Daring bakers-wow, quite a challenge!

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

Joconde Sponge

YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan
¾ cup/ 180 ml/ 3oz/ 85g almond flour/meal – *You can also use hazelnut flour, just omit the butter
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 150 ml/ 2⅔ oz/ 75g confectioners’ (icing) sugar
¼ cup/ 60 ml/ 1 oz/ 25g cake flour *See note below
3 large eggs – about 5⅓ oz/ 150g
3 large egg whites – about 3 oz/ 90g
2½ teaspoons/ 12½ ml/ ⅓ oz/ 10g white granulated sugar or superfine (caster) sugar
2 tablespoons/ 30 ml/ 1oz / 30g unsalted butter, melted
*Note: How to make cake flour: http://www.joythebaker.com/blog/2009/09/how-to-make-cake-flour/

  1. In a clean mixing bowl whip the egg whites and white granulated sugar to firm, glossy peeks. Reserve in a separate clean bowl to use later.
  2. Sift almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour. (This can be done into your dirty egg white bowl)
  3. On medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and light. (If using a stand mixer use blade attachment. If hand held a whisk attachment is fine, or by hand. )
  4. Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix.
  5. Fold in melted butter.
  6. Reserve batter to be used later.

Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste

YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan

14 tablespoons/ 210ml/ 7oz/ 200g unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups plus1½ tablespoons/ 385ml/ 7oz/ 200g Confectioners’ (icing) sugar
7 large egg whites – about 7 oz / 200g
1¾ cup/ 420ml/ 7¾ oz/ 220g cake flour
Food coloring gel, paste or liquid
COCOA Décor Paste Variation: Reduce cake flour to 6 oz / 170g. Add 2 oz/ 60 g cocoa powder. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together before adding to creamed mixture.


  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (use stand mixer with blade, hand held mixer, or by hand)
  2. Gradually add egg whites. Beat continuously.
  3. Fold in sifted flour.
  4. Tint batter with coloring to desired color, if not making cocoa variation.

Preparing the Joconde- How to make the pattern:

  1. Spread a thin even layer of décor paste approximately 1/4 inch (5 millimeter) thick onto silicone baking mat with a spatula, or flat knife. Place mat on an upside down baking sheet. The upside down sheet makes spreading easier with no lip from the pan.
  2. Pattern the décor paste – Here is where you can be creative. Make horizontal /vertical lines (you can use a knife, spatula, cake/pastry comb). Squiggles with your fingers, zig zags, wood grains. Be creative whatever you have at home to make a design can be used. OR use a piping bag. Pipe letters, or polka dots, or a piped design. If you do not have a piping bag. Fill a ziplock bag and snip off corner for a homemade version of one. 
  3. Slide the baking sheet with paste into the freezer. Freeze hard. Approx 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from freezer. Quickly pour the Joconde batter over the design. Spread evenly to completely cover the pattern of the Décor paste. 
  5. Bake at 475ºF /250ºC until the joconde bounces back when slightly pressed, approx. 15 minutes. You can bake it as is on the upside down pan. Yes, it is a very quick bake, so watch carefully.
  6. Cool. Do not leave too long, or you will have difficulty removing it from mat.
  7. Flip cooled cake on to a powdered sugared parchment paper. Remove silpat. Cake should be right side up, and pattern showing! (The powdered sugar helps the cake from sticking when cutting.)

For how to prepare the mould, please visit Daring Kitchen.

Pear-ginger mousse (adapted from five star foodie)

1 tablespoon butter
2 pears, peeled, cored and chopped (about 1 1/4 cup)
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
3 tbsp buckwheat honey
1/4 cup rum
2/3 cup whipping cream


In a skillet, melt butter. Add ginger, pears, and agave syrup. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the pears are tender. Add 1/4 cup brandy and blend into a puree. Strain if necessary.

Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold into the pear puree. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Kumquat mousse(inspired from here)

1 1/2 kumquats, washed, cut in half and seeds removed
juice of one orange
12 oz silken tofu
½ cup milk
1 tsp cardamom powder

1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp nutmeg
4 tbsp raw sugar

3 tbsp honey
3 tablespoons agar agar flakes (too much!)

1/2 cup water
Whipped cream, to garnish 


Put the tofu, kumquats, orange juice, sugar, ginger, nutmeg and cardamom in a blender and process until smooth (I had to thin it with a little bit of milk, also it tasted bitter because of the ginger- bad choice)
Heat the water in a small pan and add the agar agar flakes when the water reaches a boil.
Boil for 2 minutes more, and then add the pureed mango mixture.
Stir it for 2 more minutes, and chill it for several hours.


Well I ran into few problems- the sponge smelled very eggy and tasted like an omelet in parts (could be because I did not mix the batter well enough?!). My decor color was too weak so could not really see the patterns (bummer as I had put in so much effort into it). The fillings though tasted great! Now this is something I feel like I should try again, mainly a chocolate version and also smaller one too. But given that I fail badly with all my cakes, may be I should just resign to the fact that I am not good at it! We will see…

For more better and awesome recipes check fellow DBers, they sure put me to shame!

Yotam Ottolenghi ishtyle…

This is a salad inspired by the oh-so-creative New Vegetarian, Yotam Ottolenghi! I love his creative approach to vegetarian recipes.


1½ tbsp cumin seeds
1½ tbsp coriander seeds
1 c  sprouts (whole green gram)
1 c tiny red radish, thinly sliced
1 c carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 c thinly sliced baby cucumbers 
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 tbsp red-wine vinegar
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
juice of half a lemon
2 c romaine lettuce, torn
Black pepper

In a small frying pan, toast the cumin and coriander seeds on high heat for a minute or two, shaking the pan to move the seeds around as you do so, until they give off their aroma and begin to pop. Transfer to a mortar, and crush with a pestle until powdery.

Put the sprouts, radish, cucumber and carrot in a large bowl. Add the parsley, garlic, oils, vinegars, cumin, salt, lemon juice and some black pepper. Stir, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Add the lettuce, toss gently and serve.


It tasted green and great. The flavors all were playful- had fun making it and eating it too! The wise guy could not praise me enough. Loved the idea of toasted cumin and coriander, it brought it an unexpected dimension to the salad.

I am sending this off to Torview for the Food Palette series event– first time participating.

Pia is hosting her Innovative salad-cucumber event – I did not know about until she left a comment here- so here this goes to her event too!


A very long post- beware! I know I have not wished any one on moving on to 2011- so here it is folks, HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Neither do I look back nor do I die for a peek into the future (now I am going to let you in on a secret- despite being the rational, logical researcher- I love my daily dose to Yahoo Astrology!). I do not usually celebrate the arrival of a new year (I might have, when I was a kid, but come on I was just a kid)- to me it is just another day, another year!
On to the event at hand-
 இனிய போங்க நல்வாழ்த்துக்கள், a.k.a HAPPY PONGAL!
Celebrated to usher in the new month of “thai” (தை மாதம்), this festival finds it roots during the sangam age between 200 b.c. and 200 A.D. It is the dravidian harvest festival which means that the harvest season is celebrated in most parts of India around this time. In the south, it is three day long celebration beginning with Bhogi pongal (when people burn things, an act that implies that old paves way for the new), surya (sun) pongal (celebrate the sun god, without which there would be no harvest) finally culminating in mattu (cow) pongal (celebrate the quintessential cow). You can read about it here, here or here

Ven pongal, Italian style

1 1/2 c brown rice
3/4 c moong dal
salt and turmeric
3 c milk
a huge pot of water, simmering away
a few sprigs of mint

For tempering
2-3 tsp cumin
about 10-12 peppercorns
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
a few sprigs curry leaf
1 tbsp ghee

Cashews roasted in ghee as garnish


1. Cook the brown rice in the microwave with about 3 cups of water (about 25 min- just until it is half cooked)
2. In a deep saucepan, heat the milk. Once it begins to boil, add the rice and dal (I roasted the dal for about 2-3 min to release its nutty flavors, may be I overdid it here- I will explain later!). Add salt and turmeric, to taste and color.
3.Cook until all of the milk is absorbed. Now add the hot water and simmer it. Repeat this process until the rice and dal are completely cooked, now here is where I ran into a problem (aw..kitchen troubles as though they are something completely unheard of!). My dal refused to cook well and I think the reason was because I roasted it too much! Finally I ended with a pongal which had a bite to it, that is quite alright though-we did manage to finish most of it. Now the end result is totally up to you- you can have it as creamy as you want it to be (kind of pongal you might get at an Indian restaurant)

For the tempering, heat the ghee in a small fry pan. Once hot, add cumin seeds, pepper, ginger and curry leaf. Heat until the seeds splatter- do not let them burn though. This should not take more than say 30sec.

Top the pongal with the tempering and some roasted cashews. Serve it piping hot with chutney, sambhar or even kootu (vegetables with coconut and yogurt)!

Butternut squash-zucchini kootu


1 1/2 c cubed butternut squash
1 1/2 c cubed zucchini
salt, pepper, to taste
turmeric, a pinch
Water, to cook
1/2 frozen grated coconut


1 inch ginger, chopped
2 thai green chiles, chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ajwain (Caraway) seeds

For tempering
1 tbsp ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, rub before adding it in
1 tsp urad dal
5-6 pepper corns
A sprig curry leaves


In a pan, add the ghee. Once hot, add the seeds- once  they splatter, add the curry leaves- fry it for just a couple of seconds.

Add in the vegetables (I am telling you- the orange and green…marvelous feast to the eyes). Mix them well with the tempering- a minute or so. Add in just a touch of water, salt, pepper and turmeric- simmer the heat. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender.

In a mortar, grind coarsely the ingredients listed in the sace/paste.

Add the paste to the vegetables- cook for about 5 minutes. Finish by adding the grated coconut.


Despite the bite to the ven pongal, it was very creamy and tasted good especially with the colorful kootu (a little color during winter- warms your heart, does’nt it?). Now for a better risotto style pongal, check the awesome veggie belly (I saw it last night and could not believe that I had also actually thought of something similar!)

Chakkara Pongal

Serves 2

1/2 c sushi/ sticky rice
3 cups 2% milk
1/2 c jaggery
1 tbsp natural sugar
1/4 tsp green cardamom, ground
1/8 tsp pachai karpooram (green camphor)
1/4 tsp dried lavender, ground

1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
a handful of almonds
a handful of golden raisins


Boil the milk in a deep saucepan along with the cardamom, lavender and pachai karpooram. Once it begins to boil, add the rice, jaggery, and sugar- bring to a boil and simmer the heat.  Stir often making sure that nothing sticks to the pan. You might have to add more milk/ water in case the rice is not completely done (I had some water simmering away on the side and added it as the rice was cooking).
For the garnish, heat the ghee in a small frying pan. Toast the almonds and raisins.

Top the pongal with the garnish and serve it hot or cold. Tastes good either way!

I loved all the flavors in the sweet pongal- could feel a whiff of lavender and the camphor. And I finished that entire thing you see in the picture (thankfully it was not too sweet)