Sunday, February 14, 2010

AS WE BECOME ONE...

A Bride's Prayer
O Father, my heart is filled with a happiness so wonderful. I am almost afraid  this is my Wedding Day. I pray Thee that the beautiful joy of this morning may never grow dim with the tears of regret for the step I am about to take.Rather may its memories become more sweet and tender with each passing anniversary.

Thou hast sent me one who seems all worthy of my deepest regard. Grand unto me the power to keep him ever true and loving as now.May I prove indeed a helpmate,a sweetheart, a friend, a steadfast guiding star among all the temptations that beset this impulsive heart of mine.
Give me the skill to make home the best loved place of all. Help me to make its light gleam brighter than any glow that would dim its radiance. Let me, I pray Thee, meet the little misunderstandings and cares of life more bravely.
Be with me as I start my mission of womanhood and stay Thou my path from failure all the way.Walk with us even unto the end of our journey. O Father, bless my Wedding Day, hallow my Marriage Night, sanctify my Motherhood if Thou sees it fit to grant me that privilege. And when all my youthful charms are gone, and cares and lessons have left their traces, let physical fascination give way to the greatest charm of companionship.
And so may we walk hand in hand down the highway of the valley of the shadow which we hope to lighten with the sunshine of good and happy lives.

O Father, this is my prayer. Hear me, I beseech Thee.
Amen.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

LINZER HEART COOKIES & A FRENCH CONNECTION!

You must be wondering what exactly I meant by 'French Connection'. No, I am not talking about the movie, nor the big retail chain. But I am talking about my very sweet friend Jamie who live in Nantes, France.She is this perfect mix of the perfect wife, mother, blogger and a friend. For me, she is that 'friend' who fulfils the proverb 'A friend in need is a friend indeed.'

I tweeted  out to Jamie few months ago, to help me feed my hungry blog during my wedding days as I didn't have the heart to starve my dear bloggie. And she accepted it without thinking twice! Isn't she the best! Mwwwaahhhh!! And have a look at those perfect treats that she baked for me!

And let me warn you, she writes really well! So do not blame me if you get hooked onto her writing skills! ;)

LINZER HEART COOKIES FOR VALENTINE’S DAY


RIA’S BIG ADVENTURE

LOVE & MARRIAGE
Love and marriage, love and marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you brother
You can't have one without the other
Love and marriage, love and marriage
It's an institute you can't disparage
Ask the local gentry
And they will say it's elementary
Try, try, try to separate them
It's an illusion
Try, try, try, and you will only come
To this conclusion
Love and marriage, love and marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage
Dad was told by mother
You can't have one without the other
- Sammy Cahn & Jimmy Van Heusen
VALENTINE’S DAY AND A WEDDING

Ah, Valentine’s Day. Our hearts go pitter pat as the date approaches, florist shops fill up with lush red roses, heart-shaped chocolates tucked into delicate, pale tissue paper or tumbling out of boxes tied up in plump pink ribbon are displayed in every candy shop window and showcases of jewelry of gold and silver, diamonds and rubies, both elegant and gaudy, invite us to dream. Visions of chubby cherubim and putti, Cupid gently taking aim with his bow and arrow, the promise of romance and snuggling up with the one you love all are part and parcel of the magic that we call Valentine’s Day.


The month of February, cold and harsh, a blanket of white if we are so lucky, a breath of spring occasionally whispering in our ear, stuck unforgivingly somewhere between the rousing, festive end-of-the-year holiday season and the warming, welcoming arms of spring. February, rarely one’s favorite month, finds us impatient for the winter to end, dreaming of summer vacations in the sun, and escape. But for the romance of Valentine’s Day. So we strap on ours skis or snuggle down under blankets, our hands wrapped around a mug of hot cocoa or we dream of our knight in shining armor as we stir flour into sugar, rub in butter and scent with vanilla and cinnamon and wait for Valentine’s Day. For most of us, Winter respite comes in the form of a heart, that sentimental keepsake, that unlooked for display of affection, candlelight and a glass of champagne warming us up halfway through this otherwise cold, snowbound month.

And then some of us, the lucky ones, get married. Married in the month of February. How romantic is that? Like celebrating Valentine’s Day all month long, like having a special Valentine’s Day all to yourself. My darling friend Ria, far off in exotic India, has been stitching wedding favors, planning menus, putting together her trousseau and fitting the wedding dress of her dreams all in preparation for her February wedding. Darling Ria turned to me for a guest post and how could I refuse? Love and marriage and Valentine’s Day are food for a romantic like me, sentimental fool that I am, stirring up emotions and memories of my own special day so many years ago, a day followed by so many candlelit dinners, so many gifts slid across white tablecloths or placed in the palm of my hand, so many boxes tied up in satin ribbon, so many celebratory bottles of champagne, so many romantic getaways for two. And a near-perfect marriage (no marriage is perfect, my dear) is like the perfect Valentine’s Day: romance blended with joy and laughter, a mad mingling of serenity and excitement, the fusion of the exchange of serious sentiments and a wild burst of frivolity. It is a union of anticipation, worry and joy, hope and dreams.


Ria, I pulled out my years old, battered notebook, dug around until I found the perfect recipe, the perfect treat for this special day in your life. The page is torn and stained, the words beginning to fade, but this is the most romantic of treats that I have chosen for you. The perfect cookie, delicate and tender, a white, white heart, white as the snowy month of February, white as the pureness of love, a sweet, meltingly sweet cookie with a heart as red as love, as red as the passion of lovers, bursting forth on the tongue in a flood of tangy, fruity flavor, the flavor of cherries, deep and mysterious, as mysterious and flavorful as that wonderland we call married life. [ I SO LOVE YOU FOR THIS JAMIE! HUGS!!!!!]


A cookie, like marriage, is a mix of the choicest of ingredients in the perfect blend of just the right quantities: sweet, creamy butter, lots of butter to create something rich and smooth; sugar, powdery and fine, as ephemeral as fairy dust, gliding through your fingers, adding sweetness in just the right balance, in perfect harmony with the earthiness of the nuts; flour and cornstarch, both sturdy yet light, airy yet strong, something basic, clean and pure to bind all the other ingredients together in a perfect harmony, a necessary cohesion of flavor and texture until something beautiful is created, a delicacy to be handled with care so that it doesn’t break, something to be savored on its own yet enhanced by the stunning, passionate surprise of the cherry red preserves, that one exciting, secret ingredient holding all of the rest together. Share it, enjoy it, savor it.

A marriage will warm up the most blustery of Februaries. It will thaw the coldest of hearts as well as a blazing fire and a steaming mug of grog, as sure as a stunning young bride in all the glow of her love. Enjoy, Ria, and I wish you all the best!


LINZER HEART COOKIES

¾ lb/3 sticks (345 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (125 g) powdered/confectioner’s sugar
1 egg
2 cups (250 g) flour
1 cup (120 g) cornstarch
3 oz (80 g) finely ground nuts (almond, hazelnut or walnut)
Cherry preserves (Red raspberry is the classic filling)
Powdered/confectioner’s sugar for dusting cookies (about ½ cup/ 65 g)


Cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat just until blended.

Sift together the flour and the cornstarch then add it to the butter/sugar/egg mixture beating in as much as you can with the electric mixer then stirring and folding in the rest by hand until homogenous and it pulls together into a dough.

Working quickly (the butter is melting as we speak!), scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead just until you have a smooth dough. Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.


Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C).

Cut the ball of dough in half and wrap back up one half and stick back in the fridge to keep chilled. This dough gets very soft and sticky as it warms to room temperature. Roll the half you have kept out on a floured to a thickness of 1/8 to ¼” (don’t forget you will be sandwiching the cookies so it will double the thickness). Using heart-shaped cookie cutters of any size, cut out pairs of hearts. Place them side by side and, using either a tiny heart-shaped cutter or a round cutter (for the small hearts I used the small end of a pastry tip) cut out a center hole from ONE of each pair of cookies (this will be the top of the sandwich). Gently lift and place the cut out shapes on an ungreased baking/cookie sheet.

The center hearts will make tiny little individual cookies to pop into your mouth.

 [ I LOVE THIS PICTURE! ]

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 – 20 minutes or until firm and just barely golden brown (lift one up and the bottom should be starting to brown). Remove from the oven, allow to cool a bit on the baking sheet until firm enough to lift and transfer onto cooling racks.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

Pair up the hearts with one solid bottom and one top with a hole cut out. Spread a dollop of cherry preserves on the bottom cookie of each pair. Place all of the top cookies on a rack on top of a plate or a piece of aluminum foil and very generously dust with a thick coating of powdered sugar. Top each bottom cookie with the preserves with a sugared top and press very, very gently so as not to break the cookies.


Now, now! I must admit I have never seen a Linzer cookie as pretty as this! And what a way to celebrate V-Day! Jamie, your JP is SUPER lucky to have you! :)

Thank you so much for this BIG help for me. And the saying 'actions speak louder than words' did come true in our case! Hugs!

Friday, February 5, 2010

CHOCOLATE HAZLENUT MOUSSE CAKE.... for World Nutella Day.

So, once again I am going to talk about friendship ,beyond 'borders',in this case, I mean borders of states :) Avanika  and myself, we live in 2 different far-off states but, we have a lot of things in common, first being the love for food! I must describe her as a wacky, full -of- life 19 yr old passionate food blogger. And I must mention something else too, I am terribly jealous of her...she is SO young! Gosh, as my b'day is approaching (oh! it's actually 3 months away! ) I feel I am growing OLD! But, Jobin's b'day comes before mine, so I am better off! :P

Thank you Av ( as I always mention her on my twitter /chat msgs) SO much for accepting to 'feed' my ever - so -hungry blog! Now, it's not just the blog, it's the owner too! I am on a diet you see! ;) Because I am left with exactly 9 days more!

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Cake

HAPPY WORLD NUTELLA DAY!!! This is by far, my most favorite holiday! I could literally LIVE on Nutella alone, so I just HAD to celebrate it. I've gifted my close friends jars of Nutella today, that's how much I love this day. And my aerobics instructor is absolutely loathing this day! :P For creating this wonderful holiday, I have to thank Sara and Michele.

logo2010

Wait a minute now, ofcourse you're wondering who I am, and why you should listen to me gushing about Nutella so much! A little intro seems appropriate - I'm Avanika, fellow food blogger from Yumsilicious Bakes, and I like to consider myself as Ria's good friend, even though I never met her, we share a bond, and we talk about soo much stuff, it's weird!

Since she is getting married, in less than 2 weeks, she asked me to do a guest post, or 'feed' her blog. The very idea of guest posting scares me, I think, who'll want to listen to little old me? That's why I rejected 2 previous offers of doing guest posts, but when Ria asked me, I knew this was the time where I needed to step up. This is my small way of making her wedding a little bit easier! And plus, even if I screw it up, I know she'll still be my friend. Right Ria? :P

So in honour of Ria's upcoming marriage [CONGRATULATIONS Ria and Jobin], my first ever guest post, and World Nutella Day, I knew I had to go all out, and decided to make this fabulous cake. And fabulous it is. The silky smoothness of the mousse hits you first, after which the creaminess of the ganache combines, both of which are perfectly balance by the crusty base. It's an explosion of textures, right in your mouth :) I am so glad I made this, it's perfect for the occasion. I'm just going to give you the recipe now, so you can make it immediately.


Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Cake
Adapted from Epicurious

For shortbread base -

2 tbsp [30 g] hazelnuts, toasted and skins rubbed off
3 tbsp [70 g] sugar
1/2 cup [80 g] all-purpose flour
1/2 stick [1/4 cup, 55 g] unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp [20 g] unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt

Special Equipment
8-Inch Springform Pan
Pulsing hazelnuts and sugar


Instructions -

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F [180 C]. Line the springform with parchment paper.
  2. Pulse the toasted hazelnuts and sugar in a food processor until finely ground.
  3.  Add the flour, butter, cocoa and salt, pulse together until a dough forms.
  4. Press the dough onto the bottom of the pan, and prick with a fork.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes [mine took 17]. Cool pan on wire rack.
  6. This step is important for convenience, once the base is cool, lift it off the pan, take out the parchment paper, and put it back onto the pan.
Shortbread base

For mousse
  • 1 tsp unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-oz envelope)
  • 3 tbsp cold water
  • 1/2 cup [5 oz] Nutella
  • 1/2 cup [100 g] mascarpone
  • 1 1/2 cups [200 g] chilled heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp [20 g] unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp [70 g] sugar


Instructions -
  1. Once the crust is in the oven, begin making the mousse. In a large bowl, combine the gelatine and water, heat on the stove until all granules of gelatin dissappear. Whisk in the Nutella, take it off the heat.
  2. Whisk in the mascarpone until combined.
  3. Whisk together the cream, cocoa and sugar until soft peaks form. Whisk 1/3 of this cream into the nutella mixture, and then gently fold in the rest.
  4. Spoon over the cooled crust, refrigerate until set [3-4 hours].
Hazelnut Mousse

For ganache
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 1/2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
Instructions -
  1. Heat the cream over the stove in a small bowl, until it boils
  2. Immediately pour this over the chopped chocolate, stir to combine. The chocolate will slowly melt with the heat of the cream.
  3. Let this mixture stand for a while, about 20 minutes, for it to thicken. Make sure not to let it rest for too long, it may become too thick.
  4. Remove the cake from the springform pan, slide onto a serving plate.
  5. Pour the gananche over the mousse layer once its set perfectly, allowing some to drip over the sides. Don't hurry this step up, since the weight of the ganache will collapse your unset mousse, which is kind of what happened to me.
  6. Serve, and ENJOY :)


Choc Hazel Mousse Cake

BURP! Sorry! ;) I really loved this dessert! I am sure Jobin would love it too! Thank you Av! Mwwahhh!
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