28 Aug 2011

Baked Yoghurt with Cinnamon

This is easily the easiest dessert I have made in a fairly long time. It’s something that can be cooked on the spur of the moment and barely takes any time at all. And so creamy and light with a delicious cinnamony taste. You can make so many variations too! Use a vanilla pod, saffron, cardamom, nutmeg, and just about any kind of fruit.

I had read the recipe somewhere but had never got around to trying it out. It was only when I heard my grandmother complaining of the amount of curd we waste everyday that I suddenly remembered I could make this. Since I didn’t have the recipe written down and all I could remember were the ingredients and that they were to be mixed in equal quantities, I decided to try out a little experiment without resorting to the internet to bail me out as always. What followed was a most beautiful, elegant and refined dessert. And I just loved the lovely specks of cinnamon in it!

 So what I did was mix together equal quantities of yoghurt, condensed milk and cream with a bit of cinnamon. And then I had no idea how to bake it! I thought of using a water bath in the oven but gave up just because I was lazy (if you try it out, do let me know). Finally I just baked it normally for 20 minutes.

My experiment – before stirring in the cinnamon, I had kept a bit of the cream - yoghurt mix aside. I mixed in some canned blueberries into this and popped it into the oven for 15 minutes. When I took it out to check, it had a small puddle of water on the top (I’m not sure why this is, it may be because I used homemade yoghurt that has a lot of water). So I scooped that out and found though the top had slightly set, there was water underneath. I stirred the whole thing and scooped out the rest of the water. The mix had now become grainy. I put it back into the oven for another 15 minutes. This was delicious though not as creamy as the cinnamon yoghurt. Though it was grainy and curdled, I was quite surprised at how great it was to eat!

Baked Yoghurt

Makes 3 large bowls or 6 small bowls


200 gms yoghurt
200 gms cream
200 gms condensed milk
1 tsp cinnamon


  1. Preheat the oven to 120 C / 250 F
  2. Stir the yoghurt well so that no lumps remain.
  3. Stir in the cinnamon.
  4. Mix in the condensed milk and cream.
  5. Divide the mixture into the bowls and bake for 15 – 20 minutes.
  6. Refrigerate it and serve cold.

20 Aug 2011

Double Chocolate Chip Shortbread

This shortbread reminds me of the Amul advertisement. It is utterly butterly delicious, my friend. And to think that I cringed when I read the amount of butter in the recipe. And then cringed some more while weighing and transferring it to the mixing bowl. Don’t go by its homely and plain appearance. It’s the most crisp and utterly butterly piece of shortbread/ cookie I have had in a long time. What, do you need proof of that? Fine. While the first batch was baking and cooling, I took the rest of the dough and made these really cute animal shapes with it for my little cousins. I was determined that the shapes should come out perfect and put a lot of effort into it. But alas, I was so consumed by eating the first batch that I completely forgot about the second one baking in the oven and they were burnt to a crisp! I am in fact nibbling on one while writing this.

Now, what is the difference between a shortbread and cookie, you ask? A shortbread is more crumbly and has a lot more butter than the traditional cookie. A shortbread has to be chilled and rolled out whereas a cookie need not be rolled. The texture of the two also differs – a shortbread is thicker and denser than a cookie.

Since this recipe is originally by Dorie Greenspan it had to be fail proof. But just to double to fun I used salted butter instead of unsalted and added about 40 gms of grated semi sweet chocolate to the dough. I skipped the espresso but put in ¼ teaspoon dissolved in some warm water with the vanilla if you are fond of coffee. I also put them back into the oven for 3 mins, 5 mins after taking it out! Turns out to be much crisper that way!

Try variations with almonds, hazelnuts, butterscotch and just plain chocolate chips without the grated chocolate.

Double Chocolate Chip Shortbread

 Yields 16 cookies


1 stick / 115 gms salted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup + 2/3 tablespoon / 65 gms castor sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup / 125 gms flour
1/2 cup / 60 gms chocolate chips
1/3 cup / 40 gms grated chocolate
Icing sugar for dusting (optional)

1.                  Beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Beat in the vanilla (and espresso, if you are using). Add the flour, mixing only until it disappears into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate with a rubber or silicone spatula.
2.                  Using the spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag (I used parchment paper since I did not have a zip lock bag. You can even substitute with cling wrap). Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a rectangle that’s 1/2 inch thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days ( I froze mine for 8 hours).
3.                  Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 F/160C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
4.                  Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 – 1.5 inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet.
5.                  Bake for 15-17 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The shortbreads will be dark brown–they are not burnt. It's just the colour from the grated chocolate. Transfer the cookies to a rack.
6.                  If you’d like, dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar while they are still hot. Cool the cookies to room temperature before serving.

14 Aug 2011

Lime Cranberry Muffins

When my grandma got a packet of dried cranberries from the US, I had a huge dilemma. Since cranberries are not accessible in India and I love them, I wanted to make something perfect (and infallible) so that the fruit wouldn’t get wasted in a batch of failed baked goods! So I scoured the internet and found this recipe for lemon raspberry muffins. And my, they were as lip-smacking as they sounded. Sure, I had to change a few things (like raspberries!) around due to a lack of available ingredients but they were still yummy.

But wait a minute. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is just some sweet innocent vanilla muffin that has a lime flavor. There is nothing innocent about this muffin. This will hit you in the face and kick your ***, mistah. Slightly bitter, intense and tangy all at once! 

The last time I had made these they were a little bitter for my taste, so this time I added 1/8th of a cup of sugar. I also added a few drops of lime juice. This recipe called for buttermilk but I substituted it for a cup of well stirred yoghurt. Buttermilk is the slightly sour liquid that remains after butter is churned. It cannot be found in India but the good news is that you can substitute a cup of buttermilk with a cup of yoghurt or a cup of milk that has 2 teaspoonfuls of lime juice. See homecooking for some ideas on buttermilk substitutions.

Oh, and the bottom becomes all brown and crispy after baking. I wouldn’t worry about it being burnt – it isn’t and just thinking about this makes me miss them (they got over as soon as they were out of the oven).

Lime Cranberry Muffins
Adapted from smitten kitchen
Makes 10

125 gms sugar (powdered)
125 gms flour
125 gms yoghurt
1 egg
60 gms salted butter
2 tsp finely grated lime peel
A few drops of lime juice
1 1/4th baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
30 – 40 gms cranberries (I used the dried ones)  

1.Preheat oven to 375°F/ 190 degrees celcius. Line 10 standard muffin cups with paper liners.
2. Mash 1/8 cup sugar, lemon juice and lemon peel in small bowl until sugar is slightly moist.
Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend.
3. Using electric mixer, beat remaining 1 cup sugar and butter in large bowl until smooth.
4. Beat in egg. Beat in buttermilk, then vanilla and lemon sugar.
5. Beat in flour mixture.
6. Fold in cranberries.
7. Divide batter among muffin cups (the 2/3-3/4 level worked well for me). Top each large muffin with 1 cranberry.
8. Bake muffins until lightly browned on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.
9. Eat hot from the oven!

11 Aug 2011

Tomato and Red Lentil Soup

This is Lebanese style tomato soup! When my mom first told me about this recipe she had learnt at cooking class, I knew I had to try it. I normally don’t like lentils so much and the ‘dal’ my mom tries to force feed me everyday. So having given up on that, she has started making this soup often so that I have the required amount of proteins in my system. It is delicious and very nutritious. So I thought, why not try it and combine both healthy and yummy. And if it gives off a lovely fragrance in the bargain, I’m not complaining.

Anything that consists of lentils poses a challenge for me but this time the pressure cooker did all the work and they didn’t have to be soaked either! All I had to do was chop up some tomatoes and throw it together with the lentils in a pressure cooker. Blend it, but do not strain. Cook the onions and spices and add the tomato – lentil mix along with a little water. Let it simmer and take it off. Garnish, and that’s it!

 Did you know that Lebanese food requires quite a bit of cumin powder just like our regular Indian home food? It’s pretty thick, so add a bit of water if you want thin soup. Also, the secret ingredient in this recipe is the sambal oelek that gives it the perfect tang. If you would like it to be spicier go ahead and add a few more green chillies!

 Tomato and Red Lentil Soup, Lebanese Style

Adapted from ‘Isha’s Cuisines’

Serves 4 – 5 people

1 tbsp – olive oil (I add a bit more, just because olive oil is always good)
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly crushed
1 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp sambal oelek
5-6 large tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bowl (about 100 gms) red lentils (masoor dal) – this does not need to be soaked
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
Hung yogurt and coriander leaves for the garnish

For the sambal oelek:
Grind 2 – 3 green chillies, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp sugar.

  1. Boil together the lentils and tomatoes in a pressure cooker for 2 whistles. ( I add a cup of water to this)
  2. Heat oil in a pan and add onions, garlic, spices and sambal oelek. Cook till onions are soft.
  3. Then add the lentil and tomato mixture along with a little water. Add the sugar and salt.
  4. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes.
  5. Garnish with hung yogurt and coriander leaves.

10 Aug 2011

Brownies from the Baked boys

‘Forging new frontiers in baking since 2005,’ says their website. And, oh yes, they are. Forging new frontiers I mean. If these brownies are anything to go by it. These are decadent prizewinning brownies by the Baked boys – Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, who opened shop in NYC and are the authors of the amazing book, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.

These brownies are a slice of heaven. I don’t remember the number of requests I have had for them since I made them for the first time a few months ago. Ask Oprah. They are her favourite. Give the dry, cakey or super gooey brownies with icing a miss and try these. Trust me, they are the ultimate.

I made only half the recipe and am already regretting it. I usually make small changes in recipes while baking but this time I followed the recipe to a T. (I added a bit of salt even though I was already using salted butter). Instead of granulated sugar as the recipe suggests, I ground it so that it becomes easier to combine and dissolve in the chocolate – butter mixture.

Top them with walnuts, chocolate chips and eat them with ice cream. Or not. They are addictive even by themselves.  
 Supremely Decadent Chocolatey Fudgy Brownies

Makes 24 bars

1-1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons dark cocoa powder
11 ounces quality dark chocolate (60-72%), chopped coarsely
8 ounces butter (2 sticks), cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. Line 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper or simply butter it.
2. Whisk together the flour, the salt, and cocoa powder. (if you are using salted butter, use only a tiny pinch of salt).
3. Place the chocolate, the butter, and the instant espresso powder in a bowl and double boil it. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler and add both sugars. Whisk the sugars until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. Mixture should be room temperature.
4. Add three eggs to the chocolate/butter mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not over beat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
5. Sprinkle the flour/cocoa/salt mix over the chocolate. Using a spatula fold the dry into the wet until there is just a trace amount of the flour/cocoa mix visible. Again, do not overbeat.
6. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake the brownies for 30 minutes (rotate the pan half-way through baking) and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
7. Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving.

9 Aug 2011

Mexican Hot Cocoa

Its been pouring in Calcutta the past few days and I have been nursing a cough. Any kind of a cough and cold makes me crave for a hot drink and I certainly didn’t need another excuse to open my tin of Ghirardelli Hot Cocoa that foodie just got me.

 So let’s be clear. Ghirardelli cocoa is the best chocolate. EVER. And this drink even beats the Parisian hot chocolate I made – one with pure melted chocolate and milk. This is officially the best hot chocolate drink ever. If you don’t have Ghirardelli, don’t be disheartened. Cadbury’s cocoa powder works just as well. Just add a bit of sugar to it according to taste.

 I had grand plans of using my Ikea Milk Frother to make the most awesome froth and of whipping up a whole lot of cream for the garnish. But it didn’t happen. I got one whiff of the smell and I just had to drink it up then and there. At this point I think I need to apologize for the photos as well. It’s only because of my impatience to drink it up then and there. Do I keep mentioning this? Sorry. But can you imagine what can be better than a mix of chocolate and cinnamon? Add a bit of almond extract, a hint of coffee and some red chilly powder and you will know.
Please, please do try this at home. You will thank me. And it’s so simple too – ‘cooking engineer style’ all the way!

Mexican Hot Cocoa

Makes 1 large cup

Adapted from the back of the Ghirardelli chocolate tin

1 ½ cups milk
2 tablespoons Ghirardelli hot cocoa (I used the chocolate mocha flavor. You can use Cadbury’s cocoa powder as well, but use only 1 ½ tablespoons).
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/8th teaspoon almond extract
1 tiny pinch red chilly powder
1 tablespoon whipped cream
¼th teaspoon of coffee powder (only if using plain cocoa)

  1. Heat the milk.
  2. Stir in the cocoa, cinnamon powder, almond extract and red chilly powder.
  3. Add a dollop of whipped cream. Stir. Drink while still hot.  

Cherry Cream Tarts

Think of summer. Think of a cool summer breeze and deliciously sweet summer fruits. This is just what this tart is – they’re as light as a breeze with a fluff of whipped cream and a hint of cherries. Each one is tiny, bite sized to be precise. I just kept popping them into my mouth one hot summer afternoon after I had eaten a heavy meal and wanted some dessert (“but something not too sweet or heavy, please!”). They were over in a flash and this time I did not even pretend like I wanted to save some for the family. 
They’re so light and creamy and SO simple to make. All you need are cream and a bowl of cherries. I used the canned variety as the fresh ones were a little sour for my taste. But if you want to use the fresh ones, I’m sure they’ll taste great as well. Sour cherries with cream – they sound good and would provide a balance to the sweetness of the cream.

The tart base is easy though I really need to practice more to get the perfect tart. Oh, and always use ice cold water to make the dough. That is, more ice and less water. The dough should not be sticky so use only one spoonful of water at a time. Another important thing to remember while making tarts is that the dough should never rise while baking. So prick it all over with a fork after pressing it into the tart cases. Then collect a mix of pulses and put some over it before putting it into the oven. This is called blind baking.
 Also, make sure that you pit the cherries and put together the puree before you start whipping the cream. The whipped cream has a slight tendency to melt if left out of the refrigerator (a fact I had forgotten until I was reminded by a mess of melting cream in my bowl). You can also adjust the quantity of cherries that you put in according to your taste. This recipe gives a nice not overpowering flavor. After that, you just have to assemble it all together. Easy- peasy.

 Cherry Cream Tarts

Makes 12 – 15 small tarts

For the tart base

100 gms plain flour
50 gms butter
A pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)
Ice cold water to make a dough

  1. Preheat the oven.
  2. Sieve the flour with the salt.
  3. Rub in the butter and make a dough using ice cold water.
  4. Roll out the dough.
  5. Cut into desired size and press into tart cases. Prick with a fork. This is to prevent the dough from rising.
  6. Bake blind in an oven at 230 degree Celsius/ 450 degree Fahrenheit for 10 minutes
  7. Take them out of the oven and remove the pulses. Bake for another 3 - 4 minutes. Keep a check! They shouldn't burn. 
  8. Cool the tart cases.

For the cream filling
120 gms cream
30 grams pitted cherries
A drop of vanilla essence/ cherry brandy (optional)

  1. Pit some of the cherries and puree them. Pour in a spoonful of the can syrup as well.
  2. Whip the cream.
  3. add the pureed mixture to it.


  1. Put a few pieces of cherries into each tart case.
  2. use a piping bag to pipe out the cherry flavoured cream
  3. put a piece of cherry on top and voila! It’s done.