How a Vada Pav turned into Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bites

Some things happen unplanned. I had been browsing when I chanced upon this recipe for baked vada pav. Now vada pavs and me have a long history.

A funny history given that I have never eaten one. I’ve had the aloo bonda that is the stuffing. But never the complete vada pav. I’ve seen in plenty of places here, it have never ended up picking it up. Probably, because the thought of eating completely fried things suddenly invokes that health conscious me. Who, by the way disappears very quickly when I chance upon fried things like chips or murrukus. The fact remains that I’ve always found a reason to not try it out. It was too early in that airport cafe, or I did not want to pile on more weight just before a sea-side trip, or it did not look filling enough for lunch. You know, the works.

And yet, it has never stopped me from craving for it. So when I saw this recipe, I had to try it. It seemed perfect. So I took the basic bread roll recipe from here and started off. I had planned to make a small batch, but scaling down ingredients seemed more tricky than making the whole bread. So I set off. It was late by the time the bread was ready to go into the oven. I made two sample vada pavs and popped the rest of the dough into the refrigerator.

The vada pavs turned out well. My domestic help loved it too. I did not take any pictures though. I still had loads of dough. My initial plan was to make more vada pavs, but somehow, the plan changed. I did not feel too excited about making loads of vada-pavs.

I had made this cinnamon-sugar pull apart bread when Swaram came over. I had some pictures somewhere, but I feel too lazy to go dig them up. It was a trial and did not turn out exactly how I wanted it to. So I wanted to give it another shot.

By the time I could carve out time to get down to it, it was already late. Feeling rather lazy(I can see laziness becoming a theme for me these days), I decided to try something easier. Instead of rolling out the dough, I made little balls, rolled it in a light brown sugar and cinnamon mixture and placed it in a loaf pan. Like this. I dotted it with some butter – just because.

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Popped it into the oven, when it had risen to double, it took about 20 minutes. And this is how it turned out. Soft fluffy bites of bread covered in a light coating of cinnamon sugar. Yum! And tasted just perfect for our tastes. Not too sweet, and perfect with that cup of coffee 🙂
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Love at first bite

I don’t have much to say about love at first sight, but I can sure tell you about love at first bite – that happens – happens to me all the time!

One of the many things that I fallen in love with – at first bite is the brownie. The first time I came across brownies was during my first trip to the US. Needless to say, this love for brownies did result in a huge increase in my own weight, but that never deterred me from gobbling them down.

There is something about brownies that I love – the chewy, fudgy chocolatey taste. And what tastes better than a warm brownie served with vanilla ice-cream, topped with nuts and chocolate sauce? That is what I plan to serve to my guests tomorrow. And may I present to you, my first successful attempt at brownies?

I had tried making them a long time back, in Bangalore, when we had bought our first microwave cum conventional oven. Those days, no matter what I did, my brownies turned out more like biscottis. Although that never stopped my team from gobbling it all up – which was a huge relief for me. Somehow I never tried making them since. I have no idea why I never made them before.  Today, I was racking my brains trying to figure out what to make for dessert for dinner tomorrow, when I remembered brownies! So anybody care to share? Daughter has already QA’ed it for me and given her stamp of approval.

In case any of you are interested, the recipe from here. The only change that I made was to include pecans instead of the chocolate chips. You could add walnuts too – we just happen to prefer pecans.

Trans-Continental Baking Experiment – A Chocolate Mud Cake

A mere two or so years ago, I was the sort of person, who would have looked down her nose at even the concept of ‘meeting people online’. I could not understand how people could make friends with people they met online.

Even when I started blogging, I had no idea that there is a blogging community and that you would interact with others – to say that I was completely clueless would be the biggest understatement. Which is why this is even more amazing for me. One, to meet so many wonderful people on the internet, who you can so identify with, with similar ideas and two, to collaborate with 5 women across the world in a baking experiment, of all the possible things.

It all started with Goofy Mumma(GM) sent a bunch of us (‘A’ , Monika, Trish and me) an email asking for a chocolate mud cake recipe. I don’t bake too many chocolate cakes, so I was of little help. ‘A’ sent across the most delicious sounding recipe from here.  GM tried it and had a few questions and doubts. A flurry of emails went back and forth.  ‘A’ went through the effort of making 2 cakes, following slightly different methods and came out with the most gorgeous(and I am sure,  delicious) cakes. Not just that, she recorded everything she did. And that prompted Monika, myself and Trish to give it a try and GM to give it a second try.

The first time I tried it, I totally forgot to check whether I had enough dark chocolate and realised just as I was making it, that I had run out of dark chocolate. Thankfully, I found a huge slab of white chocolate in my pantry. I also added 50 gms  of cocoa, by replacing it instead of 50 gms of the self-raising flour. I had a really runny mixture and it took me ages to get the cake done. I had also made the mistake of buying a pan of the wrong size.  I had wanted to pick up a 9 inch pan, but ended up with an 8 inch one instead, stupid me! So I had enough batter for an 8 inch cake as well as 16 cupcakes. I was literally praying that it does not become a disaster. I am normally very, very particular about following cake recipes exactly. While I play around with other recipes, baking, I feel, is quite an exact science and I am loath to use approximations or substitutions. So having made so many changes, I was quite apprehensive about the result.

My worry only added, when at the end of 45 minutes(the time mentioned in the recipe, the batter was still liquid in the oven. Finally after 2 hours, and a lot of poking and prodding, the cake was done, albeit with a bunch of cracks.

Not a pretty cake at all. The cupcakes turned out beautifully, not a single crack and they were ready in 45 minutes time – they were just gorgeous, and I forgot to take pictures. In my defense, I had a busy day, I was having friends over for dinner, and had a lot on my mind. Well, as they say, looks are deceptive. The cake was the most divine tasting cake ever! It was moist and absolutely delicious! My friends took home the leftovers. I kept aside some for Poohi which disappeared the very next day. The cupcakes went to work with husband and were never seen again.

Inspired by the gorgeous results that the others had with the recipe, I was tempted to give it one more shot. This time, I was determined to follow the recipe properly and follow all the tips and suggestions that everybody else had added after their own experience with the cake.  So I went and bought myself a stash of dark chocolate and set about it all over again. You know, when I plan to do something right, I almost definitely make some really dumb mistake. This time, I ended up pouring the chocolate mixture into the flour, instead of the eggs. In my defense, both the bowls were next to each other. I know, it is a lame defense. Then on, I followed everything, and hoped that this time, my cake turns out pretty.

This is how it turned out. Not as bad as the previous time, but still with some cracks.

So to take the attention away from the sad cracks, I just inverted it and dusted it with icing sugar. The dusting was not done very well, though.

A slice of chocolate mud cake anyone?

The most amazing part of this experiment was that feeling of being part of a group, knowing that someone, even if on the other corner of the world, was there to talk to, to ask for suggestions.. The sort of tips and information that just flowed in those emails was absolutely wonderful! We discovered things which we took for granted was new information for somebody else, and learnt some really cool tips from the others.. It was such a collaborative effort. The joy at seeing my friends’ gorgeous cakes was more than seeing my own.  I would refresh my inbox every time I could, just in case, you know 🙂 Girls, thank you so much for all that! GM, A BIG thanks for starting it all off.

To see the other gorgeous, yummilicious cakes, hop over to ‘A’s, GM’s, Monika’s and Trish’s. And if any of you are in the vicinity here, please drop over, I have my last attempt stowed away in the freezer 🙂

How to make a princess cake

I have been asked this by several people after seeing the cake that I made for my daughter, and I am so delighted to say that it was simpler than I thought. Here is the step by step methodology.

Here is the cake I made.

And here’s what I did.  I found this video on Youtube, which was very comprehensive by itself.

They recommend using 2 8 inch cakes and one cake made in a mixing bowl using cake mixes. Now, I have never used cake mixes, so was not really sure if I wanted to start now.  And I had also picked up a princess cake mould, from a local specialty cake store. It is available on ebay and on Amazon, I think. And if you don’t want to buy, you could always use a glass mixing bowl. If you don’t want to use the mixing bowl, you could just bake 2 more 8 inch cakes and simple shape it to look like a skirt.

Now the next step to decide was what cake to make. I researched and found that for cakes like this, madeira cakes are the best to use. I experimented once and found my cakes turning out rather dry. After a lot of research, I chanced upon this blog –   which has several recommendations to make a moist madeira cake and mine did turn out moist. It was not perfectly leveled, but that was not too difficult to handle. I just leveled it off.

I made one 8 inch cake based on this recipe. I made another 7 inch cake, because the base of my princess mold was 7 inches based on another recipe – simply because I was too lazy to do the calculations to modify the first recipe to suit a 7 inch tin. I did incorporate all the tips that Lindy’s blog has recommended like using glycerine and lining the cake tins. One of the tips, that I can certainly recommend, is to go by the size of tin mentioned in the recipe. Using a different size tin may cause problems. If you do want to use a different size, it is important to scale down/up the ingredients accordingly.

And my final barbie/princess cake was made using the first recipe mentioned. I made all these cakes in advance as these cakes are supposed to get better after a few days. After the cakes were completely cooled down, I wrapped them in 2 layers on cling film and a couple of layers of aluminium foil and stored them. The night before the cake was to be assembled, I took them out, leveled the cakes, cut them out, using a cake leveler, and then wrapped them as mentioned before and popped them into the freezer.

Just before preparing the frosting, I took the cakes out and let them thaw.

Now for the frosting. This was what was giving me nightmares. I had never decorated for a party before. And I was terrified of making a mess. I was also confused between which type of frosting to use. I prefer buttercream as it tastes better, but fondant frosting looks better. Finally, I decided to go with buttercream. I had bought some ready to roll fondant, to experiment with, in case I felt like it.

Buttercream frosting recipe.

There are loads of recipes for buttercream frosting. Most of them use shortening. I was not able to lay my hands on shortening, so decided to go with butter. Here is the recipe I used. If you can get shortening where you are, apparently, it is better.

Ingredients

140g/5oz butter, softened
280g/10oz icing sugar
1-2 tbsp milk
few drops food colouring

Method

1. Beat the butter in a large bowl until soft. Add half of the icing sugar and beat until smooth.
2. Add the remaining icing sugar and one tablespoon of the milk and beat the mixture until creamy and smooth. Beat in the milk, if necessary, to loosen the mixture.
3. Stir in the food colouring until well combined.

The method of frosting that I used is the one demonstrated in the video. I started with a crumb coat. The one thing I did not do was pop it into the freezer after the crumb coat. My freezer was not big enough. I just left it out for about 0 minutes before applying the next coat. And after the final coat was done, I smoothed it out, as was demonstrated in the video. Mine was not half as smooth – but am sure we can get there with practice. My next dilemma was about what to do next. I found making twirls on the icing was not as easy as she made it look. So I just went ahead and smoothed it all out. And then decided to give fondant a go. So I cut out triangles to look like flounces on the skirt and just layered it around her waist. and decorated with white icing flowers that I found in a supermarket.  And that was it. It still took me around 5 hours in all, to assemble the cake. But it was simpler than I thought. I had planned to pipe decorations on it, but I had no energy left at the end of it.I used fondant to make the top part of the princess’ dress. It was not very neat, but as I said, I was too tired to do more 🙂 I put the fondant dress on her before putting her into the cake.

If you need more inspiration. Do check out these sites. I spent hours on the internet checking out stuff.

http://www.coolest-birthday-cakes.com/barbie-cake.html. Some of the cakes are absolutely out of the world.

And if you don’t want such a big cake – I had lots of guests , so wanted to make sure that everybody gets a piece, you could use a miniature doll and just use on 7 inch cake and shape it like a skirt. There are so many ways of playing around with it 🙂

And do let me know if you do make one 🙂 I think I had as much fun making it as my daughter had on seeing it 🙂

Come join me for tea..

and help yourself to some banana bread 🙂

Don’t worry – it is a low fat one and I am so delighted with it that I have even had a slice for breakfast 🙂 I am normally, never modify cake recipes unless others who have made the cake suggest modifications. This time, however, I took a chance and experiemented. You see, I was keeping away from baking after all the holiday weight I had put on. Yesterday however, in order to keep Poohi entertained, I made a rather rash promise that we would bake a cake – and she ensured that I did not break my promise- try as I might. So if I had to bake, I decided to bake something low-fat and guilt-free( or atleast less guilty).  And here is the recipe in case any of you are interested. I got the recipe from here, but made the following modifications.

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large over-ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup plain fat-free yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spoon flour gently into measuring cups and level with a knife. Stir flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. Put aside. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl and beat at low speed with a mixer until well blended. Add one egg at a time and blend well after each one. Add in mashed banana, yogurt and vanilla extract, beat until blended. Add flour mixture and blend until just moist. Do not over-mix. Spray an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour batter into pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes (until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean). Remove from pan after 10 minutes or so and cool on a wire rack.

There I did it…

The one thing, I thought I’d never do… make a mess of a baking project.

Daughter wanted to make ‘Aana Biscuits'( biscuits shaped like elephants) and wanted to ‘make it all by myself’. So I decided to give indulge her and we set about making the dough. After doing everything, I just tasted a bit to see if it tasted right. And it tasted all salty! Salty? I was stunned! Only then did I realise that I added 1/4 cups of salt instead of 1/4 teaspoons of it. Even at that time, I did feel that it was a bit too much.. but for some reason did not re-check.. if only I had..

Well, daughter insisted on baking it.. So we made it anyways and it looks really pretty.. Marbled elephants.. if only we could frame it or something.. eating is out of question..

There – one more to add to my domestic disasters list 😦 The only good thing that came out of it, is that daughter is delighted that the biscuits look so pretty- if only I had been more careful.. on the other hand.. this way it is a craft project – with no carbs, butter or sugar being consumed by me – silver lining, don’t you think 🙂

Edited to add: Inspired by the comments, I googled and found a recipe for home made baking clay 🙂 Here it is, for any of you who wants to try. Have included the link too.

BAKING CLAY

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 4 cups all purpose flour

Stir the salt into the warm water. Let cool. Add flour and knead for 8-10 minutes. For colouring the dough, add food colouring or powdered tempera paint to the salt and water – before adding the flour. Create figures and bake at 325 degrees F for 30 minutes to one hour (until all the moisture is gone). Paint creations when cool. You can also seal the complete work with a non-toxic water-based sealer.

I promise to post pics when we make the next set of elephant biscuits:)

I love You….

Internet! What were you guys thinking?

Well, I know, I know, but I had to say this because right now, I am feeling so, so very indebted to the Internet.. You see, I was about to start baking a cake for my daughter’s birthday – when I thought that I should check whether I had icing sugar or not.. For some reason I had checked out every other ingredient except this! I remember seeing a pack – so was quite confident.. Well, turned out that the pack was there – but the icing sugar was almost over 😦

So what do we do now? Too late to shop for it – had to find a substitute. So turned to my agony aunt – my beloved google – and it found it for me!  Thank you Google!!! You are the greatest!!!

I have so many such moments – and I never cease to be amazed, more than the actual amount of information – the fact that there are so many like me – who seem to have the exact same question 🙂 Sure makes you feel like you belong to a club 🙂

The other day – I had another question – How to find out if expired baking powder can be used – and lo and behold – lots of people with that very query and answers too. And happy answers , because it turned out that I could – just needed to test it each time before using it:) So if you have any of my cakes – be warned – made of expired baking powder 🙂

PS :I could use some advise on ‘how to keep a very excited, almost three-yr-old away from cakes’ 🙂

Madness leading upto vacation – Part II

Well, finally most of the shopping done, last weekend before flying home and not a bit of packing done yet! Loads of laundry left , loads of ironing left.

And what is it that I am doing – baking a cake. I am sure a lot of you must be wondering – why on earth is she doing, baking a cake, when she is so short on time? Well, I misjudged quantities, and have loads of butter and eggs leftover.. In London, I had friends close by, so all leftover, perishable provisions would go to them. Here, unfortunately, I do not have any close friends nearby, so have to use it all up 😦

So anybody fancying a slice of pineapple upside down cake – please head this way 🙂

Edited to add – Here’s whats left of the cake…not a pretty sight.. e-sending it to all of you 🙂

My Baking Days

Blog Blog Blog… Everybody around me seems to be blogging and I have been thinking about joining the bandwagon , never really being able to decide what to write about. What with my extremely active 2 yr old, being extremely allergic to me sitting at the computer.. It just was not working out. So in the middle of trying to potty train her and getting her to eat something – I decided that enough was enough and I am going to write and here we go.
So ! As my little girl seems to be saying these days., what better to write about other than food.. Now , despite the fact that I am a full time , stay at home mum, I am not a great cook – but I love food – I actually dream about food and these days the only thing I watch on TV is UK TV food .. So what better to write about other than food.
Now , to give you an idea , of the kind of cook that I am. I end up cooking good stuff accidentally – I never seem to know how to replicate anything I cook well.. So to my husband constant disappointment – I can barely get his favorite dalchawal right . Having said that my total passion is for baking. I love cakes – I can stand for hours at Morrisons Bakery section gazing at the cakes – embarrassing poor dear hubby to no end. And my favourite browsing sites are always food sites – baking of course. And there is something about the smell of baking that I just love! I always loved it since I was a little girl when Amma used to bake the most delicious cakes ever.
So when I took time off work to stay at home with my daughter , my most enthusiastic experiments were always the baking ones.

Here is the very first recipe that I tried out and amazingly came out really well.. It is an Annabel Karmel recipe – and is very very simple.

225g/8oz butter, room temperature
225g/8oz caster sugar
75g/3oz ground almonds
175g/6oz sifted self-raising flour
4 eggs
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp almond essence
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
75g/3oz plain chocolate, broken into pieces
1 tbsp cocoa powder
icing sugar (optional)

Method
1. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Sieve the almonds and flour and add to the mixture.
2.Gradually beat in the eggs one at a time and add the milk.
3. Transfer half the cake mixture to another bowl and stir in the almond essence and orange rind.
4. Melt the chocolate in a microwave or double boiler, and stir the melted chocolate and sifted cocoa powder into the remaining cake mixture.
5. This looks best when baked in a 20cm/8in ring tin, fluted for the prettiest effect.
6. Grease and flour the tin first or use a non-stick baking spray.
7. Spoon alternate layers of the cake mixture into the tin and use a skewer or a knife to swirl through the mixture to give a marbled effect.
8. Level the surface and bake for about 1 hour at 170C/325F/Gas 3 or until the cake is well risen and golden.
9. Turn out on to a wire rack to cool. If you like, you can sieve a little icing sugar over the top.

It is absolutely delicious this way , but on my daughter’s birthday, I baked 2 cakes, and filled and topped with Chocolate Buttercream topping – Yum!! Unfortunately , I do not have any photographs of the cake – next time I bake it – I will remember to take some snaps and add it on.

Happy Baking!

p.s. I have to really thank my friend Ramya – as I posted this right after having a conversation about blogging all the recipes that I tried out:)