Monday, April 30, 2012

Christina Tosi's Crack Pie & Awards

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Have you missed me?

It's been a while, but I am back (with an extra-long post). It has been a crazy few weeks, and I really thought that I might have to give up blogging somewhere in between. No hasty decisions were made, and for now, I am here to stay. :)

Today, I am back with a recipe that's really popular right now - Christina Tosi's Crack Pie. I wanted to see what all the hype was about, now, post-crack (not the drug kind - please be smart and don't do drugs!), I am here to share my experiences.
Before we get into the recipe though, I must issue the following warnings. IMHO, this pie must be made ONLY under the following circumstances -

1. You have a LOT of people coming over.
2. You have supernatural self-control.
3. You are desperately skinny and need to gain weight rapidly.

Seriously. I was warned, and I didn't listen, and ended up eating half this pie by myself (and sharing the remaining 50% very grudgingly).
In case I haven't made myself clear enough, I LOVED this pie, and I think Christina Tosi is a genius.

As you can see, I made only half the recipe - which makes 2  10-inch pies. I made 1 9 inch pie and increased the cooking time a little, as recommended by the L.A. Times.. I am so glad I decided to go with only half. Who knows how much I would have eaten if I had made the whole recipe!

Christina Tosi's Crack Pie
Recipe from the L.A. Times, who adapted it from the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook

Ingredients - Cookie for crust
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3 ounces) flour
A large pinch of baking powder
A large pinch of baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup softened butter
1 1/4 oz (1/6  cup) light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 an egg
Scant 1/2 cup rolled oats

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. In another bowl, beat the butter and the sugars until fluffy and light.
4. Whisk in the egg and mix well until completely incorporated.
5. With the mixer running, add the flour mixture, a little at a time, until fully combined. 
5. Stir in the oats and stir to combine.
6. Spread the mixture onto a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking sheet and bake until golden brown and set. 
7. Remove from heat and cool to the touch on a rack. Crumble the cooled cookie to use in the crust.
Don't you love the giant cookie? I couldn't resist taking a small bite!

Making the Crust
Crumbled cookie for crust
1/8 cup butter
1 3/4 tsp brown sugar
A large pinch of salt

1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse a few times until blended.
2. Press the crust into a 9 or 10 inch pie tin to form a thin, even layer along the bottom and sides. Set aside.

Ingredients - Filling
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/6 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon milk powder
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup plus a scant tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
Prepared crust
Powdered sugar, garnish

1. Heat the oven to 350/180.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars, salt and milk powder. 
3. Whisk in the melted butter, followed by the heavy cream and vanilla.
3. Gently whisk in the egg yolks, being careful not to add too much air.
4. Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust.
5. Bake the pie for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325/160 and bake until the filling is slightly jiggly and golden brown on top (similar to a pecan pie), about 10 minutes (15 minutes if you are using a 9-inch tin). Remove the pie and cool on a rack.
6. Refrigerate the cooled pies until well chilled. 

It is a lot work, this pie, but SO worth it. The cookie crust needs to be made from the cookie recipe that is a part of this recipe, and not just any generic cookie. The amount of salt in the crust perfectly balances out the sweetness of the filling.
And the filling, - oh the filling - the filling is amazing. Buttery, creamy, butterscotch-y, sugary sweet brilliance.

Obviously, as the recipe says, it is meant to be served chilled. I tried it FOUR ways - it is lovely eaten slightly warm, it is great at room temperature, it is awesome chilled and it is fabulous frozen! In the picture below, you can see how ooey and gooey it is at room temperature.
At the end of this, here is my reasoning as to why this is called 'Crack Pie'.

1. I have not tried crack ever, but I am sure this pie is better.
2. It is addictive.
3. You are not willing to share it with ANYONE.
4. It gives you a high - a sugar high, that is!
5. You have withdrawal symptoms when the pie is all gone! :(
6. After the high, you have some serious lows.

I think my low lasted 2 weeks. Hence, the lack of posts.

I blame it on the pie & on Christina Tosi.

So there!

Here's my message for today - don't do drugs, make this pie!

Now, onto some important stuff that I have put off forever! Some awards :)

First up, a BIG (and very belated) thanks to Manu of Manu's Menu! If you haven't heard of Manu's blog, you seriously have been missing out! Please go visit her. Now!!!

Thanks to Manu for this award! Big hugs, Manu! <3

Second, thanks to Ruchira of The Great Cookaroo, for these two awards!

I met Ruchira through a Foodie Exchange just recently, and you will be seeing more of her on my blog soon, when I reveal what we exchanged! But in the meanwhile, go check out her site and do tell her I said hello!

Both bloggers asked me to share things about myself, and so here are some little known facts about The Harried Cook.

1. I was (emphasize WAS), a sportsperson - a swimmer to be more specific. I won a few medals here and there, represented my state and won a national medal too. Seems like ages ago, in another lifetime. I wrote it here today, just so I don't forget it myself.
2. I am a singer. I am in a band - though we're all very busy these days with kids and other stuff we're working on! But we do perform once in a while and have recorded on a few compilation albums too. I sing almost every week in church though.
3. I was a BIG nerd in school & college. Always did well in my exams. I still kinda like exams. Yes. You read right. Please don't un-like me on Facebook!
4. Before I became a mom, blogger and baker, I too was a stooge in the corporate world. Worked long hours, complained about my boss and all that jazz. That's one part of my life I don't miss!
5. I almost went to Paris to study cooking after I finished school. Long story, but it didn't happen, and things still worked out.

In other news, The Harried Cook is doing well. The baking workshop went very well, and was covered by a friend who is a very popular blogger in the city. You can read about the workshop and see some lovely pictures HERE.

The baking is going well! I've been making cupcakes, tarts, muffins, breads and a whole lot of stuff and it's been a blast! If you are in Chennai, and need to order something, write to me at

That's all from me for now, folks! Posting may not be very regular, but I am still around. Keep in touch!
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Friday, April 13, 2012

Bacon, Chives and Cream Cheese Rolls

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This recipe has been crying to get made forever! It has been in my head for the longest time, and  I finally got around to making it last week!
My husband declared this 'the best 'bready' thing I have ever made', and that is a high compliment coming from him! But truth be told - how can it not be the best when it has bacon, right? The combination is quite a classic - cream cheese and chives - with crisp bacon bits thrown in, just because I can.
The dough can be a little sticky, but don't be tempted to add in too much extra flour. Just handle the dough with well floured hands, on a well-floured counter-top!

What you could consider adding more of is bacon. Is there such a thing as too much bacon?

Bacon, Chives and Cream Cheese Rolls
Recipe Source - the same voices in my head that told me to put Mars bars in oatmeal cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk, plus 1 extra tablespoon for the egg-wash
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup oil
1 egg
1/2 + 2 tbsp cream cheese
200g bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup finely chopped garlic chives
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Stir together and set aside.
2. Combine the milk and water in a saucepan and heat till lukewarm. Don't make it hot, or it will kill the yeast.
3. Crack the egg into a small bowl and whisk it lightly. Remove one tablespoon of the egg into another small bowl and set aside. Add the remaining egg and the oil into the milk  mixture.
4. Pour the milk mixture in to the bowl with the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth. Continue beating for a further 3-4 minutes.
5. Add the remaining flour a little at a time, until you have a soft but sticky dough.
6. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, cover with greased clingfilm, and set it aside to rise for about an hour.
7. At the end of this time, preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (400F). Punch down your dough and transfer to a well-floured work surface.
8. Using your hands (flour them first) or a rolling pin, form the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 thick.
9. Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
10. Spread the filling over the surface of the dough, leaving about 1/2 an inch on all sides.
11. Starting with the long side of the rectangle that is furthest away from you, roll the dough toward yourself and pinch the seam.
12. Slice this roll into 4-6 slices, and transfer them, on their sides, onto a greased baking dish.
13. Take the reserved egg and combine with tablespoon of milk. Brush this mixture over the top of the rolls.
14. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the bread is springy and golden brown.

This is bread is amazingly soft on the inside and when eaten fresh, has a slightly crispy crust. The filling is amazing in flavor - salty, and with garlicky undertones from the garlic chives. Just brilliant!
There was just one complaint about this recipe - that it doesn't make enough! After we had a roll each, all of us (my husband, daughter and I) actually argued about who would get to eat the last roll! We ended up sharing, and I got the smallest piece and was told (very strictly, I might add), "next time, make more!"

I guess next time, I will have to make a double batch! Or maybe even triple! :)

P.S. If you are in Chennai and are interested in getting a start in baking, don't hesitate to sign up for my Introduction to Baking workshop. More details here. There are only a few seats left in the next batch - so sign up soon!

P.P.S. - I made these for breakfast, and so the pictures were taken in a hurry while my daughter and husband were already at the table, waiting! The pictures are not great, but the rolls were!!!
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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Restaurant Review: Zaica

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This was one of the most mind-boggling, confusing reviews I have ever been part of. Everything about it threw me off - some in a good way, and some - not-so-much. Let me start at the beginning...

So we pull up the front of the restaurant, and I look at this tiny entrance surrounded by high buildings, and I am wondering - how many seats could they possibly have in this tiny place? And then I walk in, and the place is really, really BIG! Lots of little private dining rooms and even a gaming room with game consoles that you can use - free-of-cost - while you wait for your food to arrive!
The decor of the place itself was a little confusing - some modern pieces, some antique looking baubles and a gaming room. But somehow, it didn't feel wrong!

We were seated at a table by the buffet counter. And then we were told that we would be eating from the buffet. I am not a big fan of buffets. But hey - I don't know much about Peshawari food, and I probably wouldn't know what to order! Just based on the names, I definitely would NOT have ordered the dishes that turned out to be my favorites!

While we waited for the starters to be served at our tables, we were given some papads with some very yummy chutneys to snack on (pictured below).
And there was some Papdi chaat. The chaat wasn't impressive, and I was hoping the rest of the meal would be a lot better!

The first course arrived. Soup! If you've read my blog, you probably know I love soup. I usually don't pass up on the soup unless it looks or sounds particularly unappetizing. This one was a mutton based soup called a Yakhni Shorba (pictured below).
It didn't look very appetizing, but since I am a big fan of mutton, I just had to try it! Sigh. I wish I had passed up on the soup. It was really not good. It was lukewarm, with undertones of mutton and overtones of.... not good. The vegetarians got a Tomato Shorba, and that was the first time in my life I wished I was a vegetarian! The Tomato shorba, while not amazing, had flavor and the flavor was well-balanced. I loved the sour notes in the shorba. Really pleasing on the palate. And it helped wash the the other soup's taste out of my mouth.

Then the starters began to make their way to our tables. First came the vegetarian starters. I'm thinking, "Beetroot tikkis? Seriously? I like beets, but honestly - I heard there were some yummy sounding chicken tikkas coming soon! I wanted to save tummy space for those. But I am a food blogger. I need to taste everything, right? Okay, maybe just one tikki so I can write about it on my blog."
The first bite of Beetroot ki Tikki (pictured above) and I was floored. And this time, in a good way. Not just good - great! That beetroot tikki was one of the best vegetarian dishes I have eaten - ever! I asked for more. And I ended up eating about four that afternoon. Oh my goodness! SO good!

Then came a paneer based dish called Gul Gul Fom Ki Paneer (pictured below). The name made me giggle. And then I thought, "Could this one be good too? Should I try it?", and I did. Wow! Another starter that was knocked out of the park!
Amazing! Layers of soft paneer, and sandwiched in between were some sort of mushed up peas, and mushrooms, and covered with a sauce that for the life of me, I cannot identify. All I can say is that it was yellowish in color. But it tasted great! I asked for more. What was happening to me?

Third vegetarian starter of the day was Bhutiyan di Seek. Three for three? Was it possible? Nah! :) While this one also tasted very good, it didn't WOW me the way the first two starters did.

The non-vegetarian starters came next - a sesame based chicken tikka (Murgh Til Tikka), and cream and fenugreek marinated chicken tikka (Murgh Malai Methi - pictured below), and fried fish.
All three were good - the best of the lot being the sesame based one. The other two tasted nice enough and I tasted all three, before asking for more beetroot and paneer. Um. What's wrong with me?

For the mains, we headed to the buffet counters. Nothing really impressed me here.

The vegetarian curries were okay - and marginally better than the non-vegetarian options. My favorite curry was the Vegetable Makhanwala.
The Mutton Roganjosh (pictured above) tasted fine, and the meat was tender, but it didn't taste like any roganjosh I've ever tasted. Maybe that's the Peshawari way of making it? It was nice enough. The classic Chicken Tikka Masala was just okay. Nothing to write home about. The Dal Makhani was nice.
The Chicken Biriyani (pictured above) was decently flavored and you couldn't really complain about it. I personally don't like Chicken Biriyani, and maybe that's why I wasn't impressed. For me, biriyani = mutton! :D

Finally, my favorite part of any meal - dessert!!!

The cake was terrible! The worst part - there was pink layer of 'skin' over the top of the cake. I think there was some sort of gelatin-infused fruit coulis over the top. But the harsh lights of the buffet dried out the layer and it became a sort of fruit leather. Not good.
The Gulab Jamuns (pictured above) were average and were served too hot. If only the soup was as hot as the jamuns, it may have tasted better. Or maybe not. I usually like jamuns and ice-cream, but this time, I passed on the ice cream.

Overall, I can say that my meal at Zaica was a strange experience. I guess the best way to put it would be that the good was great and the bad was really bad! The chef really knows how to cook a mean beetroot tikki. If they increased the standard of the main courses, and totally revamped the dessert section, it would be a lovely place to eat.

The non-vegetarian lunch buffet is priced at Rs. 480 and the vegetarian at Rs. 425, and the menu is different everyday. Zaica is located on Cathedral road next to Zara's Tapas Bar.

Would I go back? For sure - for those righteous vegetarian starters! I feel a beetroot tikki craving coming on right now!!!
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter Cupcakes & Homemade Fondant!

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Okay, first things first... if you are here expecting a quark based recipe based on my last recipe post, I am sorry to disappoint you! I was going to make something really yummy. I swear!!! But then my friend came over, and told me all about how they eat quark in Germany (she's half German), and that was that! The next morning, we ate quark on toast, loved every bite of it, and now it's gone! Poof! Just like that!

So, I owe you one 'quarky' recipe. 

But until then, please have a cupcake?
It has been a while since I worked with fondant. And this week, when I was asked if I would make these for church, I jumped at the chance! It's so fun and it's been ages!

I don't know about you, but fondant isn't up there with my favorite frostings, in terms of flavor. I have tasted a lot of fondant and most of them are tasteless and dry. Homemade fondant to the rescue!

I followed the rolled fondant recipe from Zoe Bakes, and I was thrilled with the results. All the fondant recipes I have used before pale in comparison to this one. It rolls out beautiful and is really easy to work with! If you are afraid of working with fondant, this is the recipe to try. And you know what the BEST part is? It tastes nice! I increased the quantity of vanilla in the recipe just a little bit, and it tasted really nice. Of course, it is still really sweet, and so I can't eat too much of it, but at least it doesn't taste like cardboard!

Homemade Fondant
Adapted from Zoe Bakes
900gms Icing Sugar
1 tablespoon gelatin (unflavored)
3 tablespoon cold water
1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon Liquid Glucose
1 1/2 tablespoons glycerin
1 tbsp + 1 tsp vanilla extract
(If you want pure white fondant, pure vanilla extract is too 'brown'. You will need to use clear vanilla which is usually an essence and not an extract.)

1. Sift half the icing sugar into a large bowl and set aside.
2. In a medium heatproof bowl, pour the cold water and sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of it. Allow the gelatin to bloom by leaving it in the water for about 3-4 minutes.
3. Place the bowl over a double boiler and heat until the gelatin has completely dissolved. Don't allow the mixture to boil. Alternately, you can zap it in the microwave for short 10 second intervals, stirring in between, until the gelatin has completely dissolved. I haven't tried it in the microwave myself, and so I cannot vouch for this method.
4. As soon as the gelatin mixture comes off the stove, stir in the liquid glucose, glycerin and vanilla extract. Stir well to combine.
5. Make a well in the center of the icing sugar, and pour in the gelatin-glucose mixture.
6. On low speed, mix them together until completely combined and sticky.
7. Transfer onto a clean counter which has been sprinkled with some powdered sugar.
8. Add the remaining powdered sugar a little at a time, and begin to incorporate with your hands. Keep kneading until all the sugar as been added and you have a smooth ball of fondant.
9. Wrap the fondant in two layers of clingfilm and set aside to rest for 12-18 hours. Do not refrigerate.
10. When you are ready to use the fondant, if you find it is too dry, you can microwave it for 15-20 seconds and you will find it has softened slightly and is more pliable.
11. Divide into portions and color as desired. Gel food coloring is recommended because liquid coloring can make your fondant too wet.

There you go! Homemade fondant :)

In case you were wondering, the cupcakes are just regular vanilla cupcakes, and the 'grass' is a Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting tinted green!

I had fun playing with the fondant, and so did my little girl! We made eggs
eggs in nests
and chicks
and a rabbit, too!
I am sorry to report that this rabbit died an untimely death due to overweight.
This is a picture of him, minutes before his sudden demise. Poor guy. He didn't know what was coming! :(
He toppled off the cupcake platter, fell a good 5 1/2 feet into the dirt and had to be buried in the trash. The rabbit in the next picture is his square-jawed brother who stepped in to take his place.
In case you didn't notice, or if you were wondering why some of the pictures look different, some of the pictures in this post were taken by Zippora (my half German, quark eating friend), who also took the pictures of my Triple Dark Chocolate Cookies post. Her pictures and mine were taken in different lighting settings, and with different brands of camera (Nikon vs. Canon.... hmmmm) and lenses (hers is a 50mm lens, and mine is not). What a difference, right? :) You can check out her photography blog here.

I've been seeing so many cute and adorable fondant Easter toppers out there! Bunnies, chicks, flowers, eggs, and SO much more. But I just wanted to share this last cupcake to remind us what Easter is all about! Let's not forget about the death and resurrection of our Lord, which is the reason we celebrate!
If you are looking for some ideas for Easter cookies, you can check out my Easter post from last year. Not very professional looking cookies, but hey - I tried! :)

Happy Easter!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1 Peter 1:3

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Restaurant Review - Azzuri Bay

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Azzuri Bay is a restaurant that I have been hearing about for ages, but never got around to visiting. And when I got the chance to review the place, I obviously said 'YES!'.

I arrived there on a balmy Wednesday evening, and was greeted at the ground floor who confirmed my table and sent me up the elevator after informing 'the man upstairs' that I was on my way. We were seated in the outdoor seating area which overlooks the river. The setting was was really pretty, and I hear is even nicer looking during the day. As I mentioned, the weather isn't great this time of year, and I was starting to feel a little warm. While we waited for our drinks, the first surprise of the evening turned up!
I don't know how many of you have had these, but I loved these growing up. I don't know if there is a more correct name, but we called it 'Pepsi cola'(pictured above). Makes no sense at all because it has nothing to do with Pepsi, and you almost never find a cola flavored one! As kids, we didn't care that it was just tons of sugar, synthetic flavors and colors mixed with water (from who knows where!) and frozen in a questionable looking plastic satchet. We LOVED it! This was a real blast from the past for me. This time it was fresh juice, and very refreshing. A tad too sweet for the grown-up in me, but very appreciated! Thank you, Azzuri Bay, for the trip down memory lane!

When I told this friend of mine that I was going to be reviewing Azzuri Bay, she said, "You have to have the Thai Iced Tea(pictured below)!" And so I did.
I wish I hadn't listened to my friend. I really did not like the drink. The other reviewer who ordered the same drink agreed that the flavor of lemon grass was so overpowering that you started feeling a little sick. He managed to finish his drink, but I couldn't get past three sips! The restaurateur kindly replaced my drink with a fresh watermelon juice, and all was well with the world! I tasted the San Fransico Iced Tea and didn't much care for that one either. My favorite of all the drinks that evening was a Virgin Pina Colada which was surprisingly light and very refreshing!

Then the starters began to arrive. And they kept coming, and coming and coming.

Of the ones that I sampled, the biggest hit was the Grilled Shrimp (pictured below)! It was so succulent, perfectly seasoned and the spices did not overpower, allowing the star of the dish - the shrimp - to shine through. I ate a fair number (which I will not specify), and enjoyed every single bite of it!
The other starter I enjoyed was the Double Cooked Chicken Pepper Strips. I loved that the chicken was really well cooked, and not at all overcooked. It was moist and very flavorful. There was another black pepper based dish which was the Garlic Pepper Fish, which I loved in terms of flavor, but found the pepper way too coarse for my taste. I hate biting into almost whole peppercorns and that kinda ruined it for me. But just like the chicken, the fish was very well cooked too.

The Crispy Chilly Beef was tasty, spicy and really yummy, but I think it should be renamed. No sign of any crispiness. But as chilly beef, they hit the spot!
For me, the biggest let-downs were the money bags (pictured above), and the momos - both the vegetable and shrimp momos. While they were juicy and well-cooked, they totally lacked seasoning and flavor, in my opinion. Very bland!
The other starters - Hummus and Pita bread(pictured above), Spring rolls, Veggie kebabs on sugarcane skewers were just okay. Definitely nothing to talk about!

At this point, we resurfaced from all the starters and took a few seconds to look at the menu and to look around us, and we noticed that the restaurant was full! Second surprise of the night... Amazing that they had such a large crowd on a Wednesday night!

Moving on to the mains, I went with one of my favorite cuts of meat - lamb shanks! I just adore lamb shanks and was looking forward to moist, falling off the bone, flavorful lamb shanks, and I am happy to report that I was not disappointed! The Lamb Shanks Sofrito (pictured below) was a total winner, and was the unanimous favorite among the meat eaters. Bizzare, because I usually have the worst luck at picking things off a menu! LOL :D
The baked potato on the side was quite disappointing. I know it's hard to make a perfect baked potato - crispy skin and fluffy, starchy interior - but I expected them to have nailed it. Sad. But the lamb shanks made me forget my baked potato woes.
Unfortunately, none of the other diners were too impressed with their starters. The wine in the Chicken Milanaise was overpowering, the pizzas (pictured above) had a lovely wood-fire oven baked crusts but the toppings were flavorless, the vegetarian lasagna was waaaaaaay too creamy, and the Chicken Penne Alfredo was pronounced 'just okay'.
The worst luck of the evening belonged to the steak lovers. Every single steak (one of the steaks is pictured above) was terrible, in my opinion - either overcooked, undercooked or had unimpressive flavor. Honestly though, I don't think it is a problem with the dish or the recipe. I feel that these dishes were let down by the execution. It needed to be cooked & seasoned right. You know how bad a badly cooked steak can be, right? I really felt bad for the guy in the corner fighting his T-bone steak with a carving knife, and losing the battle.

Thankfully, the meal ended on a bright note! The desserts were excellent! The Chocolate-Cointreau mousse, and the Apple Pie were tasty but nothing to rave about.

The Mississipi mudpie - a chocolate crust, filled with coffee gelato and topped with fudgy chocolate sauce - was very tasty and was the most popular dessert with the majority of votes - not mine though. The popularity, I think, was mainly due to the wonderful flavor of the coffee gelato. The crust was way too frozen  (and kinda thick), and so we couldn't cut through it till all the gelato was gone and the crust thawed out.
My choice of dessert - the Pomegranate panna cotta (pictured above), scared me at first. It arrived on a plate, floating in some really weird looking pink, watery, milky..... stuff. It took me a while to work up the nerve to taste it, but once I got past the sloppy presentation, I was quite pleased with the flavor and the texture of the panna cotta.

I also asked if could sample the Double Chocolate Gelato. The first spoonful made me go 'Wow!' and then as it melted I noticed something very strange. The third surprise of the evening for me - the gelato wouldn't melt. It just became un-cold, but remained the same in consistency and texture. Strange! After about 5 minutes, I was left with a thick, creamy, chocolate-y bowl of something very close to a fudge sauce, but still held it's gelato shape. Being so thick and rich, I could not eat more than two spoonfuls! I though gelatos were supposed to have a lighter base?

In my last post, I mentioned that I made quark after eating a quark-based dessert at a restuarant. I was talking about Azzuri Bay's dessert...
...the Gentle Aphrodisiac(pictured above).


It was really good! I loved the sweet cheesecake with hints of sour from the quark topped with the bright red, tart raspberry sauce. Overall, the combination was lovely and light, but most of the others at the table didn't seem to enjoy it as much as I did. I didn't complain. I just ate most of it myself.

Overall, I had a lovely meal at Azzuri Bay! My starters, main and dessert were delightful and well-cooked, and so I guess if you know what to order, you can be sure to enjoy a lovely meal in a beautiful setting!
I must mention that Azzuri Bay serves Thai, Chinese, Italian Mediterranean and Chettinad food (please don't ask me to explain this strange combination of cuisines!), and is definitely worth a visit! I mean, if they have full seating on a Wednesday night (that too in the outdoor seating area in our weather!), they must be doing something right!

I think I will go back soon!

P.S. - Please come back for a special Easter post tomorrow! :) I am pretty excited about this one!

P.P.S. - If you are waiting for that quark-based recipe I promised, don't hold your breath. We ate all the quark!!! Will get around to posting a recipe after I make some more quark!
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Monday, April 2, 2012

Homemade Quark

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Did you have a lovely weekend? I know I did! It had the right mix of busy-ness, rest, recreation and family time. Really nice...

Last week I was among a group that was reviewing a popular restaurant (I will post the review on my blog on Thursday), and one of the desserts we tasted was a quark based dish. Now quark has been on my must-make list for AGES.
Speaking of my must-make list - am I the only one who has a must make list which has more items on it than there are days in a year? Seriously - I don't think I'll ever get all these things made. I get side tracked so easily. For example, a few weeks ago, I decided I wanted to make a marshmallow fondant. So I went to the supermarket to buy marshmallows, and this jar of juniper berries caught my eye! And I went - "Oooooooooooh! I've always wanted to cook with juniper berries!" And I came home with a jar of dried juniper berries (that I still don't know how to use!), and NO MARSHMALLOWS! Hmmm. How am I going to get things done at this rate?

Back to the quark.

('Quark' is such a fun word, isn't it? So much you can do with it! "I'm quarking today!""This tastes a little quarky!" "I'm a quarky person!" etc. Also, I was wondering - since quark is also a scienc-y word, and is the word used for the fundamental constituent of all matter, don't ALL foods have quark in them? Technically? Just asking. Sorry. Who named this cheese 'quark' anyways?)

See? This is exactly how I deviate from my planned course of action!

So as I said, it's been on my list for ages and when I tasted this 'quarky' dessert at the restaurant, I was reminded of it. And I finally got it done.
I read and re-read several recipes. I started on using the method listed on one blog, and it didn't work out the way it was supposed to. So halfway through, I just started doing things my own way based on the principles I understood from reading the other blogs.

Homemade Quark
4 cups full fat milk (I used pasteurized milk)
1/2 cup full fat buttermilk

1. Clean and sterilize a large jar which has a lid.
2. If you are using pasteurized milk, just pour the room-temperature milk into the jar and mix in the buttermilk.
3. If the milk you are using is not pasteurized, just boil it like you usually do and allow it to cool before you add in the buttermilk.
4. Stir the milk-buttermilk mixture gently for about 10 seconds, close the jar with the lid and set aside in a warm place for 24-32 hours. During this time, it may or may not begin to look curdled. Don't worry about it. Mine rested for about 28 hours and did not curdle.
5. Transfer the mixture into a saucepan and place on a gentle flame. You will notice the curdling immediately. Don't let the mixture boil. I had the mixture on the stove for about 60 seconds totally.
6. Line a strainer with a clean tea-towel and place over a bowl. Pour the mixture into the strainer, cover with a plate, and place in the refrigerator overnight.
7. Transfer the quark in the strainer into an airtight box, and store in the refrigerator.

I got about 200gms of quark from this recipe. The higher the fat content of your milk and buttermilk, the more quark you will have in the end. From what I've read, you can store the quark in your refrigerator for up to a week. If you want to keep it longer, wrap it in a few layers of cling film, put them in an air-tight freezer bag, and freeze it for up to a month. Thaw it in the refrigerator when you want to use it. I haven't tried this myself, but it sounds right.
As for the whey - do not discard it! It is a very high source of protein and is has many uses. They are supposed to be wonderful in bread dough. Just replace half or all the water in your favorite bread recipe with the whey and see if there is a difference! I've saved my whey in the fridge and intend to try it! I used a some of it in my multi-grain crepe batter too, and I felt that the crepes were a lot easier to handle and didn't tear as easily. There are some recipes out there for whey shakes and smoothies too - which is a great source of protein if you a person who works out regularly!

I was really pleased with the way the quark turned out and with the flavor. (Not so pleased with the photographs, though! Ugh!!!) It is smooth and creamy, with a slightly ricotta-ish texture to it. The flavor is sourish with some sweet undertones. Just how I imagined it would be. I mixed a about two tablespoons of the quark with about 1 tsp of of heavy cream and mixed it till smooth and creamy, and spread it on a piece of toast. It was really nice!!!

And for the remaining quark in my refrigerator, I have some grand plans for it! If it all goes the way I plan, I will share my quark-based recipe with you next week! 
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