..

Again, 2 days back, I wanted to have chocolate cake..
ES:  I feel like having a chocolate cake.
RS: Er.. Do you want to ...
ES: Oh shut it out Ms.RS. I don't care what you think. I want to eat chocolate cake and I'm gonna make it NOW. End of Argument.

Coming to the cake, I stumbled upon this recipe sometime back, when I was looking for an easy but moist, melt-in-your mouth chocolate cake. And I wanted to make a cake with available ingredients in my pantry. Tried for the first time as the recipe stated, it turned out really good and moist. Then modified the recipe to halve it, basically for my 8 inch pan. Later, I tweaked a little bit, like adding instant coffee powder  to give more depth of flavor. At times I add about 50 gm of milk chocolate chips too. It doesn't hurt to have more chocolate in a chocolate cake.

Easy Chocolate Cake
Recipe adapted from

1. All purpose flour – 1 cup
2. Sugar – 1 cup
3. Baking soda – 1 tsp
4. Baking powder – ½ tsp
5. Cocoa powder – ¾ cup
6. Instant coffee powder – 1 tsp
7. Salt – a pinch
8. Oil – ½ cup
9. Boiling water – ¾ cup
10. Full fat milk – ¾ cup
11. Egg,beaten - 1
12. Vanilla essence – 1 tsp

13. Milk chocolate chips - 50 gm; about a handful(Optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C for 10 min.
2. Grease and flour 8 inch cake pan.
3. Mix cocoa powder and instant coffee powder in a bowl and pour boiling water over the mix. If we are adding milk chocolate chips, add those to the mixture and mix thoroughly. Set aside to cool a bit.
4. Mix together beaten egg, milk, oil and vanilla essence in another bowl and set aside.
5. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt thoroughly.
6. Into this, add the milk mixture and cocoa mixture and mix thoroughly. The batter now will be very runny.
7. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 min or until a knife/toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Once done, remove from oven and allow to cool.
8. Dust with icing sugar or frost as desired.

Easy Chocolate Cake is ready to serve.

Notes to Remember
* Do not open the oven door for first 20 min. After 20 min, if the top of the cake is already browned(depends on ovens), can place a piece of aluminium foil on top of the pan to avoid excessive browning on the top.
* This cake will be super moist. So it wont be suitable for layered cakes.
* It is best to cut & eat the cake from the pan itself. But if we want to transfer the cake onto another plate,be sure that the cake is completely cooled and try inverting it slowly onto the plate. Otherwise the cake will break easily as it really moist. 
* The recipe calls for super fine sugar. If we are using regular sugar, just pulse the required amount in the grinder to get a finer texture.

Now, this recipe has become my GO-TO chocolate cake recipe. I'm sure there are lot of recipes for richer,more decadent chocolate cakes. But this recipe won my heart, since its the easiest chocolate cake I have ever made. 
And since Valentines Day is around the corner, what else could do justice other than a Chocolate cake.. So this one goes to all who will celebrate Valentines Day.. :-)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Saffron infused Badaam Milk

I first tasted badaam milk for a "nombu thurakkal" ceremony(Iftar ceremony) at our neighbour's place probably when I was 10 or 11 years old. It was so tasty that I drank up the entire glass in full gulp. It was a cold, refreshing drink. Even though I wanted a second helping, I was too embarrassed to ask, but our generous hosts gave me a second one. Later, when the recipe of the badaam milk came in Vanitha (our popular women's weekly), I remember memorising it, but never got a chance to actually making it. Years later, when I crave for badaam milk, I just humbly obliged to MTR badaam milk mix, even though the taste doesn't even get close to REAL one.(for me, the real badaam milk is still the neighbour's badaam milk)

But now things have changed. I make this drink every now and then. The REAL one was a cold drink and didn't have much graininess to it. But if I ran out of cheese cloth or if I'm pure lazy to strain it, I have it just like that. And it tastes as good as strained one.

Saffron infused Badaam Milk/Almond Milk

1. Almonds – about 25 no:
2. Full fat milk – 2 cups
4. Sugar – to taste
5. Saffron – a pinch

1. Soak almonds in hot water for about 15 min. Then peel off the skin and set aside.
2. Warm about ¼ cup of milk.
3. Combine almonds and warm milk in a grinder and grind it a very smooth paste.
4. In a heavy bottom saucepan, combine milk, sugar and saffron and bring it to a gentle boil while stirring continuously to prevent burning.
5. Once its about to boil, add the almond paste and stir continuously for about 5-7 min.
6. Take off from heat, strain the milk in a strainer and allow to come cool slightly.
7. Garnish with saffron strands.

Saffron infused Badaam Milk is ready to serve.

Notes to Remember
* Although we grind almonds to a very smooth paste,badaam milk still might have a grainy texture to it. If that suites the tastes buds, no need to strain the badaam milk. If we want to strain the milk,cheese cloth or muslin cloth is best.
* The above mentioned quantity of badaam milk serves 2 people.

So, I made this drink on New years day, marking this as my first post of this year..

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year Thoughts..

As 2012 passes by and 2013 nearly at our door steps, I look back and think of last one year, in fact all those past years which came and went by.

Some people are really good at writing and keeping the resolutions. Some really don't bother about all these. And some,like me are really enthusiastic about writing resolutions, only to be back in square one probable by Jan 31st.

All my life till last year, my new years was dedicated to writing resolutions. During the school years, it was to getting up at the first bell of alarm(yeah,I know it sounds silly now) & not fighting with my brother. Since then it has evolved to clearing the engg papers(yeah, I am engg graduate) at least with pass marks, get a job, to lose weight, to lose more weight, to blog regularly and such..

As I said, all these resolutions failed miserably by month end and I will be beating myself up.
Last year, I didn't write any resolutions mainly because I was tired with all the sleepless nights with my boy that I didn't have any resolutions to think of.
And last one year was a roller coaster year for us. From leaving a place where we called home for last 4 years to starting afresh in another place all over again itself was a huge change. And handling a growing toddler was another ball game altogether.Never in my life have I researched on games, and books and toys for keeping my boy occupied :-)

In between all these I realised that I am a person who likes to go with the flow. For one last year, I didn't have much regrets of not keeping up with the resolutions. And surprisingly I did commit myself to doing small things which made me happy. One such thing was to start a new blog - this blog. Even though I still dont blog regularly, I don't feel the pressure  to write more regularly or to increase the traffic/stats of the blog and I am happy with the way it is.

So this year, I am just committing myself to one resolution - to take each day at a time. No more big goals, no more big time bucket list.I guess I'm not cut out for that. 

So here I am, beginning my new year with a favorite prayer of mine

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; 
Enjoying one moment at a time; 
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 

Taking, as God did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it; 
Trusting that God will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life 
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

 Wishing everyone a happy new year..

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Special Carrot Cake & an Anniversary

Last week Danny & me celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. Even though we knew each other for past 13 years, I still get goosebumps thinking about our wedding day. Like every anniversary, we like to celebrate it with some good home cooked dinner, a bake-from-scratch cake and occasionally a glass of wine, unlike going out to a restaurant.(Even though we never know when we will discontinue this tradition).And since this year was extra special for us(the reason to be revealed later), I thought baking a carrot cake would be perfect.

Well, you might think whats so special about carrot cake? Its just another ordinary cake. But when we have  memories attached to some things in life, it becomes extra special. I still remember, as a newly wed, standing next to a bakery counter in a local supermarket in US with Danny, awestruck with all these beautiful display of cakes and tarts. And when he asked me which one do we need to take home, I spend good 15 min deciding which cake to select :-) And then went for carrot cake. At home, while I was digging into the cake, still remember the rich sweet moist carrot cake in contrast with the tangy cream cheese frosting. That cake swept me off.

Once I started baking shortly after that, I tried different recipes for carrot cakes, like the Paula Deen's carrot cake with pineapple, shredded coconut etc and again Ina Gartens' carrot cake with raisins, brown sugar etc. But my favorite recipe of carrot cake comes from Joy of Baking because it's a simple,straightforward recipe. The best part of this recipe is that I could add the extra ingredients like crushed pineapple or coconut if I want to or keep it simple as it is

Special Carrot Cake
Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking

1. All purpose flour – 2 cups
2. Baking powder – 1 tsp
3.Baking soda – ½ tsp
4. Ground cinnamon – 1 tsp
5. Ground nutmeg – ½ tsp
6. Salt – ½ tsp
7. Sugar – 1 ½ cups
8. Oil(vegetable,sunflower or canola) – 1 cup
9. Eggs – 4
10. Finely grated carrot – 3 cups
11. Raisins – ½ cup
12. Walnuts or Cashewnuts – ½ cup
13. Vanilla Extract – 1 tsp

1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C
2. Butter two - 8 x 2 cake pans and line the bottoms of the pans with a circle of parchment paper.
3. Toast the cashewnuts or walnuts until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool and then chop coarsely.
4. Peel and finely grate the carrots.
5. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt,ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg.
6. In bowl of electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the eggs until frothy (about 1 minute).
7. Gradually add the sugar and beat until the batter is thick and light colored (about 3 - 4 minutes).
8. Add the oil in a steady stream and then beat in the vanilla extract.
9. Add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated.
10. With a large spatula/spoon fold in the grated carrots,chopped nuts and raisins.
11. Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
12. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. After about 5 -10 minutes invert the cakes onto the wire rack/plate.
13. If desired, frost the cake with cream cheese frosting.

Special Carrot Cake is ready to serve.

Notes to Remember
* Do not open the oven door for at least first 20 min.After 20 min, if the top of the cake is already browned(depends on oven), can place a piece of aluminium foil on top of the pan to avoid excessive browning on the top.
*We could bake this cake in a 9 x 13 x 2 inch (23 x 33 x 5 cm) pan. Just increase the baking time to between 30 to 40 minutes.
* This cake tastes best when eaten a day after its baked. Refrigerate any leftovers.

So for our Anniversary, I made Special Carrot Cake and my boy Aaron helped me, which made the whole process EXTRA SPECIAL.
This time I didn't frost the cake, rather, I made a small amount of cream cheese frosting and served it as side.It made my job easier and still we could have taste of tanginess and sweetness in every slice.Since I made very small amount of frosting with my own measurements, I am not posting the  recipe for frosting here. But we can get the recipe from here. This time I couldn't take many pictures of the cake.Next time I bake this cake, will sure post some more pics.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All-in-one Sponge cake

Sometimes, the best tasting cake will have the most simplest of the ingredients. My earliest memory of a cake will have to be the nicest aroma coming out of Amma's kitchen. She used to bake the simplest, yet the tastiest cake probably I have ever eaten, despite not having the electric mixer or high tech oven and such things. I remember patiently watching her beat and cream the butter and sugar, then adding eggs and then the flour to mix it together. And once the cake goes into the small oven we had, I was ready to lick the bowl, despite her no-nos..

Once I started baking, the first thing I made was my Amma's cake. And then ventured into all those fancy ones. But I still love and makes her cake the most. Lately, I started making my cakes in all -in -one  method rather than the creaming and folding method. I stumbled upon this method, one day when I was really craving for a home made cake, but didn't have any energy left to bake one. When I saw the recipe for this one, it was the same as mom's, that is equal amount of all the ingredients, but only difference was  that, in this method, we just mix it once for all, no creaming, no folding etc and just bake. And it seems(which I discovered lately) this is the basis of the most loved cakes of Britain, Victorian Sponge Cakes. 

Having said that, the most important rule to remember here is 
All ingredients must be at room temperature.

All-in-one Sponge Cake

1. Butter – 225 gm, plus for greasing the pan
2. All purpose flour – 225 gm, plus for dusting the pan
3. Baking powder – 1 tsp
4. Sugar – 225 gm
5. Eggs, medium – 4
6. Vanilla Essence – ½ tsp

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F
2. Grease and flour the baking pan. I used 8 inch square pan.
3. Sieve together flour, baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
4. Add eggs, sugar, butter , vanilla essence and beat everything together with an electric beater until its blended thoroughly and have smooth, well-combined mixture. This will take about one minute. If you don't have an electric whisk, you can use a wooden spoon with a little more effort.
5. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 25 - 30 minutes or until well risen and a skewer/fork comes out clean.
6. Leave to cool in the pan for a few minutes then turn out, and finish cooling on a wire rack/plate

All-in-one Sponge Cake is ready to serve.

Notes to Remember
* Instead of greasing and dusting the pan,we can line the pan with parchment papers.
* For the quantity mentioned above, if we are using round pans, we require two 8 inch round pans. As a rule square pans holds more batter than round ones.
* Do not open the oven door for at least first 20 min.After 20 min, if the top of the cake is already brown(depends on ovens), can place a piece of aluminium foil on top of the pan to avoid excessive browning on the top.

In those early days with Aaron, with me running around in almost low energy mode, my instant perk me up was this cake, and it still is. Its simple, basic cake with no frills or fancies and yet the best tasting one, every single time.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Baked Aloo Gobi (Baked Potatoes & Cauliflower)

Aloo Gobi, perhaps is the most popular dish of India. I guess its a staple of Indian, specifically north Indian cuisine. Originally hailing from Punjab, Aloo gobi gained international popularity ,thanks to Gurindar Chadda's film, Bend it like Beckham. Here in London, where Indian dishes and restaurants are popular,Aloo gobi is one of the most popular vegetarian dish.
Now, me being a South Indian, this dish was not a staple at my household. But whenever we used to go out to eat and rarely(since in calicut, famous for calicut biriyani,when going out, we never thought of going for a veg options)if we have to make a choice for north indian dishes, it was always paneer butter masala and aloo gobi

So when I tried to make aloo gobi at home, initial attempts were not that good. It was either soggy or way too oily. So i just dropped making it altogether. Its silly, to say, this dish being the most simplest one to make, somehow I never got it right. Then one day when we decided to make it AGAIN, Danny offered to help/improve this dish and we baked the veggies before sauteing it. And it was a tremendous improvement from earlier versions and since then we have been making baked aloo gobi regularly.

Baked Aloo Gobi/Baked Potatoes&Cauliflower

1. Potatoes – 4- 5 medium
to marinate with
      turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
      chilli powder – ½ tsp
      garam masala – ½ tbsp to 1 tbsp
      salt – to taste
     oil – approx 1-2 tbsp

2. Cauliflower – 1 medium head
to marinate with
      turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
       chilli powder – ½ tsp
      garam masala – ½ tbsp to 1 tbsp
      salt – to taste
      oil – approx 1-2 tbsp

2. Onion, finely chopped – 1 medium
3. Ginger, finely chopped – 1 tbsp
4. Garlic, finely chopped – 1 tbsp
5. Tomato, chopped – 1 medium
6. Green chilly, finely chopped – 1
7. Coriander leaves, finely chopped – small bunch
8. Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
9. Oil – about 1 tbsp

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400 F.
2. Marinate potatoes and cauliflower separately with spice mixture for about 10 min.
3. Line two baking sheets with aluminium foil or grease paper.
4. Bake cauliflower for 15 -20 min until its done.
5, Bake potatoes for 20-25 min until its done.
6. Remove from oven and set aside.
7. Heat a saute pan over medium – high heat and once its hot add oil and cumin seeds.
8. When cumin splutters, add onions and saute it till its translucent.
9. Now add ginger, garlic, green chilly and saute for 5 more min.
10. Add tomatoes and saute till tomatoes are nicely cooked and mashed down.
11. Now add baked potatoes and cauliflower and mix well. 
12. At this point, if its too dry, add 1-2 tbsp of water to make it a bit soft.
13. Add coriander leaves, close the lid of the pan and keep for 5 more min on stove before setting aside.

Baked Aloo Gobi is ready to serve.

Notes to Remember
* Baked potatoes and cauliflower should be bit crispy outside and soft to bite.
* Adjust the green chilly to suit te individual spice levels.
* Adjust the salt again at the end of the preparation, if needed.

 That said, let me tell you , this is NOT the authentic/original way its been made. There are a lot of recipes for original versions, if we browse the Internet. But this is the way we love making it and now its going to be in my recipe book/blog.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Caramel Bread Pudding

Are you the one who always skips the first slice of the loaf of a bread, that thick crusty piece? If yes, then welcome to the club. Ever since I can remember I always ignore the first slice & the last slice of the loaf, to have the rest. And I always thought someone else would finish those slices.
But recently this has started to bother me, since I'm actually wasting food. And I don't like it at all, neither did Danny. Most of the times he is the one whose finishes those last slices, but at times when he doesn't bother to eat those, it just goes to waste. If at all I had any ideas to make use of those crusty slices.
And  then recently,while I was surfing through the TV Channels, I saw Nigella Lawson cooking up Caramel Croissant Pudding... 

Now talking about Nigella Lawson, she must be one of the best exports of Britain along with The Beetles, The Spice Girls, Bond Movies and all things British. I came to know about her cooking shows  recently while I was in India. And I was hooked. She makes us feel  that cooking is a really simple process,even thought its not.
So when I moved to US, after marriage, I tried looking for her episodes on food network channel. We had Paula Deen, Ina Garten and Guy Fiery, but no Nigella. I think the only time they aired her show was on Saturdays at 6 or 7 in the morning and I didn't want to lose my sleep for that. Anyways once we moved to UK, she was on almost all the food channels here.

 While Nigella made her pudding with croissant, I used leftover bread (read: slices which I never eat). I glammed  it up a little by toasting the slices with butter. Also I omitted adding bourbon(kind of liquor) since Aaron too will be having this. The end result was predictably good. (Obviously, with bread,butter,sugar,milk and eggs in a single recipe, it will never tastes bad, ever).

Caramel Bread Pudding
Recipe adapted from Nigella Express

1. Bread – approx 4-5 slices
2. Butter, room temperature - enough to spread on the slices and to butter the baking dish
3. Sugar - 100 gm
4. Water - 2 tbsp
5. Heavy/Double cream - 125 ml
6. Milk - 125 ml
7. Eggs,beaten - 2 medium

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/gas mark 4.
2. Spread butter over both sides of bread slices.
3. Heat a pan and toast the bread slices, both sides till golden brown.
4. Tear the bread slices and put in a small glass dish of 500 ml capacity. I used 2 small oval baking dishes,of 250 ml capacity
5. Combine milk and cream in a saucepan and heat the mixture till it is just heated through.
6. Put the caster sugar and water into another saucepan, and swirl around to help dissolve the sugar before putting the saucepan or a small pot over a medium to high heat
7. Caramelize the sugar and water mixture by letting it bubble away until it all turns a deep amber colour; this will take 3-5 minutes. Don't stir at this stage since it may become lumpy.
8. Once its deep amber in color, turn heat down to very low and add the cream and milk and whisk continuously. Be very careful in this step since adding cream will make the entire caramel solution splatter.
9. Remove from heat and whisk further so that no lumps are remaining and keep aside to cool a bit.
10. Add this mixture to the beaten eggs.
11. Pour the caramel custard over the croissants and leave to absorb for 10 minutes.
12..Place the pudding in the oven for 20 minutes. Once done, allow to cool a bit, before serving.

Caramel Bread Pudding is ready to serve.
Depending on the appetite, one person can finish it off or can share it with upto 4 people.

Notes to Remember
* Always keep an eye over caramel all the time,otherwise it will burn in seconds.
* Be very careful while making the caramel and while pouring milk and cream to the caramel since it splatters very vigorously and may cause burns.

This pudding is one of those recipes, where your effort is really less, but pay off is huge. While I'm not bothered about the leftover bread once I tried this, I'm now bothered about the addictiveness to this pudding :-)