“We have so much, too much, that we can buy, yet the basic labor of doing, the making with our own hands, is what enlivens us and makes us feel human." Dan Lepard

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Low Fat Orange Yogurt Cake

It is early morning post Diwali. Cacophony of birds in the mango tree catch our attention. Magpie Robin, Sunbirds, a group of Oriental white eye and a tree pie are all letting out shrill calls. There must be a snake or a cat or a mongoose we presume. The alarm calls reach a pinnacle and we are forced to go out and check. Our eyes scan the area but we see no snake, no cat or mongoose. Birds keep hopping from branch to branch and are joined by some more. As we look up, we spot a Jungle Owlet staring at us. It rotated its head, looked around and again fixed its gaze on us.

 It remained there for twenty minutes till birds made it difficult for it to stay perched. Soon it flew away with all the birds chasing it.

It is post festival time and we might have some guests over. Since everyone is satiated with sweets, we decide to bake a very simple low fat orange cake that would be just ideal with a steaming cup of masala tea.

It is a simple recipe and comes together in no time. Soon the wonderful aroma of cake wafts through, announcing that it is done.

A delicious orangey moist, butter free cake is sliced and enjoyed by all.
 Low Fat Orange Yogurt Cake
Recipe source – www.marthastewart.com
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
A pinch of salt
1 egg
½ to ¾ cup sugar (powdered)
½ cup thick creamy yogurt
¼ cup olive oil
1-2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons candied orange peels chopped fine (or finely grated zest)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line one 8 inch round cake pan.
Whisk together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Keep aside.
In another large bowl, take next five ingredients and beat well till you get a uniform mixture. You may use a hand blender for mixing.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix till you get a lump free smooth batter. Do not over mix. Stir in candied peels or zest.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 -30 minutes or till a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the rack.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Singhal – A Kumaoni Delicacy

Festivities and frenzy is palpable in the air. Festive spirit is infectious and seems to imbue everyone. Diwali is soon arriving. Nature seems to be donning brightest colours for the occasion. Though it is the fag end of autumn but the blossoms are still dazzling  and beautiful. We saw a thicket of wild dahlia.

Every kitchen is busy and the sound of the pots and pans is indicative that sweets and delicacies are being prepared. A medley of aromas suffuse the air. There is excitement and happiness galore.  In my kitchen, batter for Singhal is resting. Singhal is a traditional Kumaoni sweet made during festivals and all the important occasions. It is made in advance and has a good shelf life. Soft, spongy and flavourful Singhal is a healthy delicacy made with semolina, banana, curd, milk, sugar and cardamom.

You may serve it with rabri (thickened milk) as dessert.

Singhal – A Kumaoni   Delicacy
2 teacups semolina (sooji)
1 teacup thick  curd
1 teacup sugar
½ - 1 cup milk
2 tablespoons malai (milk topping,  optional)
1 medium or 1 ½ small overripe banana (mashed)
5 to 6 green cardamoms
Vegetable oil for frying
Beat curd and malai till smooth. Powder cardamom seeds.
Take semolina in a large bowl. Add sugar, curd, cardamom, mashed banana, and ½ cup milk. Mix well to get a smooth batter. Add more milk if the batter is too dry. The consistency should be like cake batter.
Cover and keep for 2 to 3 hours.
Heat oil in a wok.
Take a clean a plastic bag. Make a cut in the end. Fill the bag with batter and press the bag so the batter reaches the point where the bag has a cut. Drop batter in the oil gently making a spiral (like a jalebi, but, round).
You may also take handful of batter and drop it in oil in a spiral shape.
Fry till golden. Flip and repeat.
Serve with tea as snack or serve with pista rabri as   dessert.                        

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Pistachio Cardamom Cake

Shrill calls of a Rufous Treepie pierce the serenity of the autumn morning. The sky is heavy with clouds and the Sun is yet to make an appearance. The bird goes on calling continuously and her shrill notes draw our attention. We spot her in the Jamun tree. 

 A dove drinking water from the bird bath scurries and flies away to the lower branches of Magnolia tree. 

Treepie reaches the bird bath, drinks water to her heart’s content and then dives into the saucer, splashing water around.

It is festive season. Ingredients are being measured to bake a cake. My daughter, helps me in slivering the pistachios for Pistachio Cardamom Cake. We spoon the batter into the pan and lovingly arrange the sliced pistachios on the batter spacing them evenly. 

As the cake bakes, a lovely aroma of orange zest and cardamom wafts through. The cake turns out moist, flavourful and delicious. It is very festive in appearance as tiny bits of green pistachios peep out from the soft crumb. It is rich in taste and flavour.

Pistachio Cardamom Cake
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup raw pistachios ground coarsely
5 to 6 green cardamom seeds powdered
1 stick (½ cup) butter
1 cup (scant) sugar, powdered
3 large eggs
½ cup warm milk (not hot)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Finely grated zest of two oranges
5 to 6 pistachios slivered, for topping
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line the bottom,   grease and dust sides of one 8 inch round cake pan.
Whisk together first 5 ingredients in a large. Keep aside.
Beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add vanilla essence and zest, mix well.
Add flour mix in three shifts. Add milk every time you add flour mix. Mix till well combined.
Pour into the prepared pan. Level the top. Sprinkle slivered pistachios evenly on top.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or till the top turns brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven after 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, invert onto the rack and cool.
Slice next day (the flavours develop fully). Serve with whipped cream.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Garlic and Herb Pull Apart Cluster Bread | Garlic and Herb Pull Apart Bread

The sky is azure and cloudless. It rained heavily a day ago. We are in the fields and the Sun is pleasantly warm. Birds and bees are at work. There are a million wild flowers around. Butterflies are flitting from flower to flower. Most of them are hovering around Lantana flowers. The amalgamation of nippy air and warm Sun is lassitude inducing, the ambiance is heavenly. 

We spot a large number of butterflies.

 The colours, the hues and the patterns on their wings fascinate us.

For evening, a special pull apart bread is being planned.  I decide on baking a cluster of tiny bread rolls in a regular loaf tin. 

The bread rises, so does our excitement. As the bread browns, our home is flooded with the lovely aroma and   garlic and herb cluster bread is ready for dinner. This is the basic recipe for garlic and herb bread. You may also shape it as a regular loaf.

Garlic and Herb Pull Apart Cluster Bread | Garlic and Herb Pull Apart Bread
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons milk powder
1 ½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons dry herbs (mix of oregano, thyme, rosemary)
5 to 6 buds of garlic (minced)
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
¼ cup boiled and mashed potato
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter for dough + 4 tablespoons more
2/3 cup warm milk
¼ to ½ cup warm water.
Mix together milk, yeast, sugar, butter and mashed potato.
Whisk together first five ingredients.  Make a well in the center. Pour liquid ingredients. Mix with hands to get a shaggy dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes or till dough becomes smooth. Keep adding water till you get a smooth and elastic dough. Cover and let dough rest for 20 minutes.
Grease one 4 ½  x 8 ½   inch bread pan.
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a bowl.
Pinch dough into walnut size balls. Roll between palms to get a round ball. Dip the balls in the butter and start arranging dough balls in the pan. Once the base layer is done, start second layer and so on. Each layer should have less dough balls than the previous layer. Try to arrange dough balls evenly so that you get a pyramid shape in the end.  Cover and keep in a warm place for 1 ½ hour or till bread crests above the rim of the pan.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 40 to 45 minutes or till the top turns brown and the tin sounds hollow when tapped at the bottom.
Remove the bread from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Egg less Apple Snack Cake

Autumn is adding more and more colour to the landscape.  

A cart loaded with fresh red apples passing by our lane was stopped. We chose to pick the fruit and the vendor let us do it without any signs of uneasiness as we examined the lot and gathered the seemingly best apples. We applauded his generosity as he smiled accepting money and carrying on further.

 Kids loved snacking on them. I saved some for baking a cake. Incorporating fresh fruits in the cake gives a good feeling. Cake gets a great texture and the recipe feels healthy too. Having baked and enjoyed whole wheat apple cake and easy apple cake earlier, an egg less version was in mind.  I grated a large apple and added to the batter. Since apples do not have any distinct flavour, I added vanilla essence. Cinnamon would also give a great flavour.

Egg less Apple Snack Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour (Atta)
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
A pinch of salt
¾ cup sugar (powdered)
½ cup thick curd
1/3 cup olive oil (or any vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 medium size apple grated
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line and grease one 8 inch round cake pan. Dust the sides with flour.
Whisk together first five ingredients in a large bowl.
In another bowl, mix curd and sugar. Add oil and vanilla essence. Stir till a smooth mixture forms. Add grated apple.
Add dry ingredients. Stir till well combined. Batter should be of dropping consistency. If your batter is thick, add 1 -2 tablespoons of water.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 -45minutes till the top turns golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven after 10 minutes. Cool in the rack. Slice next day.

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