Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Series of Unfortunate Events...

I've baked a few cakes in my lifetime, mostly chocolate ones - Black as midnight, the Chocolate Chestnut bomb and Molten Chocolate Babycakes. But I freely admit I'm not a dab hand at decorating them. I did get enthused a few years ago and buy myself a set of decorating tools but many of those were soon pilfered by my then two-year-old and then I figured I'd focus on content rather than presentation. So it was a huge challenge for me to participate in the Daring Bakers challenge for March of baking the perfect party cake and decorating it with butter cream.
Of course, I had a few other challenges during the process. For one, our electricity supply has been erratic, to put it mildly, so I'm never sure when it's ok to pop in a cake. As it turned out, over the long weekend, we had power long enough to bake a few potatoes, but about 10 minutes after I'd huffed and puffed and popped the party cake in, the power went off for over half an hour. I was in a real quandary because I didn't know whether I should re-mix the cake batter to get it airy again. Eventually I didn't, so I'm not sure if the cake turned out as light as it should have.

Then I needed to cover the layers with raspberry jam but I butter-fingerily dropped the jar and smashed it, so I had to use blueberry preserves, which were much thicker and full of whole blueberries - delicious but not very spreadable. I also forgot whether I needed egg whites or yolks for the icing and used up the whites by mistake, so I had to separate another bunch of eggs - we had a loof scrambled eggs last weekend as a result. Being really untalented at decorating cakes, I overdid the blue food colouring so I got a deep blue instead of the pale colour I had wanted.

The only mishap that I was anticipating but which didn't happen was that the butter cream icing didn't curdle. It came together beautifully, white and fluffy and was great fun to use.
I used some blue-coloured coconut flakes for the sides of the cake and a handful of hundreds and thousands came in handy to cover the top of the cake where the icing was slathered on roughly.

I must admit that the cake was a huge hit. Mom loved it and didn't cotton on that the icing had raw egg whites in it - in fact, she commented that there was no smell of egg. A's office pals and my colleagues were impressed that I'd actually decorated it at home. And I find myself already contemplating doing this over for my daughter's birthday, if only I can get someone to come along and decorate it for me!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ajji's Aloogadde Palya

I love potatoes, they're my never-fail veg for almost any mood. There are a million ways in which I use them, including garlicky tikkis, comfort food veggie, on pizzas etc, but the way my grandmom makes them is something I can't aspire to, due to reasons of lack of time and patience, but oh...aren't they wonderful?

Grandma's potato veg is something all her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren really relish and it's a standing request from all of us any time we visit her. Only a grandma would have the love and strength to make this, IMHO, so be warned before you try it!


Potatoes ( count one per person and 2 for the pot) - peeled and cubed really, really, really small ( about 2 mm per side, and I'm not kidding)

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp urad dal

Pinch turmeric

Handful curry leaves ( torn into smaller pieces)

1-2 tsp chilli powder ( to taste)

Salt to taste

1 tbsp vegetable oil

Heat the oil in a wok. Add the mustard seeds and wait for them to stop spluttering. Add the turmeric, curry leaves and urad dal. Wait until the dal starts browning, turn the heat way down low and add the potatoes. Cook on a very low flame, stirring periodically ( pretty much till your arms fall off), until the potatoes are cooked through and crisp.

Turn off the heat and add the salt and chilli powder and stir to mix.

This veg tastes great with almost anything - curd rice, rasam and rice, chapattis, buttered toast, with plain yoghurt as a is so delicious that I'm contemplating serving it as one of the snacks for the next party we host, though for that I might have to kidnap my ajji and keep her here with me:)

This was for weekend herb blogging for this week.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Arusuvai Chain - Saffron

I have really not cooking much lately, what with a hectic work schedule and general change of season tiredness. But...ages ago, my fellow-blogger Shella introduced me to the Friendship chain and sent me some saffron essence. I don't use saffron much, except in badam kheer, badam halwa or to put on my kids' noses when they have colds ( it works a treat on young kids), and I didn't want to repeat the badam recipes so after some soul-searching, decided to whip up something off the top of my head.

When I was a kid, my dad used to make caramel toast for me occasionally, as a treat. I still love that, by the way, but I wondered how it would be if I added a twist to the Caramel toast and layed it with khoya flavoured with saffron (khoya is thickened milk, thickened until it is the consistency of dough, and can be moulded). Once the thought got into my head, mostly prompted by the small quantity of khoya left over from my black carrot halwa, I had to give it a whirl.

It tasted rather good, actually, with the milky bland contrast of the khoya against the sugar injection of caramel toast. The saffron added a good richness to the mix, so I am contemplating making this the next time we entertain. It'll certainly be something I can whip up in a hurry if we have unexpected guests.

Caramel toast:
A few slices bread( white or brown, either will do)
Some dollops of ghee
1 tbsp sugar for each slice of bread

Heat some of the ghee in a frying pan. When it has melted, sprinkle half a tbsp of sugar all over, roughly about the size and shape of your slice of bread.
Once the sugar turns pale brown, pop in the bread slice and cook on a low flame, pressing down, until the caramel turns a bit darker.
Remove the bread slice, put some more ghee and sugar and put the slice of bread, uncoated side down, onto the pan and let that too get browned.

When all your slices are done ( and do remember not to stack them while hot - they'll all stick together), mix the saffron essence into the khoya and spread, like butter but only more thickly ( as thick as a slice of cheese) on top of half the bread slices. I had about 100 gms of khoya which was enough for 4 bread slices. Sandwich with the remaining caramel toasts and serve cut up into swuares, like a burfi.