26 November 2011

thanksgiving wrap-up -- cranberry breads!

Our internet was out most of the day on Wednesday so instead of telling you about the cranberry breads I planned to make, or telling you that I posted a Thanksgiving article at Gluten-Free Works, I spent the day making a This-Isn't-Really-How-Pilgrims-Dressed dress for Muffin:

So now I will give a summary of my Thanksgiving cooking: Yum.

We were invited to a potluck dinner with some friends and our contribution was rice and cranberry bread. I cheated a bit and had my housekeeper make a rice pilaf (from the Moosewood Restaurant cookbook) while I made the cranberry breads.

Earlier in the week I tried a cranberry apricot nut cake from Anja's Food 4 Thought. There's no flour in it and if you use unsugared dried fruit then it's sugar-free as well. I had to substitute some of the nuts and I used cranberries that I'd brought back from the United States with us last summer. Ocean Spray Craisins can be found here sometimes, but I didn't want the expense and the inconsistent supply chain to keep me from making cranberry bread at Thanksgiving so I've been saving them to use since September. Anja calls for a mix of pecan and hazelnuts, but I haven't seen hazelnuts here in months so I used all pecans -- which hadn't been around for a few weeks and miraculously arrived on the shelves last Sunday. I bought enough to get me through Christmas. You could fool around substituting different fruits and nuts. (I bought some amazing dates this week, too, that would be good.)

Muffin and I ate most of that cake, which was evidence enough that it would be a good Thanksgiving dish. I had chopped and pre-measured the fruits and nuts when I made the first loaf so on Thursday morning I could make a fresh loaf in less time.

For my second bread I went back and forth on whether I should add cranberries to either the Pamela's baking mix banana bread or zucchini bread recipes. I went with the banana bread. I know the recipe by heart so it was quick to make on Thursday morning. I made it as muffins to ensure it cooked evenly and to save time and mess from having to cut it up.

Muffin tossed all breads and muffins aside once she got her first taste of turkey. Last Thanksgiving she was too young for real food. This year she inhaled the turkey off my plate and took a few bites of mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, and broccoli as well. We thought giving her a turkey leg to play with would make a funny photograph and we were surprised to see her bite right into it. She is definitely a Thanksgiving eater.

13 November 2011

flaxseed as an egg replacer

Maybe this is well-known to vegans and those with egg allergies, but it's news to me. I recently read on a package of flaxseed meal that it can be used as an egg replacement in some recipes. Here in a Hindu society, eggless recipes are a must. Alongside the regular Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker cakes mixes on the grocery store shelves, you'll see eggless varieties.

I tried the flaxseed replacement with a loaf of bread. A risky move, given the delicate balance of bread ingredients. For each egg I mixed 1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal with 3 tablespoons of water. I let it sit for a couple minutes to thicken up, then I added it to my bread at the time when I would have added the eggs. It worked! I never would have known there wasn't egg in the dough. I didn't notice any change in the taste or texture of the bread at all.

I think this could work well for a variety of baked goods. I'm surprised that news of this flaxseed replacement hasn't hit the bakeries here yet. Flaxseed is difficult to find, but I do see it occasionally in grocery stores. If more people knew about it, maybe there would be more flaxseed on the shelves.

12 November 2011

double chocolate pomegranate cookies

I read this recipe at MADE recently and realized that pomegranates are in season here, too. With a few modifications to make the cookies gluten-free and to allow for local supplies, these cookies were a success in our house.

Here is the recipe as I modified it. If you live in the United States or another country were basic ingredients are easily found, or if by chance you stumbled upon this blog but you are not gluten-free, you can read the original recipe at MADE.

2 cups Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter (or half cup butter and half cup shortening, if shortening is available to you)
3/4 cup castor sugar (a finely ground white granulated sugar)
3/4 cup demerara sugar (a brown sugar substitute here that I really like -- it has more of a burnt sugar flavor and the large granules provide a nice texture)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I horde this stuff and buy it whenever I'm in an extract-selling country to bring back with me)

2 1/2 cups chocolate chips (or if you're like me and are unsatisfied with your local chocolate chip selection, chop up some chocolate bars; I chopped four 80-gram bars)
1 cup pomegranate arils, or seeds (you can slice a pomegranate in half and whack at it with a wooden spoon to get the arils out)

Do the standard cookie-backing stuff.

Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C.

In one bowl blend together the baking mix, cocoa powder, and salt.

In another bowl, cream the butter then add the sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture. Then add the chocolate chips and pomegranate.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a baking sheet. I like to line my sheets with parchment paper. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes then allow them to cool on a wire rack for as long as you can keep your family's paws off of them.


If any play group moms are reading this, I froze half the dough and will be making a fresh batch for brunch on Friday.

There were a few shady moments were I wasn't certain these cookies would be completed. I didn't soften enough butter at first and when I grabbed my second box out of the fridge, I opened it up to find mold! I'd never even heard of mold on butter. Of course India could provide that experience for me. We had a small bit of table butter, which has salt in it, but I added it to my unsalted cooking butter in order to save Mike a nighttime walk to the local grocery, which probably wouldn't have had unsalted butter anyway. The cookies turned out not to be too salty, as I feared, but perfectly salted for the chocolate and pomegranate.

I was also dancing around on a cruddy floor. When I was pulling sugar out of the cupboard I was so relieved Muffin was distracted and not trying to help me that I didn't notice at first what distracted her. She'd dumped a box of loose-leaf tea onto the floor and was having fun walking on it in her bare feet. I have yet to get it all swept up. I am not having as much fun stepping on it in my bare feet.

Earlier in the day Muffin had a glue incident. The tea leaves were not spilled anywhere near the faint glue spot still on the floor.

I forgot about all of that when I started eating cookies.

I couldn't get a good photo of the cookies, but if this isn't a good endorsement, I don't know what is:

It's cookies like this that have encouraged me to join the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge. I run to eat baked goods. At least these cookies have vitamins and antioxidants, right, due to the pomegranates? There's still time to sign up for HBBC. Come join me!

09 November 2011

les premièrs macarons

Recently I wrote about my new obsession with macarons and how I was planning to battle the India humidity to make my first batch. I did battle the humidity and the little cookies came out much better than I expected.

Per the book Cecile Cannone's Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the MacarOn Cafe I separated my egg whites two days before using them. Early in the morning on baking day, I took my egg whites and other ingredients out of the refrigerator to bring them up to room temperature. I also turned on the oven early and brought the dehumidifier into the kitchen to dry out the room as much as possible.

I had to dry out my almond meal before I started the real baking and that took about thirty minutes in the oven. After that things moved along much more smoothly than I expected. I used the Cuisinart food processor (nearly blowing a fuse but stopping when I could feel the electricity struggling) to grind the almond meal and confectioner's sugar (or icing sugar) into a fine, smooth powder. I had to use an electric handheld mixer rather than my KitchenAid stand mixer to beat the egg whites (because the KitchenAid did blow out a few weeks ago and I haven't been able to get it repaired yet) so it took a long time to get the egg whites and sugar to the stiff peaks they needed to be at but it eventually happened. And I did a little dance of joy because I was so relieved and happy to see them beat properly!

I carefully folded the egg whites with sugar into the almond meal with sugar to complete the batter -- yeah, lots of sugar. So far things had gone by the book but I actually had no idea if my batter consistency was correct. It seemed useable so I kept going.

Getting the batter into the piping sleeves was a tricky, sticky mess and who knows how much I wasted. I had a blocked nozzle once or twice with some almond meal clumps but for the most part the batter flowed just as it was supposed to. I made my little circles on my parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, let the cookies rest for a few minutes, then popped them into the oven.

It's the resting and cooking time that can be difficult. The mixing of stuff is all mechanics, but the resting and cooking is a total crapshoot. The cracked cookies and the ones without the nice little shelf on the bottom are the ones that either did not rest long enough, or rested too long, or were not cooked long enough, or were cooked too long, or the oven wasn't opened enough times to let out steam while they were baking, or they were removed from the tray and parchment too early, or too late. There are lots of factors to worry about.

Although my introductory photograph is purple, I did not use food coloring for this first attempt. The purple is the result of my fooling around with some new photo editing stuff. I wanted to see what the macarons looked like naked, so to speak.

They looked pretty good. Much better than I expected them too. They were shiny on top and not all of them cracked. The cracking is the result of too much moisture but there are a few tricks I can use to combat the moisture next time, especially since we are moving away from the rainy season.

Fresh out of the oven. My first tray, before I got the hang of making perfect circles.
The best macaron from the whole batch.
Lots of them cracked.
They tasted great. They are sweet, that's for sure. But they melted in our mouths just like they were supposed to. We ate most of them plain, but when we had some friends over for dinner I made sandwich cookies, some with chocolate frosting left over from birthday cupcakes a few days earlier and some with cherry preserves.

I'm game to keep trying. I have some colors and flavors in mind to play around with. I've purchased several macaron cookbooks lately and I love the colorful photos. I kind of want to make them just so I can take photos of them, too!

Note: I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the book link and ultimately decide to buy it, I will receive a small amount of money.
All photos taken by me. 

01 November 2011

pumpkin seeds

This was originally published on 3 November 2007. I updated it with our recent jack-o-lantern photo. I actually liked the pumpkin seeds from our Hyderabadi pumpkins better than seeds I've gotten from American pumpkins. They have a nice meaty inner seed.

If you carved a pumpkin this week, then you had a bunch of pumpkin seeds laying around afterward. I've always loved roasting them for a post-carving snack.

I wanted to say a little more than "spread on tray and put in oven" for this post, so I turned to Wikipedia for some pumpkin seed info. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of stuff that's good for us: iron, zinc, essential fatty acids, potassium, and magnesium. There's also new research showing that they are high in tryptophan. So when you're feeling jittery from eating all that trick-or-treating loot, down a handful of pumpkin seeds to help you relax.

There are various "favorite" ways for preparing pumpkin seeds. I separated mine from the pulp and rinsed them in a colander. Then I forgot about them and left them to dry overnight in the sink. The next morning I spread them on a foil-lined baking sheet and lightly salted them. I baked them at 350 for about 15 minutes. They were crispy and light brown on the outside and just a little chewy on the inside.

First I ate them by the handful while they were still warm from the oven. Later in the day I mixed some with sweetened dried cranberries for a sweet and salty snack. Then I topped a green salad with the last of them.

Why do I only do this once or twice a year? I only roast them when I've cut up a pumpkin for some reason. It's just not the same to buy them from the store. I like to get my hands in the pumpkin guts.



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