Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gingerbread House

Daring Bakers December Challenge 2009

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

I choose Anna's recipe from Good housekeeping. I had never baked a gingerbread house before. I thank Anna and Y for giving us such a great challenge. It took three days for me to finish the gingerbread house. Decorating was the fun part in the entire challenge. Its been 10 days since i made the house and it still looks and smells great.

This is the template i used.

Here is the recipe..


2 1/2 cup(s), 450 g packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cup(s), 360 ml heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cup(s), 425 g light (mild) molasses
9 1/2 cup(s), 1200 g all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s), 30 g baking soda
1 tablespoon(s), 15 g ground ginger


In very large bowl, with wire whisk, beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.

Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch). Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)

Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.

Brush house pieces lightly with water before baking. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.

Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely on cookie sheets before removing.

Royal Icing:

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar ( i used 1/4 tsp cream of tarter)
1 teaspoon almond extract


Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pistachio, Lemon and Honey Baklava

Baklava is a Turkish delight made from layers of filo pastry, nuts, sugar and spices, drizzled with syrup. The resulting sweetmeat is wonderfully sticky and sweet.

Serves 6-8


175 g (6 oz) shelled pistachio nuts
125 g (4 oz) blanched almonds,
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spice (1/8 teaspoon each of nutmeg, clove, allspice, and ginger)
2 tablespoons caster sugar
12 Sheets Store bought filo pastry
125 g(4 oz) unsalted butter, melted

For the lemon and honey syrup,

grated rind and juice of 2 lemons (can reduce according to your taste)
250 g (8 oz) clear honey
150 ml(1/4 pint) water


Put the pistachio nuts, almonds and spices in a food processor and pulse briefly until the nuts are coarsely ground. Stir in the sugar.

Lightly oil a 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12 inch) cake tin. Cut the sheets of filo pastry in half crossway's so that they are about the same size as the tin (OR if the sheets are small, just keep the tin over the sheets and keeping the correct measurement of the tin, trim off the extra sides using a sharp serrated knife. the extra pieces could be used in the recipe for layering.)

Brush 1 sheet with melted butter and press it into the tin. Continue to brush and layer the sheets until half remain(about 5 sheets). Scatter over half of the nut mixture and then top with another 2 sheets brushing each with melted butter. Then scatter the other half of the nut mixture and the remaining pastry, brushing each sheet with melted butter as you go. (The original recipe says 6 sheets for the base, topped with the entire nut mixture which is again topped with the remaining 6 sheets of filo pastry.) This was the one slight change in the recipe which i made. You can make anyways you like. The result wont be just the same.

Use a sharp knife(serrated would do good) to score a diamond pattern into the pastry, cutting down to the base. Drizzle over any remaining butter and bake in a preheated oven, 180 deg C (350 deg F), Gas Mark 4, for 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 160 deg C( 325 deg F), Gas Mark 3, and bake for further 20-25 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Meanwhile make the syrup: Put the lemon rind, juice, honey and water in a saucepan and heat gently until boiling. Simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat. Pour the hot syrup over the baklava and leave to cool.

After it has cooled and has absorbed all the syrup, it'll look like this.

Enjoy the lovely dessert!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Murukka ( Crispy spicy savory crackers )

Murukku is one savory snack popular in south India. A special gadget called "chakli varalu" is used to make this snack but you can simply use a Patisserie Cream Syringe like here and here with a ribbon tip or any other small thin tip. Or you can just fill the dough into a plastic seal bag, make a small cut in the edge and pipe it directly into the hot oil. Shape doesn't matter at all. Its the ingredients for the dough thats matters and the end result would definitely be tasty and crispy no matter in what shape it is. I got this recipe from one of my friends mom who cooks real tasty south Indian food. I thank her for this wonderful recipe. Its become one of my husbands new favorite. You should try it to know it.

Ingredients required:

2 cups rice flour
1/4 cup Split roasted gram /Dalia /Hurigadale, ground into powder
1/2 tsp asafoetida
1 1/2 tbsp red chilli powder
2 tbsps sesame seeds
1/4th cup hot oil
1/2 tbsp salt or as per taste
enough water to form a soft stiff dough
enough oil to deep fry


combine rice flour, ground roasted gram, asafoetida and salt, mix well. Add hot oil and combine well. Now add the chilli powder and sesame seeds, mix well. Add enough water to form a soft dough.

Heat oil a deep pan on medium high. Grease your hands and take some of the dough and fill it into the chakli mold or icing bag (with a small nozzle). Pipe out spirals directly into the hot oil. Fry them in batches.

Deep fry the chaklis till golden. Drain on paper towels, cool and store in an air-tight container.

Enjoy with a cup of hot coffee.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mutter Paneer

Pan-Fried Cheese with Green Peas

There is no one north Indian restaurant menu, or any special occasion meal from that region, that does not include mutter paneer. This dish is rich, creamy and with some homemade freshly ground perfumed spices, they taste delicious. You can have this along with any store bought or homemade naan, and the meal is complete. The garam masala in this recipe is added in the beginning itself to let the lovely spices blend together with the creamy sauce.

If you don't find paneer or you don't have it handy, then you can easily substitute it with boiled and cubed potatoes and you can rename the dish as "Aloo matar". Even potatoes go very well with this sauce.

Recipe adapted from 660 curries


1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
3 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (each 1 1/2 inches long, 1 inch wide, and 1/2 inch thick)
3 large cloves garlic
1 or 2 fresh green chillies
2 tablespoons canola oil (or vegetable/ sunflower)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 fresh or dried bay leaf
1 cup tomato sauce , canned or homemade
2 teaspoons bin bhuna hua garam masala
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups frozen peas (no need to thaw)
1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream
8 ounces Paneer, cut into 1-inch cubes and pan-fried with few teaspoons of oil till golden brown
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped


Combine the onion, ginger, garlic, and green chiles in a food processor and pulse until they are minced.

Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the cumin seeds and bay leaf, and cook until cumin seeds sizzles, turns reddish brown, and smells nutty, 5 to 10 seconds. Immediately add the minced onion blend and stir fry until it is light reddish brown, 5 to 7 minutes.

Stir in tomato sauce, bin bhuna hua garam masala and salt. The sauce will quickly start to bubble up and splatter, so lower the heat to medium. Simmer the sauce partially covered, stirring occasionally, until some oil starts to appear on the surface and around the edges, providing a glistening sheen , 5 to 10 minutes.

Pour in 1/4 cup water and the peas. Cover the pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender and olive green in color, 8 to 10 minutes.

Fold in the cream, paneer and cilantro. Cover the pan and simmer, occasionally stirring gently, until the cream and cheese have warmed through, about 5 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and serve.

Bin Bhuna Hua Garam Masala

Coriander Scented Untoasted Blend

The heady aromas emanating from the release oils of just pulverized spices give you a hint of fresh and complex flavors that are sorely missing from store- purchased pre-ground spices. This version of garam masala does not involve toasting of whole spices. It is added to a dish, early on in the cooking, allowing time to add their subtle flavors.

According to Raghavan Iyer, the author of the book 660 Curries, this blend is perfectly acceptable in any recipe that calls for a commercial curry powder.

Makes: 3 tablespoons

2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds from green or white pods (or can substiture 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder)
2 dried bay leaves
3 or 4 dried red chillies; or 1 teaspoon cayenne (ground red pepper)


Place all the ingredients in a small blender and grind until the texture resembles that of finely ground black pepper.

Store the mixture in a tightly sealed container, away from excess light, heat, and humidity, for up to 2 months (Do not refrigerate, as it adversely affects its flavors).

This blend is used in the recipe Mutter Paneer.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Heerekai Chutney ( Ridge Gourd Chutney )

This dish has been one of my childhood favorite. I used to love it when my mom used to make this for me. This chutney goes very well with just plain steamed rice or as an accompaniment with Indian flat bread, chapathi. You can add more or less green chillies according to your taste.

Serves : 4


2 big ridge gourds, peeled and cut into cubes
2 tablespoons chana dal (bengal gram)
2 green chillies
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/4 cup coconut, fresh or desiccated
2 teaspoons tamarind juice
1 teaspoon jaggery or sugar
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida , optional
few curry leaves
1/4 teaspoon turmeric


Take the ridge gourd cubes in a deep vessel and add about a cup of water. On a medium high heat, bring this to a boil and cook until tender. Add a little more water if needed (do not add too much).

In another small pan, fry chana dal, green chilli and fenugreek seeds with little oil till chanal dal starts imparting a nice smell, till you see blisters appearing on the surface of green chillies and the fenugreek seeds start to turn brown. Take the pan off the heat and let cool a little bit.

Tranfer the contents of the pan into a blender. Add coconut, salt, tamarind, jaggery and the boiled ridge gourd (keep the water separate). Blend until smooth. Add the reserved water if necessary to get the right thickness.

Take oil in a pan, add mustard and let it splutter. Now add asafoetida, turmeric and curry leaves and fry for few seconds. Now add the mixture from the blender and stir well.

Serve this wonderful tasting chutney with rice or chapati. Enjoy!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Cannoli filled with Ricotta and Mascarpone Cheese Cream

Daring Bakers November 2009 Challenge

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

Cannoli are known as Italian-American pastries, although the origin of cannoli dates back to Sicily, specifically Palermo, where it was prepared during Carnevale season, and according to lore, as a symbol of fertility. The cannoli is a fried, tube-shaped pastry shell (usually containing wine) filled with a creamy amalgamation of sweetened ricotta cheese, chocolate, candied fruit or zest, and sometimes nuts. Although not traditional, mascarpone cheese is also widely used, and in fact, makes for an even creamier filling when substituted for part of the ricotta, or by itself. However, cannoli can also be filled with pastry creams, mousses, whipped cream, ice cream etc. You could also add your choice of herbs, zests or spices to the dough, if desired. Marsala is the traditional wine used in cannoli dough, but any red or white wine will work fine, as it’s not only added for flavor or color, but to relax the gluten in the dough since it can be a stiff dough to work with.

Cannoli forms/tubes - optional, but recommended if making traditional shaped cannoli. Dried cannelloni pasta tubes work just as well!
Deep, heavy saucepan, enough to hold at least 2-3-inches of oil or deep fryer
Deep fat frying thermometer. although the bread cube or bit of dough test will work fine.
Metal tongs
Brass or wire skimmer OR large slotted spoon
Pastry bag with large star or plain tip, but a snipped ziplock bag, butter knife or teaspoon will work fine.
Cooling rack
Paper bags or paper towels
Pastry Brush
Sieve or fine wire mesh strainer
Electric Mixer, stand or hand, optional, as mixing the filling with a spoon is fine.
Food Processor or Stand Mixer – also optional, since you can make the dough by hand, although it takes more time.
Rolling pin and/or Pasta roller/machine
Pastry or cutting board
Round cutters - The dough can also be cut into squares and rolled around the cannoli tube prior to frying. If making a stacked cannoli, any shaped cutter is fine, as well as a sharp knife.
Mixing bowl and wooden spoon if mixing filling by hand
Plastic Wrap/Clingfilm
Tea towels or just cloth towels

Required: If you don’t have or do not want to purchase cannoli forms, which I would never ask of any of you, you could simply cut out circles, squares, or any shapes you want and stack them with the filling of your choice to make stacked cannoli's aka Cannolipoleons (directions below). If desired, you can channel MacGuyver and fashion something heat proof to get traditional shaped cannoli (6-8 inch sawed off lengths of a wooden broom stick or cane, sanded down and oiled, is THE authentic cannoli form!), or non-traditional shapes such as creating a form to make bowls, or even using cream horns if you happen to have them. Mini cannoli would be great too, and I've provided links to retailers of cannoli forms of all sizes. I used Aluminum Foil BBQ Grill Trays for the cannoli forms. I cut them and rolled them using garlic presser and rolled them again with a sheet of parchment paper. I sealed the ends of the parchment paper using small cut outs of the grill sheet. This helps when you fry the pastry for the first time. Later the parchment paper sticks by itself and you wont need the sealing. This is a wonderful alternative for the steel cannoli forms. The fried pastry come sout easily without any problems.

Also, for those who don't like to cook or bake with alcohol - grape juice, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, apple juice..any sweet juice of a fruit, especially ones used in or to make wine, can be substituted. Just add a little more vinegar to insure you get enough acid to relax the dough

Makes 22-24 4-inch cannoli
Prep time:
Dough – 2 hours and 10-20 minutes, including resting time, and depending on whether you do it by hand or machine.
Filling – 5-10 minutes plus chilling time (about 2 hours or more)
Frying – 1-2 minutes per cannoli
Assemble – 20–30 minutes

2 cups (250 grams/8.82 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners' sugar

Note - If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough.

2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained (i used half ricotta and half mascarpone cheese)
1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios

Note - If you want chocolate ricotta filling, add a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe, and thin it out with a few drops of warm water if too thick to pipe.

1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight. (I kept the dough covered with a plastic wrap in the refrigerator for 2 days and i had no problems with the pastry. It was easy to roll and had blisters on the surface.)

2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

Pasta Machine method:
1. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Starting at the middle setting, run one of the pieces of dough through the rollers of a pasta machine. Lightly dust the dough with flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Pass the dough through the machine repeatedly, until you reach the highest or second highest setting. The dough should be about 4 inches wide and thin enough to see your hand through

2. Continue rolling out the remaining dough. If you do not have enough cannoli tubes for all of the dough, lay the pieces of dough on sheets of plastic wrap and keep them covered until you are ready to use them.

3, Roll, cut out and fry the cannoli shells as according to the directions above.

For stacked cannoli:
1. Heat 2-inches of oil in a saucepan or deep sauté pan, to 350-375°F (176 - 190 °C).

2. Cut out desired shapes with cutters or a sharp knife. Deep fry until golden brown and blistered on each side, about 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oil with wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, then place on paper towels or bags until dry and grease free. If they balloon up in the hot oil, dock them lightly prior to frying. Place on cooling rack until ready to stack with filling.

1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

1. When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.

2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.

- Dough must be stiff and well kneaded

- Rolling the dough to paper thinness, using either a rolling pin or pasta machine, is very important. If the dough is not rolled thin enough, it will not blister, and good cannoli should have a blistered surface.

- Initially, this dough is VERY stubborn, but keep rolling, it eventually gives in. Before cutting the shapes, let the dough rest a bit, covered, as it tends to spring back into a smaller shapes once cut. Then again, you can also roll circles larger after they’re cut, and/or into ovals, which gives you more space for filling.

- Your basic set of round cutters usually doesn’t contain a 5-inch cutter. Try a plastic container top, bowl etc, or just roll each circle to 5 inches. There will always be something in your kitchen that’s round and 5-inches if you want large cannoli.

- Oil should be at least 3 inches deep and hot – 360°F-375°F, or you’ll end up with greasy shells. I prefer 350°F - 360°F because I felt the shells darkened too quickly at 375°F.

- If using the cannoli forms, when you drop the dough on the form into the oil, they tend to sink to the bottom, resulting in one side darkening more. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to gently lift and roll them while frying.

- DO NOT crowd the pan. Cannoli should be fried 2-4 at a time, depending on the width of your saucepan or deep fryer. Turn them once, and lift them out gently with a slotted spoon/wire skimmer and tongs. Just use a wire strainer or slotted spoon for flat cannoli shapes.

- When the cannoli turns light brown - uniform in color, watch it closely or remove it. If it’s already a deep brown when you remove it, you might end up with a really dark or slightly burnt shell.

- Depending on how much scrap you have left after cutting out all of your cannoli shapes, you can either fry them up and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar for a crispy treat, or let the scraps rest under plastic wrap and a towel, then re-roll and cut more cannoli shapes.

- Push forms out of cannoli very gently, being careful not to break the shells as they are very delicate. DO NOT let the cannoli cool on the form, or you may never get it off without it breaking. Try to take it off while still hot. Hold it with a cloth in the center, and push the form out with a butter knife or the back of a spoon.

- When adding the confectioner’s sugar to the filling..TASTE. You may like it sweeter than what the recipe calls for, or less sweet, so add in increments.

- Fill cannoli right before serving! If you fill them an hour or so prior, you’ll end up with soggy cannoli shells.

- If you want to prepare the shells ahead of time, store them in an airtight container, then re-crisp in a 350°F (176 °C) oven for a few minutes, before filling.

- Practice makes perfect. My first batch of shells came out less than spectacular, and that’s an understatement. As you go along, you’ll see what will make them more aesthetically pleasing, and adjust accordingly when rolling. My next several batches turned out great. Don’t give up!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

These whoopies pies are two soft, spiced cakey cookies with a fair amount of cream sandwiched between them. These cookies are so much full of flavor, the spices and the pumpkin flavor blend beautifully together. They taste great with the vanilla flavored cream cheese filling and these cookies are so good and moist, that they are delicious and can be had even without the cream cheese filling. One change i made with the recipe was that i reduced the recipe by half and made 6 sandwiched whoopie pies which was good enough for just 2 of us (me and my hubby) and i also reduced the quantity of confectioners' sugar in the filling. It was little too sweet for my taste bud. Altogether this is a great recipe for people with sweet tooth.

Recipe adapted from Baked, new frontiers in baking.


Ingredients for the pumpkin whoopie cookies:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cinnamon powder
1 tablespoon ginger powder
1 tablespoon cloves powder
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar (i used light brown sugar)
1 cup vegetable oil (i used sunflower oil)
3 cups chilled pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the cream cheese frosting:

3 cups confectioners sugar (powdered sugar) You can reduce the amount according to your taste
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 deg F(180 deg C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves together and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the brown sugar and oil together until combined. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.

Use a small ice cream scoop with release mechanism to drop heaping tablespoons of the dough on to the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and the toothpick inserted into the center of the cookie comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on the pan while you make the filling.

Make the cream cheese filling

Sift the confectioners' sugar into a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment(you can even use medium sized bowl and a hand beater), beat the butter until it is completely smooth, with no visible lumps. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.

Add the confectioners' sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Be careful not to overeat the filling, or it will loose structure. (The filling can be made 1 day ahead. Cover the bowl tightly and put it in the refrigerator. Let the filling soften at room temperature before filling.)

Assemble the whoopie pies

Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down (flat side facing up).

Use an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon to drop a large dollop of filling onto the flat side of the cookie. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.


The whoopie pies will keep for up to 3 days, on a parchment-lined baking sheet covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator.


Make sure you chill the pumpkin puree thoroughly before making this recipe. The chilled puree will make your whoopies easier to scoop and give them a domed top.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Schokoladen Sirup Muffins (Chocolate Syrup Muffins)

Schokoladen Sirup Muffins in German meaning Chocolate syrup Muffins ,adapted from "1 Teig = 100 Muffins" book. This book has a plenty of muffin recipes both sweet and savory. Its the german version of the book "1 Mix, 100 Muffins". Anybody wanting for a cake and have no buddies to share a big cake with, then go ahead and make these tiny muffins. It'll satisfy your wanting for a cake as well as serve just a few. You can even cut the recipe by half and make just 6 muffins.
I loved the texture these muffins had. They also have a strong cocoa flavor. You can make a simple sugar glaze to top these muffins with if your don't much like the strong flavor of cocoa or even a dusting of icing sugar would do. They taste great as it is as well. Enjoy these muffins just with a plain glass of milk. Yummy!!

Makes 12 regular-sized muffins


225 gms all purpose flour (Appox. 1 1/2 cups + 1 1/2 tbsps)
50 gms Cocoa powder
3 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
150 gms light brown sugar
2 eggs (large)
200 gms sour cream
6 tbsps sunflower oil or 90 gms butter, melted and cooled
3 tbsps heller sirup ( can substitute golden syrup or honey)


Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Place rack in the middle of the oven. Line a muffin pan with 12 paper liners or spray with a non stick vegetable spray.

In a large mixing bowl, sieve together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Stir in the sugar and keep aside.

In a medium sized bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Add the sour cream, sunflower oil ( or melted butter) and syrup mixing well. Set aside.

Make a well inside the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Do not over mix this batter or the muffins will be tough when baked.

Divide the batter amongst the 12 muffin cups using two spoons or an ice cream scoop, About 3/4th of the muffin cup. (I transfered the batter into a zip lock cover. Made a 1/2 inch hole in the corner. This helped me a lot and ensured me a clean fill up.)

Place in the oven and bake about 20 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean or with a touch, the muffin bounces back. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.

Serve warm with little icing sugar or a simple glaze using powdered sugar, water and vanilla on top.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

I had bookmarked this recipe from a very long time and finally i made it. These rolls turned out very moist and were full of flavor. The addition of pumpkin to the dough gave a lovely color and flavor. These pumpkin cinnamon rolls are just like the usual cinnamon rolls we make except that there is the addition of pureed pumpkin to the dough and instead of the usual cinnamon-sugar mixture sprinkled on the rolled, buttered dough, here we make a streusel using cinnamon, sugar, flour, and butter which is sprinkled on the rolled dough, rolled again into a log, cut into individual portions and then baked. The vanilla sugar glaze on top of the baked rolls gives a wonderful sweetness. Must say, i am fully satisfied with the results. It was a great tasting recipe!

Recipe adapted and slightly altered from myrecipes


For the buns:
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Homemade Pumpkin Puree (recipe below)
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup (57 gm) butter, melted
1 tablespoon + a pinch granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Cooking spray

For the filling:
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces

For the glaze:
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tablespoon hot water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the pumpkin puree:

You'll need 2 small pumpkins( i used Hokkaido)

Gives: 2 cups of pumpkin puree.

Cut the pumpkins into fourths. Remove and discard seeds and strings. Place pumpkin pieces on a baking sheet lined with aluminium foil. Bake in a preheated 180 deg C oven for 30 - 45 minutes or until tender. Cool, peel and mash it with a potato masher or by just using your hands.

Keeps well in an air tight box, in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days , and freeze up to 3 months.

To prepare the rolls:

Dissolve yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar in a large bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Add flour, pumpkin, milk, melted butter, 1 tbsp sugar, salt and nutmeg; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes) OR just use your hands to bring all the ingredients together and knead well to form a smooth dough.

Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray or some neutral oil, turning to coat top. Cover with a plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, for 45 minutes or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into the dough. If an indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)

For the filling:

Combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Punch dough down; cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll the dough into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Sprinkle with brown sugar mixture. Roll up the rectangle tightly, starting with a long edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam and ends to seal. Cut roll into 12 (1-inch) slices. Place slices in a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray(9 slices fits the pan, the left 3 slices can be baked in a muffin tray).

Cover and let rise 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C)

Bake the rolls at 375° for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes in pan on a wire rack.

To prepare the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon water, and vanilla extract in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Drizzle glaze over buns.

Serve warm.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Creamy Carrot Soup

Many people think that for every bowl of smooth creamy soup on the table there's a worn-out cook in the kitchen. Cream soups are so impressive they must be difficult, right?
Wrong. Actually, this family of soup is easy to make in advance, which makes them perfect for entertaining. In fact, because they're mostly pureed, its better to make them in advance. Since creaminess often comes from a simple addition, it's really no big deal, and there is no denying their elegance.

This classic French soup can be varied in several ways and also be produced in completely different fashion. Vegans will obviously want to use some kind of vegetable oil instead of butter. For a completely smooth soup, always be careful pureeing hot soup. Its important to let it cool down a bit before pureeing it in a blender.

For the recipe, you'll need the following ingredients..

3 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
1 pound (453 gm) (approx. 4 large) carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large starchy potato, peeled and roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5 cups (approx. 1 liter) vegetable stock or water
2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste (optional)


Put the butter or oil in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat. When the butter melts or the oil is hot, add the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the carrots soften a bit. Add the stock or water and cook until the vegetables are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pan. Or cool the mixture slightly (hot soup is dangerous), pour it into a blender, and puree carefully until smooth, working in batches if necessary. (You may prepare the soup in advance up to this point. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days, and reheat before proceeding.) Adjust the seasoning; if the soup tastes flat, stir in the sugar to play up the carrot flavor.

If you're serving the soup hot, reheat it in the saucepan. If you're serving it cold, refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours. Either way, but i definitely prefer this soup hot. You can garnish the soup with few chopped parsley leaves or coriander leaves and serve.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chocolate Cheesecake Slice

This is another delicious and wickedly indulgent treat that is best cut into fingers. I decided to bake this cake as soon as i saw this recipe in the book "Fresh Baked" with a lovely picture. This recipe is very quick with very easy to follow instructions and the result is in front of you. Its got a nice chocolate base topped with a lovely satiny cheesecake layer which is again decorated with a lacy melted chocolate. Any favorite chocolate biscuits can be used for the base. I used butter biscuits coated with dark chocolate which went very well with the cheesecake layer.

Use the exact sized baking pan for the recipe mentioned as this effects the thickness of the cheesecake. I also used a weighing machine to weigh the ingredients which gave me the perfect result.

Chocolate Cheesecake Slice
from Fresh Baked

preparation time: 20 minutes
cooking time 50-60 minutes
serves: 12-16


250 gm (8 oz) Chocolate biscuits (any of your favorite)
100 gm (3 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, melted
50 gm (2 oz) dark chocolate
500 gm (1 lb) cream cheese
150 ml (1/4 pint) sour cream
3 eggs (i used large)
125 gm (4 oz) caster sugar (powdered sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Put the chocolate biscuits in a food processor and process until smooth, then stir into the melted butter until evenly combined. Lightly oil and line a 18 x 25 cm (7 x 10 inch) cake tin with baking paper, allowing the paper to overhang the edges. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and spread flat. Chill while preparing the topping.

Put the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water) and stir until it has melted. Keep warm. [If the chocolate turns too thick, add few teaspoons of sour cream to slightly liquidity it so that it would be easy to drizzle over the cheesecake layer. I filled this chocolate - sour cream mixture into a small zip lock cover. Made a small hole in the corner and this ended up with a very clean , hazel free drizzle.]

Put the cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla extract in a clean bowl and, using an electric beaters, beat together until smooth. Pour into the tin and drizzle over the melted chocolate, using a skewer to create a swirling pattern over the creamed mixture.

Bake in a preheated oven 150 deg C (300 deg F), Gas Mark 2, FOR 50 - 60 minutes until the mixture is firm, remove from the oven and leave to cool. Chill for 1 hour, then carefully remove the cheesecake from the tin and cut it into fingers.

Enjoy with a cup of hot coffee!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Puran Poli

Puran poli is one very popular Indian festival sweet dish. Its basically a soft dough filled with a sweet lentil mixture , rolled and fried. Puran poli usually uses jaggery as the sweetner but here i've used sweetened condensed milk which gives a lovely milky sweetness.
I made this dish for the diwali festival, a festival of lights. I also wish all my Indian readers a very happy and safe diwali.

Now for the recipe you'll need..


200 gms All purpose flour (maida)
3 tbsps fine semolina
1 tbsp rice flour
pinch of turmeric
pinch of salt
200gms (2 cups) raw chana dal
1 tin (400gms) Sweetened condensed milk (milkmaid)
pinch of cardamom powder
Ghee or neutral oil for frying
water for dough


For the puran mixture:
Wash and cook chana dal in a pressure cooker with 4 cups of water. Give 4 whistles and let the steam escape before you take off the lid. Let it cool. Drain the water completely.

Grind the chana cal to make a thick paste. Transfer the paste to a non-stick pan. Add the sweetened condensed milk and cardamom powder and cook till the mixture starts leaving the sides of the pan. Keep aside. This is the puran mixture.

To make the dough:
Combine all purpose flour, semolina, rice flour, turmeric, a pinch of salt with enough water to form a soft pliable dough.

Divide the dough into 10 equal parts. Also divide the puran mixture into 10 equal parts.

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a small disc, stuff each rolled disc with the puran mixture, enclose the stuffing with the dough from all the sides and flatten it lightly with both your palm. Now place this stuffed dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll it again to form a little larger discs. Use as much little extra flour required for rolling. This helps the dough to move easily on the counter.

Preheat a non stick pan or tawa. Place each rolled disc one at a time and fry each side by brushing little ghee or oil on both the sides till golden brown spots are formed on the surface. Follow the same with all the remaining dough and puran stuffing.

Serve hot or warm with a spoonful of ghee on top.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Strawberry Muffins With Cream

Muffins belongs to the 'quick bread' family as indeed it takes hardly few minutes to prepare and bake and the results are yummy and tasty. Strawberry muffins are the ultimate thing to bake when you have strawberry's left out in the kitchen. These muffins are moist, not too much of sweet and can serve as a great treat for your guests or for yourself. Any berry, be it, blueberry or raspberry can be substituted for strawberry's. These studded berry's with every bite give a lovely tangy taste with the cake like crumble. Hmm.. it tastes yummy!

Now for the recipe.. This recipe is adapted from "1 Mix, 100 Muffins"..(A must have for muffin lovers)

Makes 12 regular sized muffins


Oil or melted butter to grease the muffin pans or use muffin papers

150 gm Strawberry's (around 6 medium sized), finely chopped
280 gm All purpose Flour
3 tsp Baking Powder
1/8 tsp Salt
120 gm Sugar
2 large Eggs
250 gm Whipping Cream
6 Tbsp Sunflower oil OR 90 gm Butter, melted and cooled
5 drops Vanilla Aroma

To decorate:
125 gms Creme double
12 small strawberry's


Preheat the oven to 200 deg C. Position rack in center of oven. Line the muffin pan with paper liners or grease with butter or a vegetable spray. Set aside.

In another large bowl, sieve the flour, baking powder, salt and set aside. Stir in the strawberry's and sugar.

Lightly beat the eggs in another bowl. Add in the whipping cream, sunflower oil and vanilla aroma.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are just combined. Do not over mix the batter or the muffins might turn tough.

Fill each muffin cup about two thirds full of batter, using two spoons or an ice cream scoop.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the muffins have turned golden brown and spring back with a touch.

Let the muffins stay in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

Whip creme double until stiff with a little confectioners sugar if desired and spread it on the cooled muffins and decorate with the whole or sliced strawberry's.

Refrigerate until u serve. Serve chilled or at room temperature without the cream.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Paneer Jalfrezie (Creamy Cheese with Red Onion and Bell Peppers)

The word Jalfrezie, a coined term that originated in Indian restaurents catering to the English, has come to mean many things. Some associate it with "chiles-hot," while to others it indicates the inclusion of bell peppers and onions as key ingredient that contribute to the curry's gusto. So this recipe is an old English favorite curry.

Serves 6

2 tbsps oil
1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium-size green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsps finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 cup tomato sauce, canned or homemade
1 tbsp Balti Masala
1 tsp salt
2 tbsps finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
8 ounce Paneer, cut into 1-inch cubes


Heat the oil in a wok, or a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and ginger, and stir fry until the onion is light brown around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomato sauce, balti masala, and salt. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until a bit of oil starts to form on the surface and sround the edges, 5 to 8 minutes.

Stir in 1 cup of water and the cilantro. (The water thins the curry to accommodate the cheese.)

Gently fold in the paneer, raise the heat to medium-high, and simmer, uncovered, stirring every so often, until the sauce starts to thicken, 10-12 minutes. Then serve.

Balti Masala (Fennel-Flavored Toasted Spice Blend)

A Hindi/Urdu word for "bucket" is balti and here it's not a vessel for cooking. This is a coined terminology that originated with an enterprising Pakistani restaurant owner in Birmingham, England, and ended up back in restaurants in India. The food is actually cooked and served in a karhai, not a bucket: a karhai is the Indian version of the wok. Wherever it came from, some of the spices used in this blend are typical in Pakistani cooking. This blend can also be substituted for Kashmiri garam masala for equally satisfying results.

Makes 1/3 cup


2 tsps fennel seeds
2 tsps coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp nigella seeds
3 fresh or dried bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks (each 30inches long), broken into small pieces
2 tsp cayenne (ground red pepper) or can substitute red chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg


Preheat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add all the whole spices (reserving the cayenne and nutmeg), and toast, shaking the skillet every few seconds, until the fennel, coriander, and cumin turn reddish brown, the mustard, cloves and bay leaves appear brittle and crinkly, and the mixture is highly fragrant, 1 to2 minutes. (The nigella will not change color.)

Immediately transfer the nutty smelling spices to a plate to cool. (The longer they sit in the hot skillet, the more likely it is that they will burn, making them bitter and unpalatable.) Once they are cool to the touch, place them in a spice grinder or coffee grinder, and grind until the texture resembles ground black pepper. (If you don't allow the spice to cool, the ground blend will acquire unwanted moisture from the heat making the final blend slightly "Cakey".) The ground blend will be a deep reddish brown and the aroma will be sweet and complex, very different from those of the pre-toasted or post-toasted whole spices. Stir in the cayenne and nutmeg.

Store the mix in a tightly sealed container, away from excess light, heat and humidity, for up to 2 months. (Also refrigerating the blend adversely affects its flavors.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


All Italian cookies are called biscotti, but these are what we think of as classic biscotti. Twice baked cookies, they are first baked in a log shape, then sliced and baked again until they are very dry and crunchy. (Because they contain no butter or other fat, except that contained in the eggs, they can bake to a formidable state of crunchiness.) The techniques used to make can't-stop-eating-them biscotti are, like the cookies themselves, classic.

This post also goes to Meeta's Monthly Mingle : High Tea Treats

Recipe from Nick Malgiri. Adapted from the book "Baking with Julia".

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups unblanched whole almonds
3 large eggs
2 tsps pure vanilla extract


Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 deg F(180 deg C). Line a baking sheet with parchment and keep aside.

Put the sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl and stir with a rubber spatula to mix. Stir in the almonds.

Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a small bowl, then stir them into the flour mixture. The dough may seem dry at this point but it will come together as it is kneaded.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, folding it over onto itself until it is smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into 12-inch-long log. Gently press down on the logs to flatten them until they are about 2 inches wide and 1 inch high. Transfer them to the prepared pan.

First baking
Bake the logs for about 30 minutes, or until they are slightly risen and firm to touch. Slide the logs, parchment paper and all, off the baking sheet and onto a cooling rack. The logs must be completely cool before you continue with the recipe. Since they will take about 30 minutes to cool, you can either turn the oven off or leave it on for the next step. You can bake the biscotti up to this point several days ahead. Wrap the logs well in plastic and continue when its convenient.

Second baking
When the logs have cooled completely, preheat the oven to 350 deg F(180 deg C), if necessary. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Working with a sharp serrated knife, cut the cooked logs diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the sliced cookies cut side down on the pans and bake for 10 -15 minutes, or until the biscotti are crisp and golden. Cool on the pans.

These biscotti will keep for up to a month in an airtight tin or plastic container.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Homemade Puff Pastry and Vol-au-Vent

Daring Bakers September 2009 Challenge

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Vol-au-vent filled with pastry cream and topped with sweet whipped cream and sweet cherry. Hmm.. Yummy!!

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Puff pastry is a quintessential laminated dough. A simple dough is wrapped around a block of butter, then rolled, folded and turned six times, so that when the final dough is baked, it puffs mightily and forms almost one thousand seemingly laminated layers. Puff pastry is called mille feuilles, or "a thousand leaves" in French, but thats an exaggeration. In fact, there are only 944 layers of pastry, seperated by 963 layers of butter, but no matter. This is still the queen of all pastries, the one that, once mastered, entitles you to whatever bragging rights you wish to claim.

Steph’s note:

-This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. While I encourage you to make the full recipe of puff pastry, as extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.

-Chill early and often - keep the pastry cold and you'll keep the layers.

-Be neat - fold the dough evenly.

-Stay away from the ends - Don't roll over the ends of the pastry or you'll glue the layers together.

-Take your time - don't skimp on the number of turns or the chilling periods.

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour (i used 1 cup APF + 1/4 cup cornstarch)
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (4 sticks/ 16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Extracted From the book "Baking With Julia".

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Note on Freezing Puff Pastry

Although puff pastry can be chilled or frozen at any stage, it is really most convenient to give the puff pastry a full six turns, roll it out into a flat sheet, chill it on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and then, when it is cold, wrap it for the freezer. Rolling the dough into a sheet means it will defrost quickly and won't have to be rolled much before you cut and bake it. Thaw the dough, still wrapped, in the refrigerator.

Steph’s extra tips:

-While this is not included in the original recipe we are using (and I did not do this in my own trials), many puff pastry recipes use a teaspoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice, added to the ice water, in the détrempe dough. This adds acidity, which relaxes the gluten in the dough by breaking down the proteins, making rolling easier. You are welcome to try this if you wish.

-Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.

-Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, I advise letting it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don't want the hard butter to separate into chuncks or break through the want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.

-Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don't roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.

-Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.

-Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.

-Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.

-When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.

-Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.

-You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.

-Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vols-au-vent)

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent

Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent

-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.

(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.

Fill and serve.

*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to "glue"). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.

*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.

*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).

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