If you’re someone who wants to learn how to bake, this is a great place to start. I’ve actually filmed the recipe too and I’ve included some of my tips and tricks to help out novice bakers. I will link the video at the end of this post.
Vanilla Sponge Cake
250g butter, at room temperature
250g sugar (Use either a really fine grain or powder your sugar in a dry grinder before using)
250 all purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract / vanilla bean paste
1 tsp baking powder
Preheat your oven to 180ºC and line the base of your cake tin and grease the base and the sides and set aside.
Separate the eggs.
Whisk the egg whites to stiff peak stage and set aside.
In a large mixing bow, beat the butter, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla till light and creamy.
Mix the flour and baking powder.
Sift the flour mix into the butter and sugar mix in 3 stages, folding the flour into the batter only until just incorporated, with each addition.
Add a couple of scoops of the stiff egg whites to the cake batter and gently mix to loosen the batter. Gently fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter till it is well incorporated.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 30 minutes or till a cake pierced through the center of the cake comes out clean.
Let the cake cool down in the cake tin. When it has reached room temperature, carefully take it out of the tin.
You can now use this cake in any recipe that calls for a vanilla sponge cake or serve it as it is.
The Best Chocolate Brownies
It’s the perfect baking option for holidays or when you’re baking for a crowd because of its simplicity. The recipe can be doubled if you like. And when simple recipes yield such fantastic results, you know you’re on to a winner.
So I do hope you try these brownies out.
The Best Chocolate Brownies
110g all purpose flour
185g salted butter
175g dark chocolate (either buttons, or roughly chopped bars, both would work)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
A pinch of salt
50g chocolate chips.
Melt the butter and dark chocolate in a heavy bottomed pan on low heat. Once everything has melted, take the pan off the heat and set it aside to cool.
Halfway through the cooling process, turn the oven on and preheat it to 180ºC. Line an 8 inch square baking tray with some foil and leave an overhang on the sides. The foil makes clean up so much easier and the overhang helps take the brownies out of the try very easily.
Crack one egg into a small bowl and lightly whisk it. Add it to the melted and cooled butter and chocolate mix and whisk to incorporate. Repeat this with the second egg.
Add the vanilla, salt and sugar and whisk well, making sure everything has mixed well.
Now add the flour and whisk until just combined.
Add the chocolate chips and fold it through the batter with the help of a spatula.
Pour the batter into the foil lined tray and bake for about 25-30 minutes.
Take the brownies out of the oven and let them cool completely.
Pin now and try later!
Quick and Easy Treat for Easter – Chocolate Nests
With that in mind I whipped up some Chocolate Nests. I love this recipe. It takes 3 ingredients and half and hour to make a batch. This is a very versatile recipe so you can make as big or small a batch, as you’d like. It is also a flexible recipe, so you can use the chocolate of your choice and mini eggs of your choosing too. So, if like me, you’ve left Easter prep for the last minute, try out this recipe. It is very popular with the little kids … and the big ones too.
Wish you and your loved ones a Happy and Holy Easter!
Makes 8 Nests
100 grams Chocolate (I used Dark chocolate)
100 grams ready to serve Noodles
Mini Speckled Eggs
Chop up the chocolate roughly and melt using a double boiler. If you haven’t worked with a double boiler, watch the video linked below to see how you can use a simple saucepan and bowl to make one. (You can also melt the chocolate in a micowave using a microwave safe bowl and in 30 second increments.)
Toss the noodles into the chocolate and mix gently to coat the noodles in the chocolate completely.
Using a spoon and either a spatula or a butter knife, scoop out portions of the noodles onto a tray lined with baking paper. Shape to form rough circular shapes and make a little dip in the center of each nest.
Place the mini eggs in the dents created.
Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
You can watch the video recipe here –
Double Chocolate Macadamia Cookies
On to these cookies. The batter is really easy to put together. And the macadamia nuts in the cookies are amazing. I used a batch that I’d bought on our last trip to the Sunshine Coast. If you’re ever there, you must visit the Nut Factory. There’s not much to look at, but they offer a range of macadamia nut snacks, ranging from the natural and the plain roasted to a beautiful dark chocolate covered Macadamia Nut for the chocolate lover in you and a Crunchy Hickory Macadamia for when you’re in the mood for something savory (This was one of my favorites and it goes really well with a cold beer.) The best part of the visit is you can sample some of the treats on offer. But I digress. So let’s get back to these cookies. I was specifically looking for a cookie recipe to showcase the gorgeous Macadamia Nuts and this recipe does just that.
Double Chocolate Macadamia Cookies
Adapted from: Crazy for Crust
Makes 20 cookies
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 large egg
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk the cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and flour till they are all combined.
Cream the butter and sugar together.
Mix in the egg and vanilla till well incorporated.
Add the flour cocoa mix and mix until just incorporated.
Add the chocolate chips and the chopped macadamia nuts and fold into the cookie dough.
Scoop batter into equal sized portions onto the prepared baking tray and space them a couple of inches apart.
Bake for 9-12 minutes or until the cookies have just lost the glossy sheen.
Cool completely and then store in an air tight container.
You can watch the video recipe here –
Dodol – The quick and easy way
Goa, renowned for its beautiful beaches and people is an idyllic getaway for many. Every school holiday meant a trip to Goa to spend time with family. Along with beautiful weather and some of the most amazing produce, what I enjoy most are the traditional Goan sweets. Since moving from Bombay, these sweets are no longer within easy reach for me. So over the last few years, I’ve done the next best thing – learn to make them myself. A lot of these sweets make an appearance on the Goan Christmas platter also called Kuswar (pronounced koos-wahr). So far, I’ve had brilliant luck with quite a few and I will list them along with links to their recipes at the end of this post. I’m hoping to get a few more of them up earlier this year. So check back soon.
Today, after a long wait, I’m happy to share with you a recipe for Dodol. Dodol is almost a jelly like sweet made using Goa Jaggery, coconut and rice. Traditionally made, it is a very labor intensive recipe, but the results are so worth it. You use coconuts, freshly grated and juice extracted, the rice roasted and ground and after the jaggery is added you cook it long and slow, stirring continuously. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have access to Goa Jaggery in Sydney. But I was told that I could use Molasses instead. So on my last grocery shop, I picked up a bottle of Molasses. I decided I was going to try a few short cuts to cut down on time involved and used rice flour and a can of coconut cream. I’m happy to report that the whole prep and cooking process that usually takes hours, took be about half an hour from start to finish. The hardest part was leaving it overnight to set. You may not need to leave it that long, but I made the dodol in the evening and it was too warm to cut into after dinner.
But when I did cut into it, it was soft and delicious, just like I remember. I would recommend refrigerating it for a while before serving. It cuts a lot easier when cold. So if you’ve been putting of making Dodol because you can’t find jaggery, go get some molasses and get making. When adding the molasses, don’t go by the color of the mix, but taste for sweetness.
1 1/2 cup rice flour
1 can (400ml) coconut cream
3 tbsp roughly chopped cashew nuts
1 tsp ghee to grease the loaf tin and knife
Water, as needed
Grease a loaf tin with a little ghee and keep aside.
In a large pan (I use the 12″ Kitchenaid Stainless steel skillet) measure out the rice flour. Add enough water and make a batter (almost like a thick pancake batter). I use a whisk for this as it mixes the flour well without any lumps.
Pour in the coconut cream and whisk till dissolved.
Add the molasses and stir.
Now, place the mix on a medium heat and let it cook, stirring continuously.
When it starts thickening, drop the heat to low and continue stirring. I find that you may still find lumps in the mix even inspite of stirring. Use a whisk and break them up. It returns to a smooth consistency very quickly. I had to do this about 3 times.
As it thickens, it gets harder to stir. Add the chopped cashew nuts and keep stirring.
After about 20 minutes, here’s what my mix looked like.
Continue cooking till the mixture starts leaving the sides of pan and looks a little glossy. I cooked the mix down for about another 5 minutes, stirring continuously.
At this stage, you need to work quickly. Pour into the greased loaf tin and flatten it down using the back of a spoon or a spatula.
Leave to set and cool completely. Once it has cooled you can either refrigerate it for later use or demould it to serve. To demould, just place a plate, slightly larger in size than the loaf tin, on top and tip the tin over the plate. A slight shake of the tin and plate should be enough to loosen the dodol and let prop it on the plate.
Slice and serve.
Pin now and try later.
Other Goan sweets and Kuswar –
Perad / Guava Cheese (using canned guavas)
Perad / Guava Cheese (using fresh guavas)
Perad or Guava Cheese … made with Canned Guavas
Guava Cheese or Perad is a quintessential Goan sweet that makes an appearance at Christmas time. Its flavourful and lightly chewy like a Guava gummy candy.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!!
Drain the guava halves and reserve the syrup.
Now place all the seeds, that were previously scooped out, in a strainer, add a couple of spoons of the reserved syrup from the cans and stir through the strainer to extract all the guava puree from the centres. You may need to do this a couple of times adding a tiny bit of syrup each time to extract all the guava. Add the extract to the pan and now discard the seeds.
I usually end up with about 370g pulp from the halves and about 250g from the centres. In all about 620g of guava pulp. Other recipes call for a lot more sugar, but since these are canned guavas in syrup they are sweeter than the fresh ones, so I’ve cut down on the amount of added sugar in the recipe.
Add the cloves and the sugar to the pan.
Place the pan on medium heat and stir continuously using a wooden spoon with a long handle. The guava mix tends to sputter and spit while cooking and the long handle will prevent the mix splashing on your arms. Make sure that when you stir, the spoon gets to the edges of the pan to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. If the mix sputters too much, lower the the heat and continue cooking.
When the mix thickens, extract the cloves carefully and discard. Continue cooking till it leaves the sides of the pan. Keep stirring.
Test to see if done. (Use water test – Place some icy cold water in a small bowl and drop a teaspoon of the sweet on it. If it firms up on cooling it is done. If it is still very soft or too sticky, it needs more cooking).
When done, pour the mix into the greased pan. Using the back of a large spoon that has been greased with some ghee spread the mix to form an even slab and set aside to cool.
When it has cooled down a bit, using a knife that has been greased with some ghee, cut into cubes. You may need to grease the knife a couple of times while cutting to prevent it sticking.
When it has completely cooled, store in an air tight container. If you are making this ahead of time, or if it summer like in our part of the world, refrigerate till you are ready to use.
Perad – Guava CheeseCourse: DessertCuisine: GoanDifficulty: Medium
Guava Cheese or Perad is a delicious, flavorful candy found in Goan homes
2 cans Guava Halves, in Syrup (each can is 410g)
1-2 tsps ghee / clarified butter
- Place some of the ghee on a large metal cookie sheet / baking pan and spread on the bottom and sides and keep this aside.
- Drain the guava halves and reserve the syrup.
- Scoop out the seeds and set aside.
- Puree the halves till smooth and put the puree in a heavy bottomed vessel. Now Goan sweets are notorious for taking ages to cook, but I have found if you use a wider vessel, its cooks a lot faster because of the increased surface area. So I use a stainless steel 12″ Kitchenaid Skillet for all my sweets and it drastically reduces the cooking time.
- Now place all the seeds, that were previously scooped out, in a strainer, add a couple of spoons of the reserved syrup from the cans and stir through the strainer to extract all the guava puree from the centres. You may need to do this a couple of times adding a tiny bit of syrup each time to extract all the guava. Add the extract to the pan and now discard the seeds.
- I usually end up with about 370g pulp from the halves and about 250g from the centres. In all about 620g of guava pulp. Other recipes call for a lot more sugar, but since these are canned guavas in syrup they are sweeter than the fresh ones, so I’ve cut down on the amount of added sugar in the recipe.
- Add the cloves and the sugar to the pan.
- Place the pan on medium heat and stir continuously using a wooden spoon with a long handle. The guava mix tends to sputter and spit while cooking and the long handle will prevent the mix splashing on your arms. Make sure that when you stir, the spoon gets to the edges of the pan to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. If the mix sputters too much, lower the the heat and continue cooking.
- When the mix thickens, extract the cloves carefully and discard. Continue cooking till it leaves the sides of the pan. Keep stirring.
- Test to see if done. (Use water test – Place some icy cold water in a small bowl and drop a teaspoon of the sweet on it. If it firms up on cooling it is done. If it is still very soft or too sticky, it needs more cooking).
- When done, pour the mix into the greased pan. Using the back of a large spoon that has been greased with some ghee spread the mix to form an even slab and set aside to cool.
- When it has cooled down a bit, using a knife that has been greased with some ghee, cut into cubes. You may need to grease the knife a couple of times while cutting to prevent it sticking.
- When it has completely cooled, store in an air tight container. If you are making this ahead of time or if it summer like in our part of the world, refrigerate till you are ready to use.
- Always use a heavy pan to cook this Guava Cheese. It keeps it from burning easily. If possible, use a wide pan. A wide pan, increases surface area and decreases cooking time.
- Cooking time will vary depending on a number of factors like amount of liquid used, heat level used during cooking, size and thickness of the pan, width of the pan etc. It took me half an hour in total. Like most Goan sweets, its hard to time the cooking process. You need to go by what you see and feel. My step-by-step video will help with this.
Instant Kesar Peda – Saffron Infused Milk Fudge
So it’s almost Diwali. Even though we don’t celebrate it, we enjoy the food that comes with it. After trying out a few sweet and savory recipes for Diwali over the last five years, I’ve come to realize that a lot of recipes are fairly quick and easy to make, compared to most of the traditional Goan sweets. That makes me happy because I know I can whip up so many treats in a jiffy. However, there are a few recipes that are time consuming and tedious when made from scratch, like a good peda. A peda, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, is a hand shaped piece of fudge made and enjoyed all over India. Now, I have made fudge before but had never tried making Pedas at home.This recipe is an instant version of the good old peda.
Pumpkin Pie – baked from scratch
How to make Pumpkin Puree at home –
1 – 1 1/2 kilo pumpkin
You can either use small pumpkins or a wedge of a larger one, whatever you can get your hands on. I used about 1/3 of a Kent Pumpkin.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Cut into equal sized wedges. Leave the skin on. Scoop out the insides – the seeds and the membrane.
Place the pumpkin skin side down on a roasting tray and bake for 45 minutes to an hour or till a knife pierced through the flesh of the pumpkin goes through without any resistance. (I did this while we were having dinner)
Let the pumpkin cool. (I left it to cool overnight and made the puree the next day.) Peel the pumpkin or scoop out the flesh, whatever you find easier, and place the pumpkin in a food processor and blitz till done. If it looks too dry, add a couple of spoons of water and blitz again.
What you are left with is a glorious bowl of fresh pumpkin puree.
Now, let’s get on to making the Pumpkin Pie.
For the pie crust –
250g all purpose flour
125g cold butter, cubed
A couple of tablespoons of cold milk
(If you’re using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt. If you’re using salted butter, leave out the salt.)
Place the flour and butter in the food processor.
Pulse a few times till the butter has broken down and you’re left with a mix that looks like this.
Add a couple of spoons of cold milk to help bind the pastry and pulse a couple of times till you are left a mix that looks like this. Start with a spoon or two and add more if needed.
Place some clingfilm on your work surface (lesser clean up this way) and tip this mix on top.
Press together to form a dough. Don’t knead or overwork the dough.
Wrap it up in the same cling film and refrigerate for about half an hour.
While the dough is chilling, make the pie filling.
For the pie filling –
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
1 can evaporated milk (a 12 ounce can)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Place all the ingredients in the food processor and blitz till everything is well incorporated and smooth.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll to a disc large enough to cover a 9 inch pie dish. Line the pie dish with the dough and pour in the filling.
Cover just the edges of the pie crust loosely with foil to keep it from burning.
Bake for 50-60 minutes or till a knife pierced through the center comes out clean. Take the foil off in about the last ten minutes to let it evenly brown.
Cool and cut into wedges and serve.
Pin now and try later.
Mawa Cake … with a recipe for Instant Mawa
So last week I shared with you a lesser known, but extremely yummy recipe for a biscuit found in the Pune-Mumbai region – Shrewsbury Biscuits. If you haven’t seen that yet, go check it out, I’ll still be here when you get back.
Okay, so you’re back. Today, is the turn for another lesser known recipe, this time for a cake called Mawa Cake. Again, as far as I know this cake is found in the Pune-Mumbai region. Kayani Bakery in Pune and Merwan’s Cake shop in Mumbai are popular for their Mawa cake, though you will find quite a few other shops selling this cake. They are usually sold in packs of 6 – 6 muffin sized pieces. This simple cake is so very special. It is not much to look at, but what it lacks in looks, it makes up for in taste. If you’ve never heard about this cake before, you should put it on your list of recipes to try out. Mawa is nothing but milk solids and this is widely used in a lot of Indian sweets.
A lot of people cringe at the thought of making their own mawa and just buy it from the local Dairy shop in India. This is because, while it is a simple process of reducing milk, working with about a litre of milk could take you about an hour to process. In the past, I have made Mawa the traditional way a couple of times. But for this cake, I decided to try out a cheat’s version of Mawa. This method takes literally 2 minutes at the most, and you would never be able to tell that it is an instant version. I’m so happy that I found this method. I have a whole bunch of recipes for Indian sweets that I’ve been ignoring, simply because it calls for Mawa. But that has changed, so you can expect to see some more Indian sweets / Mithai recipes, just before the Indian festival season starts.
Back to the cake. If you have your Mawa sorted out, the rest of the recipe is like a simple pound cake one but with a serious flavor profile. The Mawa adds a richness to the cake and it is mildly flavored with cardamom powder, resulting in a very exotic tasting cake. This time around my husband made the cake, which I guess made it even tastier (lol). He chose to bake this in an 8″ round cake tin, but you could bake it in a cupcake tray too. I do hope you try it out.
Yields: an 8 inch cake or 15-16 cupcakes
1 portion of homemade mawa (recipe below) or 200g unsweetened mawa
200g all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cardamom powder (Seeds of about 10-12 green cardamom pods, powdered)
Preheat the oven to 160ºC.
Grease and line an 8-Inch Round Cake Pan with parchment paper / baking paper. Alternatively, if you are baking them in cupcake sizes, line a Cupcake tray with paper liners.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Beat the whites to a stiff froth and keep aside.
In another bowl, cream the butter, sugar and egg yolks till light and creamy.
Add the mawa, cardamom powder, baking powder and flour and mix till well incorporated. (If the mawa in store bought or is a firm block, grate it before adding into the batter)
Fold in the beaten egg whites gently till just evenly incorporated in the batter.
Pour the batter in the prepared cake pan and bake for about 40-50 minutes (if using a cupcake tray, bake for 15-20 minutes) or till a bamboo skewer inserted near the middle of the cake come out clean.
Cool completely, cut and serve. Don’t get fooled by the look of the cake. It tastes a whole lot better than it looks. And don’t forget, if my husband (who has probably not baked more than a handful of times so far), can whip this up, so can you.
How to make Instant Mawa?
1 tbsp ghee / clarified butter
1/4 cup milk
1 cup full fat milk powder
Warm the ghee and the milk together. You just want this mixture warm, not hot.
Add the milk powder and stir and cook till it comes apart from the pan and starts forming a ball.
Use to make mawa cake.
Notes: If you are baking the cake in a regular cake tin and not a cupcake tray, in some cases, the milk solids may cause the cake to brown quickly. This is normal, but if you think it is browning too fast and may burn, cover the tin loosely with aluminium foil and continue baking till the cake is done.
It has been ages since I enjoyed one of these biscuits. If you haven’t heard of these, I don’t really blame you. I haven’t seen these at all in Australia. In India, if you are from Pune or the surrounding areas, Kayani’s Bakery was where you’d get your fix of these. And if you were really lucky, a random store in Mumbai would stock them.
This recipe has been shared with –
Full Plate Thursday @ Miz Helen’s Country Cottage