Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rajgira Thalipeeth ( Amaranth Flour Flat bread)

I am not particularly devout, I do not pray everyday though I do know chants and stories and the lot.
This is childhood conditioning. I have seen my Mother and Grand-mother (Ajji) as well as my Great Grand Mother (Panji)  praying, everyday. As a child, whenever I visited my Ajji would call us or the evening prayers and we (cousins) would sit near her, hands folded and chant after her, looking at the soft glow of the 'diva' that burned steadily, strong, like her faith in God.
it always felt very peaceful after praying. 
Maybe that was the real and only purpose of those rhythmic chants, to make you feel good.  
Panji used to tell us wonderful tales of Gods and demons and how good always won over evil. At the end of the story, she would hand out small chunks of 'khadi sakhar' (rock candy). 

My Aaji always had 'Rajgira Ladoo or chikki ' at home, for the days she fasted, this was a quick snack apart from the usual khichadi or thalipeeth. That was the only form of Rajgira I ever knew, until I came to the USA. Amaranth flour has gained popularity. 
It is a gluten free flour, making it a good option for those who are sensitive to gluten or avoid it as a part of their diet.
These days we hear a lot about going gluten free. I wonder if I would be able to do it. It is a life style change and I admit, I am not quite ready for it. But like many of you, I too have my share in trying recipes that are gluten free, and  I have been doing so for ages, before I knew about gluten or pseudo grains with high- protein.
To me Amaranth was a mystery. The first time I heard someone mention it ( and they called it Amarnath) which  reminded me of this.

I do not fast, much, I used to, back when I was a teen and a young adult,  I believe that along with religious conditioning, a large part of the charm was the food made for 'fasting', feasting, as I liked to call it! 
But I do not remember having tasted these. 
The last time I went to the Indian store I wandered around a bit, as I usually do (I have started avoiding the Indian stores on weekends, it is madness!) and found myself in the 'Puja items' aisle. 
and at the end of the rack, with a medley of Pooja books, I saw Rajgaro flour. Of course I had to pick it up.
Making this thalipeeth is very easy. If you have all the ingredients  and it uses  what is mostly available in a Maharashtrian household)

You need:

1 cup Rajgira/ Amaranth flour
1 Potato, grated ( I used 1/2 sweet Potato)
1 Green chili, finely minced 
2-3 tbsp of Roasted Peanut powder ( daney koot)
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp Chopped Cilantro
Water 
Ghee
Ziploc bag- large size

In a mixing bowl, mix all the listed ingredients, except water.
Add water by the teaspoon, very little is needed to bind the dough.you will probably require 1/4 cup, max. But do not add it all at one go. 
Once you are ready to make the thalipeeth, set the griddle on the stove
place the Ziploc on the counter top and add a small drop of ghee and smear it, alternatively, use oil spray.
Pinch off a small portion of the dough and make a ball  and place it on the ziplock and pat it into a small circle.

Once done, carefully lift off the thalipeeth from the Ziploc and place it on the hot griddle.
Drizzle a few drops of ghee and cook till one side is golden brown and with some spots on it.
Carefully flip and cook on the other side.
Serve with yogurt or can be enjoyed as is.



Notes:

Be careful when patting the dough on the Ziploc as well as transferring it to the hot griddle.

Traditionally potato is used, but I quite liked the taste of sweet potato here. I am also thinking of using a mashed potato the next time, that might give it enough binding to make it easier to pat and transfer etc.


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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A cake for a Birthday Princess

Every little girl is a princess, don't you think? And more so on her birthday. 
My son calls her Tai (meaning elder sister) and she turned 7, Sujata's little Princess is one year older.

A few weeks ago, our little Princess and I looked at several cake pictures on Pinterest and made 'expert comments' and she and I both liked one cake, instantly. We decided that I was going to make it for her birthday. 

I promised her, but I was a bit unsure... I mean, it is one thing to want to make a cake and another to nail it. you don't want a disappointed 7 year old on her special day.
Daunting as it was, I stuck to my plan and set out to make a Princess Doll Cake for our little Princess.

Barbie Doll Cake

The Prep:

I opted for a regular Barbie Doll from the store (The Dancing Shoes Barbie), instead of a doll insert. that way the birthday girl gets a new doll to add to her collection.

I used box mix for the cake, while I do have a very dependable Vanilla cake recipe, I was not willing to risk anything and 'better safe than sorry', right?

The frosting was Whipped cream and Cream cheese ( recipe below)

I made some Gum Paste Flowers and bought the decorating 'pearls'  to accent the cake.

For the Doll's skirt, I used round cake pans and a Pyrex bowl ( all 8 inch diameter) and a mini angel cake bundt pan.

Making the Princess Doll Cake:
Since I used the doll, and she is tall, the cake had to accordingly to be tall too, at least 8.5 inches.
Make the cake as per the instructions. I made these 3 ( 2 round cakes and one round, baked in a Pyrex 2 quart bowl)  as you can see in the picture below and a small angel cake bundt (not in picture).

Prep for the Doll's skirt

I made the cakes one day in advance. Once the cakes are cooled, level them, using a cake leveler or a serrated knife and take off the dome.
Alternately, you can use a strip of cloth ( an old thick kitchen towel) soaked in water and wrapped around on the outside of the cake pan while baking or buy Bake Even strips at any craft store, this will help bake the cakes with an even flat-top.

Prep the Doll, wrap the doll  waist down in cling wrap.This will keep her clean.

To make the Frosting:

To me,this was my real challenge. I like butter cream frosting for it's sturdiness and how easy it makes decorating. What I dislike, is how sweet it is.  even for a sweet lover that I am, I  clench my teeth at how-very-sweet it is.

I like whipped cream frosting because it is mildly sweet, feels light ( if you are eating cake, you are not counting calories!).
My concern is, whipped cream is not sturdy, it just does not hold shape as well and makes decorating a tad difficult and not so well defined.
My job therefore was to find a way to make the frosting sturdy.
Search revealed that gelatin is an ideal stabilizer, however, many of the party were vegetarians and so using this option was ruled out.
The other option was using pudding powder, but I was still on the look out and my search was well rewarded!
Prep the doll, level the cake and  make the whipped cream frosting

Source: Here 
1 (8 oz.) packet Cream Cheese (regular)
1/2 cup Confectioners sugar  I used a little more than the recommended 1/2 cup, I added about 2-3 tbsp extra)
1 tsp. vanilla Flavor ( Almond will work well too)
2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream
Food coloring ( I used McCormick Neon colors, a few drops of the blue)

Chill the bowl and the beaters in the freezer for about 10-15 mins before you want to make the frosting.
Once ready, pull out the cream cheese from the fridge and add it to the chilled bowl and add sugar. Cream the two until smooth.
Add the vanilla extract and mix it. With the beaters still going, slowly add the whipping cream and then the food color and beat on medium speed  till soft peaks form.
I doubled the recipe as my cake had to be about 8.5 inches tall

Cake decoration Work-in-Progress. Piping rosettes and  Gum paste flowers to accent the doll's skirt

To start working on the cake:

Using the leveler or a serrated knife, cut the dome cake in 2; horizontally.

Use a round cookie / biscuit cutter and punch out holes in the middle of the dome shaped cake, the bundt and one round cake. 

Leave one round cake as is for the bottom layer.

To keep the cake moist, I use a very mild sugar water solution. Using a pastry brush, apply the sugar water all over the leveled part, this also helps in locking any crumbs.

Place one 8 inch round cake as the bottom layer and 'paint' all over with the sugar- water solution, add a generous dollop of the frosting and spread it out evenly using an offset spatula.

Brush the second round cake with the sugar water and gently place it over the base cake. Apply a generous dollop of the frosting. 

Follow the same steps to place all layers of the cake.

The next step is to crumb coat the cake.Spread a thin layer of the  frosting all over the cake and place it in the fridge for a few minutes ( about 15 -20 mins)
All Done! 

To Decorate the cake:

Fit a decorating bag with Wilton's Tip # 18 (for slightly bigger rosettes, use tip # 21).

Fill the pastry bag with the frosting and pipe rosettes, beginning at the bottom and go around.

If there are any gaps between the rosettes,  cover them up, later, with stars ( using the same tip) 

Use decorations of your choice, I used  gum paste apple blossom flowers ( the bright green ones) that I made a few days ago and CakeMate-Perfect Pearls. 
These can be found in the Baking Supplies aisle.Use your imagination ! 



Keep the cake in the fridge until ready to cut. 

NOTES:

This is definitely my choice for frosting  on cakes, beats butter-cream frosting hands down!

It is very important to chill the bowl and beaters in the freezer before you set out to making the frosting. 

Alternately, you can take a big bowl, fill it half way ( or a bit less) with ice cubes and place another bowl on top and make the frosting.

You can also use fresh seasonal fruit to layer in the cake with the frosting.


The birthday girl and all the guests were very happy with the cake!  I am SO glad I tried it and it was a success!


I am sending this post to Cucina di Barbara (Barbara's Kitchen) and participating in the fabulous giveaway!


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