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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thursday Tea Time ~ Double-Decker Nutella Filled Scones

People who follow my blog regularly might have noticed that I have been posting baked recipes this month as part of the 'Fire up your Oven' blogging marathon. Today marks the last day of this exciting event and I have some yummy double decker Nutella scones on this day. This marathon has been a fun filled journey though I wasn't as organized as some of my fellow marathoners had been and I was yet to bake more than half of the dishes when this event started. There were some unexpected mishaps to test my patience and I had to re-think and re-plan some of the dishes but still I would call the experience exciting. And you are going to see the round up of my marathon dishes here shortly.
I have already posted lemony scones in this event and so, wasn't planning to post any more scones. However I changed my plan when I came across these double decker scones, which looked like sandwiches and I am glad that I tried them. What I found interesting about these scones is that the chilled dough disc is cut into 2 halves along the circumference and the filling is sandwiched between those 2 discs, baked and cut in to wedges, resulting in a sandwich scone. They had a buttery, bread like texture and were good at room temperature even the next day.
1 egg substitute ( I used flax egg.)
1 cup + 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
3 tbsp. frozen and grated butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2.5 to 3 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. coarse sugar for sprinkling on top (Optional & I didn't use any.)
1/2 to 3/4 cup prepared filling - Jam, nut butter, Sweetened cream cheese or any preferred filling (I used Nutella.)

* If using flax egg, combine 1 tbsp. flax meal and 3 tbsp. warm water in a bowl and keep aside for five minutes.
* Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
* Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the grated butter and work into the dry ingredients until the mixture is unevenly crumbly, using your fingers, pastry blender or an electric mixer.
* Stir together flax egg, milk and vanilla and add to the dry ingredients. Stir gently just until combined.
* Shape the dough into 1 inch thick disc, about 6 inches in diameter. Place the disc on the prepared baking sheet and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes. There is no need to cover the disc.
(I thought cutting the disc along the circumference (in the later step) would be hard and instead shaped two 1/2 inch thick discs of about 6 inch diameter. If following this method, try to keep both the discs in the same size.)
* When 20 minutes of chilling time has passed, preheat the oven to 375 deg F.
* Divide the chilled disc in half around it's circumference using a sharp knife. (I skipped this step as I had already divided the discs into two. )  
* Spread the bottom half with the filling leaving along the edges and then place the other half of the dough on top. Press it down gently. Go generous with the filling and use as much as mentioned in the recipe. (Nutella didn't ooze out during baking in my case.)

* Place the round on the prepared baking sheet and brush it with milk. Sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired.
* Slice the disc into 6 triangular wedges or you can skip the step and slice them after baking.
* Bake it for about 28 minutes or until it is golden brown and a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean.
* Remove the scones from oven and place them on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes. Slice them into wedges and serve warm. 
* They can be frozen for longer storage. They were finished the next day I baked them and they stayed good at room temperature.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Veggie Wednesday ~ Baked French Fries

If not for the huge bag of precut potatoes in my freezer, I would have posted another recipe for today. I end up with loads of vegetables, fruits and other stuff that I normally wouldn't buy / need when I send my husband to grocery shopping, which I should say is a frequent occurrence in my home. My husband needs no instructions from me when it comes to shopping and he can pick better quality stuff compared to me. I am glad about the latter part however he tends to be a compulsive buyer and brings home whaever catches his attention. And that's how I ended up recently with a lot of frozen appetizers including big bags of frozen precut shoestring potatoes. I had some other dish in mind for today but 'fries' seemed convenient as I could skip the chopping part.
French fries / Finger chips, one of the most common and popular snack foods at fast food restaurants really need no introduction. I guess everyone on this planet likes crispy, yummy fries. My daughter who dislikes any potato dish too enjoys these fries. Though traditionally deep fried, they can be enjoyed guilt free going by the oven method. If you are starting from scratch, peel the potatoes and cut them lengthwise into two. Then cut them into about 2 to 2.5 inch pieces with about 5 mm thickness. Place the potato pieces in cold water until ready to bake, to prevent them from browning. I like my fries crisp from outside and soft from inside, without browning them much and so that's how these were made.

1 pound potatoes sliced into fingers
1.5 to 2 tbsp. oil 
Salt to taste

* Preheat the oven to 425 deg F. 
* Pour the oil over the potato slices and mix them with your hand to coat the slices with oil well uniformly. (If using greased frozen potato slices, skip this step.)
* Spread them in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet. (Foil is for easy cleanup later.) 
* Bake for about 25 minutes, flipping them once or twice in between or until the desired crispness is reached. Keep a watch at the final minutes of baking to ensure that they are not burnt.
(I used a 18x12 inch baking sheet full of fries and 25 minutes was perfect. If using a small sized baking sheet or using less amount of fries, the baking time reduces.)
* Remove them from oven and sprinkle with salt.
* Serve them with ketchup.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tuesday Treat ~ Eggless, 4 Ingredient Nutella Mug Cake

The other day I was finishing off a Nutella mug cake when my daughter entered the kitchen. She stood quietly for a few seconds before asking me what I was doing. It must have come across as a shock seeing mom eating something without sharing it with anyone else. Actually it is not my fault. Apart from me, my son is the only one with a sweet tooth at home and he was not home when I made the mug cake. My husband would not even spare a glance towards these kind of desserts and my daughter doesn't care about Nutella. I said a mug cake and she peeked into the mug and asked whether it was a chocolate one. Though it was not an accusatory tone, I understood what she meant. She is the chocolate fanatic at home and here I was going on without asking her. I thought she may not like it as it has Nutella and told her so. She is a self proclaimed Nutella hater though she loves chocolate and I am not able to understand the reason behind her dislike until now since she has not tasted it even once. Next came the question, "Did Shreyas get it?""I am thinking of preparing him over the weekend as he is going to come home late", I answered her. She stood there for some more seconds watching me enjoying the treat and she couldn't take it anymore. Then came the question whether it really tastes like chocolate. Of  course it would, I told her since Nutella is but chocolate and hazelnut. Finally the temptation won and she gingerly ate a spoonful, and was beaming with joy. Next came the request for a mug cake of her own. And of course I made it in a small measurement for her, the one that is pictured above.

I love mug cakes for the fact that they are super quick to prepare and a small serving of dessert can be enjoyed without any guilt. This Nutella cake from here involves only four ingredients and is very easy to remember the recipe. This yummy microwave cake can be done in one minute or under depending upon the measurements. I have prepared this twice once using milk and once with yogurt. Both turned out good but I am partial towards the yogurt based one. The small measurement one really works if one wants to portion control.
Ingredients for one mug cake:
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup Nutella
3 tbsp. fat free milk / fat free yogurt
1/2 tsp. baking powder

* Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk it until smooth. Add it to a mug that is about 1 & 1/4 cup size.
* Microwave it for about a minute. A sharp knife or a tooth pick inserted should come out clean and the top of the cake should look done by the time. If not done, microwave for another 20 seconds. Don't be tempted to microwave longer since it will dry out. Let it cool before serving

For a small serving, halve the recipe and use a 3/4 cup sized mug. Microwave it for about 40 - 50 seconds.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday Meals ~ Au Gratin Potatoes

According to wiki, gratin is a widespread culinary technique in which an ingredient is topped with a brown crust, often using breadcrumbs, cheese, eggs or butter. Gratin originated in French cuisine and is usually prepared in a shallow oven proof container. The word 'gratin' comes from French word 'gratter', meaning to scrape or to grate, referring to the scrapings of bread and cheese and the verb 'gratiné' meaning the crust. Potatoes gratine is the most common of gratins but the technique is used in cooking other vegetables, fish, meat and pasta dishes as well.  
For the potato version, slices of boiled potato are put in a buttered oven proof dish, sprinkled with cheese and is baked / broiled until the top browns.I had about four potato dishes in mind for this marathon but eventually had to settle with two. The first one is this simple au gratin recipe that is not loaded with cream and cheese and can be a great side dish for those who do not prefer spicy dishes. I picked this recipe also for the reason that potatoes were not cooked on stove top. (I was sticking to 'only sauce making on stove top' rule of this marathon as I didn't know the rules were flexed at the time of preparing this.) The cream is replaced with fat free milk here thus making it a low calorie version. I used a 2 quart dish and followed the recipe in the same ratio but in a smaller quantity than given below. I didn't try to change anything other than keeping it a little spicier than the original version.
Recipe Source: Taste of home
3 tbsp.butter
3 tbsp. all purpose flour
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp ground pepper (I used more to suit our palates.)
2 cups 2% milk (I used mostly fat-free milk.)
1 cup Cheddar Cheese
5 cups peeled and thinly sliced potatoes (About 5 medium sized potatoes.)
1 big onion chopped
* Grease a 2 quart baking dish and keep it aside.
* After all the prep work is done, preheat the oven at 350 deg F.
* Melt butter in a sauce pan on low flame and add flour and pepper. Keep stirring until smooth.
* Add milk slowly and keep stirring to avoid the lumps. Bring the milk to a boil. (If you notice lumps in case, turn off the stove and pass the mixture through a stainer and smooth the lumps. And again start to cook.)
* Cook the mixture for about 2 minutes, until it thickens. Then add the cheese and turn off the stove. Stir until it melts, taste and then add salt accordingly. Add potatoes and onion to the mixture.
* Transfer the mixture to the greased baking dish. Cover the dish with an aluminum foil and bake for about one hour. Then uncover and bake again for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday Snacks ~ Baked Dry Samosas

I had to strike off a few dishes from my final list while planning this 'Fire up your oven' marathon as the cooking was supposed to happen entirely in the oven. The small but important detail that a stove couldn't be used to prepare anything except simple sauces escaped my attention and when Valli confirmed that, I let go pasta based dishes, casseroles, stuffed breads / rolls and such which needed some prior stove-top cooking. And of course I had to redo my list again. 
Samosa was one of the savories on my list and I had made up my mind that I am going to make them somehow without involving the stove, even though I wasn't sure about the filling initially. Of course I had to let go the classic potato-pea filling. Baked samosas are a great alternative to the deep fried version and totally are guilt free. In fact they turn out so crispier that I prefer the baked version more and there are done in no time compared to the fried version. My husband suggested the dry samosa idea and that got the ball rolling. I used sev as the base of my filling here. Though technically sev is made on stove top, I used store bought one and didn't have to use my stove. :))  I toasted all other ingredients in the oven. The below stuffing reminded us of kachoris but the samosas turned out to be spicy and yummy.
Ingredients for the outer cover: (Yield 10 samosas)
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3 tbsp. semolina
2 tbsp. oil / ghee
Salt to taste
Milk to brush the samosas

Ingredients for the filling:
1/2 cup sev / ghatiya / moong dal
2 tbsp. sweetened dry coconut flakes*
1/4 cup chopped nuts (I used cashew & almonds.)
2 tbsp. raisins
1 tbsp. oil
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. amchur powder / dried mango powder 
Salt and chili powder to taste
* In lieu of sweetened flakes, dry grated coconut and sugar powder can be used. Don't skip the sugar as the sweetness balances the other strong spice flavors here.

Preparing the outer dough:
* Combine flour, semolina and salt in a mixing bowl. Next add ghee or oil to the oil and rub it in with your fingers to incorporate. Then add water in small increments and form a soft, pliable dough. Cover and let it rest for about 30 minutes. (There is no harm if you let it rest longer. I did it for about 2 hours this time.)

Preparing the stuffing:
* Coarsely powder sev and coconut flakes.
* Toast the nuts lightly and let cool. Chop them coarsely.
* Combine oil, coriander seeds and fennel seeds in a sauce pan and toast them on stove top. Or toast it lightly on a baking sheet in the oven or this step can be done in a microwave. Cool the toasted coriander and fennel seeds and grind them coarsely.
* Mix coarsely crushed sev, coconut, nuts, raisins, crushed coriander, crushed fennel seeds, salt, chili powder and amchur in a bowl.
* Toast the above mixture for about a minute in an oven / microwave / on stove-top. Keep the mixture aside.
Assembling & baking the samosas:
* Preheat the oven to 400 deg F.
* Knead the dough prepared earlier and pinch into big marble sized balls. Work with one ball at a time and keep the rest covered. 
* Grease you palms and roll one ball between your palms. Using a rolling pin, roll it thinly into a circle of about 5 inches diameter.
* Cut the rolled out circle into two equal halves, running a knife at the center. Basically you will end up with two crescent shaped halves, each with one straight edge and one curved edge.
* Take one half now and brush with water along with edges. Starting from one end of the straight edge, fold in half.
 * Now again fold to form a cone.
* Seal the two edges carefully, (taking care that there are no gaps) so that stuffing wouldn't spill.
* Spoon the filling into prepared cone and seal the edges.
* Repeat the steps with the remaining dough.
* Grease a foil lined baking sheet and place the prepared samosas on it. Brush them with milk on both sides. 
* Bake them for about 20 - 25 minutes or until they start turning brownish. They would have turned crispy by this time. There is no need to wait until they turn golden brown through out like the fried version.
* Serve immediately or cool them and store it in airtight container. They will stay fresh and crispy for few days. They are spicy on their own and do not need any chutneys to go with.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Fun Friday ~ Eggless Baked Doughnuts With Chocolate Glazing

The first recipe that kept popping up when I was looking for eggless donuts was Radhika's and I had noted it down to try for this marathon. These yeast based, baked doughnuts are not a substitute for the ones you get from the famous American franchise stores but were like soft, spongy rolls. I noticed that most yeast based ones in the web world looked pretty much the same. I had to use extra milk than the recipe mentioned. Otherwise it is a foolproof one as the original recipe promises to be. Don't skip the glaze as these doughnuts are pretty much bland without the frosting. I glazed them with a chocolate frosting as my daughter loves it but any other glaze can be used. 

Servings: 10 - 12
Ingredients for the doughnuts:
1/2 cup milk (I had to use 1/4 cup extra.)
1.5 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups all purpose flour (1&1/2 + 1/2)
1 tbsp. corn starch
50 gm / Scant 1/4 cup butter
2 tsp. vanilla essence 
Ingredients for the chocolate glaze:
6 tbsp. chocolate chips / chopped chocolate (I used semi sweet chocolate chips)
2 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. powdered sugar

* Pulse the 1/4 cup sugar finely and keep it aside.
* Warm 1/2 cup milk in a microwave for about 30 - 40 seconds. Stir in the yeast, salt and about 1 tbsp. powdered sugar (from above step) in the milk. Keep it aside for few minutes until the mixture turns frothy.
* In the mean while cut the hard, cold butter into cubes.
* To a mixing bowl add 1 & 1/2 cups flour, corn starch, yeast mixture, remaining powdered sugar and vanilla and mix. (At this point the original recipe mentioned that the dough would be sticky but mine was pliable.)
* Next add the cubed butter into the bowl and work it into the dough until all the butter is merged with the flour. (You don't need any mixer to prepare this dough as it is quite easy to incorporate the butter into the mixture.)
* Now add the remaining 1/2 cup flour and knead into a soft, pliable dough for about 4 -5 minutes. (At this point, my dough became dry because of the addition of flour and I had to add about 1/4 warm milk to work with it.)
* Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover and keep it in a warm place until it doubles in volume.
* Deflate the dough when it rises. Flour your work surface and roll the dough into 1/2 inch thickness. Use a doughnut cutter or 2 round shaped cookie cutters (3 inched and 1 inched ones) to cut out doughnut shapes. Collect the scraps and repeat the process until all the dough is used up. Basically you cut 3 inch diameter rounds with 1 inched diameter holes.
* Transfer the shaped doughnuts onto a greased baking sheet. Cover them with a towel and allow them to rest for about 20 minutes.
* Preheat the oven to 400 deg F during the last 10 minutes of resting.
* Bake the doughnuts for about 10 minutes or until it turns golden brown. 
* Remove the doughnuts from the oven and brush them with melted butter. Let them cool for five minutes.
* Place the glazing ingredients in a shallow/wide microwave safe bowl and microwave until it melts, stopping at 30 seconds intervals. Let the glazing turn warm.
* Hold the doughnut upside down and dip it in the glaze. Lift and   quickly turn it so the glazed side is up. Decorate with rainbow or chocolate sprinkles if desired.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thursday Teatime ~ Spicy Chickpea Flour Cookies / Besan Cookies

If one has enough patience, these cookies can be tagged as the ones with no sugar, no butter, no all purpose flour or gluten free cookies. These vegan cookies are redolent with Indian flavors and are healthy enough to serve even diabetics. I wanted to bake something interesting to go with our evening tea that tasted like a cross between a crispy cookie and a savory Indian snack and the result was these cookies which my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed. These are probably the best savory version cookies I have baked so far ever since my camaraderie with the oven though I cannot say the same thing about the images. Again these pictures were taken when the sun was fading away in the evening, a setting I am not well versed with. These cookies have a very desirable crispy, crunchy texture if perfectly timed and greatly satisfies the Indian palates.
Ingredients: (Yield 15 cookies)
1 cup chickpea flour / garbanzo flour / besan
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp. crushed kasuri methi (Dried fenugreek leaves)
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
2 - 3 pinches of asafoetida powder
2 tbsp. oil + extra for brushing (I used canola oil.)
2 to 3 tbsp. warm water (I used about 2 tbsp.)
2 tbsp. toasted white sesame seeds
* Sieve chickpea flour and baking powder together. 
* Add flour - baking powder mixture, chili powder, salt, turmeric, kasuri methi, asafoetida to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine them. Next add the oil and again pulse a couple of times. Then add water gradually and run the food processor until the mixture comes together into a ball. Transfer the mixture to working surface and knead into a smooth dough. 
Or combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and prepare the dough by hand. (Grease your hands if the dough appears sticky.)
* Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
* Place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper (since the chickpea flour is going to be sticky to work with while rolling.) Roll the dough with a rolling pin into about 2 to 3 mm thickness. Remove the top parchment paper and sprinkle sesame seeds and again cover with top parchment paper. Gently roll once so that sesame seeds stick to the dough.
* Cut the dough into desired cookie shapes and place them on the prepare baking sheet.
* Bake for about 14 - 17 minutes or until it starts to turn golden brown around the edges. (They firm up further while cooling.)
* Cool them and store it in an airtight container.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Veggie Wednesday ~ Zucchini Parmesan Crisps

My husband has this habit of tucking away important things carefully and considers himself very organised. While he is at it, he also likes to think that I am just the opposite and take everything lightly ('Think' is the keyword here). People who know me personally may beg to differ and call me a neat freak but that is what my husband likes to believe. He puts things away so carefully that no one including him would be able to locate them when they are needed. That's what happened when I went searching for a hard disk of our old computer which is stuffed with pictures that I was supposed to use for blogging. We looked and looked around the house and couldn't locate it until now. The pictures I could use for this post were in it and I wondered if this post of mine will ever see the light of the day. These zucchini crisps along with the okra fry, handvo I posted last week have been in my drafts for years now, for the lack of better pictures. It is another thing that I used the same pictures for okra fry and handvo in this marathon since I couldn't prepare them again this month. With these zucchini crisps it was totally another story. The pictures I took earlier were good but as I mentioned above, the pictures went missing.

These zucchini crisps were not an experiment for this marathon but are baked regularly in my home since they are my daughter's favorite. I got some zucchinis and baked them again instead of wasting time over the old pictures. These were baked last month as an evening snack and so the pictures were taken when the light was really low. I was not happy with the pictures and was thinking of posting something else. However when I realized that I have to yet bake four more dishes for this marathon, I gave up and used the image. 

Zucchini is sliced into thin discs for this recipe and are coated with bread crumbs and cheese mixture. Then they are baked until the coating turns crispy. We cannot expect the zucchini to turn crispy here but the outer cheese coating provides the crunch and the flavor. These crisps are great to snack on and are a better alternative to the frying method.

2 small zucchinis (I had around 25 slices)
1 tbsp oil
Salt and ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese 

* Preheat the oven to 425 deg F. Grease or line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
* Mix bread crumbs, salt, pepper and cheese in a bowl. 
* Wash and wipe dry the zucchinis. Slice them into about 1/4 inch discs. Add oil and the discs to a bowl and toss gently to coat.
* Dip the zucchini discs in the bread crumbs - cheese mixture and press down firmly so that the coating sticks to the discs. Flip and coat the other side too. Repeat the steps with the remaining discs.
* Place the bread crumbs - cheese coated discs on the prepared sheet and bake for about 25 - 30 minutes or until the coating turns crispy.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 51.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tuesday Treat ~ Eggless Pineapple - Semolina Cake

This 'fruity' semolina cake is one of my favorites and I keep rotating fruits in the recipe to have a different flavored one each time I prepare it. I have already posted the banana and mango flavored ones. Recently when we got the pineapple home, we forgot to cut it until it went overripe and my husband asked whether I could make a dessert out of it. The request was kinda surprising knowing that he is not fond of sweet dishes and he loves to eat the fruit in it's natural form. I thought he may love some halwa but ditched the idea when I realized that a recipe that can be used for the baking marathon would also serve my purpose. The result was this yummy cake full of pineapple flavor. I prepared a small sized loaf in a one cup capacity pan. The final cake would be soft even though it looks gritty from the surface.

1/2 cup semolina
1/2 cup pineapple puree (Grind pineapple pieces for the puree.)
1/2 tsp baking powder.
3 to 4 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. melted butter
Few drops of pineapple essence
Few drops yellow food color (optional)
1 tbsp. slivered almonds (or substitute other nuts)
1 tbsp. raisins 
* Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, reserving about 1 tsp. of almond slivers. Keep the bowl covered for 10 minutes. The final batter should not be runny and if it is, allow it to rest for few minutes more.
* Preheat the oven at 375 deg F.
* Grease a baking pan. This batter doesn't rise much and so the batter can be filled up to 3/4th of the pan. I used a one cup capacity 
baking pan for this quantity. 
* Pour the batter into the pan and sprinkle with almonds. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean.
* Cool the cake, slice and serve.