Ria's Collection: May 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

CROQUEMBOUCHE...mounted pillows of absolute delight!

If I am asked to describe a Croquembouche I would say they are mounted pillows of absolute delight! They are served during weddings,baptisms etc. I never knew it would be so easy and simple to create this tower of joy! When the challenge was announced, I felt kind of lazy thinking of all the steps involved. But , after taking a 6 month break from DB, I was sure I am not going to let that repeat, not in the near future, hopefully atleast.
I made this during a weekend so that I could finish my DB challenge as well as take it over to our friend's place as a dessert.

The recipe consisted of 3 parts: Pate a Choux , Creme Patissiere and a Glaze. We had to make all the 3 components, but the mounting could be done with the help of a store-bought cardboard tower or make one at home OR use the glaze as glue and build the tower (I did this).

I loved piercing and filling the choux because when you do so, you can feel the feather-light choux becoming full and heavy in your hands.

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.


Pate a Choux

¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs ( I used only 3 as I felt the batter was loose enough)
For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
  • Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.
  • Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
  • Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
  • Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. 
  • As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.  
  • It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.
  • Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.
  • Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.
  • Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).
  • Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.
  • Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool. 

Pastry Cream- Coffee flavoured

1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla
1 1/2 Tsp Instant espresso powder
1 1/2 Tsp boiling water

  • Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.
  • Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.
  • Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
  • Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.
  • Dissolve 1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder in 1 ½ teaspoons boiling water. Whisk into pastry cream with butter and vanilla.
  • Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

Chocolate Glaze

8 ounces/200 g. finely chopped chocolate (use the finest quality you can afford as the taste will be quite pronounced; I recommend semi-sweet)

  • Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. 
  • Use immediately.
When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.
Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up.

My Experience: I made the choux during lunch time and when Jobin came home for lunch, he saw them and was quite inquisitive. It intruiged him too much that he popped one right away, and I was left with my mouth wide open. I knew he liked it by his looks and I was very worried about the whole thing vanishing in no time. So I deftly put them all away in a bag and waited till he left to do the mounting.

The pastry cream was delicious and I loved the croquembouche to the last bite.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I always wanted to attend a cookery class, just to get the feel of it. Amma has been conducting cookery classes herself and I was her sous-chef. But I never got enrolled into one until last saturday.

Jeff and Zoe are from Minneapolis and they conduct bread baking classes from their books in a school here. I applied and to my dismay I was put on a waiting list but in the end...I got through.
I was so excited that morning because I love meeting fellow food bloggers. And when I reached there, I met Zoe and she instantly recognised me (to my suprise!) . Yes, we are friends on Facebook and Twitter,but still, you wouldn't expect a person like her to remember all the faces!

I had a fabulous time learning how to make healthy bread in five minutes a day!They knew what they were doing which definately made learning from them very easy!

We were served the breads in between with cheese and jam. And I must say, all of them tasted very good! I loved the Cinnamon Cresents with Cream Cheese Topping and the Danish Braid with Berry Filling.
I am waiting for their next class now. Before that, I better stock up my pantry with all what I need to bake bread from next week on. Till then, we shall manage with the storebought one :)

Monday, May 10, 2010


It was in Dec '95 that she and her family came to our house to spend their X'mas vacation with us. My dad and I were promtly at the railway station to recieve them. And I waited to see that face which I have heard a lot about from my Grandmother. I waited patiently as the train pulled in to the station.I could feel my eyes moving in all directions to see who could she be? Then I felt a soft tug on my hand, my dad was tugging me to stop dreaming and go with him to the AC sleeper compartment.

She jumped out of the train, wearing a cute white salwar kameez with some sort of pink print on it. She even had a dupatta on! I envied her so much, because I was never allowed to wear one then! It was only for big girls, so was she bigger than me? No, we were of the same age, 10. And she even had a traveller's pouch on her waist! I must admit I was shy to wear them, but still, I envied her for that as well! After all the introductions, we headed home.

During their stay with us, we grew closer and after our delicious lunch everyday, she used to go to her room and lie on the bed and read! She finished a book , cover to cover, in a days time. I was AMAZED! Me and books , were opposite poles till then. So finally, I asked her about what the story was and who are those people on the cover etc. She patiently explained everything to me in detail and gave me one of her books to read. And that's it...I was hooked onto Enid Blyton!

She was a step ahead than me, she was reading Nancy Drew Files. Nevertheless, I went ahead with the book she gave me...there was no looking back since then!

My Dad had a tough time once, because of me and Famous Five/Secret Seven. Remember , this was back in 90's and no ginger-ale was ever heard in India then. And I used to give him a list which consisted of food items like Ginger-Ale, Sardine sandwiches etc, whenever he went to Bangalore. My cousin sister in Bangalore used to help my Dad in hunting for those stuff :) We still laugh over it!

I must admit, I am still at the Enid Blyton's stage. I have not grown out of it, rather I don't want to! The immensely delicious food items they mention in it...like thickly buttered bread, lemonade, sardine sandwiches,scone,pastries and what not! Ooooh! I want to go camping like them on the moors!

When we were moving from Virginia to Minneapolis, we drove down all the way! And we passed by through many many countrysides and I spotted so many dairy farms and farmhouses! And everytime I saw them, I told Jobin that I wanted to spend a day or two in such a bed and breakfast inn/farmhouse and feel what I felt and I still feel when I read Famous Five. And yes, I am hoping for an adventure to happen too!

I usually draw out the images/houses/landscape that I like when I read a book. I promise you , I can draw out a Kirrin Cottage if you want me to! Gosh! I am still so hooked onto it! I have even started watching the Famous Five serials on the web! :) I am ADDICTED!

OK! So you must be wondering what's with Ria and Famous Five? It's MAC Tell Me a Story at Mac Tweet's this month!  So we get to re-create our memories of our fave books with a Macaron! How exciting is that! 

Recipe source for the macs : Ottolenghi Cookbook  via Meeta's blog
Recipe source for the filling: Aran's blog

For the shells:
Icing sugar-110g
Almond meal -60g
Egg whites -60g (I aged them for 48 hours on counter top)
Castor sugar-40g
Coloured sugar -for sprinkling

Please refer to her blog for the detailed instructions.

For the filling:
60g sugar
110 g cream
165 g bittersweet chocolate
15g salted butter
a pinch of salt 

  • Make a dry caramel with the sugar. In the meantime, heat the cream and when the caramel is starting to turn fairly dark, deglaze it with the cream.
  • Have the  chocolate chopped in a separate bowl. Strain the caramel mixture over the chocolate. Let it sit untouched for a minute. The caramel will start to slowly melt the chocolate. Whisk gently until all the chocolate is dissolved and the ganache has formed an emulsion. When it has coioled a bit, which will happen quickly since it's a small batch, add the soft butter and mix keeping the emulsion. Add the salt.
  • Let the ganache sit at room temperature until it hardens enough to be pipeable. Place in a pastry bag and pipe in between almond macarons.

This is my 3 trial and my 3rd successful batch of making macs and I must say I liked this one the best! They tasted better than the others that I have tried. Jobin loved them and I gave a bag-full to our friends and they loved it too! So I guess, this is a winner! The salted caramel ganache was too good to be true! Will be using it more often.

And for all those who have been wondering , who that 'she' was...it's my cousin Roshini :) We are good friends since those hols. We lived far away from each other , so we were pen friends for a while . I was a good pen friend, sending her letters every now and then, but she was a lazy one! :) Nevermind, we are very close friends now! Thank you Roshini, for taking me into a dreamworld, in which I still am!

Friday, May 7, 2010


As I mentioned in my previous post, I didn't make a dessert for his birthday. Instead, I made it the next day. I always wanted to try my own recipe for cakes & desserts and also I had to use up some heavy cream and mascarpone cheese before they hit their expiry date. That's how this dessert was born.

I am not boasting, but this is one of the creamiest cheesecakes I have ever tasted. The flavours in it are so subtle but it will keep you wanting for more! And this can be made in no-time!

My own recipe

For the crust:
Glucose/Marie/Digestive biscuits-200g ( I used Parle-G )
Melted butter- 100g
Sugar-2 tbsp

  • Crush the biscuits and mix it very well with the melted butter till it resembles coarse sand.
  • Add the sugar and give it a quick mix.
  • Pat it into the bottom of an 8" round loose bottom /springform tin. If you want, you can build up a bit on the sides too, like I did.
  • Refrigerate it for 30 mins while you prepare the batter.

For the cheesecake batter:
Heavy cream/Amul cream-400g
Sugar-6-7 tbsp or to taste
Home made Mascarpone cheese-400g
Gelatin-1tbsp dissolved in 1 cup of water
Strong coffee- 3 tbsp
Rum-2 tbsp (optional)

  • Whip the cream and sugar into stiff peaks. Fold in the mascarpone cheese into it.
  • Melt gelatin either using the double boiling method or by in the microwave for 10 secs.
  • Add the gelatin, rum and coffee and fold in carefully.
  • Pour over the base and leave it to set in the fridge for 2-3 hours.
  • Drizzle chocolate ganache on top and decorate as you wish.

Chocolate Ganache
Chocolate-25 g ,chopped
Fresh cream/Heavy cream-25 ml

  • Chop the chocolate and reserve it in a metal/glass bowl.
  • Heat the cream till it starts to bubble over the edges.
  • Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for minute or two.
  • Stir it well with a spoon.
  • Use as desired.  

Verdict : It was really delicious! And I was jumping with joy when I cut through it...it set perfectly and the crust behaved so well! Now I know the secret to get a well behaving crust...add melted butter to it! Jobin's eyes widened with delight as he took the first bite...it was really good!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

LAMINGTON TOWERS for him... and the countdown begins! #25

It was his birthday, on May 4. And like all good wives do, I wanted it to be a special, memorable day for him. So I gave him the choice to decide/ask me what he wanted me to cook for him. And pat came the reply: Maggi for breakfast, Lamingtons as cake ( because his mom always made them for his birthdays as a kid),Chicken Biriyani for lunch and he said that I could decide the rest of the menu :)

So we had Tangdi Kabab, Naan and Dum Aloo for dinner. It was a very yummy affair, I must say! But I skimped on the dessert because I knew he would be attacking the Lamingtons till they are over and gone!

I love doing petit-fours. So I was happy when I had to make these little things. And boy! They are so easy to make! I didn't want him to cut just one, so I piled it up and made the tower and propped candles all over it. Just in case you are wondering where the tip of the tower was, we had it, just couldn't resist it!

I also have to tell you all something, starting from today, I am going to try 25 new things(of course, food related) in the next 25 days before I turn 25! :) I am so excited about it...and so is he! Actually, he was talking about someone doing 40 things before turning 40 and this idea popped into my head! I am glad it did! So this is #25.

Recipe Source: Laksmi Nair
[I made the cake extrra-special by not using my 'Reddie' but by beating the batter using elbow grease ;) ]

Things you will need:
Plain Cake
Chocolate Coating
Dessicated coconut

For the cake:
All purpose flour-2c
Baking powder-2 heaped tsp
Baking Soda-1/2 tsp
Salt-1/4 tsp
Butter-125 g ( I used regular unsalted butter)
Sugar-7 tbsp, powdered
Milk-1 1/4 c
Vanilla extract-1/2-1 tsp

  • Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
  • Beat butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon till light and fluffy.
  • Add in the eggs one by one and beat it well after each addition.
  • Add flour and milk alternately starting and ending with flour.
  • Add in the vanilla extract.
  • If the batter is thick, add more milk and make it to the right consistency.
  • Pour into a prepared square pan and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 C/350 F for 35 mins.
  • Cool and cut the cake into small 2x2 inch squares.

For the chocolate coating
Butter-1 1/2 tbsp
Sugar-3c, powdered
Cocoa powder-3 heaped tbsp
Water-3/4 c

  • Mix sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl.
  • Boil water and butter together. Add this to the sugar-cocoa mix and stir well .
  • Chocolate coating is ready.

  • Prick a piece of cake with a fork, dip it into the chocolate coating till well coated.
  • Drain the excess chocolate by lifting the cake piece (with the fork still in it) and tap against the rim of the vessel.
  • Roll in dessicated coconut using the help of a fork (so that your hand stays clean).
  • Arrange it on a plate and serve.
  • I refrigerated mine overnight but it still stayed soft and moist. I feel it helps to harden the coating too.
Verdict: I must admit I am not a big coconut fan.  I am known for scraping out the coconut which is on top of Puttu and in between Idiappam. But  I really loved this cake! And Jobin couldn't stop with 2 in one go...he wanted to have more, but he had to go to work ;) But he took care of it in the evening ;)

Monday, May 3, 2010


This is one of the food that I regularly make these days, especially when I crave for that typical Kerala food that we had at home. And whenever I used to see Amma making this, I don't know why,but I always felt that it was kind of a very -precise-calculated recipe. She never went by tablespoon of teaspoon measurements, maybe because of that ;)

So before our wedding, I had asked Amma to write down some of her recipes for me in a separate book. And she did! I must admit I own quite a lot of cookbooks from various authors, but I carried only 3 books with me to US. Those are Amma's handwritten recipes, her favourite Chinese cookbook and my recipe 'collection'. Afterall, that's all that you would really want for your daily cooking! :)

But when I had to make this, I couldn't find Amma's handwritten recipe book was nor did I have the time to hunt for it then. So I went ahead with the proportions I thought would be perfect...sometimes I even go by the smell of the food ;)
The knife that you see above was Jobin's surprise gift for me as soon as we moved into our apartment. It is one of the best gifts he has ever given me...a Wusthof 8" Chef 's Knife. And that's the first knife to enter our kitchen. It is marvelous! I don't think I need to talk about a Wusthof so I quote Jobin's bro here, 'It's the best knife money can buy ! ' It sure is!

So let's move on to the recipe. Finla, this is for you :) I am sorry to have kept you waiting for so long!

My own recipe

Beef - 2 lb ,cut into 1" squares
Onions- 3, medium sliced fine
Tomatoes- 2, medium chopped
Coconut slivers/Thenga kothu- 1/2 cup ( I did not have any, so I skipped them)
Red Chili powder- 1 heaped tbsp (I used the spicy type, so 1 heaped tbsp was enough. Go as per your taste)
Coriander powder- 1 1/2 heaped tbsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Ginger -garlic paste- 2 tbsp
Salt-to taste
Water- 1/4 cup ( You need not add this at all if you are not draining/ drying the meat after washing it)
Vinegar- 1 tbsp ,optional ( You need to add this only if you feel your curry is lacking it. For me, tomatoes did the work)

For frying/tempering:
Onion- 1, medium sliced fine
Mustard seeds-1/2 tsp
Oil-6-7 tbsp

  • Put all the ingredients into a cooker , mix well and pressure cook it for 2 whistles. (The beef I use needs only 2 whistles, but if you feel your's is still uncooked, give it one more whistle and check.) Do not over cook the beef here, because it might break/crumble while we fry/temper it.
  • Once the beef is cooked and if you have water left in the cooker, cook till the water is evaporated almost completely. At this stage you can freeze the beef and thaw and use it later as follows.
  • In another pan, heat oil, crackle the mustard seeds and saute the onions in it till soft.
  • Add the cooked beef into it and fry it till you get a nice dark brown colour for the meat.
  • Serve hot with rice, chapathi , appam or bread!
Verdict: It was fingerlicking, lipsmacking-ly good! Jobin adores it! And I love cooking it! :) Your house would be wrapped in the aroma of it...whether you like it or not! ;)
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