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Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Delicious Chocolate Orange Muffins

Photo Courtesy: Dr. Debarshi Chatterji

If you ask me, how have I spent my last few weeks, I will tell you only two words – Chocolate and Orange. Yes, I have been trying to develop a perfect balance of these two flavors. It started with my idea that I will be baking a three tiered cake for Debarshi’s birthday this year. I asked Debarshi three of his favorite flavors with chocolate and got three suggestions - Chocolate Orange, Chocolate Pecan and Chocolate with Coconut. So far, I have baked 3 Chocolate Orange cakes and 3 batches of muffins. Now that I am happy with the results it’s time to share the recipe with everyone! 

This recipe will yield 12 muffins

Dry Products-
  • All Purpose Flour - ¾ cup and 2 tablespoons 
  • Sugar - ¾ cup
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons 
  • Baking Soda - ¾ teaspoon
  • Baking Powder - ¾ teaspoon
  • Salt – ½ teaspoon

Wet Products-
  • Water - ½ cup 
  • Milk – ½ cup
  • Vegetable Oil – ¼ cup 
  • Egg - 1 Large
  • Orange Marmalade - 2 tablespoons + about ½ cup for topping the muffins 

  • Muffin Tray
  • Muffin Cups - 12
  • Spray Oil – for greasing
  • Wisk
  • Spatula 
  • Big Bowls – 2

  • Prepare the muffin baking tray - arrange the muffin cups on them and grease them with Oil.
  • Put a sifter on a large bowl and sift all the dry ingredients (All Purpose Flour, Sugar, Cocoa Powder, Baking Powder, Baking Soda and Salt). Please do not skip this step. 
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the Water, Milk, Vegetable Oil, Egg and Orange Marmalade.
  • Add to the dry ingredients all at once.
  • Stir just to moisten using a large spatula. Resist the urge to mix it smooth. 
  • The resultant batter will be thin so do not use a spoon to fill the cups rather use a measuring cup (¼ size) to fill the muffin batter into the cups. Do not press the batter.
  • Bake in the pre-heated oven for 18 - 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean
  • Remove the muffins from the oven and let them sit inside the pan for 2 minutes.
  • Arrange cooling racks on the kitchen counter and carefully remove the Muffins from the tray and transfer them on the cooling rack. Do not turn the tray upside down as the Muffins will be soft and may break. Do not skip this step as it will make the bottoms soggy (Tip: I use two spoons to scoop out the hot muffin from the tray and transfer).
  • Let them cool for about 5- 10 minutes.
  • Spoon a little marmalade on top of the muffins while they are still slightly warm and serve.
  • Enjoy these scrumptious Muffins whenever you want. They are made of Chocolate remember.

  • Chocolate tastes even better the next day but do not keep these muffins outside for long. Transfer to a container in a single layer, cover and refrigerate. Before serving, heat them up for 10-15 seconds in the microwave.

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Friday, 21 July 2017

Basic Kitchen Measurements

I love baking because it follows some very basic rules of mix and match and the result is always something delicious. It is essential to measure each and every one of your ingredient properly before mixing them all together. Just imagine if you added extra salt or leavening agent in your batter. Mistakes happen when we eye ball ingredients because no two ingredients are same. Cracking and dropping an egg directly into the batter looks appealing but have you ever dropped a piece of shell along with the egg yolk? Same goes for the butter, try creaming it without bringing it first to the room temperature and you will be at it for quite some time. It’s the little tips and tricks which make our life easier and baking so much fun. So today I am going to share with you a few tips:

Buy measuring spoons and cups:
Now this may seem unimportant but believe me it makes everything so easy when you are using 1 teaspoon as per the standard unit of measurement. The spoons we use everyday in our kitchen are not fit for this job and should not be used for it. The same goes for measuring cups, do not use your tea or coffee cups when it comes to baking, always use standard measuring cups. 

How to measure liquids?
To measure liquids like Buttermilk, Milk or Vanilla Extract, place the measuring spoon or cup on your kitchen counter or any flat stable surface. Then fill it till it’s full. Make sure that you are not measuring any liquid over your mixing bowl as you may easily spill thus increasing the amount of the liquid in your batter.  

How to measure dry products?
To measure dry products like Flour, Baking Powder, Soda, Salt and Sugar, one technique is to fill the spoon or cup with another spoon and then level it off with the straight edge of a knife. I usually follow the dip and sweep method, which is done by dipping my measuring cup or spoon directly into the container in which I have my flour, sugar etc. I fill the cup with the product and lift it out. Then I use the straight edge of a knife to level off the top. 

To measure Brown Sugar or Cheese fill the spoon or cup and then lightly press it to release any air pockets. 

To measure Cream Cheese and Butter, I prefer to use the measurement given on the pack or wrapper itself. The lines clearly indicate where you need to cut to get the exact number of tablespoons or ounces. 

Eggs – Large or Extra Large:
You must be thinking why am I mentioning Eggs in this article because we don’t measure eggs with cups or spoons. The reason is, they are an integral part of our baking world. We need eggs for almost all the recipes and although it is the simple part, it can be quite challenging at times. 

Now, you will always find clear instructions in your recipe about eggs and the simplest way is to buy the type of eggs mentioned in the recipe itself (large or extra large). Remember using a different size of egg in your recipe will change the overall outcome.

Now, sometimes the recipe will ask you just for the egg white or yolk of a large egg. For a new baker this may seem overwhelming and this maybe one of those things where once you try it, it becomes easy. Believe me, it’s really easy to separate the egg white and yolk and you can easily do it at home, yourself without having to spend extra money on it. 

First make sure you are using refrigerated cold eggs, this will prevent the yolk from breaking out. Place a bowl in front of you, tap the center of the egg on a flat surface like your kitchen counter. Hold the egg over the bowl and slowly pull apart the two cracks to widen them. When it starts breaking, place your other hand below it in a cupped form. The white will run through your fingers while the yolk will stay on. If you have to crack more than one egg, use a different bowl every time so that in case of any mistake your previous batches are not ruined. Check the bowl for any shell fragments. You can keep the yolk in a different bowl and if you are not using it for the recipe, don’t throw it away. I usually mix a little milk in the yolks, whisk them with some salt and pepper and make myself scrambled eggs.

My final tip to you, find a good recipe and trust it. Most of our home baking fails because we start improvising too soon. Remember extra flour will dry up the baked product and extra milk will make the batter too thin thus increasing the baking time. You can bake the perfect cake; all you need to do is follow the instructions as they are.

I hope you use these tips for your next baking adventure. 

Photo features: Homemade Pecan cake with Rum frosting

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Friday, 14 July 2017

Fabulous Lemon Muffins with Lemon Syrup

Photo Courtesy: Dr. Debarshi Chatterji

A few weeks ago, Debarshi and I went to the historic downtown of Liberty, Missouri. After strolling around for a while, we came across a local café – Hammerhand Coffee. We got ourselves Iced Coffee and I just started looking in their display case trying to find something for my sweet tooth.  I spotted a muffin along with the beautiful scones and croissants but it didn’t look like a berry or fruit muffin. Curious, I asked about it and came to know it was a Lemon muffin. 

Photo taken at: Hammerhand coffee, Liberty, Missouri. 
Features: Iced Coffee and Lemon Muffins

Now I love lemon but I have never had a Lemon muffin before and that muffin may have looked plain but it was packed with flavors. It was sweet but just enough to cut the tart flavor of the Lemons and its lemony aroma was just refreshing. After coming back home, I started looking for its recipe and finally found one which I liked. Foodies I present to you -  Fabulous Lemon Muffins with Lemon Syrup recipe.

Now whenever you try a new flavor, feedback is important, so I prepared a batch of muffins and sent them to Debarshi’s office. I was a bit anxious because I had never baked with Lemon flavor before. Thankfully, everyone liked it and I got great reviews!!

Lemon is one of my favorite fruits. It has a fresh citrusy flavor and as soon as you start grating or juicing it, the whole house fills with this beautiful fragrance. Papa (my maternal grandfather) had a big garden in his house and along with other trees and plants, he also had a Lemon tree. I used to love walking in that garden and smell the different flowers and fruits. I think Lemon has a very different almost a playful aroma which always lifts my spirit and makes me smile.

Lemon has several health benefits, it is especially good for the liver, it strengthens the immune system and clears dandruff and rashes. Lemon is also one of the easiest options to detoxify your body. I have a routine of drinking lemon juice and honey in some lukewarm water first thing in the morning. This low calorie drink gives me a boast of energy all through the day while aiding my digestion. In fact, I also read that drinking lemon water can also cure the cold and flu. Lemon also restores the body’s pH level which means you will have a younger skin, increased metal alertness and restful sleep.

Now whenever you are trying this recipe, I would recommend to use fresh lemon juice and zest. Believe me, you will enjoy that fresh citrusy aroma while you are baking with it. Wear a glove because all that citric acid may make your fingers itchy while you are juicing the Lemon. These yummy delicious muffins only take 20 minutes to get ready and can be enjoyed any time of the day, so don’t wait, bake a batch today!

For the muffin - 
  • All-Purpose Flour - 2 cups 
  • White Sugar – ½ cup 
  • Baking Powder - 3 teaspoons 
  • Salt – ½ teaspoon 
  • Lemon Zest - 1 tablespoon grated (approximately 1 big lemon)
  • Milk – ¾ cup 
  • Vegetable Oil – 1/3 cup 
  • Egg - 1 (at room temperature)
  • Vanilla Extract - ½ teaspoon 

For the lemon syrup -
  • Lemon Juice - ¼ cup (approximately 1 big lemon)
  • Sugar - ¼ cup 
  • Lemon Zest - to garnish (approximately 1 big lemon)

  • Muffin Tray
  • Muffin Cups - 12
  • Spray Oil or a brush with ½ cup vegetable oil – for greasing the cups

  • Prepare the muffin baking tray - arrange the muffin cups on them and grease them with Oil.
  • Sift all the dry ingredients (All Purpose Flour, White Sugar, Baking Powder and Salt), Whisk them together and mix the Lemon Zest.  Smell it, its fruity citrusy fragrance is refreshing.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the Milk, Oil, Egg and Vanilla.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and beat with a spoon just until smooth.
  • Fill the muffin batter into the cups using a spoon or scoop. Fill them full but do not overfill them. Do not press the batter.
  • Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes or until a toothpick (insert in the center of the muffin to check if its baked through) comes out clean.
  • While the muffins are in the oven, let’s prepare the Lemon syrup. Whisk the lemon juice, zest and sugar together in a small saucepan and boil for about five minutes or until slightly reduced and shiny. Remove from the heat.
  • Remove the muffins from the oven and let them sit inside the pan for 5 minutes.
  • Arrange cooling racks on the kitchen counter and carefully remove the Muffins from the tray and transfer them on the cooling rack. Do not turn the tray upside down as the Muffins will be soft and may break. Do not skip this step as it will make the bottoms soggy.
  • Poke a couple toothpick holes in each muffin (I poked 4 in each) and carefully drizzle about 1 teaspoon of hot syrup over each of them. Decorate with the zests.
  • Let the muffins cool for at least 10 minutes so that they can absorb the syrup, then serve.

  • Do not pour a lot of syrup over the muffins otherwise it will get too tangy and sweet. Just one teaspoon for each muffin is perfect. Add some lemon zest over each of them to complete the decoration.

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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Mamma’s Alu Sandwiches (Indian style Potato and Cheese Sandwiches)

Photo Courtesy: Dr. Debarshi Chatterji
Recipe Courtesy: Mamma (Sumita Moitra)

Sandwich is one of the easiest and quickest meal options in most of the families. In India, Sandwiches are prepared not with Delis (cooked meat, salads and pickles) but with a filling of mashed vegetables or ground meat, fried onions and spices. They taste entirely different than the sandwiches I have had in the U.S as there is no dressing or pickles in them.  The filling is first fried and then filled in the sandwiches which brings an enhanced flavor. Agreed they are not to be consumed if you want to loose weight but they do taste awesome and are an excellent weekend brunch option. 

Growing up, I have had these numerous times and I love them. My mom used to prepare this as a quick snack and because of its yummy taste we used to eat it without any tantrums. Its filling and appetizing and I am sure a great meal option for the kids who want something new on their plate every other day. I have tried this quite a few times since my India trip. It’s easy to prepare, uses just a few ingredients and since I do not have a sandwich maker I have improvised the recipe so that it can be prepared on a skillet.

This is also a very good recipe for your vegetarian friends as it does not have any meat! I prepared this as a brunch on Diwali (Indian festival of lights) and Debarshi clicked this awesome photo. So, here you go, drooling zone starts here.

  • Potatoes – 3, medium size, boiled, peeled and mashed
  • Asafoetida – about ¼ teaspoon
  • Red Onion – ½ medium, finely chopped + ½, cut into thin slices
  • Ginger - 1 tablespoon, chopped 
  • Green Chili - 1 tablespoon, chopped 
  • Turmeric – ½ teaspoon
  • Ground Black Pepper – ½ teaspoon
  • Garam masala – ½ teaspoon
  • Bread – about 6-8 slices
  • Red Chili Powder – ½ teaspoon
  • Salt – about ½ teaspoon (or as per taste)
  • Mango Power -1 teaspoon
  • Cilantro – a handful, chopped
  • Oil – 2-3 tablespoons (for frying the potato filling) + 2-3 tablespoons (for toasting the breads) 
  • Cheese – about 2 cups (shredded or cut into thin slices)
  • Cucumber – 1, peeled and thinly sliced

Directions to prepare the filling:
  • Heat a wok over medium high heat.
  • Add Oil (2-3 tablespoons) in it and once it heats up a bit, add the Asafoetida, Onions, Ginger and Green Chilies in it. 
  • Fry well till the Onions are golden in color.
  • Add the mashed Potatoes and mix well.
  • Let’s start adding the spices –Turmeric, Black Pepper, Garam Masala, Red Chili Powder, Salt and Mango Power. Mix well. 
  • Keep frying till the mixture changes color to golden brown.
  • Add the Cilantro, mix well and turn off the heat.

Directions to prepare the Sandwich:
  • Take a big skillet and heat it on medium high heat.
  • Take 2 slices of Bread and place them on the skillet so that they start toasting.
  • After a couple of seconds, turn them over and apply a little oil on them using a brush.
  • Turn them over again and apply oil on this side as well.
  • When both the sides look a little toasted, turn down the heat to medium and sprinkle some cheese on one of them.
  • Add a generous amount of the Potato filling on the bread, do not press it, the cheese will melt and hold the filling together with the bread.
  • Top it with 3-4 Cucumber and Onion slices.
  • Sprinkle some Cheese on it and place the second toasted bread on top of it and press gently with the spatula.
  • The cheese will start melting and it will hold the bread and the filling together. 
  • Wait for a few minutes, then turn the sandwich carefully so that the other side gets toasted properly.
  • Indian Potato and Cheese Sandwich is ready; you can slice it in halves or diagonally. 
  • Serve the Sandwich with Cilantro Chutney or Ketchup.

  • If you are using a non stick skillet, always use a smooth spatula to turn the sandwiches on it. I use a ceramic skillet for this recipe and a tong to hold and turn the sandwiches easily without the fear of scratching the surface of the skillet. 
  • I usually use two skillets to prepare the sandwiches, I keep the heat on medium or medium low to easily manage my time.
  • You can choose any Bread of your choice like Oatmeal or Multi Grains although this tastes great with White bread.
  • You can serve it as a snack with a cup of hot Tea.
  • You may choose any cheese you like. I have prepared this with the 5 Cheese mix and Medium Cheddar and it tastes great with both.
  • I always boil the potatoes in my pressure cooker. Two whistles on medium heat and they are perfectly boiled and ready for the next step.

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