Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Between croissant and pizza

Creamy, cheesy eggs infused with flavorful spices, crunchy leaves of spinach, refreshing tangy juice oozing out of  the baked cherry tomatoes - all these lovingly wrapped in an irresistible, flaky, buttery crust. I dont think I am really good at describing things but this is all I can say about the recipe I am sharing today...

The inspiration behind this succulent delight is the famous Galette recipe by Smitten Kitchen. I had been wanting to share a galette recipe on the blog  for quite a while and had actually made it twice for the purpose. But the hungry bears on our dining table didnt give me the chance to take any pictures. This one is also not perfectly shaped but I just dont want to wait till next chance, so here it is. Please ignore the rough shape and dont worry yourselves about it as thats exactly the best thing about a galette; you can form it in whatever way you like.

I have made the dough using almost the same ingredients as suggested at the page, but for the filling, I wanted to try a  different vegetable combination to add a little variety to the original recipe.






Spinach Galette

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup thick yogurt (the original recipe calls for sour cream)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

For the filling:

1 cup blanched spinach
50 g fresh cream
80 g creme fraiche (alternatives: 120g ricotta cheese / 40 g greek yogurt mixed with 40 g heavy cream)
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp chili flakes (optional)
1 tsp pizza spices
1/4 cup chopped basil
2 medium sized eggs
60 g grated cheese (any gratin or pizza cheese would work)
1 tbs olive oil


Mix together the flour and salt in a bowl. Sprinkle cubes of butter over dough and mix it with the flour using your figer tips. It will have a crumbly texture.


 

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice and water and add this into the flour mixture.





Mix in the liquid using your fingertips or electric mixer with the dough hooks on, and form a ball. Tip: Do not overwork the dough.





Cover with cling film and refrigerate for atleast an hour.

For the filling, beat the eggs and take out about 2 tbs of these in a seperate bowl for glazing.





Mix all other ingredients for filling (except spinach and tomatoes) with the beaten eggs.







Take out the dough from the fridge and roll it out into a 12 inch round. Tranfer onto the baking tray lined with parchament paper.






Spread the egg-cheese-cream mixture over the bottom of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Spread the blanched spinach over it, place the cherry tomato halves attractively on the outer sides making a boundry and fold the border over the filling. For a finer finish, pleat the edges!! I havent done it though as it was too hot in my kitchen and the runny filling was a bit messy to tackle:)



Drizzle olive oil on top, glaze the border with the beaten egg and bake in the preheated oven (190C) for about 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Take out from the oven and let stand for about 5 minutes before transfering onto the serving plate.





Whether with spinach, squash or eggplants, zucchini or mushrooms  - galette is a wonderful meal for all seasons and is pretty easy to make. Just fold up all the seasonal goodies and enjoy your healthy and super-delicious creation!!



Monday, 18 July 2011

Whip it right!!




Anyone who reads this blog knows I love working with fresh cream, and nearly every second cake or dessert of mine has to have whipped cream in or on it. I believe, a light and fluffy whipped cream does not only enhances the appearance and taste of a cake but can give an extravagant boost to make a dessert the show stopper for any good meal.

Although I generally have nothing against purchasing ready-made canned goods keeping in mind their convenience and time saving advantage but my experience with whipped cream says theres no ready made product out there in the market that could beat the fresh and delicate taste of the one you make at home. And the procedure is not even as hard as most people think. There are only a few things that should be taken care of while whipping the cream and it can be a very interesting and fun thing to do.




The fluffly, stiff yet soft fresh cream that holds its shape for hours on top of the dessert instead of melting into it is what I call a perfectly whipped cream. Whipping a regular heavy cream is no big science. All you need is heavy cream, beaters and a bit of concentration. For giving it a sweet accent, add in a small amount of icing sugar. This regular whipped cream is best for using in desserts, fruit salads, on pies or for serving with ice cream etc. The only disadvantage is that it becomes really unstable if not served immediately and tends to melt.

Here are a few important tips on how to stabilise the whipping cream for using it as icing on cakes or other desserts incase you want to make them several hours ahead of time and wish the cream to hold its shape firmly:


  • The most important thing that one needs to know before deciding to go for a whipped cream icing is the that the high fat content which is essential to thicken and whip a milky liquid also makes it highly temperature-dependent. Which means, the first thing you want to make sure is a cooler temperature.

  • Since colder temperature helps the cream to whip faster, it should be completely chilled prior to beating. Best is to use the one that has been in the refrigerator for atleast a day or two.

  • Before you start with the whipping process, pop the beating container (preferably out of metal) as well as the beaters in the freezer for 15 minutes.

  • If the air in your kitchen is hot, try to fix this problem as well by either beating the cream in another cooler room with the airconditioner on or place the cream container over a bowl of ice. Itll also help against the heat generated through the beating itself.

Once the temperature issue is settled, the cream is actually ready to whip. My key for stabilsing the cream for cakes had always been gelatin but keeping in mind the increasing trend for non-animal gel sources, I have tried making it with "powdered" agar agar (a plant-based gelatineous substance obtained from seaweed) recently. The result is remarkably good and I would highly recommend using it as alternative for gelatin.

Stabilised Whipped Cream using Agar Agar

Ingredients:
200 ml cream
1/2 tsp powdered agar agar / powdered gelatin
1 tbs cold water
2 tsp icing sugar




In a small bowl, sprinkle the agar agar powder over cold water. Put in the microwave for a few seconds, bring the mixture to a quick boil and mix until the fine granules are dissolved. (Or if you intend to use gelatin powder, dissolve the granules in luke warm water. DO NOT cook gelatin as high heat causes it lose its gelling properties).




Place aside to cool completely. But dont leave for too long otherwise the gelling agent starts to thicken. Take out the chilled beaters and metal bowl from the freezer and pour the chilled cream in it. Add in the agar agar mixture.




Start whisking with the electric beaters until soft peaks start to form.




Stop beating and add the icing sugar into it.



Beat for a second or two.




This is the stage where you need to be very careful. The cream should form soft peaks but make sure not to overbeat as it will turn into butter within fractions of a second. Tip: If you are not confident to deal with this stage,  use a hand whisk and beat carefully until stiff peaks are acheived.





Decorate immediately using a piping bag or spread on cakes using a spatula or cake decorating knife. The cream will hold its shape for hours and wont melt quickly as the plain whipped cream.


Black forest torte covered with stabilised whipped cream

Tip: If the cake or dessert is not to be served right away, never leave it outside the refrigerator. Not even the leftovers.


Thursday, 14 July 2011

Another addictive stuff..

Brownies are certainly one of the best dessert options ever. They are not only delicious enough to help you settle your chocolate and sweet cravings but are so easy to make that nearly every novice baker loves to give a try.

Let it be any occasion -  a school party, bake sale, graduation party, baby showers, baby announcements, birthday, office treats - their ultimate crowd-pleasing characteristic makes them just fit in everywhere.

However, the problem faced by many is that there are so many different recipes for brownies out there that one cant easily decide which one to go for. The best way to solve this problem is to determine first what texture youre looking for. There are cake-like brownies, chewy brownies, fudge brownies, sweet or bitter brownies, with fruits or nuts or with chocolate chips and many more. Try imagining the sinfully heavenly comfort treats on your tongue and youll come to know what exactly you want.

I personally like almost all kinds of brownies provided they are rich in chocolate. The recipe that I am sharing here makes nice fudgy squares with a crispy cookie-like crust on top and ofcourse, like most of my chocolate posts, a quintessential treat for any chocolate lover!






Dark Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients:

300 g very fine sugar
150 g dark chocolate
200 g butter
75 g cocoa powder
170 g plain flour
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla/almond/orange essence
1 cup pecan nuts, chopped

Line and grease a 13x11 inches rectangular pan (Unfortunately, this is the only rectangular pan I have, you may use your square brownie pans, but do adjust the quantities accordingly).
Tip: I usually leave an overhang on two opposite sides for lifting the brownies easily out of the pan after baking.







Chop the chocolate on a cutting board.

In a heatproof bowl, combine the butter and chopped chocolate and set it in a sauce pan of barely simmering water (double boiling method). Stir occasionally until the butter is melted, add in the sugar and continue with the process until the sugar is almost dissolved and the mixture is smooth and a bit shiny.






Remove from heat, add vanilla essence and set aside to cool.




Sieve together flour, cocoa and baking powder.




Once the butter chocolate mixture has cooled, whisk the eggs in a bowl with an electric beater until creamy.








Add a few tablespoons of this into the chocolate mixture (to avoid scrambling) and fold carefully.




Now transfer this entire chocolate mixture into the bowl of beaten eggs and start mixing with a hand whisk.




 

Start adding the sifted flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix.







Finally, add in the chopped pecan nuts. Tip: You can also use walnuts instead of pecan.





Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tray.










 Put in the preheated oven (170C) and bake for 30 minutes. Check with a wooden skewer, if it comes out clean, take out of the oven otherwise adjust the baking time accordingly. Tip: pleaaaseeeee, never overbake the brownies or any dark chocolate cake, itll only make it dry, bitter and crumbly.

Take out the pan from the oven and put it aside to cool completely.
Lift up the ends of the parchament paper and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut out squares or rectangles of your choice. Dust with powdered sugar or drizzle some melted chocolate on top and forget to count the calories until youve finished them all up.



Wednesday, 13 July 2011

I am a flower...

Cauliflower is one of the vegetables most people dont feel much affection for. Its neither convincing in its looks nor is the taste favoured by everyone.

If you are also one of those, who believe, the vegetable tastes boring, try the following recipe. You might still not call it your favourite but itll atleast convince you of its unique and different significance. Served with freshly baked home-made bread and a spicy balsamic chicken, this cauliflower dish can add a uniquely delicious dimension to your menu.





Cauliflowers with Olives

Ingredients:

1 medium sized cauliflower
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp garlic paste
2 chopped onions
1 cup chopped tomatoes  (I use canned)
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1 - 2  marinated bell peppers (I used the store bought, those with a bit tangy flavour)
1/2 cup roughly chopped olives
1/2 tsp pizza spices
salt and crushed pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1/2 cup grated cheese
fresh parsley to garnish


Blanch the cauliflower in salted water for 4-5 minutes. Tip: Add a few drops of lemon juice and half cube of chicken stock for extra flavour).





Drain and place aside.

Heat oil in a skillet. Fry the onions and garlic paste in it until translucent.






Add the chopped bell pepper, tomatoes and the spices. Tip: If you dont know where to find the ready-made marinated bell pepper jars, either leave it or try roasting one red pepper coated with olive oil in the oven, peel off the blackened skin and sprinkle with few drops of lemon juice and venigar.

Fry for a few minutes on medium heat. Them add in the chopped olives.





Add in the blanched cauliflower and fry further for two minutes.





Once the sauce has coated well on the cauliflower, turn off the heat and transfer into an oven proof dish.





Sprinkle grated cheese on top. And bake in preheated oven (200C) until the cheese starts melting.




Garnish with parsely and serve hot with bread.

For the bread, make the dough following the recipe given in the link. Once the dough has doubled, knead it again. Roll out on a plain surface dusted with flour. Tranfer onto a baking tray lined with parchament paper.





Cut out small holes using any round cutter or a clean bottle lid.




Brush with beaten egg yolk/white for a nice golden top.




Bake in the preheated oven (200C) until golden brown on top.




Serve hot!!!!!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Getting a meal on the table..

Planning a meal is definitely one of the few things I am getting better at with time. As a matter of fact, I have actually started enjoying this creative and delightful activity lately. Its like a game where you sort and arrange a series of cards by flipping back and forth through different ideas, ingredients, likes and dislikes and recipes until you come up with a perfect combination. It might sound a bit crazy but trust me, once you start playing it with interest, it can become really addicting!!!

The weekly meals are pretty easy as Ive learned how to communicate with my refrigerator now and with a little aid from other kitchen gadgets, deciding on what to cook for dinner is no longer a stressful job. The weekend meals, on the other hand, still need a bit more of practice as you have to deal with many additional factors as well that are attached to the two leisure days of the week.

The most difficult part in planning a weekend menu for me is the choice of vegetables as both the men at my home are very fussy eaters when it comes to including healthy foods on the platter. But I am glad that there are generally no issues with the cooking style or choice of cuisine. As far as the food is flavourful , they are ready to eat anything that is set before them on the table.

Here is a glimpse of what we devoured at the lunch table on Saturday.








Balsamic Chicken served with Cauliflower and Home-made Bread

Ingredients for Balsamic Chicken:

1 kg chicken (pieces)
4 big potatoes halved ( or 8 baby potatoes )
1 tbs of coarsley ground coriander seeds
1 tbs garlic paste
1 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs of balsamic vinegar
1 tsp of ginger powder / paste
salt , pepper

1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
1/4 tsp chili flakes (optional)
1/2 cup cashews (powdered)
2 tbs of olive oil
1/4 cup of apple juice
1/2 cup fresh cream




 

Wash and pat dry the chicken pieces with a kitchen paper. Place them in a plastic bag.






Peel and cut the potatoes. Marinate alongwith the chicken pieces with balsamic vinegar, pepper, salt, nutmeg, lemon juice, chili flakes, cashew powder, ginger, garlic. Drizzle one tablesoon olive oil over it. Tie/close the bag tightly and shake it well until the chicken pieces are completely coated with the marinade.






Put in the refrigerator for atleast an hour. Tranfer into a baking dish. Pour the apple juice over it.





Drizzle the remaining oil on top. And let bake in the preheated oven (180C).

Open the oven after 30 minutes and pour the fresh cream over the chicken and potatoes. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. Check with a fork if the potatoes are done, remove from oven and serve.



I served it with the home-made bread following the same recipe as here.





The cauliflower recipe will also be uploaded in a day or two. Meanwhile, enjoy the tangy, spicy chicken with soft, freshly baked bread !!