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!

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