Wednesday, January 27, 2010

O' Canada fun...

Wow, I actually made it. Next time I need to tackle the challenge as soon as I can but what can I say, I am only putting to action what Mark Twain said-
 "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow"
Only I always seem to be scrambling to finish the project at the last moment..not next time though.

So the January 2010 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-free graham wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.


Luckily, I made the dough before I went on a little trip to Las vegas (that is right, I did not gamble!!!). So it was sitting in the fridge for more about 2 days (thankfully, the dough did not grow tiny feet and walk out the door). I did not make the gluten-free version mainly because I am on a pantry-emptying free and did not want to add new things to it. So I followed the recipe from 101 cookbooks




For the crackers

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract



Method


Combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Mix to incorporate. Add butter and mix on low speed until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.


In a small bowl, whisk honey, milk and vanilla extract. Add flour mixture and pulse until the dough barely comes together. It will be soft and sticky. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough to 1inch thick rectangle. Wrap in plastic and chill.


Divide dough in half (return the other half to the refrigerator). Sift an even layer of flour onto work surface and roll it into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Flour as necessary since the dough will be sticky (somehow mine was not that sticky!). Cut 4 inch by 4inch pieces and place them on a sheet pan with parchment paper on it. Gather the scraps and chill them. Chill the cut pieces for about 30-45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch.


Adjust oven racks to upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350F.


Prick the pieces with fork a bunch of times before you put it in.


Bake until browned and slightly firm to the touch (rotate sheets halfway through)- mine took about 15 minutes.


For the Nanaimo Bars, or rather Nanaimo crumble (recipe source here)







Bottom Layer

1/2 cup Crisco Vegetable shortening
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder

1tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped
1/2 cup each of pecan and walnuts, finely chopped
1 1/4 cup graham cracker crust



Middle Layer


1/2 cup Crisco
2 tbsp + 2 tsp heavy cream
2 tbsp vanilla custard powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp rose extract
2 cups powdered icing sugar



Top Layer


2 tbsp butter 
4 1-oz (28g) squares unsweetened chocolate




To prepare the bottom layer: In a on low heat, melt the crisco and sugar, stirring to combine. Once liquefied, stir in the cocoa until smooth. Remove from heat. In a medium bowl, stir together walnuts, pecans, almonds and graham cracker crumbs. Add the chocolate sauce and stir well. Press mixture into an ungreased 8X8-in (20X20cm) pan. Set aside. (Okay now here is where I made a mistake- I knew it was going to be crumbly since I skipped the egg and did not do nothing about it! In retrospect I have a few ideas to set the crumb that I am going to try- this is what happens when things are last minute folks!)


To prepare the top layer: In medium saucepan on low heat, melt crisco. Add the chocolate and melt, stirring often to prevent burning. Remove from heat and set aside. You want sauce to be cooled but liquid to still spread easily.


To prepare middle layer and assemble bars: Cream together the butter, cream, custard powder, vanilla, rose extract, and icing sugar until well mixed. Spread evenly over bottom layer. Spoon chocolate sauce evenly over middle layer and set pan in fridge immediately. Let chill for 2+ hours before cutting and serving. Makes 9 squares.


Judgement: Well despite the crumbly bottom layer, it tasted pretty good, I must say! Loved the crunchiness of the bottom layer and ooh who does not like chocolate!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Azerbaijan goes well with Afghanistan

For quite a while, I have been interested in learning about different cultures especially their cuisines. I have decided something- there are about 195 countries in the world, most recipes in a given region seem to differ only slightly from their close counterparts, so this year I intend to cook (Vegetarian food, of course) dishes from different countries. Sort of compare and contrast in my mind the cuisines from different regions, you know. As a start- I present to you, a tandoor bread from Azerbaijan (akin to our naan) and tomato-yogurt soup from Afghanistan (akin to tomato kadhi)

Posted by Picasa
The recipe for Tendir Choreyi (tandoor bread) is modified from AZ cookbook
Ingredients


1 package (1/4 oz / 7g) dry yeast
1 ½ cups (12 fl oz/375 ml) warm water
1 tsp salt
3 cups bread flour, plus extra for kneading

1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 egg yolk, for brushing
4 tsp nigella seeds



Method


Mix yeast with water until the yeast dissolves.


Add the flour to a large bowl. Mix in salt and caraway seeds. Add yeast mixture gradually until everything is roughly mixed. 


Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough, punching it down with your fists, folding it over and turning. Knead for about 8-10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.


Shape the dough into a ball and put it back into the large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.


Leave the dough to rise in a warm spot  until doubled in bulk. (The dough should look puffy and be soft when poked with a finger- mine took about 2hrs or so). Punch down the dough, then transfer it onto a lightly floured surface.


Shape the dough into a ball, and with your hands flatten slightly and stretch it lengthwise. Using a rolling pin, start rolling the dough becomes a long flat bread (about ½ inch thick (1.27cm), 14 inches long (35cm) and 8 inches (20cm) wide). Transfer it to a cookie sheet and shape it accordingly. Let it rest for about 15 min


In the meantime, preheat the oven at 400F.


Using a knife, make shallow slashes on the bread (4 from right to left and 4 the opposite way, each at a slight angle). Brush the bread evenly with the egg yolk and sprinkle with nigella seeds.


Bake for 20- 25 min until the top is golden.


Serve warm with a side of smart balance and some Afghan Soup...


Sherwa-e-Lawang, recipe modified from here

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbsp margarine and 1 tbsp EVOO
16 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups yogurt, strained for about 1 hr
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley to garnish


Method


Fry garlic in the oil-butter mixture until it browns. Add the tomatoes, and cook until they turn reddish brown (took a while because of all that liquid in the can). Season lightly with salt and pepper.


In a separate bowl, combine strained yogurt, flour, water, turmeric and some salt until there are no lumps of the flour. Slowly add this mixture to tomato-garlic in the pan. Bring to a boil, simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley.


Judgement

The bread with some butter and soup- ultimate comfort food. Oh the warm smell of yeasty bread- nothing comes close to it, does it?! 
The only thing- I should have reduced the fat in the soup a bit, could feel a prominent taste there and was not too fond of it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

More cookies- no more for a while

I promise....


Anyway a wise person once said- "A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand", and no, the wise person is not me!






I made different kinds of cookies this past year and this post is kind of delayed.
1. The bell-shaped cookies are scraps from Linzer cookies I made- recipe source here.
2. Ooh, that is the box I hand delivered the cookies in...
3. Bottom left are the citrusy orange sable cookies- recipe source here.
4. The gorgeous Australian Pistachio-ginger melbas- recipe source here.

I am sending the orange sable cookies and Pistachio melbas to the cookies and cakes event hosted by Mahima of Indian vegetarian kitchen.

On to the recipes, shall we?

Orange Sable cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups slivered almonds
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 6 tbsp crisco and 6 tbsp unsalted butter 
  • 3 tbsp finely grated orange zest (2 to 3 oranges)
  • 1 tsp clove powder
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sanding or granulated sugar, for rolling
Method


Place almonds and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Process until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal; set aside.


Beat the butter and zest on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. On low, add almond mixture; beat until combined, 10 to 15 seconds. Add egg and orange juice; combine. Add flour; combine.


Place two 12-by-16-inch pieces of parchment on a clean work surface. Divide dough in half. Form a rough log with each half; place on parchment. Fold parchment over dough; use a ruler to roll and press dough into 1 1/2-inch-diameter logs. Wrap. Chill for at least 3 hours.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Spread sanding sugar in a baking pan. Unwrap logs; roll in sugar to coat. Cut into scant 1/4-inch-thick rounds; place on sheets, 1 inch apart. Bake until edges turn golden, about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. 


Judgement


These were one of the best kinds. I loved them and so did the people I sent them to. The lovely smell of orange zest  and spices filled the house and it was hard to control from having it all for myself.




Pistachio-ginger melbas


Ingredients


1 1/2 cups all- purpose flour


1/4 tsp fine salt


1 cup sugar


1 tbsp packed grated lemon zest 


2 tsp grated orange zest


4 large eggs


1 cup whole raw pistachios


1/2 cup chopped crystalline ginger


Method


Preheat to 350°F. Grease a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan with Pam for baking with flour.

Whisk the flour and salt together in a bowl.

In another medium bowl, rub the citrus zests into the sugar with your fingers until the sugar is fragrant and takes on a bit of the fruit color. Beat the eggs into the sugar until blended. Stir in the flour mixture to make a smooth, sticky but pourable batter. Stir in the pistachios and  ginger. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the surface lightly with a spatula.

Bake until the loaf is lightly browned and pulling away from the sides of the pan, about 40 to 45 minutes. A skewer inserted into the center should come out clean, and the loaf will look like a not so great pound cake. Let stand for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a rack for 1 hour.

Wrap the loaf in plastic and freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Slice the chilled loaf as thin as you can — 6 to 8 slices to the inch. Lay the slices flat on 2 baking sheets and bake until brown, 10 to 15 minutes. (Take care — the cookies can go from pale to dark brown quickly.)

Let stand overnight or for at least 12 hours on a rack to cool and crisp up. Serve. Store in a well-sealed jar or other container.




Judgement


The nuttiness of  pistachios with spicy ginger was worth it, only thing though- because of the ginger they seem to become less crispy in short time. But hey the taste was well worth!



Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hope y'all had a great start

Hello everyone,

Like most people, I am back after a short break. This past year has been wonderful in terms of the new recipes that I got to try and quality of my posts and photographs (even I could see some improvement!).  More than posting on my blog, I love reading post from great foodies- thank you to all those who keep my enthusiasm to cook going!

I hope this continues on in 2010 too and that I become a better blogger in terms of my writing, photography and posting frequency. So let the fun begin y'all...

If you ever get bored with my food blog, which I am sure happens once in a while, please do drop by my avatar's blog, I assure you not that, that would be any interesting either!