Category Archives: Desserts

Apricot Oat Bars

apricot bars

Chocolate-y Goodness

choc oat bars
Or so Noor termed these granola bars that, despite the obligatory oats, are saved from being just only healthy by a reasonable amount of chocolate chips !

“Un tres super” pastry recipe !

One more culinary highlight of last week was the excellent – and egg-less ! pastry recipe I discovered  the morning when the girls more or less insisted I make again the fresh strawberry pie I made a couple of times in France.

Making any kind of tart or pie was such a cinch then, because supermarkets there sell very adequate pastry sheets. But never having mastered the art of making pastry at home, I haven’t made any sort of pie since we moved back to India almost four years ago now. Clearly, that’s not an acceptable state of affairs for Noor especially, for she keeps exhorting me to “surely you can at least try to make pastry at home, you know. Come on! You can do it !” (All for the fresh strawberry pie they love).

So last week, when I bought a big lot of strawberries from my local fruit shop – the girls reminded me once again that I’ve been promising to attempt making pastry  for some time now. I guess I was in a generous mood because I was on holiday, so decided to spend some time searching for a recipe online, especially one without egg (because Indira’s mildly allergic to egg and so I try not to cook with eggs too often).

And that is how I found this particular one, which Chef David Lebovitz shares in a quite humorous post here on his blog. It’s French origin; that it needs no eggs; that I found it on the blog of a well-known chef I’ve heard of previously; and that it sounded so incredibly easy to make; it all encouraged me to think I should take it on and I’m so glad I did ! For it really is so simple to make, and produces great results too.

As it turned out, I misjudged the amount I needed to make for the size of the only pastry dish I have in my kitchen just now, as well as the amount of strawberries to use for the pie. So the end-result – the fresh strawberry pie – was not quite worthy of a photograph (too much fruit on not a large-enough base), which is why no picture this time. But now that I’m sure about the pastry dough recipe, I’m surely going to make this dessert again before the strawberry season is over, and hope to be able to make a picture-worthy pie then !

Merci beaucoup, Chef !

French Pastry Dough 
(will make one 9 inch shell)

  • 90 g (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 150 g (5oz, or 1 slightly-rounded cup) flour

Preheat the oven to 410º F (210º C).

1. In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, such as a Pyrex bowl, combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt.

2. Place the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes, until the butter is bubbling and starts to brown just around the edges.

3. When done, remove the bowl from oven (and be careful, since the bowl will be hot and the mixture might sputter a bit), dump in the flour and stir it in quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball which pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

4. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch (23 cm) tart mold with a removable bottom and spread it a bit with a spatula.

5. Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell with the heel of your and, and use your fingers to press it up the sides of the tart mold. Reserve a small piece of dough, about the size of a raspberry, for patching any cracks.

6. Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork about ten times, then bake the tart shell in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown.

7. Let the shell cool before filling.

Be careful with the hot bowl of butter, advises Chef Lebovitz. Not only will the butter spatter a bit when you add the flour, he points out, but it’s uncommon to have a very hot bowl on the counter and easy to simply give in the urge to grab it with your bare hands.

Amazing Granola !

A recent email from the husband began –“This recipe looked interesting.If you find all the ingredients, could you please make a small batch?”

Umm hmmm. If he’s asked, I thought, which he does not very often, then I must treat this as only a rhetorical question 🙂 Anyway, just the thought of making something which meets my “is it healthy” test, and that would possibly add to the list of breakfast options for the girls to carry to school,was motivation enough.

granola

As it turned out, Indira and Noor had this today with vanilla ice-cream, for their after-school snack and Shri snacked on it yesterday too in the evening. Any which way you eat it, this granola is as delicious as it’s full of goodness. Here’s the recipe (a very popular one, it turns out) that Shri sent to me, from  Megan Gordon’s “Whole-Grain Mornings”, with just a couple of minor tweaks i made to adapt it to what I had in my kitchen, and to my oven.

Apricot-Pistachio Granola

1.5 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raw pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or plain table salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup finely chopped dried apricots (about 10)
1/8 cup diced crystallized ginger

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Add the vanilla, olive oil and maple syrup and stir to combine. Next, preheat the oven to 160 degrees C and line a  baking tray with baking paper or a silicone mat. Turn the mixture out onto the baking paper ,spreading it in an even layer. Bake until fragrant and golden brown, for 30-35 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to ensure the granola bakes evenly. When it’s done, it’ll have a nice, toasty aroma and look (and will firm up some more as it cools).

Remove from the oven and let cool completely, and then stir in the apricots and crystallized ginger once the granola has cooled. Store in an airtight container for 3 to 4 weeks or refrigerate for up to 6 weeks (if refrigerating, keep the apricots in a separate sealed bag and add them as you enjoy your granola so they don’t become hard and dry,says the original recipe).

Try it, and enjoy ! Breakfast, snack, dessert – this is oh-so-versatile ! Next time, I’m going to use less of the pistachios, and possibly skip the ginger, to cut the sugar and fat load here. I don’t think the granola will suffer for it, the maple syrup, cinnamon and cardamom add enough magic here !

Brownie delight

The aroma of these brownies wafted out from the oven tonight as they baked while we ate dinner, causing much anticipation in Indira and Noor. And as it turned out, the brownies – my first-ever attempt at making this dessert at home, though I’ve thought of doing it on and off ever since I saw Erin make a most delicious lot of them in her first home in Valbonne almost 13 years ago – are a respectable first effort, even though I say so myself !

But then, Indira has asked for so long that I make brownies at home, I think she was going to be pleased with these no matter what. So it was no surprise when she said – “Oh these are awesome !!”. Sleepy Noor’s response was more measured, but she did say, “now you should make these often”. So that’s two happy customers
then 🙂

This is a simple recipe and I fortunately had everything at home that we need to make the brownies. So putting the mix together was quite easy and quick especially as the girls do so much of the process in all the cooking we do together these days. I got the recipe here, and substituted butter for vegetable oil as suggested, and whole wheat flour for all-purpose. I also made some changes to suit the new oven, such as baking the mix at 155degreesC – though the baking time turned out to be the 20 minutes mentioned in the original recipe. Here’s my version of it –

1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup white sugar (though I intend to use less next time; these were a tad too sweet)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (I skipped this because I haven’t yet found a reasonably priced brand of unsalted butter since I moved back so I buy the salted variety)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Pre-heat the oven for 5 minutes to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a baking pan.
In a bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in the eggs. Combine the flour, cocoa, and baking powder, then gradually stir into the egg mixture until everything is well blended. Stir in the walnuts and the vanilla extract. Now pour the batter into the  pan.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the brownie cake begins to pull away from edges of pan. Allow it to cool before cutting into squares.

Encouraged by the decent results tonight, I am now planning to try out these two other recipes once I’ve bought dark chocolate –

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/sep/09/how-to-make-perfect-brownies

http://leitesculinaria.com/36645/recipes-brownies.html

Strawberry Crumble

Encouraged by the success of the apple crumble, we made this strawberry crumble today which Indira said, after finishing her portion,  was “very well done !!”. It is always such a pleasure – and a relief ! – when  my little gastronome is pleased.

For the crumble

80-90g flour (plain or whole wheat), with a pinch of salt added in

60g sugar

60g unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature

For the filling

300g strawberries, diced in to big-ish chunks

2 tablespoons of white sugar combined with 1/2 a tbsp of flour (plain or whole wheat)

Place the flour and sugar in a large bowl and mix well. Taking a few cubes of butter at a time rub into the flour mixture. Keep rubbing until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Place the fruit in a bowl and add the flour and sugar mixture. Stir well taking care not to break up the fruit.  Spoon this fruit mixture into the bottom of an oven dish (lightly butter the dish), spread evenly then sprinkle the crumble mixture on top. Preheat the oven to 180 degreec C. Bake the crumble for 40-45 minutes until the top is a golden brown color and the fruit mixture is bubbling through.

Delicious as it is, this dessert would be so pretty too, with some light-colored strawberry ice-cream on the side.

Apple and Plum Crumble

I have always loved fruit crumble and often buy the frozen variety in winter. The last time I got some it was a red fruit crumble which the girls loved and it’s been on my mind since then to try and make this dessert at home.

Last night when I finally got around to it I had apples and plums in the fridge so decided to make the crumble with those two fruits.

The process is so easy and I was quite pleased with the results and Shri and the girls seemed to like it too.

My recipe is an adaptation of this one here. I ended up using only about half – and might use even less next time – of the crumble mixture as the quantity I prepared based on the original recipe looked way too much for the fruit mixture.

For the crumble

75g flour (plain or whole wheat), a pinch of salt

45g brown sugar

50g unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature

For the filling

250g apples and plums (or only apples), peeled, cored and diced

25g brown sugar, 1/2 a tbsp flour (plain or whole wheat) and 1 pinch of cinnamon powder, combined

Place the flour and sugar in a large bowl and mix well. Taking a few cubes of butter at a time rub into the flour mixture. Keep rubbing until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Place the fruit in a bowl and mix in the flour,sugar and cinnamon mixture. Stir well taking care not to break up the fruit.  Spoon this fruit mixture into the bottom of an oven dish (butter the dish if you like but I did not and don’t think it would make a great deal of difference), spread evenly then sprinkle the crumble mixture on top. Preheat the oven to 180 degreec C. Bake the crumble for 40-45 minutes until the top is browned and the fruit mixture is bubbling.

This is best eaten warm and though crumble is often served with custard or ice-cream, I like it as much without either , since the hot fruit tastes great anyway with the crunchy, biscuity layer that covers it.

Toffee Cake

Yummy.

That is the first word that came to mind when I had a slice of this cake.

There’s been a half-tin of condensed milk sitting in the fridge for some days and I had been wondering what to do with it.  As I spotted it again this evening, I suddenly remembered the recipe for Toffee Loaf in my baking bible, Jean Paré’s  “Muffins & More”. I remembered that condensed milk was one of the ingredients in that recipe and that’s how this blog post came in to being.

This is an unusual cake in my experience because it’s made without egg.

It’s got a rich, lovely caramely sort of taste and so would make a great dessert for a special occasion. That it’s eggless makes it an excellent option for vegetarians.

Toffee Cake

sweetened condensed milk – 300 ml

boiled water – 1 cup

softened butter – 1 cup

raisins – 1 and 1/2 cups

pitted, chopped dates – 1 cup

all-purpose flour – 2 cups

baking soda – 1 teaspoon

salt – 1/8 teaspoon

Combine the condensed milk, the water and the butter in a saucepan and place over medium heat till the mixture boils. Stir often to prevent the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the mixture boils, let it simmer, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes and then remove from the heat. Stir in the raisins and the dates and leave the mixture to cool till it is just warm.

Combine the flour, the baking soda and the salt and mix in to the contents of the saucepan. Pour the batter in to a greased or non-stick cake pan and bake for  about 2 hours at 160 degrees C (I used 2/3 of the quantities listed above and the cake was done in exactly 2/3 the time –  80 minutes, as ably calculated by Indira to help me figure out how long to leave the pan in the oven). Cover the cake with silver foil half way through if the top is getting too dark.

Leave the cake to cool in the pan then turn it out in to a plate.

Warm the slices just a little before eating, if you like, especially if you make the cake  in cold weather.




Vegan Carrot Halva

One of the most fun bits of preparing the meals I catered last week to promote Home-style Indian – the meals were organized and hosted very generously by Jenny in her home – was the vegan carrot halva that I made for one of the women who came to the lunch on Friday. She is lactose-intolerant so the regular kind of carrot halva I made for everyone else would not have been suitable for her.

The vegan variety turned out to be delicious too. Indira tasted a little before she left for school that morning because I’d just finished making it and she thought it tasted “fine” -in fact she didn’t spot the difference till I told her. And Jenny happily finished the small portion left in the bowl as we cleared up after  lunch.

Vegan Carrot halva

1 and a 1/2 cups of grated carrots

2-3 cups of almond milk (this should have the same consistency as regular milk. I found that I had to dilute the almond milk, which I prepared  by the process described here, with some more water)

2 tablespoons of sunflower oil

2 tbsp raisins

1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)

1/4 tsp of green cardamom powder

Combine the carrots and the milk in a heavy-bottomed pan. Leave to cook on medium heat, stirring often until the carrots are soft and the milk almost completely dries up.

Soak the raisins in 1/2 a cup of hot water, then drain the water after 15-20 minutes.

Once the milk in the pan has almost dried up, add the sugar and cook again until the milk dries up completely. Now add the oil and fry the halwa for a few minutes till it becomes a slightly darker orange color.  To finish, stir in the raisins and the cardamom powder.

Now that’s what I call a winner – tastes good, and healthy too ! There’s the sugar, still, but then it is dessert, after all.

Tarte au Fraise – Strawberry Pie

Today was the very first time I have ever made a fruit tart/pie.

It’s one of those things Ma’s never made, nor have I ever watched a friend make one.  So I’ve always felt uncertain about so many details – the handling of pastry shells, the right sort of pan to use, the thickness of the sauce/custard that helps set the filling, etc.

But the girls were so keen to try and make this strawberry pie ever since Romi gifted us the book, this summer in India, which has this recipe, that I decided we’d attempt to make this for dessert tonight because we had Celine and her parents, Doris and Jean -Luc, coming over for dinner.

And the result of our maiden effort was very successful indeed; dessert was thoroughly enjoyed by all, with everyone either helping themselves to or gladly accepting seconds.

This recipe is adapted from the one in “Everyday Light Meals”, a great collection published by the Reader’s Digest magazine group.

Tarte au Fraise – Strawberry Pie


While the girls hung around the kitchen and helped a lot – they did the time-consuming job of placing all those strawberries on the pastry shell – I also thanked again, in my mind, the friendly French couple I talked to in the supermarket aisle where I picked up the roll of pastry dough. I was confused by the choices available and asked them to help me choose the appropriate variety. They were very pleased to hear that I was going to make a dessert which they said was “tres typique, un vrai dessert Francais” and so took the time to explain which would be the right kind of pastry dough and why, as well as the right size of pastry dish to look for.

Romi, thanks again for this wonderful addition to our cookbook collection !