Oct 16, 2013

Tres Leches Cake to celebrate MED's 2nd b'day :-)

Two years and I’m still here sticking on to a hobby that I just started for fun. It’s been two full years now and my blog is as old as my baby boy and has been a part of my family through thick and thin. I feel so proud today as I write this post for having successfully completed two years into blogging and still continuing. Happy Birthday MED!! 
( Oct 15th was the actual date, but what's in a date or mayb I forgot... oops! :-P)

Last year I was so excited about celebrating the First Anniversary of my blog baby and I made my first ever buttercream decorated CheckerboardCake incorporating the colors of fall and I even shared my story on how this blog was born! 
And since then this baby has grown and grown, from having close to 2,97,000+ total blog visits (as of today), receiving an average of 11,000 page views per month, more than 100 recipes, 900+ followers on my Facebook Page and several Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest followers. The stats may not sound too great when compared with other blogs that achieve more than this within a single year, but for me its precious beyond words. I cherish each and every feedback, comment and suggestion from my readers. My family has supported me and helped me in so many ways to help me continue with my passion on the blog and I enjoy every minute I spend on this virtual space of mine and the friendships I have made through this forum is priceless and I hope it grows and lasts. 

I know I’m not a very regular blogger and there are dry stretches when I hardly blog or update anything here and I've had my share of writers block or blogger's blues as they call it, but the moment I share a new post I have seen how my stats go up and I know there are people waiting for my posts. I love you all for this constant encouragement and I hope to continue it. I know as a person and as a blogger I have definitely grown up a lot and I want to continue to share snippets from my kitchen, home and life to you all. There's still lots to learn, lots to share and lots to improve upon and I want you all to come join me through all this fun and excitement. Your feedback is my fuel and that’s what’s most important to me, so lets continue to keep in touch!

This year also I wanted to plan an elaborate blog anniversary worthy treat, however life got in my way in the form of busy schedules, sick baby, early bed times and more Appu time, so I had to use up a treat from my drafts ;-) I had made this simple Tres Leches cake last week for a casual dinner get-together with some good friends and I thought it was quite elegant in its own way to be a part of my blog’s second anniversary! 

Tres Leches is Spanish for Tres = Three and Leches = Milk, so it’s a three milk cake and its super gooey and yummy with all the goodness of milk in the form of Sweetened Condensed Milk, Heavy Cream and Evaporated Milk. OOH ya!  The cake itself is a fatless sponge cake with lots of air bubbles which helps in soaking up the three milks syrup, which is simply poured on top of the cake and allowed to rest overnight. The final result is a very moist, sweet and not at all soggy cake.

You could just eat this cake as it is without any fancy frosting or anything, but some cool whipped cream and some bites of fruit adds to the elegance of the cake and brightens up the flavors. I used canned peaches (peaches and cream is a match made in heaven you all) and also used some glazed cherries for some color. I had no plans of how to decorate the cake and as I kept swishing the whipped cream up and down the cake, it sort of resembled the shape of a flower and I left it at that…a rustic flower pattern!

The recipe for the Tres Leches cake was taken from the Daring Baker’s challenge which was hosted by Imma of La Galletika and the feedback from the various bakers who used this recipe and baked their tres leches cake's were immense and I did not have to think twice.

Tres leches Cake or Classic Three Milks Cake

You’ll need
For the Vanilla sponge cake
Eggs - 5 large (Yolk and Egg whites separated)
Sugar - ½ cup (120 ml / 4 oz / 125 gm)
Vanilla Extract - 2 tsp (10 ml)
All-Purpose flour (sifted) - 1 cup (240 ml / 5 oz / 140gm)
For Three Milks syrup
Sweetened Condensed Milk - 1 can (14 oz / 400 gm)
Evaporated Milk - 1 can (12 oz / 340 gm)
Heavy cream (about 35% fat) – 1 cup [or 1 cup of half & half / 1 cup milk (240 ml) ]
1 cinnamon stick
Rum or other flavoring (optional) - 2 tsp (10 ml) (I just added vanilla extract)
For Frosting and Filling
Whipping cream or heavy Cream - 2 cups (500 ml)
Confectioners’ Sugar or Powdered Sugar – ¼ cup  
Canned or fresh fruit (to fill and decorate the cake)

1.  Preheat oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Grease a square 9”x9” (23cmx23 cm) pan or 9”(23 cm) round cake pan.
2.  Separate the egg whites from the yolks. 

3.  Beat the egg whites on medium speed, 3 – 5 minutes. When soft peaks form slowly add the sugar in small batches. Whip until stiff peaks form about 5 minutes and set aside.
4.  In a medium bowl beat egg yolks at medium-high speed for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until the egg yolks become pale colored, creamy and puffy. Stir in vanilla extract.
5.  Pour the egg yolks over the egg whites, gently fold until just combined trying not to lose any volume from the mixture.
6.  Fold in the flour little by little in the form of rain. Mix until just combined (over-beating will result in a denser, flatter cake).
7.  Pour the batter into the prepared 9”x9” (23cmx23 cm) square cake pan or 9” (23 cm) round cake pan.
8.  Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean and allow it to cool to room temperature completely
9.  Once cool, split/torte the cake in half, flip the top of the cake and place it on a base. Poke using a fork holes all over the cake to better absorb the three milk soaking liquid. 

Prepare Three milks syrup
1. In a saucepan add the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream and cinnamon stick,
bring to a boil, reduce the heat and continue boiling for 5 minutes. Remove it and let it cool.
2. Once it is cool, add the rum or any other flavoring you are using
3. Gradually brush all the milk soaking liquid into all sides of the cake (including the cut surfaces), slowly until all absorbed. Best to rest the cake in the fridge overnight to complete the soaking process.

Frosting and Filling
1. Whip the cream, when soft peaks form add the sugar little by little, continue whipping until stiff peaks form (about 2 mins).
2. Layer some whipped cream on the bottom layer and cover with canned or fresh fruit and decorate the top layer with whipped cream and the fresh or canned fruit.

My friend's, who have eaten several tres leches cakes from bakeries, found the homemade one really delicious. I felt my sponge was a bit dense (need to improve my sponge cake skills) but it soaked up the three milks very nicely. My lil’Appu happily gobbled up a huge slice both at my friend’s place and also the slices we brought back home for him…yes, just gobbled it up I say! He poses for me while chomping away ;-)

So do try out this awesome treat of a cake, which is so easy to put together and tastes so rich and delicious…and I will keep blogging and hopefully will have several more blog anniversaries to celebrate. Have a fun day ahead you guys…

Thank you Winnie for inspiring me to make this cake :-)


Oct 6, 2013

Katherine Hepburn Brownies - the best brownies ever!

I should ideally be sharing something that has to do with Apples or Pumpkins or Halloween to stay with the seasonal craze that's going on all over blogosphere with the onset of Fall.  Our green lawn is completely filled with yellow and orange maple leaves and all kinds of other colorful leaves that's fallling away to glory and I must admit, it does look pretty even with all the added work of now blowing away the fallen leaves and collecting them apart from lawn mowing!

But there’s one thing that definitely ‘all-time and any season’ to me, and that’s Chocolate!!!  I’m very much a chocoholic in every sense. Give me a choice of desserts and you’ll always see me pick up something that has chocolate in it. 

            " Whether I’m happy or sad, yellow or blue, all I need is you…Chocolate! 

Hey that rhymed…well, somewhat….and I totally just made it up :-D 

Lil’Appu has started learning about colors at his daycare so I spend all my time asking him what color is your shirt, what color is your spoon, what color is your toothbrush etc, hence the mention of colors in the rhyme as well, yellow and blue being his current fav ones, which keeps changing every other day!

Lil’Appu has his mommy’s taste buds and is ready for a chocolaty treat anytime. So I have company at home…or should I say competition with Manish included? ;-) 
And the fact that my b'day is just 2 days away I'm already considering something chocolate for the day, but I donno if I'll prepare my own b'day cake (I kinda find that weird) and I'd rather have someone pamper me with something they made or brought than me cooking/baking on my b'day...anyways its a working day for us, so plans are limited :-)

These brownies are popularly known as Katherine Hepburn Brownies, named after the legendary American actress Katherine Hepburn, ‘coz its believed she is the creator of this marvelous recipe. They are so smooth, chocolaty and fudgy and absolutely melts in your mouth. I mean like literally melts in your mouth...trust me!

They are so simple to make and I even read somewhere that the consistency is such that even if you over-bake these brownies a bit, they still remain fudgy & chewy…now, I have NOT verified this point, but isn’t that good ? They turn out with a crusty top and a soft and chewy interior and are just yumm!  These will forever be my go-to recipe for Brownies for sure.

Read this before you start:
These brownies may stick to your pan like crazy, especially in the middle….I had to literally scrape them off the pan, breaking the brownie into bits and pieces to get them out the first time I baked these, inspite of greasing & flouring my pan.
So cut out a wax paper or parchment paper that will cover the bottom of your pan. Grease your pan, put in the wax paper, grease the wax paper and dust with flour and then add brownie batter. Once baked, the brownie will come out easily and just peel the wax paper away…simple!

Katherine Hepburn Brownies

Recipe source: Joy of Baking

Makes approx 16 brownies if cut into squares

You'll Need
Unsweetened Chocolate, coarsely chopped - 2 ounces (60 grams)
Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces – ½ cup (113 grams)
Granulated white Sugar - 1 cup (200 grams)
Eggs - 2 large
Pure Vanilla extract – ½ teaspoon
All-purpose flour – ¼ cup (30 grams)
Salt - a pinch
Chopped Walnuts or Pecans (optional) - 1 cup (100 grams)

1. Preheat oven to 325F (165C) and place rack in center of oven.
2. Cutout a wax paper to cover bottom of an 8” square baking pan. Butter the pan on all sides, put in the wax paper, butter the wax paper and dust with flour  on all sides.
3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a stainless steel/glass bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water.
4. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Next, stir in the vanilla extract and eggs. Finally, stir in the flour, salt and chopped nuts (if using).
5. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 - 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature or chilled. 

Some points:
1. I have used Semi-Sweetened Chocolate as well for these brownies and they still taste great.
2.  I have baked these in my 9”round cake pan as well with a reduced baking time, and though it was thinner, the brownies tasted great and you can cut them into triangular wedges and pretend it’s a cake slice instead ;-)
3. A scoop of vanilla Ice Cream or some whipped cream would really be good on these brownies…yeah!

I made these for our close family friends who were leaving from Minneapolis and they had planned to drive down to another state where they would be settling down with their 3 small children. As the drive was long I felt it would be nice for them to have something to munch on and I made these brownies for a chocolaty snack. As I wasn't sure if any of the kids were allergic to nuts, I omitted from adding walnuts for them. I later tried these for ourselves with the Walnuts, and trust me, both ways these brownies will blow your mind. 

So try them out any time you crave for Brownies or anything Chocolate :-) 

Happy Fall you All !!  Another rhyming sentence, I guess I'm in a mood for rhymes today...Teehee...