Feb 25, 2013

Classic Butter Croissants | We Knead To Bake #2

Croissants are a set of delicious, rich, buttery and flaky French bread which are flaky on the outside with soft fluffy buttery layers of bread inside. It's definitely a favorite at our home! The thought of making them at home has crossed my mind a few times but I would have never taken the bold step had it not been for this months We Knead to Bake #2. 

So last Saturday morning I woke up at 6am (yeah...even I can't believe it), thinking I'll read the instructions provided by Aparna (who is the mastermind of the group project We Knead to Bake , baking one bread every month for the whole of 2013) and start with baking and was quite surprised to see it was a 3 day process. But it just required a small amount of time each of the 3 days, so its not as laborious as it sounds.
Day 1 starts by making a soft elastic & pliable dough and refrigerating the dough for atleast 8-12 hrs or overnight.
Day 2 involves rolling out the dough, layering with butter and rolling and folding the dough 3 times and refrigerating the folded dough again for 8-12 hrs or overnight.
Day 3 is when the dough is rolled, cut into triangles, shaped to form croissants , proofed for 2 hrs and baked to golden brown and then eaten! LOL!

I must definitely say thanks to my handy dandy little tools that helped me with Croissant making. What would I do without thee ;-)

And apparently my roller couldn't stand the pressure of rolling too much and snapped ...but I just put it back on and went on with the rolling. Hmmm...time to get me a new roller :-)

The most excitement comes on the 3rd day when you finally shape the croissants and apply egg wash, wait for it to proof and bake away.  The sense of achievement is just too high, wouldn't you agree? 
I used only one half of the whole dough and made 7 croissants and used even the scraps to make 4 mini ones. Here are some visuals for you to enjoy.


The Croissants tasted much better than the ones I buy from my local grocery here…the taste of  hard labor is definitely good . Here’s how they looked from inside.

Some tips that I felt might help you in planning and making these Croissants:
If you are planning to make Croissants over the weekend and wanna enjoy them for Sunday breakfast, plan to get the dough ready on Friday night and follow the instruction for Day 2 (i.e. on Saturday) and on Day3 (i.e. Sunday) enjoy some butter flaky homemade croissants

OR Make it in two days, by combining Day1 and Day2 activities on same day:
Day 1 : Start making the dough really early in the morning (by around 7am), refrigerate for 12 hrs and by 7pm start doing the Day2 activities and refrigerate overnight (give it 12 hrs)
Day 2 : Continue with all the Day3 activities and enjoy some scrumptious homemade Croissants & you can thank me later :-P

I've literally copied the same recipe and instructions as the one that Aparna had provided as I know I cant do justice to this recipe and technique by writing it myself.
For the original link and more tips please check out Aparna's space.  I have given my experience at the end of each step.

Watch this video once you read the instructions as it gives a really good understanding of rolling the dough and shaping the croissants :

Classic Butter Croissants
Recipe source : Adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman’s recipe at Fine Cooking
You'll need
For the dough:
All-purpose flour - 4 cups  (plus more for dusting and rolling the dough)
Cold water - 1/2 cup + 2 tblsp
Cold Milk - 1/2 cup + 2 tblsp  (I used skim milk)
Granulated Sugar - 1/4 cup
Soft unsalted Butter  - 40gm (almost 3 tblsp)
Instant Yeast - 1 tblsp + scant 1/2 tsp
Salt - 2 tsp
For the butter layer:
Cold unsalted Butter - 250 gm  (almost 2 sticks + 2 tblsp butter =  approx 18 tblsp butter)
For brushing over the shaped Croissants
1 egg for egg wash (Or else use 1/4 cup of cold milk or Milk + Cream to brush the dough)

Day 1
Make the dough (and refrigerate overnight)
1. Combine all the ingredients for the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook or do this by hand.
2. Mix everything on low speed for 2-3 minutes, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl once if necessary. Then mix further on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Lightly flour a 10-inch pie pan or a dinner plate.  And place the ball of dough on this.
3. Gently shape the dough into a flat ball by pressing it down before storing it in the fridge, this makes rolling out next morning easier. Making a tight ball will strengthen the gluten which you do not need. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and wrap well with plastic so it doesn’t dry out. Refrigerate overnight.
(My experience : I made the dough at 10:30pm. The dough was a bit dry and hard for me, I guess I over kneaded, so knead only till the dough seems soft and pliable - if hard add 1 or 2 tsp of cold milk and knead again)

Day 2
Make the butter layer
1. Cut out 2 pieces of parchment or waxed paper into 10 inch squares each.  
2. Cut the cold butter into 1/2-inch-thick slabs. Place these pieces on one piece of parchment/ waxed paper so they form a 5- to 6-inch square. Cut the butter further into pieces as required to fit the square. Top with the other piece of parchment/ waxed paper.
3. Using a rolling pin, pound the butter with light, even strokes. As the pieces begin to stick together, use more force. Pound the butter until it flattens out evenly into a square that’s approximately 7-1/2”. Trim the edges of the butter to make a neat square. 
4. Put the trimmings on top of the square and pound them in lightly with the rolling pin. Refrigerate this while you roll out the dough. 
(My experience: I started next day at 11am. Making the butter layer was rather simple , I was only hoping the people living downstairs wouldn't mind me banging on the butter for so long :-) )

Laminate the dough
1. Unwrap and lay the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll it out to a 10.5 inch square. 
2. Take the butter out from the refrigerator (it should be cold but pliable - if not cold then refrigerate till it is). Unwrap the butter and place it on the square of dough in the centre, so that it forms a “diamond” shape on the dough.
3. Fold one flap of dough over the butter toward you, stretching it slightly so that the point just reaches the middle of the butter square. Bring the opposite flap to the middle, slightly overlapping the previous one. Similarly repeat with the other two so that the dough forms an envelope around the butter. Lightly press the edges together to completely seal the butter inside the dough to ensure the butter doesn’t escape when you roll out the dough later. 
4. Lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. With the rolling pin, firmly press along the dough uniformly to elongate it slightly. Now begin rolling , focusing on lengthening rather than widening the dough and keeping the edges straight.
5. Roll the dough into an 8” x 24” rectangle. If the ends lose their square shape, gently reshape the corners with your hands. Brush off the excess flour. 
6. Mark the dough lightly equally into three along the long side. Using this as a guideline, pick up one short end of the dough and fold 1/3rd of it back over the dough, so that 1/3rd of the other end of dough is exposed. Now fold the 1/3rd exposed dough over the folded side. Basically, the dough is folded like 3-fold letter before it goes into an envelope (letter fold). 
7. Put the folded dough on a floured baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 15 to 20 minutes to relax and chill the dough.
8. Repeat the rolling and folding, this time rolling in the direction of the two open ends (from the shorter sides to lengthen the longer sides) until the dough is about 8” by 24”. Once again fold the dough in thirds, brushing off excess flour and turning under any rounded edges or short ends with exposed or smeared layers. Cover once again with plastic wrap and freeze for another 15 to 20 minutes.
9. Roll and fold the dough exactly in the same way for the third time and put it baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap, tucking the plastic under all four sides and refrigerate overnight. 
(My experience: This seriously required some elbow grease and a lot of hand muscle action...Patience to refrigerate often and watching the video every 2 minutes helped me with the lamination steps, I guess it took me about 2 hrs :-) Stick to the exact measurements. )   

Day 3:
Divide the dough
1. The next day, unwrap and lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. Cut the dough along the longer side into halves. Cover one half with plastic wrap and refrigerate it while working on the other half.
2. “Wake up the dough up” by pressing firmly along its length with the rolling pin. Don’t widen the dough but simply begin to lengthen it with these first strokes. Slowly roll the dough into a long and narrow strip, approximately 8” by 22”. If the dough sticks as you roll, sprinkle with flour.
3. Once the dough is about half to two-thirds of its final length, it may start to resist rolling and even shrink back. If this happens, fold the dough in thirds, cover, and refrigerate for about 10 minutes; then unfold the dough and finish rolling.  
4. Lift the dough an inch or so off the table at its midpoint and allow it to shrink from both sides and prevent the dough from shrinking when it’s cut. Check that there’s enough excess dough on either end so that when you trim the edges to straighten them, you have a strip of dough that is 20’ inches long. Now trim the edges so they’re straight.
5. With a measuring ruler or tape measure lengthwise along the top length of the dough. With a knife, mark the top of the dough at 5-inch intervals along the length (there will be 3 marks in all). Now place the rule or tape measure along the bottom length of the dough.
Make a mark 2-1/2 inches in from the end of the dough. Make marks at 5-inch intervals from this point all along the bottom of the dough. You’ll have 4 marks that fall halfway between the marks at the top.
Make diagonal cuts by positioning the yardstick at the top corner and the first bottom mark. 
6. Use a pizza wheel/ pie wheel or a bench scraper and cut the dough along this line which connects each top mark to the next bottom mark and then back to the next top mark and so on. This way you will have 7 triangles and a scrap of dough at each end.  
(My experience : I started 3rd day at 7 amThis step was fairly easy, I used only half the dough and have frozen the other half after shaping. Try to get the exact measurements as mentioned in the recipe)

Shape the croissants
1. Now work with one piece of triangular dough at a time. Using your rolling pin, very lightly roll (do not make it thin but only stretch it slightly) the triangle to stretch it a little, until it is about 10” long. This will give your croissants height and layers. 
2. Using a sharp small knife, make a 1/2- to 3/4-inch-long notch in the centre of the short side of each triangle. The notch helps the rolled croissant curl into a crescent.
3. Place the triangle on the work surface with the notched side closest to you. With one hand on each side of the notch, begin to roll the dough away from you, towards the pointed end.
4. Roll the triangle tight enough but not too tight to compress it, until you reach the “pointy” end which should be under the croissant.
5. Now bend the two legs towards you to form a tight crescent shape and gently press the tips of the legs together (they’ll come apart while proofing but keep their crescent shape).
6. Shape all the triangles like this into croissants and place them on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet leaving as much space between them as they will rise quite a bit.  
(My experience : Very easy. This step gets you damn excited and you almost feel like you're croissants are ready...well almost ;-) )

Proof the croissants
1. Make an egg wash by whisking one egg with 1 tsp water in a small bowl until very smooth . Brush the croissants with eggwash or else use milk or a mix of milk and cream. Lightly brush this on each croissant.
(Refrigerate the remaining egg wash or milk/ milk+cream for brushing the croissants again later)
2. Place the croissants in a cool and draft-free place (the butter should not melt) for proofing/ rising for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  (They might need longer than 2 hours to proof, maybe as much as 3 hours, so make sure to let croissants take the time to proof.) 
The croissants will be distinctly larger but not doubled in size. They’re ready if you can see the layers of dough from the side, and if you lightly shake the sheets, the croissants will wiggle.  
(My experience: My shaped croissants weren't visibly larger even after proofing for 2.5 hrs, I guess its b'coz of my over-kneading the dough effect. But the end result was fine...)

Bake the croissants
1. Just before the croissants are fully proofed, pre-heat your oven to 200C (400F) in a convection oven or 220C (425F) in a regular oven. 
2. Brush the croissants with egg wash or milk/ milk+cream a second time, and place your baking sheets on the top and lower thirds of your oven (if regular) or bake one tray at a time in the convection oven.
3. Bake them for about 15 to 20 minutes till they’re done and golden brown on top and just beginning to brown at the sides. In a regular oven, remember to turn your baking sheets halfway through. If they  seem to be darkening too quickly during baking, lower the oven temperature by 10C (25F). Cool the croissants on the baking sheets on racks. Serve warm. 
(My experience : My croissants were done by 11am. You have seen my results....they were great!! )

This recipe makes 15 croissants in total.


Feb 22, 2013

Chicken Biriyani...my mom's signature recipe!

Chicken Biriyani was and is THE most special dish that's prepared at my home for any special occasions be it birthdays, anniversaries, any guests coming home, even me coming home from college for a few days used to be celebrated with a plateful or rather a vessel full of my mom's delicious Chicken Biriyani. :-)
Even after our wedding, when Manish & I went to visit my home, I knew that that's what she would prepare for us! Its her signature dish and we simply love it.

A very close friend of my mom's, Omana aunty gave her (or rather taught her) this recipe for chicken biriyani. No body who has eaten this has ever left the home without asking for its recipe. I recently made this when we visited Manish's sis and bro-in-law in Seattle and they too loved it! 
Its really easy to prepare and the taste and aroma of this dish is something I cannot really explain, you just have to taste it to know what I mean :-)
Indian Whole Spices 
 Can you believe the first time my mom ever made this chicken biriyani was for my 1st birthday and that too for a group of 50 people. So it has an emotional background too :-) Oh and she made by 1st b'day cake too from scratch with few of her colleagues help...I'm proud of my mama!!
Thank you Omana aunty and thank you mummy for this gorgeous recipe which is a keeper!

The recipe below is good to serve 4-6 people and the taste just gets better with each day! Mine is a spicier version, but you can adjust the spice level as per your taste.

Chicken Biriyani Recipe
You'll need
For Rice
Basmati Rice - 4 cups 
Whole spices: 3 Cardamom, 2 small cinnamon sticks, 4-6 Cloves, 1 Star Anise, 1 Bay leaf, 6-8 whole Black Peppercorns, 1 small piece Nutmeg
Ghee or Butter or Oil - 3 tblsp
Water - 8 cups
Saffron - a pinch
Warm milk - 2-3 tblsp
For Chicken masala
Whole chicken , cut into 1"- 1.5" cubes, except for drumsticks and wings - 3 lb or 1.5 kg
Ginger - Garlic paste - 1 tblsp
Red chilli powder - 2 tsp
Corriander powder - 2 tblsp
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala - 1 or 2 tsp
Biriyani masala (optional) - 1 tsp
Fresh Corriander Leaves - 1/2 cup (almost a handful)
Fresh Mint Leaves - 1/2 cup (almost a handful)
Tomato - 1 medium
Yogurt - 3-4 tblsp
Salt - to taste
Pepper - to taste
For Garnishing 
Onion (thinly sliced into rounds) - 1 large or around 1 cup 
Cashews - 8-10
Raisins - 8-10
Oil or Ghee for frying the onions, nuts and raisins

For Cooking the Rice
1. Wash and soak the Basmati rice in water for 2-3 hours and drain it over a collander. ( I usually skip this step as I'm lazy, but it definitely softens the rice)
2. In a large vessel heat ghee/butter/oil and roast the whole spices until the spices leave a lovely aroma.
3. Add the Rice and fry for 2 minutes until the rice is coated with the ghee/butter/oil and the spices are mixed in. Add 8 cups of water, enough salt to season the rice and cook until the rice is cooked through.
4. Soak the Saffron in some warm milk and keep aside.

For the Chicken masala
1. Cook the chicken pieces along with ginger-garlic paste, salt and pepper with very little water until the chicken is semi-cooked. (I prefer to use fresh made ginger-garlic paste)
2. In a separate pan dry roast the spice powders on low heat (red chilli, corriander, turmeric and garam masala), make sure not to burn.
3. Add the spice powders to the cooked chicken and cook on medium flame until it forms a gravy and the chicken is cooked well.
4. In a mixer grinder grind the fresh corriander-mint leaves, tomato and Yogurt into a fine paste and lower the heat of the chicken and add this paste and cook until the gravy thickens slightly. Check for seasoning.

For Garnishing
1. Heat Oil/ghee in a pan and start frying the thinly sliced Onions until they look brown and carmelised.
2. Next fry the cashews and raisins and keep aside on a paper towel.

Assembling the Chicken Biriyani
1. Take some 2 cups of cooked rice aside and mix it very gently with required amount of  saffron milk. (this will provide a lovely yellow colored saffron flavored rice)
2. In a large bottomed vessel start layering by adding some of the chicken + gravy. Add some white basmati rice and little yellow basmati rice covering the chicken layer. Add some garnishing of fried onions, cashew and raisins.
3. Repeat layering by adding chicken pieces + gravy , topped with white and yellow rice, topped with garnishing until all the chicken and rice is finished. Make sure the topmost layer is rice. 
4. Finish by garnishing on top with the fried Onions, Cashews and Raisins. (I also added some chopped corriander leaves on top - its optional).
5. Close the vessel with a good fitting lid and cook on very low flame for 2-3 minutes ( What I normally do is, heat my dosa kallu (or a cast-iron pan) and place the biriyani vessel on top of it , cooking on low heat for few minutes) - If you have an Oven proof vessel, you could also cook in the oven at 200F , make sure the vessel is closed.
6. Take off the heat and let the biriyani rest for few minutes and then serve hot and enjoy!

If you do not have Saffron, roast 1 tsp turmeric powder in a frying pan and then mix it to 1/4 cup of water and sprinkle this water to some Rice until it becomes yellow, else sprinkle it directly into the rice while layering. (The roasting helps to reduce the raw turmeric taste and smell) -- Or else use yellow food color :-)

My most favorite combo of eating this Chicken Biriyani is with some Mixed Veg Raita (chopped cucumber, carrots, tomato, onions, green chillies and corriander leaves in seasoned Yogurt) , some fried Papad and Mango pickle...mmmmm...yummy!! 
Manish likes his in a Trivandrum version, where some chicken gravy is also served on the side. So I scooped out a little gravy after the step where I add the Yogurt-mint-corriander paste to the chicken and before the gravy thickens, which is a good side dish as well.

Try this Chicken Biriyani today and please everyone in your home, it hardly takes 30 - 40 minutes to prepare :-) Enjoy!!


Feb 21, 2013

Dark Chocolate Nut Fudge - a guest post by Priya

Hello friends, today we are again doing a lovely guest post and this time Priya of Cook like Priya has graciously obliged to share with us one of her yummy creations.

I had recently done a guest post for Priya, you can check it out here. She is such a friendly person, and was really apologetic for delaying this guest post, though I feel that there couldn't have been a better time to share her yummy looking Chocolate Fudge.

I won't take more of your time, so here's Priya and her gorgeous  melt-in-your-mouth, drool worthy Chocolate Fudge recipe with nuts...

Who said 'Diamonds are a girls best friend?' I say its 'Chocolates' :-)...You give me chocolates then I am all happy. So when Manju Nair from Manju's Eating Delights asked me to do a guest post I simply knew something Chocolate. 
Manju is a good friend and a fellow blogger and we do exchange conversations and its really nice to find some good friends from blogsphere. Thank you so much Manju for giving me this opportunity to cook for your blog and your readers. I simply loved doing this recipe for you. Its a simple melt in your mouth chocolaty fudge, that is totally delicious and nutty too.

This dark chocolate and nut fudge is simple to put together and is a lovely treat to giveaway or relish, the only time required is to let it set. So make it in advance and also keep it refrigerated to enjoy for those sweet tooth moments. I have used full of dark chocolate since I love love it, you can use half n half of dark and milk chocolate or even use entirely white chocolate. Basically you can play with ingredients but keep the base with condensed milk and butter.

Dark Chocolate Nut Fudge Recipe

Makes ~ 20 small-medium squares
Prep time ~ 10 mins
Refrigeration time ~ overnight/ minimum 8 hours


1 can of sweetened condensed milk (I used Nestle)
1 and 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped dark chocolate/choco chips
1 cup chopped pistachio & cashew
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract


  • Line a 1 Lb loaf tin or 4*4 square tin with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a bowl combine chocolate chips/ chopped chocolate, butter, condensed milk keep this bowl over gently simmering water, such that the bowl does not touch the water.
  • Using a wooden spatula keep stirring until the chocolate mixture is sully melted. After 4-5 minutes the mixture would thicken, now add the vanilla extract and mix well.
  • Switch off the stove and add the nuts and mix well until well combined.
  • Tip the chocolate mixture into the prepared tin and let it cool down for 1 hour
  • Cover it with cling film and refrigerate overnight to harden
  • Chop into pieces before serving and keep the rest refrigerated.

 Cooks Wisdom 

- use parchment / baking paper to line the tin as its more easy to remove the fudge, silver foil tears easily and its hard to remove it from the fudge
- use good quality dark chocolate for better taste- I used Lindt 70% dark, you can use a combination of milk and dark chocolate too.
- you can use your preferred nuts and even raisins
- refrigeration is important else the chocolate can tend to melt and not give perfect squares

Once again thank you so much Priya, for this awesome post and I hope you all enjoyed drooling over these chocolaty fudgy sqaures as much as I did and the recipe is so easy with all very simple everyday ingredients. I bet I'm gonna try this soon and I totally encourage you all to do the same well!

Wish I could just snatch a bite off my screen :-) Have a lovely day you guys!


Feb 17, 2013

French toast with Nutella and Strawberries...and our Valentines Day!!

Am I too late in posting a Valentines Day based recipe or post ? :-) Its been a busy week, so I've kept on postponing to share with you our V-day this year.
This year we wanted to do a similar candle light dinner like last year, but we had a lot of other engagements with friends (all involving eating a large amount of food...Lol) that both of us weren't in the mood to cook an elaborate dinner and eat it ourselves.

Instead I'm planning to share with you all how our Valentines Day went this year and the yummy breakfast we enjoyed that morning before heading off to work! As it was a working day I din't plan anything much, but the previous day I set up two goodie bags, one for each of my boys :-) ( ya it's all pink and red, couldn't help it) :-)
On Feb14th, at midnight Manish surprised me with a big bunch of Roses, a heart shaped box of melt in your mouth assorted chocolate truffles, a mini Death by Chocolate Mousse cake and a lovely Valentine's day Card.
In turn I surprised him with the little goodie bag that had a funny Valentines Day card, a handwritten letter and a chocolate-peppermint crunch cookie :-) While I was thinking of good gift ideas, I thought, "who write's hand written letter's these days?" It has such a personal touch, sounds so much better than reading a machine written letter and ofcourse improves your handwriting...lol!!
So I wrote him a whole A4 sized sheet, front and back...and he loved it and also laughed a lot when I had mentioned in the letter that, "I hope our little boy gets your intelligence, personality and mannerisms, while he has already gotten my killer looks :-P" ... cheesy eh, anyway he loved the idea and I'm still awaiting a reply handwritten letter...lol!  ;-)
My lil Manav, whom we lovingly always call Appu, got the best goodie bag. He had a little tumbler with Happy Valentines Day written on it, filled with a blue Shark bath toy (that moves its tail fin if you turn a screw), a pair of his first goggles , Yan-yan (a yummy snack that I enjoyed a lot as a child) , it contains about 6-7 unsalted thin pretzel sticks that you dip into a chocolate spread and eat, and a Rainbow lolipop!! He absolutely loved the Shark , whom he calls Meemee (he calls all fish Meemee btw) and was more than happy to pose for us with his new goggles...who's that handsome guy? :-)

Now coming to our awesome Valentines day breakfast...
I'm not much of a morning person, though I can stay as late as possible at nights...anyway on Feb14th, me and my lil Appu woke up at 6:00am, feeling fresh and happy :-) We both played around for sometime in the bed , while Manish snored away in between all the noise and giggles!!

And then we both head off to our favorite place in the house - our Kitchen! I sat him up on his high chair and gave him a small slice of toast with some Nutella on it...This was his very first taste of Nutella and he absolutely loved it and scarfed it down. Meanwhile I went about preparing our special breakfast. Nothing screams Valentines Day than something Red or a Heart shape...agree??
So while looking around for any good heart shaped breakfast ideas on the net, I found this one and loved it, a Nutella and Strawberry stuffed French Toast!

Off I went to buy us some Nutella. I never buy it usually, b'coz we simply can't resist eating it and the whole bottle gets over in like a day or two. For those who are not familiar with it, It is 'THE' most yummiest chocolate hazelnut spread on the planet! Creamy n chocolaty n hazelnutty...there's nothing not to like about it!

I started by cutting out heart shapes, from 6 slices of bread, using my cookie cutter  (don't throw away the bread with the holes yet) , made my french toast egg batter, prepared the french toasts and layered them with creamy Nutella and fresh strawberries in each layer. I skipped the whipped cream (as mentioned in original recipe). It was super duper yummy and a perfect way to start the day!!

Heart shaped French toast with Nutella and Strawberries
You'll need
For French Toast
Bread slices - 6-12 (I used only 6 whole wheat bread slices)
Eggs - 3 large
Milk - 4-6 tblsp (I used skim milk)
Nutmeg powder - a pinch
Cinnamon powder - a pinch
Sugar - 1 tsp (optional)
Salt - a tiny pinch
Butter or Oil - to grease the frying pan
Heart shaped cookie cutter
For filling
Nutella - 2 tblsp
Fresh Strawberries (sliced) - 8-10

1. In a bowl or pie dish, beat the eggs well and add the milk, nutmeg , cinnamon powder, sugar(optional) and salt and beat again until fully combined.
2. Cut out heart shapes from the bread slices and keep aside the remaining bread.
3. Place a frying pan on medium heat and spray the pan with oil (or melt some butter) , dip each heart shaped bread slices in the egg batter on both sides until fully soaked and place it on the pan.
4. Fry until golden brown, repeat for all heart shaped slices.
5. Take one french toast and spread the Nutella , place some fresh strawberries on top. Take another slice of french toast, spread some Nutella and place the Nutella side down on the strawberries. Place strawberries on top of this slice and again take a third slice of french toast and spread Nuttela and place the nutella side down. Enjoy it while still warm!

Suggestion: If you do not want any heart shaped cutouts, then make regular french toasts, the egg batter should be sufficient for 6-8 whole slices.

Now I had used only 6 slices of bread for the heart shaped french toast, so I still had excess french toast egg batter left and also the bread with the heart shaped holes from the cutouts...so I did another trick I saw online somewhere.
(If using 12 heart shaped bread slices, you may not have excess egg batter left)

I placed the bread with the hole on the frying pan on low heat and poured about 3-4tblsp of egg batter into the heart shaped hole and very slowly cooked the egg until its not runny and the flipped and toasted it on the other side for a minute. Voila - another Heart shaped french toast with a twist! :-)
(Its a good way to use up the remaining bread slices too...else just freeze them and you could later use them as breadcrumbs)

Hope you all enjoyed our V-day as much as we did :-) It's fun to celebrate a day in the name of Love although several people sort of don't believe in it or just plain forget about it! For us, its sort of becoming like a family tradition now, and hopefully we'll do something every year to celebrate!


Feb 10, 2013

Banana Bread with a Heart...a surprise in every slice!

I still remember the first time I ate a piece of  Banana bread. It was after coming to the US and joining work, a colleague in office brought some home baked banana bread slices that his wife made and asked all of us to help ourselves. I was very intrigued by the thought of a bread made with Banana's and eagerly helped myself. I could very well taste the banana's, a hint of cinnamon and some roasted walnuts here and there. It was certainly a very tasty bread and I wished he had brought more :-)

Now have you ever heard of a Banana bread with a Heart? :-) Well the name says it all and much more! A surprise with every slice, this is by far my most favorite baking experiment. The beauty lies in its simplicity on the outside and yet it looks so grand and elegant on the inside! Eager yet to see what I'm talking about...read ahead and let's see how I got to making this.

Going back to my old basket full of overripe bananas. Trust me , for some of you this is getting to be the most annoying basket full of overripe bananas - aren't they over yet already?? I've been rambling about them for two months now :-) Don't worry, they are all over now. I apparently had 9 and you can check the various dishes I prepared to finish them herehere and here. And this Banana bread with a Heart was my final and ultimate preparation out of them I would say!!

Many of you must have seen my guest post for Priya and I made her a yummy Chocolate Banana Bread (Eggless). And I had promised to share a surprise at the end of the post...well the surprise is awaiting you...read ahead :-)

After I made the chocolate banana bread I remembered about a peek-a-boo cake I saw here...and then I though, why not cut out shapes from this bread , make another light colored loaf cake/loaf bread , use the cut up slices in that batter , bake in a loaf pan and then when you slice into the cake/bread you would see the lovely surprise in each slice!

So after taking some pics of the Chocolate Banana Bread, I went hunting in my cookie cutter box, looking for a cutter that would be of correct size to get a good portion of each slice. And guess what my Heart shaped cutter was just perfect! Even my cookie cutters know its Valentines season!! ;-)

So I sliced the whole Chocolate Banana Bread loaf and cut out Heart shapes from each slice of the whole loaf and kept them aside and we happily enjoyed the slices with the heart shaped hole :-P

And I went off to bake my next Banana bread (as I still had 3 more banana's to finish) - they were the last ones, I promise! :-)

The only difference between the Chocolate Banana bread recipe and this Banana bread recipe is that, instead of adding whole Oats, I powdered the oats and also added some coarsely powdered walnuts and almonds and made a regular Banana bread (eggless).
I added a small amount of banana bread batter in the greased and floured loaf pan and then placed my Chocolate Banana bread hearts in the centre , with each heart sticking to each other with some honey. Then I poured the rest of the banana bread batter on top and baked away and look at the gorgeous results!!

Now was that a good surprise? :-)
The bread was so spongy, moist and sweet with a lovely surprise in each slice! The home smelled of bananas and cinnamon while it baked...heavenly!
The tricky part about baking a Heart shape inside is that the pointed end won't stand up straight while assembling, so adding a little batter in the pan before assembling them gives a slight cushion to hold them straight.

And the most difficult part was waiting for the bread to cool down slightly before I could cut the Banana bread and to tell the truth I did hold my breath when I cut the first slice ;-)

Banana Bread with a Heart - Recipe and Technique
You'll need
For simple Banana bread
Ripe Bananas - 3 medium sized (about 6" long)
Lemon juice - 1 tsp
All purpose flour - 1 1/2 cups (feel free to use Whole wheat Flour)
Oats (powdered) - 1 cup
Baking powder - 1 tsp
Baking soda - 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon powder - 1 tsp
Salt - a pinch
Brown Sugar - 1/2 cup
Orange Juice - 1/4 cup (I added the juice squeezed from 1 whole Orange)
Oil - 1/2 cup  (canola oil or olive oil)
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
Walnuts and Almonds (coarsely chopped) - 1/4 cup each
For the mini heart cutouts
Chocolate Banana bread - recipe here (Baked for 5 mins less than original recipe)

For simple Banana Bread batter
1. Preheat oven to 350F . Grease and flour a 9x5" bread loaf pan.
2. Sift together all the dry ingredients: All purpose flour , powdered oats, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon powder and salt, except for brown sugar and keep aside.
3. Mash the bananas with the lemon juice. In another bowl add the brown sugar, juice, oil, vanilla extract and mashed bananas and stir to mix well.
4. Now add in all the dry ingredients along with any chopped nuts and mix together until a thick batter is obtained.
For Chocolate Banana bread heart cutouts
1. Bake a Chocolate Banana bread as per recipe and don't fully bake it , so remove from oven 5 mins before its done.
2. Slice the whole bread with a serrated knife into 1" thick slices.
3. Take a heart shaped cookie cutter that will cover a good surface of the bread slice and cut out the heart shapes and keep aside.
For assembling the hearts
1. Pour some of the simple Banana bread batter in the loaf pan.
2. Take each chocolate banana bread heart cutouts, apply some honey to each slice and stick them together and place them in the center throughout the length of the pan (as shown).
3. Pour the remaining banana bread batter over them (make sure the heart cutouts are fully covered)
and bake for 55-65 minutes. (Mine was done at 55 minutes)
Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be covered and stored for a few days, or frozen for longer storage.

You can also do this with regular cake batter with two different colors or flavors.
Just keep in mind, that the cake that you are planning to make shapes out of (or planning to keep in the center) should be baked for 5-10 minutes less than actually stated - to avoid drying out when you bake them again within the other cake batter.

Manish was certainly amazed when he saw the heart shapes in each slice and happily helped himself to a few slices. I took these to office and my colleagues were quite surprised too and one of them was almost expecting me to do something like this as she thinks I can't make simple cakes , and certainly not a simple banana bread..Lol! ;-)

Happy Valentines Day wishes to all in advance!!


Feb 7, 2013

Chocolate Banana Bread (Eggless) - a guest post for Priya

Its amazing how blogging can open you up to a world filled with like minded people who shares a common interest and taste. When I began blogging I wasn't sure of who all I might meet up with, but life has been so kind and I have been fortunate enough to be friends with some of the best food bloggers out there.
We share the same passion, have the will to explore more, we chit chat through facebook and through our blog ..sometimes I get so excited that I feel like I'm a teenager all over again ;-)  I cherish these friendships I've made and want to make many more.

So with that let me introduce you to a very good friend of mine, Priya, who's an awesome blogger residing in UK with her hus. She definitely whips up some delicious delicacies in her kitchen and all her posts are worth drooling over.
I've always wanted to do a guest post , but had no clue how to get about doing it. One fine day Priya and I started chit chatting on facebook and we got down to thinking that we should guest posts. And she was so thrilled and happy about it and was really eager to help me with how to do my first guest post..yaay!!

A very passionate blogger who owns an awesome blog  'Cook like Priya' , her blog is filled with versatile recipes , from savory to baked goodies, from cakes to indian sweets! Some of my personal favorites being Coconut Laddoo with Rose syrup, Hyderabadi mutton biriyani, Grilled chicken tikka , a Savory Semolina cake  and so many more, its quite endless ;-)

My guest post to her is an Eggless Chocolate Banana Bread. As many of you may know of my dilemma of trying to finish my basket full of 9 overripe bananas :-) This bread was a result of that. It was delicious , healthy and very very chocolaty!!
Hop over to Priya's blog for the recipe, more yummy pics and and there's a cool surprise at the end! :-)


Feb 4, 2013

Fruit infused Heart Ice Cubes...fancy up your glass of Water!

Hi guys, its February already, can you believe a whole month of this year has gone by! Well it literally flew by for me :-) Sometimes I like it that though life is going busy with work and home chores, I'm still able to make time for playing with my little one, spend some good time with my fav guy , make time for my hobbies and keep in touch with our families and friends. Its not easy, but definitely possible!

Today I thought I'd share a really simple yet fun and fancy way to jazz up a simple glass of water for your Valentines Day brunch/lunch/dinner (or any special day or event). Its totally inexpensive but will definitely leave a large impression!
I love these silicone icecube trays that IKEA sells in different shapes n colors...I own the heart shaped cube tray and also a flower shaped one and still planning to buy more...they are just so darn cute! And perfect for V-day :-) My plan is to add fruits that we love and freeze them along with the water.
So Fruit Infused Heart Ice Cubes !!

Just fill up the heart cube with your favorite fruit and add enough water to fill in and freeze...and get ready to dress up your Glass of water, Oh so elegantly!
{Tip: Adding boiled and cooled water results in a very clear ice cube, not the fuzzy kinds as I've shown here...should have read about that earlier before I did these ;-) )

I tried various combinations - Strawberries, Blackberries with Lemon, Orange rinds with Mint leaves and Green and Red Grapes! Do any mix and match combination, its simply lovely! 
Ofcourse you could just serve some wine or juice intaed , but c'mon, these little Fruit infused Heart cubes are gonna melt your lover's heart!! They look pretty, adds a pop of color and looks pretty darn cute, don't you think!

Here's how some lovely bright red Strawberries adds a sparkle to your glass of plain or sparkling water! And you get to relish on the fruit too once the ice melts! I left the leaves on too, for a natural appearance.

Julienned Orange Rinds with Mint leaves , adds brightness and also flavor to your glass of water. As the ice cubes melts, a mild Orangey Minty flavor is infused to your water. Sweeten the Icecube with some sugar or simple syrup if you like a sweet yet mild Orange flavor!

Blackberries with Lemon wedges adds a burst of color and infuses a mild tangy flavor once the cube melts. Again, you may add sugar or simple syrup while freezing for sweeter blackberry-lemon flavored water :-)

Colorful Grapes  look so elegant and pretty...almost like Polka dots!! A good choice if you have a dish/dessert with Grapes on your menu! I've used seedless Green and Red grapes.

I just love the concept of a special day just for you and your loved one(s), although all days are equally special and important. This was how we celebrated Valentines Day last year!

So Ladies, its time to bring out your fancy jewellery and favorite dresses! And Gents, have you decided yet on what to gift your lady love? ;-)