Christmas Wreaths

After scouring the internet for Christmas projects that I could use, I stumbled upon this post. I immediately knew that I wanted to try this out. So I gave it a shot. The only difference is I used this as doilies for my side tables rather than dish cloths. I didn’t get around to adding the little red berries, but I think it turned out really pretty anyway. I used the pattern found here.

Christmas Wreath
Materials:  100% cotton Sugar & Cream yarn in the colors of red, white and green
               Crochet Hook size H
              Large Tapestry Needle for making french knots & weaving in the ends
Directions:
Rnd 1:  With white, ch 5, sl st in first ch to form ring, ch 3 (counts as dc), 13 more dc in ring.  Join with sl st in top of ch-3. (14 dc).
Rnd 2:  (Ch 3, dc) in first st, 2 dc in each st around, join (28).
Rnd 3:  (Ch 3, dc) in first st, dc in next st, (2 dc in next st, dc in next st) around, join. (42)  Fasten off white.
Rnd 4:  Join green with sc in any st, sc in each st around, join with sl st in first sc.
Rnd 5:  (Ch 3, dc) in first st, dc in next 2 sts, (2 dc in next st, dc in next 2 sts) around, join. (56)
Rnd 6:  (Ch 3, dc) in first st, dc in next 3 sts, (2 dc in next st, dc in next 3 sts) around, join. (70)
Rnd 7:  (Ch 3, dc) in first st, dc in next 4 sts, (2 dc in next st, dc in next 4 sts) around, join. (84)
Rnd 8:  Ch 1, sc in first st, skip next 2 sts, 7 trc in next st, skip next 2 sts, (sc in next st, skip next 2 sts, 7 trc in next st, skip next 2 sts)  around.  Join with sl st in first sc.  Fasten off green yarn.
For bow — use red yarn.  Chain 60.  Slip stitch in 2nd chain from hook and slip stitch in each chain across.  Fasten off.  Weave in ends.  Fold red chain in shape of a bow.  Then, wrap two separate strands of red around center.  Sew bow to the wreath fastening with the two separate strands of red yarn.
With more red yarn, make 6 french knot berries in the wreath. (I left out this step)

Weave in ends.

Seasons Greetings!!!

I just wanted to stop by and wish every one a wonderful Christmas season. Hope you had a lovely Christmas Day. Best wishes for the New Year!

I’ve been terribly busy and haven’t had the time to post anything in the last couple of days. But I’ll be back soon.

12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies – Roundup

Here’s a look at what went on during the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies 2010

Week 1: Cranberry Noels





Week 2: Chocolate Pistachio Fudge





Week 3: Brandy Snaps





Week 4: Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies





Week 5: Coconut Macaroons





Week 6: Marzipan Tarts

 


Week 7: Rum Balls

 


Week 8: Scottish Shortbread





Week 9: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

 


Week 10: Holiday Meringues





Week 11: Nankatais

 


Week 12: Jujups

Hope this helps you with ideas for your Christmas platter. Let me know if you do try out any of these. I’d love to know what you did and how it turned out!

Final Week of 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Jujups

Yes folks, here we are, at the final week of an amazing 12 week journey. A journey where so many wonderful bakers, cooks and bloggers put up some wonderful treats each week. I know I’ve learned so much from them. Their work has truly been inspiring. My ever growing ‘to bake’ list just got a whole lot longer and I can’t wait to try out some of these treats myself.

Considering how close we are to Christmas and how swamped I am with things that need to be done around my house and in my kitchen, I haven’t baked anything for this weeks round up. Now that doesn’t mean I didn’t bake anything. There’s a load of stuff happening in the kitchen … more on that later. However, it also doesn’t mean that I’m going to skip this weeks submission. This week I’d like to showcase what we in India call ‘Jujups’. This is a lovely sugary treat that can be made in a number of flavors and colors. Its quite a hit with kids. I haven’t yet made jujups this year, so I’m going to add a picture from last year. I will add a better picture when I make it this time around.

Jujups
Ingredients
500g sugar
30g unflavored gelatin
1 sour lime
1 cup water
A few drops of essence
A few drops of color
Castor sugar for coating
A pinch of cream of tartar
Method – 
In a steel vessel, add ¾ cup water, sugar and the cream of tartare to make a sugar syrup. Keep on a high flame and stir till the sugar dissolves. Then on a low flame and let it cook to a 2 thread consistency approx. about 20 mins. While this is cooking, use ¼ cup of water and dissolve the gelatin in it. Add the juice of 1 sour lime and mix well. Let it soak for about 5-10 minutes. 
Once the sugar syrup is ready, add the gelatin mix to it and stir well. Let this concoction warm through for a minute or so. Add the color and flavoring as desired and mix well. Grease a tray with olive oil and pour the mixture through a metal strainer into it. Leave it to set undisturbed. Once it cools you may keep it in the fridge overnight. The next day, bring the mix to room temperature and then loosen the edges using a knife. Unmould the jujups on a board covered liberally with castor sugar. Cut with a greased knife and roll the pieces in castor sugar. Cover and keep in an air tight container.
Colour & Essence Chart –

Here’s a handy dandy chart to guide you when trying out different flavor and color combinations. This is the assortment I made last Christmas. Feel free to experiment and make it your own. If you do try any flavors that aren’t mentioned here, let me know how it goes, so that I can add to this list.
Color      –   Flavor
Pink / Red – Strawberry
Yellow – Pineapple / Lemon
Purple – Black current
Green – Mix fruit
Orange – Orange
NOTE: Cream of tartar is used to prevent crystallization of sugar in the sugar syrup. Make sure you use a very small pinch – if excess is used, the jujups won’t form.

Don’t forget to check out what the others have put up this week!

Week 12 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Week 11 of 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Nankatais

It’s hard to believe that we are almost at the end of this lovely 12-week long adventure. Before we reach the end, I’d like to say “Thank You” once again, to April of Abby Sweets for this wonderful idea. Its been a fun 12 weeks, challenging sometimes, but a lovely opportunity to meet some lovely people make some wonderful friends along the way.

This week, I’d like to showcase something that is quite popular in India during Christmas. Its a little cookie called the ‘Nankatai’. It has a lovely taste and is a favorite with kids and adults alike. Today, I will share with you one of the recipes that I use for this cookie. Please forgive the image quality, a mobile phone camera was used to capture this.

Nankatais

Ingredients
300g all purpose flour
200g powdered or superfine sugar
200g Dalda (This is a brand of vegetable shortening, also called vanaspati. If this is not available, you can use clarified butter)
¼ tsp. Baking powder
½ tsp. Rose essence
Method
Heat the Dalda to dissolve the grainy portions the previous night. Don’t let it smoke. Leave it to cool overnight. Cream the Dalda with the palm of your hand in a steel plate. Add sugar creaming well. Then add flour, baking powder and rose essence. Knead into a dough. Keep for a few hours. Then shape as desired and bake in a moderate hot oven, approx 150°C for 15 – 20 minutes. To check if done, check the bottom of a cookie for slight brownness. Immediately take out of oven. Don’t let the nankatais change colour. 
NOTE: Add the sugar and the flour gradually, creaming continuously. Place the nankatais on a tray that has been greased with clarified butter and lightly dusted with flour. 
If you choose to decorate the cookie, here’s a recipe for royal icing that I use. Please ensure that the cookie has cooled completely before icing.
Royal Icing
1 egg white
A few drops of lemon juice or citric acid
A few drops of essence
Icing sugar
Method
Beat the egg white. Add lemon juice and essence. Gradually add icing sugar a little at a time till stiff peaks form. Cover and keep till ready to use. Add food coloring as desired. Use this to decorate the cookie. 

Don’t forget to spend some time to check out what the others have come up with this week!

Week 11 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Week 10 of 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Holiday Meringues

Its December, can you believe that? I’m so happy. This is my favorite month of the year, and we get to celebrate my favorite holiday – Christmas. And speaking of favorites, today I stumbled on something that flew right onto my list of favorites – Meringues. I can’t believe I hadn’t made this before. Actually, I did try it out before, but they turned out flat and stuck to the baking paper and so it ended up in the trash, but don’t tell anyone that. **wink wink** Anyway, this was a few years ago and I never considered making meringues again. However, in the last few weeks, I’ve been toying with the idea of making a Pavlova. According to me, it falls in the same category as the meringues, so I was a little apprehensive and it has been on hold since. For some reason, I felt brave this morning and decided that it was time to give meringues another shot. I knew that if I couldn’t make meringues, making a pavlova would be quite questionable.

This attempt was better than the previous, but I still have some kinks to work out. Maybe some of you can help me understand what I can do differently the next time. Oh yes, I’m going to make these again, because even though they weren’t visually very appealing, I loved the taste and texture. It was light and airy, crisp on the outside and a little chewy on the inside. They just melt  in you mouth. I know for a fact that the next time, I will need to add more color and flavor, because what I used this time wasn’t nearly enough. Some of the meringues cracked a little. Can anyone tell me how this can be avoided? I’d love to hear from you. I tried the kisses and wreaths and I wanted to create something that looked like Christmas trees, those didn’t turn out too well, some cracked and some tilted. I used inspiration from here, here and here.  I couldn’t settle on any one so here’s what I did.

Holiday Meringues

2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
A pinch of cream of tartar
Green food coloring
Peppermint extract
Sprinkles, or sanding sugar to decorate

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar together till it gets light and foamy. Gradually add the sugar and keep whisking till it reaches a stiff peak consistency.

Add food coloring and flavor extracts of your choice. I used green food color and peppermint extract and mix well. Prepare a piping bag and use a star shaped icing tip and pipe out the meringues onto some lightly greased baking paper. Bake at 160°C for about 20 minutes and then at 140°C for another 20 minutes.

Cool and decorate as desired. I used a mix of red sanding sugar and some crumbled cinnamon jelly beans.

I can’t wait to try this again and hopefully get visually better results.

Go ahead and take a peek at what the other wonderfully talented folks have made this week.

Week 10 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Week 9 of 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

I’ve had a busy week of sorts. In additional to all the regular stuff that goes on around here, I’ve had to bake 5 cakes to order in the last 3 days, which left me little or no time for anything else. So, for this weeks round up, I wanted something quick and easy, yet delicious. And does such a treat exist? Oh yes, it does. Say hello to Nigella’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. They come together really fast, and need I say, taste absolutely yum. It takes a whole lot of patience waiting while they set in the refrigerator (well 20 minutes is a long long time when you’re dying to pop one of these in your mouth). But the wait is definitely worth it. These little treats taste just like a bar of Snickers, and I love Snickers. Imagine my joy, now I can make something very close to the original Snickers bar. I would just make one change when I make it next. And yes my friends, there will be a next time. I will use a chunky peanut butter rather that a creamy one, which I think will make it feel a whole lot more like Snickers. So if you love peanuts or peanut butter or chocolate or Snickers, you should give this one a try. The prep takes about 10-15 minutes and it takes about 20 minutes to set. Like I said, quick and easy, yet really delicious. This recipe yields 48 pieces.



Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Adapted from: Nigella Lawson

For the base

50 grams soft dark brown sugar
200 grams icing sugar
50 grams butter, softened
200 grams smooth peanut butter

For the topping:

300 grams dark chocolate (We prefer dark chocolate, so I left out the 200 gms milk chocolate from the original recipe and used only dark chocolate)



For the base:

Blend all the ingredients for the base in the bowl of a food processor til the mixture takes on a sandy texture.

Place 48 gold mini cupcake paper cases in sets of miniature tart tins or mini-muffin tins (each indent about 1 3/4-inches in diameter). Use 1 teaspoon of the base mixture to fill the bases of the petit four cases. Press the sandy mixture down into the cases as best you can to form a layer at the bottom of each paper case.

For the topping:

Melt the chocolate gently in a double boiler. Spoon teaspoonfuls of the melted chocolate onto the top of each of the bases of the paper cups.

Decorate the tops of the chocolate covered peanut butter cups to your liking. I used some white nonpareils, which I sprinkled on the top.

Let them set in the fridge, for about 20 minutes.

And there you go, that’s how easy it is.

Don’t forget to check what the others have been up to this week.

Week 9 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Baking with kids!

I have a wonderful classic vanilla sponge cake in the oven as I write this post. Today’s order is for the humble vanilla sponge cake. I think people underestimate the awesomeness of this cake. In our house, we love it with a cup of tea; plain, no fancy schmancy frosting or anything. I guess a lot of folks are so caught up with trying to sample newer and more complex creations, that at times it can be very easy for them to forget this little beauty.

Last weekend, we had family over for game night. Its become a monthly thing, and its great fun. We had a blast. My nieces have been dying to bake something with me again. Some time ago, we baked a batch of cupcakes and they frosted and decorated them with sprinkles. I think they got quite a kick from it and wanted to do it again, but this time they didn’t want to do cupcakes, but a bigger cake. Now, I know that getting 2 kids to dress up 1 cake can be a little trying. So instead of baking 1 big cake, I just baked 2 smaller ones. They were vanilla sponge cakes with a whipped soy cream frosting and the they had so much fun with the sprinkles. Here’s a few pictures of them showing off their work …

Cute, aren’t they?

Our recent trip to Goa & Coorg

We recently took a 2 week long ‘time-out’ – the longest one since college days, and well, that was a long time ago. We drove to Goa and then to Coorg in Karnataka and then back to Goa for a few days before coming back to Bombay (Mumbai). It was a wonderful experience. I have heaps of pictures and had a hard time picking a few to share on this post. But here are little bits and pieces of our trip.

This was our first trip to Coorg and we stayed at the Club Mahindra Resort over there. Coorg is called “the Scotland of India” according to the local tour operators there. I’ve never been to Scotland so I wouldn’t know, but what I can say is that the place was breathtakingly beautiful. When we were driving down to Coorg, we were fortunate to catch a glimpse of this ….

… a double rainbow. I was delighted. I’d never seen a double rainbow before. We stopped at this gas station so that I could take a few pictures. It was stunning. I’m really glad that we spotted it. Don’t know if I’ll ever see one again.

We managed to catch a few showers of rain while we were in Coorg. But that made everything so much more pleasant and beautiful. Every direction you looked in was covered in a thick blanket of greenery that was speckled with some of the most beautiful flowers.

This is the entrance to the Reception area of the resort …

… and when you walk through that door, this is what you see …
… pretty little water feature that actually uses rain water and has some artificial lotus flowers to add color.

We visited Abby Falls …

 … the little specks of white that you see is the spray from the falls.

While we were trekking down to the falls, we spotted this little guy …

… I’ve never seen this insect before.

We went on a plantation tour to an estate and got to see how pepper, coffee, cardamom and a whole bunch of other spices grow. I couldn’t get too many pictures of the estate because it was raining like crazy and the ground was like slush so we had to be extra careful not to slip.

This is how peppercorns grow
Beetlenut plantation

We also went river rafting. This was a first for me. It was so much fun that I can’t wait to do it again. Obviously I couldn’t get any pictures of this, but I must say this, if you haven’t tried it before because you’re a little afraid, don’t be, it is an awesome experience. I was a little anxious, so much so that I wasn’t too excited by the idea of river rafting, but I’m really glad I tried it out. Did I mention how much fun it was?  ;o)

After our stay in Coorg, we spent a few days in Goa. Goa is my favorite holiday spot. We go to Goa at least twice or thrice a year. This time around we spent a few days in a quaint little resort. This is what our room looked like from the outside…

While we were there, we see this chap …

… don’t know what it was about this trip and spotting life forms I’d never seen before. Nevertheless, stunning colors, don’t you agree?

When we were driving around in Goa we saw them ….

… any guesses? I don’t know if you can tell, but that’s a peacock and a peahen sitting atop some old ruins. How cool is that? The peacock is our national bird and a gorgeous fellow he is, especially when he’s strutting his stuff. So we pulled over and waited, waited and waited some more. I guess he hadn’t worn his dancing shoes that day. Anyway, I was happy enough having seen the pair. I’ve seen peacocks before, but every time you spot them in the wild, its still an amazing feeling.

This has got to be my favorite restaurant in all of Goa …

… and as you enter, you’re greeted by the wonderful seafood display …


… the food here is amazing, my husband and I both love the place and we go there more than a couple of times on each trip. If you ever go to ‘Martin’s Corner’, you have got to get the crab. They let you select your own crab, from a bunch of live ones and they prepare it to your liking. Its a fun experience, they give you an apron to protect your clothes from splashes and yes, there will be some splashing. They also give you the tools to crack open the cooked crab shell and pick the crab meat.All in all, a really fun experience.

We had a lovely time and one of the high points of the whole trip is that I bought some of these ….

… some wonderful locally grown Vanilla bean pods. You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for these. Its practically impossible to get them in Mumbai. So when I saw these, I grabbed them. I’m happy to say that now, I know someone who knows some one who will send me some more as and when I need it. That makes me one happy camper. I can’t wait to make my own extract and vanilla sugar. There’s so many recipes that I’ve ear marked, but never made for the lack of Vanilla bean pods. Its time to dig them all out.

This was one fun trip and I hope you had fun re-visiting it with me. I’m off to the kitchen now, I’ve a couple of orders for birthday cakes for this weekend. 

Week 8 of 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Scottish Shortbread

** This post contains affiliate links.

Folks, there’s just about a month left for Christmas. Can you believe that? I spend all year waiting for Christmas to come around, which, honestly must sound crazy to a lot of people. I don’t know what it is about that time of the year, but seeing everything lit up and decorated, the dizzying levels of activity in my home, just the joy of family gatherings, meeting friends and gift giving makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. So I’m glad the wait is almost coming to an end.

What I’m not too happy about is the fact that I’ve been miserable for the past couple of days; I have a lousy case of the common cold. I just hate being unwell. Especially at this time of the year, when there’s so much that needs to be done. I hope you can find it in the kindness of your hearts to forgive me as I haven’t baked this weeks cookie. That being said, I am still going to put up a recipe that my husband and I absolutely love.I think it’ll make a good addition to this years platter. I’ve made this recipe a couple of times now, but according to my husband, that not often enough. He loves them. He actually is a chocoholic, but this is one cookie he makes an exception with. That goes to show you how yummy it is. It is a rich cookie and goes really well with a hot cup of coffee. Please excuse the picture quality, this was taken a while ago before I had learnt a few tricks with the camera. What I can promise you is the fact that the cookie tastes a lot better than it looks in this picture. :o)

Scottish Shortbread
Adapted from: The Cookie Book
(Makes 2 large or 8 individual shortbreads, if using the mould, if using a pie dish like mentioned below makes 1 large one which is cut into wedges)

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornflour
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and diced (I used regular salted butter and it worked just fine)

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Lightly flour the shortbread mould. (I don’t have one of these so I just used a loose bottomed pie dish. I once used a 7″ dish and the other time used an 8″ one. It’ll just vary the thickness of the cookie. Pick whichever you prefer.)

Sift the flours into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and lightly toss around to distribute the sugar evenly. Rub in the cold butter and knead into a soft dough.

Place the dough into the moulds and press gently but firmly to fit neatly.  If using the shortbread moulds, line baking sheets with baking parchment and invert the moulds onto the sheet and tap firmly to release the dough.

If using a pie dish, simply press the dough into the tin and smooth the surface using the back of a spoon. Prick all over with a fork and score into eight wedges using the back of a knife. You can make the wedges smaller if you like, since it is a rich cookie.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until pale golden in color. Leave it in the tin till it cools a little, just cool enough to handle. While it is still hot, carefully unmould and re-cut the wedges.

Enjoy!

Don’t forget to visit the other participants and see what they’ve made this week!

Week 8 Twelve Weeks of Christmas: