I can’t believe this is my 100th blog post! This blog began a little over two and a half years ago when I was living in Turkey and finally had a big enough kitchen/oven to embark upon my baking (and sometimes, cooking) adventures. My love for baking would have not been possible without a few people who inspired and taught me along the way. Margot Conover is one of my main inspirations and she showed me that it was possible to bake anything, and that I didn’t need to go buy delicious baked goods when I had a craving for them – I think her espresso and spicy Mexican chocolate brownies were the most memorable things she ever baked for us. Numerous other people’s baking talents also stand out in my mind – Kristen Smart, especially the Irish car bomb cake truffles and braided lemon sweet cheese-filled bread, James Duncan Welke’s lemon bars, as well as numerous desserts by Brenda Kay Zylstra. In short, my desire to start baking would not have been realized had I not met these amazing people in Chicago Later, when I was living in Turkey and finally started baking, Aisha Bradshaw taught me the basics of mixing butter and sugar, while Owen Barron with his pie-skills, as well as his spontaneity and imagination, showed me that baking and cooking didn’t always need to be a science. Though on the other side of spectrum, I had Matt Scroggs who always emphasized the science of measuring ingredients correctly, got me hooked to Food Network, and taught me to keep trying if my initial attempts resulted in underwhelming results. Maybe if I keep trying, one day I’ll be able to replicate my mom’s rajma chawal – a meal that I’ve never stopped craving. In short, I wouldn’t have felt half as passionate about this blog if it weren’t for these people!
Now that my emotional outburst is over, I’ll get back to talking about how easy it is to make salted caramel popcorn! I made some for the superbowl last weekend and they turned out pretty great. Next time I might try adding a little extra flavor as well – maybe some paprika for some kick. Before actually starting this recipe, I would highly recommend having everything ready to go – the caramel hardens extremely fast, so if the popcorn isn’t already popped, or you don’t have your spatula in hand, then things might get difficult. Also, when you first mix the vanilla extract into the brown sugar and butter mixture which had been boiling on the stove, be careful! Since vanilla extract has alcohol in it, the mixture might splash,and unlike me, you should be smart enough to put the vanilla extract into the mixture either more gently or from a distance.
Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line the baking sheets with parchment or silpats.
Make the popcorn
Make the caramel sauce. Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Mix in the sugar until the sugar is completely moistened. Increase the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, boil for 4-5 minutes while stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan continuously. The longer you cook the syrup, the crunchier it will be. For very crunchy popcorn, stop cooking when you see the first wisps of smoke coming from the sugar mixture.
Take the saucepan off the heat, add the vanilla, kosher salt, baking soda, and any extras, and stir until combined. Be careful – The sugar mixture will bubble up violently. Continue stirring until you form a thick, glossy sauce.
Slowly pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn while stirring the popcorn . Continue stirring the sauce into the popcorn until all of the kernels are coated.
Divide the popcorn between two baking sheets, spreading the popcorn out into an even layer. It’s ok if the popcorn clumps together. Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes and breaking up any clumps.
When you take the trays out of the oven, sprinkle the baked popcorn with sea salt while it is still warm. Let the popcorn cool completely on the baking sheets. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to a week.
It’s hard to believe how the last few weeks have flown so fast – Christmas and New Year’s looks like a really long time away. The semester’s started in full swing, and as I settle back into my normal work routine, I can’t believe there are still so many recipes and foods from over the holiday season that I want to blog about! I miss all the wonderful food I had in Seattle and Portland and I can’t wait to write a blog post about the wonderful (and fattening, haha) food that I had in Portland, and what a great food truck culture that city has, but that will have to wait for another day.
Over Christmas, one of the gifts that I got was a tart pan, so I decided to make this tart whose recipe I’d been eyeing since last Christmas actually. So far an indulgent New Year’s day dinner, we decided to make this chocolate caramel macadamia nut tart – I didn’t have the requisite amount of macadamia nuts, so I used a mixture of pecans and macadamia nuts. This tart is actually on the heavier side, so I’d recommend cutting it into really small pieces while serving – one can easily serve at least 8 helpings from this 9-inch tart. The macadamia nuts combined with the salt in the caramel give it more of a salty flavor, which goes really well with the bittersweet chocolate. If you’re looking for a less salty flavor, I’d recommend scaling down the salt in the pie crust. My main word of caution before setting out to make this – read through the entire recipe once! It’s quite time-consuming, and will probably be hard to complete if you just start a few hours before you intend to serve it.
Blend flour, powdered sugar, and salt in processor.
Add butter and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 1 tablespoon ice water and blend just until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if mixture is dry.
Transfer dough to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Using lightly floured fingers, press dough firmly and evenly onto bottom and up sides of pan.
Chill crust 1 hour.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Line crust with foil; fill with dried beans or pie weights.
Bake crust until pale golden around edges and sides are set, about 20 minutes.
Remove foil and beans; bake until crust is golden and cooked through, about 14 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool crust completely in pan.
Bring cream to simmer in heavy small saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; stir until smooth.
Spoon 3 tablespoons ganache into 1 corner of small resealable plastic bag and seal; set aside at room temperature for piping. Spread remaining ganache evenly over bottom of crust. Sprinkle chopped macadamia nuts evenly over ganache layer in crust. Freeze crust while preparing caramel filling.
For caramel filling:
Combine sugar and 1/3 cup water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.
Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is golden amber, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
Add cream and butter; stir until any caramel bits dissolve and mixture is smooth.
Attach candy thermometer to side of pan and bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat. Boil without stirring until thermometer registers 210°F, . Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla and salt.
Assembling the tart
Remove crust from freezer. Working quickly, pour caramel filling into crust. Gently shake tart pan to allow filling to settle evenly in crust. Cool completely at room temperature, about 3 hours. Remove crust from freezer. Working quickly, pour caramel filling into crust. Gently shake tart pan to allow filling to settle evenly in crust. Cool completely at room temperature, about 3 hours.
Let the caramel cool completely before piping the chocolate ganache on top
Place reserved resealable plastic bag with chocolate ganache in microwave and heat in 5-second intervals just until smooth and pourable. Using scissors, cut off very small tip from corner of bag with ganache. Pipe ganache decoratively over caramel filling in crosshatch pattern. Chill until chocolate is set, about 20 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled. Bring tart to room temperature before serving.
Remove sides from tart pan. Place tart on platter. Cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.
My favorite thing about making food resolutions is that those are actually things that I end up completing/accomplishing (as opposed to any ahem, fitness-related resolutions). My last year’s food resolutions was learning how to make a souffle and a creme brulee and my new year’s food resolution recipes include learning how to flambé (yay bananas foster!), how to make paella (but without the shrimp because I really dislike shrimp), and finally, making my own infused liquors. I also got a tart pan over Christmas, so I guess I’ll be making more tarts this year as well – the one tart I’ve been dying to try out is a lemon curd tart. Of course I’d love to have really amazing chopping skills as well, but I don’t really envision myself spending hours perfecting those! What are some of your food /cooking/baking resolutions for this year?
In the meanwhile, here’s a recipe for eggnog in case you still have a little bit of holiday spirit left in you, or are procrastinating on your fitness-related resolutions, haha. This recipe is on the stronger side, so if you want to dilute the strong flavor, I’d recommend putting in a little less of the bourbon or a little more of the cream and milk. We made it over Christmas and it makes 8-10 servings. Definitely try this out because it takes 5-7 minutes to whip this up and it tastes much, much better than the store-bought version.
1 pint cream
1 pint whole milk (if you only have low-fat milk, then use a little bit more of the cream)
3/4 cup sugar
1 oz rum
1 cup bourbon
Separate the egg yolks from the whites.
Beat the yolks separately and then mix 1/2 cup sugar into them.
Mix the whites mixture and the yolks mixture together.
Stir in the other ingredients except for the nutmeg.
Sprinkle the nutmeg on the top and serve cold.
Finally, I read one resolution in Huffington Post that is absolutely fitting for me - Cook at least one recipe from all the cookbooks we “collect” and never use. Seems like a great resolution for me, especially after collecting books from Anne Burrell, Ina Garten and Aaron Sanchez (yes, I’m a huge Food Network Fan!). What’s the point of collecting cookbooks by such great chefs if you never try their recipes? Happy new year, everyone!
I’m in Seattle for Christmas and one of my favorite places in Seattle is Pike Place Market – full of small shops selling jewelry, arts & crafts, handcrafted foods, flowers, fresh fish, books, vintage stores – I could spend an entire day here. One of my favorite places there is the Papardelle’s store next to the Fish Market. They have a range of fresh-made pasta including basil garlic fettuccine, artichoke lemon tagliatelle, dark chocolate linguine (!), orange szechuan linguine and so on. You can check out the entire list here, they also have some excellent oils and vinegars! That place made me want to try making fresh pasta from scratch, especially because I have some time this week as I’m taking it easy on the work. We ended up making pasta dough using half-semolina and half-all purpose flour. Though I didn’t flavor it this time, next time I intend to use some basil and oregano in the dough as well. More excitingly, I can’t wait to try and make fresh ravioli!
Letting the pasta air dry before cooking it
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups semolina flour
1 pinch salt
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
Put all the ingredients in a stand mixer and follow your respective mixer’s instructions regarding speed and time to mix the ingredients.
Knead the dough, divide it into two discs and store it in the refrigerator for at least an hour. The dough is kneaded when it forms a smooth elastic ball and has very few air bubbles when cut. At this point, the pasta dough can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Let it come back to room temperature before rolling.
Once the disc is cold, take it out of the refrigerator. Sprinkle flour on a surface and divide the disc into quarters.
Now take the quarters one by one and flatten one piece of dough into a thick disk between your hands and feed it through the pasta roller set to the widest setting.
Begin changing the settings on your roller to roll the pasta thinner and thinner. Roll the pasta two or three times at each setting, and don’t skip settings. Roll until the pasta is as thin as you’d like it.
Roll out the pasta dough as thin as you’d prefer before putting it through the noodle cutter
If cutting into noodles, switch from the pasta roller to the noodle cutter, and run the sheet of pasta through the cutter.
Bring water to a boil in a large pot, then add 4 teaspoons salt. Cook pasta until tender but not mushy, 1 to 8 minutes depending on thickness. Drain immediately and toss with your favorite sauce.
The first time I ever had cheesecake was this blueberry cheesecake at Delhi’s famous Big Chill Cafe. It was the first of its kind in Delhi and that place made me fall in love with a variety of cheese desserts, including an Oreo Mouse Cheesecake – it was rich, had a soft and velvety texture and lay on an oreo crust topped with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Since I miss these cheesecakes, I decided to try and make a version of a cheesecake that also allowed me to use an ingredient that is part of my current obsession – pumpkin. These cheesecake bars are not as thick as traditional cheesecakes, making it possible to have small bites instead of having 400 calories in one sitting. The recipe also uses whole-milk yogurt or full-fat Greek yogurt instead of heavy cream, making it even lighter.
Butter. There is no word that better encapsulates baking during the holiday season and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has contradicting feelings – wanting dessert ever so often, but not wanting to feel so full all the time. This cake does precisely that – captures all the holiday flavors and tastes of apples, cinnamon and nutmeg without the heaviness that comes with a butter-ful sinful dessert. Instead, this cake uses whole-milk yogurt. This gives it both a great texture, plus gets more moist the longer it is stored in the fridge. The only change that I would make is that the recipe called for freshly ground nutmeg and I didn’t have any, so I ended up using ground nutmeg instead. There’s something about freshly ground nutmeg that just can’t be found in its already ground version and I’ve decided that from now on I’m always going to have fresh nutmeg on hand that I can always grate it and use in my baking. Since this recipe is big enough for two 8-inch cakes, I ended up taking one of the cakes to a potluck and the other one for a birthday in our office
I used Granny Smith apples, since they are one of my favorite apples for baking. In case you’re ever confused about what kind of apples to use for different kinds of baking or cooking projects, check out this helpful chart!
Recipe adapted from Faith Durand’s The Kitchn. Makes enough for a 13 x 9 inch cake pan, or two 8 x 8 inch cakes.
1 1/2 cups whole-milk yogurt, well-stirred
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 lemon, juiced (about 1/4 cup)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 small tart apples, such as Granny Smith, about 1 1/2 pounds
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan or two 8 x 8 inch pans with baking spray or olive oil.
Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Peel and core the apples, and chop into chunks about 1/2-inch across. You should end up with 3 1/2 to 4 cups of apples. Stir the chopped apple into the liquid ingredients.
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon right into the liquids and stir just until no lumps remain. In a small separate bowl, mix the remaining 2 teaspoons cinnamon with the brown sugar and butter.
Pour half of the batter into the cake pan. Sprinkle the batter with half of the cinnamon-brown sugar mixture, dropping it on the batter in small lumps. Spread the rest of the batter over top, and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-brown sugar.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, covering with foil at the end if the top is browning. When a tester comes out clean, transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.
This keeps very well for several days in the fridge (I just stored it in the freezer), and it gets even moister as it sits, due to the apples.
The holiday season is synonymous with all kinds of pies – pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato, apples, pears and cranberry-raisin. While it is really easy to just buy crust, making your own pie crust from scratch means that you can customize it according to the kind of pie you want to make – add some bourbon for a crust for a pecan pie, or grind some nuts for a pumpkin or sweet potato pie, add some vodka for a fruity pie, or just add some spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg for that extra flavor. You can also make plenty of pie crust and freeze it (unbaked) for later use.
I made the crust given here for a pecan pie, so I added two tablespoons of bourbon to it. In case you don’t want it, just substitute it with 2 tablespoons of icy cold water. When adding liquid to the flour and fat mixture, it should always be ice-cold in order to keep the pieces of fat cool and separate. Liquid can include any of the following -fruit juices, egg yolks, sour cream, milk or cream, and not just water.
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp bourbon
In a food processor, pulse flour with salt and sugar. Add butter.
Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces remaining.
Add 2 tablespoons ice water and 2 tablespoons bourbon; pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed. (If needed, add up to 4 tablespoons more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Do not overmix.
The dough should be crumbly and should hold when squeezed.
Turn out onto a work surface; knead once or twice, until dough comes together.
Divide dough in half, and flatten into disks. Wrap separately in plastic; refrigerate one disk at least one hour or up to three days. To freeze dough, put tightly wrapped disks in a resealable plastic bag. Label with the date, and freeze for up to three months. Defrost the dough overnight in the refrigerator before using.
Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out. This lets the flour absorb the liquid and helps to prevent stickiness when rolling out the dough. It also allows the gluten (the protein structure) to relax, making it more elastic and less likely to shrink back as you roll it.
Generously dust a clean, dry surface with flour; remove and unwrap one of the discs of dough from the refrigerator. Flatten the dough slightly with your hands and dust the dough lightly with flour before rolling the dough out with a rolling pin. Start rolling at the center of the dough and work outwards. If you’re a beginning pie-maker–or prefer easier cleanup–you can roll out the dough between sheets of waxed paper.
The dough round should be two to four inches wider in diameter than your pie pan. Use a dry pastry brush to sweep away any excess flour. Gently fold the dough in half, and then into quarters. If it seems too brittle to fold, try another bakers’ trick: roll up the pie crust around the rolling pin and unroll it over the pie plate.
Carefully pick it up and place it into the pie plate so the center point of dough is in the center of the pan. Unfold the dough, letting the weight of the dough settle it in the bottom and edges of the pan. Without stretching the dough, press the pastry into the pan with your fingertips.
You can store unbaked pie crusts in the freezer and then prebake them at your convenience (Don’t store partially baked crusts in the fridge though!). On the question of whether to pre-bake a pie crust and how, see here.
A flour pie crust (left) and a graham cracker crust (right)
And click here to learn how to make a fluted pie crust. Enjoy!
One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving, Christmas and generally, during this time of the year is having the warm and inviting smell of ingredients such as apple, cinnamon, pumpkin and nutmeg fill your house when you are baking, and … Continue reading →
I’m not a huge fan of eating marshmallows by themselves, but a couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend got me some kerfluffles (handmade marshmallows made entirely of natural ingredients) and I was absolutely amazed at the diversity of flavors that they had to offer – mocha chip, mayan hot chocolate, lemon meringue, spiced apple cider etc. My favorite though was this banana bread marshmallow which had great texture and wasn’t too sweet. We decided to use our brulee torch and toast it a bit, which made it even more delicious by giving it a crispy caramelized outer layer. Since then I’ve been wanting to make creme brulee and decided to go with the simple and straightforward version first – vanilla creme brulee. This one is a really easy recipe and the smell of the vanilla bean will make your apartment smell absolutely heavenly!
Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use*
Splitting and scraping out the pulp from the vanilla bean
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins**. Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.
* – We used the vanilla bean to make some vanilla sugar. Simple and provides you something different to look forward to in that morning latte!
** – Be careful while putting the pan into the pan as it will not bake properly if the hot water goes inside the ramekins.
Last weekend, I had a huge craving for crêpes. Bananas and Nutella are usually my favorite crepe toppings and I thought to myself – I bet together they’d make a pretty great ice-cream combination. I was also looking for an excuse to use my ice-cream machine because my roommate kept taunting me about the large amount of space the freezer bowl was taking up, especially given how long it had been since I had last used it. Thankfully it turned out to be a warm weekend, great for ice cream, and the results didn’t disappoint. It’s also an incredibly fast recipe as you don’t really need to make any sort of custard before putting the mixture into the ice-cream maker – just blend together all the ingredients, and they’re ready to go into the mixer.
I eventually ended up using the ice cream as a topping for some darn good crêpes that my roommate whipped up the same morning (recipe for those coming soon!). I was also watching an old episode of The Next Food Network Star, which reminded me of how much I love Bobby Flay, and if you like the flavors in this recipe, you should definitely try out his Nutella and Banana Sandwich.
Using a blender or food processor, process the Nutella and bananas until smooth and thick. Sift in the cocoa, and process again to blend. Lastly, add the cream and process until completely blended and smooth.
Transfer the mixture into a mixing bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Pour the chilled mixture to an ice cream maker, and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Once the ice cream is mostly frozen and has a consistency similar to soft-serve, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for at least 30 minutes to harden up.