“We have so much, too much, that we can buy, yet the basic labor of doing, the making with our own hands, is what enlivens us and makes us feel human." Dan Lepard

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Stained Glass Cookies


It is Sunday. Post breakfast, kids are excited as we are about bake some stained glass cookies. Candies were purchased a day before. Younger segregated the candies according to colour and crushed them in a steel mortar and pestle. Older of the two helped in preparing the dough. Kids enjoyed their designated task and soon the cookies were ready to be put together.


Kids love to participate in baking. They learn and develop an interest in baking.



We loved to assemble the cookies, filling the center with crushed candies. The candies melted and filled up the center to give a stained glass effect.



Stained glass cookies are beautiful and flavourful. 


They fill up your home with heavenly aroma when baking. 


You may use them to decorate your Christmas tree.



Stained Glass Cookies
Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 100 gms (1 stick, ½ cup) butter
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Hard boiled sweets of different flavours

Instructions
  1. Whisk together all-purpose flour, salt and baking powder in a deep bowl. Keep aside.
  2. Beat butter and sugar till creamy and light. Add egg. Beat well. Mixture should be smooth.
  3. Add honey and vanilla extract. Stir well.
  4. Add flour mixture and keep stirring till everything comes together. Use hands to form a soft and smooth dough.
  5. Press dough to a circle and wrap in a cling film. Keep it in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.
  6. In the meantime, cut a parchment sheet to fit into your baking tray.
  7. Segregate candies according to colours/flavours.
  8. Crush the candies of the same colour and keep in separate bowls.
  9. Remove dough from the refrigerator. Cut into two. Keep one-half back into the refrigerator.
  10. Take one piece between two parchment sheets and roll with a rolling pin. Roll to get a sheet of about  1/4th-inch thickness.
  11. Use a cookie cutter to cut the shape of your choice.
  12. Take another cutter (small size), or a cap of a bottle to cut a circle in the center.
  13. Transfer the cut cookies carefully to the baking tray placing at least ½ inch apart. If the cookies are too soft to handle, put them in the refrigerator until they are firm and easy to handle.
  14. Fill the center with a ½ teaspoon or of more crushed candy. Fill enough crushed candy so that it fills up the cavity.
  15. If you intend to use the cookies for decorating the Christmas tree, poke a hole at the top.
  16. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 10 to 12 minutes.
  17. Turn off the heat as soon as the edges of the cookies begin to turn brown.  Remove from the oven and remove the sheet from the tray very carefully. Place on the wire rack to cool. Remove when cool.
  18. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.
  19. Store in an airtight container.

My Tips
  • Roll dough between parchment sheets only otherwise it will be very messy.
  • Whenever dough becomes too soft and sticky, put it in the refrigerator.
  • You may put a whole candy in the center of the cookie. It melts and fills up the center. However, if the candies are of the big size, crushing them is a better idea.
  • Watch out after 10 minutes of baking. Turn off the heat as soon as the edges begin to brown.
 

Monday, 19 December 2016

Easy Fruit Cake



The month of December entails festivities, celebrations and lots of baking to commemorate the two. A box with candied orange peels was saved for December. Some golden raisins and black currants too were kept in a corner of the pantry awaiting special baking.

This weekend, we all got together to make our fruit loaf. Walnuts were shelled, almonds blanched and halved, peels chopped fine, dates and figs measured and sliced. It was fun. Amidst animated conversation, busy hands worked with dexterity and soon, a flavourful and rich cake was rising in the oven. It filled up the nook and crannies of our home with a heavenly aroma.


Baking a fruit cake around Christmas is a ritual we love. This is a no-fuss fruit cake that requires simple ingredients and is incredibly delicious. It is full of fruit bits and walnuts.



Easy Fruit Cake | Easy Fruit Loaf
Ingredients
  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ½ cup (100gms) butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sour cream*
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped walnut kernels
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup currants
  • ¾ cup chopped dates
  • ¼ cup chopped figs
  • ¼ cup candied orange peels
  • ¼ cup glace  cherries
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour to toss the dry fruits
  • Handful of almonds blanched and halved (for decoration)

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 165 degrees C. Line one 9x5 inch loaf pan with greased parchment paper. Extend parchment sheet along the sides like handles. It will help to bring the cake out of the pan easily.
  2. Mix flour and salt well. Keep aside.
  3. Beat butter and sugar until light and pale. Add egg. Beat till well incorporated.
  4. Take sour cream in a bowl. Add baking soda. It will begin to bubble. Keep for about 10 minutes.
  5. Take all the dry fruits and walnuts in a bowl. Add flour and toss well. This will prevent the dry fruits from sinking to the bottom of the cake.
  6. Add sour cream mix to butter-sugar-egg mix. Mix well.
  7. Now add flour in three shifts mixing well after each addition.
  8. Fold in dry fruits and walnuts. The batter will be thick and not runny.
  9. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Level with the back of the spoon.
  10. Decorate the top with blanched almonds.
  11. Bake for 1 hour 50 minutes to 2 hours. The top should turn brown and should be firm to touch. Cover with a foil if the top browns too soon.

* To prepare sour cream, bring 1 cup cream to a boil. Leave it to cool. When warm, add 1 tablespoon curd (whisk it smooth). Mix well. Leave to set .overnight, or, for 6-7 hours. Use.

My Tip: You may also add dry fruits of your choice. You may also brush the top and sides liberally with brandy and wrap in cling film. Repeat next four days. Enjoy the boozy cake.


Sunday, 18 December 2016

Ragi Flax and Sesame Laddu



Come winter and every household in the hills start preparation for the weather that is sometimes inclement, unfriendly and harsh. Stocking eatables and making food that keeps one warm is common yet important. This is also the time when the fresh harvest of millets has been crushed and the flour is used in a variety of ways. The fresh lot of jaggery also reaches the market. And a very traditional recipe that is made in the hills during winters is Ragi flax and sesame Laddu. Finger millets are locally called Ragi and madua.
Last, when we went to the hills, it was late autumn. Radha Devi, who cultivated a small patch around her home in the hills gave us some Ragi flour that was crushed in the water mill. We made Ragi Laddu that turned out delicious. Ginger powder gives a nice warming aroma.


 Ragi, sesame, and flax are rich in calcium. Sesame seeds are a very good source of copper. Flax seeds are very good for the heart as they contain a high level of omega-3 fatty acids. This is a power packed Laddu made with all the ingredients sourced locally. It has a good shelf life too.
During winters you’re likely to be offered Ragi Laddu with steaming hot ginger tea in a pahari home. This is a traditional recipe made with seasonal ingredients mostly home grown and homemade. Laddus are delicious and nourishing. They are energizing and keep you warm in winters. Ragi laddus are made and enjoyed throughout the winters in the hills.



Ragi Flax and Sesame Laddu

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ragi flour (finger millets flour)
  • ½   cup sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup peanuts
  • ¼ cup almonds
  • ¼ cup flaxseeds
  • 2 ¼ cups crumbled or grated jaggery
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons dry ginger powder
  • 1 ½ tablespoons ghee (preferably made from cow's milk)

Instructions

  1. Take ragi flour in a thick bottom wok. Dry roast it till it begins to change colour and a sweet aroma emanates.
  2. Roast sesame seeds till they puff up, begin to change colour and crackle. Stir continuously while roasting.
  3. Roast peanuts till they crackle and become golden brown. Stir continuously while roasting.
  4. Roast flaxseeds till they crackle and begin to change colour. Stir continuously while roasting.
  5. Let the roasted ingredients come to room temperature.
  6. Grind sesame seeds, peanuts, and flaxseeds to a fine powder. Grind almonds to a fine powder.
  7. Take Ragi flour and powdered nuts and seeds in a large, wide-mouthed pan.
  8. Add crumbled jaggery and ginger powder. Mix well. Add ghee.
  9. Take the mixture in a grinder and blitz for 1 to 2 minutes, two times. It should become warm, sticky and easily shapeable.
  10. Take mixture in your hand, press and shape to get walnut size laddu.
  11. Store in an airtight container.
My Tip: If the mixture is not coming together, increase the quantity of jaggery. Use winter jaggery only. It is soft and pliable. Do not use jaggery powder. You may use 1/2 cup peanuts if you do not have almonds.


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Kugelhopf #BreadBakers


Today was a cold morn. As we peeped out of the window, silhouettes of arms folded and overclothed morning walkers or those out on routine chores emerged out of gray sheets of the first fog of the season. Had it not been for the kids’ school, first love would have been to snuggle up in the cozy quilts for some more time. As the day progressed, The Sun braved the fog and peeped out much to the relief of all those shuddering and shivering.


Colours of the flowers shone bright and beautiful.



We spotted a long-tailed Shrike in Marigold plants sitting atop flowers either sunning itself or presumably hunting for its prey.


The day turned out to warm and beautiful. We decided on baking a Kugelhopf. Holiday spirit is catching up and everyone is pining for a nuts and fruit-studded sweet bread.


Rum, raisins, butter and zest all landed up in the counter. Busy hands and constant chatter went hand in hand and a sweet fragrant dough was placed gently in the pan  to rise. The yeast too, braved the cold and the sweet dough finally rose albeit taking a lot of time. Patience was well rewarded. We loved Kugelhopf.


Part bread, part cake, Kugelhopf is one of the most popular Austrian desserts, and a classic for afternoon teas and Sunday breakfasts, at home or in Vienna’s Coffeehouses.
According to James Beard, this recipe was supposedly one that Marie Antoinette took with her from Austria to France, where it became a treasured staple of Alsatian cuisine. Serve it as you would a coffee cake; it is delicious with butter and honey, toast it or serve with fresh fruits and a dollop of whipped cream.


Kugelhopf
Sponge
  • ¼ cup warm milk
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon instant dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Dough
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ½ tablespoon rum
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup toasted almonds
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds

Syrup
  • Boil ¼ cup water and sugar till sugar dissolves. Add 1 teaspoon orange blossom water.

Method
  1. Stir all the ingredients of sponge in a deep bowl. Cover with a cling film and keep for 20-25 minutes till the mixture bubbles.
  2. Soak raisins in rum. Keep aside.
  3. Whisk together flour and salt.
  4. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
  5. Add egg yolk. Mix. Add vanilla extract and lemon zest.
  6. Add the sponge to this mixture. Beat till the mixture becomes uniform and smooth.
  7. Drain the raisins. Add rum to the mixture and mix well.
  8. Add flour and keep mixing. Initially, it will be a shaggy dough, but will soon become smooth and elastic.
  9. Add raisins and chopped almonds.
  10. Transfer dough to a buttered bowl and turn around so that it is coated with butter. Cover and keep in a warm place till it becomes puffy, about 30 minutes.
  11. Butter a medium size Bundt pan. Scatter sliced almonds evenly over the inside of pan. Scrape the dough into bundt pan. Spread it evenly and cover with a kitchen towel. Leave it to rise until double.
  12. During the last 10 minutes of proofing, preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Bake Kugelhopf for 40 -45 minutes until well risen and golden. 
  13. Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan.
  14. Liberally brush Kugelhopf with syrup. 
  15. Cool completely before serving.


Linking  this recipe to #BreadBakers
BreadBakers
#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.
We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.
Our host this month was Stacy who blogs at www.foodlustpeoplelove.com. The theme this month was sweet breads. Thank You Stacy for being the host this month.
This is a list of sweet breads that we baked-

American-Style Panettone from Passion Kneaded
Apple Cinnamon Rolls from Sizzling Tastebuds
Beehive Bread from Sara's Tasty Buds
Candied Fruit Sweet Rolls from Cindy's Recipes and Writings
Chestnut Roll Wreath from Food Above Gold
Chocolate Cherry Brioche Buns from Baking Sense
Chocolate Swirl Babka from Cook's Hideout
Cranberry Orange Breakfast Braid from Kylee Cooks
Cranberry Sweet Rolls from Food Lust People Love
Cranberry, Pistachio, and White Chocolate Panettone from A Baker's House

Estonian Kringle from I Camp in my Kitchen
Finnish Nissua Bread from Gayathri's Cook Spot
Fruit & Nut Sourdough from What Smells So Good?
Ginger Orange Stollen from Spiceroots
Holiday Wreath with Sweet Nut Filling from Hostess At Heart
Indian Inspired Holiday Wreath from Herbivore Cucina
Julekake from A Shaggy Dough Story
Kugelhopf from Ambrosia
Marzipan Stollen from Palatable Pastime
St. Lucia Buns from Karen's Kitchen Stories
Stollen Bread from Sneha's Recipe 
Sweet Milk Dinner Rolls from A Day in the Life on the Far

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL 
to [email protected].







Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Chestnut Walnut Brownies (Gluten Free)



It was this summer that  we saw the walnuts growing in the hills. It was a huge tree laden with walnuts.


 The trunk had a massive hole. We peeped in. It was cold and dark… a bit eerie and scary. We wondered who lived there.



There were a lot of bayberry trees laden with ripe red juicy berries. We plucked to our heart’s content and sat under the walnut tree to enjoy the sweet fruits.


 All around the hilltop,  there  were Hisalu( Rubus ellipticus ) trees laden with golden juicy fruits. We feasted on the local berries and quenched thirst from a nearby spring.


It was autumn when another trip to the hills happened. The walnuts were now ripe   and had arrived in the market. Fresh walnuts are sweet and milky. There were chestnuts too. We purchased the local produce and the same weekend tried experimenting with chestnuts in baking.


A batch of Chestnut Walnut Brownies was baked.


Chestnut Walnut Brownies have the freshness and earthiness of the hills. These are gooey, chocolaty, divine and gluten free. Walnuts add great crunch and taste.


Chestnut Walnut Brownies
Ingredients
  • 15 – 20 chestnuts
  • 250 g dark chocolate
  • 100g butter
  • ¾ cup sugar powdered
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
  1. Take chestnuts in a pressure cooker. Add water just enough to cover the chestnuts. Cook for two whistles. 
  2. When cold, remove the nuts and puree in a blender to get a creamy paste. Measure ½ cup.
  3. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. Grease and line the bottom of one 7x7 inch cake pan with parchment paper extending over the sides like handles.
  4. Melt butter on low flame. Add chocolate. Turn off the heat. Stir until chocolate melts.
  5. Add sugar. Leave to cool.
  6. Add eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition.
  7. Add Chestnut puree. Stir to mix well.
  8. Add vanilla extract.
  9. Fold in walnuts. Pour into the prepared pan.
  10. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or till the top is firm to touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  11. Remove from the oven after 10 minutes. Remove from the pan by gently pulling up the parchment sheet.
  12. Slice when cold.







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