Sunday, 24 October 2010

Black Forest Gateaux (BFG)



Note: This post is overloaded with pictures. You may straight away head over to the recipe at the end, but I have given little tips in the last paragraph before the recipe and little information about the cake, it's origin etc..You may read it if interested..

I feel there is no better dessert than a Black forest to celebrate any occasion like Birthdays, potlucks and even informal gatherings. It makes way to a perfect party dessert and it is always liked by kids and adults alike. Today is my Birthday and we are also moving to a new home on the very same day. My dad and one of my sisters will also be celebrating their Birthdays next week. So, let me share my happiness with this bit of indulgence that looks elegant, tastes brilliant and an all time favourite dessert – Black Forest Gateaux.


Black Forest Cake also known as Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte in German or Black Forest Gateaux is a cake that is adorned with several layers of whipped cream and cherries. To add an extra elegance, it is also topped with extra whipped cream, cherries, chocolate shavings and chocolate curls. In the traditional recipe, a brandy named Kirchwasser is added which is related to its name, Kirschtorte. I have substituted that with cherry syrup by cooking cherries with sugar and water. This is a non alcoholic version of the traditional Black forest, so I cant name it Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte, But it is still a black forest gateau without Kirschwaser.

I thought it had some steps involved in making, but it was a straight forward recipe that even a kid could master it! A basic sponge, some whipped cream, some cooked cherries and a basic sugar syrup and doesn’t require a pro-skill. Does that sound so complicated?? But I have to accept the fact it takes a bit of time, as I did everything from scratch, like pitting the cherries, making chocolate shavings etc, which requires quite sometime. But these thigs dint worry me at all, all that I was worried about was the cake. I wanted a perfect cake, that is spongy and not dry, something that uses less ingredients and that needs less skill to make it. Googled it and came through millions of recipes which even confused me more. So I just gave it up and relied on a the cake book that enjoy flipping through every now and then. To make the job easier, you can substitute the fresh cherries with the crystallized ones, buy ready made chocolate curls and sprinkles.


Here, I have used English dark cherry of Kordia variety which is sweet, juicy, fleshy and huge compared to the regular variety. It is deep red in colour and it is around 3-4 times larger than the regular cherries. They are as pricey as their size too compared to the regular varieties. They were so sweet that most of the time they were guzzled as fresh as they are and dint make its way to my baking. They are quite cheap during the season, but shoots up as soon as the season starts changing. That was when I bought some extra and stashed in the freezer so that I could save something for this cake. And despite using frozen cherries, they pretty well held together without being squishy, that I could use them for garnishing as well. I know I am sharing this cheery-licious cake waaay after the cherry season, but I was so obsessed with making Black Forest Gateaux that I had to bake it this time. . You can easily make it with glaced cherries (Maraschino cherries) and syrup substituting fresh ones whenever fresh echerries are off the season. I have also seen recipes using canned cherries. I have never used them and dont know how good they are.

Photography Technique: Coutesy of Lovely Sala Kannan @ http://www.veggiebelly.com/ . Hope over to her place to have stunning  visual treatment and her special recipes.


Here to make the procedure easy, I have shared some tips all along the way through out the preparation processwa instead of giving it all at the end. Hope you find it useful. I baked cake and made chocolate shavings the first day. I whipped some cream, made cherry syrup and assembled them the next day. But let me warn you something, If you are trying to make it all in a day, it might be a bit tiring and a very long procedure. I have been there, So try to split the work and do it in a matter of two days. I would make this recipe again, not once, but every occassion I get. It is simply delicious.

Note: Recipe of Sponge is adapted from My cake decorating book which is already packed away for shifting. Will update its name and authors later as appropriate.
Ingredients :
For the sponge/Gateaux:
3 large eggs
¾ cup caster sugar
½ cup plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
75g unsalted butter, melted

For Whip cream filling:
570 mls/ 2 ¼ cups double cream
4-5 tablespoons caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence

For cherry filling and syrup:
½ kilo ripe dark cherries like Kordia variety, pitted and chopped, reserving 8 whole cherries or more depending on the size of cherries for decoration
¼ cup caster sugar
1/4 cup water
¼ tsp vanilla essence

Garnishing:
150g plain chocolate
Few fresh cherries reserved


Preparation:

1. For the sponge: Grease 2 deep 8 inch round pans, line the bases and sides with baking paper.

2. Place eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric beater at high speed for about 10 – 15 minutes or until the mixture is thick and pale yellow in colour.

3. Sift together cocoa and plain flour, then sift again to the egg and sugar mixture. Fold in gently, then trickle in the melted butter and continue to fold until everything is well mixed. Note: Do not over mix the batter here as it will knock out air bubbles and result in a hard cake than a soft and fluffy sponge.

4. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius for 10 minutes. Divide the mixture equally (if you can manage) into the prepared tin and smooth the surfaces. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until springy to touch and a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave it in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn the cake over to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: I couldn’t divide the batter equally in both pans. One pan had more batter than the other. So I baked the one with more batter for 30 minutes and the one containing less batter was done in 22 minutes. But they were baked well.

To prepare the cream filling:

In a large bowl, place whipping cream and sugar and whip until it holds soft peaks. Add vanilla essence and whip until combined. Set aside.

To make cherry filling and syrup:

Place chopped cherries, sugar, water in a sauce pan and gently bring to boil. Once it has come to boil, reduce heat and simmer until cherries have become slightly soft. Strain the cherries and place the liquid back to saucepan and gently simmer it until you have around ¾ cup of liquid left. If you had just around 1/2- 3/4 cup of syrup after boiling the cherries, that should be enough. Dont reduce it further.

Notes: Here, I bought fresh cherries and froze them for later use as I could not make the gateaux as planned. I made it after a while when cherries were not season as well. The frozen berries when thawed had released some juice already before cooking them hence I added only less amount of water while cooking it. You can also adjust and add more sugar if needed, if your cherries are sour ones. I also discovered that freezing cherries makes pitting them a lot easier. You can just squish them to pit them and them chop them further if they are large. If you are using fresh cherries that are not frozen, please add couple of tablespoons more of water before cooking. You need to have around ¾ syrup however for soaking the cake.

If you don’t have fresh cherries in hand, just substitute them with glace cherries and simple sugar syrup. You can use around 300g of glace cherries chopped or even less if you like it less.


For chocolate shavings and curls:

1. Melt chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water, or in a double boiler. Make sure water doesn’t touch the bowl containing chocolate. Once they are all melted, spread the chocolate on a plastic/wooden chopping board/ marble set on a damp cloth to prevent it from slipping. Spread the chocolate evenly over the surface with a flat palette knife or any large knife.

2. leave the chocolate to cool slightly, it should feel just set, but not completely hard. Hold a large, sharp knife at a 45 degree angle to the chocolate and push it along the chocolate in short sawing movements from right to left and left to right to make curls. Remove curls by sliding knife underneath each one and lifting it off. Keep in fridge until ready to use. You can crush these curls gently to make chocolate shavings. Or you can grate a chocolate using a box grater or a vegetable peeler. Make sure the chocolate is at room temperature to do this.

For assembling:





1. Slice each cake horizontally into two. (I cut one cake into 2 and other one I just left it as one piece as it was quite thin to slice it into two. So I had three pieces of cake)

2. Place one slice of cake on a serving plate/dish/cake stand. (Snip the baking paper into several 8-10 cm long pieces. Gently slide these papers all around underneath the cake. This will gather all the mess that has occurred in the decorating process. Once decorating is done, these can be taken out slowly leaving the serving plate clean and mess free.)

3. Sprinkle 3-4 tablespoon of the syrup all over the first cake. Add 1/3rd of the whipped cream and spread it all around.

4. Sprinkle half of the cherries all over the whipping cream. Place another layer of cake and press gently. Sprinkle all over again with 3-4 tablespoon of the syrup, add cream, spread it and scatter cherries equally all over. Top with the last piece of cake and gently press down. Sprinkle again with 3-4 tablespoon of cherry syrup all over. Spread the remaining whipped cream on top and sides of the gateau, spreading evenly with a palette knife. Using a piping bag, swirl few extra cream on top as well to place cherries, if wished.

Note: I haven’t used all of the syrup. I just sprinkled 3-4 tablespoon of the syrup on each layer of cake just enough to moisten it. Around ¼ cup was left behind after the use. Don’t sprinkle more than mentioned as it may result in a soggy cake.

5. Using hands, stick chocolate shavings on to the sides of the cake. Place few chocolate curls on to the centre of the cake and decorate with reserved cherries with stalks intact if possible. Cherries can also be coated in melted chocolate before arranging on the cake. Dip the cherries in melted chocolate and place it on a baking paper to dry if you are doing that.

This post of mine goes for the Monthly Mingle - Fruits in baking hosted by Deeba who writes at her gorgeous blog Passionate about baking.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Rosemary and Sundried Tomato Focaccia



Ever since I moved into the present flat of ours I have become kind of a plant aficionado. Most of the things around look edible in my eyes. I pluck few leaves and sniff them to see if they give out any scent, pluck berries, fruits etc and research on their details with some vague information. It wasn’t a waste of time at all. Among quite a few other stuffs, I also discovered that the outrageously growing bush all around our estate is Rosemary! Wow. I was quite exited and have been looking out for recipes that use rosemary. Talking about rosemary, it is a herb with quite hard and spiky leaves and that has a mint-like smell.


Among the entire set of recipes that I came across, focaccia was something that really fascinated me. I have also come across some lamb shank recipes that use rosemary for flavouring. Rosemary grows wildly like any grass or bush you see anywhere. I thought I have to use into something before I shift from here and decided to give a go with focassia. I referred James Martin’s recipe for the basic dough but tweaked it much by adding Sundried tomatoes in olive oil


Focaccia is an Italian staple which is enjoyed by old world bakers as a snack between laborious efforts of bread baking. Focassia has ever since made a name for itself as a premier sandwich loaf. This rustic recipe with rosemary and sundried tomatoes through out can be made into 2 smaller loaves or one large loaf and used in sandwiches ~ Sandwiches Panini and Wraps by Dwayne Ridgeway.
I made a swiss oatmeal soup to go along with it and it tasted great. I read focassia is something like a pizza base, but I thought it had its own difference. The bread was slightly chewy and crumbly rather than soft and tear-apart kind of texture. You can try your own variations of it like adding black olives, cheese, tomatoes, different herbs etc. Here is the one that I baked last week and this goes to 5th World Bread Day.
World Bread Day 2010 (submission date October 16)

Ingredients:

500g Bread flour (3 cups plus 6 Tablespoons)
1 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 teaspoon castor sugar
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary leaves
300 mls tepid (Lukewarm) water
3 Tablespoon olive oil (I used flavoured oil from the sundried tomato Jar)
75g (1/2 cup) chopped sundried tomato in flavoured olive oil
Few extra twigs of rosemary

Preparations:


1. In a large bowl sift flour, salt, sugar, yeast, chopped rosemary and mix well.

2. Add 2 Tablespoon of oil and rub well. Gradually mix in the water and knead for about 8-10 minutes until a soft, smooth and elastic dough forms. When the dough is smooth, smear the dough with the remaining tablespoon of oil. The dough should be elastic but not sticky at all.

3. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover it loosely with oiled cling film. Leave to rise in a warm place for about 1-2 hours or until the dough has risen well and has doubled in size.

4. Knock back the dough by punching it down with fist. Add chopped sundried tomatoes and knead for couple of minutes to incorporate them well into the dough.

5. Lightly flour a work area and roll the dough into ¾ inch thick and 9” round. You can also divide the dough into 2 smaller loaves instead of a making a single massive loaf. You can also make it in rectangle. Place it on a greased baking tray and leave it to rise for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. If the weather is dry, like in the UK, cover it loosely with oiled cling film (If the cling film is not oiled, dough will stick to it and make a mess).

6. Meanwhile heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Take off the cling film and make several indentations with your fingers all over the surface of the dough. Lightly brush with olive oil (I used oil in the sundried tomato jar) and lightly insert few rosemary twigs into the indentations.

7. Bake for around 20 minutes or until golden brown all over. If you tap the underside of the bread at this point, I should sound hollow if it is well cooked. Cool on a wire rack and slice into wedges if made in circles or squares if made into large rectangles. Serve alongside your favourite soup or use it in sandwiches.

Notes:

1.I used plain flour instead of bread flour.

2. It is important to oil the cling film as the dough sticks to it otherwise.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Simple Vegetable Pulao/Pilaf


Here is another simple rice preparation that I made recently. Easy to put together and tastes divine. Recently I was watching Master chef program where the contestants had to prepare pulao and none of the participants go it right! Some were undercooked, some were chewy and some were soft outside and crunchy inside. Most of the mistakes would have occured as they were preparing it under pressurised circumstances and the nerves would have just got better of them. Anyways, preparing rice is one of the easiest thing to do if the instructions are clearly followed, and something that can be messed up easily if not prepared appropriately as well. It can be intimidating to many and it can take quite a few trials to get it right. But you will get there one day.


My initial attempts of rice making were a disappointment to see as well as eat. My first rice used to be cakey, something that could b easily cut into shapes. Sometimes it took the other edge being like porridge or a soup. Sometimes undercooked and sometimes overdone. Nothing seemed so hard than preparing rice. I am not talking about the complex biriyani or pilaf here, it’s just the plain rice. Oh, it was a hard time. It took me umpteen trials to perfect it. But once you get the hang of it, it is just a piece of cake.

What I learnt from all these years experience is that while cooking rice, heat adjustment is one of most significant factor. It should be adjusted at the right time. Then comes the water quantity. Water quantity slightly differs depending on if you have soaked the rice prior to cooking or if you are using rice right out of the packet (Well, you have to wash before using). You can use lot of water to cook, and then drain rice once they are cooked, or add just enough water for the rice to cook in without having water to be drained. Rice can be cooked in number of ways; every one would have their own means of cooking. But this is one method that I come back to all the time, as it gives me just the right outcome, just the way I want it. Soft, fluffy and each grains separated. Just follow simple steps, do the flame adjustment properly, if you don’t get it right for the first couple of times, you sure will get it right quick. Believe me, this method would be one of the easiest way to cook rice once u get the hang of it.


Simple Vegetable Pulao/Pilaf
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:
2 cups Basmati Rice
3 cups boiling water
Salt to taste
1 large carrot finely chopped (3/4 cup, 120g)
½ cup frozen peas, thawed
¼ cup onion finely chopped (optional)

Whole spices:
2 whole black cardamoms
2 bay leaves
4 cloves
3 small pieces (1” long) cinnamon stick
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
4 Tablespoon clarified butter (Ghee)


Preparation:

1.Wash rice and soak it for about ½ hour - 1 hour. Place a wide, non-stick saucepan on low-medium heat and add ghee. When ghee has melted, add whole spices and sauté for 30-40 seconds or until it leaves aroma.

2. Increase the heat to medium and add vegetables and sauté for 3 minutes stirring frequently.

3. Add drained rice to these vegetables and sauté for further 3 minutes.

4. Add boiling water and required amount of salt and stir well. At this point of time, it is important to turn the heat up to high. Keep the pan open and cook until you see NO water floating in the bottom of the pan when you part rice with a ladle. Make sure rice doesn’t get really dry here as it needs moisture to get it cooked. As soon as you see no water is left in the pan, reduce heat, cover the pan tight to hold in all steam and cook on very low heat for 10-15 minutes or until rice is perfectly cooked. Once it is completely done, toss rice with a spatula once or twice to avoid rice grains sticking to each other.

Serve hot with any spicy curries.

Notes:

You can use your own choice of vegetables here, including green beans, cauliflower etc..

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Kakkiri Pacchadi (Cucumber in Tempered Coconut and Yogurt Sauce)


Kakkiri pachadi is something like cucumber Raita. But Raita is grated or chopped vegetables of any kind, mixed with yogurt and generally no coconut is involved. Here in kakkiri pachadi, uncooked, green cucumber is mixed with coconut which is ground along with few other ingredients to impart fresh flavours. It is then mixed with yogurt for a refreshing tangy taste. And then tempered in coconut oil. Here mustard is used in two form, one while grinding and other is used to splutter while tempering. Pachadi can also be made with other vegetables like beetroot, mango, pineapple, carrot, Okra, Indian cucumbers etc. Most of these vegetables are cooked prior to adding the ground mixture though and are integral part of Kerala Onam Sadya menu. This is my mother’s version of kakkiri pachadi and she normally serves it along with some fish curry, fried fish and pappadum.


Kakkiri Pacchadi (Cucumber in tempered coconut and yogurt sauce)
Serves 2-4

Ingredients:
1 cup grated cucumber
A tiny piece of ginger
1 medium size clove of garlic
1/3 cup grated coconut, fresh or frozen (not desiccated)
¼ tsp mustard seeds
½ - 1 green chilly (Omit if you don’t like it spicy)
½ cup creamy yogurt

For tempering:
2 teaspoon coconut oil
¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
1 twig of curry leaves
1 dried red chilly, broken into 2*



Preparation:

1. In a bowl tip in the grated cucumber. If wished, you may chop them into tiny pieces as well instead of grating.

2. Grind coconut, green chilly, ginger and garlic into smooth paste by adding 2 Tbsp of curd.

3. Crush mustard using pestle and mortar and add to the coconut mix. You can also add mustard directly to the smooth coconut paste and just whizz them just to crush. But make sure that you don’t over-do mustard as the flavour is very strong and overpowering. So to be on the safe side, crush it on pestle and mortar.

4. Add the whole ground coconut mixture to grated cucumber. Add yogurt and salt and mix well.

5. In a separate small pan, heat oil. When the oil is hot enough, crackle mustard seeds and add chilly and curry leaves. Sauté for few second until it leaves aroma. Add it to the prepared mixture and mix well. Serve with hot plain rice and curries.

Notes:

1. My mom uses round dried red chilly for tempering, I am not sure what it is called though. I have never come across that kind of chilly here , so I use long twisted Dried kashmiri chillies instead. I am sure any dried variety should work fine.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Pudina ki Chutney (Mint Chutney)



Mint chutney is one of the favourite chutneys and quite a popular condiment in the Indian sub continent. It is normally served alongside any mail meal like hyderabadi biryani’s and pulaos, naan bread and curries or as a dip for samosas and even used as spread in sandwiches. I first had mint chutney on a get together at friend’s place which was prepared by her Mother in law. This was one of the many things that she prepared that day. Her food was simply amazing and tasted so good. This chutney’s recipe was given to me by that aunty and I thank her with all my heart for sharing her wonderful recipes. She gave approximate measurements as any other mom would do. I adjusted it accordingly and the outcome was real good. I served it alongside a spicy vegetable pulao and some chicken curry. You can add few tablespoon of water or dilute it with yogurt and serve as dip for samosas, spring rolls, tortillas, veggies etc.



Pudina ki Chutney (Mint Chutney)
Serves 8

Ingredients:
¼ cup chopped Pudina (Mint leaves)
¼ cup chopped coriander leaves
1 ½ teaspoon tamarind pulp
½ of a green chilly (Add according to taste)
½ cup grated coconut
2 medium size cloves of garlic
2 Tablespoon water (30ml)
Salt to taste

Ingredients:

1.Add all the ingredients except salt to grinder and grind until smooth by adding little bit of water. When it is ground to smooth paste, add salt.

Notes:


1.Mint and coriander was washed prior to use and I discarded the thick stalks of coriander and used only leaves for mint.

2.I added 2 tablespoon of water as I like thick chutney to serve along with rice. But if you want to use it as dip, dilute it by adding couple of tablespoon more of water to make a smooth paste. You can also try adding yogurt and a little sugar to make sweet mint chutney.
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