Believe it or not, this year in August itself I started sifting through my “to try” list, which by the way seems to be growing at an alarming rate. There’s just so much out there that I’d like to try. So when I couldn’t wait any longer, I checked with April and Barbara of Barbara Bakes, I got to know that Brenda of Meal Planning Magic is hosting our Christmas bake along this year. I got in touch with her immediately and she promptly sent me the details (She’s also designed a button just for this occasion). And so here we are, at week 1 of 12 fun weeks of Christmas Cookies. I do hope you stop by to check out the weekly party. And if you’d like, you can be part of the fun too. Simply leave me a comment and I’ll send you the details. The more the merrier. So put on those aprons and bring out those mixing bowls and let the festivities begin.
For this week, I decided to try out these White Choco-Cherry Cookies. They looked so festive and I had all the ingredients handy, which made it easier. The dough is very easy to make and I think its a fairly versatile cookie. You can switch the type of chocolate, fruit as well as nut to suit your liking. I stuck with the original recipe and just made one change, I didn’t have macademia nuts so I used pistachios. I think the green of the nuts and the red that the cherries added made for a very Christmassy looking mix, don’t you think?
The cookie turned out to be a nice soft one, slightly chewy on the outside and a little softer and cake like on the inside, which made for a nice change from the crunchy cookies. I loved the textures that the chocolate chunks, candied cherries and roasted nuts gave it. When I make these again, I will just cut down on the sugar a bit since I don’t like my cookies too sweet and the white chocolate and candied cherries add a fair bit of sweetness to it. I’ll probably try some bitter chocolate instead of white next time. What do you think?
White Choco-Cherry Cookies
Adapted from: Mom’s Crazy Cooking
Yields about 16-18 cookies
1/4 cup butter, softened (not melted)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (Since I was using salted butter, I just added a pinch of salt)
1 tbsp milk
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup candied cherries, chopped
3/4 cup white chocolate chunks
Preheat the oven to 170ºC.
Line a cookie sheet with some baking paper that has been greased.
With an electric whisk, cream the butter and sugars together till light and creamy.
Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until just combined.
Add the milk and mix.
Sift in the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix until just combined. The batter will be a little stiff.
In another bowl, combine the chocolate chunks, cherries and nuts and then add to the dough, stir gently only till the ingredients are well distributed.
Using a tablespoon, drop cookie dough onto the greased cookie sheet about 2″ apart.
Bake for 12-15 minutes.
Do stop by and check what the others have whipped up this week.
What can I say! I was really anxious while preparing the dough even though the process was fairly simple. But it did rise well while resting so I calmed down a little and continued. I had my fingers crossed and was seriously hoping the bread would turn out okay. I was going to serve it up for dinner, with almost no backup, should it have failed. All my hopes were pinned on it. I was thrilled to pieces when I took it out of the oven. I almost did a little dance with the hot loaf tin in my oven mitt covered hands. Who am I kidding? I did a little dance! I had finally conquered the mighty yeast; at least for now. The loaf had risen beautifully and was so tasty, I could eat it plain. To say that the mass produced, store bought bread pales in comparison, is an understatement.
I love being able to bake my own bread and not having to rely on what available at the stores. There are so many different types of bread I’ve seen on diiferent websites and blogs, I know for sure, I will be baking my bread more often.
I didn’t change the recipe much, since this was my first attempt, except for using salted butter instead of unsalted and adjusting the amount of salt used. However, I did alter the method a bit. What follows is the method I used and its what I’ll stick to, since I got such great results.
Adapted from: Group Recipes
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
Heat the milk to get it warm but not hot. (If its too hot, it’ll kill the yeast and if its not too warm, the yeast won’t activate. The original recipe suggests 110-115ºF, I just went by feel). Pour the milk into a bowl. Add the sugar and sprinkle the yeast over it. Cover and leave it to stand for about 10 minutes or till frothy.
Pour this mix into a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs 1 at a time and using an electric whisk beat between each addition.
Add the butter and salt and beat well again.
Add a cup of the flour and beat well.
Add the rest of the flour and mix till is it well incorporated. At this stage I started mixing with a large wooden spoon.
Once this is done, turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead well for about 5 minutes till the dough becomes smooth and elastic. This is a fairly sticky dough, so lightly flour your hands before needing and curb the urge to add more flour. Trust me, you don’t need it.
I lined and greased a loaf tin, leaving a little overhang of the baking paper. Transfer the dough to a 8 1/2-9″ loaf tin. (I had only a 7 1/2″ one so I used that, which is why the top of the loaf looks the way it does.) Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave it to rise for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
When we were holidaying in Coorg and were on our way to one of the Waterfalls, we found this little beauty along the way.
While I was perusing Nomnivorous for my last Secret Recipe Club submission, I came across Emily’s recipe for choco fudge pops. I’d never tried these before. And ever since the rains ended a few days ago, the heat has picked up. We will have a month or two or crazy hot weather before winter settles in. I hope winter gets here soon, its my favorite season of them all. Anyway, I thought these fudge pops would be an ideal way to end a meal and cool off these days, so off I went to try my hand at them.
A word of caution! Proceed at your own risk!
These choco fudge pops are sinfully rich and chocolaty. True to its name it is delightfully creamy and there are so many ways to fancy them up even further. Since this was my first time trying it, I went with the basic choco-fudge and it was really good. The next time I make these I want to try dipping them in some melted chocolate and sprinkle roasted, chopped nuts or sprinkles over it like Emily did. I can’t wait. In hindsight, there is just one thing I would change – I used the slightly larger Popsicle moulds and got 4 pops out of the recipe. Like I said, these are extremely rich, so I would suggest using smaller moulds, which should yield atleast 6 pops.
Here they are just out of the freezer. This was my first time using this popsicle mould and at this stage I had my fingers crossed, hoping they would unmould easily.
It wasn’t too easy, but I managed to get the pops out. Serve them quick, it starts melting soon. Check out that delicious puddle of chocolate fudge starting to form under the pop that was taken out first.
Choco Fudge Pops
Adapted from: Nomnivorous
Yields 4 large or 6 small pops
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
1 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp dark chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups milk
A pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp butter or vegetable oil (I used butter)
Place the dark chocolate in a saucepan over low heat.
When its melted almost all the way, add the sugar, cornflour, cocoa powder, milk and salt. Turn up the heat to medium and stir continuously.
In ten minutes, the mixture should have thickened quite a bit to a pudding like consistency.
Take off the heat and add the butter and vanilla and stir till everything has mixed well.
Leave it to cool a little for about 5 minutes and then pour into popsicle moulds.
Freeze for about 3-4 hours or until set. I made these one evening and left them to set overnight.
When I was going through Emily’s blog, I came across a recipe for Tzatziki – a Greek meze or appetizer and it reminded me of our very own Indian Raita. I was amazed at the differences in the recipes despite the similarity in the look of both. I knew I had to try it to see the impact on flavors. I had previously seen an episode of Masterchef Australia – Season 2, where George Calombaris made a traditional Greek version and I’ve wanted to try it out since then. This was the perfect opportunity. I whipped up a version using a combination of both recipes and I really loved how it turned out. It had a creamy texture and at the same time tasted so fresh. I could finish a bowlful of this by itself. This would also be a wonderful accompaniment to grilled meats or some spicy tandoori chicken. It will be lovely as a dip to serve with a platter of chips and crudités as well. I know I’ll be making this often.
Adapted from: Nomnivorous
1 cup hung curd (natural, unflavored yogurt or Greek yogurt)
1 spring onion, finely chopped (including a little of the tender greens)
1/2 mild green chilly, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped cucumber
1 tsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp honey
Salt, to taste
A few drops of lemon juice, or to taste
Combine all the ingredients together, making sure everything is well mixed.
Check out what the others have whipped up this month –
To commemorate this milestone, I’ve made Lemon Bars. I’ve wanted to try them out for the longest time and now I can proudly say I have. It was surprisingly simple to put together. I think I might’ve overcooked these a tad (I halved the original recipe but forgot to adjust the time, duh!), but they were still so very delicious, it took every ounce to will power to stay away from them. These have flown straight to the top of my favorite dessert list. I’m gonna hold on to this recipe and most certainly make them again and again and then again. You get the idea. The zested peel adds so much zing to these bars, I’m sure they wouldn’t be the same without them. Did I mention how much I loved them?
Here’s what the insides look like –
… full of lemony goodness!
Adapted from: A Farm Girl’s Dabbles
(I halved the recipe to get 12 bars, but am publishing the whole recipe below – should yield 24 large pieces)
For the crust –
1 cup butter, softened (not melted)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
For the lemon filling –
3 cups sugar
2 tbsp grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup all-purpose flour
Additional icing sugar to dust over the bars
Preheat the oven to 170ºC. Line a 9″*13″ pan with some greased baking paper. I would suggest leaving an overhand to help pulling it out of the tray. I’m definitely doing that the next time I make these.
To make the crust –
Mix the butter, flour and sugar till well combined. If you’re using unsalted butter, please add a pinch of salt.
Spread this dough evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until set and just beginning to turn color.
To make the filling –
Prepare the filling while the crust is baking.
Using an electric whisk at medium speed, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and flour.
Pour this mix over the baked crust and bake for 30-35 minutes or until light golden brown. Don’t overbake or underbake it either. If underbaked, the lemon filling won’t set.
Let it cool completely.
Cut into bars and sift icing sugar over the top.
Farm girls says they keep well on the kitchen counter for a few days, but I refrigerated mine and it kept well. The only thing I did was take it out about 10 minutes before serving, to let it come to room temperature a little.
Whatever storage you choose, if it lasts till then, get ready to drown in some pure citrus heaven. Its simply sunshine on a plate!