Saturday, March 15, 2014

Honeyed Biscotti with Nuts and Dates

Biscotti are delicious, crunchy Italian cookies and till date, I had only eaten them at cafes. Biscotti are baked twice to achieve hard yet crunchy texture and this is one reason why these are great accompaniments with tea or coffee. These may seem complex the first time you bake them, but after having tried baking them, I can say that these do take more time than other cookies but when you take a bite, you realize that they are worth every bit of effort.

Honey is the primary sweetener in this recipe, the orange zest provides freshness and the nuts, dates make it splendid as you enjoy them with a cup of coffee :). The recipe I used calls for almonds, but since I am allergic to them, I replaced them with cashews and pistachios.

Honeyed Biscotti with Nuts and Dates
adapted from Williams Sonoma

2 cups Maida (All purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs ( I used 3 small eggs)
1/2 cup sunflower oil
2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup sugar, grounded
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup cashews - roughly chopped
1/2 cup pistachios - shavings
1 cup dates, halved lengthwise, pitted and roughly chopped
1 egg white, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • In a bowl, sieve together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
  • In a large bowl with an electric mixer, whisk together the eggs, oil, honey, sugar, vanilla and orange zest

  • Switch to spatula and mix in the flour, followed by nuts and dates (Note: the mixture will be extremely thick and sticky in nature)

  • Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours
  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray with butter paper and keep aside
  • Divide the dough in half and and shape the dough to form 2 long logs as long as your baking tray and place on prepared baking tray (Note: wet the palm of your hands when handling the dough to prevent it from sticking)
  • Lightly brush the tops and sides with the egg mixture
  • Bake until golden, about 20 minutes and once done, transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for about 15 minutes

  • When the biscotti log is cool enough to handle, slice each one crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Place the slices cut side up back onto a baking tray

  • Bake for an additional 6 to 10 minutes on each side till lightly toasted

  • Cool them on a wire rack and once completely cool, store them in an airtight container

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Brunch Recipe - Amazing Vegetable Frittata

This is an easy, hassle-free recipe to make as long as you have some vegetables, eggs and cheese at hand. Frittata is an Italian-style flat omelet that's usually baked in a pan. Since I don't have one that can go straight in the oven, I baked mine in a small baking dish. One frittata is more than sufficient for two people and can be prepared in under 20 minutes. And this makes it a perfect brunch recipe for those lazy sundays or after a long party night

Vegetable Frittata 
6 eggs
1/2 cup red belle peppers, chopped
1/2 cup yellow bell peppers, chopped
1/2 cup zucchini, chopped
1 cup spring onions, copped
1 green chilly, finely chopped
1 tomato, sliced
Handful pitted black olives, sliced
Salt to taste
Grounded pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cubes of processed cheese
Fresh basil leaves
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200°C
  • Saute the vegetables for a minute or so and season with salt and pepper

  • Spread the vegetables into an even layer on the bottom of the baking dish
  • Beat eggs and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the beaten eggs over the vegetables
  • Cut one cube cheese into small chunks and sprinkle to form pockets of cheese
  • Put sliced tomatoes, basil leaves on top and grate the remaining cheese

  • Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Allow to rest in the oven for another 5 minutes or so
  • Decorate with olives and basil leaves
This recipe is very versatile and you can consider the following vegetables as well, spinach, mushrooms, boiled potato, broccoli, paneer (cottage cheese) and if you like meat then you can add sausages, bacon or small nugget size chicken.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Holiday Cookies and a Boozy Christmas Cake

Eggless Holiday Cookies with Royal Icing
Christmas Cake
This festive season I am feeling really excited as it's going to be first Christmas at home post marriage :) we have been fully immersed in the festive spirit setting up the Christmas tree, putting up decorations around the house, lots of shopping (of-course), painting Christmas greetings and mailing them so they reach in time and cooking up Christmas treats just to reward all our hardwork :)

Christmas Tree @ Home
Christmas Greetings
It all started with the Carrot cake from last post and I did endeavor to bake the chocolate beetroot cake as well (will post the recipe soon). For Christmas, made butter cookies with royal icing and a traditional christmas cake with goodness of brandy and spices :)

Wish all of you a happy holidays and a New Year filled with prosperity and success!

Holiday Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing (Eggless)
adapted from

3/4 cup Maida (All purpose flour)
1/2 cup Wheat flour
1/2 cup Icing Sugar
100 grams Butter
1 -2 tablespoons Milk
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt 

For Royal Icing: 
1/2 cup Icing Sugar
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
1 tablespoon Glycerin
1/2 tablespoon Milk
Food Colors - few drops of each color
  • Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celcius
  • Combine butter and sugar in a bowl, and mix until it gets lighter and fluffier.
  • Add vanilla and milk to butter/sugar mixture
  • Combine salt, flour and baking powder in a separate bowl
  • Combine the dry and wet ingredients, using either a spatula or your hands, to form a smooth dough
  • Place the dough between 2 sheets of butter paper and roll it out using a rolling pin to 0.5cm thickness and cut out desired shapes using cookie cutter. Or you can also pipe out the dough using the star nozzle. ( I made the cookies both ways)

  • Place the cookies on a baking tray lined with butter paper and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the sides turn golden brown 
  • Allow the cookies to cool on baking tray for ten minutes before transferring them to wire rack
Decorating with Royal Icing
  • In a bowl sift the icing sugar to remove any lumps and then add milk, lemon juice and glycerin to form a thick but smooth paste
  • Divide the paste into as many equal portions as the desired number of colors and put them into piping cones.  Cut the tip slightly of the piping cones, open your heart and give way to all your creative juices and start decorating these fun to make holiday cookies

Christmas Cake
adapted from

For the soaked peels
1 cup glace/candied red cherries
1 cup glace/candied green cherries
Rind of 5 Oranges 
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup cashews, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
10-12 dates
250 grams dried apricots, chopped
1 cup brandy or rum 
Orange juice
1 cinnamon Stick
1 tsp nutmeg powder

For the Cake
2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup grounded sugar
1 cup brown sugar / demera sugar, grounded 
5 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, grounded
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, grounded
1/2 teaspoon dry ginger powder
1/2 tsp mace grounded
1 tablespoon marmalade ( for that extra Orange punch)

Preparation - 2 weeks in advance of baking
  • In a large glass jar, combine the candied cherries, orange peel, raisins, nuts, apricot and dates. Add the brandy or rum and cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least at least 2 weeks (stirring periodically). This will allow all the nuts and peels to soak the liquor. 
Baking the cake
  • Before you start baking, grease 2 loaf pans or one 9 inches round springform pan with butter and line with parchment paper so that the cakes are easy to remove once baked
  • Reposition the oven rack to the middle and preheat the oven to 135 degrees Celsius
  • Toss the fruits and nuts with 1/2 cup of the flour and keep aside. This will prevent the nuts from settling down at the bottom of the cake
  • In a bowl, cream the butter with the grounded sugar on low-med speed until light and fluffy - this should take about 2 minutes. Add the demera sugar and mix until combined.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time followed by vanilla extract
  • Sieve together remaining flour, baking soda and spices and add it to the egg and butter batter and mix thoroughly on low speed
  • Add in the fruit-tossed in flour to the batter and give a nice gentle mix using a spatula
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Do a toothpick test, if it comes out clean, the cake is done
  • Let the cakes cool for 30 minutes in the pan, and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Classic Carrot Cake

It's quite common in India to use vegetables in traditional sweets. Some of the sweets I can think of are: gajar halwa (carrot halwa), lauki halwa (bottle-gourd halwa), beetroot halwa and the famous Agra ka petha which is made using pumpkin. In the west, these vegetables are quite popular in cakes (carrot cake), baked loafs (zucchini bread) and pies (pumpkin and sweet potato pie). This is the first time I used vegetable in a cake and am pretty excited about it. Best thing being, not only do vegetables add texture and moist flavour but are nutritious at the same time.

Since I like eating carrot halwa ( who doesn't :)) I decided to give carrot cake a shot and I went with this simple recipe from Williams Sonoma and tweaked it a little to my liking. I also halved the recipe and skipped the icing to keep it simple.

Classic Carrot Cake 
adapted from Williams Sonoma

1 cup + 2 tablespoons maida or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (dalchini)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (jaiphal)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup ground sugar
3 tablespoons buttermilk
11/2 cups grated carrots 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
handful chopped walnuts (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a 9 inch cake pan with butter paper, grease with butter and keep aside
  • In a medium bowl, sieve together the flour, baking soda, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt
  • In a large bowl with an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy (approx 10 minutes)
  • Gradually drizzle in oil followed by buttermilk and vanilla extract
  • Switch to a spatula, fold the flour mixture into the egg and sugar mixture until just combined
  • Fold in the carrots and walnuts and pour the batter in the pan

  • Bake the cake about 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean
  • Let the cake cool for 15 minutes and then flip it out of the pan and allow to cool completely
I was very happy with the cake - golden and moist with carrots and crunchiness of walnuts :). Looking forward to baking using some more veggies, may be beetroot in a chocolate cake next :)

Do let me know how the cake turned out for you, till then have a good day :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Home-Baked White Sandwich Bread Loaf

I have been wanting to try and bake my own bread for long and Allen has been motivating me to give it a try. With no experience in baking breads, I decided to settle on the basic white sandwich bread to begin with. After some online search I settled on this recipe at the Kitchn site.

I have read about bread baking a number of times and also how tricky it can be to work with yeast. So I decided to read some more before I proofed the yeast for my first bread loaf and the tip I found helpful is to check it with sugar.

Tip when working with Yeast: 

  • Measure out the water for your recipe and pour about a half-cup of it into a bowl
  • Sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar over the top, give it a stir. Allow to stand for a few minutes
  • If the yeast is still active, it will dissolve completely into the water and the liquid will start bubbling like this

So when I achieved the desired result with the yeast, I decided to proceed with the bread. The original recipe yields 2 loaves, but I used half the recipe for my first try.

Basic White Sandwich Bread
adapted from theKitchn

1 teaspoon active-dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon white sugar (for bread) + 1/2 teaspoon ( to proof yeast)
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 1/2 - 3 cups all-purpose flour or maida
handful chopped fresh coriander
1 teaspoon flax-seeds

  • First proof the yeast using the above method
  • In a separate bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Stir in the milk, sugar, and salt

  • Pour 1/2 cup of flour and the milk mixture over the yeast. Stir until this comes together into a loose, lumpy batter

  • Add another 2 cups of flour, reserving the remaining 1/2 cup if the dough is sticky during kneading
  • Mix well too form a sticky dough.Using a dough hook attachment of hand blender or using your hand knead the dough till you get a smooth dough (If the dough is sticky against the sides of the bowl or the counter, add extra flour a tablespoon at a time until it is no longer sticky)
  • Form the dough into a ball. Take some oil on palm of your hands and roll the dough ball in your hands to coat it with oil
  • Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm spot until doubled ( this should take about one hour)
  • Knead the dough once again and punch out the air. Add the chopped coriander and give a nice knead once again ( use extra flour if required). 

  • Grease a loaf pan and roll the dough with our hands and place it in the pan. Sprinkle flax-seeds and let the loaf rise a second time until it start to dome over the edge of the pan (this should take 25-30 minutes)

  • Preheat oven to 200ÂșC and place the pan in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes
  • Once done, remove the loaf from the pan and let it cool completely before slicing

So what do you think about the bread?? I was thrilled with the result and think its a great recipe for beginners on the bread making! :)

I was so excited that I went ahead and made some broccoli soup to go with it. Voila! Happy Baking :)