Whiskey Salted Caramel, Nutella + a Chocolate Cinnamon Layer Cake + Lately

Hi.
Let’s just talk about this cake for a while.

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It’s not the prettiest cake I’ve made in my whole, entire amateur baker life BUT
1. I made it for my parents marriage anniversary.
2. I’ve never done a fancy pants layer cake before. Or generally fancy cakes in general. I’m a bread gal.
3. It’s really, really RIDICULOUSLY yummy. I mean, it’s salty delicious caramel with a hint of whiskey and when I say salty, I mean perfectly salty. I HATE when restaurants put out salted caramel desserts and you can’t taste the saltyness so the next time you head to one of those cafès, take the name with a pinch of salt.

PUNPUNPUNPUN

Ahem.

The cakes are soft and fabulous. I’m not even joking, you could put your head on one of these babies and take a nap. So soft.

And the Nutella. Obviously. Needs to be everywhere.
Not that I’m complaining.

WHISKEY SALTED CARAMEL + NUTELLA CHOCOLATE CINNAMON LAYER CAKE

For the salted caramel:

For the cake:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 ½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup cocoa powder

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 tbsp vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste) GOOD QUALITY GUYS!

2 cups well shaken buttermilk or one cup yoghurt (dahi is okay) and one cup milk. I personally prefer the latter.

Additionally:
1/2 cup Nutella

PROCEDURE:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and line two cake pans. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sift in the cocoa powder and add the cinnamon and stir to combine.

In another bowl, blend together the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add the buttermilk/ yogurt milk mixture and stir to combine.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Beat till combined, my Kitchen Aid usually takes 2 minutes. The batter will be a little lumpy, but worry not. Don’t overmix.

Divide batter between your two prepared cake pans. Bake for 40 minutes, until the edges of the cakes have come away from the sides, a tester inserted through the center comes out clean and the cakes are light and springy.
Let it cool before frosting.

The caramel:
Heat the sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the sugar starts to melt, swirl the sugar on top so that it meets the liquid parts of the sugar. Do not stir.

While the sugar is melting, warm the cream and butter in a separate pan, over low heat until the butter has melted.

Once the sugar has completely melted, this should take about 10 minutes and the the sugar should have a deep amber colour, take the pan off heat.

Immediately whisk in the warm cream and butter mixture (be careful, as the hot caramel will bubble up)
If the sugar solidifies, return the pan to medium heat until the mixture is liquid again. {my sugar did actually turn into a hard lump after adding the butter-cream but it was okay after heating, so don’t worry about that}

Stir in the salt and whiskey.

Pour the mixture through a sieve and remove any remaining in dissolved bits of sugar. Let it cool.

For the buttercream:

Beat the butter, sugar and caramel till it reaches a smooth, creamy consistency.

CONSTRUCTION:

I’m no pro. {evidently}
But, here are some handy links to help you construct a pretty cake.

The layers:
I sandwiched the cake layers with the salted caramel buttercream and Nutella. On top, after applying a tough coat of the buttercream, I drizzled on the remaining caramel and topped with a few crumbled cookies to one edge.

Links:
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GnL6BpFzA6Q

http://www.marthastewart.com/275519/how-to-assemble-a-layer-cake/@center/276954/great-cake-recipes
Gaaaah.

Apart from that, here’s what my life has looked like lately.

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Yeah basically.
This was the highlight of my week.
Ugh exams.

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies

I’m going to say this upfront.

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I’m (occasionally) allergic to peanuts.

Not always. But sometimes I choke and get a rash and can’t breathe. Not always, but sometimes.
(I was also allergic to Pepsi, but that was eons ago and all allergic tendencies vanished in a year. So there.)

Anywhooo, on days that I’m not feeling particularly allergic, I like baking with peanut butter because I have a penchant for the peanuty.
I do not fully understand why I wrote that sentence, but I refuse to delete it. It adds style to the blog.

Mmhm.

Getting back to the cookies, these are chewy and wonderful, crispy on the edges and soft on the inside. Basically the cookies of my dreams. Don’t over bake these beauties as they’ll be quite soft when you take them out, but fear not, they are not undercooked.
They’ll harden as they cool.

Obviously, dipping in chocolate is not an option. Nor are the sprinkles.

I’m watching you.

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Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies

1 stick (100 grams) butter, softened (if using salted butter, such as Amul, omit the salt)

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup peanut butter

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 egg

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

200 g dark chocolate + sprinkles to decorate

Directions:

Line/ grease a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter, brown sugar and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until just combined. Don’t overmix, you don’t want hockey pucks.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Add in batches to the wet ingredients and combine gently just until a dough forms.

Chill in the fridge for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Scoop our balls of dough and press down gently with the back of a fork.

Bake for 15 minutes until edges are golden brown. Let cool till firm.

(Not)Optional:
Melt 200 grams of dark chocolate. Dip one edge of the cookie in and top with sprinkles.

Yessss. Mondays just got tolerable.

Apple-Hazelnut Cake with Cinnamon–Hazelnut Streusel For All Your Problems

Streusel is such a funny word. Stroosil.

No, stop it. Quit making a fool of yourself.

Yes, I’m done having a conversation with myself

cake

Anyway, my very apt title perfectly sums up everything this cake will do for you. Basically it solves problems.

I made this a say before my psychology assignment was due. My whole day went a little like this:

Me: Oh look!  I have three hundred thousand pages to write

My Brain: great lets bake a cake.

Me: okay

 

(three hours later)

My Brain: wow great cake Amani. You’re so talented

Me: wow I have so much to do. So, I’ll just lie on the floor for a few hours and do nothing

Brain: and eat cake

Me: and eat cake.

 

The next day, my assignment was magically complete and pigs began to fly.

The end.

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No, but you should make this cake.

And do all your work.

 

Apple-Hazelnut Cake with Cinnamon–Hazelnut Streusel

 

Ingredients:
3-4 apples peeled and cubed

1 tsp ground cinnamon

100g butter, softened
1 cup / 200g sugar, plus a little more for sprinkling
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
200g flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup  milk

¼ cup chopped, lightly toasted hazelnuts

 

For the streusel:

½ cup oats

2 tbsp hazelnuts, toasted

½ tsp ground cinnamon

4 tbsp cold butter

1 tbsp flour

1 tsp milk

 

The cake:

  1. Preheat      the oven to 375ºF/190ºC. Grease and flour a baking pan.
  2. In a bowl,      using a stand mixer or an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar      and vanilla, followed by the egg. Mixing them in one at a time, until the      mixture is soft and fluffy.
  3. Whisk      together the flour and baking powder and fold it into the egg and butter      mixture. Finally, stir in the milk and form a batter.
  4. Fold in      the apples and hazelnuts.
  5. Pour into      the prepared tin
  6. Top with      streusel and bake for 30-40  minutes      or till a skewer inserted through the center comes out clean.

The streusel:

Put everything except the milk and butter in the bowl. Now add the butter and work through it till only pea sized lumps remain. Add the milk ONLY if needed.

The Bricks Of Parker House

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From amount of bread posts on here, I think it’s fairly clear that I have a thing for bread.

Not only bread though, all carbohydrates.

Yes. Delicious.

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The thing that is not very known though is that I had a very very deep rooted fear of baking bread.

It all first started when I found out about how the bread in stores is actually frightfully unhealthy and that “brown bread” is actually regular white sandwhich bread with “caramel colour.”

It’s healthy they said.

Har har har.

 

So, the first time I baked bread was this rainy, cold afternoon when the craving to eat warm, soft delicious bread was all I could think of and I happened to find a very promising recipe that told me that I could bake “fresh warm rolls that even a beginner (me) couldn’t mess up and that I could have real, healthy bread in two hours!”

Obviously, I was sold.

What followed was me, hungry and sleep-deprived( because for some reason I cant sleep in when it rains, no it’s not relaxing, Mother Nature, thanks for deciding to throw ROCKS on my roof when I’m trying to sleep :/ ) , grabbing the ingredients  and some extremely expired yeast and baking “Parker House Rolls”.

They didn’t turn out, obviously.

The first sign should have been the fact that the bread refused to rise, but well, I was hungry and bread-wanty.

The rolls turned out to be The Bricks Of Parker House over Parker House Rolls, which was a fail.(clearly)

But they made very good hockey pucks.

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Anyway,

I’ve come a long way since my brick…erm….roll baking days and have learned to check the date on the yeast packets.

I’ve come to love bread baking and love trying out different kinds of bread. Right now, I’m obsessed with working with the sourdough starter!

So tangy! So delicious!

 

Truth be told, this isn’t the fastest bread you’ll ever make.

You’ll have to wait a week for the starter to turn tangy but trust me! It’s worth the wait.

Ooh ooh! You know what else is worth the wait? TOASTING THE SOURDOUGH AND MAKING CROUTONS FOR TOMATO SOUP AND THEN USING THE SAME BREAD FOR GRILLED CHEESE. YES.

 

So anyway, here it is:

Crusty, delicious sourdough.

 

Based on Five and Spice blog’s Perfect Crusty Loaf

 

  • 200 g      (1  cup) recently fed sourdough      starter ( I like using a starter that’s been fed and atleast a week old)
  • 400 g (3      cups) flour
  • 11 g (1.5      tsp) salt
  • 300 g (1      1/3 cup warm  water( not too hot and      too  cold, it should be comfortable,      like bath water)
  • extra      flour for dusting
  1. In a      mixing bowl, stir together all your ingredients till combined. It should      be pretty sticky and wet. On a well floured surface ( not too much, a      lightly floured surface should do. You don’t want to incorporate more      flour into the bread)

Then, knead softly and roll out into a rough rectangle. Now fold in the left side and then the right, like you would fold a letter: Right to left then quarter turn and right to left again. Shape into a rough ball GENTLY and place in a well greased bowl till about doubled in size. Make sure that your bread rests in warm, draft free corner.

  1.  Set a timer for one hour.  After an      hour, wet your hands well to keep them from sticking, gently take the      dough out of the bowl and carefully stretch it and shape it like you did      before( the letter folds) .  Set the timer for another hour, and      after that repeat the stretch and fold.  The dough should get easier      and less sticky to work worth.  Set your timer for one more hour.       Repeat the stretch and fold process and then form into a roughly      shaped ball and place in a greased
  2. Take      another mixing bowl bigger than the the size of the bread dough, and      grease it. Place the dowl in it and over it with cling film and place in      the refrigerator
  3. The next      day (or two), an hour before you are ready to bake the bread, take the      dough out of the refrigerator.  Let it sit  at room temperature for an hour, at this      point it should looked puffed, and if you poke it, it should leave a      little indent, ifit doesn’t , let it rise for another 30-60 minutes or      more. Mine bread always takes a good hour. Now ,while the dough stands at      room temp. ,preheat your oven toits highest setting. Place a dutch oven or      a ceramic pot with a fitted lid inside, basically anything that’ll allow      steam to be generated will do. Put a good layer of cornmeal or flour      cutting board, and gently turn the bread dough out onto it. Use a very      sharp knife to make as deep X on top of the bread. Note that if you don’t      have a dutch oven you can bake it like regular bread, but in the last five      minutes of baking toss in a cup full of ice cubes and shut the door.      This’ll give it a nice crust too.
  4. once the      oven is heated,, take the Dutch oven out and put your bread it, ensuring      the cornmeal side’s down.  Cover the Dutch oven, and put it back in      the oven.  Bake the bread in the pot with the lit for about 25      minutes then take the top off and bake another 10 minutes or until it’s      golden brown and looks crusty too. Then remove from the oven, and turn the      bread out onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely. It’s really      important for it too cool completely because you don’t want to interfere      with the baking process. Enjoy!

 

The Pretzel Problem

One of my fondest food related memories is eating a pretzel for the first time.
I was 12 and we were on holiday. After a day of fun rides at Disney, we decided to get a little snack and ended up buying soft pretzels and root beer from one of the adorable, little stalls. It smelt incredible, the scent of freshly baked, warm bread wafting out of the little yellow cart and the minute I was handed the buttery, sesame-studded pretzel, I ate it and washed it down with a swig of root beer.
newage

And it was love at first bite.
That pretzel was insanely delicious and since then, I have been a pretzel-lover. It should be noted, however, that being the bread lover that I am, I would eat any carbohydrate, no qualms whatsoever.
imffefeage

The issue at hand however, was that upon my return to India, I haven’t eaten a single pretzel that I’ve loved. Nothing ever came close to the buttery, incredible deliciousness that I feel in love with and I’ve been obsessed with perfecting the art of pretzel making ever since.
The issue with all the pretzels I’ve eaten weren’t that they weren’t delicious but instead that they lacked that fantastic, chewiness and that TASTE that makes pretzels so different from regular bread. I needed a good pretzels and a couple of months back I decided to sacrifice any social interaction (and my waistline) till I baked the perfect pretzel at home.
My sanity depended on my ability to find that perfect pretzel.
And a few months back,
I struck gold.

The secret, it seems, to making delicious, chewy pretzels as opposed to bready ones is this:
Ready?

It’s dunking the pretzels in boiling water with baking soda.

This recipe is perfection and shall deliver you to pretzel heaven.
Thank me later.

Soft Pretzels
Adapted from Martha Stewart, Smitten Kitchen and The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
Makes 16 full-sized or 32 miniature
2 cups warm water (not hot!)
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons fat (I’ve used both butter and canola oil)
1/4 cup baking soda (not powder!)
1 large egg
Coarse sea salt (pretzel salt if you can find it)
Vegetable-oil cooking spray
1. Pour warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar into bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and stir to combine. Sprinkle with yeast, and let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy. If you don’t have a standmixer, you can do it in a bowl.
2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix on low until combined. Add salt and 4 cups more flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat on medium-low until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add another ½ cup of flour and let the machine knead it for 30 seconds. Keep going and keep adding ½ a cup of flour till 4/12 cups are up. Then if needed , ie: if the dough is still very wet and sticky add a ½ cup more. Then transfer to a lighty floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes/10 times or till smooth and elastic.
Note: If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can knead it by hand. Follow the same steps but knead for a 2-3 minutes everytime it says 30 seconds. Also note that you don’t have to knead for 2 minutes by the clock, it may take more time or less. Just knead till the dough feels smooth and elastic.
3.Grease a large bowl with the fat. But the dough in and cover with clingfilm/a damp tea towel and leave in a warm draft free area till about doubled in size.
4. Heat oven to 450°F/200 C. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray (parchment paper, ungreased, also works). Set aside. Punch down dough to remove any air bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead gentlty. Split the dough into 16 pieces and cover with a tea towel.
5. Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip. Twist into pretzel shape; and place on the greased/lined baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels. Cover the tray with wrap/a towel.Let the pretzels rest in a warm spot so that they rise a litte, this should take about 15 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, fill large, wide pot with 2 inches of water. Let it boil and add baking soda and the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar to it. Reduce to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Then take them out with a slotted spoon and transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached ON BOTH SIDES.
7. Beat egg with a spoonful of warm water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt and the sesame seeds. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Eat them warm, served with honey mustard and something cold to drink, preferably Root beer.
Note: the pretzels are best eaten the same day they are made. Do not store them in a container/cover them, they will get soggy.

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Soft Sourdough Dinner Rolls

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Hey!
It’s been a hectic last week ,( we just finished writing papers) and I’ve been soaking up all the free time, just not doing anything.

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I made these rolls the other night, using up the last of my sourdough starter. These are not exactly sourdough rolls, but they do have that nice twang.
I’ve made these twice now and I have noticed that using an older, fed starter is tastier. So try that if you can.
The wait is worth it. I promise!

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SOURDOUGH DINNER ROLLS
Adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe

3/4 cup sourdough starter, fed or unfed
3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast/ 15 g fresh yeast (crumbled)
I tbsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
5 tbsp softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup warm water( gently warmed, not hot at all. Regular water will also do)

For the top:
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water
Optional: poppy seeds, mustard seeds,sesame seeds

Combine the all the ingredients in a bowl and combine till a soft, smooth dough forms. I needed to knead it for about 7 minutes.

Let it rest, covered, in a greased bowl, for about 2 hours or till almost doubled in size.

After 2 hours, knead the dough on a well floured surface ( this is essential or else your dough will stick) and shape it into rolls. Add more flour to the dough if it’s too sticky.Leave the rolls on a greased baking sheet, covered, for about 20 minutes or till they have risen a bit.

Preheat the oven to it’s highest setting.
Do to optional egg wash and sprinkle the seeds over. Bake at the highest temperature for about 10 minutes or till the colour is a light golden . Then, turn the temperature down to 150 C and bake another 5-10 minutes or till golden.
Serve warm!

Tapenade + Fried Egg on Toast

Guys guys guys.
Look, it’s my first un-recipie!
Not really, though, because there is the recipe for the Best Tapenade You’ll Ever Make( from Gourmet) but the toasting your bread and frying the egg part? No, I’m not giving instructions for that.


Meet your new favourite snack.
I feel like people are super boring with toast. And it’s true, toast usually is just a vehicle for peanut butter or just butter and jam.
But, you can make things exciting! Which is why over the next week, in addition to regular posts and through in ways to jack up your regular toast and jam routine.

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Enjoy!

TOAST WITH A FRIED EGG AND TAPENADE:
Serves 1

1 slice of good bread, toasted ( I like whole wheat for this)
1 egg, fried in a little oil.(** poached is really good too!)
Tapenade( below)

Black Olive Tapenade:
1 cup pitted black olives
1 tbsp capers
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 big cloves garlic smashed
1/4 cup olive oil

In a food processor,pulse the first 4 ingredients together. Once it starts forming a paste, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream.

To assemble:
Spread the toast with tapenade. Top with the egg. Eat!