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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Onion Pakoda / Pyaaji

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Remember those animals we had read about who hibernate during winter, what will I not give to be one of them! As much as I would love the splendor of wishing away the winter or sleep away this harsh weather in my cozy bed, it is not a realistic dream. This has been the coldest / longest winter till date, and though every time it snows it feels surreal and beautiful, I am getting a little tired of it. So … so… long to see the spring colors around me.

Like the weather, things are a little challenging these days and every time I get to my blog, words just don’t seem to flow at all. I do not know if this is what is so commonly referred to as a writer’s block. But then, I am no writer. I merely write about my recipes and my thoughts as and when it comes to my mind. However these days I am missing the fluidity of my thoughts. Life seems to be reaching a crossroad, yet again, the only difference being I can’t see where that cross road is, just have a feeling that it is around the corner. And till I reach that point I have basically put everything on hold. As with me, all I can do when this kind of a phase strikes me, is stop doing things that used to make me happy, and in turn keep sulking the whole day.

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I was on such a sulking mood when this mail came from my friend ‘A’. She had been visiting US a couple of days ago and we got some chance to catch up, have some good food and a good chat… She dropped me an email on her return to India referring to that wonderful day spent while we talked and talked as the sun set outside the window and it grew dark. It was much later that we realized our plates had dried up from the sumptious lunch and evening had set in. Such moments are not that frequent these days, so are much cherished.

As I was replying to that email and giving her some advice (which, am sure, was not needed, but had to be given considering my agewise-advanced-status) on taking charge of your life and keep enjoying whatever comes your way, I realized it was time I applied that to me too. So what if things are a little uncertain now, so what if I am not sure of what is ahead of us right now, isn’t that what is exciting about life? As Forrest Gump’s momma always said – “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”

So on that note I shrugged the slumber out of me and got going. I will continue doing what I love – read and read a lot, write, cook, explore my interests, stay active and most importantly stay positive. Put on some music and clicked on my blog which brings me to today’s recipe – Onion Pakoda or “Pyaanji” in bengali.

I usually do not make too much of fried food at home, but this is my friend A’s recipe or as she says – her mom’s recipe. The other day when she came to my place she made it for us with almost no help from me. I just clicked the pics and helped in finishing off the plate. Ideally, I would not post recipes / pics that are not prepared by me, but I am making this an exception. I know there are multiple variations of this recipe but this is the best I have had till now. Thank you ‘A’ and A’s mom!

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Ingredients: All ingredients are approximates, adjust according to your taste

  • Onions, sliced – 2 large onions
  • Fennel seeds – 1 tbsp, coarsely ground
  • Green chillies – 3-4 finely chopped or to taste
  • Fresh curry leaves – handful, finely chopped
  • Salt – to taste
  • Besan / Gram flour – 1 cup approx. adjust as required
  • Water – a couple of drops or as required.

Method:

  • Heat sufficient oil in a wok for deep frying.
  • In a big mixing bowl add the sliced onions, Ground fennel seeds, green chillies, chopped curry leaves and salt. Mix everything well. Keep it aside for 5 mins so that the salt releases the moisture from the onions,
  • Gradually add the besan/gram flour (as required), mix it and keep it aside for a 5- 10 mins. The moisture from the onions will help in binding everything together.
  • If required, gradually add a few drops of water while mixing so that everything comes together and forms a batter.
  • When the oil heats up sufficiently, drop small dumplings of the batter into the hot oil and fry them in medium heat till they start getting a nice golden brown color.
  • Flip on the other side and fry for another couple of minutes till they turn crispy and deep golden brown. The frying may take some time but do not put the flame on high or else they will get the brown color without getting completely cooked.
  • With a slotted spoon drain the pakodas onto a plate lined with tissue paper.
  • Repeat for the rest of the batter frying in batches of 5-6 pakodas at a time, or more depending on the size of the wok.

Serve immediately with some dip or chutney or simple ketchup and a cup of tea to go along.

My Notes: Adding a little bit of rice flour might make them even crispier. You can also add some chopped coriander if you want.

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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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Nan Khatai / Indian Eggless Cookies

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Last time it snowed this heavily (at the beginning of this year) I remember taking out my baking gear, kneading a dough and whipping up a bunch of cookies. What is it with winter that we crave for warmth in silly things like a cup of hot chocolate or a plate of cookies or croissant, warm and fresh out from the oven. And no … the store bought ones cannot give that balmy feel. What is winter if your home does not fill up with the aroma of freshly baked goods. While there is nothing like curling up on the couch, snuggling happily under the comforts of a soft plush throw flicking through the pages of a gripping thriller, it is equally rewarding to bake up something sweet or savory for the cold weather. And well who can say no to a little respite from the chill outside as you open the oven door to check on the progress.

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Now the  year has almost come to an end and the first heavy snowfall of this winter inspired a baking spree yet once again. This time I thought of making NanKhatai from Arundhati’s blog. I had already tried this recipe before and it was such a super success that I did not bother looking for an alternate recipe.

For those who are hearing this name for the first time and wondering what on earth it could be – well its another name for Indian egg less cookies, primarily made with clarified butter called ghee (or butter). But they have an Iranian/Persian origin as I concluded from some research on the web. To know more read this article.

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As a child we would get these cookies/biscuits from the bakery man who would come to our doorstep with bread and baked goods. They were always special and less accessible than the usual Marie or ParleG biscuits. As the article rightly says – The soft crumbly nankhatai brings back many a fond memory! To be able to make it at the drop of a hat gives a lot of joy to me and brings it all back home. Sharing this wonderful and super easy recipe.

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Ingredients:

  • All Purpose Flour/Maida – 1 cup
  • Gram Flour Besan – 1/2 cup
  • Baking Powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Baking Soda – 1/4 tsp
  • Cardamom Powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Butter/Ghee – 100 gms or 7 tbsp
  • Powdered Sugar – 1/2 cup
  • Milk – 1-2 tbsp. as required
  • Chopped nuts for garnishing, I used chopped cashews and pistachios

Note – The recipe suggests butter or ghee but strongly recommends using ghee. However  I made these using butter.

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Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with a parchment paper or grease it with some butter/ghee.
  • Seive All Purpose Flour, Gram flour, Baking powder, Baking soda into a mixing bowl.
  • Add cardamom powder to it.
  • In a separate bowl beat the softened butter or ghee and sugar together.
  • Next add the flour mixture and knead it into a dough. At this stage, if you need, add little milk at a time to help in the kneading process. I added 1-2 tbsp but you can adjust the amount as required.
  • Once the dough is done make small balls and flatten them a little with your palms.Top them with chopped nuts for garnishing and press them a little.
  • Place the cookies onto the lined baking sheet, a little apart from each other.
  • Bake them at 350F for 12-15 minutes or till done. Oven timings may vary. The recipe suggests 18-20 minutes, but mine were done in 12 minutes. Test the ‘doneness’ by inserting a toothpick till it comes out clean.
  • Once done remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Always remember that cookies continue to cook for a while even when out of oven, so prevent over-baking.