Besan Ladoo in microwave

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Yesterday was the Bengali New Year… “Poila Baishak”, that is, first day of the month “Boishak”. Of course India being a multi cultural, multilingual land we could not suffice with just a financial year and a calendar year, we had to have a separate Bengali calendar year (and there are separate regional calendars !!) which begins in mid april, Baishakh being the first month. There are separate names for all the months. The first day of the new year, like every other occasion, is celebrated with good food, new clothes, cultural events and paying respect to elders and sharing greetings by calling up friends and families. This day is also celebrated in other parts of India with different names and associated history. For further info on this you might have to refer to Wiki.

In West Bengal Poila Boishakh is also associated with “Haal Khata”, a festival celebrated mainly by shopkeepers and is marked by closing of the old ledgers, settling old debts and opening a new ledger. Jewellery shops would give you steep discounts on making charges of gold ornaments. Boxes of sweets and snacks would be distributed as a token of goodwill between the trader and the customers.
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This year ours was a quiet affair, involving weekend house cleaning and chores, sharing greetings with friends and family – not on WhatsApp or facebook but actually calling them up and chatting with them. That took most of the morning. My MIL cooked us a “Doi Mach” for lunch, to keep it simple and to prep our digestive system for the upcoming dinner invite to one of our cousin’s place. No Bengali occasion is ever complete without sweets and non veg so we had plenty of that and concluded the night with small doses of ‘Unienzyme’ and ‘Gelusil’.
Hangover from last night resulted in a no breakfast mode for us and a simple lunch. Thanks to my MIL I did not have to bother much about food and got time to write a post for you all.
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Todays post is a Microwave recipe for besan laddoo that was pending since I last made them during Dusshera 2014. These laddoos were one of the biggest (food related) projects done till date :-). That year, while living in New Britain, CT, I got associated with the Bengali community of Stamford, CT and being one of the volunteers I had agreed to make some 200 laddoos, ultimately making 250 so that I could share the extras with my friends and keep some for myself too. Since it was supposed to be for the Durga Puja I was not comfortable using my regular utensils and hence decided to do it in Microwave. I made it in small batches and it took me 3-4 days to complete them. Since these laddoos store well if kept in an airtight container, time was not a bother and I had plenty to spare then. I would make 3-4 batches of the laddoo mixture in the microwave and keep them aside to cool. As time permitted I would form them into balls while watching a movie, or listening to music or just thinking and contemplating on life. Many of my friends would wonder at the effort I was putting in but honestly it was fun to do. By the second day I actually had a rhythm going on and on completion was amazed myself at the achievement.
I had clicked some good pics out of it and should have posted this long time back. Better late than never. I found this microwave recipe much easier than the traditional style of roasting the besan on flame.
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Ingredients:
  • Ladoo Besan/Coarse chickpea flour – 3 cups. You can also use the regular besan or chickpea flour as well. The only difference will be in the texture.
  • Ghee – 1 1/4 cup approx. Adjust accordingly.
  • Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Sugar (fine or powdered) – 1 cup to 1.25 cups or to taste
  • Chopped nuts of your preference – optional, you can add them into the ladoo mixture before forming the balls or you may garnish the ladoos on top with chopped nuts. I did not use any.

Method:

  • Take a microwave safe bowl and add ghee to it. No need to cover it.
  • Microwave it on high for 1 min.
  • Add the sifted ladoo besan and mix it well with a spatula or a big spoon so that there are no lumps.
  • Microwave it on high (uncovered) as follows:
    • 2 mins, then take out and mix everything well.
    • 1 min, again take out and mix well
    • 1 min, take out add 1 tsp of water to it and mix everything well. This step is supposed to add on to the grainy texture of the ladoos.
    • 1 min, take out and mix well.
    • 1 min, take out and mix well.
    • 30 sec, take out and mix well. Besan should have a light brownish (or deep golden) color due to the roasting. If making in large quantities and feel the besan has not been roasted well enough, you might have to add another minute of half.
  • Keep aside to let it cool a little bit.
  • Once the roasted besan has cooled off a little bit, add sugar, cardamom powder. Add sugar gradually, do a taste test in case you need to adjust the quantity according to your preference. Mix everything well and keep aside for it to cool even further.
  • Once cool to touch, grease your hands with a little bit of ghee, scoop out a small portion of the mixture and try to form a ball out of it. If it is crumbles and cannot hold the structure then add some more ghee and try making ladoos again.
  • Once done store them in airtight containers and they will store well for quite some time.

 

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Shubho Mahalaya and a Kalakand recipe (in Microwave)

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My city, like all others, is always buzzing with activity, with people and their busy lives, but this time of the year it is at its peak. This is the festive season, season to celebrate, to rebond with friends and families, to share smiles and exchange furtive glances with your special one. It is the time when everything else is forgotten and forgiven… everything other than love and happiness. Mahalaya brings about the final countdown towards 10 days of maddening glee. Hands filled with bags of bargained and non bargained items, bellies filled with food which is a must after hours of shopping, minds filled with ticking off items from the to do lists while adding some more to it, and hearts filled with content. ‘Pujo ashchey…’

My city, the city of joy, is not always filled with joy. Most often you see it struggling with the nuances of daily lives, with the shackles of its non progressive approach to simple things and competing feebly and, may I add, complacently with the other fast growing cities. The city which was once the capital of this country, which was once and still is the abode of great men and women, the centre for literature, art and culture, now appears to be saddled by its own legacy. Do not get me wrong,  I am completely in awe with this place. I came here unwillingly, fell in love with it inspite of all my prejudices and then lived here for 10 years. So I am already a victim of its irresistible charm. I know there is something so special here that will touch your heart and make you yearn for it when you are far far away. May be that is why when I look at other cities and countries, I realise that there will never be a place like Kolkata, but on the other hand I also wish it was so much more… So much potential and yet the stagnancy here drives all us Kolkata lovers away from it. Bengal has always and will continue following the “Cholchey – Cholbey” policy irrespective of who is in power. There was a time when I would defend this city with all reasonings, and with hope. Sitting miles and miles and mountains and oceans apart I am confused at the mixed emotions this city arises in me – to just give up and move on with my life or to hold on to that blind faith that someday something good will happen out of it.

Pic Courtesy: Bedabrata Chatterjee
Pic Courtesy: Bedabrata Chatterjee

However this isn’t why I am here. Today I wanted to convey my best wishes for the coming days. “Mahalaya” which in Hindu mythology means Homecoming of the Goddess Durga and the dawn of this day marks the ceremony of ‘Chakshudanam’ – literally meaning giving eyes to the Goddess (the artists, who make the idols, paint the eyes of the Goddess on this auspicious day). And Durga puja, being the main festival of Bengal,  is now in its final stages of preparations. I can see it all infront of my eyes… the roads all lighted up, the streets scurrying with innumerable people with their last minute puja shopping before they start pandal hopping, bamboo barricades being set up for the visitors, long queues for big and small restaurants, no place to walk in almost any part of the city.

But amidst all this I can not resist writing about the irony of this day and the bizarre situation of the city with the recent events. While on one hand we are all set to wroship the epitome of feminine power and strength, there is a section of the city (if not whole) which is hurting. Hurting against injustice, struggling against the inaction against female attrocities, fighting against a failing system. While one half of the city is getting together to celebrate, the other half is hoping that their rage will bring some change, will stir the conscience of a dying world, will empower people to have the right to walk and talk freely without being questioned about the lateness of the hour or the length of the dress. As we embark upon the celebratory mood, let us not forget this other half, let us keep reminding ourselves that we have to fight against the disappearing humanity. It might be a long time before we reach that goal, but lets hope and act for a better tomorrow!

So Shubho Mahalaya and may you all have a safe and delightful time!

I have a quick recipe for you – ‘Kalakand’ in microwave. This is an Indian sweet/dessert usually made with milk. Inspite of the hustle bustle of the Puja days, this sweet will take just 18 mins of your time and 2 main ingredients. Although, if in India, you can easily buy it from the local sweet shop wouldn’t it be nice to surprise your guests with this homemade version? This recipe is taken from Showmethecurry

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Ingredients:

  • Ricotta cheese – 15 oz
  • Condensed Milk – 14 oz
  • Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp (optional, but preferred)
  • Chopped nuts – for garnishing, I used chopped pistachios. (optional)

Method:

  • Pour the condensed milk into a microwave safe bowl, preferably a square or rectangular one. That way it becomes easy to slice the sweets.
  • Add the ricotta cheese to it and mix it well witha  spoon/ whisk.
  • Cook it in the microwave as follows:
    • 5 mins – uncovered. Then Take out and mix everything well.
    • 3 mins – uncovered. Then Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – covered. Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – cross covered / partially covered. Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – uncovered. Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – uncovered. Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – uncovered. Take out and mix again.
  • Once done, sprinkle the cardamom powder and mix well.
  • Level out the mixture evenly by pressing it with a spatula or a flat spoon.
  • Sprinkle the chopped nuts for garnishing and press it lightly onto the surface of the prepared sweet.
  • Cover it and allow it to cool down and set a couple of hours. You may set it in the refrigerator (if in a rush) for an hour but I avoided it as I did not want it to harden too much.
  • Once set, take a knife and cut into the desired shape – squares / rectangles / diamonds.

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Coffee Cake

Bday cake

Half a year has already passed by and it seems like just yesterday that we celebrated the start of a new year. Sumner is on its full bloom now, after what has been a very long winter. It feels so good to look outside at the clear blue skies and the greenery all around. I have come to appreciate such days even more, thanks to the East-coast weather.

Last couple of weeks have been quite busy. With the weather improving tremendously, the weeks go by planning summer events, weekend trips and concerts. Reading, movies and friends occupy the rest of the hours. And now-a-days of course the soccer matches. The blog had been going down in my list of priorities. It was only as I was changing the calendar for the month of July that I remembered this post pending since May. So finally, here it is. And though I silently promise to be a bit regular on my blog, I have stopped apologizing to my readers for my disappearances once in a while with the hope that they must have gotten used to it by now.

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Today I will talk about the cake I made for my husband’s birthday. Though I love baking, I have not really tried out different cake recipes. Reason is that both of us prefer the sponge cake (recipe) that I had learnt from my mom. However this time I wanted to make something different. A while ago we had got an amazing coffee cake for a friend’s birthday from a nearby bakery. Since then I had been wanting to bake one of my own and what better day to do this than a birthday.

Interestingly, Coffee cake has no coffee in it, quite contrary to what I had assumed. It is known as a coffee cake as it is usually had with coffee.

Stephanie’s Joy of Baking had this recipe of a coffee cake which looked exactly like the one I had had. Being a big fan of her website which has wonderful baking videos and techniques, I did not want to look any further. The original recipe can be found here, the only change that I did was used plain yogurt instead of sour cream. As the recipe suggests using yogurt instead of sour cream gives a lighter textured cake.

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Ingredients:

  • All purpose flour – 1 2/3 cups or 215 gms
  • Baking Powder – 1 tsp
  • Baking Soda – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp
  • Unsalted butter (at room temperature)- 1/2 cup or 113 gms
  • White Sugar – 1 cup
  • Eggs – 2
  • Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  • Sour Cream / Yogurt – 3/4 cup or 180 ml

For the Crumb topping –

  • Walnuts or Pecans – 1 cup (I used a combination of walnuts and pecans, but you can use other nuts of your preference.)
  • Light brown sugar – Little less than 1/4 cup
  • Mini Chocolate chips – 1/3 cup. (I used the semi sweet ones but you can use any that you prefer.)
  • All purpose flour – 1 tbsp
  • Ground cinnamon – 1/2 tsp

Crumb Topping

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Prepare a baking pan, preferably a spring form pan so that you don’t have to flip the baked cake which might result in messing up the crumb topping. I did not have one so i used a Bundt pan and needless to mention some of the crumb topping came out while flipping it. Whatever pan you choose, grease it with butter and dust it lightly with flour or line the greased pan with a parchment paper.

Prepare the crumb topping –

  • Dry roast the nuts on stove top or bake in a preheated oven at 350F for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant. Let them cool. Coarsely chop them.
  • In a bowl mix the chopped nuts with the other ingredients mentioned for crumb topping – sugar, chocolate chips, flour and cinnamon and keep aside.

Prepare the Cake Batter –

  • In a bowl mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, whisk together and keep aside.
  • In a  separate bowl add the softened butter and beat it well using a hand mixer / stand mixer.
  • Gradually add the sugar and beat well till light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition. Using a spatula or a spoon scrape the sides of the bowl so that everything is well incorporated.
  • Beat in the vanilla extract.
  • Next gradually add the flour in three additions alternating with the sour cream. Mix till everything is well combined and there are no lumps.

Assemble the Coffee Cake –

  • Since the batter will be thick, spoon out half of the batter into the prepared pan and smoothen the top with a spatula or the back of the spoon. If using a Bundt pan spoon out the mixture and place dollops of it all over the pan. This makes spreading the batter, in the Bundt pan, easy.
  • Sprinkle evenly approximately half of the crumb topping on top of the batter.
  • Again spoon out the remaining batter into dollops all over the crumb mixture. Lightly level it out so as not to disturb the crumb layer.
  • Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly.
  • Bake for about 40 – 50 minutes or until the cake is done and a toothpick inserted in tehe middle of the cake comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes.
  • If using spring form cake, release the sides of the pan. If using any other cake pan, do what I did – gently flip the cake onto a plate. At this stage some of the crumb topping might come out. Take another plate and flip it once again so that the side with the crumb topping on top faces up. Gather the crumb topping that had come out of the cake and sprinkle it on top of it and press gently.

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Note: For a denser texture use sour cream and for a lighter cake use yogurt. Though I used yogurt, I would want to use sour cream the next time to for the denser texture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instant Chocolate Cake – Microwave Mug Cake

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Much more than cooking I love baking, infact I am crazy about baking. The only down side is that I love the calorie filled end products even more. That does not really help me in pursuing my knack for baking. So while whipping up a cake or a bunch of cookies may be good for my blog, the following couple of days will find me consuming a lot more of carbs than I would like to. And hence my conscious decision to not make such goodies.

But then there are times – maybe after days of salad crunching and workouts, or when you are sad and need a little break, or you are having a very happy moment – that you want to give in to that sweet temptation. You suppress that voice inside you reminding you of what-not-to-eat.

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Yesterday afternoon found me in such a mood. And just for clarification, No, I am not on a diet…I never diet (Period!), neither am I sad or in a celebratory state. Do cravings need to have any reason or logic? I recalled seeing a couple of 2 minute cake-in-a-mug microwave recipes – no elaborate preparations, instant and a portion size that will not make me indulge later. This is one such recipe that perfectly fits the bill.

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Ingredients:

  • All purpose flour – 4 tbsp
  • Cornstarch – 1/4 tbsp
  • Sugar – 4 tbsp
  • Unsweetend Cocoa powder – 2 tbsp
  • Egg – 1
  • Milk – 3 tbsp
  • Oil – 3tbsp
  • Splash of Vanilla extract
  • Chocolate chips or any nuts of your preference.

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Method:

  • Grease a Microwave safe cup/mug tall enough to allow the cake to rise.
  • Add the dry ingredients: Flour, cornstarch, sugar and cocoa. Lightly mix with a fork or spoon.
  • Break an egg into the cup and stir the mixture vigorously so that everything is well incorporated.
  • Add the wet ingredients: Milk, Oil and Vanilla. Again give it a good mix scraping the sides of the cup so that the dry and wet ingredients are well mixed and there are no lumps.
  • Stir in chocolate chips / nuts if desired.
  • Microwave the entire mixture on high power for 2-3 minutes. You will see the cake rising from the brim of the cup which is perfectly normal. In case you are unsure of the size of your mug and want to avoid any kind of mess, I would suggest placing the cup onto a microwave safe plate so that clean up, if required, is easy.
  • Let it rest for 1-2 minutes after which serve it immediately as is or with a side of your favorite ice cream. This cake, if allowed to sit for longer, will be come a little chewy or hard, so make it just before you want to serve.

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The Xmas Cake – Fruit Cake

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Love this time of the year… (in spite of the weather..). Everyone around  in a celebratory mood, all the houses  lighted up, people swarming in decorated shopping malls, families and friends exchanging gifts and holiday greetings… everything just rubs off onto you. Usually Thanksgiving to Christmas/Year end is, for us, our vacation time in India. However, for some reason, we could not make our annual trip back home or any other within-the-country trips. Still it has been a good one overall. Went out for Christmas shopping, spent time with friends… eating in and eating out whenever our hearts desired… Lots and lots of baking at home and an overdose of magic and romance with the Hallmark movie channel.

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My usual recipe for cake, as and when occasion calls for it, is my mom’s sponge cake recipe . This is a sure shot recipe that all my friends have tried and succeeded without fail. However I was getting a little bored with the same recipe and was longing to try something different. I never planned for the fruit cake, rather I had come across a wonderful coffee cake recipe and would have made it for sure. And then the Bongmom posted that she was using Alton Brown’s fruit cake recipe for her Christmas cake. To me it looked like a lot of ingredients and effort. But I thought – “what the heck… it isn’t as if I have a lot of important tasks at hand…!’… why not? So, made a list of all the required ingredients, bought whatever I could easily find, bought a new Bundt pan and got all hyper-excited about it.

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Once I finished making it, I surely had to revise my opinion on the effort part – trust me – it is not that much work as it looks like. Just don’t get over whelmed with the whole thing. What takes time is – 1. soaking the fruits in the alcohol (you also have a shortcut microwave method for that) and 2. Cooling of the boiled mixture to room temperature (as described below). You don’t even have to tire your hands beating the batter or use a mixer/processor, so it really is pretty easy.

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Usually this cake is made 2-3 weeks to a month ahead of time and then stored and sprayed with brandy every once in a while. However, I started making it 2 days before Christmas and skipped on the spritzing process. I used gold rum as the recipe suggested, but I read online that you can use sherry or any other wine of your choice too. Again, if you do not want to use alcohol, feel free to substitute it with any fruit juice of your choice. 

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Ingredients:

  • Dry fruits: 3 cups (The recipe called for a little more with some variations but I adjusted the amount and the mix according to my preference)
    • Raisins – 1 cup
    • Mix of dried and chopped Blueberry, strawberry and cherries- 1 cup
    • mixed dry fruit mix – 1/2 cup
    • Prunes or dried plums, chopped into bite size pieces – 1/2 cup
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Gold Rum – 1 cup. (substitute with fruit juice if required)
  • Butter – 5 oz or 10 tbsp  1 1/4 stick
  • Sugar – 1 cup
  • Apple Juice – 1 cup. The recipe calls for unfiltered apple juice but I used apple cider instead.
  • Cloves – 4 whole
  • All spice – 6 whole berries
  • Ground cinnamon – 1 tsp
  • Ground ginger – 1 tsp
  • All purpose flour – 1 3/4 cup
  • Salt – 1/2 tsp
  • Baking Soda – 1 tsp
  • Baking powder – 1 tsp
  • Eggs – 2
  • Toasted and roughly chopped nuts – 1/4 to 1/2 cup. I used 1/4 cup pecans and 1/4 cup silvered almonds
  • Brandy – for spritzing/spraying. Can use any fruit juice instead. I did not use it at all.

Method: You may want to check out Alton Brown’s recipe video here

  • Put all the dry fruits in a pot along with the zest of lemon and orange. Add rum and soak it for 24 hours. This process is called maceration. The alcohol acts as a preservative and also enhances the flavor of the cake when it is stored. When in rush, microwave the mixture on high for 5 minutes, though the flavors might not be that intense.

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  • Dry grind the cloves and all spice berries.
  • Place the macerated fruits along with the liquid in a nonreactive pot. Add butter, sugar, apple juice, ground spices – cinnamon, ginger, cloves, all spice. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continuously and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool down completely. If the mixture is not cooled to room temperature, adding the flour might make it lumpy.

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  • At this stage you can also refrigerate the cooled mixture to a maximum of 2 days if you wish to bake the cake later. However, if refrigerating, let the mixture come back to room temperature again before proceeding.
  • Preheat the oven to 325 F and prepare the baking pan. I used a Bundt pan and greased it with butter and lightly dusted with 1-2 tbsp of flour. Shake off the excess flour. You can also line the greased pan with parchment paper.

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  • Sift the dry ingredients – flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder into the mixture. Mix well with a wooden spoon till everything is well incorporated.

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  • Add the eggs, one at a time and stir into the mixture till it is well incorporated.

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  • Add the chopped nuts and fold into the batter.

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  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake it on the middle rack for 50-60 mins or till a wooden toothpick inserted in the cake come out clean. While baking place a tray half filled with water and place it on a rack underneath the cake. This ensures that the cake remains moist and does not have cracks on its surface.

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  • Once the cake is done, remove it from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. At this stage if you want you can spray/spritz it with some brandy or some fruit juice; I skipped it as it was sufficiently moist.

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  • Let it cool for 10 minutes and then flip it onto a tray or the wire rack. Flipping it before letting it cool or letting it cool down too much (more than 10-15 mins.) might result in the cake to break.
  • If you want to store it, wrap it in a foil and keep in an airtight container. Mine was used up within 2 days so I did not need to store it. If storing, check the cake every 2-3 days and if it is drying up you may want to spritz it with brandy or some fruit juice to keep it moist.

Note:

  1. As the recipe suggested, the flavors of the cake enhanced in the next 2 days so maybe next time I will make it a week ahead.
  2. Feel free to play around with the dry fruits/nuts. Use what you want or is easily available and also can reduce the amount to your taste.
  3. Just to remind once again – You can make this cake without alcohol if you want. Just substitute equal measure of any fruit juice of your choice.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all…!

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