Honeycomb Buns – Khaliat Al Nahal

I’d never seen or heard of Khaliat Al Nahal before I saw it on Gayathri’s blog during last month’s blogging marathon event. This is a beautiful Arabic pull apart bread – sugar syrup soaked, cream cheese filled buns that are soft, sweet and a delightful treat. It looks fabulous and tastes fabulous. I made it yesterday and I have just a few pieces leftover today which is proof enough of how tasty these buns are. Although there are a few components to these honeycomb buns, none of it is complicated or involves any difficult techniques. I loved the picture the first time I saw it and the recipe read like a dream. It has everything I love – yeasted buns (yes), cream cheese filling (oh yes) and sugar syrup for soaking (neat). The honeycomb buns came out beautifully and I am really happy I tried it. I am sending this to Blogging Marathon #33 for the theme – bookmarked recipes from the ABC series. I’ve recently been following Gathayri’s blog and I can tell you this much. Gayathri is one hell of a talented cook. Look at the beautiful chequered cake, the frosted roses and the super-elaborate thalis she makes and you’ll know. I am a huge fan of her frosting skills. She makes even the most complicated recipes seem easy. Don’t be fooled, they’re complicated. She’s multi-talented – she cooks, bakes, paints, quilts. I am seriously inspired by her work. If you’re looking for eggless cake/cookie recipes then Gayathri’s blog is THE destination to go to. She’s made “eggless” her middle name. Other than omelettes she’s managed to make everything else eggless.  Lovely golden brown buns just out of the oven Prep time: 50 minutesRising time: 2 hours + 1 hourCooking time: 10 minutes (sugar syrup)Baking time: 30-35 minutes Ingredients All purpose Flour/Maida – 3 cupsMilk Powder – 1/4 cup + 1 tbspVegetable oil – ¼ cupYeast – 2-1/4 tspBaking powder – 1 tbspSugar – 1 tbspWarm water – 1 cup + 1 tbsp Filling Cream cheese – ½ cup Topping Sesame seeds for topping Syrup Sugar – 1 cupWater – ½ cupHoney – 1 tbsp Method 1.      Take yeast in a small bowl. Add 1 tsp sugar and 1 tbsp milk and wait till it dissolves and froths up. 2.      In a large bowl, whisk together flour, milk powder, baking powder and sugar. Add warm water, oil and yeast and mix to form a...

Hot Milk Sponge Cake

You can now make soft, fluffy, light as air sponge cake right at home. This hot milk sponge cake is just like the fresh sponge cake you buy in bakeries. My Maamiyaar thought it was a boxed sponge cake mix and was surprised at how fluffy the cake was. This sponge cake was a runaway hit with the entire family and the best part was that Yuvi, my 2-year old little tyrant loved it. He is generally never interested in food, but he loves beverages (He drinks Pepsi, Coke, Bovonto, Maaza and even Paneer Soda). He really enjoyed this sponge cake and I was pleasantly surprised to see the last few slices gone the next day when I returned from office. Hasini and Yuvi had polished them off. I was the happiest woman that day. I know the pictures do no justice to this cake. But please bear with me. The recipe is from “The Cake Book”by Tish Boyle. It’s a beautiful book full of delightful cake recipes and this Hot milk sponge cake is one of the simplest in the book. I bought it off Amazon and had it shipped to Jagan’s UK address. Everytime Jagan travels abroad, I order books from Amazon because I can’t afford their shipping fees to India which usually work out to more than the book cost. This sponge cake bakes beautifully to a fine crumbed, lovely golden crusted cake. It keeps well refrigerated for up to a week but I am sure it won’t last that long. It’s delicious as it is but if you want to fancy it for guests or a party, you could top it with a little jam or whipped cream. It is great for kids’ snack boxes. I packed these for Hasini and Yuvi’s snack boxes and they came home empty. An empty box is always a good sign. I am sending this to Srivalli’s Kid’s Delight Potluck party event. Prep time: 20 minsBaking time: 30 minsMakes: 16 small slices Ingredients Cake Flour – 1-1/2 cupsBaking Powder – 1-1/4 tspSalt – ¼ tspMilk – ½ cup (120 ml)Butter – 4 tbspEggs – 3 largeGranulated Sugar – ¾ cupVanilla extract – 1 tspMethod 1.      Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Grease bottom and sides of a 9-inch pan. Dust with flour and tap out the excess. 2.      In a saucepan, heat milk and butter together until the butter...

Teddy Bear birthday Cake

This is my first decently decorated cake. I am calling this decent, so you should imagine how scary my earlier attempts would have been. I made this cake for my son’s 2nd birthday yesterday. I am terribly poor at cake decorating. I am just not patient enough. I took it slow this time, planning and making things ahead of time. I baked the cake and prepared the frosting and ganache a day earlier. The previous night, I had to cut, fill and frost the cakes and that took me nearly 2 hours. My kids woke up before I could finish, so I had to shove everything in the fridge and finish the next morning. I hardly slept, I kept dreaming of trimming, piping and smoothing the cake. I am pretty happy that 4 out 5 recognized it as a teddy bear. The 5th called it a Mickey Mouse which is still close enough. The Vanilla cake recipe is Martha Stewart’s and is a definite keeper. The cake tastes wonderful and is a great basic cake that would go well with just about any frosting. Making the cake was straight-forward and was the easiest of the steps. There are 2 round cakes here. One makes the face of the bear. The other cake I used to cut the ears and snout of the bear. I cut the round cake in half and filled it with vanilla buttercream. I used chocolate ganache to cover and frost the top and sides of the cake. I mixed a little bit of the chocolate ganache with the vanilla buttercream to tint it to a light beige shade which I then used for the snout, eyes and inside of the bear’s ears. You’ll need just 2 colours for the bear – the light beige and the chocolate brown. Thank god, I wasn’t making a rainbow cake. For a much better looking bear cake, head here which is where I drew inspiration. My bear’s mouth is too big and ill-shaped and his left eye is sort of damaged. My son didn’t help the case; he put his little fingers into the bear’s mouth even before I could click some pictures. The chocolate ganache I thought could have been thicker, but it worked quite well for covering the cake. When left outside, when you’re decorating for prolonged periods, the ganache tends to warm and get a bit runny,...

Orange Chiffon Cake

I would have never tried this orange chiffon cake if not for the super-enthusiastic baking partners group. This orange/lemon chiffon cake is part of July month’s challenge. I’ve joined this really talented passionate bunch of bakers recently. After my adventure with Gougères last month, I was not going to try the Russian Honey cake (the other challenge for July), however tempting it was. I chose this Orange chiffon cake as this seemed to be simpler and I am happy to say the orange chiffon cake turned out quite well – soft, fine crumbed and fresh orange flavoured. However as always, there are a few things I wish I had done differently. I used a dark non-stick round springform pan with a tumbler in the middle as I didn’t have a tube pan. The cake browned beautifully, with a nice golden top but the bottom had darkened a little too much. Maida Heatter in her “Orange chiffon cake” recipe specifically asks you not to use a dark pan.  Dark pans generally store heat and therefore brown faster and I think the composition of this cake lends itself to faster browning. So if you can, use a light coloured pan. I used the recipe and directions on fellow baking partner Sandhya’s blog and halved it. I took out the cake at 40 minutes. I think I should have taken it out a little earlier at 30 minutes or so. I was in such a hurry to shove the pan into the oven (my son was throwing things off the terrace) that I didn’t smooth the top, so the cake ended up higher around the inner edge and sloped down toward the outer edge sort of like a speed breaker. This is a beautifully soft light, fine textured cake and would go great with your evening tea. Prep time: 20 minutesBaking time: 30-40 minsServes: 16 slices Ingredients Flour – 1-1/8 cupSugar – ¾ cupBaking soda – ¼ tspOrange zest – 1 tsp gratedOrange juice – 1 tbspEgg yolks – 2Water – 1/3 cupOil – ¼ cupVanilla Essence – ½ tspEgg whites – 4Sugar – 1 tbsp Method 1.      Preheat oven to 325 F. Use a tube pan that comes in two pieces or a round springform pan with a tumbler placed in the middle. Do not grease or flour the pan. 2.      Sift flour and baking soda twice and set aside. 3.      Separate eggs and...

Savoury Crackers/Thins – Salty, Masala crisps/biscuits (eggless)

These salty, savoury thins are crisp, flaky and delicately spiced with lovely fresh ginger and coriander. These thins are super easy to make and they taste just as good as store bought crackers. I would go even further to say they’re better than store bought ones because they’re so fresh. There’s nothing to beat the wonderful gingery aroma that wafts all over the kitchen when these thins bake in the oven. These make excellent non-messy snacks that you can take on car trips or pack for school snack boxes. You can easily transform these into pretty party starters for a kids party – top with cheese and chopped tomatoes, or sour cream and chopped tomatoes, or mayonnaise and corn or a pani puri type potato filling topped with sev. The options are endless and you’ll have the satisfaction of making these impressive starters from scratch. This is one of the first recipes we did at Artisans Baking class in Anna Nagar, Chennai. Lisa Isaac of ArtisansBaking conducts really nice, value-for-money baking classes. This is her recipe and one my favourite biscuit recipes. The secret to crispy, flaky biscuits is the crumbing technique we use in this recipe. Crumbing is rubbing together cold butter and flour using your finger tips until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. I love the addition of ginger, green chilli and coriander to the biscuits. We use yogurt at the end to bring the mixture together. I think the yogurt makes these thins even more tender and flaky. I am sending this recipe to Srivalli’s Blogging Marathon for the theme “Cooking with curds”.   Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 30 minsMakes – 25-30 biscuits Ingredients All purpose flour/Maida – 100 gm (about ¾ cup)Salt – ½ tspSugar – ½ tspBaking powder – ½ tspCold Butter – 4 tbsp + 1 tsp for greasingYogurt/Curd – 2-1/2 – 3 tbspGinger – 1 -1/2 inch piece peeled and mincedGreen chilli – 1 mincedCoriander – leaves picked from 4-5 stems, chopped fine Method 1.      Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease a baking tray. 2.      Sift flour and baking powder twice. Set aside. 3.      In a bowl, combine butter, sugar and salt. Add the flour in one go and rub the butter and flour between your finger-tips until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. This technique is called crumbing and this helps produce crispy, flaky biscuits. 4.      Tip in the finely chopped ginger...

Mocha Walnut Loaf

I wanted to bake something with yogurt in it (you see, it’s yogurt theme at Blogging Marathon) and I wanted it to be simple, quick and of course delicious. I scoured my newly bought cake book “Maida Heatter’s Cakes” for anything that even remotely uses yogurt. I found this relatively easy recipe that uses sour cream and I remembered a sour cream recipe on sailusfood that used yogurt to make sour cream. There – I had somehow made a connection. I love using my loaf tin and I love making loaves simply because it’s non-fussy and almost always turns out well. And Mocha is one of those irresistible combinations – chocolate and coffee; always works for me. I am not crazy about nuts and I generally prefer to leave them out but this time I added them in because the rest of my family likes nuts. This is the first recipe I am trying from this much lauded (look at the amazon reviews) book and I wanted to be as accurate as possible. The book is also such. Maida (such an apt name, don’t you think for a cake specialist) gives very precise instructions and you better follow.  I bought this book just looking at the index. This book is jam-packed with cake recipes, I forget how many and the version (budget version) I bought has no pictures (not one). It was all up to my comprehending and executing skills to make a great Mocha loaf or a horrible mess. I am happy to say the Mocha Walnut loaf turned out really well, just as promised, dark, not too sweet, fine crumbed with wonderful coffee and chocolate flavours. I would have liked it a bit sweeter and without the nuts. All in all it’s a really good recipe and a relatively easy one going by the other recipes in her book. I picked up the sour cream recipe from sailusfood, which is one blog/website I’ve been following for several years now and she never fails. If you want some reliable Indian recipe, anything, just head here. Such amazing recipes, she inspires me. The sour cream recipe uses hung curd and it works beautifully. You’ll have creamy, luscious sour cream in a matter of minutes with just 2 ingredients – hung curd and lemon juice. I am a sucker for good substitutions and home-made anything, and this is a beautiful home-made...

Orange Tutti Frutti Loaf – Eggless

Orange Tutti Frutti Loaf is very like wonder-cake or the flavoured cakes that come in small packs. This Tutti Frutti Loaf is ridiculously easy and simple. Dump all wet ingredients together, beat well, add dry ingredients, beat till well mixed and then turn into tin and bake. The recipe uses melted butter so no creaming of butter till fluffy; it is eggless – so no separating egg whites and yolks, no soft peaks nothing. This is a simple, no-fuss recipe that yields a lovely orange flavoured loaf, specked with bright little tutti frutti chunks. Kids will love the bright colours and it’s easy enough for little fingers to hold and eat without making too much mess. I packed these tutti frutti slices for my daughter’s snacks box. I am sure these orange tutti frutti slices would sit pretty on any kid’s party table – a light and tasty bite to complement the deep fried snacks that kids adore. I adapted this recipe from Tarla Dalal’s Tiffin Treats book. I love this book, it has such pretty pictures, the cutest lunch boxes and wonderful recipes. I am sending this recipe to Srivalli’s Blogging Marathon for the theme “Kid’s Party – Finger Food” and Sowmya’s Eggless Baking event. Prep time: 15 mins Baking time: 40-45 minsServes: 20 slices Ingredients All purpose Flour – 1-1/4 cupsButter – 4 tbsp meltedBaking Powder – 1-1/2 tspBaking soda – ½ tspCondensed Milk – ¾ cupOrange juice – 3 tbspOrange Marmalade – 3 tbspVanilla Essence – 1 tspTutti Frutti – ¼ cup tossed with 1 tbsp flour + 1 tbsp for the top Method 1.      Grease the sides and bottom of a loaf tin and set aside. Preheat oven to 180 C. 2.      Sieve flour, baking powder and baking soda together twice and set aside. 3.      In a bowl, take melted butter. Add condensed milk, vanilla essence, orange juice and orange marmalade and beat well. 4.      Add the sifted flour mixture and beat on low just until the flour is completely incorporated. 5.      Add the flour-tossed tutti frutti and fold into the batter. 6.      The batter will be quite thick and will drop off a spoon slowly. Transfer this batter to a loaf tin. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon tutti frutti on top. Bake at 180 C for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted at the centre comes out clean. Let cool in pan before using a...

Gougères – French cheese puffs

It’s suddenly raining Gougères all over the blogosphere. In a strange co-incidence, I too happened to make them last weekend. I have no clue about French cuisine and my knowledge of French is limited to my short course at Alliance Francaise – “Quelle est votre nom? Je m’appelle Jayanthi”. I came across Gougères for the first time when I was flipping through my newly bought tome “How to cook everything” by Mark Bittman but I never got around to making it then. I took a fancy to Gougères because they seemed simple and had cheese in them – both very important to me. Last weekend, I finally settled down to make these much celebrated cheese puffs and I was struck by a low-voltage crisis. Even when I turned my oven full blast (230 C is my oven’s full blast), my oven thermometer wouldn’t climb beyond 120 C. After nearly half an hour of pre-heating the oven (I should have barbecued my oven), the thermometer read just short of 190 C. My Chennai-made Gougères would have to do with that, I hopefully popped in the baking sheets and waited. Nothing happened for another half an hour. They looked just the same. The temperature hovered around 150 C now. I baked them for another half an hour and then another half an hour. I must have baked them for nearly 2 hours totally when they finally puffed up and browned at places. I was relieved to pull them out of the oven and switch off the bloody oven. At such instances, you never know it it is just the oven or if you’ve got it wrong or both. I’ll definitely be trying it again just to make sure it’s not the latter. Why should the EB (Electricity Board) screw up when I am attempting my very first Gougères? Can’t they see I am making delicate, light and airy French puffs? Fools. If I never make it as a great pastry celebrity, it would be because of EB. From what I read online, I gather they’re light, airy and tender. Mine looked more like Mysore bondas than Gougères and they were not light. I think cooking them for hours together in a Dum Biryani type set-up had taken its toll. They tasted ok, cheesy on the inside but chewy. Moral of the story (only relevant for Indian residents): Before making Gougères, check your voltage supply. Gougères also happens to be the...

Chocolate Chip Cookies – Easy and Yummy!

These home-made chocolate chip cookies are classic – crumbly, tender and loaded with chocolate chips. These are just so much better than the packaged cookies or the ones at bakeries that I promise you, you’ll never look at those again. I used Mark Bittman’s recipe from his book “How to Cook Everything” and it is fail-safe. It’s super simple, super-quick and fuss-free. You could use any good quality chocolate bar instead of the chocolate chips, just chop them into small chunks and stir into the cookie dough. These cookies are great for snack boxes, tea-time or just any of those in between times when it is not time for lunch/dinner but you fell ravenous. Happens to me several times a day! Well, these are such good fillers and so yummy too. Cookies make me thirsty. One cookie and a glass or 2 of water fill me up and keep me going until meal time. I made these for my daughter’s last day at her pre-school. She’d be joining LKG this June in one of the bigger schools. I wanted to thank her teachers for being kind and understanding and for making it her second home. She always loved going to school and once returning to school after a little vacation, she promptly ran into her teacher’s arms. I was touched by how affectionate they were. I find that in most schools the big ones especially, the teachers wear such pained expressions on their faces and snap at kids (I am not blaming them, I don’t know what I’d do with 50 or 60 such wild things around me, I’d pass out I guess. With just two, I am at my wits ends). So anyway, these were meant to be “Thank you” favours for the teachers. My daughter helped me bake the cookies and also helped me pack them. I wrapped the cookies in cellophane, she punched holes through the Thank You notes and strung the ribbon through them and I then tied them around the cookies. We did all this the morning of her last day and predictably arrived late at school just like most other days when we don’t bake cookies. My first batch of cookies, I made the colossal mistake of using my ice-cream scoop to shape the cookie mounds and I ended up with massive Oothappam sized cookies. The next batch onwards I used my tablespoon instead...

Banana Bread

I like bananas a lot and so does my son but we still end up with a lot of over-ripe bananas. This banana bread is a lovely way to use over-ripe bananas. In fact the recipe requires bananas to be as ripe as possible. I used the yellow variety of bananas and they were quite ripe. I removed the black seeds in the centre as I wanted a clearer crumb. You could include the seeds as well if you don’t mind a darker, more spotted looking crumb. I used the recipe from two peas and a pod. Some fruits are so delicious on their own that no dish does justice to it. This is definitely true about mangoes. Mangoes are so luscious, so supremely tasty on their own that I really wouldn’t ever prefer mango mousse or Slice to it.  But there are some recipes that bring out the best of the fruit in a beautiful new avatar. Banana bread is one such recipe, which takes the bananas and transforms it into a wonderfully banana-scented, moist, crumbly bread that tastes like, well bananas. I am calling it a bread but it really is so soft and moist, it should be called a banana loaf cake. This banana bread needs no adornment whatsoever. Just slice and serve. If you’d like to glamorize it for a dinner party, just serve topped by a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Super-easy dessert! This banana bread keeps well for a few days in the refrigerator. I packed it for my daughter’s snack box. My kids loved it and so did the rest of my family.     Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 1 hourServes: 6-7 Ingredients Butter – 1/2 cup, softenedGranulated sugar – 1 cupEggs – 2 largeMashed bananas (I used 5 small yellow ones) – 1 cupButtermilk – 4 tbsp Vanilla extract – 1/2 tspAll-purpose flour – 1 – 3/4 cupsBaking powder – 1 tspSalt – 1/4 tspBaking soda – 1/8 tsp Method 1.      Grease and flour 1 large loaf pan 2.      Sieve together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda twice. Set aside. 3.      In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together, for about 3-4 minutes. Add eggs, beat well after each addition. Add the mashed bananas, buttermilk and vanilla and mix well. 4.      Add the flour and mix well until you see no traces of flour. The batter would be quite thick. Spoon the...

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