Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter Hot Cross Buns and some memories to share

Ever since I remember I have always waited for the easter bunny to drop by at our school where Easter was celebrated with great fervour and devotion.It always started with Good Friday and the entire week that led  upto Good Friday was a week when we got to see movies depicting the life of Jesus Christ.Then we had a long weekend.The week after it was over we had a surplus of Easter goodies to enjoy.This time, I had been able to follow the festivities at my best buddy Priya's place.Since, I know her from my kindergarten days every year I have seen her mom make all kinds of Easter delicacies and Homemade wine.The whole process of making this wine is like composing a song ( look at the beautiful color of the wine she has pictured over a Piano which belongs to her daughter Tanya an avid Pianist).Now,Priya follows this tradition at her own home and she begins with grapes in earthen jars called Bharani a month before Easter and then she practises Lent for 4o days a practise which sees devotees turn vegetarian and shun alcohol..Since she belongs to Kerala they have a custom of making unleavened Bread called Pesaha Appam and a sweetened coconut and jaggery dipping called Paal.The unleavened bread is cut by the eldest male member of the house on Maundy Thursday after attending Church and over prayers.She sent me a few pictures of the homemade wine from black grapes and the bread.Since Easter symbolises new beginnings I hope it ushers in joy and peace in every home where Easter is celebrated.U.A.E, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan Syria have also taken on the Easter joy.Yesterday I was told by an Egyptain doctor who is a muslim that back home it is celebrated by both communities in a harmonious manner.


Easter is also synonymous with hot cross buns the one we  have often heard as a nursery rhyme.Hot cross buns were hung by bakers in front of their doors a practise that they felt ensured the rising of the dough for the whole next year.It is also said that when they gift these buns to their friends and loved ones they will remain thick friends for life.To me they are mouthfuls of delicious goodness - warm, sweet and almost comforting with a hint of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.I had made some at my home and instead of glazing them with crosses which I found difficult to do without a piping nozzle I ended up by slathering the whole buns in the delicious icing.I made them with wholemeal flour and they were perfect.Hope you will try out this recipe I have adapted from Friday

Ingredients for Hot cross Buns
  • 500gms cake flour(you can substitute 250 gms with wholemeal flour)
  • 2 tsp allspice
  • 1tsp cinnamon ground
  • 1/2tsp nutmeg
  • a pinch of salt
  • 10 gms instant yeast sachet
  • 50 gms demerara sugar
  • 100gms butter
  • 100 gms sultanas
  • 200ml warm milk,plus 1 tbs extra
Glaze: 3tbs water plus 1tbs caster sugar
For the iced crosses: 35gms icing sugar plus 1 tspmilk

Sift the flour,allspice,cinnamon,nutmeg and salt in a bowl then add in instant yeast and sugar.Rub butter into the mixture until it attains a crumbly texture then add the sultanas.Stir in milk to from dough.Transfer toa floured surface and work it until soft and pliable.Preheat oven to 200 degrees centigrade, place dough in a large bowl and allow to stand 30 minutes or till it has doubled in size.Once again knock the dough down and
divide into 12 them slightly touching each other in a square cake tin and allow them to stand an additional 20 minutes.Bake approcximately 30 minutes or adjust the time till they turn golden in color.Glaze the buns by heating the sugar and water mentioned under glaze till about two minutes and then applying it on the buns that have been removed from the oven and let the glazed buns cool down.
Mix the icing sugar and milk place it ina piping bag and pipe crosses or swirls for a change or simply apply it all over the buns like I did with my batch above.These are sure to bring smiles onto your little ones faces.On the flip side you will jealous neighbours quipping about the divine aroma that emanates from your home.Go on make them!

Note: The use of whole meal flour gives them a denser texture and you need to bake them for an additional amount of time which you need to adjust according to your oven but the rule of thumb is a golden brown color and well done buns.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Featured Foodgoddess of the week - Pooja

The Queen of Cakes

You are already aware of the old adage 'Having your cake and eating it too!'

If this can fit to describe a person then its none better than Pooja a twenty something beauty, a fellow member on the cooking tribe where we showcase our food among much camaraderie and goodwill.Well, readers eat your hearts out and if  her diva like demeanour is what you are focussed on right now then let me reveal to you she is a doctor by profession and to top it all she creates such lovely cakes. Her cakes caught my eye and I decided to feature her and she very graciously accepted to answer all my questions despite her busy schedule.So, now, you'll know why I call her the queen of cakes.She is blessed with beauty, brains and creativity something that is central to the foodgoddess theme                                                                                                                                                                                             
Tell us a little about yourself?
"I am a doctor and was practising until I took a break to prepare for my exams.I love doing creative stuff,baking and decorating was one of them.I always liked to participate in creative activities, since my undergraduate years.I am always curious to learn something new and internet is my best friend.I believe everything is possible and never give up till I get it right".

How did you get started?
"I started baking on my own trying out recipes from books.I took it to another level and  got a 4 star wilton certification".
She almost credits her mum for the inspiration she lent while baking fabulous cakes and delicious desserts herself.However, her mom kept her out of the kitchen and this sparked her curiosity to an extent, she would try out her own recipes and made sure she never left a trace or clue for her mom to find out.Her father was her best bet when it came to tasting followed by her neighbours.I can almost vouch for that if she showed up with an experimental dish none would refuse it owing to her gorgeous looks

 Tell us about your memorable experience?
"I was probably in fifth or sixth grade when I took a fancy to making a miranda cake and snow balls.My partner in crime was my best friend Priyam.We started off with the snowballs following a recipe book but much to our dismay the snow balls turned out into cricket balls with a burnt crust.They were so hard that we decided it was more fun throwing them in the pond.My mom hadn't the slightest clue about our misadventure and to someone like her who considers her kitchen a temple it was a test cleaning up"she says.

She reiterates good bakers must be good cleaners or atleast pay someone to do so.Later, her education and rigorous routine of studying medicine kept her away from baking until recently she began giving vent to her creativity.She loves watching cake shows and paying attention to intricate details.
I bet this is true because of the level of precision that comes with using a scalpel, has been adequately channelised into her cake decorations.

What has you going ?
"I am always attracted to creative cakes and believe you have to satisfy all senses.The presentation should have a high  regard for neatness and perfect finish.When we cut the cake the layers must be perfect and the knife should slide through perfectly and one bite should almost have you hooked on by the moist melting touch on your palate.This is what I always work towards" she says 

 What are the most popular cakes and trends?
"The most searched for and to die for recipe is the super moist Red Velvet Cake or Cupcake.It's truly one of my favourites"I totally agree there is nothing like it, heaven on a plate or rather your palate".

What to keep in mind while baking cakes?
The biggest rule is to preheat the oven to the correct temperature and to make the cake on the same day as the batter.The secret to a moist cake lies in the first step of mixing butter and sugar to a creamy consistency.She points out that while adding flour it should be done in parts alternating with the liquids as it lends in better chemistry".She also cautions never to rush the icing as its better to be late than sorry.Always follow the recipe to the tee is her next advice.

"She insists that the best cakes are made with lots of love and the simplest decor.For her, baking cakes has been a stress buster and she is happy to observe that it almost always brings everyone to the table at home.She adds that most often her cake is missing even before it can be decorated.She also points that there are lots of cakes that can beat a chocolate or a red velvet cake which happen to be her favourite.Having said that she also maintains that gluten free cakes too taste awesome".

Do you plan to take it to the next level?Any future venture of a cake business or tutorials?
"I am not sure how far I would take this but its always going to be my most cherished talents.As of now I enjoy teaching my friends family and look forward to learning more I hope to make a wedding cake one day and that's my mark for now and I will never be satisfiied" she reiterates as it's a journey of baking she relishes as much as the taste.

So how do you strike a balance with the doctor and the cake thing?
"Its my pursuit of creativity that lends a passion to it she says.To all doctors and other professionals her advice is it's never difficult to pursue other interests,just make time".

"It's four in the morning and I am trying to make sense of it all" she gushes and signs off by saying that baking is one sweet and irresistable adventure for her and I truly agree with that and she sure is one hell of a hard working girl who balances her profession with her creativity and yet cherishes being that simple young girl, loving and joyous and I am sure she will go a long way, her good looks well as I told you is an icing on the cake.Prince charming are you listening? Well, best of luck Pooja you are a true foodgoddess at that.

Photo credits: Pooja
Featured Cakes:The cakes are redvelvet magnolia recipe. The last cake is red velvet and white vanilla  in layers.The purple and pink buttercream cake is humming bird cake,the fondant cake is red velvet  with gumpaste decile flowers.Pink buttercream cake and cupcakes are supermoist chocolate cake .The cupcakes aer of 6 varieties namely red velvet, black bottom cupcakes, vanilla cupcake , blueberry and lemon, humming bird cupcake, chocolate cupcake. All with buttercream icing.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gulkand and Rose Sherbet/Cordial

Gulkand or candied rose preserve tastes like a hint of romance on a spoon the kind that makes up Keats and Wordsworth Poetry too heady sweet and delightful. I like it in a Paan (wrapped betel leaf) no not the ugly kind of images associated with addictive pans but the kind befitting elegant dinners taken out of a silver filigreed and ornate pandaan(betel leaf box)containing betel nut, cardamom, cloves, gulkand, rolled up in a silver foil and pinned with a glaced cherry.It tastes yummy and it is supposed to aid digestion.Well, my husband tells me that his grandmother almost always treated stuffy noses and simple colds with a paan containing all of the above ingredents and a dash of peppermint crystals.One peppermint paan at bedtime and the cold cleared up by morning.

Dried Roses are an integral part of Nizami, Mughlai and Avadhi cooking.Dried roses are used in Nihari, Paya,desserts and drinks in addition to Paan.The Persian spice powder advieh always contains dried rose petals.I cannot resist the urge of buying a box of organic dried roses and I use them a lot in my cooking.There is a special rose petal and nuts chikki (brittle) that is easy to make just add toasted rose petals.The rose petal preserve is good eaten on it's own and helps to impart a radiance to your complexion  Both the ancient traditions of  Ayurveda and Unani medicine extoll the health benefits of roses.You can add it to an almond and raisin smoothie or stuff it in gulab jamun for a fanciful dessert.Be creative in the kitchen with a handful of dried roses but always ensure to buy organic edible rose petals.Use a few rose petals to prep up your garam masala powder.

I cup rose petals/buds
1 cup sugar
1.5 cup water
1/4 cup rose water
a few walnuts crushed coarsely
a pinch of edible pink -red color(optional)

Clean the roses remove the sepals and stems or use only the petals put them in a wide pan on slow flame keep stirring with a wooden spatula and let the petals turn a little crisp but be careful not to scorch the petals.Discard the petals that have a pale yellow or white tinge to them Remove from the fire and let them cool.Meanwhile, heat the water and when it begins to boil add the sugar and let it cook until it is reduced by half its original quantity and has a good consistency.Now add the rose petals and rose water and cook further till it achieves a thick consistencyNow add the walnut pieces and mix well and then take it off the stove allow it to develop a flavor.Cool and preserve in a sterilized jar.I added a pinch of color to enhance its appearance for the picture but this is optional and without the color it is a little reddish brown in appearance.

Rose petal Sherbet

A summery drink that helps cool off the heat and great to carry for a picnic.In the picture I have used the Pandora sterling silver charms as background for my photo.If you come to Dubai just don't leave before buying some trust me they are beautiful and add a touch of glamour to your bangles and bracelets.

2 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tsp rose water
2 tbs rose syrup
Juice of one lemon
1 cup organic rose petals
Ice cold sparkling or still water
crushed ice

Combine water and sugar and let it simmer on low heat until sugar dissolves completely.Now turn on the heat and let it boil for a further ten minutes.Take it off the stove and cool.when the syrup has cooled down add the rose water, rose syrup, lemon juice and rose petals.Stir well and keep refrigerated ina clean bottle.
To serve, add 3 tbs of the rose sherbet in a glass top it up with sparkling water, crushed ice and serve.