Reminds me of a cool spring

It has been hot, hot, hot here in Houston. Ever since we landed here, the temperatures have been in the triple digits. Add to that “stay-at-home” all day situtation- you get one cranky little lady (well may be not little but definitely cranky). So to remind me of some cooler weather- here is an easy dessert that combines most of my favorites- strawberries, lavender and whipped cream

Ingredients (adapted from the minimalist’s version)

1 cup strawberries
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp vanilla powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lavender- I just crushed it using my mortar and pestle


Hull strawberries, wash them and chop into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Toss with half the sugar, and wait 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they give up their juices.

Place half the strawberries and all the juice in a food processor, and purée. Pour purée back in bowl with the remaining strawberries.

Whip the cream with powdered sugar, crushed lavender and vanilla extract until cream is stiff and holds peaks easily. Fold berries and cream together, and serve immediately.


The heat had just subsided (albeit temporarily, may I add) because of a thunderstorm. I mean one spoon of this ever-so simple dessert and I was transported to an English gardens(I have never been to one) filled with roses that are fragrant, grass made greener by the rains and heavenly  smells as the first few drops of cool rain kisses it.

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Candy for this month’s Daring bakers

Who does not love candy? I certainly do and it is just the perfect challenge to come out of hibernation!

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

Fruit and Nut chocolate bark

To temper: With tempered chocolate pieces, also called “seeding”

Tempering Ranges:

Dark: 113°F-122°F > 80.6°F > 89.6°F

Chocolate is melted and heated until it reaches 45°C / 113°F. Tempered un-melted chocolate is then stirred and melted in until it brings the temperature down to 27°C/80.6°F. It is then put back over heat and brought up to its working temperature of 32°C/30°C/29°C /// 89.6°F/86°F/84.2°F depending on the chocolate you’re using. It is now ready for using in molds, dipping and coating.

Tempering using the seeding method with couverture callets
• Finely chop chocolate if in bar/slab form (about the size of almonds).
• Place about ⅔ of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl
• Set aside ⅓ of the chocolate pieces
• Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water)
Tip: Make sure that your bowl fits snuggly into the saucepan so that there’s no chance of steam forming droplets that may fall into your chocolate. If water gets into your chocolate it will seize!
• Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the chocolate so that it melts evenly
• Once it’s melted, keep an eye on the thermometer, as soon as it reaches 45°C / 113°F remove from heat (between 45°C-50°C / 113°F-122°F for dark chocolate)
• Add small amounts of the remaining ⅓ un-melted chocolate (seeds) and stir in to melt
• Continue to add small additions of chocolate until you’ve brought the chocolate down to 27°C/80.6°F (You can bring the dark chocolate down to between 80°F and 82°F)
• Put it back on the double boiler and bring the temperature back up until it reaches its working temperature of the chocolate (milk, dark or white) as seen in the above chart. (32°C/89.6°F for dark, 30°C/86°F for milk and 29°C/84.2°F for white)
• If you still have a few un-melted bits of chocolate, put the bowl back over the simmering water, stirring gently and watching the thermometer constantly.
IMPORTANT: You really need to keep an eye on the temperature so that it doesn’t go over its working temperature
It’s now tempered and ready to use

1. Line a baking tray with parchment paper
2. Temper your chocolate using your preferred method
3. Once tempered, spread the chocolate over the parchment paper
4. Sprinkle your ingredients over the chocolate
5. Leave to set
Tip: To help speed up the setting, you can put it in the fridge for about 15-30min. Don’t leave it in the fridge to avoid the chocolate from sweating (water droplets will form on the chocolate)
6. Either break or cut into pieces
7. Store at room temperature in an airtight container

I made chocolate bark with toasted nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts) and raisins

Citrus Paté de Fruits (Base Recipe)

Recipe created by Jen King and Liz Gutman | From the October 2010 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes plus overnight
½ cup (120 ml) Citrus Juice (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc.)
1½ cups (360 ml) Applesauce, plain (no sugar added)
2 teaspoons (10ml/10 g) powdered pectin
2½ cups (600 ml/20oz/560gm) Granulated White Sugar
Zest – use 2 small (lemon or limes), or 1 medium to large citrus (like oranges or tangerines)
Gel or paste food colouring, yellow green or orange depending on the citrus you’re using, optional
1. Lightly oil (or line with parchment paper) an 8”x8” (20cmx20xm) square pan; set aside.
2. Combine citrus juice and applesauce in a medium, deep saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk together the pectin and 1/2 cup sugar, and blend into the lime mixture. Clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the saucepan and bring mixture to a boil. Add remaining sugar and boil, stirring, until mixture reaches 225°F / 107°C (you may need to stir constantly toward the end to prevent burning). Remove from heat and stir in lime zest and colouring (optional).
3. Pour into prepared pan. When slightly cool, sprinkle sugar on top, and allow to set, about 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch (25 mm) squares, or use a lightly oiled cutter to make other shapes. Dredge in sugar and dry on a cooling rack overnight. Scraps can be re-melted and reset.
4. Store in a box or paper bag at room temperature for up to two weeks


Loved the soft and chewy citrus candy, the bark mm..not so much (my fault- did not have the time to make truffles this time). But this was an amazing challenge perfect for Texan summer (did not have to turn the oven on!)

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And I take on my first ever Indian cooking challenge…

Its been 2 months since my last post, isn’t it? Our move from Boston to Houston was a long wonderful winding road. We flew to Denver, CO and drove from there to San Diego CA. On our way we did devour some great food. From San Diego the wise guy flew to Boston for some last bits of work while I set sail to SFO and had a great time there- oh so much to eat, so little time!

More on that in a later post- but today read on for my first Indian Cooking Challenge post

The melt-in-your-mouth tirunelveli halwa

Wheat berries- 3/4 cups
Sugar- 1 cup
almonds & walnuts, chopped- 3/4 cup, reserve 1/4 cup for garnish
Ghee- 5 tbsp
cardamom- 1tsp
Pachai karpooram- a pinch
Food color
Soak the wheat berries overnight.
Grind in a blender with about a cup of water. Strain the milk into a bowl. Return the husk to the blender and grind again with water. Strain and repeat the process about 4-5 times.
Note*: Clean the strainer and blender immediately, otherwise you would end up with hard crust
Let the milk stand for about 4-5 hrs. A thick precipitate will deposit on the lower part and the scum will float over the excess water that was added to aid grinding.
Decant the excess water and save the thicker milk portion.
Keep the nuts, cardamom, pachai karpooram and food color ready.
Place sugar with some water in a heavy bottomed pan on fire. Boil this down to a thick syrup 
Note: It should form a very strong thread while pressed and pulled apart between the thumb and forefinger.
Add the milk, nuts, cardamom, karpooram and food color. Stir constantly. The wheat will cook to a transparent mass.
When it is thick add the ghee in small quantities. The ghee will initially float and then mix well with the cooking mass. It should get thicker and harder to stir.
Note: It will resemble a sheet of glass falling in a neat ribbon if dropped from a small height. The gloss will be distinct. 
Turn the stove off. 
Note: Leave the utensil on the stove for sometime. The heat of the stove and the thickness of the utensil aid further thickening of the halwa.