Blueberry Coffee Cake

Blueberry Coffee cake6I hope all of you had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! My daughter-in-law, Dharti, graduated with a Masters in Psychology so our family and friends celebrated all weekend. The blueberry coffee cake was part of brunch on Monday morning and one of my toughest food critics, my son, said this was his new favorite cake. I hope it will become one of your favorites too.

Here’s a quick tip before you dive in: Dust the blueberries with flour before you fold them into the cake and also when you scatter them on top. This keeps them from sinking to the bottom of the cake while it bakes.

Blueberry Coffee Cake
Adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

For the Cake
2 cups flour plus 1 teaspoon
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
½ cup fresh blueberries

For the Topping
½ cup fresh blueberries
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×13 inch baking pan.

For the Cake
Sift two cups of flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy. It will take about two minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until incorporated. Turn the mixer to low speed, add one-third of the flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Then beat in half of the milk. Add half of the remaining flour, beating until incorporated and then add the remaining half cup of milk. Finally add the remaining flour and beat until incorporated.

Toss the blueberries in a small bowl with half a teaspoon of flour. Make sure that the blueberries are coated with flour before you gently fold them into the batter. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and make the topping.

For the Topping
Toss the blueberries with the remaining half teaspoon of flour and scatter them over the top of the batter. Mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the batter. Bake on the middle rack of your oven for 45 minutes. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then cut and arrange them on a cake platter. They taste heavenly when eaten warm.

Rose Cookies

Rose CookiesRose cookies or “achappam” as they are called in Kerala are made during special occasions. I must warn you that they are addictive and it is difficult to stop with just one of these delightfully crisp sweet treats. This isn’t the easiest thing to make, but I can assure you that with a little practice you’ll be an expert soon. You will need a rose cookie mold to create the rose shape.

This particular recipe was handed down to me by my mom. She used fresh coconut milk unlike what I am doing in this recipe. I’ve used store bought canned coconut milk. It doesn’t taste exactly like the rose cookies my mom made but it is close enough to stifle my craving.

Rose cookies
1 cup all purpose flour
1¾ cups fine rice flour
¾ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp sesame seeds
½ tsp cardamom powder
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup water
Oil for deep frying

Sift the all purpose flour into a large bowl. Add the rice flour, sugar, salt, sesame seeds and cardamom powder. Mix the coconut milk and water in another bowl and then slowly pour it into the flour while stirring constantly. Stir until you have a smooth batter with no lumps. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Heat oil, for deep frying, in a wok. Place the rose cookie mold in the oil so that it will also get heated the same time as the oil. Test to see if the the oil is ready by putting a drop of batter into it. If it sizzles and comes to the surface, the oil is ready.

Gently take the mold out of the oil and dip it into the batter about three quarters of the way up. Do not dip the whole mold in the batter. You will hear it sizzle. Put the mold back into the oil and let it sit in the oil for about 40 seconds. Then gently shake the mold so that the rose cookie comes off the mold and floats in the oil. Turn it over and let the other side fry until lightly golden. Remove on to a paper towel lined baking tray. Cool completely before serving or store in an airtight container.

Banana Fritters

Banana Fritters

I got the idea of making banana fritters when I ate beignets at Founding Farmers in Washington, D.C. I added the ripe banana just to give it a hint of banana flavor. I served my fritters sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, but if you are adventurous you could serve it with chocolate or caramel sauce.

Banana Fritters
2 eggs
1 teaspoon oil
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons sugar
1¼ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 very ripe mashed banana
Oil for deep frying
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Beat eggs, oil, milk, vanilla and sugar. Sift flour, baking powder and salt. Add to egg mixture and beat until the batter is smooth. Stir in the mashed banana.

Heat oil for deep frying in a wok over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Drop tablespoonfuls of the batter gently into the oil. Fry until both sides are lightly golden brown. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar while the fritters are still warm. Serve immediately.

Coconut Ice

Coconut IceI wonder how many of my Indian readers remember buying coconut sweets from little shops in India. They were kept in large glass jars – looking very tempting. During my high school days, my friends and I would use spare change from our allowances to buy a couple to share.

For those who have never tried these, I highly recommend them. They are similar in texture to coconut macaroons with a dash of exotic flavor. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did all those years ago.

Coconut Ice
1½ cups sugar
½ cup water
½ cup cream
2 cups unsweetened desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon ground cashew nut
1 teaspoon ghee
1 drop of red food color

Using parchment paper, line an 8×8 inch square baking pan.

Add sugar and water to a large heavy bottomed saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mixture reaches 235 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Or until the sugar and water mixture reaches one thread consistency. Being very careful, add the cream, desiccated coconut, ground cashew nut, ghee, red food color, and mix well. The color of the coconut ice should be light pink so add only a drop of red food coloring.

Immediately spread the mixture into the parchment lined pan. Press firmly and allow it to cool completely. Cut the coconut ice into squares or diamond shapes.

Karanjis

Karanji final

MERRY CHRISTMAS, readers! I am sure many Indian homes have Karanjis during this time of the year. They are a popular Maharashtrian sweet, but other regions in India also make them. Most often, the filling is made from dry coconut (copra), and the pastry shell is made from all purpose flour, ghee (clarified butter), and salt. You can buy ghee at any Indian grocery store. Many families have their own variation of this Christmas treat.

But, in my view, nothing came close to the karanjis made by my little sister, Sonia Poddar. They were the best I had ever tasted! They melted in my mouth. The shell was flaky, crisp, and crunchy, and the freshly grated coconut filling had just the right amount of sweetness. I asked her if I could share her recipe with you, and she graciously agreed. Thank you, Sonia.

Since these karanjis are made with fresh coconut, they are meant to be eaten soon after you make them. The recipe below will make about 20 small karanjis. If you want the karanjis to last longer, then dry roast the freshly grated coconut over medium heat until the water in the flakes of coconut evaporate, and they turn light brown, and smell fragrant.

Karanjis

For the pastry shell
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons ghee
¼ teaspoon salt
Warm water
Oil for deep frying

Rub ghee into the flour until the mixture is crumbly. Add warm water to make a smooth dough; approximately 1/3 cup of water. Cover the dough with a damp towel, and let it rest for 20-30 minutes.

For the filling
1 cup freshly grated coconut
1 cup sugar
1 cup finely chopped nuts (cashew and almond)
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
1 teaspoon poppy seeds (khus khus)

Roast poppy seeds in a small pan over low heat for one minute. Put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix well, and set aside.

Divide the dough into 20 equal sized portions and roll them into balls. Keep them covered with a wet towel so they do not dry out. Roll them into thin circles. Wet the edge of the circle with water. Put one teaspoon of the filling in the center. Gently fold over the filling to make a semi circle. Press the edge well, with your finger tips to seal. Trim the edge with a pastry cutter or karanji cutter. This will also help seal the edge of the karanji. Keep the karanjis in a tray, and cover them with a damp paper towel to keep them moist until you are ready to fry them.

Place a heavy bottomed wok (kadai) over medium-high heat, and pour oil to a depth of about five inches. Fry a few karanjis at a time until they turn light brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Almond Brittle

Almond Brittle2

Happy Holidays to all my readers! Christmas is seven days away, and I’ve been busy in the kitchen making doughnuts, namkeen (Indian salty crackers), coconut ice candy, and my all-time favorite – almond brittle.

I’ve been making almond brittle for my friends during Christmas for years, so I thought I would share the recipe with you. But, before I do, let me tell you about the person who first taught me how to make almond brittle.

Sarojini Raj is her name, but to me she will always be “akka”, which in Tamil means respected and cherished older sister. I learnt so much from her. I learnt about unconditional love, and giving without expecting anything in return. I watched her manage her time efficiently. She kept an impeccable home while working full time, cooking three meals a day, and the list goes on and on. Thank you, akka, for your love, and for being such an amazing role model to me.

Almond Brittle (slightly revised)

½ stick butter (4 tablespoons), room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup slivered almonds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.

Place a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add butter (make sure it is at room temperature), sugar and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until the butter, sugar and salt are well incorporated, and then add almonds and sesame seeds. Turn heat up to medium-high.

This is the point where you have to pay close attention, and keep stirring constantly. When the almonds and sugar begin to brown, and turn to a light caramel color, and you see the melted butter separate from the rest of the mixture, turn off the heat. Very carefully, pour the mixture onto the foil lined baking sheet. Spread to a thin, even layer with the back of the wooden spoon. Let the almond brittle cool completely before you snap them into pieces.

Store in an airtight container. Or, put them in little bags or boxes, as shown in the picture, and share them with your friends. They make delectable little gifts for Christmas.

Doughnuts – Indian Style

Warning: You won’t be able to eat just one!

I have a confession to make. Just a few weeks back hurricane Sandy visited the East Coast, and in anticipation of power outages, I decided to cook several dishes. I wanted to be prepared, because when my children lose power in their homes, they end up at my place since I rarely lose power. In anticipation of their arrival, I made these doughnuts. Fortunately, my children did not lose power, but guess who ate all the doughnuts? You’re right – me! They were gone in a couple of days, and it might have been sooner, if I didn’t exercise some self control. Make these doughnuts at your own risk!

Doughnuts – Indian Style

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
4 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted ghee
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup milk
Peanut or canola oil for deep-frying
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

In a bowl, sift flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl whisk together egg, oil and vanilla. Add egg mixture into the flour and gently mix until crumbly. Add milk little by little until the dough hold together. Knead until it forms a nice smooth dough. Cover with a damp paper towel, and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into two portions. Turn one portion out on to a lightly floured work surface. Roll out to a ten inch round. Cut using a doughnut cutter which is dipped in a little flour. This helps the doughnuts to slide off the cutter easily. Do the same with the other portion of the dough. Line a platter with paper towels.

In a deep, heavy saucepan, pour in oil to a depth of two inches, and heat. When oil is hot place a few doughnuts at a time in the hot oil. Using a slotted spoon remove doughnuts when they turn golden brown on both sides. Place them on paper towel lined platter to drain. You can use a fine mesh sieve to dust the doughnuts with confectioners’ sugar. However, I like them plain so the picture doesn’t have the dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

Fresh Coconut-Carrot Cake

My ancestors are natives of Kerala, a state in India often called, “God’s own country”. Kerala is located on the Malabar Coast of south-west India. Many words come to mind when I think about Kerala – beaches, forests, waterfalls, backwaters, houseboats, paddy fields, fish, coconuts, pineapples, cashew nuts, jackfruit, mangoes, bananas, festivals, grandparents, and Amma and Papa. Tucked away in my heart are numerous delightful memories of family vacations in Kerala. My parents grew up in Kerala and later moved further north to Pune, where I was born.

Today, I am sharing with you a recipe for fresh coconut-carrot cake, as an ode to Kerala. The carrots help to keep the cake moist. Other ingredients include pineapple, walnuts, cinnamon, and cream cheese. I have not tasted a better coconut-carrot cake, if I do say so myself. The combination of flavors and textures is absolutely scrumptious!

For the Fresh Coconut-carrot Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
4 eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup buttermilk
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 ½ cups freshly grated coconut
1 cup finely chopped canned pineapple, drained
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 cups grated carrot

Grease and flour a 13”x 9” baking pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs. Add oil, buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Add flour mixture, coconut, pineapple, walnuts and carrot. Mix on low speed for one minute. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes until cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes and then invert the cake onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

¼ lb butter (1 stick), room temperature
1 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

In a large bowl of an electric mixer add butter, cream cheese, and beat until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time, and mix on low speed until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Frost cake and decorate with walnuts. Refrigerate until the frosting sets.