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As I promised in my last post, here is the recipe for the wonderful Salted Caramel Lava Cake I made on the evening of my book club get together. Couple of months ago for my birthday, my children made me a wonderful lunch of Stuffed Gnocchi and Salted Caramel Lava Cake. I’d seen many molten lava cake blog posts, sighed at the beautiful pictures knowing that it was not in my destiny to make these exotic gooey cakes. Firstly, I am not into baking, secondly I avoid recipes with eggs. However I was so inspired by the kiddies effort and their creativity in making a salted caramel version [because I love salted caramel much, much more than chocolate] that I decided to give it a try. But they hadn’t saved the recipe!  

Well, that gave me an excuse to blog surf for lava cake posts. What a wonderful chore it was! I found two chocolate lava cake recipes which I used as a guide to make my Salted Caramel Lava Cakes.

I combined the method I found here [I simplified it further by skipping the step of seperating eggs] on Pioneer Woman’s blog and the recipe ingredients I found on Show me the Curry website. I chose the first for it’s simple dump and stir method and the second for the lesser quantity of ingredients used for 4 cup cakes when comparing other similar recipes. I slipped in bits of caramel squares in the batter and Voila! you have a dreamy,                                 

Salted Caramel Lava Cake.                                 

 

Ingredients

4 oz of semi-sweet baking chocolate squares [113 grams]

4 oz of butter [1 stick or 113 grams]

1/3 cup of sugar or icing sugar 

2  large eggs

1/3 cup A P flour [All purpose white flour]

Some butter for greasing 4, 3 inch diameter, ramekins

6-8 caramel squares

a little rock salt/sea salt

100% cocoa powder for dusting ramekins, optional

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 deg [218 deg celsius]

Butter the ramekins. Dust with cocoa powder[optional]

Cut each caramel square into a few smaller pieces and press some salt onto them and set aside. If you leave them whole they might not melt all the way through.

Microwave the chocolate squares and butter for one minute in a large bowl. The chocolate will not have completely melted at this point. Whisk till the chocolate and butter combine.

Add the sugar and mix it in.

Whisk in the eggs and incorporate.

Stir in the flour. Work the flour in gently to combine. 

Divide batter among the 4 ramekins.

Gently push the salted caramel bits into the batter covering them.

Place ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake between 10-14 minutes. The cake is ready when it has a domed appearance, the center is a little moist and the edges of the cake, dry and firm.                                                                                                                                                                                                        Remove from the oven, insert a knife and go around the cake, invert onto serving plates, garnish wth salt and serve.                                                                                                 

  • Food Notes
  • This is a very forgiving recipe and you can’t go wrong with this cake. Please do keep this in your repetoire. For very little time and effort you get outstanding results each and every time.
  • You can make the batter ahead of time and refrigerate it. I’ve baked it after 3 three days. Not necessary to get to room temperature, just leave it out for a little while. You can even put it in a prepared ramekin, refrigerate and bake directly after you have set it out for a little bit.
  • You can freeze the batter. Thaw and bake. You can also freeze in prepared ramekins, then thaw and bake, though the cake didn’t rise as much.            
  • You can spike it with liquor.                                                                          
  • If you have left the cake in the oven for a bit too long, it might not have a runny center but the inside will still be moist and fudgy and still yummy.
  • The same recipe bakes equally well in a mini muffin pan. I set the temperature to 350 degrees [180degrees celcius] and baked for 10-12 minutes.                           
  • For a chocolate lava cake, just omit the caramel squares.                  

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.

UPDATE; I used ‘Fleur De Sel Caramel’ from Trader Joe’s and I got much better results than Kraft Caramel Squares which I used originally. I didn’t have to cut up the caramels as I did with Kraft and the center was unbelievably gooey.

I am adding a link to  Grace’s blog post on this cake. She is a reader who has shown  step by step photos of the making of this cake. Please drop by her charming blog and see the recipe come alive.

http://graceyounglee.blogspot.com/2012/11/salted-caramel-lava-cake.html

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Every month at my children’s school we host a special event for the entire school staff. This is our way, from the parent’s side to say thank you to them for putting up with our children!

This month we will be doing a south of the border themed event for ‘Cinco de Mayo’ which translated in spanish, means the 5 th of May. This day is celebrated in th U.S to commemorate Mexican pride and heritage. In schools across the U.S there will be educational, cultural and other fun activities highlighting Mexican culture on this day.

So I started testing recipes a few days ago to see what I wanted to serve for our staff of about 220 for an afternoon snack. One of the recipes I worked on was inspired by “Churros’ . These are lightly sweetened dough piped into long ribbed shapes in hot oil, fried golden brown and dusted with cinnamon sugar. These treats from Spain made their way to South America and are a very popular snack there.

Now if I could only skip the making of the dough and frying. Enter puff pastry sheets and baking! I got a batch of sample Churros from Costco and truth be told the baked “imitation” Churros were a pretty good matchup. With this humble puff pastry sheet you can turn out wonderful twisted cinnamon sticks in no time at  all.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

                                                                                                                                               

Churros from Costco on the left and my cinnamon sticks on the right.                                                                                       

                                                                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                                                                          Ingredients

1 Frozen Puff Pastry Sheet

1 and 1/2 tbs sugar + 1/4 tbs [heaped] cinnamon powder, mixed together

A few teaspoons heavy cream                                                                                          

Preparation                                                                                                                              

Thaw out the puff pastry sheet according to package directions. Gently roll out the creases [ shown in the earlier picture ] with a rolling pin. You can roll the sheet to make it thinner. Just be gentle when stretching it out.

Next score the pastry sheet in the middle to serve as a guide to help you  fold. Then dip a pastry brush in some heavy cream and brush on all four edges of the sheet. This is to help seal the edges for later.                                                                                                                            

                                                                                                                                               Take your cinnamon sugar and sprinkle all over the sheet, reserving about a teaspoon of the mixture for later. Gently press the sugar onto the sheet with your fingertips or you can press with a rolling pin.                                         

                                                                                                                                                        

Now using the scored line as a guide fold one half over the other and press the edges to seal.                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                                                        Gently go over with a rolling pin to glue both sides together. I cut out 1/2 inch strips of the folded dough and started twising each strip.

                                                                                                                                                      Hey, why not some sugar love on the outside as well I thought to myself. So I brushed  more heavy cream on the strips and sprinkled it with sugar. Now of course I was on a mission to dust every surface with cinnamon sugar. I carefully turned all the  strips over to the other side, brushed and sprinkled them also. When twisting each strip make sure you pinch both ends so they don’t open up during baking.                                                                                                                                                                         

                                                                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                                                           

Line a baking pan with parchment paper and lay all the strips with a little room to groove and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes.                                                                                                                                  

                                                                                                                                                          

Mmmmmmm…                                                                                                                        

See this video tutorial on how to make Puff Pastry Twists.

Thanks for dropping by and Happy Cinco de Mayo.

Best, S.                                                                                                                                           

                                                                                                                                                                                  

 

                                                                                                                                                    After a long hiatus I baked fresh bread for Thanksgiving this year. A flood of memories from my baking days gently washed over me. Snapshots of a peaceful island life flitted before my mind’s eye. My first ever encounter with an oven, my bread perfectly timed to go into it as the baby stirred from an afternoon nap …….

We were living in the tiny island country of Nauru, just a mere 21 sq miles of a speck in the South Pacific. It was also my first experience with survivalist type of living, only I didn’t know it at that time. The island was so tiny and cut off, we had to import every necessity. We were dependant on ships for our goods and the few weekly passenger flights that brought in our perishables. Lore had it that there was a time just before we arrived, that there was no milk for several months, all the hoarded UHT milk hard run out and I was advised to stock up as I had a baby. I remember stocking 12 cases of milk [144, I liter cartons!] and buying large 10-20 pounds of bags of flour! So you see bread making became an almost necessary daily ritual.

I used to bake with a recipe that came either with the bag of flour or the yeast packet and this is the same recipe I used this Thanksgiving. The slow focused meditative kneading, the quiet satisfaction of seeing a fully risen dough and the wonder of pulling a freshly baked bread out an oven, it was as if nothing had changed.

For some years now a ‘bread stuffing’  has been the only constant item in our TG meal, but this time I decided to experiment with a ’stuffed bread’. I made rolls from the same bread recipe and stuffed them with sautéed apples and craisins. Well let me not ramble on any more.

Stuffed  Pull-Aparts Rolls

For The Rolls

4 cups unbleached bread flour

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 and 1/2 teaspoon butter

1 and 1/2 cups lukewarm water

Preparation

Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix it so that the yeast is distributed evenly. Then add the butter and rub into the flour. Make a well in the center and add the lukewarm water and pull the flour in and mix till you get a dough ball. The dough will be sticky in some parts and dry and flaky in others.                                                                                                                                                


                                                                                                                                                       Put the dough on a lightly floured counter and knead until the dough is silky and smooth to the touch. This should take about 10-12 minutes.

Here is how I knead the dough, again according to the tips in my little booklet.

Make the above dough into a ball. Then place both hands on dough and gently roll back and forth till you roll it out into a cylinder.

                                                                                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                                          

Gently flatten and rotate 90 degrees and start rolling the dough, starting from the corner farthermost from you and rolling towards you, like this till you get a ball of dough.

                                                                                                                                                           Start once again with your hands on this dough and repeat the kneading process another 10-12 times till you get a smooth and silky ball of dough. Put this in a large bowl.

                                                                                                                                                           Cover with a damp cloth large enough to allow for the dough to double in size. Set this in a warm place, undisturbed for about an hour. This is how it will look.

                                                                                                                                                           After the dough has risen, gently knock the dough to let the gases out and portion out about 16 -18 rolls.[About 70 grams each] Knead each roll a couple of times and let them rest for about 10 minutes under a damp cloth. Now these rolls are ready to be stuffed.

For The Stuffing

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup finely diced onions

1/4 cup finely diced celery

1/4 cup of [apple cider + cranberry juice mixture]

1/2 cup chopped Granny Smith apples with skin on

1/4 cup craisins

Herbs of your choice [I used 10 purple sage leaves]

Salt and pepper to taste.

For The Glazing

A little mixture of butter and milk for brushing the tops of the rolls.

Preparation

Melt butter and sauté celery and onion on a low flame till soft. Add the apples, herbs, salt and pepper and saute some more. Keep adding the juice mixture to prevent the stuffing from drying out and cook  till the vegetables are of a moist spoonable consistancy. Add the craisins and adjust for seasonings and turn the heat off.  Cool to room temperature.

Stuffing The Rolls

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Now take each roll after it has rested for 10 minutes and knead them again 3-4 times [use the same technique as before]. Then flatten out each roll and stuff about 1/2 a tablespoon of the stuffing. Close over the filling, roll to form a nice ball.

                                                                                                                                                            Brush a baking pan with melted butter and dust with flour. Place the rolls seam side down with a little room to grow between rolls. Brush tops gently with the butter and milk glaze. [I decorated with some rosrmary] Cover with damp cloth and let the dough rise once again in a warm place till doubled in size, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.  

                                                                                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                                                     

Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 17-20 minutes. The rolls are done when they sound hollow when tapped and the crust is golden brown.

                                                                                                                                                                 It is as if the flood gates have opened since I made these rolls for this Thanksgiving. I have made lots more rolls and breads, stuffed them with olive cheese mixtures, brown butter raisins, dolce de leche and I am dreaming of new fillings everyday! Thankfully for me and others around me, I will move on to some other cooking related frenzy or project and return to a more normal  bread making schedule.                                                                                                            

                                                                                                    

Food Notes.

 

  • There are many no knead recipes which require a lot less elbow grease but this is the recipe I started with when I baked my first ever bread and here I have used it to make rolls. Please experiment with other recipes and different types of flour. The kneading technique is also from the booklet where this recipe came from, again you can knead it any other way but I was enjoying the whole experience of reconnecting with those early bread making memories.

 

  •  Generally you have to proof your yeast, which is putting the yeast along with the sugar in some warm water. The yeast gets activated and froths up and this helps the bread rise. In this recipe the results are similar with or without proofing.

 

    • The dough needs a temperature of about 80 degrees F. The best way to create this temperature is in the oven. I turn the oven on and let it get warm enough[determined by the hand test], then turn it off and put the dough in. This creates a warm draft free environment for the dough to rise.

Thanks for dropping by.

Best, S.

 Submitting this to Yeastspotting

 

For our simple Thanksgiving meal I wanted to make a corn based dish as a nod to the long and interesting history between corn and The Americas. Corn or maize was native to the Americas. It is thought to have been domesticated by the people living in the region of present day Mexico about 8000- 10,000 years ago. It was originally a wild grass plant and the natives of this region cultivated and developed it or in other words domesticated it for their consumption. From this region it spread to the rest of the American continent and to Europe through trade contact and exploration around 15th century and from there to the rest of the world. Today the U.S. is the biggest producer of corn.

Corn is believed to have been on the menu of the first [officially recognized] Thanksgiving. The pilgrims who left England in 1620 to flee religious persecution in their native England harvested their first corn crop in America in 1621 with the help of native Americans who taught them how to cultivate it. Thanksgiving was basically a harvest festival of giving thanks to having a successful crop in the ‘New world’.

Incongruous as it may sound, my mother used to make ‘Corn au gratin’ way back  when everyone else around us was eating traditional South Indian fare. So it was an easy dish for me to pick for our meal. W W N A D [ what would Native Americans do] if they had to make this dish in their time. Use buffalo milk, probably corn flour to bind the gratin and kept it simple. I used 1% milk + buttermilk, Masa flour, salt and pepper and cooked it in an oven instead of a pit in the ground. So here is my ode to the corn.

Corn au Gratin

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup milk [I used 1% milk]

2 tablespoons Masa flour [see Food Notes] or substitute flour

2 cups of mixed white and yellow frozen corn kernels

1/4 cup buttermilk

Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Melt the butter in a pan over medium flame. Add the milk and the Masa flour and whisk continuously till it thickens, about 3-4 minutes. Turn the stove off. Add the corn, salt, pepper and buttermilk. Incorporate everything together. Pour into a baking dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for about half an hour to 40 minutes till the gratin is bubbling nicely. Turn the oven off and turn the broiler on and broil the gratin till you get nice black spots on the surface. Remove and let it sit for a few minutes before serving. You can skip the broiling step, but I think it gives the dish great visual appeal.

Stove Top Version

You can also make a stove top version like my mother used to. Just continue cooking once you’ve added the corn till it is cooked through. You may need to add a little bit more milk so it dosen’t get too thick. Wait for it to cool down, it will set nicely. We used to spread it over toast.

Food Notes

Masa is flour made from corn that has been treated with lime. The native Americans learned to treat corn this way in order to make more readily available, some of the amino acids that would have otherwise been inert to the human digestive system.  Another way they learned to compensate for the lack of these amino acids in untreated corn was to combine it in their diets with beans, fish, amaranth etc  to get the complete range of amino acids required for a balanced diet [See here for more on protein for vegetarians]

Thanks for dropping by

Best, S.

Every Thanksgiving for the last 14 years that we’ve lived in the U.S, we’ve always spent it with family and friends. It was a little sad going into this year knowing we would be spending it by ourselves as the regulars have all moved away. But little did I know that I would be sharing with a bigger crowd; all of you who are reading this.

                                                                                                                                                 Ironically our very first TG, we went hungry! We along with two other families decided to take advantage of the long weekend and head out to Washington D.C from Indiana where we were living at that time. We were fresh off the boat as they say, we had just made our own ‘pilgrim’s journey’ from England and did not know E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G would be closed on TG day. We were driving for about 11- 12 hours, the roads were deserted and nothing was open and that’s how we all came to celebrate our very first Thanksgiving. On the road; hungry, cold and tired! Of course we got smart by the time the next year rolled around and we dived right into all the TG shopping festivities like true locals.
Our TG meals are of course vegetarian but no tofurky, thank you very much. Somehow a bread stuffing has become a keeper year over year but everything else changes and I have a lot of fun creating dishes with all the familiar flavors and themes of Thanksgiving.

                                                                                                                                                  This year I felt like going with the ‘less is more’ theme. I made a corn dish as a nod to the grain[maize] that was a staple to native Americans, my ‘bread stuffing’ took the form of a ‘stuffed bread’ and some salad greens from my garden. The roasted sweet and red potato was made entirely by ‘numero uno’ who would be my first born, sibling to ‘second to none’ . It is best I give them some anonymity so they can be protected from my blabbing!  A maple flavored dessert to end the meal and that’s how simple our TG lunch was.

Menu

Sparkling Cranberry/ Apple Cider

Corn Au Gratin

Stuffed Roll Pull Aparts

Oven Roasted Sweet And Red Potatoes

Salad Greens With Cranapple Dressing

Maple Syrup Pudding

Will post some of the recipes in the next few posts.

Thanks for dropping by

Best, S.

                                                                                                                                                                  I

I am not a baker and never will be one, as I am missing the ‘Perfectionist’ gene. I mean, I do on rare occasions stick things in the oven that do not involve careful measuring. I generally don’t stock eggs so basically it is mostly savory dishes or the occasional birthday cake that I bake. You are probably thinking it should bode well for our waist lines but no, it hasn’t worked out that way!

I do experiment a lot with buttermilk and yogurt as substitutes for eggs. See here for my eggless spinach pancake recipe. Last couple of weeks I have been working with strained yogurt in baking. I developed a  super simple recipe and it has passed the taste test of a bunch of kids who stayed over after a Harry Potter movie viewing this past weekend.

                                                                                                                                                           For the Pomegranate Yogurt Custard/Pudding

1/4 cup strained yogurt + 2 tablespoons {Fage 2%, you can use homemade strained yogurt or Labneh}

1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons of pomegranate juice {I used freshly squeezed}

2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

Preparation

 Preheat oven to 350

Line a mini muffin pan with cup cake liners.

Keep an oven proof glass baking dish larger than the muffin pan ready.

                                                                                                                                                          Whisk  the first three ingredients thoroughly to blend. Then add the seeds. Pour a tablespoon and a half of the mixture in each of the cupcake liners. Place the muffin pan in the baking dish. Pour water in the baking dish such that water comes up to less than half way up to the muffin pan.

                                                                                                                                                           Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. The custard/pudding will begin to get firm. Gently remove the pudding cups from the muffin pan and place on a tray and allow to cool. Refrigerate it for at least three hours. The pudding will have firmed up. Serve as is or peel the liner off very gently and plate it. Decorate with pomegranate seeds if you wish. These taste like little cheesecake bites and you’ll never know it is eggless or made from yogurt.

                                                                                                                                                            Sending this off to Monthly Mingle “Fruit in Baking’ Event hosted by baker extraordinaire Deeba of  Passionate about baking.

Another variation of my yogurt pudding, Maple infused with a walnut, maple sauce. Just substituted maple syrup for the pom juice.

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                           Food Notes

  1. If there is too much water in the yogurt {not strained enough} you might see clear liquid pooling around the yogurt bites. Just  move the pieces onto another plate. Fresh pom juice being very thin, dilutes this recipe, so you might see some pooling around this recipe too. With the maple pudding I didn’t see any, probably because the syrup is not as runny.
  2. You can also bake these directly in ramekins and serve it chilled.

Thanks for dropping by.

Best, S.

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