Breakfast, Brunch, Comfort food, Quick-breads, Sweet

Applesauce Bread

It is almost that wonderful time of year when the weather starts to cool and you ( if you are like me) are anticipating fall colors, pumpkin everything and the holidays. In my opinion, the last four months of the year are the best! The food is great, the clothes are cozy and there is always somethings to look forward to each month. Yesterday, morning was one of those “almost fall” morning where there was a crisp breeze in the air and the only thing missing was the smell of cinnamon. So, I decided to fix that and make this simple, but very satisfying quick bread. I had some homemade applesauce (courtesy my mother-in-law) and few honeycrisp apples and so I decided to make this recipe. It yields 24 muffins OR 2 larges loaves. I ended up making 12 muffins and 4 mini loaves–perfect for having some over the weekend and freezing some for later. I hope you had this recipe to you fall breakfast/snack menu!

INGREDIENTS

 4 large eggs, at room temperature

 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

 2 cups store-bought or homemade applesauce, at room temperature

2 medium apples, grated

 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus more for the pan

 3 cups all-purpose flour

 1 tablespoon baking soda

 1 teaspoon kosher salt

 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter 2 loaf pans or place paper liners in 24 cupcake or muffin tins. I ended up making 12 muffins and 4 mini loaves.

Toss the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fit with the paddle attachment and beat until the mixture thickens and turns the color of lemons, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add first the applesauce and then the butter and beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. T

Dump the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a separate bowl and mix well. Stir it into the applesauce mixture and beat to combine. Add the nuts, if desired, and mix well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pans or, if making muffins, use a 2-ounce ice cream scoop or heaping tablespoon to fill the prepared tins. Bake the bread until golden brown and firm in the center, about 1 hour for loaves and 20 to 25 minutes for muffins.

Let the bread cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and set

Serve warm or room temperature. If you can resist the temptation and choose to save these treats for later, freeze muffins individually on a sheet tray, before transfering to a storage bag. For the loaves, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and then with tin foil and freeze.

Classics, Dessert, Sweet

Creme Brulee

Crème Brulee–sounds and looks so fancy, and yet, it is by far the easiest dessert to make.  All you need is some good quality vanilla, a small hand-held propane torch (totally worth buying one) and some patience—to allow it cool before devouring it.   This is such a family favorite, that I even bought the wide shallow dishes that you see in the restaurant.  The dishes are not a requirement, it all depends on sugary crust to custard ratio.  If you like a large crunchy top, get the dishes; if you prefer more custard and small sugary top, you can make it in any regular ramekin.  Choose your adventure, but do not choose against this recipe!

Ingredients:

1-quart heavy cream

1.5 tsp vanilla bean paste (yes, this is a lot, but I love seeing and tasting the vanilla beans)

6 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling

Hot water to fill your baking dish.

Method:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large measure cup (or bowl) , whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color.

Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into the ramekins of your choice.

Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan or cookie sheet. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 10-15 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar, evenly over the custard. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top.

Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Crack the top with back of spoon, enjoy the sound of that satisfying crunch and proceed to eating immediately!!

Classics, Dessert, Sweet

Strawberry Ice Cream

Back in 2018, my husband and I took a trip to England, and I learned that the Brits take their strawberries very seriously! Outside most of the tourist spots there were vendors selling fresh strawberries and cream.  To my surprise, the cream was not a carton of whipped cream, it was liquid cream, like the kind you put in your coffee!  You dip the fresh strawberry in the cream, and you have the most delicious and refreshing treat ever!  In addition to strawberries and cream, there were several opportunities to have local ice cream.  I had to try their strawberry ice cream and guess what? the flavor was so perfect and fresh that it tasted like the strawberries and cream snack!  Later I learned that this is such a quintessential English tradition that strawberries and cream are the traditional dessert of Wimbledon!  I guess when you are doing something since 1877, there must b something magical about it!  So, in honor of the start of Wimbledon (yes!!! after an entire year of COVID) here is a recipe for strawberry ice cream.  Make a pint and settle in for some good tennis, or any other summer activity of your choice—who am I to judge!

Ingredients:

32 ounces fresh strawberries (get the best possible strawberries you can find)

1 1/4 cups sugar

4 tablespoons of vodka

2 cups half and half

1/2 cup corn syrup

Method:

Hull and quarter 1 cup of strawberries, then slice quarters crosswise into very thin pieces. In a mixing bowl, combine strawberries with 1/2 cup sugar and alcohol and let stand in refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

Hull remaining strawberries and purée at high speed in a blender until very smooth, about 30 seconds. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to filter out all seeds and fibers, then measure and reserve 1 1/2 cups purée. Extra purée, if there is any, can be put to another use.  This can be done 1-2 days in advance.

In a clean mixing bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups strawberry purée with half and half, corn syrup, and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until fully combined.

Chill in refrigerator, I like to chill the base overnight—it the guess out of “how cold is your base?”  Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. In the last minute of churning, retrieve strawberry mix-ins from the refrigerator, strain off syrup, and add mix-ins to the churn; reserve strawberry syrup for another use (think your favorite summer cocktail!).

Transfer ice cream to airtight container and chill in freezer for at least 4 hours before serving.

Breakfast, Brunch, Cupcakes, Sweet

Bibingka (Coconut-Rice Cake)

It has been a while since I have written, I blame the holidays and the post-holiday slump. In the new year, I have been trying to clear out my pantry. I had some rice flour and a can of coconut milk, and was wondering how to use them up. That is when I came across this recipe for Bibingka; it is a traditional Filipino breakfast cake. I had never heard of it before, but the ingredient list reminded me of Indian crepes or patishapta (if you are wondering what an Indian Crepe is, check out my friend’s recipe here). Anyway, the cakes came out looking beautiful, with a nice golden top. The rice flour gives it a nice nutty smell and an interesting texture; also gluten free! The coconut milk and sugar makes the cakes taste more like desert than breakfast, but who ever said you can’t have cake for breakfast? I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did.

Ingredients:

2 cups rice flour

2 Tbsp baking powder

1 pinch salt

4 eggs

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk

2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp of ground cardamom

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 375F. Lightly grease line muffin tins (approximately 18).

In a medium bowl sift together the rice flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl beat the eggs, then add the sugar, coconut milk, butter and vanilla and combine well.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until well combined and smooth. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared tins.

Bake, for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Leave in the pan for 10 minutes then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Sweet

Pistachio Gelato

00000img_00000_burst20200629191026224_cover

I love pistachios.  It is a popular nut used in a lot of “special occasion” sweets in India.  I will eat pistachios in any form–as an indulgent and rather addictive snack, in salads, with yogurt, or mixed in with breadcrumbs to add richness to your baked chicken recipe.  So, when I saw this recipe (original recipe here), I had to make it.  I will recommend purchasing raw pistachio butter online; make sure it is 100% pistachio, no sugar, no salt, nothing but pistachios!  Here is how this delicious, rich, creamy, and cold dessert is churned up!

Ingredients:

4 large egg yolks
3⁄4 cup sugar
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
3⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
6 Tbsp. pure pistachio paste (not pistachio cream)

Instructions:

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until well combined. Whisk in the milk, cream, and salt until combined.

 


Set the saucepan over medium heat and cook, whisking frequently, until a thermometer inserted into the mixture reads 170°. Remove from the heat and whisk in the pistachio paste until well combined.

 


Set a fine strainer over an airtight container and pour the mixture through. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days (this helps cooked custard bases achieve a stable consistency).

 


In the bowl of an ice cream maker, churn the mixture according to the manufacturer’s directions until it’s firm and billowy, and a spoon dragged across the top leaves a lasting impression, about 30 minutes.

 

Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until hardened, at least 4-5 hours. Later on, if it’s too firm, thaw it in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes before scooping and serving. For best results, eat within 2 days of freezing.

img_20200629_190713-1

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200629191103278_cover

Cake, Sweet

Cardamom Almond Cake

00000IMG_00000_BURST20200524182900351_COVER

Cardamom is one of my favorite spices.  So when I saw this recipe, I had to make.  What makes it even more special is that I used duck eggs in this recipe, to yield a richer, more moist cake.  The original recipe was written for a 9-inch cake, but I wanted to make a smaller portion–after all, it is just the two of us in this lockdown. The cake came out delicious and the duck eggs give it a wonderfully rich texture and a beautiful golden yellow color.  The cardamom taste is floral and prominent but softened by the nuttiness of the almond flour  You can, of course, make this with regular eggs, I have recommendations below:

Ingredients:

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 duck eggs (2 extra-large chicken eggs or three regular-sized eggs)

1 tsp of almond extract

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp of cardamom

2 and 1/4 cups of almond flour

2 Tbsp of apricot jam (optional for glazing the cake)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour on 6-inch cake pan.

Mix almond flour, sugar, and cardamom in a bowl.

00000IMG_00000_BURST20200524140949568_COVER

In a separate bowl (or measuring cup) which together with the almond extract, oil, and eggs.

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200524141153315_COVER

Mix wet and dry ingredients, folding them together to create a smooth batter.

00000IMG_00000_BURST20200524141434092_COVER

IMG_20200524_142053

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40-50 mins (depending on your oven temperature) till a tooth-pick comes out clean.

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200524145617848_COVER

Cool the cake on a wire rack and during the cooling process, spread the apricot jam (warmed–so that it spreads easily) on top of the cake to create a lovely glaze.

Serve at room temperature, we had it with fresh berries, but it is wonderful just as it is.

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200524182952809_COVER00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200524183037626_COVER

Breakfast, Sweet

Oatmeal Breakfast Loaf with blueberries

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200509145928804_cover

As you all know by now, I always try to come up with new ways to “package” my oatmeal in the morning.  You can also tell that blueberries are really popular in my house (refer to Blueberry-Almond Oatmeal MuffinsGluten-free Blueberry Corn Muffins).  Here is my latest experiment–it consists of oatmeal and cornmeal and it low in sugar and it gluten-free.

Ingredients:

2 cups oatmeal

1 cup stone-ground, yellow cornmeal

1/2 tsp of baking soda

1/2 tsp of baking powder

1/8 cup of sugar + 1 Tbsp for sprinkling

2 eggs

1 cup almond milk

8 oz plain greek yogurt

zest of 1 lemon

juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 cup blueberries

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F

Mix yogurt, eggs, almond milk in a large measuring cup (or bowl)

In a separate bowl, mix oats, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, lemon zest, and sugar.

img_20200509_134010

Slowly fold in the wet and the dry ingredients.  Add the lemon juice and mix in thoroughly.  I like to mix the lemon juice at the end because I don’t want the milk or yogurt to curdle when I mix all the wet ingredients together.

The last step is to fold in the blueberries.

In the greased loaf pan, pour in the batter and spread it evenly.  Sprinkle the remaining 1Tbsp of sugar over the top.  This will create a golden, sugary top which is really nice for an otherwise “not-so-sweet” quick bread.

img_20200509_134924

Bake for 25 mins.  After that, you can turn on the broiler to High for 2-3 minutes to encourage the sugar to brown and the blueberries to burst!

img_20200509_141854

Let the loaf cool before using a serrated knife to slice the loaf.

Serve warm!

00000img_00000_burst20200509150201832_cover

 

 

Cookies, Sweet

PB&J graham cracker cookies

 

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200423133003200_cover

This is the type of cookie you make when you are trying to save ingredients.  After I made my icebox cake, I  had quite a bit of graham cracker crumb crust mixture leftover.  I was not going to waste all that deliciousness, so I came up with this “cookie” recipe.  My husband said, “this cookie is having an identity crisis! It tastes like peanut butter, but it also has the texture of a cake, but then it’s flakey–it’s weird but good!”.  I will take that! I only got 12 cookies out of it and while I don’t plan on adding this to the official Christmas Cookie list anytime soon, but I will make it again if I ever have extra graham crackers crumbs!

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 cup graham cracker crumb-crust mixture (refer to the original recipe here)

1/8 cup AP-flour

1 egg

2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter (you could use any other kind of nut butter)

Grape jelly to top the cookies

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F

Mix all the ingredients (except the jelly) together in a bowl.  It will resemble a crumbly shortbread cookie mixture.

img_20200423_123921

img_20200423_124150

Using a cookie scoop, divide the dough into 12 balls and place them on a lined cookie sheet.

img_20200423_124333

Roll the divided dough, like meatballs, into smooth dough balls.

img_20200423_124537

Using the back of a wooden spoon, gently press down on the center of the dough ball, to create divet. As you push down, the dough-ball edges will crack.  Use your fingers to press the cracks together, as best as you can–they do not need to be perfect.

Fill each divet with 1/2 tsp of grape jelly.

Bake for 15 minutes.

img_20200423_132806

Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for about a minute and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Store in an air-tight container for a week to 10 days.

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200423133013358_cover

Dessert, Sweet

Blueberry Icebox Cake

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200424130312149_cover

My husband and I love blueberries.  In fact, it is our favorite after-dinner dessert, whether we are trying to be healthy or not.  A few weeks ago,  I bought two large boxes of blueberries (in fear that we may not get fresh fruit for a while–pandemic and such).  With all the other easter/birthday related desserts I have been making (Raspberry-swirl Cheesecake, Banana Bread), we have not been able to go through the berries as fast as we normally do.   As a result, the berries needed saving.  I did not want to through them away and since I just made blueberry waffles, I wanted to make something different. Thus, the icebox cake was born.  I saw a recipe like this in Bon Appetit magazine and decided to make my own version with what I had in the pantry.  I also wanted to make it relatively healthy so that I could eat the cake every night and not feel guilty.   The recipe has a few steps, and it does require overnight freezing.  You may think it is labor-intensive but, making this was a welcome distraction to grading papers!  The overall verdict was that it “tastes good”, but “it could do with more layers” (I quote my husband).  Maybe, in the warmer months, I will try to tweak the recipe, but this will do wonderfully, for now.

Ingredients:

For the Blueberry filling:

4 cups of fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked

2Tbsp of cornstarch

4 Tbsp of water

3 Tbsp of sugar (add more if your berries are not sweet)

To make the filling:

 

 

Dump all the ingredients in a deep sauce-pot and turn the heat to medium-low and start stirring constantly.  This is important, you don’t want the berries to melt and stick to the bottom on the pot,  Nobody likes burnt filling.  You will need to stir constantly for about 5 minutes.  You can reduce the heat to low if you think that the berries are sticking to the bottom.  By the end of the process, you will have a pot full of gooey blueberries–resembling the consistency of pie filling.  Take the pot off the heat and cool completely.  Proceed to make the graham cracker crust.

mvimg_20200423_105804

Ingredients:

For the graham crackers crust:

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/8 cup sugar

1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon

1 stick of butter

To make the crust mixture:

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute.  Stir all the ingredients, till it resembles wet sand.

 

 

Important note: Since I was “coming up” with the recipe, I grossly overestimated the amount of crumbs.  I ended up using about half of the butter, crumb mixture.  I made PB&J cookies with the rest–why waste ingredients?  You can most certainly halve the recipe.

Ingredients:

For the yogurt filling:

1 and 1/2 cup of vanilla greek yogurt

1/8 cup of sugar

2 cups of whipped topping

1 tsp of vanilla bean paste (you can use extract)

To make the filling:

Mix yogurt, sugar, and vanilla thoroughly till completely incorporate and smooth.

 

 

Gently fold in the whipped topping at the end.  Continue folding, till fully incorporated.

img_20200423_122055

To assemble the icebox cake:

img_20200423_122454

Line a 9X5 loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving some overhangs so that you can lift the cake out of the pan once it is set.

img_20200423_122518

Using a 1 cup measure, layer in the graham cracker crumbs.  Press down with the back of a spatula/measuring cup/or spoon to create a neat and flat crust.

img_20200423_122622

Pour in 1 cup of the yogurt mixture and smooth it out.

img_20200423_122754

Add all of the blueberries (I wanted to use up all the berries–that was the whole point of this recipe. My husband would have preferred a thinner layer of berries)

img_20200423_122944

Cover the berry mixture with 1 cup of crumbs–smooth it out.

img_20200423_123026

Top the crumbs with the remaining yogurt mixture and smooth it out.

 

 

Wrap the “cake” with the plastic wrap overhangs and set in the freezer overnight.

img_20200423_123446

Remove from the freezer and leave it in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours before unfolding.  If it is still frozen, you can place the bottom of the pan in a larger dish filled with tap/warm water–it should help with the unfolding process.

 

 

Unwrap the top of the cake and using the overhangs, gently lift the cake out of the loaf pan on to a cutting board.

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200424125724235_cover00100dportrait_00100_burst20200424125808506_cover00100dportrait_00100_burst20200424125801404_cover

Slice into half-inch slices and serve!  It tastes better as it starts to thaw a bit, but you most certainly still want to enjoy it while it is cold.  This is indeed a perfect dessert for a hot summer’s day!

 

 

Breakfast, Brunch, Classics, Comfort food, Sweet

Blueberry Waffles, gluten-free

00000img_00000_burst20200419141601057_cover

I have this foggy memory of Saturday mornings from childhood.  My father sitting at the breakfast table, reading the newspaper and eating Eggo waffles–toasted with strawberry jam.  I think I get my love of waffles from him and I eat them like he does too.  Toasted, no butter or syrup.  If I am feeling indulgent,  I will slather on some nut butter or fruit preserve.  Waffles are now a Sunday staple, made even better because I eat my waffles while I Skype with my parents back in India.  It takes a while to make a large batch of waffles, so when I have time (which I do now, thanks to the pandemic) I make them and freeze them.  This past Sunday, I experimented with this recipe.  It is gluten-free and has dried blueberries instead of fresh.  I will be honest, the rice flour does give it a grittier texture, but when toasted, it actually lends a lovely crunch.  It suits my palate and I hope that somebody, somewhere, out there will enjoy these.  I know my Dad would!

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200419141621373_cover

Ingredients:

1 cup of rice flour

1 cup almond flour

2 tsp of baking powder

2Tbsp of sugar

2 eggs

1 cup almond milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 tsp of vanilla bean paste (you can use extract too)

6 Tbsp of dried blueberries

Method:

In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients.

In a large measuring cup (I love measuring and mixing in the same vessel–less dishes) measure and mix almond milk, oil and eggs till smooth.

img_20200419_132839

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together and fold in the vanilla and blueberries.

 

 

Turn on your waffle maker and let it come to temperature.  I like to cook mine on the highest setting to get nice golden and crispy waffles.

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200419133919923_cover

Once the waffle iron is hot, spray the surface with some non-stick spray and pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the center of the iron.  Working quickly and using the back of the measuring cup (or ice-cream scoop like I did) gently nudge the batter to spread it evenly.  Close the iron and cook the waffles–I am sure your waffle maker will have an indicator to let you know that your waffles are ready.

 

 

Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.  If you are like me, I cool them down completely on a wire rack and freeze them individually.  When I want to eat them, I simply pop them in the toaster and they are ready to go!

img_20200419_14181300000img_00000_burst20200419141524979_cover00000img_00000_burst20200419141607335_cover