Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Wreaths

After scouring the internet for Christmas projects that I could use, I stumbled upon this post. I immediately knew that I wanted to try this out. So I gave it a shot. The only difference is I used this as doilies for my side tables rather than dish cloths. I didn't get around to adding the little red berries, but I think it turned out really pretty anyway. I used the pattern found here.




Christmas Wreath
Materials:  100% cotton Sugar & Cream yarn in the colors of red, white and green
               Crochet Hook size H
              Large Tapestry Needle for making french knots & weaving in the ends

Directions:

Rnd 1:  With white, ch 5, sl st in first ch to form ring, ch 3 (counts as dc), 13 more dc in ring.  Join with sl st in top of ch-3. (14 dc).
Rnd 2:  (Ch 3, dc) in first st, 2 dc in each st around, join (28).
Rnd 3:  (Ch 3, dc) in first st, dc in next st, (2 dc in next st, dc in next st) around, join. (42)  Fasten off white.
Rnd 4:  Join green with sc in any st, sc in each st around, join with sl st in first sc.
Rnd 5:  (Ch 3, dc) in first st, dc in next 2 sts, (2 dc in next st, dc in next 2 sts) around, join. (56)
Rnd 6:  (Ch 3, dc) in first st, dc in next 3 sts, (2 dc in next st, dc in next 3 sts) around, join. (70)
Rnd 7:  (Ch 3, dc) in first st, dc in next 4 sts, (2 dc in next st, dc in next 4 sts) around, join. (84)
Rnd 8:  Ch 1, sc in first st, skip next 2 sts, 7 trc in next st, skip next 2 sts, (sc in next st, skip next 2 sts, 7 trc in next st, skip next 2 sts)  around.  Join with sl st in first sc.  Fasten off green yarn.

For bow -- use red yarn.  Chain 60.  Slip stitch in 2nd chain from hook and slip stitch in each chain across.  Fasten off.  Weave in ends.  Fold red chain in shape of a bow.  Then, wrap two separate strands of red around center.  Sew bow to the wreath fastening with the two separate strands of red yarn.

With more red yarn, make 6 french knot berries in the wreath. (I left out this step)

Weave in ends.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Seasons Greetings!!!

I just wanted to stop by and wish every one a wonderful Christmas season. Hope you had a lovely Christmas Day. Best wishes for the New Year!

I've been terribly busy and haven't had the time to post anything in the last couple of days. But I'll be back soon.

Monday, December 20, 2010

12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies - Roundup

Here's a look at what went on during the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies 2010

Week 1: Cranberry Noels





Week 2: Chocolate Pistachio Fudge





Week 3: Brandy Snaps





Week 4: Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies





Week 5: Coconut Macaroons





Week 6: Marzipan Tarts

 


Week 7: Rum Balls

 


Week 8: Scottish Shortbread





Week 9: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

 


Week 10: Holiday Meringues





Week 11: Nankatais

 


Week 12: Jujups



Hope this helps you with ideas for your Christmas platter. Let me know if you do try out any of these. I'd love to know what you did and how it turned out!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Final Week of 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Jujups

Yes folks, here we are, at the final week of an amazing 12 week journey. A journey where so many wonderful bakers, cooks and bloggers put up some wonderful treats each week. I know I've learned so much from them. Their work has truly been inspiring. My ever growing 'to bake' list just got a whole lot longer and I can't wait to try out some of these treats myself.

Considering how close we are to Christmas and how swamped I am with things that need to be done around my house and in my kitchen, I haven't baked anything for this weeks round up. Now that doesn't mean I didn't bake anything. There's a load of stuff happening in the kitchen ... more on that later. However, it also doesn't mean that I'm going to skip this weeks submission. This week I'd like to showcase what we in India call 'Jujups'. This is a lovely sugary treat that can be made in a number of flavors and colors. Its quite a hit with kids. I haven't yet made jujups this year, so I'm going to add a picture from last year. I will add a better picture when I make it this time around.





Jujups

Ingredients
500g sugar
30g unflavored gelatin
1 sour lime
1 cup water
A few drops of essence
A few drops of color
Castor sugar for coating
A pinch of cream of tartar

Method – 

In a steel vessel, add ¾ cup water, sugar and the cream of tartare to make a sugar syrup. Keep on a high flame and stir till the sugar dissolves. Then on a low flame and let it cook to a 2 thread consistency approx. about 20 mins. While this is cooking, use ¼ cup of water and dissolve the gelatin in it. Add the juice of 1 sour lime and mix well. Let it soak for about 5-10 minutes. 

Once the sugar syrup is ready, add the gelatin mix to it and stir well. Let this concoction warm through for a minute or so. Add the color and flavoring as desired and mix well. Grease a tray with olive oil and pour the mixture through a metal strainer into it. Leave it to set undisturbed. Once it cools you may keep it in the fridge overnight. The next day, bring the mix to room temperature and then loosen the edges using a knife. Unmould the jujups on a board covered liberally with castor sugar. Cut with a greased knife and roll the pieces in castor sugar. Cover and keep in an air tight container.

Colour & Essence Chart –

Here's a handy dandy chart to guide you when trying out different flavor and color combinations. This is the assortment I made last Christmas. Feel free to experiment and make it your own. If you do try any flavors that aren't mentioned here, let me know how it goes, so that I can add to this list.

Color      -   Flavor
Pink / Red – Strawberry
Yellow – Pineapple / Lemon
Purple – Black current
Green – Mix fruit
Orange – Orange

NOTE: Cream of tartar is used to prevent crystallization of sugar in the sugar syrup. Make sure you use a very small pinch – if excess is used, the jujups won't form.


Don't forget to check out what the others have put up this week!

Week 12 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Week 11 of 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Nankatais

It's hard to believe that we are almost at the end of this lovely 12-week long adventure. Before we reach the end, I'd like to say "Thank You" once again, to April of Abby Sweets for this wonderful idea. Its been a fun 12 weeks, challenging sometimes, but a lovely opportunity to meet some lovely people make some wonderful friends along the way.

This week, I'd like to showcase something that is quite popular in India during Christmas. Its a little cookie called the 'Nankatai'. It has a lovely taste and is a favorite with kids and adults alike. Today, I will share with you one of the recipes that I use for this cookie. Please forgive the image quality, a mobile phone camera was used to capture this.





Nankatais


Ingredients
300g all purpose flour
200g powdered or superfine sugar
200g Dalda (This is a brand of vegetable shortening, also called vanaspati. If this is not available, you can use clarified butter)
¼ tsp. Baking powder
½ tsp. Rose essence

Method
Heat the Dalda to dissolve the grainy portions the previous night. Don’t let it smoke. Leave it to cool overnight. Cream the Dalda with the palm of your hand in a steel plate. Add sugar creaming well. Then add flour, baking powder and rose essence. Knead into a dough. Keep for a few hours. Then shape as desired and bake in a moderate hot oven, approx 150°C for 15 – 20 minutes. To check if done, check the bottom of a cookie for slight brownness. Immediately take out of oven. Don’t let the nankatais change colour. 

NOTE: Add the sugar and the flour gradually, creaming continuously. Place the nankatais on a tray that has been greased with clarified butter and lightly dusted with flour. 

If you choose to decorate the cookie, here's a recipe for royal icing that I use. Please ensure that the cookie has cooled completely before icing.

Royal Icing
1 egg white
A few drops of lemon juice or citric acid
A few drops of essence
Icing sugar

Method
Beat the egg white. Add lemon juice and essence. Gradually add icing sugar a little at a time till stiff peaks form. Cover and keep till ready to use. Add food coloring as desired. Use this to decorate the cookie. 



Don't forget to spend some time to check out what the others have come up with this week!

Week 11 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Friday, December 3, 2010

Week 10 of 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Holiday Meringues

Its December, can you believe that? I'm so happy. This is my favorite month of the year, and we get to celebrate my favorite holiday - Christmas. And speaking of favorites, today I stumbled on something that flew right onto my list of favorites - Meringues. I can't believe I hadn't made this before. Actually, I did try it out before, but they turned out flat and stuck to the baking paper and so it ended up in the trash, but don't tell anyone that. **wink wink** Anyway, this was a few years ago and I never considered making meringues again. However, in the last few weeks, I've been toying with the idea of making a Pavlova. According to me, it falls in the same category as the meringues, so I was a little apprehensive and it has been on hold since. For some reason, I felt brave this morning and decided that it was time to give meringues another shot. I knew that if I couldn't make meringues, making a pavlova would be quite questionable.

This attempt was better than the previous, but I still have some kinks to work out. Maybe some of you can help me understand what I can do differently the next time. Oh yes, I'm going to make these again, because even though they weren't visually very appealing, I loved the taste and texture. It was light and airy, crisp on the outside and a little chewy on the inside. They just melt  in you mouth. I know for a fact that the next time, I will need to add more color and flavor, because what I used this time wasn't nearly enough. Some of the meringues cracked a little. Can anyone tell me how this can be avoided? I'd love to hear from you. I tried the kisses and wreaths and I wanted to create something that looked like Christmas trees, those didn't turn out too well, some cracked and some tilted. I used inspiration from here, here and here.  I couldn't settle on any one so here's what I did.


Holiday Meringues

2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
A pinch of cream of tartar
Green food coloring
Peppermint extract
Sprinkles, or sanding sugar to decorate

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar together till it gets light and foamy. Gradually add the sugar and keep whisking till it reaches a stiff peak consistency.

Add food coloring and flavor extracts of your choice. I used green food color and peppermint extract and mix well. Prepare a piping bag and use a star shaped icing tip and pipe out the meringues onto some lightly greased baking paper. Bake at 160°C for about 20 minutes and then at 140°C for another 20 minutes.

Cool and decorate as desired. I used a mix of red sanding sugar and some crumbled cinnamon jelly beans.

I can't wait to try this again and hopefully get visually better results.


Go ahead and take a peek at what the other wonderfully talented folks have made this week.

Week 10 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Week 9 of 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

I've had a busy week of sorts. In additional to all the regular stuff that goes on around here, I've had to bake 5 cakes to order in the last 3 days, which left me little or no time for anything else. So, for this weeks round up, I wanted something quick and easy, yet delicious. And does such a treat exist? Oh yes, it does. Say hello to Nigella's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. They come together really fast, and need I say, taste absolutely yum. It takes a whole lot of patience waiting while they set in the refrigerator (well 20 minutes is a long long time when you're dying to pop one of these in your mouth). But the wait is definitely worth it. These little treats taste just like a bar of Snickers, and I love Snickers. Imagine my joy, now I can make something very close to the original Snickers bar. I would just make one change when I make it next. And yes my friends, there will be a next time. I will use a chunky peanut butter rather that a creamy one, which I think will make it feel a whole lot more like Snickers. So if you love peanuts or peanut butter or chocolate or Snickers, you should give this one a try. The prep takes about 10-15 minutes and it takes about 20 minutes to set. Like I said, quick and easy, yet really delicious. This recipe yields 48 pieces.





Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Adapted from: Nigella Lawson

For the base

50 grams soft dark brown sugar
200 grams icing sugar
50 grams butter, softened
200 grams smooth peanut butter

For the topping:

300 grams dark chocolate (We prefer dark chocolate, so I left out the 200 gms milk chocolate from the original recipe and used only dark chocolate)



For the base:

Blend all the ingredients for the base in the bowl of a food processor til the mixture takes on a sandy texture.

Place 48 gold mini cupcake paper cases in sets of miniature tart tins or mini-muffin tins (each indent about 1 3/4-inches in diameter). Use 1 teaspoon of the base mixture to fill the bases of the petit four cases. Press the sandy mixture down into the cases as best you can to form a layer at the bottom of each paper case.


For the topping:

Melt the chocolate gently in a double boiler. Spoon teaspoonfuls of the melted chocolate onto the top of each of the bases of the paper cups.

Decorate the tops of the chocolate covered peanut butter cups to your liking. I used some white nonpareils, which I sprinkled on the top.

Let them set in the fridge, for about 20 minutes.

And there you go, that's how easy it is.

Don't forget to check what the others have been up to this week.

Week 9 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Baking with kids!

I have a wonderful classic vanilla sponge cake in the oven as I write this post. Today's order is for the humble vanilla sponge cake. I think people underestimate the awesomeness of this cake. In our house, we love it with a cup of tea; plain, no fancy schmancy frosting or anything. I guess a lot of folks are so caught up with trying to sample newer and more complex creations, that at times it can be very easy for them to forget this little beauty.

Last weekend, we had family over for game night. Its become a monthly thing, and its great fun. We had a blast. My nieces have been dying to bake something with me again. Some time ago, we baked a batch of cupcakes and they frosted and decorated them with sprinkles. I think they got quite a kick from it and wanted to do it again, but this time they didn't want to do cupcakes, but a bigger cake. Now, I know that getting 2 kids to dress up 1 cake can be a little trying. So instead of baking 1 big cake, I just baked 2 smaller ones. They were vanilla sponge cakes with a whipped soy cream frosting and the they had so much fun with the sprinkles. Here's a few pictures of them showing off their work ...



Cute, aren't they?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Our recent trip to Goa & Coorg

We recently took a 2 week long 'time-out' - the longest one since college days, and well, that was a long time ago. We drove to Goa and then to Coorg in Karnataka and then back to Goa for a few days before coming back to Bombay (Mumbai). It was a wonderful experience. I have heaps of pictures and had a hard time picking a few to share on this post. But here are little bits and pieces of our trip.

This was our first trip to Coorg and we stayed at the Club Mahindra Resort over there. Coorg is called "the Scotland of India" according to the local tour operators there. I've never been to Scotland so I wouldn't know, but what I can say is that the place was breathtakingly beautiful. When we were driving down to Coorg, we were fortunate to catch a glimpse of this ....


... a double rainbow. I was delighted. I'd never seen a double rainbow before. We stopped at this gas station so that I could take a few pictures. It was stunning. I'm really glad that we spotted it. Don't know if I'll ever see one again.

We managed to catch a few showers of rain while we were in Coorg. But that made everything so much more pleasant and beautiful. Every direction you looked in was covered in a thick blanket of greenery that was speckled with some of the most beautiful flowers.



This is the entrance to the Reception area of the resort ...
... and when you walk through that door, this is what you see ...


... pretty little water feature that actually uses rain water and has some artificial lotus flowers to add color.

We visited Abby Falls ...

 ... the little specks of white that you see is the spray from the falls.

While we were trekking down to the falls, we spotted this little guy ...

... I've never seen this insect before.


We went on a plantation tour to an estate and got to see how pepper, coffee, cardamom and a whole bunch of other spices grow. I couldn't get too many pictures of the estate because it was raining like crazy and the ground was like slush so we had to be extra careful not to slip.
This is how peppercorns grow
Beetlenut plantation

We also went river rafting. This was a first for me. It was so much fun that I can't wait to do it again. Obviously I couldn't get any pictures of this, but I must say this, if you haven't tried it before because you're a little afraid, don't be, it is an awesome experience. I was a little anxious, so much so that I wasn't too excited by the idea of river rafting, but I'm really glad I tried it out. Did I mention how much fun it was?  ;o)

After our stay in Coorg, we spent a few days in Goa. Goa is my favorite holiday spot. We go to Goa at least twice or thrice a year. This time around we spent a few days in a quaint little resort. This is what our room looked like from the outside...


While we were there, we see this chap ...


... don't know what it was about this trip and spotting life forms I'd never seen before. Nevertheless, stunning colors, don't you agree?

When we were driving around in Goa we saw them ....


... any guesses? I don't know if you can tell, but that's a peacock and a peahen sitting atop some old ruins. How cool is that? The peacock is our national bird and a gorgeous fellow he is, especially when he's strutting his stuff. So we pulled over and waited, waited and waited some more. I guess he hadn't worn his dancing shoes that day. Anyway, I was happy enough having seen the pair. I've seen peacocks before, but every time you spot them in the wild, its still an amazing feeling.

This has got to be my favorite restaurant in all of Goa ...


... and as you enter, you're greeted by the wonderful seafood display ...


... the food here is amazing, my husband and I both love the place and we go there more than a couple of times on each trip. If you ever go to 'Martin's Corner', you have got to get the crab. They let you select your own crab, from a bunch of live ones and they prepare it to your liking. Its a fun experience, they give you an apron to protect your clothes from splashes and yes, there will be some splashing. They also give you the tools to crack open the cooked crab shell and pick the crab meat.All in all, a really fun experience.

We had a lovely time and one of the high points of the whole trip is that I bought some of these ....


... some wonderful locally grown Vanilla bean pods. You have no idea how long I've been waiting for these. Its practically impossible to get them in Mumbai. So when I saw these, I grabbed them. I'm happy to say that now, I know someone who knows some one who will send me some more as and when I need it. That makes me one happy camper. I can't wait to make my own extract and vanilla sugar. There's so many recipes that I've ear marked, but never made for the lack of Vanilla bean pods. Its time to dig them all out.

This was one fun trip and I hope you had fun re-visiting it with me. I'm off to the kitchen now, I've a couple of orders for birthday cakes for this weekend. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Week 8 of 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Scottish Shortbread

** This post contains affiliate links.

Folks, there's just about a month left for Christmas. Can you believe that? I spend all year waiting for Christmas to come around, which, honestly must sound crazy to a lot of people. I don't know what it is about that time of the year, but seeing everything lit up and decorated, the dizzying levels of activity in my home, just the joy of family gatherings, meeting friends and gift giving makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. So I'm glad the wait is almost coming to an end.

What I'm not too happy about is the fact that I've been miserable for the past couple of days; I have a lousy case of the common cold. I just hate being unwell. Especially at this time of the year, when there's so much that needs to be done. I hope you can find it in the kindness of your hearts to forgive me as I haven't baked this weeks cookie. That being said, I am still going to put up a recipe that my husband and I absolutely love.I think it'll make a good addition to this years platter. I've made this recipe a couple of times now, but according to my husband, that not often enough. He loves them. He actually is a chocoholic, but this is one cookie he makes an exception with. That goes to show you how yummy it is. It is a rich cookie and goes really well with a hot cup of coffee. Please excuse the picture quality, this was taken a while ago before I had learnt a few tricks with the camera. What I can promise you is the fact that the cookie tastes a lot better than it looks in this picture. :o)


Scottish Shortbread
Adapted from: The Cookie Book
(Makes 2 large or 8 individual shortbreads, if using the mould, if using a pie dish like mentioned below makes 1 large one which is cut into wedges)

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornflour
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and diced (I used regular salted butter and it worked just fine)

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Lightly flour the shortbread mould. (I don't have one of these so I just used a loose bottomed pie dish. I once used a 7" dish and the other time used an 8" one. It'll just vary the thickness of the cookie. Pick whichever you prefer.)

Sift the flours into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and lightly toss around to distribute the sugar evenly. Rub in the cold butter and knead into a soft dough.

Place the dough into the moulds and press gently but firmly to fit neatly.  If using the shortbread moulds, line baking sheets with baking parchment and invert the moulds onto the sheet and tap firmly to release the dough.

If using a pie dish, simply press the dough into the tin and smooth the surface using the back of a spoon. Prick all over with a fork and score into eight wedges using the back of a knife. You can make the wedges smaller if you like, since it is a rich cookie.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until pale golden in color. Leave it in the tin till it cools a little, just cool enough to handle. While it is still hot, carefully unmould and re-cut the wedges.

Enjoy!

Don't forget to visit the other participants and see what they've made this week!

Week 8 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Week 7 of 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Marzipan Tarts and Rum balls

As promised in my last post, this week I'm going to put 2 different goodies. I just got back from a wonderful vacation yesterday (more on that later) and I'm still settling in. I haven't had the time to bake anything new for this weeks cookie, but these are 2 treats that I find are a lovely addition to a holiday platter or any assortment of desserts.


 Marzipan Tarts

The first one came about from the need to rescue a batch of homemade marzipan that went wrong. I had taken this batch of marzipan off the stove a little too early and just couldn't mould it. It was one really sticky blob. I couldn't bear the thought of letting a yummy batch of marzipan go to waste and I suddenly thought of trying these goodies out. They were lovely. I took them over for our Holiday Family Dinner and they didn't last very long. My nieces wanted to have one of each color and I think they managed it.


This is not really a recipe, but a set of guidelines that you can tweak to your convenience.

Make your favorite pie crust dough. If you don't have one, you can use a shortcrust pastry, which is what I've used.
Roll out the dough. Using a fluted circle cutter, cut out circles and place them in tart moulds and bake them till they are done, that is, they should start getting golden brown around the edges.
Make a batch of your favorite marzipan recipe, or you can opt for the store bought variety. Color the marzipan using food colors of your choice. Roll out little walnut size balls and place them in the tart shells. Flatten them out a little. Serve.

That's all there is to it. If anyone decides to give this a go, I'd love to see what you come up with.



Rum Balls


The next treat is another versatile one. Please excuse the image, it doesn't do justice to these little guys.

You'll need -

300g cake crumbs (Bake any cake recipe of your choice, I used a rich fruit cake. Crumble the cake till it becomes crumb like)
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
2 tbsp. rum
100g icing sugar
3 tbsp. Golden syrup
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
50g grated cashew nuts
1 tbsp. butter

Mix all the above ingredients. Form small balls and place them in paper cases. Pour a tsp. Of the glaze over them and use cherries cut into halves for garnishing.

FOR THE GLAZE:
100g Icing sugar
2 tsp. Cocoa powder
1 tsp. Rum
A little milk
A little vanilla essence.


Don't forget to check out what the others have whipped up this week.

Week 7 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

My very first Award .... yippee!!!

I'm back in the blogosphere after a good two weeks vacation and was thrilled to see that my blog had received an award. Thanks Claire. Claire has two lovely blogs called Claire's Cooking Quest and Claire's Crochet Quest, which you must check out.



To accept the Versatile Blogger Award the rules are:
1. Thank and link back to who gave you the award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass it along to 7 blogs you've recently discovered and enjoy
4. Leave your recipients a note, telling them about the award.


7 Things about myself - 
1) I left a very successful corporate career to pursue my baking and cooking interests. It was a little scary at first, but am glad I did it.
2) Someday, I hope to run a successful restaurant.
3) I can make a whole range of paper and fabric flowers.
4) I love reading, cooking, baking, crocheting, swimming and travelling.
5) My favorite holiday spot is Goa.
6) I am overly critical of the places I eat out at. I love trying out new places and types of food and work out how I can replicate it at home, obviously with a little help from all you lovely bloggers. Most often the versions I whip up at home turn out better which I think justifies my over critical attitude towards such places
7) I love playing computer games. Sometimes, I think I spend too much time on them.
.... and oh yeah ... I talk too much - I guess you've figured that out by now ** hee hee hee **


There are so many wonderful people that I've interacted with since I started this blog. All of you are so very talented. I'm glad I started this blog. I would like to pass this award on to -
1) Baked Bree
2) Making Memories ... One Fun Thing After Another
3) I am Baker
4) Munchkin Munchies
5) Not Martha
6) Rachel Raves
7) The Vanilla Bean Baker

There are so many more wonderful people who have inspired me from time to time. Sadly I have lost a quite a few links when my computer crashed recently, and anyway, I could pick just 7 this time around. But if you have a blog, I'm sure you've inspired many, so, a big THANK YOU from me to you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I'll be back soon!!!

Hi folks,

I just though I'd drop by to let you know that I won't be able to submit a post for this weeks cookie for 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies. I'm on holiday ... yay!!!

Anyway, I will make up for this when I get back in town, with more on my holiday and a double cookie post in the week to follow.

Till then take care .... I'll be back soon

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Week 5 of 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Coconut Macaroons

** This post contains affiliate links.

I can't believe we are already 5 weeks into the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies bake-along hosted by the lovely April of Abby Sweets. You know what that means, right? Christmas is right around the corner and I'm so happy, I can't wait.

This week, I'd like to showcase the humble Coconut Macaroon. For those of you who don't know me well, I love all things coconut, Bounty Bars, the traditional Goan coconut cake called Baath, coconut and jaggery filled crepes, coconut curries .... I think I better stop now, just the thought makes me hungry **smiling sheepishly**. Anyway back to the cookie of the week. This cookie is fairly easy to make. The recipe uses dessicated coconut and results in a sweet, crunchy on the outside yet chewy on the inside, cookie. Its one of my favorites and its great any time of the year, not just for the Christmas cookie platter.

The cookie tastes great as it is, but you can also spoon or drizzle some melted chocolate over it. You can make tiny versions of these and add it to your assortment of petit fours as well.





Coconut Macaroons
Adapted from: The Cookie Book

1/3 cup all purpose flour
A pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups dessicated coconut
2/3 cup condensed milk
1 tsp. Vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line your baking sheets with greaseproof (waxed) paper and grease the paper.

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the dessicated coconut and stir to distribute evenly.

Add the condensed milk and vanilla extract and stir together to form a very thick batter.

I used a piping bag with a large star nozzle (piping tip) and piped the macaroons onto the prepared sheets. If you don't want to do this, you can also simply mound spoonfuls of the batter onto the sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes or till golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before storing.

This recipe yields about 24 pieces. These little delightful bites disappear rather quickly, so I usually at least double the recipe.


Note: Don't get startled by the watermark, the picture is very much mine, I have a little venture called Claire's Party Supplies, where I make a whole bunch of stuff to order.

Don't forget to check out what the others have come up with this week.

Week 5 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Week 4 of 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

This morning the weather was uncharacteristically bleak, for this time of the year. My dearest friend V and I exchanged a few mails earlier in the day, since she is right across the seven seas, literally. She said the sweetest things that were really touching and made me realize, all over again, how much I miss her, not forgetting her little baby doll. So, yup, my mood pretty much matched the weather outside.

For today's cookie, I had narrowed down my options to a few cookies, but I decided I needed something indulgent and comforting to counter the weather and my state of mind. There was one cookie that stood out. Nigella's Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies. If you haven't realized by now, I ♥ Nigella. I absolutely love her style of cooking, the simplicity of her recipes, and last but not the least, the taste of the final dish. The cookie recipe was fairly simple. This recipe makes a lovely soft cookie with a little crunch that the brown sugar adds to it. How did it taste? I have just 3 letters to sum it up - OMG!!! These were the single, most delicious cookies I have ever tasted. I pulled back a little with the chocolate chips, since I had just that much in the house, but it still tasted out of this world. If you ask me, this is heaven on a plate. This cookie would be ideal with a tall glass of milk. Its so comforting, its like a great big hug. So, go ahead and make yourself a batch of these, and tell me what you think of these cookies.








Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from: www.nigella.com

125g butter, at room temperature
75g light brown sugar
50g white sugar
125g dark chocolate
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 egg, cold from the fridge
150g flour
30g cocoa
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
200g dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line a couple of baking sheets.

Melt the chocolate using a double boiler (In a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water).

In a bowl, cream the butter and sugars.

Add the melted chocolate and mix well.

Add the vanilla extract and the egg and beat well.

Mix in the flour, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda.

Finally add the chocolate chips and fold till they are well distributed.

Scoop out mounds of the batter on the prepared baking sheets using an ice cream scoop and a palette knife, if needed. (The original recipe is supposed to yield 12, but I got 18 fairly decent sized ones.) Place them about 6cm apart. Do not flatten them. Bake them for about 18 minutes. Test with a cake tester to make sure it comes out semi-clean and not wet with batter. If you happen to pierce a chocolate chip, wipe the tester and try again.

Let it cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes and then move to a cooling rack to cool completely. The cookies will harden as they cool.

Note: The original recipe uses 1/2 tsp. salt. I just used salted butter and omitted  the salt.


Check out what the others have baked this week.

Week 4 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:
Secret Recipe Club

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Power Packed Snack Bars - Home Made Granola on the go

These little wonders are originally called Breakfast Bars, but I honestly think they're great at any time of the day. Its a wonderful healthy alternative to other fried snacks and chips. The texture is a little chewy and the flavors are wonderful - it has the tartness of the cranberry, wonderful sweetness (though its not too sweet) of the condensed milk, the crunch of assorted nuts and a whole lot more. Whats great is that you can tweak this recipe and make it your own. Try out different ingredients, vary the dry fruit and the nuts to your liking and I'm sure you'll find a combination that works best for you. They are great for a quick breakfast, almost like having home-made granola on the go. These bars are a great snack to take in to the office as well, to satiate any untimely hunger pangs.

In the recipe that follows, you'll find the ingredients that I used, basically ingredients that I had on hand at the time. You can find the original recipe here. They may not be much to look at, but they are oh so good. Be warned, they are addictive ;o)



Power Packed Snack Bars
Adapted from: Nigella

1 can condensed milk (400g)
250g rolled oats (not instant)
75g dessicated coconut
100g dried cranberries
200g mixed seeds (I used walnuts, almonds and sesame seeds)

Preheat the oven to 130 degrees C. Grease a 23cm x 33cm x 4cm baking tray or use a disposable foil one. Grease it well so that you can take it off the pan easily.

Over a low flame, warm the condensed milk in a large pan. The pan should be large enough to hold all the ingredients and still have room for mixing.

Mix the remaining ingredients together and fold into the warm condensed milk. Using a rubber or wooden spatula, fold till evenly coated and well distributed.

Turn the mixture out on to the prepared baking sheet and press down and flatten with the spatula or using your hands. Even out the surface.

I kept mine in the oven for about 45 minutes, even though the original recipe says 1 hour, and it turned out just fine. After about 15 minutes cut into bars of whatever size you'd like. Be sure to cut while still warm, or else, you won't be able to. After you've cut the bars leave it to cool completely before storing.

This recipe has been linked up with - Decidedly Healthy or Horridly Decadent Saturday Party, hosted by the lovely Maggie of Ceo A's Draiocht. Thanks Maggie for letting me be a part of this.


Granola on Foodista

Friday, October 15, 2010

Week 3 of 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Brandy Snaps

** This post contains affiliate links.

For this weeks cookie, I decided to challenge myself a little. I've always had my eye on a recipe for Brandy Snaps from The Cookie Book. I think what drew me to it was the picture. These cookies looked so elegant, and I knew it wasn't going to be easy trying to replicate them.You probably don't know this, but for me, tuiles have always been more than a little daunting. I had a nasty experience with fortune cookies in the past, but I decided to give this recipe a try anyway. Halfway into the process, I started second-guessing myself. Why, you ask? Well, my first batch was a disaster. I took my eye of the cookies and I went by the time in the recipe and in half the time specified, I had a feeling that my cookie was overdone. I took them out of the oven, and they just wouldn't come off the sheet. They were charred and stuck to the sheet and nothing I did could get them off. So into the sink it went. I was so disheartened, I almost threw away the dough and started on another recipe. Almost. Then I heard a little voice in my head (Oh yes, I do hear this little voice from time to time (*wink*) ) that said try out another batch, you've got nothing to lose. So I started out with another batch and this time I stood by the oven, staring at my cookies, and lo and behold, in a couple of minutes, these cookies were ready to be taken out. Fortunately for me, I managed to get them of the sheet and shape them as well. Imagine my joy, I wanted to jump around and cry out from the rooftops that I had conquered the mighty tuile. Sorry, I get carried away :o)

Ultimately, it turned out that I got better with each batch. They turned out delicious. My only regret is that these cookies take some time and effort, since you can bake and shape only a few at a time. I've incorporated the changes that I made to the original recipe that worked for me. A word of advice though, when you're trying these cookies out, make sure you have a little time at hand, because you can't leave them unattended.


You have to work with these cookies while they're still hot. If they cool down too much, you'll be left with a little disc, which is pretty as well. You can serve these with some creamy desert or ice cream.

Brandy Snaps
Adapted from:The Cookie Book
(Makes 18-20 depending on size)

1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2/3 cups (superfine) sugar
1 1/2 tsp. golden corn syrup
1/3 cup plain all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground ginger

For the filling:
1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp brandy (optional)

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add the corn syrup and mix again. Sift in the flour and ground ginger and mix till it forms a coarse dough.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a baking sheet.

Working in batches of two (the original recipe says 4, but I couldn't handle them fast enough, 2 works much better), form 2 little balls the size of a large marble and place them well apart on the baking sheet. These will spread a lot. Flatten them slightly. I find it helps to indent the centre of the disc with your finger. This way the cookie cooks without the edges burning. Bake for about 2-3 minutes till it gets a shade of light golden brown. (The original recipe suggests 10 minutes, but I found that was way too much, go by what you see and not by the time).

Remove from the oven and let it cool for a couple of seconds on the sheet itself. Using a metal spatula, take it off the sheet, one at a time and turn it on the other side onto a plate. Wrap around the (round) handle of a wooden spoon or a round chopstick using it to guide the shape. When firm, slide off and leave to cool completely.

For the filling:
Whip the cream and brandy together till soft peaks form. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe into each end of the brandy snaps just before serving.


Note: I find that the filling is good even without the brandy. So if you're serving these to kids, you can leave out the brandy.

My Observations: This turns out a little sweet so try and use a whipped cream that isn't sweetened or isn't very sweet, unless you'd rather have these really sweet.

Verdict: These are really de-li-cious. While making them, initially I was almost reduced to tears and I swore I would never make them again, but changed my mind the second I put one in my mouth. In the end, its well worth the effort.




Check out what the others have baked this week!
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