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March, 2011

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Digestive biscuits & another pumpkin pie

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Here is the link to the Red Cross if you want to donate to the plight of the Tsunami victims in Japan. My prayers are with all of my Japanese blogger friends, especially OCHI, who Thank God is okay & all of the Japanese during this tumultuous and difficult time!

How to make desserts soar!

On the agenda today: Digestive biscuits ( regular and chocolate); Vanilla bean whipped cream pumpkin pie and foxes!….. Need there be more?

This digestive biscuit post is my contribution to a  garnishing event held by Food Fanatic


Garnishing-event

The gift of the Digestive biscuit, (cookie), was given to us by our friends from across the pond, namely the English! This is my version of this irresistibly, delicious snack. I can still recollect the days when my Mom and I used to share the chocolate Digestives in the purple package in Cape Town, South Africa! My Mom rocked! “Dit is nou vir jou n’ lekker koekie!”

Well, my quest here was to develop a recipe that would be a wholesome snack for skiing and a little chocolaty for high tea or in my case, milk! Somehow, I do not think that the British would go for the milk! Nevertheless, I often serve this biscuit at high tea as well & do the unthinkable…..I dunk!!!

It seems to me that this biscuit has somewhat of a conflicting nature……should I be savory or should I be sweet this time? You know, just like  when those crazy voices in your head are at loggerheads with each other! LOL!

For the savory factor, just garnish a cheeseboard by cutting out whimsical shapes from the cheese of your choice with cookie cutters & stack for further interest. The digestive biscuits are perfect mates for sharp cheddar cheese / Swiss & maybe a dollop of spicy cranberry chutney on top of the cheese!

Mmmm, to be chocolaty or to be cheesy that is the question?

Cheese-digestive580-Naz copy.psd br12 co4

For the sweet factor, adorn the Digestive biscuits with dark chocolate ganache! Boil your cream, pour over dark chocolate with a small pat of unsalted butter and incorporate & slather over the crispy biscuit. To make the wavy pattern, use a cake comb and please do wait until the chocolate sets!

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I ” love” this biscuit so much, I even put it in writing! For the garnish, “LOVE”, just pour the dark melted chocolate into a paper cone made of parchment & write the word,”Love” onto parchment & let it harden.

I made 10 of these gift boxes, covered in cellophane for my neighborhood bake sale for the Strength.Org charity event. They flew off the table like hotcakes! I love doing charities like Strength.Org because this is where I can really flaunt my baking expertise!

This biscuit had a “malty” overtone with a slight crisp & shortbread-like taste! Absolutely yum! A Nazarina special!

Naz-digestive520-cookies

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A wildlife intervention

These are my new pets! Just kidding, I vow never to keep the wild in confinement! “Foxy” (female) came to me limping (really badly) from the nearby  Rocky mountain during September of last year. I felt an immediate pang of sorrow for Foxy because of this limp so in my regular  “Nazarina-like-fashion”,  I coaxed her with some food & nursed her leg! She came almost hypnotized by my soft spoken voice & it was almost as if she knew instinctively that I meant her no harm but only to help. There are lots of these foxes in my area. I love foxes, white wolves & polar bears! Gosh, I love all animals!

My 22lb cat, Oscar, stealthily went after her, trying to chase her off his domain. I intervened & stopped the confrontation in the nick of time! Cats, I tell ya are so territorial! LOL! I am sure you are most probably thinking that I am being terribly facetious, especially taken into account that I am dealing with foxes here!

Well Foxy came back this January  and brought her mate,” Moxie” (male) along with her. Aren’t they cute! Moxie follows Foxy everywhere and my sweetie shared a piece of  fox trivia with me saying that once they find their mate, they stay together forever! BTW, this is just a light dusting of snow compared to the norm.

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They love to run and hide underneath my studio (now as you can see just ravaged by the continuous snowfalls and arctic-like cold air)! This is where I make my soap & other crafts. This picture is a bit blurry because I was running after them, trying to take their picture! Anyway, I have not seen them for a couple of days now, maybe they went back to the nearby mountain! Funny thing though, just when we forget about them, they reappear in my backyard! Do you think that they bonded with me?

foxy-moxy600

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Finally, remember this post (Streusel topped pumpkin pie).……… that I wrote about a year ago?

pumpkin550-NA

……..I revamped my pumpkin pie yet again! This time, I still kept the streusel, but piped a swirl of mousse y vanilla bean whipped double cream on top & abstractly “Jackson Pollocked” the melted dark chocolate all over the pie! My friend, Vanessa, was having a bad day & quit her job over the phone, so I made her this pumpkin mousse pie & named it “Vanessa is out livin her life, so shove your job where the sun don’t shine! pie”  She liked the message so much and left it on voice mail & that was exactly what her Employer heard when they eventually called her back!

Stop me please!!! how many more times am I going to change this gift that just keeps on giving?  I use Dr. Oetker French vanilla ( all the time see my old blog), ….a friend of mine, Zoe, went to Canada from Miami & brought back 20 packages, all just for me. I just got tired of asking Cost Plus to get the French Vanilla! I did add the double cream to the mousse as well though to make it extra light & fluffy! “Zoe, many, many, thanks you are the bomb! You are a great gourmet cook in your own right! Delicious breyanis and heavenly cakes are amongst her specialties!”

Oh! BTW, this time I made the crust  & streusel with organic coconut flour (Bob’s Red Mill ),  almond flour etc…… . It came out better than a French sable’ type of dough!

another-pampoen590-nazarina copy.psd lev248.psd br9 co3


Recipes: As usual, please use organic ingredients when possible!

Digestive biscuits: Makes about 13 biscuits or more if you use a smaller cookie cutter than the one described in my “method.”

(This is my version)

  • 1/2 c organic wheat bran
  • 2 T extra fine Dessicated coconut ( Buy this at an Indian Grocer)
  • 5oz unsalted softened butter
  • 1/3 c brown sugar minus 1 T
  • 1 T Barley Malt syrup
  • 2 t  pure vanilla extract ( I use the one from Santo Domingo)
  • 1 egg yolk (I love baking with just the yolk, because the end result is always rich!)
  • 1-2 t ground ginger (optional but not for me!)
  • 1 t finely grounded (super-fine) cardamom (optional but not for me!)
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 t baking powder

Organic-wheatMethod:

Toast the wheat bran & the coconut together in the oven 350 degrees for about 10-15 mins; just until you can smell the toasted coconut aroma & the wheat is slightly colored. Remove & cool

Cream the butter, brown sugar, malt & vanilla together with an electric beater until light & fluffy. Add the egg yolk,  ginger & cardamom & incorporate. Sift cake flour, wheat flour & baking powder & then whisk in the toasted wheat bran & coconut.  Gingerly fold in this dry ingredient mixture  in 3 batches with a spatula. If the dough seems a bit wet, lightly dust hands with extra cake flour & then knead lightly and finally refrigerate 30mins-1 hour.

Roll out the dough to a little less than a quarter inch and cut out rounds with a 2 & half inch cookie cutter, ( or to whatever size you prefer),  & dock with a fork. I also love to roll the dough out thinner than this this on baking paper (tape the ends down on work surface or plastic wrap!),  & then place on baking sheet, but you really have to watch the browning…..this makes for some of the biscuits,  a lot more crispier! Refrigerate again for about 10 minutes & then bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 16 mins. or until slightly brown along the edges. Cool on the baking sheet and then garnish with the chocolate ganache or just eat them plain with cheese.

That’s it folks, I am signing off.

Love,

Nazarina.

“Thomas”, the train made from chocolate gingerbread!

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

How to make dessert fun

This was a really cool and delicious project and especially prudent to make since I am compelled to watch “Thomas the Train” and several other kid friendly movies with the munchkin.  To say that I am bored, (thinking out loud rather facetiously), with his TV choices would be an understatement!  I have succumbed to the notion that “Madagascar” and “Cars”, to name a few, are to be my only form of entertainment!
I am no longer in charge of the TV remote or allowed to satisfy a sudden urge to watch one of my favorite shows!……..  just kidding! he only has 1 hour of allotted TV time over here!

Even with this displayed, illiberal behavior, I still wanted to be his heroine, so making this train out of gingerbread and dark chocolate more than likely would have averted his pretty, little “TV head” to something way more enjoyable, such as cutting out  parts of the train from soft gingerbread dough. I succeeded, only to realize that now my cherished bake-ware is at the brunt of his rambunctious baking demeanor. Lord! have mercy, he is extremely messy and disorganized as well…. some things, I just cannot appreciate….. I love my “mise en plus” just way too much ! I do have standards , you know! LOL! ” Sure!” you would say, now, most probably, would be a good time to let go of all your peculiar kitchen antics and anal cleaning mannerisms because this is not about you! Rug rats rule!

Anyway, I know that this is the only way he is going to learn by having “his way” with all my treasured cookware , so forgive my unnecessary rant. He will most probably recollect all of our baking sessions together, just as I of my Mom and Grandmother.

Chocolate gingerbread cookie train for a little boy who loves trains!

This is a chocolate gingerbread dough,  “glued” together with chocolate ganache. You can also use Royal icing, but frankly I much prefer the chocolate. The result is a much more neater and way more delicious result. I also used the dark chocolate M & M’s , Twizzlers & Christmas peppermints to further decorate the train and the track.

choc-gingerbread-train-for-

I prepared, measured and baked the different parts of the train on one day and did the decorating on the following day.

You are also going to need  honey grahams to serve as support for both the engine and coal car. Glue six of the gingerbread  wheels together to form the boiler and then glue onto the graham stack support inside the “engine sides.”

gingerbr-choc-parts490

This is the template for the train. Measure the different parts and just place directly onto the dough and cut with a pizza cutter. Use a craft knife for the little window on the “engine side.” I used a two & half inch round cookie cutter for the wheels. BTW, it is most probably a good idea just to place the templates back onto the baked pieces and just trim uneven sides, you have to do this really gingerly, otherwise they will crack. I used the template from Family Circle, but not the recipe.

You do not need a bottom part to this train, as the graham cracker stacks will keep the engine & the coal car up!

ginger-train-template400

Recipe: Please use organic ingredients whenever possible!

Really easy, all the ingredients are mixed in the food processor!!!

I could not use my really delicious gingerbread dough recipe on my old blog, for fear of it not being able to “stand up” to this project. Turns out, I was wrong, so next gingerbread project will definitely be with that old recipe!!!

  • 1 & 1/4 cups All purpose, unbleached flour
  • 3 t ground ginger
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t ground cardamom
  • 1/2 t ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 t ground clove
  • 1/4 cup Valrhona French dark chocolate powder 64% ( Grand Cru de Terroire, “Tainori” Dominican Republic. I am now using this in almost all of my chocolate creations!
  • 1/2 t bicarbonate of soda ( do not use baking soda, this has a soapy taste, I know because I also make my own soap!). Buy it from your local Middle Eastern store.
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 6 T unsalted butter (slightly softened & cut into small pieces)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg beaten
  • honey grahams for support only
  • chocolate ganache for “gluing”the parts together

Method:

In a food processor, sift together flour, spices, salt, bicarbonate of soda and chocolate powder. Give two quick pulses. Add the butter and pulse until mixture resembles course sand. Use the on and off pulse button to achieve this OR  a biscuit cutter if doing this by hand.  Add the sugar and beaten egg and pulse again until the mixture comes together. Remove and lightly knead by hand into a smooth ball, wrap and refrigerate for about two hours.

You will have to make this recipe 4 times in order to make all the different parts of the train and then use the remainder for gingerbread boys and/ or girls, whatever your fancy. Use your realm of creativity. The dough should be rolled out into slightly less than a quarter of an inch. See further instructions & captions at my pictures. You are going to need to glue together 7 graham cracker cookies to serve as  support with chocolate ganache. Just snap the cookies along the perforated edge. Make 4 of these stacks. Take two stacks and glue to the side of one of the “engine” parts. Let the chocolate harden a little and then glue the other part of the “engine” to the graham crackers. This will make your “engine” car stand up. Do the same with the coal car. Proceed by gluing together all the other parts of the train, just like in my pictures above.

I used melted dark chocolate ganache ( dark choc. boiled heavy cream a pat of unsalted butter), in a pastry bag to glue all the parts together.

If you do not want to use chocolate ganache then use this Royal icing recipe:

  • 3 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
  • meringue powder( prepared as per instructions on the can) OR 2 fresh egg whites, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 t cream of tartar
  • 1 t fresh lemon juice

Sift & beat ingredients together to form a fluffy icing. Just use a plastic zipper bag, if you do not have a pastry bag to do all the piping!

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As you can see from the messy picture below, his favorite food is steamed butternut squash but he can also clean up very nicely!

He was only allowed to munch on a gingerbread boy, because we donated the whole  cake to a lady with lots of children. Hopefully, I shall make a different design when he is a little bigger and I shall definitely use my old chocolate gingerbread recipe that is on my old blog!!!

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Love, as always & have fun making this train, & if you have any questions about this cookie train, ask me in your comment, & I shall answer, the best way possible!

Nazarina

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