What I learnt this week – some insights and nuggets

So, it’s been a long while since I wrote on this. I have wanted to write quite a few little things but it slipped my mind. Here is a small list of what I remember. Will keep updating this-

1. When you begin to bake, it is best to start with recipes with a minimal number of ingredients. In simple words, the less you have, lesser are the chances of blowing it all up. Fewer ingredients to mess up equals a better cake or bread.

2. When you get so dare as to change the ingredients on a recipe, then remember to make only one change at a time so that you know exactly where the fault could lie. Eg only change the flour or only the butter, etc.

3. When you are replacing an ingredient with another, replace a small portion of it to see what happens. Then replace some more, till you know for sure. Eg replace one fourth of the all purpose flour with whole wheat, then half, etc.

4. I have learnt that usually whole wheat flour can be replaced in most recipes in place of all purpose flour. But the taste is not as good. It does taste lovely but not in the same league of all purpose flour.

5. If, for any reason, you are not able to bake immediately after preparing the final batter, then leave it in the fridge for it to cool. Remove and bring it to room temperature before baking.

6. The key to a good bread loaf is kneading it. 15 minutes is ideal time for kneading the doug. It makes the bread soft and airy.

7. When the bread dough is left in a vessel to double in size, always cover it with a damp cloth. It quickens the increase in volume of the bread and the whole process is completed by half hour to 45 minutes as against the usual 1-1 1/2 hours.

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Eggless Orange Crumble

So over the weekend I had this grand idea of a doing a ‘fruit based baking’ week on this blog. So as a beginning to that I baked my banana bread again which was just as delicious and heart warming as ever.
Today I thought could be an orange baking recipe. The husband likes to say that, if you leave it to me, all days are orange baking days. I love oranges and that must be evident even in this small list of recipes that I got on this blog. But I could not find a good orange based baking recipe, something that made me want to run to the kitchen and switch on the oven. As I kept looking, I landed on this lemon crumble muffin recipe. It called out to me but I wanted oranges. So, as almost usual, I switched the oranges for lemons.
Then, I wanted to make it eggless because ‘just like that’ I felt like it. After that, I felt a bit guilty about eating all that plain flour and so I figured I could replace that with whole wheat flour. Then, I saw that the recipe asked for melted butter but I did not have an appropriate vessel handy. Since I HAD to make it before my daughter woke up, I substituted oil for butter. At the end of it all, this seems almost like a new recipe. So yay to me! And double yay because it turned out yumm! So yumm that the husband sneaked into the kitchen around midnight and stole a bite.
So here goes –

Ingredients
For the muffin
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup curds or yogurt
1/4 cup oil
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp grated orange zest

For the crumble
1 tbsp all purpose flour (maida)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cold butter

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 175C
2. Grease the muffin tray or line it with liners
3. Mix the whole wheat flour, sugar, baking soda and salt
4. Mix the curds, oil, orange juice and orange zest
5. Add the curds mixture to the flour mixture to combine them

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6. Pour them uniformly into the muffin tray

7. For the crumble, mix the all purpose flour with the sugar.
8. Add in the cold butter and mix all three till they form a crumbly texture
9. Sprinkle over the muffins

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10. Bake the muffins for 25-30 minutes till the toothpick inserted comes clean
11. Set it on a wire rack for 10 minutes to cool and then serve

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Notes
1. I used the all purpose flour for the crumble because I wanted a contrast between the dark colored muffin and the light colored crumble
2. If you find that the butter is not as cold as it should be and the crumble looked like a dough mix, then put the mixture in the freezer for ten minutes and it should become hard again to form crumbles
3. The original recipe also had a glaze to be added to the muffin after baking, I left it out because I thought it was becoming a case of too much sugar. But you can add it to get in that extra orange taste

Happy Baking

Eggless Awesome Banana Bread

This recipe holds a special place in my heart because it was the first one I baked. And also because it was the first one to taste so awesome and delicious and it made quite a few of my family and friends to sit up and take notice of me as some force to reckon with in the kitchen. Yay!
The best part of this recipe is that it is very easy and more importantly very forgiving. I have tried variations and substitutions but it has always come through for me.

Once I made a very bad cake which was airy and did not stick to the pan but it tasted very bad. Probably I did not measure out the ingredients properly. But I had put in so many ingredients that I felt bad wasting it like that. So I put the cake in a blender, powdered it and froze it. A few days later, I used that as the flour and added the bananas and sugar to make this banana bread. It tasted divine. Yes! It is that forgiving a recipe. So always have it close to your oven and heart and you can whip it up whenever you need either a quick fix dessert or some comfort food.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour (Maida)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp baking soda
4-5 small ripe bananas
3/4 tsp salt

Directions
1. Pre heat the oven to 165C
2. Grease a pan with butter
3. Mash the bananas thoroughly so that there are no lumps left

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4. Mix flour, baking soda and salt

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5. Cream the sugar and butter to form a light and fluffy mixture

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6. Add the flour mix to the butter mix

7. Add the bananas and mix well.

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8. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 50 minutes

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Notes
1. You can try adding nutmeg or cinnamon or raisins or walnuts to this recipe. Add it at the time when you add the bananas
2. This can be done with whole wheat flour as well. I did not want to take too many chances with my first recipe and so I have done it with plain flour
3. I have filled the batter up to the brim of my baking dish but that should not be done. The dish should only be 3/4 full of the batter so as to leave place for the bread to rise. That is why my bread is cracked in a couple of places.
4. As per the original recipe the butter and sugar need to be creamed till they are light and fluffy. I have found, over multiple attempts with this recipe that even if it is not creamed but just mixed thoroughly the bread turns out fine. It has a nice chewy texture at the top which I like.
5. The number of bananas depend on its size and sweetness. I add 5 small bananas. Also, it would be best if the bananas are extremely ripe. The bananas that are show above are ripe but not fully. You can wait for the skin to turn little more darker for a smooth and sweet banana bread.

Happy Baking!

Bread Rolls – anyway and everyway

There are few things to beat a good bread roll – the slightly crisp exterior and the soft elastic interior and the way it is chewy yet easy to make and eat.
I love bread rolls and have been searching for a good recipe. Finally I found one here.
The best part is you can make it anyway you like – plain, stuffed, different shapes, etc. what fun!

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Ingredients

For the bread
1 1/2 cup All purpose flour (maida)
1/2 tbsp instant yeast / active dry yeast
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

1. Mix water, sugar and yeast and set aside.
2. Mix the flour, oil and salt
3. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mix
4. Mix thoroughly and knead for 15 mins till it is soft
5. Coat the dough in olive oil and keep it in a large bowl which is also greased in oil
6. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set aside for an hour till the dough doubles in volume
7. Punch down the dough and knead for 2-3 minutes
8. Divide it into 4 or 5 parts
9. Use a different technique for each part to make the bread in different shapes and sizes.
10. I made – one simple ‘8’ shaped dinner roll, 2 flat breads with holes in the middle and 2 stuffed breads. In order to cut out portions in the middle of the flat bread, use a knife to make the required shape and cut it with scissors.
11. Roll out one portion of the dough like a rectangular roti, put the stuffing on the dough and roll it to close. Press the dough lightly so that it sticks and does not open. The stuffing I used for this was tomatoes, garlic, spring onions, cream cheese, onions, mixed Italian herbs and green chillies.
12. Roll out and stuff another portion of the dough just like the one above. Bring the two ends together to form a circle. Cut half of the dough from the outer end and turn it slightly to face upwards. The stuffing I used for this was mushroom, spring onion, carrots, garlic, Italian herbs, onions, grated cheese and green chillies.
13. Beat an egg nicely and coat all the bread dough with it
14. Set aside for 10-15 minutes
15. Bake at 200C for 20-25 minutes till the bread gets a golden brown color.
16. Coat the breads with butter immediately on removing from the oven. It keeps the crust soft.
17. Cool on wire rack

Notes
1. For more detailed instructions on the bread designs please refer to the original recipe. It has pictures and is easier to understand
2. The stuffings are completely based on your imagination. You can use various combinations according to your taste
3. The most important thing is the kneading of the dough. It is slightly difficult to knead for 15 minutes or so but that is what impacts softness and elasticity to the dough and is well worth the effort
4. The damp cloth as a cover to the dough hugely benefits the rising of the dough. It rises faster so please use the damp cloth. I did not use it for quite some time and used to get irritated waiting for the dough to double in size.
If you need to add more dough or water when you start kneading you can do so. But ideally you will not need more than an additional sprinkle of dough to get the consistency right.
5. In case you are baking the flat bread, note that it gets done in around 15-18 minutes. So keep it on the tray closest to the oven door and pull it out. Let the others bake for 20-25 minutes.

Happy Baking!

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

I woke up today with a longing for a coffee flavored cake. Numerous attempts at Google-ing did not yield any satisfactory result and I was on the verge of giving up when I came across this recipe. Voila! My taste buds were going to get exactly what they wanted. Hurrah!
The best part of the recipe was that it was given for one cup of flour. Usually recipes are for bigger cakes. The flour quantity required is 2 or 3 cups. That works out to be too large for my husband and me and more importantly it does not let me bake as frequently as I want. Usually I am using all my arithmetic knowledge to divide the rest of the ingredients with regard to one cup flour and that is one of the reasons my cakes or breads don’t turn out exactly the way it should. There are few errors and they are few notches short of perfection.
So the one cup of flour in the ingredients was all it took for me to rush into the kitchen and pull put my mixing bowl. This recipe is easy and very tasty.
I did not make too many changes to it except that I added half a tsp of cinnamon. I am not putting down the recipe here since it is exactly the one I used with the addition of cinnamon. Plus that blogpost has a more elaborate recipe with pictures and I am sure that would be easier to follow. So here is the picture of my yummy cinnamon coffee cake! The husband could not wait till I clicked a picture…so it’s only half the cake. I know it has sunk…that was because I left it on for a longer time when I was preheating my oven. Silly mistake! But that has no impact on the taste 🙂

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Notes:
1. The cinnamon I added (which was not part of the original recipe) worked well with the coffee flavor
2. It took 45-50 minutes for my cake to be done
3. I did not have 60 gms of butter available. So I used 52 gms of butter and 10 gms of sunflower oil.

Happy Baking!

Whole wheat carrot walnut date cake disaster

Ever since I started this blog, luckily I have been having a string of successes – not only when I was trying new recipes, even when I tried altering some of them to suit my ingredient availability and weight reduction needs. I have documented quite a few of them and have been patting myself on the back far too many times.

But this morning I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that I did not even think about documenting my not so successful / failed recipes ever. Somehow I had internalized that only the good ones were to be put up to the world. So it struck me this morning that I was defeating the very purpose of this blog which was to document my journey into bakersville and that obviously entailed documenting the failures as much as the successes. So here goes –

I had quite a few carrots left in my fridge and also the pitted dates and chopped walnuts which I forgot to add in my previous recipe. So I googled and found this wonderful recipe for whole wheat carrot walnut dates cake. It looked and sounded simple and I did not have too many doubts about it turning out well.

Since I was confident about it, I decided to try out some modifications which would not mess with the taste but reduce the calorie intake sizably. So I reduced the amount of sugar by half and replaced it with honey. In order to not make it too liquid-y, I reduced the water in the recipe to maintain the form and structure. I also included 1/4 tsp of additional baking powder because sugar would also help leavening. Then when the batter was mixed, it seemed too thick and the possibility of it being dry seemed very high. So I added the rest of the water which I had discarded in favor of the honey. Yet I was kind of proud with this and reasonably confident of getting a good tasting cake.

But that was not to be. The pros of the cake were that it did come out of the pan in one piece without creating a mess. It did not sink and had risen evenly all over instead of a mountain shaped cake. That’s about it. I can’t create any more pros to this dish. The cons, on the other hand, were few but significant. The cake was very dense. There was no flavor of the carrots or walnuts. There were portions in which you could taste just salt and wheat, which was like a soggy roti and totally disastrous. The husband did not like it at all and neither did my daughter. But we did manage to finish it up.

Carrot walnut dates cake

Lessons learnt

1. Mix the batter well. By fearing overmixing, do not undermix it

2. Don’t make too many or large changes in a recipe. Try replacing 20-25% of ingredients before making a huge cut.

3. Be more careful with whole wheat cakes as compared to plain flour cakes because of its additional density.

But as I am writing this, my next cake is fast sinking. Guess, another post is in order soon!

Whole wheat orange muffin

There is more than one reason for me to be watching and reducing my weight. I can’t stop baking though, hence my efforts are towards healthier recipes without sacrificing taste.

I combined two or three recipes that I saw online and came up with this one. I was to add dates and walnuts to these muffins but I forgot. Yet they turned out really good. So, why dates?

Wheat orange muffin

Ingredients

130 gms (1 cup)  whole wheat

35 gms (2 1/2 tbsp + 1/2 tsp) brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp orange zest

2 1/2 tbsp + 1/2 tsp orange juice

3 tbsp buttermilk

1 egg beaten

3 tbsp honey

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

2 tbsp butter melted

Directions

1. Preheat the oven at 205C

2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and orange zest

3. Mix orange juice, egg, buttermilk, vanilla essence, butter and honey

4. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture

5. Grease a muffin tray or use muffin cups

6. Use a spoon or ice cream scoop to divide the batter equally in the muffin tray and bake for 20 minutes

Notes

1. This batter could make 9 medium sized muffins.

Wheat orange muffin tray

Kawha Tea

After gorging on all the muffins and breads and cakes, one does need something to balance it out. I had my first kawha tea after attending a tasting session for my brother’s wedding. In other words, I had tried decent sized portions of ALL the items on a wedding dinner menu. You can imagine how I was feeling – full to the neck. Then my host suggested the kawha tea with a very tall claim of making me feel light almost instantly. I smiled politely and rolled my eyes when he was not looking. How could that be possible that this liquid, that too a small portion, would diminish the effects of all the paneer, cheese and biryani I had chomped on. Anyway, I had to taste it and so I did. True to his claim, this miraculous tea made me feel so good and so shocked as well. So, I definitely had finalized one item on the menu of my brother’s wedding reception! Kawha tea just HAD to be there. Then a couple of months later, I had a very heavy lunch with the husband. As I was groaning and making futile promises of not over indulging again, I remembered this magic potion. After half hour of diligent ‘Google-ing’ I chanced upon this recipe. (My fault, I was not sure of the spelling).  So here goes –

Ingredients

2 tsp green tea

2 cloves

3 cardamom pods

1″ stick cinnamon

1 almond

2-3 saffron strands

1/2 tsp dry ginger powder

3 tsp sugar / honey (see note)

3 cups water

Directions

1. Boil three cups of water

2. Add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, dry ginger powder and sugar/honey.

3. Stir till the sugar is dissolved

4. Simmer for 3 minutes with the lid on

5. Add the green tea and turn off the heat

6. Put the lid on and leave it aside for one minute

7. Cut almonds into slivers and divide them equally among three cups

8. Add saffron equally to the same three cups

9. Sieve and pour the tea into the cups

Notes

1. If you are using honey instead of sugar, you will need around 1- 1 1/2 tbsp. You can add honey even after the tea is poured into the cups

2. Dry ginger is optional and is not part of the original recipe. I liked the slight taste of ginger and hence included it

3. If you like your tea strong, you can leave it to rest for more than 1 minute. I leave it for 3 minutes

4. Though the recipe does not say so, I found that the flavours (especially saffron) are infused better in the tea if left to rest for about 5 minutes after being poured into the cup

Eggless Orange Poppy Seeds Muffins

My brother is visiting me this week and he is a big fan of the pictures I send him of my baked stuff. He has only tasted one banana bread which turned out perfectly. So he thinks I am a great baker. Poor guy, he is in for a small shock. I am a decent baker but not perfect by any stretch.

So I have to keep something ready for him to eat as soon as he arrives. I researched quite a bit and finalized on this lemon poppy seeds muffin. But then I realized two things – I had way too much orange zest and I did not have any eggs. Hence I made some changes to that recipe and it turned out really good. The muffins were soft and flavorsome and totally melt in your mouth!

Ingredients

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tbsp poppy seeds

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup (56 gms) unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup (100 gms) sugar

3/4 cup curds / yogurt

1 tbsp orange zest

1 tbsp orange juice

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Directions

1. Preheat the oven at 205 C

2. Grease a muffin tray

3. Mix all the dry ingredients (6 of them)

4. Beat butter and sugar till they are light and fluffy.

5. Add curds, orange zest, orange juice and vanilla essence to the butter mix and combine well

6. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix well. Don’t overmix

7. Use a spoon or ice cream scoop to put the batter in the muffin tray

8. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the toothpick comes clean

9. Cool for 5-10 minutes before unmoulding

Notes

1. You can use a different combination of the two flours or any one of them. The original recipe calls for all purpose flour only.

2. If you want to use egg, you will need one large egg. In that case reduce the yogurt/ curds to 1/2 cup and omit the baking powder
3. When a recipe says ‘don’t overmix’ it means that the wet and dry ingredients should be combined only till all the dry ingredients are incorporated in the wet mixture. Once that is done, you should stop mixing it with either a spatula or whisk or even a spoon. It makes the batter denser and thereby affects the texture of the cake or muffin.
4. I used Tropicana 100% orange juice. You can use fresh juice as well.

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Eggless Chocolate Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting

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I did this last month for my daughter’s first birthday, hence the excess use of gems and lychees. My original plan was to make the layered chocolate cake from Joy of Baking. But then my parents decided to come and they do not have eggs. So I needed a new chocolate cake recipe without eggs. Voila this one!

It was not as airy and light as my cakes with eggs turn out. But I am guessing that may be because I did not mix properly or some other error from my end. But it tasted great and the daughter loved it as did the others. So win-win!

Ingredients 

1 cup all purpose flour

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup cocoa

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/8 cup butter

3/4 cup hot coffee

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

1/2 cup mashed bananas

For the frosting

30 gms chocolate (any type)

38 gms unsalted butter at room temperature

38 gms icing sugar

1/4 tsp vanilla essence

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C

2. Grease a pan and put in a parchment paper

3. Mix all the 4 dry ingredients together

4. Add the butter, coffee and vanilla essence and mix

5. Add the mashed bananas and blend thoroughly

6. Bake for 45-55 minutes

7. Cool for 20 minutes before taking it out of the pan

8. For the frosting, melt the chocolate by double boiler method (See note) and cool to room temperature

9. Beat the butter for one minute in the hand blender or till it is smooth and creamy

10. Add sugar and beat it for 2 minutes or till it is light and fluffy

11. Add vanilla essence and beat it to mix in

12. Add the chocolate and beat on low till it is incorporated and then on high till the frosting is smooth and glossy. It should take around 2-3 minutes

13. Once the cake is cooled, use a knife to apply the frosting on the cake evenly.

Notes

1. The original recipe was vegan and hence used oil but I wanted a richer version and so I substituted the butter for oil

2. The recipe also called for hot water but I used hot instant coffee instead. It gave a good flavour to the cake

3. My bundt pan was small in size and hence I used a regular pan. You could use either

4. The bananas need to be thoroughly mashed else they stick out as lumps even in the finished cake which is not good.

5. The frosting recipe is from here. I used it because it was a birthday cake. You can even make it without the frosting. Same goes for the sprinkles and lychees.

6. Double boiler method – Heat some water in a vessel. Put chocolates in another vessel and keep it on top of the boiling water vessel. The chocolate will start melting. Stir occasionally and remove it once the chocolate has fully melted into a sauce.

Happy Baking!