Sunday, November 18, 2007

How about using hand crafted gum paste flowers as centerpiece?

Let me make a quick post today, with a quick question :) How about using hand crafted gum paste flowers as centerpiece? Gum paste is a popular medium among confectioners and cake designers for making long lasting decorations such as fancy flowers, leaves, ribbons et al. They are much preferred for their versatility and flexibility. I have played with this medium a couple of times and recently, I was trying my luck with orchids using gum paste; though it did not look as perfect as those in the reference pictures I had, I thought it would look good if I place it in a flower vase on our dining table rather than using it for cake decoration, as this way, they adorn our table everyday and I did notice a tinge of curiosity in the eyes of some of our guests , so I guess such gum paste decorations work not only on cakes but as tabletops too. Check out the orchids below.

Hand made flowers using gum paste look majestic especially on a fondant covered cake and is widely used for tiered wedding cakes. Somehow, personally I do not enjoy the taste of fondant and hence whenever I make cakes for our friends, I prefer using butter cream but do use gum paste flowers for decorations. This buttercake below is layered with fresh raspberry filling, frosted with butter cream, and decorated with cornelli lace work and shell borders and topped with hand crafted flowers using gum paste.

I am unable to share the recipes here since the butter cake and butter cream recipes were taken from another website which is now a paid site!

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Love at first bite, Proposal at the second, Exchange of vows at the third....Tiramisu!

He had heard a lot about her…..her delightful characteristics……..her popularity…simple elegance…….the magic spell she casts on people…. still somehow he was reluctant to make a move or ask her out on a date….after a series of internal tug of war, he decided to bite the bullet and there he was! It was love at the first bite….followed by proposal at the second….everything was moving so fast...they exchanged vows and he brought her to his place and everyone seemed to be enjoying her company or not getting enough of her...he found the whole situation magical...he saw his life changing drastically….he became a better person…he started coming home early….attended gym regularly and waited for those beautiful moments with her! she was a whole new discovery for him……a discovery for life!

Yes, I am talking about CJJ but NOOOO, he is not cheating on me :D I was just painting his relationship with Tiramisu :D

A popular Italian dessert, “tiramisu is a pudding-like dessert that usually consists of sponge cake or ladyfingers dipped in a liqueur, then layered with grated chocolate and rich custard”. We have never been to Italy and hence have no idea how a traditional and authentic Tiramisu tastes like. Our one and only acquaintance with this dessert starts and ends with the popular Italian restaurant chain, Olive Garden, and the day we tasted this dessert from there, we fell in love with this classic!. It is definitely a “heaven in your mouth”. We had heard a lot about this dessert but somehow the descriptions did not sound much interesting to us mainly because someone said, it is a dessert dipped in coffee and coffee liquor et al. Not being coffee lovers, we never thought of giving it a try, especially when we were stuffed with food till our throat but the day we tasted this heavenly dessert, we literally regretted all those years we wasted not tasting this creamy and melt in mouth dessert.

Recently both of us were getting some selective cravings for Tiramisu and on one of our visits to Olive Garden, we seriously pondered over the idea of reproducing this at home. Since we have never been lucky to get its authentic taste and with no point of reference for a traditional taste and look,I was more interested in reproducing a recipe that tastes something like the restaurant one and that’s how I stumbled upon this page. Though I was taken aback a bit seeing the amount of cheese used, I gave it a shot and we were hooked! Both of us don’t have much of a sweet tooth, especially CJJ and if he gets addicted to a dessert and a recipe, then that’s a real compliment and also a green signal for me, that I can serve this recipe to our guests next time for dinner and also blog this! He was so hooked to this dessert that he was quite regular in gym the whole of last week, so he could find pleasure in each bite, without feeling guilty, thinking of all that saturated fat and cholesterol :)

Notes based on my experience: This recipe is a winner for sure. We were 98% satisfied! I used sponge lady fingers, instead of lady finger cookies or Savoiardi biscuits as the sponge ones were used at the restaurant. I used halved slices of the sponge cake fingers as it came in the box and don't remember how many I used,lets just say, as many to get two layers. For the 3 cups of mascarpone cheese, I used three 8 oz tubs of the same cheese and as written in the recipe, used one 8 oz cream cheese and blended it together. The recipe just calls for cocoa powder, since we both don’t prefer the bitterness of the regular cocoa powder, I used dutch-process cocoa powder but that was purely a personal choice. The only deviation I did was using more liquor and coffee as instead of just dabbing the sponge lady fingers, I applied a bit more which is not at all necessary and am sure next time I will not make that mistake. So, it is better to follow the recipe as such. Again recipe has not specifically mentioned what “several hours” are, so I chilled mine for 12-16 hours. Another thing I noticed is that, instead of making it in an 8 * 8 inch pan, next time I would be using individual dessert or trifle bowls or even a martini glass, to make the serving easier and not wasting my time trying to get the perfect slice!

Those who are completely new to the ingredients can find the mascarpone cheese at the specialty cheese /deli section of your local store and if you don’t have espresso at home, you may use extra strong coffee like I did. Kahlua coffee liqueur is sometimes available at supermarkets but if you are looking for small bottles, better to go to a liquor store. It is quite funny that at our place, my pantry has more variety and stock of liquor bottles than CJJ’s personal collection :D

Do I recommend this recipe for your Thanks Giving dinner or X’mas lunch? YES! YES ! YES!

UPDATE : Some of you have problem accessing the recipe link marked in my text; I don't know why that happens! I am able to access the link though sometimes it is broken. So adding the link again below: the first one takes directly to the recipe and the second one takes you to the main recipe section where you can give a search for the recipe:

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Beef Stew

I know there is a general impression that this is predominantly a non-veg blog, even though I try to point my fingers to the vegetarian recipes I have blogged; (Yes, please do check out the recipe gallery, you can find a lot of vegetarian recipes) unfortunately, the desserts and the cakes & cookies are not considered vegetarian either!! For the same reason, I always admire and appreciate all my fellow bloggers, who are core vegetarians, who visit my blog and drop encouraging comments each and every time I publish a post. Even when it is a non-veg delicacy, they pour words of appreciation on the little notes in the introductory section or on the presentation of the dish or share some of their experiences and sometimes wonder about the substitutions they can make to vegetarianize the recipe or simply come and drop a hello! For a change, the whole of last week, my comment section witnessed a reverse trend after posting the recipe for Potato Stew; there were enquiries asking for the meat substitute, “ …. I tried the stew and it came out well. Can I substitute chicken for the veggies next time?” and some wondered “….Shn,eshtu looks delicious ,but desperately hope those potatoes were replaced by some chicken or mutton ! ".

This is exactly the reason why I noted in my last post that generally carnivores like us don’t prefer the vegetarian version of many of the traditional Kerala delicacies though Potato Stew is an exception. Beef stew is the non-vegetarian take on the potato stew and is traditionally served with Palappam ( Kerala’s laced rice pancakes, shown in the picture) and its equivalents are chicken stew and mutton stew, delicacies a typical Keralite would die for. Cooked beef and potatoes stewed in rich coconut milk and flavored with whole spices and fresh herbs is a rich, thick and creamy dish whose first love is Palappam, at the same time ready to have a date with white bread or Idiyappam (Kerala’s string hoppers) or Chappathi (flat Indian bread).

  • ½ kg beef (Around 1 lb), cleaned and cut into small bite size pieces
  • 1 small potato
  • 4 cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped (around 2 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp + 1tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 5 + 9 Indian green chillies split open lengthwise
  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp freshly crushed pepper powder
  • 2 tbsp oil, preferably coconut oil
  • 4 small ½ inch pieces of cinnamon 4 cloves
  • 3 cardamoms
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large big onion thinly sliced
  • 1 - 1 ¼ cups thin coconut milk/Randaampaal
  • ¾ cup thick coconut milk/Thanipaal
  • Salt to taste
  • In a pressure cooker, cook beef cut into small bite size pieces, finely chopped garlic, 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger, 5 green chillies and salt & pepper powder together, until it’s cooked well and beef turns tender and soft. Note: There is no need to add water while pressure cooking the beef as the meat is moist and will produce some water while cooking but if you are scared of safety issue of pressure cooker, you may add ¼ cup of water.
  • Chop the potatoes into small pieces and microwave or boil the potato with a pinch of salt till it is cooked and when warm enough to touch, peel off the skin from the potato.
  • In a large deep bottom pan, heat oil, throw in the whole spices like cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaves and let it fry in oil for 30 seconds. Add the thinly sliced big onions, 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger, green chillies and 1 sprig of curry leaves and cook until they turn soft and transparent. To this add the cooked beef mix well and then add the cooked potato cubes and combine well. Add thin coconut milk and salt and let it cook covered in low heat, for around 10-15 minutes. Now add the thick coconut milk and in medium heat, bring it to a boil and immediately reduce the heat, until it reaches a creamy and thick stew consistency. Just before turning off the stove, add rest of the curry leaves for the flavour and fragrance and stir well.
  • Serve with Palappam/white bread/Idiappam/chappathi. Taste better after 2 hours from cooking.
Notes: Stew prepared in fresh coconut milk tastes better but I generally use canned coconut milk for the ease of cooking and they taste good. If you are using canned coconut milk, do add water to dilute it, even if you are preparing thick coconut milk. Also I prefer using golden big onions, rather than the red ones; it's a personal choice. The colour will be slightly different than the potato stew as we re using red meat here. You may add 1/4 - 1/2 tsp home made masala powder/garam masala towards the end , to have more flavour and smell; this is again a personal choice, depending on the taste and flavor one is looking for; at my place, we are happy with the whole spices alone, but if that is not satisfactory to you, feel free to add a pinch of homemade garam masala towards the end. Those who don't eat beef, can replace the meat with chicken and follow the same procedure.You get a better colour for Chicken stew, compared to beef stew.

My vegetarian friends, please help yourselves with Potato Stew :)

Update: You may try this dish with Paalappam.

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.