Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mango & Cardamom Cake (using ready made mango pulp)

Mango - the king of fruits. And if its the Alphonso mango............ well, then you know you have hit the jackpot.
Mango season in India is like a festival. These mangoes are expensive in Bombay and other citis and in those beautiful coastal villages where my ancestors hailed from - mangoes grow in abundance. Alphonso mango is grown in Ratnagiri and the surrounding areas.
Mango season is a family event - and every family makes it special in their own way. My mother used to make fresh mango pulp by grinding the pulp and adding sugar to it and then bringing it to a boil and preserving it in glass bottles which were frozen in the freezer. This way we enjpyed Alphanso mangoes all year through.

Nine years ago I moved to the United States with my husband. I have not tasted an Alphonso mango or any Indian mango for that period of time. I have eaten those Mexican mangoes - but, they are not like the Alphonso or the Kesari that we get back home. I remember the other varieties too. In our native village it was the most amazing ishad mango and then my aunt had a mango tree in her yard which grew the most sweetest mangoes called 'got'.

Well - thats the mango saga from back home in India. Here we do get mango slices at the Indian store. They are the frozen ones and are good for making mango milkshakes, mango lassis and even mango shrikhand (amrakhand).

I always have a can of mango pulp at home. At times I do not get those fresh mango slices and that's when this comes in handy. It is loaded with sugar I know - but, having one handy always helps. Below are the two pulps that I have in my pantry.
Both images were sourced from the net (I just did a google image search for mango pulp cans) 


I had opened one can and had some of the unused pulp inside my fridge. Had to use it up before it got bad. So, finally gave in and made the mango cake. I have not been a fan of fruit cakes ever (except the banana bread) as these cakes turn a bit dense. But, I was pleasantly surprised at how this cake came out spongy and moist and had the right amount of spring to it. The addition of cardamom took it to a whole different level. The beautiful golden hue on the cake is what spring and summer are made of............. yes, we need that here. These below freezing temperatures are kinda getting annoying now.


Ingredients

1/2 cup butter
3 eggs (at room temperature)
1 cup mango pulp
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp cardamom powder

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a cake pan - I used a bundt pan. But, you could use a 9X13 (inch) baking pan. Or you could even get 20 to 24 cupcakes out of it.
Sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom powder and salt and keep it aside.
In a mixing bowl - beat the eggs till they are nice and fluffy. Add the sugar and mix well till it gets dissolved. Add the melted butter (make sure it is not hot) and milk and mix well for about 5 minutes. Now add the mango pulp and fold the mixture lightly till everything is integrated.
Add the flour mixture and fold it in using a ladle. Mix it well till no lumps can be seen. Be careful not to overmix.
Pour it into the pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. After 30 minutes check to see the doneness using a toothpick. Insert the toothpick in the middle of the cake and remove - if its clean, its done - else let it bake for another 5 minutes before checking.
For cupcakes the baking time will be in between 8 to 12 minutes.
Remove onto a cooling rack and cut after its cooled down.

Tutti Frutti Cake

 I had got about 4 huge packets of tutti frutti from the Indian grocery store during Christmas. I used only 2 of those packets to make the Christmas Cake. 1 packet was given to a friend. So, I had 1 whole packet lying in my freezer. I had to make use of it before next Christmas. So, made this tutti frutti cake when a friend came visiting for some chai (tea) and cake.


What is Tutti Frutti??? I got a nice explanation from Wikipedia (Tutti Frutti)

"Tutti frutti (from Italian "all fruits", also hyphenated tutti-frutti) is a colorful confection containing various chopped and usually candied fruits, or an artificially created flavouring simulating the combined flavour of many different fruits. It is often used for making a tutti frutti ice cream flavor.

Fruits used for tutti-frutti ice cream include cherries, raisins, and pineapple, often augmented with nuts.[1] In the Netherlands, tutti-frutti (also "tutti frutti," "tuttifrutti") is a compote of dried fruits, served as a dessert[2][3] or a side dish to a meat course.[4][5] In Belgium, tutti-frutti is often seen as a dessert.[6] Typically, it contains a combination of raisins, currants, apricots, prunes, dates, and figs.

In the United States, tutti-frutti can also refer to fruits soaked in brandy or other spirits, or even to fruit fermented in a liquid containing sugar and yeast.[7]

In India, tutti-frutti refers to candied raw papaya. These are always small cubical pieces often brightly colored. The most common color being red, tutti-frutti are also available in rich green and yellow colors. These are used in various bakery products including cakes, milk-breads, cookies, dilkhush and buns. Tutti-frutti is also used in cold deserts as toppings for the ice-creams and sundaes. They are also used in sweet paans and sangeet (paper-masala)"


Ingredients

3 eggs at room temperature
1 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups All Purpose Flour (APF)
1 cup sugar
1 cup tutti frutti (dust it with 1 TBS APF)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp salt


Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a cake pan - I used a bundt pan. But, you could use a 9X13 (inch) baking pan. Or you could even get 20 to 24 cupcakes out of it.
Sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and keep it aside.
In a mixing bowl - beat the eggs till they are nice and fluffy. Add the sugar and mix well till it gets dissolved. Add the melted butter (make sure it is not hot) and milk and vanilla essence and mix well for about 5 minutes.
Add the flour mixture and fold it in using a ladle. Mix it well till no lumps can be seen. Be careful not to overmix. Fold in the tutti frutti.
Pour it into the pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. After 30 minutes check to see the doneness using a toothpick. Insert the toothpick in the middle of the cake and remove - if its clean, its done - else let it bake for another 5 minutes before checking.
For cupcakes the baking time will be in between 8 to 12 minutes.
Remove onto a cooling rack and cut after its cooled down.

Banana & Coconut Bread (not cake) - with yeast

I met Dillon Kesur on one of those food forums on facebook - and his rustic cooking and his love for food instantly caught my attention. He is just amazing with yeast and wild pears and edible flowers. He can cook any kind of food. The best part being - he is a very humble human being - needless to say I grew to admire him and connected with him on social media. I have learn a lot from him.

The other day he posted a picture of a banana and coconut bread using yeast - yes, it was actually a bread. Loved the flavors he used and how beautiful the crumb looked. I had to bake this bread. Thankfully, I did have 2 brown bananas that needed to be put to good use. I wanted to make it a bit sweeter as I cannot give up sugar completely - so, I added a bit of sugar to the dough. It turned out to be an amazing lightly sweet banana and coconut bread with hints of sesame. It was loved by my bread loving husband Mr. A and even our Lil Miss A.

Thank you Dillon for another gem of a bread recipe.

As he explained in his recipe - if you know the Jim Lahey No Knead Bread and the Ken Forkish Method (you can google them both) - making such breads becomes easy. 

I did not have any sourdough starter - so used yeast directly and made the sticky lacey dough along with the flavors of the bread. But, if you have a sourdough starter (I have the recipe for Sourdough Bread which has the starter recipe at the very beginning) make use of it.


Ingredients

2 bananas - mashed
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 1/2 cups milk
3 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar (optional)
2 cardamom pods - crushed (optional)
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (for topping)

Method

In a large bowl combine mashed banana, coconut flakes, sugar, milk, cardamom,flour, yeast and salt and mix with a wooden spoon till all is blended well. and you get a goopy and sticky mixture. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for about 16 to 18 hours.
After the 16 to 18 hours the dough will have almost doubled in size and will be covered in bubbles.
Remove the dough on a lightly floured work surface and fold it over on itself about 2 to 3 times.
Use a little flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers - do not use more then 1 tablespoon at a time and not more then 4 tablespoons in total (else the bread will become dense). Shape dough into a ball. Take a parchment paper and put some flour on the surface. Place the round shaped dough, seam side down and cover with a huge bowl. Let it sit for 2 hours undisturbed.
When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
About one and half hours after you have kept the dough for its second rise preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Put a 6- to 8-quart cast iron pan in oven as it heats. After 2 hours of the dough resting - carefully remove pot from oven. Pick the parchment paper with dough inside and slide it into the pot. Shake pan once or twice to get even dough distribution. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on the surface. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cut after it has cooled down and relish with some coffee or tea and a dollop of butter.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Crab Chettinad Fry - My Way!


As the name suggets - Chettinad food is from the Chettinad region in Tamil Nadu, a state in Southern India. My knowledge about this cuisine is minimal - but, I love the flavors and the pungent taste and the aromas that it brings. This may not be the most authentic Chettinad food - but, this is how I developed the flavors based on the crab curry that we had from a seafood joint here in NJ called Arusuvai.
Chettinad food is generally consumed with rice or with rice based stuff like dosas, appams or adais. However, at Arusuvai we were served this kind of curry with Lacha Paratha and hence we like it like that.
This reminded me of Mahesh Lunch Home and Gajalee back home in my amazing town called Bombay (I refuse to call her Mumbai)
We loved this stuff and hope you like what you see and what you make at home too.


Ingredients

1 pound crabs - I used about 2 snow crabs here
1/2 cup sliced onions
10 cloves garlic
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 TBS coriander seeds
1 Tsp Peppercorns
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 Tsp Tamarind Paste (I get concentrated paste at the store)
6 dry kashmiri chilis (you can use more to get more heat)
2 TBS coconut oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 Tsp Turmeric Powder
1 Tsp Red Chilli Powder
1/2 Tsp Garam Masala Powder
20 Curry Leaves
4 green chilis - slit in the middle
Salt to taste
Cilantro for Garnish


Method

Crabs need to be used immediately after cleaning - so we make the masala first and then do the rest.
In a Big Karahi or Wok - dry roast the coriander seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon and kashimiri chilis. Once they leave an aroma add 1 TBS Coconut oil and add the 1/2 cup sliced onions along with the 10 cloves of garlic (chopped). Fry  till the onions turn a nice golden brown. Add the shredded coconut and let the mixture mix well and saute till you get the aroma of roasted coconut. Take it off the flame add the tamarind paste and let it cool. Once cooled down - grind it to a fine paste adding very little water just to ease the grinding process.
Wash and Clean the crabs and let them sit on a plate. In the same Wok or Karahi add the other 1 TBS coconut oil. When the oil gets hot add the curry leaves and the slit green chilis and in about 10 seconds add the onions and saute till they turn transparent. To this add the turmeric powder, chili powder, garam masala powder and mix well. Add the ground masala mixture and mix well. If you feel that the mixture is too thick add just about 1/4 cup water and salt to taste and mix well. Add the crabs and cover each crab piece with the masala mixture. Cover and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes. Once the shells of the crab turn a nice orange you now crab is cooked.
If the masala is watery - just heat the mixture uncovered for another 2 to 5 minutes.
Garnish with chopped Cilantro and serve hot with Parathas and salad.
If you are anything like us - you will not have parathas or rice - just plain crab chettinad along with salad.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

No Knead Crusty Bread


I baked this no knead crusty bread last year (2014) on 29th January. I know I am posting the recipe after a whole year. Well, this bread does not need any introduction nor a recipe. The recipe is by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery - a simple google search and the recipe will pop up. But the crust and the texture makes this one awesome bread.
Its a very simple bread to make - uses minimal yeast and no muscle power either. Just needs time 20 to 24 hours.


Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water
cornmeal or wheat flour or bread flour as needed


Method

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt and water and mix with a wooden spoon till all is blended well. and you get a goopy and sticky mixture. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for about 16 to 18 hours.
After the 16 to 18 hours the dough will have risen almost double and will be covered in bubbles - just a proof that the yeast is working.
Remove the dough on a lightly floured work surface and fold it over on itself about 2 to 3 times.
Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball (be careful not to use too much flour) - its the water in the dough that makes the crust so crunchy and the crumb so beautiful.
Jim Lahey says to use a cotton towel to get the second rise - but, I used parchment paper. Put some cornmeal on the parchment and put the shaped dough seam side down on it and covered with a huge bowl and let it rise for the next 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
About one and half hours after you have kept the dough for its second rise preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Pick the parchment paper with dough inside and slide it into the pot. Shake pan once or twice to get even dough distribution - do not worry about the shape, it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Be very careful when you are handling the pans inside the oven - use proper oven mittens to remove it from the oven and to put it back in. It is very very hot.
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