Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Perfect Moist Vanilla Cupcakes

Enough said in the title. Yes, they are "The" Vanilla Cupcakes. I am very happy as I write today's post. Its not an easy claim. Vanilla cakes and cupcakes are the trickiest of genre. Oil, shortening, butter or mix of them, all purpose or cake flour, yogurt, milk or buttermilk, egg yolks egg whites or whole, reverse creaming or traditional butter and sugar creaming method, I have tried them all. From white velvet to yellow to white cakes and cupcakes, nothing came out the way I wanted them to be. Moist, tender crumb well risen, nice rounded tops, pronounced vanilla flavor and not so sensitive that if baked for an extra minute, goes dry.




Also, one of the perks is that it is one-bowl method. I will give the well-deserved credit to Lindsay of LifeLoveandSugar who posted this amazing recipe. Thanks Lindsay. 





The Perfect Moist Vanilla Cupcakes


Ingredients

All purpose flour 1 2/3 cup
Castor Sugar 1 cup
Baking soda 1/4 tsp
Baking powder 1 tsp
Butter (room temperature) 3/4 cup
Egg whites 3
Vanilla essence 3 tsp
Milk 1/2 cup
Sour cream/Yougurt 1/2 cup

Buttercream Frosting

Butter 1/2 cup
Shortening 1/2 cup
Icing sugar 4 cups
Milk 1/4 cup
Vanilla essence 1 tsp

Method

Cupcakes

1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line muffin tray with paper liners.
2. Whisk all the dry ingredients together.
3. Add in all the wet ingredients and mix with hand beater on medium speed until just smooth. Don't over beat.
4. Fill in the cases with an ice cream scoop or with 1/3 measuring cup.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until just done.

Icing

1. Cream butter and shortening until fluffy and light.
2. Add in rest of the ingredients and beat well until smooth.
3. Frost the cool cupcakes with piping tip 1M from wilton.
4. Top with sprinkles if desired.






Friday, June 20, 2014

Healthier Starbucks style frappuccino

I personally don't like milk's taste. As a kid, I always drank with some kind of milk flavoring product. I am still the same plus starbucks is everywhere here. Something needs to be made at home with fewer calories.The whopping calories in its decadent frappuccinos makes them an occasional treat. I tried this recipe at home and it turned out pretty awesome. I saw somewhat similar version at Chocolate covered Katie but I wanted it to be chocolate. So here is a very nice substitute for summers when you want to sip a nice cold glass of milk in this form.


You can try substituting soy milk, almond milk or coconut milk, once I tried with coconut milk substituted for half the normal milk and it turned out more creamier with a slight hint of coconut. But mind you coconut milk is high in calories than regular full fat milk. The blending process makes it thick and frothy and you will not notice much, the loss of creamy richness. For the sake of blog beauty, I went a step ahead and added some whipped cream and chocolate fudge sauce.

Healthy Mocha Milkshake


Serves 1
Preparation time - 5 minutes

Ingredients

Milk 1 cup
Cocoa powder 1 tsp
Drinking chocolate* 1 tsp
Sugar 1 tsp
Coffee 1/2 tsp
pinch of salt
Vanilla essence few drops
ice cubes few

Method

1. Blend everything in blender till thick and foamy.
2. Pour in tall glasses and serve immediately.
3. Top with whipping cream dallop and chocolate sauce if desired.

*I use Cadbury's drinking chocolate but if you dont have it, add 1/2 tsp of additional cocoa and 1 tsp of sugar.



Thursday, February 6, 2014

A traditional Pakistani sweet dish - Split Gram Fudge

Though I had written this post a while back but due to some technical reasons, I lost the draft. Searching for words and then framing them can be sometimes a painful task specially when you are already lagging behind. Writing should come as a flow and in my humble opinion cannot be crafted. I have been a little out of touch with my reading agenda. The other day, when I was visiting a book store, I seriously felt my heart dropped. So the reading and writing (read frequent blogging) has climbed up in my to-do list and hopefully I am able to keep up to it.


Coming back to today's recipe, this is one of my favorite Pakistani sweets. Its made up of very few (high fat) ingredients and you are going to hook to it. Its main ingredient is Split Gram, also called Split Bengal Gram. It is boiled, ground and made into a fudge. 'Halwa' is the traditional Urdu word which we use in Pakistani cuisine to what is commonly known as fudge. My little research revealed that Halwa/Fudge is popular among all parts of the world. It can be of different types, like made from carrot, pumpkin, almond, walnut etc.

Split Gram Lentils Fudge / Chanay ki daal ka halwa

Ingredients
Split Gram Lentils 250 gm soaked for 6 hours
Sugar 250 gm
Clarified Butter or Ghee 3/4 cup
Milk 1/2 litre
Green Cardamom few crushed and few whole
Almonds and pistachios blanched and sliced
Saffron few strands

Method
1. Drain water from the soaked lentils. 
2. Boil milk and add lentils and saffron.
3. Cook on medium heat till the milk dries and lentils are tender.
4. Cool and blend with little water if required. There should be no lumps.
5. In a separate pan, heat clarified butter or ghee. Add cardamom and then add lentil paste.
6. Fry for 15 minutes till light brown on slow heat, stirring continuously.
7. Add sugar and continue to fry until it forms a ball and fat is separated.
8. Remove it in a lightly greased square/rectangle dish and sprinkle nuts. 
9. Allow to cool before cutting diamond shaped pieces.
10. They keep well in a air tight container for upto a week.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fluffy Pancakes for breakfast or lunchbox

Ok, I need more time. Time management is not working. There's lot needs to be done when time permits. Its quite difficult to find time to blog your favorite recipes between home, kids, work and winters. Meanwhile I will post some quick and super easy recipes which are worth trying for busy moms who are struggling to feed all natural and healthy to their kids. 

I have not been a breakfast person for most of my life but as I became a mom, I knew this was not right. Like as they say, "By the time you realize how great you mum is, you have your own nagging daughter." Rightly so, when my daughter said that mum you don't make pancakes like khala (maternal aunt) does. Right so here it is the recipe of pancakes you cant go wrong with them discovered by my sister through Joy of Baking.

Ingredients

Flour 1 cup
Sugar 2 tbsp
salt 1/4 tsp
Baking powder 1 1/2 tsp
Egg 1
Milk 1 cup
Butter melted 2 tbsp

Complimentary adornments : fresh fruits like strawberry, chocolate sauce, maple syrup, butter and nuts


Method

1. Mix in dry ingredients.
2. Lightly whisk all wet ingredients.
3. Mix wet into dry ingredients with a gentle stir to incorporate all ingredients but don't beat else it will become chewy. There may be a few lumps left. Check the consistency, you may want to add a few tablespoons of milk.
4. Heat a non-stick pan and brush it with melted butter. I use a kitchen towel too.
5. Put 1/4 cup of batter and cook over medium heat for 2 mins. When the bubbles appear on top, flip them and cook for another minute or so.
6. Serve immediately with your choice of topping.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bread Sticks - a crunchy snack

My daughter loves bread sticks. Not only now but since she was a baby, she used to use them as a teether. She still loves them and when the other day while doing groceries, she picked a pack from the store, I was tempted to try them as I am a little freak when it comes to bakery or pre-packaged product. I don't use organic products but I try to make maximum things at home and avoid junk food altogether. 



The recipe credit goes to Betty Crocker via my sister who had tried it before and she sent me a picture of the recipe. In my opinion, your normal pizza or bread dough would work if the process is followed as mentioned in this recipe. Interesting fact I came to know when I sent it to my Egyptian neighbor and friend that in French it is called Patton Salee. Ideal for soups and salad or just to munch,here goes the recipe.



Bread  Sticks
Ingredients

Granulated yeast 21/2 tsp
Water (luke warm) 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp
Olive oil 1/4 cup
Sugar 1tbsp
Salt 1tsp
Flour 2 1/4 cup
Egg 1
Cumin/Sesame/Nigella seeds 1 1/2 tsp

Method
1. Line the baking sheets with parchment or baking paper or grease well. Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
2. Place yeast, 2 tbsp water, sugar in a mixing bowl.
3. When becomes frothy, add 2 cups flour, salt,oil and rest of the water.
4. Mix till it comes together.
5. Using dough hook or palms of your hand, knead the dough for 5-8 minutes till smooth and elastic using flour if sticky.
6. Make the dough into a long roll and cut into 32 equal pieces. To make equal size, cut the log into half and then each piece into half till you reach 32.
7. Roll thinly using your hands on a lightly floured surface.
8. Place them on baking sheet and let it rest in a warm place for 20 minutes.
9. Brush egg white on top and sprinkle the seeds.
10. Bake for about 15-20 mins. until golden brown.




Sunday, September 29, 2013

Easy and delicious Chocolate Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta can be classified as the most easiest yet luxurious dessert. It cannot only be prepared in a jiffy but has several options to play with.Flavors, toppings, layering and unmoulding all can be done with it. It also contains very few ingredients. the idea is to combine cream with your desired flavors and some other add-ons. Ideal for summer brunches and dinners, plated individually, it can attract quite a many oohs and aahs.



This time I have tried the chocolate version which is the favorite flavor of my kids all the time. The younger one is the one who persuades me to make something sweet and chocolaty. So here is my dark chocolate panna cotta, with the recipe adapted from William Sonoma website.


Chocolate Panna Cotta (slightly adapted from William Sonoma website)
Ingredients
Heavy Cream/Half n half 1 3/4 cup (you can also use 1 cup milk and 3/4 cup cream or vice versa but the result will be less luscious nontheless tasty)
Gelatin unflavored 1 1/4 tsp
Salt a pinch
Sugar 2 tbsp
Dark chocolate 2 ounces [I used with 62% cocoa]
Method
1. Take 1/4 cup of cream and sprinkle gelatin over it. Wait for 5 minutes until it blooms and heat just enough so the gelatin melts. You can do it on a water bath or microwave but for a few seconds only.
2. Take the rest of the cream and add sugar, salt in it and let it boil. 
3. Pour over chocolate so that the chocolate melts while stirring.
4. Add in the gelatin mixture.
5. Pour in 4 lightly greased ramekins or one large dish.
6. Chill for atleast 3-4 hours before serving.
7. If you wish to unmould it, then put the base of the ramekin in hot water for one minute. Loosen it with a running knife and invert on a serving plate.



Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ma'amoul - a traditional Arabic filled shortbread cookie

Ramadan is upon us Alhamdolillah and we are enjoying every bit of it. As many of you may be aware that it the sacred month of fasting for all the Muslims around the world. The schedules get tighter due to religious activities, specified meal times and this year it is coupled with kids vacations and heat wave in Middle East. Many festivities and traditions are associated with it like feeding poor people, enriching your souls, giving more charity and in practicing self-control. 



But body needs food and that too good one. In this post I am going to share a very nice recipe of a stuffed cookie called Ma'amoul which is very popular in Middle East. Residing in this part of the world, I want to take the opportunity to learn its diversified cuisine. Ma'amoul, generally said to have its origin in Lebanon but it is equally popular in the entire region and particularly in this month. My grandmother who lived in Iraq for quite sometime used to make a different version of this cookie. This recipe is a slight adaption from my grandmother's recipe and from my Egyptian friend and neighbor. Many recipes you will find with semolina, however I did'nt had much success with that. So here is more simplified and quite easy version of this wonderful cookie with added homemade goodness.

Its filling varies like walnut, pistachios, figs etc. but I have used plain dates. Traditionally, they are prepared using a mold as pictured below.

Date Ma'amoul

Ingredients
Dough

Flour 2 1/2 cup
Butter softened 1/2 cup
Shortening or clarified butter 2 tbsp
Baking powder 1 tsp
Egg 1
Caster Sugar 1/2 cup
Black Nigella seeds 1/4 tsp
Salt 1/2 tsp
Milk to bind

Filling
Soft Dates 8-10
If your dates are not soft, you can try soaking in hot water for sometime. Mine were sweet enough and did'nt need any added sugar

Powdered Sugar to dust

Method
1. Remove pits from the dates and make paste using food processor.
2. Combine all the ingredients except milk.
3. Start making a dough adding milk gradually until a smooth soft dough is prepared.
4. Take the wooden mold and dust with flour so the dough does'nt stick in its grooves. 
5. Put a small piece of dough according to your mold size. A simple guide is that you take the same size as it fits in the mold.Then you press your fingers to make space inside and place the date mixture. The dough that has come out from the sides , use it to close the cookie.
6. Tap it gently on the working surface to take out the cookie. Place on an ungreased baking tray.
7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at about 350F for 20 mins until golden brown.
8. Dust with icing sugar. These cookies keep well in an airtight container.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Zesty Lemon and Juicy Strawberry Trifle - perfect for summer

Today I am going to share a very nice crowd pleasing recipe which you can prepare a day in advance for the big dinner. It has several steps so it can be broken down into phases. It has lemon pound cake, lemon curd, strawberries, whipped cream and candied lemon slices.
LEMON POUND CAKE
For Pound cake, you can use any of the recipes I posted before here and here. In the first one, you might want to add some lemon zest and couple of tablespoons of lemon juice. Or if you are tight on time, you can use any purchase any prepared ones.
When its at room temperature, cut it into thick slices. If not using right away, wrap and put it in air tight box.

SIMPLE SUGAR SYRUP
For soaking the cake, you will need a simple sugar syrup in the ratio of 1:2 (sugar:water), Boil both of them until sugar dissolves, cook and store in a bottle. You can also use a mild juice like pineapple.

CANDIED LEMON PEEL
They are very easy to prepare and extremely pleasant to eyes, not to mention looks quite impressive and professional. You can go to Marth Stewarts' website to get the recipe here.

WHIPPED CREAM
Whip around 1.5/2 cups of cream with around 1/2 cup of icing sugar and a few drop of vanilla essence. Make sure you follow the basic rules of whipping the cream that is to chill the bowl, beater blades and cream. Whip till fluffy and double in volume. Do not overbeat else it will curdle.

STRAWBERRIES
Use fresh strawberries preferably as I find frozen/tinned ones too soggy. Wash, hull and cut them into halves, bigger ones into quarters. Put them in a strainer and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar to drain off excess liquid. I used around 1 cup of strawberries but then any amount you fancy will be fine. That is the beauty of the trifle.



LEMON CURD

Beware, this is a very tangy curd and if you wish, you can use 3 lemons instead of 4. I will be doing that next time.
Ingredients
Egg yolks 6 large
Sugar 1 cup
3-4 lemons, zested and juiced
Butter 1/2 cup

Method
To make the lemon curd: Bring a pot of water to a simmer over medium-low heat. Combine the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and zest in a metal or glass heat-resistant bowl and whisk until smooth. Set the bowl over the simmering water, without letting the bottom touch, and continue to whisk. Keep working-out that arm and whisk it vigorously for a good 10 minutes, until the curd has doubled in volume and is very thick and yellow. Don't let it boil. Remove the bowl from heat and whisk in the butter, a couple of chunks at a time, until melted. Refrigerate until the custard is cold and firm.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/lemon-curd-trifle-with-fresh-berries-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback




ASSEMBLING

1. Take a Trifle bowl or any big transparent bowl so that the layers are visible.
2. Place a layer of sliced pound cake.
3. Brush them with simple sugar syrup. 
4. Spoon a layer of Lemon curd.
5. Top with strawberries.
6. Smooth whipped cream with a spatula. 
7. Repeat steps 2-6.
8. Decorate it with candied lemon slices.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Appetizers - Cucumber n Cream

Appetizers served at dinners is really enjoyed by people. I mean who does'nt love the complimentary bread or crackers in a fancy restaurant. It sets the mood for the dinner. It need not to be lavish or complicated. Simple appetizer with no need of plates or napkins are often the best. They are pretty to look at too.

In the last dinner party at my home, I prepared some super easy appetizers and guess what, completely crowd pleasing. They can be prepared in a jiffy. Apologies for not so good picture but I promise, next time I make, I will update this post and that will be pretty soon.



Cucumber and Cream Appetizers
Source: http://magda-whatsfordinner.blogspot.com/2012/08/party-in-two-minutes.html

Ingredients
Cucumbers 3
Cream cheese light 8oz
Sour Cream or yogurt 2 tbsp [low fat will do]
Fresh chopped mint 2 tbsp
Fresh chopped basil 2 tbsp [I didnt have fresh so I used dried]
Garlic crushed 1 clove
Lemon juice 1 tbsp
Salt and pepper to taste

Method
1. Wash the cucumbers, take the bottom and top off and cut into slices thickly.
2. Mix the rest of the ingredients very well.
3. Spoon on to the cucumber rounds or you can pipe them also.
4. Stick a pick for easy serving.




Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sweet and Tangy Lemon Tarts

Its been a while again. Lot of pictures waiting for their turns to get blogged. I love baking, decorating, party planning (see my latest venture here and here), blogging, food photography. I would love to implement lot of pipeline projects like blog re-design and try some dishes, write some tutorials. On the other hand I am a full-time mom. So sometimes many things take a back seat and its just kids and home and business. I hope and pray that I fulfill my main responsibility as a mother now and every other thing will fall back into its place later and will be completed in due time. 



This recipe is a very old tart very popular in Pakistan bakeries and is my mom's favorite. So when she was visiting me recently, I made it for her.It is a very handy no fuss dessert ideal for picnics and bbqs. Although the base is nearly perfect, I would like the filling consistency to be more thick enough to be able to pipe. May be a little more corn flour or lemon pastry cream with egg yolks. I will keep this posted once I figure it out.

Sweet and Tangy Lemon Tarts
Recipe source - Shireen Anwar, from a very popular Pakistani TV channel Ingredients
Base
Butter cold but soft,cubes 4 ounces or 4 tbsp
Castor sugar 5 tbsp or 2 1/2 ounces
Vanilla essence a few drops
Egg yolk 1
Flour 6 ounces or 12 tbsp

Filling
Vanilla Custard 1 tbsp
Corn flour 1 tbsp
Water 1/2 cup
Egg yolks 2
Yellow color a few drops
Sugar 1/2 cup
Lemon juice 2 tbsp
Butter 1 tbsp

Method
Base
1. To make the base, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add in the egg and essence.
2. Rub in the flour to make a dough. Do not over mix else it will make the base chewy rather than crispy.
3. Roll out on lightly floured surface and cut 15 three inches rounds with a cookie cutter.
4. Line in 2.5 inch muffin pan.
5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 F for about 20 minutes until golden.

Filling
1. To prepare the filling, place all the ingredients in a sauce pan except butter and lemon juice.
2. Whisk gently on medium flame until it comes together and thickens.
3. Add in lemon juice and butter.
4. Let it cool before filling the cases. Dot with strawberry jam.

Makes about 15. Can be refrigerated.



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