Sticky Toffee Pudding

My affiliation to desserts hardly comes as a surprise. Early on, it may have to do with possessing a sweet tooth or perhaps being amid sugar devotees. However, with my culinary learnings, I’ve learnt also, that the desire to bake or create desserts bears no relation with my love for consuming sugar. Meaning, even on days when I’m sugar-starving(by choice), I find myself hankering for the rumbling sound of my stand mixer as it punches and mangles a robust babka dough, the perfume emanating from a slit vanilla bean pod and the disarrayed crackle top of an 8×8″ brownie. After a 10 day vacation traipsing around Croatia this summer, our home bound flight back seemed devoid of melancholy only because my restless mind conspired to bake a crostata with figs and sweet port-simmered onions. Although, I did christen it with a quirkier name, “It’s been 10 days since I’ve baked. I miss the oven” crostata. Jet lag was forced to take a back seat.

Having grown up relishing my grandmother’s Badam Halwa(Almond pudding), my mother’s Paayasa’s(kheer), my father’s secret stash of chocolate, desserts take precedence over other foods in my kitchen and if it demands an oven, then it only becomes that much better. In an ideal world, I would bake every single day, I would check off that unceasing bucket list like my 10th grade self checking-off roting her vast syllabus. However, at the moment I will appease myself with the current pace and make sweet ‘somethings’ as often as I can.
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This dessert was prompted after devouring a Martha Stewart Show, the only cooking series I watch, and sadly restricted to random sightings. I watched in awe the other murky afternoon as she conjured a coffee-laden, sticky date cake and a velvety amber sauce to complete the dessert. The chef’s composed demeanor propelled me to take my standard position by the kitchen counter, whisk and bowl in hand, oven at 325F. Unfortunately, the lack of a couple of of key ingredients demanded rescheduling.
A few mornings later though, after running our of patience, I took position once again(after sourcing all ingredients).  I wasn’t nearly as calm or collected as she was. In my defense, when one is basking in the caffeinated fragrance suffusing from a cake batter or witnessing chunks of butter melting seamlessly into bubbling cream, it is painstakingly hard to contain excitement.
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Francis Coulson of the Sharrow Bay Hotel is said to have created the dessert in 1970. The hotel claims that the original recipe is cloistered in the confines of a secret vault and the staff sign a non-disclosure agreement so as to preserve the secret. I’m ignorant as to how different the original recipe is from the one I’m about to share but I can safely say, disappointment is not a part of the equation.
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The recipe involves Medjool Dates; they are tremendously sticky and you will find your knives coated with their flesh as you chop them into tiny bits. But, the stickiness also means that they blend harmoniously into the batter and the resulting cake. Also, like I mentioned before, this batter is folded in with a cup of strong espresso and I for one become weak in the knees when it comes to coffee in desserts. This was no different. Like all my bakes, I adapted this into an eggless version as well, thanks to an Egg Replacer(the brand I used is Pane Riso Foods Egg Replacer)it should be easily available online if not in stores.
It is better to let the cake sit overnight or for a day as the cake succumbs to the warmth and liquidity of the toffee sauce. But, if you’re anything like me, rather than tolerate the wait, you will assemble a square chunk of cake flooded with sauce ready to go while it is still sizzling hot.
Hope you like this one!

RECIPE FOR EGGLESS STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING(ADAPTED FROM MARTHA STEWART’S RECIPE)
INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature 
  • 8 ounces Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 cup hot and strong brewed coffee
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2 tsp egg replacer mixed with 4 tbsp of room temperature water (I use Pane Riso Foods Egg Replacer but different brands will probably have a different set of directions)

Sauce

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup lightly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour an 8×8 inch baking pan. Place dates in a bowl, pour hot coffee over dates, and let them soak in the coffee for about 15 minutes. Then stir in the baking soda.

In a bowl, whisk together, flour, baking soda and salt. Keep aside.
Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Then add the egg replacer and incorporate it for a few seconds( it is allright if the mixture appears curdled).

Add the flour mixture in parts, again in medium-high speed and mix until a smooth batter is formed. Add date mixture and remaining flour mixture, and beat until just combined. (Do not overmix.) Transfer batter to dish, and bake until cake is puffed and springs back in center when gently pressed with a finger, about 35-40 minutes.( I used  a toothpick to check the done-ness)

Toffee Sauce:
To make the toffee sauce, bring together butter, sugar, and cream in a pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium (so sauce does not boil over) and boil, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens and darkens slightly, about 4-7minutes.

Remove cake from oven and pierce holes at 1-inch intervals to bottom of cake with a wooden skewer. Pour half of the hot sauce over cake and let soak 20 minutes. Serve warm with remaining sauce. Cake soaked in sauce and remaining toffee sauce can be stored at room temperature up to 1 day. Before serving, warm cake in a 300 degrees oven 10 minutes, and sauce in a small saucepan over medium heat.

 

The ‘Stop to Smell the Roses’ Cake

Not that a chocolate or an orange flavoured cake doesn’t entice me substantially, but that winter morning demanded a distraction from the familiar. I was fortunate Sumayya Usmani’s ‘Mountain Berries and Dessert Spices’ had sailed from it’s confines of the store and landed amid the cozy comforts of my living room. The author is driven by authenticity and her recipes are brimming with tradition. She paints the book with dishes showcasing the magic of rose petals, cardamom, berries, pistachios and other produce native to her homeland.

The love for baking isn’t new. You know that. Let’s just say this cake is a product of inspiration, madness and wild curiosity. For the sake of nostalgia, accompany me on a trip down memory lane, will you?
In Kannada, there is a phrase – ‘MaTa MaTa MaDHyana’. It refers to blazing afternoons when the sun is at it’s peak, the air warm, the roads desolate and the atmosphere blanketed by laziness. These breezy summer afternoons in the 80’s and early 90’s meant mom-made orange candy set in little ice cube trays or mom-made lemonade with pungent hints of cardamom and a tinge of salt. They were special treats stored away for school breaks only. These drinks were rarely(I mean, really rarely) punctuated with a rose drink that many of you are familiar with, RoohAfza. The cool hit from the floral notes of rose intertwined with sugar and hued in a deep fuschia-red was nothing short of a celebration on lackadaisical Banglaorean afternoons. Then there was also the coveted, ‘Rose Milk’. Another blush toned concoction that got the tastebuds singing.
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Finally one morning , in the present day, I wondered why I have absentmindedly ignored this mellifluous flavour. If anything, my cakes deserve to feel special! The previous evening was spent scouring for rose petals. A Chinese market bottled thousands of tiny rose buds meant to be steeped in tea. I bought a handful and chalked up a simple recipe.
This egg free cake is entangled with rose petals and mildly laced with cardamom. Dousing the cake, is a simple sugary rose glaze. Bear in mind, this cake is brimming with the rose flavour. Like an opera singer’s high pitched chorus. Beautiful, at the same time, strong. Hence, I suggest you to feel free to play around with the Rose water measurements. We were happy with the outcome but take it down a notch if you like.
This cake takes me back to a simpler time and parallelly transports me to an ethereal one. One that my taste buds are familiar with and yet oddly, not. I hope you like this as much as we did!
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RECIPE FOR : The ‘Stop to smell the roses’ CAKE (for a 6 inch EGGFREE cake)
INGREDIENTS
For the Cake
3/4th cup Self Raising Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 cup of Granulated sugar
2-3 green cardamoms powdered with a pinch of sugar
1 tsp Rose water
3 tbsp Oil (I used canola)
1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp Vinegar
1/ 2 cup Milk
Dried organic Rose Petals (Optional)

For the Glaze
2-2.5 tsp of water/milk
3/4 cup of icing sugar
1 tsp of Rose water(optional)
A drop of Pink food colouring (optional)
For the Garnish(Optional)
Chopped Pistachios
Dried organic Rose Petals

METHOD
1. Preheat the oven to 350F
2. Cut a round piece of parchment the size of the base of the cake pan and keep aside. Grease the entire cake pan and place the parchment to cover the floor of the pan. Then dust the sides with the flour.
3. In a medium sized bowl, bring together the dry ingredients and give it a whisk.(Self        Raising Flour, Baking Soda, Granulated Sugar & Powdered Cardamom)
4. To the dry ingredient mix, add, Oil, Rose water and 1/2 tbsp of vinegar.
5. In a small bowl make buttermilk by mixing milk with 1/2 tsp of vinegar. Once it curdles, add it to the remaining ingredients.
6. Mix well to ensure there are no lumps.
7. Add rose petals(optional)and gently fold it in and pour into the prepared cake an.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
9. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by mixing together, icing sugar, rose water(optional)    and milk/water. Add a drop of pink food colouring if you like and keep aside.
10. Once the cake is out of the oven, keep it on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Gently slide a        knife along the sides to loosen it from the pan.Then carefully turn the pan upside down onto a tray to make sure it comes out in one piece.
11. Once completely cool, pour the glaze on the cake and garnish with rose petals & pistachios.

I hope you like this cake as much as we did: )
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Lessons I’m Learning from my Mother….Sihi Kootu & More

“My mother is my best friend”….the old chestnut holds true with me as well…
Admittedly, I can go on for ages about how her children received immense priority ultimately leading up to her sacrificing her best career years in order to render us all a warm home. With a husband whose job entails touring the country half the month & three children, two of whom are really hooligans disguised as chubby little boys, the cacophony & chaos can prove challenging and not just in terms of time. I can write about how her face beams with a blend of pride and satisfaction when people notice me as her mirror image and how the same face cringes when some mistakenly mention otherwise! I can write about how she thoughtfully scribes the sweetest( and longest!) messages that prompt me to effortlessly tear up 10,000 miles away and how she indefatigably listens to me blather for hours about the most inane topics. I can write about how she instilled the love of God in our hearts at a tender age thereby guiding us to live a life saturated with faith. I can also write about how she perpetually corrects our lapses and how she relentlessly eludes us from the poisons of revenge.
However,  I won’t.
Today I want to share with you the lessons I am LEARNING from her….
To say she is the epitome of patience is practically an understatement and this can be vouched for by any soul that’s crossed paths with her. The worst of agitations don’t trigger her to bring the roof down. She is the icy water that douses fiery hot heads! As a teen, I learnt the rewards patience can bestow upon one….the learning continues…

Her calm demeanor culminates as her biggest strength. Recalling the pandemonium that joint families can be subjected to, it dawns on me that her serene silence and smile nonchalantly answered most circumstances. My learning continues….

Trying times bizarrely are directly proportional with her degrees of optimism. Needless to say, much needed. Hope is never a dearth at home and that’s saying something.
When life hands lemons, she musters up courage and emerges a winner. She protectively continues to stand up for us in our toughest times and is indubitably my pillar of strength. I continue to learn and if only I can soak in one drop in that ocean of optimism…..

Among the many feathers in a mother’s cap, she also transpires as a long distance constant cooking coach, guiding me gently and indulgently through the complications of it all, awaiting reviews from a hungry son in law. Although I picked up the the basics of Madhwa Cuisine under my mother in law’s unremitting tutelage, there are some recipes that I continue to learn from my mother….Sihi Kootu is one such. How can I possibly forget devouring bowl after bowl of Sihi Kootu with warm rice as I rushed back home from school? Or when I visited the same home with a husband by my side,  15 years later?

We now arrive at the kitchen of my mother’s home, wafting with  aromas of a simmering Sihi Kootu!

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The recipe has flawlessly been passed down the many generations: what my mom learnt from my great grandmother, I learn from my mom. While my great grandmother laboriously and painstakingly ground the spices and coconut in a mammoth stone mortar & pestle, we get away with a turn of a knob! “It doesn’t taste the same”, my mom says.
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Sihi means sweet in Kannada & Kootu basically belongs to the sambar/stew family which means it is rich in dal, coconut & vegetables. I feel the need to clarify that it’s not necessarily sweet but mainly called so to ensure that it’s not confused with another Kootu, the ‘Kharaddu’ meaning Spicy.
The addition of pepper & dry chillies impart a subtle heat to the dish. Byadgi (mildly spicy but adds colour) & Guntoor (very spicy but doesn’t add much colour) are the two types of dry chillies used and together they create a balanced combination. There’s jaggery, which is a mandatory in Madhwa cuisine that lends a sweet note to the dish that when mixed with ghee(clarified butter) and rice can easily become a feast for the Gods! Dal i.e. Toor Dal is added in a slightly generous quantity than regular sambars to give a thicker, creamier consistency. With a whole lot of Dal(lentils), Veggies, & a medley of spices, this authentic South Indian Vegan dish is a bowl of warmth & comfort.

The learning continues….

I hope you try this recipe and I would love me a feedback:) Also, I’m trying my hand at food photography and styling these days….I do hope you like these pictures!

RECIPE FOR SIHI KOOTU

INGREDIENTS
3/4th cup Toor Dal
Roughly 3 cups of chopped vegetables like Beans, Carrots, Chayote, Potatoes & legumes like pigeon peas & Padpi lilva
1.5 tbsp jaggery
10 curry leaves
Salt to taste
For the masala paste –
1.5 tbsp urad dal
3 Guntoor dry red chilles(very spicy)
5 Byadgi Dry Red chillies( a little less spicy)
3/4 tsp peppercorns
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
For tempering –
1 tsp of oil
1 tsp of mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal
A good pinch of Hing/AsafoetidaMETHOD
1. Pressure cook toor dal with 2.5-3 times the water
2. Cook the veggies in boiling water & a little bit of salt. Alternatively, it can be pressure cooked along with the dal itself but there is a chance they may become a little mushy.
3. In the meanwhile, make the masala paste.In a kadai, take a teaspoon of oil and fry Urad dal, chillies, peppercorn in medium heat until the dal is golden brown in colour. Allow them to cool.
4. Once it’s cooled, grind it with fresh grated coconut and some water to get a paste of medium coarse consistency.
5. Add this to the cooked dal & veggies along with jaggery,curry leaves & salt. Let it come to a boil.
6. To temper, in a smaller kadai/tadka pan, add oil and once it heats up,  add urad dal & mustard seeds. Let the mustard crackle and then add Hing.
7. Add this to the Kootu. Serve hot with rice & ghee

#Raspberry Yogurt Cake with White Chocolate Ganache- Eggless

“There is only one happiness in life. To love & be loved.”
– George Sand
I’m drifting from my NYC series to indulge you all in a decadent, fit-for-the-Gods dessert. So, my 31st happened to be a special one….we had landed in a new country just hours before we rang in my birthday. Still jet lagged from a 22 hour flight, I dozed off putting aside the brimming excitement that normally accompanies me before a birthday.  My husband woke me at 12 AM with a broad smile & the most sinful Raspberry White chocolate cake blanketed in little white chocolate curls. A surprise indeed and the sweet, romantic guy that he is, he managed to scour the city he’s never been in before, at midnight, to find this cake. I’m not sure if it was the jet lag or the enthusiasm to begin new adventures or just that the cake was plain & simple, delicious but it made me forget all about being a year older!
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That was my first tryst with a raspberry-white chocolate combination and on most celebratory occasions, we run to the same store to get one. I would tell myself to make an eggless version at home but kept putting it off for no particular reason.  A few days back, fed up with my procrastination, I decided to heed to my heart’s calling & make a Raspberry cake with a silky, luscious, white chocolate ganache on top. Although I generally use buttermilk to make the cake, I decided to opt for yogurt this time. It’s ultra moist , infused with the freshness of lemon zest, sweet & delicious! I personally crave for a ganache that’s ooey gooey flowy & floods the delicate sponge rather than one that’s more like a slather of frosting.
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A friend who is new to the concept of eggless cakes was eager to try mine & I decided this cake would be perfect for a dinner party at my place “I don’t miss the egg” she said with the first bite and the remaining cake went home with her in my tupperware.
I do hope you try this cake & as always I love me a feedback! Thanks!

RECIPE FOR EGGLESS RASPBERRY YOGURT CAKE WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE CAKE (for a 6″ cake)
INGREDIENTS
3/4 cup of Self raising flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp Baking soda
3 tbsp oil ( I use sunflower)
1/2 cup plain skim yogurt ( store bought)
1/2 tbsp white vinegar
2 – 3 tbsp of hot water
1.5 cups of fresh raspberries (1 cup halved for the batter and remaining to top)
1 tsp lemon zest  + extra for topping
FOR WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE
170 gms of Baking white chocolate, chopped
75 ml of Heavy cream 

METHOD
1. Preheat oven to 350 F and grease and flour a 6″ cake pan.
2. In a large bowl, add the dry ingredients( flour, baking soda and sugar ) and mix well.
3. Then add, vinegar, oil, yogurt and whisk to ensure there are no lumps.
4. Add hot water and mix.
5. Fold in chopped raspberries and lemon zest gently.
6. Bake for 30- 35 min or until toothpick comes out clean.
7. Cool completely.
8. To make the white chocolate ganache,
-Chop the white chocolate into tiny pieces or grate and place in a bowl.
-Add the cream into a small vessel and heat it on a stove on medium heat until you see a boil. Put off the stove and add the heavy cream to the bowl of white chocolate. Cover with a lid and let it sit for 2-3 minutes. Then stir with a whisk to ensure there are no lumps. (Alternatively, you can heat the cream in the microwave for a minute)
9. Immediately refrigerate for about 1o minutes to cool. Place the cake on a wired rack and pour the ganache on top of the cooled cake.
10. Place some more fresh raspberries on top and sprinkle caster sugar.

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#Matcha Raspberry Pancakes – Eggless

Pancakes have always been a favourite at home. Ever since the time my grandma visited the States & learnt how to make them. Although stores in Bangalore didn’t carry Maple Syrup at the time, she cleverly substituted it with a warm homemade sugar syrup and slowly but surely we discovered the indulgences of a sweet breakfast. Nothing like the wafts of hot simmering sugar & sizzling skillets to ward off sleep on lazy mornings. Continue reading “#Matcha Raspberry Pancakes – Eggless”