Monday, December 13, 2021

Carrot Fig & Pecan Cake With Cream Cheese Glaze



December came so fast this year.  So many changes came our way.  We all learned to live a new lifestyle from last year  and got accustomed to that.   When companies decided to bring the workforce back to office, we were not ready for that change.  






This year I got the chance to work with the TV channel Asianet in their cooking show.  I never had anything like that in my dreams to do a cooking show.  But still it happened.  I made this cake for the show and thought to blog it to keep it as a record for myself to refer back.  Also I am so glad to share it with you.  Bake this cake for your Christmas party and enjoy with your family and friends!



Yields - 9'' round cake / two 8'' round cake / large bundt cake


Ingredients

Dry ingredients 
2 1/2 cups - all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp - baking powder
1/2 tsp - baking soda
1/2 tsp - salt
1 1/2 tsp - ground cinnamon, cloves , nutmeg powder mix

Other ingredients
2 cups - grated carrots
3 - eggs
1 cup - oil
1 1/2 cup - granulated sugar
1 tsp - vanilla extract
1 cup - chopped dry figs
3/4 cup - chopped pecans

Caramelized sugar syrup
1/2 cup - sugar
1/2 cup - hot water

Glaze
3 tbsp - softened cream cheese
1 cup - powdered sugar
1/4 cup - milk
1/4 tsp - cinnamon, cloves & nutmeg powder mix
1/2 tsp - vanilla extract

Topping
1/2 cup - chopped candied pecans

Directions:
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 ° F.
  • Take a heavy bottom pan and melt 1/2 cup of sugar over medium heat.  When the sugar starts to melt and become dark brown, lower the flame and carefully add 1/2 cup of  hot water and boil till the sugar crystals melts completely and forms slightly thick syrup.  Keep it aside to cool.
  • Sift the flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt to aerate the dry ingredients and remove any lumps.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar with a whisk attachment till fluffy.
  • Add the caramelized sugar syrup and oil and beat till its mixed well.
  • Remove the whisk attachment and use a paddle attachment at this point.  This step is only needed, if using stand mixture.
  • Add the grated carrots and mix well.
  • Slowly add the flour mix into the wet mixture in batches till everything is mixed well.
  • Fold in the chopped dates and chopped pecans into the cake batter.  
  • Pour into a  greased (use non stick cooking spray with flour) 9'' Bundt pan or a regular cake pan lined with parchment paper.  Run a butter knife through the batter to remove any air bubbles.
  • Bake the cake for 50 - 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested at the center of the cake.  Let the cake cool completely before unmolding.
  • Meantime prepare the glaze by mixing all the ingredients listed under  glaze using a spoon in a bowl.
  • Candied pecans -  melt 2 tbsp of sugar in pan and add 1/2 cup of whole pecans to it and mix well till all the pecans are coated well.  Turn off the flame and transfer the pecan to a parchment paper and let it cool.  Chop them into small pieces.
  • Once the cake cools down, pour the glaze over the cake and top them with candied pecans.
Notes
  • Make sure that you use greased parchment paper to line the pan for the easy release.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and wrap with aluminum foil and store in air tight container.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Sun Dried Tomato Pickle


My love for pickles developed during my hostel days.  Those who have the hostel days experience can probably relate well to that.  I had the sun dried tomato pickle from one of my friends.  Her mom packed her the pickle with some dosa to bring back to the hostel.  We all devoured the pickle.  I still remember the lip smacking taste of that pickle.


I had tried many tomato pickle recipes, but they were all made with fresh tomatoes and never tasted the same.  Couple of years ago, when I got a good yield of tomatoes from my summer garden, I started sun drying the well ripe ones to avoid wasting them.  I used them in my pasta and they tasted really good.  So I thought to try the pickle with sun dried tomatoes since they tasted delicious.  They turned out to be really good.  But it was not the same as what I had before.  The next time, I tried with sesame oil and it tasted the same way as I had before.  In this recipe, I am using less oil, but  the more the oil you use, the longer it will last.  But trust me, they will disappear fast because of its taste.


Yields - 16 oz mason jar

Ingredients

2 cups - Sundried Tomatoes (refer notes)

1 cup - boiled water

10 - cloves big  garlic sliced

2 tbsp - ginger chopped

2 - dry red chili

1 tsp - chili powder

2 tsp - Kashmiri Chili powder

1/2 tsp - turmeric powder

1/4 tsp - fenugreek powder

1/2 tsp - mustard seeds

1/4 tsp - asafoetida

1/2 cup - boiled water

2 tbsp - vinegar

2-3 - sprigs of fresh curry leaves

1/4 cup - sesame oil

salt to taste

Directions:

  • Add the boiling water to sun dried tomatoes and let it sit for 15 minutes for them to get softened.
  • In a heavy bottom pan, splutter the mustard seeds and add the sliced garlic and ginger and cook till light golden brown.
  • Add dry chili and lower the flame.  Add turmeric powder, chili powder, fenugreek powder and asafoetida and cook till the raw smell goes away.
  • Add the soaked tomatoes (along with the water if any) and the additional 1/2 cup hot water to the pan.
  • Let everything come to a boil.  Add salt to taste and vinegar.  Add curry leaves and let it cook on low flame for another 5 minutes.  Turn off the flame when the tomatoes are softened well.  Let it cool.
  • Transfer to a sterilized bottle and store in the refrigerator.
Notes
  • Use tomatoes those are well ripe.  Cut them into slices if using big tomatoes and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle kosher salt or sea salt on top of each slices and sun dry for 2-3 days depends on the heat.  You can store them in a clean glass bottle till ready to make the pickle.  Make sure not to over crowd the baking sheet.
  • Alternatively you can use 2 pints of well ripe cherry tomatoes.  Cut them into halves and place on 2 baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle Kosher/sea salt over them.  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 250 F for 2 hours 30 minutes or till the tomatoes are dry.


Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Bitter Gourd/Pavacka Pickle


This year, I planted couple of bitter gourd plants in containers and put up a trellis next to my patio railing.  It was an experiment.  But to my surprise, those plants produced many bitter gourds.  They are thriving better and putting on lots of flowers in the last few weeks.  But the weather is cooling down.  Soon they will be wilting and turning yellow for the fall.


We made a road trip to Southern states from New Orleans to Texas last month.  It felt like mini India when we got to Houston.  Many houses had long beans and bitter gourds climbed up on their fences creating a canopy.  Years ago I had a great bitter gourd harvest with similar canopy in my backyard garden.  Since then, they were not doing good because of the bad quality of the seeds I had.  This year I got some good seeds from my parents and they sure did work.



I am not a big fan of bitter gourd, but my husband likes it.  So I usually fry them for him.  This time I made some pickle out of it and it came out really delicious.  I had my friends taste test the pickle and approve it.  So I am sharing the recipe here.





Yields - 16 oz bottle


Ingredients:

For Marination

5 - medium size bitter gourd

1.5 tsp - salt

2 tbsp - vinegar

Oil for shallow fry

Other Ingredients

1/4 cup - sesame oil/vegetable oil

1/2 tsp - mustard seeds

20 cloves - garlic cut into slices

1 tbsp - ginger chopped/cut into thin pieces

3 - green chili splits

1/2 tsp - turmeric powder

2 tsp - Kashmiri Chili powder (heaped tsp)

1 tsp - hot chili powder

1/4 tsp - fenugreek powder

1/2 tsp - asafoetida powder

2 tbsp - vinegar

1 - 2 tbsp - tamarind paste (optional)

1 tbsp - jaggery

2 sprigs - fresh curry leaves


Directions:

  • Remove the seeds of bitter gourd and cut them into thin slices.
  • Add salt and vinegar to the bitter gourd and mix well and leave it for 1 - 2 hours for the moisture to drain out.  After 2 hours squeeze out the juice of the bitter gourd.
  • Shallow fry the bitter gourd in a kadai/non stick pan and drain them on a paper towel.  Remove the oil from the pan and clean the pan/kadai using a paper towel.
  • In the same pan, add 1/4 cup of oil and splutter the mustard seeds.  Fry the garlic and ginger pieces till light golden color.  Add the green chili splits and cook for another minute.  Lower the flame and add the chili powders, turmeric powder, fenugreek powder and asafoetida powder and cook till the raw smell of the spices goes away.  Add the salt, vinegar and tamarind paste and mix well.  
  • Add the bitter gourd pieces and mix well.  Adjust the salt and add curry leaves.  Finally add the jaggery powder to adjust the bitterness.  Turn off the flame and let  the pickle cool down.
  • Transfer the pickle to a sterilized bottle and store it in the refrigerator.


Thursday, May 27, 2021

Sweet Milk Bun With Tangzhong


Growing up in Kerala has contributed a lot towards my taste palate.  Even though I was not a coffee or tea drinker during  my childhood days, I enjoyed the bakery bought sweet buns with milk.


I spotted those buns from Indian stores while visiting my parents once.  Since then, we used to make sure to buy packs of those buns each time we visited them.  It became a family favorite.  Eventually I started making my own.  I used to flavor them with cardamom, but kids preferred the plain milk bun rather than flavored ones.  Hence I settled on plain milk bun.  Boys enjoy the sweet milk bun with Nutella.  Our daughter likes it with Chai like how both of us enjoy it.  I use my bread machine to make the dough which makes things way too easier to prepare these buns.  Hence I make them more often.  Hope you will give this bun recipe a try and let me know how it turns out for you.  I would love to hear back from you.



Tangzhong method is a Japanese technique of using a gelatinous mix of flour and water in the bread making process.  This yields a soft and fluffy bread.



Yields - 12 - 15 small buns

Prep Time:2 hours 30 minsCooking Time: 30 minsCooking Temp: 325° F / 160° C

Ingredients

Tangzhong

3 tbsp - Bread flour/All purpose flour (Refer notes)

1/2 cup - water


Ingredients for the bun

2 1/2 cups - Bread flour/All purpose flour

5 tbsp - granulated sugar

1 tsp - salt

1 - egg at room temperature

1/2 cup - milk at room temperature

Prepared Tangzhong

3 tbsp - softened butter

1 - 7g packet instant yeast (refer notes)

To Brush

1 - egg white whisked


Directions

Tangzhong

  • Whisk the 3 tbsp of flour in 1/2 cup of water in a sauce pan.  Turn on the flame on low heat and cook the mix till it thickens like a spreadable paste consistency is attained, by continuously stirring with a wooden spoon.  This step should be done carefully and slowly so that the Tangzhong does not lump up like a ball.  Set it aside to cool completely.

Sweet Bun

Bread Machine Method
  • Add all the wet ingredients including Tangzhong followed by dry ingredients into the bread machine and select the Dough cycle and prepare the dough and let it proof there.
Stand Mixer Method
  • Add all the dry ingredients followed  by wet ingredients into the stand mixer bowl.  Attach the dough hook and let it mix for 2 minutes.  Turn off the stand mixer and take the dough hook out.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it sit for 10 minutes undisturbed.
  • After 10 minutes, attach the dough hook and let it knead the dough till everything comes together as a ball.  It takes 30 minutes to get to that stretchy consistency.  
  • Once the dough is formed into a ball.  Cover it with a damp cloth and keep it in a warm place for it to rise to its double size.
Manual Kneading Method
  • In a mixing bowl, add all the dry ingredients and mix well.  Make a well in the middle and add all the wet ingredients.  Use a wooden spoon to roughly combine all together.  Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it sit for 10 minutes to develop the gluten.
  • After 10 minutes, flour the kitchen counter and drop the dough on it and try to fold them together with a bench scraper or a spatula.  The dough will be very sticky.  But don't add any flour.  Try to fold them in using the bench scraper.   In between you can give the dough some time to rest by covering it with a damp cloth.  Then try folding it after giving a 5 minutes break.  Repeat the folding and resting process till it turns into a stretchy pliable soft dough.  This method is more time consuming, but can be done as a shared family activity.
  • Once the dough is formed into a ball.  Cover it with a damp cloth and keep it in a warm place for it to to rise to its double size.

Bun Preparation
  • Transfer the proofed dough on to a lightly floured kitchen counter.   Punch down the air and roll the dough into a log.  Cut into 12 - 15 equal size pieces and roll them into balls.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the rolled dough on the baking sheet with 1 inch spacing between each ball.  I used 2 baking sheets for this quantity.
  • Cover the prepared dough balls with a plastic wrap and keep it in a warmer place to rise for 20 minutes till they are slightly bigger in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 325 °F/160 C.
  • Remove the plastic wrap and brush the top of the dough with egg white.
  • Bake the buns for 25 - 30 minutes till the top attains a golden brown color.
  • Let the buns cool down on a wire rack completely before using it.
  • The cooled buns can be store at room temperature in an air tight container for up to a week.

Notes:
  • I use King Arthur Brand of Bread flour for all my bread recipes.  I have tried this recipe with King Arthur All purpose flour too.  Both of them gives good results.  Since the bread flour has a little more gluten, there is a slight difference in texture between the 2 versions,  The buns made out of bread flour is slightly more lighter and softer than all purpose flour version.  I have tried this recipe with 2 different brands of all purpose flour, but it was not close to King Arthur All purpose flour version.  The buns turned out to be more stale faster even though they were kept in air tight containers.  So I recommend using King Arthur bread flour or any bread flour that has a protein content of 12% or above.  If bread flour is not available, then I would recommend King Arthur All purpose flour or any all purpose flour that has a protein content above 11.5%.
  • If rapid rise/instant yeast is not available, you can use 2 tsp of active dry yeast in this recipe.  I have tried this recipe with active dry yeast too.  When using active dry yeast.  I warm the 1/2 cup of cold milk in the microwave for 30 seconds till it gets slightly luke warm.  Add the 2 tsp of active dry yeast to the milk and mix well.  Boil a cup of water in the microwave for 2 minutes.  Once the water is boiled, place the milk and yeast mix in the microwave and close the door.  Leave it it in the microwave for 5-10 minutes for the yeast to get activated.  
  • You may feel tempted to add more flour to the sticky dough when kneading manually.  But adding more flour will make a tighter dough and will not give the best results.  The bun will be more dense and harder.  Rest and fold method is better for manual kneading.
  • Instead of egg white you can use melted butter/heavy cream to brush the top of the bun to give the golden yellow color.  But egg white gives the shiny glossy look for the buns.
  • You can prepare the Tangzhong a day before and keep it in the refrigerator.  Bring it to room temperature before using it in the dough.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Ghee Rice And Chicken Curry in Roasted Coconut Gravy / NeyChoor With Thenga Varatharacha Chicken Curry


Days are getting brighter and longer.  I am looking forward for summer.  Lots of yard work is pending and its rainy.  So its hard to get things done.  Meantime I am growing seedlings indoor under my grow light.   Hoping for a good gardening year.



On lazy weekends, I go with some simple one pot meals, or a carb with protein combo meal.  One of such lunch options my family loves is Ghee rice with Kerala Style Chicken Curry in Roasted Coconut gravy.  It pairs well the side of some fresh Raita.  To make things easier, I marinate the Chicken and roast the coconut with spices the day before.  I prepare the ghee rice in pressure cooker.  Hope you will try this combo.  Do tag me on instagram @FlavzCorner.






Prep Time:10 minsCook Time: 20 mins


Ghee Rice

Ingredients


To fry

1 - medium size red onion thinly sliced

2 tbsp - cashew pieces

1 tbsp - raisins (optional)

pinch of salt

pinch of sugar

4 tbsp - ghee

For the rice

2 cups - Basmati rice

3 1/2 cups - water

salt to taste


Whole spices

4 - green cardamom pods

6 - cloves

2 inch - cinnamon piece

1 - bay leaf

small piece of star anise


Directions:

  • Wash the basmati rice well and drain.  No need to soak the rice.
  • In a pressure cooker, add 4 tbsp of ghee,  Fry the cashews till golden light brown and remove it to a bowl.  If using raisins, fry them till they puff up on low heat and remove.  Next fry the sliced onion with a pinch of salt and sugar till golden brown.  Remove the fried onions to a bowl.
  • In the same pressure cooker with the left over ghee, add the whole spices and cook on low heat till a good aroma comes.  Add the drained Basmati rice to the pressure cooker and sauté for 30 seconds.  Add 3 1/2 cups water and salt to taste.  Make sure the you taste the salt a bit more in the water.  This will help the rice absorb the right amount of salt and makes the ghee rice taste better.  Let the water come to a slight boil.  Cover the lid of the pressure cooker with the weight on.  Cook on medium heat till one whistle blows.  Turn off the flame immediately.  Let the pressure subside completely and let it rest for another 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, open the lid and fluff the rice with a fork and transfer it to a big bowl.  
  • Mix the fried onions, nuts and raisins with the rice. Cover it with an aluminum foil till ready to serve.


Prep Time:30 minsWaiting Time:30 minsCook Time: 30 mins


Chicken Curry

Ingredients To Marinate

2 lbs - chicken with bone pieces

1/2 tsp - turmeric powder

1 tsp - Kashmiri Chili powder

1/2 tsp - hot Chili powder

1 tsp - Coriander powder

1/2 tsp - Garam masala

1/2 tsp - pepper powder

1 tsp - salt



To Roast

1 cup - grated fresh/frozen coconut

2 - dry chili

1 - small piece cinnamon

4 - cloves

2 - green cardamom

Small piece of star anise

1/2 tsp - Coriander powder

1/2 tsp - Kashmiri chili powder


For the gravy

1 - medium size red onion thinly sliced

5 - shallots sliced crushed

1 inch - ginger crushed

8 big cloves - garlic

1 - medium size well ripe tomato chopped

2 - 4 - sprigs of fresh curry leaves

3  tbsp - coconut oil


Topping/Garnish

2 - Shallots thinly sliced

1/2 tsp - mustard seeds

1 - dry red chili

1 sprig - fresh curry leaves

1/4 tsp - pepper powder

1/4 tsp - garam masala

 1 tbsp - coconut oil


Directions:

  • Marinate chicken pieces with the ingredients listed under 'To Marinate' and refrigerate it for 30 minutes to 1 hr.
  • In a non stick or cast iron pan, dry roast the coconut with whole spices and dry chili till the coconut is light golden brown.  Add the chili & coriander powder and roast till the raw smell goes away.  Make sure to maintain low to medium heat during roasting.  Let the mix cool.  Grind the mix to a thick smooth paste using 1/2 - 1 cup of water.
  • In a cast iron pan or dutch oven, add 3 tbsp of coconut oil.  Add the sliced red onions, shallots and some salt and cook till it is translucent.  Add the crushed ginger and garlic and cook till everything is golden brown color.  Add the marinated chicken pieces and some curry leaves.  Sauté on medium to high heat for at least 2-3 minutes.  Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, add the chopped tomatoes and mix well.  Add the coconut paste to the chicken and add additional 1 - 2 cups of water and mix well.  Adjust the salt and cover and cook on medium heat till the gravy thickens.  Adjust the salt per your taste and turn off the flame.
  • In a small sauce pan, splutter mustard seeds in 1 tbsp of coconut oil.  Add sliced shallots, dry chili, garam masala and pepper powder and fry till golden brown.  Turn off the flame and add the curry leaves.
  • Add the prepared topping/garnish to the chicken curry and close the lid.  Let it sit for 10 minutes to infuse all the flavors on the chicken before serving.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Pineapple Coconut Tropical Cake



Our younger ones birthday falls during Easter time and he usually likes chocolate flavored cake.  This year I decided to make a tropical flavored cake as I was so much looking forward for some summery days.  The birthday boy loved the cake.



I wanted to try this non-alcoholic Pina Colada cake flavor for a long time and a birthday was the right occasion to try it.  This flavorful fruity cake is by far my favorite fruity cake I ever made.  It was an instant hit.  There was barely 2 pieces left for me to take the pictures once the cake was cut.  It was that good.  I highly recommend to try this cake for your special occasion.






Yields - 8 x 4'' loaf cake with 4 layers


Vanilla Cake

1  1/2 cups - all purpose flour
1  1/2 tsp - baking powder
1/2 tsp - salt
sugar - 3/4 cup

3/4 cup - butter (1 stick + 1/2 a stick)
3/4 cup - milk
3 - eggs
1 1/2 tsp - pure vanilla extract


Pine Apple Filling

2 cups - fresh pineapple

1/4 cup - granulated sugar

1 tsp - lemon juice

1 tsp - corn starch


Coconut Whipped Cream Frosting

1 1/4 cup + 1/4 cup - cold heavy whipping cream (unsweetened) divided

10 tbsp - powdered sugar

15 drops - coconut extract

2 tbsp - dry coconut milk powder  (refer notes)


Vanilla Cake

Directions
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 ° F.
  • Line a 8 x 8'' cake pan with parchment paper.
  • In a sauce pan, add milk and butter.  Warm it till the butter melts.  Turn off the flame.
  • Sift together flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl.
  • Beat the egg and sugar together to form a fluffy mix using a stand mixer or hand mixer.  If using stand  mixer, use the whisk attachment.
  • Gently fold in the flour mix into the wet ingredients till everything is mixed well.
  • Add the warm butter & milk mix into it.  Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  • Bake it for 25 - 30 minutes till a tooth pick comes out clean when tested.
  • Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.


Pineapple Filling

Directions
  • Blend the fresh pineapple to get a thick puree.
  • Transfer the puree into a sauce pan.  Add the sugar, lemon juice and corn starch to it and let it cook for 8-10 minutes till the puree thickens up.
  • Let the filling cool down completely.  Refrigerate the filling for at least 1hr.

Whipped Cream Frosting

Directions
  • Mix 2 tbsp coconut milk powder in 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream.
  • Whip the 1 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream with powdered sugar till soft peaks are attained.
  • Add the coconut extract, coconut milk whipping cream mix to the whipped cream and whip it till sharp peaks are attained.  

Assembling the Cake
  • Cut the corners of the cake to get even square piece of cake.
  • Cut the cake into half  vertically to get two 8 x 4 '' loaves.
  • Cut each 8 x 4'' loaf horizontally into 2 layers.  You should end up with 4 layers of 8 x 4'' cake pieces.
  • Apply some frosting on the cake stand and place one cake on it.
  • Spread a layer of the pineapple filling on the top of the cake.  
  • Apply a layer of whipped frosting on top of the pineapple filling.  I used a piping bag with round nozzle to do this step.
  • Place the second cake on top of it.  Repeat pineapple filling and whipped frosting layers on top of the second cake.
  • Repeat the filling process till the final cake  is placed and crumb coat with the frosting.
  • Top them with remaining pine apple filling and decorate with rest of the whipped frosting.
  • Refrigerate the cake till ready to serve.

Notes
  • Over beating the whipped frosting will curdle the whipped cream.  So make sure to stop whipping once stiff peaks are formed.
  • Don't use fresh pineapple with the cream for the filling.  The bromelain in the fresh pineapple when mixed with dairy product will end with bitter taste.  Cooking the pineapple  will remove the bromelain.
  • I used the Maggie Coconut powder .  You can find it in any Indian grocery store.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Orange Jam/Marmalade


Growing up in North Indian and in an Air Force Family, Bread, Butter & Jam was a usual breakfast at home.  I remember my school starts early and I barely eat any breakfast as I was never a morning person.  Since Elementary school had only classes till noon, Mom knows that we would come home hungry and eat a lunch.  So she used to pack light food for me.  My mom usually packs bread and jam in my lunch box.  So the recess at 10 would be the actual breakfast time for me.  


We always had a bottle of some kind of homemade jam in our pantry all the time.  Mixed fruit jam, pineapple jam are the ones I remember.  Mom would diligently make a bottle of jam whenever the previous batch finishes, as it was one thing we loved to eat with the mildly sweet and soft wonder bread and butter.



When we moved back to Kerala, Mom switched the gears and completely adapted to South Indian tastes.  I don't remember her making Chapatis or Pooris in the morning anymore.  Slowly she stopped making jams as well.  She experimented with more Keralite dishes and snacks.  As kids, we slowly started liking the new breakfast options and the South Indian varieties of dishes.


I got that trait from my Mom of experimenting with jams.  I make fruit jams based on their season.  Beginning of the year till summer is the best season here in US to get some good quality Citrus and I love making jam out of it.  I save some to use them in the Kerala Plum Cake later in December for Christmas too.  This jam is so flavorful and the golden yellow color from the orange is so refreshing and is a perfect jam to welcome spring.  We use them for pancakes, waffles, sandwiches, yogurt and in cakes.  Hope you will give this recipe a try.


Yields - 16 oz jar


Prep Time:10 minsCook Time: 20 mins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups - Fresh Orange pulp from 2 or more big Navel Oranges
  • 1 tbsp - orange rind sliced into thin pieces
  • 3/4 cup - sugar
  • 1/2 cup - water
  • 1 tbsp - fresh lemon juice


Directions:

  • Peel the orange and remove all the white pith and if any seeds.  Cut them into pieces and make a pulp in the blender.  Don't over blend.  We need some chunks, it makes the thickening process faster.
  • Take 2 pieces of the orange peel and slice to remove the white pith as much as possible using a sharp knife.  
  • Slice the rind into thin strips and collect 1 tbsp of the sliced rind.
  • Take a wide heavy bottom steel sauce pan. Add the orange pulp, orange rind, sugar and water and lemon juice.  Cook on low to medium heat for 20 - 25 minutes till the water is evaporated and the rind is cooked completely.  Use a wooden spoon to stir in between.  Once the mix attains a thick consistency, turn off the burner and transfer the hot jam/marmalade into a sterilized glass/mason jar.  Let it cool; cover it and refrigerate.  If you are making a big batch for canning purpose use boiling water canning method to sterilize the jars.

Notes:
  • You can add 1 - 2 tbsp of rind to the marmalade.  If you add more than that the marmalade gets bitter.  I personally prefer only 1 tbsp for 2 cups of puree.  It gives enough flavor.
  • Its important to take the pith off from the rind completely to avoid bitterness.
  • Don't use high heat while cooking the marmalade, otherwise the marmalade will get dark in color.
  • Use low to medium heat to avoid splutter.
  • A wide mouth heavy bottom pan helps to remove the moisture quickly and fastens the pectin jelling process in the citrus.
  • Make sure to pick well ripen Oranges for the jam to get the natural sweetness and flavor.  I make the orange jam when they are in season to get the best flavor out of it.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Perfect Idli/Dosa Batter for Winter





Every South Indian has a special affinity to Idli/Dosa.  Living in a country where half of the year is cold, I found myself very difficult to get a perfectly fermented Idli batter especially during winter.  In our old house, we had our furnace easily accessible and I could stuck the batter next to the furnace and have it  ferment easily.  In our current house, its was either a hit or miss to get a perfectly risen idli batter.  I tried different proportions of rice to lentil ratio and many recipes, but nothing was fool proof.  Until I talked to my aunt who gave me this tip to try and it worked like a charm.



I even experimented further more and got it right every time.  This recipe is for those who cannot get the batter ferment during winter.  If you live in warmer place you don't need to do this extra step.  Even on a snowy day, I can get my batter ferment perfectly.



Here I recommend 2 methods those are fool proof.  The science behind the techniques used is to create humidity and warmer temperature to ease fermentation process.  On a warmer day, you just have to follow the recipe and don't need extra step of soaking for longer time.  This batter works for both Idli and Dosa perfectly.



Hope one of these methods will work for you.  If it works for you, do tag me on instagram or comment.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will try to help you since this was a big struggle for me initially and I am glad to help you.

Ingredients:

2 cups - Idli rice

3/4 cup - Urad daal

1/4 cup - Chana daal

1 tsp - Fenugreek/Methi seeds

1/2 cup - white rice flakes/Poha

salt to taste (around 1/2 - 1 tsp)

Directions:

Batter Preparation

  • Wash each item separately and soak separately except rice flakes.  Rice flakes don't need much soaking time.
  • Soak urad daal and chana daal together in 3 1/2 cups of water after washing it thoroughly.  Cover rice, daals and fenugreek and leave it on the kitchen counter.
  • Here we are using a longer soaking time for the urad daal to slowly start fermenting.  I soak them for at least 14 -18 hrs.  This step is very important for easy fermentation during winter.
  • After it has soaked for at least 14 hrs, discard the water of rice and wash it one more time to remove the fermented smell and drain well.
  • Add 1/2 cup of water to the rice flakes in a bowl.  It will absorb all the water in few minutes.
  • Drain the urad and chana daal water and reserve it.  We need to use this 'Daal Water' to make our batter.
  • Grind soaked rice with 1 cup of the reserved daal water into a smooth batter.  Transfer it into a stainless steel pot or pyrex glass bowl that has enough room for the batter to ferment.
  • Next grind urad and chana daal with 3/4 cup daal water into a smooth batter.  During this step, I use 1/2 cup of daal water first to get the daals pulse first into a coarse paste.  I add the 1/4 cup daal water after that, to make it into a smooth batter. Add it to rice batter.
  • Drain the fenugreek seeds.  Grind the fenugreek seeds with soaked rice flakes with 1/4 cup 'Daal water' to a smooth paste.  Add it to the rice and daal batter.
  • Add 1/4 cup of the urad daal water to the blender jar and blend on high speed to get the remaining batter stuck on the jar.  Add this to the batter mix.  So in total, use 1 cup + 3/4 cup + 1/4 cup + 1/4 cup = 2 1/4 cup daal water.
  • Add salt to the batter.  Now with a clean hand mix the batter well so that everything is combined well.



Fermentation Process
Method 1 - Microwave Method

  • Microwave a cup of water for 2 minutes.  This will create humidity and warmth in the microwave.
  • Close the pot/bowl of batter with a lid.  Place the batter in the microwave along with the cup of water and close the microwave.
  • After 3 hrs, take the batter out and microwave the water for 2 minutes again.  Place the batter again in the microwave with the hot water cup.  Repeat this process every 3-4 hrs.  This is done to create a warmer temperature and humidity inside the microwave.
  • After repeating the above step 3 times, the batter will start to rise.  I get my batter perfectly risen after 3 times.  It takes 10 hrs for me to get the batter risen every time with this method.  Depending on your microwave's heat and your weather, the fermentation time may vary for you.
  • Take the batter out once it is frothy and risen well.  If you are not using it right away, you should refrigerate it to avoid further fermentation. 
  • Make sure to wipe the microwave well to remove all the moisture away that was created during the fermentation.


Method 2 - Instapot Method

  • Set your instapot to yogurt mode, cancel the boil option.  
  • Place your batter in the Instapot's pot.  So if using instapot method, you need to mix the batter in the instapot's steel pot.  
  • Secure the lid and let the pressure valve be set to release any pressure it develops due to heat and humidity during fermentation.
  • Now set the timer on normal mode to 12 hrs.  For me it takes 14 hrs.  It may vary for you based on your weather.  I would recommend to start with 8 hrs first and increment by an interval of 2 hrs based on the progress of the fermentation.  

Substitutes

 Idli rice - you can use basmathi rice instead.  I use Udupi Idli rice from the Indian store.
Chana daal - use urad daal.  So instead of 3/4 cup Urad daal, take 1 cup of urad daal
Rice flakes - you can take 1/2 cup of cooked rice

My Preference

  1. My personal choice is the Microwave method, because it is fast and I can easily check the batter when I want.  If you are curios like me I think you won't  mind warming up the water in the mircowave few times.  For smaller batch like the one in this recipe, I always go with micorwave method.
  2. The instapot method is convenient, but its constant heat from the bottom may get the batter stuck a bit on the bottom and it takes longer to ferment.  When I have to go for a bigger batch of batter to ferment, I use instapot method.
  3. Alternatively you can try fermenting the batter in the oven.  I used to do it initially.   But its more work.   Warm up your oven to 180° F.  Turn off the oven.  Boil a sauce pan of water.  Place the batter in the warm oven along with the pot of boiled water.  Here you are mimicking the microwave method, but in a bigger space.  So you need more water to create that humidity if your oven is big.  Also you need to warm up the oven when the oven turns cold and repeat the process of warming water again and placing it along with the batter, unless your oven has a warm option.  Most of the new ovens have the warm option now a days.  To me this method is more tedious than the other 2 methods I have recommended.

Notes:

  • Make sure you don't over ferment the batter.  It makes the batter sour and smell bad.  Over fermented batter can easily deflate and will end up in a idli that has lot of holes in it and distorted in shape.
  • The batter should be kept in a container that has at least 3-5 inches of room for the batter to rise.  I take my batter out once it rises up to 3 inches.  This gives the perfect shaped soft spongy idlis.
  • Methi seeds helps in the fermentation process and gives the golden yellow hue to your dosa.  Chana daal helps to give the golden yellow color for the dosa (especially Masala dosa).  The rice flakes gives the fluffiness to the idlis.
  • The fenugreek, urad and chana daal works together to speed up the fermentation.
  • I have tried both the whole husked urad daal as well as the split urad daals.  With this method, it always gives the same result.  I didn't notice any difference with the type of daal.
  • I make sure to soak the rice, daals and fenugreek for at least 14 - 18 hrs.  This step is vital in speeding up the fermentation process.
Tips to prepare perfect Idlis
  • Add enough water in the idli steamer that will stay below the bottom layer of idli mold.
  • Let the water boil before you place the idli molds inside to prepare idlis.
  • Don't pour batter in the bottom mold.  Most of the time, it will end up with soggy idlis due to the moisture build up in the steamer.
  • Use coconut oil to brush your idli mold well before pouring the batter.  Coconut oil helps for a clean release of idlis.  I have tried different oils and coconut oil gives the best result.
  • If your idli mold has different levels, make sure you arrange the mold so that they don't go right on top of each other.  A well fermented batter will rise well and the idli can touch the bottom of the upper level, and it will end up in a distorted shaped idli.
  • I have a 5 level mold and I use only the top 4 levels.  It takes 20-30  minutes to cook the idlis for 4 levels for me.  Since I don't have a traditional idli steamer and I use the regular steamer, the idli molds just fit in tightly without much room on the side and it build up lot of moisture, I keep the steamer lid open a bit to avoid extra moisture build up.
  • Once the ildi is cooked, let the idli cool for 5 minutes before you unmold it.  This also helps to unmold the idlis easier.
Tips for Dosa Batter
  • For every cup of batter, I add 1/4 cup of water if I want thicker dosa.
  • For thinner and crispy dosa, I add 1/3 cup of water to 1 cup of batter.
  • For extra crunchy and restaurant style Masala dosa, add 2 tbsp of Chickpea flour to 1/2 cup of water.  Mix it with every 1 cup of idli batter.  This gives the shiny glazed crunchy masala dosa crust.
  • To make crispy dosa, you need the pan to have the right temperature.  Sprinkle cold water on the pan.  Wipe away the moisture and any trace of oil with a clean cloth or paper towel before you pour the batter on to the pan for each dosa.  
  • Another key is to spread the batter evenly on the pan to get crispy dosa.

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