Cranberry Biscotti – perfect snack with no butter, less sugar.

Biscotti was on my mind and in my bookmarks since the day I started my tryst with baking – it looked pretty similar to the ‘cake rusk’ the bakeries in Indore sell, I remember the ones I bought from Mathurawala being a delight. An extreme cold warning over a long weekend was the perfect setting, I had all the ingredients and could use all my time inside the home to bake. I started a bit scared, but was super amazed by the great results. With just one fourth cup of olive oil and one third cup of sugar, this recipe is going to be used in my kitchen again and again. One more merit of this recipe is that the quantities are not for a party but pretty consumable by a small family of umm…2.5.

Yay! biscotti!

Yay! biscotti!

Recipe source –
Yield – 10 to 12 biscottis (if your family does not eat away half of the log while it is cooling!)
Ingredients –
All purpose flour – 1 1/4 cups
Sugar – 1/3 cup
Egg- 1, at room temperature (mine was not)
Olive oil – 1/4 cup
Vanilla essence -1/2 teaspoon
Dried cranberries-1/2 cup
Baking powder 1/2 teaspoon
Salt – 1/4 teaspoon

The rectangle log after baking for 30 minutes.

The rectangle log after baking for 30 minutes.

Sliced - going back to the oven to crisp up.

Sliced – going back to the oven to crisp up.

Crisped and browned - now cooling

Crisped and browned – now cooling

Method –
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Line a baking tray with aluminium foil.Mix the flour, baking powder, salt on a big newspaper spread on your kitchen counter / a bowl. Keep aside.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg, sugar, vanilla essence and oil till well combined. I did this using my electric hand mixer -for two minutes.Now add the flour and cranberries. Mix with a spatula and with your hands, knead till smooth.
3. Dump the kneaded dough on the baking tray and using your fingers shape it into a rectangle. (see picture for shape and size).
4. Bake for about 30 minutes in the middle rack.
5. Remove from oven and cool completely. Don’t get impatient about it, else the deal will crumble all over the place. My method of cooling was to place it near my balcony full of snow for 10 minutes :)
6. Once cooled, cut the log into 1/2 inch slices. If you are from India, try to recall the Nafees toast thickness – that is what we want.
7. Place the slices on the baking tray and bake them again for 10 minutes flipping them once after 5 minutes. They should be lightly browned.
8. Remove and allow to cool completely before storing them in airtight containers. You may think they are soft when you take them out, but they get crispy after cooling – let go of the temptation to over bake.

Notes –
1. I have used canola oil in the past for baking, and it can be an alternative if olive oil not around.
2. If cranberries are not available, you can use raisins or almonds or pistachios or walnuts or a mix.

Til Barfi – Sesame seeds fudge

I have been chasing sesame seeds/ til since the time I read they are a great source of iron for vegetarians. I found them being sold in the healthy seeds section in Bulk Barn, along with chia seeds and flax seeds. I picked them up promptly and took myself back to the time when my mom used to make it every year – in January – for Makar Sankranti. They were my favorite and though i have gotten pretty good results here, the magic of my mom’s creations is yet to be re-created. This is a simple three to four ingredient deal – we just need something to bind the seeds together – mom uses khoya/mawa, i have used almond meal once and peanut butter the other time – both with success. Jotting down the recipe here for future reference.

Ingredients –
Til/ Sesame seeds – 2 cups
Sugar – 1.5 cups
Almond meal – 1 cup or peanut butter – 1 cup ( I use Kraft 100% natural)
Water – half cup
Cardamom powder – half tsp (optional)
Almond pieces – of 10 almonds (optional)

Method –
1. Dry roast Til on a medium flame, till they give out a nutty aroma, turn slightly brown. Should take seven minutes of constant stirring.
2. Let these cool. Once cool, pulse them in a blender/ magic bullet to grind them to a coarse powder.
3. Put sugar and water in a pan and start heating on a medium flame. The sugar will start to dissolve. Keep stirring till the deal comes to a boil. Check for a single string consistency of sugar syrup. It took me three years to get this correct.
4. Add the til powder + almond meal or peanut butter, Stir to avoid lumps. Add in the cardamom powder too.
5. Keep stirring till this looks like a single mass. Switch off the gas and put the whole deal on a slightly greased plate. Using the back of a flat bowl, flatten it to get a uniform surface.
6. Sprinkle the almond pieces and wait for this to cool down a bit. It will dry up and harden.
7. Take a knife and cut into squares. Store.
8. If after adding the til powder etc you realize your stuff is runny and lose, dont panic. Add more almond meal or dry desiccated coconut (if handy) by spoonfuls till the desired consistency is reached.

Til Barfi  with Peanut Butter

Til Barfi with Peanut Butter

Til Barfi with almond meal

Til Barfi with almond meal

Coconut Almond Laddoo – for the Diwali party

Ready for the party

So these laddos are a blend of my coconut laddoos and badam peda – something I went ahead and experimented with – a pretty risky proposition given that I had to make these as a Diwali sweet for a party. I initially had plans to make two sweets – coconut laddoo and badam barfi, so had ingredients of both handy. I mixed them up and had no regrets – the results were awesome!

Ingredients –
3 cups almond flour/ meal
3 cups dry desiccated coconut (fine)
2 cups sugar
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
cardamom powder – 1 tsp
saffron, almonds, pistachios – optional – for decoration.

Method –
1. Dump the sugar in a wide kadhai, add water just to cover the surface of sugar.
2. Start heating at a low flame. Keep stirring.
3. When the sugar dissolves and starts getting syrup-like , (takes 10 to 12 minutes), add the almond meal and mix for 2 minutes.
4. Now, at this stage u can add the cardamom powder and switch off the flame. So that u can roll the stuff into badam pedha. But we are getting adventurous here.
5. Add the coconut and mix. The deal will get very dry and you will start to get worried.
6. Add in the Condensed milk and be happy – it looks and smells great and everything is back on track.
7. keep mixing for another 5 minutes till the deal reaches a consistency you want – to check, take out some of the mixture and let it cool for a minute. If you can roll it into a small ball, you are good.
8. Switch off the flame – let things cool down a bit – for half an hour at least.
9. Use this time to chop up almond and pistachio pieces for the decoration, also soak some saffron strands in warm milk.
10. Roll out laddoos and decorate as you wish. I got 45 small ones, will yield maybe 30 big ones.
11. Store in the refrigerator – but take out at least an hour before you want to serve them.

Sooji ka halwa – for a party

Sooji Halwa for Diwali potluck

Sooji Halwa for Diwali potluck

Jotting this down here so that I remember the proportions to be used for the quantity. This much sufficed for a gathering of 8 adults and 4 kids.
Recipe same as here.
Quantities used – 3 cups fine sooji + 2 cups sugar + 3 cups milk + 3 cups water + 2.5 cups melted ghee.
Could have used .5 cup more of each sugar and ghee to make it sweeter/richer.

Choco Vanilla Cookies

I wanted to try a very basic, simple cookie for my first ever cookie baking venture – but Aditi and Nilesh wanted fancy stuff. After a lot of research, I settled down on this recipe at ‘Cooking with Siri’, I jsut decided that I will not create the Halloween owls. The results were great. I told Manish about this and sent him the recipe. He started making them the same time in California and got the same great results!
Jotting down the recipe here, for future reference.

Original Recipe Link – Hoot Owl Cookies at ‘Cooking With Siri’

Ready to go in the oven

Ready to go in the oven

Ingredients –
2-1/2 cups maida/all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened ( that is 1 and a half sticks)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tbsp cocoa powder (I got Hershey’s)
2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp baking soda

Method –

1. Let the butter soften on its own at room temperature. Took about half an hour.
2. In a bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.
3. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. I dont have a sifter, so I just mixed the ingredients by hand on a newspaper spread on the kitchen counter.
4. Add 1 cup at a time of the dry mix to the wet creamed mixture.
5. Remove two-thirds of the dough; roll into a square on plastic wrap. Set aside.I was not able to roll it into a square – but a large rectangle rather.
4. Combine together cocoa powder, baking soda and little water in a bowl. Mix so that the cocoa powder is dissolved.
5. Mix the cocoa mixture into remaining dough. I did this by hand. Shape into an cylindrical log. Now, this cocoa dough is a bit on the softer side – kinda tough to roll into a log, but no need to panic.
6. Place chocolate log at one end of the white dough rectangle and roll up. Pinch seams together. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
7. Unwrap dough and cut into slices. Place them in a foil covered baking sheet.
8. Bake in an oven preheated to 350° for 13 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Box full of cookies = Great weekend!

Box full of cookies = Great weekend!

My notes –
1. This is a lot of dough actually and makes like 30 to 40 cookies. I had to freeze a part of it.
2. The cookies expand during baking and should be kept at a distance, maybe only six at a time. Some of mine stuck to each other.
3. The cookies expand and so they are too big. The next time, i will make two logs, so that I get bite sized cookies.
4. The cookies must be cut all of the same thickness.
5. They were a bit soft when right out of the over, but were crunchy after they cooled down – and remain so a day after being stored in an ait tight container.

Basic vanilla sponge cake

When Manish visited us in August 2014, he introduced me to baking – we baked cookies and a cake using store brought cake mix. He also helped me buy measuring spoons, cake pans and most importantly gifted me with an electrical hand mixer – an indispensable tool for baking. fully equipped and totally motivated, I raided the food blog world to find a fool proof, easy, basic recipe for a cake. Found so many, chose this one on Aayis recipes – am amazing collection of recipes. Jotting it down here, for my own reference later on.
The cake was so good, I could not believe I made it!

First cake ever!

First cake ever!

Maybe some ice cream with it would have been better!

Maybe some ice cream with it would have been better!

Original Recipe Link – Simple Egg Cake at Aayis Recipes.

1 cup butter ( that is two sticks)
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
1 and 1/2 cups All purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 eggs

1. Preheat the oven at 350F for 10 min.
2. Sieve together flour and powder. Keep it aside. I don’t have a sieve. So I just measured out the flour and baking powder on a newspaper spread on the kitchen counter and mixed very well using a spoon.
3. Beat sugar in butter till it becomes light and fluffy – kinda pale yellow.
4. Add two egg at a time beating it all the time. Add essence and mix.
5. Add flour slowly – add some, mix. Again add some, mix. Till it all is incorporated.
6. Grease an oven safe dish with butter. Then sprinkle some flour on it and spread the flour. Now pour the cake mixture into this dish and bake the cake for around 40min at 350F (or till a knife inserted in the cake comes out clean). I used my 9 by 13 glass pan. It took me 35 mins.

My notes –
1. Manish told me to always measure flour, powder etc with a flat spoon/ cup – never heaped.
2. The cake had a dome. Not sure how to get rid of that. i did not have to ice the cake or something – so we were happy campers.
3. The fresh cake had an ‘egg taste’. We still ate a lot – first cake ever! But after it was refrigerated overnight, it tasted awesome.
4. Am sure this will taste great with ice cream or chocolate sauce – as basic as this is – the possibilities are endless!

Chole with Palak and Kale – Iron Shakti!

Since the time the doctor suggested Aditi needs more iron, I spent two days on the net reading up all I could about sources of iron. Though it was convincing to know that most of the plant sources do contain iron – the sad part is that it is all ‘non heme’ iron, which means that the body does not absorb it easily. One good way of having iron absorbed better is to combine your food with vitamin C sources like lemon, orange juice.
Now, we have always been green lovers, but this call for iron brought into my fridge bags of spinach, methi, mint, kale and collard. The leaves have started to appear in everywhere – daal, paratha, sabji, cheela and most recently – the humble chole. I had been making palak chole often, but addition of kale was Nilesh’s idea and the result was different and interesting. While pakal loses all its form (and water) when cooked, kale gave body and bite to the dish. I wish kale was available in India too – till that time, try adding any greens you can find to chole and you will be delighted with the result.

Ingredients –
Chole/ chickpeas/ chane – 1.5 cups (source of iron)
Spinach and/or Kale leaves – 2 to 3 cups, cleaned chopped roughly (source of iron)
Tomatoes  – 2, chopped small or pureed (source of iron)
Onions – 2 small or 1 large – chopped small
Ginger  – half inch piece, grated
Garlic – 2 cloves (optional), grated
Kasoori methi – 1.5 tsp
Salt – as per taste
Turmeric- 1 tsp
Red chili powder – 1 tsp
Chana masala/ garam masala – 2 tsp
Jeera – half tsp, Rai – half tsp
Oil – 3 tsp

Method –
1. Soak the chole overnight or 6 to 8 hours with lots of water. Wash them and boil in a cooker with a pinch of salt. I dont like them too mushy, so 3 to 4 whistles on a medium flame are good.
2. Heat oil in a non stick kadhai.
3. When oil is hot, add jeera and rai. When they pop and sizzle, add ginger and garlic and let them leave their raw small.
4. Add the onion pieces and keep stirring. The onions should get pale and soft and start browning.
5. Add the tomatoes, chana masala, turmeric, red chili powder, salt and let the tomatoes cook till they get all mushed up and the masala starts to give a good aroma.
4. Now add the kasoori methi, and chopped greens. Cook them for just a minute and add the boiled chole. We want the chole to cook in the juices of kale and spinach – this brings out the flavor and blends everything well.
5. Cook covered for 5 minutes. No need to add water as greens release lots.Taste and adjust the salt etc.
6. Eat with roti/ paratha.