What to Bake during a Snowstorm

With winter storm Jonas being touted as another Snowmageddon, and winter storm watches being issued across 14 states, the most important question to answer is: what baking projects should we undertake this weekend? There are a few things more delightful than having your oven going during a winter storm. The cozy warmth, the delicious smell of baked goods, and in many cases, the long amount of time that you might have to spend in your house means that undertaking a baking project is totally worth it!

My current cooking projects for this snowstorm include making Kung Pao chicken, cajun-spiced sweet potato fries, and hot buttered soft pretzels sprinkled with some sea salt. Finally, I want to slow-cook some steel oats with apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, a little bit of brown sugar, vanilla, and topped off with some pecans and raw apples – not only does this mean a pretty  healthy breakfast, it will also make your house smell like apple pie! Here are some suggestions for some baking project you can undertake during a snowstorm:

  1. Cranberry-Orange Bread with an Orange Glaze – Nothing like the smell of baked bread to make you feel warm and cozy, and this one uses fruits that are currently in season. The tartness of the cranberries is a nice complement to the sweetness of the orange.

    Orange-Cranberry Bread

    Orange-Cranberry Bread

  2. Chocolate Souffle – Souffles actually do not take that long to bake. As long as you have a hand mixer or a stand mixer, these are quite straightforward. With a recipe by Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, these incredibly rich and decadent chocolate souffles are sure to hit the spot during a snowstorm. And since you will not be rushed, you can take your time to make sure that it turns out well.   souffle5
  3. Cheese Souffle – The idea of sweet souffles does not do it for you? Try this savory version that you can make with either Gouda, Gruyere or Fontina Cheese, flavored with fresh thyme and lemon juice.  Cheese Souffle
  4. Chocolate Caramel Macadamia Nut Tart – Planning to have people over for a snowstorm party? Then this is the perfect candidate. This tart may take time, but the caramel, chocolate, and nuts means that you cannot go wrong with the end product.  Chocolate Caramel Macadamia Nut Tart
  5. Lemon Blueberry Mini-Bundt Cake – Having some frozen fruits that you finally want to use? Try putting some of those summer berries in these mini cakes, and they will be acceptable both for breakfast and as a dessert!

    Lemon Blueberry Mini-Bundt Cakes

    Lemon Blueberry Mini-Bundt Cakes

  6. Apple Brandy Bread Pudding – Have a ton of leftover bread? Make this bread pudding, and if you do not have brandy or calvados on hand, you can substitute whiskey or bourbon or rum.
  7. Beignets – This is probably the best candidate for an extended weekend project. The dough needs to be a left for a few hours so that it rises and the end product is nice and airy. The only main thing you need for this a thermometer to measure the temperature of the oil in which you will be frying your beignets.
  8. Salted Caramel Popcorn – Planning a movie or TV marathon during the snowstorm, and are bored of regular old popcorn? Salted caramel popcorn is pretty straightforward to make, and unlike other kind of popcorn, you do not need to eat it all immediately!
  9. Homemade Dulce De Leche – Don’t want to spend a lot of effort in making something delicious? This dulce de leche takes a few hours, but involves minimal steps and hardly any prep. At the end of a few hours, your home will smell delicious, and you can spread this on fruits, or whatever else catches your fancy.
  10. Boozy Baked French Toast – Want to make a fancy breakfast? This french toast uses challah, and can be flavored with Frangelico (hazelnut), Chambord (raspberry), Creme de Cassis (black currant) or Grand Marnier (orange) depending on whatever you have lying around at home!

So what are some other things that you are thinking of cooking or baking during the snowstorm?

Chocolate Dutch Baby with Caramelized Peaches

Summer is nearly over and having just gotten back to the East Coast 10 days ago, I am eager to make the last of summer fruits such as peaches, tomatoes, pears, and berries. A dutch baby is a crossover between a pancake and a popover, and unlike a pancake, it is more light, fluffy, and falls soon after being taken out from the oven. This chocolate one is a good choice for those craving more fruity flavors along with the more traditional chocolate craving, and is a great brunch item that will easily serve at least 4 people. It is incredibly easy to make (unlike traditional pancakes that one has to keep an eye on), so it is easy to experiment with different flavors if you like this style – I am eager to try a vanilla dutch baby with sprinkling of lemon sugar for my next brunch.

Chocolate Dutch Baby with Caramelized Peaches

Recipe adapted from Chocolate + Connie

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup milk (I used 1%)
  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (modify depending on the sweetness of your peaches)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Slices of peeled peaches
  • Brown sugar

Special equipment needed

  • Cast iron skillet

Directions

Caramelized Peaches:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Spread out peach slices on baking tray lined with parchment
  3. Sprinkle brown sugar over the peaches
  4. Bake for 10 minutes or until peaches are soft
Chocolate Dutch Baby
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place a 9-inch cast iron skillet in the oven.
  2. Whisk milk, flour, eggs, cocoa, salt, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Take skillet out of oven, add butter and return to oven until butter is melted and sizzling.
  4. Carefully pour batter into hot skillet, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the edges start rising and are browning on the sides.

    Taking the Dutch Baby out of the oven

  5. Top with caramelized peaches and serve immediately.

Biweekly Food News Roundup

Every now and then I come across some exciting news in the food world that I want to share with people – so I’ve decided to synthesize this and start a bi-monthly/fortnightly round-up of some of the most interesting food news, unusual recipes, and food-related research that I’ve read in the last couple of weeks. Hope you all like it!

PepsiCo announced that Diet Pepsi will no longer contain aspartame starting in August, after consumer surveys found great concern about its negative effects. This is despite the fact that many studies have largely dismissed the link between aspartame and cancer, but like the relationship between economic development and democratization, the jury is still out on the various mechanisms that link aspartame and weight gain. Given the obsession with diet sodas among my academic colleagues, I would not have guessed that sales of low calories drinks have actually dropped 20% in the last 5 years.

James Beard announces its 2015 Book, Broadcast and Journalism Awards and one of my favorite food blogs, The Kitchn, won in the General Cookbook category! I can’t wait to get my hands on this book, or wait until someone gifts it to me from my wedding registry 🙂

Have you ever wondered what The White House kitchen looks like? Now get a sneak peek, courtesy of Apartment Therapy. I’m very delighted to discover that I, too, own the same rice cooker as the Obamas! Next step – to obtain a red/maroon stand mixer.

Even though 30% of Americans are trying to be on a gluten-free diet, only 1% actually have Celiac disease. An economist at Yale explains the gluten-free bubble that we’re currently in the midst of, with higher prices leading to higher demand.

Finally, a thought-provoking piece on the relationship between the accessibility of healthy food and structural inequalities in society, and Whole Food’s inability to address these issues in Detroit.

Salted Caramel Popcorn

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.

Salted Caramel Popcorn

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unpopped corn kernels (10-12 cups popped)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Special equipment

  • Large heatproof mixing bowl
  • Heatproof spatula
  • 2 baking sheets
  • Parchment paper or silpats

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line the baking sheets with parchment or silpats.
  2. Make the popcorn
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Tamarind (Imli) Chutney

It’s been a while since I last posted, mostly because I’ve been in India for the last few weeks and have been all over the place, hardly cooking. While I’m excited to return to the States and get my back to some of my favorite summer ingredients such as basil and berries, I am also going to miss mangoes terribly. While mango shakes and mango lassis have been my drink of choice for the last few weeks, I thought I would focus on tamarind chutney in this post.

Tamarind chutney, also known as imli ki chutney is a sweet and tangy sauce that is often used as a dip or a mix-in item for many Indian snacks and street food, along with mint chutney. It’s one of my favorite summer add-ons, as it’s great cool-off just mixed in with some yogurt, or in some chaat papdi or dahi vada. It barely takes 10 minutes to prepare, so it’s a great topping or dipping sauce to prepare in case you’re having guests over on a short notice!

Tamarind (Imli) Chutney

Tamarind (Imli) Chutney

Ingredients

  • 50 grams tamarind paste, deseeded
  • 150 ml water
  • 1 teaspoon rock salt
  • 5 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (or lesser, to taste)

Directions

  • Put the tamarind in a saucepan with water until it boils and mixes.
  • Once the water has been boiling for a few minutes, allow the mixture to cool.
  • Add water, rock salt, sugar, roasted cumin power and red chili powder to the mixture and blend until completely smooth.
  • Taste the final product, and add more sugar, if you feel the need to make it slightly more sweet.
  • Chill for a few hours, and it’s ready to be eaten with your favorite foods.

Need some ideas on what to eat with your tamarind chutney? Eat some samosas with it, or try this papdi chaat shown below from Dassana

The Liebster Award!

Thanks so much to Lindsay of Normal Cooking for nominating me for the Liebster Award. My response is a bit delayed given that the last few weeks have been really hectic at work, but here I am! Besides the fact that it’s nice to know that there are people out there reading our blog, it’s also a nice way of getting to know fellow bloggers and their delicious blogs that we have not yet come across 🙂

Liebster means ‘dearest’ or ‘favorite’ in German, and the rules for accepting the nomination are:

1. Post 11 things about yourself
2. Answer 11 questions the person giving the award has set for you
3. Create 11 questions for the people you are giving the award to
4. Choose 11 people to award, telling them in a post.

So here are the answers to the 11 questions posed by Lindsay!

  1. Do you have a favorite college football team?  Who is it? Nope, having grown up outside America, I pretty much knew nothing about “American football” until 3 and a half years ago when I moved to the States 🙂
  2. What would you consider to be your greatest achievement? An answer that I prefer not to share on the internet 🙂
  3. What do you think is the very best dish you’ve ever cooked? (and can I have the recipe? :-) ) Hmm I don’t put up a number of recipes on my website that I just make up while cooking and I feel like sometimes those turn out to be the best ones. I do think that these lemon bars and beignets (Paula Deen’s recipe) turned out really delicious.
  4. Since today is September 11th, tell me where you were when you heard the news on 9/11/2001? I was at home in New Delhi, glued to my television in the evening after my dad called me up from work to go see what was happening.
  5. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? So many things – video game developer, basketball coach, screenplay writer, a reality TV show host! (Actually I still kind of want to be the last one!)
  6. What did you end up being/doing once you grew up? Given that I’m in graduate school studying Political Science, hopefully I’ll end up being a professor or working at a think tank in DC *fingers crossed*
  7. What’s the funniest video you’ve seen lately? (and post a link if you have it!) Henri: Paw De Duex!! ahh yes I’m one of those gazillion cat video lovers out there. Though the video of this proposal also tears me up 🙂
  8. Apple or PC? PC!! I like the flexibility that PCs offer and how they are way cheaper.
  9. Who is your Hollywood crush? Brad Pitt in the 1990s, especially the late 90s. I really think that was his peak, so I’d like to keep my answer to Brad Pitt 15 years ago 🙂
  10. What’s the best vacation you’ve ever been on? Cappadocia, Turkey.
  11. What is one of your biggest pet peeves? Tiny flying things, facebook PDA, empty refrigerators.

And here are the 11 questions for my nominees:

  1. If you could go live in a foreign country for a year, which one would it be and why?
  2. What was one food item/vegetable/fruit that you detested as a child and absolutely love now?
  3. What is your favorite comfort movie/sitcom?
  4. If you could book to one historical period/decade in time, which one would it be and in what country?
  5. Are you superstitious?
  6. What is your favorite reality TV show? Would you ever take part in one?
  7. Would you rather be great with numbers or great with words?
  8. What if your favorite book/your favorite author?
  9. Are you a cat person or a dog person? Or do you think this dichotomy is false?
  10. What is the best dessert you’ve ever made? And can you share the recipe? 🙂
  11. Are you a coffee person or a tea person?

Here are the 11 blogs that I nominate for this award!

Zucchini Tomato Gratin

I have to admit – I’m not a huge fan of zucchini. I bought it because I was in the mood to re-test some of my set ideas about which foods I wasn’t a big fan of. So I decided that the best way to assess my feelings would be to cook a dish where zucchini was the main focus. What 2 things made this cut? Zucchini Bread and a Gratin. I decided on the latter because the idea of a vegetable in a bread still weirds me out, even though most food blogs I visit have a zucchini bread recipe tucked away somewhere. Clearly it’s a favorite, so I don’t know why the idea of combining a dessert with a vegetable freaks me out?! So a gratin it was. Verdict: Would make it again, but better as a side dish rather than a main dish. (my version was also lighter on the cheese, so maybe that’s why it felt way lighter than a main dish)

Ingredients (for 2 servings):

  • 2 tomatoes, sliced (preferably grape or tomatoes on the vine)
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 5-6 basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • salt and oregano, to taste

Directions

1. Pour olive oil in a pan and heat. Saute some zucchini until it gets slightly tender. Remove the zucchini and saute some onions and garlic.

2. Coat a baking dish with olive oil. Place a layer of zucchini, followed by a layer of tomato. Sprinkle some mozzarella cheese, oregano, sauted garlic and salt. Repeat the layering process.

3. Saute some bread crumbs in butter and sprinkle them at the top along with some parmesan cheese.

4. Bake at 350 F for around 30 minutes, or until the zucchini seems tender when poked with a fork. Put some basil leaves on top just before serving!

Zucchini Tomato Gratin