Archive for October, 2014

Kesar Peda

October 21, 2014

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I don’t know when my love for milk started.  It was definitely not when I was a child.  Not that I hated it, milk was just not my first choice of beverage.  The “healthy” label that it was given kinda turned me off.  Which, of course, led me to will myself to have lactose intolerance.  Oh, those days.  Those sad milk-less days.

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And then, all of a sudden, I discovered the wonders of dairy.  It is delicious.  So creamy, so satisfying and so, so good.  That is also when I discovered all of these Indian sweets that I had taken for granted and completely dismissed because they were milk based.  I don’t understand my younger self at all.  What was I doing with my life?!

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Kesar peda were sweets that were always in the house growing up.  They were so much a part of the norm that I never really appreciated them…much like milk.  In fact, when I was researching about sweets to make for Diwali this year, I was really surprised at the number of times that this dish came up.  Was this really a dessert that people consider special?  Is this really made for holidays?

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Yes, is the answer for both of those questions.  Because it’s amazing.  It’s whole milk cooked down until it’s thick and glorious, with some sugar, some spices, and basically you have every good thing in one little bite.  It’s basically an Indian spiced milk fudge.  Amazing.  Never again will I shun milk – look at what I almost missed out on!  Happy Diwali!

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Want more Diwali ideas?  Here are some that have been posted before!

Kesar Peda (inspiration from here)

Sigh, no.  I don’t expect you to stand by the stove as your 1/2 gallon of milk boils down to nothing more than a cup.  So here’s a link to a shortcut recipe.  I haven’t tried it (mostly because I was so tired from making it the original way), but I can’t imagine that it’s not delicious.  Especially because when I was researching recipes for this dessert, the shortcut came up far more often than the long way.  Go figure.

1/2 gallon whole milk

1 tsp. ghee or butter

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. ground cardamom

1 tsp. saffron + 1 additional tbsp.

2 tbsp. cream

chopped pistachios or whole almonds for garnish

Heat a non-stick pan over low heat and add ghee or butter.  Brush it so it covers all of the pan, bottom and up the sides.  Pour in all of the milk.  The next process is a lengthy one.  Over the period of about 3.5 hours, the milk will reduce over low heat until it becomes a thick paste.  You will need to stir it about once every 20 minutes to ensure that it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pan.  At the 2 hour mark, you will be convinced that the all of the milk will evaporate into thin air, and you will be sad.  But keep at it.

Milk solids will start forming at the 3 hour mark, at which point you will want to stir more often.  When it’s very thick, but still has a little bit of liquid left to it, basically at the 3.5 hour mark, add the sugar and carefully stir it in.  You will curse yourself for doing this, because sugar adds liquid, and you wll think that all of that time you spent to get rid of the liquid was all for naught.  At this point, add the cardamom too.  Stir it all together.

It will take about another half hour for the mixture to be really thick.  Take the saffron, and heat it over a gas burner.  This activates it.  Add it to 2 tbsp. cream.  Mix that into the milk/sugar mixture.

Take the mixture off the heat and let it cool until it’s able to be handled.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Take some of the additional tbsp. of ghee and spread it on your hands to ensure that the mixture won’t stick to you.  Knead the picture until it is smooth.  Taking golf ball size pieces, roll each piece into a smooth ball, flattening it out slightly, and pressing down with your thumb, before placing it on the baking sheet.  Repeat until all the mixture has been used, adding more ghee to your hands, as necessary.

Place the nuts in the indentation and slightly press down to ensure that they have stuck.  I think that peda taste better chilled, but they can also be enjoyed at room temperature!

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Warm Apple Crisp

October 13, 2014

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Friends, I haven’t been apple picking this year.  You know, how much I love to go and pick the apples, go overboard, complain about it, and then make delicious things from these apples and look forward to doing it all the next year.  You know this!  And yet, this year, there are no over-ambitious 12 lbs. of apples in sight.  Nope.  There are only grocery store apples that I keep around to remind me that it’s fall.  Because I haven’t been apple picking this year.

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And here’s a little secret I haven’t told you yet: I don’t even like apples!  Raw, that is.  I don’t like raw apples.  They make no sense to me.  You never know when one is ripe!  Will it be sweet, will it be sour, will it be grainy?  These are all questions that run through your mind as you anxiously pick one up and hope for the best.

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I’m helping you avoid all of these things with this apple crisp.  It’s apples at their best – cooked!  And oh, man, the topping.  The crispy, sweet, topping that I love most in any crisps.  Unlike every other crisp that uses a separate thickener to make sure the fruit juices don’t run free, this recipe uses the actual topping mixed in with the fruit.  Which means, that underneath the oaty, brown sugary, nutty crackly topping, are the same flavors mixed with the slight tang of the apples.  They all meld into this almost honey and jam-like bottom that is only complete with a cool ice cream, melting on top.

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Now, seriously – are you still going to eat that apple raw?!

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Warm Apple Crisp (recipe slightly adapted from Joy the Baker)

For Filling:
5 to 6 medium-size apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices (About 7.5 cups)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1.5 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp. sugar

For Topping:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, well-softened
2/3 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)
1/3 cup old fashioned oats

Preheat the oven to 350. Generously grease an 8×8 baking pan with butter.

In the baking pan, toss the apple mixture with lemon juice, and then with the cinnamon and sugar until evenly coated. The apples should be just about to the top of the pan.

For the topping, place the flour, brown sugar, nuts, cinnamon and oats in a large bowl and stir well.  Mash in the butter into the flour mixture until evenly distributed.

Take one full handful of the topping and toss it into the apple mixture, and mix well.  Spread the rest of the topping evenly over the apples.

Bake the crisp until the topping is crunchy and the apples are bubbling, 55-60 minutes.

Serve hot – serve with with vanilla ice cream.

Cannoli Cake

October 1, 2014

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I know, I know.  What is a cannoli cake??  I actually wanted to name this post “pistachio cake with whipped ricotta and chocolate chip filling, topped with chocolate ganache.”  But that seemed to be a mouthful.  But now you know what a cannoli cake is!  Man, this is a really great start to this post.

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This was yet another installment of my sister’s birthday cake.  I have to say, the cake is becoming harder and harder every year.  Mostly because she has the exact same criteria every year.  Must have some form of chocolate, but not be completely chocolate, must be really, really tasty, must be unique, must not be a repeat of the year before, must not be a repeat of any years before, must be a cake.

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I mean, this doesn’t give me much to work with.  And after going back through the years, and realizing that I’ve already made cakes with a chocolate coconut combo, a chocolate orange combo, a chocolate chip cake, and a multi layered standard yellow cake with chocolate frosting, I felt a little tapped out this year.  I felt old, people.  This is the fifth installment of sister’s grand birthday cake extravaganza, and I needed to rest.

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Per usual, I rested by looking up recipes, and felt that a pistachio cake would throw her for a loop.  It’s not standard (unique!), it has chocolate chips (some, but not all chocolate!), I had never made it before (no repeats!), and, oh man, with the pistachio paste and the pistachio oil, it looked so, so delicious (tasty!).  We ended up with an amazing cake, with so many cannoli flavors happening.  It was a pistachio party!  And, fine, I’ll say it: I can’t wait until next year to do this all again.

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Cannoli Cake

Pistachio Cake (recipe from Tartine and Apron Strings)

  • 2/3 cup (190 grams) pistachio paste
  • 2 tbsp (35 grams) honey
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1¾ cups (280 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1¼ cups(110 grams) blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 cup (75 grams) pistachio oil
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) heavy cream
  • 1 cup (160 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • nonstick cooking spray
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Combine the pistachio paste and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-low for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture turns into a sticky green paste. Scrape down the side of the bowl with a spatula.
  3. On low speed, add the egg whites one at a time, being careful not to add the next egg white until the previous one is completely incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the side of the bowl after every 2 to 3 egg whites.
  4. Add the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour and, on low speed, paddle them in for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Stop the mixer and scrape down the side of the bowl.
  5. Stream in the pistachio oil, followed by the heavy cream while paddling on low speed. Mix for 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides again.
  6. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and paddle on low for 2 to 3 minutes, until the batter is smooth and thick.
  7. Spray an 8 or 9 inch round or springform pan with nonstick cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper cut out to fit the bottom of the pan.
  8. Pour and spread the cake batter in an even layer in the pan.  Tap cake pan on counter to knock out any air bubbles.  Bake for 40 – 45 minutes, checking for doneness starting at 35 minutes.
  9. To check for doneness, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger: the cake should bounce back (like a sponge cake), and it should be golden brown on the sides and pulling away from the sides of the pan slightly.
  10. Take the cake out of the oven and cool in the pan for 15 minutes.  Invert cake to a wire rack and remove the parchment paper at the bottom. Turn right side up on the rack and continue cooling.
  11. Let cake cool completely.  With a sharp, serrated knife, split the cake into 3 even layers.  Assemble cake.

Whipped Ricotta Filling

  • 1 cup fresh ricotta (you can make it yourself, or buy fresh)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips (will use to fill cake when ready to assemble)
  1. In the bowl of a mixer, whip together sugar, vanilla and ricotta until very smooth – about 2 minutes.
  2. Remove ricotta from bowl, place into a separate bowl, and add cream to the mixing bowl (no need to clean it out first).  Whip cream until soft peaks form.
  3. Add the ricotta mixture back to the bowl and whip together until stiff peaks form.
  4. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Chocolate Ganache and Topping

  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup raw shelled pistachios, ground (reserve to top cake after filling and frosting)
  1. Make after the cake has been assembled, and ready to top with chocolate ganache.
  2. In a small pot, scald cream until just about ready to boil.
  3. Pour over chocolate chips and let it sit for 1 minute.  Whisk together until smooth.
  4. Pour right over the top of the cake, letting the ganache drip down the sides of the cake.
  5. While the chocolate is still warm, scatter pistachios right around the edges of the cake.

To assemble the cake:

  1. Put the bottom layer of the cooled cake on a serving tray.
  2. Spread half of the ricotta filling evenly on top of the cake, not spreading all the way to edges of the cake.
  3. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips.
  4. Carefully place middle layer on top of the filling.
  5. Spread second half of the ricotta filling on top of the middle layer of the cake.  Sprinkle with with second half of mini chocolate chips.
  6. Top with the last layer of cake.  Pour chocolate ganache over top of the cake and sprinkle with pistachios.
  7. This cake is best when it has had a chance to meld together in the refrigerator.  Let chocolate ganache cool, wrap with plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for several hours.