Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Golden pull apart buns

This weekend was Papdi chaat and Vada pav for our get together with friends. The Pavs were the Golden pull apart buns from King Arthur Flour's website. The KAF blog has really detailed step by step instructions with  lots of pictures so its hard to go wrong. 
Two ingredients the recipe calls for, I usually do not have in my pantry so I had to go get that: Potato starch or instant potato flakes like Betty crocker etc. and dry milk powder. As per the blog post, the potato helps with the softness and helps it keep longer. The milk powder helps the dough rise better.
The  other thing that makes this recipe super easy to pull together for me is my Kitchenaid stand mixer. That machine is a workhorse and its a must have for any serious baker. I've used it to make roti atta too and it does a great job. For this bread, it does the kneading in 7 mins...so we'd need about 15 by hand...not impossible but not easy either.

I baked the rolls in two 8x8 square pans so they came out square just like the pavs from back home. They also weren't too soft and had a bit of a texture to it. 

The ingredient list:
3 1/2 cups All purpose flour (I use KAF unbleached AP flour)
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons potato flour or 1/4 cup instant potato flakes ( I have used both and they've both come out well) 
3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons soft butter
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup lukewarm milk

The step by step instructions from the KAF blog are in the link below. But the gist of it is, dump all ingredients into the mixer bowl, adding the warm liquids last. Knead on med speed for 7 mins. Remove and place in a greased bowl. Keep in a warm draft free place for about 60-90 mins to rise until almost doubled in volume.
I usually heat my oven for about 2-3 mins and then turn it off and place the dough in the oven to rise. This has worked everytime.  After the dough has about doubled in volume, deflate/punch the dough down and divide into 18 rolls. Shape the rolls (not like chapati dough..see pictures for this one) into balls and place 9 in each lightly greased square pan with room to spare (the dough will rise again). Place in a warm spot again for the 2nd rise..about 60 to 90 mins. When the rolls have risen, heat the oven to 350 deg F. Bake the rolls at 350 for 18-22 mins until the top gets a nice golden brown. Brush with butter and take the rolls out after 10 mins to cool.
Good luck!!

KAF blog:

Friday, November 26, 2010


Made a few bite-sized desserts for Thanksgiving dinner hosted by our cousins.
Miniature apple pies
Iced sugar cookies
Nutella Banana purses
Cake balls!
My friend Kalpana helped me make the iced cookies. We used the same fall leaf cutters that I used a few weeks ago. With 2 pairs of hands the decorating was super quick.
The mini-caramel apple pies were my Arsh's request...can't have Thanksgiving without apple pie he said. Recipe was Foodwishes chef John's caramel apple pie using pillsbury ready-made crust.
Cake Balls were the standard Bakerella recipe (Go to www.bakerella.com and you can't miss them) 1/2 chocolate and 1/2 chocolate raspberry flavored.

The banana nutella purses were the simplest to make. Usually I never keep Nutella at home since its detrimental to my own waistline. However I found Nutella on sale at Target last week so if there was such a time to buy it....
So I used Pepperidge farm puff pastry sheets. Rolled out one sheet in a square shape. Cut the sheet into 16 squares. Plopped about a teaspoonful of Nutella on each square and topped it with a thick slice of banana. Pulled up the corners and sealed it well by pressing together. Brushed the tops with egg wash and baked it at 400 deg for 15 mins. Drizzled with melted chocolate. My own review:
Presentation: 10/10
Ease of prep: 10/10
Taste: 7/10
I couldn't taste much of the Nutella or the banana in each bite. Need something to pump up the flavor. Hmm. Or perhaps I can roll out the sheets even thinner. BTW, don't forget to seal the purses tight or they open up during baking. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Soccer cake

This past weekend was the last soccer game of the season and we made this cake for the after-party.
The cake was a 3 layer 1/2 vanilla, 1/2 chocolate cake, like the last Chocolate cake but the layers were alternate chocolate and vanilla so everyone would get a little of both. The filling was the chocolate buttercream that's my current favorite (from Our Best Bites) and the exterior frosting was American buttercream from Seriouscake's recipe. The soccer ball hemisphere was made out of cake scraps mixed with leftover frosting, shaped, frozen, then iced with white buttercream and covered with fondant pentagons and hexagons. Getting them to line up and fit right was a struggle..but I had help from a pair of 8 year old hands :-)
The team shirts were fondant cutouts with the writing done with Americolor food writers.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chocolate cake with Strawberries

This cake was for a friend's office party. His co worker was getting married so this could be considered a groom's cake. We decided on a 1/2 vanilla, 1/2 chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and strawberries. Getting the cake to be 1/2 vanilla 1/2 chocolate ended up being the unexpected  challenge but thanks to the very informative forums on cakecentral.com it worked out well in the end.
The recipes I used for the cake were the yellow WASC cake which I have posted before and the Hershey's perfectly chocolate cake also posted in prior posts. The buttercream was the cooked chocolate frosting I posted recently. It's a real silky buttercream and a non-crusting kind which means I could not smooth it like I usually do. However I think I made up with the chocolate covered strawberries on top.
The strawberries are very easy to do if you have the right ingredients and method.

Some kind of chocolate (Chips, buttons, wafers etc)
Crisco or some kind of fat (maybe vegetable oil will work)
Prepare the strawberries:
Wash the strawberries and dry them thoroughly (I mean thoroughly else your chocolate will seize).
I used a hair dryer on cool temp to dry them off, thats after I wiped each one carefully with a paper towel.
Prepare the chocolate: 
You can buy the Dolci Frutta containers at any grocery store. They usually display them right next to the berries or in the baking aisle. They're chocolate wafers in a microwaveable paper container. Or you can buy the candy melts in various colors from Michaels or any craft store or even Party City. I used Dolci for the dark and light cocoa candy melts for the light ones on the cake.
You can even use chocolate chips but they melt quite thick. For all kinds of chocolate melt them at 30-40% power at 30 second bursts, stirring to disperse the heat until they are melted  smooth. Make sure the chocolate does not get too hot or it will scorch/burn/seize. Also no moisture of any kind must get into it or it will seize so make sure everything you use is dry. If the chocolate is thick and not pourable, add about 1/2 tsp crisco and stir it well (carefully so as to not get air bubbles in). 
Once the chocolate is smooth, somewhat pourable, you're ready to dip.
Hold the fruit by the leaves, dip into the chocolate, roll it around to get a good coat. Shake or tap it to drop the excess and place on a wax paper to dry.
It should firm up in about 10 mins or place in the refrigerator for 2-3 mins.
For the white drizzle, melt white chips or wafers, add crisco to thin, put in a ziploc bag, snip a tiny part of the corner off. Test the drizzle on wax paper and then drizzle across the strawberries.
That's it! Its very easy to do once you get the hang of working with chocolate and have them on hand.

One more note:  The strawberries are best eaten immediately or within a few hours of making them. After 8-9 hours, I have noticed they begin to let out some moisture and they don't look as good.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cream Cheese Brownies

This is my current favorite recipe...and it has held its position since the last year or so. Its somewhere between fudgey and cakey with lots of chocolate bits, so it seems to be well liked by everyone. It can be made pretty quickly too since you don't need to soften the butter. It usually takes me about 30 mins or less to prep and mix and 30-35 mins to bake.

For the chocolate part:
4 oz semi sweet chocolate (4x1 oz Baker's Semi Sweet chocolate squares)
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter (salted)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup chocolate chips (I use milk chocolate chips)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt
1 tbsp instant coffee (optional)

For the cream cheese part:
8 oz or 1 block of cream cheese softened
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350 deg.

Put the chocolate squares and butter in a saucepan and melt on lowest flame. I'm supposed to chop the chocolate but I've been lazy of late and I dump it all in and compensate by some more frequent stirring so it doesn't burn. Make sure it doesn't get too hot.

Meanwhile beat the eggs and sugar until light and creamy (about 3-4 minutes). Note: Its best for eggs to be at room temp for baking anything. I usually take the eggs out of the fridge and submerge them in a bowl of  warm water for a couple of minutes since I'm always baking at short notice.

Once the egg sugar mixture is light and creamy, add the vanilla, salt and instant coffee powder and stir. Coffee seems to enhance or deepen the chocolate flavor but the brownies come out good even without it.
Now add the butter and chocolate mixture while stirring (to avoid cooking the eggs)

Fold in the flour with a spatula but don't over do it, just 15 strokes should be enough. Add the chocolate chips (reserve a few to sprinkle on top) and fold a few times. Stir or fold just enough so no streaks or lumps of flour can be seen. Too much mixing will result in a tougher brownie. In fact, I do everything by hand once I begin adding flour.

Another note about flour: Measure flour by spooning it into a cup and leveling off. Dragging a cup through flour will pack it with too much flour resulting in a denser brownie. Also I sift flour by dumping the cup into a big strainer over my mixing bowl..its much faster. Nowadays, I find that just whisking the flour also aerates it enough so I don't need to sift unless I'm making a light airy cake.

Line a 13x9 pan with a long piece of aluminium foil leaving some extra overhang over 2 sides to use as handles later and spray well with Pam. Dump the chocolate mixture into it spreading it to reach the sides.

Now blend the cream cheese and sugar well until relatively smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and blend at medium speed just enough to incorporate the egg. Stir a few times with the spatula so any cream cheese along the sides of the bowl mixes in.

Plop giant spoonfuls into the chocolate mixture and then drag the end of a butter knife through the white and dark patches to swirl and marble the mixture. Sprinkle the reserved chocolate chips over the top for a nice contrast.

Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes or so. Check at about 30 mins. A toothpick poked in the center and pulled out should have sticky crumbs on it..but should not look like batter (underdone) and should not pull out clean (overdone). I always err on the underdone side since it will continue to cook for a few minutes as it cools.

After about 10-20 mins of cooling, pull the brownie slab out with the aluminium foil overhang. Cut with a serrated knife into small squares.

Variations: You can skip the cream cheese part and they still yield some awesome chocolate brownies. Add chopped walnuts for some crunch or mint chips for a chocolate-mint version.

I'll update this post with pictures later. I forgot to take any pics this time!

Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.