Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My very first Daring Bakers Challenge

I have admired all the wonderful cooking blogs we have in the blogsphere for couple of years now. But there is one forum which stood out among all and was an inspiration to create a blog. Its the Daring Bakers Blogroll. This a group of amazing bakers who tackle one baking challenge a month. This is my first challenge and the five page long recipe had me shaking in the my boots. This month's challenge was Opera Cake hosted by Lis, Ivvone, Fran and Shea.

The first time I made the cake, everything turned out just perfect except for the buttercream. I still assembled the cake. The cake tasted heavenly but it looked pathetic. So, I made the cake again. This time though I started with the buttercream. I was going to make the cake only if the buttercream turned out right. The buttercream turned out perfect. So, I made the rest of the cake and assembled. While the cake looked good, I have to say my first experiment tasted the best.

We were allowed to change the flavors of the cake as long as the colors are light. Dark colors are absolute no-no. So, I made the cake with cashew and mango flavouring. I was planning to make it as a pista and mango combination. But unfourtunately, I was not able to find enough pista to make the cake.

A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake
For the joconde
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 cups ground blanched almonds
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

  1. Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425◦F.
  3. Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.
  5. If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).
  7. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
  8. Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.
  9. Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.
  10. Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.
For the syrup
½ cup water
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice


  1. Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
For the buttercream
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
seeds of one vanilla bean or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp flavoring of your choice


  1. Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.
  3. While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.
  4. When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!
  5. Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).
  6. While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.
  7. With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.
  8. At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.
  9. Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

For the white chocolate ganache/mousse
7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tbsp. liquer of your choice


  1. Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
  2. Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
  4. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
  5. If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
For the glaze
14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream

  1. Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
  2. Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
  3. Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.
Assembling the Opéra Cake

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square.

Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde.

Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde.

Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled.

This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

I made the joconade with cashew nuts.The buttercream, syrup and mouusee were mango flavoured.

Here is my result,

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Karramani kadalai chapathi

Leftover ingredients and blogging are making me very creative. Couple of days back, I wrote about 'protein' at our home. Well, I had some left over black eyed peas and channa. My first thought was to just add it to some curry and be done with it. Then I remembered the Roti Mela hosted by Srivalli at Cooking 4 All seasons . So, I made a paste of the left over black eyed peas and channa and made a chapathi out of it. It turned out really good. And I'm sure its healthy too with all that added protein. Here is how I made it,

Karramani Kadalai Chapath


Durum Atta - 1 cup
Boiled black eyed peas/ Karramani - 1/2 cup
Boiled channa/Garbanzo/Kadalai - 1/2 cup
Salt - 1/4 to 1/2 tsp
Oil/Ghee - 2 tsp
water - as needed


  1. Mix salt and atta together in a bowl

  2. Add oil and mix well

  3. Grind black eyed peas and channa together to make a paste

  4. Add the paste to the atta mixture and mix well

  5. Add water if needed to make soft and pliable chapathi dough

  6. Coat it with oil, wrap it with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 mins

  7. Take a lemon sized ball of dough and roll out the dough into a thick chapathi

  8. Heat tawa. You can apply oil or ghee if you want to

  9. Place the chapathi on the hot tawa.

  10. Turn it over once you start seeing the bubbles form.

  11. Take it out once its cooked on both sides.

The chapathi came out soft. Its much more filling than the ordinary chapathi. I served it with Veg Kurma I adapted from Gobi Broccoli Kurma at Foodies Hope . I'll post that soon.

I'm submitting this for Srivalli's

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mango banana smoothie

What do you do with left over mango puree, bland mango chunks and an overripe banana? You make a smoothie out of it. When I went home from work yesterday, there were just couple of leftover ingredients which I didn't know what to do with individually. I had some mango puree which was in a big bowl and taking most of the space in the fridge. I had an overripe banana nobody would go near. I also had a mango which had absolutely no taste. It was either make something out of them immediately or throw them out. Since I was not ready to throw them out, I made a smoothie out of it.

Mango Banana Smoothie
Mango Puree - 1 cup
Mango chunks - 1/2 cup
Ripe banana - 1
Milk - 3/4 cup or to the consistency you like
Yogurt - 2 Tbsp
Sugar - 2 Tbsp or to taste
Cardamom - 1

  1. Place mango puree, mango chunks, banana and yogurt in a blender.
  2. Blend them well.
  3. Add enough milk to bring the smoothie to the consistency you like.
  4. Powder the cardamon and add it to the smoothie.

The smoothie was refreshing and sweet. While I made this as a evening snack, this would make a great breakfast smoothie too. I'm submitting this for hosted by Arundati at Escapades .

Since milk, yogurt and banana are rich in calcium, I'm submitting this for hosted by Food Blogga

Here is the result,

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Protein and Click event

I have been trying to lose the weight I gained with my daughter. And let me just say that its not going too good. My problem comes from the fact that I cannot resist food and I tend to overeat. So, I read a lot about life style and weight loss. One fact stands out in whatever I have read so far and that is exercise and portion control. While I have started working out everyday, I still have issues as far as portion control is concerned. It also helps to eat 4 to 5 small meals instead of 3 heavy meals. This lead me to the quest of finding healthy snacks.

And one of the favourites in my home is what my husband calls 'protein'. 'Protein' is just cooked dried lentils or beans and minimally prepared. Our personal favourites are channa, rajma, black eyed peas and moong. I just soak them in water overnight. The next day, its pressure cooked and mildly salted. I know it sounds bland, but it turns out perfect. You really enjoy the flavour of the beans. I took the following picture showcasing all the beans which we like at our home. I'm submitting the photo for this month's
hosted by Bee and Jai. This month's theme is Beans and Lentils. Here is my entry,

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Raspberry Custard

I made a simple sponge cake couple of days back and I had some egg yolks left. My MIL used some of them to make scrambled eggs. I still had two egg yolks left. The only thing that came to my mind to make use of these two egg yolks was custard. I had some raspberries also. So, I made Raspberry custard. Here is the recipe,

Raspberry Custard
Egg yolks - 2
Heavy cream - 3/4 cup
Sugar - 3 tbsp
Vanilla - 1/4 tsp
raspberries - some


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Place egg yolks, heavy cream, vanilla and sugar in a bowl and beat well.
  3. Arrange the raspberries on the bottom of a small oven safe glass/ceramic bowl/ramekin.
  4. Pour the egg mixture on top
  5. Bake it in the pre-heated oven for 50 mins
  6. Then cool the custard and chill

You can serve the custard warm also. The custard was smooth and sweet. The fresh raspberries was burst of flavour in midst of the smooth and sweet custard.

Here is the result,

I'm submitting this for two events.

The first one is hosted by Ammalu's kitchen.

The second event is hosted by Baking Delights

Monday, May 12, 2008

Latest Addition to my Kitchen

My In-laws are going back to India next weekend. We wanted to take them out somewhere for their last weekend with us. We went to the Mayfield farm at Braselton, GA. If you are from south east US, you would be familiar with Mayfield Dairy products. Its know for its wonderful milk and creamy ice cream. We went for the dairy plant tour and tasted the wonderful ice cream. Then my husband asked 'Where are the cows?' . We were told that this was only a dairy plant and they don't have cows here. I think my husband was disappointed more than my kids. Anyway, I found this beautiful set of measuring spoons in the gift store. The ones I have the regular ones from the grocery store. There nothing special about them. But the one I saw in the gift store was just beautiful. They were carved metal spoons. It had the measures also carved as a part of the design. I adored it. Although I'm not an impulsive buyer, I bought this immediately. Here is the latest addition,

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Simple Rasam

When I started cooking, I was able to make whatever I wanted without any big disasters. Sambar, dal, kootu.. I was able to make all these simply by following the recipe. But there was one thing I was never able to make and that was Rasam. I have made it with rasam powder, sambar powder, with dal water, without dal name it, I have tried it. I always follow the recipe to the T but it always turns out to be a disaster. Then I found one recipe on the Internet couple of years back. That turned out PERFECT. I have never tasted a better rasam. I recently searched the net for the recipe again. I was not able to find it. I apologize for not linking the recipe to the original.

Here is the recipe, as I remember it

Simple Rasam
Ripe big tomato - 1/2
tamarind - small lemon size
Garlic - 2 smashed
Pepper pwd - 1/2 tsp
Cumin pwd - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste

For tempering
curry leaves - 5
mustard - 1/4 tsp
Hing - a pinch
Red chili - 1


  1. Chop the tomato roughly

  2. Soak tamarind in 1 cup of water for 1/2 hour and take the extract

  3. Place tomato, tamarind extract and smashed garlic in the vessel you will be making the rasam

  4. Squish all the these together using your hands. By the time you are done, there should not be any meat left in the tomatoes.

  5. Add the cumin and pepper powder to this and mix.

  6. Add 1 cup of water to this and mix

  7. Add salt and adjust the rasam to your taste.

  8. Cover the vessel and place it on the the stove and keep it at the lowest setting.

  9. Check every 5 mins.

  10. When you see froth around the edges of the rasam, the rasam is done.

  11. Switch of the stove.

  12. Heat oil in a separate pan.

  13. When hot, add mustard, chili, curry leaves and hing.

  14. Pour the tempering over the rasam and keep it closed till ready to serve

Its very important that you don't let the rasam boil. It spoils the taste. I'm submitting this to hosted by Meena at Hooked on Heat .

Here is the result,

Monday, May 5, 2008

Semiya Payasam

Back home, the highlight of any feast for me is payasam. And my favourite is Semiya Paysam. Traditional semiya payasam is made with plain milk. I personally don't like the taste of just milk. So, I add a little something to it make it likable to my taste. Here is how I make it,

Semiya Payasam

Semiya/Vermicelli - 1/2 cup
Milk - 1 1/2 cups
Coconut milk - 1/2 cup
Sugar - 1 cup
Cashews - 5 broken
Golden/Dark raisins - 10
Green Cardamon - 2 smashed
Saffron - 1 pinch
Ghee - 2 Tbsp


1. Heat ghee in a pan
2. Saute vermicelli till golden
3. Add cashews and raisins to this and saute for 30 seconds more
4. Remove the vermicelli mix from the pan
5. Heat the milk in the same pan and bring it to boil
6. Keep a close watch on the milk and don't let it boils over
7. Add the coconut milk to the milk and let it simmer for around 2 mins
8. Add the vermicelli mix and let it simmer till the vermicelli is 3/4th cooked
9. Add sugar and mix. Let it simmer till the vermicelli till fully cooked
10. Add the crushed cardamon and saffron. Close the pan and switch off the stove.

Coconut milk gives a wonderful taste to the payasam. I'm submitting this to

event hosted by Simple Indian Food

Here is the result,

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Birthday, Anniversary and Lunch

Today is my parents 30th wedding anniversary and my MIL's birthday. So, it had to be celebrated in style. We invited my MIL's brother's family for lunch for the occasion. Usually we just make chicken biryani and accompaniments. But this time, my MIL wanted a vegetarian virindu. It took me around 4 hours to make everything. I got all except for two of the recipes from fellow bloggers. They turned out perfectly. I followed all the recipes to the T. I have marked the recipes I got from other blogs below. Everything else are my originals, if you can call then that. Here is the menu for lunch,

Mango Kesari from MyFoodCourt
Parrupu and Ghee from Mishmash
Murungaikai Sambar

Beans Poriyal

Vendaikai Pulikolambu

Bottlegourd Kootu From Neivedyam

Thakali Rasam

Potato Fry from Priya's Kitchen

Curd and Mango Pickle


Semiya Payasam

Parrupu Payasam from One bite at a time

Here are the results,