Thursday, December 22, 2011

Almond Biscotti

Biscotti was in my 'to bake' list for a long time and finally I made it yesterday for my kid's teachers. Biscotti's are traditional Italian cookie which are long curve shaped, baked with only eggs and sugar as the main ingredients. No fat is added to these cookies. It has a crisp and crunchy texture, great with a cup of tea and it stores well for several days.

1 cup blanched whole almonds
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8th tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp almond essence

Blanching the almonds:
Boil the water in a sauce pan and add the whole almonds. Leave them in the boiling water for exactly 1 min.
Then drain the water and remove the skin. The nut just easily pops out of the skin.
Cool the nuts

Toasting the almonds
Heat the oven to 350F
Spread the cooled almonds on a baking sheet
Bake for 10 mins or until the nuts are slightly brown and fragrant

Baking of the Biscotti is done in two parts.

Baking the Biscotti - Part 1
Preheat the oven to 300F.Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or wax paper
Stir the flour and salt in a bowl.
Roughly chop the toasted almonds
Beat the eggs and sugar till pale and creamy. If you lift the beater the mixture should fall into ribbons
Now add the vanilla and almond essence, and beat for 2 mins .
Now add the dry ingredients slowly and beat till incorporated.
The dough is very sticky at this point.
Dust the working surface and your palms with flour.
Transfer the dough to the floured surface and shape it to a log of about 12 inch in length and 3 - 4 inch in width.
Transfer the log to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 30-40 mins or until firm to touch.
Cool on a wire rack for 15 mins

Part 2:
Cut the log into thin slices of about 1/2 inch thickness.  Arrange the slices , cut side down on baking sheet and bake for 10 mins. Turn the slices over and bake for another 10 mins or until brown and crispy.
Remove from oven and let cool. Store in airtight container.
This measure yields about 15-16 slices, depends on how thin you slice it.

Wish you all Happy Holidays :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sugar Cookies

Baked my first batch of cookies for the season. It all started when my son came home from school whinning about how they made cookies at school and how he wanted to do the same at home. It was funny to watch him explaining the whole act of making the cookies as if trying to teach me how to do it. He was like "Don't make round balls amma, roll out like chapati and I will cut into shapes". Nowadays kids are very clear about what they want and how they want it.

1 and 1/2 cup cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter , room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift the flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl
Beat the butter and sugar till light and fluffy (2 -3 mins)
Add the egg abd beat for another 2 mins until pale and creamy
Now add the Vanilla extract and beat for another minute.
Add the flour mixture and beat till combined.
Take out the dough and shape it to a disc, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Roll out the dough and cut into shapes. 
Place the cut out dough on tray covered with wax paper or parchment paper.
Sprinkle some coloured sugar or sprinklers or plain white sugar. (optional)
Bake for  8 - 10 mins. The edges should be slightly brown.
Cool on a wire rack. This measurement yields about 18-20 medium sized cookies

These cookies turned out not as sugary as I thought it would be.It was buttery and mildly sweet.
Always keep the unused dough covered with plastic wrap.
You can also freeze the remaining dough and used it later

My first attempt in decorating  Sugar Cookies.
I attempted to decorate some of the cookies after being inspired by this post from Aparna
I used the same recipe she gave there  for icing. The icing was little bit thin .
for me so I added a tsp of corn starch and some more sugar to thicken it up. At first it was very difficult to get hold of the process, after a few cookies or rather mishaps, some of them came out better.
It takes a lot of patience and time to decorate the cookies, may be it will ease up  with practice. My son likes it, so that's all it takes for me to try it again :)

1/2 cup icing sugar
2 tsp corn starch
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp milk/water
a drop of required colour.

Mix everything well except the colour. Increase the water /milk by a tsp at a time if want to thin the Icing.
Increase the sugar and cornstarch by 1/2 tsp each to thicken the icing.
Seperate into small bowls and add the required colour. I used cocoa powder to get the brown colour.
I used little ziplog bags for the piping.Make sure to cut a tiny hole to get a smooth line.

Have a nice weekend :)

Sending these cookies to the 'Sinful delights ' events at "Zesty Pallete" 

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Aval Payasam / Rice Flakes Kheer

Today is Karthigai Deepam - The festival of lights and I did my best for my son to feel what it actually means through food and some candle lights. Though it's not even 10% close to what we celebrate in TamilNadu, it was nice and subtle in our own way. For those of you who wants to know more about what is 'Karthigai Deepam' and the legend behind the festival head over to Cham's place  and check out her detailed post about this wonderful day of lights.

Now coming back to food,  I prepared Aval Payasam and Ulunthu/Urad dhal  vadai .

The recipe for the Urad dhal is the same as I mentioned in this post. But today I followed an interesting tip given by my aunt.To make the vadai's more crispy on the outside soak 2 tblsps of Thoor dhal  along with the urad dhal and the rest of the procedure is the same as given here

Aval Payasam:

This is a fairly simple recipe just like any other payasam, it takes hardly 30 mins to prepare. I used Cashews and Almonds, you can also use any other nuts of your choice. An additional 1/4 cup of shredded coconut also brings out an extra richness to this payasam,but its purely optional and I didnt use it for today.

1 cup Rice flakes/Poha
6 cups milk
1 cup sugar
handful of cashews( about 1/4 cup)
handful of Almonds (1/4 cup)
2 elaichi/cardamom / 1/4 tsp of cardomom powder
2 tblsp of ghee

Boil the milk in saucepan
Paralley roast the riceflakes in about 1/2 tsp of ghee until you get a nice aroma
Add this roasted riceflakes, sugar and elaichi  to the boiling milk 
Cook in medium flame with constant stirring until the rice flakes are cooked and soft to the touch.
 It takes about 15 - 20 mins. 
In a seperate pan roast the cashews and almond to golden brown in about a tblsp of ghee.
Add this to the reduced payasam and switch off the stove.
The payasam/gheer will thicken as it cools down.
Serves about 5-6 people.

Have a nice weekend ! 

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Spinach Masala Vadai

A crispy snack for the upcoming cold evenings and also a great way to use up the left over spinach:)

Ingredients :
1 cup Channa dhal
1/4 cup Thoor dhal
1/4 cup Urad dhal
2 cloves garlic (optional)
1 inch piece Ginger
1tblsp Fennel seeds
5-6 red chillies
Handful of currry leaves chopped finely
2 cups Spinach, chopped finely
1 cup of onion chopped finely
3 green chillies finely chopped

Soak all the dhals together for about 2 hours. 
Grind them coarsely without adding water along with the fennel and red chillies.Sprinkle some water if needed.
Take the mixture in a wide bowl.Add chopped ginger, garlic onions,green chillies, curry leaves ,spinach and required amont of salt.
Mix well and make small balls out of the dough.
Heat up the oil in a deep pot, flatten the ball and slide it to the oil. 
Fry till crispy and golden brown.
You can fry 4-5 vadai at a time.

The onion must be chopped finely for the vadais to be intact, otherwise it will break up in the oil.
Take care while adding salt as spinach already has some natural saltness 
Do not use frozen spinach for this recipe.
If the dough is loose add couple of tsp's of besan flour to thicken it.

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