Reading Challenges in 2017

Below are those I read for the reading challenges hosted by Bev.

Color Coded ChColor Codedallenge (I think this is my 3rd year doing this challenge!)

  1. A book with “Blue” or any shade of Blue (Turquoise, Aquamarine, Navy, etc) –  Once in a Blue Moon Lodge. One of those books I picked up from the library- it was alright, had everything from a one- night stand leading to triplets to the reunion of a long lost love!
  2. A book with “Red” or any shade of Red (Scarlet, Crimson, Burgandy, etc). Five Red Herrings by Dorothy Sayers
  3. A book with “Yellow” or any shade of Yellow (Gold, Lemon, Maize, etc.) – The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam. Set in Pakistan, this author weaves the lives of his characters (men and women belonging to different religions) beautifully . Loved it
  4. A book with “Green” or any shade of Green (Emerald, Lime, Jade, etc) The Green Man by Kate Sedley. Another random library pick- little did I know it would be the beginning of a series of books that I would read that were set in England, Scotland or Ireland! I thought it was a decent mystery book.
  5. A book with “Brown” or any shade of Brown (Tan, Chocolate, Beige, etc) in the title/on the cover. The Chocolate Cobweb by Charlotte Armstrong
  6. A book with “Black” or any shade of Black (Jet, Ebony, Charcoal, etc) – The Black Eyed Stranger by Charlotte Armstrong
  7. A book with “White” or any shade of White (Ivory, Eggshell, Cream, etc)- Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena. A coming of age tale of a young boy. I liked it- a short, engaging read
  8. 8. A book with any other color in the title/on the cover (Purple, Orange, Silver, Pink, Magneta, etc.) Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. A poignant WWII tale about rabbits, a.k.a experimental subjects
  9. A book with a word that implies color (Rainbow, Polka-dot, Plaid, Paisley, Stripe, etc.). All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer. Another beautiful WWII tale- I had tears in my eyes.

Vintage Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunt

(I may have forgotten to sign up for this challenge though!)

Golden Age Mysteries (8)

Shadowy figure- A Woman in white by Wilkie Collins (1860)

Painting: The Five Red Herrings by Dorothy Sayers (1931)

Cobweb- The Chocolate Cobweb by Charlotte Armstrong (1948)

A tree- The Blue Diamond by Annie Haynes (1925)

Telephone: Death at the President’s Lodging by Michael Innes (1936)

Chandelier, candle (Lamp)- They found him dead by Georgette Heyer (1937)

Dead Body- The Red Box by Rex Stout (1937)

A blonde- A dishonest murderer by Frances Lockridge & Richard Lockridge (1949)

Silver Age Mysteries (5)

Damsel in Distress- The Black Eyed Stranger by  Charlotte Armstrong (1951)

Spooky house- The Gabriel Hounds by Mary Stewart, 1967

A tree- Fletch by Gregory McDonald, 1974

Revolver- The goodbye Look by Ross MacDonald, 1969

Bottle/Glass for drinking- The wrong case by James Crumley, 1979

Among these, Death at a President’s Lodging was hard to read and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did most of the others. Fletch was a surprise, since I just happened to pick up the book from the book store- it was a fast read and kept me engaged! I really like Mary Stewart, Charlotte Armstrong and Wilkie Collins books 🙂

Happy reading in 2018 everyone!

An awesome chocolate treat

Do you have those moments of wanting something so bad- well I had one this weekend. I was eyeing this gorgeous chocolate cookie recipe on Oh She Glows (an awesome vegan blog, might I add) all of Friday (yes, yes even while I was at work). Sunday afternoon after a short one hour nap, I woke up, went to the kitchen and made these damn yummy cookies.
Wet ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon ground flax mixed with 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil (do not melt)
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter 
  • 1/3 cup unpacked brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup natural cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats, processed into flour 
    3/4 cup GF all purpose flour
  • 100 grams finely chopped dark chocolate (1 chocolate bar)
Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flax and water and set aside for a few minutes so it can thicken up. Whisk the flax egg again once thickened.
  2. Add the rest of the wet ingredients into the bowl with the flax egg (coconut oil, sunflower seed butter, brown sugar, cane sugar, and vanilla). In a stand mixer beat the ingredients until combined and smooth.
  3. Now, beat in the dry ingredients, one by one, as you go down the ingredient list (baking soda, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, oat flour). If your dough is a bit dry, add a teaspoon (or two) of non-dairy milk and beat the mixture again (I did not have to). The dough should be moist enough to form balls without cracking, but not super sticky.
  4. Finely chop the chocolate (it should be the size of peas). Beat the chocolate into the batter or simply stir by hand.
  5. Shape balls of dough (about the size of a golf ball or 2 heaping tablespoons) and place on the baking sheet 2-3 inches apart. Gently press down on each ball with your hand to form a disc (it should be 1/2-inch thick or so).
  6. Bake for about 12-13 minutes (I baked for 13 mins, mine took longer about 15 minutes) until the cookies are spread out nicely.
  7. Cool cookies on the baking sheet for 7 minutes or so and then transfer to a cooling rack for another 10-15 minutes.
Judgement: A soft chocolatey cookie- really yummy!!! 
I took pictures, will post them soon.

Hippity- hoppity hop to India for some delicious DB challenge this month

Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen was our August 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to make some amazing regional Indian desserts. The Mawa Cake, the Bolinhas de Coco cookies and the Masala cookies – beautifully spiced and delicious!

Ingredients
For the Mawa:
1 litre (4 cups) full fat milk
For the cake:
1/2 cup (1 stick) (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) unsalted Butter (soft at room temperature)
3/4 cup (180 ml) packed crumb
1-1/4 cups (300 ml) (10 oz) (280 gm) castor sugar
3 large eggs
5 to 6 cardamom pods, powdered, (about 1-1/2 tsp powdered cardamom)
2 cups (500ml) (9 oz) (260 gm) cake flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract (optional)
Cashewnuts (or blanched almonds) to decorate (about 18 to 20)

Directions:
1. First make the “Mawa”. Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan, preferably a non-stick one. Bring the milk to a boil, stirring it on and off, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Turn down the heat to medium and keep cooking the milk until reduces to about a quarter of its original volume. This should take about an hour to an hour and a half.
2. The important thing during this process is to watch the milk and stir it frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick to the sides or bottom of the pan and get burnt. The danger of this happening increases as the milk reduces and gets thicker.
3. Once the milk it has reduced to about one fourth, 1/4 quantity, lower the heat to low and let cook for a little while longer. Keep stirring regularly, until the milk solids (mawa) take on a lumpy appearance. There should be no visible liquid left in the pan, but the mawa should be moist and not stick to the sides of the pan.
4. Remove the pan from heat and transfer the mawa to a bowl and let it cool completely. Then cover and refrigerate it for a day or two (not more) till you’re ready to make the cake. It will harden in the fridge so let it come to room temperature before using it.
You should get about 3/4 to 1 cup of mawa from 1 litre (4 cups) of full-fat milk.

5. Now start preparations for the cake by pre-heating your oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Beat the butter, the crumbled mawa and the sugar in a largish bowl, using a hand held electric beater, on high speed until soft and fluffy.
6. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat on medium speed till well incorporated. Add the vanilla and milk and beat till mixed well.
7. Sift the cake flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt onto the batter and beat at medium speed and well blended. If you cannot find cake flour, place 2 tablespoon of cornstarch in the bottom of your 1-cup measure and then fill it with all-purpose (plain) flour to make up to 1 cup.
8. Grease and line only the bottom of an 8 inch (20 cm) spring form pan. Pour the batter into this and lightly smooth the top. Place the cashew nuts (or blanched almonds) on top of the batter randomly. Do not press the nuts down into the batter. A Mawa Cake always has a rustic finished look rather than a decorated look.
9. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 1 hour until the cake is a golden brown and a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. Do not over bake the cake or it will dry out. If the cake seems to be browning too quickly, cover it will aluminium foil hallway through the baking time.
10. Remove from oven and allow it to cool for 10 min in the tin. Release the cake, peel off the parchment from the base and let it cool completely.

Masala Biscuits (Spicy Savoury Indian Cookies):
Servings: Makes about 2 dozen biscuits/ cookies that are 2 1/4” (55 mm) to 2 ½” (65 mm)wide. (I halved the recipe, skipped green chilli peppers, added some caraway seeds and dill seeds)

Made these late last night and they tasted awesome- more importantly the house smelled heavenly (oh I had almost forgotten how awesome fresh curry leaves smell!)

Ingredients:
1-3/4 cup (420 ml) (9 oz) (250 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
2 tablespoons (30 ml) fine white or brown rice flour (optional)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (or according to your taste)
1/2 cup (1 stick) (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
3 green chillies, deseeded and chopped
3/4 inch (20 mm) piece of ginger, finely grated
1-1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorn, crushed coarsely
1-1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and crushed coarsely
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (½ oz) (15 gm) granulated sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped curry leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander/ cilantro
3 to 4 tablespoons (45 ml to 60 ml) cold yogurt
1-1/2 tablespoons black sesame seeds (or white sesame seeds)
A little oil to brush the tops of the biscuits/ cookies

1. You can do this by hand also, but I prefer to use my food processor. The advantage with using the processor is that the warmth of one’s palms/ fingers doesn’t warm up the dough and melt the butter.

2. Put both flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda into the bowl and add the pieces of chilled butter. Pulse until the mixture takes on the texture of breadcrumbs. 

3. Now add the chopped green chillies, finely grated ginger, crushed peppercorn and cumin, sugar, the chopped curry leaves and coriander leaves. Pulse a couple of times to mix well.

4. Then add 2 tablespoons of yogurt and pulse again. Add one more tbsp of yogurt (or two, as much as needed), and pulse again until the dough just comes together and clumps together. You want a moist dough, not a wet one – somewhat like pie dough.

5. Do not over process or knead. The dough should be just moist enough for you to use your hands and bring everything together to shape into a ball. Flatten it into a disc and cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least hour. You can also leave it overnight (up to about 24 hours) and work on it the next day.

6. Pre-heat your oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and line your baking trays with parchment or grease them with oil.

7. Lightly dust your working surface and roll out the dough to 1/8”(3 mm) thickness, not more or your biscuits/ cookies will not be crisp. Sprinkle the sesame seeds uniformly over the dough and use your rolling pin, very lightly, to press them in.

8. Using cutters of your choice (about 2-1/4 inch (55 mm) to 2½ inch (65 mm) in size), cut out biscuits/ cookies and place them on lightly greased baking trays. Brush a very thin coat of oil over them. This will help them brown while baking.

9. Bake them in a preheated moderate oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or till they’re done and golden brown on the top. Remember the baking time will depend on the thickness and shape of your biscuits/ cookies. Let them cool on the trays for about 5 minutes and then cool them on racks. Once they’re completely cool, they should be a bit crunchy and not chewy.

Bread pakoda a.k.a nostalgia

Have 20 minutes to spare- make bread pakodas!

Now don’t you go off on me now- it is fried and I love it. Bread pakoda is something that I crave often and I realized it happens when I am reminiscing about my undergrad days at Meera Bhavan in BITS, Pilani.

Bread pakodas were served for breakfast once every week (you honestly cannot expect me to remember which day of the week) and yours truly loved it so much that she would go the mess at 6:30 AM sharp!So when I think about those amazing 5 years I need to have my bread pakoda. It was a ride indeed, a ride that I shared with wonderful people.

After the accident I do not have very many memories from my younger years. The bits that I recollect and try to piece together are usually food related (funny, eh?) and I hold on to them dearly.

So here is  a tribute to those 5 years-

Bread Pakoda

Ingredients

2 slices bread, crust removed and sliced diagonally
1/2 cup chickpea flour (Besan)
1 tbsp brown rice flour
1 tsp omam/ajwain/carom seeds
1 tsp jeera/cumin seeds
1 tsp dried red chilli powder
salt to taste
water
Oil for frying

Heat oil in a pan for frying. While it is heating,

– Whisk the dry ingredients together. Add just enough water to make a paste such that when you dip the bread slice in, you get a nice layer of the paste on the bread
– Dip the bread slice one at the time (so that it does not get too soggy) and fry them
– Eat ’em any which way you like!!

That is all

Who would have thought that something as simple as this would hold some fond memories

Judgement: Of course, the wise guy missed it (made it the day before he got back from this conference)- so I am my own judge. It was awesome…what else can I say?

Daring bakers make Panettone

The December 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread!

If you are like us- you would almost always buy Panettone from the store during the holiday season.

Panettone:

Makes 2 Panettoni

Ingredients
Sponge
1 satchel (2¼ teaspoons) (7 gm) active dry yeast
1/3 cup (80 ml) warm water
½ cup (70 gm) unbleached all purpose flour
First Dough
1 satchel (2¼ teaspoons) (7 gm) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water
2 large eggs, at room temp
1¼ cup (175 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
¼ cup (55 gm) (2 oz) sugar
½ cup (1 stick) (115 gm) unsalted butter, at room temp
Second dough
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup (150 gm) (5-2/3 oz) sugar
3 tablespoons (45 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon essence/extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) orange essence/extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
1 cup (2 sticks) (225 gm) unsalted butter, at room temp
3 cups (420 gm) (15 oz) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour; plus up to (2/3 cup) 100 gm for kneading
Filling and final dough
1½ cups (250 gm) (9 oz) raisins, cranberries, dried figs
½ cup (75 gm) (2-2/3 oz) homemade candied orange peel
1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 to 3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) (15-25 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour

Directions:
Sponge

  1. Mix the yeast and water in a small bowl and allow to stand until creamy. That’s about 10 minutes or so
  2. Mix in the flour.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size for about 20 to 30 minutes

First Dough
By Mixer:

  1. In the mixer bowl, mix together the yeast and water and allow to stand until creamy. Again, about 10 minutes or so
  2. With the paddle attached mix in the sponge, eggs, flour, and sugar.
  3. Add in the butter and mix for 3 minutes until the dough is smooth and even.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and allow double in size, about 1 – 1 ¼ hours

Second dough By Mixer:

  1. With the paddle mix in thoroughly the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, honey, vanilla, essences/extracts, and salt.
  2. Mix in the butter until smooth.
  3. Add the flour and slowly incorporate.
  4. At this stage the dough will seem a little too soft, like cookie dough.
  5. Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead for about 2 minutes.
  6. Turn out the dough and knead it on a well-floured surface until it sort of holds its shape.
  7. Don’t knead in too much flour but you may need as much as 2/3 cup (100 gm). Be careful the excess flour will affect the finished product.

First Rise

  1. Oil a large bowl lightly, plop in your dough and cover with plastic wrap
  2. Now we need to let it rise until it has tripled in size. There are two ways to go about this.
  • Rise in a warm place for 2 – 4 hours
  • Or find a cool spot (64°F -68°F) (18°C – 20°C) and rise overnight
  • Or rise for 2 hours on your kitchen bench then slow the rise down and place in the refrigerator overnight. If you do this it will take some time to wake up the next morning but I preferred this method.   

**Note: This did not work out so well- my dough did not triple at all- it doubled before I put in the refrigerator and that was it!**

Filling and Final Rise:

  1. Soak the raisin, cranberries and dried figs in water 30 minutes before the end of the first rise. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Now take your dough and cut it in half. Remember we are making two panettoni.
  3. Combine all your filling ingredients and mix well
  4. Press out one portion of dough into an oval shape
  5. Sprinkle over one quarter of the filling and roll up the dough into a log
  6. Press out again into an oval shape and sprinkle over another quarter of the filling
  7. Roll into a log shape again.
  8. Repeat with the second portion of dough
  9. Shape each into a ball and slip into your prepared pans, panettone papers or homemade panettone papers.
  10. Cut an X into the top of each panettone and allow to double in size.
  11. Rising time will vary according to method of first rise. If it has been in the refrigerator it could take 4 hours or more. If it has been rising on the kitchen bench in a warm place it should be doubled in about 2 hours.

**Note: This did not work out so well either – my dough did not double at all even after 4 hrs (it was out of the refrigerator for over an hour and a half)**

Baking

  1. When you think your dough has only about 30 minutes left to rise preheat your oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 and adjust your oven racks
  2. Just before baking carefully (don’t deflate it!) cut the X into the dough again and place in a knob (a nut) of butter.
  3. Place your panettoni in the oven and bake for 10 minutes
  4. Reduce the heat to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 and bake for another 10 minutes
  5. Reduce the heat again to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3 and bake for 30 minutes until the tops are well browned and a skewer inserted into the panettone comes out clean.
  6. Cooling your panettone is also important. If you have use papers (commercial or homemade) lie your panettoni on their side cushioned with rolled up towels. Turn gently as they cool. If you have used pans cool in the pans for 30 minutes then remove and cushion with towels as above.
  7. Panettone can also be cooled suspended. How to do this? Firstly you need to use papers (commercial or homemade), insert clean knitting needles into the bottom of the panettone in a X shape. Flip over and support the knitting needles on the edges of a large saucepan with the panettone suspended within the saucepan. Yep, a lot of trouble and I didn’t really find that much difference – maybe I took too long to insert the needles.

    How to make homemade Panettone papers:

    Cut 6 long strips on baking parchment and arrange in a star pattern on a baking parchment lined oven tray. Staple the middle.

    Place the Panettone dough in the middle

    Wrap strips around the dough.

    Make a collar out of baking parchment using a cake pan or saucepan to give the shape and staple in place.

    Remove the collar from the cake pan and slip over the dough. Attach the strips of paper which cover the dough to the collar with staples.
    Bake as directed without removing from the oven tray.
    Looks rough but it works. Takes a bit of fiddling.

    **Note: we also made 2 baskets (thanks to the wise guy- he figured the engineering behind panettone papers and the baskets :)). One panettone was in the tall cylinder and the other half of dough, we halved it and placed in two baskets- obviously these baked slightly faster than the taller one. The baskets were from here, thanks to the Wild yeast blog **

    Judgement: 

    Thank you Marcellina – we would have never known how heavenly fresh panettone tastes but for this challenge! It smelled great and tasted even better- we actually had to consciosuly control ourselves from finishing all of it...

Daring bakers- lets challa la la la this month

I know – I am late yet again, (only in posting though, I did make the bread on time) but hey I thought I would not get to bake my favorite braided beauty

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

I followed the recipe from here, except a. instead of earth balance I used crisco vegetable shortening and b. I replaced about 1/2 cup of AP flour with whole wheat flour.

Judgement:
The bread turned to to be gorgeous and lightly sweet. The only problem was I had to much more flour because whenever I tried to knead the bread it would go back to a very sticky state. But the end was good so it did not matter.