Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen was our August 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to make some amazing regional Indian desserts. The Mawa Cake, the Bolinhas de Coco cookies and the Masala cookies – beautifully spiced and delicious!
This month's Daring Baker challenge is making me travel to India. A country I don't know much about, except it's touristic clichés, Rajesh Koothrappali, and whose cooking is more famous for it's spicy savory recipes, but I had no idea what's in store for the sweet tooth in India.
I choose to make the mawa cake aswell as the bolinhas de coco, for I love coconuts and also I couldn't get a hold on curry leaves that where necessary for the masala cookies. Plus the name clearly stated it's portuguese history, and that's always a plus in my book!
Making the mawa was a whole new experience, it almost felt like making some kind of cheese, and in the end it gives the cake a nice moist texture. The use of cardamom in both recipe gives them an exotic touch, it's a spicy that I love, but don't get to use it so often.
MAWA CAKE (Cardamom Flavoured Milk Cake):
Servings: Serves 8 to 10
For the Mawa:
1 litre (4 cups) full fat milk
For the cake:
1/2 cup (1 stick) (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) unsalted Butter (soft at room temperature)
3/4 cup (180 ml) packed crumbled mawa
1-1/4 cups (300 ml) (10 oz) (280 gm) castor sugar
3 large eggs
5 to 6 cardamom pods, powdered, (about 1-1/2 tsp powdered cardamom)
2 cups (500ml) (9 oz) (260 gm) cake flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract (optional)
Cashewnuts (or blanched almonds) to decorate (about 18 to 20)
1. First make the “Mawa”. Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan, preferably a non-stick one. Bring the milk to a boil, stirring it on and off, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Turn down the heat to medium and keep cooking the milk until reduces to about a quarter of its original volume. This should take about an hour to an hour and a half.
2. The important thing during this process is to watch the milk and stir it frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick to the sides or bottom of the pan and get burnt. The danger of this happening increases as the milk reduces and gets thicker.
3. Once the milk it has reduced to about one fourth, 1/4 quantity, lower the heat to low and let cook for a little while longer. Keep stirring regularly, until the milk solids (mawa) take on a lumpy appearance. There should be no visible liquid left in the pan, but the mawa should be moist and not stick to the sides of the pan.
4. Remove the pan from heat and transfer the mawa to a bowl and let it cool completely. Then cover and refrigerate it for a day or two (not more) till you’re ready to make the cake. It will harden in the fridge so let it come to room temperature before using it.
You should get about 3/4 to 1 cup of mawa from 1 litre (4 cups) of full-fat milk.
5. Now start preparations for the cake by pre-heating your oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Beat the butter, the crumbled mawa and the sugar in a largish bowl, using a hand held electric beater, on high speed until soft and fluffy.
6. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat on medium speed till well incorporated. Add the vanilla and milk and beat till mixed well.
7. Sift the cake flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt onto the batter and beat at medium speed and well blended. If you cannot find cake flour, place 2 tablespoon of cornstarch in the bottom of your 1-cup measure and then fill it with all-purpose (plain) flour to make up to 1 cup.
8. Grease and line only the bottom of an 8 inch (20 cm) spring form pan. Pour the batter into this and lightly smooth the top. Place the cashew nuts (or blanched almonds) on top of the batter randomly. Do not press the nuts down into the batter. A Mawa Cake always has a rustic finished look rather than a decorated look.
9. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 1 hour until the cake is a golden brown and a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. Do not over bake the cake or it will dry out. If the cake seems to be browning too quickly, cover it will aluminium foil hallway through the baking time.
10. Remove from oven and allow it to cool for 10 min in the tin. Release the cake, peel off the parchment from the base and let it cool completely.
BOLINHAS DE COCO (Cardamom Flavored Coconut Biscuits/ Cookies):
Servings: Makes about 4 dozen cookies
2 cups (500 ml) (5-1/3 oz) (150 gm) fresh grated coconut, packed
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) (9 oz) (250 gm) semolina
1-1/4 cups (300 ml) (8-3/4 oz) (250 gm) granulated sugar
3/4 cup water (180ml) (6 oz) (175 gm) water
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz) (30 gm) ghee (clarified butter) or melted unsalted butter
2 large eggs
8 to 10 pods cardamom, powdered (about 1-1/2 teaspoon)
1. Run the grated coconut in your processor or the small jar of your blender a couple of times so that the flakes are smaller and uniform in texture. Do not grind into a paste. Keep aside.
2. Put the semolina in a pan and toast/ roast it, over low to medium heat, until it starts giving off an aroma, and looks like it’s about to start changing colour. This should take a couple of minutes. Do not brown. Transfer the semolina into a bowl and keep aside.
3. In the same pan, pour the water and add the sugar to it. Place it on medium heat and keep stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Once the sugar has dissolved, keep stirring the solution and let it cook for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. The sugar solution should just begin to start forming a syrup but is still watery. Do not cook until it forms a thick syrup.
4. Add the toasted/ roasted semolina and mix well. Then add the coconut, salt and ghee (or melted butter) and mix well. Put the pan back on the stove, and over medium heat stir the coconut mixture until it is really hot and easily forms a thick clump. This should take about 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Take the pan off the heat and let the semolina coconut mixture cool to room temperature. Transfer this into a bowl or container, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, ideally overnight. For really fluffy biscuits/ cookies, the overnight rest is recommended.
6. The next day, take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Separate the yolks from the egg whites. Lightly beat the yolks with a fork to break them and add to the dough. Also add the powdered cardamom and mix well with a wooden spoon or fork.
7. Whisk the egg whites by hand until frothy and add to the dough. Mix well till incorporated.
8. You will now have a slightly moist and sticky dough. Refrigerate this dough for about half an hour so it firms up a bit.
9. Pre-heat your oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Line your baking trays with parchment or grease them well with some ghee or melted butter.
10. Take the dough out and pinch off walnut sized bits of dough. The dough should be firm enough to handle without difficulty. If the dough is sticking to your palms, lightly dust your palms with flour before shaping the dough. Roll the bits of dough into balls and then flatten them very slightly.
11. Decorate the top by marking criss-crosses (3 equidistant lines one way and another 3 crossing them at right angles), with a table knife. Press down a bit but not too deep or right through the biscuit/ cookie. Use up all the dough this way.
12. Place the shaped dough on the baking trays leaving a little space between them. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 20 to 25 minutes until they’re a golden brown and done. Let them cool on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then transfer to racks to cool completely.
13. Store the biscuits/ cookies in airtight containers. This recipe makes about 4 dozen Bolinhas de Coco.
I know, it's only the end of August, but somehow it feels like the end of summer, maybe because vacations are coming to an end for most people, that kids are getting their school bag ready for the beginning of classes, or maybe just because the weather isn't quite playing along anymore.
This is a time of year I always enjoyed, I was one of those
But slowly walking towards autumn, it is nice to take something with us from this time of year we all enjoy and wait for. It could be the memory of a clear blue sky, the quiet we felt resting in the middle of the afternoon with a good book, the pride of walking your way up a mountain (a very small one in my case) or just the taste of a dish that feels like holidays.
Every year I come back with a dish (or two) that really feels like summer to me, and everytime I make it again, it won't fail to remind me of the holidays that are linked to it. So even on a gray day, I can bring back some sunny days I've experienced during the time away.
This year dish includes squids, which I love and have loved ever since I was a kid (there is a picture of a six year old me shovelling in "fristo misto di mare" during a vacation in Italy to prove it), there something about this chewy consistency that works for me.
Nothing fancy of complicated in this dish, just buy some good ingredients, and take your time to cook the filling, because with squids, whether you cook them very quickly or for a long time, everything in between just won't work.
Tielle à la Sétoise (from "Cuisine du Sud")
400gr Puff Pastry
500gr Squid Fish (or Octopus)
1 Clove of Garlic
300gr of Tomato Sauce
2 Stigmas of Saffron
Thym, Oregano, Marjoran...
Peel and cut the onion. In a big pain heat up some olive oil and add the onion, cook until soften. Add the squid fish cut into rings and cook for at least 10 minutes, add salt and pepper.
Add the crushed clove of garlic, the piment d'espelette, thym, oregano and marjoran (to your taste). Pour the tomato sauce and add the safran, cook until the sauce thickens and leave to cool down.
Roll out the puff pastry, and cut out two circle, one the size of your dish (in this case 20cm) and one a bit bigger.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the bigger circle of puff pastry in your oiled pie dish, pour in the squid tomato filling and add a bit of freshly chopped parsley.
Place the second circle of puff pastry on top and seal the two circles together using your fingers.
With a brush, use a bit of the remaining tomato sauce from the filling to brush the top of the pie. Place it in the oven and cook for 35 minutes. Serve with a salad.
As someone use to sing "All good things come to an end" and so it happens to the holidays too. I know we wouldn't appreciate them as much if we'd be on holidays all the time, but it takes a certain kick in the behind to go back to work after enjoying a couple weeks of rest.
No clock to watch, no appointment to get to, just living on your own rythm, following the sun and your mood, does make your life feel smoother and peacefull.
Hopefully we all keep something from that inner peace and quiet that lives with us during that time, and take it with us to our daily lives. Obviously I need to watch the time again and follow my schedule, but beside that trying not to multi-task all the time, enjoying some time to just do nothing or do what I want instead of what I'm supposed to, is something I will try to apply to my daily life.
Holidays also mean time to cook, not that I don't take time the rest of the year (I have a food blog afterall!!), but cooking in a different place, not having to be finished at a certain time, always makes it a bit different.
Last month's daring kitchen challenge made us choose from the archive, and this recipe from the daring cook section immediatly sounded appealing: Cannelloni al Pesto! Without my pasta machine, it took a bit of work with the rolling pin, and even if it didn't end up as thin as with the machine, the cannelloni were lovely and tasted like holidays!
Cannelloni al Pesto
Ingredients (to make enough cannelloni for 4 persons):
100 grams (2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons) (170 ml) (3½ oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 large egg
Directions: 1. Put the flour and eggs in a food processor and mix. When the dough looks like crumbs, pour it onto the bench top sprinkled with a little flour. Knead well by hand until you obtain a smooth dough. Make it into a ball, wrap it in cling wrap and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
2. Now you are ready to make your egg pasta. Cut out a piece of egg pasta dough and flatten it into a rectangular shape with your hands. Put a little flour on it and begin passing it though the pasta machine. Turn the dial to the widest setting (#1) and, starting with one of the shorter sides of the rectangle, feed it through the rollers. Now fold one side of the piece of dough into the middle, then fold the other side over that to form 3 layers. Starting with one of the narrower sides of the folded dough, feed the pasta through the machine, again at the widest setting. Repeat the folding and rolling technique on the widest setting for at least a couple of times.
3. Now you can start rolling it thinner, by turning the dial to the next narrowest setting (# 2). Roll the pasta through the machine without folding the dough between settings. Keep reducing the settings until #7 (it is the second last on my machine – about 1 mm thick). If the sheet of pasta gets too long, you can cut it in half with a knife. To make cannelloni, cut out rectangular pasta sheets (10x15 cm) (4”x6”).
Ingredients (enough to make cannelloni for 4 people):
2 cups (500 ml) milk, hot
3½ tablespoons (52½ ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) butter
1/3 cup (80 ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 pinch salt
1 pinch nutmeg
Directions: 1. Put the butter in a non-stick pot and let it melt. Add the flour and whisk constantly until well incorporated: this is the “roux”. Let it cook for a minute or two.
2. Now start adding hot milk little by little, while mixing continuously until the milk is well incorporated. Do not add more milk unless it is well incorporated. Keep doing so until all the milk is incorporated.
3. Add salt and nutmeg and cook it on a low flame for 10 minutes or until it thickens.
4. When ready, cover it to prevent a film to appear on the surface.
CANNELLONI AL PESTO
Ingredients (serves 4)
Cannelloni sheets per recipe above (you should have about 8 sheets)
For pesto (makes about 190 gms/ 1cup)
2 cups (480 ml) (80 gm) (2¾ oz) basil, washed
¼ cup (60 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) parsley, washed
1 small clove garlic
3 tablespoons (45 ml) (25 gm) (¾ oz) Pecorino Romano, finely grated
1 tablespoons (15 ml) (10 gm) (¼ oz) Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
4 to 5 tablespoons (45 to 60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon (12½ ml) (5 gm) pine nuts
Salt to taste
For the filling
2 cups (480 ml) (500 gm) (18 oz) ricotta
¾ cup (180 ml) (150 gm) (5⅓oz) pesto (from the above recipe)
1½ cups (360 ml) (85 gm/3 oz) Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
1 pinch nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small potato, boiled and sliced
8 green beans, boiled
2 cups (500 ml) béchamel sauce
¼ cup (60 ml) (40 gm) (1½ oz) of pesto (from the above recipe)
½ cup (120 ml) (35 gm/1 oz) Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
Directions: 1. Start by making pesto. Simply blend the garlic, pine nuts, salt, basil, parsley and half the extra virgin olive oil together (I use a hand blender to do this) until obtaining a fine paste. Transfer to a bowl, add the grated cheeses and the remaining extra virgin olive oil and mix well. Adjust salt to taste and cover it with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil to prevent oxidation. Keep it aside.
2. To make the filling, mix the ricotta, ¾ cup (150 gm) of pesto, 1½ cups (85 gm/3 oz) of Parmigiano Reggiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper together until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.
3. Mix the béchamel sauce with the remaining pesto.
4. Put a large pot with salty water on the fire and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta sheets in it for 1 minute. Do this in batches (I use a shallow but large pot and I cook them in 1 layer, so I am sure they do not stick together). Remove them with a slotted spoon and put them on a clean tea towel to cool down.
5. Now take one sheet of cooked pasta and put 1/8 of the filling along the long side of the rectangle. Put 1 boiled green bean and 1 or 2 slices of boiled potatoes on top and roll the pasta over to make a cannellone. Do so for the remaining rectangles of pasta.
6. Take a big enough oven dish to fit all your cannelloni tightly. Spray the oven dish with some cooking oil (or melted butter) and pour some béchamel and pesto sauce on the bottom. Spread it well, especially in the corners. Put the cannelloni in the oven dish on 1 layer.
7. Cover the cannelloni with the béchamel and pesto sauce and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup (120 ml) (35 gm/1 oz) of Parmigiano Reggiano.
8. Bake them in a pre-heated moderate oven 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 for 20 minutes, then broil (grill) them at 400°F/200°C for another 5 minutes.
9. Serve immediately.