Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Egg less Chocolate cake / cupcakes

Last weekend we watched Captain America (2) movie. We all (little S included ) voted for it. 
I was thrilled. I grew up on a steady dose of Marvel Comics and all these superheroes were and are my favorites. At one time I desperately wanted to be a mutant, like the X-men and wished and wished for some strange power to manifest itself on every birthday. 
I could not let a spider bite me, I flee at the sight of anything that creeps, crawl or slithers. I was definitely no Asgardian. With hi-fi technology limited only to the multi-billionaires and only in the USA, I was left with just my imagination and the only option available to me, to be a mutant.
Years of disappointment only made me read all possible comic books I could lay my hands on.

Then there was the fairies stage, I wanted some fairy to grant me wishes. Or at least take me to fairy land ( just like in Enid Blyton's books).

After that came the detective stage ( this was after the adventurer stage, where I wanted to be that lucky kid who found some treasure or a gang of smugglers). I realized (after reading a lot of Sherlock Holmes, I as neither as intelligent or as intrepid as him) I was not quite cut out for that sort of a thing. 

While that sort of dream faded over time, the charm of comic books remained strong. And so, every super hero movie that is released is a visual treat for me. 
I was glued to the screen during the movie making sure that little S had his supply of popcorn and chips. After these were done, he got antsy and I transferred him to his father.
The movie was good. 

Just like my generation had their favorite super heroes, my son's generation has theirs. As of now, Power Rangers, Avengers, Spider-man and Ninjago rule.

A very special 4 year old (R), is a HUGE (yes, yes, in capitals) fan of Ninjago. He gets his from his elder brother.  So naturally, his birthday had to be a Ninjago themed celebration.

His Mom (Samta), wanted cupcakes to take and share with R's  pre-school friends. 
Kids love chocolate ( and so do most adults, chocolate is the universal language) and we fixed chocolate flavor. And Samta and her family are vegetarians and prefer egg less cakes. 
I decided to make egg less chocolate cupcakes with butter cream frosting and fondant decorations.

I found a Quick and Easy Chocolate cake recipe that I have tried with great success. this recipe makes two, 9 x 2 round layers or 24 cupcakes.

DeDe Wison's Quick n Easy Chocolate Cake

3 cups All Purpose Flour (APF)
2 cups Sugar
2/3 cup, sifted, Natural Cocoa
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
2 cups Water at room temp.
2/3 cup Oil 
2 Tbsp. Apple cider Vinegar/ white vinegar
1 tsp Vanilla extract

Pre heat the oven to 350 F

Grease the cake pan or get the muffin pan lined and ready.

Whisk the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, sugar and baking soda) and set aside.

Using a whisk/ had held mixer or your stand mixer, mix oil, water, vinegar and vanilla

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry and mix until well combined and smooth.

Divide the batter evenly in the pans and bake for 30 mins. or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan over a rack for about 10 mins and then invert on to the rack to cool completely.

This cake is moist and very delicious. I was always apprehensive about egg less baking and that I would be a big flop at it. This recipe  has made me confident :) 

For the cupcakes, I used my butter cream recipe for frosting (the yellow part) and covered the cupcakes in fondant. The eyes and brows are made using fondant too.

I am not a fondant fan and can never eat it, but I cannot deny that it looks good on cakes. 

Coming up (soon) is another cake I had the opportunity to bake for a 7 year old! 
See you soon.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ulundu Sadham ( Black gram daal rice) : A quick lunch box option

"Oh look at that giant bug! hahahahaa! April Fool! "
"Look, Loooook, what is that?" hahahaha! April Fool!"
" Looooooook, a giant... monster ( animal/ bug/person).. hahahah! April Fool" chants Little S in a sing-song voice.
He loves April Fools and refuses to believe that we fool others only on the first day of April. 
It's been a long 3 weeks of April fooling in our car and home.
It reminds me of all the silly pranks I pulled on my parents, mind you, some were good.
And so, just as my dad participated in all my pranks (whether he fell for them or not) I do the same for Li'll S. All the way back from school, going for karate and on the way back. 
It's been a long 3 weeks......

I have been cooking a good deal, jut not posting. It's weird, I want to but something holds me back. It isn't lack of time, just motivation, I guess and that I am reading books and watching TV. 
On my last trip to the library, I picked up Climbing the mango trees by Madhur Jaffrey  and am thoroughly enjoying reading about her memories of growing up in India. It also brings back a surge of memories of my childhood and how some things do not change with time.

I am also watching a series on Netflix, 'Midsomer Murders' which Nupur mentioned on her blog and I find them very engrossing. 
I mentioned the series to some friends here and they are thrilled to have something to watch in the afternoons (one friend and I share our liking for Brit books as well as TV series, as she rightly put it, "English  drama is so classy..." I agree, there is a quiet dignity to how everything is portrayed). 

And now we move on the topic of cooking ( which is the reason, this blog exists) I must add, we have cut down on white rice, significantly. Earlier no meal was complete without rice. Many a times, rice and daal were our meal, but that has changed now. And when I do make rice, there is always some left over. This left over rice is usually sauteed with vegetables and converted to fried rice or a quick Lemon rice for M's lunch box.
There are so many variations to transform plain ol' white rice into a spectacular dish with layers of flavors. 
I prefer working with left over rice, it's quick and easy.
For my recipe today, I use left over rice and the recipe is adapted from Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan.

I used:

approx. 2 Cups Cooked Rice
approx. 10-12 Cashew Nut pieces 
1 Green chili, slit ( seeds removed)

In a pan, dry roast, 2 tbsp. Urad daal, 1 tsp. Black Peppercorns (kali miri), 2 tbsp. Sesame seeds and 1 1/2 tbsp dry flaked Coconut.
Cool the roasted spices and grind to a powder in the coffee mill.

Heat oil in  wok / kadhai/ saute pan. Add 1 tsp. mustard seeds and 1 tsp each urad and chana daal ( I usually have this mix in my spice container and never measure, I just add it, eyeballing the amount) As the mustard seeds pop and the daals turn golden, sprinkle in a couple of hefty pinches of Asafetida and then add one (halved) dry red chili, the green chili  and a few curry leaves.
Stir the tempering and then add the rice and the spice powder and salt to taste. Mix well, be gentle though, don't break the rice. Taste to check salt. Switch off the flame and serve.


-If you cannot tolerate heat, reduce the amount of peppercorn to half or as less as you prefer, ( that is a safer and better option in case kids are going to eat it) but do not skip it.

-This rice is best served warm, however it keeps well and tastes good at room temperature too. 

- The original recipe uses fresh cooked rice

- You can use fresh coconut, however that means the shelf life of the rice is short. 

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Basbousa ( Libyan Semolina Cake)

I always thought my father was missing out on a lot where his birthday was concerned. He did not eat cake. I don't remember getting an egg less cake , did we even get one in the late 70's or 80's in India?
A traditional sweet was the highlight of the day.
How disappointing! Not having a (cream) cake, not blowing out the candles and cutting the cake with a chorus singing "happy birthday to you.... (and then trailing off with ) may God, bless you..." 
No paper plates with the customary slice of (cream) cake and wafers (chips) and Rasna. 
But Baba cannot tolerate the idea of a cake with eggs. When ever I bake, he always asks, " kaccha anda ghatlis ka?" (did you add eggs?). My answer is mostly yes. Though that is changing now! More on that later.

So, about 6 years ago, when my parents were visiting me, my father celebrated is birthday with us. I decided to bake a cake. An egg less one. This was an intimidating task, for one, I was scared ----less where baking was concerned and two, I was a new mother, my little S was about 2 weeks old. 
To cut a long story short, I made a Rava Cake, which at that time, seemed like a good (and the only idea). I made the cake, he cut the cake, we all ate the cake. We declared it 'baked Sheera' and that was it! I shoved the idea of egg less cakes in the deepest recesses of my mind and kept them locked.
Years later, a few weeks ago, in fact, a friend e-mailed me and we discussed some menu items for some guests she had invited. We mailed back and forth and she mentioned that she was making Basbousa for dessert. 
I could not help but laugh and think of my desperate attempt at making a cake for my dad and ending up with a pan of 'baked sheera'.
But Basbousa sounded so unlike baked sheera and was definitely on my 'must try' list.  

I made this for a small potluck we Bus Stop Moms had planned and it was very well received! I have this picture only because I saved a piece for M.

Source: here

1.5  Cup Semolina ( I used the regular coarse Sooji, next time I will use the Fine variety)
1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup  Sugar
1 tsp. Baking pwd
3/4 Cup Oil ( I used Canola)
1/2 Cup Milk ( I used Whole milk)

1 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar
1 Wedge lemon

Heat water in a pot and add sugar, dissolve to mix squeeze lemon. 

Once it boils, turn down heat to low and simmer for 15 min. Remove from the heat and cool syrup.

Drop almonds in hot water to blanch and remove the skin, set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

Lightly grease a 9" pan, keep aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add dry ingredients- semolina, flour, baking powder and mix well, then add sugar, stir to combine- add oil and milk- mix until smooth

Pour into greased pan and tap gently on the counter top to make it smooth.

Carefully, score the batter in the pan (make square or diamonds) place a blanched almond on each square

Bake at 350 F  for about 30 mins until edges are golden brown.

Remove from the oven and once again, run a knife thru the already scored batter marks

Cut right thru with a sharp serrated knife and bake again for about 15 mins

Remove the basbousa from the oven and pour the syrup evenly on the top to cover it completely.(You should have about 3/4 cup of thick syrup)

Let the syrup soak in and  then cut the squares and serve! 

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