Friday, April 29, 2011

Peanut Butter Pudding & a Trifle

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I have been having one of those weeks. Between our annual conference at work, very interrupted power supply at home, a sick toddler, and looming deadlines, I thought I would not even survive. But here I am. My eyes are puffy, my body hurts and my head is spinning with things I need to get done, because those deadlines are still looming, and my toddler is still sick. On top of that, my Google reader is overflowing, I haven't posted in days and I have so many emails to respond to. Sigh. I hate weeks like these.

And I just know things are going to be crazier next week, because I have a one-week-long Summer camp to run for five hundred children. Yes, you read right. FIVE HUNDRED children. FIVE hundred screaming, running, chaos-creating, hyperactive, little children. Just thinking about it makes me want to crawl into a hole and stay there. But, God is good & will see me through!

I am lucky I have the time to write this post, and so I am going to make it quick. If you read my blog, you could not have missed my previous post about the Mini Cake. Everyone has been so kind in commenting on that post. Your response has been so encouraging. You just reinforced what I said about the amazing food blogging community.

So, back to the mini cake. I had stashed away the rest of the yellow cake to make a trifle because my husband always enjoys a good trifle. Making a trifle is simple enough, and so I did manage to make that this week. Trifle for two.

Because I wanted to make this just for my husband and I, I have listed measurements for 2 portions. This recipe can be doubled or tripled as required. Also, the recipe calls for only half a portion of the peanut butter pudding recipe. You could halve the recipe if you want, but I made the whole recipe and ate the leftover pudding. I am sure no one will complain about leftover pudding - especially leftover peanut butter pudding.

Peanut Butter, Banana & Chocolate Trifle
1 large banana, sliced
2 oz bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate
50 ml double cream
1/2 portion Peanut Butter Pudding, (recipe below)
6-8 tablespoons of cake crumbs
4-5 tbsp of simple syrup/brandy/pineapple juice 

Chocolate layer
1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler.
2. When the chocolate has completely melted, stir in the cream and whisk until smooth and completely blended.

Peanut Butter Pudding
1/2 cup sugar
5 tsp cornflour
A pinch of salt
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup cream
1/2 - 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (depending on how peanut butter-y you want it)
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, cornflour and salt till mixed.
2. Add the milk and cream. On a low heat, bring the mixture up to a boil.
3. As soon as it starts boiling, take it off the heat and stir in the peanut butter, stirring until smooth.
4. Put the saucepan back on the stove, and continue cooking on low heat until the pudding reaches the desired consistency.
5. Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla.
6. Keep covered until you use it.

Assembling the trifle
I used individual serving glasses.
1. At the bottom of the glass, pour 1 tsp of the chocolate ganache.
2. Top with about 2 tbsp of cake crumbs.
3. Pour some of the liquid (syrup/juice etc.) over the crumbs until they are moistened.
4. Cover the cake crumbs with a generous portion of the sliced bananas.
5. The next time I make this pudding, I will add either crushed peanut brittle or crushed crunchy muesli over the banana layer. I think the trifle would be so much better with that element of crunch. If you agree, you could add this layer in.
6. Top the bananas with the peanut butter pudding.
7. Cover with a layer of chocolate ganache.
8. Repeat all the layers one more time - cake crumbs, syrup, bananas, (crunchy stuff), pudding, ganache.
9. Refrigerate until cool.
10. Top with whipped cream & serve.

This is a very simple recipe, and I made it up in my head. I just thought it made sense. And it tasted very good. Peanut butter, bananas and chocolate. With that combination, how could it not!  
P.S. - I don't think I will be able to post next week. I know that's not a good thing. But, I would consider myself blessed just to survive the week. I don't know if anyone would be interested in writing a guest post or two for a very, very new and amateur blogger, and so I am not even going to ask. I will try my best to squeeze at least one post into my crazy schedule. Thank you for bearing with me!

P.P.S. - I apologize for the very poor photographs in this post. It was the best I could do, given the circumstances. Sad!

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Mini Cake

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Today, my blog is 2 months old! Wow... In these two months, I have learned so much, cooked & baked my heart out & tried my best to put up not-so-sucky photographs.

There are some truly beautiful food blogs out there, but more importantly, I have realized that there are some AMAZING people behind each of those blogs. In these two months, I was able to witness the community stand and support a few fellow bloggers who were going through a rough patch, and it blew my mind. These people actually care! I have met so many awesome food bloggers, and I'm happy to say I've made a few friends. I am so happy to be part of the world wide community of food bloggers. It is an awesome community to belong to.

And I don't think there is one, single rude foodie out there! Everyone I have 'met' has been really, really nice! It makes so much sense. People who cook and eat such amazing food, cannot but be happy. Even my mood has improved exponentially since I started this blog. And I have been described by many as 'sullen'. :) It excites me to be able to share my love of cooking & baking, and to be able to see the same passion in others.

This is also my 25th post. Feels like a milestone somehow. Is that weird? So, to celebrate this double mini-milestone, I baked my blog a mini-cake.

I actually baked 2 whole cakes, but cut out two circles and frosted it to make it my mini-cake. Perfect for one. It doesn't look perfect I know. I have a long way to go with my frosting skills. But it tasted really, really good! As for the remaining cake, I have stashed it in my fridge, and there it rests and waits to be transformed into an awesome trifle pudding for my trifle-loving husband.

For the cake, I adapted a basic (but very yummy) yellow butter cake recipe from my red-and-white plaid checked Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook: 11th Edition. I've been using this book for ages even though I know it is terribly outdated. I love this book because it has a lot of classic recipes.

For the frosting, I used my favorite Swiss Meringue Butter cream frosting, which can be found in one of my earliest posts, but added chocolate.

Yellow Cake
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk (I used yoghurt)

1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Grease and lightly flour two 9 inch round cake tins.
3. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside.
4. In a large bowl, beat the softened butter until fluffy.
5. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating until well combined.
6. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
7. Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk/yoghurt, making sure you finish with the flour mixture.
8. Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test.
9. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn the out of their tins and transfer the cakes to a cooling rack.
10. When completely cool, frost with your favorite frosting.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
1 cup sugar
6 egg whites
250g / 18 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz semi-sweet/milk chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

1. Combine the the egg whites and sugar & heat gently over a double boiler until the sugar is completely dissolved. The eggs should stay translucent & should not start to cook & turn whitish! To be safer, you could do this on a double-boiler. You can check if the sugar is dissolved by rubbing the mixture between your fingers. If it smooth, then take it off the heat at once.
2. Pour into a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until the mixture has cooled. Continue to beat until you have soft peaks.
3. At this stage, start adding the butter, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Don't add more than 1-2 tablespoons at a time.
4. Do not panic if the mixture looks awful & curdles. Keep beating it at high speed. You will find that it will suddenly come together to make a creamy, light buttercream frosting.
5. Add the vanilla extract and beat till incorporated.
6. Add the melted chocolate, and sifted cocoa powder and beat for a further 2 minutes until completely incorporated.

It was a small and tasty mini-cake that I very generously shared with my husband, who has supported me so much since I started this blog. I would also like to mention at this time, that I am so grateful to everyone who has visited my blog & left me a kind word of encouragement. It really brightens my day! :) I have learned so much from all of you & I thank you! I really wish I could share this cake with each of you!

For my 2 month milestone, I made a few changes to the blog as well. If you haven't already noticed, I have added 2 new pages - About The Harried Cook, and Recipes. You can see the tabs just below the header. I hope you take some time to check it out. Also, I have a new signature now. You can see it below each post. Do you like it? I do!

Am I making too big a deal for a 25th post? Should I have saved this for something bigger? Like a 100th post? I hope no one laughs.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter!

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Lately, I've been bombarded by images of absolutely gorgeous cookies! I mean, each cookie is work of art. Perfectly golden, simple sugar cookies transformed into all sorts of gorgeous things! I was so jealous of the talent that I saw. And so I told myself, "You can do it!". Sigh. I guess it is good to have confidence.

The cookies were awesome. This is the sugar cookie recipe I have been using for years and I have always been extremely pleased with it. I would give someone credit for this recipe if I could remember where I found the recipe in the first place.

I usually use a simple powdered sugar glaze and that has always given me excellent results.This time, I got a little ambitious. This was my first time with royal icing. I'll just say it didn't go so well. Later, when I researched my icing problems, I realized that my icing was too thick, and that was the main problem. There were others too. I won't go there.

For your sake, I won't share my extremely inaccurate royal icing recipe. You're probably better off finding/using your own. But, I will share my favorite cookie recipe and some pictures of my first attempt at decorating with royal icing.

The taste of the frosting with the cookies was very, very delicious and the cookies were eaten up really fast. That is a good sign! :)

Simple Sugar Cookies

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 - 3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

1. Sift the 2 1/2 cups of the flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.
2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. Add the vanilla and mix until well incorporated.
5. Add the dry ingredients and mix to form a soft dough. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. If you use medium eggs, you shouldn't need more than 2 1/2 cups.
6. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least an hour.
7. Roll the dough about 1/2 inch thick and cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters.
8. Bake at 350 for 8-9 minutes, or until the sides are just starting to turn golden.
9. Let them rest on the baking tray for 2-3 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
10. Make sure they are completely cooled before decorating them.

This recipe gives you soft sugar cookies. If you like them crisp, roll the dough out thinner.

This is by no means an indicator that I am giving up. I will be back with more cookies. I don't know if any of them could ever be considered works of art, but hey - I still gotta try!

He has risen!
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” Matthew 28:5-7


I submitted this to the link party at Sweet as Sugar Cookies

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Moist Zucchini Cake

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I love spices. My favorite spice has to be nutmeg. Hands down. No argument. I just love everything about nutmeg. I add it to recipes even when the recipe does not call for it. That's how much I love nutmeg.

This was my first attempt at a Zucchini cake. I used a recipe from the very popular David It was a recipe he got from Italian chef Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo kitchen. I must admit, I really, really love the way it tastes. It has the right amount of spice for me, is not too sweet and is very, very moist.

I must complain, however, about the way it looked. Do all zucchini cakes/breads look gray and unappetizing? There were other, less-savory descriptions by my friends and family, which I will not repeat. Hmpf!

I was invited for dinner to a friend's, and offered to bring cupcakes for dessert. Little did I know I would end apologizing all night for the way they looked! Earlier that day, I used the recipe and made both a small bundt cake and a dozen cupcakes. After pondering over it, I decided the cupcakes looked better and took them to the party. I am so glad I did! The bundt cake looked worse. My poor husband, after he got over how it looked, he ate a piece and actually liked it a lot! Good thing I took these pictures when the cake was fresh!

Another disappointment for me was that the cake kind of flattened a little after a few hours. Not too much, and it didn't affect the taste at all, but it didn't help the already sad appearance!

I made a few very minor changes to the recipe on David Lebovtiz's blog. The original recipe can be found here.

Zucchini Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups finely grated zucchini
1 cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped

Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ground spices, and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar, oils and vanilla until light and fluffy - about 3 minutes on medium with your electric mixer.
Sift in the flour mixture and continue beating on medium for another minute.
Stir in the zucchini and finely chopped walnuts.
Bake at 350. It should take 20-25 minutes for cupcakes and about 40-45 minutes for a large cake.

I glazed it with a lime cream cheese glaze and added some colored sugar for the crunch that David Lebovitz raves about.

For the glaze, I combined about 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice, 2 oz of cream cheese and 1 1/2 cups of icing sugar and creamed until it was smooth. I glazed the cake while it was still warm.

I am not giving up on this recipe though. It is a delicious, moist cake, and I will try it again and again, until it looks as good as it tastes!

Even my dog (can you spot him?) loved it, and you should know he has a very discerning palate. No kidding!

I submitted this to the link party at Sweet as Sugar Cookies.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Zesty Lime Squares

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Yes, my love affair with limes continues. This time I made lime squares, inspired by Betty Crocker's famous Luscious Lemon Bars recipe.

I don't know if I have mentioned this before, I really, really love limes. Actually, I prefer limes over lemons. I prefer limeade over lemonade. I prefer lime curd over lemon curd. I prefer... you get the picture!

I was a little careless this time. I had the lime squares baking while I was attempting to feed my toddler lunch. And in between singing the theme song to 'Dora the Explorer', and making silly faces, I forgot all about the treat in the oven! I wasn't too late though. The edges were really, really brown (but not black yet) and that ended up being my favorite bit. The sugar had completely caramelized, if you have read my blog before, you know I love caramel too! And the edges were stick-to-your-teeth chewy. Really yummy!

The rest of the tray, I was able to salvage and cut into nice, even squares. I was very pleased with the outcome. And I must mention that I absolutely love, love, LOVE the shortcrust base in this recipe! So simple and delicious!


Lime Squares
Shortcrust base
1 cup flour, sifted
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Lime Filling
3-4 limes, juice & zest
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs

Extra powdered sugar for dusting

With your fingers, combine all the ingredients for the crust and press into a 9" square baking dish.
Refrigerate for about 10 minutes. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the filling and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes)
Pour the filling over the hot crust and continue baking for a further 30 minutes. When it is done, your finger will not leave an indent if you press the surface lightly.
Cool in the tray for 20-30 minutes and then refrigerate for an hour.
Cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar.

I used four limes and I did not find the squares too intense at all. And I'm glad I did not miss the zesty lime flavor that I love so much!

I submitted this to the link party at Sweet as Sugar Cookies.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tuna Casserole w/ Cheesy Topping

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Today, I learned that my daughter loves eating plain boiled pasta, my dog loves tuna, and that sometimes, laziness pays off!

What a weekend! I was so exhausted after a fun morning at church, that I took a Sunday afternoon nap - something highly unusual for me. I rarely sleep during the day! Now, that's not something worth blogging about though, right? Well, it is if you invited someone over to spend the evening with you, & then fell asleep with your toddler. They arrived and stood knocking at our door for a while before they realized we were probably out like lights. So, how did they wake us up? The old tiny pebbles against the window pane trick! Only this time, it was not-so-smallish rocks against the air-conditioning unit trick! It worked though, and after I apologized for making them wait, we had a good laugh about it!

After that great nap, I was raring to cook! I made one of my favorites - Tuna Noodle Casserole. Now, I know I say 'noodle', but we prefer using macaroni for this dish.

 The shortcut I talk about is the topping I used for this casserole. Usually, for a bread crumb topping like this, melted butter is added to the crumbs. But me, I was too lazy to even melt the butter. So, I added soft butter to the crumbs & cheese and ended up with something that resembled cookie dough! Anyways, I just tore it all up and put the pieces over the dish and baked it. It ended up tasting like chewy cheese biscuits and we loved it!

I usually add more vegetables to this casserole - I especially love to add button mushrooms or broccoli, but today all I had were green peas. Remember the Pea & White Bean Soup post? Yes, I still have peas leftover in my freezer! Not complaining though - I love peas.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
(Serves 2 1/2 people)

6 oz uncooked macaroni
2 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tsp plain flour

1 cup milk
1 1/2 - 2 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp prepared mustard
 3/4 cup green peas
1 dried bay leaf
1/3 cup cream
1 6 oz can of tuna

Cheesy Biscuit Topping
2 slices stale/crusty bread (I used only the end slices of the loaf)
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 tsp dried parsley
2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 tsp pepper

1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Drain, refresh and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter. Swirl around till the butter is completely melted. Add the garlic, celery and onion. Cook until the onions are softened but not brown. Add the plain flour and stir for a few minutes.
3. Take the pan off  the heat and add the mustard, the milk and 1 /2 cups of the stock. Stir to make sure there are no lumps.
4. Put the pan back on the heat, add the peas and the bay leaf.
5. Cook until the sauce is thick and velvety, and the peas are cooked. 
6. Take off the heat, and stir in the cream. Flake the tuna into the sauce.
7. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
8. Stir in the macaroni and stir until the pasta is well coated with the sauce. If you feel it is too dry, add a little more stock.
9. Adjust the seasoning and transfer to a baking dish.
10. Add the cheesy topping & bake at 400 until the topping is bubbly and brown.

Cheesy Topping
1. Process all the ingredients except the butter in a food processor until the bread has turned to fine crumbs.
2. Continue processing and add the softened butter, keeping the machine running until it forms a soft dough.
3. Tear up the dough and strew over the top of the casserole

This casserole is something I never tire of eating. Over the years, I have tried several recipes and this one is a combination of the best of all those recipes. My husband - who usually eats fish only if it's fried, loved this dish and commented on how 'it didn't taste fishy at all'. My daughter loved it and even while I was trying to get a decent picture of the dish, she couldn't keep her chubby little fingers out of the plate - as you can see!

This is the perfect amount for a family of three, but this dish is pretty easy to double and triple. In fact, I think I should do that the next time I make this. We would really enjoy any left-overs of this dish!

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lime Tart

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I rode a carousel yesterday. It has been so long. It felt so unfamiliar.

My 18 month old daughter had never been on a real carousel before, and obviously was too young to go on her own. She grinned and clapped when she saw the colorful contraption going around and around, and heard the screams and laughter coming from it. I knew she wanted to ride it. So, five minutes later, we were seated on this bright red and yellow painted wooden bench, waiting for the ride to begin. I think I was as excited as she was! The ride lasted about five minutes. I wanted off at about three. It was way too fast for my poor stomach. I expected my baby to start crying as the carousel went faster and faster. But, just as I was thinking I had had enough, she started giggling! It was magical. And would have been even more magical if my stomach wasn't doing back-flips.

After the ride, she sampled street food for the first time. She loved it! She's her mother's daughter, she is! We had chick-peas and bread (bread-channa chaat), we ate slices of raw mango with chilly powder and salt sprinkled over them, we ate a delicious puffed rice salad (bhel puri!) and spicy corn on the cob. What a feast! Everything tasted better because we were out with people we loved.

Today, I decided I needed citrus. I cannot emphasize how much I love limes. I like limes with pretty much everything. And so, I made a lime tart. I had some shortcrust pastry left over from my Apple Tart and so I decided to replace the usual cookie crust with that. I enjoyed the combination. I don't like my dessert to be too sweet, and the shortcrust really helped with that!

Lime Tart
1 9" shortcrust/cookie pie crust (unbaked)
1 can condensed milk (400g)
2/3 cup light cream
4 eggs, beaten lightly
5 limes, finely zested and juiced (I added 6)
1 tbsp cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350.
Combine the condensed milk & cream and whisk lightly.
Add the cornstarch to the lime juice. Stir well until there are no lumps. Add this lime juice and the lime zest to the milk mixture.
Stir in the eggs and whisk lightly until combined.
Pour the mixture into the pie shell and bake for 30-50 minutes until the pie crust is cooked and the filling is set.

I thought the tart was done, and took it out at 30 minutes. The filling was just set but the crust was still a little doughy. 30 minutes should be sufficient for a cookie crust, but if you are using a shortcrust shell, give it an extra 20 minutes.

Garnish with fresh slices of lime.

Even with the juice of six limes, the tart was still not tart enough for me! Next time I think I will add even  more. Or maybe a layer of lime curd. Or maybe just lime curd. Oh how I love lime!

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Doughnuts with Peanut Butter Glaze

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Ever since I started this blog, we have all been eating way too much sugar! So, for the sake of our health, I have decided to halve all recipes, and even quarter them when possible. This recipe makes 20 doughnuts. I made 10, gave away a few and the remaining doughnuts were devoured in record time. They were really good!

I have tried several doughnut recipes in the last few years. Most of them taste really good when fresh and hot. But realistically, we can't eat all the doughnuts immediately. I found that with most recipes, the doughnuts became hard and quite unappetizing after a few hours. This recipe is not one of those. I kept 2 doughnuts overnight in an airtight box, and I was really pleased to find that even when cold, these doughnuts were soft and tasty. 

I am not very adventurous with my doughnut flavors. I like the original glazed doughnuts the best. I thought I would be a little brave and try something new. And I am glad I did! This Peanut Butter Ganache glaze is really, really good! 

As I have mentioned before, my daughter is only 18 months old. I haven't started giving her peanuts yet. So, I felt bad that she had to be content eating the doughnut holes that I just rolled in powdered sugar. But, she loved them! And I did too. 
I think I will make these doughnuts again, fill them with crème patisserie and dust them with powdered sugar. I'm drooling already!

Really good Doughnuts 
Adapted from, makes 20 doughnuts


2 envelopes (4.5 tsp) active dried yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/4 cups warm milk
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup butter, softened (if you prefer to use shortening, increase the milk quantity by 1-2 tablespoons)
5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Vegetable oil for frying

  1. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a small bowl and allow the yeast to foam & activate for about 10 minutes.
  2. In large bowl, mix together the milk, sugar, salt, eggs and butter and mix well.
  3. Add the yeast and stir well to combine. Add 2 cups of the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer on low speed. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time. 
  4. Once the dough has come together, transfer to your work surface and knead well for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
  5. Place dough in a greased bowl, covered with greased cling-wrap and a damp kitchen towel. Set in a warm place until it has doubled in volume - about an hour)
  6. Punch down, turn out onto your floured work surface and roll to 1/2 inch thickness.
  7. Cut out the doughnuts and set them on a floured baking tray to rise again - at least 30 minutes. You can make your glaze during this time.
  8. When your doughnuts are ready for frying, drop them in hot oil (350 degrees). Keep flipping often till both sides are golden brown. Set them to drain on a paper towel.
  9. Dip the doughnuts in the glaze while they are still hot and let them set on a wire rack. Put a plate under the rack to catch any glaze drips. If adding any sprinkles, do it before the glaze has set.
 Best served warm. But also very good at room temperature.

Peanut Butter Ganache Glaze


1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp liquid glucose
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

  1. Heat the cream and peanut butter together, stirring until well combined.
  2. When the mixture is hot, take it off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips and liquid glucose. Stir well until the chocolate has completely melted.
  3. When the mixture is slightly cooler, sift in the powdered sugar. Mix well to combine. Add the vanilla and stir. 
This glaze takes a little longer to set than normal glaze, but is worth the wait!

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Brown Butter Brownies

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'Brown Butter Brownie Batter' - try saying that ten times really fast... :)

I know I have mentioned that I am not a chocolate cake fan, but brownies are different. They are closer to fudge (if made the way I like it) and I love fudge!

To add to my long list of likes and dislikes - I LOVE the smell and taste of brown butter. It is great with fish. It is awesome with gnocchi. I have been reading and hearing about these brown butter brownies for a little while now and it got me curious.

I rarely go with the first recipe that comes up from my Google search, but this time I did. :) I found this recipe on the Bon Appetit website and made a few changes here and there. One major change was the addition of a peanut butter swirl. I mean, what is a brownie without peanut butter, anyways?

Does everyone make stuff that's bad for you and eat it on the sly, while making sure your little one is having a healthy snack? I did that today. And yesterday. And last week. It is fast becoming a habit! While I snacked on these brownies crouching at the dining table, my little one was on the couch, making patterns with the apple slices made on her plate. I felt so guilty. But that feeling passed quite quickly. One bite was all it took! :)

I hear brownies are good with a glass of milk and so I used the milk as a prop in my pictures. But I detest milk. Of course, my daughter drinks milk because it's good for her. Another double standard :) but with the best of intentions!

Brown Butter Brownies w/ Peanut Butter Swirl

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces  
1 1/4 cups sugar  
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder  
1 teaspoon vanilla extract  
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp water 
2 large eggs, chilled
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
2 tbsp creamy peanut butter 

  • Put the butter pieces into a large cold saucepan. On a low heat, melt the butter, stirring it often. The butter will froth a lot. After a little while, the frothing will stop and the butter will start turning darker with brown bits floating about. Once the butter reaches this point, take it off the heat. You should be able to smell the nutty aroma of the brown butter.
  • Into the hot butter, add the sugar, sifted cocoa powder, vanilla extract, salt and water. Stir well until completely blended and smooth. Let his cool for 5 minutes.
  • Add the eggs one at a time into the mixture. The mixture will still be hot, so beat well while adding the eggs.
  • After both eggs are added, beat well for 3-5 minutes until the batter is smooth, glossy and thick.
  • At this point, add the flour and stir well to blend.
  • Beat the batter for a further 2-3 minutes. 
  • Stir in the chopped walnuts.
  • Grease and flour a square baking tray. Bon Appetit suggested lining the tray with foil. I didn't do this, but you could. Pour the batter in and spread it evenly. Smooth the top.
  • With a small teaspoon, drop the peanut butter in several places on the surface of the batter. I divided the 2 tablespoons of peanut butter into 8 small scoops. Using a toothpick, swirl the peanut butter into the batter.
  • Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, but with a few wet crumbs sticking to it.
  • Cool well in the pan. Cut out the brownies and gently lift out of the tray.
  • Serve warm with or without a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.
Which reminds me - I need to make some good Vanilla Ice Cream soon!

I was concerned about the peanut butter overpowering the subtle flavor of the brown butter, and so I used very little. I think I will use a little more the next time I make this recipe. The result was a dense, fudgy brownie with a shiny top, with a divine brown butter flavor and hints of peanut butter coming through. Heaven!

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Monkey Bread 'Muffins'

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If you read my last post about the grilled cheese sandwich, you will remember that extra ball of dough that I was left with. As I set aside the dough in the loaf tin for its last rise before baking, I realized I had a large ball of dough leftover. Initially, I thought I would just make a few dinner rolls. But then, inspiration struck! :) Monkey Bread! Since the I had only a little dough left over, and because all things miniature are so darn cute, I decided I would make Little Mini Monkey Breads.

So, here is how I made my Mini Monkey Bread. I really can't give you proper measurements or weights for this one because I didn't measure or weigh anything.

First, I separated & rolled the leftover dough into 1 inch balls. Then, you need light brown sugar - as much is needed to roll each 1 inch ball of dough, I had a large grapefruit sized piece of dough and used 2/3 cups of sugar. The third ingredient is ground cinnamon - I would say about 2 teaspoons for every cup of brown sugar. I also added a dash of nutmeg to my sugar because nutmeg is my all-time favorite spice! Finally, melted butter - I needed about 1/3 cup of melted butter.

Dip each ball of dough in the melted butter and roll in the sugar & cinnamon mix. Put these balls of dough into your muffin tray and press down lightly, so they stick to each other. I used silicone muffin cups like these and they were really good for this recipe. I had a little butter leftover after all the dipping, and so I poured a little over the top of each muffin.

 Bake at 400 for about 20-25 minutes. The caramel around the monkey bread will be bubbly & thick.

Let them cool for a few minutes and serve warm with a cup of coffee or tea. I've noticed that many people pair monkey bread with a cream cheese frosting! Next time, maybe. And believe me - there will be a next time for monkey bread! And this time it will be a whole batch! :)

I should mention - after I made these and ate a few, I was patting myself on the back for being so 'creative' with the leftover dough, until I Googled 'Mini Monkey Bread' and there were literally thousands of results with pictures of cute little monkey bread muffins that looked so much like mine! So much for my 'creativity! But the bottom line is, monkey bread = good!
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Friday, April 8, 2011

Happy Grilled Cheese Month!

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So, I hear April is Grilled Cheese Month. How exciting! I love a good grilled cheese sandwich. I mean, who doesn't?! But somehow, I felt that a whole blog post for a grilled cheese sandwich seemed a little... over the top. I changed my mind after I took one bite of this sandwich. I think there can be books written about the grilled cheese sandwich. And what do you know - there are!

I digress. So here I was, telling myself that just putting a piece of cheese between two slices of bread and toasting it to perfection was not worth a whole blog post. Therefore, I would have to bake my own bread. (I guess I just needed an excuse to bake bread.)

Nod with me if you agree - there's nothing like the aroma of home baked bread! Even my dog goes crazy when he smells it in the air. I am always looking for good bread recipes and this time I found a winner! This loaf was soft & light, with a crisp but thin crust. Very kid friendly and very good for grilled cheese sandwiches.

Sandwich Bread Dough
Recipe adapted from The I Love to Cook Book - Lauren Groveman

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/4 c milk
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/8 cup shortening
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup honey
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, or more if needed

Egg wash and topping
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp oatmeal

1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the 1/4 cup of warm water and allow to prove.
2. In a saucepan, heat the milk, butter and shortening, until the fats are almost dissolved. Take off the heat and swirl until the butter and shortening are completely dissolved. Set aside to cool down to lukewarm temperature.
3. In a large bowl, stir together the honey and the salt. Add the warm milk mixture to this. Add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Be sure your milk mixture is not too hot or you'll have scrambled eggs!
4. Add the whole wheat flour and stir well for about 3 minutes or until smooth.
5. Add the all purpose flour, half cup at a time, mixing well after each addition to make sure the flour is completely incorporated. You are aiming for a soft, pliable, elastic dough.
6. Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl and cover it with greased clingfilm. Set it aside for 2 hours in a warm place. The dough will more than double in volume.
7. Knock back the dough and form into a loaf. Put it in the bread loaf tin and allow to rise again for one hour.
8. For the egg wash - mix the egg, milk and salt well and use this to brush the top of the loaf. Allow the glaze to dry before applying another coating. Sprinkle the oatmeal over the top of the loaf.
9. Bake at 400 for 30-35 minutes or until the base of the bread sounds hollow when you 'knock' it.
10. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

This bread really smells heavenly! When it was cool, I cut two thick slices of bread for my Grilled cheese sandwich. Here is how I made it.

Grilled Gruyere & Caramelized Onion Sandwich

2 slices bread
2 tsp cream cheese, or more
1/4 tsp mustard
1 small red onion, sliced very thin
1 tsp butter
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 sugar
1/4-1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

1. Saute the onion in the butter & vegetable oil, along with the salt and sugar until the onion is caramelized. This takes about 5-8 minutes. Keep moving the onion around to avoid burning. The onion should be golden brown with some darker flecks. Don't stop too early either or you'll miss out on that lovely caramel-ly onion flavor.Some bits will go crunchy and those pieces taste like heaven - as long as they haven't turned black.
2. Spread the cream cheese over both slices of bread. Only on one slice (we'll call it the top slice), spread the mustard over the cream cheese.
3. Sprinkle half the Gruyere cheese over the cream cheese on the bottom slice. Add the sauteed onion and top with the remaining Gruyere. Cover this with the top slice of bread.
4. Toast the sandwich on a griddle on low heat. When one side is golden and toasted, flip over and continue toasting. Keep pressing down on the sandwich with your spatula to encourage adherence. :)
5. Serve warm with your accompaniment of choice!

I absolutely loved this sandwich. The nuttiness of the Gruyere, the sweetness (and crunch, if you've done it right!) of the caramelized onion and the tang of the cream cheese & the mustard are a perfect marriage of flavors! And this bread is really excellent toasted. Incidentally, another grilled cheese sandwich I love is cream cheese & cherry jam. Yum!

I must mention that I had a ball of dough leftover after making the loaf of bread. I had a little fun playing with that dough. I will post pictures & write about it in my next post! :)
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sticky Chicken Wings

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I really love chicken wings. They are my favorite part of the chicken. It took me ages to convince my husband that wings are good! He is a white meat man and even now, though he has started eating wings, he still does not clean the bones like a true wing-lover does. :)

This is one of my favorite ways to eat wings. I ate something like this in a restaurant once and have been dying to try it ever since. I call it 'Sticky Chicken Wings' because by the time it is done, the sauce around the wings has thickened and caramelized, leaving a sticky, sweet coating over the wings. It is almost impossible to resist licking your fingers.

It is quite simple to put together thought it seems to have a lot of ingredients. It does not need anything more than a little bit of grating and mixing.

Sticky Chicken Wings
15 whole chicken wings
1/3 cup honey
5 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp prepared mustard (or 1 tbsp dry mustard)
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 1" piece of ginger, grated
3 tsp paprika powder
2 or more tbsp of your favorite hot sauce (I added even more than 5 because we like it HOT)
3 tbsp cider vinegar

1. Cut the wings into the two wing joints and discard the wing tips. Wash well and set aside.
2. Combine all the ingredients except the wings in a large bowl. I find it most effective to grate the ginger and garlic directly into the bowl using a Microplane Fine Grater.
3. Taste the marinade and add more hot sauce if desired. There is no need to add salt because the soy sauce has enough.
4. Add the cleaned chicken wings and if possible, allow to marinate for an hour. I left mine in the fridge for 5 hours.
5. Just before baking, preheat the oven to 400.
6. Brush the baking tray with vegetable oil or spray with a light cooking spray. Arrange the wings in a single layer on the baking sheet. Drizzle some of the marinade over the top.
7. Bake for 40-45 minutes, basting with the remaining marinade twice or thrice during the first 30 minutes. Discard any remaining marinade. At the end of the cooking time, the wings should be cooked through and the marinade, thick and sticky on the tray.
 8. Toss the wings once through the thickened sauce on the tray so that it coats the wings completely.
9. If desired, more hot sauce can be added at this point.

I set aside a few wings for my 18 month old and added even more hot sauce for my husband and I. We ate these wings with a simple garlic bread-crumb broccoli and an Asian style Hasselback potato. A really satisfying meal!

This time I bought a huge bag of wings. I used only half the bag and froze the rest for later. I think next week I will try another recipe for chicken wings & share it!

P.S. - For another fabulous recipe for Chicken wings, you must stop by the Firefly blog! I love that blog!
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