Monday, August 29, 2011

Multicultural Monday!!!! A Taste of the East

My first MM post is going to be dedicated to my very favourite sweet originating from India; GULAB mouth waters just saying it. It is pretty much a round ball of milk dough deep fried and soaked in sugar syrup. I'll simplify that for you....milk, deep fried, sugar syrup. Too good to be true right?

According to Wikipedia, which obviously is the most reliable and truthful source of any piece of information, the name gulab jamun comes from the Persian word gulab which means rose water and the Hindustani word jamun which is a South Asian fruit about the same size and shape as the sweet.

Gulab Jamun is made with milk products. This includes milk powder and whole milk as well as cream and condensed milk depending on the recipe. So if your looking for an excuse to eat gulab jamuns, they're awesome calcium supplements....but I don't think you'll need an excuse :)

The best part of gulab jamun is the sugary syrup. No wait...its the rich sweet wait its the soft but crispy exterior...okay I can't choose!!!

The first time I made Gulab Jamun, which I shamefully admit was the only time, I made it out of a box. I know this is cheating. Please don't hate me. I promise I turned over a new leaf since. I had no idea how to make it from scratch and I was much younger at the time. Most Eastern/ Indian grocery stores have box mixes. Throw some milk or water into the batter, form little balls out of it and deep fry them until a little darker than golden brown. I didn't know that the balls would expand once you soak them in the syrup...I doubted the instructions the whole time but stuck to it, and boy was I glad. I left them to soak and came back in an hour to find the bowl brimming full with round juicy sweet balls of bliss....okay that sounded a little dirty....

If you want to try to make it from scratch theres a recipe here or here and even here. All of them are slightly different but very comprehensive recipes. You can also watch a video tutorial here. The recipe from scratch seems simple enough but you would probably have to play around with a few different ones before you settle on one that works for you. 

Dress them up with sweetened coconut shreds or serve with ice cream...or just gobble them up as is! Hope you try it out and let me know how it goes!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Making Mondays a little more bearable...maybe

I've decided that in order to make my blogging a little more regular in my life, I'm going to start writing Multicultural Monday posts.

Being Tamil and living in Canada has taught me a few things about multiculturalism. Probably one of the most enjoyable aspects of any culture is food. Food brings people together in a way that other things can't. Perhaps it's because you don't have to convey in words how good something will be written all over your face. Food is fun,  but desserts especially vary widely among different cultures.

Every Monday (at least....I hope every Monday) I will be doing a post on a dessert from a different culture that I made or a link to a recipe that seem deeeelish. I may also post some mouthwatering pictures or just some info on the role a certain type of dessert plays in its respective culture.

I should probably be honest and say that I was supposed to start this up this past Monday...and failed miserably. BUT I've added it onto my calendar for every Monday from now till infinity.

I'm excited to learn about and try out new recipes....I hope you are too!!

And a comic because I have no pictures of food...this weird ugly comic monster is showing up everywhere!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chocolate Obsession

I have found a really good chocolate cupcake recipe that I'm addicted and can't bring myself to try a different version. I finally found another recipe to try but it was pretty much the EXACT same recipe I had with a bit of instant coffee paste thrown in!!

If you haven't caught on by now, I'm on a coffee/strawberries/chocolate cake rut. For some reason, strawberries are always my go to fruit for both decorative and flavour needs. I don't even think I like the taste of strawberries as much as the idea of strawberries. They're just so pretty! Like little red angels with green fringy wings.
As for the cupcakes...well I take chocolate over vanilla any day...including those in which I'm sick of chocolate.... wait there are no such days.
Coffee....just saying the word makes me smack my lips. I don't drink it often...well...not as often as other addicts. But when I do, I take my poison in iced form. What did I ever drink before they invented iced coffee? Oh that's right....crap.

I have a iced coffee recipe bookmarked that I am just ITCHING to try. But judging by the process and materials needed, I think I'll wait until I move back to school where I will be free to do whatever I want in the kitchen. Having a mother who is VERY picky about her kitchen (and the rest of the house for that matter) sometimes causes you to postpone certain projects.
So the point of this post? To show off some cupcakes I made a while ago for some friends. My fav chocolate cupcake recipe topped with chocolate buttercream and a chocolate covered almond....yum. Make these and have one... or nine. Go ahead, be good to yourself.
In other news, I'm thinking about taking some cake decorating classes. The Wilton ones sound good and are cheap but I think seems more flexible to my schedule. Will let you know what I decide and how it goes. Also if you have any experience with these, I would love to hear!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Gotta stack'em all!

Sorry for the lame Pokemon pun in the title....I'll try not to let it happen again :(

My biggest fear when I started out baking was being unable to make a tall, straight, even cake.
I tackled that fear this weekend and am ecstatic with the results.

Lo and yellow cake (actually pink) with coffee buttercream!!!

I initially wanted to make a coffee chocolate cake with coffee buttercream but my mom requested I make 'normal' cake -_- They aren't big fans of different cake flavours.

I didn't want to pass up the opportunity to make coffee buttercream though. I found a good yellow cake recipe here. Since I didn't have self-rising flour, I substituted by using 3 cups of all purpose flour and added 4 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Next time, I'd like to try using self-rising flour. I also added a little too much vanilla extract so I will definitely be adding a little less next time. I also added pink food colouring to the cake batter....just for funsies :)

I used unsalted cultured butter since I had it on hand and didn't have enough regular butter. I can't say how this compares to the regular one except that it's supposed to make the cake richer. I will have to make this cake again with regular butter to really tell. NTS; do another post on cultured vs regular butter.

For the buttercream, I used;

1 cup and 1 heaping tablespoon of cultured butter
1 1/2 cups sifted icing sugar
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
A splash of water

I know a splash isn't really a measurement but you need very little....about a teaspoon I think. Add the water to the coffee powder and mix to form a liquidy (I really need to brush up on my adjectives) paste.
Beat together the butter and icing sugar until fluffy and combined. Add in the coffee paste and mix some more. This buttercream was AMAZING! And I don't even like buttercream. It isn't that sweet so it balanced out the sweetness of the cake. I think the buttercream would taste even better on a mocha or chocolate cake.

On to the stacking! As this is the first time I've done this 'properly' I'm not really an expert. I chose to freeze my cakes wrapped in saran wrap. I then let them thaw a little before torting them. They stacked beautifully. I didn't make enough buttercream to do a crumb coat and then a icing coat so I just wang it...winged it...whatever!

I'm excited to make a cake which actually has a crumb coat and then a thick coat of smooooooth frosting. Unfortunately, thinking of mixing all that buttercream with my little hand mixer is more than a little daunting.

On a side note, I was SOOOOO disappointed to not win the Raspberry Ice KitchenAide mixer in the giveaway held by Sweetopia (who is btw my inspiration and number 1 site for ogling at pretty cookies and seriously go check it right now...GO!) but c'est la vie! Now I have to save up for one...SIGH...although my birthday ISSS coming up *wink wink*

Anyway...overall a successful first attempt. The cake tasted amazing (even my mom said it was 'okay') and the cake came together nicely. It's good days like these that make me eager to take out my pink mixing bowl and start all over!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Spongecake with Whipped Cream and Strawberries

I am not a fan of eating heavy cake. That being said, all the cake I have eaten in my life have been heavy and sweet. I don't really remember ever trying sponge cake or angel food cake. Come out from under the rock you say? Why yes...yes I will.

So not only am I an amateur baker but also an amateur cake eater. My family is pretty small, parents and one sister. My mother doesn't like sweets. My dad loves sweets but only particular ethnic ones. My sister also doesn't have much of a sweet tooth. Not much exposure to desserts happening in this household.

Even though I'm skipping a bajillion steps (are there even steps to these things) by not mastering a basic cake and slowly moving up, I decided what they's summer...I don't have a gallbladder...might as well do something spontaneous.

I found a few sponge cake recipes and then realized I only had 2 eggs. I pared down a recipe I found to a few basic ingredients.

2 eggs
3 oz granulated sugar which I ground to a powdery consistency
3 oz AP flour

1. Start by beating the eggs until they are well blended.
2. Add in all of the sugar and beat until the colour of the batter goes from faint yellow to last pure white. The batter will thicken slightly but keep blending until it is white. The more you beat, the more air gets incorporated and the fluffier your cake.
3. Sift the flour into the batter. Fold it in gently. Do not beat.
4. Pour the batter into a greased and floured baking pan.
5. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Cake should be golden brown and bounce back at the touch. Don't open the oven door until you are ready to check your cake at the end. The cake will deflate if you open the door too much.

To frost the cake I made my whipped cream frosting and added some sliced strawberries.

The cake turned out pretty good. It was a bit dry but since this is a spongecake, I should have added a layer of jam in the middle of the cake. I compensated by drizzling my slice in chocolate sauce.

I would definitely make this cake again. This time I would probably add a layer of jam and whipped cream and strawberries in the middle by slicing the cake horizontally and then icing the whole thing in whipped cream frosting.

Let me know if this cake works out for you!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fruit Arrangement

As much as I love to bake, sometimes nothing tastes as good as some fresh juicy fruit. I recently attended a friend's bbq and could not decide what to make. I also just been through surgery so I didn't want to take on a new project that would be time consuming. I finally decided last minute that I would make some chocolate dipped strawberries and grab some other fruit and make an arrangement out of it...kind of like Edible Arrangements but not as expensive!!

I was a bit nervous starting this project because I didn't want it to look like a scraggly bush of a few strawberries on sticks. I am a bit of a perfectionist and so made sure to research different techniques and do's and don'ts.

I was quite proud of the final product. For my first time, it came out pretty well. It definitely wasn't as hard as I was expecting it to be!
This arrangement fed about 10 people.
I bought a little ceramic flower pot from the dollar store and also managed to get a big block of flora foam at the florist. I didn't even use half the foam so I now have enough to use for other projects.

I cut the flora foam to size and stuffed it in the pot with about half an inch showing up out of the pot.

I made the chocolate dipped strawberries the night before. I melted some chocolate chips in the microwave until they were a non-drippy but runny consistency. Make sure its not too thick or else it will clump onto the berry. You also don't want it to be too runny or else it will drip off your berry. I find a good way to tell is to dip a spoon into the chocolate and turn it right side up. If it holds to the spoon and doesn't travel downwards its golden. You might have to go back an reheat as needed since the chocolate will lose heat and start to harden again.

Make sure you have washed and dried your berries thoroughly and make sure they are room temperature which helps the chocolate stick to the berries better. Stick a toothpick into the base of the berry and swirl it in the chocolate. When you pull it out, make a little swirling motion so that the end doesn't drip. Stick the toothpick with the strawberry upside down onto a piece of styrofoam. You can also just lay them on a foiled sheet but since this was going into an arrangement, I didn't want to have one rounded and one flat side.

You can then sprinkle your strawberry with sweetened coconut shreds like I did or chopped nuts. You could even drizzle white chocolate onto it.

I led them dry overnight but they can be used 20-30 minutes after dipping.

For the arrangement, I grabbed some skewers and grapes. I cut out the pineapple rounds with cookie cutters. Make sure to skewer a grape underneath any of the fruit as this will prevent it from sliding down the skewer. Also try to cut the skewers as you go down the arrangement to give it a rounded bouquet shape. Use your imagination! You could use any kind of fruit or even vegetables!

Finally, I added some lettuce leaves to the base so that the flora foam and sticks wouldn't show. You really don't need to do this. As I said, I'm very particular about this kind of stuff. You could also use parsley or any curly leafy vegetation but I find lettuce to be the cheapest.

One thing to remember is that if you keep the arrangement refrigerated and then take it out, the chocolate strawberries will sweat as you can see from the picture. If you have a humid kitchen and leave it out though, they might melt. I think its better to put them in the fridge and I don't mind the sweat much. I guess, depending on your preference, you can time it so that you don't have to refrigerate it and it doesn't sweat or melt!

I think I cringed a little when people dove into I was really glad that people liked it. Some of the girls thought that it was from Edible Arrangements and couldn't believe that I had made it. All it took were some fruits, sticks, and a piece of foam.

I'd love to see pictures if you try this yourself!! Good Luck!!!