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.